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Monday, October 13, 2014

What's On My Plate

This is one of those details of how I did my most recent chip carving piece, a plate.  

Here is the first step: getting the pattern on to the wood:  there are various methods of copying that pattern.

Now to begin the actual carving.  There are knives designed especially for this.

Then you keep on until the whole pattern has been carved.

Now you are ready to finish it up by adding a stain and then spraying on a polyurethane finish, and  you have this:

There are other ways to do this, but this is the process I use.  The most beneficial aspect of carving is first the therapeutic process of carving, and then the pleasure of giving your finished work to someone else, or have it displayed somewhere in your own place.  Many relaxing hours are the effect.  I studied this with Wayne Barton, a master carver who comes regularly to the Brasstown Folk School.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Charlie's brother, Leigh Rodenbough, died two weeks ago, on September 21, at the age of 90.  A retired attorney, he went full time into his art after years of finding a moment here and there to spend time with a canvas during his law practice.  His work was remarkably beautiful, showing his love for nature and his children and grandchildren.  Seascapes were dominant for the former Naval officer, who spent World War II on ships.  He also loved clouds, farm scenes, wooded areas, trees, rivers and skies.  My favorites were the scenes from nature.

The evening of funeral visitation, his new work of art was the absolutely beautiful double rainbow visible from the the funeral home in Madison.  It was stunning, and viewers were convinced Leigh was once more plying his art, this time with the canvas of the heavens.  I was moved to put the experience into a poem:


 “This is what all art strives for: the creation of a living permanence.”  John  O’Donohue

(for Leigh Rodenbough – 1924-2014)

                              sea foam, star, cloud of  clear puff
                              or dark edges, they caught his eye
                              and found homes on canvas

                              old barns, woodlands, river scenes
                              on the Dan and Mayo, leafy trees,
                              mountain views, autumns of clear sky

                              boats that sail, ships that cross seas,
                              each trusting waves to bear their weight,
                              small craft lead the way, sing lake poems

                              shores with children shaping sand                                    
                              into castles as sea water fills holes
                              a sand crab scrambles seeking safety
                              while shovels work their artistry

                              it comes to us framed, the artist’s gift
                              to tell us the story he learned from ages
                              of study and the glory of light:
                              a rainbow that carries the love he sends
                              arcing over skies but touching earth

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Jesuslove in an Alien World

            A recent issue of Christian Century takes a second look at the book Resident Aliens, as viewed 25 years later.  The authors, Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, were former professors of mine during my sojourn at Duke Divinity School.  Commentaries by a number of current theologians, church leaders and seminary professors critique the book in light of our own time.  Some find it wanting, others see its continued relevance.

            The book defines resident aliens as Christians who stand apart from the common culture, in communities which consider themselves unaligned with the state but instead are the church in its broader scope: as witness against the state or society on occasion.  As assessed by the authors, they were part of the counterculture.  Today as I stand outside that time, I wonder how we as Christians can remain in the alien fold, when it is more likely that the world around us is alien and we have become part of the culture that surrounds us.

            Our measure is Jesus.  Did he represent the culture of his day or the counterculture?  As I consider the matter, I realize that Jesus was actively political.  He stood squarely against the injustices of the Roman rule, the discrimination against women in his society, the needs of the poor and the sick who did not have access to the health care of that time, and the society of rank, which marked the boundaries between the wealthy and the poor, as well as including the economic needs of those between those two categories.  Today we label them the middle class.

            To follow the teachings of Jesus calls for us to live in a world that is alien to Christian practices.  We are not the aliens, we are the inhabitants of an alien society, when we try to show love to others in a way imitating Jesus’ love.  To remove the barriers that we cannot breach is a daunting effort.  The discoveries of what I call Jesuslove among those we condemn as undeserving because of their failures defines one way we can carry that love with us to the alien world surrounding us. 

We are all failures in some manner, yet so was Jesus.  He failed to follow the religious laws when human need interfered.  He failed to acknowledge the power of the Roman rule over his people.  Yet the failures were the very factors that brought forth his love for others.  He dared to include the fallen of society, and declared himself on a mission to bring the Creator’s love to everyone.  The result was to be punished severely for such efforts.  He visited the sick and restored life to those believed to be dead.  In the last chapters of his story, he overcame even his own death at the hands of an evil power.  The aliens did not win then, nor will they do so ever, because what is lasting is the kind of love no one can adequately define.  We do know, however, that it is most powerful in an alien world, the world we live in.