Reflections on a Fire

It’s been said that fire is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. The wildfires still burning in California and Colorado certainly prove that. But some of my fondest recollections of childhood involve being around a campfire with my dad and my brothers. It may have been a family camping or hunting trip, a Scouting event, or a church men’s retreat – but it seems like, we ALWAYS had a fire.

“The wonderful smell of burning piñon pine takes me back in my mind…”

Recently Kathy & I added a backyard fireplace, a chiminea, to our back porch, and I am really enjoying it. The wonderful smell of burning piñon pine takes me back in my mind, and the warmth certainly feels good on these cool evenings.

Fire has always held a fascination for people. When the ancient philosophers talked about the “Four Elements,” they were referring to Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. So what is it about fire that attracts so many of us, that makes us stop and stare into the flames?

In part, I think, it’s the attraction of home. Historically, anytime settlers would build a cabin or a cottage, there would always be a fireplace. It provided warmth for the home. It provided a means of cooking, and it provided light for those who lived there. Fire was pretty basic (and essential) to survival. And I think it was Louis L’Amour who once wrote, “No man is so poor that he can’t afford a fire.”

It was at one of the first Boy Scout camping trips I ever went on – I guess was in the fifth or sixth grade – that I remember building my own fire and cooking my own lunch over it. It seemed like quite an accomplishment to me at the time.

Besides cooking, fire was an essential component at blacksmith shops. Being able to heat metal, refine it, work and shape it into various tools and implements – these were needed skills on the frontier. They used to say that the two worst sins that a blacksmith could commit, were to not charge enough for his work, and to let his fire get cold.

But I think that one of the best things about fire is that it creates community. Many of us have had the experience of sitting around a campfire, with family or friends, and enjoying each other’s company. It’s a good time for telling stories (true or not!). More than that, it’s a good time to just be still – to sit and stare into the flames, to think and reflect, and just be.

When I think about good fires, it’s not surprising that God often uses fire as a symbol for Himself. It was in a fire – a “burning bush” – that God revealed Himself to Moses (Exodus 3:1-3). It was in fire, along with other signs, that God descended to the people on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:18). It was with fire that God answered the prophet Elijah against the false prophets (1 Kings 18:38). When God poured out His Holy Spirit on the disciples at the birth of the church, one of the signs that was given was “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3). And when the Apostle Paul was teaching the Thessalonian church about how to treat one another, he advised them, “Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thess. 5:19).

In our crazy, hyper, noisy world, with social media, cell phones and the Internet all clamoring continuously for our attention, we can all benefit from just slowing down and enjoy the company of loved ones around a nice, warm fire – or just to be there, sit still, and be alone and quiet with God.

The Sounds of Silence

When I started this blog, it was my intention to write something twice a week or so.  Well, with one thing and another, I have already missed that target.  But twice a week is my goal, and it’s a process.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

So I sat down at my desk this morning to write, but found the noise from the construction site next door to be too distracting.  No problem, I thought, I’ll just go to the coffee shop and get a cup o’joe to sip on while I write.  (Seems appropriate.)  But there was a guy there, holding forth at one of the tables in an obnoxiously loud voice, and happily giving his opinion on all sorts of subjects. (Please, no comments about the pot calling the kettle black…)  I was across the room, and unwillingly in the middle of the conversation.  So I left.

I drove to the library, where I sat in my car waiting for the library to open, and began to read.  A city worker came by with a leaf blower, and it took him three passes back and forth in front of me to remove all the leaves and blow them out into the street.  Your tax dollars at work.  I resigned myself to finding no quiet until I actually got into the library.

So I went in and sat down.  And that’s when my phone rang.  *Sigh.*

Silence isn’t golden.  It’s vanished.

So instead of writing about what I WAS going to write about (I’ll save that for another day.), here’s a thought: I believe we could use more silence.  Somehow, I think our society has associated noise with busy-ness with purposeful activity with personal significance.  Furthermore, we often seem unwilling or unable to simply sit still and meditate.  It’s like many of us are afraid to be alone with our own thoughts.

The scripture does NOT say, “Be frantically noisy and busy, and know that I am God.”  It says, “Be STILL and know.” (Psalm 46:10)  So here’s my resolution to be a little more intentional about seeking quiet time each day to be alone with God.  And to those of us who are already doing it, here’s a (quiet) pat on the back.