By Dawn Amsden Stark
I bought a wall clock a few years ago that I really loved, but quickly learned it didn't work quite right. It was one of those cute, decorative, big-hands, small-battery operated clocks. It fit my coastal chic décor perfectly, but was lousy at keeping time. Occasionally it would work as expected, but more often than not we’d look up at the wall and realized that clock was seriously behind schedule.
Over the course of time (no pun intended), we replaced the battery, tighten the screws holding the parts in place, and even bought a new set of hands to try and fix the problem. Nothing we tried fixed the clock. At some point, the hands just dropped and stopped even trying to move. The clock was simply not functional for the intended purpose of being a keeper of time. At a loss of what else to do, I pulled it off the wall.
When we moved into our current home I had just the space for that cute, albeit not functional clock. I really wanted to hang the broken thing on my wall just because it fit so perfectly. But, it had driven us crazy before because no matter how much you tell yourself it doesn’t matter that it didn’t work, you still expected the darn thing to keep time. Our brains are funny that way. We expect a clock to tell time, not just be wall décor.
Maybe it was time to seek some professional help to restore and reset this piece I loved. Maybe there was a master tradesman or artisan that knew exactly what we needed to make this clock function. Maybe somebody somewhere could help us repair the time.
There are only three clock shops in our entire community; clearly restoring beautiful and precious pieces is a by-gone tradition in our disposable world. Walking into this shop, only open a few days per week and only a few hours on those days, was like stepping back in time. From the stately grandfather clocks to the quirky wall-hanging cuckoos, clocks of every size and style were all syncing in a similar rhythm and all dancing together in the expected tick-tock sound.
As the shop’s aged owner walked towards the front to greet me, I was struck by one particular set of clock guts that were strewn all over the counter obviously in mid-repair. The hands were separated from each other, lying off to one side was the face, on the other side were some gears, and on the counter nearby was the clock body. To me, it looked like one big mess of parts. To the master craftsman, the one with the magnification spec in one eye and a lifetime of experience, it probably made a lot more sense - something more like a beautiful work of art in the middle of a needed restoration.
I showed the clock repairer my simple, yet cute, wooden wall clock. Immediately he diagnosed the problem: the clock’s guts were too small to function through the wooden frame and too small for the big hands on the front. The clock needed a bigger mechanism that would be better suited for the size and style of this piece. For $35 and a few more days of patience, he would repair our coastal clock so that it could function effectively.
In the midst of the loud tick-tocking, cuckoo-birding, step back in time moment it hit me: the master craftsman always knows what is needed to reset and restore each piece. Sometimes the master has to get to the core to the matter, by taking the smallest inward and hidden pieces apart, to reset the function. Other times, critical parts needs to be replaced with parts better suited for the environment in which they must operate.
None of the tinkering, simple-repairs by the adoring and well-intentioned clock owner could fix what needed to be repaired with this unit. There are situations when only those with a lifetime of experience and special skills can make the clock tick again. Sometimes, you have to leave your loved and super cute, yet un-functioning pieces, in the hands of a master. In those times, you walk away and trust that the Master will complete what he has promised and will return your clock better than it was when it first came into your hands.
Dawn's Blog can be found here.
My airplane landed in Cincinnati, Ohio around noon. I had been invited to teach in a local church-based bible school, so my suitcases and my mind were packed with the materials and information that would be needed to accomplish my mission. I am often a person on a mission: focused upon the task that is set before me, geared up for the primary purpose, and not easily derailed or side tracked by non-essentials. A young couple, who had been appointed to serve as my hosts, greeted me. I extended an initial, albeit cursory, salutation to the man and woman who would be my family-away-from-family for the following five days. They drove me to a small house that the church had purchased to provide temporary lodging for visitors.
Once inside, I took an initial, albeit cursory, look around the two bedrooms, kitchen, and living room that would be my home-away-from-home for the following five days. I quickly organized myself for the tasks that lie ahead. I hung up my clothing, plugged in my computer, and phoned home to say that I had safely arrived. By the time I finished settling in, darkness had fallen; hence, I had taken no notice of the property or landscaping on the outside of the house.
The next morning I awakened as the sun was dawning. I went to the front door and looked out. The scene was typical of pre-spring – still barren, brown, and flowerless. The color green was seldom to be found except of an evergreen tree growing here and there. Immediately to the right of the front sidewalk was some species of tree that stood about nine or ten feet high. As expected, no leaves hung on the branches. All that could be noted from an initial cursory glance were bark-covered branches stretching skyward without flora to cover their nakedness.
The days of my stay in Cincinnati unfolded, as did my knowledge of the young couple, my detailed observation of the house, and my awareness of the barren tree just outside the front door. Things are never what they appear when we only take the time to see the obvious, only look at the superficial, and only inspect the surface. The couple assigned to be my hosts were devoted parents, serious students of the scriptures, and faithful laborers in their local church. He was a computer technician, whose analytical mind was not only well-suited to his vocation but also perfectly fitted to sound reasoning and apologetics, aiding him in his theological training. She was a stay-at-home mom (a quickly vanishing group in our nation) who had poured her whole heart and life into family. Her stories were filled with home and hearth rather than now a day’s narratives of fast-lane and hectic-pace corporate America. The more hours I spent with them, the more I shared life – their life – life that could not be perceived without deliberate observation.
Intentional examination of the house revealed that someone had given careful attention to detail: eye-pleasing color coordination, well-planned interior decorating, and need-meeting amenities. But, the object that most arrested my attention was the tree in the yard. As I stood gazing out the front door at the brown tree, I noted small reddish-brown buds at the end of each branch. They were very small and only slightly red. They almost blended into the lifeless-looking condition of the tree. However, there they were for anyone observant and alert enough to see. They were trying to tell a story and attempting to proclaim a narrative. This tree was telling me that it had a past and was promised a future. This tree was declaring to me that what appeared to be lifeless was really life yet to be released in due season. This tree was making a promise to anyone who would investigate. What promise? Life can be discovered everywhere if you take the time to notice!
I smiled as I walked away from the front door of the house. How exciting it was to find life. I determined in my heart never to be too quick to discount something or someone who, upon an initial cursory glance, may appear to be dormant, lifeless, or even just unknown to me. The promise of new life is everywhere. Those who take the time to be observant will have the joy of experiencing life.
I seldom dig my heels in and determine to fight until I am the victor. I’m sure I had that skill set when I was younger: competing on the sport’s field, proving to my mother that my sister was wrong, determined to win the attention of some handsome boy. Thankfully, many of those types of conquests faded with age and wisdom. Plus, life has – in a measure – taken the fighting spirit out of me. I’ve been married for decades, and I long ago learned where I wanted to invest my strength. Then there was raising five children where I realized that the contest evolved daily and the goal line was a constant moving target. Add to all that a career of pastoring. A major unspoken rule in that occupation is that a minister of the gospel should not be picking fights with congregants!
A few months ago, the lover-not-fighter person that I have become reverted to a version of her former-self when I had to buy a new washing machine. My older model, which was the same brand and style used by my mother, finally died. This old faithful friend had served me for over 25 years and washed dozens of loads of clothes each week. She may have deserved to be put to rest, but I was very sad to see her go.
My husband and I set out to purchase a new machine. I soon discovered that there was no version of my old machine’s former self. No! She would allow me to tell her how much water to use, how long to run the wash cycle, when to pause and allow the load to soak. She executed my wishes, yielded to my commands, and followed my instructions. But the new machines - they follow the computer programming built inside of them by some expert who designed and manufactured them somewhere in a factory in a location that was definitely not my laundry room!
Now – if you detected a little bit of sarcasm in the above statement, you would be correct. I just wanted to be lord of my laundry room. Apparently the fighter in me was just lying dormant awaiting the right challenge; and the super-duper, computer-smarter, settings-shrewder, temperature-brainier, water level-cleverer, automatic everything washing machine entered my home and challenged me to a duel. The contest was on.
My first load was white towels. I pressed the pre-programmed setting that said “bright whites.” First, it had to sense the load size. That took 7 minutes of the tub turning a little to the left, then a little to the right, then a pause to think, then a repeat of the aforementioned process. Finally, my incredibly intelligent machine began to fill. That took another 7 minutes because the infilling would start and stop with little spurts of water only to start and stop and spurt again. Then at last, the actual washing began. But wait – there was not enough water to cover the towels. I stood for the whole 1 hour and 12 minutes of the cycle watching the stupid choices made by my incredibly intelligent machine. All day long, I washed all my laundry, stood looking into the machine, and watched every process; and then I began to plot how to outsmart my smart machine.
I have to admit that it took me weeks to plan and execute my strategies. This enemy was not easily subdued and this war was not effortlessly won. But I dug my heels in. I decided that extra weight would suggest that the load was fuller and needed more water. By weights, I mean a tried a plethora of items that were durable enough to endure the cycle but not so sturdy as to tear up the cloths. (Hint – large rocks from my garden were not a good selection).
From various experiments through a number of failures to final successes – I won! I outsmarted the machine. I am again lord of my laundry room and have returned to my lover-not-fighter status. Although, I must confess that I never walk past that machine without reminding it who the victor is.