Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pottery Class and God

Yesterday I finished the last of my six-session pottery class. What a privilege to participate in the creation of eleven objets d'art (?). I’m in awe of those who create with their hands. Is this how a plumber feels when he brings water lines to kitchens and bathrooms in new homes, or an electrician who works with God’s amazing power to bring light where there has been none?

My new friend Laura, who dug garden plants and made pies with me for a Fontana Garden Club scholarship fund-raiser event, suggested I’d like pottery-making. Same principle as pies, except instead of rolling a crust, you actually use a wooden rolling pin to flatten the clay and then imprint it with shapes and form it into platters and bowls. My husband, Wayne, thought this would be better, too, because he always eats my pies, and there’d be no calorie danger with decorative art.

I’d read the Scripture about God being the potter of our lives, but had no idea it was such a rich analogy. Isaiah 64:8 “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

You can “throw” on the wheel too, although I felt like the wheel was throwing me and I was holding on for dear life when I got it spinning at maximum speed. The importance of centering the clay first spoke clearly of how our lives must be centered in Christ before we can accomplish anything of value. Centering is not easy, but nothing happens without clay being centered first. Over and over I had to reshape my glob – the way of centering is pushing down and pressing in at the same time. Isn’t that what God does to me when I need shaping and need it again and again?

Theological principles abounded in the art room: Don’t be afraid, just try. It’s necessary to continually use water –keep the clay wet enough, drizzle it with a small sponge. Where am I without Your living water O Lord? Just enough pressure, not too much or the pot will collapse. I tried the wheel several times, and then made the rolling pin my method of preference, although I hope to master the wheel some day.

After rolling and shaping comes the glazing. What a wild process that is! The colors that are painted on with a brush or sponge are nothing like the gorgeous shades that come out of the fire! In fact they’re rather ugly. Nothing looks like it will be after it’s put in the fire.

Using multiple layers and different colors seems to produce the most exciting effect. Lord, isn’t that true of our lives too when they’re enriched by many experiences? Our instructor’s wise advice went something like this: I can’t tell you what to make, do whatever you think. We all did, and found creativity within us that worked. When I saw my first piece after it came out of the glaze and remembered I’d painted on chalky looking shades of almond and thick, crackly forest green I exclaimed to Betsy: “It’s a miracle!” My platter was a shiny, vibrant green with shades of gold forming the veins on my leaves. She laughed and said, “That’s just what happens.”

God, isn’t that just what happens when you push and pull on us and allow life to smash us up a bit, then you glaze us and set us in your furnace? And voila, out comes beauty shaped by the Creator’s hand, each of us unlike any other person around.

What a visible experience for me of the Lord's amazing workmanship. I praise Him for equipping me to participate in my little acts of creation. I shaped platters for each of my married children, which may end up in closets displayed only during my visits, but that's okay. I made birds, flower holders, riz-a-ma-tiz’s (yes, that’s my new word meaning thing-a-ma-jugs) for my garden, and bowls and platters in every color. Every single piece was a total experiment. How fun it was having no idea when I began shaping the clay what it would be. Often the way the clay rolled out suggested it’s ultimate function, but sometimes I just twisted and patted and pushed and pulled it a bit until it found a design.

The whole process is fraught with emotional danger. You can never become too attached to any piece because it could crack and fall apart in the kiln and not even make it through the first firing so it can be glazed. The second firing was no less risky. Lord, is that how You feel when you watch us live out our lives with our self-will running rampant? Jeremiah 18:4
says “But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him."

It was exhausting work at times. Those pieces of clay are heavy, the work is messy, and clean-up is a process in itself, but I’m thrilled to have done it and learned lessons I’ll never forget. Now I need to build a shelf so I can see what God and I did – for without His Creative giftedness within me, without the 54 bones He placed in perfect functioning order in my hands, not to mention the brain cells, and the intricate bio-chemical process of vision, none of this could have happened. What a Creator, what a fun experience. Thanks, Laura, my sculptor friend, and Betsey, my instructor.

If you haven't already done so, read Directive 99 with its powerful life messages. Only God, our potter, has the right to end the life of a person, only he knows when the shaping of the clay is complete. I’m humbled and amazed at the response e-mails I've received from readers. This one came in today from a couple in Southern Illinois while I was writing this: "My husband just finished your book and loved it. It’s on my list to read now. Alice"

(The picture above shows me in the center making pies with friends Claudia and Norma.)