Whacha Doin’ With Whacha Got?

Thom Votaw

When I was a student at John Brown University in the 1960s we had a variety of speakers come to campus.  Most were polished and eloquent speakers; one was not, so we were told.

“This Mr. Frank of Frankohma Pottery in Oklahoma has given the university some money and likes to come and talk.  Please be courteous.”

During my four years at JBU I only remember three speakers.  One was Mr. Frank.

He said he was a Christian and had been so for many years.  He said he had learned some things about making pottery that he wanted to share with college students, some of whom were not sure of what they wanted to do with their lives.

Some students’ eyes rolled.  Some saw a long, boring, speech from an old man who had probably never gone to college.  “And he was going to talk to me, a college student, an EE major, a pre-med student?   A future history teacher, an art major, a Bible major and going to the mission field?  Give me a break!”

Most students remembered that they were supposed to be courteous to Mr. Frank.  That did not mean they had to listen, let alone hear, what he had to say.

I listened and heard for reasons unknown at the time; it became evident only many years later.  I was a biology major focused on my classes and my major, but I did listen to Mr. Frank.

He told the story of the clay pit where he obtained the clay for his pottery.  Out of the same pit, he said, the same clay was used by another manufacturer, one who made bricks for housing construction. Mr. Frank made a comparison between the refining of clay for pottery and for bricks, for the molds for pottery and for bricks, for the different skill sets for employees who made pottery and those who made bricks, for the entire manufacturing process of pottery and for bricks, and for the use of the finished products.

He told the story in plain, simple language.  He was not trained in elocution, how to hold his audience’s attention, how to keep them at the edge of their seats, he did not interject jokes at appropriate places.  He did not take up the entire allotted time

What he did do was strike a parallel between the use of  his clay and his neighbor’s clay:  Same clay, same pit, different uses.  And he looked around the room at the JBU students, hesitated for a moment, and then with all seriousness said, “Watcha doin’ with watcha got?  I had clay and made pottery.  My neighbor had the same clay and made bricks. That is what we did.  But, what are you doing with what you have?  What are you doing with your life?

“What are you planning to do with whatever you have from the Lord?  Pottery or bricks?  Both are needed and both are valuable in their own way.  One is not better than the other.  How are you going to use the raw material the Lord provided?  Watcha doin’ with watcha got?”

Mr. Frank ended his talk and there was a token clap of hands.  University administration breathed a sigh of relief.  Students filed out of the auditorium, some shaking their heads and mumbling.

Over many years Mr. Frank’s words kept returning to my mind: “Watcha doin’ with watcha got?”  I finished college, spent four years in the Navy, had a variety of jobs, taught school, obtained master’s and doctoral degrees, and ended up as a professor of science teacher education.

Over the years, however, I still remembered Mr. Frank’s dictum and thought there was still something more out there for me.  Something beyond being a professor.  Not pottery or bricks but something.

That something occurred in 1997, around 35 years later, and may be found in another story.  The dictum that I heard years ago by a Mr. Frank meshed with Bible verses I knew and suddenly many things, past and present, became crystal clear.  I was chosen by Christ to develop a program for MK teachers (Ephesians 1:11).  He prepared me for the project even though I did not know He was doing it (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

“Whacha doin’ with whacha got?”  Now I knew.  And I pass this question on to you.

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