“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”
Most of you know that I love working with leather; it is my number one hobby and favorite pastime. But you may not know that I used to really enjoy and do a lot of woodworking, too. Many factors have greatly limited how much (or little) I’ve worked with wood over the last 10-15 years but a new trend called “upcycling” has brought this hobby back into the forefront of my mind.
If you’re not familiar with it, Upcycling us basically taking some worn out or generally worthless item or material and re-making it into a new, functional and valuable item. For instance, I have been working on a coffee table made from 100% salvaged wood that looked like it was good for nothing other than the landfill or burn barrel. In fact, upon seeing it piled in the bed of truck a few weeks ago one of my Brothers called “craft wood”, or maybe he used a similar word that only sounded like “craft”; I’m not sure. But I digress…
It occurred to me that the grace extended to us is a lot like the Lord’s way of “up-cycling” us. After all, we are, in our unregenerate state, nothing more than depraved sinners worthy of the justice of a holy and righteous God. And yet He made a way for us to be “up-cycled” into a brand new creature, imparting His pure righteousness to each one that will by faith accept Jesus Christ as the Savior they so desperately need. Think about that: from enemy to heir in an instant! Thank God for His way of “up-cycling” us from worthless to priceless. And thank God for Jesus, the One who paid the price for each of us.
Most all of you know that I wear braces on both of my legs. They are necessary for me to walk since I have so much nerve damage from a neurological condition I have called CES. In the 13 or so years that I’ve needed them I have often had on and off repairs to be made on them; I’m on my fourth or fifth set (I think) now since they like any thing suffer from wear and tear. The most common, at least in the past year or two, repair is to the rivets that hold the straps in place: I keep having “blow outs” since I had to go to a new prosthetics maker. Since this problem has been more frequent the last 12-18 months I have found that if I replace the rivets myself with Chicago screws I have almost now repeat failures. And I don’t have to go into the office for the repair, which can take days for an appointment.
These “system malfunctions” used to really bother me: no, they would upset and aggravate the daylights out of me. Sunday evening shortly before church time I had my latest rivet pop. It took longer than usual to replace because I had my three year old “assistant” keeping a close eye on my work. After it was done I realized that I hadn’t gotten one bit irritated, aggravated or upset over the ordeal, although I wasn’t happy I missed church.
Last night I was thinking about this, wondering why my change in attitude towards this usually irritating situation. And it dawned on me why: my perspective over the years and months about it has changed. If I have to use and repair these old braces for another 10 minutes or 50 years it’s just a temporary thing. I know that I’m headed Home some day and when I get there I’ll not need these things any more. Braces, canes, and all that goes with them will be done with. And I’ll be able to perfectly praise and worship my God then. Until that day I’ll just have to be patient, fixing and making do with an imperfect body, in a fallen world, looking forward with my eyes on Christ Jesus to that Heavenly Home.
For our grandson’s first birthday I made him a leather covered Bible; that was two years ago. This past weekend was Connor’s third birthday and on Sunday he took, for the first time, his Bible to church with him. He thought it was the best thing of the weekend and kept repeating “my Bible; Pap made Bible for me.”. I was really touched by how Connor loved that Bible. It was very cute to see him carrying it all over the place, looking at the tooling I’d done on it, and leafing through the pages. And add in the sense of pride I got because he understand that I had made it specially for him and, well, it was some thing I’ll never forget.
This made me think about how our Heavenly Father must feel when we spend time in and appreciate His Word. He gave us the precious gift of His inspired Word to guide us and to teach us all we need to know to be reconciled to Him and live this life in the center of His will. We should have the same childlike enthusiasm for that precious gift as Connor showed for his first Bible. And we should hope and pray for ourselves and our families that we never loose it.
Last month my daughter got me a maker’s stamp for my birthday. I’d wanted one for a while so I was thrilled to get it. Tonight I was speaking with a Brother that makes knives and he showed me a knife he had recently made. It is absolutely beautiful, too, I must say. On the blade he had etched his own maker’s mark, which he also designed. I was very interested in hearing how he put his mark on the blades. It required a template, some special chemical and a special tool. To put my mark on my items is much easier: I just take the stamp my daughter got me and give it a good “whack” with my maul. Of course working with leather compared to metal is like apples and oranges: they are totally different so the processes will be, too.
As I thought about this tonight it made me think of how God seals or puts His mark on His children. We are all grafted into His family at our new birth and marked as His. People are as different as snowflakes, much more different than leather and steel. But since the Lord made each of us He is well aware of that. No matter if we are closer to the properties of leather or closer to the hardness of steel, the Holy Spirit can mark us accordingly. The beauty of being born again, among other things, is being made anew; no matter what we used to be God can make us into what we should be.
This year I was just too busy to make any thing for Christmas gifts. I had so many other things on my plate I decided to forego making any leather craft gifts. That was the plan anyway…
My son took an order for a hand tooled wallet for a coworker. He called and asked me to pick him up a kit from the hobby store, which I couldn’t do: they were out of stock. So, he asks if I can make him a kit from scratch, which I could, and agreed to do. Then a few hours later he calls and says he has to work a double shift and needs the wallet by 6:30 tomorrow morning; can I make the whole thing? I agreed even though I probably shouldn’t have; the design was to include a figure carving of a deer head, which I’d never done before (any animal figure carvings for that matter) and really don’t have the “right” tools to do it. A few hours later and I ended up with a pretty decent project. And having learned a few things to boot!
The entire “kit” was hand cut and after carving and finishing it was hand sewn and laced. I used Tandy Leather products for most of the finish along with a few other items to get this nice rustic look. SuperSheen was my resist, EcoFlo briar brown highlight was next, followed by two spray coats of Krylon clear acrylic satin. I then used my secret weapon: Kiwi shoe polish in brown. This takes the edge off the excessive (in my opinion) shine and warms it very naturally, along with giving a bit more highlight.
I know the deer isn’t perfect but not bad for a first try. And one that was not planned for or had the correct tools to do.
The interior came out nicely I think. I sewed the top edge instead of lacing it as I usually do. This greatly reduced the bulk and make it much sleeker. I painted the top edge with my own recipe of edge dressing: one part acrylic paint (black here) mix with one part SuperSheen.
The lace is goatskin. I like its strength and performance. And I think it’s a great value for my money. It’s a combination of single (on the thinner edge) and double loop lacing. I also found a new-to-me way of ending my lacing. And I’m extremely happy with the new way and how it looks. It’s detailed in one of the teaching manuals I got from TLF, though I can’t recall the title at the moment.
So, he’s happy, I learned a thing or two and I got forced into relaxing for a few hours at my favorite hobby. Oh, and someone is getting a nice hand crafted wallet for Christmas. I guess this one is a win-win-win.
Today I had the pleasure of instructing about three dozen kids and several adults in the art and craft of leather work at our association’s church camp. I’ve done this before and I always enjoy every minute of it. But today I didn’t enjoy every minute: I smashed the tar our of my finger with a two pound mallet and the was nothing to enjoy about it! The kids were all concerned and my brothers and sisters were kind of enough to not take any jabs at me for my bad luck, even though it was a prime opportunity.
This evening I was thinking about some of the jokes that could have been lobbed at me and one sticks out in my mind: do as I say not as I do. I think this is because of the good discussion we had along this line at Wednesday night prayer meeting.
The Bible clearly teaches us that we are to live our lives in a manner that brings glory to God and reflects Jesus through our deeds and thoughts. It asks, essentially, do we practice what we preach? We are to be the light of Christ to the world. And a light won’t penetrate very far if it’s tucked away under a basket.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.