Crackling Logs

“The little strength remaining in  the soul is like a spark hidden in ashes” Thomas a Kempis

Our TV fireplace with it’s warm orange glow and crackling logs doesn’t change the room temperature, but with a little imagination you can almost believe there is heat.   Add a few candles and  some background music and  you create  an instant cozy room with no smoke!

In the hearth of the soul there is a God-like spark but it is buried in the ashes of our fallen self.  Unless God introduces his holy fire into the hearth, there is little that is truly God-like within me.  What we need is a glowing flame that burns with love toward God and warms the whole house.  Thankfully God has not left us without hope. It is said about Jesus that “ a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” Isaiah 42:3  God is carefully watching over us to protect the small fire within and rekindle it.

When the fire lies dormant and all that’s left is a “spark in the ashes,” it’s tempting to substitute real flames for something fake.    It is hard to admit when my spiritual life has been reduced to burning embers and my human efforts have produced so little effect. If I resort to faking it and imagining the feeling of being warm, I can make a good impression but the fruit of genuine love will be lacking.   I can visualize heat, but when my prayers are cold and my heart is self-absorbed,  no one is warmed.  It’s the placebo effect.

Spiritual fervor is never at its lowest as when the hype is at its highest. The thrill of the sense world blinds me.  With self-satisfaction I underestimate the frailty that lies behind the curtain of my pretensions. The spiritual crumbs of  an emotional high won’t satisfy my deeper cravings.  God, by your grace re-light a holy fire. I offer myself on the altar of my heart as a whole burnt offering.

The prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven, but first he called upon God’s people to choose who they will serve.  (1 Kings 18:38)  The choice to be made is between the selfish desires of our own will and God’s desires, the will of the flesh and the will the Spirit.  When that choice is settled and a holy fire is rekindled there will be a fresh awareness of the light and heat of God’s presence. In the heat of this fire,  new character is forged and impurities are removed.

Lord, you are the fire that burns without consuming.  We know the fire is catching when there is smoke and tears.  This smoke is the loss of our old nature and it can be a painful process.  We are not, however, so consumed by His fire as to lose ourselves completely. God you do not annihilate us in consuming us, you liberate us.

“Oh!  Fire above every fire, because You are the only Fire who burns without consuming, and consume all sin and self-love found in the soul, not afflicting her, but fattening her with insatiable love.”  Catherine of Sienna, Dialogues

Good Hope

It took some courage to open up and share their story of struggle with me.  A heavy cloud seemed to surround us as we spoke and it felt like all the exits were closing.   At those moments when words are not enough, and only listening matters, it is a struggle to remain positive.   When the sun is shining down, the birds are singing, the bills are paid and no problems seem to plague us, we naturally feel hopeful.  Having hope when it appears all hope is lost, can be a soul crushing challenge.  When it feels like nothing is left, still there reason to hope in God.  Hope in God is like a shaft of light from the heavens that transcends our darkness.   In the words of Helen Keller, “hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.”  The promise to us from God is, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” (Rom 8:28)

Hope in God gives us the ability to look at the garbage of our lives and see compost, a fertile future in the Lord.

Hopeful people do what is right even when they don’t see how it will all work out for good.  Like Caleb, the Old Testament man of faith, they believe the promises of God and they are not afraid even though there are giants in the land.  If obedience was easy and it’s rewards were immediate, then everyone would do good.  Lot’s of people have wishful thinking but hopeful people take action. Someone has said, “hope is the ability to hear the music of the future, faith is the ability to dance to it today.”  May God gives us ears to hear and faith to dance.

Hopeful people are patient and willing to wait for the best things. They treasure most those things that last forever. If we put all our hope in the passing treasures of this world, we will be disappointed again and again. Naturally, we want to feel secure and know our needs will be met. Beyond necessities however, the expectation that this life will deliver on a promise of true happiness and joy will lead to much dissatisfaction. There are eternal treasures reserved for those who hope in God, who choose not to long for the pleasures of this world. Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Treasuring love, pursuing peace and practicing the virtues of generosity and kindness, will enrich our lives in ways money and things never can.

Hope is hard work and takes great patience but good things do come to those who wait.  Hope in God, He is always faithful.

How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.  Psalm 146:5