The Burl Hunter is out searching for burls. That's not who he is, it's what he does. I know him more than most about his character but not enough, yet. He's known by other names - his given Christian name, family name, and more as well. Still there are more added as a result of accomplishments and vocation - anthemic singer-songwriter, passionate worship leader, guitar player, percussion maker/artist but more telling about his character are the ones labeling him husband, father, brother, friend, born- again Christian... yes, I've known him longer than any one else, but not near long enough.
His pastor refers to him as 'the big guy' although he never thought himself so. His football playing teenage son calls him 'strong man' as a result of a challenge. Lifting weights together he says to his Dad, “See, I can bench press two hundred and fifty pounds...,one, two, three, times - can you do more?” “ Make it two seventy five and we'll see . Watch, one, two, three, four!” “Hey Dad, you want to arm wrestle?” And the challenge continues till one day...,but today The Burl Hunter is still tossing around very heavy chunks of burl wood for a living. His brother, the Captain, on board the fishing boat tells his crew members encountering a seemingly immovable object, “You have to want it to move,” as he reaches for the line and begins forcefully yanking, with powerful hand over hand strokes to rip it through the sheave, one, two, three, four, more ... “sometimes” he says “it requires a call to your inner strength.” It appears both the woodsman and the fisherman have taken to heart the words of another oft quoted Man: ' A little faith, believing your voice can move the mountain, it will be displaced.' Strong believing men know it can be done. They don't much believe in the improbable.
Now you may have some inkling of the character of the man forming and it continues.
A film crew documenting unusual occupations follows the Burl Hunter around through the states of Oregon, Utah, and California searching for burls of the madrone, redwood, walnut, box elder, maple and oak trees. They are recording his livelihood for upcoming segments on a production about people in different, 'out of the ordinary', lines of work. Filming what he does and interviewing him, they asked, “What draws you do this kind of tough work”? “What generates your enthusiasm, your passion?”"
“The work I do with wood burls remind me daily of the redemptive nature of God. You've seen theburls I harvest. All gnarly, bulbous, twisted, rough, and dirty; nothing appealing on the outside but pressure washed and cut through with the six foot chainsaw it falls
open to reveal the great beauty inside. I'm always surprised by the infinitely varied patterns and colorings of the wood
grains. Understand, burls are formed on the trees by some disease or injury or genetic defect causing irregular convoluted growth patterns and deformities finally ending up as an enormous protrusion. It can be located almost anywhere on the tree including the root ball. At first glance on the tree some would see it as too ugly even for the burn pile but laid open others see it as a piece of exquisite artwork as a mantle or ornate art piece to place on the mantle. The woods I harvest go to some of the finest artists anywhere and used for knife handles, fishing rods, gun stocks, and furniture. Wood turners turn this wood into intricate spindles and very delicate plates, platters, and vases of all shapes and varied sizes. I've sent the gnarliest of burl to a woodcarver who carves the most beautiful horse heads as though they appear to have erupted out of the gnarly chaos leaving the storm behind and reaching heavenward. Guitar makers and percussionist have turned this wood into beautiful music, works of "art.”"
“This brings me back to the question of my passion. For certain I like the idea of supplying the many artists and seeing them turn my product into such beautiful artwork but my passion, my inspiration is generated by something far deeper and the work I do serves to remind me every day that like the burl I too suffered injuries, physically, emotionally, and spiritually which left me all knotted up inside showing ugly on the outside. I am excited by every burl I see for I am reminded of the potential beauty inside, like people. There are many people, far too many, like the burls who have been beaten and traumatized by the storms of life knotting and hardening the soul, dousing the spirit. This is my mission, telling the story of me being opened up and given to the Master Artist to be reshaped...,The Image Maker is still at work. I am like the horses my friend carves--- erupting out of the chaos of a very twisted, convoluted world. You see I have experienced what a piece of ugly can become in the hands of the Great Artist.
So I search for wood burl to fill my coffer and also reach out for gnarly encrusted people to present them to the Artist God, the Master Shaper of souls. He is my passion and the work I do is a constant reminder of His artistic handiwork both in wood and flesh. I am refreshed in them and Him.” And the interviews go on...
Yes, I know the Burl Hunter better now than ever before and he still surprises me. I have known him since immediately after the womb and I've heard him called by many names all the way from 'infant' through to 'the big guy'. He is my son..., full of surprises past and I await the morrow..., you see, I do not know him well enough, yet. Still he proves to me in life, work follows character and character follows after God. "
It's the way of The Father to see beyond the doing into the character of the man. I too, as a father keep my eyes open and ears tuned for each of my emerging sons and daughter, for their life-story is unending in the hands of the original Creator-Artist. Redemption and reshaping is the Master Artist's ongoing eternal frontier. And the observations go on as I the father of The Burl Hunter, my son, await the next event now in the making.