I hauled some old wooden pallets out to some friends’ place last evening. They were cleaning out a flower bed that seemed to be in full need of that very thing. They’d already pulled out lots of grass and weeds to create better living conditions for the irises. Over toward one corner of the yard a pile of freshly cut cedar branches lay smoldering over a humped bed of ash and coals.
While his wife continued the ground clearing, the man and I unloaded the pallets and stacked them against a tree. A variety of wood species slatted the shipping crates: oak, poplar, pine and whitewood. Some of the strips will be salvaged and re-purposed, some will make a more rapid return to their elemental composition. Along those lines, my friend and I thought of a more immediate contribution.
We pulled off the un-burning cedar branches, clearing the interwoven stack down to the top of the gray mound at the base. We put one crate right on that, piled on a layer of branches, and then added a second crate. Finishing off with a final layer of the remaining cedar limbs, we were right sure that we’d significantly improved the pile’s chances of burning down in short order.
After a few minutes of no sudden blaze, my buddy fetched a long copper pipe. After sticking one end of that into the heart of the heap, he began blowing fresh air into the pile of coals. They began glowing but even with him on the verge of hyperventilating, no flames. A recent copy of the local paper presented another idea. Just about the time he finished rolling that into two nice-sized Fire Assisters, a bit of flame began licking up into the bottom pallet. He went ahead and added the paper anyway, which brought things nicely along.
Within a couple of minutes, the fire was noticeably progressing. Within ten, red flames danced cheerily among those reluctant cedar branches. A good bed of coals, some dry tinder and an extra bit of oxygen can sure get a good fire going.
There are times in our lives when it’s good to be the kindling. Immediately perceiving the value, we’re first in and praying for a divine wind that will fuel the flames and bring others in to sustain the cause. Other times, we pause, needing a bit of convincing. Knowing that this isn’t going to be easy in/easy out, we think about it for a while. Once the heartwood is aflame, the game is too far afoot for dancing to the side.
It takes wisdom and faith and deliberate discernment about the true nature of things. If we were nothing but kindling, that easy fire would soon be gone with nothing to sustain itself. If we were nothing but green branches, chances are we’d see only some smoldering fumes and the power of a consuming purpose would never break free to see its good work fulfilled in our lives.
All of which makes it rather important for us to be sure that the fire we’re standing near is one worth surrendering to. Otherwise, we end up with nothing more than some scorched bark and a lesson hard learned.
Or worse, we find out we’ve made ashes out of ourselves and accomplished nothing worthy of the sacrifice.