Clay in the Potter’s Hand

I have often joked I am not a very pliable “clay pot” in the Master’s hand, so when I had a chance to take a pottery class to learn some basic techniques, I took advantage of the opportunity.

During class, I couldn’t help but observe parallels between shaping clay and spiritual life. First, the process cannot be rushed for it is crucial to the outcome. Don’t try to take short cuts or expect great things right away. As a beginning student, I forgot some of the of steps, and things went wrong quickly. It is essential that the lump of clay be centered on the wheel, just as it is vital for our lives to be centered on Jesus. Without centering, all else fails.  Not surprisingly, a key quality is patience. Being in a hurry causes unevenness in any step, but when I was impatient in the stretching, the higher the clay was stretched, the more off center the sides became, and the piece eventually collapsed. That meant starting over from step one. Learning to have the attitude of Christ and become the vessel He purposed takes time. The Lord may open our minds to understand things in our head long before He stretches those truths into our hearts.

Although trimming sounds like a minor detail, the shape and character of the mug, vase, or bowl are dramatically altered by these details. The Lord uniquely shapes each of us to display His glory. Next, vessel is heated to over 600 degrees Celsius in a kiln for firing. No one seeks out the heat of trials, but difficulties have the potential to either strengthen us or shatter us. It all depends whether the vessel has been properly prepared. But one fiery, hot furnace is not enough. To finish the design, a glaze is added and the vessel is again placed into the heat where the second firing allows for the unique beauty of each creation to surface. There is a mystery involved in this step as browns become blue and whites become vibrant greens. In this world we will experience tribulation, but we can rejoice because Jesus has overcome. What appears to crush and destroy, God  will redeem to bring forth purpose and beauty. Finally, I learned clay can be recycled. A mess up is never final, but with time and work, the vessel can be reshaped. There will be more pounding, trimming, and heat but God will complete the work He began in each of us.

When I read that the Lord told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house, I now realize some of the lessons that could have been learned there. The potter always kept both hands on the clay or one hand on a tool and the second hand on the clay. It is almost as if the vessel is an extension of Himself. “Behold, like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” We are His masterpieces, yet each one of us uniquely showcases of His glory through jars of clay. How amazing is our Master potter!

The Other Wiseman

I collect nativities and keep many on display all year long. I enjoy the reminder of the wonder and mystery of God becoming incarnate, of Jesus, the Creator, the King, born in an obscure village to poor parents.  When I consider the birth of Jesus, I wonder which person I would respond most like – hopefully not the innkeeper who failed to recognize the opportunity right in front of him. Instead. I would hope to respond like the shepherds who quickly hastened to follow the sign from heaven, seeking and finding the Christ.

I never really connected to the Magi, the elite of their society with resources to make an incredible journey seeking truth. Then I came across a story by Henry Van Dyke originally published in 1895. Since it is available free through public domain, I hope you will take time to read it.

Mr. Van Dyke chronicles the journey of another wiseman. He is delayed joining the others because stops to help someone in need. Even so, he doesn’t give up, but continues the pilgrimage to arrive in Bethlehem only to find he has missed the One to whom the star was pointing. Along the way this seeker is interrupted by many, yet he takes time to assist those who cross his path as he searches for the promised King. This wise man enters Jerusalem just in time to purchase the freedom of a young girl being sold into slavery, but not in time to see the Messiah before He was crucified.

I feel like that character. Every day, I get interrupted and detoured by little things.  I say, “no” to seemingly “exciting” or “fulfilling” things so I can say, “yes” to the people closest to me. Like the pilgrim, I arrive at what I perceived was the goal too late or never at all.

This wise man dies saddened that he was never a part of the big events, never reaching his quest, yet as he enters heaven, the one He was searching for joyously welcomes him. Jesus astounds him by saying, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

  Many keep the path, but will not reach the goal;

Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,

  While he who walks in love may wander far,

  Yet God will bring him where the blessed are. Henry Van Dyke

The Greatest of these is Love.

Wait Training

Although we are in the midst of the Advent season, a time of waiting and anticipation, it seems that in today’s society, waiting has become a lost art. We don’t know how to wait in expectancy because we have Instagram and same day delivery. As much as I hate to admit it, I, too, have become terrible at waiting.

My friend Linda is a fitness instructor. As part of her classes, the participants use weights. Weight training builds muscle strength and enables us to stand taller and endure more strain.

I think our Heavenly Father also has us in a training program – wait training. His training builds inner strength, enables us to stand firmer in our faith and endure more stress.

Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.They will mount up with wings like eagles,They will run and not get tired,They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

We often to quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope,” but this promise would take a long time to fufill. Verse 10 reads, “When 70 years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fufill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.” The people of long ago were able to wait patiently because they knew God had a plan.

How can I learn to trust God is He gives me everything I want as soon as I ask for it?

Perhaps one secret learned in wait training is knowing and believing the truth of His word. God has a plan and His plans cannot be thwarted. God never fails to keep any of His promises. Before the world was spoken into existence, the Trinity’s devised a master strategy for Jesus to live among mankind, to be brutally crucified, to pay for our sin, and  to purchase our redemption. Knowing the Lord’s design ultimately results in our good, we can wait for Him to answer prayers and reveal details to us. We understand with certainty His second advent approaches. When Jesus returns to reign, we will reign with Him and receive an eternal inheritance that can never perish or fade away. The Lord will fufill His good word to us and bring us to be with him forever.

The Unnoticed Commission

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to my brethren…” Matthew 28:10

I love Jesus with all my heart and soul and want others to know of His love, but I do not have the gift of evangelism. However, after reading these first words recorded after Jesus rose from death, I realize I have the same purpose which He gave to these women. Jesus was commissioning these women to go back to the people they knew and share words of hope. The tomb is empty! Jesus is alive! His promises are true! Furthermore, Jesus wants to meet with them.

We are more familiar with the “great commission” found later in the chapter where Jesus tells his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” I don’t think I will ever baptize anyone, but when I read Jesus words to the two Marys, I felt my heart leap. I can identify with the task He gave them. I go to my sisters and my brothers and share His words with them. It is one of my greatest joys to discuss a passage of the Bible and find God’s promises and hope. I know that because the tomb is empty, we have hope for the darkest situations. I can remind my brothers and sisters that the Lord wants to meet with each one of them. It comforts me to know that witnessing is not limited to church planting and explaining theology but simply testifying of God’s goodness and grace in my life.

Was Jesus Christmas Shopping?

Seeing the people, Jesus felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36


When I heard this verse, isolated from its context, I wondered, “Had Jesus been out among the masses on Black Friday?” Or perhaps He was grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving? Or at the post office in line behind 7 other people waiting to mail a package?

In context, I know this verse is not referring to the crowds making holiday preparations, but I did notice people have not changed much in two thousand years. If I were to describe the people I encounter, I could use those exact words, “distressed” and “dispirited” and include a few of my own such as “anxious,” “unsettled,” and “without peace.”

Even as believers, it is all too easy for our lives to become characterized by hectic busyness so that we too are distressed and dispirited, without peace. This transpires when we forget we have a Great Shepherd who longs to restore our fragmented souls to wholeness and peace.

Preparing for the holiday of Christmas is so much different than anticipating the Christ. Those who were alive for that first Christmas did not realize the birth of the promised One was upon them, yet to the extent they longed to see the fulfillment of the promise, they were willing to alter their lives to worship as soon as they received the good news.

I pondered, “What is the good news that we are celebrating at Christmas?” He is called Jesus because He will save his people from their sins. He will be called Immanuel because God is with us. Through His death on the cross and resurrection, He presents the gift of eternal life for those who believe.

Striving after any other goal than Jesus, whether at Christmas, or during any other time of the year, leaves me frazzled and fragmented. Therefore, what measures can I take to return my soul to the care of my Great Shepherd? First, I ask myself if the items on my list are things the Lord is asking me to do or  are these tasks something I have put on my own plate that is not from God? God strengthens me to do any good work He has given, yet he doesn’t promise me the same strength for all those chores I choose to engage in for some other reason (such as pleasing others or looking good).  I remind myself I don’t have to fulfill every expectation because if I am putting too much pressure on myself to show love or prevent disappointment, I am really not pointing others to the right source of true hope and love – Jesus.

I try to listen to songs about the savior’s birth, not the Christmas songs bombarding the airways that have nothing to do with Christ. I stop to stare at the Christmas lights on the tree or sit still to watch God’s handiwork as the snow falls. Actually, I don’t have much of a plan because detailed plans and over-scheduling  steal my peace because I have dismissed the One Sovereign Ruler and appointed myself as CEO of my own little world. However, I have a daily choice, especially this month, to continue in my hurried distractions or to relinquish this position into his fully capable hands and allow the King of Kings to rule the universe and the Prince of Peace to rule my heart.