Thursday, January 17, 2008

Breaking On the Line

Hi again my friends,

I've had a honey-do project on my back burner for quite a while. We have a china hutch that used to belong to my folks. It is one of those big monster jobs that comes in two parts. The bottom chest has drawers down the middle and a cabinet with doors on each side. The top half has glass doors and three long glass shelves. When we moved it from Vancouver to our house in Milwaukie we managed to break one of the glass shelves in it. I had thought they were glued in but found out differently.

Anyway, Ramel has been after me to get that shelf fixed so that she can store some more of her pretty things in there. In my typical Mike fashion I've managed to put the job off for months. However, I recently decided to tackle the challenge. I contacted several local glass places and asked what they would charge to make me a shelf, but apparently all glass guys are crooks, so I decided to do it myself. In my wanderings I found an old piece of glass just the right thickness and big enough to make a shelf, and so I have been reading up on how to cut glass. My plan is to do it myself, just as soon as I get my courage worked up to a fever pitch.

Which brings me to my point... I've learned a bunch of stuff about glass cutting that I didn't know before. (It's amazing what you can learn on the Internet!) For example, glass has no internal crystaline structure, unlike most other inorganic substances. It is an amorphous solid, whatever that means. For that reason, many scientists even argue that it's not really a solid at all, but a very stiff liquid. (I'll leave you to ponder that for a minute.) Anyway, this means that glass has no cleavage planes (like gemstones, for instance). So glass isn't really "cut" in the normal sense of the word, but is actually subjected to a controlled break. Since glass is equally strong in any direction, you normally don't have to worry about direction of grain like woodworkers do. Within certain limits, wherever you score the glass is where it will break, at least in theory.

If you take a regular piece of window pane between your hands and try to break it in half, what happens? The glass actually bends through a very small arc - about 1 degree. That's when the tensile strength of the surface of the glass is exceeded, and SNAP! You're left with two pieces of irregular shaped glass in your hands. However, by carefully "scoring" (scratching) the surface of the glass with a glass scoring tool, you can control exactly where that lapse in tensile strength will occur. Again, that's the theory. After scoring the glass where you want it to break the last step is called "running the score." That is where you hold the pane of glass in your two hands and break it at the score line. Wah-lah! two lovely pieces of glass cut on the line.

But this is where the plot thickens. Several glass-cutting websites I found warned me that when using old or used glass to clean the surface thouroughly and also to examine it with care before trying to make the cut. They pointed out that tiny scratches on the glass, nearly invisible, can act as unforeseen score lines and can cause the glass to break in odd places, destroying the project and leaving you with shattered glass everywhere. My worst nightmare!

That's what started me thinking. Our lives are kind of like glass. Most of us are aware of where the big fault lines are in our lives. We can see those big score lines. We know our weaknesses. We know where we are most vulnerable, as least we think we do. However, we can have little scratches, little imperfections that we justify or choose to ignore because we think they are insignificant, yet when the pressure or temptation comes that may be where we snap instead of where we thought it might happen. Does that make any sense? It does to me.

The apostle Paul warns in I Corinthians 10:12, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." And this verse is in the context of falling prey to temptation. In fact, it is followed immediately by this familiar verse: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." I think that Paul here is reminding us that we can be blindsided by temptation.

On a pane of glass, every impurity and every scratch act as score lines, weak points, where under pressure the glass can break. So it is with our lives--every bit of impurity and every scratch in our character serve as weak points for the devil to use to try and get us to shatter into a million pieces. Let's be careful not to give him any dirt or score lines, visible or invisible, to use against us.

Crazy and just a little bit cracked,



  1. Mike, glad to see you back blogging again. Your insight into seeing the spiritual lesson in most of life is so encouraging! I know it must have been hard to remodel your mom and dad's home, but glad you have come to the end of that road, and that soon some wonderful family will move in and feel their spirits in and through every corner!
    Sure hope that glass shelf comes out whole for Ramel!!!
    Keep on blogging!
    Love in Christ,
    Sandy Fewell

  2. Oooo I really liked that analogy. It made it very clear to me how our tolerance for sin can be our undoing.

    Isn't it funny how we point out the faults of others but give ourselves every excuse and benefit? Wouldn't it be great if we could reverse that? To be ruthless with our our own sin and extend grace and patience to all those around us.


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