policeman waved our car to a halt at the side of the road.
“There’s no way you can go on beyond here.
The woodland up ahead is on fire.”
And sure enough, it was. We
could see a plume of smoke rising up into the otherwise blue
Portuguese sky. Not a
massive pall of smoke as in other parts of the country – and
thankfully, within an hour or so it had been put out.
Down in the south a forest fire had been raging for a week,
fire-fighters with helicopters and tankers working hard to try and
save peoples homes.
was the main news story every night.
A full ten minutes coverage of fires blazing across various
parts of an overheated country, stirred up by strong southerly winds
. Fires, some of which
were deliberately started – one by a 65 year old man who said he
just “enjoyed seeing all the blue flashing lights of the emergency
vehicles and the sounds of their sirens”.
I doubt he’ll get so much of that inside a prison cell.
always interesting to see news from somebody else’s perspective –
and although my Portuguese is not very good, I watched the news and
skimmed through the newspaper. There
was much in my first week there on the great successes of Lance
Armstrong in the “Tour de France”.
Each night on the news I would see him in the yellow leaders’
shirt. My legs would ache
in sympathy as he rode up those mountain passes.
What an achievement to win six times in a row!
Of course, that was probably a story seen on most news channels
around the world. What
would not be seen was the following weeks “Tour de Portugal” doing
a similar bike ride with great enthusiasm in the heat of the
Portuguese summer. That
is, maybe, alright on the costal sections.
But once you are inland it is HOT.
Cycling up the Sierra de Estrella mountains the temperature was
in the mid 40’s – yet all over Portugal I discovered that road
biking is becoming very popular – and on the weekends groups are out
cycling in the kind of heat that makes me head for a beach, some
shade, and some cool ocean.
while fire and heat were obsessing the Portuguese Press I changed to
the international news channels and found that the obsession with the
weather is far more than a British eccentricity.
I found the stories world-wide.
. Flooding in
. Tales of woe.
have to talk about weather in
because it changes so often – sometimes four different seasons just
in one day – so the British press were making comparisons with the
hottest day on record – recorded this time last year – with the
torrential downpours last week that closed
’s Heathrow airport and caused flooding in
. Watching that on the
news I feared for the state of my back garden when I got home.
that is one of the things that the news does for you – at least, if
you are not careful. It
makes you fearful. My
local mid-week newspaper pointed out that crime is down where I live
– but that people are nevertheless more fearful to go out on the
streets by themselves. Airline
travel is safer then ever before but we feel more nervous.
And the government and media between them seem to do a good job
in building our fear and consciousness of terrorism, and then assuring
us that they are doing their best to protect us.
makes me wonder how I should react to all this.
The apostle Paul wrote “give thanks in everything” (1 Thess
5:18) -- which is a bit of a challenge – especially considering he
wrote those words in prison. How
do I do that?
came across the answer in the morning devotional booklet I was reading
the other day. It quoted
the famous Biblical Scholar Matthew Henry.
He’s most famous for his Bible commentary – but more than
250 years ago he was robbed of all the money he had in the world.
And what did he write in his diary?
let me be thankful because I was never robbed before. Second, because
although they took my purse, they did not take my life.
Third, that although they took my all, it was not much.
Forth, because it was I who was robbed, not I that did the
is an attitude of thankfulness. Not
living in fear, but living in hope – and for Paul, he really could
give thanks because in the same passage he could write about the God
of peace who keeps us safe in his care until the end (vs 23).
Something indeed I can give thanks for.