Like a House Afire – Further Adventures in the Advent of a New Tradition

Every year around this time in New England, there are reports of homes destroyed by chimney fire. It’s natural that as fires burn in the fireplace through the year, that layer after layer of soot collects inside the chimney stack and if it is not cleaned out, it reaches a dangerous level. This accumulation of soot is highly combustible and the fire that is supposed to bring warmth and light to a home becomes the source of its destruction.

Last year, around this time, I learned that same thing can happen to me.

2008 had been pretty rocky and day after day, I’d allowed thin layers of unforgiveness, grief, anger, bitterness, sorrow, disappointment, and my own sins to accumulate in the chimney stack of my soul. As Christmas came around, I had the sense that I was a walking combustible – one little flame could catch the brittle tinder of my heart and I would self-destruct.

That’s when, during a heavy snow storm and a quiet time of prayer with the Lord, I was struck by a life-changing truth: I cannot change the past.

Not the most radical thought, I know, but it was. I remember when my son was fourteen and suffered a severe burn on his back. He was racked with a violent flu and briefly fainted, falling back onto one of our hot iron radiators. For days afterward, I found myself reliving the moment when from the next room I had heard the dull thud of his fall. Eventually I realized that on an emotional level, I was trying to get back to that moment to change what happened. But we can’t go back and neither can those we love.

In the popular song, Breathe, the singer observes “’Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable, And life’s like an hourglass glued to the table.”

During that snowstorm in 2008, I saw anew the wisdom of the Lord in confession and forgiveness. Our yard starts to look pretty dismal around November but the first snowfall arrives and everything is blanketed with white and my yard is reborn. So it is when we bring our sins before the Lord and ask forgiveness. So it is when we bring what we hold against others to the Lord and agree to forgive them. So it is when we bring our disappointments in what the Lord has allowed or not allowed before Him and reaffirm our love and commitment to Him.

So, that is what I did last year and what I will do again this season. I set aside time and asked the Lord to bring to mind all the things I had to confess and all the things I was holding against others and against Him (even though we know we have no right to judge the Lord’s ways, most of us still hold some things against Him when His ways are not our ways). I acknowledged the gravity of each of my sins, asked for forgiveness and agreed to change. I acknowledged the pain of other’s sins against me, agreed to forgive them and leave judgment in the hands of the Lord. I acknowledged any anger or disappointment in the way God had worked things out in my life and let them go, reaffirming my trust in His character and His wisdom in my life, reaffirming that I have given my life to Him and it is now His, not mine. And I put 2008 under the blanket of His forgiveness, just as I will put 2009 under the blanket of forgiveness.

Each of the four gospels approaches the birth of Jesus in a different way but one thing they have in common is that each makes significant mention of John the Baptist. John was born to “Prepare the way for the Lord.” Our God is a consuming fire and we must prepare for Him to set a blaze in our hearts. Cleaning out the chimney stack of our souls is how we prepare for that fire to be the light and warmth and heat it is intended to be.

It is good that as we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus to remember that He grew up and that He is now ascended to His throne in heaven and is as He appeared to John in Revelation “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like a blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing water. In his right hand he held the seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”

He is our risen Lord, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. We should prepare our hearts for His coming.

Loved ones, don’t forget during all of your Christmas preparations to Prepare the way for the Lord.

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    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Re-posting on FB again.
    Thank you, Lori.

  2. Praying for God to use it in all our lives, Jlo!

  3. Andrea says:

    AMEN! I too am reminded I can not change things in the past, but I can forgive others and ask forgiveness for the things I am responsible for.

    Great post!
    Blessings, andrea

  4. Wow Lori, thanks for stopping by my blog, I know you are busy busy busy. I am ALWAYS so encouraged when you post I love how the Lord speaks through you. I am hoping you are in the middle of a warm fuzzy season rich with God’s love, I know you make my days a whole lot brighter! :0)

  5. Living Water says:

    Christmas is certainly a good time for reflection, a time to confess the mistakes of our past and present, and a time to repent and move forward with God reigning as King of our lives!

    We cannot travel to the past to correct our mistakes, but we can be assured God is willing to forgive us if we come to Him with a broken and contrite heart.

    Thank you for sharing this message. May you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas!

  6. Cheri says:

    Your transparency is intensely refreshing, Lori. What an encouraging post. The word tells us to spur one another on to love and good deeds; you have done that in this post!

    God bless you,

  7. Thank you, thank you, Cheri!