Thursday, April 19, 2012
I have seen many burning bushes
We were sitting around the dinner table going through the usual conversation routines. “So how was your day?” wife Ginny asked.
I shrugged and gave my usual, “Fine. Nothing new,” when 15-year-old son John chimed in: “We saw a tree limb on fire.”
I had already forgotten and dismissed it. We rush through our busy lives, often not noticing all kinds of things around us.
John and I had just finished loading up the very last boxes of memorabilia from my mother’s house. She passed away just a month before, but it already seemed like years. I turned west off Eastridge onto Meadowbrook Road when John let out a slight scream. “Poppa! There’s a limb on fire.”
I glanced up and didn’t see anything and kept driving. I had stuff to do. I drove another 100 yards and heard a loud boom. “Transformer blew,” I immediately thought.
John was frightened and not pleased with my decision to turn around. “John, somebody’s house might catch on fire and we need to warn them.”
At the intersection of Meadowbrook and Eastridge we looked south down Chippewa. I shook my head when I saw what looked like a huge fire suspended in the air directly over the street. It was an eerie, seemingly metaphysical sight until logic kicked in and I realized what I was looking at.
A huge branch had fallen directly onto power lines as they crossed Chippewa. The limb was so large that it shorted the power lines and caught fire.
“There was no wind and not a cloud in the sky. There just seemed to be this huge fire suspended above the street,” I told Ginny as we munched on tacos. “It was strange.”
“So you saw a burning bush,” she said matter-of-factly.
“It wasn’t a bush, it was a limb - a limb caught on electrical wires,” I explained again, thinking she had not been listening.
“No. It was a burning bush,” she insisted. “You know, the Bible, Moses, when God talked to him from a burning bush.”
I laughed. “Of course.” How obvious. Yet the thought never entered my mind.
I suddenly recalled two nights after my mother’s death when we were all sitting around the dinner table at her house. Exhausted from grief and relaxed by wine, we were laughing and enjoying a good meal. Suddenly the lights went out, forcing us to eat by candlelight. The next day we found a 150-amp fuse blown. A complete mystery. “Celia was mad because we were having too much fun without her,” we all concluded.
There I am a month later, hauling away the last of her keepsakes to be stored in a back room somewhere, thinking about my busy day, when I fail to notice the burning bush suspended in the air. Celia had to blow an entire transformer this time to get my attention, as though to say, “Hey, son, Wyatt, don’t forget about me!”
It makes sense that Celia would linger a bit. She loved this world so much.
When I was younger, I would scoff at such mysticism. The world was what I could see, touch, smell, hear and feel. It was rational. It followed well-known laws of science. It was predictable. Things were simpler in my youth, before physicists discovered that “dark matter” and “dark energy” form 95 percent of the universe, before string theory assigned another dozen or so dimensions to our world.
Now older, I am far less confident in senses and science to explain the inexplicable. Over the years, I have seen too many burning bushes.
It started some time around 1993 or so when I was playing golf with Northsiders Bob Crisler and Kemal Sanli at Sonny Guy Municipal Golf Course. I had hit my ball into the woods.
Fresh from the unreligious world of New York City, I decided to poke fun at my church-going golfing companions. I got down on my knees and prayed.
“Dear Lord, I know I have not been a very devout Christian. But you would really strengthen my faith if you would take time out of your busy schedule and help me kick the obnoxious butts of my golfing companions.”
Bob and Kemal were mortified. I laughed.
Five minutes later, I was off the green about 10 yards and chipped in to win the seventh hole. Bob and Kemal were not amused.
Hole eight found me in a ditch about 20 yards from the pin. I chipped in again to win the hole. Things were getting weird.
Hole nine found me about 40 yards away behind a sand trap. I couldn’t even see the hole. The only way for me to win our bet was to hole out. I took the club back and time stood still for the briefest of moments. It was as though the points of light in an Impressionist painting began to spread apart, allowing me a glimpse of the other side. I knew the ball would go into the hole.
As I walked across the green to the flag, Bob and Kemal were white as ghosts. I retrieved my ball from the hole. We drove home without saying a word. They were there. Feel free to ask them about it.
I later calculated the odds of chipping in three times in a row based on the geometry of a green and my golfing accuracy. It was one in six billion. Doing so after praying to God for divine golfing guidance would be one in a number I cannot name.
Since that day on the golf course, I began to open my eyes and ears. I have seen many burning bushes and lots of angels. After all, I did ask. It’s been a huge surprise to me to discover we do indeed have a powerful, personal, loving God. Not only is he merciful, he has a great sense of humor.
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