Purposeful Faith

When We Smother God’s Fire With Well-Meaning Activity

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

I poked at the fire, frustrated that it wouldn’t stay aflame. This girl was no scout. The temperatures outside had reached single digits, and our furnace was having a hard time keeping up.

After spending an hour trying different techniques, adding wood, scraps of paper, and using more fire starters than any person should, the flame blazed hot enough for the wood stove’s fan to cut on, circulating the heat throughout the house. My mouth spread into a victorious smile.

The problem was, I didn’t know what I’d done right.

Later, after my husband returned from a business trip, he explained the basics of fire building to this city girl. I listened intently, determined not to have the predicament repeat itself.

Even my son, the cub scout, knew the basics of fire 101. I guess I should have asked him, right?

As any seasoned camper may know, fires need three basic components: heat, fuel, and oxygen.

It turns out, I had given my fire plenty of heat and fuel, but I’d neglected oxygen almost altogether. Instead of giving my flame room to breath by spreading the wood in a triangular shape, I’d smothered it.

Fires need room to breathe. And much like the flame I’d suffocated with its own fuel, I often adapt the same pattern in my spiritual life.

I know my heat comes from the Holy Spirit living inside me. I feed the flame with his Word and plenty of good reading material, podcasts and worship.

I gather with other believers. I lead and serve.

But often, I don’t allow space to breathe. To digest what he’s teaching me. To sit in his presence and be still with no agenda, no checklist or index of requests I need to present.

While we fixate on the lines of our life story, God often speaks in the margins.

In the spaces in-between the carpools, the play dates and the prayer meetings. In the moments where we slow down, we sit and we wait. Because the voice of God is always worth waiting for.

“Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10 NIV

So instead of piling more stuff onto my never-ending to-do list, I’m carving out time to listen. Even if it starts with fifteen minutes before my kids roll out of bed, it will be worth it.

I’m creating a space to not simply read the Word, but hear from the Word.

Have you stacked too many scraps on your fire, suffocating it so it has no room to breathe? Have you placed a list of chores on the altar of life, forgetting what God wants most is our hearts?

I have. I am guilty. But thanks be to God, his mercies are new every morning.

It is never to late to realign our priorities, to make a change or create a new beginning. Today is the day.

Fan the flame.

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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.


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Kelly, a fun-loving, active and spunky mom of two rambunctious toddlers, spends her days pushing swings, changing diapers and pursuing the Lord with all her heart. Called a "Cheerleader of Faith", Kelly's greatest desire is to help women live passionately, purposefully and unencumbered for the Lord.

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Love this, Abby! It is right in line with what God has been speaking to me this morning. I’m trying to make time each afternoon just to be STILL. To sit still, with as little noise around me (or running through my head) as possible and breathe. The times I have done this, God always speaks to my heart. It is precious…and so very needed! Blessings, sweet friend!

  • More and more I’m feeling God pricking my heart about keeping the Sabbath the Sabbath… precisely for those reasons. ♥ I love how you weave your truths into the illustrations God presents to you in real life… and I don’t know if I could build a proper fire either so I appreciate the tips- both spiritual and physical : )

    • LOL, glad I could help with both aspects, Heather! I’m a southern girl, so we didn’t have much need for wood stoves in my home state. (SC) Thanks for your encouragement today, friend.

  • Abby,
    What a great word of confirmation. Just had this discussion with a friend yesterday. All week I’ve been listening to a song by Grace Williams called Fire Fall. It’s a beautiful soaking worship song. I’ve been asking the Lord for a fresh touch, fresh oil, fresh fire for my current assignment. As sure enough He is faithful to deliver. Now the question begs, will I smother the fire. I’ve done that before, declaring not again. Thank u for sharing this great illustration. It has been burned on my spirit to not be forgotten.

    • Tyra, what a gift your word of encouragement is here today. I am praying God gives you wisdom and discernment as your proceed with this next assignment. I haven’t heard of that song but I will check it out!

  • Your words here are compelling, Abby. Thank you. From time to time, I tend to become a little too zealous in doing all I can for God, in gratitude for who He is and all the healing and restoration work He has accomplished in my life. That’s when I start tipping the scale more towards doing, and away from just simply being – and He gently taps me on my shoulder and reminds me that balance is vital to a healthy relationship with Him; to stop a while, take a breath and rest in His embrace. As He is doing through your words here today.

    • Thank you for your encouragement here today. I think our scales can all become unbalanced from time to time. I thank God he is always speaking to us when we take the time to listen. Have a blessed Sunday.

  • Abby,
    I am great at smothering at times myself. Even in the way I’ve loved my children…I err on the side of smothering. When I do this in my life and in the lives of others, I don’t give the Spirit room to move. Constantly “doing” and trying to be in control stifle God’s ability to move in our lives. Thanks for this great encouragement to loosen the reins a bit!!

  • “I don’t allow space to breathe. To digest what he’s teaching me. To sit in his presence and be still with no agenda, no checklist or index of requests I need to present.” This, this, this. We’ll get to do this in eternity, but what good it would do us right now! What a beautiful picture of lingering with our Savior. Thank you, Abby!

  • I love this reminder! I love how you relate it to fire. I think it’s no accident that when we truly take the time to sit in his presence, we will often feel like we are on fire for Him. I love how in Acts, the Holy Spirit arrived to the disciples in a rush through a flame. When we first believe, we are so on fire for Him, but in the busyness of life, it seems to fade. I am so often guilty of this! Thank you so much!

  • God is speaking to be, friend. This goes RIGHT ALONG with something I just read an hour ago by Max Lucado about being filled with the Spirit, showing up to drink in all that Jesus has to give us: His Spirit, His Word, His Power, His Encouragement. I definitely pile too much stuff on top of that fire. But as you say, it’s wonderful to remember that with God, it’s never too late for new starts. 🙂

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