“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”- Phil 3:17
It was an early Sunday morning. The air had the feeling as if it could snow at any minute. In an uncustomary manner, my morning devotional was actually upon the steps just outside the front door of our church, Rock Springs Baptist. There, I opened my Bible, journal, and thermos, pouring a hot cup of coffee to accompany my communion with the Lord. Before beginning, the steam from the coffee caught my attention. Swirling from the depths of my cup, the vapor rose, swirling as it ascended, like a spirit rising to meet our maker. On my walk, the bone-chilling air had eventually found its way into my very core. Taking a sip of the hot, bitter brew, I could feel the warmth invade my body, slowly recapturing that which had been nearly frozen.
It was then the similarity hit me; the steam; the Spirit, warmth of my body; us accepting Christ into our hearts.
A car passed and broke my focus for a moment. Taking another sip, I closed my eyes and prayed. The sound of the vehicle dissipated, and soon, the voice of the John’s river began to speak, which lay just beyond our church’s parking lot. The soothing sound and the warmth of my coffee began to erase all the toils, and struggles of the week as the hand of the Lord wrapped his arms around my being. As I exhaled, my breath made another pathway of steam into the air. It was then the thought of how much better coffee tasted when you were partaking of it out in the open, especially on a cold, winter morning. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more everything seemed to taste better when eaten or drank in the outdoors, where all that was man-made was removed, and you were one with the elements; purity begets purity.
Then my mind turned toward the devotionals on my Sunday morning hikes to church and how they always seemed more powerful, more meaningful than those of which I partook every morning before heading up the mountain while sitting in my home. It was as if the materials of man’s creation removed, allowing for a purer experience, a cleaner connection to the Almighty if you will.
There, I had done it; allowed myself to find something of God in merely drinking a hot cup of java on the front steps of the church.
Then my mind took a quantum leap, back, many years to my youth.
The ground was covered in snow. It was the dead of winter in Indiana, a place where Boy Scout Troops wouldn’t cancel a camping trip for the weather, regardless of the conditions. Fortunately, the camporee was at a camp where our tents were the heavy canvas permanent type built on wooden floors; surplus from a not so distant war. It was Friday night when we arrived. The routine was that we were to build a fire and then cook our supper while we made camp. From experience, we knew that in this weather, the fire was the key to everything; warmth, food, survival. Yet, everywhere we looked the snow had covered everything; not one stick of firewood was left untouched. Everything was either frozen or soaked with water. Knowing that we might face a challenge for which we may not fair too well, we began to build our wood in preparation for a valiant attempt, nonetheless. By good fortune, one of our patrol members found an old mouse nest in a hole in one of our tents’ floor. Thankfully, we shoved the dry tender in amongst all the other shoots of Sassafras, Cherry, and Pine, knowing that once the moisture burnt off, we would have the start of a roaring fire. One of the patrol leaders went to the cook box to find matches. When he returned, he held open the small cardboard box, with the little drawer, pulled out. The look on his face said it all. With a look of shock and dismay, we all quickly realized, there was just one match left. We gathered round, each of our young faces had a look of fear and anguish. One of the new scouts almost began to cry, “Oh no, we’re going to starve,” he stammered as tears welled up in his eyes.
“No, we’re not,” I bit back, the steam from my mouth shot into the air like a blowtorch. “You have to have faith. We’ve been through tough times before, and if anyone can make a fire with one match, it’s this patrol.” Ricky, the Scout Master’s son, who was also my good friend, stuck up for me at that moment, and reiterated what I had just conveyed.
“You gotta trust us man, if anyone can get a fire going, we can make it happen. We’re going to show them all, with one match, we’ll keep this fire going all weekend.”
There, he had done it; Ricky had unknowingly made the vow that we would all gladly have given our last breath to uphold. It was an unspoken word of truth and honor, nearly as revered as the Scout Law.
Delicately, like marooned sailors on a deserted island, we made all the preparations and double-checked each other’s work to make sure that the one match would work. Then, with a shaky hand, someone struck the match. The smell of sulfur and warmth filled the space before us. Immediately, we all gathered around, holding our hands as a shield to prevent any breeze from extinguishing our flame before it could take. Slowly, the flame touched the old mouse bed, and steaming smoke began to spread through our pile of tender.
“Nobody breath,” Ricky commanded.
We all stood, feet in shivering in the snowbank that we had created digging out the fire pit so that it would be clear of any moisture, and watched as the smoke seemed to almost disappear. The skeptical scout almost began to whimper once more. “Have faith,” I breathed again.
Then, as if prayers had been answered in unison, a flame nearly 12 inches tall leaped from the center of our woodpile. Smiles spread across our faces as we older scouts looked and nodded at one another. The younger scouts then realized they were with someone who would take care of them.
That weekend happened to get so cold, below zero, that they made us stay in the chow hall one night, for fear we might freeze to death in our cots. Meanwhile, we had stoked and prepared our fire, so that no matter how long we were gone, it would continue to keep a hot coal bed. We needn’t fear that the fire would spread since the ground was covered in almost a foot of snow. So, unlike other times when we would have to put out a fire when leaving our campsite, that particular weekend we were allowed to keep it going. Memory also recalls that the other patrols had not been so lucky when trying to strike their fires. More than one patrol visited us that weekend to warm themselves because of their own inabilities to keep a fire going. We learned a lot about ourselves in the process, not only that we had possessed a knowledge which provided for our own, but that we were able to pass on this to others while sharing with our neighbors.
I don’t remember anything else about that weekend, other than our parents came to stay with us the night we stayed in the chow hall. But the one thing I do recall, even to this day, was that by the time to pack up Sunday evening to head home, we had a fire that had never gone out. Meanwhile, other patrols had problems just getting theirs started, let alone able to keep them going.
We had struggled through adversity, but already in our young lives, having experienced hardship campouts before the one just mentioned had allowed us to have faith. It is the same in our walk with Christ. Those who are new to the faith struggle with knowing that the Father is with them always. By providing them examples of our own steadfast faith, we can give them the courage to face the struggles in their own walk.
The Apostle Paul had faced many trials and difficulties in his life once he turned to serving God instead of persecuting Christians. He was an encourager to others in the faith, and with confidence, not arrogance, as brother David said this morning, he told his disciples to ““Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” He had faith enough to know that if they were to become believers, that they would have to have faith in what he said and to know that through believing him, they too would come to know Christ.
Once they had faith, they would find the love of Christ working in them, warming them, imbuing them with the Holy Spirit, lighting the flame within and starting the fire. Like that hot cup of coffee and a cold winter day, God envelopes you with His Spirit and warms your very soul.
Each day, as I begin to climb the mountain, either figuratively or physically, I ask the Lord to help me find my way. Each day, he answers me in the most unexpected ways.
Nearby, the river speaks to me, and a song begins to play in my head:
stood at the foot of a great high mountain
That I wanted so much to climb
And on top of this mountain was a beautiful fountain
That flows with the water of life
down on my knees at the foot of this mountain
I cried, “O Lord what must I do?
I want to climb this mountain, I want to drink from this fountain
That flows so clear in my view.”
heard a sweet voice from the top of this mountain
Saying, “Child put your hand in mine.”
I started climbing slowly, “Watch your steps at the edges
And take one step at a time.”
climbing upward taking one step at a time
The higher I got the harder I climbed
climbing upward and my journey’s almost ended
I’m nearing the top and you ought to see the view
Oh the water flows freely, there’s enough to make you free
So friend, if you’re thirsty climb this mountain with me.”
In the gospel of John, Jesus said on the last day of the feast, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
While these may or may not be my last days, the harder I climb, the more beautiful things I see and reveal, seeing with eyes anew. From walking in faith, although I will never achieve the level of the Apostle Paul, I can, with deep conviction share with others that with faith, all things are possible. In sharing that belief, may it light a spark within their own soul, one that will make within them a desire to seek Him.
With one spark, a fire can be built, and with it, the light of life can begin
That particular campout of which I shared earlier was one where our parents were invited to come spend a night camping with us. It was one of only two times that a parent of mine came to a campout. My mom, of all people, came to stay Saturday night. She, along with the other parents, stayed in the chow hall with the rest of our troop. Looking back, I wish I had done more to interact with her, but it was a treat just to hear her voice talking to the other adults and to know that someone who loved me was present. Now that she is gone, those few glimpses of the past are ever more precious.
She, along with the other parents, more than likely had no idea of our fire struggles, but rather, took it in stride that we had learned how to survive and were doing well enough. I don’t remember anything else about that weekend, but the one thing I do recall, even to this day, was that by the time to pack up Sunday evening to head home, we had a fire that had never gone out.
From all of this, we can surmise that we are a constant work in faith. We may never achieve the level of faith of an Apostle Paul, but we can share our testimony with others, and with that, provide them the knowledge that they are not alone. Through our faith, shall we lift up others, and in the end, give them hope of the Father.
Like steam from the coffee cup, the Holy Spirit will warm us through and through, and our walk of faith will continue to grow as we climb that final mountain and drink from the eternal fountain.
 1 Corinthians 11:1 KJV
 Ralph Stanley, Great High Mountain, lyrics © Bug Music, Z77ss, Z77ss Music
 John 7:37 KJV