During last night’s windstorm, pinecones thudded on our roof, disturbing my sleep and making me worry about roof damage. This morning I picked up the pinecones from the deck, noticing their complexity and beauty. How densely and tightly packed each seed is positioned in the cone! I know that many pines only release their seed when fire temperatures are hot enough to burst them open. It is only in fire that the pines are able to fulfill their destiny and scatter their seed. I wonder about my own life, those times when I’ve felt closest to God, those times which have taught me important lessons I needed to learn. Typically, those were crises in my life, times of ill health or surgery, deaths in my family, marriage or family conflicts. Even during these times of upheaval, God was working with me, teaching me, helping me deepen my relationship with him. Help me, Lord, to trust you even during the fiery times. Please keep reminding me that I am not alone in the blazing furnace, but through these flames I am refined and drawn closer to you. Amen.