Beauty in Ashes

Forest Fire in Idaho, August 19, 2006

It was mid-afternoon. The sun was shining brightly and the sky was crystal clear. How could anything affect the outcome of this glorious day?

That's what we thought as we walked around the docks at Jackson Lake, enjoying the amazing view of the Grand Teton Mountains reflected off of this crystal clear lake.

When we turned our gaze upward again however, our blood froze (How can this be when it is so hot in Wyoming during the summer?). The unmistakable traces of smoke from what we later learned was two major forest fires were clearly visible; one on the western side of the Grand Tetons, in Idaho, the other, quite obviously in Yellowstone National Park.

It was clear that the fires weren't very old, but to our amazement, no one around us seemed to be paying any attention to them! Should we run? Should we call the authorities? Should we . . .

Not knowing what to do, we decided to drive on down the road. Surely the area's many park rangers would spot the smoke!

In just a few moments, we arrived at the dam that is responsible for the formation of Jackson Lake. Here, a large sign assured us that the forest fire in Yellowstone National Park was controlled and had been started for ecological reasons.

That brought us some comfort. But what about the fire over the mountains in Idaho? We had to tell someone. But who?

The farther northward we drove, the larger the Idaho fire seemed to become. Soon the entire north-western sky was filled with smoke. Up ahead were about a dozen cars on the side of the road. We stopped, and were only a little surprised to see that everyone had either their cameras or their binoculars trained on that smoke. If you watched carefully, you could see tongues of orange leaping up beyond the mountains from time to time.

Everybody seemed a bit nervous. After all, a forest fire can potentially ruin vacation plans! But what could we do?

A bit farther down, we again stopped on the side of the road. The afternoon sun was now behind the smokescreen, but our eyes were drawn to the partially obscured red orb. Outstandingly beautiful!

Staring at it for more than a fraction of a second however, hurt the eye. I pulled out the digital camcorder instead, and while guessing where the sun lay (even through the viewfinder, it was too bright to look at!), I took what turned out to be several breathtaking pictures.

One of the pictures seemed to show a bird flying through the smoke. Whether or not there actually was a bird, I don't know, but as I looked at that picture, God spoke to me. You see, the Holy Spirit is often represented as a bird in the Bible (Matt 3:16 "The Spirit of God descending like a dove…" NIV), and even amidst these huge forest fires, this picture announces, beyond any doubt, that in the midst of even the most serious circumstances, God's Spirit is still with us. We may not be able to see Him, but He is there, closer than we think.

"The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials." (2 Peter 2:9 NIV)

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." (Ps 139:7-12 NIV)

No matter where you are on this voyage home, no matter what your circumstances dictate, "Be strong; do not fear! Here is your God! Recompense is coming. God's retaliation is coming! He will save you!" (Is. 35:4 NASB). Depend on Him. Learn from Him. Only then will you be able to rejoice amidst the forest fires of your life.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Ps 23:4 NIV)

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." (James 1:2 NIV)

Forest fires ahead! Should you turn tail and run? Or should you trust in the One who is with you?

Rob Chaffart

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