The Church Logo
By Stephen Jones
Here’s a picture of the church logo. It is a new, young leaf representing new life in Christ. This logo is painted on the face of a podium made by the Ithaca Christian Men’s Workshop through the recent months of May, June and early July. The story of how the logo got there on the podium—it wasn’t planned—says much about how things are going in our Workshop. God is in charge.
The idea for a podium that would be shaped like an elliptical glass vase was discussed among the small number of men in our group when we considered things to make from wood. We envisioned a fairly wide base narrowing to an ankle-high stem and flaring gradually toward a wide, dark-walnut top with more than enough space for a Bible and some preaching notes. In the front-middle of the podium we wanted a Cross made of purple heart wood. Purple heart is an extremely dense hardwood from South America. It is nearly impossible to hand tool, easily dulls machine tools, and grabs and breaks drill bits until you learn to drill with short bites. Purple heart has the lasting quality and deep, plain beauty and royalty represented in the Cross of Christ.
Surrounding the Cross, which was not a veneer but a four-inch deep figure recessed into the bosom of the podium, was furniture-grade plywood. This tough plywood would carry most of the structure which is typical of our woodwork. An early problem, because we don’t have fancy equipment, was getting neat plywood cuts to surround the cross. Here, in the picture, Mark (left) and Larry (right) puzzle over the matter.
Happily, their efforts were successful. In fact, we threw away only one cut piece of wood during the entire podium project.
Last fall we tried setting up a wood shop in our church basement. The idea was that older and godly Christian men would teach profitable skills to younger men caught up in crime, addictions, and the downward spiral of life in some of our local streets. The real lesson, however, would be from the Bible: how “to become upright men upon whom God showers his blessings,” as we wrote in a website article back at that time. We retracted the article because we didn’t have the funds to pay for insurances necessary to have a shop in the church basement. We thought that was the end of a good idea but, a while later, a few of us began working at my home. We meet regularly and spend our time woodworking and Bible study. So far, there’s no financial profit because we are making only gifts.
The podium is a gift for a friend who pastors a local church. His current podium is a wooden shaft with boards at the top and bottom. Also, he has encouraged the workshop idea and likes our work so we thought he would be appreciative of this gift. Actually, we didn’t figure all this out in advance. We just wanted to make a beautiful podium and were enjoying the venture. The work itself is meditative, and we learn, while we’re doing what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. As we work, we see what God is creating. He orders our hands and, as our hands work together, we become his workmanship.
The church logo was God’s idea. From our perspective, here on earth, the logo arose from a mistake. We are not rocket scientists, quite obviously—not even engineers. There are no “specs,” no drawings to tell us how to cut each piece of wood. Most of the information about any particular shape is communicated by the piece that went before it. We pray that each piece is wondrously made and fitly joined with the others. Occasionally, during prayer, something comes up that warns us that there’s a stumbling block ahead, and we have to regroup and change course. Twice, there was prayer combined with providential oddities that saved us from having to trash this podium venture altogether.
One of these oddities involved a really big mistake. It happened just above and to the left-center of the Cross. We were creating a “V” out of cherry wood that would swoop down from either side toward the intersection on the Cross. Unfortunately, we didn’t get enough cherry wood glued up evenly on the left side so that when we shaped this area with our grinders there were large gaps and holes in the cherry wood. What were we to do with this boo-boo right in the center of a face that we hoped would be beautiful? It looked awful. You can’t unglue glued wood; this mess would require cosmetic surgery.
We patched the area with a hard spackle which only made the face of our podium look worse. We proceeded to think and talk and fret a lot. Maybe the pastor wouldn’t mind. Since the whole thing was otherwise going to be beautiful, maybe he wouldn’t even notice the blemish in spite of his artistic keenness. Maybe, since the auditorium was large, most people would never see the bright red boil on this pubescent nose. Maybe the mistake was a good thing; the Navajo Indians always included a “mistake” so as to avoid hubris. But, alas, we knew by then that God was the Creator, even of this podium. We had many reasons not to fix what, by now, was crying out for attention.
One of my daughters said, “Mistakes are opportunities.” We decided to paint wings coming up from the cross. Naah! Wings left a lot of the blemish still exposed. We decided to paint heavenly fire—“a consuming fire”—mostly on the left. Naah! Nobody knew how to paint a plain old fire, let alone a consuming fire. We decided to have a kind of Holy Ghost figure snaking from the base of the Cross and winding upwards to cover the boo-boo. Naah! It could easily be mistaken for a demon rather than a Holy Ghost figure. Besides, there was always the nagging question of graven images. Each decision took about a day’s time to make and cancel. God didn’t seem to want any of our ideas.
A few days later Mark and I went together for a meeting at the office of our pastor-friend. Outside his office is a sign with the logo of the church, like the photo above. “That’s it!” The turquoise leaf seemed perfect for our podium. Later on, however, when it came time to paint the logo over the boo-boo, we couldn’t leave well-enough alone. We thought it would be better to paint the logo gold rather than turquoise—beautiful, subtle, artistic, holy gold. Medieval, heavenly gold. Gold, nuancing the actual logo. These sophisticated church folks—our first big audience—would like that. It was their logo, yes, but not quite their logo. Cool! We painted a golden logo. We all thought it looked beautiful and were satisfied. Once again God had another idea.
A few days later, Larry carefully varnished all the wood plus the golden logo. God didn’t want a golden logo and, in fact, it disappeared with the varnishing! The varnished cherry wood was a perfect color match for the golden logo. Everywhere there was cherry wood there was no logo, and most of what was behind the logo was cherry wood. Larry looked up and smiled. “Now you see it; now you don’t.”
Obediently, we repainted the logo turquoise—like the actual church logo. Then we put on two more coats of varnish. The turquoise logo glowed all the more, never disappearing in the least. The three of us made appropriate arrangements, so as to keep a secret, and delivered the podium to the pastor’s office last week. Here’s what the final product looked like.
Mark and Larry thought the pastor was delighted, but I thought otherwise. Although he said he did, I was sure my friend did not like the podium. I was sure something was wrong. The church logo!! He doesn’t like the church logo on the podium and we will have to tell him about the boo-boo and we’ve run out of cover-up ideas and the whole thing was an ungodly-ego-trip-white-elephant in the first place! Although the podium was now hidden in his church office, I fussed and fumed a good deal more over the church logo. Maybe it was my come-uppance: Who is the Creator?
Five days later the pastor asked Mark and Larry and I to join him in a few weeks for a podium dedication ceremony. “It’s beautiful!” he exclaimed, “And, of course, I particularly like the logo.” He said it in such a way that I could only remember that God was still in charge. We made mistakes, but God meant them for good. And so it goes in the microcosm of a project as in the macrocosm of our lives. We are blessed!