Trusting in the Covert of His Wings

Dear Will:

Perhaps you saw this photo recently in the LA Times.

Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times

It’s the sort of photo you’re bound to notice. You can’t help but notice it. Brian Williams did. Or at least someone on his staff at NBC Nightly News did. In any case they did a three-minute segment on these firefighters.

Here’s the background: Twelve firefighters were on a hillside trying to keep the Santiago fire from jumping the road and destroying some homes. Without warning, the winds shifted and sent the flames their way. Seeing that they had no escape route available, they removed their “shelters” from their packs and curled up underneath them—cocoon style—while they waited for help. And waited. With no help coming, they huddled together under those shelters, taking short breaths and enduring untold heat in a quest to survive. Finally, after 15 interminable minutes, aircraft arrived, dumped water on the flames, and freed the men. Not one was injured.

It’s a frightening tale made more frightening when you learn that one of those twelve is your friend. Brett Cowdell was among those on the hillside that day. Brett used to be my eldest son’s scoutmaster. Our youngest sons were born within a couple of weeks of each other. He and I were even co-workers before he entered the fire academy. When I saw his wife yesterday, I felt a surge of emotion, so grateful was I that he had been protected when the fires raged his way.

That image—of a good friend, nearly helpless in the face of mounting peril—brought to mind the promise contained within one of Jesus’s saddest laments: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). The Lord’s message to all of us is that He offers shelter from the trials which so often rage against us, provided only that we come unto Him. He doesn’t promise to take away adversity, of course; rather he offers to gather and shield us so that we can come through difficulty relatively unscathed. Having personally felt the protection of such shelter, the Psalmist wrote:

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. (Psalms 61:1-4)

I hope that you and your loved ones are all OK in spite of the danger which surrounds us. And I remind you that help is always near at hand.


Someone to Tuggle Wiff

Dear Will:

We live just off of Cannon Street, about a block south of Linda Vista School.  If you have ever walked along Cannon on the Linda Vista side of the hill, you know that the wind whistles down the street at a pretty good clip, even on a relatively calm evening.  On a blustery night like this one, however, the wind comes rushing over the pass and through our backyard like it’s about to miss the last train out of town.  Whenever that happens, the wind chimes push and shove each other to try to get out of the way, the fichus gets trampled and dry leaves start to huddle together beside the shrubs like accident victims looking for moral support.  The sound can be impressive, and with very little imagination you can start to feel a little like Dorothy Gale just before she took her unscheduled trip to Oz.

Of course, usually the source of such turbulence is the Santa Anas, which warm the air and make you feel as if spring has come early.  Tonight, however, it’s a cold wind, sent with love from Canada, and I’m having trouble reconciling the sights and sounds with the temperature.  We don’t get cold winds around here, so it’s creating some mental dissonance for me that is intriguing.  (Can you tell I’m not outside writing this?  I’m sure if I were out rescuing the fichus like I’m supposed to be, dissonance is not the word that would come to mind.)

I stop typing and head upstairs to tend to a fussing two-year-old.  “I think I’m sad,” Seth tells me.  When I ask why he explains that he needs somebody to snuggle with, or as he puts it, “someone to tuggle wiff.”  I indulge him ever so briefly (he and I have already had our goodnight tuggle for the night) and suggest he cozy up with his stuffed elephant instead.  I sneak out.

While I may be a little annoyed by the interruption, I have to admit he’s pretty cute.  I also have to admit that his instincts are absolutely correct.  When the world goes strangely cold and everything about us is thrown into disarray, it’s good to have something familiar to reach for.  (You had to wonder how I was going to turn this into a “message,” didn’t you?)  In such moments, I often find myself on my knees in prayer or reaching for the scriptures.  One verse in particular is a comforting reminder of where strength can best be found when the storms of life strike hard:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you , it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.   (Helaman 5:12)

At last, Seth goes quiet, and with reluctance I face the task of moving the fichus to the side of the house.  As I venture out into the windstorm, I shall do my best not to get blown into the neighbor’s swimming pool.  Before I sign off, let me remind you of my sincere offer to help you if I can should the wind ever prove too strong for you.  I would welcome a phone call or an e-mail any time.