Few things beat time spent roasting marshmallows around a campfire, with conversations that linger as the flames flicker and fade into the night. Growing up as a Girl Scout, I was well trained in fire building, using various techniques, depending on the purpose of the fire. The approach is important, and care must be taken not only for safety, but for the fire to do its job.
This summer, my congregation is exploring the “campfire” stories of the Bible, inspired by the tongues of fire of Pentecost in Acts 2, along with other favorites, like the burning bush. We find God in the flames and tend to the fires of our spiritual lives. As we do so, the campfire becomes a metaphor for the ways in which we grow in faith and life. Consider this:
You need tinder — the little stuff that catches fire quickly. These are the things that nudge us or make us take interest in digging deeper. Sometimes, when things are too green or too wet, we might need some “fire starters” to help get us going and show us the way.
Next, you need slightly thicker sticks, kindling, that will burn a bit longer and start to bring about the flames. We need sustainable practices and healthy rhythms to establish new routines and habits. In faith, this includes reading the Bible, engaging in worship and becoming a part of a faith community. It also can include a daily mental health walk, weekly date nights with your significant other or cultivating new skills through classes, lessons or simple practice. This step takes consistency and intentionality, and maybe some deep breaths that move and rattle around those early flickers, to encourage them to catch, rather than just fizzle out.
Of course, once the fire gets going, you need the big logs, fuel wood, to keep it going. These burn longer and sustain the fire, and make the best coals, ideal for warmth and cooking. This is where little practices give way to sustained rhythms of being that are integrated into your life to the point you can’t imagine life without them. They are the core memory moments of our lives that resonate deep within our beings and ground us throughout our journeys.
St. Catherine of Siena is quoted as saying, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” This summer, take a moment and consider the different pieces that build up your metaphorical fires in life, whether they are representing your relationships with others, your relationship with a divine being or the ways you are becoming the best version of yourself. May you find the space to build such a life, the spark to get things going and fuel to sustain you. (And maybe you can enjoy a few s’mores in the process, too!)
– The Rev. Elizabeth Lovell Milford has served as pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church in Acworth (www.heritagepres.com) since 2016. She lives in Woodstock with her family.