The Dixie Cup Fire Brigade

Best not to fight the fires in your life with just Dixie cups of water. God has a better way.

by - Posted on Mar 26, 2015

Red Dixie cups. Thinkstock.

“Are you okay?” My daughter-in-law’s voice sounded a little odd as she asked the question. I replied that I was fine and she said, “Are you at home?” Then she said the words that caught my attention big-time, “We just got a phone call that the woods are on fire next to your house!”

We live out in the country, and our home is surrounded by woods on three sides so I started running to windows to see what was going on. When I got to the ones in our family room, I saw flames and dense smoke. A fire truck was parked near the cul-de-sac, and the emergency responders were at work trying to contain the fire.   

Before everything was over, we had three fire trucks, an ambulance and neighbors' vehicles parked on the road right past our house.

And I had been clueless.

Clueless, that is, until the warning from my daughter-in-law...calling from their vacation in Florida. Yeah, it’s pretty bad when you live in North Carolina and have to get a phone call from Florida to tell you there’s a fire right next to your house.

One of the perks of living in a small community is that news travels fast, and when someone finds out about an emergency, they call family members of anyone who might be involved. That’s what had happened this particular day when our son and daughter-in-law received a call asking if we were home because there was a fire on our street.

It was an okay-to-burn day, and one of our neighbors had been burning leaves. All was well until a big gust of wind spread the flames, and they started moving towards two of the houses. A call was made to 9-1-1, and fire engines rolled into our development within a few minutes. After working for a while, our awesome firemen were able to contain the flames, and soon the smoke started clearing.

As I talked to one of our neighbors while the firemen gathered their equipment, I said, “These guys were much more efficient than the Dixie cup fire brigade.”  

He started laughing, knowing immediately what I was talking about. You see, the flames on this day reminded us of another fire that had happened in those same woods many years before when my oldest son was about five.

Jeremy and our neighbor’s son, David, were playing in our basement. I called down to the boys that I was going to take a quick shower and for them to be good. They played together all the time and had always been completely trustworthy.

I zipped through the shower in record time, quickly washing my hair. I got out and dried off, and as I wrapped a towel around my wet hair, I glanced out our bathroom window and noticed an unusual sight–the two little boys who were supposed to be in my basement were outside running towards our woods. And they were carrying red Dixie cups with water sloshing out of them.  

And then I noticed the flames in the woods. Yes, in a matter of mere minutes, those two little boys had climbed up to a high shelf so they could reach the matches (that they knew they weren’t supposed to have), and they’d decided to build a campfire in the woods in the dry leaves...a fire they were trying to put out with the water they could carry in small plastic drinking cups.  

By the time I flung my robe on and ran outside, the fire had started spreading. Thankfully, several of our neighbors were home that day and they came running with shovels to help beat out the flames. An area about 10x12 had been charred by the time the crisis was over.

And there were two little boys who were in big trouble with their parents. They’d been told not to touch the matches. They knew they were supposed to stay in the basement–but they chose to ignore the warnings.

Sweet friends, it’s the same with our spiritual lives. All of us will face situations where life runs out of control–just like the flames did in those two fires. Sometimes it’s because we ignore God when He warns us, “Don’t touch that. Don’t do that. Stay away from those things.” And we do it anyway.

Sometimes it’s not because of what we’ve done, but, simply, moments that spin out of our control, leaving behind charred hearts and emotions. 

The difference in how we’ll handle and survive those moments in our lives will be affected by how prepared we are to face them. 

Stop and think about those two little boys who tried to fight their campfire in the woods with the water they could carry in Dixie cups. When the fire started, they weren’t trained or equipped to handle it.

Contrast that with the firemen who responded to the 9-1-1 call and came to fight the fire this week. They had trained for just this situation. They’d spent time together at the firehouse, becoming a team. They were equipped with hoses and had water on their trucks so they could put out the flames.

That’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to heed His warnings. He wants us to study His Word until we’re prepared to handle the situations He sends into our lives. He wants us to spend time at His house–at church–becoming a team with others who can be there and help us through the crisis times.

He wants us to hide His precious promises in our hearts so that they’re available at a moment’s notice. And He promises that whenever we send a 9-1-1 call to Him, we can count on the fact that help is on the way.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:2)

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