Category: Art

Art that connects with The Creator

Kristi Nash Harrison says she’s an attention deficit artist. “I jump from one thing to the next,” she told me when I caught up with her this week as she was preparing for what’s become known as “the most anticipated little craft show in Mechanicsville.” That would be The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends Holiday Open House at my Inspiring Handmade partner in art, Patti Jones’ home and studio: 8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, in Battlefield Green. This year (the show’s 17th) the fun begins Friday, Nov. 22, at 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and continues Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

For years, Kristi and Patti have joined their friends and fellow makers to create and show original art and crafts. And while her interests may be many, Kristi, a long-time local artist, and art teacher, says clay and paint are her mainstays. “Over the years, my art has evolved,” she said and explained that it always reflects various facets of her life. The crabs and water themes, for instance, are inspired by her mother’s love of life on the water.

glazed pottery cup with a crab
A sculpted crab crawls among sand and grass on a glazed cup. All glazes are lead-free and safe for everyday use with food and drinks.
Wonderfully illustrated crabs congregate on glazed plates. Pile them high with Christmas cookies and even when the baked goods are gone, these plates look amazing.
Whimsical dragonflies dance along the top of a glazed tumbler. Who wouldn’t be inspired by taking a sip or using a pen kept in this work of art?
A dragonfly prepares to light on a flowered lilypad on this glazed bowl. Want to make someone feel special? Serve them their favorite ice cream in what will surely become known as “the dragonfly bowl!”

This year Kristi’s also showing one-of-a-kind glazed bowls illustrated with majestic night skies.
“When I take my dogs out, Kristi explains, I love to look at the heavens and the stars. The heavens declare the glory of God,” she says, quoting Psalm 19. As an artist, she’s drawn to the sky and thinks of the northern lights and the array of colors you see in a sunset.
“I’ve also been inspired by the works of artists Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse,” she says.

Glazed bowls illustrated with a gorgeous night sky.
A crescent moon rises through a wondrous night sky draped in the Aurora Borealis on this glazed bowl.

As important as the art is to this creator who holds a master’s in art from Virginia Commonwealth University, Kristi’s work is about more than the image.
“I love sharing Scripture that’s a part of my life to help bring peace and inspiration to others,” she said. That’s one reason why her work has been so popular all these years. She said one woman who purchased a piece of her pottery told her she keeps her keys in it so that she’s inspired by it every time she leaves the house. “People have told me that they keep my work where they can see it every day and be reminded of God and their blessings. It helps them stay positive.”

You can see (and purchase) Kristi’s gorgeous pottery (all safe to use with food) and other work at this year’s The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends Holiday Open House starting this Friday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and finishing Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, in Battlefield Green. Long-time fans of the show will tell you to get there as soon as possible Friday to get your choice of the art, crafts, and delicious baked goods.


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“One of the most anticipated little craft shows in Mechanicsville…”


YOU’RE INVITED!
THE THREE WHINE OH’S & FRIENDS
HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE


WHERE
The home & studio of Patti Jones
8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111 in Battlefield Green
WHEN
Friday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
WHO
You & some friends, Christmas shoppers & arts & craft lovers
See you there!

It’s hard to believe that The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends holiday open house is getting ready for its 17th year! Little did we know all those years ago that we three friends would still be hosting one of the most anticipated little craft shows in Mechanicsville.

The show is always the weekend before Thanksgiving at my house (8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111) in Battlefield Green. This year’s dates are Friday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The line starts forming across my front yard way before the Friday, 3 p.m. opening. My husband, Gene, always warns the rookies, “Those women are crazy … a man could get trampled in there!”

But the only crazy thing would be to miss it! So join us to kick off your Christmas shopping and check out the latest arts & crafts, enjoy a glass of wine or some hot apple cider, and catch up with friends. Everything is handmade. There’s hand-thrown pottery, hand-made baskets, Christmas decorations, jewelry, and other artwork. And the feast isn’t just for the eyes. Some folks come just for the delicious pound cakes, fudge, jams, and pickles. You just never know what treasures you’ll find!

Plan to join us this year, Friday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. And don’t keep all the fun to yourself—bring a friend!

A sneak peek at this year’s show

Scenes from last year’s open house

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Remembering a wise & creative grandmother

Photo of Ruby and Will Price holding the toddler Stephen around 1968 or '69 in Pearisburg, Va.
Handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price
Handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price

My Grandma Ruby would have been 112 today. Born in 1907, she passed away just weeks before our first child was born in 2004. I’ve shared a little about her here, where I discussed the handmade furniture she created from scraps of wood for my mother to use with her dolls.

In honor of Ruby Cox Price Johnston today, I want to share some of what I wrote for her memorial service 15 years ago.

When I remember Grandma, I remember sweet iced tea. And pies and Christmas time visits (including the time she leaned too far and fell into the Christmas tree). I remember watching the Lawrence Welk Show and Hee Haw together by the wood stove in the house where I grew up. Grandma liked to stay very warm. There are countless memories of singing together. She loved the old classic hymns as well as the silly songs of long ago. She passed them down to my cousins and me, so we can sing the 1923 hit, “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” and “Carolina in the Morning,” first published in 1922.

When I remember Grandma, I remember praying. Grandma prayed and lived a life of godly devotion to her Lord and her family. She was not ashamed of the gospel, rather, she was ashamed of the many ungodly things in this world. For instance, she would never read a book any further than the first curse word she encountered. Over the course of her long life, she was a faithful member of several churches.

I learned these things from my Grandma Ruby:

  1. Be faithful to God and the things He calls us to do.
  2. Sing a lot.
  3. Things that you carefully make with your hands are beautiful and valuable.
  4. Pray often. I know she prayed for me.
  5. Love your family; be proud of your children and grandchildren. And tell them you’re proud of them and that you love them.

Grandma Ruby lived a quiet, often hard life, working with her hands in what many would consider remote rural places. She picked cotton and tobacco in the fields of North Carolina as a child. She raised my mother and her sisters, as well as several step-children, in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where if they had any luxuries, it was because she made them—toys, dresses, good food. She was never famous, but her legacy will reach far and wide through her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Thank you, Grandma, and Happy birthday. I love you.

Detail of handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price
Detail of handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price. The cracked mirror of the vanity, reveals some sort of bee keeping-related paper. My grandfather kept bees.
Detail of handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price
Detail of handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price
The old Price home
The home my grandfather built in Pearisburg, Virginia. This was where my mother and aunts grew up and was Grandma Ruby and PawPaw’s when I was little. Photo by Hannah Rountree

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Shining as the Sun

image of "Shining as the Sun" sculpture

It’s finished! Back in September, I shared a new work in progress. You can read that post here. I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished the piece, Shining as the Sun.

As I wrote last month, this is the first in a series of sculptures inspired by the verses of “Amazing Grace,” the beloved 1779 hymn by John Newton. However, I’m starting at the end because I’ve always loved the imagery of what we know as the last verse of the hymn:

“When we’ve been there
ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days
to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.”

But that verse was not written by John Newton. It was first recorded in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The verse was originally one of between 50 and 70 verses of a song titled “Jerusalem, My Happy Home,” which was published in a 1790 book called A Collection of Sacred Ballads.

Today, though, it’s sung as the closing verse of the hymn in congregations all over the world.

Detail from Shining as the Sun

I’ll be doing a very limited, yet-to-be-determined number of these sculptures. This first in the series is now available. Visit the shop to learn more.

Now I’ll move to the beginning and work my way through the hymn. First up will be the most well-known verse:
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

I’ll share the process with you as I go along and we’ll see how it takes shape together.

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The old black walnut tree

photo of Patti Jones on her family's farm with the black walnut tree

I recently traveled back home to visit my mom for a few days on the family farm in Wythe County, Virginia. I love that farm, which has been in my family for so many generations. The living monument that has stood guard over the farm all these years is a huge black walnut tree. In its younger days, it served as a property marker. In recent years, the graceful old tree has offered a place to hold countless family picnics.

And to every generation, the tree has offered its treasures for each to do with as they pleased.

My grandfather, Homer Umberger, gathered the tree’s walnuts and created unique carvings, like the one you see below. He created a menagerie of carved animals and figures from the walnuts, which will be the subject of a future post, so stay tuned!

Photo of Honest Abe walnut sculpture
Honest Abe, by Patti’s grandfather, Homer Umberger.
Photo of bunny hand-carved from walnuts by Patti's grandfather Homer.
Bunny hand-carved from walnuts by Patti’s grandfather Homer.

My dad gathered the walnuts and cracked them to give away to friends and family who loved to bake with them.

Today I’m gathering my own black walnuts to make dye for my pine needle creations and homespun yarn (more on that in an upcoming post!). It makes me smile to think of all the family history that has played out on this grand green. I hope the old tree will be standing guard, and offering its treasures for many years to come.

Not everyone has an old walnut tree, but we all have something. What do you make with what you have? Share it with us in the comment box below. We’d love to read about it and, with your permission, share it with the Inspiring Handmade family.

Stay on the wheel

Have you ever watched a master potter forming a new piece of work on his wheel? He’ll take a lump of clay, plop it on the wheel, add water, and turn the wheel on. That’s when the magic happens. His masterful fingers remove clay from where he doesn’t it want and apply pressure in just the right places to transform the lump of clay into the form that he has planned for it.

The metaphor of the potter and clay has long been applied to the human experience with God. The Bible is full of references to this ancient art form. Consider Isaiah 64:8: “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.”
Jeremiah 18:1-23 and other passages also reference the imagery of the potter and clay.

All people everywhere are, indeed, made in the image of God, as recorded in Genesis 1:27: “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
The second chapter of Genesis offers a little more detail it its seventh verse, which says, “Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”

Of all of the creatures that God made, people are the only ones He made in His image. Think about that for moment. With no other creature does Scripture say that God shared His very breath.
We understand that the “image of God” refers to the immaterial aspect of our humanity—qualities such as our sense of morality and self-awareness. It’s what sets us apart from animals and enables us to have fellowship with our Creator.

Originally, God declared that His completed work was “very good.” That image of God in us, though, was marred when Adam and Eve chose to reject God’s way and follow their own plan. The entire Bible from that point on until the last book of Revelation is the account of God pursuing His creation, calling us back into that close relationship that was lost because of that first sin by Adam and Eve.

Finally, God the Son, Jesus Christ, left the glories of heaven and humbled Himself (Philippians 2:6), entering our space and time as a small baby who grew to be a man. Jesus lived to show us what God was like and He died to pay the price for our sins. Because of that, if we believe in Him, trusting Him to restore our relationship with God, then the Scriptures say we will be saved.

Now let’s get back to the potter. Second Corinthians 3 tells us that those put their trust in Jesus Christ are being transformed by God—that is they are being changed from their sinful, rebellious selves, into people who look more and more like Jesus. The churchy word for this is “sanctification.”

I like to think of it like as a lump of clay in the hands of a master potter. As long as the clay is on the wheel, in the hands of the potter, it will be transformed from a lump into whatever form the potter has in mind—a vase, a dish, a pitcher. Sometimes the potter turns the clay into something beautiful that decorates a room. Sometimes he makes something very useful. But he always has a vision and a plan for the clay on the wheel. And just as it takes time for a potter to transform clay from a lump into a beautiful or useful object, sanctification—transforming people into the image of Christ—takes a while, too. In fact, it takes a lifetime.

But it’s worth it because each day, each year, we are closer to being what God designed us to be from the beginning. The key is to stay on the wheel. It’s only there, under the hands of The Potter, that we can be transformed into what He wants us to be. And when you feel like the pressure of His hands is too much, or He’s stretching you too thin in one area or another, or the wheel is making you more than a little dizzy, remember that He sees what you’re becoming. He has a plan to finish His work with you. He won’t leave you lumpy and deformed on His wheel! Trust Him and lean on these words of Paul to the Philippians (1:6): “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

New series inspired by “Amazing Grace!” in the works

Salvaged wood sculpture by Stephen in progress.

This fall I’m excited to return to a project that I began, and put on hold, last year. I’m working on a series of sculptures based on Amazing Grace!. Once complete, there will be a sculpture for each of the six verses of the 1779 hymn by John Newton, plus the verse from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is described below. Probably the most well-known and beloved hymn in all of Christendom, Amazing Grace! is about being salvaged or saved.

Amazing Grace! (Original words)

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

John Newton, Olney Hymns, 1779

Olney Hymnal with "Amazing Grace!"

The bottom of page 53 of Olney Hymns shows the first stanza of the hymn beginning “Amazing Grace!”

The final verse of the modern version of the hymn was not written by Newton, but was first recorded in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The verse was originally one of between 50 and 70 verses of a song titled Jerusalem, My Happy Home, which was published in a 1790 book called A Collection of Sacred Ballads.

When we’ve been there
ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days
to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.

There’s nothing like starting at the end. To me, that last verse has some of the most vivid imagery of the hymn, so I started there. The sculpture is pictured in progress here and, once it’s complete, will illustrate the final verse of the song as it is usually sung today.

Like all my sculptures, this piece is being created from salvaged wood that would have been tossed into the trash or used as kindling wood for a fire. As I work on these pieces, I realize that I’m much like this wood and the as I’ve saved it from the trash heap or the fire, I’m blessed to remember that God has saved me from a similar doom. I can sing with Newton, and the countless men and women of faith throughout the centuries, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see.

As the rest of pieces progress, I’ll post some more studio pictures along the way.  I don’t know yet how many sculptures I’ll make of each verse—I may only make one or two full collections. Stay tuned!

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Shining Like The Sun in progress…

No greater love

Wire crucified hand set in white pickling-washed salvaged barn wood with hand transferred text.

The story is told of a little girl who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to fight it.

As best he could, the doctor explained the situation to her brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. He hesitated for a long moment and then took a deep breath and said, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

The medical team quickly began the process. The little boy lay in a bed next to his sister and looked at her and silently smiled. He could see the color returning to her cheeks as he watch the red blood flow out of his body and into hers. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

At his age, the boy had misunderstood the doctor. When he said “yes,” he believed he was volunteering to give all of his blood—and his life—to his sister. And he gave it willingly.

I can’t read this story without thinking of the powerful words in John 15:12-14. There we find Jesus speaking to His disciples near the end of His earthly life and ministry. He was soon to go through the humiliation and agony of dying on a cross. He said these words to His closest followers: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.

In that short passage are three challenging truths:

  1. Jesus wants us to love one another. And not just love one another as we think best, or easiest, or most beneficial to ourselves. He wants us to love as He loved us, which leads us to the second truth …
  2. Jesus loved us sacrificially. He literally gave His life for us, suffering a horrible death on the cross, not to pay the price for any crime He had committed, but to pay the price for the wrong things we’ve done. He did this so that our relationship with God could be restored. In John 15, Jesus calls us to love as He loved. But instead of giving our lives on a cross, we’re asked to live sacrificially. In Romans 12, Paul expands on what this looks like when he says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.” Living a life that puts God and others first is at the heart of what these passages are all about.
  3. The last challenge from Jesus is a litmus test for those who claim to follow Him. How do we know if we’re a friend and follower of Jesus? We’ll be busy doing what He commands. What does that look like in my life and yours?

This week, I’ve been thinking about that as I’ve been working on a new sculpture series I’m calling “The Minis.” They’re small pieces of original art. While some may share verses or poetry, no two will look alike because I’m creating them from small pieces of salvaged barn and other woods.

The Mini at the top of this post is called “No Greater Love” and measures just 6.5″ tall by 3.5″ wide. Its wire hand and nail sculpture is set in a piece of oak barn wood from a circa 1905 barn in Southwest Virginia’s Giles County. You can see the nail holes and old knot in the wood. I’ve hand transferred the words of John 15:13 on it as a reminder that Jesus died as a sacrifice for me (and you) and He’s asking me to live sacrificially for Him (and you).

Read more about No Greater Love in the shop.

Finding forgiveness

What’s the opposite of unforgiveness? Forgiveness? Well, grammatically, yes. But simply adding the “un” doesn’t help us get at the core questions—and answers—about unforgiveness. Why do we harbor unforgiveness? Why do we struggle to forgive? Why is it sometimes so hard to genuinely let something go?

Volumes have been written and preached on this topic. In practice, where actions, emotions, and life-altering events impact our present circumstances and potentially shape our futures—just as we impact others and shape their futures—it can seem complicated.

The Secret of Gratitude salvaged wood, rotating sculpture.

Life is full of real situations with genuine injuries and deep hurts, and It’s not my intention here to imply that forgiveness is easy. Reading this won’t enable anyone to suddenly forgive deep hurts that may have scarred their lives. I do believe, though, that there’s value in contemplating the topic because forgiveness, and the withholding of it, has serious consequences.

In the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray. Countless Christians regularly recite what has become known as “The Lord’s Prayer” in worship services around the world. Recall these words from verse 12 of the chapter: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” A couple of verses later, Jesus explains, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Serious consequences.

Think for a minute about past hurts you’ve experienced or caused. What most affects our capacity to forgive? Is it the degree to which we’ve been wronged? Is it our relationship with the offender? Is an injury by a stranger easier to forgive than a hurt inflicted by a close friend or family member? What effect does the passage of time have? Does time really heal all wounds?

Recently, the United States was rocked by two mass shootings. Unfortunately, news of these types of tragedies is all too common and certainly not new.

In October 2006, Charles Roberts invaded a one-room schoolhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, shooting and killing 10 Amish schoolgirls. In stark contrast to other similar incidents, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, lawyer up, or hit the talk shows and social media. Instead, they extended grace and compassion toward the family of the killer. Even in the immediate aftermath of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the victims expressed forgiveness toward the killer. Later that week, the family of one of the Amish girls who had been killed invited the Roberts family to the funeral of their daughter. And at the funeral of the shooter, Amish mourners were said to have outnumbered non-Amish attendees.

More recently, on June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, entered a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine people. Some of the families of the victims extended forgiveness to the killer in the wake of his deplorable, racially motivated killings.

It seems unfathomable that anyone could forgive in situations like these. Are these pictures of radical forgiveness, or examples of forgiveness working as intended by God? Amid such violence, grief and torment, what creates the capacity for forgiveness?

And for every inspiring story of forgiveness, there seem to be countless more of unforgiveness. The New Testament shares accounts of both. For example, the apostle Paul pleads for reconciliation in Philippians 4:2, where he writes, “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.”

A lesson from the Creator of the Heart

Forgiveness seems to be an issue of the heart, and no one knows the human heart like the One who designed it. Colossians 1:15-17 tells us plainly that “… through [Christ] God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see … Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together.” So when Jesus teaches about forgiveness and the human heart, it’s a lesson we want to hear.

The gospels record many instances where Jesus spoke about forgiveness. Let’s look at two of them. The first is found in Matthew 18:23-35 (Read the whole passage here).

In this passage Jesus told a parable, a story about a servant who owed his king a sum of money equivalent to wages from about 60 million working days. When the king called the debt, the servant could not repay, so the king ordered the servant and his whole family be sold to help pay it. Then the servant fell to his knees before the king and begged for more time. Jesus said the King was filled with pity for his servant and simply forgave the entire debt.

That’s a compelling example of forgiveness, but Jesus didn’t end the parable there.

The forgiven servant then met his fellow servant who owed him just three or four months worth of wages. When he demanded payment, his fellow servant fell down before him and begged for more time, just as the forgiven servant had done before the king. But instead of granting forgiveness, as he had been given, the forgiven servant had his fellow servant thrown into prison until he could repay the debt.

When the king learned of this injustice, he called his forgiven servant to appear before him and said, “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?”

Jesus concluded His parable with these words: “Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

The second passage, in Luke 7:36-50, provides a powerful contrast to the previous parable. Here Luke records Jesus’ visit to the house of a religious leader, a Pharisee named Simon (Read the whole passage here).

Luke writes, “When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

Luke says that Jesus “answered his thoughts” by telling him a story about two people, one who owed a large amount, and one who owed a smaller amount. Both of their debts were forgiven by their creditor. Jesus asked his host, Simon, “Who do you suppose loved [their creditor] more after that?” Simon replied that the one who was forgiven more would love more. Jesus affirmed his answer and then contrasted Simon’s lack of hospitality toward Him with the woman’s expressions of love. He explained it to Simon like this: “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

A key to enable forgiveness

What is the key difference between the wicked servant and the humble woman at Jesus’ feet? Jesus said the woman loved a lot because she had been forgiven of a lot. We see her extreme and very public display of love toward Jesus. That great display of love is the evidence of something she had that the wicked servant lacked. The servant was no doubt relieved to have his impossible debt cancelled, but his heart seemed to be unchanged by the forgiveness he received. So instead of expressing his love, he selfishly proceeded to shake down one of his fellow servants.

What’s the true opposite of unforgiveness, then? What can enable, even compel me to forgive—and love—today?

The answer may be hidden in plain site through the contrasts of these two accounts. Genuine forgiveness may just hinge on gratitude. The accounts in Matthew and Luke offer us snapshots of two hearts. One empty and one overflowing. Lack of gratitude for the forgiveness we’ve been given drains the heart, leading to unforgiveness and selfishness. Gratitude fills the heart full to overflowing and leads to generous forgiveness, which may be a beautiful byproduct of gratitude. Genuine, seemingly radical gratitude will spill out of a full heart in ways that appear astonishing to onlookers. Forgiveness will be granted in impossible situations.

Are you trying to scoop up a teaspoon of forgiveness from a drained heart? How can we fill our hearts with gratitude? Can we learn to cover the Master’s feet with genuine tears of thanksgiving for our blessings, our lives, and our new standing before God (if we’ve trusted in Christ’s death as the payment for our sins)?

Those are things to be genuinely thankful for, aren’t they? Meditating on those powerful thoughts can produce genuine gratitude that will cause our hearts to overflow. And what will spill out will be just as authentic: forgiveness and blessing instead of unforgiveness and selfishness—a pleasant aroma instead of a bitter stench.

See The Secret of Gratitude rotatable sculpture new in the shop this week.

The power of a good book

Image of Quiet Solitude, a sculpture in wire and cut paper on driftwood.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

Oscar Wilde

The quote above from Oscar Wilde, who was not known for weighty, serious comments, is worth taking seriously. Summer is now in full swing and while it’s become known as the season of the blockbuster movie, it was, and is still also known as the season of books.

“I will never forget the first “big kid” book I read,” says Patti, who’s Wire People sculpture, Quiet Solitude, is an autobiographical work recalling her days as a young girl captivated by a well-told story. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was given to me by my great aunts in 1966 and I couldn’t put it down.

Image of a book that Patti enjoyed as a young girl
Patti enjoyed “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” as a young girl

It was around that time I decided I wanted to be a teacher. Many years later, that book was on my bookshelf in my fourth grade classroom. I often wondered how many students would read it and love it as much as I did.”
Maybe you have your own summer reading list. Whether you’re beach bound for a much-needed vacation or just looking forward to a few lazy days at home, it’s the perfect season to dive into something new or finally finish something you started in the winter.
The challenge is usually what we’ll read. My mother is a member of a book club. She enjoys working with the group to decide what the book of the month will be and ensuring that there are enough copies at area libraries for the group members. She appreciates the structure of the book club, explaining that she ends up reading books that she wouldn’t otherwise read and enjoys the variety that each member’s tastes in literature bring to the group.
Meanwhile, I have a friend who prefers to read on her own. She reads constantly, but values her independence and moves quickly from one book to the next.
We’re all different, aren’t we?
The sobering thought for me is that I’ve realized that no matter how fast I read, I won’t live long enough to read all the books I have, let alone all the books I want to read. I have—we all have—a limited amount of time. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” What will I read during the increasingly brief time I’ve been given? When I think of it like that, it somehow increases the gravity of my choices. Will I read inconsequential fluff, or worse, complete trash that, like cholesterol-laden junk food clogging my arteries, fills my mind with trite or leads me into thoughts and attitudes that are contrary to God’s word?
My nephew just graduated from high school. He concluded his outstanding valedictory address with this piece of advice: “Read old books.” And he meant really old books—as in Plato’s Republic, written around 380 BC. I agree. And just as important as age is message.
The driving purpose behind Inspiring Handmade is to create art and writing that leads us into our own Philippians 4:8 moment. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul wrote, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Even if we’d rather not think about the brevity of life, we know that summers fly by, don’t we? The summer of 2019 will be over almost as soon as it begins. In no time, we’ll start seeing the fall catalogs arrive and after Labor Day, it will be just one more memory—hopefully a good one!
But what will we do with this limited handful of days? Will we use them to feed on a great book that draws us closer to God? What are you reading this summer? If you have a great book that you know would encourage other readers, don’t keep it a secret—share it in the comments below! And while you’re at it, please share Inspiring Handmade with someone you love and know would love what we do here. You can read more about Patti’s piece, Quiet Solitude, here.