Monday, April 26, 2010

Fanning the flame Part 2

This is the second half of a 2-part post. To read part one, click here.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've always enjoyed having campfires and fires in the fireplace at home. I love tending the fire- poking the logs and moving them around to produce the desired amount of flame...

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." Ephesians 4: 22-25

Continuing to grow spiritually takes constant tending and attention. We must constantly expose new portions of our lives to the transforming power of the Gospel in order to experience the renewal of that "flame" within. Without new efforts and constant tending, it is easy to become stuck in a rut of complacency.

It is also easy to revert back to former ways, as Paul says. We can get sucked back into the temptation to gossip, fight, hold grudges...etc. But these things suppress the new life we pursue in Christ.

This week, I hope you'll tend your fire- try doing something a little different- pray somewhere different, pick up something new for a devotional time, spend time in the presence of other Christians... be creative- throw a fresh log on the fire.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fanning the flame Part I

During a great holiday break this year, I enjoyed one of the things that I feel keeps most apartments from feeling like a "home" - a fireplace. I've always enjoyed the warmth, crackle, and glow during the winter months. I sit too close, lay with my feet propped up next to the fire, and basically hoard all the warmth that I can get (I'm sure my family appreciates it). I love the smell of the smoke from fireplaces in the crisp winter air outside. So...what's with all this talk of winter when the flowers are blooming and the days are getting longer?

Well, while I was home over the holidays, I was enjoying the warmth of the fire one evening and watching TV. I got distracted with what was on and failed to tend the fire. Finally I looked over and noticed that there was no flame and only the glow of coals. Now, the quick solution might have been to throw a few more logs on, light a match and turn the gas on to get the fire started. But that's just not me- I'm my father's son. I grew up crumpling newspapers with Dad to stick under the starter logs and watching him strategically light the paper to get the fire started. So, I took a piece of kindling and a hatchet and began splitting it into pencil-thin pieces and placing them just above the coals. After a bout ten of these strips had been carefully placed, I began lightly blowing onto the coals. After a few moments, the twigs caught fire and burned brightly.

"Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." John 20:21-22

The disciples were confused and scared. Their faith was hanging by a thread and in need of assistance. Jesus' calm nature and words of assurance fanned the flame of their spirits. We're a few weeks past the excitement of Easter Sunday, how is the flame of your faith doing? How are others? How might we cooperate in being a the breath that ignites afresh the fire?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tending needs

Last weekend I took a trip back to Texas for a job training. As always, it took two flights to get me there, and two to get me back to NC. On my first flight of the weekend, I tried to read but became very distracted by the actions of the man sitting next to me:
I said hello to him as he sat down, noticed he had a foreign accent, and also that he was too tall to comfortably sit in the seat. Then I went back to reading. Halfway through the flight, I noticed him getting restless- shifting in his seat. He seemed to be a bit distressed and his gestures and constant checking of his printed out itinerary and checking his watch (always followed by a palms up "how did this happen" motion). A number of times I wanted to ask him if there was anything I could help him with...but I never did.
Finally the stranger turned to me, "Excuse me, is there any time difference between North Carolina and Memphis?" I had pretty much decided that this was probably the cause of his stress. I answered, "Yes, we're going to gain an hour- so it's only 5:45 there. What time does your next flight leave?" He showed me his boarding pass and pointed to the time of departure, saying "7:30." I assured him, "Oh, you've got plenty of time. These time changes can be confusing." Our conversation continued a while longer, and then I went back to reading my book. His shoulders relaxed and he seemed to enjoy the second half of the flight much more.
"and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10

This stranger wasn't necessarily "hungry," but I did notice his distress. However, I hesitated to offer assistance, and justified it by telling myself it was none of my business. I wonder how often others do similar things. Is it because of our respect for personal space and privacy that we fail to be a people that help each other? This week, observe others, look for opportunities to help someone.

Monday, April 5, 2010

All quiet

I've never been an early riser (at least since being a kid and having the attraction of early morning cartoons). I'd prefer to stay up late and sleep until the sun is well over the horizon. But this year required a bit of a lifestyle change. So I started (reluctantly) going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. Since the time change a few weeks ago, I've actually sort of enjoyed getting up before the sun does.

There is something peaceful about the time from when light begins to infiltrate the darkness until the time when the sun appears and everything is visible. During a recent conversation with my roommate, he described that time as "quiet...undisturbed...a fresh start." I thought that was a great way to put it - there is something peaceful about the morning. The birds sing as the rest of the world slowly wakes up.

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." Psalm 90: 14

This week, I encourage you to find out what time the sun will rise, set your alarm to beat it by about 20 minutes, then just spend some time watching the morning (from outside if possible).