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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November's Theme: "Grateful"
Volume 7 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265

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Being Mindful
Fires of Gratitude

by Janet Alston Jackson

The other night around 11 PM, helicopters woke me up. Sleepily I glanced out the window, and saw FIRE!!

Am I dreaming? Is this deja vu?

This is exactly what happened about this time a year ago and when we were under mandatory evacuations because of the raging fires burning up the Angeles National Forest a block away from our home. We live in a Los Angeles, California suburb. Now, the biggest recreational forest in the nation, is once again on fire.

In the last few days smoke filled the air, and soot coated our cars from the fires, but it was the other end of the forest toward Pasadena, twenty minutes away. I didn't complain about not being able to walk the dog because of the thick smoke that forbids us from opening our windows. The temperature has been averaging 104 degrees, so we simply kept the air conditioning on.

I'm not complaining about not being able to access the freeway entrance a few blocks away, because our area, Lake View Terrace, is the command centre for the firefighters. Fleets of Sherriff cars, fire engines, helicopters, Canadian Super Scoopers and news crews, have taken up residence in our area, making it nearly impossible to navigate. It looks like something out of a war movie. However, we don't complain about paying taxes because we see up close how these guys are saving lives.

Knowing all of this, I was thinking, at least it wasn't our neighbourhood on fire this time. However, a short distance away on the freeway you could see acres on fire. But for us, nothing to worry about… or so I thought.

Again that same ridge close to us was on fire. And again, just like last year, my husband was fast asleep.

Should I wake him? Should I go knock on the neighbour's doors to alert them? Heck yeah!

I put on my Reeboks and sounded the alarm, when suddenly helicopters roared overhead so close I thought they were about to crash into our roof. Out of the window I saw their red lights headed toward the glowing red and orange ridge. A few neighbours were now gathering in the streets.

The surrounding fires in a distance were still out of control, only 5 per cent containment. But these guys were on it, dropping water on the ridge. God bless the Los Angeles Fire Department. They rarely make night drops because of the danger. Two firemen have already been killed earlier in the day. As I write these words, over 122,000 acres have been burned, 4,000 homes evacuated, and 53 homes burned.

My mind raced thinking of what important papers and what pictures should we grab and throw in the car in case we had to evacuate again. Last year we were like a comedy act bumping into one another as we frantically gathered up all of the family pictures, computers, and other irreplaceable "stuff." Just weeks earlier, I chided myself for never unpacking those pictures from last year. I had intended to scan them into the computer. They were still in the box. Now I thought, 'Good girl Janet! You can now scoop that up first.'

As I sat up most of the night watching the news, occasionally I would look back out the window. The sky over the forest close to us was black again. However, the mountain fire was still visible in a distance.

In this moment, the fires are still raging out of control. The unrelenting sound of whirling helicopters overhead is now my background music. I am thankful knowing the firefighters are working hard to keep us safe.

I think about how all of us have fires of every nature in our lives. Some seem worse than others. Finances, relationship problems, illness, job challenges. And this year's fire reminds me that it's easy to remember how bad the last one was for us, and the hundreds of homes lost. However, it's important to stay in the present. I don't have to listen to the ego-mind that wants to keep me in fear, remembering "when," or telling me we could lose everything this time. I choose not to listen when it says, "You never know, because the fires are still out of control."

Instead, I choose to think that this a reminder to count the blessings of the things we have; to have faith; to know that things could always be worse, and to remember:

"The past does not equal the present."

Janet Alston Jackson is the author of "A Cry for Light: A Journey into Love," winner of the USA Book News Award for Christian Inspiration. Janet is a behavioural and personal growth consultant. She often teams with her husband Walter Jackson (author of "Sporting the Right Attitude"), facilitating effective communications trainings for better personal and professional relationships. The couple have been guests on numerous radio talk shows around the country, and have made appearances on public television. Visit their websites: Sporting the Right Attitude and JanetAJackson.com.

Be sure to read the reviews of her book in our September 2007 Issue.

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