The past eleven days have been uncertain ones. There is a 240,000 acre California fire that has burned from Ventura County and into Santa Barbara County. Some 8,000 firefighters are battling this blaze and working 24-hour shifts to keep the flames away from homes.
N95 masks have become the new accessory for Santa Barbara residents, like me, due to the unhealthy air from this monster fire. There are days when ash falls like snow.
As I write these words, the Thomas Fire is roughly 30% contained and more dry Santa Ana and sundowner winds are in the forecast. These are uncertain times, indeed.
I took the above photo on an evening returning back to Santa Barbara after escaping to Thousand Oaks for a few hours of safe air. The glow from the fire consumed my eyes; flames as tall as a high-rise building shooting into the night sky.
It was frightening. I thought of all those who were being forced to evacuate and of those firefighters who were bravely standing up to this inferno. I thought of those people who were risking their own lives to evacuate animals to safety. I thought of how, in the worst of times, we can see the best in people: a community joining forces in support of one another.
And, I felt immensely and deeply blessed to live in a time when we are waking up to the truth that we have been created by a God who hurts when we hurt. He sees our pain and stands with us through our grief.
God walks with us through the fire.
God is our certainty in these very uncertain times. He has shown himself in miraculous ways during these days of crisis, in California.
A community has come together in kindness and respect. We’ve shown, and continue to show, the vastness of the human heart and spirit. We are caring for the smallest of these because we are called to care for everyone. We are called to show up and to give of ourselves in a way that is outside of self.
Faith is rising.
And, it’s rising higher than these massive flames. I’ve seen prayers being lifted up while flames burn all around those who are praying. Yes, faith is bigger than fear. And, this faith is guiding us toward exceptional outreach.
Sacrifice is sacred.
I’ve seen the example of firefighters, who are hundreds of miles away from their own families, run toward a firestorm of uncertainty in an effort to protect other families. And, now, I stop when I see these heroes and I applaud — my heart broken open with gratitude.
I’ve seen a young man sacrifice his own safety in order to save a small and helpless animal from being burned alive.
Sacrifice is what we are called to do. We sacrifice for each other.
My church has a saying, Love Everyone Always. It’s a quote I strive to live by, even when I’m misunderstood, judged, hurt or disappointed; even when flames surround me. I’m here, in this life, to love and to forgive. I’m here to sacrifice and to share. I’m here to take the lessons of living and use them to be better and to help others rise above their own challenge and pain.
The great gift of this fire has been the deeper understanding that we are not alone. We have a God who sits with us in our distress, and who fights for us, as we fight for each other. And, in this time of need — here in my town of Santa Barbara — I see attention and intention set on faith, helping, and healing. With these things, no matter what the winds blow our way, we will continue to see miracles happen.
He makes beautiful things out of the dust.