butter light

church cross project: real, unreal wood – authenticity?


File:A sawmill in the interior from The Powerhouse Museum Collection.jpg

From synthetic to authentic – is that possible? Authenticity is a fave idea right now (as though authenticity is something recently discovered).

“Keep it real,” we say. Of course, it is good to be real. Nobody would ever go about town blurting out,

“I want to be fake and I want to have a fake job and I want fake friends and I want fake money and…”


Perhaps there’s a better way to view ourselves and the world around us than to potentially idolize what we think is authentic.

If there is one, what would this “other way” be?

Redemption. In the life and in the Gospel of Jesus we certainly see authenticity, but more importantly we see redemption. We see restoration. In him I see a man doing the work of renewal, a man taking unlikely things and unwanted people to remake them, to restore them with fullness of life and holy purpose.

I hope the little narrative how this “cross” becomes a cross is among other things an micro-tale of redemption. Since the journey of this cross project begins with something that is synthetic, rather bland and generic, this journey could hardly be one of authenticity – no matter how real it may look in the end. It’s not even worth the attempt to portray it as a story of skill overcoming blandness to then be crowned by the ultimate triumph of authenticity. Yada, yada, yada… 

In life, sometimes authenticity is just too much work. How often do we put on “authentic” in an effort to show those around us that we are indeed authentic? Think about it – wouldn’t doing that be a sort of slight of hand (iow, not authentic)?

I want to think of this cross’s journey as one of transformation and less an attempt at authenticity. Transformation – this is what redemption does. It is the taking of an unlikely thing to redeem it from its blandness, even obscurity, into a greater purpose, into a beautiful existence.

Isn’t this story pattern much like the journey of Jesus? Certainly, Jesus, the master builder, restores us to a higher degree than we can do so for ourselves. His work is one of ultimate redemption…but still isn’t it fun to see if we can spread it out, helps others see it too, push it into the corners?

In stage 2 of this cross project I plod through the imprecise processes of carving random grain and carving random knots in the “wood.”

carving knots and knot grain into the HDU boards

carving knots and knot grain into the HDU boards

In addition to working the grain effect into the HDU board I need to use several techniques to achieve a weathered look. In various crafts or trades this weathering step called distressing

The cross needs to look like it’s been exposed to the sun and wind for a long time. It needs to look like it’s stood atop a hill in the rain, season after season, day and night in dust storms while it wobbles left and right. Later, in close up pics you may be able to see what looks like rotted wood, knocked off corners or deepened grain cracks. In the next post you will see the raw results of this process.

carving grain and giving it the look of having been tooled by crude instruments

carving grain and giving it the look of having been tooled by crude instruments

cross project – 4, weathering effects


3 thoughts on “church cross project: real, unreal wood – authenticity?

  1. Hey, Mark:
    Your God-given gift has resulted in a true work of art! I wish others outside our congregation had a chance to see the results of your project up close. It is such a powerful reminder of the cost of our sin and the price Jesus paid to secure our redemption!


    • Thanks Steve,
      This only shows my little part. Many like yourself have had a good part in moving the project along to completion. Yes, may the Good News of Jesus Christ go far beyond the walls.

  2. Pingback: church cross project: materials – why urethane? | butter light

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