South Philadelphia, July, 1989
If you’re just joining us, I’ve shared a couple of stories growing up, but for this story it’s important to know that I grew up on the South Side of Philadelphia. In fact, I grew up about 75 yards from the busiest set of railroad tracks on the east coast that ran from New York to Washington D.C. called, “The Northeast Corridor.”
One day in the middle of summer, my friends and I thought it would be fun to light spinners and throw them in the air. (FYI: Spinners don’t spin when you throw them in the air.) We would often go to the end of my street to perform these shenanigans because it was a dead end. Well, on this particularly hot and windy day, one of the spinner blew over the fence near the rail road tracks. Realizing, “wait, this could start a fire,” we ran around the fence onto the tracks to stomp out the spinner. Feeling the adrenaline rush of that moment, we decided to keep going.
Unfortunately our 4th grade minds didn’t take into consideration the very tall dead grass less than twenty feet from where we were standing. Needless to say, one of the spinners got carried away in the wind and fell into the dense covering of really tall dead grass.
We thought we had the fire contained and stomped out, so we all decided to put down our incendiary devices and go back to playing in the street. Suddenly we could see smoke starting to peak over the large bushes and fence down by the tracks. You may be thinking, “what did you do?” WE RAN, of course! All of us ran home and tried to pretend that nothing happened.
My mother, who apparently wasn’t born yesterday, as she would remind me, saw me sitting out on our stoop with my shoes sitting next to me, came out and asked me what was going on. Of course I lied and said, “nothing…”
“Steven? What did you do?”
“Seriously Mom, nothing’s going on…”
What happened next was a blur of activity:
- A neighbor who’s house was right next to the fire pulled out his garden hose to fight the blazing inferno
- The fire siren went off and the fire dept. was dispatched for the brush fire
- The fire trucks first went to the wrong side of the tracks and had to turn around to come back on the other side
- Thick black smoke was billowing up as the plastic covering on the fence melted away
- South bound local train service was halted
- The siding of the neighbors house was melted due to the heat of the fire
All because, that which we thought was extinguished, reignited because of the strong wind. Then, as the wind continued to blow it just served as fuel to spread the fire along the line of dead grass and bushes.
Fan Into Flame
Paul in 2 Timothy reminds Timothy to, “6 …fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
If you’ve ever spent anytime around a fire you know that even a fire that looks out can be quickly reignited simply by adding wind. The reminder/encouragement Paul provides Timothy indicates that his fire may have all but been out at this point. When you add verse 7 into the mix, we can deduce that Timothy was probably suffering from being fearful and timid in the faith as well.
Hear me: Paul isn’t just reminding Timothy, but reminds us today to allow the wind of the Holy Spirit to reignite the flame of His presence in our lives! Later he will say, (v. 14) “14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.”
(v. 8) 8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.