The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

Linocut Print of The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest, 2020, 15″ x 24″ printed on archival paper: Zerkall Book Smooth 145 GSM, made in Germany torn to size, 18″ x 27″

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is a relief print edition carved and printed by hand from a block of linoleum. It is available for pre-order in the Baumwerk Shop. It will be an edition of 100 prints. Numbers 1-75 will be black ink on white paper, while numbers 76-100 will be sepia ink on cream paper. There will be a separate listing for each color option. The black and white prints will be ready for shipping sooner on March 23rd, while the sepia and cream prints will be available a few weeks later.

The Spiritual Mechanics… began as a way of building a repository or archive for many of the symbols that help me to understand my place and function in the world and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is, after a fashion, an info-graphic which serves a developing theology around the ancient kinship of labor to worship.

At the heart is a worldview which sees an holistic unity between what is spiritual and what is natural. These are crude words and a crude image which is looking towards something that is deep and nuanced in its beauty and inherent goodness within the mind of God. My hope is that in here is an echo of God saying of the earth and creation, “It is good”. Also the echo of the Words of the Creator resident in every atom and particle. May it be an echo of John the Baptist saying “change your hearts and minds, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” May it be an echo of Jesus saying “it is finished” on the cross. Heaven is coming to earth and our labor here is not in vain.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is also a prayer and an offering.  It is the noise my heart makes towards God, offering the smallest and most mundane moments of my days as He simultaneously offers them to me.  It both seeks to say and asks if it’s really true that labor spent shoveling dirt in a garden , roofing a house, or cutting a stone before God can be as significant a spiritual lever as the most noble words of the priest in the cathedral, or the pastor behind a pulpit, or the hands of a healer in a tent.

I have more openly exposed my heart in this image than in my previous work, where it is shielded by narrative. In following posts I will seek to lay out the symbolism and stories behind the details depicted here, but it should be understood that I have sought to use images like these because for me the words are fundamentally insufficient to describe what it is that I see and seek.

I also hope that you will consider purchasing this print. Many of you know my ambivalence towards the marketing. However, I believe I am called to engage the “marketplace” with my work in a way that settles with my conscience and ethics. Here is a link to pre-order The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest.

Relief Carving The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

working subtitle…

The Mundane Sheds the Cloak of the Secular

Concerning the invitation to occupy the sacred rhythm of labor and rest and to engage the “resistant materials” not for provision first, but for relationship, for worship, for knowing God. I’ll share more on this when the print is done. The block is about 75% carved. I hope to be able to start making some proofs of the image in two or three weeks.

the original drawing

The Valley of Shadow

This song, from the days when I had time to make such recordings, I have not shared before. I always have felt that my recordings are more a like “sketches” or fragments of ideas (what would it be like if…) than any finished songs. I admit that I’m self-conscious of this material, from the engineering, to my voice, and the songwriting itself. But it has sat gathering dust. As an artifact of the story it should be laid out in the light. AMDG

If you listen, thank you for listening. If you read, thank you for reading. If you see, thank you for seeing. Go On, V

Yeah, though I walk through a Valley of Shadow
Under the curse of the Angel of Death
I have a shepherd I ever follow
Down to the breaking of the pure waters edge

He leadeth me; unknown and known
I fear no evil, stick nor stone
My bell, my window, He surrounds me
Staff and trumpet, rod and stone

Daisies and yarrow grow in the meadow
Hyssop in the margins and cactus I fear
Stones stand like monarchs guarding my ankle
Trees whisper ceaselessly, the Ancient is near

Fare thee well hear my spirit
Fare thee well near my heart
Dust to dust the grass is brittle
Boney legs of shattered stalks

The horns of the oxen surrounding the temple
Elders and children stand patiently near
Their eyes are clear, pure little windows
Deep endless wells shining with tears

Gazing on a white and a flame
Growing tall a name and a name
The Universe sings a singing
Calamity unmade and made

The last will be first sorrow will wither
The fattened ones will starve looking for bread
Quiet songs once lost, now will they listen
Bow, swings the scythe, I am low, I am low

The cross is raised over the valley
The mountain, he shudders away to the sea
The bison returning, blasting to splinters
Five for the cross triumphantly

Fare thee well, Valley of Shadow
I see a fell of silver and gold
Five for the cross, echoes through the skyway
Feet ever lightly touch little ground

Crane Cabinets in Ebonized Walnut

Below is a gallery of images of a pair of cabinets built for the bathroom of a couple in Wichita. They are constructed from native (specifically South Eastern Kansas) black walnut, solid and veneered, and white oak. The exterior surfaces were “ebonized” using a process which employs the chemical reaction of an iron solution with tannins in the wood, rendering it black. The design of cranes and bamboo were carved into the surface revealing again the natural color of the walnut in the incised lines. I hired Taylor Johnson to build the casework itself. Using traditional methods, the interior framework is a solid skeleton held together with dovetail and mortise and tenon joints. Taylor fabricated plywood with extra thick shop-made walnut veneer to be able to handle carving without passing through to the inner layers. His focus and skill allowed me to give attention to the design challenges and the artwork and carving and exterior finishing the cabinets. My gratitude goes out to Taylor for his tenacity and dedication to excellence, and also to Steve Hebert, who generously gave his time and energy to brilliantly photograph the cabinets in situ.

The Late Spring Farm

The month of May was wet for nearly the whole of Kansas, and we happened to be one of the wettest spots in the state with over 30 inches for the month. Spring rains make grass grow and the lambs are good and growing. Photography and blogging has taken a back seat in a year of heavy labor on every front, but I managed to take my camera with me a few times while I did my rounds on the farm.

Prints of Jacob Wrestling With God

Archival Prints of Jacob Wrestling With God Are Available for Sale!

We have produced two limited editions, one large and one small, reproducing the oil painting I made of Jacob Wrestling with God.  These reproductions were painstakingly digitally edited and then individually printed by my good friend Mike Schultz in his Portland, Oregon studio.  The image is printed on a satisfyingly thick Epson hot press bright white paper using Epson inks.  The colors are vivid, rich and archival.  Each print is personally signed and numbered.

As stated above, we’ve made two sizes of prints, and they are available for sale in our online store, Baumwerkshop.  There is a listing is for the larger of the two, which is 17″ x 20″, and a listing for the smaller, which is 8 1/2″ by 10″.

The original painting of Jacob was made in 2012.  I have continued to be amazed and humbled by the impact the painting has had on people.  I often receive heartfelt messages from individuals expressing to me how the painting has helped them through a difficult season, or has helped to illustrate challenging and meaningful theology.  The image has even found its way onto album covers, book covers, and countless church bulletins.

As a result, many have expressed a desire to have a reproduction of the painting available for sale.  This is the first time I have attempted to produce and sell reproductions of any of my paintings.  I hope that the final product is a blessing to you.