The Stoking and the Stranger
Once upon a time, while on a lonely wilderness hike, a sojourner came upon a band of merry souls (or dwarfs, or whatever fanciful person-like creature comes to mind and suits the story). They were a joyful and proud lot and danced around a sacred fire. They heartily welcomed the stranger in to listen to their tales of the eternal fire, stoked long ago by their very hands. It burned with warmth and fury. The fire kept them, sustained them and guided them with its light. This fire was indeed warm and seemed friendly, so long the sojourner stayed listening to their tales of the fire. The embers waxed and waned red, gold and sometimes even a glorious blue while they shared their stories of the bygone days of the fire. Then there was a stirring, a waking, and everyone knew it was time again to stoke the fire, to keep it burning. While the sojourner was permitted to watch the gathering, the preparation, the cutting of branches and falling of trees, they were not permitted to actually stoke the fire. It was a sacred right and no matter how merry the gathering, and inviting the stories, the lore and legend wouldn’t permit a stranger’s participation.
The stoking began! Wood and wonder crashed into the red-hot fire ring from all permitted hands, from all sides, with whoops and hollers of utter satisfaction! The flames rose high into the night, fiery flakes fell around the stranger, and the people, or creatures, or whatever they were danced and swayed in the ecstasy of the stoking. It was grand and glorious monstrosity of heat and sacredness, and the interloper wanted so badly to be one of them, but was at least grateful for the warmth and the invitation to sit in and watch the magnificent procession. The men roared, the women cheered, and somewhere deep, down in the depths of the dirt, a delicious drumming of delight rumbled underfoot blending into the melee, as if even the earth itself approved of their fire and festival.
Then one of the revelers came to the weary sojourner with all kindness and sincerity in an attempt to somehow include the stranger into the stoking. The warmth and smoke of the fire enveloped the reveler and the stranger, mesmerized by the sights, sounds and smells agreed, quickly, without a moment’s hesitation, to participate. The stranger could not by rite stoke the fire, but they all insisted wholeheartedly that there was space for the stranger to participate in the celebration. If the stranger loved the band enough and chose to remain in the group there was a simple, albeit painful role that the stranger could join in. All the sojourner had to do, to stay with the merry men (or women or dwarfs, or whatever fanciful person-like creature comes to mind and suits the story) was insert a hand into the fire for a brief moment, long enough to let the flames lick at bare flesh and season the smoke with the flavor of the pain. The pain, the stranger was told, would only last a moment, and certainly there were others who participated in order to belong. Many souls willingly inserted their hands into the fire and their scents melded and mingled with the burning wood.
The stranger wondered how the others endured the burns, and asked if the fire hurt them as badly. They all carefully, thoughtfully, one might even say lovingly inspected the sojourner’s wounds. They compared it to other revelers, consulted with each other and concluded that the injury was minimal. The sojourner loved them for their care and concern and trusted their assessment. The pain afforded the stranger admission into the group, and the group was so, so good and welcoming and fun that the draw to be with them far outweighed the pain. The stranger stayed, the blisters did eventually scab over, the scars were reminders, as much as anything else, of the great stoking and eternal flames. The healing was slow but came in time so the stranger stayed with them, around the fire, watching and waiting for the next stoking.
As time drew near for another stoking, and always and ever with this band there would be a stoking, for the fire could never die, the sojourner knew this time what to do to participate. The stranger loved the band of revelers very much and enjoyed their company so much more than lonely wilderness travels and so foolishly hoped that maybe this time it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Maybe the scars from before had somehow strengthened or shielded the skin. Maybe the revelers had another way for sensitive souls to participate, or a magical elixir that could keep the burns from blistering, maybe the burning didn’t have to be so bad. The gathering began, the stoking was near and the stranger’s anxiety rose; but the wilderness was cold so flesh was again plunged into the fire as the men roared and women cheered and the earth resounded in triumph.
The blisters this time festered and infection set in deep. Not everyone had this trouble with the fire, and the stranger’s sensitivity perplexed everyone. Some arms passed through like a hand over a candle flame without so much as even singe mark of black, they were perfectly content to play their part in the procession. Others licked their wounds but recovered quickly, or at least seemed to. Not so much for the strange sojourner, the pain was devastating and was causing quite an uproar within the once merry band. The revelry, comradery and company couldn’t quite sooth the stranger’ pain and dimmed the glory of the stoking. The healing scars that time didn’t remind anyone of a glorious tradition nor help to honor those who kept the flame alive with the stoking, they only reminded everyone of the awkward, awful pain of the stranger. The stranger, aware of the bands efforts at inclusion, looked long at the scars and pondered the fire, the wilderness, the sacred ritual and all those sorts of philosophical musings that occur in the midst of pain and confusion.
They stoked again, the sojourner burned again but that time with pain fresh and furious, the sojourner retreated knowing the new festering blisters, over too many scars were the last that could be endured. The pain was too great but the stranger has come to truly love the group, and yet couldn’t continue to burn. So the stranger sat at the edge of the camp, on the precipice of a decision, exposed and vulnerable and utterly alone, knowing without a doubt that something must change.
And that is the story of the stoking and the stranger.
Question of the day: Where is the most calm, peaceful, perfect place you've ever been? And was anyone with you?
I was allowed once as a child to spend two weeks with a favorite auntie and uncle. Those quiet cross-stitch days were about as close to heaven as I'd ever been in my life. Growing up for me included a lot of tension and turmoil. It was difficult to feel loved or wanted or safe anywhere and then auntie took me to a place I’d long for the rest of my life.
I do not know what their children's impression of childhood was, but for me the soft music lulling in the background, the fun toys and family games played with my aunt during the day, and the silly conversations we had at night with my uncle were magical. I imagined it would have made for a great childhood and the most wonderful kind of life. I remember wishing for a life like those two weeks. I cannot even count how many times over the years I wistfully drifted back to there.
Then one day I found Jesus, or He found me or however it works and I got to know peace, and calm in a way that I had never known it before except for in those magical memories. I tried to give my kids that same kind of peace and comfort and safety. I know I fell short many times, but I tried. I try with the friends that I have, the family I'm in contact with, and the children that I love and advocate for now to be that safe place, that calm, peaceful, wonderful reprieve. I do not know if I’m successful at this but, someone once called me the “port in the storm of their life” and I think it was probably the most beautiful compliment anyone has ever afforded me!
I was a safe harbor, it was a dream come true, to be thought of the way that I thought of my aunt and uncle's house. I know I get caught up in all of the busyness and craziness and activity that I love so much in my life, because I'm a busy person and I have fun doing and going and movin’ and shakin’, but it's good to stop and to remember to breathe, to give people time, and space to be themselves, and to feel safe, un-rushed and utterly wanted. And you, my friend, are loved, are wanted and matter so, so much! Just a musing about the most peaceful, perfect place I've ever been… too bad I can never go back, but I hope and pray, I can be that place to someone too!
It's been a long time coming for both my book, Sex & Jesus, and my declaration of war on sexual exploitation and corruption. The trumpet has sounded, I cannot hold back my charge any longer. The time is come! The book is in motion and I may not be an Amazon but like Shakespeare said, "Though she be but little, she is fierce." It's time, I'm gathering thoughts, comments and answers to sex questions of the day. I will take your points of view and opinions where ever I can get them, but believe my own website, or private email, though much more cumbersome than the social sites, is the "safest" place to put them so as to keep me from getting put in social media time out.
Without further ado I give you the current talking point: Porn
And here we are at the subject of pornography. I pondered long on where along the journey, my expedition of sex and spirituality, pornography belongs. Honestly, at first, for a fleeting moment, I thought maybe porn was supposed to be perched upon a precarious peak high on the mountain tops because, for me, this is one monumental subject. Then it occurred to me that maybe our problems with porn belong at the great falls of the Missouri, unavoidably there, impossible to ignore no matter how badly we want to. The falls stand between us and everything that’s beyond, deadly to cross and treacherous and tedious to circumnavigate but neither place of visual prominence is at all where pornography lives, resides, or has it strength. No, no, no, porn is not etched or carved or displayed and exalted up high to be trumpeted from mountain peaks, neither does it deserve the power of the falls, because, unlike sex slavery, pedophilia, rape, molestation and sexual abuse, I’m not convinced all visual sexual stimulation is wrong or bad. I suspect, like all vices, pornography has been twisted and warped in order to trap and exploit the weakest of wills. Pornography lives in the underbelly of the mountain of good and God-fearing society.
Deep, dark mammoth, cavernous caves that wind and intertwine underneath almost everything and everywhere we go. Yes, I have found pornography, hidden away underground, because sex, like hunger or thirst is a primal drive; there is nothing wrong with nature of man, but the exploitation of this primal need, like all dark and evil things, thrives in the darkness and hidden places. It makes sense that those who feed on power and greed would find ways to exploit our natural sexual desires, drives and lusts. It also makes sense that this usurpation of will would not, could not fly freely in the public eye, for there are far too many strong wills and outspoken champions that in number and voice alone put the public arena out of availability. Porn thrives in the dark seedy recesses, were vulnerable youth of both male and female persuasion are easy fodder for predators desperate to groom innocents for both demand and supply. They trap the ravenous sexual appetite early, pull it into the darkness and stalk their innocent inventory of vulnerable children to meet the demand. And oh, these evil cave dwellers are skilled at their secret, slimy trade. Demand is high and the disease of depravity grows and thrives in the darkness. Certainly the demand is not as high as men, already trapped and rotting in the cave, or the wily workers of the porn industry, who work to get men hooked and gather girls for their business purposes would have you believe, but yes, demand is high.
So... if you want, please tell me all your thoughts on porn...
Buy me a coffee to support my blog: