It’s been hot and dry up in Alaska. Where I am in Seward, I can’t remember the last time we got a good rainfall. And this is after a particularly dry winter that left us with hardly any snow pack from which to draw during the summer months. It’s been hot. It’s been dry. It’s dusty And that means it’s prime time for forest fires–even as our traditional fire season is over a month away.
The picture above is the early stages of a fire here on the Kenai Peninsula last week, just outside of Sterling. I snapped the picture from the car as I was driving along the road from Soldotna back to Seward. I had just been passed by 5 or 6 fire trucks and a couple of State Trooper cars so I knew something bad was going on. And, as I approached the area where the fire had started, I could see roads blocked off and a whole lot of activity taking place. I pulled off to see if I could find any news about it online but I was pretty sure it was a forest fire. I just didn’t know how big it was at this point or if it was going to be close to the road I’d be traveling on.
Within a day or so, this particular fire was at about 1000 acres. Within a week it has burned 7,500 acres of land. Right now it looks like we’ve turned the corner on managing it even as it still burns on.
While we’ve enjoyed the sunshine in what is usually a pretty rainy area, we are truly in desperate need of rain. It would help this fire and the many others burning around the state. It could give some relief to the firefighters and the communities.
Over the past week there has been a lot of discussion about these wildfires. It’s been on the news and many Alaskans know of families who have had to evacuate from their homes as the fires raged. Donations are being collected. Animals need to be relocated. It affects many people. In our United Methodist circle, we had a church in Willow (North of Anchroage) evacuate and then work closely with the Red Cross for relief efforts for those who lost homes. We also had an elementary church camp where their talk of the Holy Spirit moved from a theme of “Fire” to one of “Wind” to avoid upsetting children.
It’s amazing how hot and fast these things burn. When you hear tales of them (or watch the YouTube videos) you can see why it takes air attacks from planes and helicopters and “Hotshot” crews from all over the nation to fight them. Dry spruce trees light up like matches when the fires hit. Others have noted that they “explode” into flames. It’s truly stunning to behold and exceptionally scary to all whose lives are affected. They move quick.
This got me to thinking of the Great Revivals that have spread across the United States at times in our history. We’ve said that revival has spread like a wildfire; not unlike the fires we’ve been witnessing in our neck of the woods. The Spirit blows through a town, setting hearts afire for Jesus and that flame is contagious and keeps on going. Whole churches and towns and regions (at least as we’ve been told) ignite, like a great big spiritual match being lit and spread along.
That sounds attractive.
That sounds exciting.
It’s something to pray for.
But really, the work of discipleship, of growing in the grace and love of Christ, is a much slower process than this. Unlike the bursting of flame throughout the forest, it’s more like the hard work that goes into starting a small fire in the wilderness. Proverbially, there’s a whole lot of rubbing sticks together and collecting kindling and relighting matches and blowing to keep the embers going…praying for the flame to “take.” Discipleship involves the long work of being involved in the lives of others, trying to nurture growth and encourage every little spark of spiritual life to become an actual, burning flame. And, dear God, there is great rejoicing when we have an honest to God spiritual fire — in an individual or a Bible Study or even a whole church. It doesn’t come easy.
Until that time, we keep praying for our wildfire to come; our revival to burst into flame…or at least a spark to light.
That and, around here, we’ll be praying for some rain. We really need it.