October 20, 2014

One Small Part

Devotion for the Week...

Have you ever noticed how one little physical irritation can affect more than just the body part that hurts? Every now and then the oil glands in my right eye get blocked, which means the tears that should lubricate the eye don't have the right oil-to-water balance. It doesn't hurt, exactly, it just feels like I have an eyelash in my eye that I can't remove. Applying a hot compress a couple of times a day unblocks the glands again, but it takes two or three days to work. So, for two or three days, I constantly feel like there's an eyelash stuck in my eye. It's very minor compared to the physical issues so many others deal with, and yet I find that even such a little thing can affect my mood for the entire day.

The apostle Paul had obviously dealt with something similar at some point in his life. In chapter 12 of his first letter to the Corinthians he compares the church to a body, pointing out how each member of the church is important just as each body part is important, but each person has a different role to play, just as each part of the body serves a different purpose. Then he says of the church, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Just as an irritation in my eye makes all of me irritated even though my eye is such a small part of my body, so the church as a whole should be affected by what happens to individual members. The church can be grouped in two different ways. First there is the local church, which is the group of people who attend a particular church. Then there is the global church, which is every Christian in the entire world.

The concept of "if one part suffers, every part suffers with it" is similar to "carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). In the local church, this happens when someone dies and the church members rally around those who are grieving by bringing food, or when someone receives a grim diagnosis and the church members pray and offer assistance wherever needed. Do we know our fellow church members well enough to know when they are suffering? Do we step outside of our own busyness and our own concerns enough to see the needs of those around us?

Globally, there are millions of Christians who are affected by poverty, drought and war. Do we suffer with them? Most of us have enough money to pay for food and shelter. There is abundant food available in our grocery stores and farmer's markets. There are no armies fighting in our streets, threatening to take our children and turn them into soldiers or slaves. We can't relate to those who suffer under the weight of that fear. It's easy for us to become complacent, to be content with what we have and to focus only on ourselves. But that isn't what the Bible teaches.

How can we help to bear the burdens of those who live so far away in conditions so unlike our own that we can't really even imagine living like that? Some people will go physically to those far away places to help feed children, to help build schools, to help in whatever ways possible to better the lives of others. Most of us, though, will stay where we are, but that doesn't mean we can't help.

We can help financially.  Paul wrote, "And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people" (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). In order to evaluate whether or not we are truly serving the Lord's people as the Macedonian churches did, we need to ask ourselves if we are giving 'as much as we are able, and even beyond our ability'. That is a tough question, isn't it? It is one that can only be answered individually, and requires an honest evaluation of our priorities.

Having said that, sometimes money is easy to give. Not only because we have more than we need at a particular moment, but also because giving money is rather simple. It doesn't require much effort or engagement on our part. Giving of our time is much more difficult. Taking the time to pray fervently for those who suffer around the world requires an intentional effort. It means we give up time spent doing other things to petition God on behalf of those whose needs we can't meet ourselves. It means we stop knowing about poverty and war on a surface level and allow ourselves to go deeper, to learn more about what is needed and about what is being done. When we allow ourselves to care deeply enough about those needs that we become passionate about relieving that suffering, then we will sacrifice our time and pray more. And yes, we will probably give more too.

I have to admit that, as I have been writing this devotion, I have found it challenging me. I feel that I am focused on my own life and not as engaged as I could be in the lives of others, both near and far. Please don't ever think that because I write these devotions I feel I have it all figured out. God often speaks to me through my own words, just as I hope He speaks to you. 

Individually we are each only one small part of the church, but we are connected to all the other parts. Do our lives reveal that connection?

October 13, 2014


Devotion for the Week...

Friends of ours are moving this week, though only up the road from where they've been living. They've been waiting for the construction of their new house to be finished and, while there is still work to be done, they are finally able to move in. Paul and I have been helping them load up their truck, drive for about two minutes and then unload it again. They didn't demand that we help them, nor did they hint around until we felt guilty enough that we agreed to help. We didn't even wait for them to ask for help. Instead, we offered because we remember how much we appreciated the help we had when we moved from our apartment into our house 7 years ago. Obviously, they accepted our offer. It's a known fact that more bodies carrying boxes and furniture means the work gets done faster.

Knowing that we intended to offer to help them move, I was intrigued when I read this verse in Romans last week:  "Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness" (Romans 6:13). Offering to do something means you are making a choice. Whatever you are offering to do is not required of you, you are choosing to make yourself available for it should your offer be accepted. By saying "Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness," Paul is telling us that we have a choice.

Do you know that feeling that comes when you are about to do something you know is wrong, that feeling that says "maybe I shouldn't"? Right then, right when you get that feeling, that's when you make your choice. Do you offer yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, and do the thing you know is wrong, or do you offer yourself to God as an instrument of righteousness and refrain from doing it?

I would say most of us are too quick to make excuses for ourselves. We're too quick to say, "I couldn't help myself." Technically, of course, this is true. We can't help ourselves and that's why Jesus came to be our Savior and offer us salvation by faith in Him. However, often when we say, "I couldn't help myself," what we really mean is "It was inevitable." And that is not true.

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). God will provide a way out, a way for us to choose not to give in to temptation, to choose not to sin. The question is, will we take it?

"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." (Galatians 5:16-18). The Holy Spirit will lead us, if we are willing to listen and to follow. Following His lead will result in us not gratifying the desires of the flesh, meaning that we will not sin when we choose to follow His lead.

We don't like to think that we choose to sin. It's much more comfortable to think that it's inevitable and there's nothing we can do about it. But Paul didn't write "Don't give in to sin's demands." He didn't write "Don't listen when sin comes begging." Do not offer yourselves. Do not make yourself available. In fact, actively make yourself unavailable by consciously offering yourself to God

Unfortunately, this isn't a one-time choice that we can make and be done. It's an ongoing, continuous choosing. So, are we making the right choices?

October 11, 2014

Craftsy's Five Million Member Sale!

It's no secret that I love Craftsy. Their classes are the main reason my machine quilting skills are where they are, and their pattern store option was the impetus for me to finally start writing up a couple of my own patterns. So I'm not at all surprised that Craftsy is now 5 million members strong. Check out their celebration sale this weekend.

Craftsy's 5 Million Member Flash Sale!
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Don't miss Craftsy's 5 Million Member Flash Sale happening now! Get up to 50% off select online classes for a limited time only! Hurry, this offer expires on October 13th, 2014 at 11:59 PM MT. Shop Craftsy's 5 Million Member Flash Sale now and save.

October 10, 2014

Quarter 4 Finish-a-Long List

Yikes! This is the last Finish-a-Long list for the year. How did that happen?

My progress on my quarter 3 list wasn't very good. I only finished two of the eight projects I listed. Here's hoping I do better this time around, especially since I'm adding a few projects with deadlines.

Without further ado, here's what I'm dreaming planning to finish before the year is out...

1. The Christmas ornaments for my three boys. This is my annual gift to them, something that reflects their interests during the year, and they've already started asking if I know what their ornaments will be. I do, but I haven't started any of them yet.

2. My project for the 'Twas the Night blog hop. I know what I want to make, and I've started playing around with how to make it look the way I want. I hope to spend more time on that this weekend.

3. My #igminiquiltswap quilt. Again, I have a plan, but haven't started yet. This is another one with a deadline, so I better get cracking!
 4. My first commission quilt, with this fantastic tractor fabric. This one is all basted, and the mom wants it to be minimally quilted, so this should be my first finish of the quarter.

5. My Walk in the Park quilt. The blocks are all finished and joined together, even though I don't have a picture of the finished top. As soon as I can get some batting and backing I'll be getting this basted. The cooler weather is here and I'll soon be wanting my new quilt for reading in the living room.

6. I finished and mailed one of my three Craft it Forward gifts and that leaves two more still to go. So, # 6 is my Craft it Forward # 2.

7. My Craft it Forward # 3.

8. A baby quilt for my cousin Jessica. Her baby is due in December...

9. My snowman runner from last November. I'd love to be able to display this when it's time to put out the Christmas decorations. The top is all pieced and ready to be basted.

Well, that should keep me out of trouble! It will be interesting to see how much I actually get finished. Here's to a productive couple of months!

October 07, 2014

My First Commission

A friend's 3 year old son is moving to a big boy bed, so she asked if I would make his quilt. She provided the fantastic tractor fabric and just wants very simple quilting to outline the black frames around the tractors.
The mom's dad is a farmer, and has a couple of tractors similar to these ones. Plus, the little boy absolutely loves machines of all sorts, so this quilt is bound to be a hit with him.
What toddler boy wouldn't love to have all that machinery in his room?

The fabric originally was two tractor frames wide, with the 'International' strip on each side, just before the selvages, so I had to remove one strip from each of the two lengths of fabric, then join those two lengths to get the proper width for a twin bed. I was very happy to be able to piece it together so that the join down the middle isn't very noticeable.

Then I took the 'International' strips that I cut off from the sides and added them to the top and bottom. I would have liked to have mitered those corners, but I didn't have enough length on the main fabric to allow for that.

I had a moment of panic as I tried to trim the top of the quilt before adding the border. It looked like I had made a mistake in my cutting somehow because I couldn't make a cut straight across the top that was equally far away from all four of the top frames. Thankfully it turns out it wasn't a mistake I made. Those black frames are not perfect squares, nor are they perfectly straight, so the border is closer to some of them than to others. It's not as bad as I thought it was going to be at first, and doesn't seem noticeable at all in the picture, so maybe I'll be the only one who ever sees it. I was very relieved that I hadn't made a mistake with someone else's fabric!

I spent 40 minutes this afternoon ironing the huge piece of muslin she gave me for the back of the quilt, so I'm hoping to get this basted tomorrow afternoon.

I'm linking up with Sew Cute Tuesday, WIP Wednesday and Let's Bee Social

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