Our friend Gary stood next to the big Ponderosa pine in our front yard and remarked, "That tree could be around 300 years old. It probably has so many board feet of lumber in it.” I can't recall the number. Gary worked in a lumber yard until he got injured.
Our friend John Christopher, a poet and wood carver, spotted a cedar burl and saw the face of an old man and a poem in it. I might have passed it by or picked it up for firewood.
“God’s Withered Rose”
I’m not a rose so withered
that my heart can no more ache,
nor have I ceased to will to give
though it’s now my lot to take.
For time has done its number
on my old and dying shell,
but still inside this framework
is a person, can’t you tell?
A person who once laughed and played
in the sunshine of my youth,
loved and had a family,
raised them in the Truth.
The joys I shared in friendships,
the sorrows shared in loss,
I still desire to share again,
though that avenue seems lost.
I’m in prison – could you visit me?
just let me know you see,
that despite my feeble dying frame,
it’s still worthwhile to know me.
I walked by a pile of discarded cedar fence posts. At one time I would have picked them up and used them for firewood. But God gave me new eyes to see into the heart of the cedar post. I suddenly saw Jesus’ forever word in the old weathered post.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
One balmy spring evening Peter and Rebekah took a leisurely stroll down the road and across the meadow near their home. With them was Suzie, their son’s golden retriever, heavily laden with pups due to be born the next week. Their destination was a small hill with a fence running across it; and as it came into view Peter started to get very excited. It was a very old fence line, made of cedar posts that were gray with age and leaning in every direction. A portion was torn down to make way for a dirt road, with a small pile of posts lying beside it. With a gleam in his eye, Peter made his way to the pile. He examined each piece carefully with the practiced eye of a man familiar with wood and the inherent qualities that are often lost to the casual observer. “This one is good, and this one too”, he murmured, picking up several pieces and laying them down again. He shouldered one, decided it was too heavy, and exchanged it for another, lighter piece. Happily he set off for home, carrying his treasure with joy and pride. Suzie ambled contentedly along, slowly trotting after birds and smelling all the good scents of spring in the carpet of new grass.
As they walked along Peter started to reminisce as to the life and times of the post he was carrying, wondering what tree it had come from, who had cut it down and when, and what sights it had seen and experienced during its long life. He pondered its feelings as it was cut to size and placed in the ground, wire being strung between it and its brothers to fence in the cattle that were brought to the meadow every summer to graze. He thought of the beautiful sunrises it had enjoyed as it faced east to the Rocky Mountains and also of the sunsets as they played across the face of the mountains, setting them afire with gold and rose and mauve. He knew it could relate times of being buried under many feet of snow by winter storms as they swept across the sky from the mountains and of watching lightning play around the meadow during summer thunderstorms. And still it stood strong.
He wondered how it felt when workmen came again, this time with huge bulldozers, crudely pulling up the post and many of its brothers to make way for the road that was to bring homes to the secluded meadow. As it lay there, tossed aside, did it wonder if this was the end of its usefulness? Would it just stay there indefinitely to sink slowly back into the ground from whence it came, or would it be gathered for firewood to heat one of the homes soon to be built? What would it say as it was riding along on Peter’s shoulder, then stacked in the garage? Did it have any inkling of the new life that would soon be coming?
Under the contemplative gaze of Peter over the next few days it felt that something new was happening. When it was gathered up along with several of its brothers and taken to a woodshop, fear came as it saw the pieces of electrical equipment and then felt the sharp edge of the saw as it was cut in different lengths, then trimmed on two sides. It knew that this, indeed, was the end; it was dying and soon would be no more. After the big cuts the sanding came; over and over again the abrasive surface of the sander was run across the cut sides, wearing them down until they resembled satin as smooth as any queen’s gown.
Now the beauty of its colors, the pattern of its grain, and the sweet aroma that had been hidden for so long was revealed. It wondered what would happen next as Peter ran his fingers over the smooth surface, admiring its beauty, holding up first one pattern with God’s Word on it, then another, to the side with the largest cut, contemplating what words would best fit its personality. It heard the prayer of Peter’s heart as he talked to Jesus, asking Him the purpose for which He had made that particular piece of wood, and marveled at the possibility of new life.
The decision made, Peter gently applied some sandblast stencil tape to one side of the wood. He transferred the Scripture pattern to the tape and started the cutting process with a sharp X-Acto knife, going around the outside of the letters. Although the knife bit very little into the wood, it felt as if it were being crucified and torn into shreds, crying out in pain. After a few minutes the excess tape was pulled away, leaving only the tape that formed the precious Words that were to be its new purpose for being.
Again it was stacked in the garage along with its kindred, who also were covered with tape that proclaimed the Word of God. After a while they were gathered up, put in the car, and carried across the mountain to another workshop. One by one the pieces were taken into the shop where great noises and clouds of dust were issuing forth. The post was finally taken in, set on a rack and a huge hose was pointed at it. The roaring began and as the sand hit it and began to eat away at its surface it groaned in agony. “The pain is too much to bear, I will surely be completely done away with”, it cried as it felt the sand biting deeper and deeper into its innermost being. Suddenly the noise stopped and all was still. Peter gently blew the dust away and saw deeply into the heart of the post where the beautiful sunset colors of gold, lavender and burgundy were now revealed in three dimensions instead of one.
The post was again placed in the car, taken back across the mountains, laid out on the worktable in the garage, and the tape was removed, revealing the letters that now stood out in bold relief. Again it was sanded, then covered with a soothing stain and a clear lacquer, listening to the music in the background praising God and glorifying the One Who does all things well. It heard, as it was being clothed with the beautiful shades of stain, blessings being offered up to the Lord for making such beauty as was being observed in it, and praises for the Word that it was now proclaiming—”LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS”. In the polished surface He Who has loved us from the beginning looked down and saw, not only His Word, but also His glorious reflection. As the post rested, exhausted but happy, it seemed that it heard, in the quiet recesses of its being, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”.
This story was initially a part of the book “The Wood Blossom”, a Search for Sanity in an Insensitive World. It was published in 1983 and was brought up to date twenty years later. The book is now titled: “To Hell and Back”. It can be read and or copied at: www.stretcherbearers.com
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Lord, help us to see that a tree is more than so many board feet of lumber. Lord, help us to see that an old man is more than an old man and a piece of weathered wood. Lord, help us to see that an old cedar post is more than firewood. Lord, help us to see that our log cabin was once many beautiful trees. Lord, help us to see that a piece of paper was once a part of a lovely tree.
Our first newsletter, published in February 1979, included these words:
Wood is currently the basic raw material used by Crafts for Christ.|
As trees glorify God in their natural setting, may they continue to
bring glory to their Creator as we reshape them with our hearts and
hands. The poem "TREES" by Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, born December 6, 1886
and killed in action near Ourcy, July 30. 1918 will express the sentiments of many.
Peter's "Happy Tree"
(Click on image for the "Happy Tree" story)
Don't you see, even this piece of paper was once a part of a lovely tree. Lord, we ask you to give us new eyes to see.
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All writings by Peter, the Lord's Scribe and Storyteller and all paintings by Rebekah, the Lord's artist are copyright free.