It’s spring in KS, which means it’s prairie burning time. I know it’s coming every April, and yet I’m always caught off guard. (I can only imagine how many 911 calls are placed by out-of-towners who have never heard of these prescribed or “controlled” prairie burns.)
The smoke, the crackling sounds along the roadside, the orange flames dancing on the horizon as tall as trees, the charred landscape feel almost apocalyptic, as if one has been teleported to a scorched and deserted planet. At least that is how I felt recently, when at dusk, I found myself on Middle Creek Road. I stopped to take in the eerily beautiful site (and inhale a bunch of smoke).
The conditions were perfect that day—the wind was just right, the grass was dry, and the soil was moist, which allows the deep roots of the grasses to survive. I could see a team on the horizon buzzing around on four-wheelers for this almost choreographed-like-dance of regeneration. A few days later, our own stretch of prairie was burned and my brother, with help from his drone, captured this footage:
Prescribed prairie burns are not without controversy. It results in poor air quality alerts impacting cities like Kansas City and even places in Nebraska. The fires also displace some wildlife, at least momentarily. But overall, even the most passionate environmentalists understand the value of these annual burns—namely managing weeds and woody vegetation like pesky cedar trees. And the fires promote new growth, something Native Americans knew to be true. New growth meant better grass, which meant increased bison.
Every year I marvel at how quickly the prairie regenerates itself following the burn. The burnt grass becomes soil nutrients, and there is rapid regrowth as a result—as early as two weeks. Pretty soon wildflowers—pure gifts of nature—will start appearing and the tall grass prairie, an endangered ecosystem, is reborn.
Perhaps there is a sabbatical metaphor in all this. Sabbaticals, after all, are hoped-for times of regeneration and new growth—a time of clearing away the pesky weeds of heart, mind, and soul. A time to commune again with the Regenerative One, Jesus, who came to baptize us not only with water, but with fire (Luke 3:16). And even though this has been a personally regenerative time, I have also directed much thought and prayer toward what makes for healthy ecosystems—what makes for a healthy, thriving church. What conditions create the necessary nutrients for regeneration? How might we be reborn over and over, in the light (and fire) of Christ?
I’ll look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks. For now I’ll say I’ve missed Rainbow, and I hope I’ve been missed, at least a little 🙂
And I’ll close with this beautiful quote by Hannah Becker. I look forward, once again, to being part of the “flaming” Rainbow and concerted teamwork—being about the delicate, important matter of regeneration. Hopefully 911 won’t need to be called in the process.
“There’s an intense rainbow of flaming colors, you hear sounds of fire rippling through the dead brush and you can see the concerted teamwork of burn attendees as they carefully coordinate the delicate matter of setting hundreds of acres of fire. It’s quite breathtaking.”- Hannah Becker from Kansas Living Magazine