Recently, Gloria Gaither shared a blog post which dealt with things her mother and grandmother collected. I encourage you to read the post here. She told us those ladies in her life really didn’t collect or cling to much. But when she mentioned her own interest in collecting something special to her--specifically, art glass--it reminded me of something I have on display in our living room.
I’ve never been a serious collector of much--certainly not art--but that all changed when I met Chris McGahan.
It all started with a phone call from a local banker named Ross. He and his wife were fairly new to Crossings and he invited me to stop by his office. We made an appointment to meet and when the day came, my schedule was deteriorating by the minute. (That’s a nice way of saying I was running late.) I called my banker friend and offered to just meet him at the restaurant where we were going to have lunch, but he was insistent that I meet him at his office.
I had no idea what was about to happen.
When I arrived, I took my seat in a very comfortable chair in a spacious office. We spent a few minutes chatting about the church and I had some curiosities about what happens behind the scenes at a bank. Within fifteen minutes of my arrival, he told me there was a reason he wanted me to meet him in his office; there was something he wanted to show me.
He walked over to a corner in his office and took a large glass object off its stand and carried it over to where we were seated. I’d never seen anything quite like it.
There was a local glassblower who had a shop located right in the middle of the quaint suburb of Edmond where I live. That was news to me. How could I have missed it?
Chris McGahan was a master artist when it came to glass. He makes custom light fixtures for elegant homes around our city and beyond. He makes paperweights, vases, glasses, and other unique glass objects, all right here in downtown Edmond. I learned from Ross that Chris was a believer and also pastored a small church out on the west side of Oklahoma City.
My banker friend was holding a large piece of glass as he told me about his friend Chris. As far as I could tell, it was a vase and one of the largest I’d ever seen. But, my friend explained, it wasn’t just a piece of art; it was a symbol of Jesus himself.
He explained that the piece he was holding was made of discarded, broken pieces of glass, most of which were swept into a dust pan at the end of the day and tossed into the trash. One day, Chris decided to keep all the scraps and broken pieces and maybe one day reuse them. Ross told me the large vase in his hands had a name: “Redento Raffinato.”
The vase was truly stunning-- this coming from a guy who has never paid much attention to art of any kind. And now, I find out it has a classy, Italian name: “Redento Raffinato.” How I wished I could roll my Rs when I said that. I was impressed.
But there’s more.
Ross began to tell me that the name “Redento Raffinato” means “redeemed elegance.” And then the zinger: Chris McGahan melted the scraps of discarded glass--glass that once was thrown into the garbage--and remade them into a beautiful piece of art called “Redento Raffinato.”
The broken scraps of glass represent us. The glassblower represents the redeeming work of Jesus. And the finished product, “Redento Raffinato,” represents you and me.
When God forgives, He also chooses to forget.
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” -Hebrews 8:12
“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” -Psalm 103:10-12
Hardly a week went by before I showed up at Chris McGahan’s studio to see the beautiful pieces of glass. I introduced myself and, while I was standing in the steaming hot glass studio, I asked if I could send a video crew to capture the making of a Redento. He very kindly and quickly said yes, and a week later, I showed up with a video crew and we watched the birth of a Redento.
The process included scraps of glass in a dust pan, scraps which would be made into unique and colorful pieces which were shaped into a large piece of glass. The piece was placed in a 2,500-degree oven, shaped, turned, blown, placed back into the oven, shaped, trimmed, blown--it was a two-hour process. Finally, a breathtaking piece of art emerged--one of the largest Chris had ever made. It was 42 inches tall.
I asked Chris for permission to show the video and promised to be extremely careful with the Redento if he would allow me to show it to the Easter Sunday crowd. He agreed. What a man of faith!
On Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, the video rolled with the lights down and when the video finished, one single spotlight came on revealing the Redento that we’d just observed being made.
There was an audible gasp from the congregation. But, more importantly, there were people who saw themselves as discarded garbage who found out that Jesus loved them and who saw that He turns our garbage into treasure.
I’ll never forget that Easter Sunday as long as I live.
There’s one more thing that makes it so memorable for me. At the end of the last service, we carefully placed the Redento in a large towel and took it to my office. It would be safe there until I could return it on Monday.
As a few of us headed to the office with this treasure, I was informed that someone who wished to remain anonymous had paid Chris McGahan for the Redento and it was mine to take home. To this day, I have no idea who did this.
The Redento now stands on a shelf in our living room, tethered by very strong wire to the walls around it and firmly placed on a patch of museum putty. (I never knew museum putty existed or that it would come to be so important to me!)
Every day, I am reminded that Jesus chose to take the broken pieces of my life and turn them into something of great worth and beauty. I am reminded of someone’s extreme generosity--someone I may never know, yet someone whose act of kindness will never be forgotten.
And on those days when I can only see my failures, I’m reminded that in Christ, we are all Redeemed Elegance.