Saturday, October 27, 2018

Starting Small

Thursday after Bible study--we're studying the women in the lineage of Jesus if anyone's interested--I was drawn to the fabric store, our local JoAnn's. I've just finished a couple of large projects and I needed something smaller. Yes, smaller would be a good thing. The star at right is a "small" version of an old quilt block pattern called the Lonestar. Except for the gold corners and the pale background fabric, which also has gold flecks, it's made from 2 1/2 inch strips. Even though I tried to  starch the stretch out of it, I still had some, ah, challenges to overcome. A seasoned quilter might be able to tell you just from looking what they might be, but I'm going to leave it to your imagination.

Yes, I needed a small project. A couple of weeks ago I decided I needed to practice a technique before using it on another project--more about that later. I'm glad I did, for I learned a lot. It's hard not to learn a lot with every project because I'm what's called a confident beginner. This was my practice project. I'm seriously thrilled with the table runner.

On Thursday, though, I was drawn to fall colors, and usually this time of year when winter is near, I'm more apt to cling to my white pants and bright colors until well into November.

On my first couple of trips up and down the back wall that held the quilter's cottons, nothing caught my eye. On my third trip, the red with gold sparkled fabric and the brown print, both luscious, didn't just speak to me, they sang. I'd noticed them before, but they didn't really lend themselves to clothing. They were, after all, quilter's cotton. As I stacked them into my cart, I wasn't optimistic that I'd find just the right prints that would go together for the project I had in mind. Remember, I'm a baby boomer. I was raised in the era when we were told never to wear two prints together. Though my mom had been a quilter, it was more out of necessity. During the depression you used what materials were available. But I digress.

Humble beginnings
They look beautiful spread out on my cutting table, but if I never took a blade to them, they'd be useless. Unrealized potential. Looking back over my sixty-something years, I shake my head over the opportunities I've missed. What would have happened if I'd gone back to work when we first moved to South Carolina? I thought I was applying for a secretarial position, but they offered me a position with much more responsibility, but I turned it down. Or after my youngest left the nest? Certainly I wouldn't have become an author.  I learned the craft of writing the hard way. By writing. I made every newbie mistake several times over. And eventually--three times--I received the e-mail that told me a publisher not only felt my book had promise, but that they definitely wanted to publish it, and the sequel.  I've heard from readers who've said it came to them at a time when they  needed its message. I'm more grateful than I can say that she shared a bit of her story with me, and humbled that God used my book to help her in some small way. And I digress, again.
I've always had trouble starting small. In school, I shunned study hall because an extra year of math and a third year of French sounded
interesting. Result: I was loaded down, shown by the stack of books I lugged home every day. While my employer was paying for my night school, I decided that I might as well take an additional class--three nights at school couldn't be too much harder than two, right?  I thought I'd outgrown that tendency, but apparently not. My first book wasn't small. I wrote and re-wrote it--from scratch--three times. Then I revised. Again and again and again. The first time I submitted it, it was close to four hundred pages.

My first quilt project began as a table runner and became a king-sized bed quilt. Yesterday I decided that while I was making one set of mug rugs, I might as well cut out the fabric and make two sets while I was at it. I'll be kind to myself and say my reach sometimes exceeds my grasp. Apparently I still have a problem starting small.  Then, this afternoon, after I finished the first two mug rugs, there was still time before my date with my husband, so I started two more. Yep. I did it again. But, looking at this morning's small project gives me great satisfaction.

Small things have potential to be a big blessing. Whether a smile given to a checker at the grocery store or a few yards of fabric. These strips turned into something larger and more useful.

Ready for quilting
But, would my time last night and this morning have been wasted if I'd chosen to sit down and read? I don't believe so. Perhaps I'm finally learning the lesson. I'm always in training. Perhaps something I read or write--something so small as a sometimes rambling blog post might make a difference. I may never know. So, my friend. Join me on this journey. I'm not going to wait to post until I have something witty or profound to share. I'll try to be concise, but I'm not going to guarantee anything.

If you'd like a chance to win a set of these mug rugs--just large enough for a cup of your favorite beverage and a plate of cookies or a sandwich,  check back in soon. There are exciting things coming up very soon. I hope you'll come back. I'll try to be concise, but I can't guarantee I'll succeed.

Friday, October 26, 2018

God's Ancient Feasts, Part 2, Feast of Unleavened Bread

This annual feast was celebrated in conjunction with Passover. In remembrance of God's bringing them out from slavery, they were to eat unleavened bread for the seven days beginning with Passover and to even remove it from their homes for that period of time. In his commentary on the book of Exodus, David Guzik said that it showed the purity Israel was to walk in, illustrated by eating only bread without leaven, after the blood-deliverance of Passover. On the seventh day there was to be a feast showing that a walk of purity in the Lord is a life filled with joy.  They were reminded to tell their children why they did this.

So many of us pay little attention,  equating the feasts with just another piece of Old Testament history, not very relevant to our lives today. But I beg to differ. The feasts remind of us of God's loving care for us and point us to Jesus.

The Lexham Bible Dictionary says it best.

During Jesus’ final celebration of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, He equated the bread with His body and the wine with His blood (Matt 26:26–29; Mark 14:23–25; Luke 22:19–20; see also John 6:30–58). Because this commemorative meal was meant to recall the first Passover, Jesus was identifying His blood with that of the Passover lamb, whose blood saved the firstborn of Israel, and His body with the unleavened bread that sustained the people as they escaped from slavery (see Stein, Luke, 540). The next day, Jesus died on the cross as the lambs were slaughtered for the Passover sacrifice, leading to the interpretation that "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Cor 5:7 NIV)

Next up, The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Blessed are those who hunger... Part 1

--Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

It seemed too good to be true.  Me, acceptable to God, just as I am? He knew my heart's desperate desire for acceptance. I couldn't earn His extravagant love or unconditional acceptance by good grades or perfect obedience. I'd certainly tried.

Like many teenage girls, I was high strung and under a lot of pressure to perform.  I knew I'd have to go directly from high school to the work force, and back then secretarial positions required shorthand, which added two hours of homework to an already full load. My fear of failure had my anxiety at a constant spike and my emotions hindered my ability to focus. You may laugh, now, but back in the early 1970's, I had to drop a business class in order to take Home Economics so I could graduate. Then,  I picked it up second semester. My mother and I were having problems and I about hit bottom.

I craved the presence of God because of the love and I acceptance I felt.  Receiving it from the magnificent God who created the universe with a single word created a deep hunger and thirst for Him.

Though I was raised in a Christian home, we didn't always attend church, but one gift my parents gave me was the absolute certainty that the Bible is God's absolute truth. He was and is always the answer. I didn't understand how to apply the scriptures, I just knew that He was. And so I studied.  Looking back at those years when I was a teenager and a very young adult, I marvel at how little I really knew. One thing I did have was faith. 

The promise, above, is that we'll be filled.  Filled with what? His righteousness.  Not our own, which is as filthy rags. (Isa 64:6) His, Christ's righteousness. The same righteousness that was accounted to Abraham in Genesis 15:6. He believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

In The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott said it best:

There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty spiritual appetite. Scripture addresses its promises to the hungry. God 'satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things'. (Psalms 107:9)

Yet in this life our hunger will never be fully satisfied, nor our thirst fully quenched. True, we receive the satisfaction which the beatitude promises. But our hunger is satisfied only to break out again. Even the promise of Jesus that whoever drinks of the water he gives 'will never thirst' is fulfilled only if we keep drinking.  (John 4:13-14; 7:37)

More than once as a young woman, after my little girl was asleep, I left dishes in the sink while I spent time with Him. As a lover of music, hymns and worship choruses, it was no hardship to sing praises and dance. Night after night in some of the most difficult days of my life, I spent time in the Word and often filled page after page with my deepest yearnings.

During that time that I moved beyond head knowledge into a deeper relationship with God. It was only by satisfying that hunger and thirst for Him by devouring His Word, spending time with Him in prayer and yielding to the Holy Spirit that my life begin to change. This is where the healing of my mind, my will and my emotions began. It was and is a continuing process.

But being filled with His righteousness isn't the only blessing. It's only the beginning, and I'll explore more of this subject in a later post.

    For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.  Psalm 107:9  

Friday, October 12, 2018

God's Ancient Feasts, Part 1, Passover -

Did you know that God's ancient feasts are about Jesus the Messiah? No, I don't mean Christmas and Easter. I mean the original feasts that God  instituted in Exodus. They're clustered in the Spring and then in the Fall. They are the feasts of: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, and Tabernacles. Also, the most holy day of the year: the Day of Atonement which falls between the feasts of Trumpets and Tabernacles. Each week I'll talk about a different one.  First, Passover.  He Is Crucified.

 Foods prepared for Passover Seder
(clockwise from top) unleavened bread,
 parsley, horseradish, charoset
If you're familiar with the story of Moses, you know that Passover was instituted by God just prior to the final plague.  Through nine previous plagues, the Egyptian Pharaoh agreed to release the descendants of Jacob from slavery and then changed his mind. In preparation, God instructed the Israelites to kill a perfect male lamb of the flocks--sheep or goat-- in the first year of life and place some of its blood on the doorposts and lintel. They were to eat the lamb that evening, roasted in fire, with unleavened bread, in haste.

Exodus 11:4-5 explains: For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.  About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. (Ex. 11:4-5)
And that's how it happened. The firstborn in the homes of those who obeyed and applied the blood of the Passover lamb to their doorposts and lintels of their dwellings were spared.

Do you remember when Jesus was crucified? It was at Passover. It is His blood that cleanses us from sin and makes us acceptable to God. His was the perfect, eternal sacrifice. Jesus, the firstborn son of God, shed His blood so that our sins can be passed over. In fact, His blood doesn't simply cover our sins, it cleanses us from our sins. Some say that the meal that Jesus ate with his disciples--the last supper--was the preparation meal before the Passover meal. I've heard others say that the moment that Jesus died was the time appointed that the Passover lamb was killed in preparation for the feast that evening. It's no wonder that  Jesus is referred to as the Passover lamb.

Unfortunately, so much of the richness of our Christian heritage has been lost because we've failed to understand its Jewish roots. So the next time you see a familiar holiday on your calendar you might do a little digging. That holiday may have meaning to Christianity as well.