When Your Office Burns

About two weeks ago, I was awakened by a call from a church member, about 5 AM.  I didn't think it was a social call at that hour, and sure enough he had called to tell me the church was on fire.
 I threw clothes on and ran down there, watching as firefighters worked hard to put out the fire in our Nursery, Children, and office building.  The fire was set intentionally by two young men, who said they were "bored," and had already set the middle school music room on fire earlier. All our first responders did a great job, with about 7 units coming out from surrounding areas.  

I had a little experience with this through dealing with it through church members and friends, but never had it been my own stuff.  My office got hit pretty hard, as you can see.
  I didn't have much of value besides my computer and my books,  and we were able to get most of those out. All day Friday and Saturday was spent running, running, running, getting things out, calling insurance, fielding phone calls from friends and others, and talking to reporters. Being arson they were all over it, and I was glad for the opportunity to share the news that the church is not a building, but people.  Church members came together to help, work, process, and more.  We are getting through this together.  It was beautiful to see the body of Christ working together to meet needs and show the world the "wisdom of God made manifest in the world." We carried all the items out we wanted to salvage, from my office and the financial office into the Family Life Center and laid them out on tarps to dry.  (That is nowhere near all of them)

My office is my life.  It's my second home, and some weeks it's my first home.  If you don't count sleep, I spend more time there than at home some weeks.  It contained all I had ever done in ministry.  Diplomas, ordination papers, notes from friends and colleagues.  All the books I had collected, mostly from garage sales and book sales and more.  I can't stand to pay full price for a book.  A shelf contained all my notebooks of sermons, as I write them all out longform.  The top of my desk contained my notes for the coming Sunday, my prayer journal, my preaching bible, and more books.  My computer holds notes and files and documents for the church.  Another shelf held study notes I made in prep, and the church directory I used to pray through for church members.  The shelves around held pictures of my three girls, my wife and I when were young and in love, and pictures of us now older and in love.  Countless drawings made for Father's Day, Christmas, or just because.  Gifts from from former church members and family members, items from India, Kenya, both my grandmothers Bibles, and even items from as far away as my childhood.  

Some of that will be salvaged; books will be cleaned of soot and smoke and smell, most of them.  Knick-nacks are cleaned off, some are tossed. (like all my Keith Green LP's)  I was able to get the documents from my computer.  Other items will just never be the same.  

So I started over in a new office.  I borrowed a desk from a local business, a church member brought a chair.  I got an old filing cabinet and bookshelf, and set out to study, because Sunday is coming.
 I just couldn't bring myself to focus though. So much to do, so much to think about, so much to remember to do.  My beautiful amazing wife set out putting my office in order, to make it feel like an office.  Even with a new computer and printer and notebooks, it's still kind of hard to focus.  

My office was my life.  It was a womb in which sermons were birthed for the congregation God has given me shepherd of, and I spend many hours poring over books and scribbling notes. And lot's of staring at the wall, because that's what sermon prep looks like sometime.  Books I use and read over and over had become old friends I could turn to when I was out of sorts.  Eugene Peterson on Working the Angles, or Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Why Revival Tarries changed my life when I picked it up at a thrift store in college.  Preaching and Preachers taught me the seriousness of the task I have been given.  A Long Obedience in the Same Direction taught me the beautiful nature of the plodding Christian life.  Bibles I had used up and were on the shelf.  Commentaries by Luther, Owens, Mcgee, Barclay, Hodge, Ironsides, Spurgeon, Kidner, Pink, Mcintosh and more lined the shelves.  Bunyan on Suffering, Bounds on Prayer, Lloyd-Jones on the Sermon on the Mount, Dever on the importance of the church.  Biographies of saints gone by taught me the brevity of life.  Brother Andrew, Elisabeth Elliot, Keith Green, Richard Wurmbrand, Calvin, Luther, Bunyan, Crosby, Bartlett, Bonhoeffer, Brainerd, Jim Elliot, David Wilkerson, Corrie Ten Boom.  They were taken away, and now I'm finding a new home to study in, without those friends there.  

Some might say this is a good time to go digital, but there is something about holding a book in my hand that a tablet can't replace.  Buying an old book and reading the inscription in the front to a pastor I'll never know always warms my heart.  Many books might be 50 years old by the time I come across them, and cannot be replaced.  I will get many (most, even?) of my books back, so I don't want to be too melodramatic.  I know too how blessed I am to have all  of these books with me, when Tyndale died for translating the Bible into English, and others have lived without the blessings I have.  Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and the printed word as well.    



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