Welcome back to Spots and Wrinkles. I did not plan to blog today, but looking at the evening news on TV I was struck by the story of the terrible fire burning in the Bay Area near the S.F. airport. Apparently an explosion started a fire that is now consuming dozens of home, according to the news report.
I said to my husband, "Just think. When those families got up this morning, they expected to have a normal, routine day. Now their whole lives are turned upside down, with no warning at all."
Of course, if they all got out of their homes unharmed, that alone will be cause for gratitude. And it is easy to say, "The rest is just stuff. It can be replaced."
However, that is not always the case. While we did not lose our household goods in a fire, we did lose everything overnight about 25 years ago - through the theft of our moving van. And yes, I was very grateful that my children were physically unharmed through that event.
However, every baby picture of my three children was gone, not one remained. Most of them were never replaced - although family members did send a few that we had shared with them years earlier. But the little cards, letters and construction paper projects they had each made in school. - all gone. The fishing pole my son bought with his newspaper route money - gone. The MVP trophy for Pop Warner Football League my other son won - gone. Our daughter's little ballet slippers - gone.
How do you begin again, with nothing? I suppose there are a number of ways, but in our case, we stayed with family while we regrouped. We rented a storage space and began gathering used furniture, and household goods until after about six-months we could rent a house and begin again. I remember waking up one morning about seven or eight months after the robbery, and looking around the room where I lay in bed. I could see nothing that was familiar, or that reflected my tastes. I felt like I had awakened in a second-rate motel room where all I wanted to do was check out as quickly as possible. But the nightmare was real and there was no place to go. Well .... there was one place - and I went there often - sometimes hourly.
To God in prayer was the only place I still felt like "me." With my eyes open in those dreary surroundings I felt like some kind of victim - both disoriented and vulnerable. But with my eyes closed in prayer, I was still just Marsha - a believer who knew that we are strangers and pilgrims seeking a better home - once where theives could not break through and steal, and moths and rust cannot corrupt. I knew that I could cast my cares upon Him, because he cared for me. And eventually there were some wonderful benefits that came out of that negative experience.
One of the best benefits has been that "stuff", belongings, possessions no longer have any real hold on me. Yes, I enjoy my home and my things, but I often stop and check myself, and ask the Lord to keep me ready to walk away from it all in a moment, if need be. I want to be ready for an unexpected hot spot, should one suddenly present itself.
Hot spots can spring up on any given day. One day you are walking into work, thinking all is well, and by that afternoon you have met with human resources, been presented with your severance package and you are suddenly unemployed. Down-sized, or right-sized (as the corporate consultants like to spin it) or just plain capsized.
Or you are showering, and suddenly notice a lump that wasn't there before, and the next thing you know you are waiting for the results from your biopsy. Or the phone rings, and immediately you are grabbing your purse and keys and headed to a hospital - or an airport - or wherever - to deal with the consequences of that unexpected phone call.
The fact is that life is sometimes a series of hot spots - or unexpected challenges - some are just tougher than others. Sometimes we live in the hot spot for only a moment or two - like a brief embarrassment; but sometimes we struggle for years in the white heat of failure, loneliness, or illness. If you are in a place of loss or loneliness, bitterness or bungled relationships, know this: Jesus knows where you are - in fact He is there with you. He was a man acquainted with sorrows according to the prophet Isaiah, and your troubles have not caught him off guard. He is ready and able to strengthen, comfort and sustain you.
And if, by chance, your life is currently cool, calm and collected, would you join me in praying for those who lost their homes this evening in San Bruno? We would also do well to remember the miners in Chile, who have been trapped down in that hot blackness for weeks, and who likely cannot be rescued for another two or three months. One of their members has emerged as their spiritual leader and spends his time encouraging the others and praying with them. Can you imagine? Serving as an encourager, thousands of feet below the earth, where it is over 80 degrees, twenty-four hours a day, and there is never any day?
Dear Lord, we ask you to comfort those who are in trouble, sorrow and pain tonight. And especially those who cannot help themselves - please be their Helper. We thank you.