His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Paradise Aflame

Some of us have called it paradise. Why? Well…the weather, the small-feel towns scattered among the rolling hills, the wineries—lots of wineries. And just something you might label “environment.” It’s something that seems to be in the air (pardon the cliché).

Well, right now there’s smoke in the air. And many of the hills, wineries, and towns are now ash and black destruction. Homes that recently purred with lively families are now silent piles of dead ash.

But please believe me, it’s still paradise. Why? Because of the people. The hearts here are the biggest, the best. Firefighters, volunteers giving money, cloths, time, and hugs at evacuation shelters—it’s these people who breathe paradise back into our smoke-filled air.

Yet that’s part of what happens when things like this happen. The best sprouts out of the ash left by the worst, whether fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, whatever.

For those of us who have lived through, and died in, the wild fires of Sonoma County, California—may God bless us all.


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Hell Just Over the Hill

It lurks just over the hill. I don’t see it, but I feel it. We all do.

I look out the kitchen window to the hills less than a mile away. The Beast vomits destruction in the valley on the other side. It sucks in mountains of air to fill its hungry lungs, and blasts out pain, despair, and sometimes death. It has already swallowed much land, spawning shelters full of refugees. It’s hungry for more.

Those brave men and women are over there too, battling with the Beast. From all over they come and fight, often hand-to-hand, trying to save us. At night, while we lie in our beds thinking about everything but sleep, the battle goes on—the Beast never rests. Dear God, please protect the hero’s fighting against the Beast.

Oh, there’s not just one Beast. There are at least five of them out there. But they’re connected somehow—one evil mind, five separate bodies, five times the hunger.

I’m pinned to the ground, helpless, the Beast standing on my chest. Well, that’s how it feels sometimes. It’s heavy—this feeling, this knowing, this sense that at any time the Beast will storm over that hill and fly straight for us. Oh, we’re ready to flee. But to leave everything behind—we’ve been in this house for 32 years. Our sons grew up here. So many memories… gone, left behind. But don’t give up yet.

Maybe 3000 homes lost…so far. More victims, more refugees. It covers us in this blanket of sadness. My stomach feels like I’ve swallowed the pain and fear of the victims and the fighters on the front lines. I swallow my own fear too, almost with every breath—trying to wear a calm face, a helpful face. But I’m full. I feel I can’t swallow any more.

I go to the store, trying to find normal. But you hear it in our voices, as we wait for the Beast to make its next move. And the stench of its rancid breath pouring over the hills makes it hard to find normal.

These Beasts are not alone. There’s more, just over the next hill in Napa, and beyond. The Beast—the fires that devour Sonoma County.

Dear Jesus, please forgive my dread-filled words. The Beast distracts me. But I won’t give up—never will. Time again to ignore the Beast and turn my mind to You. You will guide me through this valley of the shadow of death (sorry to lift those words, but they feel so fitting right now). Jesus, You will give me the strength I need to pull myself out of bed each morning and find ways to make the most of the smoke-filled days. So what do You want me to do today? Where can I go to help others who may have lost their home to the Beast?

I heard that at times like this, it’s helpful to think about things you’re grateful for. Well, dear Jesus, I’m grateful for Your presence in my life. I’m grateful for those moments where you act through me. Enough mourning—let’s go act.