The Almeda Fire and My Thermometer

Back in the dark ages of my early years when people of organizations wanted to raise funds they would set a goal and make a poster of a thermometer to show the amount of the funds given and the progress they were making to reach the goal. Of course the real goal was to have the thermometer fill to the top and over flow. 

It has been six days since we evacuated our home and church because the Almeda fire was being blown and fueled by very high winds and smoke was telling us that the fire was no longer miles away. Of course everyone else in Talent was trying to get out as well so traffic was at a standstill.  It seemed like the fire was moving faster than we were and at one point I could see the flames to the right of us. After two hours we made it to Medford city limits and relative safety, a drive which would normally take 10-15 minutes. After an hour there we had to evacuate again. By this time it was getting dark.

It was a time of great emotional stress which was demanding me to change course and double back hoping the fire had past. It seemed like since the winds were behind us we were driving into the fire and we were still moving slowly.

We came back the next day and were shocked to find all homes across the street for blocks were burned to the ground and smoldering. There was no water, power, or internet, and no one around. It is hard to describe the overwhelming and helpless feelings I had at that time. Today as I look at the ashes across the street that were once homes of friends and neighbors it is still hard to process.

Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength.” NIV

I used to look at this Proverb with judgmental eyes, but Solomon was writing these proverbs to teach his son the wisdom needed to be a leader and king. I realize now that this is a thermometer. It is an indicator of spiritual strength. All too often I am tempted to rely on emotional strength and wisdom. Emotions cry out for us to abandon wisdom and discipline and try something new or different, and almost always, act impulsively.  

As we were creeping along I chose to pray and trust the Lord. I somehow knew we would get through this if we just stayed the course. But! My emotions were screaming. Had I listened to my emotions (based on fear) and doubled back I would have driven into the fire with the worst yet to come.

I’m old enough to remember the young men who came back from fighting World War two. Those men were the fathers of my friends. As my generation grew up and “got educated” we accused the WW 2 generation of stuffing their emotions. This was wrong. It was not that they stuffed their emotions; they managed them. There are many ways to do this. Discipline is one way. Substance abuse is another. I have found the best way is with spiritual strength. I remember in Overeaters Anonymous they would say, “Feel the pain, just don’t eat.”  It was a good saying but where does one find the strength to not eat when they are feeling the pain? It is in developing our spiritual strength. This is something all of us need to do because if we do not, and “go with our heart,” there can be grave dangers ahead.

The first church I served as pastor met in the conference room of a drug alcohol rehab center.   The director of the center who was not a Christian said that the first thing to go in addictions is the spiritual and it is the last thing to come back in recovery. I have studied rehab groups long enough to realize that he was right and if the spiritual does not come back the recovery is short lived if there is recovery at all. I have also observed that many, if not all addictions, along with many of the self-inflicted problems we have, are a result of emotions that were or are out of control.

So if your spiritual life was a thermometer what would be your temperature? If it is low what must we do? We can’t deny that we have emotions, we do, and many emotions are good, but emotions must be managed and controlled. Emotions can be controlled with discipline but they are best controlled with spiritual strength from God and His wisdom and discipline. The only way to do that is to give ourselves to God, get to know God, learn from God, and trust God. Obviously this is not a one-time event, but an ongoing one.

So where do we start? We start by giving our life to God. On this site there is a Know God link for you to do that. Second, we need to spend time with God and the way to do that is through Bible study and prayer. If you’re struggling with controlling emotions I recommend reading a chapter a day of Proverbs. Go through the book again and again until God’s wisdom starts to take hold. I also recommend reading a Psalm a day. Many of the Psalms are prayers and some are very emotional but in this case the emotions are released to God as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:7. The more we do this the more we will grow spiritually and trust God. To know God we must spend time with God. A good place to start is by reading one of the Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. This may seem like a lot of reading but it really isn’t. More importantly the time we spend reading the Bible is time spent feeding our spirit and not our emotions. That is a good thing.

This is not a goal to be set and finished, it is a spiritual exercise that this old pastor has found he must do daily if I want to keep my spiritual strength at the healthy range on my thermometer.

Here are some verses to get started.

Matthew 11:28-30; Nehemiah 8:9&10; Psalm 37:3-6: Proverbs 3:5:6; Mark 12:28-31

There is plenty more where these came from but let’s start with theses.

Be safe, be strong, be blessed!

Pastor Dave