May 30, 2016

Cleansed and Grateful

Devotion for the Week...

For years I've been reading the Bible with Aiden and Zachary at night and we've always used the New International Version, which is also what I use when I'm reading for myself. A couple of weeks ago I thought it would be interesting (for them and for me) to read the New Testament in The Message. We're currently reading Matthew.

If you've never tried reading The Message, I highly recommend it. Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible is written in contemporary English, meaning it sounds a lot more like how we normally talk than other translations do. Every now and then, as I'm reading, Aiden or Zach will laugh at how the writing sounds so different even though it is the same message as is in other translations.

When we read the story of a leper who was healed by Jesus, I loved how Peterson rendered what Jesus said to the man. Jesus said, "'Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done'” (Matthew 8:3,4 MSG).

Think about this for a minute. Here we have a man who was considered 'unclean' because of his disease. He couldn't live with other people, no one would touch him and if he was near others he had to loudly declare himself to be "unclean, unclean" so that they wouldn't accidentally come too close to him. What a wretched, lonely and hopeless existence that must have been. Then, with one touch from Jesus, he is instantly cured. Put yourself in his shoes...what's the first thing you want to do? For me, it's run through the streets yelling, "I'm clean, I'm clean!" And as soon as I reach my family's home I'd stand outside and shout it even louder so all the neighbors would know, and then I'd hug everyone in sight.

But Jesus tells him not to talk about it all over town. I guess that means shouting it through the streets is probably out of the question.

The man is to present himself to the priests, who were charged with formally declaring him healed, which would then allow him to return to living as a normal, clean person. After that, his "cleansed and grateful life" is all that will be needed to show the world what Jesus did for him. 

Had the man returned to living as he did while afflicted with leprosy, then it wouldn't have mattered how many people he told about his healing. No one would believe him if he was still living separate from other people and wearing bandages as if his skin were still diseased. The very fact that he could live a normal life was statement enough about his healing. 

The interesting thing is, the same is true for us. We can go around talking and talking and talking about how Jesus cleansed us from our sin, but if the way we live looks just like it did before Jesus then no one will really believe us. Why should they care about what we say if we deny our healing with our actions?

Our challenge, then, is to live 'cleansed and grateful lives.' To show by our actions how completely changed we are by what Jesus did for us. There are two parts to this - cleansed and grateful. Let's look at both of them.
Devotions |
Cleansed speaks of the way Jesus changed our lives. Leprosy is a skin disease. Sin is a soul disease. Just as the leper was separated from his family, we were separated from God because of our sin. Now we have been cleansed and we can have a relationship with God. But what if we continue to gossip and judge others and cheat on our taxes and a myriad of other 'little' sins? What would that say to those around us about the soul healing offered by Jesus? If we have been cleansed of sin (and we have!) then we need to live lives that reflect that cleansing.

Grateful speaks of our attitudes about what Jesus has done for us. Grateful and thankful are synonyms, so are we living lives that are full of thanks to Jesus for cleansing us? I'm sure we've all been around people who are constantly wanting more and more things, those who are never satisfied with what they have, no matter how good they have it. We've also been around people who are enduring a lack of some sort (financial, physical, whatever) and yet they are so grateful for what they have that somehow what they're lacking doesn't seem to matter much. Can you imagine the leper, now cleansed and living a normal life again, constantly grumbling about what he doesn't have? I can't. I imagine him as content as could be, because he remembers how bad life was before Jesus, and nothing he may lack now can compare with that. Is that how people would describe our attitudes? 

Cleansed and grateful. If that is how people would describe our lives, then really there is no need for constant talking about what Jesus has done. It will be obvious in everything we say and do.

May 26, 2016

Snowmen in May

No, we haven't had a snowstorm recently! I'm working on a new pattern for a Christmas in July blog hop with Sarah of Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and so I'm making (fabric) snowmen and snowwomen in May.

This guy still needs his mouth, which I will embroider by hand.
This poor snowwoman looks rather odd without a face, don't you think? Actually, looking at this picture she reminds me of Humpty Dumpty for some reason! Hopefully a carrot nose will change that! It requires some small pieces, but I really love the shape of her hat.
I'm making a wall hanging that will finish at 48" x 48" and I'm looking for pattern testers who would be available to test in the later part of June-early July. If you are available then, let me know and I can send you a picture of the design so you can decide if you're interested. The pattern will be intermediate level and involves mostly machine piecing with some paper-piecing, machine applique and hand embroidery (just backstitching). A little bit of everything!

I already know exactly where this quilt will hang come December :)

May 23, 2016


Devotion for the Week...

As a teenager I dreamed of writing novels, the thicker the better and probably in the fantasy genre. In university my honors thesis was a young adult fantasy novella. I imagined what it would feel like to walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelf (face out of course!) and what it would feel like to hold that book in my hands. I could picture it quite vividly and I loved that picture :)

I read dozens of books about how to write well, how to develop stories and characters and even how to submit your writing to publishers. I probably spent almost as much time reading about writing as I did actually writing!

My novel writing never quite matched up to my dreams though, and there's still no big fat novel with my name on it. I'm okay with that, mostly because I'm still writing, it just takes the form of blog posts and devotions here.

Sometimes we have a hard time letting go of our expectations. We want something to happen and we believe it has to happen the way we've always envisioned it or it won't happen at all. Naaman, in the Bible, had some expectations too and when things didn't go as he expected he almost missed out on something big.

You can read about Naaman in 2 Kings chapter 5 where we are told he was "commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy" (v. 1). While it's nice to know that Naaman was highly regarded because of his military expoits, I find the next two verses much more interesting in terms of his character. "Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy" (vv. 2,3). Here we have a slave girl recommending that her master go to the prophet Elisha to be cured of his leprosy. That tells me Naaman and his wife must have been kind to their slaves or this young girl would have just let the man rot in his disease and would probably have cheered every discomfort her captor felt. 

So, on the advice of his wife's servant girl, Naaman went to the king and received permission to visit this prophet in hopes of being cured. Naaman arrives at Elisha's door and Elisha sends a messenger to tell Naaman that all he has to do is go dunk himself in the Jordan river 7 times and he'll be healed. "But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage" (vv. 11,12).

Did you see Naaman's unmet expectations? He expected Elisha to meet him at the door and wave his hand over the spots on Naaman's skin and so cure the disease. Instead, Elisha just sent a messenger with instructions. Naaman wasn't even going to bother following the instructions! His servants had to convince him that he might as well give it a shot since it was such a simple task. "So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy" (v. 14).


But Naaman almost missed it. He wanted God to heal him, but he had expectations of how it was going to happen and when those expectations weren't met, Naaman almost walked away and missed out on what God wanted to do for him.

Devotions |

We all have things we want God to do for us, and we've all imagined how we think those things could happen. But what if God wants to do it a different way? He is not limited to what our imaginations can conjure up, after all. The question is, when the moment comes, will we cling to our expectations and miss what God wants to do? Or will we recognize the opportunity and run with it, straight into whatever God has planned for us?

May 21, 2016

X Marks the Spot in Make Modern Magazine

My mini quilt X Marks the Spot is in the latest issue of Make Modern magazine!
X Marks the Spot Mini Quilt |
This is a great scrap-busting project and can be a quick finish too. It measures 26" square, making it perfect for a table topper or for hanging on a wall. The x's are pieced and then the circles are appliqued to the background, so no tricky inset circles here.
X Marks the Spot Mini Quilt |
I quilted the spots in my version by outlining the x's and then stitching a spiral that matched the shape of each quadrant of the circle. I love how that makes the x really pop!
X Marks the Spot Mini Quilt |
For the background, I chose a quilting design called Flourish, from Christina Cameli's book Step-by-Step Free Motion Quilting. I really love this design! It's pretty, it's quick to stitch and it can fit into just about any space.
X Marks the Spot Mini Quilt |
I made one extra spot and added it to my pieced back. In this picture you can also see the linked circles I quilted in the borders. One of those circles has a faint x quilted through it as a little surprise for those who look closely at the quilt (in person, though - it doesn't show up in the picture)!
X Marks the Spot Mini Quilt |
The wonderful folks at Make Modern have offered a special discount code for contributors to share - enter issue11friends at checkout to get your copy of issue 11 for just $6 AU. There are lots of other beautiful projects in this issue, so go check it out!

May 16, 2016

You Can't Unbake the Cake

Devotion for the Week...

My mother-in-law has a saying I've never heard anyone else use. The first time I heard her say it, I didn't even know what it meant! Referring to someone who had possibly made a mistake, she said, "I wonder if she wishes her cake dough." She explained it as, 'I wonder if she wishes she could undo that thing', or, 'if she wishes she could unbake that cake.'

There are more than a few biblical stories about people who wished their cake dough. People who are unfamiliar with the Bible may think everyone in it is perfect, and they are all people who will make us feel inadequate because their actions line up so nicely with what God wants. The Bible, after all, is meant to teach us how to live - "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Sometimes, though, the best way to teach someone is to show them what NOT to do.

So, the Bible shares stories about people who really messed up in their work, like Joshua. He was told to go into the land of Canaan and destroy the people who inhabited the land. He was not to make treaties with the people because if they were allowed to remain in the land they would eventually turn the Israelites away from God and entice them to follow false gods. When the people of Gibeon heard about how the Israelites were destroying entire cities, they decided to try tricking the Isrealite leaders. "They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us" (Joshua 9:4-6). The Isrealites were taken in by the deception and "did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath" (vv. 14, 15). Three days later they learned that the people of Gibeon were actually their neighbors, and among those they were not supposed to make treaties with. But by that time it was too late.

The Bible also shares stories of those who messed up in their personal lives. There is the story of David and Bathsheba. She took a bath on her roof, where she was seen by the king and he decided he had to have her, never mind that she was a married woman. When she became pregnant, David tried to arrange matters so it would look like the child belonged to her husband (who was away at war) and when that didn't work, he arranged for the husband to be killed and David married her as soon as the time of mourning for her husband was finished (2 Samuel 11). The prophet Nathan confronted David, who immediately repented, saying, "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13). But by that time, again, it was too late and the far-reaching consequences of his actions remained.

Neither Joshua nor David could go back and undo what they had done. They could not unbake the cake. We are not in their same situations, but their stories have been recorded to help us avoid their mistakes, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us" (1 Corinthians 10:11).

From Joshua, we learn the importance of checking in with God before making important decisions, and of not being deceived by appearances. Though we may not be at war with anyone, there are always times when we are tempted to follow our own understanding of a situation and not 'inquire of the Lord' to see if we've got it right. But taking the time to pray and seek God's view will often save us from mistakes that could be costly.

From David, we learn not to "despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes" (2 Samuel 12:9). The temptations to sin are many and varied. We should be critical of our own actions, willing to take a hard look at what we plan to do and why. Had David done that when he was first tempted to send for Bathsheba, he could have avoided the whole mess. If we are willing to be diligent in this way, looking critically at our decisions as we make them, we can keep ourselves from things that are evil in God's eyes, and from the consequences that would come from those actions.

We all know the sickening feeling of a mistake made, don't we? But like a cake that has been baked, we can't go back and change things back to the way they were before we made the mistake. How much better, then, to learn from the mistakes of others and avoid making them for ourselves!
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