Monday, September 20, 2010

Sparks on the Tongue

Photo by Mila Zinkova - Mbz1 at en.wikipedia

Once again, I caught myself saying something that I wish I hadn’t. And once again I learned - it was too late to take it back. The good thing is that as I get older, I’m more aware than ever of what comes out of my mouth, especially about others. The bad news is I continue to spout off and who knows when the spark will catch fire?

Two summers ago we drove through parts of Yellowstone National Park and I was, yet again, truly amazed. The scenery, wildlife, paint pots, and geysers are all impressive, but I revel in the sight of thousands of sturdy young evergreens covering vast tracts of land. The last time we were there was four years ago, when I was able to stand among them - they were finally taller than I am.

MrBell for the Bureau of Land Management

We were also there in 1988, a horrific year for forest fires, with thousands of acres aflame throughout Yellowstone and the west in general. We were only passing through on our way to visit family elsewhere, but were held at the entrance until a long line of cars formed, then escorted through by an official car. There were strict rules that year - keep all windows up and NO stopping. It was eerie driving through that cemetery of charred trees, the ground smoldering like a gigantic inferno. The newspapers and nightly news screamed that it would never be the same and many people believed that. The fires that burned the trees also cracked open their cones, releasing their seeds to grow in the ash-enriched soil. New life took hold and today a young, healthy forest is replacing much of the old. But, it’s taken over twenty years.

Another wildfire was more personal. Years ago, my family had a cabin on a lake where we spent weekends and had a once-a-year family gathering. After one weekend there, I went with my older sister to spend the night with her before she took me home later. That evening, a TV news story caught our attention. Out near the cabin, the local bar and grill had been burning paper trash when a wind came up. Sparks from the burn barrel were blown into dry grass, which fueled a quickly-spreading fire. Their small garden hose was useless against the wind-driven flames and they watched helplessly as the fire leapt into the surrounding trees. This forest fire raged on the screen across country that was very familiar to us. The next day we drove out to view the damage. Because of the wind’s direction the fire missed our cabin and others in the area, but its damage was extensive, leaving acres of blackened trees in its wake. It’s disarming enough when fire comes so close to damaging what you hold dear, but there was something else - we also had burned trash behind our cabin. We had hosed down the ashes very well, making sure all trace of fire was out before we left, but we also knew we might just have been lucky. We never burned again.


 So it is with words - play with fire and it is only a matter of time. Undoing the damage can take a long time.
...Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
      All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
      With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be...
James 3:5 -10

Fire picture files from Wikimedia Commons

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