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I have often been amazed at how someone can take something of no value to anyone else and transform it into some beautiful piece of art or something that is useful and valuable. What had been discarded, lost, or forgotten takes on a new life in the hands of the craftsman that sees, not the trash that it is, but the value and potential of what it can become. My uncle has always been good at seeing the value where others cannot. He looks at a deer antlers and sees pens, stands, and jewlery. He has been crafting exquisite writing instruments, which are more a work of art than a pen, for the past five years. His pens have sold at the Thomas Kincaid & Terry Redlin Galliers, fine jewlery stores, and boutiques throughout the United States.

I have been fortunate enough that my uncle has taught me his trade. Working at the lathe I have many quite moments to reflect. It is here that God impresses upon me His procee of shaping and molding a man. God sees in me the value that He created me to have, when all I see is failure and worthlessness. He loving works in my life to take away everything that hinders me from being all that He desires. He skillfully sands and polishes until I shine with His glory. And ultimately, when He is done, I find new meaning and purpose that I have not know before.

Each time I look at one of my pens I can't help but thank God for shaping me into something beautiful! I hope you enjoy reading "Lessons from the Lathe".

Monday, April 14, 2008

Purpose of pen making: use

Every time I look at the inventory of pens that I have made, I experience a sense of frustration. Sitting on my desk is a case of writing instruments that look really nice. They are shiny and unique. They write really well, yet they are just sitting there. A pen can look beautiful and write well but it is of no use as long as it sits in a box. The reason I make pens is so that someone will use them. I want them to enjoy writing with it because it writes well, feels good in their hand, and because it is so unique. I want their friends to look at the pen and ask where they got it, who made it, and how they can get one.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God created us anew for a reason and purpose. He desires that we fulfill that purpose. In Romans 12:6-8, Paul talks about the way that God has gifted each of us differently and given us each a unique purpose. To each person he says, “Use the gift that God has given you.” It is His desire that we use our gifts for His purpose.

In the same way that a craftsman desires to see his handiwork be put to use, God desires that His workmanship be used for its intended purpose.

Meditation starters:
Do I know the purpose and gifting that God has for me?
Am I a useful tool in God’s hand or do I just look good sitting on the shelf?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Purpose of pen making: Sense of accomplishment

Why do I make pens? I find pen making to be a good diversion. I experience a sense of accomplishment working at the lathe. I receive a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction from taking an antler, sometimes weathered and worn, and watching the beauty that comes as I chip away the exterior and shaping it into something new and beautiful; giving it a new purpose that it did not have before. All of life, with its troubles, worries and cares disappear as I lose myself in my craft. I feel such a sense of pride and satisfaction as each pen takes shape. It is extremely gratifying to have others express admiration for something that I have created.

Can you not sense that same feeling in God? In creation, as He completed each day's work, He would look at all that He created and say, “It is good.” He took pleasure in His work. And when He finished the week of creation as He made man, He looked at all He had made and said it was very good. You can almost hear His pride as He admired the work of His hands. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus.” I believe that God takes pride as He shapes us into new creatures. I believe He rejoices as He watches the “chips" fly as He removes the rough spots from our lives. I think all of heaven rejoices to see God’s new masterpiece take shape.

Meditation starter:
When do I experience a sense of pride and accomplishment in my life?
Do I allow God to experience a sense of pride from what He is trying to accomplish in my life?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

When does the process end?

Many times my wife asks, “Are you ever going to quit making refinements to those pens?” She doesn’t understand why I am never satisfied. I have a strong desire for the pen to be the very best it can. If I see any imperfection, I desire to fix it. I will switch top barrels to achieve better color coordination, file or sand rough spots, or occasionally completely tear down and rework a pen if I feel that it needs to be done. My desire is not to just make a pen in which the owner can take pride, but one that will reflect well on me as the craftsman.

I believe that this is the same desire that God has for us. He continually works in our lives transforming us, shaping us, and “conforming us to the image of His son,” Romans 8:28-30. Philippians 1:6 says, “…that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God will work on perfecting His children until the day He calls us to Himself, when we will be “changed in the twinkling of an eye,” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.

Until that day we can be confident that the refining process will continue. That process will include trials, tribulation, and persecution. These are the tools that God most often uses to achieve His desired results in the life of His children.

Meditation starters:
Have I learned to see trials as God’s perfecting work in my life?Do I allow God to work as He chooses to shape my life as He sees fit?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Process: Inspection and Rework

After I complete a pen I inspect it for imperfections and defects. I look to make sure that the colors, size, and texture of the top and lower barrels complement each other. I check to make sure that the top and lower barrels come together without gaping. I make sure that the tip and the end cap match up with the edges of the barrels. I feel each pen for rough spots. I check to make sure that the pen writes smoothly.

Many times I will disassemble the pen and put it back on the lathe because I am unhappy with some small flaw that needs correcting. I may need to get the cutting tools out again or I may just need to run through the sanding process once more. I may need to use the barrel cutter to even the cut of the barrel so that the tip, band or end cap do not gap when put together.

God does the same with us. As He works in our lives, He inspects us for those areas that need to be smoothed or rework. He is not opposed to disassembling us and putting us back on the lathe when necessary. He is like a loving Father who disciplines and corrects his child. Proverbs 3:11-12, “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.”

Meditation Starters:
How is God working to make the needed refinements in my life?
Do I submit to God’s loving correction?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Process: Assembly, part 3

The process of assembling the pen requires pressure to join the pieces together. The center band, tip, and the twist mechanism are attached to the lower barrel. The appropriate amount of pressure must be used when inserting the twist mechanism so that the precise depth is achieved. If the point does not extend from the tip to the correct length, the lower barrel is put into the press again. This process continues until the mechanism is properly seated. The cap nut is pressed into the upper barrel and the clip and upper cap are screwed into place. The upper barrel is slid onto the lower barrel and the pen is complete.

I am reminded that in every step of spiritual formation God uses pressure to bring His children into maturity. Think about all the great men of the Bible; how did they become great? God put them through trials and struggles. It was through persecution that God caused the early church to grow. God shaped Paul into one of the greatest fathers of the early church through the struggles which he faced. In 2 Timothy 2:10-12 he reminded Timothy about his persecutions and suffering. He ends this passage by saying that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This is how God shapes a man – through persecution. He knows how much pressure and how long to apply it to achieve His desired results.

Mediation starters:
What persecutions, trials, or struggles am I facing?
How is God using these to achieve His purpose in my life?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Process: Assembly, part 2

Once the antler pieces have been suitably formed they are ready for assembly. The lower barrel is prepared with the tip and center band. The twist mechanism is inserted and the ink cartridge is screwed into the twist mechanism. The cap nut is pressed into the upper barrel and the clip and upper cap are screwed into place. The upper barrel is slid onto the lower barrel; the pen is complete. It is the pen pieces that have been inserted which transform the antler into a pen.

Titus 3:4-5 says, “(God) saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.’” It is what God does in us that transform us into something new. He inserts His Holy Spirit into our lives, through whom we become new creatures. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” In Philippians 2:13 he reminds us that it is “God who works in (us) to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” It is His provision that enables us to perform the new function to which we have been called.

Meditation starters:
How am I demonstrating that God is at work in my life?
Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate His fruit in my life?

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Process: Assembly, part 1

It takes more than just an antler to make an antler pen. Something new must be introduced into the prepared antler; the tip, center band, clip, and upper cap must be attached. Most importantly the twist mechanism and ink cartridge must be inserted. Without these pen parts, you only have two polished, hollow pieces of antler. It is what is inserted into the antler that makes it a pen.

This makes me think of my own efforts as I have tried to live the Christian life. I have tried to clean up the outside by going to the right places and doing the right things. But until God changed my heart, I may have been polished on the outside but I was hollow on the inside. In Matthew 23 Jesus harshly criticizes the religious leaders. Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” says, “Be careful about following (the religion scholars and Pharisees). They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer.” Jesus’ term for them was whitewashed graves! Paul warns in 2 Timothy 3:2-5 about those who have “form of godliness but (deny) its power.”

A person trying to live the Christian life without Christ is like polished, hollow pieces of antler. They can no more become a Christian, apart from the introduction of Christ into their lives, than antlers can become pens without the introduction of the pen parts!

Meditation Starters:

Am I trying to live the Christian life in my own strength?
Am I like those who have a “form of godliness but deny its power”?