Monday, November 16, 2015

Reflection: Tending The Fire And Tending Our Spirits

Yesterday evening, Jamie and I decided to take some of the brush that had been slowly accumulating around our house over this summer, and burn it. So, we pulled out a small portable fire pit we bought on clearance last summer, and began to build the base of the fire. Memories started flooding my mind as I first gathered small twigs for kindling, and took a few seconds to light this bundle. And as the kindling was consumed, I quickly started adding larger sticks until we had a small, strong blaze going. At the same time, the sun was slowly setting over the hills to our west.

Gathering sticks and adding them to the strong fire, I thought back to many memories and lessons learned from starting and tending fires from some of my tribe's ancient ceremonies. I thought back to the importance of a clean fire, and how the fire itself consumed, refined and purified. I reviewed and relived the process of methodically building the fire and tending the fire so that it didn't go out and so it didn't blaze out of control. I remembered occasions where an old fire would be stamped out, so that a new and fresh fire could be built, as a symbol of a new start, a new year, and of leaving the past.

After the fire was built up, and the brush began to burn down into a peaceful and deep bed of blazing red coals, it brought me back to many memories of tending fires for sweat lodges and other occasions, and the high degree of care and contemplation that always surrounded these activities in the past. Sitting together by the fire, Jamie and I took time to pray. We prayed for ourselves to grow in our love for Creator, our care for His creation, and our capacity to serve our fellow humans. We prayed for growth in capacity and discipline. We prayed for friends who are going through incredible challenges. And at the same time, we soaked in the rhythm of the day. We watched the sun slip silently behind the hills and daylight transition to dusk. There was something amazingly restful as the last moments of "the weekend" disappeared, and we gave ourselves a small space for reflection.

Just as I learned during my younger days that tending the fire demands extreme care, respect, and discipline, tending our spirits also demands the same. After our time by the fire in quiet reflection and savoring the tranquility of the fireside peace that probably all of our ancestors have enjoyed, I found myself refreshed and energized for the week ahead. Now I realize that we probably don't have enough wood around the house to enjoy a quiet moment by the fire every evening, but we could cultivate a habit of tending our spirits into our daily and weekly rhythms. And, this tending is critically important work! Without tending our spirits we run the risk of letting the interior fires grow dim, or we could let our lives run out of control.

It seems like every one I run into feels incredibly busy and tired and that there's very little space in life for reflection. Surely, it wasn't always this way. As each of us lives out our calling faithfully in this world, it is quite easy to erase margins and lock ourselves into both a sense of apathy (that this is just the way it is) and complacency (content to be on cruise-control with our lives), but this will rob us of incredible joy, and in many ways rob the world of each of us bringing our very best selves into our work, family, and community.

May we each carve out space in our schedules for rest, for reflection, and for tending our spirits. And by so doing, may we keep our inner fires steady burning and bring our very best into each day.

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