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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

IF YOU'VE BEEN THROUGH A FIRE YOU'RE GOING TO SMELL LIKE SMOKE



Let me begin by telling you our first drink served in 2010 was a Dirty Snowman on Saturday morning at 6:01am. I'm proud of that. I also continue to be very proud of that fact that we drove to Chicago to make that happen. A friend of mine in Louisiana tweeted that her favorite coffee shop ran out of white chocolate yesterday. I told her they could get some in Chicago, and they could get a Dirty Snowman at Green Frog on the way up :)

I will also tell you this past year has been a great teacher. It has taught me many new things about life, with the greatest lesson coming as the year closed. I learned if you've been through a fire you're going to smell like smoke. Learn to give others and yourself grace: if you've been through a fire you're going to smell like smoke.

I remember my favorite childhood memory of the smell of smoke wafting out of our chimney on cold winter mornings at 632 Campbell Lane. While standing outside bundled up and waiting on the bus, the wood smoke smelled like God had lit a big candle and mixed it with fall leaves and pine tar. I also recall getting off the bus in the frigid evening and being welcomed by the signs of life and warmth puffing out of our housetop. It's a memory I evidently share with others because some guy tried to put the smell of wood smoke in a bottle of cologne and called it Fahrenheit. Although I really enjoyed the scent, the girls didn't seem to crave it and thus I deemed it worthless at the age of seventeen. I think they should make a new perfume for women called, "Bacon: put a little sizzle in your love life." I wouldn't let my girl wear it because it would draw more men than a Waffle House. Never put nice rims on a car unless you want it to get stolen.

Another fond memory of smoke is of nights spent around a campfire swapping stories with friends while the white trails of smokey ghosts burned our eyes. We found out the hard way that tiny cans of colored Halloween hairspray tossed into a fire are like hand grenades. We made three sleeping bags, a tent, and our clothes look like Swiss cheese with the flying hot embers. At the time we didn't necessarily understand the monetary loss but instead choose to just say, "Wow! Cool!" Upon returning home everything I had wreaked of smoke. Even after a good shower the smell was still there. I walked around for about three days smelling like a smoked ham, and it was rather pleasant.

There were others forms of smoke in my childhood. The stove popcorn fire of 1981, the broiler hamburger fire of 1979, and the numerous nights of burning trash outside in our rusty metal barrel. But I learned the smoke that stings the eyes the most comes from the fire that burns not wood or food but rather the fire that burns heart.

Just yesterday morning with the temperature hovering around ten degrees a mother with two small children and a baby came in the coffee shop in distress. They had been walking outside for several minutes because their car had broken down. The baby was purple and the two very small girls eyes were watering and they were severely shaking. I could tell they were scared. The mother ask to borrow my phone to call somebody. I tried to comfort the little girls and gave them some free hot chocolates. Diane gave them a muffin and eventually they thawed. I was so upset when I saw them I had to go to the back to dry my own eyes. I could tell the mother was struggling with what was happening in her life: cell phone not working, car not working, three kids to feed, desperation, fear. Life had piled up on her, and the fire was burning.

The fire has been burning for me too. I actually decided to close Ja Ja's after several months of weak sales three days ago, but after trimming the fat, decided to keep it open five days a week. I love Ja Ja's but it has been a challenge as the Recession took its toll. The new hours will be from 10am-5pm Tues- Sat. We will have one employee there, so please give her grace.

I also have a very dear friend who is going through a very difficult time in her life. My relationship with her has made me search for ways to comfort her. She grows impatient with her progress through her problems at times, sometimes moving too fast, sometimes moving too slow. I've tried to calm her frustration by reminding her that she has been through a fire and she is going to smell like smoke. The biggest surprise was I found even myself getting frustrated with her slow response to my advice, which is when I realized I needed to listen to it as much as she did.

When we love someone we often have unrealistic expectations of recovery. We believe someone who has been in an emotional car wreck should have a smile on their face even if their jaw has stitches. We believe that kids who have been reared in an environment absent of authority should instantly grasp respect and discipline. We believe that if we give the wounded a little medicine we solve all their problems when actually we are just clearing up a few symptoms of the cancer. Life has a way of inflicting serious, painful "burns" that take years of care to overcome. We forget that wounded people smelling like smoke for a long period of time is normal. We forget they have been through a fire when the flames are no longer visible. I forget to give people grace. I need it. You need it. We all need it. Grace is not only loving people who smell like smoke, it is loving people who are still on fire, even if we get burned. If you deeply love people who are hurting, you will get some ashes on you and suffer a few burns yourself in the process. Love can be dirty and dangerous.

I think we tend to get frustrated with wounded people struggling to change because we are still deeply wounded ourselves. Seeing results makes us feel good about our investment, reaffirms we know how to make good choices. Making the investment should make us feel good about the investment. Love is like hiding a hundred dollar bill in a random box of cereal and believing someone will find it, and believing it will make a difference when they do. Love is a seed. Our awareness of our own frailty equips us to properly care for and plant that seed. A good farmer is always humble. He never looks at his crops and says, "Look what I did." The good farmer falls on his knees and says, "Thank you."

Humility is a common denominator of all great acts of love. Even the Son of God humbled himself into the likeness of a man. The minute we believe we are fireproof is the minute we start burning. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego never believed they were fireproof. They understood God may or may not choose to save them. There faith in God's ability to save them enabled God's power to protect him. And when you read the story (Daniel 3) we find the fourth person in fire with them. Wow! Cool! And guess what else? They didn't smell like smoke. Why? Because God not only can get us through the fire, He can clean us back up as well.

I love the smell of smoke, wood that is, any other smoke is alarming to me, often because it comes from my own fires of the flesh. I find myself going to God more often for a cleaning. I pray I find myself enduring more often within His protective presence. I want my life to also be a testimony to the fact that "no other God saves."

P.S. The photo I attached is of a friend of mine's business that unfortunately burned over the holidays. The irony in the photo is the bay window. Look close and you will see a snowman survived the fire. God can get you through it too. No other God saves.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let you know how much this story touched me, I too have a friend going through a fire and I can relate to the commited about expecting someone that has been through an emotional car wreck to wear a smile, I myself am trying to find my smile again after years of turmoil. Thank you for your comments and pointing people to God. He is the only way. Thanks

January 28, 2010 at 1:30 PM  

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