Boys and Fire

lodge fire.jpg

In the last few weeks, Cindy and I bounced around to numerous Christmas parties held by BFGs (Bible Fellowship Groups). We ate more than we should, we sange, I spoke, we laughed, we listened. It was lots of fun. One of the parties was outside. It was cool, not cold, but great for a fire. The main course was hot dogs cooked over the open flames.

The logs were burning brightly and putting off some real heat. It was hard to get in close to get the hot dog roasted without getting roasted yourself, but it was fun watching the ingenuity and determination of the cookers. It was also fun to watch the many children gathered around the fire. 

I don't know about what I am about to suggest. I'm not sure if it is politically correct, but it appears over my 55 years that boys like to throw more things in the fire more than girls. There was an equally balanced representation of 5 to 12 year olds at the party. As I approached the fire, several little boys were scrounging around in the area looking for sticks and bark and just about anything they could throw into the fire. The girls were off playing on the hay bales. I have seen this behavior before, but because I am a little boy at heart, I'm not sure if this is cultural conditioned, or some more biologically deep programing. It feels like deep programing because I have never seen one of these "fire boys" ever have to be taught this skill. 

I love to play with fire. When I was a kid in New York, we had our own volunteer fire department. We had red wagons with fire buckets and sand buckets. We rolled around the neighborhood looking for a fire and would set one every so often because we never could find a real one. When I was in Jr. High, we found a flare in the street after an accident. We tried to light it. It stubbornly resisted. Eventually, we started a small campfire and put it in the middle. It caught and then quickly became a blow torch. It caught the knee high grass on fire, which quickly grew beyond our ability to control it. We ran to the house, but the house would not reach. We got trash cans and filled them with water and dragging them back to the fire. After about 10 minutes, we got it out out. We were scared. Our feet were black our shoes slightly melted and our clothes smelled like smoke. Our neighbors blackened fence was a long-term reminder of our folly. 

It didn't stop me from playing with fire. I went to survival camp and learned lots of ways to start a fire: flint and steel, friction, and magnifying glass. To pass the test you had to start a fire and keep it going for several hours with just one match. I passed. I still take a great deal of pride of making a fire with just one match.

This summer, I felt a stinging failure. We were in the White mountains. It was cold. We bought wood and started trying to make a fire. Everything was wet. The wood was green. We tried and tried and failed. The next morning we were cold and wishing for a fire, but the blacked logs just laughed at us. 

I grew up as a very active boy scout in a camping family. I have been to hundreds of fires. I love huddling around a fire. I love the way the light falls on people's faces. I love a really cold night when you breath creates a wreath around your face and the flames burn bright on one side and you have to keep turning because the cold is so great away from the fire. I love the crackle of the fire and the meteors that come erupting out of the middle. I love watching a marshmallow turn from bright white to carmel brown. I love the laughter and storytelling. I love feeling comradery.

The best campfire ever was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had been fishing. The were in shock of the events of the crucifixion and resurrection. Then they saw Jesus on the shore. "When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread" John 21:9. I pray that we each could expereince the wonder of a moment like that. May the best moments this holiday be the times we are gathered together in the warmth of Jesus love and presence. Merry Christmas.