Friday, August 21, 2009

Laughing at the Fire

There was a fire in the neighborhood last night. Across the road. The big house. Our house. Well, not really “our” house. But a piece of our history. My husband’s great-great grandfather built the house in 1870.

My inlaws sold that property back in the late ‘70s. I think I was more sad to see it go than they were. That owner sold it to someone else who lives in Detroit. He tried to put in a truck stop a few years ago, but that fell through. Nobody lives there now, but a local farmer farms it and has a few cattle over there.

There was a lot of smoke, a lot of trucks, a lot of lights, a lot of activity in the back of the house last night. The house still stands, although the back looks pretty black. The news report says the fire started when a generator in the house (?) backfired.

Hubby says it’s not the first time that house has seen flames. Back in the ‘50s, my inlaws sponsored a couple of families, brothers, from the Netherlands. They lived and worked on the farm. One day Mrs. Knibbe was burning paper in the furnace, cramming it in until sparks flew up and set the wooden shingles ablaze. There was no phone in the big house so she ran across the drive to the little house where her brother-in-law lived to call the fire department. She was so scared and distraught that she broke into her native tongue. Luckily, the recipient of that call put 2 and 2 together, remembering that Mr. King had Dutch people living on his farm and sent help.

Mrs. Knibbe was so afraid my father-in-law would be angry. But he laughed.

He laughed.

In spite of the inconvenience and damage and expense, he laughed.

He saw past all that, that nobody was hurt, that the house was just a house. He saw the humor in the situation, and he laughed. He extended mercy and grace to a foreigner. Can you imagine Mrs. Knibbe's relief?

He was an example to my husband who laughed when I stuffed the garbage disposal so full of potato peels it clogged and overflowed right before our pastor came for dinner. Who laughed when I smashed the van into the side of his dad’s car in our driveway and ran screaming to hide behind a bush. Who laughed when I allowed his horse to drag me across the yard, catching the saddle horn on a neighbor’s clothesline, uprooting both cemented-in-the-ground posts. Who has extended grace and mercy to me in a million ways on a million occasions—even when I’ve said and done things so undeserving of his unconditional love.

Who shrugged his shoulders last night and said, “It’s just a house.”

How easy it is to let life’s little fires get out of control. We can fan the flames with angry words, bitter hearts, and depressed spirits. Or we can douse them with the water of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

And laughter.

Maybe use those fires to give light to others.

It’s just a house.

Have you used words to start, fan, or douse a fire this week?
Can you laugh at life's little fires?
When did you last offer grace, mercy, or forgiveness to someone?
Can you say, "It's just a house?"

Copyright © 2009 by Sandra Heska King 

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