That message from the account in the Bible about the prophet Elijah came to me this morning as I looked out over the mountains and saw the blood-red smoke of one of two major wildfires currently deemed out of control here in eastern San Diego County.
In that story, Elijah had fled into the wilderness out of fear of his enemies and was hiding in a cave. Then God spoke to him, saying, "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice" (I Kings 19:11, 12).
Like many others living near these fires, I'm trying very hard to listen for that "still small voice" of God. I've come to love my little stone cottage at the base of a mountain covered with avocado groves. There's a spirit of community, of working together to conserve precious resources – especially water – in this small town. But, like many others who must face enormous "natural" disasters, I've been tempted to feel overwhelmed. If county, state, and federal firefighters can't get these fires under control, what can one individual do to help?
Perhaps the best answer any of us can come up with is: We can pray! I don't pretend that my prayers alone are going to stop the fires in their tracks. As the brave firefighters and rescue teams work to contain the blazes, many individuals are praying in their churches, mosques, and synagogues – or, like me, at home – affirming the presence and wisdom of one universal God. And I've learned through a long study of the Bible and of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who founded this newspaper, that prayer is truly "doing something." Prayer can lead to practical solutions.
You will have your own way of joining these collective prayers, but as I prayed this morning, I decided to begin by addressing any evidence, old or new, of the hot anger or volatility I might be harboring in my own thought over old grievances. As I make this effort to acknowledge that God alone – the Mother of Creation, divine Love Herself – is in control of me, and of everyone with whom I come in contact, I'm letting go of any old rage I might be holding over perceived injustices. The centuries-old stories in the Bible and in the Koran and in other holy texts often make this very point – showing that universal brotherhood can occur only through the reconciliation of one conflict between brothers (or sisters!) at a time.
I'm also endeavoring to look beyond a merely material concept of nature – of dry brush, high winds, and perhaps too many people – to at least glimpse a more spiritual environment, the atmosphere of heaven, where infinity is controlled not by "Mother Nature," but by the one divine Father-Mother God, who is good alone.
In commenting on the "new heaven and earth" described in the book of Revelation in the New Testament, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "The Revelator tells us of 'a new heaven and a new earth.' Have you ever pictured this heaven and earth, inhabited by beings under the control of supreme wisdom?
"Let us rid ourselves of the belief that man is separated from God, and obey only the divine Principle, Life and Love. Here is the great point of departure for all true spiritual growth" (Science and Health, p. 91).
To rid ourselves of the belief that man is separated from God and to obey only the divine Principle, Life and Love. Big demands! But it seems to me that a commitment to grow spiritually is a good starting point. There we can find the wisdom to deal with the natural disasters and environmental dangers facing our planet. As we join in prayer, divine Love will tell each of us how we can help, and, if need be, how to be helped, too.