This morning I woke up to gentle breezes blowing through the open windows of our cabin rental on the east side of North Cascades National Park in Washington. You could hear the chortle of a very industrious squirrel, well, squirreling away nuts and seeds for winter. Mountain birds that had lived their whole lives above 1,700 feet added their soft twitters to the symphony. The staccato of an air-nailer could be heard coming from the site of a new build down the street. Along with those sounds, the faint wisp of a campfire tickled my nose. Keep in mind, we had seen numerous signs over the past day and a half stating that fire danger was high and a burn ban was in effect . Imagine tent camping or hiking into the back country and not being able to build a fire to warm up or to cook a hot breakfast. The binder provided by the owners of our rental even furnished instructions on how to use the fire suppression system outside. So, you can imagine why my nose perked up as I was lying in bed wondering from where the scent of flames came.
A couple of hours later we pulled out of the secluded bit of forest where our cabin was located to find you could hardly see the tops of the mountains we were surrounded by. Thick smoke was like a veil of clouds over the peaks and was spreading white, wispy tentacles down the valleys. It turns out that what I was seeing and smelling was caused by a forest fire in Banff National Park and Kootenay National Park in British Columbia over five hundred and fifty miles away.
Devastation caused by forest fires can be seen for years afterward. The blackened spires of once tall proud trees dot the slopes around the North Cascades National Park. The fire that was started by lightning burned to within a half-mile of the Visitors Center in late July of 2015. The rain has since washed away the ash that resulted from the forest fire that burned almost 8,000 acres within the park. One of the first plants to emerge after such devastating fires is the Fireweed. Its fragile, purple blossoms carpet the once dead, gray forest floor. These blooms attract bright yellow and black bumble bees that dart from one flower to another, sipping sweet nectar. The amber colored honey produced by these bees is some of the most sought after by honey enthusiasts. Other plants like the Blazing Star, Wild Lupine, and the endangered Sand Plain Geradia actually need fire to reproduce. The cones of several Evergreen trees must be exposed to high temps to melt their waxy seals in order to release their seeds. The cycle brought about by death and destruction produces beauty from ashes for this forested landscape.
Are you in the midst of the raging inferno? Miscarriage, a cancer diagnosis, abrupt termination of a job, the repeated waywardness of a child? Maybe you are in the ash-filled wake of the fire where all fuel has been consumed and you stand looking around wondering how anything will ever bloom again. Friend, don’t give into despair. God’s promises written to us through the prophet Isaiah reminds us that He will give “beauty for ashes… the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”. May the reign of the Holy Spirit in your life wash away the ashes resulting from the fire that the evil one meant for destruction. May seeds planted long ago burst into blooms in your life that only the high heat of fire can open. Then will you be “called (a) tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” And that, dear sister, is one of our primary objectives as a daughter of the King – bringing Him glory!
“To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.””
-Isaiah 61:3 NKJV-
Remember when you were a child and someone showed you how, when you slice an apple in half through the middle instead of top to bottom, that it forms a star and you can see all the seeds inside? Grab an apple today for lunch or a snack. Slice it through the middle and remind yourself of the promise hidden in the seeds you see – the hundreds of apples that could spring up from one of those seeds. Mediate on God’s promise found in Philippians 1:6 that says, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it”.