I May Not Be Here to Help You Soon

Most of my dad’s firefighters had never known a time when he wasn’t their chief.

That’s what happens when you do a job, day after day after day, for over fifty-one years. Chiefs in other departments retired. Young firefighters became seasoned deputy chiefs. And Dad kept showing up – at his desk, at trainings, at meetings, and at fire/rescue calls.

“A force of nature.” They’d say.

He’d suffered heart attacks, smoke inhalation, mis-aimed bullets fired into his office, high speed drives on ice, and a brief ride on the front of a bull rescued from the ice. They called him a legend. Cats had nine lives. Dad appeared to have many more.

Then, at a routine fire call responding to a midnight box alarm at an abandoned mill, Dad disappeared in the dark.

There was no fire. After making that determination in the darkened structure, Dad left the group of firefighters to walk to the parking lot and wait for the police. On the way out, he decided to walk down one more hall and step into one last darkened room.

The floor collapsed beneath him and he fell ten feet, buried under piles of rotted floor and rubble. He couldn’t reach his light. Radios were almost useless in the old country building and his was lost somewhere in the debris. Finally, he located his cell phone.

First, he called my mom to let her know he was alive, but she might hear them on the radio searching for him. Then, he called 911 and the dispatcher called the firefighters on scene. I’ve heard that call – his shaking voice, the alarm in the voice of the dispatcher, the men shouting out to him, him yelling for them, then not responding.

That night, he was rescued by men he’d trained. He was 78 and would serve as their chief for one more year. After he retired, he and I would listen to the radio as his department responded to calls. He never fretted or worried. “They know exactly what to do.” Confident in their training, experience, and heart.

It’s good to have wise guides, competent leaders, teachers and communicators who help us find our way. But everyone I know is human. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we walk down a wrong corridor. And we all die.

Dad’s firefighters weren’t lazy followers. That would never do. They studied, trained, and responded as if their lives depended on it – and they did. Their lives and the lives of the people they serve. When Dad retired, people would ask if he was worried about what he left behind. “What kind of leader would I be if I didn’t train people to replace me?” was his response.

Christians need to operate less like spectators of the faith and more like first responders training for our very lives and the lives of those we serve. We must commit to living ready to respond to God and to one another.

Every January, believers will resolve to have a “daily quiet time” or to “read through the Bible in a year.” Both good things. But many will hit Leviticus by February and abandon the effort. Quiet time may survive into March but disappear as the yard needs to be readied for spring.

God has given us teachers, preachers, writers, and speakers who devote themselves to studying and understanding God’s Word. We aren’t all called to this and we’re wise to listen to those who are.

Still, if a firefighter only glanced at his manual. If she came to training but sat on the sidelines when practicing with the air pack. If they didn’t condition themselves to carry grown adults through flames. If they showed up on scene and needed to be told every. single. move. by their chief. We’d think they weren’t serious about their calling.

God didn’t give us the Bible, so we’d have beautiful memes to share on Facebook. His Word is a breathtaking, holy, life-altering, soul-searching, heart reviving masterpiece of healing, guidance, challenge, and truth.

He reveals Himself in His Word and provides us understanding about His character, His plan, His power, His forgiveness, His love, and His Son. His Word instructs us in daily living, in loving others, and in defending against evil. In it, He provides us a roadmap through chaos.

Each of us has the privilege of holding God’s Word in our hands and knowing the presence of His Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. In other countries, God’s Word is banned. Christians cherish and memorize even scraps of pages. While in the West, we may have dozens on hand and go months without cracking their covers.

Leaders fall. Teachers die. Writers give up. The Internet can be hacked. Books can be burned. Each of us must read and study as if our lives and the lives of those around us depend on it. Today, that sounds like a dramatic over-statement. Times will come when you’ll wish I’d posted this message every day.

This is no dress rehearsal. No false alarm. No practice drill. This is our one life.

I am no one special.

When I was a child, I understood early that the adults in my life were lost. Perhaps that’s why Rev. Graham’s televised sermon reached me and why I responded to his alter call. From the moment I could read, God guided me by His Holy Spirit and His Word through trials, temptations, and traumas. I read it, studied it, and lived by it because no one was around to tell me I couldn’t.

I’m here to tell you His Word is written for you. Don’t just sip a verse here and there. Take great gulps – like oxygen in a burning building. What you understand, put into practice. When you don’t understand – seek answers. Ask God to bring understanding. Wrestle with it. Follow sound teaching. Don’t. Give. Up.

The time is now when every believer must rise to his or her calling in Christ. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness, but we must avail ourselves of what He’s provided.

The life you save may be the person who trained YOU!

And if you’re a teacher/preacher/writer/speaker, what are you doing to prepare the next generation to know what to do when you disappear in the dark?

If you’d like to know the Best Bible Reading Plan – click HERE. 

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    The Conversation

  1. Mary Ellen Santaniello says:

    Great message, Lori. Thanks.
    I made it to Deuteronomy, but still plan on not giving up!

  2. carla femat says:

    You got me, I thought You had the perfect plan! I love your stories about you and your family. Your father sounds like a great fireman. It’s sad that more American/ Christians don’t value God’s word. But, it does take one to seek Him, and He will draw near. I know I grew up in Christians home, and my dad encouraged us to read it, but I never really did to seek Him.It wasn’t til 5 yrs ago that I started to want to know Him deeper. Then it changed everything, I fell in Love with Jesus and His Word.

  3. Maggie Rowe says:

    Lori, I just read your post on what would’ve been my own dad‘s one hundredth birthday, and also the one year anniversary of my mom‘s homegoing. Your comments about preparing the generation coming behind us are spot on. Thank you for these powerful words. I appreciate your writing so much.

  4. Maureen Miller says:

    Thank you! Wonderful exhortation! And I appreciated hearing a bit more of your story, as well as your dad’s! He was certainly a hero, but I’m sure he never thought of himself that way.

  5. Cheri says:

    Amazing! Encouraging!

    Thank you, Lori

  6. Debbie Williams says:

    One of the most powerful posts EVER! Thank you for these words. Praying for God’s guidance for our next steps. He’ll let us know. Praying for all those who are blessed to read your words. Passing this along. Blessings, my friend!!

  7. Charla says:

    Have you been reading my journal? Lol. Thank you for your continued obedience to His purpose as a writer – a messenger of God.

  8. Sally Jo Pitts says:

    A thought-provoking post.