Church Ladies


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We have a group in our congregation called Sunshine Friends, that is similar to a Secret Santa, but lasts all year.  We send cards on anniversaries, birthdays, and give a gift at Christmas.  My Sunshine Friend this year is a member of the choir and convenor of the Worship Committee.  I found this fabric called ‘Church Ladies’ and did up a wall hanging for her.  She loved it, but didn’t hang it drapping it instead over her piano bench.  Very simple pattern and then quilted by stitching in the ditch.

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Christmas/Easter/Communion/All Saints’/Transfiguration/Baptism Banners


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48″ x60″

This is how far behind I am.  We did manage to get ten banners completed in time for Christmas.  We hung and dedicated them the first Sunday following the celebration of Christ’s birth.  That would be January 29th!  They have been hanging in the sanctuary up until last Sunday when they were replaced with the Lent banners.  I know it was a week past the beginning of Lent but we celebrated Holy Communion on March 9th, white and gold being appropriate in that case.

They were all a variation of log cabin blocks done in yellow and set in white.

 

DSC_0332DSC_0326DSC_0324Eight of them were 36″ x 48″ and two were 48″x 60″.  Each quilter could place the star and quilt their banner as they pleased.  When it came time to switch them out I finally got out the camera to take and post the pictures as I promised I would.

Of course for at least one of my banners I had to do something entirely different.  I wanted a project with more of a modern feel.  I absolutely love it.  There are a few people in the congregation that aren’t as impressed with it as I am.  After all, breaking with tradition is a difficult thing to do in the church. 😉  Resistance to change seems to be a defining characteristic of Christians.  There are lots of jokes about it.

How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb? — We don’t change!

Although, my favourite is, because I am — How many Calvinists does it take to change a lightbulb? — None, the lights will go on and off at predestined times.

And my second favourite, because I am — How many Presbyterians does it take to change a lightbulb? — Well, it requires a least five committees to study and review the need and procedure behind changing the lightbulb, each committee represented by at least half a dozen people, so — 30?

I wonder when the Christ returns and there is a new heaven and a new earth if any one will want to be part of it because they have never ‘done’ it that way before …

The ‘modern’ banner is still my favourite.

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Isaiah 43:19  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

The Good News Paradox


On a number of the social media groups I belong to, there has been long conversations going on since Friday’s massacre at Sandy Nook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Almost all of them started with the question, “In light of today’s/Friday’s events are you changing your sermon this Sunday?”  Some asked wondering if we should further sensationalize an event that has already over saturated the media, our conversations, our emotions.  Some argued, why pick this one, hundreds of children die daily from hunger, disease, war, abuse – we don’t hear about them.  Some of those ‘news’ stories we, as Christians called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, free the imprisoned, share our abundance with, are supposed to do something about.  Here was my answer to someone who asked that same question a number of times, finally in a rather provocative way (the question has since been removed – something to the effect is this story only important because it happened in the US to white, English speaking children, adding that teachers in our congregations wasn’t a good enough reason).

“Exactly some of the conversations being held during the coffee hour. It is important because we can identify with the story. Someone has a son with mental illness, we all have children, grandchildren or great grandchildren attending schools, they are predominantly white, they speak English. We have teachers in our congregations. Our children are not dying of hunger, our children are not dying of AIDS, or being blown up by suicide bombers, or stepping on landmines, or dying from diseases that could be prevented by immunization. Unfortunately those news stories do not resonate as strongly with us, unfortunately that ‘news’ is not covered by the major networks. Is it a travesty, yes. Does that mean we ignore what is right in our faces because some news editor somewhere decides what bad news we get to hear? Do we connect the news that is presented for our consumption to everything else that is happening in the world? We might if we preached the three hour sermon. Today’s focus was on ‘news’, the news that is set before us everyday, the good news of the Gospel, the questions and the reality that sometimes there are no answers. We struggle every week to arrive at the decision of what is important in the world and if and how it might influence our worship of God in community one hour of the week.”

Here was Sunday’s sermon, reworked Saturday, because of Friday’s horrible tragedy (with some words and thoughts gleaned from social media and news feeds).

Zephaniah 3:14-20, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18            Responsive ReadingIsaiah 12:2-6

How was your Friday spent?  Were you deep in the preparation of the season, baking, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, spending money perhaps?  Were you listening to Christmas carols, planning the Christmas dinner menu, addressing Christmas cards, or getting all dressed up to go to a Christmas party?

Were you waiting,

Watching,

Weeping,

Horrified at the depths to which human activity in the world can descend?

Was the joy drained from your day?  Why did this happen?

The immediate answer is, I don’t know.  The eventual answer is, we may never know.  Life exposes us to horrible, confounding, disturbing events that we may never have the answers to.

Every day, the news of the world does not bring good news.  It is just news, political, economic, natural disasters, entertainment, trivial, now breaking, up to the minute, news.  Cascades of words that become meaningless after awhile until something extra-ordinary in the world happens and suddenly everyone is transfixed by their tablets, and radios, and televisions to get the latest news.

One day, “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.  3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,  4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  Ground breaking news, kingdom in breaking news, attracting people from all over, crowds of people.  You would have thought John would have been pleased.  High ratings for a guy shabbily dressed, living on locusts in the wilderness.  All these people, hearing the message, responding, coming out to be baptized, transfixed by John’s message.  If only today’s church could be so fortunate.  Crowds of people desiring to become part of the body of Christ.

John is not so impressed, or satisfied with THAT sort of response.  He chastises the crowds, calls them snakes, vipers, vermin fleeing impending wrath, rats abandoning a sinking ship.

Even today, to call someone a “snake” is to say something pretty serious about him or her.

“What a snake,” said an old lady when she discovered that she had been robbed by her nephew.

“He turned out to be a real snake,” said a local girl of the man who became engaged to her why he was still married to a woman in Ottawa.

“You vipers,” said the preacher.  “Why are you slithering out of your dens to me?  Who warned you that this is your last chance?” ***

John’s incensed, because he knows human nature, he knows they think that baptism is the key to salvation.  He knows they think that once they are ‘done,’ everything is good, they have made the grade, they can bask in God’s grace, ask weekly forgiveness, and not have to concern themselves with walking the straight and level path of righteousness.  He knows that the crowds are expressing only the minimum outward appearance of turning around and forgoing sin.  He knows they will take the path of least resistance, not the narrow way, not the way that Jesus will walk when he appears.

John tells the crowds outright that they cannot rely on the claim that they are the children of Abraham.  They cannot rest or rely on that identity.  Calling themselves God’s people, whether Jewish, or Muslim, or Christian does not make them so, does not make us so.  God is able to make children from the stones by the pathways, after all, being descendants of Abraham has nothing to do with living faithfully as God’s people.

Our inevitable question is the same one the crowds ask.  “What then should we do?”

John doesn’t mince any words.  “whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.”  John is telling them to do something that reveals God’s love for the world.  Be part of the community.  Act with grace, and charity, and genuine concern for those around you.

“What should we do?”

“Collect no more than the amount prescribed to you.”  John is telling the tax collectors not to line their own pockets, taxes are already a burden, it shows no compassion or concern for your neighbours if you increase that burden for your own benefit.

What should we do?”

“Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”  John knows the temptations that power brings, it becomes easy to threaten others to elevate a soldier’s position in society, to eliminate people who might encroach on personal realms of influence and wealth.

“What should we do?”

Do as you would have others do to you.  Love them as you would love yourself, as you say you love Jesus.  Be a light unto the world.  Feed my sheep.

There may lie the answers to why people perpetrate such horrible and unspeakable acts upon others.  Somewhere along the line, there was not enough love, somewhere along the line there was not care and concern for the oppressed, the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, the mentally ill, the ostracized, the different, the other.

Why is it that we can talk so freely about what we hate, and never say a word, even whisper a thought, on what we love, on who we love.

I am struck by the implication of a paradox of the last verse of today’s Gospel reading.  “So, with many other exhortations, John proclaimed the good news to people.”  With exhortations, warnings, admonitions, pleadings, insistence, spurning.  These are tough methods of getting the good news to sink in.  It doesn’t appear on the surface to be very good news if we are pressured to stop doing those things we have always done, or to start doing something we have never done.

Where is the good news?  There seems to be so little evidence of any good news in today’s world, particularly after the events of Friday in a small town in Connecticut.  The media feeds on bad news, bad news attracts advertisers, bad news attracts viewers, bad news and speculation seems to be the new drug for society.  There never seems to be enough of it to go around.  We are more than willing to share it with everyone who crosses our path, whether it is true or not.

Did you question, as doubtless many in this world did two days ago, where is God?  The answer might be found in a comment from Mister Rogers of all people.  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

That’s where God is in moments of unspeakable horrors.  “I don’t believe God willed this or wanted it.”**  And don’t you dare say so, to anyone, you are not God.  That is neither helpful nor good theology.  I don’t understand why things like this happen.  “What I do know is this:  God does not cause or plan violence.  I also know this:  God comes along side of us and we find him in the midst of our pain – ready to pick us up and carry us through the valley of the shadow of death.”*  God grieves with us, the Word became incarnate in Christ so that the depths of our losses and tears would be truly and intimately known by God.”

Pastor Rocky Veach, whose church has 75 members said, “In times like these, there’s no really good answer. Words really don’t express enough. Our approach is just that you have to show people love. You have to be there for them and be understanding, even though nobody besides the victims can really understand what they are going through. Instead of talking so much about Jesus, in this setting we have to try to be like him.”

God’s love reveals itself in the actions of people.  John tells people to go about their work, their lives, but to do so in a manner that revels they have truly repented of the dishonest and oppressive ways they previously practiced.

God’s love reveals itself in the actions of people.  A neighbour drops a casserole off at the doorstep of parents incapacitated by the death of their six year old, offers to watch the dead child’s infant sibling for a few hours while funeral plans are made, to allow for some solitary grieving.

God is revealed in the actions of people.  Trinity Episcopal Church on Newtown’s Main Street planned a service of prayers and music. Other places of worship also held services and vigils; more were scheduled for yesterday.  St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church holds a candlelight vigil within 24 hours, hundreds of people gather, spilling out into the darkness of a December night, some crowding around open windows desperately waiting for words of hope and peace and reassurance of God’s love, singing Silent Night through tears of grief.  Twenty six candles burned on the altar, as the priest reminded all that it is not our place to question, judge or condemn, and that it was important to remember all who died that day in Newtown.  Tragic the effects of isolation on a young man and now for the community in which he lived and died.

God’s love reveals itself in the actions of people.  Countless people change their Facebook pictures to candles bravely shining in fathomless black, posting prayers, words of outrage and comfort and hope.  Twitter users offered prayers, and support, and expressions of grief and love.

We need to show each other how much we love each other.  We need to tell others how much we love Jesus.  We need to live in hope, regardless of the broken, sinful, and dark world that surrounds us.

Where do we find hope?  We find hope in the promises of the Kingdom of God that is being ushered in even now as I speak this.  We find hope in the expressions of family, and friends, and neighbours.  We find hope in salvation bought through a cruel and suffering death.  Hope is in a life lived beyond self.  Hope is things unseen, questions unanswerable, lives unafraid.  Hope is a new heaven and a new earth, no pain, no tears, no suffering.  Hope is a glimpse of the glory of God at unexpected times, in unexpected places, from unexpected people.  Hope is a child in a manger, an innocent on a cross, an empty tomb, a Saviour returning on clouds of unimaginable brilliance.

We are called to love God and others.  It is difficult, to feel joy, in times such as these.  But we can be grateful.  We can give thanks that God’s love is revealed in the actions of people in times of grief and horror.  We can give thanks that the grace of God is always.  We can give thanks that we can find peace in Christ, a peace that surpasses all understanding.  And in all this, we can be confident and live in the hope that joy will again be experienced, for surely God is our salvation, we will trust and not be afraid, for the Lord is our strength and our might.  Amen.

*these are quotes from a number of sources, if yours I will be happy to give you credit, let me know.  I hadn’t expected to post this at the time and haven’t been able to successfully backtrack to recover them.

** http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-emily-c-heath/dealing-with-grief-five-t_b_2303910.html

*** The Master Storyteller Roy Sheldon MacKenzie pg 18

A Year Later


DSC_0782Over a year ago the quilters in my congregation constructed beautiful banners to hang in the sanctuary during Advent.  (They can be seen here).  At the same time I designed a stole to accompany them.  I finally finished it today.  Some times, particularly during Advent, we just have to wait.

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Micah 7:7
But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

In Planning Mode


My sewing machine is handicapped at the moment.  The light has burnt out and it is an hour drive to get another one.  It has severely limited the amount of quilting I can get done.  Frustrating to say the least.  I have been planning future projects instead.  Almost as frustrating because I can not begin them until the projects I have on the go are completed.

Dandelions

This one I am naming “Dandelions”.  I intend to use the fabrics above and sew it into a wall hanging for our spare bedroom.  It will go really well with the existing beadspread and drapes.  I got the idea when I drove up to the church this Sunday and noticed the grass starting to turn green along the building and the dandelions starting to bloom.  Always a cheery and welcome sight, at spring’s first blush.  Not so welcome as summer establishes herself.  I might change it to four block squares and scatter the colours more.  I’ll decide when I get that far and how ambitious I feel at the time.

Going to the fabric stores are too much of a temptation.  I see something I adore and cannot resist the temptation to purchase, without any thought as to how I am going to use it.  Here are some ideas for two patterns I couldn’t leave behind.

I love the large flowers that are somewhat stylized in their renditions.  The challenge then becomes finding a pattern that is conducive to the fabric and doesn’t detract from how fabulous it is.  Here is what I am considering.  I have to remember not to let my hair fall in front of the flash of the camera to avoid shadows.  The grouping on the right will probably be a modified nine block square in some way.

Finally I want to do a Sudoku quilt.  I’m thinking rainbow colours. 

I Promised …


     It’s almost been a year since we had our 2nd Annual Country Cowboy Service.  I promised when I mentioned it in a blog last August that I would post the pictures.  The quilts were made by our soon to be famous Ladies Quilting Group.  At least, I am confident that they will soon be famous.  They accomplish some lovely work.   Almost exactly a year ago they sent 12 quilts to Japan in response to the earthquake/tsunami disaster of March 11.  The quilts seen in these pictures were donated to a family shelter in Grande Prairie at Christmas.

Decorating the church in preparation for Sunday worship was filled with laughs and good fellowship.  The narthex (ahem, foyer), took on an almost stable atmosphere, complete (briefly!) with a newspaper on the floor piled with evidence of some well digested hay.  (Thanks to our retired law enforcement officer…not pictured!)  He thought it was a huge joke, and it brought on many laughs.  Replacing the candles along the walls with cowboy hats worked quite well, next year we promised to keep in mind we need more hats.  The decor was very conducive to setting the mood for some old favourite hymns and good worship.  Five more months and it will be the 3rd Annual.  Praise God!

Sirach 39:14-15   14 Send out fragrance like incense, and put forth blossoms like a lily. Scatter the fragrance, and sing a hymn of praise; bless the Lord for all his works.  15 Ascribe majesty to his name and give thanks to him with praise, with songs on your lips, and with harps; this is what you shall say in thanksgiving:

Impulsive Quilting


Last year our congregation hosted the ecumenical Good Friday worship service.  Two weeks prior I had this great idea.  I didn’t have an appropriate stole for the service, typically the liturgical colour for Good Friday is black or grey. I felt I needed something because my Anglican colleague had informed his congregation if they didn’t attend there would be no Easter Eucharist for them.  After all there is no latter without the former.  (I just heard the soup guy in my head — No Wine for You!)  Those Anglicans have almost as much sense of decently and in good order as us Presbyterians, so I decided I would quilt a stole for the occasion.

I was well pleased with the results and it was completed in ample time.

Genesis 28:10-12   10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

Success plants the seeds for other ‘great’ ideas.  When the Genesis story about Jacob’s ladder came up in the lectionary I remembered that there was a quilt block named – Jacob’s ladder.  Of course, I felt the impulse to quilt another stole, in green fabrics, since the reading occurs during ‘Ordinary time’.  I only had a week, and found myself blind stitching on the binding at 6:30 AM Sunday morning.  Next time I have a ‘great’ idea, I’ll give myself more time.