This little parable was once passed to me by a great friend. It reminds me of some guys who continue to do some very important work in Central Virginia…
It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his preacher’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace…and waited.
The preacher made himself at home but said nothing . In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the preacher took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone, then he sat back in his chair, still silent.
The host watched all this in quiet contemplation.. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The preacher glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the preacher reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, ‘Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday.’
The men I referred to maintain a firewood ministry that serves families in need across Chesterfield County and Powhatan County, Virginia. They split dontated wood with borrowed, rented, and donated tools so they can stack, dry, and store the wood on donated land while awaiting the next call for help.
In recent years, they’ve regularly delivered wood to the homes of 15-16 families – providing them with their only source of fuel for basic heat and, in some cases, the ability to cook a hot meal.
I had the privilege of being part of the firewood ministry team when we lived nearby. And, while I’m not still with them in person, not a chilly winter morning passes without thoughts of their kind and most necessary work – and I smile.
We are indeed so very privileged. If you are reading this, YOU are most certainly among those of us who are privileged, as you would not otherwise have access to technology allowing you to “surf” the world-wide web. It could be so much worse.
I am reminded of one sweet couple I met during a firewood delivery. They lived in a small and tenuous single-story home that looked like it was barely holding together. They had broken down cardboard boxes and taped them to the inside of their windows with packing tape – not for privacy but, rather, to create one additional layer of “insulation” against the wind and cold that leaked around the edges of each window frame.
They told us that they live on less than $630 of Social Security monthly. They had no phone and said that, at $4 per gallon, they could not afford to drive their very modest vehicle. And so, they asked that we check on them mid-winter, as they would otherwise have to consider walking quite a long way to be able to ask for help, should they need more wood.
Ironically, a very fashionable neighborhood was less than a half-mile away. Just over a small ridge and through a narrow band of woods, there was a neighborhood of well-healed homes presumably filled with people comfortable in the warmth of their furnace and the various goodies and treats of their pantries.
Folks, these are not issues of politics or personal opinion, as they are simply issues of humanity. I believe it is our collective imperative for all to oppose and defeat hunger and cold.
And so, when you hear me say “Keep It Lit”, know that I’m thinking of the parable of the pastor’s ember – and of the firewood ministry.
In the rush of life in general, stop and take inventory. Who is among you, but is missed? Feed the hungry. Warm the cold.
Keep It Lit.