Gilland: Finding beauty in ashes

It was quite a week for my wife, her mother, and her brother. Cindy’s dad, the Rev. Jim Biram, passed away on March 4 after a long health battle that included a broken hip two months ago.

This man had been my mentor in ministry during my early years as a pastor, and he also served his denomination in state leadership in Kentucky.

To say that he is already missed is an understatement. Death is never convenient, but it is most certain for us all. His last couple of weeks were especially trying times for Cindy’s mom and brother Darrell, who was also my father-in-law’s pastor.

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Both were heroic in their care for Jim. There were many sleepless nights of sitting with him, trying to comfort his pain, and ease the suffering that marked his last weeks on earth.

Then, three days after Jim’s passing, Darrell received a nighttime phone call from the fire department, informing him that his church building was on fire.

Darrell arrived to a horrific sight. The entire building was engulfed, as firefighters worked in the darkness of night, trying to extinguish the blaze.

Early indications show that it was an electrical issue in the attic that caused the spark. Fortunately, no one was in the building, and caring neighbors contacted the fire department when the blaze became visible.

The next morning, light showed a stark picture of destruction. The building was a complete loss, along with all the resources that most every American church building holds: offices, classrooms, auditorium, sound system, musical instruments, a grand piano, projectors. All of it is gone.

Moments like these test a leader and reveal one’s deepest beliefs and convictions. Darrell is passing this test with flying colors. He sat in that parking lot until after 3 a.m., watching the firemen as they doused his building. But when he left that parking lot in the wee hours of Tuesday, there was one thing untouched, immovable and unchanged. And that was God, and His plan for this church.

I am reminded of the Bible’s words in Isaiah 43:2: “When you walk through the fire you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Clearly, that promise is not for things like church buildings and guitars, for they can be—and in this case were—destroyed by the flames. But our souls and God’s plans are held firmly in His hand.

We don’t yet know how all this will work out, but we have comfort and joy as we walk, trusting that the goodness of God will see this church through. He specializes in taking what looks to be ashes in our lives and transforming them into beauty.

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