George Bowers: Learning from a wood stove
One of the things I’m most thankful for this time of year is the warmth provided by the stove in our basement. There’s just something especially cozy about the heat produced from burning wood that changes the atmosphere of our whole house. Praise God for his gifts of trees, metal, fire and air.
There are also some things this iron contraption can teach us about life if we think of the stove as the soul of a believer and the fire as the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit abides within, the entire atmosphere of a person’s life changes. The more the spirit is allowed to burn, the more warm and loving the Christian becomes. The spirit gives a coziness and calmness that overcomes the daily stresses and burdens of life and helps to regulate our emotional temperature. And just as the smoke from the chimney is an outward sign of an inner fire, so too, the outward love and compassion of a spirit-filled Christian is apparent to all those around him or her.
It’s important to remember however, that like a wood stove, the sacred presence of the Holy Spirit must be tended. Just as a fire will burn down and eventually go out if new fuel is not supplied, so too our relationship with God will dwindle toward coolness if we do not regularly maintain it. Upon arising every morning, one of my first chores is to journey downstairs to stoke the fire and add more wood, and shortly thereafter I begin stoking my spiritual fire by reading God’s word and praying. I’ve found by experience that if I neglect to take such time, my relationship with God will suffer, the Holy Spirit will be quenched, and my closeness with the Father will cool.
But feeding the fire is not a once a day only event. If I am home during the day, I am constantly trekking to the basement to add wood as needed just as I must constantly be in prayer with the father. And when I do go out for the day, I must bank and prepare the stove just as I must fill my soul with the holy word of God to meet the challenges that come my way over the course of a day. Unlike the stove, however, regardless of where I may be or what I may be doing, I can constantly throw more fuel on my spiritual fire through prayer and scripture.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that our fire burns in proportion to the amount of air I allow it to have. Not only does it need fuel, but it also needs oxygen which I control with the damper. On cold windy January nights, the damper is nearly closed as the draft created by the wind blowing across the chimney top readily pulls air in. And although this wind causes those nights to be particularly chilly on the outside with wind chills dropping below zero, that same wind fans the flames inside the stove that provides additional heat for our home. In like fashion, the winds of stress, heartache and trouble may blow across our lives, but if we keep the fuel supplied inwardly, these same winds of trouble can fan the flames that deepen our relationships with God.
If you heat with wood this winter, or if you see smoke from other chimneys, thank God for his provision of physical heat and look for the spiritual lessons he wants to teach us through his creation all around us.
Stay warm and blessings! George
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.