The Fire That Burned 11 Homes (and what that has to do with praying to God)

how to pray

The Fire That Burned 11 Homes

One time I was on a fire that destroyed eleven homes in Ashland, Oregon. One of our tactics on that fire was to use helicopters to drop water on the burning houses. When the helicopters began operating it was important to keep them from dropping water on one particular house where firefighters were working inside. That’s because a helicopter water drop can push fire in all directions, in spectacular fashion, which is very cool to watch. Most of the time when it happens, if the house is well involved, fire just explodes out of every window and door in the place. But because it blows fire all over, a water drop from a helicopter can cause serious injury or even death to anyone fighting fire inside.

So with a couple of crews inside this house and with the helicopters flying all over doing their water drops, I became concerned that they would drop on the house with my guys inside. So I called command on the radio.

“Command from Oak Knoll Division,” I said. “Direct the helicopters NOT to drop on the house directly across from 8106.”

Command responded, “Copy, send a helicopter to drop water directly on the house across from 8106.”

Of course that was exactly what I did not want them to do. Continue reading

My Desperate Prayer (and how God answered)

Meaning of LifeYes, I know. Last post I said it was the last post on suffering. But I couldn’t let the series end without a short word on prayer. Prayer and suffering are just too connected to end it without addressing the issue of prayer.

My Desperate Prayer

I walked alone into the woods of the Rogue Valley, in Oregon. I wasn’t a Christian, but I was there to pray. I was making that hike and praying like that fairly often, because I was desperate for two things. One, I needed a job. Kathy was eight months pregnant with our first son Gabe. We were living in an 8′ x 24′ travel trailer and borrowing from my parents to make the rent. The shower was so small, and Kathy was so pregnant, that she couldn’t pick up a bar of soap if she dropped it. And I was unemployed.

The second thing I prayed for was strange because I wasn’t a Christian. The second thing I prayed for was Christian friends. Peculiar, I know. But I was so intrigued by Jesus that I wanted to learn more. And I felt the need to connect with other Christians so I could find out all I could about him.

I never saw God’s answer coming. The way He answered that prayer was completely outside of my imagination. I’ll share what He did Continue reading

How We Forget God’s Name While We Suffer (and Why That Makes It So Much Worse)

Christian Suffering Pain Depression

Continuing our series on suffering, in this post we’ll look at how forgetting God’s name contributes to suffering and a crushed spirit.

Forgetting God’s Name

I’m just going to be frank here. Many times you and I as believers suffer in a way that’s not necessary simply because we forget God’s name. Oh sure, we believe in the redemptive work Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago on the cross to pay for our sins. And we believe somewhere down the road we’re headed for heaven, ultimately. But there’s a huge truth missing that dramatically affects us as we suffer, and even when we don’t.

Often times you’re a lot like Continue reading

Suffering (And How Paul Never Prayed For The Persecution To Go Away)

Pain Suffering Christian

It’s What’s Inside

San Francisco Giants Pitcher Dave Dravecky

Dave Dravecky pitched for the San Francisco Giants until a cancerous desmoid tumor in his pitching arm required surgery. They removed half of his deltoid muscle and froze his humerus bone to try to kill all the cancer cells. On August 10 in 1989, after a long and grueling period of rehab, he came back to the majors and pitched eight innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched brilliantly and he won 4 to 3. After the game he told the media, “It’s a miracle.” But just five days later, in the sixth inning against Montreal, during his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped in two. The sound of it was so loud it could be heard throughout the stadium.

The cancer was back. And he not only lost his career as a baseball player but he lost his arm. When he was interviewed about it he said this:

“Nobody ever promised that life is going to be fair. Everybody’s going to have adversity. The only way to handle it is to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on the Lord.”

After all that pain and toil and work and sweat and grief, after all that Dravecky failed. Yet look how he responded. How is that possible? How could anyone respond to that kind of adversity that way?

What’s Inside

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14)

A wounded spirit, as I understand it in the Bible, occurs when a person’s passion for life is squashed (the English Standard Version actually uses the word crushed). A depressed person could be an example of this. A suicidal person would be at the extreme end of this spectrum. And here in Proverbs 18 we see one of many places in the Bible where God’s perspective on suffering is different than the typical understanding of most Americans and many others throughout the world. We think our happiness is mostly dependent on our circumstances. If I have the right job, if I have the right woman, if I get the promotion, if I’m healthy, if I can make enough money, then… I’ll be happy.

But God says, Continue reading

Where Wisdom is Given Abundantly and for Free

God wisdom

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not… James 1:5

You know that guy who’s intimidating. The one who makes you feel like he’s unapproachable. Maybe at some point he had information you needed, but you didn’t ask him for it did you? You didn’t ask him for it because you were afraid he’d come down on you if you did.

Well God won’t respond like that.

I’ve read James 1:5 at least a dozen times, but I never saw it until this morning. What it says is that God will never come down on you when you ask Him for wisdom.

So ask Him.

God was pleased when Solomon asked for wisdom. He’ll be pleased when you do too.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 1 Kings 3:7-10

[Image via walknboston – Creative Commons]

7 Ways to Draw Closer to Christ in 2014

Closer to God

The Problem With Poinsettias

The problem with poinsettias is you have to water them. Kathy was away visiting family and one of my jobs while she was gone was to water the beautiful live potted poinsettias she bought as part of our Christmas decorations. Some may find this hard to believe but–I forgot. It wasn’t until a few days before Kathy’s return that I noticed the poinsettias were looking pretty bleak. Again you may find this hard to believe but this was not the first time I forgot to water plants in Kathy’s absence. Having experience with this problem I used my go to recovery plan: dump copious amounts of water on the plant and hope it recovers before Kathy returns.

Well the plan worked and the poinsettias did recover. However in the process of picking off the dead leaves to make the poinsettias look better, I accidentally severed a branch. It’s the one in the photo at the top of this post. It didn’t fare well after it was separated from the vine. It wasn’t long before it shriveled and died.

In John chapter 15 Jesus says plainly, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

1) Practice His Presence

“…without Me you can do nothing.” And that brings us to our number one means of drawing closer to Christ in 2014: Continue reading

Chiefest of Sinners

Chiefest of Sinners

Skunk by vladeb — Creative Commons

I was angry yesterday afternoon. Some problems stacked up over the week, stupid problems, relatively small problems. But as they built up I finally became angry and frustrated. So, as I often do when I’m angry and frustrated, I went for a walk with my Lord. I hiked up a trail that leads to a place called Hobart Bluff. It’s a beautiful viewpoint at a high elevation, more than 5,000 feet. So as I’m hiking and praying and listening to what our Father has to say, I’m getting a distinct and definite word from Him that goes like this: Continue reading

Love Like Jesus–How a Woman’s Prayer Saved a Firefighter’s Life

Woman prays saves firefighter's life Love Like JesusTrapped

The Grange Co-op was on fire. Steve Shafer and two other firefighters drug a hose line through an open bay door and disappeared into the thick black smoke. The thick smoke severely limited their visibility. They were feeling their way, peering through the darkness, looking for any sign of light from the flames that waited for them inside. It was all textbook so far, except for one thing, they couldn’t find the fire. They could feel the heat, there was dense smoke, but try as they might, no fire could be found.

Because he had only been on the department one year, it was Steve Shafer’s job to operate the nozzle on the 2 1/2 inch line taken into the Grange Co-Op, on South Pacific Highway, in Medford, Oregon. The Grange, as the locals called it, was a large retail store and warehouse that sold agricultural supplies.

Steve’s crew took a path that resembled the letter J. After working their way 150 feet deep into the structure, and still finding no flames, they decided to retreat back outside. In a situation such as this, firefighters are trained to follow the hose back out of the building, but Steve thought he could take a short cut across the hook of the J. So he dropped the nozzle, and headed for what he thought was the way out. He didn’t make it far. After a few moments he bumped into a wall. “Not good,” he thought to himself. He turned around and headed back in the general direction of the hose line, but somehow he missed it.

“By now I was totally disoriented,” Steve said. “I had no idea which way to go.”

He felt his way until he found a large roll up door, but it had a padlock on it. It was around this time his low-air warning-bell started ringing.

“So my low-air bell’s going off, and the roll up doors had these little narrow 4″ x 12″ windows in them,” Steve said. “I’m looking through them to the outside, but I can’t see anybody.” Continue reading

Unemployed


The following is a true story.

Back in Chicago they both had good jobs. Back in Chicago they lived in a nice apartment. But that was six months ago. Now he’s twenty-three years old and living in an 8’x21′ travel trailer in the mountains outside of Talent, Oregon. His wife is seven months pregnant with their first child. Their trailer is so small that, in her pregnant condition, if she drops the soap in the shower she has to step out of the shower to pick it up. The only place for the refrigerator is on the front porch. His boss at the cabinet shop where he works tells him that the economy is bad and getting worse — the work is drying up. He has to cut his hours back to eight per week.

He is not a believer, but it’s been said that there are no unbelievers in fox holes, and he is in a financial fox hole. In desperation he walks out into the beautiful woods of Southern Oregon, kneels down and prays. He says, Lord, please, I have a baby on the way, my hours are down to almost nothing, we can’t afford to pay the rent on our little trailer, we’re broke. I need a job.

Friends and family tell him to apply for unemployment. But partly out of his foolish pride, and partly out of his own integrity, he won’t. Unemployment is not for able bodied men, he answers. With no job, my job is to find a job, he says. So he applies everywhere: wood mills, factories, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, everywhere. But nobody’s hiring.

Things get desperate. The baby is due soon and his pregnant wife is ready to move back to Chicago, where her family is, and where the jobs are. Where she can live in a decent place instead of a tiny travel trailer. During one tearful argument she has her bags packed and is at the front door. Just until the end of the month, he says. If I don’t find work by the end of the month, we’ll head back home.

He’s spending more and more time out in the woods, on his knees, praying. One time he prays something that even surprises him. He starts with the usual desperate plea, Lord, please, the rent, the baby, the bills, my wife has had it. I need your help. Please. And then, this unbeliever, prays something surprising. These words come out of his mouth: Lord please give me a job, and give me a job where there are Christians.

He and his wife are looking at help wanted sites when he finds a firefighter position advertised. Good salary, good schedule, it sounds too good to be true. Unlike many young men, he’s never dreamed of becoming a firefighter, in fact, it’s never even crossed his mind. I’m not sure about this one, he says. It really does sound too good to be true.

You’re applying, she says.

So he does. He applies. They give him a three hundred page binder to study, for a written exam.

Just a few days after he turns in his application, the baby is born. He learns something about what it means to love someone, in truth, he didn’t know he could love anybody as much as he loves his little boy. They pay part of the hospital bill with money borrowed from family. The rest they promise to pay on a little each month.

He’s in the woods again, on his knees. More desperate than ever. Lord, now on top of everything else, I have this baby to provide for! Help me to do that Lord.

The baby is five days old the night before the firefighter test. He crams all through the night then shows up, sleep deprived, at the local high school cafeteria where the test is being given. He walks through the door to find three hundred other applicants seated and waiting for the tests to be passed out. Look at them all, he thinks to himself. He almost walks out but decides, as long as he’s come this far…

The guy on his left seems to be acquainted with the guy on his right. Did you hear there’s a  firefighter from Portland who came down to take this test? The guy on his left says. The guy on his right replies, No, but did you hear there’s a Captain from Phoenix, Arizona who’s taking this test?

Wow, he thinks. What chance do I have. But I’m here. What else is there for me to do but to go ahead and take this exam.

A week later the phone rings. It’s the fire department. They want to do an interview. A week after that he’s in front of the Fire Chief and two Battalion Chiefs. He answers everything as best he can. A few days after that they offer him the job.

On day one, in the middle of his first full shift as a firefighter, one of his crew says, Hey, we usually take a little time to do a Bible study in the evenings. Why don’t you join us?

That unemployed twenty-three year old was me. And as you can see, I have found Jesus’ words to be true. You will too.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’


“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”


And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”


–Luke 18:1-8