May 19, 2010

Through the Fire

2010 1514 page28 capy husband, Mike, called me to the front door Saturday evening and pointed toward smoke rising several miles away on a dry, Colorado mountain. It was the second year in a row of drought. No snow remained on the highest peaks, I had seen only three wildflowers all spring, the grass was yellow and crunchy underfoot, and ?the evergreen trees had shed unusual amounts of brown needles.
The fire seemed to be about six miles away from our 40 acres of private homesteaded property in the middle of the national forest. Our “Little Lost Lodge” was a dream come true.
For several years we had looked for a mountain cabin to spend time renewing ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We certainly weren’t looking for anything so remote. Our one-room cabin is a 30-minute, four-wheel vehicle drive into the national forest, accessible only in summer, with no utilities, and the nearest building more than three miles away. When we saw it for the first time we felt as though God had led us to it.
Smoke Signals
The next morning we watched the wind blow and the smoke spread about 20 miles northeast of us. We felt fairly safe until we noticed that with each passing hour it also seemed to be advancing closer, valley by valley. At noon, as the fire came over one more ridge, we could actually see flames shooting 200 feet into the air, four times the height of the trees. The fire was hopping from treetop to treetop, like waves on the ocean. Suddenly we saw individual trees burst into flame, with orange balls of fire backlighting the black outline of the trunks and branches. A couple deer ran past with sheer terror in their eyes. It was time to leave.
2009 1514 page28We got down on our knees and prayed. “Dear Lord, we acknowledge that You found this cabin for us. We thank You for the time we’ve been able to spend here on the weekends and in the summer renewing ourselves over the past eight years. We pray, Lord, first and foremost, that Your will be done. If, for any reason, this cabin does not draw us closer to You, please remove it from our lives. If it’s lost, we ask You to give us the courage and strength to deal with the loss. However, if You don’t mind, we’d like You to save it. Put Your hands around it and protect it from this fire. We ask that Your will be done. Either way, we praise and glorify Your name. Amen.”
Optimistically, Mike said we wouldn’t have to carry much, since we’d be back. So we grabbed a few mementos and left. I hoped the bunny that lived in our woodpile would be all right.
In God’s Hands
We prayed ceaselessly the following day, thanking God for keeping the fire away from our cabin and asking Him to send firefighters to protect the homes ?of all the others in the path of the fire, which was fast becoming the largest wildfire in Colorado history as it headed straight toward a Denver suburb.
Then the fire doubled back toward our valley. “Dear God,” we prayed, “if saving people’s homes means losing our cabin, it’s OK with us. If You’re going to perform a miracle, we know it’ll be against all odds!”
We stayed glued to the news and kept in daily contact with the fire command center. The Forest Service said firefighters reported seeing our entire valley engulfed in flames. Neither firefighters nor helicopters could get into the area because the flames and wind were too high and they needed to focus their efforts on the subdivisions. We wept, we prayed, and we made requests for divine and human interventions ?on behalf of the animals and people affected by this fire.
A week after the fire began, we heard from a sergeant at the sheriff’s office. “I called to let you know your cabin is still standing,” he said. “I’m a hunter and I know this area well, so I knew where your cabin was. I just couldn’t believe it! The fire went right up to your cabin, within inches all around it! The rest of the area is badly burned. When you go in, be sure to take a camera, because no one will believe you.”
When I told him we had mowed the grass, he said, “Lady, you may have mowed the grass, but you can’t take credit for this. It was a higher power than you that saved your cabin without any support from firefighters or slurry bombers!”
Another week and a half passed. One more time the fire returned to our valley and we were told that the cabin was no longer standing. When we were finally allowed to return, the national forest was a forest no more, just mile after mile of ash and black sticks and occasional patches of green trees. The smoke was still rising, trees were falling, and roots were still smoldering.
Along the way in we passed several homes and cabins that were nothing but ashes, including the one nearest to ours more than three miles away, which had been defended by firefighters and slurry bombers for 14 days before it succumbed to the flames.
Left Behind
Our property was a moonscape. We couldn’t find a single green tree on our 40 acres. The cord of wood stacked six feet away from the cabin was a depression of ashes, an aluminum ladder lying nearby was barely recognizable, the rain gutters were melted, and a half-full plastic gasoline can sitting against the back of the building was melted right down to the level of the gas! But the cabin itself was not singed and there was no smell of smoke at all inside; unless, of course, we opened the windows. I even saw the bunny, alive and well!
Why was our cabin saved and not others? We don’t know. We keep asking, “Why us, God?” We’ve never had anything so miraculous happen to us—ever. But it’s impossible to share this story without talking about the Lord! The miracle is obvious to all who see the pictures. The photo processing woman at Walgreen’s told me she knew I was a Christian, or the cabin in the pictures wouldn’t be standing. My mother asked, “Who’d you invite for the weekend, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?”
A friend who is a nonbeliever told me, “It looks like a big hand had reached down and put a blanket over the cabin; it seems almost religious to me!” This has become our story and our witness.
We know fires and other natural disasters have occurred throughout history. We know many people have lost so much more than we, and our hearts, prayers, and tears go out to them. Trees will grow back, and animals will return.
Meanwhile, just maybe, God has prepared a place that is very remote for the time of the end, a place no one even wants to visit. Regardless, our “Little Lost Lodge” is our place in the wilderness, prepared and protected by the hand of God. 
Connie Stanton and her husband, Mike, attend the Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This article was published May 20, 2010.