Local News, Personal Faith

Call to Prayer: Northern California Wildfires

The smoke outside the church office built up to alarming levels over just a couple hours. The winds shifted, bringing darkened skies that blocked all but the sun’s outline like an impending storm.

The Northern California wildfires made their presence known in our neighborhood earlier this week as fine ash blanketed the city. I ran to my car, amazed a few minutes later how my asthma flared so quickly.

As of tonight, the fires have taken forty lives and thousands of structures. It does look like progress is being made in containing these fires, but as with the recent hurricanes, the impacts will reverberate for a long time.

Local Wildfire Impact

The winds picked up on Sunday night a week ago. Like last night, they howl through my neighborhood as if through a wind tunnel. The air cools at night, but it is dry. Fire danger warnings remind me this is fire season. The warnings last until at least tomorrow evening even as winds died down this afternoon.

I live about thirty miles from the nearest fires in Northern California. Even though the fires do not threaten my home, we see their impact of health and activity everyday. My son could not run cross country for a few days.One student I talked to didn’t know if he would return to school after a week off due to smoke and fire.

On Thursday, when the air cleared out some, I took him to a local meet in Sacramento. A coach from Lodi mentioned his friends in the wine country who lost a home, and others who evacuated. Tonight I learned that someone at church knew someone who lost a house in Santa Rosa. Everyone knows someone touched by these fires it seems.

From Pain to Prayer

I woke up Monday morning to news of all the fires in the wine country. Fires in the Sierra Nevada foothills and in Southern California also flared. Lori immediately thought of the Tonner Canyone Fire that nearly swept into our neighborhood in 2010. In California it seems we’re never too far from fire’s impact.

Growing up in the Bay Area and going to univeristy near Sacramento at UC Davis, I have a fondness and love for Northern California. My family decided to move back after eight years in Los Angeles partly to return to what I felt like home. It’s painful to see so many of my neighbors impacted by these fires.

As I prepare for Sunday at church tomorrow, I keep coming back to the need to turn this pain I feel to prayer for those impacted by the wildfires. I also want to send out a call to pray.  I think of those who lost their loved ones, homes, businesses, and sense of security. Some eight thousand fire fighters fight on the front lines of the fires, as do many, many others of responders.

Psalm 46 is a psalm I’m praying for Northern California. May God be the refuge and strength of all those who are fearful, anxious, or experiencing loss.

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Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.