I touch his character in half-finished pieces of furniture, beautifully crafted, and feel the echoed whispers of the past as I walk around his workshop in my mind.
On 26th April at around 1:30pm he left us at 96 years old. A Cabinet Maker by trade, he made some excellent pieces of Church Furniture.
Working with Wood requires precision and skill and he was a skilled workman, cutting, shaping and joining pieces of timber. The personal touch of the Master Craftsman’s hand always produces something unique.
His rough hands loved the touch of finished wood, but it was the roughhewn wood of a tree made into a Cross on Calvary where Jesus suffered and died for our sins, that changed his life. He found forgiveness at the Cross.
He sought to allow his own life to be crafted and honed by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed”
I think woodworking shaped Maurice’s understanding of God, perhaps because Jesus was also a Carpenter.
Jesus probably worked with all kinds of wood, different grains, wood with growth rings indicating the scars of fires and narrow growth rings indicating cold winters, the warps and twisted pieces, the knotted parts, the red, white, the light and dark brown woods, the twisted and straight pieces, the weathered pieces, the beautiful oaks and cedars. “The God of the universe was knee deep in wood shavings” it seems. Hard to imagine.
But, of course, He shapes human lives as well. All kinds. He has the wonderful ability to take the scars of our past and knotted parts of our personalities, the flaws in our abilities, the twists and the warps of our experience and as we trust in Him, He redeems them and makes us into something uniquely beautiful, with purpose and a destiny.
He measures us with the Word of God and dovetails that into our lives. He wastes nothing but uses our gifts, motivations, abilities, personalities and experiences, shaping our understanding and faith, making something of value and beauty. Each piece has His personal touch, all handmade.
The old man was created in such a way as this, joined together, and finished by the Master Craftsman.
When he was created he was fearfully and wonderfully made. Jesus knows His craft.
Psalms 139:13-16 (NIV) says “For You created my inmost being; … I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well …”
I am told that the Heartwood of a tree gives it stability and although it dies as the tree grows it provides support for the tree while it grows. The heartwood of the Craftsman’s life was his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who died for him. Maurice had a strong faith in Christ.
One of the essential tools of the trade he would have used in Cabinetmaking is a Tape Measure or a wooden folding rule. The old adage says “Measure twice and cut once.”
A picture his wife painted for an exhibition was the old Woodworker reading his Bible out in the back yard of near his workshop, during a break. The Bible was his measure.
It was the essential standard of life and faith and in it’s words of truth, he constantly found the measure of his identity. And so it was appropriate for one of his grandsons to read Psalm 91.
He wasn’t perfect. There were many mistakes made in his time as a Cabinetmaker. Learning from mistakes is how a Cabinet Maker increases his skills. So too in the life of faith.
God, on the other hand, doesn’t make any mistakes in His creative endeavours. He ordained each of the old artisan’s 96 years.
During WWII, the Craftsman made an old wooden shelf in a makeshift hospital inside a cave on the island of Crete, where he worked as an Ambulance officer.
An 8-year-old girl would bring candles, light them, and lead them into the cave each day, placing the candles on his shelf.
Years later the old Craftsman returned to Crete and was surprised to find his shelf was still in the cave with traces of candle wax. The interpreter, on hearing the story of the 8-year-old girl, invited him to go to the village.
Now a 58-year-old woman, Maurice was reunited with the girl who brought the candles so long ago. She was still living in the village. This helped to bring some sense of closure to his war experiences.
At his funeral it was as if Maurice had left us an unfinished piece of furniture in beautiful mahogany and although we were unskilled, it was up to us to create something in tribute that would honour a life well lived.
We tentatively began by speaking the words of the Lord’s Prayer. We sang the hymn – Abide with me, accompanied by two of Maurice’s grandchildren on the Oboe and Keyboard.
A Cabinet Maker must have patience. You can’t rush the process. You have to “listen to the wood” through hand and eye. One of Maurice’s sons and two granddaughters sought to “listen to the wood” as they crafted a Tribute to Maurice’s life in their eulogy and in photographs of years gone by.
Once again, I run my fingers across unfinished work the Lord has yet for me to do. I touch His character in the beautiful natural, hand-chosen grains of the timber He has provided and gaze across at the tools He has left me with which to work. I feel the whispers of His voice in this space to which I am called.
A good piece of furniture will have lasting value. A life well lived will leave a lasting legacy. A life redeemed has eternal influence.
Farewell old friend.