Saturdays, for us, are usually quiet, relaxing days. We go to church in the morning. We have a special lunch either at home or with family and/or friends. Sometimes all the church families enjoy a time of fellowship by eating together at the church. After lunch, we enjoy a nature walk, Bible-study game, or simply sit around singing praises to God together. Sometimes we visit and sing for those confined to convalescent hospitals or who can't leave their homes. All-in-all Saturdays are usually pretty relaxed, where the main focus is spending time with God and family, NOT crossing things off our to-do lists. We call these days, "Sabbath," as in a weekly time of rest and remembrance.
The key word is "usually."
This Saturday was a little different. There was noise. There were sirens. There was heart-pounding, adrenaline-rushing excitement in the air.
But first I must tell you about Lucky.
In January, Nikki turned 10. (I still can't believe it, but it's true.) We promised her a dog from the animal shelter, there are a surplus of stray animals in our little town. That was three months ago. This Friday, God took care of that problem for us when a stray black-and-white puppy showed up at our school.
He's sweet, calm, obedient, patient with the kids, and as perfect a puppy as a family could ask for. He's also a flea-bitten and mangy, but we adore him!!!
On Saturday, I told the kids we would not be going to anyone’s house for lunch after church, even if invited. Instead, we would come straight home to spend time getting to know our new dog. Everyone agreed.
After lunch, the three younger girls headed outside while Shawn, Billy, Andie, and I talked and lingered over dessert. Suddenly, Nikki burst through the door shouting, “Fire! There’s a fire on our property!”
Shawn and Andie dashed outside to fill buckets and douse the flames creeping steadily towards our house. I called 9-1-1, then joined the bucket brigade. Smoke filled the air, making breathing difficult. Nikki, Alyssa, and Maya became increasingly concerned each time we disappeared into the haze to dump water on the flames. “Be careful!” they shouted, then cheered when we safely re-emerged.
Shortly before the fire fighters arrived I stopped to survey the scene. My gaze was directed toward flames inching nearer some kind of a meter by the house. “I should probably get those,” I mused.
Not surprisingly, the fire fighters were much more efficient at extinguishing the fire with their full-powered water hoses. The fire was put out quickly, leaving only blackened ground and charred tree trunks. While packing up their gear, one of the fire fighters shook his head and commented that we were lucky the fire didn’t get any closer to that gas meter on the hill.
Later that night I had a little difficulty falling asleep. Random thoughts, questions, and a multiplicity of scenarios tumbled through my head. Would God send us a mangy, stray dog just to protect our home from a fire He knew was coming our way? What would have happened if we had not come home that afternoon?
What would have happened if I had not obeyed the prompting to notice the flames nearing the gas line? What if the girls had not spotted the fire in time? What if...? What if…? What IF...?! And then God gently broke through my feverish thoughts and comforted me by reminding me of a quote from one of my favorite books, “There are no ‘what-ifs’ in God’s kingdom.” (The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.)
Early the next morning I slipped out to where the fire had occurred. The smell of charcoal still hung heavy in the crisp morning air. Shafts of light cut through the pines, marking out dappled patterns across the blackened ground. Half stepping, half sliding down the incline, I stopped at the gas meter. I just had to see it all again. There, alongside the gas line, telltale black marks paralleled the gas meter, then curved around towards the front. The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up straight and I had the feeling I was standing on hallowed ground.