Thursday, April 4, 2013

Burning the Fields

Being a Kansas girl I have always loved the distinct change of seasons we enjoy, though I must admit the approach of winter is my least favorite.  With spring upon us, we begin to see the burning of the prairies and fields.  Ranchers and land-owners begin to carefully select days or evenings of calm winds in order to light the fires that will bring newness of life and fresh grass to their property.  My husband, Matt, and I enjoy taking country road drives at night in the springtime to watch the flames sweep gracefully and beautifully across the fields.  We especially love the smell, though it makes me want to be a kid at a bonfire again eating toasted S'mores and charred weenies!  I recently captured a photo and posted it on Instagram of a neighbor's hill engulfed in springtime flames.  It is an exciting thing to witness the dead, lifeless vegetation being caught-up and removed by the fires.  Then, once it rains a couple of times, to next see the new, lush, green growth spring forth in its place. 

This is a great metaphor for our lives as believers.  When God brings hardship and trials to our lives, He always has a purpose in mind.  Tough times hurt us--they are like the fire on the fields of our lives.  At first glance, it appears the fields (our lives) are being ravaged.  The smoke from the fires blurs our vision.  We question and doubt God and His purpose in the pain.  We don't understand why He would use such harsh tactics.  We watch things go up in smoke that we thought we needed or that we wanted to hold onto or control.  But hopefully through the hardship we learn to trust God more.  We look up.  We seek Him harder.  We need Him more.  We talk to Him much more.  We learn patience.  If we approach the fires in our lives with the proper perspective, we also learn endurance, perseverance, hope, and the meaning of true joy.  We become more empathetic toward others and better understand the pain and struggles they face.  We hopefully learn what is really important.  We get our priorities in check and we get rid of things in our lives that are unnecessary, binding, or perhaps even sinful.  This is the dead stuff that God is trying to remove by putting us through the flames--the flames of living life on a sinful earth.  But once we come through the fire, we are hopefully changed.  The stuff that was masking and preventing new growth is gone, and after all the pain has subsided, we don't even miss it.  The stuff that remains is the good stuff--it survived the fire because God protected it and it was strong enough.  We are renewed and much more open to the new things in the life that God has in store for us.  It may not look like we thought it would or how we initially wanted it to look, but the outcome is worth it and even better when God is involved.

As I've watched some nearby fields being burned recently, I have thought about loved ones and friends who are struggling through the fires of life.  All their fires are vastly different, but they are fires and they are painful.  I have thought about my own fires--those through which I've walked and those through which I am walking now.  I am tempted to fret about those I will face in the future.  The fires God uses in our lives can be small, seemingly controllable at times or blazing in other instances.  Fortunately, God is a merciful God and He promises to never give us anything we cannot handle.  My mother used to say this to me and I would respond, "But I'm NOT handling it!"  And she would loving reply, "You're standing here, aren't you?"  Moms...why do they always have the best come-backs?! 

Thinking about all this brought tears to my eyes because when you are being burned, you really don't think about much else.  You can't.  It is a pretty big deal and it demands (or commands) your attention.  At times, it is utterly draining--emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. So I prayed recently that God would tend to the fires in the lives of my family and friends--in all our lives.  I asked Him to bring healing and renewal to us so that we can focus more fully on Him, His Kingdom, and doing His work.  Not that He needed the reminder--it was just a simple prayer from a heart weary of fire.  We all get weary of it.  We hurt for those we love who are battling things for which we have prayed for years perhaps.  But we know as the fires die down Who is really in charge.  He is manning the fires and He is tending to our hearts and lives carefully, effectively, and purposefully.  Our job is to not let the pain and smoke hinder our vision--of Him, His will, His mercy, His love, and His faithfulness to us.  He is a trustworthy fire-keeper.  "Bring the rains, Lord.  Quench the fire and renew us. Amen."

2 Chronicles 7:14, "If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Revelation 21:5, "And He Who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'''

Zechariah 13:9, "This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My Name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are My people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'"

James 1:3, "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience."

Romans 5:3-5, "... but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us."

*Note:  Please check out one of my fave Christian singers/songwriters, Mitch McVicker's song, "Burning the Fields," on My Space or YouTube for a great Kansas, spring-time worship song.  (I am attaching it to this blog post).  Mitch is a former Topekan and was dear friends with the beloved Rich Mullins, another great Christian singer/songwriter.  Rich was killed in a severe automobile accident several years ago.  Mitch was in the accident with him and survived.  He has many amazing testimonies from his life and if you ever get the chance to see him, GO.  He is a genuine seeker of God.  He comes to Topeka pretty faithfully.  God bless and Happy Spring!