She could smell the smoke days before the fire line ever approached. Carly sat on the veranda’s creaky wooden swing; her whispered prayers brushing the first light. “Help us Lord, shelter us and our home. Build a hedge around us. Give us strength and the courage in the face of terror, because, Jesus, I am so afraid…”
The sense of pending doom reminded Carly of losing her beloved Thomas. His cancer was like a bushfire; they spent months putting out the little fires, praying they could save the structure, but eventually, the inferno won. Ashes to ashes.
And now, with the smoke flooding their valley, she was alone. Alone with their two boys, feeling completely inept to help transform them into the men she and Thomas wished them to be. Tommy was almost fifteen, and stood almost a head taller than Carly. She knew that Liam—who just turned twelve—was on the verge of that hormonal growth spurt that tested her so with Tommy; but three years ago, there was a man of the house to temper him.
The screen door slammed and Carly saw them race off the porch and jump the stairs. She smiled. They had been doing that since they were dragging their bunny-rugs behind them. Part of her wanted to scoop them up and run for it, but they all knew that if they did, there would be nothing to come home to. That far out in the bush, the volunteer fire fighters were not going barrel down the rocky drive and save them; it was either “stay or go”, and they chose to stay.
“Hey, blokes, are we ready run through our checklist? It looks like this thing is going to happen today.” All three looked to the northern ridge, where an endless line of eucalyptus trees met the vast blue sky. Not too far beyond the tree line they could see the plumes of smoke, undoubtedly fueled by their oil soaked leaves.
“We’re ready, Mum,” said Tommy, with Liam nodding behind him.
They walked the perimeter of the land, clearing the last minute brush. They checked the hose on the pumper truck and the 6,000 gallon water tank, and filled several buckets with water to plunge mops.
As each minute passed, the blue expansion overhead was blotted out with black haze, speckled with flurries of burning embers. It was the embers that destroyed most homes in the Australian scrublands; their only line of defense was dousing them before they caught and spread.
The broiling wind picked up and Carly covered her face with her sleeve, “Tommy, you and I need to gear up and start soaking the house and the outbuilding. Liam, I need you to fill all the sinks and the tub, and then shove rolled up wet towels under all the doors to keep the smoke out of the house. Also, have water and wet washcloths ready for us when we come to the door.”
Though Carly and Tommy were melting in the fire resistant gear, they became quite thankful for it as the smattering of embers morphed into a fiery hailstorm. The pair crisscrossed the perimeter, drowning the plethora of miniature explosions with a wet mop and fire hose. Carly glanced at her eldest son darting across the yard, surrounded by a thousand glowing fists pummelling the dry earth. The sight of him paralyzed her. She couldn’t shake the mental vision of Pentecost; the heavens pouring down fire and the Holy Spirit. The vision calmed her, filling her mind with a lifetime of Scripture hidden in her heart. A certain truth was pressed upon her; today, she and her grieving family were being refined like silver…tested like gold. And like the infamous Old Testament servants of the Most High God, today they would survive this fiery furnace, by His grace.
Just as quickly as the embers assaulted, hours later, they dissipated. Tommy ran to his mother’s side, both dumbstruck by the sudden stillness. Carly squinted, noticing several wallabies and kangaroos coming in from the bush. An entire family of possums scampered onto the veranda and hid beneath the swing for shelter.
Then a great wall of smoke rushed into their valley like black lava, with the fire front on its heels. A mere breath later, every direction was burning, and the deafening roar was like a freight train that never ceased. With tools in their hands that resembled the humble rock and slingshot of David, they leaned on faith, and stared their Goliath in the face…
~Acts 2:1-4, Zechariah 13:9, Daniel 3:19-27, 1 Samuel 17
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