Trouble Breathing

Carol and I enjoyed the drive from Arkansas through Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. After visiting friends and family, we enjoyed the trip through Colorado and Wyoming. We’ve done it many times and we never tire of looking at God’s handiwork in nature. But things began to change in Wyoming.

We received some rain east of Cheyenne as we drove toward Rawlins, but it wasn’t rain that was discoloring the sky. After the rain let up, the sky began turning hazy. Going north to spend the night in Lander, WY, we were wondering what was going on. The haze was too light to be dust in the air, and the wind wasn’t blowing very hard, anyway. But going north from Lander, we began to figure it out.

Smoke in the atmosphere! Forest fires are out of control!

Prior to leaving on this trip, Carol and I saw reports of the fires on the television news reports, so we were aware of what was happening. But we didn’t know the extent of the fires, and we didn’t know how far the smoke had spread.

By the time we reached Coulter Bay north of Jackson, Wyoming, we could smell the burning wood although the forest fires were hundreds of miles away; and the Grand Teton Mountains were difficult to see.

The folks from the medical fields were telling people with health issues to stay indoors, and to wear proper masks or respirators if they had to go outside. However, many folks had only simple dust-masks over their nose and mouth. I’m not sure how effective they were others in blocking the smoke from the lungs, but they did not help me.

We travelled up into Yellowstone National Park and were happy to see that the atmosphere over the Fishing Bridge Campground where we were staying was relatively clear. But smoke had blown in around Old Faithful Geyser Basin.

A week later, we were heading up to Eureka, Montana, and the farther north we went, the worse the smoke was. When we reached my cousin’s home, we could not see the mountains which were only three miles away.

I had trouble breathing, sneezing spells hit me quite often, and my allergy pills were not helping me.

I thought of our fire-fighters and the life-threatening conditions they face every day. I pray for them often. I thought about people trapped in burning buildings and how hellish that must be. Many of them die in those infernos. And the thought of people caught in these diabolical forest fires is almost beyond my comprehension.

Thinking of people who smoke both tobacco and electronic cigarettes I wondered about their sanity. Why do people purposely inhale smoke and gas that can eventually kill them? It doesn’t make sense.

We had a good rain on Sunday night, and the wind had shifted. Both those events cleared the air over Eureka, and we rejoiced Monday as we breathed clearly and deeply. The air almost tasted wonderful!

Then I thought of the contrast between the eastern states and the western states. The east was being devastated with rain, and the west devastated with fire. Whether enshrouded in smoke and fire or caught in a flood, it can be difficult to breath and death can be quick.

And that turned me to thinking about people who are caught in the warped world of sin and who cannot seem to break free of it. They might want to live a better life, but they can’t see past the “clouds of smoke” or the “swirling waters” of their ungodly lifestyle. But unless they change their way of thinking and living, they will eventually die in the tangled mess they have created. Read Romans 12:2.

People may be involved in alcohol, tobacco, gambling, drugs, sex, identity confusion, theft, or any other of the hundreds of lifestyles that causes the person, with every breath they take, to sink deeper into the enshrouding smoke or swirling waters of that devastating activity. That can cause them to lose their joy of living both here on earth and for eternity.

I would like to shout to them, “If you could understand the direction you’re going, if you would turn away from the warped lifestyle, if you would stop diving head-long into your black hole of oblivion and learn to trust in Jesus, you could hold your head higher, breathe easier, and live freely! If you turn to Him, Jesus can give you wisdom to live – really live!

If you do, your life both on earth and for eternity will be a lot better.

Read John 3:16, Luke 19:10, 1 John 1:9.

And Proverbs 3:5-8 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and mind; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he (God) will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear – respect and honor – the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

You’ll be able to “breathe easier” both now, and forever.

The Lonely Lamb

About five years ago, we were visiting one of my cousins in Montana. My cousin and his wife were assisting their daughter in a 4-H project. They had raised two lambs, Lolo and Oreo, and entered them for judging in the county fair.

The 4-H Program is important because it helps kids develop skills that are necessary in life. Some things they learn are time management, sportsmanship, finance, record-keeping, and animal husbandry. And very importantly, it teaches kids the necessity of being a team-member.

A lot of work went into raising those critters, and it wasn’t easy. Some of the things they had to do were: build the proper facility, buy the proper equipment, choose the precise nutrition, feed the animals the proper amount of food, keep them healthy, keep their fur clean, keep the stable clean, learn the proper method of showing the animals, and train them not to be afraid of people.

The day of judgment came. This was when the people raising and caring for the critters would know if the time and effort paid off. The judges were kind, but very detailed in their judging. Some animal owners got nervous, sweat, and even became somewhat fearful; but others took it in stride and enjoyed the show. They knew it was not a life-and-death situation.

Although Elli did very well in caring for and showing Lolo, she did not win first place. That was a disappointment.

The next day presented another tense situation: the auction.

Now they would know how people financially valued their work. Would Lolo go for a paltry sum, or would she be highly valued? Joy reigned because beautiful, 110-pound Lolo was purchased for a handsome price.

Then joy morphed into relief. All the work, effort, stress, diligence, and sacrificing of time over the lambs was over. Now Elli and her parents could relax. Lolo was raised, was sold for a good amount, and was gone. Whew!

But wait a minute: Lolo’s sister, Oreo, was still here. How is she reacting to this ordeal?

When my cousin brought Oreo back from the fair, he unloaded her and took her to the pen. But something very strange took place.

Members of the deer family (sheep, goats, caribou, deer, elk, and others) will often jump from all four feet at the same time. It looks funny because it looks like they are bouncing on springs. They land on all four feet simultaneously, then spring up from all fours. If I were to put a sound to it, it would be, “Boing, boing, boing, boing, etc.”

But Oreo was adding something to the effort. Each time she landed, she pounded the ground – hitting the ground as hard as she could. We were standing seventy-five feet away but could feel the thudding as well as hear it. Over and over, she was running, bouncing, and pounding the ground. What was going through her mind? Then it hit us.

Oreo had never been alone! She had either been with her mother and sister, or with only her sister – but never alone. Now, for the first time in her life, this lamb felt hopelessly abandoned and was in mental trauma.

We figured it would take Oreo probably a week to adjust to her new life and overcome the morbid sense of loneliness.

That brought back a memory going back to 1960. Dad, a US Navy chaplain, had received word that a young man had been killed in a helicopter crash and had the responsibility of notifying the wife. I went with dad but waited in the car.

When the woman saw dad on her doorstep in full-dress uniform on Sunday afternoon, a mortal dread enshrouded her. Although dad did his best, there is nothing gentle about hearing that your husband, wife, or child just died. And when trauma, mental or physical, descends upon us, responses are not always predicable.

Her strength leaving her, she nearly collapsed to the floor, and her mind went wild. Dad helped her to a chair. She wanted to smash the wall! Slam the doors! Scream! Hit someone like the lamb was hitting the ground as hard as it could!

But she didn’t. She couldn’t. Her son was sitting beside her.

Crying, the new widow told her 4-year-old son, “Daddy won’t be coming home today; he’s gone to heaven.” Dad arranged for other navy wives to be with her for help and comfort.

At first she felt like an unloved, abandoned, lonely lamb. But after several months of tears, asking “WHY,” and wanting to give up on life, the wife sought and received wise counseling and placed her trust and faith in our Savior. She eventually emotionally healed. She asked God for strength and wisdom to raise her son, and three years later she remarried.

When the hammer of life hits us and we experience the crushing pain, when we suffer that intense grief, we have the privilege of asking the Lord for help. Jesus is always available to us and can help us if we let Him.

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