In the Palm of Many Hands

News | January 4, 2016

Smooth and unfinished, wooden palm crosses have touched the lives of countless St. Paul people and those they love. As the creator of these simple objects of faith begins to step into retirement, and their availability in the St. Paul Book Corner disappears, the stories of important life moments are emerging. Each has its own meaning and place in the hearts of those who experienced the tale.


I will be with you always

Our daughter, Katie, was nearly 8 months into her pregnancy. She and her husband eagerly anticipated the birth of their second child. My husband and I had moved into “early preparedness mode,” as we set things aside to pack for the trip to Denver. All we needed was the phone call to signal us to join them to share in the joy of the birth.

That phone call never came. Instead, a 2:30 a.m. jolt-in-the-middle-of-the-night ring pierced the early Palm Sunday silence. Within moments, Katie’s sobbing words pierced our hearts: “We lost the baby.”

The baby’s heartbeat had disappeared. So did our joy.

We couldn’t talk long since the hospital staff needed to prepare Katie for delivery of the lifeless infant. Within an hour, another phone call came. This time our son-in-law Dennis told my husband Mark and I that Katie had been rushed to surgery. During the attempted delivery of the baby, Katie’s uterus had ruptured. Her life was in danger.

For the next three hours, a burning candle and a palm cross comforted me as I prayed. In the stark silence of the night, I laced my fingers around the soft curves of the palm cross. I sensed the arms of Christ gently wrapping around me as I remembered the words, “I will be with you always.”

Gratefully, ever so gratefully, Katie survived the emergency middle-of-the-night surgery.

The memorial service for little Peyton Lynn Hardie was held on Easter Sunday afternoon. Around the Paschal candle we gathered, to look beyond our tears to the promises of our God, who cares deeply for each of us. I brought the carved wooden palm cross to pass around the circle of those who surrounded our family. Prayers, words of encouragement and support, and tears were shared as the cross journeyed from one hand to the next. Imprinted with the love of those gathered, that palm cross will forever remind us of the presence and compassion of God.

– Tammy Hermanson


He wasn’t done with it yet

I met Bob Buxbaum in 2006 when he moved into the apartment building that I manage. He was an executive chef at the Clinton Country Club. I got to know him pretty well – a friendship that continued as he moved to a new home in Rock Island, housing for people with AIDS.

Bob had become a lapsed Catholic because, he said, of the church’s attitudes towards people who are gay. But Bob had a lot of clues around his apartment that led me to believe that he still cared a great deal about his faith.

One day, I was in the St. Paul Book Corner and decided to get a palm cross for Bob. The wood on this particular palm cross had a small burl shaped like a heart. Bob loved it. I thought it was beautiful, too, and asked Bob if I could have it back someday to remember him by.

He wept when he told me that he had begun sleeping with it. It helped him a great deal in getting to sleep. He thanked me over and over and said it was the best gift ever.

In November 2012, Bob passed away in his sleep. At the visitation, the palm cross was in the casket with him. I had hoped to get it back, as a reminder of our friendship. But the funeral director declined to remove it from Bob’s hand. He would have had to break his fingers to do so, he said.

He wasn’t done with it yet.

– Peggy Crawford


Can’t you just feel the love?

A crew of St. Paul people arrived one day last fall at the home of an Appalachian woman named Theresa and her husband. The couple is raising her 5-year-old grandson, with a second grandchild on the way in January.

The woman’s daughter is in jail. State child welfare officials told the couple that they must add a bedroom to their mobile home in order to care for the new baby. So the crew got to work on the 8×12-foot addition – insulation, dry wall, electrical, and siding. As a bonus, they also built a play area for Kenny, the 5-year-old.

“The work ethic of Jim (Howell), Mary (Tjarks), Susan (Marty), Diane (Rittmer), and Carol (Seitz) was absolutely great,” said Jack Miller, team leader. The crew was one of several St. Paul groups working in Appalachia that week. “No matter what I asked, they were willing to do.

It was just a great trip.”

Jan Aplin, who led the trip, gave each team leader a palm cross and a Bible to give the family.

On the last work day, the family invited the St. Paul crew to a bonfire. “I brought the palm cross to the bonfire,” Jack said. “I explained that everyone on the crew had the opportunity to touch it and leave the oil from their hands on it. Theresa (the homeowner) was in tears. She said that it would go in the baby’s crib.”

Every day that week, Theresa expressed how thankful she was for the work completed, Mary said. At one point, Theresa walked into the addition and said, “Can’t you just feel the love in this room? I’m going to tell the baby how much love is in this room.”

The palm cross, the crew told Theresa, is meant to be handled – just as the crew did before they gave it to her.

“We left a little bit of ourselves with her,” Mary said.


Palm cross creator makes ministry from wood

In 1985, Ron Foht served as a lay leader for a three-day retreat. He carved a palm cross to symbolize the power of prayer for the team members who led at the retreat.

The cross was shaped from walnut wood, and Ron didn’t have time to apply a finish before the retreat. After the weekend, Ron saw that the character of the cross had changed as it passed from leader to leader – the wood had absorbed the oils from the hands of the many people who prayed with it.

In 1997, Ron’s employer faced downsizing. He started considering what to do, and applied for copyrights and trademarks for the PalmCross design, shape, and name. The orders for crosses started coming in.

At the 15-year mark, Ron and Elaine’s business had made 70,000 crosses. The business operates from a small building in the backyard of their Milan, Illinois, home.

Today, 30 years after the creation of the first palm cross, Ron is slowing down a bit.

Palm crosses will still be available through the company’s website, but since the company is phasing out filling wholesale orders, the crosses will be phased out from the St. Paul Book Corner.

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,





He then says,



18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”