I stepped out of my house to see the sky filling with billows of ominous, black smoke just a few blocks away. Something was on fire. The newspaper the next day said that two children were playing with matches in the shanty-town behind the mall and 50 families lost their homes. It started with the flicker of a match and a puff of sulfur and ended in total devastation. Children playing with matches.
When I was 13 years old my family moved to Naperville, Illinois. My Dad joined the staff of a great church, Calvary Temple, and there I met some of the most influential friends I would ever find. One of the first services we attended was a New Year’s Eve prayer service. There were microphones stationed in each isle were people could approach and offer a prayer for all to hear. Suddenly my bowed head snapped to attention when I heard the voice of a young girl praying into the microphone on the other side of the large auditorium. I looked up in surprise and saw a girl about my age passionately pouring her heart out to the Lord for all to see and hear. I said to myself, “I don’t know who that girl is, but she’s going to be my best friend.” She was brave and passionate and I heard my heart reflected in her prayer. Many years later Hana Margaron was a bride’s maid in my wedding. But in 1989 she was just a girl playing with matches.
It wasn’t long before I found myself surrounded by a little group of friends. The girl friends that I met at Calvary made a deep impression in my malleable spirit. We formed a girls’ prayer group, just a bunch of Junior High girls- no adult leader. And we began exploring the Holy Spirit together. We were playing with matches.
It wasn’t long before our cozy little campfire of a prayer meeting started getting out of control. Suddenly we had a raging fire on our hands. We became consumed with the passion of sharing the Gospel with everyone. We brought our school friends to youth group, we started prayer meetings in our High Schools, we provoked religious discussions in Public School classrooms. During the summers our church hosted Sunday Evening in the Park at the band shell in downtown Naperville. With my group of young friends in tow, we walked the River Walk every Sunday night inviting strangers to the service in the park and sharing our faith when the conversational door opened. These kids with matches were consumed with the fire of God.
Since then I’ve fanned that fire of the Holy Spirit and it has utterly consumed my life. On first blush it appears that I have nothing to show for my 37 years of life. The fire has burned it all up. I have no house of my own. I don’t have a car of my own. When it comes time to collect social security I’m going to be screwed because I’ve never received one paycheck for what I do. There are no schools or hospitals with my name on them. You will not find a single book written by me (yet). I have only the degrees I actually need and use, no honorary doctorates hang on my wall. Here in this world I only have a little handful of ashes that show that a fire has blown through here. I’m just a girl playing with matches… and I love it.
There’s an old Amy Grant song called “1974” that always makes me think of those days when our little group of young girls started praying together. I’m not sure that any of us really knew what we were in for when we asked for more of God. We were just kids innocently exploring our faith. I want to say thank you to all my friends from that time of my life. Thank you for loving God in a way that stirred up a flame in me. Thanks for warming your hands by the fire with me. I still love you, Friends. Did any of us really know what we were getting into? We were just children playing with matches.
******In case you are curious, I’m including the lyrics for the song 1974, or you can just look for it on youtube. Here’s my heart in music.**********
We were young
And none of us knew quite what to say
But the feeling moved among us in silence anyway
Slowly we had made
Quite a change
Somewhere we had crossed a big line
Down upon our knees we had tasted Holy wine
And no one could sway us in a lifetime!
Purer than the sky behind the rain
Falling down all around us, calling out from a boundless love
Love had lit a fire we were the flame
Burning into the darkness, shining out from inside us.
Not a word
No one had to say we had changed
Nothing else we lived through would ever be the same
Knowing the truth we had gained!