She holds the marshmallow too close to the blue flame and it ignites. Then she blows with one puff of her cheeks and giggles at the sight of her charred and blackened puff of sugar on a stick.
I tease her that she burns them on purpose and she confesses as much: “I like them crispy.”
We’ve huddled around the tiny Sterno burner set in the middle of our kitchen table with long forks poked through marshmallows to roast them and make S’mores, a favorite treat.
There are recipes for microwave S’mores, oven S’mores, toaster oven S’mores, but on a night when we have time, when we miraculously aren’t scarfing down dinner and rushing into the car for an evening of dance classes followed by church activities, we like to roast the marshmallows over the flame.
Not living on a campground, however, we use the Sterno instead–filled with fuel that burns blue and purple when lit by my match.
When we’ve each charred our marshmallow and smashed it down on the milk chocolate with the two graham crackers, I smother the flame with the lid, blocking the fire from the necessary oxygen for burning and thriving.
And it dies.
Just sputters right out, so simply, so quickly, so inevitably… suffocation through lack of breath.
How breathless I’ve been.
The running, the pace, the schedule.
The remembering: appointments, agenda books, reading logs, library books, dance schedules, Bible verses, lunches, emails, jackets, reaching out to friends, counseling my children.
Trying not to forget the Holy Spirit words stuck to my fridge, my bathroom mirror, my car: Love is patient.
Remembering that, too.
It’s beauty day in and day out, watching these children grow, loving on them, learning from them. This is the blessing that makes me pause and whisper thanks to God.
It’s beauty to minister, beauty to serve, beauty to love others with God’s love and to give generously to them just as He has given generous heaps of mercy and grace to me.
Beauty takes sacrifice, though, it takes giving and giving and giving and sometimes I forget.
I forget that running breathless too long suffocates, cutting off the oxygen we need to survive.
How often we do this, too: Fueling our flames with our own resources, running our own self-provided fuel.
Then we run dry.
The prophet Zechariah teaches me this truth. He has a vision—-“a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left” (Zechariah 4:1-6).
I rush past the words in my Bible, treating them like just another mysterious prophetic vision, obscure, and disconnected from my life.
But even Zechariah didn’t understand at first, and the angel has to explain:
“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6).
Those olive trees, that lampstand, the lamps all around, held a message for Zerubbabel….for me….for all of us who love and serve others every day.
In the Our Daily Bread Bible, I read:
“The prophet saw two olive trees that supplied oil to a bowl that fed seven lamps on a golden lampstand. As we think about the reality behind this symbolism, we can be encouraged. You and I are not the source of light that enlightens the world. We can only receive the oil of the Holy Spirit that fuels the living flame He produces. If we burn steadily through the long, dark hours, it is because we have learned to yield our lives to the Spirit’s unlimited supply of power and strength. This comes only through continual fellowship with Jesus our Savior (p. 1018).
I sang this as a kid, a little sing-songy Sunday school tune: “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning…..”
It was catchy and cute then.
It’s breath in my lungs now.
Do you feel the grace here?
You and I don’t have to be enough, don’t have to keep ourselves going, keep up the pace, keep things together….we aren’t the source and the world doesn’t depend on us or rest all heavy and cumbersome on our wimpy shoulders.
We seek the oil of His Spirit poured into us and that is our Source, our Strength, our fuel that keeps on going and doesn’t run dry or sputter out or suffocate and die.
Not by my might (I’m so weak and helpless really).
Not by power (I tire easily and can’t keep all this together).
But by His Spirit.
Oh yes, Lord, fill us anew with Your Spirit.
Need some more grace in the midst of it all this morning? Christie over at So Beloved has a sweet encouragement for you. Click here to read her post this week!
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2013 Heather King