This story begins in northern Wisconsin, “By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water.” Those are the opening words of the “Song of Hiawatha,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It refers to Lake Superior, that was also known as Ojibwe Gichigami ("Ojibwe's Great Sea").
Somehow, this Texas boy was elected to a wonderful church in Superior, Wisconsin, just across the St. Louis river from Duluth, Minnesota. Upon moving there in the Spring of 1986, I quickly discovered the meaning of lutefisk, Ojibwe, ineffective sun, and “dontchaknow.”
It was clear that I was not in Texas anymore, when I found ice on the beach of Lake Superior in early June! At a board meeting, I asked if they ever cancelled services for blizzards. The men looked at each other and asked, “why?” They loved to get out in the snow, and had expensive snowmobiles just for the storm. One man said that he actually prayed for blizzards because he got to stay home, and play in the snow with the kids. Silly me.
During my first summer, one of the men of the church asked me if I had a chainsaw. I told him that in Texas, they murder folks with them. The next day, he showed up at my house with a chainsaw, fuel, and several extra chains. He said I would have to get the iron wedge, sledge hammer, glasses, and the other stuff myself. He showed me how to operate it, and as he left, he said, “Real men in Wisconsin cut their own wood.”
Henry Thoreau wrote, "Wood warms you twice ...once when you cut it and again when you burn it." Obviously, Henry never cut wood, because wood warms you at least five times: Cutting, splitting, stacking, carrying it inside, and finally sitting down dog-tired before a roaring fire. Each Spring, I would buy eight logger cords of seasoned hardwood. Summer evenings were spent with my chainsaw humming, and my woodpile rising. Bark up, and crisscross the ends of the pile.
One cold, winter night, I sat in front of my “Grandma Bear” Fisher wood-burner, and listened to it “sing.” That sound is made when the wood, the damper vent, and the flue vent is adjusted just right. It is one of life’s simple pleasures.
As I soaked up the warmth, the Scripture in Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV) came to mind: “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” This cold, rigid iron stove, came to life when the fire combusted inside. Before the fire, it was just a dead lump of metal. But, the fire inside made the difference!
You may remember the story of Jesus when He joined the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He began to teach them from the Scriptures. When He had departed, they said, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32)
It appears they experienced some holy heart-burn.
But what about you? Have bitter experiences and the stresses of life, turned your soul into a cold, empty iron stove? How long has it been since the warm presence of God, or the prompting of the Holy Spirit, has stirred your heart? Is it possible that the fire of God in your spirit has been quenched?
Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:6 (NIV), “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Wait no longer. Get the fire going through prayer, Bible study, and consecrated worship!
When the fire of God is ignited inside, you will break into song like the “Grandma Bear” stove. The Christian vocal group “Unspoken” sings: “Start a fire in my soul, fan the flame and make it grow, so, there's no doubt or denying, let it burn so brightly that everyone around can see, that it's You, that it's You that we need, start a fire in me.”