October 28, 2003, 12:05 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

These are challenging days. The fires of Southern California have altered many many lives – ours among them. The blaze that swept through my neighborhood has now consumed over 200,000 acres. I contributed one acre of my own. The flames came to within 20 feet of our house, but the structure was saved. We were evacuated on Sunday morning. We got the cats and a few items of value, and went to Michelle’s parents’ home, about 10 minutes away. Witin a couple of hours we would be evacuated from there also. Before leaving our house, my sister offered for us to come there, about 20 minutes away . . . she too would eventually be evacuated.

We were more fortunate than many in that we were allowed to return home by the end of the day. Coming here was amazing. The whole area is black and gray, with only the off-white and beige stucco of the houses to add color. Only one home was lost in our area. It was a fitful night of sleep – getting up every couple of hours to look out at the hill immediately to the east of us, less than half a mile away, which was still on fire.

Yesterday morning Michelle, her dad, and I drove down Highway 67, to see if we could get to their house. The California Highway Patrol had the road blocked. It was frustrating for her dad because the house is only about 2 miles down from the road block. After talking to the officers for a few minutes, they agreed to let us go by their barricade on foot. So Matt (Michelle’s father) and I started walking. All around us on the hillsides that had yet to burn we saw smoldering embers in the bushes, sometimes catching fire, sometimes just creating smoke. We had walked to within about half a mile of the house when some Sheriff deputies came driving the other way stopped us and told us that we shouldn’t be there because the whole area was about to light up. They agreed to drive us the rest of the way to the house because we had a vehicle there that we could drive out. We turned down their street off of Hwy. 67 and saw a couple of houses, and then nothing but rubble. We got out of the car and walked up to what used to be home for Matt, his wife Marge, and my wife.

Nearly 30 years ago they moved into a tiny two bedroom home. Matt and his brothers had built onto the house in different phases and made a totally different house out of it. The chimney is the only verticle structure left. We were only able to stay for two or three minutes before the deputies told us gently that it was time to go. We haven’t been able to go back yet.

I drove us out (they had parked a vehicle in an open area, so it was salvaged), not knowing what to say. The whole area looked roughly like a mountainous version of the moon. Barren, gray.

Life has changed radically in a very short period of time. We have pulled out of escrow on our house sale in order to allow Matt and Marge to move in. They will live here with us as long as they desire. I’m glad to be here for them. I wish I could do more. It seems that they are going to learn the discipline of simplicity in a radical new way.

As for us, this may mean a change of venue for the new church start. It’s unlikely that we will be moving to the area where we thought we’d be starting. Many unanswered questions.

My sister, her husband, and their three kids were able to go back to their house yesterday evening. Over 300 homes in their immediate area are gone.

There are thoughts and lessons here. They will come out over time. God is still good. His power and glory are unchanged. I have the opportunity of learning how to live the Kingdom life in the middle of chaos. Following Jesus and inviting others to walk with me will take on new levels of challenge and blessing.

I do not grieve for the loss of structures or possessions. I do long for God’s Kingdom to fully come on earth as it is in heaven.


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