Adventures AWAKE

A pithy little blog encouraging creative adventures of the Christian spirit

Space, flame, transformation…and marshmallows July 7, 2010

It’s camping season. Maybe that’s why when I saw this poem on a friend’s blog, it seemed right to swipe it. That and maybe the fact that, as my husband says, “we Piersons don’t camp…we golf.” It has left me somewhat longing for those growing-up days when my family would load our backpacks for a trek into the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Ahhh nature. After a few days on the trail — clothes caked with dirt, fish slime, and the smell of hours by the campfire — we’d find our way back home. One of my favorite memories is still sparked with the whiff of an open campfire. Hence, the pull toward Judy Brown’s  poem, Fire:
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.

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 logs,
then we come to see how
it is fuel, and the absence of fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time. 
A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

(San M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, Editors, Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003, p,89.) 


Nature. It gives me breathing space. And, in that space is the breath of God. Why too often it takes me getting out of the house to remember that, I’ll never know. This poem floods my senses with all the goodness of God’s creation right outside my door and, more importantly, reminds me of the Divine purpose for space — creating and maintaining it —  in my life with Him. His air and raw material combine in careful balance to create energy, warmth and reaction. Without building empty space into a fire’s structure — the careful placement of each timber and twig — nothing catches. The flame dies.

As long as you’re along for this mental hike, let’s take another step: The prose also begs me to cozy into the fiery embers of the space between. I imagine myself a marshmallow within those spaces — being changed into a treat to be savored. I am transformed by my time in what’s set apart. While in life I don’t relish the refinement of fiery trials, I actually prefer my marshmallows a tad singed.  The open fire somehow develops the flavor into a toasty, charred-wood sweetness that is unmatched by any other heat source. So, what am I doing to position myself for change?

Fires are built-in anticipation of their function; sometimes we build them for heat, cooking, atmosphere…marshmallow roasting. Whatever the purpose, it is only when we draw near its glow that we — as marshmallows or those in need of warmth — are changed.

Want an adventure? Build a fire. Think about your life’s construction; its space and flame (or the lack of either). What gives you “breathing space”?  Think about what you can do to stoke your fire for God. Most likely, the result will ignite things and draw others close. Make some space to think about fire as it relates to God’s essence, holiness, refinement, and the activity of the Holy Spirit. Meditate on  John 21:7-19. What did the campfire add to the story?

Space and flame in all you’re called to~