It was an otherwise normal day and things were going along fine until
the phone rang, and I heard fear and panic in the voice on the other
end. When she said, “The woods are on fire!“, I knew there was cause for
alarm. Now that might not have been quite as frightening to me if it
were somewhere else, but these woods are right up the hill from my new
home. I had just moved in and, this was no laughing matter. It got my
Someone had been innocently burning trash when the wind suddenly came up and caused the fire to get out of control and spread through the grass and into the woods. This area of woods covers miles of tree covered hills and residential areas. This was a very serious situation. When efforts to put out the fire seemed futile a frantic call to 911 was made.
As I was hurriedly making my way up the hill toward the fire someone shouted to me to go back down toward the highway where I could direct the fire fighters in the direction of the fire. Because of its location, the fire might not be seen from the road.
Now, I am a senior citizen, and my legs do not move real fast. It was a very long walk, but I found myself motivated by the urgency and made it in record time. Seconds were important, and the minutes seemed very long while waiting for the big red truck with the flashing lights to arrive. The wind was really blowing, and there was danger of a real catastrophe. Was I praying? You better believe it. God does not promise to keep us out of trouble. He does promise to help us when we are in trouble. We were definitely in trouble.
As I had hurried toward the road the fear in my heart for, myself and others who could be hurt by this was overwhelming. I heard the siren and took courage, but then it faded out as if it had made a wrong turn and might not get here in time. My home and the homes of others were in harms way, and I was nervous. I have often advised others to live by Philippians 4:6 where it says "do not worry about anything." At this point human nature took over, and I found it difficult to take my own advice.
Then I saw something that struck me as very strange and unusual. In a large field right next to the driveway where I was standing, there was a herd of cattle. They were usually scattered around grazing quietly, but now they were all huddled together in a very close group and seemed extremely restless. They kept moving slightly as a group and looking at me. Also, a strange little dog that I had never seen before was barking at me from the other side of the driveway. He was acting very odd.
Animals can hear sirens long before humans. Perhaps they can also smell the smoke sooner. Fear was no doubt in their minds, too. In their own way, they were probably trying to warn me of the danger. Sometimes we do not give animals the credit they deserve.
It was a tense time and one of relief when that big red truck came around the curve. To me these men coming to the rescue were like "angels riding in a red chariot". They did not have wings, but they had water that could save the day, if it was not too late.
When I got back up the hill, I saw something else extremely frightening. The fire had encircled a large tree and was rapidly burning upward toward the branches. It was an awesome and terrifying sight. I had never seen fire climb like that. If it had reached the branches water would have been insufficient, and the fire would have spread out of control. Thank God the water hose was put in action, and that tragedy was prevented. The ground fire was another story, but the firefighters knew what to do. A great deal of damage was avoided, and I believe that it was God's mercy that sent help in time.
God's promise of grace and mercy are seen in Hebrews 4:16 where he says, "Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." It makes good sense to call upon him for help in time of trouble. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalms 46:1).
Water and fire are a blessing from God and a necessity for living. Under control they will serve us well. However, out of control, they become our enemies. We need to have a healthy respect for them and for the God who created them.
Fire got our attention that day. The degree of our respect for it is at record high.