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Have a bonfire and reflect

During this autumn season which, traditionally, was one for bonfires, Peter Farley explains how watching the flames can bring back memories of people and places.

According to Locard's exchange principle, wherever someone has been, they will always leave minute particles of evidence that they have been there because wherever we go, we take something away and leave something behind. This is one of the basic tenets of forensic science.
In my experience, this principle holds true for life itself. If physical particles will undoubtedly have been exchanged, even in the most fleeting of encounters, how much more have I taken away, albeit less tangible or less evident, in terms of understanding, wisdom, knowledge and experience, from those I have come into contact with, known or still know?
All these encounters have influenced me, and for these precious gifts, I am extremely grateful. In addition, how much have I been given in love, joy, empathy, compassion, understanding, tolerance, and acceptance. I realise too, I have left so much behind. I rejoice where anything has been a blessing, but I ask for forgiveness where it has caused sorrow, regret, sadness or even bitterness.
Recently, I had an email from someone I hadn’t heard from for at least ten years. The reason for him writing was that we were trustees of a small Christian charity working in the drugs field in Africa, while we were working together for the Matthew Project.
He had been responsible for keeping papers about the charity and had recently been clearing out his loft, on his retirement. The papers (files and folders) were well past their keep-until-date, but he just wanted to check that he was right to dispose of them.
I suggested that he made a bonfire, and that he and his wife sat and watched the flames. Perhaps, as they did so, it would be worth thinking about the people and places those flames represented - those who had made things happen by giving to the work, those we had worked with. Yet not just the people involved with that project, but all those whose lives they had touched during their working lives, people inside and outside church, on duty or off duty.
I encouraged them, as they sat and watched the flames, to remember that God is keeping a record in heaven of their works for Him on earth, which will survive His divine fire. We all need to think, from time to time, of the many lives we will have impacted, often without realising it and certainly not appreciating the extent of what that that might have meant to their lives. Maybe there are things for which we must seek forgiveness.
So, perhaps, a far more worthwhile bonfire night for us would be to light a fire and, as we watch the flames, to reminisce. In your minds eye, think of the many people who have influenced your life and also of those who may have been blessed by you. I’m sure the Holy Spirit will throw on a few logs too! May those memories warm your hearts forever!
I realise that for some, such an exercise would be very painful and not to be undertaken alone. If that is you, do get in touch with the many specialist organisations who might be able to help you. If you are unsure, you can contact me at trustandshare@btinternet.com 
Image by Stephen Steffler from Pixabay.com.


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A would-be Word-Weaver, Peter Farley (founder of The Matthew Project) is a father of five and grandfather of thirteen. He lives and worships in Sheringham. He is a Sheringham Town Councillor and one of the founders of Sheringham Shed - a local community meeting place.



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