Thursday, September 30, 2004


I love to quilt and since the weather has turned to fall, the quilting bug is stronger than ever. One of the things that I love about quilting is the little lessons that I’ve learned from this beautiful art form. My character has been strengthened as I’ve persevered through learning new ways of putting fabric together. There may be more ‘quilt flowers’ in the future but here’s one for today.
I was helping a friend get started on a quilt one evening. She had all the proper equipment; a rotary cutter (this is like a scissor with a round blade), a cutting mat, acrylic ruler and her fabric, all the tools needed to get going and have success. (By the way she told me I could use this because she was sure I’d find a flower in here somewhere – I did.) I was helping her cut her fabric into the needed strips and squares. Unfortunately she was having no end of trouble with cutting straight. You need to understand that cutting straight is an integral part of the quilt process and not as easy as it may seem. We made sure she was holding her ruler correctly, lining up edges, that she was using proper technique and even wondered whether or not she was just too short. Finally, I took her cutter and tried it myself – and got the same nasty results. (We ruled the height issue out as I’m much taller than she is). I took a look at the cutter and realized that it was oriented for a left-handed person, my friend is right-handed, there was no way she would ever have any success with the tool the way it was. I changed the blade around and voila, she could cut straight just fine. It was a very frustrating time for her and fortunately we could salvage the material and had enough for her project. There were two flowers in all of this experience for me. One was how important it is to use the tools that are right for you. My friend had borrowed all the equipment from a friend, never thinking about what orientation her friend had. Sometimes we look at what someone else is doing and try to mimic their action, hoping to get the same results and meet with failure instead. The problem may not be that we are doing things ‘incorrectly’, the problem may be that we’re trying to use someone else’s stuff. God has created each one of us with unique skills, abilities, thoughts, ideas – ‘tools’ if you will. He has programmed them to work well especially in our hands and blesses the work of our hands. Even if you follow another’s footsteps, the pathway will have your unique flavour. This is a good thing. We weren’t meant to be clones. God is a multi-faceted being and He has created us in His image. It would stand to reason that we will all have different expressions of His character. May I encourage you to look at what God has placed in your hands. Use the gifts, talents, and skills that He has given you to worship Him. Even if you ‘borrow’ tools from someone else, make sure they work for you – change it up a little, get the kinks out and go for it. Whatever God has created you to do will be a thing of beauty as you surrender it to Him.
The second flower was that our life needs to be oriented to God. We must come under His Lordship or we will continually make a mess of the fabric of our life. My friend could have chosen to continue cutting with the blade facing the wrong way. To you and I that seems like a stupid thing to do, once you know what the problem is. However, we have a huge tendency to do that every day. We know that the way to peace and wholeness is to surrender to the Lord in every area of our lives and still we try to keep cutting through the muck and mire of daily life with our blade facing the wrong direction. We think that if we just hold this a little tighter, if we stand a little straighter, if we try a little harder, we’ll get it right. I have news for you, you won’t. Turn your blade around, orient yourself to His will and Lordship daily and you will have no problem cutting straight!!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

beauty treatments

I’ve been contemplating beauty lately. There’s that verse in 1 Peter about a woman’s beauty coming from the inside, from a gentle and quiet spirit, rather than what’s on the outside. This has been a quest for me for a long time. I’ve not been known in the past for my quietness or gentleness. In fact, when I was sharing with a friend of my husband’s about this desire he actually laughed in my face and told me to consider getting a new goal. (Don’t judge the fellow too harshly, he was just calling a spade a spade and that was a long time ago.) Not that I’m thinking I’ve totally arrived there but I do think I’ve learned a little about engaging my brain before my mouth.
Anyways, I was watching a TV show one night that was all about fixing outward beauty and in the process one of the characters said that beauty was in the eye of the beholder. The other character responded that no, that wasn’t true, that’s just surface stuff, real beauty is what’s inside. Later on in the show that character told the other to close their eyes so that they could really ‘see’. The character with all this wisdom was blind and had no pre-conceived notions about a person based on appearance. It was very thought-provoking.
We’ve had a front row seat for transformation this summer as our neighbors have been improving their homes. On one side we’ve been quite concerned with the young lady who lives there. She hasn’t kept very good company, is somewhat loud and obnoxious. She plays horrible music, loudly. Has a horrible temper, and hasn’t exactly been a role-model for our kids. However, this summer, her dad has been around, working on the house and hanging out. It has been a thing of beauty to see the change in her. She has become softer, there haven’t been any temper tantrums, no loud music, no obnoxious parties. In fact, we hear her laughing with her dad, working with him, serving him, she jokes around with our kids. She seems more settled, more at peace, she’s not trying so hard when her daddy is around.
Isn’t that the best beauty treatment you could possibly get? It doesn’t cost a dime other than your time. Spend some time with DAD, hang out with Him, work together. He draws the true person out of us. He sees us through different eyes than everyone else – He knows the beauty we really are deep inside. He fills up the empty places, makes the rough places smooth. He’s better than botox. He gives our faces a lift simply by putting joy in our hearts. If you’re in search of a new and improved you – talk to DAD. There is a gentle and quiet spirit in you (and me) and He knows where to find it.

Friday, September 17, 2004

How to make God cry in one easy lesson

I’m finding it a little hard to get started at the moment, I’m extremely over-tired and a little fuzzy around the edges. I’m wondering to myself why I’m starting this way but even as I’m wondering the answer is coming. I’m a real person. I have periods of time when things go really well and I feel like I’m on the right track and I have periods of time when I feel like I can’t get anything right no matter what I do. When I am in this kind of spot it is easy for me to believe lies and get into that self-pity thing I spoke about last week. Here’s a few vignettes that will help to illustrate where I’m going, hang in there.

1. Due to things that are happening in my husband’s life I was kind of bummed out that I was going to have to give up a wonderful opportunity to get out of the house and work on my scrapbooks. Because of a glitch in the plan – I immediately aborted the whole idea and evening until my good friend pointed out that quite possibly I could just come late. Hadn’t thought of that. Can’t have it the way I want it, then I might as well just toast the whole plan.
2. My boy wants to ride his scooter to school. After contemplating the risks of taking the prized scooter to school he decided he will do it…until mom reminds him of one little detail. No kneepads, no scooter. He hates the kneepads. Begged for ‘em, got ‘em, won’t wear ‘em. Has he hurt his knees numerous times? Yes! Will he wear the pads? No! Did he ride his scooter to school? No, because he so badly did not want to wear the kneepads he suddenly decided that he didn’t want to ride his scooter after all. That response really ticked me off. He would rather give up his heart’s desire than to strap on that little bit of plastic around his knees. He would rather risk damaging his knees permanently than look ‘uncool’ in his gear.
3. I have some friends who would like to get started in ministry but the fear of rejection has put them in a place time and again where they won’t go forward.
4. Because I’m feeling sorry for myself I don’t ask for the help I really need and give up some great opportunities, assuming of course, that no one wants to help, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Have you seen the common thread? Have you figured out what makes God cry? Here’s one more illustration right from the Bible, Jeremiah 13. God tells Jeremiah to go buy a new loincloth, to wear it, then bury it, leave it and then to go and dig it up again. The loincloth is of course soiled, mildewed and falling apart, completely useless. God tells Jeremiah that He wants to be as close to His people as a loincloth (or underwear as we call it) is to our bodies. That is a very intimate picture of God’s desire for closeness, intimacy and relationship with us. However, God says, His people have followed the stubbornness of their hearts and in the same way that the linen cloth was ruined, so He will ruin the pride of Israel. God’s heart breaks over our pride, our refusal to submit to His will, or to the Lordship of Christ or those who He has put in places of authority (if you don’t like that word – try ‘those who we have given the right to speak into our lives’). Jeremiah 13:17 says, “But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive.” Don’t make God cry. Bend your stubborn heart to His desires. Listen to His heart for you. He longs to be as near to you as your underwear is right now. The result of giving into pride is captivity, uselessness, ruin and being cast away from him like a filthy rag. Whatever is making you hang on to your pride is not worth the consequence that awaits. Yield.
copyright, 2004, Lani Wiens, a fresh flowers original

Thursday, September 09, 2004

look up, look way up

and you'll see Jesus. This seems to be the theme of the last week not only in my heart, but in my home and in my friends. It seems that I have a tendency to forget where my source is from time to time. Instead I try hard to muster up enough of whatever I think I need at the time and end up failing miserably and feeling even more miserable. The point was illustrated quite well just before supper this evening.

I had given the kids instructions about getting ready for supper, trying to get them to work as a team, help each other out, family unity and all that sort of thing. The problem was they each had their own agenda and unfortunately for my little girl, she was just too short to accomplish her goal. So what did she do? Turned on the water works and let out some fierce howls while we all gazed in wonder that such a delicate and fragile flower could create such a terrible noise. Meanwhile we all carried on preparing for our repast. She continued her noise. Finally she stopped for a breather and we managed to find out what the problem was. She wanted her older brother to put the cups she was holding on the shelf that was out of her reach. Problem was, she hadn't asked him to do it so obviously, he didn't. She just made noise and lots of it, feeling sorry for herself and expecting the rest of us to drop everything and fix her problem. I was finally able to help her understand that if you want someone to do something for you because you genuinely need help, you've gotta ask. Out loud. With words. Preferably with please and thank you in the sentence.

I have to admit I've been pretty sensitive to this particular issue after just having put to death a lengthy pity party at the end of which God said, "Repent." I did. The view changed tremendously. I lifted my eyes up to the mountains from where my help comes and there it was. It was called grace.

coffee, ugghh

Found out again last night that coffee and I just don't mix. I am not sure how people stand that stuff. I love the smell and I can handle all the wonderful pretend coffees but that real business is bad, bad, bad. downright painful...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

quilting, the body and blogging

My husband is making fun of me. He just came down and said, "What are you doing?" Then there was the knowing smile as he says you're playing with your new toy aren't you. Yeah, this blogging thing just gets under your skin and there you are. I find it fascinating that you can say all this stuff to untold multitudes and you may never speak it to one person. Actually, most of my friends aren't sure what to do with this blog thing, can't figure out what to comment. Hey it doesn't have to be anything so 'uber-cool', as my nephew would say. Just your thoughts, your response to what's been written, that sort of thing. I think I'll go quilt now, cause that is something I love to do. One of these days I'm gonna actually get the ones I'm working on now done. I can hardly wait to start new ones. I designed one today with my boy#2 for his bed, I can hardly wait to start it but I need to get the one I'm making for myself on the rack first. It will be my first real 'pieced' adventure and my first one that I'm making for myself and the first really big one I've done. That's a fairly significant quilt. I love quilting because it has taught me so many things about relationships, character and God. Here's one little 'piece' . In the grand scheme of quilting you can literally take any colors, fabrics, etc. and put them together to create something beautiful. God does that in the church, He takes a bunch of denim (the rougher crowd), some velvet (the more refined crowd) and a bunch of common cottons and throws them together and comes up with this beautiful patchwork called the body of Christ. That's just one little thing but it may give you an idea of why quilting is such a wonderful sport...

Thursday, September 02, 2004

the real thing

This is not an add for that insidious brown liquid that we hear so much about but rather a lesson learned watching my son eat, or not eat as the case may be.
I’ve always been a little bit leery of preservatives, my body doesn’t particularly like them and quite frankly, they scare me. How things that go bad in my fridge after a day or two can last on a store shelf, unrefrigerated, indefinitely, is something that should make all of us quiver. My personal opinion…those pudding things are by far the worst.
My husband is a bit of a pushover when it comes to buying treats for the kids. He tries to be tough but when they all say please he is putty in their hands. So, he bought these highly preserved jelly thingies as treats. They would each get one of these delectable treats for dessert. They could hardly wait to get through the meal. The real food that particular evening included a plate of fruit, which my #2 son was enjoying with great zeal. Then came the treat. I read the list of ingredients looking for something recognizable, aahhh there it is ‘contains real fruit juice’ – what a drop or two so they can say it on the label? How can it survive in that sea of chemical? I located the jelly with the least amount of red food dye and handed that to Chris. Everyone else was a tiny bit deflated because green was the sought after colour. They opened their packages of slime and dove in. The other three consumed their preservatives with gusto but I noticed that Chris was not exactly eating his but rather playing with it and had a funny look on his face. I asked him what the trouble was. His pained expression caught at my heart, he obviously wasn’t enjoying the ‘treat’. “It doesn’t taste good,” he says, “maybe I’ll try it again later.” And he left the table.
My husband and I mused on that a little as we reflected back in the ensuing quiet that happens for a few seconds after the kids leave the table. Then a flower bloomed. He had just consumed a wealth of the real thing, honest to goodness fruit with the peals on and everything. There was no way that artificial colour and dye could compare to that. No wonder it had tasted so foul to him. It was a good kick in the pants for me as I realized that too often I settle for the artificial, the glossy package, the eye-candy gospel, the label claiming, ‘just read this – contains real Bible verses’. I sometimes forget what the REAL thing is all about – the blood of Jesus, the pureness of His obedience and devotion and worship of His Father. I forget how truly satisfying it is to just be with God, how refreshing, how healthy, how vital. Just the bare, unvarnished truth that God loves me and really believing that truth is more healing, more life giving, than anything I know. If I truly want to thrive I will need to be fueling that spirit-man of mine with the real stuff, the word of God, true worship, honest prayer. I cannot settle for less, my health depends on it.
Would you like an orange with that Psalm?