33. Ark #3

I’ve read through Deuteronomy. In chapter ten Moses described the ark he built of acacia wood to hold the second set of stone tablets. After reviewing the Ten Commandments with the children of Israel; Moses got to the essence of the Law. It all boiled down to – wait for it – love.

Doesn’t it always boil down to love?

The ark of acacia wood held God’s love notes to us. I’m referring to The Ten Commandments. I know, laws are inherently punitive. And Moses warns the people more than once that they must fear God. Wise King Solomon tells us in Proverbs that fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. How can we both fear and love someone at the same time?

I’ve also read through the next book, the book of Joshua. It’s a change from the first five books of the Bible. Basically, the Pentateuch gave the chosen people the law and a promise. These next twelve books will tell how they attempted to live out that law and embrace the covenant God made with them.

So how does this apply to us? If you ask a believer what words come to mind when you say “God” they will respond with: creator, protector, savior, and father. If you ask a non-believer they may say words like: judge, intolerant, and condemnation.

In truth, God fits all of these descriptions. In the book of Joshua, the Israelites are commanded to claim their promised land and take no prisoners. Joshua is on board with this plan, and with God, conquers all 31 kings and their kingdoms are brought into submission. We are all familiar with how he brought down the kingdom of Jericho.

Ruins of Jericho Quilt Block

God required complete annihilation of all foreigners in the promised land. Joshua was going to each kingdom and destroying them one by one. But there were bumps in the road. When some of God’s chosen army strayed from God’s commands, the penalty was swift and severe. For example, when Achan hid forbidden loot in his tent after conquering Ai, he was stoned to death along with his entire household. God was not messing around.

So how does this apply to us again? The way I see it, God hasn’t changed. He’s still not messing around when it comes to His law. So then how am I to behave in this modern humanistic society of tolerance?

I am to love. They will know we are Christians by our love. Jesus tells us to be fishers of men. We are not responsible for cleaning the fish. The Great Commission sends us out to be witnesses of the truth. So I won’t apologize for the black and white truths of God’s word. I will confess them with my mouth and leave the consequences to the One who wrote those words. I both fear and love the Lord, and can trust Him as I live in the gray areas.

This is the third ark I’ve described in this blog. The first, of course, is Noah’s ark. The second is Moses’ basket, and now the third: the Ark of the Covenant, which holds the stone tablets, Aaron’s rod, and the pot of manna. All three arks carry salvation for those that will take the offer of the free ride.

A song written by John Fisher ends with these lyrics:

“I’m not one who’s got it all in place, telling you what you should do,

No, I’m just one old hungry beggar, showing you where I found food”.

I believe he was inspired by Martin Luther. On his deathbed, this handwritten note was found in his pocket:

“Wir sind bettler. Das ist wahr”. “We are all beggars. This is true.”

I have nothing to add to this. Its power guided a Reformation that changed the world.

32. Less is More

Borrow and Lend Block

God invented math. So this equation from Jude 2 is His:

“May mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you”.

I used to joke with my kids in their preteen years when they had not the wherewithal to give “real” presents for birthdays. I didn’t mind, gift giving is not my love language. Handmade expressions of love are; and I have kept their priceless homemade treasures to this day. They were so busy with life, some of my birthdays went ungifted. When their birthdays approached, I’d say, “I’m going to give you twice as much as you gave me”. They were smart and did the math before expressing any mistaken enthusiasm.

But God can multiply “nothing” and get “something”. He abounds in steadfast love. When we think we’ve depleted our quota of grace, He doubles down with mercy, peace and love. This just doesn’t equate in my finite mind.

In this passage, we are reminded of God’s abundant blessings. Our response is to be generous in our giving, to lend but not borrow. Deuteronomy is kind of like Moses’ farewell address. For the first time, you can really hear author’s voice in the scriptures. Moses writes in first person. He recounts all the events that occurred in his lifetime. So we get a great recap of the Book of Numbers in case we missed it the first time. To hear of all the successful conquests listed one after the other, you marvel at Moses’ leadership. Yet God described Moses as “meek”. It is true that in our weakness is His strength revealed. And God abundantly poured on the blessings to His chosen people.

We also live in a world of incredible abundance. We are all rich. And if we make more than $40,000 a year, we are in the top 4% worldwide from all time.

We can have everything we need and want. Millions of us have more than we can hold and the storage unit industry is booming. I heard that it produces wealth that surpasses the Hollywood industry. And Hollywood is a large part of the reason why California would be #5 in the world if it was a country.

From this first world position, simplicity can be an indulgence. Minimalism can be a lifestyle choice rather than a predicament. We have the luxury of leisure, so we can practice mindfulness about every little detail of our lives. We can consider what sparks our joy. (Marie Kondo). Good times.

It’s trendy, too. The side of a huge semi truck I saw yesterday was advertising “Abundance in Simplicity”. It was a Cadia yogurt ad. Figure that out.

Abundance in simplicity. Less is more. Live simply so others may simply live.

Do the math:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

-Jim Elliot

Numbers

Let’s just say that numbers are not my favorite. I’m not a math person. I attribute this partly to my age. “New Math” was the trending phase of the sixties. Looking back with an educator’s lens, I realize now that my elementary school teachers weren’t ready to roll it out when it was thrust upon them. The reluctant attitude that accompanied the math sessions rubbed off on me. By the time I hit junior high I was lost in the chalk dust of algebra. My teacher never turned around to face us as he covered the blackboard with formulas and droned on and on. (Think Charlie Brown’s teacher).

I rectified my deficiency in college. I finally learned how math works in my “Math for Elementary Educators” methods classes. My brilliant professor took us back to the basic building blocks and we mastered the tower of mathematical concepts with enthusiasm. (Up through the eighth grade level; Rome wasn’t built in a day). When it was my turn to teach math in my classroom, I LOVED attacking, and conquering, mathematics with the children. It was like playing games with numbers.

But those teaching days are done. Now I get to play with fabric and I find myself avoiding math if I can. I am a visual quilter. When designing my own quilts, I never measure or count. It’s more fun for me this way. I just keep letting it grow on a spare bed used as a design wall until it looks done. Here’s an example:

The Bible Sampler Quilt does not have a block to accompany the book of Numbers. As I started reading through the book, I realized, it begins with math. Plain and simple. Counting the members of the twelve tribes of Israel and arranging them geometrically around the tabernacle, the book began with lots of lists and numbers.

As a nod to the book of Numbers, I’m going to count the number of pieces in my Bible Sampler quilt. Jane Stickles did:

When I made the Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt, I jumped in with little forethought or design plan. Considering concepts of color theory seemed boring so I skipped this tedium when pulling the scraps for each block. I enjoyed putting things together that looked nice. As is the way, things began to dawn on me as I went along. I realized that there needs to be “punch” so the latter half of the blocks have more contrast than the first. I realized there’s value in addressing the value and saturation of colors as well as their, well, color. My flimsy:

The Dear Jane is on many quilters’ bucket lists. I know myself well enough to say with utmost certainty that I will not ever never ever hand stitch a Dear Jane Quilt. But I love everything about it: the surprising blocks, the amazing border, the soft colors, her hand scripted “label” in the corner. Everything comes together beautifully and I marvel at her design sense.

Her palette inspired me as I considered taking on the Bible Sampler Quilt project. If you recall, I wasn’t enthusiastic at the prospect. I told you in my first blogpost that I had just finished the FWS quilt. Motivation came when I decided to read through the Bible as I worked the blocks. It grew when I challenged myself to paper piece every single block, all 96 of them. But that was only half of it. Along with “numbers”, “decisions” are also not my favorite. Choosing the fabric is a stressful step in my process. Here, I could copy Jane Stickles’ good color sense and stick with two-color blocks, with white as my neutral. The fabric would be limited to the scraps in my repro bin. As icing on the cake, I would sash it with thin white strips, and write the number of pieces on the label. Once the plan was clear, I was good to go.

And I’m having lots of fun. My numbers game: So far I’m up to 997 pieces. I’ve completed 30 blocks. That’s an average of 34 pieces per block. The most pieces so far in a single block was 81. The fewest was nine. I don’t know what the total number will be, I’m looking forward to that excitement with the final top finish.

Leviticus

The Bible Sampler Quilt book flows from Exodus right into Deuteronomy. It skips over Leviticus and Numbers. But since I’m reading right through God’s word, I’ll not skip those books here in this blog. But first, a photo for you. I love tomato pincushions.

Leviticus – when I read through the law that God gave to His people, I was struck by the fact that they all made complete sense. Of course God knew which foods and behavioral habits would work best for us; He created us! He created all of the foods that fuel our bodies. The rituals He described in great detail were ahead of their time in sanitary procedures. Before people discovered germs, God gave them the tools to avoid them. Instead of viewing Leviticus as a bunch of rigid rules and regulations, I see it as God’s love note to His people so they could live their lives to the fullest. You could call it the “Mind Body Spirit” Handbook from Heaven”. We aren’t required to follow the rituals and requirements of the law, but doing so can only lead to good health. God’s dietary laws are proven by science. It’s true that “food is medicine” and we’d be wise to embrace the wisdom the law gives us.

Leviticus draws a line around God’s chosen people. His covenant, the Law, distinguishes between “them” and “us”. One can’t help but feel slighted.

There’s an Edwin Markham poem that goes like this:

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”

Here’s the good news. Now we have the New Testament, and with it, the New Covenant, the new Law. When God came down and dwelt among us; He drew a new circle around the entire Earth. Now we are all inside His embrace of love and grace.

Maybe this blog will gather a following. Maybe not. My goal is to chronicle my progress through the Bible and the Bible Sampler Quilt. But today I was thinking about you, my dear readers. If you jump in wherever I am in the process you won’t get the whole story from the very beginning. At first this thought bothered me. I have to have order, and my m.o. is to organize things chronologically. But for you, I have to let it go. We all have our own starting points. (Note to self: The books of the Bible aren’t arranged in chronological order, so who am I to stress its importance here.)

I will, however, encourage you to join me in reading through the Bible. It’s been surprising to compare and contrast my reactions this time through. Age does indeed bring experience, if not wisdom, to the pages. I’m noticing so many things I missed the last time.

Tomorrow we will discuss Numbers! Until then, I leave you with another pincushion of mine.

31. Go For It

Thunder and Lightning Block

The scripture passage has the children of Israel trembling in their camp. Mount Sinai is shaking. Thunder and lightning, smoke, and trumpet blasts are radiating from the mountain because God is there. He has called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses goes into the heat and fire to meet with God. I’m glad Moses “goes for it” because he returns with the two tablets of stone. We have the Ten Commandments.

Can I just say here that I think Moses is beyond amazing? I’d be hiding under my quilt in my tent.

But as I think about it, God calls us too. Living in the age of grace, we are gently drawn to Him with the help of the Holy Spirit. But we have to remember God’s awesome and terrible power. Proverbs 1 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”. Rather than be afraid of Him, we can respect His omnipotence.

When I’m choosing the fabric and layout for each block, I’m considering the block’s name and how best to convey it with my choices. I think that’s the favorite part of the process for me.

Imagine thunder and lightning: first comes the BOOM, followed by a flash, then the jagged bolts of electricity find their ground. I chose the white center to symbolize the BOOM. Then the flashes radiate from that boom, and are finally ringed by the bolts.

As I sew, (and these blocks take a long time), I think of the original creators of these old blocks. What was their story?

I love the history of things. When I was growing up, I consumed the LHOP books. I immersed myself in the world of Little Women and all of the books LM Alcott wrote for girls. I ddevoured all of LM Montgomery’s books, and later, Jane Austen’s.

I embraced the moral lessons preached in these books. They were affirming to my own life choices. I am loathe to admit that I was a bit of a goodie-two-shoes. I identified with Laura’s older sister, Mary. I chose the meek Beth to be my heroine in Little Women. And I resonated with Diana, the gentle kindred spirit, in Avonlea.

But if I could go back and meet with my childhood self, I would say, “Relax!” I would encourage that shy and circumspect girl to summon up the courage to take the risk of challenges and just go for it. I would tell her that if she fails, so what? She’ll live. And life would be much more thrilling and adventurous.

But I can only move forward. There’s a thoughtful reason why I named this blog “Cuts With Scissors”. It gives a nod to “Running With Scissors”, which to me, means, “Go for it”. And if I get injured in the process, I’ll live. I definitely was NOT that kid that ran with scissors. I looked and never leapt. I was the rule follower to a “T”. I got good grades in school except for the “Participates in Class” mark. The teachers didn’t know I was intently participating; I just didn’t show it on the outside.

So starting a blog has been a huge step for me. Thank you for being so supportive. What was I afraid of? This is FUN and I’ve learned something that Lucy Maud Montgomery already knew:

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

30. From Desert to Mountain

The next quilt block is “Going Around the Mountain”. It is supposed to look like squares radiating out to the edge. I intentionally changed it up to be “Courthouse Steps”. I love this block. The foundation paper pattern was not changed, just the fabric placement. Ideally the colors would’ve progressed from the lightest tan to the deepest brown, but I was constrained by the quantity of each scrap piece. I’m sewing them up to within an inch of their lives, or in this case, 1/4 of an inch. I am bothered by too much waste, and I don’t want leftover that will have to be revisited later. I want them used all the way up!

The scripture passage reports that the Hebrews have safely crossed the Red Sea and have set up camp at the base of Mount Sinai. Moses leaves them there in the desert and climbs up the mountain to talk with God.

I’m “going around the mountain” too. I’m not walking in the dust and sand of the Sinai desert, rather I’m zooming in a car towards Phoenix. But my trip is exceptional, too, because of this sight out my passenger seat window:

This is a sight I’ve not seen before near Palm Springs. Snow! This just does not happen in the Southwest.

Are you a mountain person, a desert person, a beach person? I live in a place where I can experience all three in a day’s drive around my county. But if I had to choose one, I’d say I’m a mountain person. I love the smell of the evergreens and the sounds of the birds that play in them. These desert mountains are more the sawtooth variety, with cactus growing at their sandy bases.

Some people love the desert, and I am not one of them. When the Bible has something happening in the desert, it’s usually accompanied by hardship and struggle. There is wandering and doubt and fear. But mountains, on the other hand, are where God meets with us to encourage and reassure us of His love.

I’m attending a Best Practices Conference with a group from my church. Surrounded by likeminded people and quality speakers, it’s truly a “mountaintop experience”. In the desert.

29. Suddenly . . .

Chariot Wheel Block

Like so many others these days, I’ve limited my projects to what’s in my stash. This project is making a modest dent in my tub of reproduction scraps. I am using the bits up and getting them gone. This time I didn’t quite make it with the green and had to fill in with another. I’m over it. This block had 81 pieces in all. Just sayin’. (There’s one mistake, bottom row third from left, can you see it? Strangely, it only adds to my affection for this block.)

The Bible passage continues with the children of Israel safely crossing the Red Sea while the Egyptians are drowning behind them. And just for good measure, God had disabled their chariot wheels so there would be no chance of escape.

God is the god of suddenly. Lots of miraculous accounts begin with this word. As in, “Suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the wilderness . . .” (Job 1:19) and at Pentecost: “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind” . . . (Acts 2).

“Suddenly” God showed up and used wind to part the Red Sea when the situation seemed so dire that there was no possible way out. So of course God did the impossible. He performed a miracle that defied understanding. He used ordinary wind and water and made them do an extraordinary thing.

But the truth of the matter is that He already had it all planned out beforehand. I wonder why He didn’t let Moses in on the fine details of His extraordinary plan. Then Moses could’ve really calmed the fears of the Israelites as they panicked in their dead-end trap ahead of the Egyptian army. What God had told them was a promise of deliverance to a land flowing with milk and honey. That should have been enough for them to trust in Him. But they couldn’t help but doubt His plan in their present situation.

Boy is this true of us believers today. As Moses told the people, we also should say: “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance of the Lord . . . The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”