Tag Archives: Fire

Helping Naomi

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I thought you might like to see some of the pictures from this week.  When Naomi’s house burned to the ground, they lost everything.  Well, not quite.  They found their family Bible, with all its names and dates carefully recorded from generation to generation.  The Bible survived the fire with only singed edges.  They have their family and they have their history in Jesus.  How sweet is that?!

A room full of donations for the families who lost everything.

A room full of donations for the families who lost everything.

Anyhow, we took up a collection among some of my missionary friends in San Jose.  We sent clothes, toys, food, kitchen items, and shoes.

One of the team members from Dothan, Alabama that is here to do construction for us brought an entire suit case full of mens’ clothes just to give away.  None of us knew how necessary those clothes would be to the father and grandfather of one of the families who lost everything.  You should have seen that father pick up the entire suitcase and toss it on his back with such enthusiasm that you would think it was full of nothing but feathers!  He didn’t mind the weight one bit!  The women were even excited about that old suitcase.  I heard them say to each other, “Something to put our clothes it!”

New Clothes for Dad and Grandpa plus a suit case for storage!

New Clothes for Dad and Grandpa plus a suit case for storage!

But my favorite part of the story involves 6 year-old Naomi.  When we asked her about the fire a few days ago she said, “Me queda sin muñecas.”  It left me without dolls.  Then suddenly something clicked in my memory.  At Christmas we went home to Minnesota for a visit.  A friend of ours at our home church was selling some very lovely china dolls in period piece clothing.  I originally planned to buy two, one for each of my daughters.  But my husband said, buy them all and give them to some girls in Costa Rica.  When our friend heard what we wanted to do with the dolls, she said she wanted to GIVE them to us!  We were touched.

So we came home with 4 extra dolls in our suit cases.  And I waited for the Lord to show me who to give them to.  When Naomi lamented the loss of her dolls, I knew what to do.  There are 2 older girls in family who also lost their precious keep sakes and stuffed animals.  The girls should get all of the dolls, I decided.  Naomi’s mother later told me that she had been saving a very special doll from HER mother for the last 15 years.  She had planned to give it to Naomi someday, but now it was gone.  It was touching to her that Naomi once again had a special doll.  The mother vowed that they would all take care of the dolls.  I just hope Naomi gets to play with it!  🙂

Naomi and her new dollies

Naomi and her new dollies

Finally, my little 5 year-old decided all on her own that she wanted to give those girls something special too.  She selected 3 of her own beloved Barbies, a few outfits each, and a Cinderella princess costume for dress-up.  Lucy wanted to give generously, and I didn’t stop her.  I think not only did she learn a valuable lesson about sharing our possessions, but I think she earned herself a reward in Heaven.  I was so proud of her thoughtful kindness.  Naomi jumped up and down squealing with excitement.  Apparently she loves everything Princess.  We were all happy.

Happiness

So I thought you all would like to see some pictures from our time of sharing with Naomi’s friends and family.  Enjoy and be blessed.

“I lost my stuffed animals when my house caught on fire.”

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IMG_0634“I lost my stuffed animals when my house caught on fire.”  Naomi told missionary Mary.  Even though her house had burned to the ground the day before, little Naomi and her family were at peace.  They were thankful that no one had been hurt.  They had very little to begin with, and now they had nothing.  But they still had the peace of Jesus in their hearts.

The Bible calls God’s peace “The Peace that passes understanding” which is just a fancy way of saying, “Unbelievable peace!”  There’s no way to explain that to someone who has never experienced it.  It’s crazy.  Standing in the middle of their pile of ashes and debris, the family said, “Maybe God has something better for us.”

We just happened to be there on the scene, some of us missionaries.  We just happened to be hosting a team this week.  And the team just happened to be working at the school just around the corner from the 3 houses that burned to the ground.  And the families just happened to be Christians.  And the children of those families just happened to go to the school where we were working.  Was it all a coincidence?  I don’t think so.

The next day we walked down to the charred ruins to see what the family needed.  Turns out they needed everything.  They walked us through a sad tour of the destruction.  I saw a broken plate, some red fabric from something, the skeletal remains of furniture, stairs that lead to the open sky where the second story used to be.  Then I saw the wall with the hand prints painted on it.  The entire family had painted their hand prints on one wall… and that wall was not destroyed!  They still had their family.

New backpack and stuffed animals for Naomi.

New backpack and stuffed animals for Naomi.

The team and I went to Walmart that morning.  We bought clothes and shoes for the children.  We bought a new backpack and school supplies.  We bought bedding.  But the thing that meant the most to little Naomi was that we bought her stuffed animals.  The ones that she lost were the ones that her sponsor family had sent her over the years.  The value of those lost treasures can never be replaced, but maybe, just maybe a new stuffed dog or bear will bring her comfort as the families begin to rebuild their lives on the ashes.

I read this quote on Facebook today.  “The right thought, plus the right people, in right environment, at the right time, for the right reason, always produces the right result” by Dr. John Maxwell.  I can only thank God for putting us in the right place at the right time to help these poor families who have lost everything.  God is Good.

Baptism by Fire

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I’ve been thinking about this phrase “Baptism by Fire” these last few months and wondering where it came from.  I asked a few Costa Rican friends if they had anything in Spanish that was similar, but they said No.  (Maybe if there’s someone out there who knows of one, you could add it to the comments here.)  So of course, I Googled it.  Basically it comes from taking some scripture verses out of context and applying them to a really hard situation.  Once upon a time it was used in France to talk about a soldier’s first real combat experience.  And the Mormons have added it to their rituals, again taking the scriptures out of context, to confer a higher authority (“priesthood”) on someone.

But the more I think about this phrase, and about the imagery of fire, the more I feel like it’s a gross exaggeration of a temporary rough spot in life.  It’s an exaggeration along the lines of “you’re killing me” or “we’re flat broke” or “that was the last straw.”  When we use such over the top words to describe a fleeting trial, we start to feel hopeless and victimized by life.  We start to imagine that we are some kind of martyr in  unusual circumstances.

But the Bible tells me that there is no trial or temptation which is new to mankind, nothing new under the sun, nothing that hasn’t been tried and conquered before.  This gives me great hope.  Rather than stripping me of my uniqueness, it bolsters me with good company.  Others have gone this way before me… and survived.  Sure some have fallen into the gorge on the side of the trail, but the survivors have left their torches along the path to illuminate my steps.  Their baptism by fire lights my way.  I can do this!

In the flames of my trial, I find the essence of my being.  I know what I am made of.  The dross, the flaws, the impure is burned away and the gold and silver bubble to the surface.  It’s the way God designed me.  As I pass through the trials, this old world burns away.  The straw and wooden crutches that have supported me go up in a flash and I have to stand on my faith- really owning it, really trusting it.  Is it strong enough to hold me up?  Or am I going down in flames too?

God does not preserve us from the flames.  They serve a purpose.  The martyrs of old met their end in the flames, being burned alive for their confession of faith and seeing this faith materialize into the face of Jesus right in the midst of their trial.  And it was in the very midst of the fiery furnace that the Son of Man met those three Hebrew teenagers Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (in the Bible, Daniel chapter 3).  They were not rescued from the fire- they met God IN the fire.  I bet if you asked any one of them if they would have liked to skip over this episode in their lives, not one of them would choose to miss out on their closest encounter with God.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime miracle of epic proportions that has encouraged Jesus Followers for centuries thereafter.  The fire is not our enemy- the fire is our opportunity to meet God face to face.

Embrace your trial by fire and seek for Jesus’s face amidst the flickering flames.  Let everything else go up in flames.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O kind.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  Daniel 3:17-18

Children Playing with Matches

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I stepped out of my house to see the sky filling with billows of ominous, black smoke just a few blocks away.  Something was on fire.  The newspaper the next day said that two children were playing with matches in the shanty-town behind the mall and 50 families lost their homes.  It started with the flicker of a match and a puff of sulfur and ended in total devastation.  Children playing with matches.

 When I was 13 years old my family moved to Naperville, Illinois.  My Dad joined the staff of a great church, Calvary Temple, and there I met some of the most influential friends I would ever find.  One of the first services we attended was a New Year’s Eve prayer service.  There were microphones stationed in each isle were people could approach and offer a prayer for all to hear.  Suddenly my bowed head snapped to attention when I heard the voice of a young girl praying into the microphone on the other side of the large auditorium.  I looked up in surprise and saw a girl about my age passionately pouring her heart out to the Lord for all to see and hear.  I said to myself, “I don’t know who that girl is, but she’s going to be my best friend.”  She was brave and passionate and I heard my heart reflected in her prayer.  Many years later Hana Margaron was a bride’s maid in my wedding.  But in 1989 she was just a girl playing with matches.

 It wasn’t long before I found myself surrounded by a little group of friends.  The girl friends that I met at Calvary made a deep impression in my malleable spirit.  We formed a girls’ prayer group, just a bunch of Junior High girls- no adult leader.  And we began exploring the Holy Spirit together.  We were playing with matches.

 It wasn’t long before our cozy little campfire of a prayer meeting started getting out of control.  Suddenly we had a raging fire on our hands.  We became consumed with the passion of sharing the Gospel with everyone.  We brought our school friends to youth group, we started prayer meetings in our High Schools, we provoked religious discussions in Public School classrooms.  During the summers our church hosted Sunday Evening in the Park at the band shell in downtown Naperville.  With my group of young friends in tow, we walked the River Walk every Sunday night inviting strangers to the service in the park and sharing our faith when the conversational door opened.  These kids with matches were consumed with the fire of God.

 Since then I’ve fanned that fire of the Holy Spirit and it has utterly consumed my life.  On first blush it appears that I have nothing to show for my 37 years of life.  The fire has burned it all up.  I have no house of my own.  I don’t have a car of my own.  When it comes time to collect social security I’m going to be screwed because I’ve never received one paycheck for what I do.  There are no schools or hospitals with my name on them.  You will not find a single book written by me (yet).  I have only the degrees I actually need and use, no honorary doctorates hang on my wall.  Here in this world I only have a little handful of ashes that show that a fire has blown through here.  I’m just a girl playing with matches… and I love it.

 There’s an old Amy Grant song called “1974” that always makes me think of those days when our little group of young girls started praying together.  I’m not sure that any of us really knew what we were in for when we asked for more of God.  We were just kids innocently exploring our faith.  I want to say thank you to all my friends from that time of my life.  Thank you for loving God in a way that stirred up a flame in me.  Thanks for warming your hands by the fire with me.  I still love you, Friends.  Did any of us really know what we were getting into?  We were just children playing with matches.

Sunset from my window

 ******In case you are curious, I’m including the lyrics for the song 1974, or you can just look for it on youtube.  Here’s my heart in music.**********

We were young

And none of us knew quite what to say

But the feeling moved among us in silence anyway

Slowly we had made

Quite a change

Somewhere we had crossed a big line

Down upon our knees we had tasted Holy wine

And no one could sway us in a lifetime!

Purer than the sky behind the rain

Falling down all around us, calling out from a boundless love

Love had lit a fire we were the flame

Burning into the darkness, shining out from inside us.

Not a word

No one had to say we had changed

Nothing else we lived through would ever be the same

Knowing the truth we had gained!

Firewalking

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Bear with me if you’ve heard this one before (or just skip to the very end and read the last 2 paragraphs).

A long time ago in Ancient Babylon there were 3 Hebrew teenagers.  Now because we aren’t in Ancient Babylon I’m going to take some artistic liberties and give these boys modern names. Let’s just call them Chad, Mike, and Ben.  They were captives serving the King of Babylon.  They were chosen to be servants instead of being killed because they were smart, good looking, and came from noble families back in Israel.  They should have show gratitude to the King for sparing their lives.  Instead, they refused to eat the food he sent from his own table because it had been sacrificed to idols and that was morally repulsive to a Hebrew.  For their moral courage, God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds in addition to favor with the King.  They were given important government jobs in Babylon.

Time passed, and one day the King of Babylon got a wild idea.  He constructed a huge golden statue of himself, set it out on a plain, and required everyone to come and worship his statue.  He ordered everyone, “When you hear the band start to play music, bow down and worship my statue.”  Chad, Mike and Ben knew that this was wrong.  So when the music started and everyone dropped to their knees there were 3 boys left standing.  The King called Chad, Mike and Ben in for a talk.  “Now because I like you boys, I’m going to give you a second chance.  When you hear the music, bow down to the statue.  Come on guys, be team players, you’re making me look bad.  Just bend your knees, that’s all I ask.  Otherwise I’m going to have to throw you in a fiery furnace in front of everyone just to show who’s boss.  Then what god will rescue you from my anger?”

The boys replied, “We don’t need a second chance.  It will be the same as before.  We only bow to the God we serve.  And he is able to save us from your hand and the fiery furnace.  But even if he doesn’t, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or bow to your statue, O King.”

That pissed the King off in a big way!  He ordered the furnace turned up seven times hotter than usual.  It was so hot that the soldiers ordered to throw the boys in the fire dropped dead from the heat.  These three boys fell into the flames, bound hand and foot.

Suddenly, the King jumped to his feet in amazement.  He shouted, “Hey!  Weren’t there three guys that we tied up and threw in the fire?  Look!  I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods!”  So he called them out of the fire.  When they walked out alive everyone crowded around them to examine them.  There was not a hair singed on their heads and they didn’t even smell like smoke!  The King burst out in praise to God, the God who rescued Chad, Mike and Ben.  And he ordered that everyone worship the one true God too.  The End.

Here’s my point in telling this story.  Very often we pray that God would rescue us from the flames of whatever trial we are facing.  But sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes God wants us to go into the fire.  Sometimes God wants to rescue us IN the fire instead of rescuing us FROM the fire.  But there is another option too.  Sometimes it is God’s will that we die in the fire.  The history of the world is full of people who have died for their faith, martyrs.  And Chad, Mike and Ben were OK with any of those 3 final scenarios.  Any of them.  They said, “Even if God doesn’t rescue us, we will still worship him.”

So yes, God can rescue you FROM the fire.  He can meet you IN the fire.  Or he can ask you to DIE by fire either physically or metaphorically.  It’s his choice.  Are you all right with all of those choices?  Would you stand firm in your commitment to God even if it looks like it’s not going to have a pretty ending?  Is God still worthy of your worship even if he doesn’t answer your prayers like you wanted him to?  Walking through the fire could be your finest moment with God, because he won’t let you go there alone.  If he calls you to the fire, he will be with you.  He promised.