Stacking wood

Growing up in a rural farming community I soon learned the significant role that wood played in our life. Wood was a four season task – cutting the trees down in the winter and splitting the logs, stacking the wood in late spring/early summer into piles, letting the wood dry over the summer, retrieving the wood from the woods via tractor and wagon in the fall and putting it into a shed so it could stay dry, and then retrieving the wood armful by armful on a daily basis throughout the winter. Fortunately for me as the baby of the family we installed a gas furnace when I was in fourth grade and so my wood carrying days were cut shorter than my siblings time of service, much to their chagrin!

It struck me that I am still in the “wood business” in Christian education, as are many of you who are reading this. John Piper’s word picture is helpful: “The fuel of worship is the truth of God; the furnace of worship is the spirit of man; and the heat of worship is the vital affections of reverence, contrition, trust, gratitude, and joy. But there is something missing from this picture. There is furnace, fuel, and heat, but no fire. The fuel of truth in the furnace of our spirit does not automatically produce the heat of worship. There must be ignition and fire. This is the Holy Spirit.” Desiring God, p.82.

We help students to discover truth and discover the greatness of God through the study of creation and his word – all truth is God’s truth. As educators we engage students on this journey of discovery and link learning to the Creator and his intentions for us. When we grow weary of our stacking (and wonder if the wood will ever burn) we need to remember that our job is to stack, not light the fire. We may not see the fire lit in our lifetime, but need to be faithful to our work. Our family faithfully, and in hopes of a warm fire, cut, stacked, transported, and readied wood – in anticipation of the match to light it. However the match also needed the wood to burn for a long time. I guess that in Christian education our call is to stack wood – we cannot predict when the Spirit lights lives on fire, but we seek to point out God’s truth to students so that, when lit by the Spirit, their lives burn brightly and with great warmth as they obediently worship and work for the kingdom.

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8 Comments

Filed under book, encouraging the heart, student outcomes

8 responses to “Stacking wood

  1. great word picture to think about.

    what i’m wondering sometimes if we all don’t feel like more and more students are looking for different fire and not wanting the wood we are stacking at their feet. as far as youth ministry is concerned, i’m witnessing in my church an many others here in west michigan a real exodus of students away from our ministries. makes me wonder if they’re being lead away, “busyied” away, bored away, enticed away or something else. are we not relevant? is it something we’re doing or not doing or is it something external. that’s what keeps me awake at nights and a reoccurring knot going in my stomach.

    that leads me to a second thought and a personal plea that i bet other educators and youth ministers might echo. the plea to God for my own life to have the Spirit keep lighting the fire in my own life and to give me the desire to continue to tend and stoke the fire as much as it depends on me. to make or be forced to make the space for the fire that we know we need but we get to caught up in life and ministry and teaching to actually get around to our own spiritual growth and development. it’s a battle more and more i don’t think we can ignore or fight alone and isolated anymore. these students and their families and our souls are too important to left unattended.

    thanks for your post.

    pax: ty @ harderwyk

  2. I like the analogy of stacking wood, because it can apply to the life of every believer, no matter what our calling. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  3. Hi:
    I enjoyed the analogy of education being involved with the business of stacking wood. I had the very important job as a young child sitting on the pieces of wood on the sawhorse, while my older brothers sawed the wood in pieces with a bow saw. Talk about learning teamwork. As I got older, I could help with the stacking and carrying. Then the moment comes when you are allowed to light the fire! What an honour!
    Teaching young children and lighting the fire for them – sometimes one doesn’t see the result for years, but then you might walk into the changeroom of the local YMCA and meet a grown-up student of yours, and they say “Remember when you helped me get through that hard time!” God works in mysterious ways.
    Back to the wood analogy, I now live in a solar house with a wood stove as the supplementary heat source. Sometimes I come home and the house is cold and there is not a spark left in the stove. SOmetimes the sun shone all day in minus 18 degree weather and the house is so warm. Isn’t teaching like that too…but we know that the warmth will come back and the spark will ignite in the hearts of our youth.

  4. Shelley Lagestee

    The analogy of stacking wood is intersting to think about especially with your students and their relationship with God.Even though I’m not a teacher yet, it’s great to think of the future and the impact we can have to our students lives and with their relationship with God. However, we can only go so far (stack the wood)because the Holy Spirit light’s the fire, but we can help the making of the fire. That makes me excited for the possibilities and the impact that i can have as a teacher.

  5. Katie Vander Ark

    Hello,
    I really like the analogy of educators being stackers of wood; it is so true in the experiences of Christian and public school teachers alike. I have had teachers in the past make such an impact on my life. Whether they knew it or not and no matter the grade educators have the opportunity and duty to reflect God’s light through their teaching. As school teachers we have a great responsibility to our students, not only to provide the best education we can, but to also treat them with respect and love, teaching them through our words and actions about God and his everlasting mercy and grace. It can be difficult when a student just does not seem to grasp anything and refuses to let God in, but we do not know the impact we may be having on him. He may look back and appreciate the fact that we did not give up on him and continued to shine God’s light. We are wood stackers, preparing children to be lit with the fire of God.

  6. Stefanie Prince

    This article was very well written. I think it is a great reminder of how I, as a future educator, need to “stack” my students rather than “ignite” them with faith. I think this could go for both Christian and public school teachers, as well as any other person interacting with children. God is the only one who can ignite the flame in a person’s life, and I think this article contains some great points to remember.

  7. Audrey Noonan

    Like wood, teaching is an all year and all life task. So many educators today teach to the test and ignore the important life lessons that should underline the academic lessons. Today’s students need to know how to read, but not so they can pass tests. They need to know how to read to succeed in the outside world. The same goes for math, writing, and science. Students need to be able to apply what they learn to real life. As educators, we need not to stack any old wood in front of our students, or the wood that is most popular or looks best. We need to stack the right wood, the wood that will last our students throughout their lives, and after that, we need to trust God to lead our students to do the right thing with the tools we have given them.

  8. Jack Beeksma

    What a great word picture! The analogy between stacking wood and education is a brilliant one, and is one I hadn’t heard/read before.

    One thing to add though… Although the application to education is clear, this analogy can be extended to child-raising, also. I have an adult child who is not following the ways of the Lord, and that is a cause of pain for me. I found this article encouraging, as I’ve since looked back to see how this wood-stacking has happened in his earlier life.

    I look forward to the day when God’s Spirit will ignite that wood into flames!

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