Fire Dependent Spirituality 

Fire Dependent Spirituality 


Extended Writing of Podcast Season 1: Episode 2 Fire Dependent Spirituality

Written by Shaleen Kendrick

JOHN 15: 1-11

“I am the true vine, and my God is the vine grower.  The Lord removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit God prunes to make it bear more fruit.  You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. God is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Lord has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept these commandments and abide in God’s love.  I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

In Holland’s friend, Taylor Oster, texted us this life changing scientific tip when we asked her to define an “ecosystem.”.  

Taylor  writes:

Ecosystems- eco comes from oikos meaning “home.”  Ecosystem means all the relationships in a home—microorganisms, plants, animals, people, water, soil. The ecosystem is not all of these things, but the relationships between these things. A healthy ecosystem is when these relationships are balanced.  Some people also judge the health of an ecosystem by its biodiversity- a variety of life and genetics.  Ecosystems are intricately interconnected.

Holland and I took Taylor’s words of wisdom to heart as we met my uncle, Scott Spliess, who is a fire ecologist. We met in a park under a tree during a pandemic to talk about the science of fire-dependent ecosystems.  If ever there was a time to understand the interconnectedness of an ecosystem…IT IS NOW. The pandemic has taught us we are more connected than most of us ever realized.

Fire is a cleansing agent to the landscape.

Fire dependent ecosystems require fire to thrive.  Fire burns off dead underbrush (branches) that have accumulated over time releasing nutrients into the landscape.  Fire dependent ecosystems NEED fire to move through them to continue to grow.  Fire dependent trees have defense mechanisms so that as fire comes through, it trims up the bark.  In addition, certain seeds need fire to germinate.  Pinecones, for example, need heat from a fire to open up, Without fire, they don’t sprout their seeds. They just disintegrate.  Fire preps the soil. Fire gets old material off the forest floor to allow new life to grow and then BLOOM.

Scott goes on to describe his role in creating a prescribed burn.  He would sit on a mountainside for years. Sitting, watching, observing, in active contemplation of the land.  A prescribed burn needs a plan with clear objectives and clear boundaries, and once you drop the match you are committed. Yet you must be flexible, able to shift.

In a fire dependent ecosystem, thriving is defined as flower, fruit, and seed.

His words hit my soul.  He gifted us with a spiritual metaphor to live by.

Our spiritual landscapes are fire-dependent ecosystems.

In the Gospel of John,  Jesus talks about spirituality as a fire-dependent ecosystem.  Healthy spirituality is dependent upon pruning and cleansing fires.

What is Jesus throwing into the fire as we are pruned? 

DEAD branches….OPPRESSIVE ideologies…TYRANNICAL doctrines – NOT PEOPLE!

A GOOD GOD does not throw humans into the fire. War gods in the Ancient Near East reveled in the smell of burning flesh, not Yahweh. A good and loving God prunes its creation and allows cleansing fires to burn through our souls and communities in order to cut off and BURN dead ideologies that have accumulated over time and cause damage to human beings.  God has an unconditional and unquenchable love for humans.

At Desert Voices, we believe that sparking curiosity and boldly exploring your spirituality creates cleansing fires that contribute to human flourishing.  

We define “human flourishing” as all human beings living in ecosystems that allow them to flower, fruit, and seed.  We imagine a world where human beings collectively thrive and not just survive.

So what does it look like for a human being to spiritually thrive as a flower, fruit, and seed? 

Flower:  This looks like human beings living in full bloom.  We hope to co-create cultures that celebrate ALL of who God created each unique individual to be.

Fruit: The fruit of our “one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver) smells like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

Seed:  We plant seeds in order for the next generation to flourish.  Seeds of justice, equity, and collaborative power to push the human race forward.


Only you can answer that question.  Be ALL of who God created you to be.  Live big, dance big, and bring all of who you are to the dance floor of life.


Growing up evangelical, Holland and I were taught “fruit” meant “converted souls.” The fruit of our labor was usually reflected in  how many people we helped “save.”  We have shifted in our faith and now we see “fruit” as …  the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that we produce throughout our lives. 


We flower from the seeds that past generations have planted for us and sow seeds for the next generation to flourish.  Seeds of justice, equity, and collaborative power. These are values that push the human race forward.  Check out Desmond Tutu’s work – God Has A Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time .

For these seeds to sprout and bloom they NEED fire.

What does a spark of curiosity do? 

It starts a fire!  

What does boldly exploring your faith do for you? 

It unearths embedded ideologies that need to burn…so humankind can thrive.

We are not trying to burn the systems down.  We are not for anarchy, we are for REFORMATION!  We are part of the Revolution of Love (Valerie Kuhr & Jackie Lewis)  We are hoping to start calculated “prescribed burns” with “boundary lines” and “clear objectives,” so our spirituality can thrive, so all humanity can thrive.

It is important to note my uncle does not agree with much of what Holland and I believe.  In fact, he texted me earlier saying, “Good luck to you and Holland.  I don’t always agree with what you two have to say, but I will always defend your right to say it!  And I will always love you!”  I appreciate and love this man.  Holland and I have learned you do not always need to agree with someone to learn from them and to see the Spirit of God in them.  Despite having a totally different expression of Christianity than my uncle, standing together under a tree that day, we listened and learned from his wisdom and expertise.

In our work here at Desert Voices, we have planned our prescribed burns for a long, long, long time.  We continue to sit, listen, learn, and contemplate our spirituality.  We contemplate both our interior and exterior landscapes.  We are clear on our objectives: 

We stand for the liberation of all women across the globe.

We seek to burn down patriarchy.  Sexism that masquerades as holiness.

We are allies who listen, learn, and follow voices in our Black communities.

We seek to burn supremacist mindsets laced through our Chrisitan thinking. 

We affirm and celebrate who God created each unique individual to be.

We seek to burn exclusive ideologies that reject the Queer community in the name of God.

We follow the mystery we call God.

We seek to burn our addiction to doctrinal certainty and triumphalism.

We are going after the oppression and exclusion of people perpetuated under the guise of “Biblical faithfulness.”





We follow a God whose nature is non-violent, radically inclusive, and who shows unconditional love for humankind.  A God we see reflected in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.


The Fire Next Time-James Baldwin

Wendall Berrys Collective works

Desmond Tutu- God Has a Dream

Parker Palmer- Let Your Life Speak

Rohr’s Daily Meditation- The Rhineland Mystics- Mirabai Starr

From Banks and Tanks to Cooperation and Caring- Movement Generation

Photo was taken by Charlie McCallie @charliemccallie Instagram.

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