Building an Old/New Cross
By Steve Brooks
September 11, 2011
My dad is a retired furniture refinisher and as a kid I worked with him sanding table-tops, stripping off old finishes and fixing broken furniture. Every time I smell lacquer or see a cool power tool, fond memories bubble up from my childhood. I am reminded of the countless hours working with my dad, brothers and friends in his shop. My dad is a true craftsman and he taught me how to fix furniture and make stuff. He also taught me how to appreciate all things made of wood.
I love the smell of newly cut wood, the colors and visual affects of stained wood, but most of all, I love creating something from a piece of wood. I don’t do it often, but when I do, I have a hard time stopping until I finish – I just can’t wait to see the final product.
My most recent wood project was building an old – well, new – cross for our church. It’s actually an old oak barn beam and is now a new cross for the sanctuary. The beam from which this cross was cut came from a barn in Pennsylvania that was built circa 1830. So the wood in its current form is about 180-years-old. The actual tree from which the wood was cut – if we are counting growth rings – is estimated to be between 600-800 years old. When this cross was a living organism, Scottish rebel William Wallace was leading his ragtag band of Scottish clans to victory against the English Monarchy.
I came across this piece of ancient oak at a small company in Pennsylvania that reclaims old wood from barns, factories, houses and churches. They buy the wood from people tearing down these places and they re-cut the beams and make flooring or furniture. Or they sell it to people like me who want a new/old fire place mantel. I was searching for a beam for a mantel in our house and ended up buying two beams – not knowing which one would look the best. So I used a 170 year-old hand-hewn piece of American Chestnut for the mantel and decided I had to make something out of the unused oak beam.
As the oak beam sat in my garage, I had a vision of making a cross and figured I could make it without a lot of fuss. A few cuts here, some sanding there, then oil and a final finish – 40 hours later and after coaxing my neighbor Joe into helping (he has some really cool tools) it was finally finished. Joe was great. He listened as I told him the whole story of Restoration and what led me to build this cross and I took the opportunity to tell him how I came to know Christ.
When I presented the cross to David Hanke, he said how my working with wood is a “labor of love.” And it is, but more. When I work with wood –- especially in making this cross – it was a very spiritual time for me. I listened to music, talked to God, listened and thought a lot about my life and family. I couldn’t stop thinking about how God restores us in all things. His restoration goes beyond a few cuts here, some sanding there – then oil and a final finish. His restoration brings us back to life. I can’t do that with an old barn beam, but He can do it with us. And I am thankful for His Restoration.