Thursday, September 09, 2010

tending the fire

In the dining hall of my alma mater a fireplace is tucked into the wall at one end. It goes mostly unused, but the lintel above the fireplace and the words inscribed on it are read every day. When I dined in that hall I not only read them every day but repeated the words to myself over and over again.

It was like dousing my head with buckets of warm water to recite those words. The rhythm of them washed over me and embraced me, inspiring me to be part of the energy at the heart of its message. The phrase? They gathered sticks and kindled a fire and left it burning.

These many years later I am turning the words over again in my head thanks to a letter that came from my college president yesterday. In that letter he talks about these words and how they reflect a core value of the students and alumni that claim Earlham College as their own.

What I didn't know until reading this letter is that the words themselves come from a captain's log book as he got ready to set sail the Quaker vessel Woodhouse to America in the late 1600's. He was remarking upon "the good purposes and passions" of those aboard heading to a new world. It is those purposes and passions that get kindled in a place like Earlham, and in communities everywhere, where the desire to address the needs of the world and the common good draw out the best of what people have within themselves.

As a certain book-burning event that has received too much notice and publicity in recent weeks draws near, I want to add sticks to a fire kindled of love and compassion. I want it to burn so brightly that any fire set of hate is obscured from view, or better yet, consumed in the flames of justice and mercy. My dilemma is how to do that. How do I, in my small world with a limited sphere of influence and a voice unheard by too many intolerant ears, make an impact? I want the light of my fire to blast through the bushel that obscures it, radiating so brilliantly that it attracts others who want to be a part of this kind of love and light.

I believe we have all been entrusted with the fire kindled by faith and left, also by faith, for others to find and stoke. It is my turn, along with those of this time and generation, to keep the fire burning and help it to blaze brightly.  I invite you to gather sticks and join me in this effort. Together we will keep this fire burning.


The Bug said...


Jayne said...

I would be happy to help you throw some tinder on that fire my friend. I wish it would outshine all the others as of late.

Barbara and Jimmy said...

I just read this aloud to Jimmy. We send you 2 big AMENs.

Carolina Linthead said...

This is beautiful. Thank you...the light of your words brightened my day.

Jan said...

Thanks for this. It helps.

Stratoz said...

less covered but it was in the news, the US now has an Islamic college. a place that hopes to inspire folk as your college inspired you.

peace and joy

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

what a lovely reflection...
may the light of christ continue to shine brightly thru you.


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