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In spite of our flaws

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Some of you may remember that up until my recent retirement, I spent the last almost twenty-eight years working for Honda. There are a great many things that one learns when surrounded by a culture that is completely foreign to your own, and I will always be grateful for the many life lessons I learned while there.

I still remember my first nervous days at Honda, days in which I often found myself thinking “what have I done, and what am I doing here”? To say I endured a bit of culture shock would be a huge understatement, as every day I was exposed to ideas, philosophies, and customs unlike anything I had ever seen or heard.

In my new hire orientation for example, I learned that the Japanese placed a great deal of emphasis on ‘Respect’. So much so, that the foundational operating principle that guides Honda is ‘Respect for the Individual’.

It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, it doesn’t matter what your race or ethnicity is, it doesn’t matter if you are a college graduate or if you had to drop out of school to go to work at an early age. ‘Respect for the Individual‘ means every person is valued.

Every operational decision is based upon that principle, and it has served the company (and those who worked there) very well. As an aside, one cannot help but wonder how much better off all companies would be if they placed this same priority on ‘Respect for the Individual‘.

In my career at Honda, I was exposed to many different and unique aspects of the Japanese culture. What was common, or normal from my limited American perspective of things became something entirely different when looked at through the lens of a people who date back to the 8th century.

Take a broken pottery vase for example. In my eyes, a broken vase is just that; broken and no longer suitable for the purpose for which it was created. Broken, useless, and ready for the trash.

To the Japanese however, that broken vase represents something entirely different. You see, they have a form of art called ‘kintsugi’ (pronounced keen-TSOO-gee), where a broken piece of pottery is put back together again with lacquer and then dusted with gold powder.

To them, the once broken pottery is made even more beautiful because of, not in spite of, its many imperfections.

I like to think of our new lives in Christ in much the same way. All of us were broken vessels at one time, ready to be discarded until God placed us back on the potter’s wheel, where the Master Potter turned us into a beautiful masterpiece.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” 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 18:1-4

God takes us just as we are, flaws and all, imperfections too many to list, and applies His special touch to our lives. The result is something far more beautiful and valuable than what He started with.

I hope you will remember this the next time the enemy tries to convince you that you are too broken, too damaged, too marred to be of any value.

In the hands of the Master, your beauty is only beginning to shine through.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

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Chiseling away…

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I’ve always been fascinated by how things are made. While the finished product is what most are interested in, I want to see the process of how something was made.

formed steelBack in the day, as they say, I used to work with steel and iron. I learned to use various machines to cut, roll, bend, and press steel and iron into pieces that would either be bolted or welded together to make a finished product.

To the untrained eye, it is hard to imagine that beautiful scroll work, ornate sculptures, and even structures once were nothing more than a flat piece of metal or iron. Yet put that same piece of metal in the hands of a skilled craftsman, and the magic begins!

It’s the same with a stone carver. Just think of some of the world’s most beautifully carved works of stone, such as Michelangelo’s sculpture of David. This masterpiece took nearly four years to complete and stands 17 ft. tall. Yet it started out as a huge slab of marble!

david_statue

touropia.com

I often think of God as the Master Craftsman. He takes an ordinary, “nothing special about us” person like you and I and makes something beautiful out of us.

One swing of His hammer at a time!

Rejoice when you find yourself upon God’s anvil, for He is shaping you into what He knows to be something beautiful.

Rejoice when you find yourself upon the Potter’s wheel, for it is in this process that He is removing the impurities in our lives.

Rejoice when you feel the blow of the hammer and chisel, for God is chipping away at this rough exterior in order to reveal the beauty only He knows lies beneath the surface.

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.   Isaiah 64:8

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.   2 Corinthians 5:17

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.   Ezekiel 36:26

More precious than gold…

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I was awake very early this morning, visions of a potter’s wheel filling my thoughts. The words delivered unto the prophet Jeremiah kept being repeated over and over in my mind.                                                                                                                                                         “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” 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 18:1-4   potters wheel

This was a message intended for the nation of Israel, yet like so many of its kind is just as applicable to the Christian today. We are continually kept on the potter’s wheel, constantly being shaped and conformed into a vessel that He can use.

For many of us, just to know we are on the wheel, in His hands, is enough. Yet being conformed into His image for our lives can be a painful process, as many of us can attest. What’s more, just being on the wheel is not the end of the process.

If you have ever worked a piece of clay into an object, or have visited a potter to watch the process in action, you learn that it isn’t as easy as you may have thought. It takes many hours in the hands of a skilled potter to produce a beautiful vessel, hours spent being pulled, pinched, gouged, and trimmed.

Once a particular piece has been made, it must be set aside and allowed to air dry for several hours. After this, the most important part of the process happens when the piece is placed into the fire.

This is the same process that your Heavenly Father uses when shaping his children on the Potter’s wheel. Just when we think the long ordeal of being conformed to His image is over, the trials and tests we’ve endured, the stripping away of self, there remains a final part of the process. One that cannot be skipped or shortened.

The fire awaits us. Just as the potter uses a kiln that fires to a temperature in excess of 2200 degrees, we too must have our faith tried by fire.  

Peter said it best when saying “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”   1 Peter 1:7

Your faith is much more precious than gold that perishes. I like that. I like that Peter reminds us that our faith is going to be fire tested, not for our glory or honor, but for God’s.

Each of us are chosen vessels, and as such our faith will be tested in the fire. For many of us it is a fire of addiction. For others it is the fire of abuse. Still others walk through the fire of illness and afflictions.

What we must remember however, is that the fire is not sent to punish. The fire is sent to refine.

Be blessed,

Ron

The inspiration for this post came from a post written by my dear friend Anna Waldherr, entitled Dreams of Glory. I encourage everyone to visit her site, where you will find an informative,encouraging, and enlightening perspective on matters of the heart. Anna has been a tremendous source of inspiration and encouragement to me, and has been chosen for such a time as this to spread the message of hope to those who may be without. She is a woman of God that I esteem highly.