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The Broken Gun

   I am a fourth generation carpenter. I, among other things, remodel homes and build furniture… including antique reproductions and custom pieces. I’m way too A.D.D. to do any one thing for very long. One of my hobbies is making custom gunstocks. Being an avid outdoorsman and appreciating beautiful wood sort of led me there.

   In the summer of 2008 it dawned on me that, although people all over the Eastern U.S. owned my custom stocks, no one in my own family had any of my work. I called my oldest son, Chris, and asked him if he would like a new stock for his Remington .308 deer rifle for Christmas. He jumped at the offer. Chris and his wife, Lori, are missionaries in Brazil. They have 2 sons. Chris is my favorite hunting buddy, but being several thousand miles away makes it tough. But, every two or three years, we get to hunt together…meanwhile, we ‘Skype’ a lot. The stock I made for him turned out to be one of the most beautiful burl walnut gunstocks I ever produced.

   The deer hunting season of 2010 was crowded and one of Chris’ highlights was spending some time with a close friend from seminary, now a pastor in north central Tennessee. During his visit, one afternoon was reserved for a deer hunt. As the evening ended, out of curiosity, I called to see how things were going… they grow some big deer up there.

   “How’s it going”, I asked.

   After a deep breath and a long pause Chris replied, “Pop, I just had one of the best and worst hunts of my life.”

   “Are you OK?”

   “Yeah, I’m fine but… I dropped my rifle… and broke it.”

   For a moment I was stunned, “Well, son, bring it back. I’ll fix it.” 

   With carefully controlled emotion, the pain and frustration still showed. He said, “You don’t understand, Pop, it’s in two pieces! It’s not just cracked…it’s broken in half! I don’t think you can fix this one.”

   “Well, Chris I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it. But I do know this… whatever is wrong with that stock, I can’t fix it ‘til you bring it home to me. I made it and, if I can’t repair it, I can make another one. But, either way, you have to bring it home.

   A few days later they came back from their trip and he showed me his rifle. Sure enough, it was a mess. The next week they had another appointment and were to be out of town for several days. During that time, I stared at that broken stock many times on the workbench in my shop. After the third day it dawned on me how to fix it. After that, it was just a matter of doing it. The battle was over when I figured it out. Once I see something in my head, it’s as good as done.

   When they came back, I showed Chris the makeover. He was in disbelief and just shook his head as he examined over and over the area where it had been broken.

   “Is it strong…will it hold up?” he asked with some apprehension.

   “Chris, there are stainless steel pins in there. It’s stronger now than when it was new. It may bend… but it’ll never break… not there!”

   Feb. 27th of 2011 was a special day for us. Chris was scheduled to present a gospel message at a Wild Game Dinner at a local Southern Baptist church. That day was also our younger son Israel’s 36th birthday.

   Israel is quite talented as a singer and writer, composing both lyrics and poetry. The problem was that all his talents were being used the wrong way. The honest truth was, Israel had been running away from God for 20 years as hard as he could go. His poetry was clever and insightful, but full of anger. He had no peace within and his music was a clear indication of that.

   We had all prayed for his salvation and had invited him to attend the Wild Game Dinner, if for no other reason than to hear his brother speak. In spite of their spiritual differences, they were very close. To everyone’s surprise, Israel agreed to come.

   For 6 months Chris had been preparing the message for this event and I had been called several times to be a “test” audience. At one point, Chris declared to me how hard it was to deliver this kind of message in one’s home town. I told him he was in good company. We both agreed to pray that God would use it to win souls for His kingdom. More than anything, I was praying for my own son, Israel.

    About three weeks later on a Thursday, before the dinner on Saturday, I got a great idea and reached for the phone to call Chris.  But, as I picked it up to make the call, it started ringing. It was Chris. He said, “Pop, I just had the best idea for a sermon topic!”

   With a little shudder I said, “Yeah, me too! I’ll be over in a minute. Let’s talk about it.”

   48 hours later, as Chris walked up to the podium, there was a rifle slung over his shoulder. A bit inappropriate, except at a wild game dinner in the South. Towards the end of the sermon, Chris related the story of dropping his rifle and seeing it fall, almost in slow motion, and break… and he shared how his heart was heavy when he told me what had happened.

   “You know, my Pop wasn’t angry when I told him. He just said, ‘Bring it home, son’. He  didn’t scold me for being careless or destroying his beautiful work. He didn’t even charge me to fix it. My Pop made it like new just because he loves me. You know something, God is like that. He’s not angry… He just wants us to bring it back home, whatever is left of our lives. However damaged or hopeless it seems to us, God just wants us to put it back into his hands. He made us, and He’s the only one who can fix us. And God paid the price through His own Son’s death… this gift of eternal life is free…for us. Pop told me that the broken place was actually stronger now than when it was new! Many times that’s true with our Heavenly Father as well… often he turns our weakness into our greatest strength.”

   That night, 23 people gave their broken lives back to the Creator! But, as much as I’d like to say that Israel was one of them, he wasn’t. He got sick and left before the service started. When I found out, I got sick, too. We had all prayed so much for that moment and, just like a vapor, it was gone. After the event was over, Chris and I were in my office. Emotions were all over the map. We were super excited about people coming to know Christ…there’s no other feeling in the world like that. Yet, we were sad that another opportunity was lost for Israel. As Chris wiped down his rifle to put it away, we both knew it would be at least 2 years before we could hunt together again. The air was thick. As his finger traced a path where the wood had once been severed, he just shook his head. Finally, Chris broke the silence.

   “Pop, you taught me to sit in a tree stand when I was just a pup. You taught me how to tie a line onto my pack and my rifle securely… to raise and lower it safely. I sat in the darkness of early dawn, sometimes, and learned these things…even if I was only three feet off the ground…I still learned them! You taught me the different knots from the Boy Scout manual that I still use, today. I’ve lowered my stuff when I was happy, sad, mad, excited, half asleep, sweaty or half frozen… I know how to tie a line to my gun!!! If I live to be a hundred years old, I will never understand how I dropped this rifle…but, now I know WHY.”

    Fast forward to August 2012. On a warm Sunday evening, Israel came home from a camping/canoe trip and found his wife had cleaned out the house and left him. He was broken like I’d never seen him before. “What am I gonna do, Pop? Where can I go from here?” We stood on his front porch and I just held him.

   Earlier, as I was driving over to his house, I had determined in my heart not to preach, give advice, or try to fix anything…simply to be there. But, before I could stop myself, I said, ”Son, you got sick and missed the story of the broken gunstock at the wild game dinner in February, but you’re going to hear it now”.

   The next Sunday, my wife, Diane, and I were at a restaurant having lunch after church when Israel called. I thought I heard correctly, but I handed the phone to Diane to be sure… as I choked back the tears. As the expression on her face intensified, I knew I’d heard right and felt as if I would explode! We boxed up our lunch and headed home like the barn was ablaze. Israel was in the standing in the driveway. If his smile had been any wider, his ears would’ve popped off. We ran to each other and hugged for a long time.

   “Pop, all I could hear all week, echoing in my head, ‘Whatever’s left…you have to bring it back home’. I couldn’t get that out of my head…it just wouldn’t quit. And this morning, I was so tired of hurting, I got dressed and walked a few miles to church and gave my heart to God!”

   “Hey, Chris,” I said into the mouthpiece (it still blows my mind that I can talk to Brazil on a cell phone)… “can you hear me, now? Do you remember the story about your broken stock that you used at the dinner?”

   “Yes I do… best sermon illustration I think I ever had… why?”

   “Do you remember how many people got saved that night?”

   “Pop, you know I don’t keep up with that.”

   “Well, Chris you can add one more soul… your brother!”

   “And there is great rejoicing for your brother was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” Luke 15:32

                                              Ron Heil

   Are you broken? The truth is, we’re ALL broken, The Bible says so in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  We’re born sinners into a fallen world and without a savior we’re without hope. We don’t get better with age any more than a broken piece of wood fixes itself if you leave it sitting on a workbench long enough. Our problems have many different faces but, it all boils down to one thing…SIN. And none of us have enough to pay the debt for sin. We’re not good enough, rich enough, smart enough, tough enough…nothing we have, or are, or ever will be will remove this problem of SIN in our lives. The problem with SIN is that it separates us from GOD. The ONLY way to be reconciled to our HEAVENLY FATHER is through his ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, JESUS who paid the ultimate price for my sins and yours. Jesus, himself, said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” Jn 10:14 Simply ask Jesus   …

Let’s face it, GOD made us and is the only one who can REALLY fix us…..

Filed under: Guest Authors, Inspirational

3 Responses to "The Broken Gun"

  1. John Davis says:

    Loved it when you told me the first time and loved reading it again ! Thanks for sharing Ron…

  2. David Kidd says:

    I have a custom Cooper rifle that the stock broke at the wrist and is now 2 pieces, wondered if you would fix it like your son’s?

  3. John Carpenter says:

    What a powerful story of redemption!

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