Quiet Quilting

My grandmother made quilts. Time and effort were invested in these works of art. Larger fabric swatches were cut into individual pieces. These pieces were hand sewn together to make larger blocks. Stitch by stitch, pieces became blocks and blocks became quilt tops. A layer of batting was sandwiched between the quilt top and backing. The three layers were attached to a quilting frame. Then the layers were hand tied with a special quilting thread producing the finished creation.

I still have a couple of Grandma’s quilts. I decided to retrieve them from storage. I looked closely at each fabric piece that became a part of these artistic masterpieces. Many of the pieces looked familiar.

So many memories tied together creating one quilt. However, I discover more than memories. I also find spiritual symbolism. God’s handiwork creates human quilts.

I perceive a sacred quilt pictured in I Corinthians 12:12-31. I highlight a few of the verses. (v12) For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. (v14) For the body is not one member, but many. (v18) But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (v20)But now there are many members, but one body. (v25) so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (v27)  Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

Paul describes the various parts of the human body knit together to form one body. Then he compares this concept to multiple members making up the body of Christ. I am looking at numerous fabric pieces combined into one quilt.

As a child, my favorite cover was a crazy quilt. This patchwork of fabric displayed multiple colors, shapes and sizes. All were sewn together. There was no evident design in the finished product. However, I recognized many of the quilt pieces as fabric from dresses worn by my grandmother and mother. I even noticed some swatches of material from dresses I wore.

As I closely examined the fabric squares, rectangles and triangles of Grandma’s quilt, I suspect the shape of some fabric pieces may have been determined by a tear or rip in the original material. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are quilted into God’s comforter irregardless of our past. He accepts us as we are. He forgives our sins and works us into His pattern of humanity. We become a block of His sacred quilt.

I remember a childhood song that proclaims “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in His sight.” God created people with different skin colors. All are part of His carnal coverlet. No two people have exactly the same physical build. However, all are loved by God. People vary in ages, but all are very welcome in God’s heirloom quilt.

Another comforter in Grandma’s quilt collection was composed of uniform blocks. It was a hexagon flower garden quilt. Each block was composed of various shades and patterns of one primary color. The same quilted design was evident in each square. Some exhibited brighter and bolder colors while others were more subdued. Some swatches were solid colors while others had busier patterns. However, the same octagon floral design was evident in the final outcome of all the blocks. Although there was diversity among the quilt blocks, there was also unity.

Spiritually, each person’s life becomes a unique block of God’s creation. The Holy Spirit works quietly in each of us preparing us to be a part of God’s quilt. Swatches of the Spirit’s fruit and gifts are evident. A different personality is prominent in each living square.

After looking at the tops of my grandmother’s quilts, I turned them over. The back was the same on all the coverlets. Each one was one solid color. Not very interesting but practical. The middle layer of batting added weight and warmth to the complete comforter. The warmth of the final quilt was primarily determined by the type of batting used.

Just as a fabric quilt has three layers, there are three layers in God’s quilting creation. We have spent considerable time describing the quilt top and finding ourselves as individual blocks.

Now, what is the backing? There is a song entitled He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. It refers to little tiny babies, brothers and sisters. It sounds like a lot of quilt blocks held in God’s hands. Our Heavenly Father may be our quilt backing. Maybe His love represents the middle batting. I envision the Holy Spirit as the yarn or thread that binds all together.

My grandma was a quilter who made fabric quilts. God is the Master Quilter creating His sacred quilt of humanity. He is quietly quilting the events of my life and your life into personal blocks. His human quilt is continually being worked upon. However, we have the promise that one day it will be beautiful and complete. According to Ecclesiastes 3:11, God makes everything beautiful in its time.

It is cold outside today. I think I will cuddle under a quilt to keep warm. How about you? Would you like to snuggle under a quilt and allow the Holy Spirit to do some quiet quilting in your life?

Restoration Projects

We watch a number of home makeover projects on TV. We enjoy seeing new designs emerge from old structures. I see a few parallels regarding spiritual transformation. Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, “I am making everything new!That includes us!

A restoration project brings back a home to its former design. Research is done to discover the original intent of the house. I have heard it said that if you don’t know where you’ve been, how can you know where you are going? That is true for home restoration and spiritual restoration.

In the beginning, God created us in His image. However, Adam and Eve’s choices led to the fall of mankind. We must be restored. In Psalm 23:3 we are assured that the Lord restores our soul. Jesus died for our sins providing us with the gift of salvation. Hebrews 10:10 assures us, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.Restoration is possible.

May we say with David in Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

There are restoration projects and there are renovation projects.

A house may look good on the outside. However, the inside condition may be different. Some exterior changes may be made, but most extensive renovations involve more work within the home.

Jesus says in Matthew 23:27, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” I will not say outward appearance is unimportant. However, God is more concerned with our soul. He desires to change us from the inside out.

Discontent with a home’s current configuration can lead to a renovation project. A family may hire a project manager to help them create a better layout. Destruction happens before new construction begins. Galatians 2:20 exemplifies spiritual destruction and new construction. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.The Lord’s renovation involves a transformation within us. We must yield to Him as the Project Manager of our lives. He knows what is best. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

A frequent home renovation goal is to create a more open concept. Not the intent of the original blueprint. When walls are removed, a structural issue can arise. If a load bearing wall is removed, a new support beam may be required. Psalm 68:10 says, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.We are privileged to have the Lord as our burden bearer. We must not remove Him! If we feel like our load is too heavy, Jesus promises to be our support beam. He says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Houses built a hundred years ago were well constructed. However, when renovation workers tear down walls, interior deterioration may be discovered. Electrical, plumbing, mold problems may exist. According to Psalm 138:14, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. However, we must allow God to tear down barriers we may build when trying to hide bad behavior. Let we say with David in Psalm 13823-24, Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

Restoration and renovation projects are always occurring physically and spiritually. II Corinthians 13:11 encourages us to “strive for full restoration.” I Peter 5:10 promises, “The God of all grace, . . . will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Dark Outside – Light Inside

It is wintertime. This means short days and long nights. It is part of the rotation of the seasons. The winter solstice is past, so the daylight is beginning to increase very gradually. There is hope for sunshine. However, during this darker season, many people encounter depression. There are both physical and spiritual causes of discouragement. What season are you experiencing spiritually? Are you in the light more than the dark regarding what God is doing in your life?

Although it is physically dark outside, we can still see in the light spiritually. I want to share some scriptures that will help us focus on the light of God. His light is not seasonal – it is available every day.

And God said, “Let there be light,”
and there was light.
Genesis 1:3

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
Psalm 18:28

The LORD is my light and my salvation–
whom shall I fear?
Psalm 27:1

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You,
who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
Psalm 89:15

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
Psalm 119:105

The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD
that sheds light on one’s inmost being.
Proverbs 20:27

Light is sweet, and it pleases
the eyes to see the sun.
Ecclesiastes 11:7

let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Isaiah 2:5

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
Isaiah 60:1

In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:4-5

I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.
John 8:12

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made His light shine in our hearts to give us
the light of the knowledge of God’s glory
displayed in the face of Christ.
II Corinthians 4:6

for you were formerly darkness,
but now you are Light in the Lord;
walk as children of Light.
Ephesians 5:8

You are all children of the light and children of the day.
We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
I Thessalonians 5:5

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, God’s special possession,
that you may declare the praises of Him who called you
out of darkness into His wonderful light.
I Peter 2:9

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. . . .
if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light,
we have fellowship with one another.
I John 1:5&7

I prefer more light both physically and spiritually. However, just as we survive the dark days and nights of winter, we will also live through the dark days and nights of the spirit. We have the promise of eternal light and life. Revelation 21:23 says, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

Children of God

My favorite TV program is “Long Lost Family”. This program shares stories of individuals seeking to be reunited with biological relatives. It may be a birth parent trying to reconnect with a biological child he/she put up for adoption. Or, it may be an adopted child searching for answers from a biological parent.

My heart is touched with each episode. Love is always a key. Frequently, a birth mom has given up her child because she wanted him/her to have a better life than she could provide. Although many adopted children become a part of a loving family, they still desire to know why they were not kept by their biological parents. Something is missing. They need to hear that they have been loved by the mom and/or dad who conceived them.

The theme of this program leads me to think about our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Although most of us have earthly parents who love us, God has planted a deeper desire within us to know Him as our Heavenly Father.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

The Hebrew word for eternity is olam. It refers to an eternal longing that God has placed in the human heart. I believe we have an internal yearning for eternity. It is like an innate knowledge that feels there is more to life than what we currently experience. I do not think we will ever be content with just earthly things.

According to Genesis 1:27, we are created in God’s image. God is spirit. So, we desire things of the spirit that only our eternal Heavenly Father can satisfy. I like the descriptive words used by the blogger Soulspartan.  He says, “Our hollow cave-hearts still have the echo of eternity, still have the echo that God is real.”

Today we live as human beings. We are part of human imperfect families. The spiritual hole in our hearts longs to be filled with the love of God – our Heavenly Father.

In John 14:18 Jesus promised, ““I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” We are not left without a spiritual family. He says in verse 20, “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” God is our Father just as he is Jesus’ Father. Jesus assures us in verse 23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” Jesus goes on to say in verse 26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

The TV hosts, Lisa Joyner and Chris Jacobs, often take a letter written by the person searching for a biological relative. If a family member is located, they will share the letter with that individual. This letter becomes an introduction to a biological family member not previously known. It is very touching to hear their written words read aloud. Often these are the first words a biological mother has ever heard by a child she gave up for adoption 20 or 30 years earlier.

Adopted children long to hear “I love you” from a biological parent. We also long to hear our Heavenly Father express His love to us.

Spiritually, God sends letters to His children through scripture. Listen to what a letter written to you by your Heavenly Father might sound like.

My Child, before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Your frame was not hidden from Me when you were made in secret, when you were woven together in the depths of the earth. My eyes saw your unformed body; all your days were written in My book and ordained for you before one of them came to be. I chose you before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in My sight. In love I predestined you to be adopted as My son/daughter through Jesus Christ, in accordance with My pleasure and will. For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. You will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. You will find Me and I will restore you. I have always loved you. (taken from Jeremiah 1:5, Jeremiah 31:3, Psalm 139:15-16, Ephesians 1:4-5, Jeremiah 29:11-14, Malachi 1:2)

The “Long Lost Family” program concludes with the uniting of biological family members. Adopted families remain intact for adopted children. However, now these adopted individuals also have new family connections with biological relatives.

Today, we share love within our earthly families. We are blessed by these relationships. However, there is more awaiting us. We will spend eternity in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Jesus promises in Revelation 3:21, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.John records in Revelation 21:3-4, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

In Revelation 21:5, Jesus promises,I am making everything new!I remember the beginning words of Ecclesiastes 3:11, “God makes all things beautiful in its time. This TV program shows how biological and adopted family members are united to create beautiful new relationships. Spiritually, Revelation 21:7 gives us a beautiful promise,He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Yes, God has set eternity in our hearts and His promises will be fulfilled when Christ returns. Revelation 22:20 concludes by saying, “’Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Cows in the Stable

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.
Luke 2:11-112 NKJV

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus! I linger in front of our nativity scene. The creche illustrates what transpired the day Jesus was born. I ponder what it might have been like to be present at this extraordinary event. I wonder if the animals sensed something sacred happening in their secular stable.

Jesus is, and always will be, first and foremost! However, I have enjoyed meditating upon the various animals during Advent. A donkey, a few tranquil sheep, the approaching camels, now a cow. Such a privilege for the animals to be included in welcoming Jesus.

Cows will be our final focus. Cattle are often a part of the nativity scene although they are never mentioned in the Christmas story. I think about cattle because of the Christmas carol Away in the Manger. The second verse begins, “The cattle are lowing the baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.”

Lowing is defined as a deep low sound characteristic of cows. Maybe their mooing was a soothing sound to the newborn baby in the manger.

Cattle are ruminating animals – meaning they chew their cud. For cows, “to chew the cud” means to turn food over and over in the stomach in order to digest the food. For humans, “to chew the cud” refers to turning thoughts over and over in our minds.

For cows, chewing the cud breaks down the complex properties of grass and grains. For us, chewing the cud breaks down the complex meanings of scripture to gain understanding. Chewing the cud allows us to fill our minds with spiritual truth in order to better understand it, apply it, and be transformed by it. Cows munch on pastureland. We taste and see that the Lord is good. (see Psalm 34:8)

Cattle ruminate – chew over again. We meditate – contemplate, question, reflect, think.

The Psalms provide us good guidelines for meditating. Psalm 77:12 proclaims, “I will consider all Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.” David declares in Psalm 145:5, “I will meditate on Your wonderful works.” He also says in Psalm 19:14, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Let us echo Psalm 104:34, “May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the LORD.

Paul gives us specific things to think about that will result in positive meditation. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Ponder is another word for meditate. According to Luke 2:19, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.So many things for Mary to think about! Let us take time to ponder the significance of Jesus being born among animals in a stable. Maybe we should chew the cud a little more. Let us learn from the animals how to welcome Him into our hearts.

Celebrate the birth of Jesus today! Meditate upon the meaning of Christmas.

Camels Approaching the Stable

I continue to examine our nativity scene looking closely at the animals. Each year as I set up our creche, I create particular groupings of people and animals. I place the donkey near Mary and Joseph. (After all, it was the donkey Mary rode while traveling to Bethlehem.) The sheep flock around the shepherds. (Sheep and shepherds belong together.) I nestle the camel with the Magi outside the actual creche. (They have not yet arrived on the scene.)

Although the camels and Magi were not present at Bethlehem’s manger, they are common figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations. They have an important part in our Christian tradition. Camels were part of the animal world surrounding Jesus’ birth.

The account of the Magi and their camels is found in Matthew 2:1-12. For approximately two years, the Magi rode their camels and followed a star that ultimately led them to Jesus in Bethlehem. Verses 9-11 says, “. . . they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

In Bible times, camels were a symbol of wealth. They transported treasures and riches. These particular camels carried Magi. Also referred to as Wise Men, the Magi were part of the hereditary priesthood of the Medes. They exhibited profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. These camels transported respected men and expensive gifts. Extraordinary animals for an extraordinary purpose.

Most camels are dromedary camels, characterized by a single hump. They are usually 5.9 to 6.6 feet tall and weigh between 990 and 1,320 pounds. While standing, they are majestic animals that demand attention. My eyes look up.

However, as the camels sit or lie down, my eyes look down. They kneel on their knobby knees and gradually lower their bodies. As a camel lowers itself on its knees, it reminds me of a person kneeling in prayer. Psalm 95:6 says, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” 

The purpose of the Magi’s journey was to worship the newborn king. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The camels and Magi journeyed together sharing a common purpose. Camels and Magi reflected a prominent status by appearance. However, both knelt and worshiped Jesus. Let’s find our place with the camels and Magi. As God’s people, let us fall on our knees to worship Him.

The camels were privileged to carry great men on their backs and bring them into the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. They are an example for our prayer lives. As intercessors, we carry people to the Lord in prayer. Paul says in I Timothy 2:1-3,I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.Ephesians 6:18 is also a significant verse. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Who do you need to bring before the Lord in prayer today? Kneel before Him and pour out your heart in prayer and praise.

The camels were coming. Are you coming? It was a long journey for the camels to finally kneel before Jesus. Currently, we are sharing an Advent journey. It will be our privilege to kneel before Jesus and honor His birth in another week. However, our pilgrimage will not end on December 25. Our life’s goal should be to draw closer to Jesus each and every day. Jesus was born in Bethlehem’s manger for a greater purpose than living on earth for 33 ½ years. He was born to die for our sins so we could be born again. Our destination in eternal life with Jesus.

A Donkey in the Stable

Advent has begun. It is time for me to get out Christmas decorations. The first thing I set up is our nativity scene. I lovingly hold each figure as I place it in the stable. Jesus, along with Mary and Joseph, take center stage. Rightfully so. However, my attention is drawn to the animals.

No scripture mentions the animals being in the barn. However, we know Jesus was born in a stable. A stable was the home of animals. They had to have been there! It was the animals who were willing to share their abode with Jesus because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn.

Luke 2:7 NKJV says, “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.

During the coming weeks of Advent, we will carefully look at the various animals who surrounded Jesus at His birth. We will think about the nature of each animal and meditate upon their symbolism.

Our first focus is upon the donkey. After all, it was a donkey that brought the star character to the scene. While Jesus was still being cradled in his mother’s womb, he traveled upon a donkey to where he would be born. Without the donkey, there would not have been a baby born in Bethlehem’s manger. There would not have been a reason for a star to shine above the stable. It all depended upon the donkey. This animal was the mode of transportation for the fulfillment of the prophecy recorded in Micah 5:2. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

A donkey is a cross between horse and mule. It is a lowly animal. Mary and Joseph were also of lowly status. In the Magnificat, Mary described herself as being in the humble state of a servant. (Luke 1:48) Joseph was a carpenter. He was not wealthy nor a man of political status. When people learned that Mary was pregnant and unwed, she was looked down upon.

Lowliness is humility. On two occasions, Jesus and a donkey shared humility. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He traveled to Bethlehem upon a donkey while still in Mary’s womb. Jesus died in Jerusalem. He arrived in Jerusalem riding upon a donkey where He was tried and crucified.

Philippians 2:5-11 describes the mind of Christ exhibited by Jesus while He lived on earth. Verses 7-8 say, “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.

I believe the lowly donkey sets an example for us.
Proverbs 16:19 declares, “It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Philippians 2:3-4 encourages us to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (my emphasis)

I place the donkey near Mary, Joseph and Jesus in our nativity scene. As a lowly animal, the donkey symbolically reminds me of humility. Colossians 3:12 is a good scripture for us to strive to fulfill during this season of preparation for Christmas. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.