Way back in 1984, artist Jane Walentes heard about an item about to go up for auction. It was a weathered, dilapidated old merry-go-round that had survived a fire which wiped out most of the attractions in Youngstown, Ohio’s riverfront park.
The carousel, for those who prefer the technical term, was vintage 1922 and had certainly seen its better days. Jane was immediately transported back to her childhood in New Jersey where she loved to ride the carousel and listen to the distinctive calliope organ music as the outside world whirled by.
As an artist Jane didn’t see what other people saw, a relic almost ready for the garbage pile. She saw its potential and convinced her husband David to buy it so she could restore it to its original glory. Buying it for $385,000 was just the first step. It took another 22 years and $15 million of her own money for Jane and her staff to restore it. They scraped and sanded away the old paint and brought the sculptured horses and carriage seats back to life with bright new paint in bold colors. Through the painstaking process of redemption and restoration, she gave the merry-go-round a new life. The carvings, refurbished with vibrant paint and beautifully embellished with jewels and 24k gold leafing, now sparkle under 1,200 lights atop its decorative canopy.
Since 2006, Jane’s restored merry-go-round has been sitting in a warehouse waiting for a permanent home that was “just right.” Jane’s Carousel will now delight a new generation of children with its opening to the public this week.
The first carousel on the National Register of Historic Places is tucked away in a park in Dumbo, the name given the area of New York City down under the Brooklyn Bridge. After all the work, sacrifice, time, and expense, the Walentes family didn’t sell or even rent out the carousel. They gave it as a gift of love to the children of New York and the world. Thank you, Jane, for your selfless gift of fun and happiness.
As I listened to this story on CBS’ Sunday Morning, and read more about it, it reminded me of what God does for us. He looks upon our lives, worn and weathered by the storms of life, none of us beautiful and appealing as He created us. Time and sin have taken their toll leaving us used, tattered, and ugly.
God doesn’t see us as others do, but like Jane Walentes, He sees what we can become with the Artist’s touch. God takes away the marks of neglect and abuse, what people see on the outside, and cleans us up from the inside out. With His artistry, He transforms us into a thing of beauty. He makes us new again through the painstaking process of redemption and restoration, and embellishes our lives with the beauty and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The old becomes new again in an act of love representing sacrifice and unparalleled expense – the blood of Jesus on the cross. God gives
us back as a gift to bless the world. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says, “For
we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
He didn’t die and save us just to take us to Heaven. He also intends us be His gift to others to bless them, just as Jane’s Carousel gift is making children happy each day in Dumbo.
Thank you, Jesus, for your selfless gift of eternal life.
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