In Good Company: Flawed People/ FaithWalk (And poem: Handling the Clay)

Creative Commons: UNAMID

Creative Commons: UNAMID

At a recent church event, I heard something quite revolutionary, something I’d never really thought about before.

Ed Walker, the founder of Hope Into Action – the Christian charity which houses the homeless, (frequently ex-prisoners), said that a third of the Bible was written by murderers (think: Moses, David, Paul). Yep, the Bible.

I’ve thought about this many times since. And I’m struck by the realisation that God loves to use the weak, the downcast, and the broken to demonstrate his power and grace at work. The Pharisee in me finds it hard to accept that. I want to prove myself and show God what to do, and when. But He doesn’t operate like that, his ways are beyond mine and his schedule doesn’t run on Greenwich Mean Time!

Just as those heroes of the faith, I’m learning more that we don’t have to be perfect, we only need to be available, to be pliable. Willing to let ourselves be fashioned into His liking through the directions in which we’re steered. I may not be a murderer, but I’ve hated at times – which is equally sinful in God’s eyes. I’m just as flawed, still unworthy to be His child, or to be used by Him. And yet I can choose to place my life on His unique potter’s wheel, and let myself be shaped into a work of art that reflects his glory and creativity.

I wonder at the image of the master craftsman, taking lumps of misshapen clay to form something admirable and good for purpose. The time of moulding and shaping will likely be messy, uncomfortable and uncertain. Sometimes we may wonder, What on earth is God doing? It may seem hard to believe the direction He’s taking us, when other obvious routes appear simpler.

But it’s all part of the process of learning to trust. The poem below, that I wrote during a dark time, spiritually speaking, reminds me of the conflict involved in this process, in the struggle that arises when we allow ourselves to submit to the potter’s creative handiwork.

Handling the Clay

Will you still love Me even when I never answer?
Will you still trust Me even when things get darker?
Will you listen to the truths I’ve written down
They’re staring at you on the page, just look down
And read about my vision for you, my perfect plan for you
See I’m leading you through the valley, and it’s rocky along the way
But you can still look up, ‘cause after going through the valley you’ll get to
The mountain top, get to the mountain top
I’ve promised you some good things but first you’ve
Got to stop and take this in, take me in to the deepest part of
You, though wounded and fragile, I will
Form you back together into something beautiful, something beautiful
If you’ll just let me be the potter everything
Will be alright
Just let me be the potter
For I know how to handle
The clay, yes I know how to handle the clay
Will you come to me with your turmoil today?
Don’t walk away, don’t walk away
For I am the Potter and you are the clay

The Greatest American Export

Creative Commons: dok1

Creative Commons: dok1

There are numerous American imports and influences which we Brits despise: fast food eaten sloppily on public transport or while walking along the street, relentless chewing of gum, the blatant misuse of the word ‘like’, the tendency to be loud and obnoxious, the wearing of white sneakers and baseball caps by middle aged, wealthy tourists… The list could go on. Surely every nation has a catalogue of deplorable habits or practices that are caricatured by outsiders?

But no matter how much one criticises American trends, culture and politics (George W and Sarah Palin being particular recipients of mockery), most of us still remain appreciative of the following: American movies, and sheer optimism.

Yes, love them or loathe them, Americans exude optimism and promote looking on the bright side of life. Unlike the British, renowned for our moaning and complaining (especially over our dull weather), the people on the other side of the Pond have an infectious inclination towards cheerfulness, positivity and resilience.

And why not? It’s running in their genes – the history of their forefathers, who against the odds set out across the Atlantic, suffered extreme weather and multiple setbacks, and went on to build towns and form a nation. Every Thanksgiving is a reminder of their former poverty in the face of their current abundance. The legacy lives on, through the ‘can do’ spirit of those who reject notions of giving up or settling for second best.

Excessive self promotion and flaunting of wealth may well be cause for criticism, along with consumption of too many doughnuts (yes, that’s how we spell it over here!) but in my view there is little more depressing than the constant whining and negative pronouncements from a growing class of disillusioned, disgruntled youth.

The internet age is a time of the greatest opportunity: Anyone can start a blog, sell on eBay, create an app, put a video on Youtube or promote photography on Flickr. The optimistic are pursuing these avenues and seeing how they can realistically make their mark. Is it any wonder that developers from the United States create more successful apps than any other country?*

Optimism is surely the greatest export from the States, not Coca-Cola or any other manufactured thing.  Like a breath of pure, fresh air, optimism is refreshing, pleasing to the soul and, best of all, free.

If only it would be promoted more in our education system and work ethic, and revived among the young, rather than the sugary, fizzy substances, which are now frequently peddled in school corridor vending machines.

* “In terms of engagement, American apps reign supreme, securing 70 percent of the total number of users and engagement this year.” (Source:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”, Philippians 4:8, the Bible.