Recently, my son Daniel and I have begun planning a backpacking trip for this Spring. We don't have a location in mind yet, and the date for the adventure isn't secured--but we know that sometime this Spring, he and I are going backpacking. Neither of us have been backpacking before, so this will be a whole new adventure. We've done some car camping, but we've never just loaded up everything in backpacks and hit the trail, carrying everything we need on our backs.
When I was a little younger than Daniel, I was a Boy Scout--for a whole day! So you can bet that I believe in their motto: "Be prepared." In preparation, I've been assembling the gear that we'll need for our excursion. One of the important parts of our cook kit is the stove. Oh, sure, you can spend as much money as you want on complicated and expensive canister systems, but ultralight backpackers prefer alcohol stoves. They're lightweight. They're simple. They work. And they cost virtually nothing. You can make an alcohol stove out of a used cat food, soda, or tuna can. Alcohol stoves burn ethanol (denatured alcohol), methanol (yellow Heet, for example), or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. You can also burn Everclear in them, but hey--I'm a Baptist minister. ;-)
So, just for fun and also for economy, I've been experimenting with building my own alcohol stoves. Now, I gotta tell you, I'm not a handy kinda guy. Looking up the designs that people put on websites like Zen and the Art of the Alcohol Stove (imho the best website about alcohol stoves) is informative, but it does take a certain knack if you want to build one yourself out of recycled or reused parts.
I built a stove out of a soda can--it didn't work at all. I built a stove out of a cat food can--it didn't work, either. I was following the designs I found online, but I just couldn't make them work. I built one out of a tuna can--it worked okay, but it looked horrible. But working--At least, that's progress.
Then, the other day I was washing dishes and I looked at the drain plug. Now THAT looked like an alcohol stove! I pulled off the plunger... (This is a picture of an intact one next to the one I disassembled)
...pushed the drain strainer down on top of the insulation and lid and popped it perfectly into place...
...and made my very own alcohol stove for next to nothing! (Replacing the drain plug cost $2.99--Spouse wouldn't be happy if I hadn't replaced it.) Of course, you have to squirt alcohol into the insulation before you use it...I should have taken pictures of that, and of lighting it, but I got too excited and had to show you these pictures.
Here's the stove with a pot sitting on it. Isn't it purty? You can just use your imagination and picture the blue flames jetting up through the holes in the strainer, licking up at the bottom of the pot. One sturdy, cheap, very functional alcohol stove that's actually fairly attractive (for what it is). More than most alcohol stoves can claim. And it was so easy that it just seemed to fall right together. No punching or drilling holes in metal. No trying to keep cans you're working on from crumpling or cutting you. Here was the perfect size and shape of metal frame in my hand already--and there in the fridge was a pickle jar with only brine left in it, the perfect size lid to fit my drain plug. And there in the basement was a bit of insulation ready to hand. No tools, no effort--just a great simple stove that took literally thirty seconds to assemble.
This whole thing got me thinking about life--how sometimes we struggle and we wrestle to follow somebody else's pattern that they lay out for us, and how often it doesn't work. Not because their design is flawed, but because it just wasn't made for us. But then, serendipity happens! The Holy Spirit whispers to our hearts and shows us how He wants us to do things. When we step into the Spirit's way, things just fall into place, with no fuss and no trouble. And everything just works. And it's beautiful. And it's so simple that even the people who were busy telling you how you should have done it stand by and gape.
Because the Spirit was flowing all along, and all you did was step into the flow. Because you let yourself be inspired rather than struggling in your own strength. Because you quit thinking about the problem and how to solve it, quit wrestling the answer--and it just came to you. That's how the Spirit works.
So, if you need a good alcohol stove that you can make in 30 seconds for only $2.99, this is the one for you. I hope it'll help you on your next backpacking trip.
And if you need your heart warmed, I hope that this little story about a stove will inspire you to quit struggling and simply trust God's Holy Spirit to lead you. Go with the flow, as they say. Step into the stream.
They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
- Luke 24:32 NIV