Wow, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so tired after a two week vacation before. In fact, I know not.
In years past, I spent my vacation time aimlessly, without purpose, doing things like laying on a hot windy beach, skiing in blizzard conditions, looking at smelly animals in a zoo, getting drenched at a water park by rain, wringing seawater out of my souvenior t-shirt at Sea World, getting so sunburned while snokeling that I couldn’t sit for a week, standing in long lines at amusement parks, riding Harleys in hail and rain and wind, avoiding being mugged in downtown NY City, breathing second hand smoke in a stinky casino, looking at seemingly endless lines of other people’s Harley’s, and a whole host of other selfish things.
Often, eventhough I tried to have fun on vacation, I didn’t. Most of the time, I didn’t feel refreshed, or rested either.
This year I decided that I couldn’t really afford to go anywhere on vacation, and I can’t sing. How do the two work together? Read On.
I can’t sing, or haven’t, since 8th grade when I froze up at a music festival and couldn’t remember the second verse to the song I was solo-ing. The judge was not impressed. Since then, I only sing loud enough for God and me to hear. He understands.
Since I can’t sing, I wanted to use another talent I have for our church, namely, working in wood. Jesus of Nazareth was a worker of Wood. Some people call Him a “Carpenter,” but in today’s Amercanized English language, the original text is better translated into the word “woodworker.” I like that word, as I don’t like doing what “Carpenter’s” do, namely framing homes, in today’s language. Carpenter’s work is too hard, hot, and tiring for my liking. I’d rather “work in wood.”
So, I decided that if God has gifted me with the skill and love of woodworking, I would use this ability any time I could to help with the local, regional, and world-wide work of the Church. However, I don’t know where this decision will take me, or whether I will be used by God to do woodworking. In the meantime, I make as much dust as possible, the Days are short you know?
When I first made that decision 1996, I had no idea that a couple of years later I would be shutting down my business to teach woodworking at a camp/ranch for young men who were also trying to serve God. They didn’t have any vocational skills to get a job with, so that was my job, teaching them to work. That was back in 1998.
I quit the teaching job for the ministry called Morning Star Ranch in 2001, and, to be honest, have been reluctant to “open” myself up to whatever God had in mind for my woodworking since then. This reluctance was not because I am so scared of where it would lead, but rather, I am scared that He might suggest that I hang up my tools and do something else. That is not something I have wanted to do.
But, over time, I have come to conclude that living and working, even in wood, outside of God’s Will for my life is not something I want to do, at least not for long. I know that from experience.
So, a few months back I finally opened myself up again to do whatever God called me to do, again. That decision came after a long day of finding out that my daughter Rachel had a some sort of serious health problem. I figured it was a good time to Pray, and seek God’s will, and mercy for her and our family.
I have been sort of waiting for the other hammer to drop since that night in early March, but so far, so good. Rachel seems to get better, and more active every day, and I get to do more woodworking all the time.
So, I am still running hard to do “woodworking” for God. I suppose in some selfish context, I’m still trying to prove to Him that I am worthy of making a life in woodworking. I know He knows what is best for me, but I have been trying to prove myself to Him, to some extent.
To that end, I decided after watching last year’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) program do it’s thing, that I had to figure out a way to get more involved. They need folks that can teach kids and sing, neither of which I felt gifted to do. But, a wise man named Henry Blackaby once wrote some wise words that are pretty meaningful to me. To paraphrase him, “if you want to serve God, look at where He is at work, and join Him there…”
So, that is what I did, and I asked to be involved in VBS for this year. I asked the Children’s Ministry Director, Susie, a year ago if there was something I could do to help (other than sing), using woodworking. We brainstormed over the course of the year, but it all came down to doing the actual work the two weeks before the event was to start. How’s that for procrastination on my part? So, instead of fitting the VBS work in and around, my work schedule, I had to “schedule” two weeks of vacation to get it all done in time.
Susie and her team selected the “Avalanche Ranch” program and bought the materials for us to put on the program. The materials are great. This program is very Western in theme, sort of like an old Roy Rogers & Dale Evans movie, which fits our rural ranching community to a “tee”.
We don’t have a big enough building to hold a VBS program at our church, so we borrowed the Township’s old school building gym. Due to consolidation and budget cuts, the community lost the school, and all of the kids have been bussed 20+ miles to school for around 40 years now. How’s that for progress? Wonder why we have so much trouble with kids these days?
A movement among the community was started about 10 years ago to either tear down, or save the condemned building. Nobody could stand continuing to drive by it everyday and count the number of newly broken windows, and quietly watch it’s quickly declining condition.
All of the old school needed work, major work, expensive work. So, a few volunteers headed out looking for grants and donations first. Nothing much happened with gifts and grants, so the community tried to save just the gymnasium. The rest of the school was condemned due to asbestos and mold problems caused by a bad roof and river flooding over the years, but those optimistic folks held on hard to the old gym. As you might expect, local politics and politicians picked sides over the project, and so the community has been trying to overcome the bickering and naysayers. Some new elections, some hard work, and the Gym has been saved.
For the folks of the community to save the gymnasium, the first step was to put on a new roof to stop the rain water from coming in. Then, last year, they remodeled the kitchen and bathroom, and cleaned up the gym. So, our church asked if we could rent it for our VBS program. What a joy it has been to use this building, despite it’s lack of air conditioning. People lived for thousands of years without a/c, didn’t they?.
So, being musically limited, and a procrastinator, I worked hard for 10 days, calling it “vacation,” trying hard to do woodworking for God. My role was to help in the “background” by doing prop and scenery work, using my woodworking skills. We decided that we would sell the items at an auction at the end of the program to raise some funds for next year’s program.
I posted a blog a few weeks ago asking for advice on how to build a rustic fence out of posts, since that was an important part of the scenery. The lumberjock help was immediate, and varied, and the lumberjocks again offered advice to solve many technical problems I was facing with a new type of project work…...Rustic!
The bottom line:
I really didn’t take the time to sit here and type all of this verbiage for my own benefit. I already know my story. However, I’m hoping that my story of a fun “vacation” working in the background of VBS will inspire other lumberjocks to do some service oriented work in the near future.
Whether for a church, or another worthwhile cause, doing woodworking for God can be thrilling, fulfilling, fun, and tiring! Much better than a selfish vacation like my old days. Now, go make some dust!
P.S. I tried to post some photos of the VBS program and scenery I made, and as soon as Flickr.com is up and running again, I will post them.
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com