Yesterday as she was preparing supper, Heather cried out. I rushed to her and saw what she saw, our neighbor's house engulfed in flames, thick black smoke towering over the scene.

We ran over and everyone was already out safely, but they hadn't been able to save much. And by the time the time the fire fighters arrived and got set up (there's no hydrants out here), there was little they could do but contain the blaze. The house, a duplex, is pretty much a total loss.

It's terrible for the family, who were already struggling. They were in the process of leaving the community here, trying to get enough together to get their own place and make the move. A daunting task with the large family they have. And now they have to start again from practically nothing. It's also a terrible loss for the intentional community here, who owned the house. They didn't have insurance, a decision to accept the risk. Now there's nothing left but the horrible blackened wreckage to clean up. There's been a growing separation between this family and the community for quite a while, but now they share this great common pain.

Our worship this morning reflected this, too. Very meaningful and a greater sense of togetherness and community than I've felt here in a long time. Everyone seemed to contribute something, a reading or prayer or song or food for the meal afterward. One woman sang this beautiful Hebrew blessing. And Heather sang the song she wrote with her friend Katie, a haunting prayer for the dark times. Here is Katie singing an early version of it: "The Paths We Walk"

Everyone was trying to offer comfort or encouragement or hope. I think, though, that in situations like this it's especially important that we offer a real hope. It's easy to just say hopeful words but not really tell the truth. And that's not helpful. This morning someone said that we saw the power of the fire (a truly awe-ful sight), but God's power is greater and not destructive like the fire but life giving. I've seen, though, in my own experience and also many times in scripture, that God's power is often very much like that fire, awe and fear inspiring in the same ways, so you just want to run. We need to face that truth. It's better to face that truth, troubling as it is, than try to make God who we want him to be. Or excuse him from the horrible moments. When we can't understand or accept God's presence in the terrible events of our lives, then we should just be silent in the terrifying mystery, waiting to be shown the truth. And have faith that God's love remains even then.

I remembered these lines from the song "Holy Darkness":
I have tried you in fires of affliction;
I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness,
there I will plant my seed.

I have taught you the price of compassion;
you have stood before the grave.
Though my love can seem
like a raging storm,
this is the love that saves.