Sunday, June 18, 2006


What Fire Contained?

The phone rang. Often, I don't answer; telemarketers or else I just don't want to talk. This time I picked it up. The voice was one I hadn't heard in a while, and most of my mind was in neutral so it took a few seconds to assemble enough wit and voice samples to come up with a match. Lu.

It started with a computer that wouldn't start. A Powerlessbook. I suggested a RAM problem but her screwdriver was too small to open the cunningly fitted cover. Troubleshooting at 3000 miles.

Why is it that so few people dare to start fires? Maybe they're scared. Maybe they don't know how. Maybe they just don't hold any fire within, no spark, just plod. Lu has a great fire. Maybe it's examples like hers that keep others at a distance: living with fire, like riding tigers, is difficult but it's even worse when you try to stop. Better not to start. Damp the fire. Nice kitty.

Fire shows. It doesn't really matter how you damp it. To a sensitive person the heat is palpable. The insensitive don't know what's going on, but they're attracted like cats to a radiator in the winter. Invisible infrared chains, sunbeams and dreams, cozying up to something mysterious, something beautiful, something that calls like an inaudible crystalline bell. Real leaders.

The scale doesn't matter. Is a leader only one when thousands come to her call? I suspect that God is pleased with a leader of one or two. Our world would have us believe that anyone can be a leader. It's merely a matter of training and learning enough management aphorisms to inspire the troops. Even the troops, though, know the difference between the posturing and the power. Fire will out, like the tree root surely finding the depths of a rock and cracking it in its steady slow growth. You can't hide it. You can only distort it, turn it aside into something gnarled and ugly, and people become confused or fanatical.

What burns in me? A warrior's heart, as Lu suggested, but one warped into self-defense. A stone basket over the flames, crowding low, trying to hide. What might happen if the fire gets out? I don't know, and don't want to know. But I already know: fire turned into sand, fire turned into stories, fire turned into spontaneous games, quick tongues of flame that lick out faster than they can be shunted aside and then it's too late. The fire is there, the light is there and I'm lit up like a Christmas tree on a hilltop, I, who am much more comfortable living in the bottoms of deep dark valleys.

But what can I say? It's fun! Creative challenges, troubleshooting challenges, being able to do things. Shaping sand into forms that no one else has thought of, telling stories that bust the stereotypes. God is no stereotype, no standard character, and Jesus walked his blazing path on earth lighting fires everywhere he went. The very model of creation, there: make the world new with each step, call people to thoughts they'd never thought before, bring out the light in a world shaded so long that people have to squint to see.

Who makes a heart strong enough to lead? Maybe it's a matter of surprise. Jesus is sneaky. You walk along, following his footsteps, and then you find that he's not out in front any more. Your own footprints burn, and then fear takes over and you look for a crack to hide in. Then you feel Jesus' steady hand, guiding, making things possible that you'd never dreamed.

And it's all different from what you were taught. Christianity is a linear process in the books. Step by step, follow this process, become a Christian. Foolproof. But fire calls to fire, however much asbestos you wrap around your soul. I buried mine in layers so deep that nothing got out and the land around died for want of light... And still I heard the call of lightning and felt the distant warmth of God's heart. All of us have that spark, calling, calling, trying to answer.

We are designed for fire. A flaming soul knows no bounds. Beauty and creation are much, much harder than burning down the house, and they won't get your name in the newspapers. Shape the fire, guide the flames, God's refractory touch teaching. One fire, two choices, a lifetime to learn.

And what of me? Fires don't burn well on submarines. God tempts me to the surface but hammered into the deepest recesses of my soul is the commandment to survive by being beneath notice. God has the last laugh, though; if you keep walking, sooner or later you get to the top of some kind of hill, especially for one such as I, easily distracted by looking at the scenery. The submarine surfaces, the fish walks on dry land, the climber is called from the heavy shell that holds back.

Traditional teaching works by driving: whip cracks and demands. God teaches first by example, then by calling. One little tasty nugget after another and O, his Spirit is sweet. Bread crumb by bread crumb, the trail leads on and each crumb nourishes some new addition no matter how small. A zillion drops of water make a lake, a lot of tiny glowing sparks make...


Wow.....burn baby burn .....
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