Hearth Fire

The past 2 years have been hard on many of us.  There’s no need for me to join the chorus of commentary on our current political climate.  As a person who has traveled to my fair share of failed states and impoverished nations, I’m always hesitant to believe the rumors that our country is on the verge of collapse.  But I do believe we’ve neared apocalypse. 


Jonathan Martin pointed out that the term “apocalypse” in Scripture means “revealing” or “unveiling.”  And it’s hard to deny that the last year has opened our eyes to many of the unspoken allegiances of people’s hearts.  Prejudices and hostilities, previously whispered in the dark, are now proclaimed from the rooftops.  Hidden acts of cruelty and depravity that have long languished in the lonely memories of the silenced are now being exposed to the light of day.  The chorus of witnesses is resounding and resolute. 


It seems the world was darker than we’d known, or at least more dreadful than we’d pretended.


One thing I love about my job is that it often takes me to faraway places where I meet new people, gain fresh perspectives, and expand my view of the world and my place in it.  Often my travels are an escape from the excesses and antagonism of American culture.  But this year, my travels took me regions that are experiencing truly catastrophic upheaval.  The plight of any aid worker is an unrelenting resolve to “do your part.”  But “my part” never seems to be enough, and I was more keenly aware of that fact this year than ever before.  I bore witness to things I can’t even speak of, and learned experientially what I’d only known secondhand before. 


There is a darkness in this world that ruthlessly threatens any bold and embattled flicker of light.  


In the spring, after a rare weekend of rest and quiet at home, I told my husband that I felt like everything was expanding, or ballooning, or mushrooming.  My capacity to love, my capacity to hate, my hope, my fears.  It’s an overwhelming feeling when faith and doubt expand in synchronicity.  It was all stretching, enlarging, like it was about to burst. 


In one or two years’ time, we’d collectively witnessed the collapse of civility and near implosion of evangelicalism on our own shores.  Internationally we’d seen the obliteration of entire regions due to terror and dictatorship.  And we’d nearly lost a generation to cynicism and mistrust. 


The upheaval felt cosmic in its scope, yet simultaneously profoundly personal and intimate.  And worst of all: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  We are certainly not the first generation to be winnowed in this way.


Jonathan Martin also said, “I can think of no more miserable vocation than spending your whole life trying to repair old wineskins that God, by His Spirit, intends to burst.” 


I remember asking my husband, “So what now?  What are we supposed to do?”  When the whole world seems to be spiraling out of control, what is the one thing I can control? 


My answer came as I looked around our simple home, watching the fire burning on the hearth.  This space, our home, the sacredness of our relationship.  This is ours, and we can fill it with peace and quiet and safety no matter how loudly a violent world outside bangs on the doors and windows.  This is how we make our stand; this is how we fight. 


As far as it depends on me, my relationships will be ones of justice and peace, my voice will bear witness to the truth, and my home will be a shelter. “We urge you brothers and sisters…. make it your ambition to lead quiet lives” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11).  “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18)


I think we are living in a time where it takes true courage to be optimistic, to choose peace and positivity, to slow down and be measured in your response, to be angry but to not hate.  And it takes a good bit of nerve to believe that this effort, that “your part” can make a difference.  But in the Kingdom of God, the widow’s mite was the inimitable offering, a little boy’s loaves and fishes fed the multitudes, and the witness of peasant women brought the hope of resurrection to a dying world. 


It takes grit to believe that in this season of upheaval and unveiling, God is bringing the new wineskins; He is doing something new.


I wrote the song Hearthfire when I was at my lowest moment. A moment when I felt my body being pulled out to sea by a chaotic current. When I nearly gave myself over to the pull. 


Somewhere in the tumult, I was thrown a lifeline: a caring friend who listened, a good long cry, the four walls of our home holding the welcoming light, the liturgy of worship, the love of a patient husband. The warmth of a hearth fire. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

Click here to preview the song Hearth Fire on itunes.


When I die, will they say I put up a fight?

When we’re done, do our memories scatter, far flung?

I could take a long ride, but existence is a feather, oh it’s lighter than the air

I could watch the creek rise

it takes an awful lot of nerve to think that you might even matter       

I need a hearth fire, I need a bed

I’m torn, tattered, tired but the needle and thread is our love

Love will lead you home

                                                             I wanna say that I, say that I tried                                                                                         

That I showed courage in the face of the fire, that I sang

I sang into the night

In a world where we’re all just bearing our teeth, what does it mean

To be brave, to be angry but to not hate

I don’t want to go there, when we are nickeling and diming all our minutes from a God

Who is ageless, It takes an awful lot of nerve but I have hope that He will hear me when I pray

Pray for a hearth fire, pray for a bed

I’m torn, tattered, tired but the needle and thread is our love

Love will lead you home

                                                              I wanna say that I, say that I tried                                                                                         

That I showed courage in the face of the fire, that I sang

I sang into the night

We are hard pressed, but not defeated

We are perplexed, but not in despair

We’re afflicted, but we’re not crushed

We are hated, but we’re in love

Amanda Opelt4 Comments