Saturday, March 19, 2016


Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said: Father according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into FIRE?
(from Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton)

Monday, 23 November..From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight..
GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
(Blaise Pascal's Memorial, sewn in coat near heart, found upon his death)

God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee.
(Jim Elliot's journal later martyred as a missionary in Ecuador.)

I grew up in logging country. I remember that everywhere I looked as a child there were trees and farmland. My mother's side of the family homesteaded along the Umpqua River in Douglas County, just a little north of Roseburg, OR in a small unincorporated town called Melrose. It was and is beautiful country. Evergreen trees are everywhere as you head up the hills.

Forest fires are real possibilities in Oregon, just like they are in this area of the country. As a matter of fact, the forest service creates fires in certain areas, especially areas that are less harvested by logging companies. These fires are called control burns. And, even if Smokey the Bear does his work and keeps men and women from creating forest fires, fires are created by lightning during summer thunderstorms.

As a matter of fact, forest fires are essential to the health of the forest. It is hard to fathom, but it is the truth. We tend to think of health as stability. Yet, true health in communities of animals and plants in the forest is about new life and growth. A forest gets dense, and it becomes so choked with living things that there is no room for new life. Organisms begin to die due to both disease and attrition. The forest begins to die. A fire comes. And while a fire may not be easy on a forest, the fire saves the forest and the living things that depend on it. My uncle in Oregon has recently gotten into hunting mushrooms. Do you want to know where the mushroom harvest is plentiful? Mushroom hunting is best in the second growth forests between Tillamook (known for its cheese) and Portland Oregon that had a major forest fire about years ago.

As Christian communities and individuals we often strive to survive instead of thrive. We want to maintain the status quo instead of grow. We say "we have never done it that way before" or "I am not sure I comfortable with trying something new." If left to ourselves, we will destroy the church. All you have to do is look through history. So let us pray. Let us pray for fire in our individual lives and in the life of our church . I will be asking for the FIRE of the work of the Holy Spirit among us, igniting passion, mission and new life.

I will also be asking God to fan the flames of holy passion in my life as that I do not look back and see that what once burned so brightly is now just a few dimly glowing coals. Fire can be messy and unpredictable and go in all sorts of directions you never expect. But the power of the fire of the Holy Spirit is what strengthens, purifies, recreates, and renews.

The first quote from the Desert Fathers makes an important point. For the fires of renewal and new life to come into our lives, we need to let God have his way with all of our lives. Half-hearted propriety and moderation must be incinerated by a passionate trust and a blazing hope. Like Pascal says, the fire of the spirit will move us from being fans of the gospel to participants in the gospel. Like Jim Elliot, it will focus and define our lives individually and corporately.

Come Holy Spirit and Blaze Among Us!

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