Belongs To Whom ?

June 18: View from our house in Prescott Valley of the  Doce Fire in Prescott, AZ

June 18: View from behind our house in Prescott Valley of the Doce Fire near Prescott, involving 7000 acres, 460 evacuated houses, and 672 firefighers including the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The fire was successfully extinguished with no loss of life or houses. All Prescott rejoiced.

This has been a life-framing prayer for Paul and me:

“Your Majesty,

Thank you for what you have entrusted to me to manage on your behalf.

These possessions, these resources, these gifts are not mine, but yours.

Give me the wisdom I need to make them available for the work of your kingdom.

I am honored to be your subject.


From everything we’ve observed from Ryan and Dustin DeFord and their family, their identities and worldview are shaped by a confidence that God is their Lord, that they’ve been “bought with a price” — “redeemed” — “with the precious blood of Christ,” and they “are not their own,” but His (I Corinthians 6;19-20; I Peter 1:18-21). This shapes the way the family is responding to Dustin’s loss of earthly life as a Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighter during the Yarnell Hill blaze on June 30.

To see oneself as owned by God sounds crazy to many.  If you want personal independence and no accountability beyond yourself (“as long as I don’t hurt anyone else” — the moral criterion for many), then belonging to Jesus sounds like bondage, for you are not your own boss. Actually, it’s freedom from bondage  — freedom from sin, its control, and its debt. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is good news for each of us. The word, gospel, means good news.  My favorite good news passage, if I had to choose just one, is Colossians 2:13-17.  Yet, I must also recommend Romans 10:8-13. Google these and read them (and read the contexts too)!

God entrusts good gifts to us, and children are the most precious of those gifts. God entrusted the DeFord family with ten children. They nurtured their children in the love of Christ through the guidance of God’s Word and His Spirit. Each of the ten has entrusted his or her life to the Lord. As we’ve talked with most of them and have heard some of their own stories, we see that their pursuits in life, as varied as they may be, all focus on living by the gospel and sharing that gospel with others from humble and passionate, loving hearts.

This morning, they all left Prescott Valley in a motor processional, heading down to the airport in Phoenix. Today the entire family is flying back home to Montana.  This Saturday, they’ll hold Dustin’s funeral, and firefighters will be there from all over the state. These 19 families have had to share their sons with the nation and the world, which we vividly witnessed at the memorial held yesterday in the arena in Prescott Valley. While we all grieved with them and celebrated the gift of life God gave them, we also have felt compassion for the lack of privacy the families have thus far experienced. There will now be 19 separate funerals. Continue to pray for all these families.

Paul and I enjoyed having one of the eight DeFord brothers and his wife stay at our house for the last several days. Sunday evening the DeFord family rolled in to our cul-de-sac in two, big, Toyota mini vans. All of them piled out, and we had the dear, dear opportunity of inviting them into our home where we encircled our living room and prayed together. We took two family pictures, but I do not feel right about publishing one. (If I get permission, I will, but I don’t know if I’ll even have the nerve to ask.)  Just the one couple stayed with us and the others drove on to their two destinations, two other homes in which they stayed.

Late, yesterday afternoon, the DeFord family arrived at our church, exhausted yet so gracious after the 2 hour and 40 minute, carefully crafted and nationally (and internationally) broadcasted memorial — with a litany of dignitaries from the Vice President onward.  I watched it with a friend at a local church where they provided a live stream, video presentation.  Our church provided a buffet meal for the DeFord family after the memorial in which our church people ate and mingled with this crew of people.  One son had come from Alaska where he is a firefighter, one from Afghanistan where he is a Marine, and the others are from Montana or there abouts.  Mr. DeFord expressed his gratitude to the church that his two sons, Ryan and Dustin, have had such a solid and supportive church home here at Open Door in Prescott Valley.

Ryan had shared at our church’s memorial for Dustin held last Wednesday that his brother’s highest calling was to live for and share Christ, and his second calling was as a firefighter. His passion for the first fueled his dedication to the second. As Ryan told it and I understand it, his mother’s first response was gratitude that Dustin had lived for Christ,clearly explaining to his buddies the message of salvation through faith in Christ who died to pay for all of our sins.  Dustin was entrusted with the love of God in Christ, which he loyally shared with his firefighting family.

The last ten days remind me of this prayer to the Lord —  His Majesty — Our Father in heaven:

“Your Majesty, Thank you for what you have entrusted to me to manage on your behalf. These possessions, these resources, these gifts [including my life] are not mine, but yours. Give me the wisdom I need to make them available for the work of your kingdom. I am honored to be your subject. Amen.”*

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. 


* Chapel of the Air. 1986.

Categories: Joy & Suffering -- Good & Evil, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Belongs To Whom ?

  1. Rosalee (Phoenix)

    Thank you for a personal update on S and C and their family. I’ve been praying for them specifically since Dustin’s name came out. Thank you for your loving care for Dustin’s family, and I hope to visit your church one day.

  2. Well written and well said Karen. Thank you for sharing your experience with the DeFord family and your shared commitment to yield back all of your God given resources to the furtherance of the Gospel.

  3. Martin Zuidervaart

    Extending hospitality while physical health and academic deadlines weigh heavily–truly a demonstration of Paul’s truth that “though Karen is weak, yet she is strong.” Certainly the light of the gospel is shining brightly from your broken vessel, Karen! Your blogs have made a big news event personal for me. Thank you.

  4. Anonymous

    we will continue to pray for these families. your writing is anointed.
    please give yourself some time to rest and recuperate for what the Lord has next for you 🙂

    • kltolsen

      Thank you, Deb and everyone who has taken the energy to respond to the last three posts! I’d like to respond to each comment, but that would be too much! However, every response is meaningful to me and to many others as well, as some have mentioned to me. Thank you for your prayers for all of these families and for the Yarnell area and all the needs that are still being addressed! God is showing His Hand in providing and sustaining. . . . The outpouring of time, work, space, food, clothing, money, and various forms of support by large numbers of caring individuals is so healthy and right.

      Here is a most news worthy story packed with many more stories. From what I can gather, some regions of the nation have given this story minimal attention. For instance, my sister in Indiana reported to me yesterday that she hunted the news all day on Tuesday and never found a broadcast of the memorial service or a report on it. Most likely, there were some summary reports somewhere in her state that she just didn’t locate. With all the disproportional news on the Zimmerman trial, one wonders how “news worthy” is decided. I’ve heard that NPR did some reporting. A friend from South Caroline said there were reports from there.

      What have you heard from your area of the country? These men’s stories need to be told. Their legacy is set, and the living must do the narrating. I’m just a messenger with one corner of one young man’s story. There are other messengers. There are many other stories and needs here. Thank you for your prayers.

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