burning coals on his head

27 Aug

I don’t know when my love affair with fire started. I’m not really a pyro, but I do like a campfire; and I do pride myself that I can light a campfire or bonfire with a single match. The single match skill is one I learned from Dad. We were camping with the Boy Scouts and working on our fire starting skills for class advancement. I clearly recall how much trouble all the other newbees were having. Dad emphasized for me the absolute need for good kindling and properly drafted set-up. My fire lit with one match.

It took a scolding from an older friend to learn the dangers of fire. I hiked the “Inca Trail” twice. The first time it was with the Boy Scouts. Our one night on the trail was marred by rain and out smoky fire was in the ruins of an old church. The second hike was with Juan Ponce. I think it was just three of us that time. We enjoyed a great campfire; and before bedding down, I figured I would speed the death of the embers by separating the last logs out from each other. I moved one of them out the fire ring, a move for which I was soundly scolded in the morning. What was I thinking, Juan asked. Did I want to burn down the woods where we were sheltered?

Today, I pretty much won’t go camping if we can’t have a campfire, and I often stay up late adding a log or two at a time just to keep the embers glowing.

Not everyone agrees on the history of the words Paul wrote to the church at Rome when he told them to overcome evil with good by heaping burning coals on the enemy’s head, but it seems likely that embers on the head were really a gift carried in a basket on the head to help keep the home fires burning. These instructions come at the end of a list the editors of the English Standard Version call “Marks of the True Christian.” The list begins with a call to genuine love and ends with “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” I am reminded as I chew on this list (Romans 12:9-21) how prone I am to be careless with the embers and end up burned. I am also reminded of my need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, by repentance to be covered in Christ, forgiven, so that my life can exhibit the marks of the true Christian,

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Posted by on 27 August 2011 in Theology


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