Old Wood And Rotten Fish

December 14, 2014
by Mark Carter

Old buildings are full of mystery to me. First Presbyterian Church in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, where I served as a student minister for the summer, is a perfect example. Built in 1925, it has stood as one of the pillars of the community for nearly 90 years. When I first walked through its antiquated doors, I knew that I was standing in an old building right away. It smelled old — not the nasty smell of mould, but that of a building full of wood and lacquer that gave off that "old wood" smell.

I was mesmerized by its size and seemingly endless passages and stairwells, some leading up to the tower standing three stories above the street, and others leading down, down, down into the bowels of the building where the concrete floor continued for about 10 feet until it turned into solid rock and tapered up toward the ceiling. There is not much topsoil in Prince Rupert. Most buildings are built on solid rock or perched on muskeg.

The thing about old buildings is that the forgotten nooks and crannies usually become depositories for unwanted items. This was the case with the church. Brian, the husband of one of the elders, was the building superintendent, and his summer project was to clean out the accumulated stuff. He gleefully commented to me that he was going to have a dumpster delivered to the church and was going to pile everything that wasn't bolted down into it.

A Saturday was selected for the clean-up day, and all able-bodied members were invited to help out. Apparently, an epidemic of physical maladies descended on the members of First Presbyterian on that weekend. That is the only reason I can think of why Brian and I were the only ones there at 9 a.m. A little later on, another man arrived and worked hard for the rest of the day, mostly because by that time, I was packing nails out one at a time. He was lugging out boards, plywood, old bits of metal, and occasionally, a frantic family of spiders. This clean-up work was hard. To make things worse, we discovered that when a new room was built for the new furnace in the basement, a whole bunch of old wood had been left trapped between the foundation wall and the new frame wall with only a narrow space to fit through.

Finally, the work was done. The basement was free of clutter, and the dumpster had become a goldmine of eclectic odds and ends: doors, windows, metal grates, pipes, boards, and an overpowering smell of rotten fish. I am not sure how the garbage disposal company operates, but it seemed as though the dumpster they gave us had most recently been used at the fish processing plant — a very generous gesture by the disposal company!

I couldn't help but compare the church clean-out with my life as a believer. It has been my experience that as life goes on, little things settle into the nooks and crannies of my person without my express desire that they be there. It may be habits, or how I use my time, or, more aptly put, how my time gets used. A good example is that when more and more activities are added to my schedule, consequently, I have less time to spend praying or reading the Word. I think that after years of accumulation, it would be a good idea to have a clean-out time.

2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified. (NKJV)

An important aspect of Advent is that it is a season of self-examination and repentance. We should take a good look at our lives and see what things are important and what things just ended up there. The end result of a cleanup is not only a more useful church building, but also a more dedicated me!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You see how our lives can become cluttered with unimportant things. Reveal those things to us so that we can be free to serve You better. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Mark Carter <markatranch@hotmail.com>
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Such a good reminder Mark.


    Love it…clean inside and out.


    Wonderful reminder of the reason for Christmas.
    Bless you and.have awonderful day.


    Loved your devotion this morning Mark. It definitely “spoke” to me. Thank you. And may God continue to bless you as you share His love with others.
    Blessings of this wonderful season to you and your family.


    Good morning Mark,
    Thank you for such an important reminder. At times our priorities subtlety shift away from Godly alignment, without our being aware.
    Realizing this, I can do something about it. Thank you so much for sharing. I pray God will continue to Bless your writing.


    Very well written devotional. It brought back memories of the old church I grew up in in Ontario. I never had to help clean out all the nooks and crannies, but I liked the way you related it to our lives as believers. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded to take a look at our lives and see what is taking up our time that could be put to better use. Thanks. Merry Christmas.


    Dear Mark l really enjoyed your devotional and felt it was so pertinent to my life at present, l need to get rid of clutter and dead wood. Thank you and please keep writing you do it so well. I am sure when you get your own Church your congregation will find you inspirational. I hope you and yours have a blessed Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2015. Love to all in Prince Rupert.
    (Northern Ireland)


    Mark, Many thanks for your devotional today. It hit home personally as we can always be more appropriate with our time mngt. But you remind me of a minster our church had the great privilege of having for the several of his ministry. He had a great sense of humor as you appear to have.
    I’m sure the Good Lord has interesting plans for you & I feel Prince Rupert must be very thankful for your leadership amongst them. I look forward to more of your contributions to inspire us. Blessings upon your ministry.


    Mark,
    Got a kick out of your devotional.
    I am not of your denomination but I am of your faith. We have the same problem here in Texas.
    We call for help on a Saturday – many are called, but few are chosen! {Few people show up}.
    Regardless, the few that do show up are of good nature and good humor, so we have quite a few laughs when getting the work done.
    Perhaps it is better that way. I remember one time I was helping another church. One guy showed up who did not want to be there.
    Thank God he only showed up once! So, sometimes it is better to be few in number and cheerful in heart.
    God bless & keep on writing,
    (Texas)


    Mark
    Your analogy is good.
    God Bless.


    Good morning, Mark
    In this season of Advent, what a good analogy to draw between the church building clean-up and the necessary “clean-up” of one’s life. We do get so busy in our daily lives that we become almost unaware of not only the physical clutter we accumulate but also the spiritual clutter as well. We do not realize how much less time we allow ourselves to spend with God daily — and when we do, then our good intentions begin!
    Do continue to write!
    May you have a blessed and joyous Christmas!
    God bless!


    Hi Mark, Totally agree with this devotion. Clean out and check up see if what we are doing is what God wants? All the best of the Season.


    Hello Mark, Thank you for your homily it brought back wonderful memories for me. Blessings to you.


    Thanks Mark! That could of been the summer I road tripped to prince Rupert and I’m sorry I missed your clean up day I would have given you a hand. I too need some arranging of my time spent as well and not take for granted a savior that is continually ready with a dumpster for heart clean up.
    Thanks. I bet some of those windows and iron you tossed might have been repurposed. How God recycles!

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