More Than A Fire

The chill outside was so brittle cold that your lungs hurt if you breathed in too deeply. Inside, I watched as he carefully selected two small pieces of wood that had been split apart. 

Settling them inside the wood stove, he took a few shreds of paper and wood kindling crisscrossing them over the two pieces.

Satisfied that it was ready, he struck a match and ignited the paper. The damper was open, drawing the smoke upwards. I watched, fascinated as the kindling caught fire, and soon the two small pieces were burning.

He continued to feed the fire, telling me that this was when most wood stove fires could burn up without heating the room. He gradually added two larger pieces of firewood, explaining that it was vital to always have two pieces touching one another.

Looking at me, he asked me to observe how he’d placed the wood. Not smothered together so that they’d smolder and be snuffed out—but crossing over, so that the fire from one would encourage the other to burn. 

Soon the stove warmed the room and it was cozy. We sat in the chairs nearby. 

I asked how he’d learned the art of building wood stove fires. He told me about his childhood home with only a tiny stove for heat. The floor had cracks so large, he could see the family’s chickens roaming beneath. The chickens used the floor’s meager protection from the winter’s frigid temperatures.

When he was a young boy, his chore was to rise before anyone else and start the fire. Without a decent coat, he was freezing as he gathered the wood to build the fire. 

He learned that if the fire went out, it meant facing the chill outside and starting over. He became a master fire-starter.

We sat and watched the fire burn. 

He asked, “You see those two large pieces burning together?” 

I nodded. 

“It’s like a good marriage—they need one another. It’s also like our relationship with God—without him touching our lives, we’ll never keep our own fire going and warm the world around us.”

We sat, enjoying the warmth and the quiet. Without even trying, my father-in-law taught me how to build a fire, how to keep a marriage strong, and how God can keep my own fire burning.

I sure miss him. 11/17/14.

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