Pallets, People, and Preaching

Trash Pallet Mountain

Trash Pallet Mountain

Pallet Wood Coolers
Pallet Wood Coolers

Recently, I decided to add an old-fashioned wooden wall to my man cave in the new house. I wanted that weathered, rustic look to accompany the hunting and fishing theme in my cool little hangout. Such a wall would be the perfect background for a big-screen TV and surround system for watching football games or rainy-day movies. After spending some time on Google, looking for ideas, I was directed to a site called Pinterest, where this whole journey began. Don’t take my man-card away just yet! Give me a moment to explain.

Pinterest showed me countless pages of projects that could be built with useless old shipping pallets. Having spent many beloved years in Hazlehurst (south Georgia), my mind wandered back to the town’s timber mills and my friends employed there who explained how those mills worked. I remembered taking tours of the mills and learning how pallets are made. My visit to Pinterest reminded me of learning years ago that pallets are made from the rejects of the lumber world. When a forest is cut for timber, the large and valuable wood is quickly taken to the specialty saws, where it is fashioned into beautiful lumber to be sold in the expensive markets. On the other hand, all the little, scraggy, insignificant, crooked, and twisted trees are doomed to the sad fate of being milled into shipping pallets – where they will face a brief and brutal life of servitude before eventually being burned in someone’s scrap pile.

Pallet Adirondack Chair

Pallet Adirondack Chair

It took little time to realize I had discovered a new hobby. I immediately loved the idea of redeeming that old, useless wood. As a pastor, nothing is more appealing than seeing something pulled from the trash heap and made useful again….something that was rejected by the world and destined for the fire being saved, resurrected, and repurposed. That will preach! Redemption is the greatest concept in this universe, if you ask me. It is when we seek to be used by God in His redemptive plan that our hearts are most like the heart of God.

Nevertheless, it is no easy task to redeem an old shipping pallet. There is an inestimable amount of nail pulling, straightening, trimming, beating, sanding, and shaping required of the Redeemer. Those pallets have been spitefully assembled with hundreds of twisted, high-powered nails, which have hatefully split and warped the wood. Years of subsequent abuse by the world have gouged and scarred them deeply with marks of bitterness and neglect. They have been cracked and marred by forklifts, trucks, and careless people who never gave them a second thought. They have been ruined by people who failed to have vision for how beautiful that wood could be if it were only treasured and cared for. Where someone else saw firewood, I saw a chair, a table, a cooler, or maybe even some picture frames.

It wasn’t that we saw different things, but rather that we saw the same things differently.

Please listen for a moment as I now share with you the gospel of the pallet. The story of a pallet is also the story of both preachers and people. I am that pallet. So are you. We were growing crookedly in the swamps of this sinful world before being cut down in our failure. We were bound to a cruel life of slavery to sin. Hewn and hacked deeply, nailed and beaten, bruised and battered, abused by the world and then discarded as useless. Designed only to be used by others and then rejected when no longer deemed valuable. Ultimately and inevitably we were destined for the fire.

I have chosen to be involved in God’s great plan of redemption. Only He can redeem the busted staple-infested pallet of a sin-sick soul. But I can be a tool in His redeeming hand.

Redemption is in my heart. I have a goal and a purpose when I walk to the scrap pallet pile. I want the most hideous and brutalized pallet in the whole pile. You see, my purpose cannot be accomplished by use of the straight, perfect, and unstained lumber of Lowe’s or Home Depot. That wood doesn’t need me. Anyone can do well with that which is easy. When I build with that wood, no one can ever see the heart of craftsmanship and passion that I so long to display.

Rather, I have decided that the ugly can be remade to be even more beautiful than the pretty. I have purposed in my heart that the crooked can be made straight. I have set my eye on turning the wretched gouges and painful nicks of abuse into badges of character, glory, and honor. I will work diligently to reclaim the rejected. I will not give up before my prize is repurposed and perfected. I will never stop my work until the pallet I have chosen has been redeemed. I will then love and share what I have recreated, and I will treasure the glory which comes among friends from being a craftsman who loves to save the useless and the perishing.

My new hobby has taught me more about the heart of Jesus than any seminary class I ever took. My passion for the gospel has been more stoked in my little woodshed than by any conference I have ever attended. In sessions with those warped, twisted, despised, and defiled wooden pallets I have learned what the Artisan of this universe, Jesus Christ, is doing in my life.

And I love it. It makes me love Him. There’s no one He cannot save. There is no life too useless for Him to redeem. Nothing can ever be too broken for Him to restore. There is nothing that can stand in the way of His strong hand. His work never fails and His calling never relents. If He sets His loving eye upon you, you will be redeemed.

That truth has set me free. It has set me free from the insatiable desire to please others and live for things which are perishing. I have been ransomed from a cycle of personal kingdom building, number counting, and glory seeking. My value now rests completely in the hands of the One who has chosen to make me valuable. My purpose in life is to see His purpose in my life accomplished. I am redeemed, and now I want more than anything to be involved in the redemption of others. I can now preach with the absolute assurance that Jesus walks the aisles during my sermon. While I teach them, He teaches me! While saving them, He is shaping me! So I preach now without hype and with calm confidence. I do so knowing that He sees what no one else could ever see. He is willing to do what no one else could ever do. He is able to accomplish what no one else could ever accomplish. I live to serve the Redeemer who is making me a redeemer.

And I just can’t wait to see which pallet He picks when He visits the scrapyard called Redeemer Church this Sunday.

Pallet Picnic Table and Benches

Pallet Picnic Table and Benches

6 comments on “Pallets, People, and Preaching

  1. Van Macatee says:

    Awesome and powerful post John!

  2. Chris says:

    Now that’s a great object lesson!! Thankful to be a rescued and redeemed pallet!

  3. NANCY WELCH says:



  4. In my first pastorate, I was bi-vocational and worked in a pallet factory. Your post brought back a lot of memories and evoked a lot of thoughts. I agree with Chris; “great object lesson!” Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Stan Burnham says:

    john lesson using pallets. it is a honor to call you my pastor.

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