Reflections from Pastor Erik: Hand-Made Beauty

I have always been amazed at artistic people, particularly those who can make beautiful things with their hands. This is probably because I have very little artistic ability, and no creative instinct. I would never know what to make, or have the patience to make it! One place I find such awe-inspiring work is Zimbabwe. There, roadside markets of hand-made crafts are a popular attraction, and the most commonly sold items are sculptures made of soapstone.

Soapstone is a very soft stone, making it easy to chisel and easy to polish into a dark finish. Popular soapstone carvings are African animals, figures of families, or candle holders. At home I have 2 sets of soapstone bookends made to look like rhinos or giraffes, and in my office I have a much rarer piece: a United Methodist cross and flame!

One day last month I found some men working on soapstone sculptures which would later be sold. I asked them to show me the process by which these pieces of art are made. First, they showed me a light gray piece of rock – soapstone in its original state, an abundant rock in southern Africa. They take a hammer and chisel to that rock to create the rough figure of whatever it will be: an animal, a family or something else.

The next step requires a file and maybe some sandpaper to create smoother surfaces and greater detail. But it still looks unfinished. So the artist heats up the stone over a fire, then applies black shoe polish with a brush and cloth. The heat allows the stone to accept the polish more easily. When it cools, the product is finished.

Every time I go to Zimbabwe, I bring soapstone carvings back. To me, they are a visible reminder of two things. First, Zimbabweans sitting on the side of the road with rocks and tools in their hands create beautiful works of art in a way I cannot. I may have more money or more education than them, but they offer the world something I will never be able to give.

Second, these carvings remind me how God sees us: not as the ordinary rocks we are, but as the beautiful creations we could be. God takes a hammer and chisel to our shapeless forms, then files us smooth and warms us over a fire before the final step of polishing. Once we are polished, God gives us to the world as a hand-made creation, beautiful and unique. As Isaiah 64:8 says, “All of us are the work of [God’s] hand.” Not only that, but all of us are also beautiful in God’s sight.

Summer Blast

August 15th – 10 am to 2 pm at Avery

Games, Crafts, Face painting, Food, Snow Cones, and a special visit from the North Franklin Volunteer Fire Company! Bring the whole family for summer fun!

There will be fresh apple pies, peach pies, and peach cobbler for sale!

Rain date: Aug. 22.