Mischief, Mischief….Prayers for Cities on Fire

Isaiah 43: 1-2

 1 But now, this is what the LORD says— 

he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Last week, the mountains which house the Coronado National Monument, south of Sierra Vista, where I grew up and still kind of claim residence, burst into flame.  In the few days that have since passed, incredibly hot and windy days, the fire has made itself at home in the bone-dry forest of the Huachuca Mountains, and like all unwanted visitors, has begun stealing everything in sight, stretching its legs, making a general nuissance of itself and burning through people’s homes and neighborhoods while doing it.  And as troubling as this fire is for me and my community, there’s also the Wallow Fire in the eastern part of Arizona which is the biggest in the state’s history.

For me, there’s an extra, ironic sting as I sit here…looking at my sister’s photos of the smoke, Skyping with my family while they hurriedly evacuate their neighborhood….it’s part of that sick humor that exists in the world, the thing that makes your belly twist and turn, your blood pump a little bit faster with frustration, yet you can’t help but laugh….I drove through the Northern Half of Germany today, and it is cold, it is dark, and it is pouring buckets.  The story of my life, I spend a weekend bathed in abundance, while people I love are left sitting high and dry.

So now….I pray.  Because there’s nothing else to do, but pray.  And here’s something I figured out a couple years ago, somewhere between watching friends lose loved ones to war and watching other friends lose loved ones to cancer: We don’t pray because it makes us feel better.  We don’t pray because it “wins” us anything.  We pray simply because, especially in the face of tragedy we have no way of explaining, and especially in the aftermath of suffering we cannot escape….it is all we have.  It is the one thing we can do, which makes it the one thing we must do.

As always, your prayers are needed and invited, whether you add them here or just hold them in your own heart.

God of All Creation, God of soothing rains, God of Pentecostal Fire, Maker of Frozen Tundra and Scorched Desert–

Be with the men and women who fight the flames and protect those in their charge.  Keep them safe and cool while they stand against the raging heat.  

Be with the thousands of dislocated people in Sierra Vista, as they sit and watch, sit and wait, uncertain of the challenges that lay ahead, missing the safety of home.  Open their hearts, God, work those tickers open with your loving hands, so the physical displacement they are feeling does not become needless anger towards others.  

The words of the Prophet Isaiah provide a challenging reminder of your presence, Lord of All Things:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

These words remind us that we are claimed, first and foremost, by you, Dear Loving God.  Whatever physical challenges we face, whatever scars of struggle we incur, we have a home in you that does not go away, we have an identity in you that cannot be stripped from us.  As fire drives folks from their homes, while heat and flame and smoke separate people from the lives they know, help us to have the strength and courage to take You up on Your Extravagent Invitation…to come home to love and grace that never disappears in smoke, and can never be threatened by fire.

Also, if you could send an Angel of Mercy to Arizona and pee these fires out, that would be awesome.

All of this we ask and offer to you, God of Creative Love.  Amen.

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