It was the last Saturday of October near Malibu, and the authorities finally let us back into our neighborhoods. It was a sunny day--well, it was trying be a sunny day--in the 50s, with just a few wispy clouds overhead and a gentle breeze.
Choking smoke wafted outward from several locations on the hills, where just a few nights ago, wicked walls of wildfires consumed everything out here.
Including our church.
As we parked the truck, immediately I felt grief-stricken, and started crying. Heaps of ashes amongst twisted plumbing lay where so memories were made. Carefully I made my way through the smoldering debris, covering my mouth with a cloth. I almost tripped up to where the proud church sanctuary once stood.
Miraculously, some of the pews survived.
"Look! Brett, look!" I said excitedly, pointing to one pew near the back. Quickly I made my way over there. "Look! This is 'our' pew!"
Right in the middle of the pew--right where I had left it by mistake on
Sunday--was my Bible.
"Praise God! Thank You Jesus!" I said aloud.
Right then, my mind flashed back to Sunday, and I vividly remembered what
happened, and why I left my Bible there.
It was Sunday School time, and the adults had their class in the sanctuary, while the kids had classes in rooms in the back of the church. Our kids, Adam (4) and Anna (5) just LOVED Sunday School. They looked forward to it every week.
In fact, before we dropped them off at my sister's home before we toured the
destroyed church building, Anna asked me, "Is it Sunday yet Mommy?"
It was all because of Martha, their Sunday School teacher.
Martha loved teaching Sunday School, because she loved the kids. It was simply pure joy for her to pray, prepare and teach every week. The kids sensed that she loved them, and they loved her back wide-eyed full of wonder, unconditionally.
That day she had something special for the kids at the end of the lesson.
"Ok, everybody please stand! We have a new song today."
"Miss Masha, can we sing 'Jedas lufs me'?"
"Yeah, pleez Miss Murdle, can we, pleez, pleez?"
Martha laughed. "Oh no, not today. Today we have a new song."
"I may never march in the infantry, Ride in the cavalry, Shoot the artillery.
"I may never fly o'er the enemy, But I'm in the Lord's army. (yes, sir!)..."
As Martha sang the song, she acted it out: marching, riding, shooting, flying and saluting! She sang it a second time, and Adam really caught on.
He loved it.
He begged her to sing it again, and again. After several times through, she had to dismiss the class. "See you next week!"
"I luf you, Miss Masha..." Anna said sweetly, with a hug.
"I love you too, honey."
Anna and Adam came running into the Sanctuary, just as Adult Sunday School
"Mommy, Mommy, we learned a new song!"
Excitedly Anna sang the song as Adam acted it out. It was so cute.
I asked them to do it again, and Brett took a video of them with his cell phone.
We were invited to go out to lunch with another family with small kids and we needed to get going--so we wouldn't be too late.
In the rush to leave, I forgot my Bible.
+ + +
I picked up my Bible, and sat on the pew, just sobbing into the cloth over my mouth. Brett down sat next to me, and gently put his arm around me.
"Lauren, it's okay, it's okay..."
I realized that Jesus had spared me from the flames just like he had my Bible. I thanked God for my husband for bringing me to this church. I thanked God for my kids, for Miss Martha, for my pastor, for my church family--for so many friends I never would have had 'out there'.
My Bible opened to the middle of the book -- Psalm 102 (NLT) --
and I read it out loud,
1 Lord, hear my prayer!
Listen to my plea!
2 Donít turn away from me
in my time of distress.
Bend down to listen,
and answer me quickly when I call to you.
3 For my days disappear like smoke,
and my bones burn like red-hot coals.
The next afternoon we had Sunday School at a nearby church who graciously allowed us to use their building. God is good!
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