God's Holy Fire
by Tony Noland
The truth is, my church was having trouble paying the oil bill. That's what started the whole thing. I was already tithing, so it was pretty hard for me to come up with a way to give any more money than I already was. Besides, I didn't make very much as a new hire in the engineering department over at RayTech. If I'd been an engineer, I'd have made more, but as a shop technician in a non-union firm, I wasn't pulling down that much.
Anyway, God calls on you to give abundantly of your treasure, time and talent. The tithe took care of "treasure". As for "time", I was already on the property committee, the worship and music committee and the cemetery management committee. Plus, I taught Sunday school, took meals to the shut-ins once a month, and drove the truck for our Habitat for Humanity team. But what about "talents"?
I had to pray about that for a long time. To be honest, it didn't take much talent to serve on the committees; a willingness to listen to people and to think things through was enough. An open heart and a bit of patience was all that was needed for the other things. For months, I thought and prayed about what talents I might have that God could use, and how best to offer them to His service.
It was when the boiler cracked a seal that I saw what God had been leading me to. That old thing was a relic of the 1950s: cast iron walls as thick as your wrist, built at a time when oil was cheap. Good stewardship over the years had helped it to last, but in its sixty-third year of heating the church, from sanctuary and narthex all the way up to the classrooms and new office suite added in 1982, it finally started to go. It began to burn a lot more oil, and put out only as much heat as a kerosene stove. This was during a time when attendance was low and the church accounts were running dry, too.
No, it wasn't clear to me at the time that it was the light of God shining on me when Pastor asked me if I could do something about it, get it back up to speed. I don't feel bad about not recognizing it right away. After all, the disciples on the road walked with Jesus for a full day before they knew who they were walking with. Pastor asked me because he knew I was handy. I said I'd try, and went down to look on the old girl.
I wasn't an official engineer at the time, no degrees either earned or honorary. My grades were never good, mostly because I could never make my teachers and college professors understand the things I saw in their equations and graphs and readouts. Anyway, I thought long and hard about how I could make that old boiler use less oil to heat the same amount of water.
There's no other explanation for it - the Holy Spirit sat with me in the basement and said, "Now is when the Church needs your talent, boy. Think, and think hard." I did, and it came to me as though scales had fallen from my eyes, like St. Paul. If you just burn oil, no matter how efficiently, you get out whatever energy the oil has in it, but only the chemical energy. Instead, if you use a magnetohydrodynamic flux-field to pinch back the flame and contain it, then you can treat the burning oil like a self-inducing resonant plasmon, and extract energy from the standing wave directly. Once you do that, the slow conversion of matter into energy gives you plenty to work with.
Through the grace of God, it only took me two weeks to make and tune the flux-field resonance extractor. That winter, instead of burning eight hundred gallons of oil, we only needed six. Not six hundred, mind you... six gallons. The church made the budget with room to spare, thanks to the savings.
And after I filed the patent, and the licensing money started to come in from the railroads, auto manufactures and aerospace industry companies, you can bet the first fruits of it went to the church. And they always have, every year since. Whether you tithe out of an income of twenty-two thousand dollars a year, or out of fourteen billion dollars a year, give thanks to God in all things. That's the way of salvation.
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