Tried By Fire

I’ve loved it as long as I can remember—the woodsy smell, the crackling, popping sound. Fire.

Maybe it’s my memories of camping with my family in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. My Brooklyn-bred dad always seemed happiest there. Whatever it is, the red glow and heat have always mesmerized me.

But fire and its glowing cousins haven’t always provided happy memories. We’ve had our mishaps. Of all my fuzzy recollections of childhood, some of the most distinct involve fire.

I must have been five years old, sitting by my muse and watching her colorful dance . . . blue, white, red, and orange. The glowing spark flew out of the fireplace and landed on the carpet. I touched it with my finger, and it burned me.

The lamp on my dad’s nightstand, white hot and glowing. I grabbed it, and it burned.

My mom told the story of the bright red rings across my little hands when I couldn’t resist the glow of the electric stove.

Maybe I’m dense. Or maybe there is some mysterious siren call.

Not all my fire foibles were self-inflicted. If you ever find me standing around a fire making s’mores with small children, you will hear my flaming marshmallow story. Ask any of my kids.

“Yes, Mom, we know. You were roasting marshmallows, your friend’s caught on fire, and she waved it around, and it flew and landed still on fire on your knee, and you had to put it out with your bare hands, and the marshmallow goo burnt your fingers and knee which blistered, and you have the scars to prove it. Can I please have another marshmallow? I promise I’ll blow it out, if it catches on fire.”

Jeff and the boys built me a fire pit last year for Mother’s Day. It was a cool summer, so we used it often. But this fall and spring I was working and going to bed by nine, so our evenings by the fire didn’t happen.

Now it’s July, and I watch the weather almost daily to see if it will be cool enough for a fire in the evening. With temperatures reaching the nineties and beyond, it rarely is. Who wants to sit beside a fire when it’s eighty-something degrees outside?

This morning I woke with Jeff at five. I’ve been trying to beat the heat on the front porch for my reading and writing. I check the weather. Only sixty-three degrees!

After ten minutes in the cool morning air, I need a sweater. But a few minutes later I’m still not warm enough. A blanket? No.

A fire! Can you do that in the morning?

I grab my books, some newspaper, and a box of matches and head around back. Within minutes it’s roaring. And I sit, once again under its familiar, comforting spell.

I take the deepest breath I have in weeks.







It’s heat warms my cold feet even as it focuses and sharpens my mind.

It is at once a comfort and a warning. Come too close, and my inner five year old knows the consequence well.

The phrase tried by fire comes to mind. Seems that’s what’s happening in our world. And we can all feel the furious heat.

I glanced a headline as I was crumpling up the newspaper. Fifty minutes. That’s how long the New York Times says the average person spends on Facebook everyday. 

Guilty, and probably then some. Fifty minutes. Almost an hour every day. In one month, an entire twenty-four hour revolution spent mindlessly clicking and liking and blowing what ever direction my newsfeed takes me.

I consider the things I could accomplish in fifty minutes a day. Notes of encouragement sent, prayers prayed, books read, games played, disorganized closets and drawers organized.

Tried by fire. In light of all that’s burning up around me, am I spending my freedom and days well? When my hours and days and weeks and months and years and the choices I’ve made are tried by fire, how much will burn?

How much will be proven gold and eternal?

The scent of wood smoke wafts over me. The heat feels good on my toes. I consider my day, as I take another deep breath.


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