Current Issue

I’m a pastor. This morning I woke up well before sunrise, rushed out the door, and arrived at the Rotary meeting on time—at seven o’clock.

By eight thirty, I was discussing fundraising techniques at the office. By nine o’clock, I had switched to a counseling appointment, then finished the morning by fielding numerous phone calls, answering emails, sending memos, and working through a family health crisis with a parishioner. Next was a quick brown-bag lunch with my head elder at the office, then off to visit an overwrought husband who wanted some spiritual counsel. Dropped by the hospital for two visits, then home to prepare a quick and quiet supper for my wife. But at the last moment, just as I was about to light the romantic candles, she called and said she had her own crisis at work, so I ate alone.

Returned to the church in the evening for more meetings, then home to try to get some last-minute conversations in from the answering machine that needed to be returned today. That sermon preparation time is pushed to another day. I kiss my neglected wife good night and fall asleep, wondering what I had accomplished.

In the rush and chaos of our life, how do we sort out the important from the urgent? Do you ever get the feeling that there are some things of infinite value that are getting neglected just because of the way we do life? Is this reality? Is it the way pastors and parishioners are supposed to live their lives? When David sang that beautiful song in Psalm 37:3, “Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness” (NKJV*), did it have to be at a dead run? When he spoke these words, he was probably leaning against a tree, watching sheep graze and composing music on his lyre. That sounds more like the life he was singing about.

Let me give you a glimpse into another morning, this time last fall. It’s a different day and a different setting.

The chill of autumn is in the air, and as I step outside, the low clouds tell of an approaching cold front. I gather armloads of stacked wood and place them not far from the corner of the cabin and, after filling the wood box, proceed to build a fire. I carefully lay the kindling in the cold grey ashes. Yesterday’s flame will carry no lingering warmth for me in the present and certainly not the future, so today, I start again to rebuild my flame of warmth.

Eventually, the fireplace crackles and spits as the kindling catches fire, and the cabin is filled with the sweet, pungent odor of burning wood. Soon a clean, fresh warmth is seeping throughout the cabin, dispelling the chill of dawn. Building a new fire is an act of pure magic that I never cease to marvel at.

Building a spiritual fire is also an act of pure magic, and as I build this fire, I realize the significance of rekindling my own inner flame, fresh, new, and warm to the soul. It startles me to realize that I am the keeper of my own spiritual flame. No one is going to step to the forefront to plan my priorities, to arrange my life and my schedule. No divine act of intervention, no savior of my soul, is going to do what I must do for myself. I am solely responsible for the act of reaching out for the heart of God. He waits with infinite patience for those moments when I rekindle the flame and stretch forth my hand to touch His.

To rebuild a fire on the ashes of yesterday is not a sacrifice or a burden. It’s a ritual act of worship and a thing of pure beauty.

Today, amid the urgent, I will be the keeper of my own flame.

* Bible quotations marked NKJV are from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Ken Crawford, now retired, was the president of the Alaska Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He lives in College Place, Washington.

The Keeper of the Flame

by Ken Crawford
From the September 2021 Signs