This is going to be short. I finished the reading and the next block in my Bible Sampler quilt project ages ago, it’s the blogging about it that held me up. What can I say? I’ve been composing blog posts in my head, but none satisfactory enough to hit “publish”. They all sound so trite to me when considering the content: Christ died for us.
Paul is drilling it down, that it is by the grace of God alone that we are saved. He says that maybe some would die for a righteous man. For a good man some would even dare to die. But while we were yet without strength, Christ died for us.
We could do nothing to receive an offer of salvation, a rescue from sin and death. There was no requirement up front, like pulling ourselves together, cleaning up our acts, or showing our appreciation somehow. No, we were completely helpless and hopeless.
This passage ends with: “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.
One, my days have been spent washing endless sinkfuls of curly leaf kale in vain attempts at meticulously removing trillions of aphids before freezing. Chances are I missed more than a few, so my smoothies might have an addition of a little extra insectivore protein. (Note to future self: sow Dino Kale seeds next year.)
Two, the Bible Sampler quilt project jumped right over the book of Acts and landed in Romans. Number One allowed me time to “read” Acts via AirPods, along with some Elizabeth Gaskell novels since last we visited. Such enjoyable distractions keep me plugging away for hours at the gardening chores. So now we’re in the book of Romans, and here’s the next block:
This passage includes the well known phrase, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth . . .”
The audience for Paul’s letter is the church in Rome. But as we do, we personalize scripture and apply it to ourselves. So this stirs up the question: “Am I walking out my faith unashamedly, and presenting a genuine example of the Christian life to others?
In my lifetime, there has not been a better time to “show the spine” of the gospel than now. Culture is pushing the reality of natural law aside and pushing us towards acceptance of absurd social norms that contradict common sense.
Historically, we’ve politely gone the “tolerance” route: Live and let live, I’m okay, you’re okay, and so on. But we knew deep inside that wasn’t going to be sustainable. Every “giveaway ” when compromising values paves the way towards the next give, then the next. Before you know it, you’re guilty of a hate crime if you happen to have a Dr. Seuss book on your family bookshelf. What’s next?
When tolerance is one sided, that’s the side that ends up the loser. The winner will continue to push until tolerance is changed to acceptance, and finally, changed to support, a full embrace of the new order. Anything less will not be tolerated.
When I sit down and start writing, I don’t have a plan as to the content. This blog entry/stream of consciousness came from the simple phrase in this passage, “The just shall live by faith”. Are we doing that? Do we expose our true identity in Christ where we live: in our schools, hospitals, workplaces, neighborhoods?
I’ve heard it said that we have “Freedom from religion”. Not so. The first amendment of our U.S. constitution actually says “Freedom of religion”. Yet we’ve been conditioned by secular culture to leave our faith outside the door when entering the town square. The acceptable way to engage in public life is to be faith-neutral in order to accommodate all. I get it, the intent of the writers of the Constitution was to prevent a church from running the government.
But they didn’t mean that the just couldn’t live out their faith while engaging in government.
My Bible Sampler Quilt Project has me reading through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as we just happen to be in the Easter season in real time. This passage describes the scene at the empty tomb that early morning. A cluster of women had shown up with prepared spices. But instead of a body, two angels were there, who provided the explanation for His absence. “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not there, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’.”
When the women reported all of this back to the eleven apostles, the passage says, “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”
Which is totally understandable. My first reaction is incredulity when I check the news each morning. While I was sleeping, new executive orders were signed, new cities were burned down, new victims were assaulted. Society is changing so radically, so swiftly, it takes more than a few deep breaths to process it all. And my personal feelings towards these changes are infinitesimal when compared to the universal consequences that followed the news of a resurrected Jesus.
Easter morning flipped the whole world upside down, and its epicenter was the site of the empty tomb.
Gone were animal sacrifices. Gone was the need for priests. Gone was the need for a tabernacle at all. The whole Jewish religious infrastructure turned obsolete overnight. There were going to be A LOT of changes to the status quo around there. All the law and the prophecies and the promises were fulfilled in Him. It was finished.
There would be no going back. Like it or not, we must move forward to our new normal. As the lyrics of the song say, we need to “Turn and face the strange”.
The next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt project accompanies the last words of Christ. This is a tough passage, I find it extremely difficult to reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus. I am not going to delve deep into those words, rather, I’ll focus on the hourglass.
It’s Saturday today, and Jesus’ body is in the tomb. His followers are scattered and confused. They’re waiting, and unsure exactly what it is they’re waiting for. But we know how it’s going to go. We know that Sunday will dawn with miraculous glory. The hope that sustained the disciples was fulfilled when Jesus returned.
The hope that sustains us will be fulfilled when Jesus returns.
Yep, I see those hands from a certain age group. And my guess is you grew up in a rural area, am I right?
I did not grow up with a party line, but my country cousins did. It was surprising to me that they could actually listen in on other people’s private conversations, hearing interchanges that were not meant for their ears. I wondered if the knowledge they gained affected their opinions about their neighbors? How could it not?
I was reading threads on the Next Door app this morning, which was once again testing my patience towards my neighbors. For example, a photo of a strange bug attracted responses like, “Time to burn the house down”. A comment about poor Door Dash service unleashed a tirade of shaming responses.
I thought about how neighborhood apps are like the old party lines. Those conversations aren’t meant for me. They certainly don’t need my participation. The problem is that they present themselves and the brain clutter happens. I don’t need these distractions. I need to hang up the phone. Or in this case, stay out of the rabbit hole.
Speaking of rabbit holes, this is happening in my yard.
Back to the subject. There is a conversation that is meant for all ears to hear. It is the interchange between us and our Creator. He provides The Way, through his Son Jesus Christ, for us to have eternal fellowship with Him and each other. Listen to the gospel message and respond in faith. It’s the most important conversation you will ever have with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
The next block accompanies the account of Jesus’ crucifixion. My progress on the project coincides here with Holy Week.
This Friday is Good Friday. Jesus did the most amazing thing for you and for me. He gave His life, perfectly lived, over to sin and death so that we could have life free from sin and death. Please don’t waste it.
My Quilting through the Bible project still has me in the gospels these days. Reading the life and words of Jesus has been just the ticket I’ve needed to travel through this Lenten season. There’s so much “noise” out there, and I’m weary of all the politics. Exchanging the broadcast news media for the “Good News” of the gospels keeps me calm to keep carrying on.
This quilt block goes with the passage where Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to His Father’s house and preparing a place for them. He assures them that He will return to receive them, and that they know the way to where He is going. Good old Thomas asks out loud what everyone else is thinking, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus replies: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[a]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
I didn’t comment on it in that post, because I was having an emoji brain explosion that wasn’t quite jelled enough to share. It still isn’t. The gospel is truly mind-blowing. It turns everything on its head and I’m still scratching mine.
So what is in my brain’s jelling process is the concept of “the way”. I had previously thought of John’s words, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” as a requirement for action on my part. I assumed he meant that we needed to make preparations of some sort. Maybe by examining our hearts, and clearing the path so we would be ready to walk, step by step, to our salvation.
Not even close.
Now it’s clear that “The Way” is the path where God brought Heaven to us. He sent His Son to be our pathway. If there were directional arrows, they’d be pointing from Heaven to Earth, not the other way around.
When John told the Israelites to prepare the way for the Lord, I think he wanted them to get ready for a mind blowing experience. God was going to do a 180 degree flip on the way He made covenant with His people. He was going to fulfill the Law for us once and for all. He was going to literally become the Way of salvation, as a Son, taking on flesh, as Jesus Christ.
I know I knew this, but it’s so easy to get lazy, and get thrown off track. Somehow I missed the little words, “HE will make your paths straight”, and “HE will guide our feet into the path of peace”. I translated those passages into “I have to get with the program and get my path in order”. It doesn’t help when books and sermons have titles like: “Five Steps to a Better Blah Blah Blah”, or “Ways to a Better Life Now”. The pure truth and finality of the gospel can get muddled. We mistakenly think that we need to be a part of the process. But thinking that way insults the complete work that Jesus did on the cross.
Don’t get me wrong, we do have something we need to do, which is taking that first step of faith. That’s it. And where does faith come from? Romans 10 says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Jesus knows His time is growing short, and He’s giving the disciples lots of final instructions. This passage includes this warning:
“ … For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.”
So how will we know what’s false and what’s true?
I heard this somewhere, that the U.S. Mint trained their agents in spying counterfeit money, not by focusing on the fake bills, but by studying the genuine item. Or maybe it was the FBI. Anyways, hours were spent poring over real currency. Familiarity was achieved at such a level, that should a false bill cross their desk, red flags would fly as if from intuition. Then upon closer inspection, the agent could identify the flaws that made it counterfeit. So the lesson here is: the best way to identify false teaching is to study the truth, the real deal, which is only found written in the Bible. The more we read the actual words in the actual Word of God, the more we will intuit what is from God and what is not. Not to mention that we also have the benefit of the help of the Holy Spirit.
Before Jesus left us, and sent the Holy Spirit to us, He said in Luke 24:44: “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” His final words on the cross, “It is finished” assured us that the job was done. The story is complete, and canonized into holy scripture for our review. So the role of prophet today continues with relaying that one gospel message, the good news. Everything we ever need to know is found in the Holy Bible. Period.
I’m back to the Bible Sampler Quilt project today. The next block goes with Jesus’ glorious entry in Jerusalem. Little did the joyful crowds know while they were celebrating and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” that soon they would disperse and leave Him to suffer and die, alone, on the cross.
My pastor recently preached a series called: Sola.
“Sola” is Latin for “alone”. As in: Christ alone, Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone, and Glory to God alone.
Alone. Being alone is what we know in these pandemic years of 2020 and now 2021. Whether we like it or not, we are isolated like never before. There is a silver lining here, in that, whether we like it or not, we’ve had the opportunity to come face to face with our mortality without the usual societal props distracting our attention. Our relationship to God is one-on-one. Someday, somewhere, somehow, we all have to face Him alone. I can’t work out my personal salvation as a member of a group. My church membership, my family ties, my social status, while important, will not be there for me at the final judgment. I will stand alone to face the music. This thought makes me extremely uncomfortable. I prefer life in safe anonymity. This is found in crowds, where I can fly under the radar. A middle child of a large family, attending bulging schools in the boomer years, I grew up outside of the spotlight. This suited me just fine.
But then I remember that I will not be alone on that final judgment day after all. Jesus Christ will be there, imputing His righteousness to me so that I will appear sinless, pure, white as snow. And He alone is all we need. The only obstacles that would stand in the way, which is me and my sins, have also been nailed to the cross with The Perfect Sacrifice, Jesus Christ.
An old song comes to mind here. Anyone else remember J. Vernon Magee’s radio program?
(Refrain) Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe Sin had left a crimson stain He washed it white as snow.
This past year, I’ve received many gifts, both surprising and unexpected. I reported that I won the monthly prize TWICE on the Elm Street Quilts One Monthly Challenge. But there’s more, and I’ve got many words of thanks that are way overdue. I’ve been putting this off because I wanted to adequately express how much they meant to me. I thought an inspired way of showing my appreciation would come to me if I waited long enough. That doesn’t appear to be happening, so here I go, plain and simple:
Way back in August, I got mail from THE Frances O’Roarke Dowell herself for a Quiltfiction Club event. Theona also sent me some cute fabric, which has already been cut up and used. Theona, I know you follow this blog, sorry I didn’t take a photo beforehand. Thank you so much my dear friends whom I’ve never met in person.
Also in August, I got this package from THE Laurie Aaron Hird, with a signed copy of her newest book. What an absolute thrill, and I’m beyond excited to begin this project after I complete the Bible Sampler Quilt. Thank you Lori, another friend I consider dear even though we’ve never met in person.
The book pairs letters from Ada Melville Shaw with quilt blocks. Here’s a peek at the concluding paragraph in the introduction:
Just like Ada, “I count each of you a dear friend” even though we’ve not met in person. This blog is a gift, allowing me to share some of myself, and I thank you for spending some of your time with me here. I don’t pretend to believe my words are “fraught with beauty”, but I will agree that they are written with a “spirit of abiding love”.
Here’s what all this brought back to mind. Maybe it’s also because I’m currently reading the gospels, and the parables Jesus tells.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Yet here we are. Charles Dickens was/is spot on. Political discussion aside/avoided, how are you? How are we? I was thinking about my own response to these dramatic days of current events/history-in-the-making. When I’m being told that my country is experiencing unprecedented tumult and unrest, I look to the past to gain perspective. It helps me keep calm and carry on.
I marvel that, along with rolling bandages and knitting socks, Civil War era women could stitch beautiful heirloom quilts while their country was being torn in two. I imagine they poured all that worry and nervous energy into their work, all the while praying for their loved ones in battles far away.
I’m kind of copying the “Dear Jane” (Jane Stickles) with my Bible Sampler Quilt project.
In the corner patch she signs her quilt, “In War Time. 1863. Pieces 5602. Jane A. Stickle.”
So so much in those few few words. In that year of 1863 Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. He also delivered the Gettysburg Address, where that horrible battle took place in that very same year. Throughout those terrible months, Jane stitched and stitched and prayed and prayed. She kept calm and carried on.
Well, I don’t have anything else to say, I just thought I’d check in since it’s been awhile since my last post. A lot has happened since then. I’m not sharing a block from the Bible Sampler quilt project today, but here’s a peek at my progress: