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The Sermon in my pocket

 Working on military monuments and sculptures, I talk with service members I encounter to learn more about their stories. One of the small details of military culture I’m learning about is the challenge coin. These are special coins given by units or individuals to other service members when they have served together.

Challenge coins

They are presented in a hand shake; few words exchanged; everyone just understands. Everyone in the military knows about the coins and most will always have one close at hand. So, I created a coin to give when I want to express gratitude to a member of our military.

It is received well every time I “coin” someone unexpectedly.

Coin

In my work as a sculptor I am surrounded by people who understand the meaning of service. My sculptures primarily fall into two categories, Military and Faith. So, it seems appropriate that my clients whose service is expressed through their faith should have a coin as well. The most impacting piece I have created for my Faith line of sculptures is “The Calling”; Christ calling Peter to leaves his nets and follow Him. Early on, I thought about this image as appropriate for those who are in full time Christian service. “The Calling” was something I had heard about; growing up the son of a pastor. I now understand that the calling of Christ is for all of us, not only for the ordained.
Coin 2

“The Calling…my life is my answer” seemed to be the best words to capture the idea that it is more than the moment where I may have said “yes”. It is how we live every day of our lives that is really our answer.

On the reverse I placed words to encourage. “Stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” The hands in the center are actually mine; sculpting the clay. They represent two truths. The first is that every day we shape what our lives will become through our choices, the work of hands, and our answer to His calling. The second truth is that we are sculpted by our creator when we allow Him to shape and mold us.
Coin 3 copy

My desire for the coin is that we will carry it. Every time you reach for your keys or some change, mixed in with the busyness of the day will be this small bronze sermon. You will be reminded again of His calling and be encouraged to stand firm in the faith; be courageous and strong.

Coin edge
The final detail on the “Calling Coin” is found on the edge; easy to overlook. The words of Isaiah, “Here am I; send Me”, are a simple reminder that we must always remember “The Calling” in every moment, in every encounter, and in every place.

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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Masters and Novices

In 1982, Hermine and I lived in Prairie Village, on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro area. On our summer vacation to Colorado, one afternoon we drove south from Westcliffe to La Veta Pass. My dad entertained us with stories about when his family came over the same pass to do migrant work in the San Luis Valley during the depression in the 1930s.I always felt connected to the Rocky Mountains and his stories welded that connection even stronger.

Our destination was a little town called Cuchara. Colorado.com describes it as “classic Colorado — where snow capped mountains meet lush green fields and rushing rivers. Tucked in the eastern shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this serene town rests between the rich forests of the San Isabel National Forest  and the Cucharas River, which cuts right through town.” Coming from Kansas and the summer heat, it was exactly what we were hoping for.

Mom and Dad and Hermine and I wandered through the shops and into a gallery that was filled with beautiful western art; sculpture and paintings.

Up a short flight of stairs and I stepped into the studio of the artist and sculptor, Gene Stewart.

Immediately, I was captured by his art. But, the biggest gift he gave me that day was how he stopped working and focused on me. I remember he was working on a cowboy and horse. The horse was finished and he picked it up, showed me the wax figure and I was hooked. He explained his tools, the materials and his process. When I said I wanted to try to sculpt, he gave me a list of materials and told me to start, be bold and go for it.That conversation changed everything. I walked out of his studio and told Hermine, “I think I can do that.”

I spent the whole of the next winter season, in my basement, creating my first sculpture. Gene is a western artist. He’s won awards and been published many times. So, of course my first piece would be western too; a cowboy. Before I found my own voice as a sculptor, I borrowed Gene’s.

Today, there is never a moment when I receive a curious question about my work that I don’t think about that summer day in Colorado and the gracious guidance I received.

Gene Stewart; an artist from Oklahoma who changed the course of my life.


 

Dad’s flower boxes

I think I’ll plant flowers this year. It’s an unusually warm time right now up here in the mountains. Even though my studio sits next to a stream that runs year ’round with snow melt from Pikes Peak, I can sit in the sun today in a tee shirt … and it feels good.

I haven’t had flowers on the deck across the stream for two years. My dad’s flower boxes still sit in an awkward stack in the corner of the deck where he left them. I’ve looked at them since he’s been gone and there was always some kind of odd comfort in that lonely picture, reminding me how big the hole is that he left in my heart … and that sadness feels wonderfully awful.

Today would be the kind of day he would have loved; outside preparing the soil in his boxes for the bouquet he would select every year. I remember how he’d tell me about his selection and how these would be the finest flower boxes ever…

Why didn’t I take more pictures? I should have interviewed him and produced a beautiful tribute documentary with nostalgic soundtracks, the wash of the stream and his unforgettable voice and that smile. I was busy…I guess. There would always be time…

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized