No – not the old saying, “Red Sky at morning, sailor take warning…” Instead, we woke this morning to a significantly redder red sky than usually might portend a rainy or stormy to come. Today’s red sky is courtesy of our friend up north – in O Canada. A quick survey tells us that more than 60 wildfires are raging up in Ontario. Now, for geography buffs, you will quickly recognize that Ontario is situated above Minnesota, Wisconsin, and points east. The way the wind blows, from northwest to south east, means that all those fires would be blowing smoke far east of us. Well, while Ontario is the big news in forest fires in Canada, it’s also true that west of Ontario – Manitoba – has at least 35 major fires events going on that has caused the province to evacuate over 18,000 people. If you know Manitoba at all, outside of Winnipeg, it sounds like most everyone in the province had to go somewhere else…
So, since Manitoba in situated right to the north of North Dakota (I know! Who’d have thought anything was north of us?), all those northern Manitoba fires are dumping smoke and particulates over an almost unimaginable square mile region – and sure enough, it is floating right over the top of Meadow Creek Circle South in Fargo. On what would normally be a beautiful cool morning where you would want to open the doors and windows and let in the nice breeze before it heats up here in July, instead, everything is shut down and closed up in order to keep the smoke out of our homes. The strangest thing is that you can actually smell the smoke from the fires that are burning hundreds of miles away. I guess that’s part of the downside of living in a totally flat area of the earth. The old joke, “Our land is so flat, that when my dog ran away from home – I watched him for two days…”
Now, the ironic thing is that since about a year ago March, travel across the border has been completely shut down between the US and Canada, save for truckers who are declared “essential” travel for goods between the two countries. I can’t travel to Winnipeg to see the great zoo they have, or even take the train up to Churchill to view the polar bears, but all the Canadian smoke in the world can freely float down and settle over our house…
So, if you’ve never seen it before, the smoke from a distant fire spreads those particulates throughout the air and sky, and the sunshine, like we have on these impossible-to-get-any-rain days changes color. That bright sunny glow of the sun is all hazy, and red. As you look at the sunbeams streaming through the window in the living room, the sunshine on the floor is colored pinkish orange. When you look out the window, it’s kind of eerie to see across the street where the grass, the street, the sidewalks and the houses all carry with them a look that makes you think that perhaps we have all been transported to the surface of Mars.
Strangest of all is that when you ask what caused the fires, thinking it was careless campers or arsonists, the answer is no – they where caused when it was raining a couple of weeks ago, and huge lightning storms set fire to the bitterly dry woods and grasses. Rain made it fire. Now they are hoping for more rain to come, but nothing is in the forecast, like most of us, and so all they can do is try to contain the rage.
What an odd world to live in, don’t you think? It goes to show that even when we think we are managing things just right, and are even responsible for keeping the world on a fine-tuned rotation (as if we ever could really do so!), something – like a fire – comes along, and the best we can do is stand helpless, and watch the red sky.
That’s one reason why we pray. Prayer is not to get God to do something we want, but it is an opportunity to share the joy we feel, the anxiety and fear that washes over us, and to be assured once again that indeed, we are not in charge of this world. God is. Our best role as humans is to live faithfully as God’s children, and share our hopes and fears with God, and then honest enough in our own hearts to accept that in the end, all is cared for by the One who made us, and all this world, and called it good. That’s living intentionally.
Word for the day: quirky. Pronounced KWUR-key. This is one of those words that everyone uses, and seems to understand, but the root is mysterious. “Quirky” of course means to have a lot of “quirks.” One root suggestion is that is arises out of German quer, or “queer.” That may or may not be true, but there is very little that serves as the pedigree for such an odd word. Something quirky is unexpected, and possibly unexplainable, like a “quirk of fate,” which just sort of happens, and we have to accept it as something mysterious and out of our control. When we use the word to describe someone, more often than not, we are attempting to describe someone who is just kind of odd – one of the definitions says that the person is “attractive in an usual way.” We know quirky people, who have a particular style of dress that seems kind of goofy, we think, or they have habits of doing things as they move through the world that are truly different or “odd” by normal standards. Most often, though, they are kind of fun to be with, because you never really know what is going to happen next, due to their “quirky” nature. Kind of like riding a roller coaster.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.