Forest Fires, Faith, Prayer and Soon Thanksgiving

Fires in the South

By Daniel Griswold

Director of Youth, Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC

twitter name: dannonhill

It was a sunny day at Coligny Beach on the island about two weeks ago when I noticed what looked like a large cloud of fog about to roll in.  It looked like a cloud, but it was not high or low.  The whole horizon was covered over the trees.  Not knowing what it was, we made plans to pack everything up thinking perhaps that a storm was about to blow in.  Slowly whatever it was rolled up while we walked to the car and we quickly realized that it smelled like smoke.

It was a Facebook notification that tipped us off as to what it really was.  In Georgia, about 40,000 acres had been burning and the pine smoke had sifted up the coast and begun to cover our area.  Both Bluffton and Hilton Head Island would intermittently have smoke cover the sun in a haze.

My first reaction was simply economic.  I thought to myself that tourists who have been spending money in our area probably would have wished to have sunny days smoke free.  It was a shallow response based on thinking of myself in the place of the tourists.  But my thoughts evolved as I began reading about more fires in the news.  Arizona, East Texas and North Carolina also are fighting hard to keep the heat from taking away homes.

My thoughts turned to prayers for the people who have to be bold and courageous (as God’s people are called to be; Joshua 1:9) in order to save lives and property.  As part of a Prayer of Intercession and Thanksgiving our church called out to God:

“God, we pray for our neighbors in our country
who have been fighting fires in their forests in this dry time,
give each of them strength and courage
as they meet the challenge and the dangers.

When we smell smoke from the south,

remind us to pray and to do what we can,

whenever we can, to do all the good we can,

for those affected and in need around us.”

The Boston Globe once ran an article on the Thanksgiving holiday that drew my attention.  In it, the historical reasoning for a day of thanksgiving was explained.  The celebration of food and gladness was actually the end of a long process – only a part of the whole.

The beginning of thanksgiving would always be a crisis.  There would be a food shortage, a fire would have crippled the community, rain may not have fallen, or a war may have broken out.  In those troubling times the Magistrate of a community would call for a time of prayer.  Each person would spend time before God confessing any sin they could conceive of and make sure that they were right with God, then they would petition God for an end to the crisis.  Their prayers would continue in faith until that one day when the crisis would end and on that day the Magistrate would call for a day of Thanksgiving.  The Presidents would continue this tradition in times of troubles until a day of Thanksgiving would be standardized.
In all of this, we learn that prayer was valued and people had faith in their God.  That God did not wish to see suffering continue and would hear the prayers of the people.  The Georgia fires have subsided for the time but many continue the fight in other areas and our prayer will continue until we all can celebrate in thanksgiving together.   God, hear our prayers.

This is the original copy of the article that ran in the Bluffton Packet (insert in Bluffton Edition of The Island Packet) on Wednesday June 29th.


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