Friday, December 17, 2010


I think that before I delve too deeply into this issue (that of fires) I need to give some background.  My history with fires goes back to when I was a small boy going camping with my family.  I loved our summertime camping trips.  For our family, the perfect summer vacation was to pack up the holiday trailer, hitch up to the Suburban (or pickup truck), and head out to the mountains for a couple of weeks at a time.  We would tour around from campsite to campsite, spending a day or two at each one hiking, swimming, fishing, trying to play Yahtzee on a picnic table that had dice sized gaps between the boards, bike riding or doing whatever else we decided to do.  It was during these trips as a small boy that I was able to build and cultivate a deep and meaningful relationship with fire.  

Mountain mornings are cold and brisk.  Taking that first step out from the trailer-tent-Suburban-whatever I was sleeping in that night into that crisp, morning mountain air was kind of like getting slapped in the face with a frozen halibut, but in a good way.  After recovering from the shock of that first smack of brisk air, I would stumble over to the wash basin to wash the sleep goo from the corners of my eyes.  This experience was more like that sensation that one gets when one jumps from the balmy confines of a glorious winter hot tub, slips on the frozen stairs and goes plunging head first into the nearby snow bank.  Inevitably the wash water in the basin was the remnants of last night’s washings, and the sensation of that almost ice water to the face was enough to momentarily stop my heart until the shock of the cold started it pumping again.  At this point, I would turn and stumble towards the trailer door, hands outstretched in front of me, looking out through the haze generated by ice covered eye lashes, crying out for a towel.  My Mom should have been a linguist.  She never failed to recognize my cries for what they were.  Somehow, my desperate cries of “Well-fa-wa-bus-glow-blurish... COLD!” always resulted in Mom running out with a fresh towel for me to use.  Thanks Mom.  You saved my life.

It was at this point of the morning that my attention would turn to the fire.  As the second child but first son in my family, I took it upon myself to be the builder of the fire.  My Dad was the person who first introduced me to fire.  Dad had what many would consider to be a bit of an old school, more traditional relationship with fire, in that he did not believe in using paper or any other highly combustible substance to help in starting a campfire.  I learned to start a fire “the real way”.  The real way involved picking up the hatchet (until I was bigger I wasn’t allowed to use the full sized axe) and warm myself up by taking the next 15 minutes to split the knot filled, over-sized pine piece that I had selected to be the fuel for that mornings fire.  I’m sure there’s a life lesson to be found somewhere in that.  

After successfully splitting the log into 4 pieces, I would take my hatchet and proceed to demolish one of the quarters of wood into toothpick sized, 16 inch long lengths (I was very precise with my dull hatchet).  Then came the fun part.  I got to use Dad’s hunting knife!  After carefully eyeballing the tiny pieces of wood to select the one most suited to my purposes, I would meticulously begin to shave tiny sliver sized fragments of wood and finger into a small pile in the middle of the fire cauldron.  By this point at least two of my siblings would be outside mumbling “encouraging” words to me in an effort to hasten my fire building so that they could warm themselves.

Then the moment was here.  The moment that my whole morning had been building up to.  The lighting of the fire.  Or not.  The next few minutes involved much banging on the trailer door and calling out to Mom that I was in need of a new book of matches.  Strangely, the procurement of new matches always took much longer than the initial obtaining of the towel.  Weird.  Once the coveted matches were in my possession, I would walk majestically and theatrically towards my small pile of shavings, proud that in mere moments my family would be basking by the glow of a perfectly built fire, the fruits of my labor.  I would then bend down at the fire cauldron, tear the perfect paper match from the glistening new book of matches and victoriously, with a small pause to heighten the moment, strike the match.  Seconds later I would do my best to remain as composed and manly as an 8 year old can when the match would burn all the way to my fingers, the result of too many theatrics, and I would dance wildly around with my fingers clamped between my legs (aka “The Crotch Hop”) to reduce the pain of it all.  At this point, with my pride seared as well as being threatened with bodily harm should I engage in more unwelcome theatrics, I would get down to business and light my fire.

As I contemplate life lessons or spiritual applications to be learned from the building of fires, I gently touch a swollen red line on my right arm.  Last night as I attempted to build and cultivate a deeper and even more meaningful relationship with fire, we argued and I now bear the branding of that argument (I lost).  There must be some life lesson that I could pull out of all this.  There must be....  

I guess for now it will have to be food for thought, and in the future some deep and profound life lesson will come to me.

There is one thing more though.  As I type about “building” and “laboring” to make a fire, various thoughts run through my brain and Psalm 127:1 comes to mind.  It has nothing to do with fire.  It says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it.”  I lean back in my chair, caressing the inflamed red mark on my arm, and think about this verse and what it may be telling me on this day.  We’ve just been accepted with Mission Aviation Fellowship and are currently working (laboring) to build up the ministry team that will partner with us in mission.  It occurs to me that it is not a house that is being built, but the principle holds true in this circumstance also.  It’s not our mission, it’s the Lords.  It’s not Karen and I who are doing the building, it’s God who is building His team.  If we just head out and work to build up “our” support for “our” ministry, we’re going to get burned.  It seems to me that our job is to serve the Lord and glorify God as we labor to serve Him during this time in our lives, and as we do so He’ll build His support team in His time.

Wait a minute...  fires... life lessons... “we’re going to get burned”??!!  Sweet!  I guess there is a life lesson to be learned from all this.  “Don’t get burned!”

1 comment:

  1. Hi There, I enjoyed this post, and especially the 2nd to last paragraph where you talk about God building His team. This is something we have also been learning over the past months and it has been an awesome adventure! I'm so glad He is in charge and not us :)
    Blessings to your Family as you journey through this too and experience all the lessons God has for you!