Flu Season

Let me begin by stating that I make no apologies for my cast iron, army tank-like immune system. It came to me hard-earned; built up over the years from a lifetime vocation of teaching small children. I have been sneezed upon, dripped upon, and goobered upon for an entire generation. I’ve been fully exposed to every strain of bacteria and virus that has swirled about me for forty years. Mind you, I suffered horribly from every bug that came near me for the first few years of my career, but then the unexpected happened. I didn’t get sick anymore. In fact, I haven’t had a “cold”, or “flu”, or any type of weird infection for as long as I can remember. I’m not even gonna knock on wood right now. Teachers have their “perks”, you know.

But before you form an unfavorable opinion of me due to my annoying hubris regarding this subject, I will confess to you that I am now suffering a form of my own flu in this season.

I have a case of “Finish-up-itis”, which is in direct conflict with my predisposition for recurring bouts of “Start-itis”.

Maybe I caught it from others who are gung-ho about setting New Year’s goals of finishing up their UFO’s. Maybe it caught me when my resistance was low due to the nature of this blog. After all, my focus is to share the quilt blocks that accompany the Bible as I read through it page by page. But I’m at the point where I need to read through the rest of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, ALL the minor prophets, and a large portion of the gospels, before I can share my progress on the next Bible Sampler quilt block. But I still want to blog, and share photos with you, so the perfect solution is to veer off in another direction while I read the books of the Bible behind the scenes.

So, here’s a post for you, my first finish of 2020. I took the oldest UFO I had lying around, and brought it to completion.

This needlepoint pillow top was stitched in the 70’s. I was in college. I noticed a sorority sister, an art major, stitching away during our Monday night meetings, and soon I was joining her. I remember buying the wool yarn and the canvas excitedly, and her sharing her pattern with me so generously. So fun. But I didn’t know how to turn the finished canvas into a pillow top, so it got stowed away. It’s a miracle the moths didn’t eat it up after all this time.

I still don’t know how to make needlepointed canvas into a pillow, but with my “finish-upitis”, I was in a fever to find a way. So I found some fabric that matched (it looks better in real life) and now I call it DONE.

Now I’m off to find my next oldest UFO; let’s hope this “flu” lasts long enough for me to complete some more unfinished projects, and read through those books of the Bible as well.

65. Twelfth Night

Star of the East quilt block

The next block in the Bible Sampler quilt takes us with the wise men, traveling from the East to Jerusalem, to check in with King Herod. Surely he will know the whereabouts of this new king of the Jews?

Herod was clueless. His chief priests and scribes got him up to speed with the details, after which he tried to thwart God and His plan to save.

Our church follows the traditional Christian calendar, which means that today, January 6th, is the feast of Epiphany. “Epiphany” translates as “revelation”, or “uncovering”. The fact that wise men took on the time and expense of a major expedition, with only a single star to lead the way, shows the importance of this event that occurred in Bethlehem. It’s the first hint (politically) that there’s something epic about this humble birth in a manger stall.

By the way, I just love it that, before the wise men, it was shepherds, (the non-political rung of society), who got to be first to see their God in the flesh. The angels appeared to them with the news long before any bigwigs arrived. I’m so grateful that God shows us again and again how much He truly cares for the “least of these”.

So we celebrate this day by taking down our Christmas. Yep, the season is officially over. I thought I’d show you some of the sew-y stuff that adorns our tree before it all gets boxed up and put away.

My mom made this. She labeled it, so I know it was made in 1997. She is the reason I got into quilting.

These are thrift store rescues. Someone’s mom made these, and I appreciate them.

I made this one, along with dozens more for ornament exchange parties.

,

These last two are my absolute favorite. Made in Sunday School by my boys years ago, the wood and straw say it all. They are enough to make a beautiful ornament. Jesus came, and that is enough. He is enough.

Watchwords

My random observation while washing my hair and contemplating whether to wear the Fitbit today or not. . .

Parenting Then and Now:

My parents: “Now you listen to me. This is what you will do . . .”

My (boomers) generation’s response: “Don’t trust anyone over thirty. Question Everything. You’re not the boss of me. I can’t wait to grow up, go big, and go leave home.”

My generation’s turn to parent our own children: “I want you to decide, sweetheart. Whatever you want and feel about it is the right thing for you.”

My children’s generation’s (Y and Z) response: “Please tell me what to do.”

I’ve been thinking about a casual conversation I had with my youngest son over the holidays. My husband was pleased that I had gotten him a Fitbit for Christmas. I already had one, and my idea was that this investment in our health would add motivation to our personal fitness goals. I also knew that I rarely wore mine, and when I did, I ignored its cheery prompts to get up and move. So my son and I were discussing the impact that these technological devices had on behavior. My stance was: Very little. His: A lot.

The reason? He explained that my generation grew up without “technology” so to speak. We were free to roam the neighborhoods, filled with other kids who were also roaming around, until the street lights came on. We’d ride bikes, roller skate, make clubs, and build forts. If there were enough of us, we’d gather players to make up a ball game in our cul-de-sac. We’d choose captains, choose sides, and play fair with no adults in sight. That’s a lot of decision making.

His generation (Gen Z) grew up with personal handheld computer-y devices. They think nothing of being attached to an inanimate object, whereas I am chronically looking for my phone that I set down somewhere in the house hours ago. (“Honey, will you please dial my phone?”)

His generation is accustomed to using handheld devices in all aspects of their lives. They know how to use these tools very well, and slowly, I might add sneakily, these tools have made themselves indispensable to his generation.

I used to memorize important phone numbers, and look up addresses in the phone book. I used to wrangle with foldout maps. I looked to myself to navigate and direct my day. My son’s generation lets devices do that decision making for them. For that reason, he says things like Fitbits have a great influence on behavior. If it suggests that they stop, drop, and do twenty pushups, then they will stop, drop, and do twenty pushups.

Me? I’ll keep on sewing.

Playing around with Clue #6 of Bonnie Hunter’s Mystery – “Frolic”

64. Good Tidings

Paths to Peace

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Happy Jesus’ birthday!

63. Perfect Timing

City Streets

This couldn’t have worked out any better if I had maneuvered and planned it all ahead of time.

The next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt project takes us to the story of the nativity. Just like Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem, my timing here on the blog is perfect.

Now I will confess that I have not completed my Bible reading from Jeremiah to Luke. The many pages that remain in the Old Testament have been called the “sticky” pages of the Bible. I suppose it’s because they contain the many books of the minor prophets. How quickly could you open your Bible and turn to the book of Joel, or Habakkuk, or Nahum? I’ve made the decision to break with my plan to plow straight through because I’ve completed the next two blocks and I want to share them with you. They are about the birth of Christ, and I just couldn’t stop myself. Besides, the next several blocks are “out of order” so to speak. Laurie Aaron Hird jumps all around the four gospels as she unfolds the birth, life, and death of Jesus. I consider myself in good company here. I will return to where I left off after Christmas, which is the book of Lamentations. I think you would agree that the prospect of “Lamentations” doesn’t conjure feelings of joy, peace, and goodwill toward men.

Our family Christmas tradition includes the reading aloud of Luke 2. Christmas wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t pause and listen to this miraculous account. Its familiarity makes the feeling of comfort and joy happen for me.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Unconditional Holiday Greetings

I don’t have a problem with saying “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas”. When you break it down, “holiday” means “holy day”. So yeah, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other when choosing how to greet others. It makes me smile every time I think how the entire world celebrates without many of its citizens realizing, or at least acknowledging, this holiest of days.I finally started putting Christmas up around the house this past week, which is actually early for me. When we were teaching, my husband and I were so busy helping our students make their gifts and perform their plays, that we didn’t start thinking about our own preparations until the school break started. Many’s a year that I pulled together “Christmas” – start to finish – in three days. Now that we’re retired the habit remains the same. Our tradition is to keep everything up until Epiphany, Three Kings Sunday, so the decorations will have their time to shine.

It’s all good. The bustle of the season has nothing to do with the holy day of Christmas. Whether gifts are wrapped and put under a decorated tree or not, it will still happen. Whether cards are mailed or cookies are baked, the fact that God became flesh and dwelt among us will be celebrated throughout the world on Wednesday. Unlike the frantic holiday movies that tell us it’s the character’s actions that determine whether Christmas comes – or not – (spoiler, it always happens, sometimes by the skin of Santa’s teeth), Christmas isn’t about what we have to do, it’s about what He did. I say unconditional holiday, because of His unconditional love and gift of grace.

As I read through the book of Isaiah, I noticed a repeated theme of darkness and light. Coincidentally, here in the northern hemisphere where I live, the days were growing shorter and the dark nights longer as our earth tilted further away from the sun on its axis. And here we are today, December 21, the official first day of winter.

I leave you on this Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, with this:

Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”

Those words were uttered 700 years before the birth of Christ.

John 8:12 “Again therefore Jesus spoke to them (the scribes and Pharisees) saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

My favorite solstice song:
https://youtu.be/U0aL9rKJPr4

62. One Way

The book of Jeremiah. Wow. I had many thoughts, amazing insights and timely observations I wanted to blog about as I read through this book. But it was a long book, and they’ve all flown out of my head, which tells me they weren’t all that amazing after all.

So let me quote from Romans instead. My husband attends a men’s Bible Study and they’re working through this New Testament book. He wanted to discuss this passage with me this morning.

“11:16 – and if the root (God) be holy, the branches (Jews) are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, (Gentiles) were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. . . Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.”

Our discussion that followed focused on self reflection. As in: We must above all be kind to our fellow “branches”, and not be arrogant about how far away we think they’ve gotten from the “root”. Instead of being orchard police, or fruit inspectors, we should rejoice that we get to partake at all in God’s garden. We are all just pilgrims on our individual journeys of spiritual growth, and some are farther along than others. We spend too much time fretting over the state of our community, our churches, our country, instead of lifting them all up to God in prayer.

One Way

But that was a separate conversation I had with my husband. Here’s the part that pertains to the Bible Sampler quilt book: I lined up that passage out of Romans with today’s passage:

“They (Jews) shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.”

This is from Chapter 32. I might note here that the previous chapters were filled with very bad news. God used gloomy Jeremiah to deliver graphic oracles of destruction to the Jewish nations. The reason? They had gotten far away from their “root”. They would be brutally cut off from God and removed from their land. The punishment was so severe, I found myself feeling sorry for them. I’d have to remember the awful things they were doing while worshipping other gods to keep a balanced view.

But back to comparing these passages. The word that popped out in both is “fear”. In this context, I think it means to respect, have faith in, trust, and obey. As long as we pursue the narrow path, the “one way”; which is believing in His Son Jesus, God takes care of the rest. Forever.

When I was in high school, Larry Norman wrote a song called “One Way” . He’d have us concertgoers lift an index finger to the sky during the song. Later, if we passed by friends while driving around town, we’d lift a finger upwards in greeting instead of waving. It was both an encouragement and a reminder. Good times.

https://youtu.be/D0OR9DEGIFE