Fashioned by The Potter – A Story

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2nd Corinthians 4:8-10)

This is dedicated to all the believing soldiers, to all those who have returned from being in the midst and forefront of the Gaza War.

Once upon a time, there was a wise and kind king, who ruled over a mighty kingdom. So vast and beautiful was his land that it attracted many from near and far who wanted to see it. The land and even the castle had a very unique attraction – vesselsdesigned and made by the king himself. He loved to design each and every vessel, giving much thought into making them similar, yet different from one another.

One such vessel was very special to the king. He spent considerable time shaping it and adorning it with the most beautiful colorsand precious gems, with intention of placing it outside of his palace, so that all would be able to see. 

As he worked, the vessel came to take on form. The kind king gently polished it and carefully put the gems in place. As he worked,he spoke to the vessel, relating to stories of old, telling it of vessels young and old, big and small, of all shapes and sizes, some whom he used for years and years and some for a short time, them having fulfilled their purpose in that time. All those vessels were now set aside, waiting happily for the right time to all be used again. But, this vessel was unique, indeed, and received breath and the gift of life. It asked the king: “Why are some vessels larger than others and why are some more beautiful than others?” The wise and gentle kind replied: “I choose to make them as I please, in a way and for the purpose that i know they will be able to serve me best”. “But, asked the young vessel, “My king, how did they serve you?” The king answered, “Each vessel, though different fromthe others, contained something precious, without which they could not serve me”. Instinctively, the new vessel ask: “Do I have that precious thing, my king?” “Oh, yes, you do”, the king replied. “And one day, you shall show everyone what it is.”

The vessel pondered the words of the king, each day growing its desire to serve him as best as it could. And then one day, the vessel understood what the king told him. “Oh, my king, you know how I love you and truly want to serve you. But, that precious thingcannot come out, because it is sealed within me. How will it ever come out?” cried the vessel. “My dear, dear vessel”. said the king. “Unless you break, it will not come out, but remain sealed. When that happens, you need not fear. I will be there with you. You will not be alone”. “Must I break to let it out? I cannot, I will not. My Lord, the king, has put so much love and effort into me. All the people look at my design and see what that king has done. If I break, what shall become of me? Who will see the kings wonderful handy-work?” No, my Lord, I shall serve you this way. I need not break, for by seeing the kings’ work, many will give you praise.” The king remained silent, but was sad at the vessel’s honest reply, but her lack of understanding.

Days past and then months. Indeed, as the vessel thought, many admired how special it was and it was placed at the king’s garden for all to see. Every day, the king would speak with it and tell it stories of vessels of old.

Winter came along and with it, strong winds. The vessel was exposed to the winds, that blew against it, making every effort to push it and try to make it fall. Cracks and scratches appeared and the vessel began to be saddened at what was happening to it. Though the king tended to all of his masterpieces, this vessel began to feel that the king had placed it in harms way. “Why do I have to have these scratches and these cracks that hurt? I could have been placed in the king’s palace, away from the wind and forces of nature”, complained the vessel. The wise king knew what the vessel was thinking, and while applying new color and gems, he quietly encouraged the vessel: “I have placed you there for a reason. You may not know why right now, but you know that I love you and I’m asking you to trust me. Just trust Me”. And the vessel did.

Then, one winter’s night, the strongest storm blazed through the king’s land, overturning many vessels and shattering them, leaving pieces hardly recognizable as once having been part of beautiful vessels. All they looked like now, were pieces of clay. So it wasalso with the young vessel. She looked at pieces of herself, scattered across the king’s garden, and began to weep aloud. The king and his servants all surrounded the vessel, trying to comfort her. But, the vessel was too concerned about her own condition to think about anything else. “I knew it was dangerous. I told the king. Now look at me. What is to become of me? How will I ever be of use anymore? And where was the king when I fell apart?” cried the vessel. The king listened and he cried with her. As he picked up the pieces, he tenderly said “I was here all along. I stood in the storm, protecting you from the falling trees and from the rain that could not only hurt you, but crush you and destroy you. I was here and I saw you break.” The king continued cleaning and fixing the vessel and asked, “My young vessel, do you remember all I have told you about the vessels of old?” Trying to remember, the vessel answered in a voice that was as cracked as its frame, “The vessels of old had to break in order to serve you. But how can I serve you like this? What good can come out of this?” The vessel began to sink into sorrow for herself. “Oh vessel!”, exclaimed the king. “Can you not smell that? Can you not see what is going on now? Look around you!”

The vessel, though broken, managed to pay attention and began to notice a most wonderful fragrance flowing from within her. “The precious thing! Thats it!” she cried out. “Yes, my vessel”, answered the king. Unless you were broken, the fragrance that was in youcould not come out. Now, the whole garden and land are filled with this precious savor, flowing from you and from your fellow vessels. Look at the flowers and plants, how they turn to this sweet-smelling savour that is flowing their way. You served me and will continue to serve, vessel. All of you are made of clay, yet each of you is a clay for glory, all of you containing a precious treasure within you. It is not always easy. You broke in the storm and there are still more storms ahead. But, as I promised, I am here with you”, replied the king. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are mine!” The vessel took her eyes off the king now, looked at herself and saw she was whole again. The king had fixed her, making her more beautiful than before. The signs of her broken clay were hardly visible, and she was adorned with new gems. Only those who were very close to her knew what she had been through and how her perspective and her life had changed as a result. “I see now, my king. I am willing to serve you as fully and as completely as I can, for you made me and care for me”, came the loving response from the vessel, who saw the king also repair other vessels across the land. “Will you allow my fragrance to flow from you for My glory, vessel?”, gently and lovingly asked the king. “Yes, my Lord the king. I am yours to use and to do with as you please”, replied the vessel. And the king held His vessel close to His heart.

© Hannah Kramer

Gotta work at it!

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1st Corinthians 10:31)

I decided to take a short break from talking about the present situation in Israel to discuss something I have been learning recently.

I work as a teacher in a Community Center and have a wide age-range of students. This month, I taught mostly in Summer School with the goal of helping to equip some of the students for the coming academic year. During this month, but especially during the last week, I had to deal with several disciplinary issues, which prevented some students from learning, or from enjoying the process of learning. Some of the things I learned in the process are relevant to almost every field of endeavor.

1 . Do we go to work or do we go to work?

One of my former teachers once commented: “Many people today go to their work place every day, but do they go there in order to work?” I asked myself that question this week. I can probably say without doubt that most of us who work do so in order to receive an income. When we decide what type of work we want to do, we make a choice: we choose it because of the income, or because we enjoy doing that type of work. Some choose both reasons and are doubly satisfied.

I love working with children and I love teaching. But, I don’t like having to discipline, even though that responsibility comes with the job. This past month, I felt more like a baby sitter than a teacher. I went to my work, but instead of going to work and looking forward to working with and investing my time in the children, I would wait for the clock to reach the hour that marked the end of the work day. Oh, I did put in a lot of time and effort, seeking to make class fun for them, but as I started the day, I quickly found myself waiting for it to end, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with their behavior problems.

I saw my co-workers behave the same way. They came to “do the hours” and go home, some even wished to skip the hours altogether and just get paid. I love my job, but like many others who love their jobs, I discovered that for a host of different reasons, it is easy to switch modes sometimes and go about the routine of work, and just do what I needs to be done, without having my heart in it.

Have we ever stopped long enough to ask why we go to work? Do we seek to just finish what we need to do or go because we want to, and enjoy it? Do we go to actually work, or just go to our place of work to do what is necessary there?

2. Do we pray for the people we work with?

As I mentioned above, I had to deal with a lot of behavioral problems the last few weeks. Admittedly and shamefully, I hadn’t been praying for the students I taught. I did pray before going to work that I would do well each day. But, the focus was on me, not on the children. From past experience, when I did pray for my students, not only did they do well academically, but also behaviorally.

Prayer is not some kind of magic formula that when expressed makes everything instantly better. No, it is a powerful means that helps me to line up my will with the will of God. Often prayer is neglected in matters we deem to be too insignificant for our Heavenly Father to be concerned with. Yet, I learned that when I pray for my students, I am, in essence, saying to God: “You know these kids. You know what they are like and You know how I want to positively affect them. Please help me to be a tool in Your hands and please control their behavior and their desire to learn.”

When I remember that God cares more about them than I do, that I cannot do anything on my own strength that will have eternal value, that I can trust Him in all things at all times, my work becomes easier and more enjoyable, both for me, as well as for my students. All I need to do is surrender my work and the circumstances of my work and work place to God.

The same is true for our colleagues. They may not realize it, but they really need our prayers. We need to pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with them, as well as for their salvation. It is amazing to see how God turns enemyship into frienship when we pray for others.

3. Do we make the effort to have some quiet time?

I worked mostly in the mornings this month and came home exhausted. I realized that a lot of the time and effort that I put into finding teaching material and fun activities for the kids could have been used more wisely and effectively. My “quiet time” with the Lord took a back seat compared to the time I put into work-related things.

When I reviewed the things I learned this month, I realized that it was crucial to set my priorities right, as they would determine the attitude with which I go to work, whether or not I pray for the people I work with and how I handle time.

I believe it all boils down to this question: For whom do we do all that we do? A lesson my mom taught me, which can be applied to every area of life, is this: If we do something for ourselves, in our own strength, we will burn out quickly and get tired very fast. If we do it for God and in His strength, according to His will, we may become tired as we work, but we won’t tire of the work.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23)

A Fortified Wall

“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 118:5-6)

This past week was filled with many sad and heart-wrenching stories of our fallen soldiers, some of whom are well known to members of my congregation, who served or who are now serving in the IDF. They served with them, talked with them and shared the Gospel with them, praying for their safety as they were about to embark on a mission in Gaza.

One of the stories was about an officer who was one of the last soldiers who was killed in the present fighting. He was killed along with other soldiers in a fire fight with a terrorist unit that emerged from a tunnel. The surviving terrorists withdrew into the tunnel and dragged the body of the officer with them. Another officer, who was in the vicinity of the incident soon realised that the officer was missing. At the risk of his own life, he jumped into the tunnel and began pursuing the terrorists, in an effort to stop them before they could escape with the body of the dead officer. His courage in running 800 meters in a tunnel, which could have been booby-trapped with explosives, enabled the army to know what happened to the missing officer, for whom a funeral was held later that week. If this courageous officer had not pursued the terrorists inside the tunnel, Israel would have been in a completely different situation, not knowing whether the officer was alive or dead, and having to deal with another abducted soldier situation. The details are not all available to the public regarding the circumstances of the officer’s death.

Another story was about a different officer who was also killed in Opertaion “Protective Edge”, and served in the same location as a believer I know. Before entering Gaza, he came to say “good-bye” and thanked the soldier for the long conversations they had about the faith. Not long after that, he was killed in action.

The young soldier had shared the Gospel with this officer, trying to answer the many questions he had over a period of time. He was thirsty for the truth, and found someone who could lead him to it. His death came as a shock to many. Whether this officer acknowledged the truth he heard and took it to heart, only God knows. But the seed was planted, and our fervent prayer is that God made it grow.

Many families who live in the area surrounding Gaza have left their homes for fear of terrorist infiltrations and missile attacks. Some haven’t been to their homes for about a month. Only now some have mustered the courage to return with their children, hoping all will be quiet and secure in their area.

Our soldiers and citizens endure hard and difficult circumstances, causing some to want to flee and be far from the danger.

As the situation in Israel continues to be unclear, not withstanding the current cease fire, with people living in the shadow of rockets and mortar shells, terrorist infiltrations and suicide attacks, until two days ago, I was reminded of the promise given to Jeremiah, when he was surrounded by enemies: “I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 15:20). The truth expressed in these words is as true today as it was when it was penned and is as applicable to us as it was to Jeremiah. Though the times are difficult, though we feel pressed, though we cry out to the Lord over friends and comrades who are wounded or have fallen, we are able to recieve and give comfort. Our comfort is in knowing that God is making us a fortified wall and those who stand against us will not be able to overcome us – not because of our strength, but because the Lord our God is with us.

© Hannah Kramer