Rain Over the Fires
Nearby us in Montana there have been multiple wildfires lately. From our kitchen window we can see smoke billowing up high on the Mission Mountains from the Redhorn fire. Recently there was a small fire up on the east side of Flathead Lake just to our north. The worst by far this year has been the fire burning in the mountains above Elmo and Dayton, Montana. Several residents have had to evacuate to avoid the danger and, tragically, several homes and other buildings have already been lost. Every area of the world is prone to different kinds of natural disasters and the mountain west has to deal with wildfires on a near annual basis. A reason for the regularity of these events is due to the hot and dry conditions in our late summer months. The deadfall in the forests and dried out grasses in open areas make it easy for sparks to erupt into blazes that quickly engulf several thousand acres of land and forest.
A peculiar thing happened last night, though - it began to rain. This rarely happens in the midst of fires season. The rain was not too heavy and did not carry on for long, but it fell as a direct challenge to the fires burning our mountains. At times, it seemed like just a sprinkling that you wished would turn into a downpour to fully quell the destruction we have seen raging all around us. Our hearts yearned for more water to pour down as the rain petered on. Alas, no more came. Yet, it was still significant that the rains came at all. Though not enough to defeat them, the waters from the sky were still a counterforce that fought the fires on our hillsides, the suffocating smoke in our skies, and the devastation to the people and wildlife who inhabit the flame-filled areas.
So it is with our lives of faith. Sometimes it can seem like the world is a wildfire waiting to envelope us and leave us as a pile of ashes. Like the psalmist who wrote Psalm 13 we can cry out, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1). Then, by happenstance, clouds form in the sky and provide glimpses of a different future that God has prepared for us. Sadly, like the rain last night, these glimpses often do not redirect our lived experiences completely. In spite of the rain, the fires still rage. Nevertheless, the sprinkling rain gives us hope that there will be different tomorrows ahead. This helps us to sing with the Psalmist at the end of Psalm 13, "I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me" (Psalm 13:6). The Lord deals bountifully with us indeed.
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Rev. Seth Nelson, author of The Church Unknown: Reflections of a Millennial Pastor, writes this blog. The blog focuses on the future of the church as well as how God loves and cares for us in the present. He is a pastor in Ronan, Montana.