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I was sitting next to a window in a café the other day. It was a cold but sunny day, and I was watching people come and go from the café to the parking lot. Something about the way people were all bundled up and hurried across the road to their cars struck me as unusual. I kept looking to see what made this scene so unusual when it suddenly struck me. I was looking through a double-paned window, and in the window was the reflection of a roaring fireplace behind me, and as I watched people walk across the street, I saw each person walk through this blazing fire. It wasn’t the prospect of hell that flickered across my mind’s eye, but the saddening thought that every single person walking through this blaze of fire was walking it alone. This image was a very powerful and thought-provoking one. Why is it, I asked myself, that so many people in this world must literally walk through the fire every single day without anybody walking with them? Why is it, Henry David Thoreau wrote, so many people “lead lives of quiet desperation”?

A passage from the prophet Isaiah came to mind.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. […] Do not be afraid, for I am with you. (Isaiah 43.2-3a, 5a)

I continued my train of thought. When God so chooses to walk with us through the waters and through the fire, why can’t we as human beings do the same for each other? And closer to home, how come not more of the followers of Jesus the Christ are consciously on the look-out for people who are going through living hell every single day of their lives, or who struggle with issues that makes them feel like the water has reached up to their necks?

Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are a stone’s throw away. Ash Wednesday Service in Reed City with imposition of ashes on Wednesday, February 14, at noon. Ash Wednesday Service in Brooks Corners with imposition of ashes later that day at 7 pm.

Depending on what faith tradition you were raised in, you may have already made a list of things you want to give up for the 40 days of Lent in order to pick up a closer walk with God. Here is a thought that struck me sitting at that café table: What if I didn’t worry so much about foregoing sweets or pop for Lent, but instead said “goodbye” to pushing my own agenda on others or lived my life so self-absorbed that there was seemingly no room for another human being I could walk with, no matter how fierce the fire or how deep the water?

I count on God to be with me when I pass through the waters, and I seriously hope God walks closely beside me when I must walk through the fire. Can others count on me to walk with them in their times of trial?

God bless us and keep us in his tender care.

Pastor Daniel Hofmann

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