Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tattered Patches

When I was a much younger woman, my Mamaw (that's southern for Grandmother, in case you are not from around here)   anyway... Mamaw decided to make quilts for her grandchildren.

She asked each of us what type of quilt we would like.    I thought about it for a while.   She had made  'dutch doll' quilts and "wedding ring" quilts and all kinds of beautiful quilts in her lifetime.    I had a 'dutch doll' quilt when I was a small child and I loved it.   I could have asked for any design.

But, I decided I wanted a simple patchwork quilt.   No specific design.   No fancy stitchwork.    Just a plain jane patchwork quilt.

She was a bit surprised, but said "okay".    

I gathered up fabric that was left over from dresses and outfits that my mother had sewn for my sisters and myself.   I had even more fabric from my grandmother's left overs.     I cut them all into 4 inch squares and delivered them to her.    All of the squares were from double knit fabric.   If you don't know what double knit is, you obviously are much younger than me.   I am NOT going to reveal the top secret information that is my current age.  You figure it out.     If you do remember double knit, then you already know that this stuff is indestructible.  

Mamaw and my mother and my aunts worked on these quilts for every one.    They worked on my quilt.  The squares were stitched together.   My patchwork quilt was created for me with love.

I absolutely loved my new quilt!   Not only because it was beautiful to me, but because it came from my Mamaw's own hands along with those of my Mom and Aunts.   Also, each patch reminded me of a dress that one of us had worn and I could even remember some of  the occasions on which they were worn.   

It was a gift.  One I specifically asked for.

Over the years, my patchwork quilt got a work out.   It was used all the time.   Cover up on the couch, spread on the bed, picnic blanket, football games, you name it.   It was my 'go to' quilt for all occasions.      My Mamaw is in Heaven with Jesus now, but she is remembered with much love; especially every time I wrapped up in my quilt.

Washed and dried over and over and over, my wonderful quilt eventually began to wear.   The patches didn't rot or grow thin like most fabric would.   Remember... it's double knit?    But the stitches began to loosen and the fabric backing on the quilt grew thin and worn.

Eventually my lovely quilt was in tatters.  It had come apart at the seams and patches were hanging by old and worn threads.

Sadly, I folded it for the last time and put it in my linen closet to be used no more.

That was several years ago.

Last year (2011), my Mom and I were talking about the coming Christmas.   It was only January, but I was going to be gone out of the country for a while and we were discussing whether or not I would be home for Christmas.    She asked me what I would like for Christmas that year.  

For some reason, my quilt came to mind.    I showed her the tattered rags of the quilt and asked her if she thought it could be repaired?    She said she would try and I told her that all I wanted for Christmas was for my quilt to be repaired and restored.    So she took it home with her.

Over the next few months, I totally forgot about that conversation and Christmas wish.

But while I was gone, my Mother and her wonderful sisters went to work.    They put my quilt back together and found yet another piece of double knit fabric that was large enough to become the new backing for it.

At Christmas that year, after all the presents were unwrapped and all the oooohhhsss and aaaahhhhhs over gifts were done... After all the torn gift wrap and bows were bagged up and the house became a little more quiet, Mom said.. "hold on a minute.   I have one more thing here."  And she brought out a gift bag and gave it to me.  

I was puzzled.   Why was there a special gift for me?  My Christmas request earlier that year was completely forgotten.  (That's one perk of getting older, I guess.  If you want to call it a perk.)

In that Christmas gift bag, all wrapped in colorful tissue paper, lay my quilt.    My wonderful and amazing patch work quilt made from my Mamaw's loving hands and my Mom's and Aunts' also!

I was blown away!    Tears came to my eyes as I examined my restored and remade quilt!   It was so beautiful and so absolutely incredible to me that it was made like new and useable again.    I wrapped up in it immediately and stayed wrapped up in it for the remainder of the day!

Once again, my patchwork quilt is used almost daily.    Snuggled up on the couch, thrown on the bed, as a pallet in the floor for the grandkids. 

It is so amazing to me that something that was once so useful and treasured could be restored and made useful and beautiful again.

Having my quilt back in tip top condition  made me think of how sometimes, as Christians, we feel like we have been used up.  Life has thrown us some curves.   Death.. divorce... financial problems... whatever.   All our resources and energy and 'want to' seem to have vanished into thin air and we feel like we are put on a shelf.  Unuseable.

But just like my quilt was restored and made new, God has a way for us to be restored and made new in Him.    He wraps Himself around us and comforts us and  stitches back the broken places and mends our torn and tattered hearts and spirits.   He patches us up and makes us new and beautiful and useable once again.  

Thank you Mom for restoring my beautiful patchwork quilt.   I will treasure it forever.

Thank You LORD for saving me and restoring my heart and my life. 


Friday, September 28, 2012

Jail Break!

A friend posted on the mesmerizing and hypnotizing scandal that is Facebook that when God asks us to do something outside our 'comfort zone' we say 'NO!'  even though we have prayed and asked  Him to increase our faith.

That started me thinking about comfort zones.    One definition of comfort is:  "a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants with freedom from pain and anxiety."

A definition of zone is:  "to divide into areas subject to special restriction."  (This definition is of the word zone used as a verb.)

So!   Given these definitions of two seemingly disparate words, I come up with this observation:   We have zoned ourselves into a state of ease and satisfaction with freedom from pain or anxiety.

We are zoned out.

We are restricted.

In other words, we are in a  prison of our own making.   

It's a cushy prison with all we could ever want or need in the way of fluffy mattresses to sleep on and overstuffed cushions to sit on, all the high tech electronics we could ever imagine, a well stocked pantry to supply even the tiniest twinge of hunger and our own hand picked set of friends and family.  Oh!  and don't forget our very own reserved seating at our church of choice.   Dontcha just love this place?!   Wow!   Every person's dream!   Thank You Jesus!

Although it is everything described above, it is nevertheless still a prison.   A self imposed prison.   In God's eyes, it holds us securely just as well as the prison cell in the photo above.  Bazinga!  The joke's on us. 

God did not call us to live in a comfort zone.   He did not call us to be in a restricted area away from the world.    In fact, some of His very last words to us were:

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

I don't know about you, but that does not sound like instructions to sit in my plush prison cell.   It sounds more like a Commandment from the  One that gives me life.

He says "You have the power I have given to you.   You have the key to the prison door.  You have the testimony of what I have done for you.  Now go and tell others.   Go and be the instrument I use to reach the world so that people will be saved."  

This is not "show and tell".   He didn't say from the comfort of your living room, "I want you to invite others over and show them what a wonderful prison you have made for yourself."    He didn't say "I want you to go to church and sit and listen to your preacher on Sundays and then go lock yourself back into prison so that you will be safe from the world." 

He told us to "get out there, get our hands and feet dirty in the leper colonies  and in the modern up to date offices, the construction sites, the grocery stores, the hair salons, the mechanic shops, the schools, the prison cells, the hospitals, the nursing homes and retirement centers, the restaurants, the malls, the homeless shelters, foreign countries, foreign cultures and the highways and byways of the world.   Go places where others will not go.  Go places where people show up every day."

No, this is not 'show and tell'.    It is "GO AND TELL!" 

I think I am preaching to myself and to the choir.    I hope they are listening and ready to break out of jail!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beach Life

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.   (John 21:17)   

I love this particular scripture. I can just picture in my mind Jesus on the sandy beach preparing a breakfast of fish for the disciples... and Peter jumping into the water when he recognizes His master, anxious to be near Him again. Excited... breathing hard... his heart racing... hair and clothes wet and dripping as he falls at the Lord's feet.  

Can you see Jesus on the shore? Feet in the warm sand... wind blowing His hair and robe... eyes squinting in the sun. His hands reaching toward Peter to greet him and lift him up.  All of creation feeling His touch where His feet meet the ground and His breath mingles with our air? It seems that the very sand beneath His feet would leap up to support Him and the blades of grass would lean towards Him as toward the sunlight, anticipating His next movement.  

It intrigues me that Jesus was preparing a meal for them... breakfast. They had not seen Him since the resurrection and had gone back to fishing. Spiritually they were defeated and on a forced spiritual fast without their Master. He was inviting them to break their fast and come fellowship with Him again.  Peter is broken and brokenhearted because Jesus keeps asking him, "do you love me?" and he says "Lord! You know all things! You know I love you!"  

Still hurting because of his trio of betrayals and ashamed of his own 'speak first, think later' personality. He had learned one thing, if nothing else. He had learned that he could never betray his master by denying Him again. The penalty of separation from Him was too hard. The self condemnation too much to bear.

Peter was transformed by Jesus' love and forgiveness.  Jesus commanded him to "feed my sheep"    He used the  Greek word 'boskos' for feed which means "the duty of a Christian teacher to promote in every way the spiritual welfare of the members of the church."     The duty.   Work.  Responsibility.  This is your job Peter. 

Peter was given his life's mission and a vision of his future.   He could have backed out of it and rejected the life Jesus was planning for him.   But he had already experienced the emptiness and pain of what it is like to reject Christ.  Never again.   Not Peter. 

Just as we all are changed by Jesus,  I believe on that day that Peter was truly made whole in Christ.

Jesus is present with us spiritually as He was physically with His friends on the beach.  He meets with us at some "beach point" in our lives and asks each of His children the same question He put to Peter... "Do you love me?" and with our 'yes' answer,  He fills us with His purpose and vision for our lives and then give us the ability to carry it out. 

Can we betray or reject Him? Yes. But the penalty is a life of unfulfilled dreams and a lack of vision.  The penalty is spiritual emptiness and a longing for what might have been.   By our obedience to His plan we are fulfilled and He is glorified.  

Say Yes and begin your life on a beach with Jesus.