Monday, May 21, 2018

Painful Learning

Last week I was finishing up a quilt. I had pinned the whole quilt together while it was stretched on a frame. I removed it from the frame to do the quilting. As I struggled to move the quilt around to put in the stitches that hold it together, I felt like a pin cushion. I got stuck by pins so many times that my hands were covered with red dots where I was pricked. I removed the pins as I sewed up to them.

Eventually, I got to the end and all that were left were the outside pins, placed where the binding would go. I replaced them with large safety pins and what a relief to be able to handle the quilt without getting punctured. I realize now that is probably the reason seasoned quilters use basting to hold the quilt in place, rather than pins. I have so much to learn by experience.

Isn't that the way it is with life? We go through all the stages of learning and some are very painful. Like learning to ride a bike or rollerskating or horseback riding all involve taking some falls. That's why it is a good idea to learn when you are young! Learning to cook may include some incidents with burns or cut fingers; learning to use a hammer may mean some bruised fingers. For many farm kids, that's why we learned to drive in big open pastures where there was no chance of hitting something; did city kids learn in a big empty parking lot?

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope," (Romans 15:4 NIV).

Reading about a topic we want to learn is a great way to learn, too. Sometimes it helps prevent some painful learning injuries; sometimes experience is just a requirement.

With faith, our learning is made easier by access to Scriptures. We can learn so much by studying the Word of God; by reading Scriptures in the Bible. Jesus promises that with Him we are able to find spiritual learning and purpose. His yoke is easy.

"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," (Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV).

Jesus' teachings are like elbow pads and helmets,
He softens our falls,
When we take Him into our heart.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Praising God With A Full Heart

Today I opened my eyes to a beautiful sunrise and my heart felt so full of the blessings God has given. It is a good day to give praise to the Lord, to lift up my arms and rejoice the wonderful God I worship and give Him the praise He deserves everyday.

My Bible opened to Psalm 18 and the devotionals I read today all reinforced my desire to worship, praise and exalt my God. My heart is bursting with love for His mercy, forgiveness and grace that I receive. "How Great Thou Art"!

"Jesus Calling" reminded me that God is a God of abundance. There is no limit to His love for us. "Jesus Calling" for May 17 says, "It is impossible for you to comprehend the lavishness of My provisions: the fullness of My glorious riches." Abundance, lavishness, fullness...what an awesome God we serve!

"Our Daily Bread" for May 17 was titled "Praising God's Goodness" and suggests writing our own psalm to describe how God has been at work in our lives.

But, Cynthia Ruchti wrote in today's devotional in "Mornings with Jesus" that "No language on earth can adequately describe Jesus." She wrote: He is "Above all. Beyond all. In all. All."

It is all about You, Yahweh. I lift praise to you today and worship You, the God Almighty, the One, the Only, the Great Jehovah!

"I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies," (Psalm 18:1-3 NIV).

I was reminded of a special bookmark a dear friend crocheted for me that lists God is my: "Strength, Friend, Wisdom, Hope, Security, Life, Guide, Joy, Provider, Help, Defender, Peace and Counselor." And "All He is. He is for you!"

Truly, we are so blessed to have God in control of the immense world and His eternal plan for every living thing. This gives me comfort when the news shows us only destruction and chaos and evil. God has a plan and we are in it.

"The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them." (Psalm 145:18-19 NIV).

Reverently, honestly, Lord, we bow to worship You, Our Creator, today and everyday. Thank you for each blessing in our lives today. The sunrise, the clouds, our family, the green grass and singing birds, the promise of eternity with you because of Jesus Christ our Savior. It is all too much, Lord. Thank you. Thank you.

Your watchful eye, Your helping, healing hand;
Each minute, each second is in Your control;
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for Your blessings.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Be Gentle Like a Mother

Mother's Day has been noted as the busiest day for restaurants and near the top for flower deliveries and sale of cards. It appeared true, yesterday, in spite of the torrential downpour that hit Ankeny about noon yesterday. Hopefully your Mother's Day was blessed with good times, good food, and lots of love shared.

It is interesting that Paul references the gentle love of a mother caring for her children, as the same kind of care we should have for our fellow church family members.

"We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us," (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 NIV).

Paul writes back to the church in Thessalonica, that he established earlier, to offer encouragement and to remind them of the gentle correction they should share with each other. In our churches we need to hold each other accountable, in a manner such as a mother gently corrects her straying children.

The scriptures offer the standard for us to follow in living our lives within the church, as well as outside of the church. But sometimes we forget to bring the same kindness we show our co-workers or neighbors, back into the church with us.

I'm quite sure my boys would tell you I wasn't always gentle with correction. I'm not a perfect mother; I'm a sinner. But, I place my hope in Jesus Christ as do my fellow believers. Let us all be reminded to speak gently, with compassionate love, to members of our family and church family every day.

Together we share life.
Gently learning and growing,
As we follow Jesus. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Stand Tall, Weary One

Me, Mama and Marlene June 1968
When I was a preteen and teenager the most common thing I heard from my mother was, "stand up straight." In junior high (7th and 8th grade for those of the middle school era) I was too tall. I was 5'9" at my tallest and I towered over many girls in my classes and over all the boys. So I tried to slump down to hide my height. Thus, mother worked to correct that. I must have finally listened because for many years I think I had straight posture.

Now I think I know where Mama was coming from. She had the same back issues I have and more. As she aged her back pained her greatly and she struggled to 'straighten up'. I find myself in that same place now. With my scoliosis and other back issues I'm finding it harder and harder to stand straight. It is so much easier to relax and slump over in a chair. I must truly work to pull my shoulders back and attempt to straighten my spine. Sometimes it is painful to straighten up now, and even more painful to not sit up straight. Ah, the consequences of growing old.

"What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I thought to myself, 'Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.' Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind," (Ecclesiastes 1:15-17 NIV).

Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, sharing some of his wisdom and wonder of the world. He spends some time revealing that even he could not grasp the wisdom of God. It was just chasing after the wind, never to be captured. About the time we thing we have life figured out, along comes old age, showing us we didn't have a clue!

"Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other," (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14a NIV).

Pull those shoulders back, oh youth.
Tomorrow comes too soon.
Rejoice in the moment God has given you.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Celebrating With Church Family and Friends

It was an emotional Sunday. After a powerful worship service and message on part two of the Rapture, and an overly intense hour and a half of childcare for 12 under-three-year-olds (thankfully shared with several others), I drove over an hour to celebrate the new sanctuary at my home church - Bethel Grove. I was surrounded by church family members that I hadn't seen in nearly a year. My heart was on overload and in awe of what God has done at that 'little' country church.

This church was the first church organized in Marshall County Iowa, located between the small towns of Albion and Liscomb, where pioneer settlers founded a place of worship near the Iowa River. Even today, this church can only be reached by driving at least two miles on gravel roads. There are only a few families located in the immediate countryside, yet the attendance and membership remains strong and healthy because folks continue to drive to this church where they receive the Word of God, church family membership and the love of Jesus.
Bethel Grove Church Sanctuary 2018

The building committee involved everyone in the church to assist in multiple ways. From the construction contractor to the painted and carefully decorated walls, Bethel Grove Church was rebuilt from the ground up. The previous sanctuary was built in 1918 and its walls were sagging and sadly it was deemed uninhabitable.

Although new, the sanctuary includes powerful remembrances of its history: several of the stained glass windows were beautifully re-cased in wood so they could be backlit to preserve the beauty of previous generations, the communion table remains the center focal point, along with a cross that my father designed for use following a remodeling project in the 1970s.

But, I think the new additions were the icing on the cake. From the beautiful new baptistry, the elevator to the stage, the ramp to the back door, the enormous youth room, the storage areas, a fully-equipped communion preparation room, right to the technologically upgraded speakers and video screens that make it all so comfortable and accessible to everyone for worship. It is truly a remarkable accomplishment for a congregation its size. Congratulations, Bethel Grove Church.

From humble beginnings in a pioneer home,
Bethel Grove has preached the Bible to young and the old.

With your views of the prairies and farm ground so rich
may you forever continue to share truth, be it told.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Rainy Day Quilting

Rainy days and Thursdays...raindrops keep falling on my head...May showers bring June flowers? I'm so confused. Nature is, too. In this part of Iowa we didn't get much snow this winter or rain in April so nothing really popped into life until this past weekend. Now our grass is turning green, the leaves are appearing on the trees, the flowering trees burst into bloom and the tulips have finally begun to appear from the ground.

Grandma Hilsabeck's Quilt Frame in use again.
Rainy days are good for finishing up those inside projects that didn't happen in the winter. I'm working on a quilt so finally got the batting and backing ready to layer with the top. For more than 25 years I've had my mother's and grandmother's quilting frame in storage. When we lived on the farm it was standing up in the corner of our garage wrapped in plastic bags and tied together with string.

When we moved to Ankeny, I put it in our basement, standing it up in a corner once again. Last week I pulled the four wooden strips down and cleaned them up. They weren't as dirty as I expected, thankfully, but then I didn't remember how they fit together to hold a quilt. What did I do? I performed a search on the web for quilt frames and behold, I got the answers I needed.

I wish I knew the life of the quilt frame. How many quilts has it held taut? How many quilting bees met around the frame and what conversations took place over the the fabric spreads? I feel so blessed to have this treasure, though sadly treated for many years, do you suppose it is happy to be back in use?

The first set of frame pieces appears to have feed sacks nailed to the boards to pin the quilt to. The top strips are carefully hand-covered with a heavy tan drapery-type fabric.

"She makes coverings for her bed," (Proverbs 31:22 NIV).

I'm blessed to place this new creation on the antique framework of my foremothers. Just as the Bible offers the foundation for our faith, the quilt frame provides the structure needed to pin the layers together so the quilt is ready for stitches. I'm nervous about this part because I want it to be smooth and beautiful, warm and cozy, bright and colorful. I want it to be a worthy representation of being made a Proverbs 31 woman.

Stitch by stitch,
Piece by piece,
Love connects.

Monday, April 30, 2018

What are You Waiting For?

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness," (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV).

What a challenging/convicting/encouraging verse to wake up to!

These verses inspired me to write about them today. I should read this scripture every morning to remind myself that I have things to do. Not my "to do" list, but real, soul-saving, life-changing, ministry to share with others. Yes, first I must live my life as a person with spiritual roots wrapped tightly around Jesus Christ, my Savior. And I must keep myself in The Word constantly so what goes into me is what comes out to others. I must keep learning, but there is also a time to strike out with Jesus and touch the lives of others.

Our Pastor just finished a module on "How to Share the Gospel" last night. He showed us how to use a marked testament to introduce a person to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I feel inadequate and frightened at the thought, thinking I would fumble around clumsily until the person takes off running and screaming, "Help I'm being pummeled in scripture by this crazy Jesus lady!"

Ultimately that is what I want. (Not the running and screaming part). Part of my life purpose is fulfilled if people say, "that lady knows Jesus" when they meet me, and if they are drawn to me because of Jesus, not shunned away.

Listen to the scripture verses one more time from "The Message":

"Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving," (Colossians 2:6-7 MSG).

This verse offers a great reminder to be thankful in all things...overflowing...spilling over with thanksgiving! That image helps me move out and begin my day with a grateful heart, ready to share my love of Jesus with the people I meet.

What are you waiting for?