94. Overthinking It

I saw something today that gave me a smile. A T-shirt said “practice self care – read the Bible”.”

Perfect.

And if I may add, don’t overthink it. Just open it up, pray before you begin that the Holy Spirit will guide you to the truth, and go for it.

I was a little nervous about taking on the Book of Revelation. We had history, as I listened to all sorts of interpretations when I read it the first time as a teen. Anyone else remember Hal Lindsey? Anyone else go to see “A Thief in the Night” at an old movie theater converted into a church? The teachings were dreadful, foreboding, and all agreed we were going to suffer horrible tribulations before we were rescued by the rapture. Just be sure you’re not left behind. It’s hard to get beyond those memories.

But this time I prayed, and read line by line, verse by verse. I didn’t overthink it. And this time, the gospel showed itself through and through.

Steps to Glory

This next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt was…. Actually, I can’t think of the right word for what it was to make. I tried to see a pattern, a clue in the design that explained why it’s called “Steps to Glory”. But for the life of me, I just couldn’t figure it out. I still can’t. And I think I have it upside down in this photo to boot.

I considered tossing it, to replace with a more appealing block. But no, I’m so close to the end, I don’t want to make the extra effort now. I’ll be making four extra blocks anyways to round up the quilt to an even 100 blocks. All that extra effort wouldn’t amount to much of a difference in the whole scheme of things. I was overthinking it. Leave it be. Put it in.

And maybe THAT’S the message in this block. Our steps to glory don’t cut a clear path. They can’t. We can’t see our own way into Heaven. The steps we take lead us nowhere, to dead ends. We would never make it to those golden streets by our own righteousness. This passage ends with verse 27: “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, or anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Just like this random quilt block, we cannot rely on our powers of reason and judgment to figure it all out. What exactly are, then, the steps we can take to make it to glory? We don’t need to overthink it: Simply repent of our sins to the Lamb, Jesus Christ. He promises to forgive our sins, and write our names into His book of life.

Self-care at its best.

93. Thirsty for Relevance

I think I probably started blogging for this very reason. I thought I was using this site to chronicle my journey through the Bible and the sampler quilt project. But to be honest, I’m sure some motivation came from a need to be relevant. I had just left a profession termed “Hollywood for ugly people”. I had been the teacher equivalent of a rock star in my school community. There’s nothing more affirming than being spotted in the wild by a gaggle of little girls who then drop everything and run at top speed towards you across the mall to hug and say hello. Am I right, my fellow teachers out there? You’re told that you inform and influence the future. You touch hundreds of lives over the span of your career.

Deep down, I believe we all thirst for relevance in our own ways. We’ve been created for eternity, yet exist in a temporal state. We strive to spend our time wisely, even in our hobbies. We wish to create things that last. We hope to leave a legacy, to someday be gone but not forgotten. We label and sign our quilts as we give them away to our loved ones. (I confess I do not label my quilts, but I plan to start with this one.)

Playing with layouts

I’m down to the final row of blocks, and I’ve joined the ones I’ve finished. As the blocks of this quilt are coming together, my hope is that it will be important to someone when I’m gone. But who am I kidding? As I look around me now, I don’t see it happening. My family isn’t into it at all.

But that’s okay. I’m still having fun, and the passage for this next block reminds me that it won’t even matter in the end.

Emerald Block

Revelation 21:15 -20 – “The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. . . The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.”

There’s the old joke about the guy who labored his entire life. When he realized his days on earth were growing short, he consolidated all of his hard earned assets and bought gold. His life’s work was smelted and formed into one gold bar. One solid gold bar. When he died, he proudly brought it with him to St. Peter’s Gate. St. Peter took one look at what the man carried in his arms, and said, “Why’d you bring pavement with you? We’ve got plenty. Here, just throw it into that junk heap over there and come on in.”

There’s also the notion that our good deeds earn us jewels in our crowns. I don’t know where this idea came from. I do know that we are given royal status, as fellow heirs with Jesus of His kingdom. So I suppose there could be crowns involved in that scenario. Maybe those are the crowns the elders laid at the feet of Jesus in chapter 3 of Revelation. And they’re basically just returning what was given to them by Jesus in the first place.

So in the end, anything we have achieved or created in our time here on earth will not matter to us one. little. bit. Instead, we’re going to be overflowing with gratitude for what God achieved for us. He is the One who made us to be thirsty for relevance. He is the One who gives us that relevance. And those jeweled city streets of Heaven sound amazing, don’t they?

92. The Ark

Today I rescued a frog from our freshly chlorinated pool. Whenever I move a frog from a place of danger to a safer location, I think of a movie we were shown in Junior High School.

Safe in the water fountain

I can’t remember the name of that school movie: Eden, Genesis, something like that. It was about a future world destroyed by pollution, by man. The sky was gray with smog, everyone wore gas masks. One man, a scientist? took it upon himself to build a huge greenhouse, a self contained glass bubble in an inhospitable land.

He worked tirelessly to cultivate growth inside, and rescue anything still surviving outside the bubble. So now I’m getting to the frog. The opening scene is of a frog hopping along on the cracked, parched earth. Sounds of the city and industry fill the air with noise pollution. You wonder where in the world this movie is set, and why a frog is out in the middle of that industrial wasteland. Then a man gently picks up the frog, and returns to a greenhouse. The lush sounds of water flowing and birds singing are such a contrast to the world outside. I don’t remember there being any dialogue, just the sounds. But there’s a story line. The movie ends with the outsiders wanting to get in, presumably to exploit the last of what was left of the natural world. This couldn’t happen without destroying the fragile environment the man had so carefully balanced. They press their masked faces to the glass, growing more agitated when the scientist could not let them enter. Someone starts throwing rocks at the glass, soon the crowd joins in, and all is destroyed.

That same year, Earth Day was instituted.

Come to think of it, there were lots of movies and documentaries about the “environmental crisis” as it was called back then. We all sang along to “In the Year 2525” on our transistor radios.

Another movie, Soylent Green, was made in 1972. It made you feel guilty for living, and therefore using resources, thereby destroying the environment. So your patriotic duty was to “give back” what your carbon footprint took. It was outlandish and shocking. And get this, it was set in the year 2022. I kid you not.

So, here we are, in the year 2022. Once again, the focus is on climate change, and we’re told things are winding down, and winding down quickly. And here I am, in the last two chapters of Revelation as I slowly progress through my Bible Sampler quilt blocks.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” Rev. 21:1

Gate Block

The next block looks like an H rather than a gate. No matter, all that matters is that we make it through that gate to the other side. That scientist couldn’t open his doors to let others into his Eden. And for all his efforts, he was unable to save the earth. But it’s all going to pass away anyways, and we have our rescue. Jesus is the gatekeeper to His new heaven and new earth. In fact, he IS the gate. In John 14:6 Jesus declared “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

P.S. I just googled and found the name of the movie, it was “Ark”. Whether ark, or gate, or cross, we have passage through this world to the next secured in Jesus. Amen.

Following

Hi Everyone,

Not much happening around here, besides the never ending record-breaking heat wave. I thought I’d pop in to show you what has kept me occupied as of late:

Here’s part of this morning’s haul. The tomatoes will go to a caprese salad, the hornworms to some chickens.

My morning routine: Make a cup of coffee, pull on shorts and flip flops and go out to the garden beds. Pick the ripe stuff, and pick the bugs off the plants. By the time I’m done, it’s too sunny and too hot to stay outside.

I am seriously growing old looking for these critters. These destructive nuisances hide in plain sight. It takes forever to see them. I follow the frass, but they don’t travel in a clear path. The fact that the numbers are dwindling each day sustains me.

But of course there will be more tomorrow morning.

That is all. Have a fruitful day everyone.

#followthefrass #hiddeninplainsight

Taking a Break

I’m not posting the next block in the Bible Sampler quilt project today. Let’s take a break, shall we? I’m just now sitting down from a morning of gardening chores to enjoy a cup of coffee. So please join me for Elevenses.

I first witnessed the phenomenon of “Elevenses” in England. (The British are so clever with their terminology.) Besides being a fun word to say, I was impressed that work stopped at 11:00 and a cup of tea and a biscuit were produced, no matter the pace of the day. Bank tellers would close their windows. Phones would not be answered. Those emergencies could wait for fifteen minutes.

Coming from my home state which thrived on living in chronic urgency, at first I was frustrated. I was always pressured to work through my morning breaks on summer jobs. And all those bank holidays, and Queen’s holidays, how ever did anyone get anything done? But then it dawned on me that this slow down in productivity was actually progress. Progress for humankind. We all need to take a break now and then. That was over forty years ago, and I earnestly hope Elevenses is still in full force today.

Either way, I’m enjoying this break with you now. This is my view from my kitchen window. If your sound is turned up, you’ll hear my servants busy at their work. The dishwasher is churning, the robotic vacuum is humming right along. Happy sounds and life is good.

This little break gives me the balance I need. The world news isn’t good, but contrary to what I’m being told by some news sources, I believe that these are not the worst of times. And as I read through the book of Revelation, it occurs to me that people will feel that life is good right up to the final moment when it isn’t. Didn’t people party hearty right up to when the first raindrops fell in the days of Noah? And didn’t Pharoah keep changing his mind, plague after awful plague, in the days of Moses? I think we will behave in the same way right up to the day of final judgment.

So how should we then live? (Anyone else remember Francis Schaeffer?) Well, remember when the Jewish nation was conquered and enslaved in Babylon? God told the people to settle down, settle in, and plant their gardens for the long haul.

I’ll take that advice. And if I may, add one reminder: to stop for elevenses every day and thank the Lord for all His good gifts.

P.S. And just because this is a quilt blog, here’s some quilty content. Clue 7 of the Edyta Sitar 2020 Mystery.

91. I Got Nothing

Devil’s Puzzle block

“Puzzling” is a good word for this scripture passage. We’re at the point where the final battle takes place. There’s fire and brimstone, and a lake of fire, and books opened, and judgment dispensed from a great white throne. It’s wild. I’m not a fan of action/adventure movies, or thriller/horror movies to begin with, so I can’t say I relish delving into this passage.

I go to my man Martin Luther for some clarity. He said a reader of scripture was a passive recipient of God’s true word, rather than someone imposing fanciful meaning upon scripture. I can agree with that, and it sure takes the pressure off. I don’t have to figure it out, because God has it figured out. He wouldn’t purposely puzzle us with His word, making us decipher the meaning of the imagery in John’s vision. So it’s okay for me to say that I’ve got nothing here.

But now I will say that I did dabble in a little research about the symbols. So here goes nothing: The dragon is the serpent we first met in the Garden of Eden. Babylon is Rome, the current oppressive government under the despot Caesar Nero. And his name in Hebrew alphanumerically adds up to “666”. Very interesting. But of course there have been many antichrists and Babylons throughout the centuries. The allegory is timeless in that it touches on the same theme found throughout the Bible: God loves His creation and makes a way to connect with the world. (Good old John 3:16). The world makes it hard for believers to remain faithful. God comforts His people and provides the power to endure the evils of the age they find themselves living in. We may feel like it’ll never end, that the “new normal” will be the new normal. But no, the truth is that we get Heaven, just hang in there and remain faithful.

This of course is the gospel message. If I don’t focus on the step by step events unfolding in these final chapters, but instead step back and view the whole thing at once, I see the overarching love of God.

God wins.

Love wins.

90. Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright

Four Corners block

Are you an empty nester like me? How did it go for you, the launching of your little chicks?

I had the painful privilege of experiencing it four times. Each was different, but each was the same in that I felt that time had slipped uncontrollably through my fingers. I needed more. I needed to have one more conversation about life, and then another one after that. I felt an urgent need to impart parting words of wisdom, as if that would make any difference. I dreaded the fact that they would no longer be under my roof, and therefore my influence. But as a wise woman told me long ago as I rocked my firstborn: the only time we have pure ownership of our babies is when they’re inside our bodies. After that, it’s a lifelong progression of good byes. Indeed, my four kids are nearly scattered to the four corners of my continent.

The book of Revelation feels like a good bye letter to me. God is writing to seven churches, the actual ones He birthed through the apostles. The last surviving apostle, John, the author of Revelation, isn’t going to live forever. His passing will leave the churches without their own “greatest generation” to keep them grounded in this new faith. So the letters are filled with advice, and pleas, and encouragement, and hope. And in this case, they do make a difference.

This passage we have come to in the Bible Sampler quilt project is right smack dab in the middle of the action. Chapter 6 had us reading about the six seals opened, with all the mayhem that came with. But now we get a breather, because Jesus has ascended from the rising of the sun. He says “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”

See? We’re going to be okay. We’ve been sealed with the cross of Christ, on our foreheads and in our hearts.

So, in the meantime, we believers are to hang in there, share the good news, and love one another. Because in the end, everything’s going to be alright.

89. Open Book

That’s the name of the next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt.

I’m going to take this term way out of context in this post today. It will serve to turn attention to me, me, me. Before I do so, I will say that reading the book of Revelation has been quite the challenge. For that matter, reading the Holy Bible is a terrific challenge. My self-centered human nature wants to read myself and current events into the passages. I know the Bible is a living word that speaks to me, but I remind myself that “Text without context is pretext”. And when it comes to the final book of the apocalypse, I must grasp the two-edged sword firmly in both hands and hold on to all of its truth that was written through the ages in order to even pretend to comprehend.

I know that I will in fact NOT be able to comprehend the full context of the book of Revelation. It relates to truths written back in Genesis, and the prophets, and the gospels. So many touch points swirl in my brain as I read through this final book. And Laurie Aaron Hird devoted no less than EIGHT blocks to the book of Revelation in the Bible Sampler quilt. I have no idea how I’m going to blog through this my friends, so let’s buckle up for the wild ride to the big finish.

So now I will abuse the scripture passage, the quilt block title, to serve my own purposes.

Open Book.

As I’ve probably already told you in previous self-serving posts, I tend towards privacy. If you know me in person, you know I am not what you would describe as an open book. So blogging has pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I’m going to say it has been a good thing.

We had my mom’s memorial service this past weekend. I’m going to share what I said as a tribute to my amazing mother. I don’t scrapbook, I don’t keep a journal, I won’t write a book, so it’ll be here for posterity.

Mom.

Born in the darkest year of the Depression, coming of age during World War II, like so many of her greatest generation, didn’t talk much about those times. And it was those hard years that shaped her character. Mom was strong, she was faithful, and she made her own happiness.

Mom taught me that family was important. Although her siblings were scattered across the country, and she was one of thirteen children, we visited with and got to know every one of them.

She always said “yes” to us kids – to acquiring pets, no matter how exotic, to music lessons, sports, scouts, to anything and everything we were inclined to try. She said “yes” to letting us host sleepovers, and choir parties, and afterproms, and even a surprise engagement party in our busy home. She didn’t helicopter parent us, she simply gave us strong roots so we could grow and bloom. She said “yes” every time the church called her: to serve on the altar guild, on W.E.L.C.A., to cook for Wednesday night Youth Club, and so much more. It would’ve made mom so happy to see us gathered here now, her beloved friends and family, in the church she loved so much. Thank you all for coming today.

They say your mother is your first teacher, and they say that good teachers lead by example. She was a first generation college graduate, first generation to strike out from the homeland of Fort Wayne Indiana to the Wild West of California. I followed in her footsteps and became a teacher. It was then that I truly saw her professional side, and I learned how respected she was in the educational community. My college professor worked with mom, developing a new federal program called Project Headstart. Later, mom would become a reading specialist, then end her thirty year career in the classroom.

She taught us economy and efficiency by example, too. After teaching all week long, she’d stop at the butchers on her way home from Golden Avenue on Friday afternoons. She’d load up on meat for the following week, and prep the meals that night. She could stretch a pound of ground beef to feed seven. One can of fruit cocktail or one box of chocolate pudding mix provided dessert for five kids. Mind you, those Dixie cup portions were small, but so were we. Saturday mornings we quickly cleaned the house with the promise of swimming at Uncle Kenny’s by lunchtime. Then after she helped our grandma with her housekeeping chores while we played, she’d pack us up, take us home, then freshen up for a night out with dad.

Then she became a grandma herself, and she poured all that boundless energy into her beloved grandchildren. The Broadmoor Place house was their happy place. We called it “Grandma-land”, and when the kids stayed there they baked, sewed, crafted, played board games, and went to museums, to parks, and to shops. She lavished her love on her grandkids. Camping at the beach was also a yearly tradition, and no one boogie boarded like grandma.

She was the best, and we will miss her. Especially during the holidays. Mom loved the holidays. She knew how to get all the fun from decorating, baking, and crafting. And the music, she loved music. Singing in the choir, the Christmas cantata, filled up all the spaces with joy and anticipation. She made such happy memories for everyone. She truly lived to serve. She taught us that loving others with such generosity of self brought real happiness.

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. That’ll be a tough one for all of us who have said good bye to our moms. We just celebrated our first Easter without her here with us. I’ve altered a Christmas Poem which I will close with:

Easter in Heaven

You sing the resurrection hymns

That people hold so dear

But earthly music can’t compare

With the Easter choir up here

I have no words to tell you

The joy their voices bring

For it’s beyond description

To hear the angels sing

I know how much you miss me

Please wipe away that tear

For I’m spending Easter

With Jesus Christ this year

I can’t tell you of the splendor

Or the peace here in this place

Can you imagine Easter

With our Savior face to face?

So let your hearts be joyful

And let your spirit sing

For I’m spending Easter in Heaven

And I’m walking with the King.

88. Passing Through

Happy Earth Day! I remember the first time I learned we had such a thing. It was 1970: during those impressionable early teen years of my life. I could write here about the guilt we felt. We read Silent Spring, watched “The Ark”, and considered how we could rescue the planet from all the destruction we were causing.

But it’s just too nice of a day for that.

Screenshot of a video that I can’t seem to post here, which is a bummer. There was bird song, and frog choruses, and wind in the trees.

My better half and I went fishing today. We had the pond all to ourselves for awhile. The wind blew brisk, clean air through the trees and the trout were biting. There was beauty everywhere we looked.

We try to slip away to the mountains whenever we can. We live close to the beach and the desert as well. I will never tire of the interesting things I see in nature. God’s creation is truly amazing. Look here what is happening in my roses. A rose is growing out of a rose. Amazing.

To think that this will pass away, that we are just passing through, gives me pause.

Flower Fields quilt block

This is the next block in my Bible Sampler quilt. How coincidental that it’s a flower too. The scripture passage includes:

“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

Thank you for passing through and reading through the enduring word of the Lord with me.