Beauty For Ashes

Beauty For Ashes

To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourn­ing, The gar­ment of praise for the spirit of heav­i­ness; That they may be called trees of right­eous­ness, The plant­ing of the LORD, that He may be glo­ri­fied. Isa­iah 61:3


The dif­fer­ence is so shock­ing. Sobering.

We drove through the Black For­est this week­end, tak­ing in the dras­tic change to our beau­ti­ful trees.

Most of the time we were speech­less. The rest of the time we were in awe at how the fire worked its way through the for­est. It seemed as though it selected which homes to burn and which to leave untouched. In the pic­ture above, can you see the two pic­nic benches? They were made of wood. They were vir­tu­ally untouched, stand­ing out in all their fresh tan glory. Sit­ting alone in acres of destruc­tion. Why were they spared?

fire bikes


We came upon this house, and I thought, “Oh, look, the fam­ily is here. They brought the bikes for their chil­dren to keep them enter­tained while the par­ents could work.”  Nobody was there. The bikes were mostly spared. The one closer to the house looks untouched. The house, not so much.

fire birdhouse

As we drove around, I got out of the car to look at this house. Sev­eral things about the house intrigued me. First, a bright green caught my eye. I walked over and saw this per­fectly untouched bird­house… behind the com­pletely burned out house. And can you see that old wooden wagon just behind the house? Again, untouched. Why couldn’t it have been the other way around?

As I saw these images, my mind tried to com­pre­hend how this could be. How could we have destruc­tion and loss, so ram­pant, and then a pop of color right in the midst of it? Untouched, not even sooty, but fresh looking?

And I thought of God. How He has plucks His chil­dren from the flames of destruc­tion. How very close we are to the path of the rag­ing fire, yet He spares us. Not one of us deserves the fire or the sal­va­tion more than another. Yet God pre­serves some for His glory. For the awe and won­der­ment of all to behold His mercy. For it is all mercy.

For­est fires burn between 1000 and 1500 degrees F. That’s hot. Under­stand­ing that sim­ple fact makes the whole real­ity that some things sur­vived all the more astonishing.

fire fence melted


This fence just melted.

fire tree sky


Even in the destruc­tion you can see beauty.

fire road


fire house angle


We saw a lot of fire­places stand­ing in heaps of rub­ble. And yet the peo­ple are hope­ful. We saw so many signs thank­ing the first respon­ders and the fire­fight­ers. We even saw this one:

fire thanks

Thank you for try­ing.
Thank­ful in the midst of loss.

Good reminder.

I’m strug­gling to write this post. My thoughts are inter­min­gling, crash­ing, fight­ing with each other to make their way to my key­board. Hope, loss, destruc­tion, sov­er­eignty. In my face. And yours. Com­pas­sion, heartache, and thank­ful­ness. What wins? Real peo­ple have suf­fered immense loss. Real peo­ple were spared.

Some­one told me that some peo­ple who sur­vived loss may have a sense of guilt when they see the rub­ble of their neighbor’s home. Why him and not me? Why ever? Why do we rage against God’s sov­er­eignty? Why can’t we just accept the bad as we accept and often expect the good?

I am reminded of Job. He suf­fered immense loss: his chil­dren, his livestock-sheep and camels (and he had sub­stan­tial live­stock, was the great­est of men in all the east), his ser­vants all in one day. –Job chap­ter 1.  His body was cov­ered with boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. His not-so-helpful wife told him to curse God and die. Yet, Job said:

What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Wow. I would dare say that nobody has ever suf­fered as Job did. And he was faith­ful. He trusted God. Can’t we? Even if we are spared and oth­ers are hurt­ing? Even if we are hurt­ing and our neigh­bor is spared?

What do we do with our utter help­less­ness? Many men fought the flames for many days. God granted mercy by send­ing rain, by turn­ing winds, by stop­ping the fire in only a few days.

I’m thank­ful.

I won­der if I will for­get to be thank­ful by mid-week next week. It’s how we are.

And yet, back to the verse from Isa­iah 61. To give them beauty for ashes…that they may be called trees of righteousness…

We have ashes and burned out trees. I pray that the Lord will bring out His beauty in the peo­ple of the Black For­est. That they will be called trees of right­eous­ness, prais­ing Him, trust­ing Him, hold­ing fast to a faith that is unshak­able, unmove­able. That new life will grow in them.

I have hope.

**Note: I took all of these pho­tos. They are untouched and unedited. I’m an ama­teur. I used my iPhone. Per­haps one day I will fig­ure out more about photo edit­ing. In my spare time.

I’ve linked up here: Cor­ner­stone Con­fes­sions and Sim­ply Help­ing Him

Poetry by Anne Bradstreet

Poetry by Anne Bradstreet

We have spent a lit­tle bit of time study­ing Anne Brad­street. She was a remark­able woman who lived in Amer­ica dur­ing its early days. She suf­fered hard­ships such as the loss of chil­dren and her house burn­ing down in the night.

I’ve copied one of her poems below, since the thought of fires is fresh on my mind, as a way to per­haps intro­duce you to her writings.

Her son, at one point, asked her for her col­lec­tion of her poetry. Unknown to her, he sent them to be pub­lished. They arrived back to her bound and printed. It was such a beau­ti­ful gift for a mother. And it was a gift to all of us as we are now able to enjoy the poetry of a woman who served her fam­ily and loved the Lord.

I hope you enjoy her poem.

Upon the Burn­ing of Our House — July 10th, 1666

by Anne Brad­street


In silent night when rest I took,
For sor­row neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thun­dring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dread­full voice.
That fear­full sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, start­ing up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Dis­tresse
And not to leave me suc­cour­lesse.
Then com­ing out beheld a space,
The flame con­sume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet suf­fi­cient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sor­row­ing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleas­ant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleas­ant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Can­dle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Archi­tect,
With glory richly fur­nished,
Stands per­ma­nent tho’ this bee fled.
It’s pur­chased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Trea­sure lyes Above.

I am so overwhelmed

I am so overwhelmed

On Tues­day of last week, I had hair and nails appoint­ments at 2. So, I left my house a lit­tle after 1 to be on time to my appoint­ments. Lit­tle did I know, but a fire had started in the Black For­est, where I live, right about the same time.

At the same time, my hus­band left with one of our chil­dren to run some errands in the other direc­tion. He actu­ally drove past the start of the fire and took some pictures.

That left three of our kids at home.

While I was get­ting my nails done, my hair styl­ist had her com­puter out, check­ing on the news. She gasped. And then told me there was a fire in the Black For­est. The loca­tion was quite a bit away from where we live, from what I could tell. I assumed that it would be con­tained and taken care of quickly. I had no idea of the mag­ni­tude of it all. I texted my son, and he said every­thing was fine at home, no need to come home.

So I got my hair done. When I was half way done, my styl­ist stepped out­side, and then she called me to come look. We were about 20 miles from the fire, but it looked so close. It had grown to such great mag­ni­tude already.

Picture outside the hair salon at the start of the fire.

Pic­ture out­side the hair salon at the start of the fire.

I didn’t get home until nearly 7 that evening. As I was dri­ving home, I started to get a bet­ter idea of what I was fail­ing to under­stand. Here is the view of the fire on the road lead­ing to my house:

driving home


The radio sta­tion announcer said that the plume had risen to 30,000 ft and 70 miles long.

I wept on the drive up that road as I saw police offi­cers at all the houses along the road telling peo­ple to get out. The com­ing destruc­tion was so heavy on my heart.

Mike was home and was pack­ing things for an even­tual evac­u­a­tion: guns, clothes, one of his tele­scopes, sem­i­nary books.

Mike had already briefed the chil­dren that the evac­u­a­tion notice was com­ing soon, so they needed to pack up the things they wanted to save from a fire that could pos­si­bly burn down the house. Faith imme­di­ately went for her Bible. “I have my Bible, Daddy, which is the most impor­tant thing of all. Maybe I should take two, just in case.” And then she also picked a flower with a leaf to remem­ber what our prop­erty looks like. She shoved them in her pocket, but pulled them out often to show peo­ple the trea­sure she was car­ry­ing. I had to ask her sis­ters to pack her doll and some of her toys as it didn’t seem to be on her radar at all to do so.

My other daugh­ters packed their clothes for me. And Pey­ton grabbed a needle­work pic­ture her dear friend made for her. She also packed a bin of hang­ers for me. She knows I love iron­ing, but I’m still baf­fled over that one.

I was grab­bing my clothes, toss­ing them into my suit­cases. And the jew­elry that my hus­band had given me over the years. I prayed that the Lord would bring to my mind the things that I would want to have out of the fire. I packed pho­tos. Then I remem­bered Mike’s grandmother’s brooch, which his mother gave me when Nana passed away nearly 25 years ago. And my grandmother’s cro­cheted table­cloth and bed­spread. Pre­cious to my mother, I thought.

Reed, my 17 year old son, grabbed things he thought I would want. I didn’t see him wor­ry­ing about any of his things. He packed my sewing machine, Bosch mixer, grain mill, Vita-mix.

We texted our older sons who aren’t at our home dur­ing the week, or at all.

My old­est son wanted the quilt his wife had made for Mike. And then he remem­bered some old books if we had room for them.

Peter wanted a blan­ket that I had made him.

That was it. Nobody wanted any of the other stuff that fills our house.

My heart was warmed by the real­iza­tion that my chil­dren are not so con­sumed by stuff. They wanted things that have meaning.

The police came by to let us know it was time to go. We went to a friend’s house about a half hour north of here. It was tremen­dous to see the fire at night.

The next day, we headed up to Den­ver, as it was time for our state’s home­school­ing con­fer­ence, which we help run. We kept so very busy with the details we needed to see to. It was a ten­der mercy of the Lord to have our hands and minds so busy serv­ing oth­ers while the for­est was rag­ing with fire within about 2 blocks’ dis­tance from our house.

I was overwhelmed.

With peace.

And the love of friends and fam­ily. That was the part that really got to me.

I wasn’t afraid for our stuff. Faith had com­mented to her brother as we were dri­ving away, “It will all burn up one day any­way.” Have I men­tioned that she just turned 7?

I was so over­whelmed by the love, the offers of help, the out­pour­ing of com­pas­sion and care. So many peo­ple offered us places to stay.

I’m over­whelmed that the God of the uni­verse saw to it to pro­vide us with His peo­ple sur­round­ing us and sup­port­ing us and let­ting us know that we are not alone in this.

I’m over­whelmed that we were informed that we could go home again on Fri­day (or was it Sat­ur­day? I don’t remem­ber as it is mostly a blur to me.). We thought we weren’t going to get to go home until Thurs­day the next week at the ear­li­est. We didn’t go home until Sun­day because the con­fer­ence wasn’t end­ing until Sat­ur­day evening. I wanted to go home in the light of day because I didn’t know what we were going to find.

So, we spent Sat­ur­day night with friends after the con­fer­ence. After church on Sun­day, we went back to their house, packed up our belong­ings, ate lunch, and made that trek home again.

And I was over­whelmed. At our house, you could smell a whiff of wood-burning stove smell in the air out­side. Just a hint. Inside our house, it was per­fect. Not a sin­gle scent out of place. Our prop­erty doesn’t appear to have any ash residue at all. You would never know that there was a fire burn­ing so near to where we were.

I had dri­ven fur­ther down the main road from our house to see if I could see what remained from the fire. Right there, so close, were the National Guard parked in their trucks, block­ing the roads to keep us safe. It was real, all right. It wasn’t some hor­ri­ble dream.

And God was in the midst of it all. On Thurs­day night, I felt a bit weepy. We had heard some news that made us think that out house was prob­a­bly going to burn that night. We were tired, emo­tional, weepy. I cried with my friend.

But on Fri­day morn­ing, I awoke so refreshed, so filled with great peace. It was aston­ish­ing to me. The Lord had renewed my mind, gave me such a light­ness of spirit. I praised His name con­tin­u­ally that day. I was filled with the joy of  the Lord, which was noth­ing short of a mir­a­cle. I read and med­i­tated on Psalm 103 that day.

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.

And I had such peace. It is hard to com­pre­hend and even harder to describe.

I would never sign up for the tri­als, but I am so thank­ful for what I learn in them. I learn some­thing of God that is dif­fi­cult to grasp on paper. I can nearly touch Him. I can taste His good­ness, and it is so sweet. And nobody can ever take that away from me.

I pray that my chil­dren will be for­ever changed by this expe­ri­ence. I pray that they will always know with­out a doubt that God meets their needs above and beyond any­thing they could even think to ask.

I heard peo­ple talk­ing all week about my chil­dren. They observed a peace about them. Many won­dered if they fully grasped what was hap­pen­ing. They were happy, joy­ful, help­ful, kind. No tears, no bit­ter­ness, no fear.

And yet, I believe they com­pletely under­stood what was going on at home. But they *knew* that God was in it. They know that He is sov­er­eign, and that if He sees fit to allow our house to burn down, then He will see fit to pro­vide some­thing else for us. It’s what we believe, and what we teach them. I love it that they got to expe­ri­ence the rub­ber meet­ing the road. And the pro­vi­sion of peace that doesn’t come from us and our strength, but from God alone.

Every ounce of courage came from God. My prayer is that the hope that we have and the faith that we showed in God will be mul­ti­plied in oth­ers. I hope they know it wasn’t an act. I hope they know that it wasn’t from us. I hope they know that God sup­plies all of our needs, from big to small. And this is not from ourselves.

And I hope that they will lean on Christ for all things.

I pray that this fire isn’t wasted. I pray that for every pine nee­dle that was burned, that a life will be changed. Given new life, hope, joy, peace. That they will see that God is big­ger than a for­est fire, even the biggest one Col­orado has ever seen in its his­tory in regards to damage.

In the after­math of fire, there is regrowth, renewal of the land. That is a beau­ti­ful thing. I pray that while the life returns to the for­est, that Life returns to the peo­ple. That they will repent of their sins and embrace the gift of Life eter­nal, life that will never be burned up, like all the stuff will be.

Don’t waste the fire with more death. Live in the renewal of life eter­nal. Which is found in Christ alone. Run to Him for your shel­ter and pro­tec­tion. Don’t wait for the fire to be lick­ing at your heels. You will find rest and peace with Him. Rest from the daily pains and sorrows.

I pray that you will awake with that same joy that filled me this week. That joy that comes from the well­spring of Christ’s love. For there is no fire hot enough to destroy it.

The lat­est update says that 502 houses burned to the ground, 14,280 acres were burned, which is 24 square miles. Two peo­ple lost their lives. The loss is stag­ger­ing. Please con­tinue to pray for the peo­ple who lost their homes, and the fam­ily of the two who lost their lives. Such heartache. I pray that they all will know the peace of Christ also. And that the fire won’t be wasted in their lives.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...