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Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life

    by Tom Kelley

The Master Craftsman
Date Posted: May 12, 2022

Comedian Tommy Cooper once quipped, "I inherited a painting and a violin which turned out to be a Rembrandt and a Stradivarius. Unfortunately, Rembrandt made lousy violins and Stradivari was a terrible painter." Ah yes, the quality of finely done classics is enhanced when they are actually finely done classics. As most of us know, a Rembrandt painting and a Stradivarius violin are, indeed, classics; but why? With art the understanding is much more easily grasped. The presentation of a painting, the coloration, the composition, the brush strokes; all of this can be combined for a masterpiece. Hence, Rembrandt. But with violins it is a bit more difficult.

Antonio Stradivari lived in the late seventeenth, early eighteenth century. He learned to make violins from a master craftsman named Nicolo Amati. By age 22 he was putting his own labels on his violins, using the Latin form of his name, Stradivarius. By 1684, at age 40, Antonio was delving into ways to improve the sound, projection and appearance of the violin. That he succeeded goes without saying. His violins have become the standard. Sadly, with his death in 1737 most of his secrets passed with him.

For the last two hundred and seventy years people have been trying to make violins that are as excellent as those made by Stradivari. While they have come close, they have yet to match his overall sound quality and appearance. Theories abound as to why violin makers since have not been able to copy his work. Most concede that it was simply his genius and genius always dies with the one who possesses it. Others claim that it was the result of the varnishes that Stradivari devised. Still others say that the wood he used was rife with bacteria which made the wood lighter and, thus, the sound also.

The bottom line is this; no one before or after Antonio Stradivari has made violins that sound and look as beautiful as those he made. He is the absolute master of the violin which is why his masterpieces sell for millions of dollars at auction. But beware. In the years following Stradivari's success violin makers honored him by supposedly following his methods even to the point of putting the "Stradivarius" label on the violin. These were not meant as fakes, but were sincere efforts to honor the man's legacy. Despite their efforts to honor him, the violins are still not Stradivari's work, regardless of whether or not they followed his methods or labeled them as such.

Today there are many who admire the lives that are lived by those who are truly Christians. So they attend church and "clean up their act" and do all they can to become just like Christians. They come startlingly close according to the world's opinion. However, crack the veneer and they lack the one thing that makes the difference; Christ. Being a Christian is not a lifestyle or a philosophy, it is a relationship established by God through Jesus Christ. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Galatians 3:26, 27 It is not what we do or how we think, it is what we are made to become by the Master Craftsman, God. There will be no copies in heaven.

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Biography Information:
Tom Kelley, pastor, speaker, lived with his wife, Becky, in Georgetown, Kentucky

...He was the Minister of the Minorsville Christian Church located near Stamping Ground, KY.

...Becky and Tom have three children; John, single and in worship ministry in Nicholasville, Kentucky; Sean, married (Jennifer, elementary school teacher) with twins (Grace and Patrick, b.d. 10/31/04) and regional director of Papa John's Pizza in Central KY; Kara, married (Vince Taylor, prison guard) and working with Hospice East in Winchester, KY.

...Tom went to be with the Lord on November 13, 2009 after a lengthy battle with cancer. If you have been touched by Tom's writings please send an email to Tom's son at
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