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Loving words can douse fires | Faithful Living

They are known by many as the “Santa Anas” and are winds heated by the California desert. They frequently blew into my childhood home of Ventura, Calif., bringing a dry heat we loved. I’m missing them just a bit this week as we find ourselves surrounded by rain and chill.

I have countless childhood memories of waking to see the curtains in my bedroom gently swaying to the warm, rhythmic gusts of air outside. The blankets hanging over the side of my bed, kicked off during the night, and the slight creaking produced by the wood frame of the house were other signs that the strong, gusty winds had arrived.

It was all about fun for me, for I could wear summer clothes and eat Popsicles. But when the Santa Anas arrived, my parents worried. Our modest home backed up to a barranca, a Spanish word for deep gully, carved over thousands of years by rain water moving off nearby foothills and heading down to the ocean.

Many Californians covet barranca living, for they are lined with eucalyptus trees and frequently contain a natural stream. There is no neighbor living directly behind your back fence. These gullies are quite beautiful, housing wildlife and migrating monarch butterflies. Yet, eucalyptus trees dry in the winds. Introduce fire in these conditions and their natural oils explode if they get hot enough, accelerating fire fanned by desert winds.

One year, the nearby foothills did catch fire and my dad, principal of the high school three blocks away, was tasked to supervise staff and hundreds of students evacuated to the school when fire threatened their neighborhoods.

Without him, but in my mother’s capable hands, we put our own fire emergency plan into action because it burned close enough we could smell the smoke and it hurt our eyes to be outside for prolonged amounts of time. We packed the car with basic clothing and our most treasured household items.

The air grew increasingly sooty and the sun, obscured by the smoke, took on a strange, almost otherworldly color of orange. Fortunately the fire never made its way down our section of the barranca.

I am glad I don’t live with a similar threat today. Yet it occurs to me that I occasionally put out a few fires of my own, fanned by careless rather than faithful living.

They are fires that start when we are tired and allow ourselves to be short-tempered. Perhaps we knowingly push a family member’s hot button. How often do we give our best to co-workers but not those with whom we share a roof? We get lazy and take those we love most for granted,

To be believable, trustworthy, faith-building people, we must clear the debris in our own lives. We might choose, instead, to cool sparks with basic values that include respect, consistency, hard work and an attitude worthy of a servant.

When the winds blow and the fire heats up, our words and actions have the power to stop destruction in its tracks. Let’s express sorrow. Let’s put love in action. Let’s start over.

 

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