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  • Writer's pictureMark McMinn

Redeeming Birch

I love theology, but sometimes it sits too comfortably and passively in my head. Yesterday our friend Karl made it come alive again.

When Lisa and I first landscaped our little farm, which we call Fern Creek, we brought home a birch tree in our pickup and planted it where we could watch it grow. It did. A few years ago we built a swing out of an old oak wine barrel and hung it from one of the branches of that big birch tree. People sat in our swing--lots of them, from berry pickers to Airbnb guests to family members. The price of the otherwise-peaceful sitting was hearing the story of how we once brought that big tree home in our little pickup truck.

Then the ice storm of February, 2021 came, thinking we haven't already had enough to deal with in the last year. The birch tree bowed under the pressure, as we all have, and then it broke. In her artful way, Lisa wrote a wistful blog post about it, When Beauty Breaks.

I took the tree down a few days later (side note, don't try operating a chain saw atop an orchard ladder). What does one do with all that birch wood when already having enough firewood for several years? I emailed our friend, Karl, to see if he wanted the wood for some of the magic he does with his lathe.

Yesterday Karl gifted us with beautiful birch bowls from that tree. I intended the wood as a gift to him, but he turned it back around as a gift to Lisa and me instead. He is a talented and generous soul.

And here's where a theology of redemption escapes my brain and sits in the dining room. Redemption--taking the broken things of life and making them beautiful again--is right here in front of me, showing up as beautiful bowls to remind me every day of three stories: one about a stately birch tree, one about the grace of friendship, and one about a loving Creator who takes the broken things of the world and finds ways to make them beautiful again.


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