Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clay Pots

"Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make."  Jeremiah 18: 3-4

Last weekend at church we had a special conference with a master potter.  He spoke and also made various objects of clay on his potter's wheel to demonstrate the lesson.  I have always wanted to work with clay like that and it was really interesting to watch him work.  I've heard that working the clay and forming it into something beautiful and usable is very difficult and that you have to have a very gentle touch in order for it to be formed into what was meant to be.  I'll tell you, though, this master potter almost made it look effortless.

I loved watching him form each little detail of the pieces.  I could have watched him all night.

The part of his message that I found very interesting was the fact that even though the pieces he had thrown looked nice when he stopped the wheel, they were not yet useful.  If you poured water in the vase and added flowers it might hold for a few minutes but before long, the water would work its way back into the clay and it would become simply another lump of clay ready to be re-worked again.

He said that in order for the clay pieces to be ready for use, they had to go through the fire of a kiln first.  Once the pieces have been through the fire, they are much stronger than they are fresh off the potter's wheel.  He said the temperature of the kiln is very important as well.  If he heats it too hot or leaves it in the kiln for too long, the clay will be destroyed.  The master potter knows exactly the temperature and length of time in the fire that the clay can withstand.

That concept is the same as the entire story behind this blog.  Just as a potter always has his hand on the clay, so the silversmith always holds the silver, carefully guiding it through the entire refining process.  And such is God's way with us.

I started to think recently of people I really admire.  People who have a sort of supernatural strength, even though they may not realize it.  Several names came to mind as I thought about their stories and their own time spent in the fire and the beautiful creations they became afterwards.  In the coming weeks, they will be sharing their stories here.  Check back soon to be inspired...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

You Don't Know Me

"He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him."  Proverbs 18:13

I was at the gym the other night getting some steps in on the treadmill and catching up on the latest important news (celebrity gossip magazines count, right?) when I came across an article that caught my eye.  It was about a female news anchor out in...well, somewhere... who received an email one day after filming an on-air segment.  It was from a viewer who wrote in to tell her that she was not a very good role model for young girls watching because she was overweight.  She was shocked that someone would write in solely to tell her she was fat and because of that, basically she was a bad person and should not be doing what she was doing.  Her comment afterward seemed to leap off the page at me... "You don't know me."

That is so true.  Her statement got me to thinking about the faceless culture we live in today where the meanest, nastiest things are said behind the safety of a computer, car window, or any other means of anonomity. 

Every driver around us in the morning is suddenly an "idiot" during our morning rush to the office.  What if that driver was the sweet little old lady who always brings flowers from her garden to her neighbors? 

Each momentary lapse in judgement makes someone a "loser."  What if that person hasn't slept for days because he's been taking care of his aging grandfather while at the same time working a full time job, dealing with a difficult child, and worrying how he's going to pay a large stack of hospital bills?

I remember an email that a co-worker on another shift sent to my boss about me one time saying that I was treating her unfairly and that I was out to get her because I didn't like her.  I was taken back.  My first thought was the same. "How can she say that when she doesn't even know me?"  I felt really hurt by her comments because I go out of my way to make sure everyone is treated fairly and with respect.  But when you're not there face to face, it's easy to make assumptions.

When I was growing up, I was extremely shy... and still am to a certain degree.  People used to tell me they thought I was stuck up because I didn't talk much.  I hated hearing that.  I didn't want them to think I was stuck up.  The truth was that I was really afraid of saying the wrong thing or that I just didn't know how to say the right thing but I wanted very badly to fit in and make friends.  Just like the TV news anchor, it was a subject that I was always very sensitive about.

Sadly, I've made the same types of assumptions about other people as well.  What I'm learning is that we need to have a little more grace in this day and age.  Before jumping in and judging the actions or character of someone else, maybe we should take a step back and realize there are reasons why people do the things they do and are the way they are.  Someone who acts really mean or tough may actually be very insecure and act that way to protect him(her)self from letting anyone else in for fear of being hurt.  That doesn't make it okay, but at least it may give a bit of understanding and help direct our prayers and actions.

A fitting prayer might be for eyes to see beyond the surface of a matter and wisdom to know a proper response.

Maybe you don't know me and I don't know you as well as we think we do.  "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him."  Just something to think about the next time you (I) are tempted to react too harshly based solely on what we see.