Thursday, May 29, 2008

Leaving Your Mark

Have you ever heard of Gustav Stickley? He is responsible for what we now call "Mission Oak" style furniture and he is also considered by many to be the father of the "American Craftsman" movement of the early 1900's. Mission Oak style furniture is practical and natural and is best known for its subtle imperfections, exposed joints, and all natural appearance as it is varnished but never painted.

Gustav Stickley took great pride in his work, so much so in fact, that every piece of furniture Stickley produced bore the image of a compass and the words "Als Ik Kan" which loosely translated means, "To the best of my abilities." Gustav guaranteed that each individual piece was his best work, and back then that meant something.

Early on, Stickley's work was not appreciated, but his emblem was. Today, he is remembered as more than a furniture maker. He is considered a true American craftsman. Stickley's family eventually lost the rights to his famous trademark saying, "Als Ik Kan", but there is no doubt that Stickley left an eternal mark on the furniture and craftsman industries altogether. His products are highly sought after, and the Stickley name is still synonymous with well-made furniture.

Now, think about your parents or your grandparents. They never rushed to sign any document did they? Every contract or agreement and every check that was written, was painstakingly examined, and then signed with an enormous amount of pride and each signature was beautifully written almost resembling caligraphy. One's signature at that time, was indicative of his character, thus it had to be flawless.

At the turn of the century, it was commonly accepted that when one could not sign his own name, he simply marked the paper with an "X" in the presence of a witness, and that was enough to seal the deal. And you could expect that the person who penned the mark, would prove to be a person of honor and integrity, and that whatever services were to be delivered, would be delivered with the greatest amount of skill and impeccable accomplishment.

Less than two years ago, I accompanied my 59 year old mother to a law office for one last meeting with her attorney. Mom, ailing from cancer and a brain tumor was quickly declining, though she was still lucid, and held onto her sense of humor. She had lost the use of the right side of her body, her speech was slurred greatly, and she had to use a walker. On this particular occasion however, she had refused any assistance. She made it clear that she wanted to walk into the law office on her own and that she planned to sign each document herself.

On that day, I sat with my mom in a large law library that doubled as a conference room, and in the presence of witnesses and her attorney, I watched her take great care in leaving her mark on her very own last will and testament. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. The secretaries and clerks sitting around the table as witnesses, fought back tears as they watched her take several moments to sign her mark onto each document. Slowly and carefully she left her mark on those papers to the very best of her ability. She was leaving a legacy even as she signed away her legacy. Als ik kan.

Colossians 3: 23 says "Whatever you do, work at it with your whole heart as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ You are serving."

Awhile back, I had the pleasure of talking with a young man who works for a local fast food burger joint. This young man shared with me that his fellow employees stayed frustrated with him most of the time. When I asked him what he could possibly be doing to irritate them, I was pleasantly surprised, impressed, and humbled.

He explained that his coworkers were put out with the fact that he takes too much time to carefully craft each sandwich. His philosophy is that he likes to serve his customers the food pictured in the restaurant's advertisements.

Furthermore, he is also committed to making sure each person receives a generous serving of fries in order to get the full value the restaurant is purporting. Very subtley he also added that he is a fellow believer. In other words, this teenager takes pride in his work and he doesn't want to cheat anybody, and moreover his motivation in his approach to his work, is his relationship with Christ. He leaves his mark on each and every burger he makes.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all working with the attitude of this young man, or of Gustav Stickler, or moreover living out Colossians 3:23 in our daily lives?

That's what it means to live a raw faith. No matter what our job, our position, or our circumstance might be, let us all strive toward excellence and leave our mark, His mark, on the world around us.

"In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:6

Als Ik Kan.


Dan Chapman said...

CW. Good stuff, I like your writing. Keep up the good work for the Lord!


Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

I appreciate the good word.

Keep up the good work. You are truly leaving your own unique mark in the blogosphere, for the cause of Christ.

Well done and Blessings.

John said...

Excellent, excellent post, Chester. I'm moved and inspired.

J. York

Heather Robinette said...

I have enjoyed reading through your blog. Thanks for giving me the address. You are doing great work. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

This is so true, and you picked two of my favorite verses. So glad to have found you in the blogging world my friend.