Jeff Haanen

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The Tree of Life: The Story of 600 Grant St., Suite 722


As I awoke, I heard a voice. “In the beginning, God created the tree of life.”

My guide took me to a garden, green and blooming, with four rivers running through it. And at the center, the tree of life stood tall, giving life to all of creation. A man and a woman tilled the soil, ate of its fruit, and were satisfied.

“But it came to pass,” he explained, “that man and woman ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When sin entered the world, so did death.” And I saw an angel drive the man and the woman out of the garden. With a flaming sword, flashing back and forth, the angel blocked the way to the tree of life.

Banished from the garden, the man worked the ground. But no longer did it produce fruit. Up sprang thorns, thistles, and the desire to rule. Work became toil. Splinters caused pain. A curse frustrated man’s best efforts to once again eat from the tree of life. Labor left him with an incomplete longing.


Wood gave way to bronze, iron and stone. “And men,” my guide explained, “sought to build their own city, forged in iron, as a hedge against death, a man-made source of life.”

Then I saw men from every tribe, tongue and nation build a tower, rising to heaven. It was a monument to Self. And suddenly I saw it crash to the ground, its workers babbling in confusion.

The curse worked its way from cement to cities, from single projects to civilizations. I looked onto the world, and I wept.


“What can be done?” I cried out. “Is there no way home?”

And then he said, “The ancient storytellers have seen far into the future. And they see another tree. Listen to their words.”


I lifted my head. My guide said, “I have seen the throne of God. And flowing from the throne down the great street of the city is a river, clear as crystal. And behold, bursting through the city street is the tree of life. It yields fruit forevermore, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of nations.”

5 - Tree of Life

“Let me sit in its shade,” I said. He replied, “You cannot. You must see one more tree.”

And he took me to a small, dusty carpenter’s shop. At the center was a man, humble yet fierce, crafting a table for his mother. “Why have you taken me here?” I asked as I saw the unfinished  table surface.


He simply replied, “Behold, the man.”

As I turned around, I felt a cool rush of darkness sweep over me. I saw a crowd, spitting, mocking the carpenter. As he lay on the ground, a soldier threw a beam on him, rough hewn, splintered. The solider forced the man to carry the harsh beam up the hill, as clouds overtook the sky.


They pierced his hands and feet, and hung him to the wood, the object of his work. “Why?” I cried out. “His eyes are good. Why?” And my guide simply said, “Cursed is the man who hangs on a tree.”

“Must I watch?” I begged. “There is only one way back to the tree of life,” He replied. “And it is through this tree of death.”

I wept.

And then there was silence.

“Look,” he said. I saw another garden. The sun was rising. And the carpenter’s tomb was empty. And two angels, clothed in light, said to me, “There is no death here. He is alive. He is alive! Now go and do his work.”

“What work shall I do?” I asked. Suddenly, I saw the city, but now light was streaming over the mountains onto its spires. And I saw the carpenter’s work before me, now complete.

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I received no answer to my question. He only said, “Come, follow me.”

“Sir, one more question,” I asked. “When may I eat once more of the tree of life?”

And he replied simply with a promise. “For like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”

He finally whispered into my ear, “Behold, I make all things new.”

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The above pictures were taken at the new offices of Denver Institute for Faith & Work at 600 Grant St., Suite 722, home of the 5280 Fellowship. The furniture was made by Josh Mabe, owner of Twenty1Five, a reclaimed wood furniture business based in Monument, Colorado ([email protected]). 

Craftsmanship & Manual Labor

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 of natural beauty, and sterile kitchens into a wild array of Mountain West history. Each cabinet, door, and coffee table is invested with slow, careful skill.


“I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands,” Mabe recalls. After college he taught shop class for eleven years at a public school. A retiring co-worker would leave scrap wood behind the school and collected scraps from local contractors – “what people would consider ugly wood.” But Mabe, unable to part with the discarded lumber, took it home and built a table for his wife from the “reclaimed” wood. The table caught the attention of his neighbors, but initially nothing came of it.

Until September 29, 2011.

For financial reasons, Mabe took a job selling insurance. “But I was dying on the vine,” he told his wife, lamenting the confines of an office. “But that day,” Mabe recalls,” I distinctly remember God telling me, ‘Go, make tables. And in two weeks I’ll bring you orders.’” That Monday, he went to his shop and began to build. Orders came in. Word began to spread, and Twenty1Five was born.

This process of restoration inspired the name Twenty1Five, which is from Revelation 21:5, where Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things news.” Their name peaks curiosity with both Christian and non-believing clients. Yet he tells the story faithfully just the same. And so far, sharing the gospel as he shares about his craft has not yet cost him any customers.

Mabe travels to abandoned barns, weary homesteads, and to the forgotten corners of rural Colorado. He works with customers to “source” each piece of discarded lumber, ultimately to be refashioned into a dining room table, door, or TV stand. He offers custom booklets to customers that tell the knotted history of each piece of furniture he crafts in his shop – the lifespan of lumber that served, was forgotten, and finally renewed. And in so doing he shares a subtle tale of redemption – of buying back the useless, of uncovering hidden beauty.

Knotted Dreams

Yet Mabe’s story has not been without challenges. The first challenge was embracing a call to be a tradesmen in a culture that has abandoned shop class and “tech ed” in favor of a virtual world.

Mabe had been a teacher in the Jefferson County Public School District, a district with less than three schools remaining that teach tech ed – and one with more than 80,000 students. As high schools prepare youth to be “knowledge workers,” they unload lathes, table saws, and other “vocational ed” equipment in favor of iPads, smart devices, and entrance into four-year liberal arts colleges.

Though Josh attended college, it was always in the shop rather than the classroom that he found his gifting. “Coming from a school system that so pushes college down kid’s throats —,” Josh paused, as if to remember his first grade son. “I have a son who’s so wired to build…I just want to cultivate that and honor the gift that God has given him.”

Yet even as educators emphasize preparing students for an “information economy,” employers are yearning for skilled tradesmen. In 2012, Manpower Group reported 53 percent of American skilled-trade workers were 45 years of age and older, and nearly 18.6 percent were between 55 and 64. As America’s plumbers, electricians, steelworkers, machinists and carpenters retire, America will need an additional 10 million skilled tradesmen by 2020. Even today, 83% of companies report a moderate to serious shortage in skilled laborers.

But an economic demand for tradesmen doesn’t guarantee a smooth career path. Since our interview in October 2013, more knots have emerged in Mabe’s story. Last fall, his business partner, Randy Valentine, decided to move on. Randy did the marketing and business development, and Josh made the furniture. But now, as the sole owner of Twenty1Five, Josh had to renegotiate his dream. His wife went back to work full-time, and Josh now works part-time. He drives his kids to and from school each day, and fills orders as he’s able.

But the knots in Mabe’s story have not dampened his dreams for Twenty1Five. “I still have big dreams,” says Mabe, “but I now hold them more lightly.” In his earlier days as an entrepreneur, the vision held a tighter grip on his heart. But now, with hands held open, he trusts God will provide and continue to lead the way in his vocational journey.

Thinking back to the advent of his business, Mabe recalls, “What really spurred us on was the story that parallels between our lives and what we do. Most of this stuff,” pointing to a knotted board, “is beat up and has got scars, and is discarded lumber. But if you take that stuff and see beyond some of those scars, you can make something really beautiful out of it.”

Josh Mabe is speaking at the April 11 dinner event with Amy Sherman. To hear Josh’s story in person, you can register by clicking here.

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