On Being Burned

Using our candle snuffer after morning devotions.

“What is that smell?” My six year old son asked. He was smelling the surface of the table in our homeschool room while we were trying to read our devotions. 

Of course this led to each one of the boys taking turns coming by that spot of the table and getting a whiff of the strange, stinky smell that Charlie first noticed. 

“Ok, let’s focus back on our reading,” I told them after they each wrinkled their noses at whatever the smell was. As they read, I went and got our all purpose spray and a paper towel to clean the spot on the table not wanting to test it myself. 

“‘Mom, I don’t like how that smells either,” my sensitive-nosed Charlie informed me of the spray. With a shrug I tried to get back to where we all left off. 

After finishing our reading and putting out our candles (we have a really cool snuffer that we use to put out our candle flames), Charlie complained that he could still smell the awful smell. His oldest brother was by him and sniffed, ‘It’s you Charlie! It’s…” he leaned in toward Charlie’s head, “…it’s your hair!” 

Both the brothers smelled it and scrunched their faces, “Ew! It’s something funky in your hair!” Charlie was only able to feel it and had me check it out. As I leaned over to check out the smell for myself I realized what it was. 

“Your hair is singed!” I said to him. “You must have leaned over your candle too closely and now your hair is burnt. That’s the funny smell!”

We then noticed the little pieces of hair from his front bangs fallen around his face and shirt. “Time to go shower and rub shampoo on it, buddy,” I told him. “That should take care of the smell.” It did help, but we had to add some good smelling oily hair product to it to help get the last of the burn smell away. 

Have you felt the fire lately? As we all know and have witnessed, there are little fires everywhere. Have you seen the way people talk to each other on social media? Have you been burned by a co-workers harsh words? How about a promise forgotten? Did someone betray your trust? Did you get backed into a corner? Perhaps the people you love the most let you down.

When we experience the burn in our lives what happens? Sometimes, like Charlie’s hair, we notice the smell. Something just stinks. It’s odd and leaves us unsettled. We also feel a sting when we get right into the heat of it. And most often the sting or stink doesn’t go away for a while. It leaves behind a lasting stench or blister that annoys and distracts us for a time.

In my household we very rarely intentionally hurt each other. But we are often frustrated with one another. I can feel burned by my husband for a harsh look or even the lack of a look. He can feel burned by me when I leave the house a mess after he’s had a long day of work. Sometimes our kids burn us when they roll their eyes at a legitimate concern of ours. Sometimes the burn is big and sometimes they are just a series of little burns that build up.

Let me ask you this. When you are in the midst of these times, do you recognize the battle? Are you able to peer through all the smoke and see the enemy for who they really are?

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16)

Do you recognize the depth of the fight? This battle is deeper than the person in front of us or behind a screen. It’s spiritual. The verse above is taken from the text in Ephesians that tells us what it means to put on the whole armor of God. Why do we need a full suit of armor? 

Because even when we aren’t expecting it, the tiniest flames fester and can cause us pain. Because if we don’t take the precautions to put out the flaming arrows, big or small, they will eventually destroy us and those around us. In this metaphor we are to make FAITH our shield. Believing in and trusting God is a shield against the hurt that Satan seeks to inflict.

In Proverbs chapter 3 it says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” It’s an inner shield! The heart must be bound up with love and faith. Read on and we learn not only does this help us find favor with others, but we are directed to the ultimate trustworthy one, our Creator.

Friends, when you find your hair is singed, the air stinks, and blisters emerge; 

Don’t give in to the burn. 

Don’t let it close you off. 

Don’t go and burn someone else’s hair. 

Rather, cover that heart shield with a dousing of faith and love. Shampoo away the stink and forgive. Put some ointment on the blister and heal. Trust God to put out the arrows that will likely keep coming. Trust him to fight the battles because they belong to him. (1 Samuel 17:47)

silent storytelling

As the prelude begins, we walk, barefoot, to the front of the church and assume the resting stance. A brief pause, and then we begin dancing. Although I had only practiced once a few days before, the muscle memory takes over and the motions become fluid and delicate, mirroring the other dancers. We wear matching red and white mu’umu’us, floral hairpieces, and star-shaped cowrie shell chokers, celebrating the specialness of the occasion about which our hands tell the story. I wasn’t even in high school the first time I joined this ensemble, candles flickering, strong voices intoning memorized lyrics, and the smell of pine mixed with a bit of must. A rich tradition: the Silent Night Hula.

Since college graduation, my participation in this tradition has dwindled, limited by the time and expense of flying across the ocean to spend Christmas with family.

This year, however, we needed to hold family close, being reminded more than ever of the temporal nature of our earthly existence, so we quarantined, masked, tested, and flew. This year, we marked x’s on the dance area, 6 feet apart. This year, we added liturgical facemasks to our traditional outfit. This year, small family clusters in cloth masks donned face shields and held battery-operated candles. But they sang, and we danced.

I wanted to cry at the beauty and sadness swirling through the sanctuary, but I couldn’t. So many tears have been shed already, so I just kept dancing to the muffled voices.

Hula is storytelling. Ancient dances share history and ancestral knowledge (read more here), and especially before the unification and transcribing of Hawai’ian language, hula carried the stories through generations. Although hula is typically paired with a chant or song, the movements convey special importance beyond being simply an illustration.

Silent storytelling. Muffled voices. Silent Night.

And here’s where I realized the gift of the hula especially for times like these: when almost everything is taken away we can still tell the story of the holy infant so tender and mild. Of the dawn of redeeming grace.

Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

My home church on Christmas Eve