We were almost ready to sign on the dotted line and seal the deal when the phone rang. We were investing an ample chunk of change on new flooring when the salesman’s wife called him. I could tell by the frustration in his voice that it wasn’t the first time she had interrupted his work space. Exasperated, he asked into the hand piece of the land phone, “IS ANYTHING ON FIRE? I’ve often thought about that with amusement. What a great question! Is anything on fire?
Fire was a necessity of my childhood growing up with two active fireplaces which were used before we put the big Warm Morning heat stove back in place for the season. I’d grab a blanket and fall asleep as close as I dared next to the screen that protected me from the jumping sparks. Once I got too close and a spark got ahold of my long hair and it started to burn. When someone says they were running around as if their tail was on fire, I know what that looks like!
A Little Golden Book with a gold-foiled spine titled Smokey The Bear taught me sympathy. My heart broke for the little bear and my life’s main purpose for a few years was to take care of my Smokey Bear stuffed animal. I smeared lipstick on his paws just like his burns described in the book and then wrapped them in strips of cloth. He still stands on a shelf in my bedroom back home, his ranger hat long gone and his plastic SMOKEY belt buckle barely hanging on by a thread. Oddly enough he still stirs a sense of nurturing and responsibility as I imagine a deep bear/man voice reminding me ”Only You”.
When I return home during the cold months, I assume stove chores. Open the flue; shake down the old coals into the ash pan (stop when you see a few hot coals fall through the grate), pour in a bucket of coal pellets in, and close the flue. At night we “bank” the fires so we will have embers in the morning. You only have to wake up in a cold house once to learn the importance of keeping the fires going. In the bible a continual fire reminded the Israelites that God was always present with them. Exodus 13:22 says “Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” God was and is constant. He went in front of the people because He knows people need to follow Him and not run from Him. There was one time He did go behind but it was to stand between them and their enemy, the Egyptian soldiers.
We attended a fall bonfire some dear friends of our hosted and I was in awe of the giant pillar of fire and the light and warmth it cast. God’s presence in the Israelites’ pillar of fire at night similarly provided warmth, light, and protection from wild beasts, but it also offered Divine guidance and assurance. The Holy Spirit , actually represented by a flame of fire, is called the Comforter and still offers us guidance. If someone’s heart is full of the Holy Spirit we say they have a heart that’s “on fire for Jesus”. One of my favorite interpretations of Psalm 5:3 is “…Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the alter and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.”
I don’t know about you but I sure want that kind of heart burn-- and I don’t want my fire to ever go out! When God makes the Only-You phone call, as I sign on the dotted line at “closing” and asks me “IS ANYTHING ON FIRE?”, I hope to be able to tell him “Yes”.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel