Before He Was Savior, He Was Carpenter

My father was a very hard worker. He used to be a road construction foreman, and he was one of those guys that knew just enough about how everything worked to be dangerous. Having grown up on a farm, he could fix just about everything that went wrong in the house or under the hood of car—well, “fix” is a term to use loosely. He could at least “jimmy-rig” stuff together with wires and duct tape until the electricity came back on or the plumbing worked again—for a while.

When I was in grade school, my parents took up a little hobby that turned into a side business. My father ended up being really good at carpentry at the height of country décor in the 80s. I remember watching him in his shop, his pencil behind his ear. His well-worn hands—a little dirt under his fingernails—precisely put shelves and benches, hutches and cupboards together. And at times he would restore antique furniture that people brought to him. After all of the measuring, sawing, pounding, and sanding, something useful and sturdy and full of character would emerge.

With the little bit of exposure I’ve had in my life to carpentry, this week I was reflecting on the occupation that Jesus had before He was teacher, Master, or Savior. For 15 years he apprenticed and worked his step father’s trade as carpenter. I love how God could have chosen for Jesus to do any number of vocations, but the work that prepared the Messiah for ministry was carpentry.

A carpenter builds and repairs. Those two main things comprise the whole of carpentry: building what is needed and restoring what is broken. He went from doing those things thoughtfully with wood to doing those things for people. Building what is needed in us; restoring what is broken.

I also find it more than coincidence that the carpenter, whose hands drove many nails themselves, allowed nails to be driven into his. How the man who worked carefully with wood, hung on a rugged, thrown-together wooden cross. How the one that put broken people back together again and healed them was broken himself by some of those same people. But he in great love endured because he knew he was the architect of life and destiny for all of mankind. He was the only One to repair relationship between us and God, and us and each other. He would fulfill his order perfectly.

Everybody who is pursued by Jesus has different levels of brokenness, yet he meets all of us where we are and goes to work fixing, if we’ll let him. His practiced eye for details recognizes overlooked potential. When we doubt that we could possibly offer anything to the world, he scans all the pieces of our experiences, desires and strengths and he says, “I can work all that together for good.”

In fact, Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s own handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works which He has planned for us to do.” One simple act of surrender to put all of our broken pieces before him, and  he goes to work making all things new. That’s what Easter means to me this year.

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2011: Renew & Restore

My boy has me up bright and early this first morning of 2011. It is bitter cold and windy outside, and thanks to having to let the puppy out, I got to take in the first fresh air of a new year. Ah, optimism, hope and resolution recharge the human spirit on January 1 of any new year. For about 10 minutes or so.

This turning over of the calendar year has a certain “feel” to it, but it’s not like something magical happened overnight and the slate is wiped clean, an entirely new canvas was dropped from the sky, or a cosmic “reset” button was pushed. We still bring into 2011 all of the mindsets, attitudes, issues and circumstances we had a mere few hours before. Still, we hear a drumbeat a little louder coming from our hearts and our minds. It sounds a little like possibility.

But, I propose that God intents for us to wake up to that drumbeat every day. For renewal happens not in an instant, but a bit more each day until change comes. But is it even accurate to say that change “comes”? Or is it really doggedly and steadily pursued, sought, untangled, revealed, chosen along a long walk of obedience and faith in the same direction?

God is teaching me that He is all about renewal and restoration, but I have a very active part to play so that I may “agree” to all He wants to do in me, through me, for me. I was praying one day and God spoke to my spirit that “Often when my people come to me in prayer, they are looking for ‘relief,’ but what I want for them is total restoration, and that’s going to take some time.” One is fast-acting, but the other is long-lasting; which do I really want? Am I willing to engage fully in the process of renewal and restoration?

Check out these verses:

…for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices, and have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect knowledge upon] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it. Colossians 3:9-11 (Amplified)

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. Romans 12:2 (Amplified)

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
       His mercies never cease.
 Great is his faithfulness;
      his mercies begin afresh each morning.
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
      therefore, I will hope in him!” Lamentations 3:22-24

So really, this new year, I’m going to continue to trust God to do his part: renewal and restoration for me, for my son, for my husband. I have defined the places that need renewal and restoration, I have formalized my petitions and understand the character and promises of God that back up his will and desire to bring them to pass. Now my part is really engaging with a process: a concoction of possibility, promise, practice, perseverance and patience–all wrapped up in faith. Here’s to each new choice in each new day of this new year!