This week I received a box of books from the library of Rev. Jim Burns who recently passed away. Jim was a long-time MCC pastor who spent a large portion of his career serving MCC of the Rockies in Denver, and he was involved in a wide variety of leadership roles throughout his career. He was a wonderful man of faith.
I was surprised and honored to get a call from the executor of his will offering to send a small part of his extensive library to me. Books are sacred to all readers, and I think they hold a special place in the heart of pastors. As I carefully unboxed the books, I immediately felt Jim's presence. Jim was an avid reader...these books were not in his library for nothing...he read his books. And that fact was so immediately obvious. Coffee stained covers and pages, boarding passes that had been recruited as bookmarks, dog-eared pages, highlights and notes...so many signs of the brilliant mind of my colleague whose spirit and heart had lingered over these very pages.
As I picked out which ones I would start reading now and placed others on my shelves for later, I couldn't help but consider the ways that these books might someday end up on the shelves of some other pastor, how someday it will be my highlights, my dog-eared pages, and my boarding passes that will be discovered like a treasure map by a friend after I'm gone. While some people love a new book, I have always enjoyed being the second or third reader...able to follow the trail marks of the previous travelers who left behind signposts for the best parts and personal additions to the text in the margins. The bittersweet thought of someone allowing my highlights to guide them through some of my favorite books really stirred in my heart.
As the Spirit was moving in my heart, I started to remove one of those boarding pass bookmarks from one of Jim's books. I glanced at where he was going when he read this book. Chicago to Hartford. July 13. No year. "Huh," I thought, "never realized they didn't put years on boarding passes." I turned toward my trash can to throw away the make-shift bookmark, and then I thought better of it, "No. This book is Jim's. The boarding pass stays." I thanked God for Jim and then decided that I'll mark my place with his boarding pass, and someday in the distant future, I hope someone else will use it mark theirs as well.
Whether it is the notes and marks you make in your books or the memories you leave in the hearts of your friends, do your best to leave a good trail guide for those who may one day endeavor to find their way in this life by following in your footsteps.
Your Fellow Traveler,