“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small SPARK.” James 3:5
In his book, “Chase the Lion,” Mark Batterson says this; “I have a theory; your favorite scripture will become the script of your life.” That feels pretty weighty to me although I don’t disagree with the theory, in theory. I like the focus it presents. It’s like the “one thing” verses, the 3 point sermons, the 5 easy steps… It feels like the narrowing in on guidelines while the rest of the world shouts a thousand things I should be doing, be being… a sieve to shake my life through.
I don’t know that I will ever commit to a favorite scripture for life.. Specific verses are like beautiful words and new books, I love them too much to forsake all others. But, as 2018 has landed on my doorstep, ready or not, I have found my way to James 3:5. It boasts my first word for the year, and even uses and adjective I can get my heart around in the early morning hours of the New Year. A SPARK. A small one in fact.
In the context of James 3, the small spark is in reference to the tongue, and not in a positive way either. The very next verse says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil…” (James 3:6). Yikes! So this scripture is saying that much can be burned down and destroyed by the tiny flames a careless tongue may throw. Obviously, we know the truth in this. There is not one of us that doesn’t bear the scars from such a burn. And let’s be honest, we have all thrown a few flames ourselves… kindled a few ugly fires with our tongues, our words.
But I love the redemption Romans 5:20 promises; “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” If a tiny spark can be used to burn down, to destroy, how much more can a fire of inspiration, of hope, of grace be started by a spark just as small.
Does the idea of finding your calling intimidate you? Worse than a word of the year even, a favorite scripture for life? I have shared my own journey to my “Open Door Calling” here before… how I have found it not to be the crossing of a chasm from uncalled to called, but just through the next door that creaks open before you. Even still, sometimes I have walked through that door into a space crowded with others, voices louder, testimonies stronger, words wiser, lives neater, and wanted to turn around and walk right back out.
What is my part to play?
Be a SPARK. Even a small SPARK
A spark is; “anything that activates or stimulates; an inspiration or catalyst, to send forth gleams or flashes, to kindle, animate, or stimulate.”
A spark inspires, even in a tiny way. It starts something in you that may just build into the great fire of your life. And we have all been given sparks… places we feel passion, things we are better at than our friends, natural abilities, subjects we just can’t get enough of. The Bible calls these gifts, and tells us that each child of God has some. When we use our gifts for the kingdom of God, modern Christian culture calls this Calling. So what if a Calling could really just be a small spark? Does that feel like less pressure?
See, we have crushed ourselves with the expectation of Calling… it feels like committing to one verse forever…like picking a major in college… like choosing a career path- and sometimes it is. But gifts were not meant to be given with crushing weight behind them, like cannons blasting through our lives… Gifts were meant to be shared. What if it was as simple as a Spark? Even a small one.
Let me tell you a few things I will never spark in your life, never provide inspiration for: healthy eating habits, anything financial, really precious mothering, simplified/minimalistic living, anything to do with business, and SO SO SO many other things. Those are all great things, good passions FOR SOMEONE ELSE. I cannot spark that in anyone because those fires do not burn inside of me.
A few things I pray I spark in the people the Lord brings into my life:
A love for the Word of God. I just love it with my whole being. I don’t just write that because it is the good Christian thing to write, I genuinely love it. It feels like a giant cheeseburger to me… like I can’t wait to get my mouth around it, I’m hungry for it, I need it to fill me (see what I told you about the healthy eating… I said cheeseburger!!!). I want to study it and talk about it. I have realized after years of doing life with other wonderful, godly women, not everyone just naturally feels this way. They can grow in the discipline, but the fire doesn’t bun as freely as it does in me. I know that this fire was first sparked by my mother who fans the same flame. She inspired me, and now I know that part of my “Calling” is to “send forth gleams or flashes” from my fire to yours.
Gathering people in my home. I love it so much. I can throw a party with my eyes closed. A late night around my table with good humans, decent food and wine, lots of cheese, and great conversations are what my dreams are made of… except not just my dreams. It’s what Friday night was made of too. My house is not always clean, my table is too crowded, I’m not the greatest cook… but my door will always be open. Usually there are 20 kids running around interrupting the adults, a dog escapes, and on Friday night the garbage disposal gave out before the spaghetti dishes were clean, but there was laughter and belonging. And magic happened as we shared old stories with new friends, and new stories with old ones, eventually (always) ending up around the fire pit in the yard. That’s not by accident. My husband and I know that our Ranchito, our home itself, is a spark we are to use to light inspiration for community and relationships, and S’MORES whenever possible. My Nannie’s spark burns on in me here, the spark of hospitality. Her parties looked a lot different, a lot prettier and were a lot quieter. An Australian shepherd never stole the ham off the counter at her house, but it is her flame that burns on just the same. See, years after she is gone, thousand of miles away from her where she set her perfect table I can take her spark and light the lives of many.
I can reach down within me and light a torch for marriage restored. That is my story so that is my passion. God will honor obedience. He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He is in the business of restoration and it is worth it. 18 years in and I can tell you that no matter what, it is worth it. It’s never too late and it’s never too far gone.
One more spark I can give you from a fire deep within me; I seek to always honor the childhoods of my children. It’s never going to get too serious around here; not grades, or sports, or achieving much of anything but a good time and a kind heart. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS, and in a culture that wants to steal that from my children’s generation at an earlier and earlier age, I will be the gatekeeper for childhood here. I will wrestle “testing” and expectations and often my own pride because I really do believe kids with kind hearts who know how to have a good time will be better off than the hoards of little league select stars and straight A students in the long run. We will buy go-karts and footballs before we buy gaming systems. We will always say yes to friends walking home from school to have a snack at the picnic table, to forts in the pasture, and another pet. We will forever add one more family to the pool party invite, and come visit the “mud pie shop” in the backyard because childhood is holy and, on my watch, it will be honored.
That’s really not so many sparks. There are fires I wish I could sit around that I am not a part of, that aren’t mine. I know those that are mine, and now you know them too. It is my job, my calling if you will, to give you what I have, only what I have, and maybe inspire a great forest fire in someone else’s life. Fires always start with sparks. So, be a spark. Be a small one. Look inside, name your fire… and then throw your spark! And do the work of gratitude and recognize those who first lit the spark that burns in you. I would love to hear their names.
Sparks are one thing. Bridges are something entirely different. I hope you’ll join me next week for Part 3 as we cross a few together.