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
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
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.
simply because the space is there,
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.”
Nov. 28, 2018
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A call to courage for 2021
- A charming tale for over-achievers
- A Lesson On Beans … and Being
- A New Place
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- A Time of Dust
- Acquiring a peaceful spirit
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Anastasis: the Greatest Story of God’s Saving Power
- Another kind of darkness
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- As if we needed a reminder
- Beacons of hope
- Better Together
- Blessings As You Go
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Fear of the Lord
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Getting through this together
- God is not overwhelmed
- Good Friday
- Grief & Graduation
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How do you keep from giving up hope?
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- Imagining Eternity
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In everything, grateful
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Jesus among us
- Killing off our future selves
- Knowing a Good Thing When We See It
- Lessons in fire building
- Let there be light!
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- Naming our demons
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- On the day after the night before
- Persistent and Extravagant
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Praying for Reconciliation
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Rest is Holy
- Right where we are
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Surprisingly Simple: Breathe!
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Trouble with Mammon
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You might be a Lutheran if…
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- WWJD? We already know
- Walking in the Light of Jesus’ Resurrection
- We had hoped
- We’re on a mission from God
- What do you do with your anger?
- What good is a shepherd?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When God uses something terrible for good
- When heaven & earth click
- When joy and sadness live together
- When stress overwhelms
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- When we are moved
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Won’t you be my neighbor?
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future