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Ode To A Clean Desk
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img 0723 640x480A few months back, the church Trustees graciously offered to refit my office at the church. It’s not that what I had before was bad, it was just, well, more old school and impractical for my needs. The desk was an ornate, heavy oak that, while beautiful, didn’t lend itself to spreading out books and things for study; not did it accommodate a second computer monitor, which has become an essential thing for me for sermon preparation. The office also had a love seat and a couple of easy chairs, one of which was so soft you could get lost in it. We replaced those with a lovely kitchen-type table and four chairs, which allows better space for face-to-face meetings and a whiteboard for doing some instruction and planning.


I love the new space (and the new carpet) and I appreciate the increased functionality. But like with any remodel, it gives you an opportunity to develop new habits as well.


For example, I’ve always been a bit of a piler of things–papers, books, etc. I could tell you where something was by visualizing the pile that it was in on my desk. It wasn’t exactly an effective organizing system and I wound up holding on to papers, magazines, and other ephemera for way too long before engaging in a wild purge a few times a year that would fill the dumpster.


My new desk brought with it an opportunity for change–to actually strive to be able to see its beautiful surface. So I made a pact with myself that I would not leave the office each day without first clearing the desk–putting things away or tossing them as the case required. I’ve stuck to that system for several months now, and I have to say that there is a certain amount of satisfaction in the process.


Ministry is the kind of job in which one is never really finished. You go home at the end of the day, but you’re always carrying with you a swirling series of piles of information and concern about meetings, sermons, people in crisis, deadlines, etc. Maybe that’s why my desk piles got so high in the past–you know you’re going to be coming back to them eventually.


A new desk doesn’t change that, but it does offer the opportunity to compartmentalize. Yeah, there’s always something to be done, but if I can clear that desk at the close of business, I can at least say that I am done for that day. And really, when it comes down to it, the present day is the only one we can deal with anyway. When I leave my office with a clean desk, there’s at least a little sense of accomplishment that I can visualize. At least that’s done!


Jesus urged us to not worry too much about tomorrow because “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). James goes even further and says, “You do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that'” (James 4:14-15). Bottom line: none of us has much control over what happens tomorrow, which makes closing each day effectively and important discipline.


So, I feel a little twinge of satisfaction leaving a clean desk behind at the office each day. It’s a spiritual discipline. It also allows me to begin the next day with a clean slate–a reminder of the gift of God’s grace for another day.

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