"I can still feel the heat," my friend said quietly. We were standing next to what had been his family's home for 40 years.
"Son of a buck" was his softly spoken strongest epithet--the same epithet I recall him uttering in stress filled circumstances years ago. Years ago he and I served together on the Mendocino County CA Sheriff Department's SWAT team. I still remember this gentle giant pounding past me on one of our team runs as he beat me to the finish line. He now needs and has a deeper endurance.
I walked his property with him as he pointed out the blackened remains from the hurricane of heat; his farm truck with wheels flowing off in frozen metal rivulets, 800 bales of hay reduced to ash, a large picture frame with precious picture now vaporized--countless precious keepsakes from a lifetime of beloved memories now burned, framed by an ash covered foundation.
Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, the Tennessee church shooting, Las Vegas, and now the California fires. On scene in these horrific weeks I have again witnessed the Good Shepherd walking folks through the deathly shadowed valley--comforting, guarding, guiding. All with divine compassion, and all with divine purpose and timing beyond human plan or control...
Early Monday morning I flew from Chicago to San Francisco, then drove north on Highway 101 through smoky Santa Rosa. Finally, after a daylong 2,000 plus miles of travel, I reached my friend's remaining doorsteps a bare half hour before he and his wife returned home to the ruins. They had been in Oregon and so had been unable to rescue any of their precious possessions. With his cousin I awaited their arrival and was able to be there for them--to hug them, to walk with them, to listen to them, and to pray with them. All glory to God for his grace and timing.
After leaving my friends I drove through the gathering gloom to the other side of the valley. Through night darkness, through blackened trees and vineyards, I at first drove past the unrecognizable remains of the past, the first house my wife and I built so many years ago, now ashes to ashes.
These things are now gone, but the memories and mission remain. Today I will again check on Berle and Linda. Faith, hope and love remain in the remains.
Thanks for your prayers.