When the House Is On Fire

The house was on fire.


When I was 12 years old, our new home was in flames the day before Christmas.


It probably could have been contained, but neither fire extinguisher worked, and the water hose was frozen. The volunteer fire department finally arrived on the scene, but their first park was too far away for their hose to reach.


My dad was the only one home that day besides my grandmother. Since they were both safe, Dad managed to grab our Christmas presents and a few other things. But after trying everything in his power, he couldn’t save the house.  When the fire got out of control, all he could do was just stand there and watch it burn.


I think most of us can go back and remember a time when we tried everything in our power, and nothing worked.  A broken relationship. A death. A disaster. Depression. Whatever the circumstances, life went up in flames. And despite our most desperate efforts, all we could do was stand there and just watch it burn.


When there’s a fire, there are questions. Once we know if everyone’s okay, we want to know how it happened. We want to know why. Questions are natural, and there’s nothing wrong with asking why. It’s human…even for God.


When Jesus was hanging between heaven and earth, literally making a bridge between them with His butchered body, He asked His Father why – why was He being forsaken.


We don’t have to tell ourselves we’re terrible Christians for wondering why when Christ Himself asked the question.  But there’s no record He was answered right then. And sometimes we don’t get an answer either.


The universe can feel like a very random place to live. The truth is good and bad things happen to good and bad people. Some things are so confusing or terrible I would never sit across from someone and say everything in life happens for reason (especially when I can’t tell them what it is).


The funny thing about answers is they’re not always enough. We knew how that fire started. Sparks from our wood furnace got up into some exposed insulation, and they quickly spread.


But knowing that didn’t bring anything back.


Recently I asked friends what they wish they had known in the most difficult time of their life. Honestly, when I asked that, I didn’t have an answer myself. But I’ve been thinking about trouble for a long time, and it can be a lot like a fire.


I usually think of fire as something terrible because of how it consumes and destroys. But actually fire is used all the time to serve different purposes, many of them very useful.


The bright diamonds and shiny white gold in my wedding rings weren’t always so perfect. Before they could be molded, they were under a lot of pressure and heat.


Peter wrote that the trial of our faith is “much more precious than of gold…though it be tried with fire” (1 Pet. 1:7).


I don’t think God fuels all the fires that try my faith,

but I do believe He forges it in the furnace.


So now, I think if I could go back to the most difficult times in my life, I would tell myself something like this:


“If you can’t have peace that comes from understanding, seek the peace that passes understanding. Even if there’s no good reason why this is happening, it doesn’t mean your pain is pointless.  If there’s no escape when there’s a fire, build a furnace. Fire won’t consume you if it refines you.”


“…I will be with thee…when thou walkest through the fire ,

thou shalt not be burned;

neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

(Isaiah 43:2)






Anxiety & It’s Antidote

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I could feel it rising like an inky black tide.


I tried praying.  I tried focusing. But it was swallowing me anyway until I knew I was about to go into that uncontrollable shaking.


I think anxiety is like the mean girl at school.  You can’t stand her, but you learn to live with her.


But a panic attack is a bully.


I was able to make it through the night without being consumed, but it was a rough few days.


After that little episode, I reached out through social media to others who might understand these feelings.  Some of my friends shared their coping methods with me like prayer, journaling, music, Scripture, mental exercises, and activity.  Others said they remember worrying drains them and doesn’t help anything or that they turn their thoughts to God – every day.


As I thought about it, I realized these aren’t just answers we’re expected to give…they’re hard choices. Wrestling between good thoughts and bad feelings can be a very difficult discipline.  And apparently, it’s also a science.


In an article featured on DailyStrength.org, Dr. Oz wrote about brain research and its relation to anxiety. He said studies have shown the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in the brain “plays a key role in feelings of anxiety and optimism…and is important in decision-making and emotional control”.


He went on to say some research showed people with smaller OFC’s were more anxious, while people with larger OFC’s were more optimistic.  But what was really interesting is the indication that either smaller OFC’s made it harder to fight anxiety or that anxiety was actually shrinking that part of the brain.


Is it possible that our thought patterns can cause us “brain damage”? At the very least, it’s thought provoking since medical research shows depression damages parts of the brain. This helps explain why depression puts our thoughts into a downward spiral that gets worse.


But what if being deliberately positive would reverse this?


Now, of course people who need medical or professional help should get the treatment they need. But the article described 61 healthy people who were studied with personality testing and brain scans. The research team found optimism was what kept people from being anxious,  and they hope their findings will aid  therapists in developing new treatments.


(full article at: http://www.dailystrength.org/health_blogs/doctoroz/article/keeping-your-outlook-positive-may-keep-anxiety-at-bay )


While modern medicine allows us to study brain activity, the power of good thought patterns is ancient wisdom. Philippians 4 talks about the peace of God and reminds us:


“whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,

whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,

whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;

if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,

think on these things.”

(Philippians 4:8)


We all have weak moments. We all get overwhelmed. We all need outside helps sometimes.


There’s so much in life I can’t understand, but I can have peace that passes understanding if I will focus on what is true and lovely.


Life isn’t always pretty, but Jesus is always beautiful.

When I make Him and His story my focus, I am able to think on things that are lovely.  And my anxious thoughts begin to still.


And, who knows…I may also be developing my orbitofrontal cortex as well.


If you are feeling anxious right now, I hope you can find something good to think about.  It is my prayer that you can think on Jesus and find rest for the deep aches in your soul.


“Come unto me, all ye that labour

and are heavy laden,

and I will give you rest.”


(Matthew 11:28)