The story behind this inspired collection.
This is the compelling story of the collection “Our Salvation”. I hope you will find it not only inspirational, but a testimony in the knowledge that God truly loves us all and has a very special plan for each of us.
My name is Richard Cermak. I was born in Cleveland and I currently reside in Windham, Ohio. I am of average intelligence and do not have a college degree. I am a construction worker by trade. I know that the Lord loves me, even though I am a very grave sinner and have many faults. Consequently, I am not by any means a saintly or holy person, but rather a very average one. In spite of this, I have been blessed by God with some very special artistic talents. I have always been close to Jesus in my own way. It simply amazes me beyond words how He could suffer and die for us.
The story begins in California in the spring of 1995. I was visiting Stanford University at the time and was viewing sculptures of August Rodin (French 1840-1917), which were in a garden behind the campus library. In viewing Rodin’s “Gates of Hell”, I spoke to Jesus and asked Him “Why hasn’t anyone sculpted the “Gates of Heaven”?” The thought that came back to me was someday “I” would sculpt the “Gates of Heaven”. At the time, I didn’t recognize this as the beginning of this story.
Although, I have been blessed with artistic talent and have done many oil paintings in the past, I had never sculpted anything before. I attended a community college, when I was younger and took all the available art studio courses. Nothing in the line of sculpting was ever offered. Consequently, I hadn’t any knowledge or experience in that field.
When I came home from California, it was Monday of Holy Week. I had a strong inspiration to try a clay piece of sculpture. It was Holy Week and I wanted to do my first piece of sculpture “of Jesus” and “for Jesus”. With that in mind, I went to a local art supply store and asked for some information about clay. I was told basically that there are four types of clay: a modeling clay which never hardens; an air dry clay; an oven baked clay; and a kiln-baked clay. Of these different types, there were several different manufacturers. I eventually selected (after the first model) a modeling clay made by Roma Plastilina – no. 2 grade. There are four grades of hardness nos. 1-4 with no. 1 being the softest. I only mention this so that there is an awareness in the odds of finding that specific kind of clay which I use for my models – an important factor later in the story. I purchased the clay and some sculpting tools. I said a prayer letting Jesus know that this one was “for Him”. I began the model (Tuesday of Holy Week, 1995) and then “He” began to lead the way!
From the moment that I started this piece of sculpture, I never needed to work at it. Everything seemed to be automatically formed. I simply could not go fast enough. I felt, in a way, that I was merely a tool being controlled by the Master Sculptor. What emerged was a most powerful, meaningful, and unique piece of work, which completely overwhelmed me.
Then it came to me. I didn’t hear voices or see images, rather a thought was given to me of clear certainty. A certainty that I felt, without any doubt, was true, real, and will happen. I was to do a more permanent sculpture out of wood! So of course, not knowing anything about wood, I simply asked our Lord to direct me and He did! After one phone call, I found myself on the way to a hardwood supply store, which is about a one hour drive from where I lived. I introduced myself and explained what I wanted to do with the wood. A gentleman (who did wood carving) overheard the conversation. He politely interrupted to suggest that I was taking on a far too intricate a project for never having done any wood working before! However, I felt the power of the Lord. I then knew beyond any doubt that I would carve this piece and that it would be well done. With that in mind, I needed to select a wood.
In viewing a sample selection of the different types of wood, I needed to call on the Lord again to make the selection. You see whenever I have difficulty making a decision, I simply ask Jesus what to do. After asking Him, the very next thought that I get, I go with it, never questioning and never looking back. Well, the answer was butternut. A wood that I never heard of until that day!
As I gained some knowledge of different woods over the last three years, I was informed that out of all the different varieties of wood, three stand out among the best for carving: black walnut, mahogany, and butternut! Great choice Lord! And so, I purchased a piece of butternut that was 4 inches thick, 15 inches wide, and about 4 feet long. The piece was cut into three sections, two of which were planed and glued together, and a third small piece (where Jesus’ head needed to be) was also glued on, making the original block of wood three pieces in one. Three in one – sound familiar?!
Now that I had the block of wood, I made a brilliant deduction in becoming a wood sculptor, I needed some tools! So I asked some questions, and bought some tools, got down on my knees, asked for guidance, and started up my chain saw! For only one brief moment did I give a consideration to the fact that if I took off too much wood, the sculpture would be ruined. That feeling instantly vanished, and the Lord filled me with confidence, so much confidence in fact, that in all the pieces that I have done, numerous chain saw cuts are well within an ¼ inch of the finished surface! Remarkable!
There was an event that happened during the sculpturing of this piece which really made me feel that God was in control of this. I was using a hammer and chisel and accidentally (I thought at the time) had a piece of wood crack away that was much larger than I wanted to take out. Concerned that I made a mistake, I started to look for the piece on the floor, thinking that I could glue it back in! Now the floor, which was a relatively small area was just swept up and very clean, so the rather large chip should have been easily found. However after 5 minutes of searching, it wasn’t. What came to me was: “Stop looking, remember I’m in control!” From that point on, whenever I thought I made a mistake, that is, something cracked off, or went wrong, I simply said something like “Oh, that’s how You want it. OK Lord, Thy will be done!” I would then continue on, except in the third sculpture, which I’ll mention later in this story.
As I was in church one day, shortly after completing the piece, I incredibly received a very strong, clear, and explicit message. I was to do two more sculptures, with each one being started during Holy Week as the first one was. I was also to use the same kind of wood. The three piece collection was to be titled: “He Has Died”, “He Has Risen”, and “He Will Come Again”. After the collection is completed, it is to be taken to a small church, somewhere west of Ohio and left there. At this time, I didn’t know the destination. The collection is to always be displayed together, never separated, never sold, and someday will be world known. This then, takes us to Holy Week of 1996, and the start of the second piece, “He Has Risen”.
Although I started the second piece during Holy Week, I was called back to work after being laid-off for the winter, and never completed the piece. It wasn’t until the following winter that I had an opportunity to resume work on the sculpture, but I didn’t have enough clay to finish it. This is where the Lord really begins to work miracles in this project. Out of the four well known art supply stores in the local area, all of them were out of that particular clay that I use, except the main store in downtown Cleveland. So I went to the store, and purchased all of the Roma Plastilina no.2 clay that they had, which was 6 blocks. Now, three of these blocks were rather old, being more brittle and harder than the three new blocks, but I bought them anyway because I needed quite a bit of clay to complete the piece. After using up the three newer blocks first, I tried to knead and mold each of the older blocks, but could not use them. After making phone calls to each of the four stores, I was told by all of them, that no one has any of that clay in stock. Well this was on a Friday and I was rather down about the situation, and so in my prayers that evening, I had a little talk with the Lord that went something like this: “You know Lord, You told me to do this project, but You’re not giving me the material. I don’t have the power to produce loaves of bread, or fishes, or clay, but You do! So how about a little help?” Well, I got it! Saturday morning I woke up, and it came to me to drive downtown to the main store, and so I did. I took the three old blocks of clay back to the counter and gave them to the clerk, who once again informed me that they hadn’t received any new clay in , and that they were out of the particular brand. But somehow, I knew differently. I went back to the clay section. Now, if you believe in the power of the Lord, you already know what was there. But of course I’m going to let you know for certain anyway. There were exactly, three brand new blocks of Roma Platilina no. 2 grade of clay! Keep in mind all of the various different kinds, brands, and soft/hard selections of clay that are available to determine the odds of finding exactly that particular kind and amount that was needed. Well, I looked up, gave my thanks with a big smile and teary eyes, took the three block of clay to the counter, and let the clerk know that I did find some clay, and could make an even exchange for the old blocks. She said that she had no idea how they got there, unless a customer brought them back. I informed her that it wasn’t a customer and bid her a great day!
Now that I had the clay, there was still another item that I wanted to get. Being rather unfamiliar with the anatomy of cherubs, I felt that I should get a reference book to help familiarize myself with them, because the second sculpture was going to have two of them in it. So I went to a local bookstore and asked the clerk for assistance in directing me to the location of the cherubs. He took me to the religious section and pointed to the lowest shelf near the floor, containing about thirty-five books of angels. I sat on the floor and paged through each book looking for pictures of cherubs. Well, all of the books were quite literary and mostly about angels, not cherubs, and containing very few pictures. Being quite disappointed, I needed to talk to my friend! I stood up, looked up, and called upon the Lord. Something like this, “Now, You know Lord, that this is for You. I want to do what You want me to, but I need a little help here. I can’t seem to find a book with those cute little cherubs in it. How about some help?” And with that, as I was looking up, my head just happened to make a quarter turn to the left. Instantly, I was drawn to a book, which was extending out between 3-4 inches from all the other books on the top shelf. Without even reading the title on the binding, I reached up for it. Somehow knowing that it was the book that I was looking for and it was! In fact, it was more than the book I was looking for. For the entire book was composed of thin cardboard punch out figures of cherubs and angels, to make hanging mobiles out of. No words – just hundreds of little cherubs and angels! Once again, I looked up, gave my thanks, and with tears in my eyes, went and paid for the book. Oh, the power of the Lord!
Finishing the clay model rather quickly, it now was a Friday, time to begin the wood sculpture and I was very excited, until I called the place where I bought the wood. This piece, you see, being more long than tall, led me to think that I would have to have five pieces of wood laminated together. This was something that I wasn’t particularly fond of, but thought that I would have to do. Well, I was wrong. In calling the hardwood supply store, I was in for a major disappointment. First of all, the man that took car of me the previous year, didn’t work there any longer, and the gentleman that was there, wasn’t capable of laminating pieces of wood together. But that wasn’t the major disappointment. There wasn’t any 4″ butternut wood available! The thickest piece that they had was only 2″ thick, which meant that I would have to glue those pieces together to get the needed length for the piece. Something not at all feasible. My heart sank, for I needed the wood and NOW! Well, it was time to get on my knees and raise my head again. One more time Lord, some loaves and fishes please! “Lord, Lord, Lord! Now surely You are fully aware that I cannot do this project without wood! What am I to do?” I went to sleep and waited. I awoke that Saturday morning, and it came to me to drive out to the place where I bought the wood. Without questioning, I did. When I arrived, I introduced myself to the clerk and he led me to the butternut bin, which I merely passed by, continuing down the aisle. I wound up walking to the very last bin in the barn – the basswood bin! Now, basswood is a very soft, whitish, straight-grained wood that can be very thick, and is used for more simple carving. So the clerk assumed that I was going to use basswood instead of butternut. When he questioned me, my answer was simply “No, I need to use butternut.” With that he made sure that I was aware that we were standing at the basswood bin! When I assured him that I knew that, he merely gave me a strange look, and walked away! But somehow, I knew that yet a far more expressive look would be coming from this man. You see, as I rummaged through the basswood, on the very bottom of the pile, and set back almost three feet, was a piece of butternut wood! But not just a 4″ thick piece. No, it was a 6 ½” thick piece! When I called the man over to verify that the piece was butternut, I saw that second look on his face that I had anticipated. Was he ever surprised! And, being that this piece of wood was 6 ½” thick, it meant that I only needed to have three pieces laminated together! Three in one! Does this principle sound familiar?!
There was still a minor problem. This man could not glue the wood together for me. He did, however, give me the addresses of two Amish woodworkers in the area that could probably do it for me. So, I was off. After driving to the first house, and finding out that the man was out of town, I drove to the second place. Now, it was about 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon when I pulled up into the lot. I noticed that a light was on in the wood shop, and so I knocked at the door. As the Amish man opened the door, I asked him if his shop was open for business and his reply was similar to this, “Normally I close on Saturday at noon, but for some reason, I seem to be here a little later today. So I guess that I can help you.” And I replied, “I think that I can tell you why you’re here.” With that, I stepped in and told him the whole story. And yes, he did laminate the three pieces for me. Isn’t the Lord great!
At that point, I was ready to begin sculpting the second piece “He Has Risen”. After a quick prayer, with the chain saw buzzing, the chips started to fly! This piece went better than the first. Being a little more familiar with the wood, my speed picked up, and the piece was coming along just fine. Then, something started to bother me with the wood. There was a very distinguished line in the middle of Jesus’ head, where two of the pieces were glued together. This became very annoying to me. Actually, I was at a point where I was considering to blend the colors together with oil paint before the piece was finished. Then, an understanding came to me. The different colors are there because He wanted them there, and they have a great significance. I saw it them, in a totally different way! The color of Jesus’ beard is a dark brown, while from His mouth to His eyes is a lighter beige color. His forehead is a reddish color, and the highlights in his hair appear to have a yellowish tint. Black, white, red, yellow – the four races. Jesus Christ’s redemption is for all of us! Can an artist or any of us, be so set in our ways that we are actually blind? I was. Then the Lord opened my eyes. Praise to you Oh Lord! For once I was blind, and now I can see!
Along the line of opening my eyes, there is another prominent appearance in the wood itself that the Master incorporated. Actually, this phenomenon started in the first piece, but it really didn’t get my attention until it also appeared in the second one. And, although I realized that it was something very important, I really wasn’t sure of its significance until the Lord let me know in the third piece! On the back side of the first piece, (the side with God the Father on it), just left of the center line, there is a dark stain in the wood itself that goes from the top to the bottom of the sculpture – on the front of God the Father. In the second piece, once again on the back side , and just left of center, is a dark stain that goes from the top to the bottom – on the back of God the Father. At this time in the project, I did not know for certain what this stain was, although I was alerted that it was significant. As I relate this story to you , I will let you know, at that point in time, when the Lord let me know, what this symbolizes. Until then, do you have any guesses?
Alas, while you may be tuned into thinking at this point, I would like to inform you of one more very important feature, which I also was not made aware of until working on the third piece. In both pieces, Jesus’ body is formed rather abstractly, similar to a twisted rope. When I was questioned about this, I could not give an answer until He gave me an answer, which I will give you, at the end of this story.
One other interesting point. These two pieces of sculpture, although the second one is more involved, took precisely the same amount of time to complete – 150 hours! Incidentally, there happens to be 150 Psalms in the Bible!
With the second piece completed, we are taken to Holy Week of 1997. Time to start the third and final piece of the collection, “He Will Come Again”. Before starting this piece, I knew without a doubt, that it would turn out to be the most awesome, powerful, moving, religious piece of sculpture in the world. Consequently, it is my proclamation, not because I sculpted it, but because the Lord orchestrated it, that it is!
Having 1 ½ blocks of clay left to start the model with and anticipating being called back to work soon, I elected to start with the most important piece of this sculpture – God. In this third piece, which is very large, involved, and complex, God is seen coming on a cloud at the end of the world, and is depicted by Jesus Christ sitting on a throne, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit standing directly behind Him. I started with the Father, then the Holy Spirit, and then was out of clay! Thinking that by now, with it being 4 months after the last time I purchased clay, surely the store would have replenished their supply, and obtaining clay would not be a problem. I was wrong again! Although the stores did restock their clay supply, there was a current overwhelming demand for clay by the art students in the area were given a large sculpting project to complete. All of the stores were out of clay again! Realizing that because of the large size of the third piece, and thinking that I would not have enough time to finish it before I was called back to work, I limited my objective to finishing the Holy Trinity, the heart of the piece. This meant that I only needed one more block of clay to finish Jesus. So, of course, by now I was getting use to the routine. Ask and ye shall receive! There I was again, praying for just one block of this clay, but nothing came to me this time – yet! Instead I took it upon myself to drive downtown to the main store, where the 3 blocks were provided for me, thinking that once again He will provide, but there wasn’t any clay at the store. Being disappointed, and told by the clerk to check at a different place, I did. I thought that the Lord was directing me through this man, but He wasn’t. And so, driving on my way home, dejected again, I started to have a serious conversation with my friend, Jesus. It went something like this, “You know Lord, this is getting really old fast. You ask me to do this sculpting for You, and I’m very willing and excited to, but why do You have to make it so difficult? I need some clay! Can You hear me? All I’m asking for is one simple block of the stuff. It’s not like I’m asking for the Red Sea to part! Just one simple block of clay!” Well, just about that time, I was at a split in the highway, and at the very last possible second, the steering wheel seemed to take me in the opposite direction that I was going! So, I would up heading North instead of South toward home, and of course I had to ask Him, “Well, OK Lord. Where are we going now?” What came back was to get off at the next exit and go to one of the main store branches and I did. I walked in, went up to the counter, and asked if they had any of the type of clay that I used. The woman there informed me that they had in fact, no clay at all. The store was under new management, and what little clay they did have, was mostly not any good and discarded. Consequently, the area where they kept the clay had been cleaned out and they were in the process of ordering a new supply. So with that news, I decided to order a rather large amount of clay so that I would finally be finished in dealing with this incredible clay shortage! This, by the way, happened on a Monday. I ordered 15 blocks of clay, which she told me would take between 2-3 weeks, and then I started to leave the store. I took three or four steps and stopped. It came to me to go over by the area where they normally stocked the clay, and I did. Well, the woman was right – almost! There were 2 shelves about 6 ft. long that were completely empty, except for one block of Roma Platilina no. 2 modeling clay, right in the middle of the top shelf! With chills and tears in my eyes, I looked up, gave thanks and praise, and took the block of clay to the counter. The woman said that she had no idea where it came from, and I informed her that I did – from the Lord! I came home and finished sculpting Jesus, which was on a Wednesday, two days after I ordered the 15 blocks of clay. On that day, I received a phone call from work stating that work was a little slow and I wouldn’t be starting back as anticipated on that coming Monday. Well, all of a sudden I had some time on my hands, but of course, guess what I didn’t have? And, the clay wasn’t due to be in for at least another week and a half. Oh, how my trust in the Lord still needed to grow!
The following day, Thursday, I thought that at least I could build all the framework for this structure. So I went to a builders supply store, needing to purchase some ¼” wire screen. Now the screen came in two different quantities costing $10.00 and $50.00 respectively. Needing only a small quantity and having only $10. and some change to buy this with, obviously I needed the smaller roll of screen. There wasn’t any. Scanning the area three different times, from top to bottom, there wasn’t any small roll of screen to be found. Just before I turned to leave, I looked up and said something like this: “You know Lord, this can get very aggravating. You know that I don’t have much money. Why won’t You provide for me?” Does this sound familiar to you? And as for me, after all that He had shown me up to this point, where was my faith? Anyway, I turned, being rather upset, to leave the store. Once again, with chills, tears, and not liking myself for doubting Him, I gave thanks and praise. Paid for the wire with only 50 cents left. Praise and glory to You, Oh Lord! Please forgive me again!
Unfortunately, using the wire and making the supporting framework for the model, only took a day. It was now Friday afternoon and once again, incredible as it was, I needed clay! Realizing that I had at least 10 days before the clay would arrive that I ordered. I was once again dejected. I even started to reuse some clay form the sepulcher of the second clay model, He Has Risen, in a futile attempt to keep going. It was now late Saturday morning, the situation seemed hopeless, and I was once again angry at the Lord. “Why must You make this so difficult? Here I am, devoting myself to this project, this mission that You wanted me to do, and that I accepted. Why must I constantly struggle with this?” Now that I look back, probably at this point, the Lord was thinking something like: “Richard, Richard, Richard. When on this earth that I created, are you going to start trusting Me? Your faith in Me is so weak. How many times must I show you? Maybe I should have placed you in that gang of My chosen ones in the desert with Moses. They didn’t show very much faith either!” Anyway, I proceeded to take a shower, cool off, and approach this in a different light. After the shower, when I came out to the kitchen, my message machine was blinking. I played it. I was the art supply store calling to inform me that the clay I ordered arrived exceptionally early! I knelt on the kitchen floor and wept openly, as I am now, wondering how the Lord could possible love me, and once again asked Him for forgiveness. I imagined what Peter felt like, “Oh Lord, after all that you have shown me: How ignorant I am; how obstinate; how little faith I have. Please forgive me again Lord, and help me understand Your love. Help my faith in You grow. Teach me patience, humility, and most of all, trust in You.” I went to get the clay. The gentleman who waited on me said that he couldn’t remember an order ever arriving in only 5 days before, and I gave thanks and praise to the Lord. Finally, at this point, it was comforting to think that I wouldn’t be needing any more clay. Amen! I worked very quickly on the clay model. The Lord and I managed to complete it before I went back to work. Which, by the way, took us amazing as it may be – 150 hours to complete! Praise the Lord!
At this point, there was just one more thing that I was going to need, and that was wood. I didn’t have any inclination as to how I was going to put the wood together for this, except that somehow it would be done. After all, the third piece in size was very large, 36″ long x 30″ wide x 30″ high. How many pieces must be glued together? How is this going to happen? Well, it came to me to once again drive out to the hardwood supply store, and I did. In talking with the man there, and discussing the possibilities of providing the wood for this project, we were running out of ideas. Suddenly, something came to him. He recalled that in the backyard, there was an old half rotted stump of butternut wood that they felt couldn’t be salvaged for anything, but that it just may work for me. It did! However, the stump wasn’t kiln-dried and so with some given information, I decided to kiln dry it myself. I purchased the stump, placed it in my truck, and went home.
During the summer I built a kiln to dry out the wood. It was a plywood box, 8′ long x 4′ high, with a heater and dehumidifier placed inside of it. I sawed the stump into four different chunks and placed them in the box, setting the heater and dehumidifier to maximum capacity and sealed the box. For best results, the temperature was to be approximately 118 degrees F. Not really having much knowledge of what I was doing, and sealing up the box, I found myself once again relying on my partner, the Lord. The temperature varied only from 112 degrees during the heat of the day! He was turning out to be quite reliable. After about 3 weeks there wasn’t any more liquid coming out of the drain tube and so I thought that the wood was dried out completely. As it turned out, it wasn’t quite as dry as it should have been, but it was good enough and it worked out fine.
One other thing of importance happened before I actually began the wood sculpture. It was about this time that I started having some thoughts of what was going to happen after the third piece was complete, and taken to where it is going. I didn’t wan this to end. I wanted the mission to continue with the closeness of the Lord, just as it has been. Well after the clay model, “He Will Come Again” was brought back from Twinsburg Public Library, where it was on display, I was keeping it under a carport outdoors until I was ready for it in the coming winter. Then one day, I had noticed a huge pile of clay on the ground and my heart sank! The gates of Heaven were destroyed and laying on the ground and my heart sank! My first thought was, “Is this a sign that I am not going to Heaven?” But then that was instantly dismissed and this is what came to me. Now, as you may recall, when I started this story, back in California over 3 years ago from this point in time, the very first unrecognized thought that I received was that someday I was gong to do the “Gates of Heaven”. This now, became an affirmation to that thought back then! The Lord’s mission in me will continue, and my fourth piece of sculpture, not relating to the Our Salvation Collection, will be the “Gates of Heaven”. Then the Lord became very specific in letting me know that the gates are to be in the form of a cross. For it is only by the cross, both in Christ’s redemption and our very own belief in His death, that we can enter through the gates of Heaven! And although, not nearly as detailed as the fourth piece, “The Gates of Heaven” will be, the gates in this third sculpture must be consistent in their meaning. So, the gates in “He Will Come Again” have been reconstructed in the shape of a cross, and my mission will continue beyond the collection of “Our Salvation”. “Thank you Lord so much for your suffering and death. Thank you for loving me so!”
It was now the night before I was to start the wood piece, January 8, 1998. I was lying awake in bed, about 1:30am, contemplating the sculpture and filled with some trepidation. Although I knew that the Lord was going to be with me, it had been months since I received anything from Him regarding this project. And this piece was, at least from a human perspective, an extraordinary challenge. At any rate, I needed an assurance from the Lord. I needed to know that He was still my partner. I needed His confidence, so I asked for a signal and I got one! Now some will say that this could have been a coincidence, but after all that has happened I know that it came from the Lord. There was a thunderstorm going on then, an El Nino effect for January! However, it was not a very strong one. This meaning that in the course of about 20 minutes, it came and left, consisting of about 8 strikes of lightning. I was lying in bed, calling on the Lord. Pouring out my feelings with all my heart. I asked for a specific sign to let me know that He was still with me. The sign was to be a lightning bolt, and it was to strike at exactly right now! AS I finished saying the “w” in now, the largest lightning bolt of the storm cracked outside, which was very close to inside! Immediately followed by a shaking, thunderous rumble. I sat up in bed and cried, thanking the Lord. Thanking Him for the hug. And with that I was ready – let the chain saw begin!
This sculpture is exceptionally dynamic because of the power it contains in the contrast of good and evil, with good prevailing, God and the devil; Heaven and hell; the chosen ones and the eternally condemned souls; the agony and the ecstasy; eternal life and death.
This piece went very well without any major obstacles, although I imagine that any miracle is really major. Besides, the Lord put enough little miracles into doubtful me and this project, that He probably did, consumed more energy than at the parting of the Red Sea!!! At any rate, there were many little things that happened while sculpting this third piece that let me know the Lord was near. He even showed me a sense of humor!
For instance, when I first began to work on the part of hell, for no apparent reason, began to sweat profusely. The temperature in the room was the same. I wasn’t working any harder than usual and I wasn’t getting sick. I was dripping wet. In fact, I had to run upstairs to get a towel! Then it dawned on me, of course! I’m working on hell! How appropriate to let me feel a little extra warmth, just a little free sample I guess. At any rate, as I made the connection, I began to laugh out loud. I looked up and let Him know just how funny I thought He was! Well, immediately after that acknowledgement, I instantly stopped sweating! Isn’t He just incredible.
Another thing that the Lord constantly did to teach me patience was not to let me find things that I dropped very easily. Once I dropped the cap to a marking pen that I used to outline things with, After briefly looking for it on the floor and not finding it, I quit looking. My thought was something like this: “Come on now Lord. You know how anxious I am to keep going. I don’t want to take the time to look for that cap, so I’m just going to forget about it.” And with that, I continued to work on the sculpture and tried to forget about that silly little cap. But I couldn’t. He wouldn’t let me. I knew the marker was drying out and not knowing how long the other one that I had would last, I needed to find the cap. Well, the best way, I found out, was to totally concede to God. So I stopped sculpting, cleared my mind, got down on my knees, and simply told Him that I was sorry in being anxious and wanting things my way, I asked Him to help me find the cap – that was all. My head instantly turned to the very corner of the room, about 5′ away, where a chair happened to be. In between the chair leg and the corner of the room, was the cap, hidden by the leg of the chair, except for about ¼” that could be seen! Never would I have spotted that cap without moving the chair or more importantly asking Him for help.
Even with that lesson, there was still another event that happened afterward that really shook the stubbornness in me. I was sitting down facing a little shelf in front of me that I kept various tools on. In reaching for a little sanding drum, about the size of a thimble, it happened to fall on the floor and of course I couldn’t find it. Well, I knew instantly what He wanted me to do, but I didn’t do it. This time you see, I didn’t need to find that little sanding drum because I had plenty of them. So there! I didn’t have to stop working. I didn’t have to call on the Lord, I could handle this one myself. I’ll just forget all about that little drum. It will never cross my mind again! Wow, what a tough nut I can be to crack! Anyway, with the sanding drum completely out of my mind, I needed to run upstairs and us the bathroom so I did. It was on my way downstairs that the Lord let me know that He is Lord! I suddenly felt something in the back of my shoe by my heel and thought that it must have been a wood chip or something. When I sat down and felt what it was, at first I laughed and then I got down on my knees and prayed. Yes, it was that little sanding drum that I dropped! He wasn’t going to le me forget about it and have it my way and He didn’t. Now for that little drum to land in the back of my shoe after bouncing on the floor in front of me, well, all I can say is praise You on Lord! Help me to realize that it will be Your way, not mind. Help me to know that You are always in charge and that I am nothing without You.
Along with the many lessons that the Lord has shown me, He also has fully provided a safety net for me during this project. Once the light bulb above my head began to flicker and I had no idea why. Upon looking up and thinking what the heck was going on here, I saw that the electrical cord of a tool that I had just purchased was resting on the bare light bulb and the insulation on the outside cord was melted away. The insulation in the electrical wire was next to melt! So I thanked the Lord, moved the cord away from the bulb, and tightened the bulb. Along the line of personal safety, at no time during this entire project, working with chain saws, chisels, sharp knives, and many various little cutting tools, did I ever require a bandage, except when I worked on the devil. Twice I gouged my hand and needed medical attention, which leads me to that despicable creature.
There were other things that happened while I was working on the devil, things that I didn’t like very much. I had three very terrifying nightmares that emotionally drained me along with the fact that I really had to work at sculpting the devil. You see all of these sculptures were actually very easy for me, seeing that I was being directed from above. However, this was not the case when I began to work on the devil. When it came time to mold him, there was a blank in me. I was waiting for that feeling of what to do next, but nothing came. I was on my own. In fact, after I first sculpted him, I didn’t like it and completely destroyed him and started over again. He was a real struggle for me, in more ways than one. Incidentally, the wood of the devil is the worst of the sculpture having many worm holed in it, and actually about six dried up worms were found in him, how appropriate! The wood of the devil also has been blackened by a flame from a torch, while the robe he wears is very old and tattered, for he has been in a lot of places and around a long time.
The horn that is broken off on one of his two heads was also another lesson in trust. You see, it broke off while I was working on it, which meant that with my personal agreement with the Lord, anything that broke off while I was working on it was meant by Him not to be left on, I should have left the horn off. However, because I personally wanted to horn on, I bartered with God, as many of us do, “Well, after all, I didn’t get any help with the devil, so I can do what I very well please here.” And I did. I glued it back on. Then there was a struggle within me. After all, a deal is a deal! And so, I snapped it off and left it off. I should mention that some pieces were bumped and broke off by accident and were glued back on. You see, as long as the piece that broke wasn’t being sculpted at the time it broke, it was OK to glue it back on. Actually now, I like that devil’s horn better off! The biggest struggle, however, that I had with this entire project was still yet to come. It centered around the evil of Satan.
One night while I was lying awake in be, it came to me to put the mark of the beast in the forehead of the damned person in hell. When this first happened, I was frightened and rejected it, thinking that this was an evil thing. Then once again it came to me with a more complete explanation. I must show this sign so that people are made aware of what it will actually look like. I shall be done with six straight lines, two of the, however are slightly curved. Straight lines because they have beginnings and ends, and change direction abruptly, creating anxiety and stress. Kind of fitting for the beast! So the mark was to be three sixes, made with six lines, and look like an off set crown. This was what was given to me. But what I needed to have peace and acceptance with, was that it came from God not the devil. Then I was assured of this by the fact that God rules over Satan, is in complete control, and that God will dictate and make all decisions over the devil. When I was affirmed of this, it made me see Satan as being weak, not even capable of creating his own mark. I then accepted this with peace, and carved the mark of the beast in the forehead of Satan’s friend.
At this point, there was four more interesting issues that I need to mention, in completing this story. One is of course, concerning that stain that was mentioned earlier. In the third piece the stain is once again present, just left of center in God the Father. But in this piece, as opposed to being in front or behind Him, it is actually inside of Him! It is the stain of Jesus Christ’s blood! Being on the front of the Father as Jesus was being crucified, it was symbolic of the present time. Happening right in front of the Father, a s He watched. In the second piece, the stain is on the back of the Father, indicating that although it hadn’t been very long sine Jesus’ death, it is over with. Behind Him! In the third piece, with the passing of time, the Father’s robe has been washed clean, but the memory of Jesus’ agony and death – the stain of His blood, will always be inside the Father!
Another meaning that is present in the wood itself is the distinguishing color line of the spirit being raised from the dead and taken to Heaven. This dark/light line indicates the cleansing of the robe in transition before she reaches Heaven.
Incidentally, I would like to point out that this final piece of the collection was officially completed with the crowning of Jesus Christ. This took place on the same day that the crown could finally be picked up at the jewelry store. A date that I had no control over. That day was Tuesday of Holy Week, 1998. Exactly three liturgical years from the day that I started this project.
There is only one more point to convey, and I wish to bring this story to a close in saving the best for last – our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. In this third piece, Jesus is adorned as our Savior and King, wearing a gold crown, a brilliant white stole, and engulfed in a beautifully carved full length robe, as opposed to the way that he was depicted in the first two pieces, with an abstract “twist” in His body. That abstract rendition of our Lord symbolizes a cocoon which is representative of His life on earth! Alive, but living in a total confined and very limited ‘cocoon of earth’, performing what is needed to be completed here to set us free, before he would set Himself free! And that being accomplished, His ascension into Heaven was probably very similar to the graceful flight of the butterfly, filled with beauty and freedom And it wasn’t until writing this very paragraph, that I correlated this symbolism with an event in my life. Over ten years ago, being at the pit in my life, I called upon God for help, and beyond any doubt, he answered me. Since that time, as I was drawing closer to the Lord, every time that I would see a Monarch butterfly, for some unknown reason, it would remind me of Jesus, and bring me an overwhelming sense of inner peace. It was simply amazing where and when that butterfly would appear at times. I am crying now with tears of joy, and my story is now complete. It is real. It is true. You may be doubtful, I invite you to look very closely at the first piece of sculpture that the Lord and I have done together, and pray that He may open your heart in this matter. For no person alone could possibly produce a piece of sculpture that contains the mesmerizing power that is within this piece!
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all and may we all grow a little closer to the Lord in reading this. For He is truly, beyond any doubt, “Our Salvation”.