This is a true story. Only the names and locations have been changed.

The high-pitched roof of the sanctuary blocked the morning sun from the office windows, but by two in the afternoon, the light was streaming in and the office was growing warm. Russ pulled on the cord to adjust the blinds. He turned the slats upward to cut the glare on his computer screen.

His morning had been productive. Russ usually outlined his sermon on Tuesday. He researched the text and read commentaries on Wednesday. On Thursday he located the right illustrations and wrote the manuscript—if everything worked on schedule.

This week it had.

The fire of this message burned in his bones. He would review his notes several times over the next two days, then step up to the pulpit Sunday and deliver the word of the Lord with skill and passion. This would be a good one. He could feel it.

Russ hadn't thought of lunch; he wrote while the words flowed. Eileen's clatterings in the outer office hadn't bothered him this day. She had deflected a couple of phone calls. Thursdays were important to Russ, and Eileen was protective of them. Only once had she interrupted him with a question about the order of service. And he heard her muttering when the folding machine started wrinkling the bulletins. After a jam and some loud banging, she had decided to fold the bulletins by hand—again. "Get a better crease that way," she said.

Now, the only noise was the occasional turning of pages as she read a novel. Russ glanced at the clock.

"Is the bulletin done?" he called through the door partly open between their offices.

"Yes." Eileen was efficient.

"What time do your kids get home?" He knew the answer.

" 'Bout three-fifteen." It was almost three.

"If everything's ready for Sunday, why don't you go on home," he told her. "There's no need for you to sit here."

Within two minutes he heard the snap of the deadbolt, the slam of a car door, the scratch of tires. He waited. Silence. Then the fan motor on his computer purred, the mouse clicked, and in an instant Russ was oblivious to everything else.

He had no idea how much time passed. It didn't matter. Russ looked until he could wait no longer. Then he hurried down the hall. Knowing he was the only one in the building, Russ slipped into the men's room, and masturbated.

The church of a lifetime


Woodland Church was a plum. In the dozen or so years since he graduated from seminary, Russ had pastored three churches in mostly rural settings, each a little larger than the one before it. "This is a good move for you," the denominational executive in charge of the region said.

Russ knew it was.

Woodland was a thriving suburban church. Dayton, only 45 minutes away, was growing in the church's direction. The church had a reputation for treating ministers well. Every pastor within a 300-mile radius wanted this church. So Russ was surprised when the committee requested him. He was experienced and was considered a good preacher. And Russ was at the right age, in his early forties, where most everyone in the congregation could relate to him. This was indeed a good move. Once at Woodland, he couldn't imagine aspiring to any other church. "I'll probably retire there," he surmised.

Russ thought this move would be good for his family also. His wife, Angie, wanted to be nearer her aging parents. She wanted their children to get close to their grandparents. Grandpa and Gram lived in Dayton.

Their oldest daughter, Cassie, was a sophomore in high school. She made friends quickly and would find her niche right away. Russell Jr. was turning six and would enter first grade there. Only Rebecca, their middle child, worried Angie. Becca spoke often about the friends she'd left behind. She would face junior high without them. Angie's mother said Becca looked thin. Russ attributed the awkward transition to adolescence.

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Winter
Winter 2001: Leading Broken People  | Posted
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