Image of Jesus appears in Ponderosa

Delbert Hayes' crucifix hangs at the Holy Family Church chapel. / Sarah Deien

This is not a story of the image of the Virgin Mother on a grilled cheese sandwich or Jesus on a tortilla. Hope you TMre not disappointed, but I think this is far better. This is the story of a spiritual journey that transformed a beam into a masterpiece, and the spiritual journey of the amateur artist himself.

It takes a big leap of faith to go from carving ducks to chiseling the image of the crucified Jesus. It also takes inspiration. And time. In fact, the idea first stirred in Delbert Hayes' imagination a dozen years ago after a powerful religious experience at a Quincy retreat called Cursillo .

And look at his handiwork, the fruits of his labor, to use some biblical themes. The knots and natural qualities of the pine give you a very real sense of sacrifice, surrender and suffering of Christ. The face is a reflection of agony and acceptance.

God planted a tree and waited on me, Hayes told me. The wood was made for this piece.

The wood itself tells a story. The original log of Ponderosa Pine was floated down the Mississippi from Minnesota to Hannibal. It was originally a beam at the old Masonic Temple in Hannibal. By counting the rings and the passage of time, Hayes puts its age at 300-years-old.

Hayes would chisel, carve and create whenever the spirit moved him. It took a solid ten weeks of work over a three-year span. This, from a man whose only other wood creations were ducks.

There was a lot of quiet time, Hayes said. I could contemplate and pray while I was working on it.

And now that his work is hanging on the wall on the chapel at Holy Family Church in Hannibal, Hayes is hanging up his tools at age 79. He TMs carved Christ. How do you top that? Today, he TMs spending his time making banjos.

Take care ~Sarah