Voices and prayers from the field

How are you praying about wildfires?

When fires tore through their area, members from the Christian Science church in South Lake Tahoe, California, chose to start with prayer. They shared with us some of the insights that came to them, and we thought our readers would appreciate them as well. 

From Cindy Cowen:

How grateful I am for God and Christian Science! The following statement from the Bible, spoken by Moses, meant so much to me as the Caldor Fire in California burned toward my home and eventually forced the evacuation of the entire south shore of Lake Tahoe: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to-day” (Exodus 14:13).

Predictions of doom were rampant, and the fear in town was palpable. Foresters and fire experts were visibly shaken as the fire relentlessly defied their best efforts. And yet: “Fear ye not.” What a command—to put aside the predictions and material evidence presented and trust our all-good God! The entireness, the bigness, the universality of Love, Father-Mother God, taking care of Her creation comforted me, and my fear ceased.

When the fire first started, we held a Wednesday testimony meeting at our branch Church of Christ, Scientist. Members and friends shared thoughts of God’s ever-presence, omnipotence, and loving care. It was a holy, powerful service. We came away refreshed in our trust.

Over the next few days, our prayers continued. As I left the house at the time of the evacuation, I mentally filled my home with love, gratefully acknowledging that home is with me always because it is a spiritual idea. Home can’t be lost or destroyed. Home is the consciousness of divine Love, God—a constant, safe ever-presence. We all have this home, which cannot be taken from us; no one can be displaced in Love’s kingdom. 

Evidence of God’s care was everywhere. The entire town evacuated safely and peacefully. As the 150-foot flames roared down the summit and cinders blew into the valley, an “unexplainable” updraft and perpendicular wind kept lifting the burning embers above and beyond all the homes. Firefighters were amazed as they worked tirelessly with a great love for the community.

Very grateful residents came back to an intact town. There were parades, signs expressing gratitude, gifts, and such an outpouring of fellowship and love—evidence of God’s care for all.

From Lora Mowat:

From the beginning of the fire, I prayed diligently to see more clearly the power and presence of God, good. My continual prayer was to have my eyes opened to see what God has already done.

As the fire crept up the mountain, we began to pack things we deemed important. As I hurriedly assembled boxes while feeling a heavy sense of responsibility for making right decisions, this thought came clearly to me: “I am the Shepherd. You are My flock.”

I immediately realized that I was being led by the infinite, unerring wisdom of divine Mind, God. I was not in charge; God was.

Though our evacuation came late at night, every detail fell into place. Divine Love was constantly providing needed inspiration. We were even able to help another church member who needed transportation.

On the journey to our safe place, I struggled to keep my thoughts focused on good, on Truth, or God, but was feeling overwhelmed. I reached out to God for an idea, and Hymn 195 from the Christian Science Hymnal came to mind:

Not what I am, O Lord, but what Thou art; 
     That, that alone can be my soul’s true rest; 
Thy love, not mine, bids fear and doubt depart, 
     And stills the tumult of my troubled breast.
                                                (Horatius Bonar)

I realized that it’s not what I am knowing about God that is important, but what God is knowing about me, and all of us!

During our days in a safe location, we continued to pray to recognize God as the only power. News reports discussed the ability of fire to create its own wind and impel its own growth. I held to this Bible-based description of God: “Spirit, who holds the ‘wind in His fists’ ” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 192). 

How wonderful to know that whatever God is saying to me, He is saying to everyone, every moment, everywhere. We cannot be separated from God, no matter where we are or what is going on.

Though our evacuation came late at night, every detail fell into place, and divine Love was constantly providing needed inspiration.

From Rex Perschnick:

I gained a very clear sense of God’s protective love covering all creation, including Christmas Valley. I just knew that God’s love would be evident through His practical care. And this was seen in the fact that not only the valley but the entire town of South Lake Tahoe was spared. Divine provision, indeed. 

From Joe Beckwith:

Our branch church members are encouraged to say and consider the “Daily Prayer,” given by Mrs. Eddy in the Church Manual (p. 41). We aim to do this at 11 a.m. each day. As the Caldor Fire started its march toward South Lake Tahoe, the last line of that prayer, “. . . and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” took on new meaning.

“Govern them” how? For me, that “how” was that God would guide us to make good and wise decisions. As it became clear that our area could be in harm’s way and that forced evacuations were a real possibility, we offered our home, located on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, as a place of refuge for those who might need to flee.

At one point the evacuation orders were unexpectedly expanded to include our second home, where our son and his family live. His wife was on an out-of-state trip, leaving our son and four grandkids to quickly pack three vehicles and flee. As the area was already restricted, I was unable to assist. Guided by prayers for wisdom and protection, we prayed to follow the right steps and were governed accordingly. Our son and grandkids formed a caravan and made it down the mountain road successfully. 

I was grateful to hear of all the people making their exodus safely. During the early days of the fire and throughout the evacuations, we continually claimed our protection and worked to remain calm and to refrain from dwelling on “what-if” scenarios. We knew that God’s perfect care applied to everyone, and we were grateful when all were able to safely return to their homes. We were also thankful that, although our church was in the mandatory evacuation area, we were able to conduct our services electronically.

From Dave Alexander:

I have stuck with the idea that there is no power in the flames and that they don’t control the destiny of God’s ideas. This statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures really helped: “There is no vapid fury of mortal mind—expressed in earthquake, wind, wave, lightning, fire, bestial ferocity—and this so-called mind is self-destroyed” (p. 293). Profound and true! 

From John Roos:

I looked up vapid (shared in the contribution above), thinking that it meant excitable or explosive, and found that it instead means without substance. So mortal mind is empty, without substance. All the fire and fear had no substance, no reality. I knew we were safe and would be taken care of by God. And we were.

From Wanda Perschnick:

I prayed to know that God was not in any of the destructive elements of fire—that God would not abandon people or wildlife but would provide what was needed. I prayed for the safety of everyone—especially those directly fighting the fire—and the environment. 

I found it very challenging not to be mesmerized by what I saw, especially as our skies grew dark and thick with smoke and falling ash. I kept thinking about everyone, myself included, as surrounded by divine Love. 

As the fire approached Christmas Valley, on the west side of South Lake Tahoe where my family lives, I felt pretty calm, knowing that we didn’t need to panic as we packed up important and valued items, and that God would guide us to follow the right course. It turned out that we didn’t even need to search for an evacuation site—our neighbor kindly offered us a place. Every night I said prayers of gratitude for this provision and knew that God would continue to provide for everyone’s needs.

I can’t deny that at times I felt anxious, distracted, and fearful. It was all I could do to keep to the basics—to the fact that God, divine Love and Mind, was there guiding and protecting all and that my concept of home could not be touched by any flame.

We were amazed when we learned that the fire had mostly skipped across the residential part of the valley—that a strong wind had pushed the fire across the valley from west to east, blowing many embers back up into a horizontal wind. This aided the firefighters who were working hard to protect the homes. Everyone later said it was a miracle that only one vacation cabin was burned and two homes slightly damaged.

After two weeks, with much gratitude to God and to all involved in fighting this fire, we returned home.

My husband and I were reminded of the Bible story of the three men who were thrown into a fiery furnace—that after they were brought safely out there was not even the smell of smoke on them (see Daniel 3). We have truly witnessed God’s power and presence!

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