It doesn’t take anyone long to find out that I like fire. For the facts are I am a bit of a fire bug. I was laughing at a mates comment when he said he didn’t know anyone else who had so many methods of lighting a fire – he then corrected himself saying that he actually meant so many types of fire receptacles. We have a slow combustion wood heater which provides our home warmth in winter. I also have a number of different fireplaces to use out side for a bbq. These range from a hole in the ground, a ring of bricks or concrete blocks, half of a 44 gallon drum that has 4 legs welded to it to make a fire pit, a 9kg gas bottle that has been made into a pot belly stove, a car tyre rim and more recently I picked up the top third of a beer keg that makes a awesome fire pit. Chances are if you come to my place for a visit, and I’m outside and I offer you a cup of tea or coffee; you will find I will light a fire to boil the billy. If you come over and its time for a feed, I will make an excuse to light a fire to cook dinner. It could be as simple as a couple of snags, chops or steaks on the plate, some toasted cheese sandwiches made in the jaffle irons, or it could be a more complex roast or stew made in the camp oven.
A group of men meet at our place every Thursday for what I call – Fire, feed and faith.” Here we light the fire, boil the billy. Take turns to provide a feed which is often cooked on the fire, and to share life and encourage each other. I don’t know if its the strong tea / coffee, the warmth of the fire, or a God factor; perhaps a combination of all three – I have often found myself chewing the fat and praying with another brother into the late night or early hours of the next day.
Last week a couple of ladies upped me like a rat up a drain pipe at the weekly community bbq. They said to me, “Where is our billy tea?” You make it for everyone else, where is ours – they strongly upped me. So, I replied, I will make it for you next week. This morning I took along the top of the beer keg fire pit. A pot holder I made to hang the billy and coffee pot above the fire and the camp oven. I made a “Craig’s” version of Chilli Con Carne, which comprised of Sausages, Baked Beans, Red Kidney Beans, Onion, diced Tomato, a pkt of frozen mixed vegetables and two packets of Chilli Con Carne mix. An hour or so later, one of our regulars arrived and called me “Swagman Craig.” I am forever amazed at the names this community come up for me. Bushy, bushman Craig, the bush prophet, the bush psychologist, farmer Craig, and now another one. This actually is much better than the more recent one they used for a few weeks in calling me the “Garden Gnome,” which had something to do with the way my beanie peaked one particular morning, making me resemble a garden gnome.
The fire, the stew, the tea and the coffee was a great hit. Better still was the way that the fire is a focal point which seems to naturally build community. People grabbed a chair and we sat around in a ring talking to each other. We shared life with each other. I was given some very cold stares when I cheekily suggested that now we had given the ladies a taste of what men’s group was like, and that we would revert back to the normal way of doing community bbq. We all laughed when another guy came along a bit later and he said the same thing.
There is something hypnotically powerful about a fire. Sitting around a fire somehow reaches deep into our inner being – it touches and connects with our raw primitive nature. It creates the space in which life slows down. It creates the space where we don’t feel the need to rush about and do something else. It creates a space in which we start to connect on a deeper level with others. Its like the fire consumes the barrier walls which we put up between each other. The flickering flames, the hot coals and the smoke is a connection point in which we share of ourselves. And perhaps more importantly it creates a space in which we can listen to others share of themselves. As we sit around the fire, it creates the space for faith to be explored. It opens the inner being to explore more about God. To explore more about our humanity. To explore more about our need for community and to explore and connect with the living God.