FIRE??? AGAIN????

This piece is mine!

(Sixth in a six part series) 

“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.” Jeremiah 18:1-2

Now that the glaze is dry and the shelf time is finally over, it’s into the fire!

Again!

This last firing will be at the highest temperature, and perhaps the most difficult process to endure. This firing will produce irreversible changes in the clay. It actually becomes glass. A piece of finished pottery, a vessel of honor fit for use in the palace of the King. Well, actually, it’s becoming a small tray in the humble house of the Youngs.

This time the clay must go through the fire alone. The ‘maturing’ fire!

Not only is the higher temperature of the kiln very strategic, but also the atmosphere and duration of the firing is crucial. The atmosphere within a kiln can be adjusted at this point to produce complex effects in the glaze.  For example, some glazes containing iron will fire brown in one atmosphere, but will be green in another, depending on the amount of oxygen allowed in the kiln. And it is the Master Potter who sets the atmosphere, knows how high the temperature must be and how long this piece must stay in the fire to become mature. And the true colors of the glaze are only revealed in this ‘maturing’ fire. Yes, all is revealed in the final fire!

Bowl by Marty McLendon (Masster Potter) of Ahava Pottery           Dish by McCarty Pottery

Isn’t it wonderful to know that through every step of the way the Master Potter watches us, knows us and never leaves us, even in the hottest fires of life? Early in the bisque firing we had other pieces (or persons) touching constantly, reassuring us as we pass through that we are not alone in the fire. However, it is in the maturing fire that the structure is actually changed from clay to glass.

And we must go through ALONE!

But wait! Didn’t our Master Potter say that he would be with us always? Didn’t He say that even in the fire he would be there? A resounding YES!! He is there! Watching the temperature carefully, making sure that it is not ONE DEGREE above what we can stand. He is there to set the atmosphere, releasing just the right amount of oxygen to shift and change the ugly gray glaze to shiny green, red or blue. He is there to determine the length of time that is required for us to become all that we were intended to be. Yes, He is there in the fire with us! The one who loves us most is there watching over each minute detail, insuring that we become the vessel of honor he so desired the first day his hand touched this clay. He is there!

So, my friend, whether you are being slammed, stuck on the shelf or sitting in the hottest of fires, HE KNOWS! He loves you! And He is there!

For you see, the hand that formed you has also engraved you on the palm of his hand. He used a nail and a cross 2000 years ago.

Now move through this final fire knowing that He who designed you is revealing the true colors of His heart in you. See the smile and laughter in His eyes as he admires His handiwork! Know the joy and pleasure of his heart as he lifts you up for the world to behold.  Hear the gentile strength, love and emotion in His voice as he whispers quietly, “I fashioned you in my image. I love you! You are mine!”

Yes! ‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house with Jeremiah! Observe His creativity, watch His skillful hands at work, glean from His great wisdom. But above all come away with the knowledge and assurance that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, one of a kind, and deeply loved by the Master Potter himself! A worthy vessel fashioned by His own nail-scarred hand!

Communion Plate & Cup By Sheila McLendon of Ahava Pottery

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Glazing: Making beautiful things out of dust!

(Fifth in a six part series) 

“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.” Jeremiah 18:1-2

There is much activity in the potters shed. Marty is glazing all of the bisque-fired pieces today. Coming into the shed I see about eight or nine 5-gallon buckets filled with gray or tan slurry. I’m really thinking it was named correctly: SLURRY. Thick, gunky looking stuff. And not at all the beautiful colors I expected to see! Explaining that the true color of the glaze comes out in the fire, I’m once again reminded of our loving heavenly Father who by his kindness changes our gunky, gray stuff into beautiful, breath taking color-In the fire!

But first to the glazing. I dip the bottom of my piece in hot wax so that the bottom will not hold the glaze, keeping this part of my vessel from adhering to the kiln shelf. Next I am told by Marty that I must keep stirring the slurry so that it will stay mixed as I dip my piece into the thick glaze. Marty shows me several samples of color and I choose a teal green with yellow undertones. I write this exact slurry name down on my original design sheet so that I can remember exactly which of the gray slurries I used. Making sure that all the surfaces are covered, I then set my piece on the shelf to dry! More shelf time!

My piece has been slammed, shaped, bone dried, fired once and now on the shelf again. Sure, I could just take my lovely, tan bisque-fired dish home. I don’t have to dip it into the thick, gunky slurry. I could quit right now. Who wants to get their hands in that stuff! But, as lovely as this piece is at this stage, it would serve very little purpose. You see, clay is a porous substance. This means that if liquid is placed in my unglazed piece, it would leak out of the open pores, making it good only for decoration purposes. Not really fit for any useful thing. It must go down into the gunk, let it dry, and wait for the fire.

You know, I clean up good on Sunday mornings for church. But how does that look on Monday morning, when all the gunk of the world comes creeping in? How does that look when my desk is piled high with unfinished work, dirty dishes in the sink, laundry to do and someone needs me to run an errand for them? What about the times I’ve volunteered one too many times to take a meal, watch someone’s children, and am just too tired to be nice today, especially to my family? Am I still ‘Looking good?” Or was my Sunday Morning smile merely a bisque-fired decoration? Can this vessel hold His living water for that thirsty person who needs my help, or the older neighbor who needs my smile and prayer? Yep! It’s time for glazing and a little more shelf time.

Lord,  help me to be patient as you continue to prepare me to be your vessel. Help me to know that each process is important in shaping me into your image. Help me to be willing to ‘dunk down’ into the gunky mess of this world, be willing to let this stuff dry all over me, and be willing sit on the shelf just a little longer. I want to be able to hold your living water to give to a dry and thirsty world. And help me to remember that you make beautiful things out of dust!

Did you say FIRE???!!!

(Fourth in a six part series) 

“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.” Jeremiah 18:1-2

This lump of clay has been slammed, kneaded, molded, shaped and is now bone dry. Time for the first fire. As I observed the tenderness with which Marty held my delicate piece, I realized just how fragile it is at this stage. I even held my breath as he gently placed it, along with several other pieces, into the kiln. This lump of clay was becoming my chosen vessel and at this time, more than ever it was vulnerable to being broken. I had conceived it, chosen it, fashioned it, and now I wanted to guard and protect it.

I pondered how kind, gentile and understanding our heavenly Father is when we are in a state of vulnerability, so easily broken. When we are weak, he carries us ever so tenderly and takes great care that we are not broken or chipped. My how I have underestimated His care, love and tenderness.

As Marty slowly, carefully loaded the kiln, I was shocked at how much he could get into that small round oven. He explained that pieces must touch during this bisque firing. As the temperature is slowly raised, the pieces help distribute the heat evenly throughout the kiln. Were it to go up too fast the pieces would crack or explode. The attentive potter listens as the temperature increases. If he hears sounds, he can quickly lower the temperature a little to keep other pieces from cracking.

Some scriptures came to me as I contemplated this ‘going through the fire together.’ “Bear ye one another’s burden” or “We are all part of the body of Christ, rightly fit together.”

Without the touching, one piece might get too hot too quickly, or another not hot enough and both would loose the benefits of the firing. The integrity of each piece affects all the others in the fire. Should one piece have an air bubble or a hard place, the whole batch of pottery in the kiln could be ruined. “A root of bitterness defiles many!” Lord, help us to keep our hearts pure, walk in forgiveness and keep our eyes on you. Not only for our own peace, but also to benefit others around us.

And when we are in the fire, we can rest assured that our Master Potter is watching and listening closely, knowing exactly how high to raise the heat, how long we need to stay in the fire and how slowly we need to come out. Even when we are in the hot, dark kiln of the Holy Spirit, remember we are becoming vessels, fit for His purposes.

Yes, Jeremiah, Go to the Potters House. There you will discover the tenderness, wisdom, and love of the Master Potter Himself. Ever present. “I will never leave you nor forsake you. I have called you by my name. When you go through the fire, you will not be burned.”

Next: The glazing! Beauty for Ashes!

Shelf Time til I’m Bone Dry!

 (third in a six part series) 

“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.” Jeremiah 18:1-2

My clay is ready to be formed into a slab. The Fun time has come! This lump is changing into a real vessel. I begin to roll it out into a sheet. Mmmm, Not as easy as I thought. It takes lots of elbow grease. In fact it feels a lot like work! As I push and pull the rolling pin I must be careful to keep the clay a consistent thickness. Finally I have a large, flat piece of grey clay.

It’s cutting time! As I carefully cut out the shape and size that I desire from this soft pliable clay and press a design into it’s surface, I’m reminded of the skill of the Master Potter as he uses his sharp surgical instrument to gently cut away a little piece of fear, an odd protrusion of anxiety, and then ‘press’ His design of joy, peace, patience into my life when I’m pliable.  I gently place the clay into the bowl for support so that it will hold it’s curved shape until it is dry and hardened. It’s looking good!

Ready for the fire? Not so fast. This lovely bowl must sit on the shelf for a while. Not just a couple of hours but for days, weeks or sometime months! It must become leather hard and then bone dry! And only a Master Potter can tell when it is ready to fire.

Has the Lord ever ask you to just sit on the shelf and wait? Has He called you to come away from it all and just wait? To become so thirsty for him until you are bone dry? It’s not easy. I get restless, bored, or disappointed. I feel like that lump of clay we started with. Sure, I had high hopes at first, even made it through the slamming, and the tugging and the cutting and the shaping, knowing that great things were just around the corner. But then I get put on the shelf to dry out! “So God, where is that future you promised in Jeremiah 29:11?” I wait and I complain and I whine.

And the Master Potter simply waits.

This waiting step is very strategic. The integrity of the piece is at stake. If fired before it is ready, the moisture would cause the vessel to crack and then it would go on the ‘Oops’ pile, no use for anythng.

Aren’t you glad our Father, the Master Potter, doesn’t have an ‘Oops’ pile. I’ve heard the saying, ‘God don’t make no junk!” and he doesn’t make mistakes either. Marty, my Master potter friend, watches the color change from dark to light and he can tell when this piece is bone dry, ready for the kiln. Our Master potter is patiently watching us, knowing that this shelf time is developing character deep within us if we will just rest, dry out and wait with him.

Thank you Father for the quiet shelf times with you. Times when we just sit quietly and meditate on your goodness, your character and your love. Help us, Lord, to understand that these are not to be times of frustration, but times of peace, joy and contentment. And Lord, in these times, help us to raise our eyes upward and catch a glimpse of your lovely face, see the twinkle in your eye and the smile on your face us as we simply wait on this shelf. And help us to remember that even though we may be on the shelf, we have not left the potters shed and you are there. From this perspective we have the opportunity to watch you as you work on other pieces of clay. We can observe as you toil over larger pieces and smaller pieces, take note as you smile at the accomplishment of your hands and we join you as you celebrate the wonder of your handiwork. In your presence in the potter’s shed, there is fullness of joy! Shelf time is not so bad after all.

The Slamming!

(second in a six part series) 

“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.” Jeremiah 18:1-2

After the design was conceived, I was ready to begin. As I began to knead this fresh lump of clay, it felt tough, there were some ‘hard’ spots and it would not really ‘give’ to my hands. This was hard work! Gradually, listening to Marty, the clay became pliable and workable. “But Lord, I don’t really want to change.” we whine as he begins to stretch and work with our hearts. “Why are your stretching me like this? Look, Lord, I realize I’m not exactly what you desire me to be, but come on, lumps are pretty nice sometimes!” Our loving Master potter seems not to hear our whining and continues to work, relentless in his pursuit of shaping us into his very own image!

Then the slamming came. Pow! Slap! Bam! Loud noises were coming from the impact of slamming this piece of clay has hard as I could on the table. And Marty stood quietly by and said, ‘Harder.” I began to remember the times in my life when I could hear the sound of my own heart as it was being slammed. Pow! You didn’t get the job. Wham! The death of parents! Bam! The tight squeeze of financial pressure! The dream that didn’t come true! “Lord? what is this about?” “Are you there?” “Where are you when I need to hear that comforting voice or feel your warm peace?” And His quiet, strong voice simply says, “Harder.” We’ve all been there. But the process continues.

Marty explained how this process is essential. This causes the fibers of the clay to elongate, stretch and homogenize. Proper kneading, wedging (a cutting process. Ouch!) and slamming cause the clay to become the right consistency and removes air bubbles and the hard places. You see if these air bubbles are not removed from the clay prior to the firing, the piece would explode in the fire. Totally lost forever. A heap of ashes. And the hard places would cause cracks or defects in the finished product. “Oh My! Lord, do I have those hard places? Those air bubbles?”

Does our Father enjoy or take pleasure in watching us being slammed or wedged or kneaded? No. But he allows it because he sees the fire ahead! He knows the high temperatures we will be facing and wants to see us make it through. When this slamming process is over this clay has become my clay, and I desire beauty instead of ashes. During this process my DNA is thoroughly kneaded into every fiber of it’s being. My heart is now in this clay.

Did you know that in Hebrew the word ‘beauty’ and ‘ashes’ are the exact same four Hebrew letters? They are just arranged differently. One spelling is ‘ashes,’ which is exactly what this clay would be if it were fired without the slamming. Ah, but when the letters are rearranged, like the fibers and particles of this clay, they spell ‘beauty.’ Our loving Creator, our Master potter has taken the time and the spent great effort to knead, slam and  rearrange our lives so that His DNA is totally integrated within our being. As we become ready for the fire, we will become beautiful instead of an ash heap! He has plans for us! Good plans! Plans to give us a hope and a future.

The Potter’s House “Just a lump of clay”

The Potters House Part 1 “Just a Lump of Clay”

(first in a six part series) 

“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.” Jeremiah 18:1-2

Have you ever been soaked, cut, kneaded, slammed, stretched, molded, put out to dry, then gone through the fire, covered with slime and into the fire again???

I am honored to be friends with potters Marty and Sheila McLendon. They offered the opportunity to come to their new pottery shed and ‘make’ something. My thoughts at this invitation were that I would go over one afternoon, pick up a piece of clay and shape it into a lovely bowl. Then, a few days later I would run by and pick up the finished product, my exquisite masterpiece, and proclaim, “Look what I did!”

Not so fast!!!  Marty, the wonderful teacher that he is, allowed me the privilege to work with the clay from start to finish. And work I did! The Lord told Jeremiah to go to the Potter’s house and listen. The Hebrew word there is Shama’ which means to hear with the intent to obey, discern, perceive, understand and then to publish, make it known. He had much to teach Jeremiah and much to teach me as well.

Before ever touching the clay, Marty had me draw and design this piece, the finished product! Oh! You mean I needed to know what the finished product would look like when I finished? You mean this piece of lumpy, gray clay held within it a design that only I knew? You mean I must know the end from the beginning, to have a plan for this piece of dirt? Yes, Ruthie, go to the Potter’s house, I want you to understand more fully not only who I am but how intimately we are connected!

As I was preparing to work with this clay I realized that indeed it was I who would choose the clay, process it, design and shape it. Everything about this piece was MY CHOICE. The destiny of this lump of clay was in my heart and mind before it was in my hand. Isn’t that just like our Father. We were in his heart and mind before we ever came to be. Before we were born, we already had a purpose and destiny! We were already loved, cared for, and the way of salvation was already opened to us before we were shaped in our mother’s womb. (Psm 139)  So my friend, You are no accident! You are one of a kind! You have His fingerprint in the core of your very being! You were made by him and for him, designed by his hand and shaped for His purposes, your destiny! You were his choice! And Oh! How he loves you.