Category Archives: In the Pottery

In a Manner Worthy

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…” (Eph. 4:1).

I tenderly stacked the soft clay “blessing bowls” the morning campers had made in the crafts room at foster kid camp. I loaded them in the car, then  headed home to let the dogs out, unpack the kiln, load more pots, and return to camp by afternoon craft time. On the way, I stopped for a burger.June 2015 067

That’s when I saw her.

A young woman sat on a rock, weeping. Her boyfriend hadn’t arrived to take her to her second job. She said she lived only 5-10 minutes away. Here was a soul crying out in front of me–there was my responsibility to campers. I prayed for God’s calling: Whatsoever you do for the least of these... Whatsoever.

She climbed into my car.

Her parents loved her but had kicked her out of the house because of her boyfriend. She said, “I wanted to be a grown-up, and now I have to work.”

In the 25-minute ride, we covered a lot of ground.

I drove and drove. She apologized. I said, “God runs my day and He chose to place you in it.”

I told her she is important to the One who created her. She sounded uncertain about her recent decisions. I encouraged her to “…speak the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15)–first to herself and then to others.

I was happy God allowed me to be a Good Samaritan, but worried about being late for camp. Mentally, I revved my to-do list to breakneck speed, despite the fact I stink at hurryJune 2015 057

Hurry  can turn my love on its ear like the flick of a lamp. Off.

“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love…”  (Eph. 4:2).

If only I’d applied God runs my day to the next precious person whom He gave me to serve.

At home, my husband was boiling a plastic tub of bean dip in a pan on the stove. He’d hoped it was homemade chili. Frustrated at this new delay, I marched to the garage and yanked chili from the freezer.

I had trusted God when He’d dropped a crying stranger in my path. But now, I grumbled about my husband coming for lunch–to his home, to his castle.

I slammed chili into a casserole dish to thaw, dirtying three pans to find the right size. I heard God calling, but I stormed past Him. I forgot to see Him in my husband’s face. I checked the tJune 2015 064ime–there wasn’t enough to prepare the chili before Tim returned to work.

I shoved it back in the freezer.

Flinging the pantry door open I gave him (or was it Him?) canned chili to cook for himself (Himself). I darted around–fussing, annoyed, and anxious.

But, back at camp–an hour late–no one had missed me. 

The other two helpers chatted. The campers swam in the lake (as it turned out) another hour-and-a-half. I heard His soft voice, “See, daughter? Do you understand now?”

My heart ached over my sin. I had to speak truth to myself–I hadn’t trusted God’s timing for camp or for Tim. I had failed the real test. I hadn’t walked in a manner worthy of the calling. I hadn’t been humble, gentle, patient, forbearing in love, or anything near a Good Samaritan.June 2015 054

I had been a robber.

I confessed it all to God. When I got home, my sweet husband apologized for “messing everything up,” which stabbed me to the core. I asked his forgiveness.

I dusted off my spiritual knees to try again.

How about you? Is it easier to walk “worthy” with strangers, friends, or family?

For me, family relationships are the most humbling litmus test of who I really am and a continual reminder of why I need a Savior.

In Ephesians, Paul called himself “a prisoner of the Lord” and determined to “walk in a manner worthy” of that calling.

I want that perspective with every one of my callings. I know I’ll fail again and again unJune 2015 048til heaven. I know I’ll need the Holy Spirit for every step of worthy walking. But whether wiping noses, pulling a lamb into this world, making a handmade card or even–as God calls– being a prisoner for His sake, I want to be intentional about what it looks like to walk in a manner worthy.

What are your callings? How do you remember to be intentional about walking worthy when the day zooms in and out of different callings?



How to Make a Coil Pot with a Lid

The splendor of clay is its malleability–the ability to mold it into any shape possible. In the Bible, God says that just as a potter can mold clay into any shape he or she wants, so God has designed each of us to perfectly accomplish His purposes.

This project is great to do in a classroom of 4th-6th graders. If youMay 2015 041 don’t already know how to use and fire clay, most schools have someone who does and who can help you.

1. Size and Shape Decide what size and shape you want your coil pot to be. Use a plate, cup, can, cardboard, or other shape to make a heavy paper template–round, heart, square, free-form. For a kids’ class, keep it to 6″ or less in diameter.

May 2015 0312. Base and Lid Roll out stoneware or other clay 1/4″ thick. With toothpick or other pointed tool, cut two identical pieces of clay using the template. Hold the tool straight up and down for the cut. One piece will be the base of your pot and the other will be the lid.

3. Spirals Squeeze a hunk of soft clay to make a lumpy rope. Roll this on newspaper or other absorbent surface to make a smooth, even coil 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick.  Roll coil back on itself to make a spiral 1 1/2″ in diameter. Pinch off extra clay and smooth end.May 2015 036

Make as many spirals as you need for the side of your pot.  Many other shapes can be made as you become more skilled.

4. Scratch and Attach  Every piece of clay must be attached to the others by scratching both parts with your toothpick and dabbing a little water where you want them to stick. If you forget or skimp on this step, your clay pieces may separate in the drying or firing.

I tell my students,  Just scratch and attach only those parts you don’t want to fall off.

May 2015 0335. Top Coil Roll a long coil to top off the spirals. This coil stabilizes the spirals and makes the pot stronger. Scratch and attach. Use toothpick to write your name on the bottom. Set aside.

6. Lid and Handle This is where student creativity can shine.  Dogs,May 2015 034 horses, people, swirls, trees–anything can be a handle as long as it is no thicker than 1/2″ or has holes poked in it to allow air in and make sure no clay part is thicker than 1/2″.  Scratch and attach all parts.

May 2015 0357. Flange This keeps the lid from sliding off easily. On the underside of your lid (being careful of your handle) scratch a line all the way around about 1″ from edge. Roll a coil this length, scratch and attach firmly. Write your name in the interior of the flange.

8. Finish Let your pot dry. Fire to bisque temperature–usually cone 06-04 for stoneware. Dip or brush on glazes appropriate to the maturing temp of the clay (usually cone 4-6 stoneware for electric kilns). Do not glaze bottoms of pot or lid. Fire pot and lid separately (so they don’t melt together).

Drying pots from a 4th grade class
Drying pots from a 4th grade class


The Pioneer Potter

“Go down to the potter’s house and hear the words I have for you.” Jeremiah 18:2

You hunched in the car in your pioneer dress, eyes squeezed shut, just returned from the museum with your class and your daddy, having eaten your authentic pioneer lunch with the beef jerky you’d begged me to buy. It had been a wonderful day.

That is, until I menJune 2015 001 (2)tioned the lidded pots. The ones you’d promised to make.

I know how it is. Laying down your life is easier to imagine in the shared laughter, but harder in the lonely slog.

Last week, I’d brought clay to your classroom and talked about the early settlers firing pottery in pit fires. You looked so happy.

Once, beneath the oak tree outside the ram’s pen, we dug a pit in the ground. We lined it with leaves and grass clippings. My students laid their dried pots in the hole, the ones they’d made of raku clay and glazed while wet.

After more leaves and clippings, we piled sticks, hardwood logs, and damp fuel atop to burn slowly overnight.

I told your class we could have used coffee grounds, eggshells, cowpies, or dead fish in the pit fire to make colors on the pots. But if you add salt on a windy day, it can take the paint off a car.

June 2015 041

I didn’t tell them I hadn’t wanted to do pottery with them–not this year. I’d wanted to slump around thinking about my dad’s death, about his birthday coming up, about how the messy house overwhelmed me, and how I still don’t know how to cry.

But I’d made a promise.

When the school janitor showed me the bags of hard clay, I saw hours of work in a hot garage, slicing, spraying, tearing, squeezing, slamming, and kneading the clay to make it workable.

I did it anyway.

It’s like that, you know. Sometimes laying down our lives requires lots of little deaths. But if we give them back to GodJune 2015 002, He can take His giant Potter hands and mold sacrifice into dazzling resurrection–of hope, of joy, of beauty, of perseverance, of peace.

I showed your class how to make a coil box with a lid. You watched with shining eyes, in between listening to your baby sister recite the ABC’s over and over beside you.

But two classmates had missed it all and you, generous heart, volunteered to make boxes for them to glaze. That was before you’d tried it yourself.

“I don’t want to, but I don’t want not to,” you said now, miserably. “It wasn’t a fun project.” I knew that was true for you and I knew why.

June 2015 006While your classmates squeezed and rolled clay in artistic abandon, you’d answered a higher calling–that of Big Sister. Thus, your clay became dry and cracked. You cobbled bits and lumps together. You gave up hope of a pretty handle.

I ached for you, torn about your promise. “It’s up to you,” I said. “They missed the day, and sometimes people just miss things. But didn’t you say you’d make a bird for one boy’s handle and a hollow log for the other?”

Your dad leaned into the car. “Why do you think you should do it–because of guilt?” You slumped in the back seat.

I clutched the steering wheel and prayed. I said, “How will you feel on glaze day if the boys have pots? June 2015 004How if they don’t?”

You pulled and squeezed your face like clay, deciding hard. Your dad said it reminded him of the Indiana Jones movie when the villain opens the Ark of the Covenant.

Sometimes difficult choices squeeze us out of shape. Sometime we become dry and cracked. We need that Living Water Jesus offers–a drink to ease the pain of the cross, to smooth the rough places, to make us soft again.

Then you said yes. My heart swelled with love and pride. I can’t wait to see the resurrection joy in your face next week when those boys pick up glaze brJune 2015 040ushes to paint their very own lidded coil pots.

We made the boxes together on the kitchen table, you and I, laughing and rolling clay. And, this time, you had fun–so much fun you crafted a beautiful new handle for yourself, too.

It has a log and a bird on it.

*Also see–“How to Make a Coil Pot with a Lid”