We had a woodstove when I was a kid. This method of home heating developed several skill sets in my life…wood stacking, fire starting, splinter removal, morning cold feet tolerance.  In retrospect, I was a lucky gal. I learned a lot of things that other chicks didn’t. I built muscles. I had the power of fire at my fingertips. I had a lot of thick socks.

I remember being small and sitting in front of an open wood stove, mesmerized by the flames. They flickered and danced around a dry, cracked log settled on a comfy bed of ashes. I was settled on a not-so-comfy thin turquoise carpet remnant watching the fire while mom ironed nearby. I noticed the whistling sound coming out of the log in the fire and asked mom what made the sound.

She told me that when the log was still an upstanding tree, birds would sit in its branches and sing. The tree kept the songs that the birds trilled and that was what I was hearing- the birdsong. The birdsong was saved and we were able to enjoy it, months, probably years, after the birds had shared their tunes.

Obviously, that whimsical story stayed with me. When I heard the cracking and popping of bonfires as a teen, I secretly listened for the birdsong. On ski trips with friends, I smiled when I heard it in the warming fires. And when we started our first fires in our new home’s rustic fireplace, I remembered the tale and hoped to share it with our children someday. This winter, I have. As my son has begun to learn the tips of starting a fire, we have sat many an evening with twigs and crumpled paper, blowing onto the tiny blazes. I’ve heard the whistling of the logs as the fire starts roaring. One evening, I told him the story of birdsong. I hope that the story stays with him as a happy little memory, as it did with me.

Telling him the story of the birds’ songs started my thinking about the little things that get trapped inside people and come out later. Along with the happy little stories that mom told me were plenty of unhappy little taunts from siblings or disappointing little betrayals from friends. When I’m ‘in the fire’ of life’s complex situations, I really want the happy little birdsongs to come out…or the wise songs…or the just and true songs. And the only way that I can ensure that those are the things that I emit is to be sure that the birdsong that is trapped inside is uplifting.

Philippians 4:6-9 (

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

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