Man, was I depressed the day I walked past the little church on the outskirts of town! It was an offshoot of what had been larger congregation in the church standing high on what was the old Martin property forty years ago.
I never did hear what kind of squabble they got into over at the Dutch church, as we all called First Reformed.
But anyway, this new church I walked by was made up of people who left the bigger church. They called themselves New Life. Kind of a Holy Roller church, from what I heard. And what with this being a nice spring day and all, they had the doors open and were singing up a storm. I could hear it out on the sidewalk. I confess I walked more slowly so I could understand.
“Shackled by a heavy burden…” they sang, starting over again. “Shackled,” that word caught my attention. You see, I’m a blacksmith, or am, at least, as long as I can hold out. The money for blacksmithing just isn’t there anymore. The ranchers do come in to get horseshoes, but most of them have the equipment to shoe the horses themselves. Some of the stuff I used to do for horses, like floating their teeth, owners have their vets do.
Back to “shackles.” We used to make those, back in the day. We’d get the right grade of iron, form it in a white-hot crucible, and send them to the prison system. I always hated making those things, whether they were to be used to hobble a horse or to shackle an inmate.
As I said earlier, business was off. I didn’t know how long I could keep the shop open, and when I walked past the singing church, something inside me rose up and almost made me cry.
“A crying blacksmith.” Now there you have a guy inspiring confidence in prospective customers!
I knew I looked a sight, but I was so choked up I couldn’t help myself. The door was wide open so I went inside, dirty overalls and raggedy shirt and all.
Funniest thing: Right near the back door there, a fancy, elegantly dressed lady,—I learned later she was the mother of one of the Deacons—extended her hand and kinda pulled me into her row of chairs.
You know how it goes. The deep blue funk I was in cleared up as soon as I asked Jesus into my heart.
Deacon Bakker and his wife had me over for dinner, and while I was at their house I noticed several pieces of iron fashioned into lovely shapes and designs.
They were—still are—a sweet couple, and the food was fabulous—meat and potatoes in a savory stew. In my opinion, perfect for Sunday after church. They didn’t have too many questions of course. It’s a small town and everybody knows everybody which is comforting…most of the time.
Iron art was all over the place. Wall hangings, sculptures, even a ferocious lion…I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Finally I asked where they found those beautiful pieces. That’s when Mrs. Bakker told me that her maiden name was Bogaard and her father was the first owner of my blacksmith shop. He kept very busy in those days, but when he had time, “He played,” she said, fashioning unique and lovely objects out of bits of iron around the shop.
Now I’m actually making quite good money for the items I make—little stick figures representing musicians out of iron nails, iron filigree wall hangings, coffee table sculptures—I’m not very good at those, yet–and intricate designs for garden gates.
Who would have supposed this washed-up blacksmith could morph into an artist?
The other day at church we sang another chorus with my name on it. “Something beautiful, something good…He made something beautiful out of my life.”