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

Hunting and Gathering

I’m still here, reading through the book of Isaiah. I’ll be back with the next block when I’m into the next book, Jeremiah.

When I taught school, I’d help some parents understand their children better by explaining the two types of students as I had come to perceive them: the “hunter/gatherers”, and the “farmers”.

The “hunter/gatherers” were always poised to leap into the next thing. They enjoyed challenging their environment and pushing its limits. Once they’d acquired the thing, it was time to move on to the next one, then the next, and so on.

The “farmers” were content to stay put and work their field, er, desk. They plugged along, row by row, and wouldn’t want to move forward until the task was completely completed to their satisfaction. They had to be pulled away to move on, even to recess, lunch, or afternoon dismissal.

Both types of learners were needed and appreciated in a vibrant classroom.

Are you a hunter or a farmer? I’m definitely a gatherer. My husband plants the seeds, but he leaves the picking of the fruits to me. I love to start my mornings by perusing the growing beds and the trees, filling my basket with my treasures.

As makers, I think we all have a tendency to gather. Lately I’ve been realizing, rather uncomfortably, how much fabric and how many tools I’ve acquired as I work through my stash. While it feels good to use it up, sometimes I get the urge to go out hunting for more.

Last week I treated myself to a day of foraging through the antique mall. I decided ahead of time that I would only gather photos and leave the actual space-using and dust-collecting treasures for another gatherer to acquire.

Things made with human hands. My mom made some yo-yos of 30’s fabrics. They’re waiting in a little baggie for me.

Did you collect horses too?Oh my, I forgot about these. I played house for hours with them:We made mud pies of a Saturday. I’d find those lost utensils buried in the dried up dirt on subsequent weekends.

I was keeping my eye out for a treadle machine, which I’ll explain another day. There were none, but these instead:Funny how I see Bonnie Hunter’s mystery quilt colors everywhere now, kind of like when you’re pregnant and you suddenly see all the other moms-to-be wherever you go.

I struggled with the “Refresh” paint chip at first, but have since grown more comfortable.

https://quiltville.blogspot.com/p/frolic-mystery.htmlI’ll end by showing you the items that charmed me to no end. They need no description:

61. Nailed It

Pine Tree Quilt

I can’t say that I “nailed it” with this block. The colors are greener than this photo shows, in case you were puzzled by my fabric choices. Keep in mind that I’m pulling from my stash only. With the goal of using it up, I’m starting with the smallest scraps when planning the blocks, and I have to say it is gratifying to watch the pile shrink, while leaving me with larger pieces.

The book of Isaiah definitely nailed it. Isaiah faithfully delivered so many prophesies that absolutely happened. Now that we can look back through the lens of history, we can see how his words were fulfilled each and every time. He told how the Israelites would come back to their deserted land and it would once again flourish and grow fruit for the world. Hello 1948 and Jaffa oranges. In this passage, he told of the reforestation of Israel. Nailed it. Isaiah 55 plainly tells of the life and death of a savior, God’s promised fulfillment of His covenant to His chosen people. Hello, Jesus Christ, Son of God.

Jesus nailed it. He took it with Him upon the cross: the sin and subsequent death that was our destiny. It’s all there to see in Isaiah.

There’s a lot of excitement lately around the book of Isaiah in Christian circles. I have attended Bible studies where they’re studying, well, not the Bible, but books like “the Oracle” and “The Harbinger”. While it’s exciting to match the prophesies in Isaiah with current events, I wish to throw in a word of caution. There’s a lot of noise about revival, which is good, but I fear we may miss it. Just as the Jews were waiting and watching for an earthly king, we may miss our Messiah.

On the cross, Jesus uttered these final words as He gave up His Spirit, “Tetelestai”. Translation: “It is finished”. As in – Completed. Done. All the prophesies, all the promises, done. Are you interested? I can’t say it any better than this passage from Columbia University’s web blog:

“What makes this exclamation truly unique is the Greek tense that Jesus used. (Verb tenses are the most important and most communicative part of the Greek language.3 This also is sometimes necessarily lost in translation.) Jesus speaks in the perfect tense, which is very rare in the New Testament and has no English equivalent.4 The perfect tense is a combination of two Greek tenses: the Present tense, and the Aorist tense. The Aorist tense is punctiliar: meaning something that happens at a specific point in time; a moment. The Present tense is linear: meaning something that continues on into the future and has ongoing results/implications. 

The combination of these two tenses in the perfect tense as used in John 19:30 is of overwhelming significance to the Christian. When Jesus says “It is finished” (or completed) what he is actually saying is “It is finished and will continue to be finished”. 

The first element of the perfect tense: the Aorist, punctiliar, point in time statement “It is finished” is powerful. Mathew Henry captures all that is finished at that exact moment: “It is finished; that is, the counsels of the Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled. It is finished; all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished. It is finished; the ceremonial law is abolished; the substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. It is finished; an end is made of transgression by bringing in an everlasting righteousness. His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and those of his body. It is finished; the work of man’s redemption and salvation is now completed.” This is overwhelming in and of itself. 

But there’s more! The Aorist tense is only half of the perfect tense! The second element of Jesus’ statement is the equally important: the Present, ongoing, linear “and will continue to be finished” component of the perfect tense. This indicates the ongoing nature of our salvation. This is so important because it indicates a condition, a state of being, a resting place. 

In conclusion, in Jesus’ statement “It is finished” we have a declaration of salvation that is both momentary and eternal, Aorist and Present, linear and punctiliar. We are saved at a specific point in time, “it is finished”, our debt is paid, we are ransomed from the kingdom of darkness, and then we confidently rest in the reality that “it will continue to be finished” because we are in a position of grace and stand justified for all time before God. One Greek word, tetelestai, spoken in the perfect tense, by Jesus on the cross, and it was finished at that moment, and for all time.

So, my response? Stop looking outside of myself for a revival, (although I must admit that politics have been highly entertaining as of late, what with impeachment hearings and all. And how about that Golan Heights reverting back to Israel?)

Tetelestai means that we live as citizens of two kingdoms. We simultaneously dwell here on earth, as well as in the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus has sent us His Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Who has already revived our hearts, minds, and spirits. Revival has already come. So, to nail it down, how do we proceed to live in two kingdoms?

Martin Luther said, “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would continue to plant my apple trees.”

Well done, Israelites, for planting your pines, myrtles, cedar, and olive trees. Shalom.

Nice

WordPress sent me a congratulatory message for my one year blogiversary. How nice! This blog was a gift from my husband. He has watched me keep to myself, keep my head down, keep to the middles of the crowds all of my life. Maybe he was tired of being my sole audience for personal reflections and opinions, but whatever the reason, he wanted my voice heard “beyond”. I want to thank him, and also thank you. Thank you for listening to me, for commenting, and most of all, for being nice. I appreciate you very much.

The Bible Sampler quilt blocks skip all the way from the Song of Solomon to Isaiah 41, so please be patient with me as I read through Isaiah. While you’re waiting, I’ll share what I did earlier this week. I went on a quilt retreat!

I decided to go out of town with my husband, and while he was off doing what he needed to do, I sewed in the hotel room. First, I set up my space and sorted my blocks.

Now please don’t think me pathetic for spending hours sewing alone in a hotel room and calling it a “retreat”. I’ve read blogposts from traveling quilters who do this, and it was something I’ve wanted to treat myself to for a long time. I know myself well enough to know that I won’t go on a REAL quilt retreat. They sound amazing and fun and full of laughter, but they’re expensive. I also know that lots of amazing fun and laughter quickly wears me out. I have always been content to entertain myself, and it really was nice. We don’t watch much TV at home, so I just kept the Turner Classic Movie channel on, which was a treat, and I was in fine company.

I had put together these blocks at home months ago. I chose to bring this UFO because I knew I could make quick progress, which would feel retreat-ish. I also wouldn’t need rulers, rotary cutters, mats, all the things I didn’t want to pack. All I needed to do now was the layout and joining together. I played with arrangements, and texted photos to my friends for their input. After many changes (thanks friends!) assembly happened.

One last seam to go – right down the middle.

I even took an “over the rail” photo for the finish.

There was still time before dinner with my betterhalf; I’m glad I brought my economy blocks which also needed joining.

I’m joining four patches, which will then join up, and so on, until it’s a quilt top.

And the two hour drive to and from our hotel? I tore the paper off the completed Bible Sampler quilt blocks. I may have underestimated the scope of this particular step in the paper piecing process. Yowza! Four solid hours of picking didn’t seem to make a dent.

All in all, it was a productive retreat from start to finish.

60. Sing, Sing a Song

Lattice

Here’s the 59th block out of 96 in the Bible Sampler Quilt. Somehow I messed up with numbering my blogposts. I began this project by numbering the ones that included the blocks. This post should match, and therefore be 59 instead of 60. Oh well, I will choose to take advice from the song, and let it go.

Speaking of songs, it happened to me yet again while reading the Bible. A song, long forgotten, popped into my head and replayed itself with every note and word recalled from the old memory banks. Thank you, memory banks. The song I refer to now is taken from today’s passage of scripture word for word. Isn’t this phrase just perfect?

“Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away”.

It already has the lilting meter and rhythmic cadence built right in.

“For lo, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land . . .”

The song could have written itself. And I so appreciate it when composers stick to the scripture word for word. I have been able to memorize much more of the Bible than I would have otherwise; thanks to the people who set scripture to song.

https://youtu.be/XEmTnEyh-0w

And here is that song, thank you You tube. I sang it in a women’s ensemble at my university back in the seventies, so of course my voice is lost to the ages. Actually, I probably have the album or a cassette we recorded in a dusty box in a closet, so yeah, I t is as good as lost to the ages.

I hope you take a moment to give it a listen. Music calms our souls and draws our hearts, in this case, to love.

And, as yet another song reminds us, all you need is love.