Category: Calling

Crying rocks

Our raison d’être

Artists, crafters, writers, and appreciators of the arts know that nothing is created without some purpose. The purpose may seem insignificant, but it’s there, as a thing’s reason for existence.

Our Presbyterian friends, among others, are familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a series of questions and answers that teach truths from the Scripture. The very first question is, “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, what’s our grand purpose—why are we here? The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

That’s as good an answer to the question as I’ve heard. And it’s a good way to gauge how we’re doing with fulfilling that purpose. Because we’re created by God, made in His image, brought to life with His very breath, loved deeply by Him and blessed by Him in countless ways, we’re supposed to glorify God in everything we do. Even in the most mundane aspects of life, we’re called to glorify Him. 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Not everyone’s into glorifying the Creator of everything

The earth and all creation are faithful to testify to the glory of God. Psalm 19:1-2: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” But, sadly, in all of creation there are two kinds of creatures that refuse to give glory to God. The first is Satan and the other fallen angels, whom he led in rebellion against God. The second is mankind—you and me. We’re not exactly keeping great company there, are we?

But that brings me to the title of this post. In Luke 19, we find Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The following Friday will see Him crucified and buried. As Jesus enters Jerusalem, riding a donkey colt, the crowds are ecstatic.

Luke 19:37 picks up the account: “As He was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of The Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'”

One woman’s creative way to glorify God

A good friend of mine lost her mother nearly two years ago. Her mother, Betty Wood, collected souvenir rocks from wherever she and her husband traveled.

Besides being a rock collector, Mrs. Wood believed passionately in her reason for being, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So she put her collection to use in encouraging others to glorify God. She wrote “Luke 19:40” on one side of her rocks and on the other side, she imagined a quote from the rock—”If you won’t praise Him I will!”—inspired by that verse. Mrs. Wood gave the rocks to many people over the years, including the ladies in her Sunday School class at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia.

Betty Wood’s inspiration lives on

It’s impossible to say how many folks have one of those special rocks on a shelf somewhere or how many have been inspired to find new, creative ways to glorify God after seeing those stones. Betty Wood inspires me to ask myself, “How am I doing with my grand purpose? Am I using my gifts, and whatever God has given me, to glorify Him? Or am I too often content to let a rock do my job for me?”

THE ORIGINALS
Betty Wood’s rocks carry her legacy of glorifying God to new generations. Photos courtesy of her daughter, Joy DeNoon

A rocky chorus

A crowd of rocks cries out to glorify God. Most of them have found homes with my friends at Mattaponi Baptist Church, where I was privileged to speak on a recent Sunday.

Check out the Inspiring Handmade shop for original art & craft that helps you praise God and enjoy your own Philippians 4:8 moments

A new song

New Song sculpture by Stephen Rountree

A new year. A new decade.

100 years ago, our nation was entering what became known as the “Roaring Twenties.” It was a time of economic and cultural growth and prosperity.

As we ease into the 2020s, I’m wondering if these will be the “Roaring Twenties” for me creatively and spiritually. Will I see new growth in those areas of my life this year? I’d like to. Maybe you would, too.

A vision for 2020

Lately, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 96. It’s short—just 13 verses—but it’s packed with big ideas that make it worth dwelling on in these early days of the new year. I’m using it as a guide for my goals—my vision—for the year, maybe the rest of my life. Depending on how you might count them, there are around seven calls to specific actions in this Psalm.

• Sing a new song to the Lord
• Bless His name
• Tell others about His salvation
• Give God the credit He is due and tell others about His glory and marvelous works
• Praise the Lord and rejoice because of the Lord
• Fear the Lord (as in holding Him in proper reverence and awe)
• Worship the Lord with all your heart in reverence

You can read Psalm 96 for yourself here.

Inspired to create

This Psalm has inspired the first sculpture of 2020, which I’m calling New Song.

This piece is created from salvaged oak barn wood from a circa 1905 barn in Southwest Virginia. You can see the barn and read more about that here.

I’ve taken one of the old oak planks, cleaned it up, and cut off the parts I didn’t need. I sanded it, painted a landscape on it and hand-transferred the first verse of the Psalm onto it. It reads, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!”

In essence, I’ve given this old piece of oak a new song. It was part of a barn for many years—more years than I’ve been alive. Then it was part of a pile of scrap wood, destined for a landfill or a fire.

But now it will have a new life as a piece of art that carries the words of God on it. Its new life will be totally different than its old one. The old oak wood will be in someone’s warm home instead of exposed to the harsh mountain weather. It will be appreciated on a deeper level than it was before. And it will be able to inspire thoughts about God and life in ways that it never could before.

That’s a lot like what God does with people. He finds us, remakes us, and gives us a new purpose—His purpose. Our new lives, which are possible because of Jesus Christ’s work in us, are infinitely more satisfying than what we could have imagined before. As Jesus Himself says in John 10:10, “… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Making it real

If I put into practice the calls of Psalm 96 this year, I believe this will be the start of the Roaring Twenties for both my creative and my spiritual life. So my goal is to offer God my creative projects (like this blog) in new ways this year—offering them for His purposes to share His works and His message. Exactly what that looks like, I can’t say at this point, but I want this year to be productive and full of praise for the ultimate Creator.

How about you? Would you like to start your own Roaring Twenties this year?

Why not join me in meditating on Psalm 96 this week and think about how you might put some of those calls into action. I’d love to hear your ideas! You can always reach me by email here. I’ll return to this topic in future posts to consider what some of the calls from Psalm 96 look like in practice. For instance, singing to the Lord sounds easy enough, but what does the “new song” refer to? How, exactly, do I give God the credit He’s due, or tell others about His marvelous works?

Stay tuned!

New Song is now in the Inspiring Handmade shop, ready to inspire in a new home.

New Song sculpture detail
Detail of New Song, by Stephen Rountree

Share your thoughts on Psalm 96. What would your year look like if you put some—or all—of those calls into action?

New life

Several of these smaller sculpture/signs are under way at the moment. I like these pieces because they’re a simple metaphor for the work God does in rescuing everyone who trusts in Christ to take the punishment for their sin. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross enables God’s forgiveness and mercy toward those who trust in Him as Savior. Instead of tossing us aside, Jesus salvages us, reclaims us, and puts His word in our hearts. As pieces of unique original art, sculptures in the Salvaged Messengers series remind me of this truth. The “Joy” sculpture is created from a piece of barn wood, originally destined for the rubbish heap. It’s been rescued from destruction, cleaned up, and imprinted with God’s word. Now it serves as a witness and a reminder of the power of God to give us joy in every circumstance. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like what we, as believers, are called to do? What verses inspire you?

Messengers & Messages

Wooden sculpture of Jonah in the whale

I don’t text a whole lot. But when I do, I only type with my right index finger. Teenagers I know use both their thumbs and type blazingly fast. My kids make fun of me for the way I text. That’s life. When I receive a text, it’s usually from my wife, or a close friend or family member. Those messages are important. Of course, my wife’s are the most important! But all this got me thinking about messages of the non-instant variety — messages that come from the most important one of all — the Creator of this world, God Himself.

If you’re old enough to remember the E.F. Hutton commercials of the 1980s, you might remember this line:
“… Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton, and he said…”
Immediately, everyone around the speaker leans in, eager to hear his next words as the commercial voiceover says, “ When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

Well, when the Creator of this amazing universe has something to say, I want to hear it. And that’s when I started thinking about Jonah.

You’ll see a few different versions of Jonah and the Whale in the Salvaged Messengers series.

Why am I drawn to the story of Jonah and the whale (or the fish, or whatever)? Because even though Jonah made mistakes (big ones), God still used him as His messenger.

You can read his short story for yourself in the Old Testament book of the Bible that bears his name. When you check it out, you’ll see how God assigned Jonah the unenviable task of traveling to Ninevah (near modern-day Mosul in Iraq), to deliver some bad news to the Assyrians. They were about to be judged and obliterated by God unless they repented and turned from their wicked ways. Not a very popular message. Many historians count Assyria to be among the first superpowers of the ancient world. Jonah likely saw his assignment as a suicide mission. So he ran. But his running from The Lord and his appointed task wound him up in the belly of the “great fish” and then Jonah himself had to repent and realign himself with God.

Wooden sculpture of Jonah in the whale

This sculpture of Jonah in the whale is created from salvaged barn wood (circa 1905) from my cousin’s farm in southwest Virginia’s Giles County. The deep grain creates a challenge for hand stamping the Scripture, but the striking look that results is worth the extra work. Aside from the wood, the piece also uses wire, acrylic paint, and varnish.

By the end of the story (spoiler alert), Jonah had delivered his message, and much to his surprise, the citizens of Ninevah not only listened to him, but believed him and repented, just as God commanded them.

God’s message got through, thanks to, and in spite of, Jonah. And, like all of God’s messages, it was ultimately life-giving, life-affirming, and life-preserving. The entire city was saved and its citizens enjoyed a renewed relationship with God.

That’s the power of messages from the Creator of the universe and that’s the power that messengers carry, no matter how flawed we are! Listening to God and doing what He says brings blessing, renewal and incredible purpose into our lives. Beware! This little book in the Bible is packed with truth no matter which way you’re running in life.