The Big Burn

The week after Christmas is a blessedly slow week for churches and pastors. Like a basketball player holding his shorts and sucking wind, so church staffs catch a breather starting on Christmas Day.

            My family headed north to New England over the week Christmas and New Year’s. We visited my two brothers and their families. My brother Scott and his wife Barb live in southern Massachusetts in Rehoboth. My brother Blake and his wife Jennifer live in central Vermont in Strafford. Weeks before our travels we had hoped to so some skiing during our stay in Vermont; but there was no snow to be seen anywhere as we drove along the highways—our skis stayed in Pennsylvania.

            We arrived at Blake’s house on Monday evening, December 28th. The first snow storm of the season arrived just behind us, early Tuesday morning. We wanted to do something more than sit in the house all day, so my brother suggested that we start a bon fire. At the mention of “fire” my boys’ eyes grew large. Blake is a builder and he had a lot of scrap wood and many sticks piled at the bottom of his property near the road. “The flames will be 15 to 20 feet high.” The eyes of all the Spencer men grew ever larger. We can’t burn fires like this in Morrisville. We were all in for the big burn.

            Blake struck the match and flung into the center of the wood pile. The fire caught. We watched in awe as the flames grew to the predicted height. For more than three hours we fueled the blaze by tossing in sticks and small logs. Blake told us repeatedly that we were doing him a great service. For my sons and me, we would have paid money to burn stuff like we did that day.

            We stood there that afternoon—no laptops, no phones, no TV—just two sets of brothers burning stuff on a winter’s day in Vermont.


            A few days later, as we drove home, I gave thanks to God that I’m a part of a family like mine. My sons are surrounded by relatives who deeply love them and who love to share fun stuff like monster bon fires with them.