Greek mythology has it that the long-lived bird known as the Phoenix would be consumed by fire and then rise, renewed from its ashes.
My dearest hope is that our valley community of Paradise will do something similar. California’s deadliest wildfire ravaged it last November, claiming 85 lives and taking an unfathomable toll in lost homes and businesses.
I spent two memorable years in Paradise, working at a local radio station and falling in love with a unique and wonderful rural community. I shoveled snow off of the roof where I worked, went to parades, parks and restaurants. Paradise is where I became an adult.
On a day filled with pouring rain last week, I finally returned. The devastation was a punch to the gut; something almost impossible to fathom, even though it was right before my eyes.
There were glimmers of hope in the ruins. Seeing some unscathed homes and businesses, as well as observing repair work, provide some thought of recovery.
There were also a series of stunning murals throughout town from artist Shane Grammer, that I hope achieve two things: bring some solace to those grieving, as well as a more widespread focus that this tragedy needs our prayer and attention for years to come.
Shane told me of his motivation. “God has always used my art to bring joy to the downcast and brokenhearted,” he remarked. “This has been a lifelong theme and message for me personally.”
“My heart was to bring hope and joy to people throughout Paradise,” he added. “I feel that it’s been an absolute miracle that these murals have touched so many people emotionally, not only in Paradise, but all over the world.”
I hope Paradise rises from the ashes like the Phoenix.
Pray for Paradise.