What makes a fire burn

We just got back from northern Wisconsin, the land of cheese and lakes. I always know I’m back in WI when we stop at a gas station to fill up and the cheese department inside the gas station is bigger than the cheese department at Whole Foods. I think that is what Jesus meant when He said, “On earth, as it is in heaven.

Our week “UpNorth” on the lake is a strong, enduring Grade family tradition. Tim’s been going UpNorth his entire life and I’ve been joining his family every summer since we’ve been married. And being UpNorth gives us a daily opportunity to teach our kids about campfires. It’s interesting to me that it is always Russell and Lyla’s tendency to stack the logs in tight, to pile them on thick, and to keep adding and adding and adding more logs on the fire. But all that does is smother out the flame. As important as the logs are, equally important is the space between the logs. The same is true in life — and the same is true with our words.

It reminds me of this poem by Judy Brown, simply called “Fire.”

What makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water would.

So building fires

requires attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to pile on the logs,

then we can come to see how

it is fuel, and absence of the fuel

together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire


simply because the space is there,

with openings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.


God’s Holy Spirit is the fire that knows just how it wants to burn. I pray that this Holy Fire might burn bright inside of us today.



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