The thunder and brilliant lightning breaking up the sky like cracks in a ceramic pot were amazing to watch, and my two friends and I would have been perfectly content to sit where we were and enjoy the light show God was hosting if it weren't for our front-row seats. The fact that we were sitting on a ridge above the highest ski lift on Mt. Hood, hot chocolate in hand, after completing the summit I had dreamed a year about boded ill-health for us in the approaching lightning storm. Conversation was broken up between sips of the warm drink and pauses to count the seconds in between the thunder and lightning. Brave the rocky ridge to get down, stay low here on top of it in lightning position, or glissade down the very conductive snow to get down faster? All excellent options. We chose to slide down the mountain, stopping for cover at the top ski lift station. Now we had second-row seats without being exposed on a ridge up high. And what a show it was! Lightning just screams to me of God's power. And the God of the lightning calls us "beloved."
A few days later I was rafting down the river on a multi-day trip. We raft by day, camp on the shore at night. While the wilderness feel is broken up by the occasional outhouse on the banks, what you see is miles and miles of seemingly untouched hills. Guiding the raft down that river, hearing the stories of my young paddlers, and seeing God's creative artwork in every direction I looked-- I thought to myself, "What a great life we live! What a privilege!" I'm learning more and more about these waters; the waters that can wrap boats helplessly on rocks, the waters that provide a life for birds, critters, fish, and plants alike in the desert, the waters that quenches our thirst in 100+degree weather. The river both thunders and whispers of God's powerful love. And the God of the mighty waters sustains us.
Our last night on the river during this multi-day trip we experienced God in a new way still. The God of fire. Apparently the lightning storms from when I was on Hood started up fires in many other places, the smoke of which we had witnessed the past few days. Just before 5 runs of body-surfing a class-3 rapids with our youth, the ranger told us we would probably be okay if the fire stayed on the other side of the ridge across the river. By nightfall, the fire had climbed to the top of that ridge. I woke up in the night, a gust of hot air passing over our tarp. The wildfire probably would have looked even more spectacular had my contacts been in, but what I can tell you is that the whole opposite shore was glowing orange. A river of dancing flames consuming the dry grass and leaving behind charred earth and ashes. We monitored the fire that night, having already talked through our options of a night-evac or an early morning departure. God's flame consumed the entire opposite bank, but the wind coming from our shore prevented any embers from finding new fuel on our side. One of the times I was awake and watching the fire, I noticed the girl next to me was afraid. My immediate thought was, "When I am afraid I will trust in You" (Ps. 56:3), a line that my parents told me over and over growing up. Whenever I was fearful of what was in the dark, whenever I was afraid that I would never see my Dad again, whenever I was frightened over what could happen-- that Scripture was a constant reminder that God is still in control. I got to pray with that girl, and I felt the peace of God over our camp even with the fire so dangerously close. When I rolled on one side, I saw the all-consuming flames. When I rolled to the other, I saw the beautiful moon shining down on the hills. Both reminders of God's power. Both reminders that God is with us. And the God of the fire calls us to trust.
ONE THING GOD HAS SPOKEN, TWO THINGS I HAVE HEARD: THAT YOU, O GOD, ARE STRONG, AND THAT YOU, O LORD, ARE LOVING. -Ps. 62:11-12