Christmas Advent HERO

Lessons in fire building

It’s the time of the year when the days of the semester are growing shorter yet the “to do lists” seem to be growing longer.

I was never really taught how to make a fire.  Therefore, as I became an adult and had a home that had a wood burning fireplace I often failed. I would stack the wood and put try to light it and it just could never really “get going.”  Finally, I decided to actually listen to someone else who could successfully build fires. They looked at what I was doing and said, “You aren’t allowing the fire to breathe. There is no room between the logs.”  Clearly, I should have read this poem by Judy Brown.


What makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water could.

So building fires

requires attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to pile on the logs,

then we can come to see how

it is fuel, and absence of the fuel

together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire


simply because the space is there,

with openings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.

— Judy Brown

We are in the time of the year when the days are growing shorter and the nights are growing longer. The time of the year when the days of the semester are growing shorter yet the “to do lists” seem to be growing longer. One walk through the Union or the library and you see it in the eyes of students, faculty, and staff.  That time of year where we feel overwhelmed and exhausted, and are wondering how it can all get done. How can we keep our fire burning, to get us through these long nights and short days? Many of us have the approach that I did, just pile it all on and as tight as possible, and yet burn out always seems to approach.

Psalm 46 reminds us that we can find refuge in God and we are invited to “Be still and know that I am God.”  The practice of Sabbath wasn’t created by God so that God could make sure proper attention was given, but because we were created to breathe and live in a world that has a rhythm of activity and rest.

During this hectic time how might you bring intention to your own “fire building” and create space for breath?  Maybe it is a walk through the winter snow. Maybe it is through a time of feeding your body through food and fellowship with friends.  Maybe it is through coming and resting in the Chapel of the Resurrection for 20 minutes at 10 a.m. each weekday for a time of prayer, worship, and fellowship. Maybe it’s through pausing to be fed at the Lord’s table on Sunday mornings or Wednesday or Sunday nights at 10.  Maybe it is through claiming time to pray or meditate and listen deeply to your breath.

I myself am trying to learn to choose with intention the logs I place on my own fire, and the space that I am holding for breath, reflection, and warmth.  What I discover is that when I have intention about the logs’ placement and the space between, the Holy Spirit has room to ignite a brighter fire than I could have imagined. Sometimes I need others to help me think through my fire building.

Know that Pastor Jim and I are always willing to sit with you, breathe with you, pray with you, and listen to you as you “build your fire.”

Dcs. Kristin

Nov. 28, 2018

Deaconess Kristin Lewis and University Pastor James Wetzstein take turns writing weekly reflections. You can contact Deaconess Kristin here and Pastor Jim here