“Why does winter have to be so cold, Grandpa?” asked Scott, wriggling into the cushions and threatening to usurp any claim Grandpa may have had on his own armchair. But he was secure here by the fire, nestled under Grandpa’s arm, with the old man using Scott’s knee as a hand rest.
Warmed by the fire that blazed in the hearth, Scott was in no hurry for answers, but he knew one would come. With plenty to think about when it did come.
“It’s God’s way of giving us time to grow on the inside.” Not what Scott was expecting, but he knew that Grandpa would not disappoint him. “There’s so much to do in summer, and so much time for the beach, or for family picnics. There’s no school, you can sleepover with friends, and everyone is more relaxed – though your dad does have a big project with that backyard landscaping! But imagine if summer lasted all year….
“I’d love that!” replied Scott, “because in winter it’s too cold for any of that stuff!”
“Now that may be how you see it, but nature needs time for renewal,” said Grandpa. “Bears bed down to hibernate for months; trees lose their leaves; days get shorter and nights get cooler. And before winter arrives, what about all those beautiful autumn colors? And isn’t it fun to keep piling the autumn leaves up against your legs as you shuffle your feet into them?
“Notice how many different colors there are in the flames?” he asked. Together they counted them: orange, red, scarlet, yellow, cream, subtle tinges of light green; and blue-white flares as gas, or sap that had been trapped in the logs, suddenly hissed declarations of new-found, temporary freedom.
Time passed, while the flickering, primeval touch of the flames drew them into new, deeper levels of trust and respect. They shared dreams of the past and of those yet to be, they spoke of their concerns, or relaxed into wordlessly enjoying the love that pervaded their whole family.
Their reverie was occasionally disturbed as the old man showed Scott how and where to poke the fire - or safe ways to add an extra log - so any waning warmth would be quickly restored. “This fire is like how we trust in God’s love,” he explained. “It starts with a spark, and its warmth builds up. But he wants us to help him to keep the warmth going when other people are cold or when life turns them cold.
“Everything outside is freezing right now, but in here it’s warm and cosy. In summer it’s hard to get away from the heat, especially if you’re outdoors. But God wants us to enjoy his love warming us from the inside, no matter how cold things are on the outside. Then we can be sure of his guidance and help other people to relax in his love as they get to know him; wherever they are.
“Even though everything looks dead outside, in a few weeks trees will burst into buds and blossoms; birds will come back from their migration; farmers will have new calves and lambs; the nights will get shorter and the days will get warmer; and our gardens will be covered in flowers. And God keeps this cycle going from the inside.
“Renewal is God’s plan for nature and for all of us, Scott. And he keeps it coming. I remember when your dad was about your age. I visited a winter camp that he went to, and I found the campfire as fast as I could. A couple of other parents were there, with such a cold wind that we stood facing it with the fire to our backs. And even though the wind was cold, it fanned the fire to make it hotter!
“Right through history, God’s people have been persecuted. But even the coldest persecution winds can’t stop the inner fire of God’s love. Time and time again, he has even lit this inner fire within the persecutors. He started with Saul of Tarsus, and changed him into the St Paul who wrote almost half of the New Testament! Now that’s when his fire really gets going!”
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