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Posted by on Nov 23, 2015 in Craftsmanship & Manual Labor, Economy | 0 comments

Consumerism: What Do People Really Want?

Consumerism: What Do People Really Want?

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Consumerism Gone Wild. It was first published on patheos.com.  Perhaps the best response to wealth disparity in America today can be summarized in two words: Karla Nugent. Karla is the Chief Business Development Officer at Weifield Group Electrical Contracting in Denver. In 2014, she won the Denver Business Journal’s 2014 Corporate Citizen of the year award. Why? Denver’s economy is booming, and as the economy has required more skilled laborers, Weifield has hired more electricians. In the building boom, Karla saw a chance to serve. Behind Karla’s leadership, Weifield opened up a philanthropic arm that donates to four communities: women & children, head of household, military and “less fortunate.” But they also brought the needs of the community right into their company. She created an apprentice program in partnership with Denver Rescue Mission, Stout Street, and Peer One – local nonprofits that work with the homeless, formerly incarcerated and other at-risk communities. Weifield hires people coming out of homeless or other at-risk...

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Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Craftsmanship & Manual Labor | 7 comments

The Handcrafted Gospel

The Handcrafted Gospel

  Recently I bought a small, red cabinet for my wife and kid’s homeschool books. It was from IKEA, so how hard could assembly really be? Yet in only 20 minutes, I had managed to drill three holes in the wrong side of the red cabinet door. My wife took the project away from me, and  assembled it for herself. I have concluded that I not only lack a manual and spacial intelligence, but that I’ve significantly undervalued those who build just about everything I see. My respect for our culture’s craftsmen has grown – especially since Christ Horst and myself recently did an article for Christianity Today entitled “The Handcrafted Gospel.” The editor chose the subtitle “Meet the craftsmen reclaiming the honor of manual labor.” In our culture, “honor” and “manual labor” don’t often go hand in hand. We steer our students away from ‘tech schools’, believe thinking is for the office, not the shop, and have precious few “faith and work” events for electricians, contractors, carpenters or plumbers. Yet there is...

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Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Craftsmanship & Manual Labor, Work | 13 comments

How We Lost the Craftsman

How We Lost the Craftsman

  It was a crisp, winter morning and I stood outside Manual High School, traditionally one of Denver’s lowest performing schools. Along with twelve other seminary students on an urban ministry site visit, we listened to our professor. “Manual is one of Denver’s oldest institutions,” he said, pointing to the brick edifice. “It opened in 1896, and was named Manual because it was originally intended as a vocational school to train students for manual labor.” We quietly shook our heads in disbelief. How could educators have such low expectations for their students? Didn’t the founders believe all students could go to college? So great was our 21st century disdain for manual labor that we naturally connected Manual High School’s low academic performance with its original intent: preparing students for the manual trades. Americans today devalue manual labor with an almost righteous indignation. We can see it in our economy, in our schools, in our entertainment, and even in the church. And it’s causing all sorts of problems. Let’s take...

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Posted by on Apr 2, 2014 in Craftsmanship & Manual Labor | 0 comments

Knotted Dreams: A Carpenter’s Story

Knotted Dreams: A Carpenter’s Story

  Josh Mabe led me behind his shop. “It’s a mess back here,” he said. What I saw was not your typical Home Depot fare: old railroad carts, wine barrels, deserted barn doors, discarded flooring from nineteenth century homes, planks from the bed of a semi-truck trailer – each piece had a common theme: it had been abandoned by somebody else. But for Mabe, each piece of discarded lumber is the object of his craft, an opportunity to bring life from decay. Josh is the owner of Twenty1Five, a small furniture business specializing in reclaimed wood located in Palmer Lake, Colorado, nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Josh, a carpenter and craftsmen, has attracted state-wide attention. Rocky Mountain PBS, 5280, a Denver magazine, and Luxe magazine have praised his attention to sustainability and “upcycling” – creating new products from used materials. Yet it’s the products themselves that turn heads. His tables are a mosaic of shape, texture and color. He can turn drab boardrooms into a collage...

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Posted by on Oct 8, 2013 in Craftsmanship & Manual Labor | 0 comments

More Than Just Fixing a Headlamp

More Than Just Fixing a Headlamp

  The spirit of the craftsman is alive and well in Colorado. Two weeks ago my brother-in-law stopped over to our house after our kids went to bed. After an 8pm burrito, he said he was planning on doing a 14er (climbing a Colorado mountain that’s greater than 14,000 ft in elevation) with some friends in the wee hours of Sunday morning. In such darkness, he was considering buying a headlamp to light the rocky mountain path. “No problem,” I said, “You can borrow ours.” I went up the attic to get a headlamp from our camping bin. Hardly ever used, I was dismayed to press the small red button and see it didn’t work. No worries, just needs batteries. So I headed to the kitchen, and slipped in 4 new AA batteries. I pressed the button again. No luck. “Dang, Brian,” I said, “Doesn’t look like it’s working.” Brian came to the kitchen, and we began to puzzle over what had gone wrong. At this point, I feigned...

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