Glimpses of the Divine in the Mundane

“It’s all gonna burn anyways..” “Well, at least you’re alive…” It’s interesting to hear what people say or what we even say to ourselves when going through a crisis.  Many times we may be trying to make ourselves or others feel better, but does it really help?  Some of these things can be helpful. But is it possible that some things are not?  So if you’ve ever wondered “what do I say in this situation?”  Keep reading!

Here are some things that are said that can come across as “off” in a crisis situation:

“It’s all gonna burn anyways…”

(Although this may seem like it is a comforting reminder, it really isn’t.  As we grieve the sentimental pieces of our life story, of our community, of our childhood history, saying “it’s all gonna burn anyways” actually feels like a propulsion into deeper depression, and a hopelessness of why even have a story?  Why even create a home space?  This is probably not the intent, but this is what that message can lead towards.)

“Well, at least you’re alive…”

(This is one I’ve heard myself saying, too.  And it is a TRUE fact!  So grateful for life!  But it also seems to negate the fact that there is still grief surrounding the things that are lost.  The pictures.  The childhood crafts.  The things that are not replaceable.  And it makes that grief feel less than, and like it shouldn’t be cried over because at least there is life still to be lived.  But it’s not an easy fix to suddenly feel “happy”.  There is still valid sadness to be expressed about things lost.  Because many of those things were the evidence of our lives lived.  And now that evidence is gone, except for in our memory.)

“This world is not our home…”

(This statement is so untrue, as my husband pointed out.  This world IS our home.  It was given to us by God at the Garden of Eden, as our home, and that we should take care of it and have pride in it, etc.  So when we lose a part of the purpose we were created for, to make a home, to settle and take care of the little place of the world we find ourselves and call home, we feel that loss, and that grief.  And then to be told that this world is not our home…well, yes it is!  And it will be again when the earth is made new after the 2nd Coming.  So it is ok to feel sadness at the loss of this Creation.)

“Everything happens for a reason…”

(This is a somewhat marred reaction of what appears to be encouragement.  Some things happen, and there is not a reason for it, other than a cause-and-effect reason.  Some things are just a result of living in a broken world, not because God is orchestrating some greater thing at the cost of our tragedies.  I believe God can bring something out of our brokenness, but this does not mean that He causes it.   He weeps with those that weep.)

“God works all things together for His glory…”

(This is a true statement, too.  But c’mon: timing is everything.  When an entire town is pretty much wiped off the face of the earth in 12 hours by an inferno, the last thing anyone wants to hear is “well, God works all things together for His glory” – as if He needed this catastrophe to occur in order to reveal His glory.  That’s just gross.)

“Now you have freedom to go anywhere in the world…”

(This is true, to some extent.  However, there may be complicated factors, such as jobs, or health care issues, or physical limitations.  There may be the emotional ties to the region which makes it hard for someone to just pick up and move.  This, too, needs to be grieved.)

Then there are some phrases that have been helpful in the midst of this tragedy.  Here are some the most helpful things I’ve heard that are said and unsaid:

“I’m so sorry…”

(Enough said.  So am I.  This simple phrase carries so much comfort with it, as it states and acknowledges the fact that this new reality is not the way things are supposed to be.  This new reality is not normal and it is grieved by more than just the ones facing it.)

“I don’t know what to say…”

(I love this one, because it’s so honest and so open and tends to have a feeling of holding the space with all of us.  Because frankly, we don’t know what to say, either.  So you are automatically entering into our grief with us.)

“What do you need?…”

(Many times we don’t know what we need just yet, but just the question gives permission to express what we are feeling and experiencing, and in so doing, it reminds us of the fact that we are still empowered individuals that are currently in a powerless situation.  But that question reminds us that we have a little bit of power left:  the power to express ourselves and the power of our friends and neighbors who have our back.)

“How can I help?..”

(This simple question shows that you care, and although most won’t take you up on how you can help, that question speaks volumes that you are aware that this situation is beyond comprehension, and that you want to be present in the midst of this disaster.)

“I can’t imagine…”

(This is a powerful statement, because none of us could have imagined this would happen three weeks ago.  And happen to an entire town, let alone one family household.  So this statement shows that you get it, and that you are not trying to sweep the devastation under the rug, but that you are willing to sit with us in the ashes.)

“How are you doing?”  

(This question is a wild card, as it can be good or bad: it’s all in how it is asked.  This question is maybe good for later, like maybe a couple months down the road when most people have their feet under them.  This question is not a bad one, but it is used all the time in everyday life, and so then to ask it in regards to a catastrophic event, the person getting asked doesn’t really know how to answer in a short response.  People a lot of times don’t really know how they are doing to give a good answer, so if the person asking it genuinely wants to know, it can be an excellent question to help walk us through our emotions, or just be present to what we are feeling without giving a spiritual cliche band-aid response.)

Give a Hug

(Someone the other day just came up and gave me a hug.  That’s it.  They said something else, like “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I’m here…”  That was enough.  That was powerful and acknowledged exactly what I needed at the time.  It didn’t ask for any details to be repeated, nor did it try to “fix” my experience with spiritual flowery words.  It was presence in my day.  It was simple, yet so powerful).

What have you found to be helpful or not so helpful in your crisis situation?

As we all continue to navigate the different catastrophes we find ourselves in, as we all continue to walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, may we be present to each other.  May we hold the space for ourselves, as well as with each other, giving each other and ourselves permission to grieve.  May we not take a “spiritual bypass” around the sacred walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  May we remember that it is in that valley that we encounter true healing and meet the Presence of the One Who has and will walk through that valley with us.  May we not be afraid to grieve and to hold the space for those around us as they grieve. May we remember that there is incredible power in grieving, and it can be one of the most sacred spaces to find yourself or others in.


Monday night, it was my job to pick up the Olive Garden takeout for our impromptu Thanksgiving meal at the nursing home my dad is staying at in Gridley.  Olive Garden, not your traditional Thanksgiving food, but my dad requested that, and with permission from the staff at his new location, we had a date in the nursing home’s dining room.  The place is nice.  Quiet, small, and no urine smell.  It’s farther out from the rest of the family, but it was the closest place due to the evacuations from the Camp Fire.  My dad’s previous location had been in the living room of our house on Boquest Blvd in Paradise.  The house that is now ashes.

So while my mom, my brother and my niece all met with their insurance people to talk about coverage, I got everyone’s order and picked up our meals at the Chico Olive Garden before making my way to Gridley.  My other brother and I had to suddenly make one more stop for diapers after my 3 year old had a little accident.  So I popped on over to Walmart in Chico, to grab some diapers.

After parking the car, I could see the meals being cooked and hear the distant strum of a guitar being played at the Paradise Fire Refugee tent city that resides in the Walmart parking lot.  With tents rippling in the cool night breeze, I made my way inside to grab the diapers.  It was weird in there.  Christmas music playing over the speakers, as if nothing was different from a normal week of Thanksgiving.  Yet we all looked at each other.  You could see the tired eyes.  You could feel the weight of worry as you looked at the arms and legs of people.  One couple walked around with their dog in their arms, the look of shock still in their eyes.  And the cruel irony of the Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was being played overhead.  This is the new reality right now in this land of displacement.  Even though the calendar says its Thanksgiving, and Christmas is around the corner, its like we’re all watching from a glass room while others experience the festivities and normalcy.  Its as if there is a bubble of another reality. And that bubble is called displacement. That bubble is called survival.  That bubble is called tragedy.

With a heavy heart from the reality of the pain I had seen walking the aisles of Walmart, and with that Christmas song now stuck in my head, I returned to the car.  We made our way out to Gridley, in the hopes of bringing some semblance of family and Thanksgiving cheer to my ailing father. After the 30 minute drive, my brother and I set up the take out food containers on one of the small circular tables in the nursing home dining hall.  While my own babies cried due to their exhaustion, we set up chairs in a semi circle so that my dad would also be in the circle when he would come wheeled in.

Slowly my family trickled in, exhausted after hours of deliberations with an insurance agent (that will be later post).  My dad was wheeled in, and we said our blessing for the food, and began to partake of our feast.  Due to the long car ride, the breadsticks got damp from the condensation inside the bag, and the pasta was luke warm, but we were together.  We were in our family huddle.  One of the traditions in my family, like most, is to say what we’re thankful for on Thanksgiving.  One brother shared that he’s grateful for memories of all the places that we lost.  Many of us shared how grateful we were for the fact that we are all alive.  By the way, there’s something amazing that happens when you hug someone that you thought came that close to death.  It’s like you feel every part of their soul in that embrace. It’s like you see every facet of every year you ever lived with them in one moment.

With the chaos of kids crying and salad getting kicked off the table by my 5 month old, it didn’t really matter cuz we were all together.  It was messy.  It was lukewarm.  It was bittersweet.  But it was real. In some ways it felt like we were going thru the motions.  And in some ways it felt like a beautiful spiritual moment of raw togetherness; a sort of “screw you” to the tragedy and grief of all that has happened.  After a few more extended family arrived, we all were present in this new space, this small nursing home dining room – our substitute for home.  After asking if we had any desert (which I had totally forgot about getting), my dad made an announcement and said how thankful he was for each of us, before being wheeled back into his room.  We remained there and shared and listened to the stories of escape from the fire. We winced as we heard what all the insurance agent had said to my mother before cutting her a stingy check that afternoon.  We felt the same helpless pain of sentimental fragments that are forever gone from each of our stories.  We all still felt the dumbfounded twilight zone reality of no Paradise.  And then, we all began to trickle back to the different places of refuge of each of our displacement.  Chico. Oroville. Bangor. Gridley. Palermo.

This is just one of the thousands of stories of displaced Thanksgivings this year.  But I will say this:  There was something special that happened that night.  After I left that nursing home with my babies, that stale dining room felt a little warmer, had a kind of glow, because we had all been there together, and love had been present.  We had created a tiny sense of home in those few minutes as we held onto each other.  I have a feeling we’ll look back on that memory with a deep sense of awe one day.  But for now, it was a displaced Thanksgiving.


This is my mom and dad at our “Displaced Thanksgiving” celebration in the Nursing Home

A poem I wrote the other night while grieving the loss of my hometown of Paradise:

I’m sorry – Please excuse the smoke.
It’s just the dreams and hopes of 27 thousand yesterdays.
It’s just the minuscule evidence of
That one baby picture,
That painting of the sea captain by my brother,
And those family portraits of the past 40 years.
It’s just the piano from my grandmother who passed away that my brother just brought back from Iowa.

Excuse the hazardous air quality.
It’s just the thousands of saved kid’s drawings and crafts, books, children’s toys from years gone by that had been unpacked for grandchildren, wedding certificates, diaries, the favorite pillows, that favorite teddy bear from baby years, the 1960s records and the VHS tapes of birthday parties and graduations.

It’s just the houses of my childhood friends where we would play in the late summer evenings and spend nights dreaming of what our grownup years would bring. Not knowing that our futures would all hold this moment in time as our collective yesterdays ascend to the sky.

Please excuse the falling ash.
It’s just the church where I grew up attending with all the children’s songs, VBS programs and the baptismal where I chose to dedicate my life to God. It’s just the aisle where I stood and looked at the man on the day that I said “I Do”.

The falling ash – It’s just Paradise.
A little non-destination town that’s not on the way to anything important. It’s just that end-of-the-road town where people settle and know each other and roots run deep. It’s just a place where the biggest news was that Taco Bell came to town 20 years ago – until Starbucks finally made it 4 months ago.

Paradise – it’s just the place where everyone is your neighbor, as backyards are shared and simple icons are known and loved. Icons that are now ashes falling around you (sorry about that).
Icons like Fosters Freeze.
Gold Nugget Days.
Honey Run Road Covered Bridge.
That one antique store, just to name a few.
Icons like Kalico Kitchen where my dad and I had breakfast on the day of my wedding, just the two of us.
Icons like Darlene’s Frozen Yogurt and Round Table Pizza where many birthday parties growing up took place, not to mention the take home pizzas to mom and dad on weekends we would visit.
Personal icons like the Lucas’s house where many days and nights were spent as we grew up from toddlers, to grade school, to junior high, taking care of animals, watching movies, going trick-r-treating, and discovering our first crushes together.
Icons like the Muth house, where we made brownies and talked about boys and got ready for banquets and wrote songs, and led out in different high school student leadership opportunities.
Icons like the youth room at the church where we discovered so many amazing things together and planned mission trips and prayer conferences and learned what it meant to be used by God right here and right now.
Icons like Rankin Way house where we would watch different phases of our family’s life every year as we gathered for potlucks, game nights or just hear some good music.
Or Country Club where huge gatherings would take place like the 4th of July party for the neighborhood, or just coming together for brunch, or talking about religion and politics.
Or Peterson’s house where we would eat the most delicious Swedish treats and have a visit from Santa.
Or all the houses around town that we lived in since age 2, (that are now all gone) and finally settling on what would become home: Boquest Blvd. Boquest, where breakfast was late, like nights, and eras of my life passed within those 4 walls – from preteen, to high school, and as the walls of my room changed their decor as they held my changing eras like a quiet, constant friend. The early mornings getting ready for school, the late nights studying or dreaming of tomorrows that are now todays. The Christmas eves and mornings where my brother would wake me up to go open our stockings. The night I spent in that room with my sister before the day of my wedding, our conversations waning into the early morning. The years and eras fleeting now in hindsight, as most recently these four walls had been a refuge for my aging parents. And not knowing that that one night would be my final farewell to my constant silent friend – my room – where I spent a few nights with my infant son as we cherished time with family. That last night, not knowing that we would be together for the last time…in Paradise.

… And not to mention all the lives that were lost: mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, beloved pets …


All of these things now ashes falling around you.

But please, once again, excuse our smoke.
It’s just what’s left of what was one of the most unique little settlements in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains: what was Paradise.💔

Copyright 2018 Krystalynn Martin, All Rights Reserved

“All of these events are signs of the times, and evidence that Jesus is coming soon…”  These are words and phrases that many of us have heard, especially recently with some of the latest news.  Although there is nothing inherently wrong with these phrases, they seem to carry a very real danger that is seen lived out in the lives of many who profess to be followers of Jesus.

But the 2nd Coming of Christ is such good news, right? So what is the danger of this statement? In short, the danger is that many use this as an unconscious excuse to not get involved, not get their hands dirty in helping those around them.  They keep the concept of Christ’s coming as theology and rhetoric, and do not have any practical ways of what Christ’s message of hope lived out in the real world looks like.  Following Christ and looking forward to His coming becomes mere platitudes with no real-life application.  It becomes a sort of feel-good pat-answer to any crisis at hand.


Once again, there’s nothing wrong with the message of a soon-coming Savior, but isn’t the Gospel more than that? Isn’t the concept of the Kingdom of God a reality that begins right now, in the way we live our lives everyday?  It is according to Jesus, as He began each parable with the phrase “The Kingdom of God is like…” and then went into discussing what a culture of God’s love looks like right here and right now.  The concept of the 2nd Coming of Christ is so much more than a future event.  Yet so many people treat it as a separate occasion that is the end-all answer to any crisis.  In fact, when someone says, “don’t worry, these are signs of the end of the world!  We should rejoice that we are living in such exciting times…” This is almost a slap-in-the-face for those who are living in horrible situations, situations that maybe you and I were placed on this earth, by God, to help alleviate.

Let’s break this down into a few real scenarios where I have heard this phrase be used:

  • Environmental Issues
    • When those who have a passion about the environment speak out about the importance of recycling, going “green”, etc., sometimes they are met with this phrase “well, Jesus is coming soon, so of course the world is being destroyed…”.  It’s as if those who say this forget the part in Genesis where God commanded us to take care of the earth and the animals, etc. (Genesis 2:15).  In fact, this is perhaps our greatest form of stewardship.  So to use the phrase that Jesus is coming soon, (as if He’ll come quicker because we let the earth go to waste faster), is actually to squander the natural wealth that God has given to us to protect and enjoy.
  • Helping Refugees
    • If anyone has watched the news, you have seen the wave-upon-wave of refugee families fleeing their country, longing for a place of safety where they will not be killed.  You’ve seen the mothers carrying their babies for hundreds of miles, or worse, you’ve seen or heard the stories of hundreds of people drowned at sea in overcrowded boats that have capsized.  When supposed followers of Jesus see this and use the phrase, “see, Jesus is coming soon, and people are being persecuted…” but do nothing to actually help these desperate souls, they are aligning themselves with those from the parable of Jesus, where Jesus says “whatever you didn’t do for the least of these, you didn’t do for Me…” (Matthew 25:45)
    • Those who claim to follow Jesus and then say that we cannot help the refugees because they might be terrorists, forget that Jesus and His family were refugees.  They forget that if you live in the U.S., we all were once refugees.  So to use the phrase “this is a sign that Jesus is coming soon” and they keep going to church and worshiping a “Refugee”, is not this the greatest form of hypocrisy you could have?
  • Racial Violence & Injustice
    • Recently, there was a statement that went out by a church organization that encouraged its members to not get distracted by events happening in our country, but to keep persistent in preaching a soon-coming Jesus.  This statement primarily came out after some of the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Really?  How can we, as followers of God, separate preaching about a God of Love, and not actually show what that Love looks like in public?  How can we proclaim that Jesus is coming soon, but not start to live that reality of His Kingdom now?  How can we claim to worship a man who stood up for the injustices of those who were not being treated as equal, and yet not stand up for our sisters and brothers who are not being treated as equal?  How can we claim “all lives matter” and turn a blind eye to the ways that certain people are not treated as if all lives matter?  And then, if some who do get involved in raising their voices for the inequality of others, they are encouraged by certain churches not to get involved!  How can one claim to follow a God who got His hands dirty with saving our world, but not get their hands dirty in helping to save the communities around us?  How can we claim to be a part of the Body of Christ, but then reject parts of the same body when they are being mistreated?

These have just been a few of the examples I have seen, where the 2nd Coming of Christ has been used as almost an excuse to not get involved, or worse, as a gleeful reminder that it’s just a sign that He’s coming back, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show of the world falling apart.


What if certain people throughout history had taken this stance?  What if Esther, who had the courage to go before the King and request safety for her people, had used the phrase, “well, this is a sign that the Messiah is coming soon, so…”?  Would she have still gone before the King?  The whole phrase that comes from that story, “you have been created for such a time as this…” (Esther 4:14) screams the fact that we are meant to be people of action, not people of rhetoric.

What if Martin Luther, who nailed the 95 thesis, would have believed this idea that since “Jesus is coming soon, I don’t have to get involved” – would we even have churches today?  Would there have been a Reformation?  Would we understand what Grace is?

What if Martin Luther King Jr. had believed this misconception, and had thought that the injustices of the 60’s were just a sign that Jesus was coming back, so preach that message even more…would there have been the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the marches?  Would there have been the strides towards equality that he helped start?  As he mentioned in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”,  “…I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid…”  Martin Luther King realized that when we are a follower of God, it means that we live His Kingdom NOW,  and not just merely refer to it as a future event. (To read the entire Letter From a Birmingham Jail, click here).

What if Jesus Himself used this – “well, I’m coming again soon – I don’t need to preach the gospel to the world.  I don’t need to heal this blind man.  I don’t need to train these disciples.”  Obviously that’s ludicrous!  Then why is it so acceptable for us as followers of God to not get our hands dirty?  Why is it so strange to get involved and actually love people in action and deed?  Why is it crazy to step out and actually be the church to our communities?

What if we started living like the Kingdom of God was real?

What if, instead of saying we are living in the end times, we actually lived like today was our end time – our last day, and got involved in changing the lives of others?

What if we actually believed what Jesus said, what we would DO greater things than He did?  (John 14:12)

What if we began to believe that perhaps Jesus created us for such a time as this?

What if we began to realize that maybe Jesus doesn’t want us to talk so much about His 2nd Coming – but maybe He wants us to live it out?


Sometimes putting my baby to sleep can be the greatest test in patience.  Last night was one of those nights.

She had barely slept all day, so I knew that bedtime would be early, and maybe have some tears.  But, to my delight, she went to sleep quite quickly, and I was able to continue unpacking boxes, or just sit for a minute to myself.

30 minutes later, however, the baby monitor began to scream, alarming us of Aevri’s awakening.  Sighing, I got up from my activity that I’d been waiting all day to accomplish, to go and soothe my baby who needed to just sleep already.  Ear-piercing shrieks jolted me back to mommie-hood as I picked her up, but she was inconsolable.  Tears streamed down both sides of her face, as she literally screamed for the next 5 minutes.   She began working herself into such a frenzy, that it began to sound rhythmic and I was pretty sure she was hypnotizing herself.

After changing her diaper, the screaming continued for a time, and then subsided as I took her outside for a moment.  The cool air cascaded around us both, reminding us that there were other realities in the world.  But I really needed to get back to what I was doing before, so I returned to her crib.

My second attempt to put her down lasted quite awhile, with me swaying, bouncing, singing.  After sometime, it looked like it was working, and so I went to lay her down, being careful of every movement.  As I lay her in her crib, my knee cracked.  You know when your bones crack, and it’s not a big deal – well, when you’re trying to put a baby down, it’s equivalent to shattering glass.  Her eyes flew open, and the whimpering began to build..  Here we go again…

So by the third attempt, I’m exasperated – which isn’t very relaxing energy to be trying to put a baby to sleep.  I return to the medicine ball (which is a great tool to help put a baby to sleep as you gently bounce on it).  At first I begin thinking about all the things I could be doing and that need to get done.  But then something changed.

I began to sing the song “Be Still and Know that I am God…”.  As I sang it over and over, I began to realize I was singing this to my soul, and my baby just happened to be the witness.  As the lyrics descended around me, I began to ask myself, “why am I in such a hurry?  And for what?  These will be the moments I long to relive one day.  So be still. Be present. Open your eyes.  Open your heart. Savor this moment.  Life is more than doing.  Sometimes life is about Being.”

As I watched my daughters eyes begin to become heavy and lull into dreamland, and the lyrics continued to cascade around my impatient soul, I realized something else:  As I was holding my daughter in her restlessness, I needed God to hold me in my restlessness.  That in this moment, as I let go of my agendas, as I became aware that the highest purpose of this moment was to stop, be still, and be present – and that this was the most sacred thing I could be doing.  To know that something bigger was holding me, and I could rest in that.  And in that knowledge, peace began to seep into my being

She finally eased into a deep, peaceful, sleep.  And I realized once again, that parenting is sometimes more for us than it is for our kids.  That moments like this in parenting are the moments that we are brought back to our true selves, our true purpose in life, and the fact that peace is more about a personal choice than we realize.  I also was reminded that sacred moments surround us every day, and we usually miss them due to our supposed need to accomplish some task, or check something off our to-do list.  Maybe the most sacred thing we can do is to be still and know – and hold those closest to us as they cry or laugh or live or die.  And when we get to that place, peace is there waiting for us.

So today, regardless of what is happening in your world, make a choice to stop for a moment.  Be still.  Let the One that is greater than you and the circumstances you face, hold you, cradle you, sing over you, and whisper peace and grace into your life.  And join me in this mantra “Be Still and Know…”