Monday, November 12, 2007

Around a fire

This last weekend I joined several men from my church on a canoe trip down the Brazos River west of Fort Worth, TX. We traveled 10 miles down the meandering stream that was fairly low due to the upstream dam's need to store water in its reservoir (recent rains were welcome relief from a drought). Periods of lake-like slow currents were interrupted by stretches of shallow rapids requiring pushing the canoe at moments. These were not enjoyment dampers in the least. On the contrary, the relaxed pace of the current helped the world slow down. It was refreshing.

Friday afternoon, after a suitable campsite had been scouted and selected, we unloaded the canoes and set up home for a night. The tent places were chosen and debris cleared away, but the vital component that really gives a campsite its magic was missing: a campfire. So I began gathering stones and placed them in a circle in the sandy depression of ground that the tents had been placed around. Not long afterward, others got the hint and began gathering wood from around the area. It was not long before the fire was lit and the dancing flames were beginning to have their entrancing effect.

What is it about fire that attracts the eye, slows the mind and brings normally high-intensity people to a slow crawl? Be it a fireplace in a home, a campfire in the county or even a simple candle on the desk, fire can mesmerize, clear the mind and facilitate rest. Native Americans used to gather the tribe around the fire for a myriad of reasons. The stories of the old ones, the dance of the warriors, the victory of the hunters or the commemoration of significant events all happened around the camps' fire.

Shakespeare wrote, "Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings." If such a line can be applied to the the King of the Christian (Jesus Christ), then the "sad" story is one of redemption; for the death of our King resulted in our salvation. If one takes it further, then the "sad" story each one could tell would be about their redemption. Applied to the genre of Christian fellowship the line could very well be adapted to read, "let us sit upon the ground and tell glorious stories of how our King who died, but then rose again, redeemed us." Or even such a line could be adapted to reminisce about the Christian's necessary death-to-self with, "let us sit upon the ground and tell our stories about the death of my sinful flesh in favor of my submission to the Lord Jesus Christ." In any case "let us sit upon the ground and tell...stories" is fellowship building in any culture; how much more so in a Christian one.

The campfire can facilitate such telling of stories. The old fellows can tell of the story of the faithfulness of God throughout their lives. The young ones can tell of the struggles of growing up in such times as we have now. The middle-aged warriors can tell of the victories of the King in conforming them to His image. The campfire encourages us; no, it calls us to sit upon the ground and tell our stories, to tell THE story of how our king's death gave us life.

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