Monday

Hanging laundry redux

It's springtime again and with that comes the joy of hanging laundry on the line. Here's something I wrote last year that I thought would be appropriate to revive today. I've also added pictures that I took last year and played with on Photoshop. Just a little fun to start off the week:

Did you know that it is possible to find God's presence in the necessary tasks of life, like in doing laundry?


Household chores in general are not my favorite thing to do. I don't keep the house obsessively clean; I'm comfortable with a small amount of clutter and I don't mind if the laundry piles up during the week. I'd rather do it in one fell swoop on one day rather than devote bits of time to it during the week. I think this drives my husband nuts. He would devote bits of time to doing the laundry during the week if he could. Sometimes, he will even put in a load when I'm not looking and then tell me about it as he leaves for work. Bless his heart. At least he's not above doing the laundry.

Dishes are especially not my favorite, but these are all things that need to be done so they get done. That's one of the reasons for letting the kids do it. They need to learn these things, right?

Anyway, back to laundry.

In our house, the kids do their own laundry and we all have days of the week especially set aside for this. For instance, Stephen does his on Wednesday, Jon on Saturday and Andrew on Sunday night. I do mine and Mike's on Friday (and whenever Mike sneaks in a load). I don't mind this schedule, in fact this summer I've rather enjoyed doing laundry. No. I'm not mentally ill, really.

Ever since energy rates have skyrocketed, we've made some changes at our house and the way we do laundry is one of them. The big change is we're not using our dryer. It's proved beneficial. In June we saved $60 from not using our dryer. Oh yeah, and the oven. With the heat we figured it would be more beneficial to run our air conditioner and use the grill. The dishwasher, on the other hand, was not even considered in this deal. We are still using it. I haven't gone completely mad. You're welcome, boys.



Using our clothesline for laundry has proved beneficial in more than just saving money. It has helped me slow down a bit. It takes time to hang clothes on the line and while doing this I enjoy some quiet time and the beauty of nature.

It hit me the first time I took a basket of clothes outside. On that day, the sky was a deep blue. There was a gentle breeze and since summer wasn't in full gear yet, the sun felt warm and inviting. In that moment, I thanked God for what he had created. And then I got a good chuckle from the birds. They were scolding me from the treetops for interrupting their feast on the birdseed we put out everyday. They had flown away when I came outside.

"Just wait. I'll be gone soon," I told them.

A few days later I was out in the yard and two blue jays were eating at the bird seed trough. The other birds flew away, but those two stayed. I watched them from the clothesline for a while. They didn't even care that I was there and for some reason, I felt energized and a little closer to God because of this.

And when our wildflowers began blooming, I got to enjoy the blue sky, the gentle breeze, the squawking birds, the warm sun and colors of the wildflowers all at the same time. It's amazing how delicate and perfect the wildflowers are. Each one is unique in itself - just like us.

So why would a task like hanging laundry and enjoying nature have such an life-giving effect?

Author Michael Phillips put it this way in his book "Dawn of Liberty":

The Fatherhood of God is one that must not merely create, it must continually imbue with life, it must generate his own life.
Perhaps that is why.

Phillips also wrote: Men and women are drawn to the earth; many do not even know why. They cultivate gardens and tenderly care for its trees and flowers and shrubs. The wise among them, however, acknowledge what gives the garden its glory. Kneeling down to plunge their fingers into the moist earth, they recognize that the miracle of God's very creation is before them. When they pluck a blossom from a cherished rose, to offer in affection to a loved one, they perceive their participation in the greatest truth in all the universe - that the goodness of the Creator has been lavished abroad upon the earth for his children to behold, discover truth from, and then enjoy ... if they will but look up, behold his face of love, and learn to call him Father.
Nature - the birds, the flowers, the leaves blowing in the wind, etc. - like humans, are a part of God's creation. When we quiet our hearts and enjoy the beauty around us, we experience a feeling of oneness and we open ourselves to the quiet lessons about God that nature has to teach us.

No wonder Paul said: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Nature is tangible evidence of God. Nature itself shows God's divine fingerprint on everything. No wonder we feel so close to God when we incline our inner ear to its teachings.

Who knew that hanging laundry on a clothesline could bring about such a positive experience?

One of the good things about hanging laundry, too, is that the smell of the outdoors lingers on your clothing. This was especially noticeable to me when I opened my backpack on vacation. The clothes, which had been enclosed inside for several hours, immediately gave off the scent of outdoors. When the aroma reached my nose I was reminded of my time outdoors and I thanked God again.

Hanging laundry. Who knew??

Thursday

God and Art Series - Artist expresses love, faith in artwork


Why hide your favorite picture in a drawer when you can expose it to the light of the world? Yessika Torres, a Puerto Rican artist on Etsy, uses this thought as the basis for her creativity. Yessika uses favorite paintings and her customers' personal pictures to make jewelry so that people don't have to hide their favorite things.

"I began developing my artistic self as a child; I spent my free time painting and doing arts and crafts. I have always loved creating things with my hands," Yessika says. At a young age, Yessika had what she calls a spiritual awakening. "My parents instilled in me a belief in an Almighty Creator; seeing the wonders of nature and of life, I have always felt this to be true. I am very grateful to God for having given me the ability and the means to do what I do. I have learned little by little; I had many setbacks, but God always gave me the strength to get up, dust myself off, and find new ways to get where I want to be," she continues.

Her love of museums, vintage paintings, nature, photography and graphic designs translates into her artwork. She displays her work in two Etsy stores: YessiJewels and BeatriziFashions. She also displays her work at local shows.
A quest for beauty and the value of memories are what moves Yessika in her art. "I have seen many things in my life that I would have liked to keep with me as mementos or souvenirs. I recognize the beauty in the world and try to keep a little bit of this beauty with me always. One of my most recent pieces has a photo of my first nephew, born only a month ago. I have an enormous feeling of satisfaction when I see how my small creations become treasured pieces with great sentimental value for people.

"I work with resins, light metals, seeds, beads, paints and photographs. I do jewelry pieces with peoples' favorite pictures and photos that they can carry with them wherever they go. People love personalized gifts, and I love seeing their faces when they receive a piece of jewelry with the image of a loved-one or of a special moment. I marvel at nature, at the colors that surround us, and I try to capture those beautiful moments that can be frozen in time through a photograph. My present outlet brings together my four passions - art, photography, graphic design and jewelry-making," she says.

Earlier in her life, Yessika won an award in an artistic sketching contest. She has moved from that beginning to her current level of craftsmanship and artistry. In the future, Yessika hopes to earn a license as an artisan. She is also working on a doctorate in clinical psychology. "Art is subjective and relative," she says. "Personally, I do my art as an expression of love and faith."

To other artists Yessika adds, "Don't become disappointed or depressed that your pieces don't move or sell as well as you would like. Know that somewhere, someone is looking at your pieces and saying, 'That's a nice piece of art. I like that very much.'








Wednesday

Presenting Uhuru, the pig


Uhuru is a pig.

 I crocheted Uhuru so I could sell him on my Etsy shop.

Why am I seemingly going into pork belly futures?

To help teenage girls in northern Ghana; to help them determine their own futures; to help them develop a means of long-term support for themselves and their families. Without this support they will most likely be forced into polygamous marriages with men who are many years older than themselves.

Uhuru is the Swahili word for "Freedom." Freedom for the girls in northern Ghana comes cheap, by our standards - it comes in the form of a couple of pigs or a sewing machine. That what it takes for them to buy their way out.

Each time a customer buys a pig from my store, I will donate $10 to Compassion for Africa, a ministry started by my friend Dr. Joe Gorman, a professor at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.

So why am I so interested in this project?


In 2011, Pastor Frank Mills in Ghana wrote to Dr. Gorman about a young girl named Adiza (age 16 or 17) who had intentionally jumped from a moving vehicle to avoid a forced marriage. This was part of an e-mail that Dr. Gorman sent out:

"On the 12th November, Adiza’s father forced her into a commercial van and asked the driver to speed so that he could get the girl to her new husband as quickly as possible. While the van was going very fast, the girl pretended she wanted some fresh air, opened the window, and then jumped through the window. She died on the spot. It was so sad. This one is too horrible for me, because I knew Adiza personally.

Adiza is not a member of the Church of the Nazarene. She was actually a Muslim whom we were trying to win to Christ and the church. This is the fourth time that I have heard of a girl taking her life because she didn’t want to marry an old man (In Adiza's case, the man was 66 years-old and already had two wives). Usually the girls have no choice but to sadly accept the man chosen by her parents or family elders. Many of the girls despair so much that they take their own life.

"The leaders of the Girls Who Love Jesus Club [sort of the northern Ghanaian equivalent of the YMCA that Nazarene girls have started with Frank and Hanna Mills’ help] informed me of Adiza’s immediate need so we approached her parents and even promised to help her learn a trade and provide her with two pigs for her future needs. We could not succeed because her father was more interested in quickly giving her away into marriage in return for four cows. This is so sad. I cried when Adiza was being buried.

"Please we currently have sixteen girls on the needy list that has been presented to me by the Girls who Love Jesus Club. We have interviewed all 16 and wish we are able to help them this Christmas. Ten of them will be fine with just two pigs each and six of them will need to be enrolled in some kind of vocation, such as sewing (it costs $100 for a sewing machine here). Unfortunately, we served twelve girls in the last four months and we have run out of funds.

And, Dr. Gorman writes:

For almost two years Compassion for Africa has been supporting girls in northern Ghana with a pair of pigs as a way for them to support themselves on a long-term basis. To date we have provided over seventy girls with a pair of pigs. Pigs have two to three litters of piglets a year with anywhere from eight to sixteen piglets in a litter. As soon as a girl’s pig has its first litter, two of the piglets are given to the Girls Who Love Jesus Club who administrates The Wilbur Project and interviews girls who are interested in being part of the project.

May we never forget Adiza. May her life spur all of us on to serve Christ so that no other girls die like she did.

We women here in America are so fortunate in that we can choose our own husband, go to school, learn a trade, start our own business - the possibilities are endless for us. However, in other countries many young women are not so lucky. I want to help these young girls because everyone should have the freedom to live as God would want them to.

If you would like to donate to Dr. Gorman's ministry without buying a pig, click here.

With every purchase, I will send my customers a pamphlet about Compassion for Africa.

Thursday

God and Art series - Artist gifted during low time

In the low times of life, God can use art to help heal the soul. Such was the case for Carolyn, owner of EverythingsPainted on Etsy. "I really began my art career while recovering from a hysterectomy. Yuck," Carolyn says. "Actually, while resting one afternoon in my backyard, I was enjoying the nature around me and had an urge to paint. I became obsessed -- God-driven though. I felt it was God's gift to me since I could not have children at that point. What a blessing it has been for me. About a decade later I adopted my daughter, a further blessing."

Here is some of her work:






A self-taught artist, Carolyn teaches art to senior citizens and works part-time at a grocery store. She loves teaching art. "Many of my students have vision problems and difficulty with hand use. Together we have fun and explore painting many things in watercolor and acrylic. Most of them have never painted, but through this class they get to experience a wonderful art form and it gives them so much pleasure and joy. A few of them were fabulous when younger and love rediscovering their skill. Others find they actually are very good and can enjoy this new talent in their late years - a blessing to me," she says.

"Because of life events, my hysterectomy, career changes, etc., art has been there for comfort as well as financial assistance," Carolyn says. Over the years, she has juried into art shows and has shown her work at many prestigious places. "I am grateful for the opportunities and doors that have opened for me," she says.

Carolyn says that her painting "feels like a prayer of gratefulness and a blessing to and from God." She was raised a Catholic, but says that she really didn't understand her relationship to God through Jesus Christ until she was about 30. "I was at a low point, and family members shared with me that only Jesus could meet my needs and give me answers. When I sought him, he met me and through his word I found a living God who is ready and able to bless me, teach and guide me," she says.

According to her profile on Etsy, Carolyn is learns from others and enjoys experimenting with new media and art techniques. "I have painted wonderful murals, all types of furniture and accessories as a side-studio business as well as creating and selling my paintings. I enjoy painting animals, botanical, and miniature art (ACEO cards). I have donated art to children, silent auctions, and pet charities. I have been invited and have collaborated on two Orange County Philharmonic Houses of Design," she says.

"I began as a botanical water colorist, but when I began my mural and decorative painting career in 1992, I used acrylic. I love watercolor as it is fluid and when I wet the paper and watch the color spread and take shape, it thrills me. Anything having to do with the natural world is my favorite subject. I painted a 'big cat' series along with botanical flowers. That was so much fun as I love animals and flora. My inspirations are almost always things God-made over man-made subjects."

Carolyn encourages others to enjoy his or her artistic gift. "It truly is God's gift to you. Sharing it with others is a blessing. If a piece goes south, never give up on it - most things are salvageable," she says.

Tuesday

"Father, forgive them ..."

During the Lent season I started a series on the seven phrases that Jesus spoke from the cross. With everything that was going on, I only had time to finish one - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" - so now I would like to continue with that series.

Saint Benedict said that Christians should live in the spirit of Lent, a spirit of sacrifice, throughout the year. I agree with him on this point but I would also like to add that we should live in the spirit of Easter weekend throughout the year as well. There are so many lessons that we can learn from that one weekend and when I think of Easter, my heart is challenged anew to live like Christ.

When the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, the gospel writer Luke wrote that Jesus cried, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." In my favorite version of the Bible (New Revised Standard Version), this phrase is sandwiched between two brackets meaning that some ancient translations do not include this phrase. And, as a writer, I have to say that where the phrase is inserted makes the flow of the paragraph sound choppy, but that's just stylistic preference. Even though I am not sure why earlier translations do not include this phrase, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing," doesn't it sound fitting for our Lord?

This same Christ, who told his followers to forgive an infinite amount of times, practiced what he preached. Forgiveness. On the cross, he was full of compassion - for the guards who had pounded spikes into his flesh and who gambled for his clothing; for the people who had cried out for his death; for the disciples who had fled; for Peter who had denied him; for the people who mocked him; and, perhaps even for Judas, the disciple who betrayed him and then committed suicide. Jesus wanted his Father to forgive everyone who had hurt him because they truly did not know what they were doing.

An interesting question came to mind at this point. Would I crucify God?
If we are truly honest with ourselves some of us might do this very thing. The reason I say this is because many of us, like the religious rulers of Jesus' day, are so comfortable with our lives that we would do anything to maintain the status quo. In fact, we would maintain it so well that it would almost be impossible to hear God speak. It would ruffle our feathers, like an irritated hen, if there was a possibility that God might want something else for us.

Would we, like the Roman soldiers, just follow orders from the establishment because it was our job? Many Christians today give up their God-given ability to reason and to form their own opinions just so they can follow whatever a pastor, televangelist, author or other Christians tell them without examining the Scriptures and any facts for themselves. They just parrot the party line so as not to rock the boat.

There are also Christians who, like the crowd, mock and jeer at new ideas, education and scientific discoveries without examining the facts, especially if what is discovered doesn't fit with their interpretation of the Bible. They jeer at those who accept these discoveries in order to hide their own ignorance and, again, to maintain the status quo. I am convinced that people who love the status quo would, indeed, crucify Jesus once again if they could. Humanity hasn't changed that much since Jesus walked the earth.

For those who do not idolize the status quo, how is our compassion for those who do? Do we love as Christ did? Do we forgive?

Each of us must ask ourselves if we are truly open to what God is doing. And, if we are, do we have compassion for those who are a little slower and for those who may never follow at all?

Thursday

God and Art Series - Artist, vintage seller prays for guidance


When there is a little one in the picture, it's all the reason a mother needs to stay at home. However, in the present financial climate, it is difficult to do that without having an income. Fortunately, the Internet has helped in that regard and Etsy is a place where young mothers and others can sell their wares in an affordable and fun way.
Wonda, from Florence, Colorado, is one of those young mothers who has found that Etsy is a good venue that helps her stay at home. Her shop AntHunnys sells a variety of goods: photography, vintage items, including jewelry, handmade products and recipes. "My ... shop name 'AntHunnys' comes from my niece and nephew. They couldn't say my name as babies and that's what they came up with and it has stuck all these years," Wonda says. "Since I have a toddler at home now, I started trying to find something I could do at home. I consider myself 'still looking for my niche' in the art world. I love photography, sewing, cooking and T.V. I would say that my 'niche' is in vintage and photography."

Here are some of Wonda's photographs:




"Photography is really in the eye of the beholder," Wonda says. "One thing I've learned is that every photographer has a different 'eye' for things. I love doing portraits, scenery and animals! You can see so much of God's awesome creativity in photography! I really don't have a set theme for my photography."

Wonda has had photographs published in the International Library of Photography and one in the Circle of Photographers.

AntHunnys also features vintage items. "When choosing vintage items, I try to find the oldest, most colorful, and unique pieces that I can," Wonda says. "I think for me selling vintage items is kind of like picking, just like the show, except on a smaller scale. There is so much great pieces of history out there and to be part of that is awesome!"


Here are some of her pieces:







A fairly new addition to Wonda's store are recipes. She offers recipes for old favorites such as stew, macaroni and cheese and tuna salad. She also offers recipes for a mirepoix base, Russian Tea, different dressings and even one for hummingbird nectar. AntHunnys also offers fun recipes that children will enjoy, such as play dough, polymer clay, flubber and slime. "My recipes come from my family and friends where I've picked those up. The way I was taught to cook, was by my Grandma and my Mom. I was taught to use 'a little of this and a little of that,' and that's pretty much how I cook. Some recipes I do measure things out, but for the most part, I just do it how I was taught," she says.

To gain direction for her shop, Wonda prays and trusts God for the results. "I talk to God all the time through prayer or music and just praise him in all things," Wonda says. "I have so many things to be thankful for! I have prayed a lot about my shop and the direction that I need to be going in my shop, and right now, I feel like I'm where I am supposed to be.

"I would love to sell more of my photography but I will go in the direction that God tells me with my shop! We as believers have to remember that sometimes the answer is not always 'yes.' I would tell other artists to never give up and to put their trust in the Lord and keep praying no matter what. God always answers. I have had to realize that I can do a little bit of this and little bit of that, but that I have more talents than just one and even though they are not the best, I must keep trying and never give up," she says.

Wonda is also one of the team leaders for the Picker Chics BNR Team and belongs to several other Etsy teams.

Christianity in Crisis


Here's Part 2 of my response to Christianity in Crisis, written by Andrew Sullivan. This article was the cover story in Newsweek and was posted to their website April 2, 2012.

Sullivan writes:


It would also, one imagines, baffle Jesus of Nazareth. The issues that Christianity obsesses over today simply do not appear in either [Thomas] Jefferson’s or the original New Testament. Jesus never spoke of homosexuality or abortion, and his only remarks on marriage were a condemnation of divorce (now commonplace among American Christians) and forgiveness for adultery.

Again, we must look at the context of Jesus' historical situation. Apparently, homosexuality and abortion were not problems to Jesus' audiences otherwise I am convinced that he would have addressed them. Homosexuality was relatively common in the Greek and Roman worlds but Jesus was not sent to them. His followers were, however, and they did speak about homosexuality.

The Old Testament addresses homosexuality in ways that are not convenient to our modern culture, but since Jesus followed the Law of Moses, which condemns homosexuality, we can also infer that Jesus would have spoken against it too.

However, I believe that Jesus would have dealt with homosexual people more constructively than the modern church is. In my opinion, he would have treated homosexuality the same as he treated the woman caught in adultery in John 8:

"At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? 'No one, sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'"

Jesus says this to all of us, no matter if we were or were not caught in adultery, homosexual behaviors, lying, gossiping, or thieving. The fact that many modern Christians focus on homosexuality as if they are snipers zeroing in on a target shows that they do not understand the true nature of God's forgiveness. Perhaps, they have trouble forgiving themselves and others; they certainly are not humble, nor are they loving.

As for abortion, what we have today was not an issue in the first century. In the Old Testament, God did condemn armies for ripping open pregnant women and men for spilling their "seed" so that a woman would not get pregnant. God also supports sex and procreation within the context of marriage. Again, I believe that if abortion were an issue within his society, Jesus would have addressed it. Today, abortion is an issue in our society, and we as Christ's followers should address it. Not only for the sake of the innocent, but because our tax dollars fund abortion. It is atrocious that the U.S. government would pay for abortions and propagate the lie that the baby is not a human being while not helping families who want their children by decreasing the tax burden and the regulations on small business.

Continuing with Sullivan's comments in that same paragraph:

The family? He disowned his parents in public as a teen, and told his followers to abandon theirs if they wanted to follow him. Sex? He was a celibate who, along with his followers, anticipated an imminent End of the World where reproduction was completely irrelevant. 

There is much to say in response to this one paragraph. I think Sullivan's view of and interpretation of Jesus at the Temple as a 12-year-old boy is incorrect. Luke 2: 49 - 52 will clear up the fact that he did not publicly disown his parents:

“'Why were you searching for me?” he asked. 'Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?' But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."

In Jesus' society, it would have been disgraceful for a Jewish boy to disown his parents. If Jesus was to garner the favor of God and man, as Luke says he did, disowning his parents would have not been the way to do it.

Later, in his ministry, as Luke records in chapter 14, Jesus said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

At first glance, this sounds like Jesus is telling us to abandon our families. Yet, in Mark 7, we find Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for abandoning their parents! "And he continued, 'You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) — then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

So, which is it?

The explanation is demonstrated in the example of St. Francis of Assisi, which Mr. Sullivan used to say that Christians should give up everything they own and live like Jesus - homeless. St. Francis was a rich person who gave up his inheritance and everything he owned to follow Christ. He even encouraged his followers to beg for their sustenance. St. Francis "hated" his life in the context that Christ described in Luke 14, in that he was willing to give up everything that kept him from following God like Jesus asked the rich young ruler to do in Luke 18.

I am sure that if God had impressed it on St. Francis' heart, however, to keep his money and use it to help the poor he would have gladly done so. This is the context of which I am speaking. We need to be willing to lay down or keep anything God asks in order to follow him. Some of us aren't asked to give up homes and living near our families. Some of us are. The ones who are not called to minister far away can help the ones who are. That's how it should work. Jesus was homeless and without a place to lay his head because he was a traveling rabbi. His mission did not leave him much time for all of the things life had to offer, including marriage. Remember that Peter had a mother-in-law and John took Mary, Jesus' mother, into his home. It seems apparent that the disciples had families, even wives. Paul suggested that people not get married, but he did not mandate it.

There is so much to following scripture. We can't just take one verse and base an entire theology or opinion on it. We have to take scripture as a whole, think on it and prayerfully make our decisions. I encourage you, readers, to read the article and draw your own conclusions in love.

As a side note, my denomination's magazine has published a wonderful article written by Kevin Ulmet on getting along. You might want to take a look: I Am a Concerned Nazarene 

Wednesday

The end of Christianity?

On Sunday, we celebrated Easter. And, after participating in a six-week fast for Lent, I can say that I felt a good many mixed emotions. On the one hand I was excited that Lent was over (we were going to have a chocolate cheesecake after lunch!) and that it was Easter. I was excited that Christ had risen and for all that it means - abundant life, conquered death, victory over sin, etc.

Then, on the other hand, I was perplexed with anxiety over the church and over why we don't live transformed lives. During Lent, I felt God's presence with me as I prayed for strength to fast junk food and soda and as I prayed for the people in the world who did not have enough food to eat. However, during that last week a sense of gloom descended upon me. Maybe, in a mystical sort of way, the Lord was showing me what his last week was like, only within the context of my own life, which doesn't seem like much of a comparison, but who am I to argue? I also felt discouraged because our lives were so busy that we were not able to attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. However, the busyness had to do with my kids and their achievements so in that sense I was happy. God has truly blessed me.

The reason I felt discouraged about the church was because of our lack of knowledge about scripture and our inability to get along. This was revived from somewhere in my soul as I read a Newsweek article by Andrew Sullivan, called "Christianity in Crisis". This article covers many issues and needs to digested slowly, so I think I'll stretch my commentary over two days. Here re some phrases from the article along with my commentary.

Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists. Ignore them, writes Andrew Sullivan, and embrace Him.

I disagree with Sullivan. I don't think that true Christianity can be destroyed. However, I do believe that politicians, priests, and God-wants-you-rich-philosophy-pimping-evangelists have given Christianity a bad name. Unfortunately, these people are out in the limelight but there are many Christians who still have integrity, will stand up for the innocent, refuse to cover up sin and believe that God's greatest blessings are not simply the material. There are still Christians who seek to follow the Lord as purely as they can. It is because of them and because of the all-preserving power of the Holy Spirit that Christianity will remain.

Above all: give up power over others, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence, and violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is at the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching. That’s why, in his final apolitical act, Jesus never defended his innocence at trial, never resisted his crucifixion, and even turned to those nailing his hands to the wood on the cross and forgave them, and loved them.

Power, if used in a godly way, can do much good. Violence results when people disobey what is good in order to fulfill their own selfish wishes and desires. I am not talking about the kind of violence that results when a dictator rules over a group of people, but the natural order of things in a good society, when evil is punished in lawful ways. Even in the Old Testament we see this played out many times. And, what about when Jesus literally used a whip in the temple marketplace on those who were turning God's house into "a den of robbers," as Jesus called it. Jesus was humble with the power that he chose to keep. According to Philippians 2, Christ humbled himself:

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!"

There is a great difference when power is used for the advantage of all rather than using it for self-aggrandizement. In this article, Mr. Sullivan mentions that Christians, like Jesus, should not have political aspirations. However, we need to realize that in Jesus' historical context, any political aspirations on his part would not have been in line with God's will, which was that he be crucified, die, and rise again so that people could be delivered from sin. His followers' part in today's world would be to live in such a way that good results from what they do. Christians who feel moved to do so should go into politics and use the power for the advantage of all, not themselves - this is hardly what we are seeing today in the American political scene, despite professions of 'faith' on the part of most, if not all, of the candidates and incumbents. They can do this by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, which shapes our desires and motives so that they resemble God's desires and motives. In this way, the world can be changed. It will not come through political aspirations of the great monolithic bureaucracy of the church. I've talked about this before and you can read it here.

So many Christians today believe that they sin in word, thought and deed every day. I have a hard time accepting this viewpoint. If Christ truly lives in us then why don't we have the power to rise above sin and live transformed lives with a renewed mind? Where is that belief in the new creation that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 5:

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

If we live transformed lives, completely given over to God and his will, as John Wesley describes in his sermon on Christian Perfection, then we will be the people that God wants us to be for others. Sure, there are times when we make mistakes; there are times when we sin, but Christ is there to forgive us and help us make things right. Don't give up on Christianity, as Sullivan suggests. Give up the old ways of living and do everything you can to make the Christian experience something that will encourage others to follow God.

More on this tomorrow and then on Friday we'll visit with Wonda from Ant Hunnys on Etsy.

Monday

Celebrate! Christ is risen!

Here is a sermon that John Chrysostom (398 to 407 C.E.) wrote for Easter. It was sent to me by Bible Gateway as part of a series of readings for Lent. I thought you might enjoy it.

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.

If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.

If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.

If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.

He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.

He both honors the work and praises the intention.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!

O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!

You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!

The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you!

The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.

Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it!

He descended into Hades and took Hades captive!

He embittered it when it tasted His flesh!

And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed: "Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions."

It was embittered, for it was abolished!

It was embittered, for it was mocked!

It was embittered, for it was purged!

It was embittered, for it was despoiled!

It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!

It took a body and came upon God!

It took earth and encountered heaven!

It took what it saw, but crumbled before what cannot be seen!

O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen, and life reigns!

Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.

To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

God and Art Series - God shapes artist through her quilting

Art and the artist have a mutual relationship. By creating art, the artist manipulates different media into something beautiful; while at the same time, as the artist creates, the art changes him or her. So, when Lynne Powell, owner of Crazy Wicked Stitch on Etsy, quit her job more than a year ago, and asked God to either bless her newly founded quilting business or to give her a good job with a regular paycheck, she had no idea how much God would honor her and use her reliance on him to shape her.

"When I quit my day job with a guaranteed paycheck last year about this time I was really scared about how we would make it so I prayed that God would either bless my business or lead me to another job with a 'guaranteed paycheck' that would be a good fit for both me and the company. He has blessed my business beyond belief this past year," she says.

Like many artists, Lynne has always been a creative person. And, like many artists, it took her a while to come up with a medium that adequately expressed who she was. "The main thing was finding a craft and 'sticking to it.' I did a lot of counted cross stitch when I was younger but would get halfway through a project and then put it away somewhere and wouldn't touch it for another year or more," she says. "My husband bought me a very basic sewing machine our second Christmas together - we're now going on eight years - and I had a friend at work that was pregnant so I got out my little sewing machine and put together a little baby quilt for her. It seemed like I got really hooked on quilting from that moment. About the same time, my Mom had picked up quilting and had purchased the quilting machine that I'm using now and she would quilt all of the little quilt tops that I made back then. It seemed that with each new piece I would try to make something a bit more complicated, and I just continued to challenge myself. I think I made one for just about everyone in the family and then learned that I could make some extra income by selling them."

Through the process of learning to quilt God developed more patience in this mid-40's mother and grandmother from Groesbeck, Texas. "I think patience is the biggest part. I'm not in the big rush that I was always in when I was younger," she says. "If I don't like the way that a section of my work is turning out, I'll now take the time to rip it out and start over. I promise that I would have never done that when I was younger. I would just shrug it off and move on anyways, good or bad."

Lynne says that she is fascinated by "all of the beautiful colors, patterns and sometimes textures" in quilting. "I think I'm drawn to it because I've finally found something that I'm good at," she says. "I say that, but, when I visited the Houston Quilt Show for my first time this past year, I've learned that my work is child's play in comparison to the beautiful works of art that I saw there. Seriously though, quilting is something that I've found that I will actually work a project from start to finish. I just love the way that I can take a stack of fabrics and then it's pure joy watching them develop into a beautiful quilt. Very much like a painter that applies his paints to the canvas and watches the pictures develop. Usually I choose my projects based on the fabrics that I'm working on. Once I start it kind of comes to me as I go."

Here is some more of her work:







"As of now I have not received any awards for my work but I entered two of my pieces into the Killeen Quilt Show recently. I entered a flag quilt (see first picture) that I made for my Dad before he passed away from cancer this past year at Christmas," Lynne says. "My dad was an Army veteran and loved history so I made his quilt with all 'Civil War Era' fabrics and made a pictorial border around it that featured many 'Civil War Era' memorials, President Lincoln, war maps, etc. My other entry will be a University of Kentucky T-shirt quilt. T-shirt quilts seem to have become one of my specialties as of late. I get my biggest thrill from taking peoples' treasured T-shirts and recycling them into a beautiful quilt that they can treasure. People can find my work on my Etsy site at www.crazywickedstitch.etsy.com or they can also find some of my work on my Facebook page Lynne's Crazy Wicked Stitch.

"Even though I didn't win anything at the quilt show I am glad I entered if only for the experience. I did learn a few things that I will implement in my future projects and will strive harder towards perfection," Lynne says.

Lynne's relationship with God shapes the way she does business and in how she treats people. She began her relationship with God as a young child. "My parents would take us to Sunday school and I remember that I loved the music more than anything in those Sunday School classes," she says. "I was raised Lutheran but my dad was in the Army from the time that I was about six months old until he finally retired when I was about 22. With us moving all around the world a good Lutheran church wasn't always available so I would attend some of the Baptist, Pentecostal and non-denominational churches with my friends wherever we happened to be. I think I accepted the Lord as my Savior when I was about fifteen at a Baptist Church in Germany.

"I've strayed away many times over the years but he always lovingly pulls me back in. I think that the biggest way that God has affected my art is by teaching me patience and to follow his biggest command that we are to love one another. I treat each of my customers in the way that I would want them to treat me and I can honestly say that I sew his love for all of us into each piece that I make. I've been so blessed with so many new customers that have not only purchased some of my works but that I have also been able to develop amazing relationships with. I know that I will have lifelong friend ships with a lot of the people that he has brought my way through my quilting. I also love the fact that I'm now able to start each day with time to really get into his word. I'm so blessed and thankful for all that he has done for me. I can honestly say that without his guidance that I wouldn't be the person that I am today," she says.

In the future, Lynne hopes to open a quilt shop in her local community. "I have all these wonderful dreams for activities and lots of fun things that I want to be able to share with all of my clients in the new shop," she says. "My other goal is to finish the course that I'm taking on making art quilts. I have several ideas for pieces that I would like to make. One of them will be to make a quilt with a picture that I have of my dad with my granddaughter Mikayla when she was about a year old. They both had a mutual love for each other and it shows so well in this picture. He was sitting in his chair last Christmas and she is wearing her beautiful little Christmas dress, sitting on his lap and she was just snuggled into him. I also see my own rendition of the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' being made into an art quilt using muted water colored fabrics. If I'm able to capture what's in my brain and turn it into a quilt I promise it will be amazing."

Lynne encourages other artists to follow their hearts. "Don't be afraid to try new things. And if you will follow the verse in Colossians 3:23: 'Work willingly at whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,' I believe that they will be able to accomplish anything they set their minds to.
Link

Holy Thursday

This has been an extremely busy week. Ever since I committed to writing a series on the seven last phrases of Christ from the cross, I've been waylaid with busyness. The busyness is not bad. It's ball games, orders, art show festivals and awards night for the kids, work, etc., etc., etc. This is not an excuse. It's just reality. So I plan to continue writing this series after Easter.

Today, which is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, I thought I'd repost a blog post that I wrote while going through my master's program at Northwest Nazarene University. Here it is:

Washing Feet. The Task of Every Christian

I would like to add a point to this. On Maundy Thursday, when Jesus and his disciples were together celebrating the Passover, Jesus instituted the new commandment from John 13: 34 -35 after washing his disciples' feet. Remember it?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Beautiful.

Help us to live it, Lord.