Try as we might, we never totally forget those first loves, those old flames, that once lit were ever to be part of your memory’s landscape, past and present. They can be any number of people, or even things that just seem to touch life and add something special; a new interest, a lifelong lesson or a new zest for living. I thought today about some of those flames and how they often affect those around me.
It is odd how some of the joys of life can stick like glue in your mind’s eye. I have tucked away some of those moments and experiences that perhaps even changed the course of my life. I am not one to work on the theory of chance, as many of you will know… life places in the greater picture what it is meant to be, with a sprinkle of freedom of choice thrown in to keep us fine-tuned and always aware of the best course to take. It is not always fun to examine ourselves, and I must say that down through the years I have had many the opportunities to do just that… I have gone to the edge and looked into the abyss and though; “This is not a comfortable place to be!”… it sharpens our sense of identity if we let it.
On the lighter side; I remember back some 55 years to my primary grade teacher, Miss Doleman. Life back then should be, you would think, simple. But for many the person who steps out of the comfort of home, to the world of peer pressure and the cruelties of life outside, there needs to be a champion, a mentor; that someone who can make the difference between success and failure in the “stepping out” process. That was Miss Doleman. For a 5 year old turned loose in a new world, she was the perfect guide to make the pathway smoother… she was my first love! Ha! Mom and Dad even took us for drives down toward Lockeport on Sunday afternoons and threatened to take me in to visit her, just because I talked about her all the time! Those first loves are so important!
Now one of those experiences that burned some great pictures into my mind, is the occasion of the spring burning; the raging fires on the Allen homestead. I can remember Dad deciding when was to be just the right evening for the fire. It would be totally frowned upon today in many places, but it had a practical application, in that is kept the fleas and wood ticks back from around the house. We were located in the fringe part of the town and surrounded by woods (forest) and burning in my Mom’s eyes was always tricky. But this was Dad’s domain, a man thing, carried forward from years of historic burns that lit the night sky around the neighbourhoods of his childhood and our little community! Ha! What a rush. Many the night Mom would panic with the words planted on the end of her tongue. “Morton… do we need to call the fire department!... It looks so fierce!” But Dad always assured her that it couldn’t go anywhere and would then sneak off to get some wet brush to beat it down and try to keep it under control. We never lost the battle once, though it did seem scary to me I will admit these 50 years later.
Not all fires were barn burners! Nope! One afternoon my brother and I, with perhaps a couple of the neighbourhood friends, decided to have a “little” campfire in the old car we played in in the back field. Now this was strictly prohibited! But, we thought we could just have a little fire, be like adults on a camp-out and no one would ever be the wiser. Well, it seems we didn’t quite get the fire out. A spark lodged in the seat of that old car and when we were getting ready for bed that night, we happened to glance out the upstairs window and voila; a finger of smoke emanating from the old car. There was nothing to be done then but to face the consequences. On Dad’s arrival home from work that night he saw the smoke and put out the remains of the fire and lit one on our butts a few minutes later. Now those experiences are real life lessons!
Not all of the first time experiences were negative. Back in about 1958, Mom decided that we needed a facelift on the Ohio Road and hired a couple of carpenters to renovate the homestead. The talented duo were patient, tactful and full of great stories when they took a short “cuppa”, while trying to avoid Mom’s new “thoughts about just minor changes”, which seemed to steer the ship of advancement some days! LOL! One of the guys was Cecil“DeMoliter” and I called him mister “demolisher” and of course he countered with me being named, “Dennis the Mennace”! I became fast friends with Cecil and Claude and just a few years later, when I was more able to swing a hammer and actually hit a nail, they put me to work on little jobs about the community when they worked there. That became the first swing of the hammer, my first taste of another small “L” love that has lasted even to this day… carpentry and woodwork!
But, you know there are other loves in our lives. These true loves should mean so much to us that they change the course of life, and make us into tangible forces of manhood, womanhood and parenthood. I am not implying that we never make mistakes and regret some decisions, but love should be foundational to a solid life of growth and positive interaction with others. A further to that, is our relationship with God. John wrote from his vision on Patmos to the Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4), “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” This warning to the Church and its people was real. In life we wax and wane with the times and occasions. There are days when we incline our hearts to our faith, and there are days when life drags us to the hinterlands of isolation and declining interest in all that is Godly! Those are the days when our hearts hear the Spirit’s plea… “Don’t forget your first love!” No, it is not Miss Doleman… it is the God who heard my cries as I sat on the stone gate post on the Ohio Road some 56 or 57 years back, when I was only 3 or 4 years of age… Calling out to Him… “God! God! God!” My mother’s inquiry about this was answered with a short retort, “I just needed to talk to Him!” There are days like that even at this juncture in life. I just need to talk to Him and have Him either light a new fire in my heart or put out some old smoldering coals of something better forgotten.
It’s where we allow our minds and hearts to go each day, that makes all the difference. Years ago I was not one to dwell on the past; I felt it could slow me down and anchor me in a place where I was not happy. Today, I value the past. I can see its significance, rising up toward the future, and I rehearse the important things that have add substance to what has become a rich and varied life that, even though it may have had its moments, will turn into something of value to a loving God if I let Him guide me through what is left of its living. So it is that “living near the edge”, has been both great and frightening, while also being both uplifting and disheartening, but it has always been a learning experience. Stepping out near the edge is what I do, because I need the challenge? No, I am most often taken there by my personality and the path that leads some days where I am not expected to go. It has its challenges, but it all depends how you view the perspective from there! Blessings for your day, and perhaps as you rehearse those old flames and first loves, it may do your heart good to live near the edge for a few minutes!