If you are just joining us or coming back to the site, welcome! May 15th, 2018 ended our active presentation of ongoing posts as we traveled through the New Testament books but this site will still be up for additional comments/posts for awhile. That means that you are able to go into the archives (or scroll through the posts) and bring up each book, read the previous posts and add your own thoughts. Since any posts register on my email, I will gladly comment back and add thoughts as well. After all, this may be the summer or fall that you decide to read or reread the Bible and want someone to “talk with” or post to. Go for it and hope to see you! Mary Kay
Want to read a summary of the Bible in a few short sentences? Check out this week’s readings from John. Not to be confused with one of the gospels, these three books known as the epistles of John were probably the last ones written about 90 AD and included in our Bible. They deal with the nature of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit with the theme of “walking in the light”. It is thought that these were the last words that he wrote to summarize our faith: “God is light; God is love; Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God who has come in the flesh to make us his children. We have eternal life and are called not to sin but to love one another”.
When Ann designed the prayer flags for these three books, she referred to them as “God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sustainer”. They reflect love as the central focus and thus used three representative fabrics in all three. Can you identify where they are used? There are only two flags created from these fabrics and both designs were further created, embellished and finished by me.
2 John shows a heart in the center of the piece to symbolize that love should be the center of our lives. I continued this theme by shadow quilting around the heart over the entire piece. The taggies on the perimeter represent the original Ten Commandments as part of God’s overall plan from Old Testament through the New. 2 John 1:8 in the King James edition notes that “This is love, that we walk after His commandments”.
3 John 5 (KJV) says “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers.” It’s the scripture of radical hospitality. The fabric on the left represents God the igniter of our faith (It is quilted in a flame pattern). Jesus, shown in the horizontal zig zag fabric is the mediator between us and God (Quilted in a horizontal path). The Holy Spirit (wavy material), quilted in an exciting meandering patter moving over the design, continues to create and grow us in the lives of Love and Grace. I chose the bold flower pattern to finish the piece because it reminded me of a dear friend who always brings me a bouquet of flowers when she visits. I love her hospitality in expressing appreciation for what others do / and for the simple thoughtfulness in sharing what she has. The quote on the front of the piece came from a church service focusing on mission work and reminds us that we can help individually within a corporate setting too. Of course, the buttons all over the design represent a simple way that things are held together and humorously teach the lesson of God holding us together as well. (Mary Kay Hymes)
“Jude’s letter to an early community of Christians is intended to alert them that they have been infiltrated by scoundrels who desire to replace the message of the sheer grace of our God with sheer license, meaning to do away with Jesus Christ. The primary Christian posture is to keep our arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of the Holy Spirit acting among believers. The flag is a nine patch with three divisions connected by the bright energizing color that I have used on other flags to represent the energy of the Holy Spirit acting among believers” Dr. Ann Osborne.
When Phyllis Thompson recreated this flag and finished the design she noted. “Whenever I see a nine patch, I think of tic tac toe. It’s a game played with X’s and O’s which I identified from an early age as hugs and kisses. Ann’s comment above states that the Christian posture is to keep our arms open and outstretched – in my mind, ready to share love.” Phyllis Thompson
Sorry about the delay in posting this week. Sometimes the days can just race by and you wake up wondering why it’s already Saturday. It’s been a wonderful week of growing, learning new things, catching up with old friends, smiling at the sunshine that finally arrived and more. And this morning, we focus on Peter’s messages and wonder what we will take from them for today. Perhaps we are reminded to make each day count that we may grow in faith and knowledge of Jesus. Our time is limited like Peter’s and “the day of the Lord’s return will surprise us like a thief” (3:10). Now there’s a powerful message: Live today as though it were our last on earth and stay focused on Christ. Amen!
A little about the history of these two books. We believe that they were written at a time when Christianity, no longer considered a sect of Judaism or a legal religion, became a forbidden religion. Christians were persecuted and much suffering took place. Both Peter and Paul were killed soon after and Christians began doubting and fearing. These books were thought to be a message of hope in the middle of suffering. We often turn to these for reassuring words ourselves when we need hope so consider opening your heart to hearing these messages.
The Prayer Flag for 1st Peter comes from 2:5-7 “To trust in the stone that is Christ”. According to Pastor Ann who began the design and Rae Ann Entz and Judy Mitchell who picked up on the initial creation and put it together, they noted these words: “We were drawn to this piece because we each feel strongly that Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith. Ann placed a free form log cabin block beside a cross to depict that Jesus, by virtue of his life, death , and resurrection, is that cornerstone. We placed multiple blocks to represent other people throughout the world. They are all connected at the foot of the cross to show this universal belief, that Jesus is the cornerstone.” On March 18th, Judy, an amazing Christian woman and one of the designers of this flag, joined her beloved Heavenly Father, leaving behind a grief filled family and friends. This flag is just one of the many testimonials to her strong faith and reminds us of the reassurance of hope we hold for us as well. If I have gained no other message this week, there is this: That despite any suffering we go through, physical, emotional, or mental, this inheritance of the hope for a new birth with Christ, will sustain me. Grief that I feel is for my own loss because I know that Christians will not “perish, spoil or fade” but our souls be kept in Heaven. Today, Judy is at peace, full of love, joy and celebration of God with Christ. Today, I too, recognize this and will work to live for God as well until that time, unknown to me, is at hand, and I go to be with Christ. Powerful messages today, wouldn’t you say?
The Prayer Flag for 2nd Peter 1:5-9 asks us to Know what the Lord wants us to do, to Grow in faith and character and to be watchful that we not fall into old patterns that take us away from God’s will. Pastor Ann used this scripture of “Fruitful Faith in Fragile Times” as the basis for her doctoral dissertation and referred to the 9 qualities that can be practiced by any person: “Complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness and generous love.” Charlotte Roach, the outstanding liturgical quilt artist who completed this flag, summarized it with the “Know, Grow and Watch” words next to the cross. Powerful words to live by, wouldn’t you agree?
James begins by introducing himself as a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” which already implies action on his part and ours. It is thought he was the oldest brother of Jesus, a leader in the Jerusalem church, and that this was one of the earliest letters written. Its focus was on Jewish Christians everywhere as an encouragement to be distinctive disciples of Jesus. Some guides suggest that this is written like a book of proverbs to be followed. As you read through this, think about the similarities to other letters and what might stand out to you.
2:18 Notes that “Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do”. Clearly, this suggests that genuine faith and good deeds go together, right? 4:7,8 says “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” And, finally, my favorite 1:19: “Be quick to listen and slow to speak or get angry”. I would have to say that my husband, also a James, lives by these words. Just back from a mission trip in North Carolina, he headed off today to help build a ramp for an individual who needs assistance getting into her home with a wheel chair. Jim is a great role model and truly lives his faith.
There isn’t a prayer flag for this book which is a shame since it carries such an important message about faith and action. So, for this week, instead of focusing on what another might have created as an artwork, consider someone whose actions show their strong faith. Got their face in your mind? Good . . . Now, consider ways you, too, might do good deeds this week and use them as a reminder. How about sharing something with us?
What a beautiful portrait of Jesus Christ based on the faith experiences from the Old Testament! My study Bible notes that this was probably written around 70AD to Jewish Christians considering whether or not to “stick to the faith”. For us today, it’s just as meaningful especially for times when faith may falter. Love the phrase (13:8) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”! How many things in our lives can we say that about? 11:1 notes that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. Probably my favorite line is this (12:1) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
This week, I’m continuing docent training at the Figge Art Museum here in Davenport, Iowa and the art work I’m focusing on for presentation is a series of sculptures by an amazing current African American artist named Vanessa German. Her work, both in the museum and out, exemplifies an individual who sees violence in her part of the world and who “throws off everything” to help children and others find ways to create beauty. She blends “a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry” (Pittsburgh Magazine, Eric Lidji). I’ve spent time entranced with her nearly lifesize characters she creates out of found items like bottle caps, keys, beads, fabrics and much more. Who would think that trash could be so amazing? Check her out on the internet yourself and discover a woman who runs an amazing race under the banner of “Stop Shooting: We Love you”.
Another beautiful art piece this week was one done by Ann Osborne and Lois Hagedorn. “This Scripture (10:22-25) brings to mind the seasonal migration of birds, Canadian snow geese in particular. The geese have a goal, and they believe that they can reach that goal together – following the leader, who knows the way -each taking turns in leading the flock. The very young geese may not know the way, or may never have made the trip; but they are confident in their faith and their leaders. Together, they keep a firm grip on the promises that keep them going. The flock encourages, helps, spurs each other on, and reaches its goal. – a lesson for us all!
Considered by most to be a part of the Pauline letters (Possibly written by Paul) and sent to those who were close friends, these were encouragement to keep growing the churches and building early polity and theology. Titus repeats a lot of Timothy 1 while Philemon’s theme is “radical forgiveness”. If you are reading along using a study Bible, you can get filled in on the history of the Roman slaves but the point I caught is how emancipating the Christian church was at that time: All brothers (and sisters) regardless or race or economic conditions were taught that they are all one in Christ. So this was written around 60 AD and it’s now 2018 AD? How did so many Christians miss that whole point all these years? Have we been practicing “selective loving” and not including all? I would think that the theme is “radical Loving”.
So lets move to today and think about, say a lone gunman, who goes into a school and shoots others. It’s tough to be forgiving of that and yet, the Amish community at Nickel Mines a number of years ago, did just that. They forgave the man and his family while still deploring the deed. Could I be so radically forgiving? So Radically loving? It’s easy to love those who are like us and don’t do things we find unacceptable. Yet when it comes down to it, it’s pretty tough to forgive those who aren’t “like us” or do deeds we dislike. When my brother was killed years ago, shot in the head by an unidentified person, it was almost impossible to comprehend that kind of evil. And yet, during my darkest moments, God quietly spoke one night and said “Revenge is not in your hands.” Say what? I had to ask twice I remember and the words were the same. I didn’t have to do anything to “get back at that person” but love all the more, those around me and yes, pray for the shooter. It was a defining moment in my life and turned me around to being more understanding, more loving, and more tolerant. I may work towards better gun control, I may weep for others who have been shot, but I’m always reminded that for every evil act, I need to love stronger. These books remind me of that time and that lesson once again.
This week’s prayer flag created by Ann Osborne and Linda Matthews focuses on the word “Love”. Each element in the flag follows the leader. The color and design in fabric is what led the creation of this flag. Linda noted that in the combination of elements/fabrics, there was a lot of joy in sewing it. Aren’t the color combinations lovely?
As you read these two books, reflect on the idea that Paul or the writer, was trying to share important messages to future generations about behavior and focus for what to teach about Christ. These are often called the “pastoral letters” It is thought that the second book may have been the last words Paul shared before his death so consider what your own last words of wisdom might be to others. I’ve gotten many strong massages like : “teach no other doctrine”, practice what you preach, Christ’s role was to come here to save sinners, neglect not the gift that is in thee, we are saved not by works but by grace and more.
This week, a wonderful and dear friend passed unexpectedly and we are all preparing for her life celebration, mourning her loss and remembering her joy. It has been an emotional few days but I found great comfort in the messages within Timothy this week. I have to say that the scriptures commenting on “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life . . . Be rich in good works, ready to distribute, and willing to communicate” really describe her beautifully. Her life was an inspiration to us all and while I will miss her terribly, I know that she is with God celebrating eternal life. How exciting is that!
For Judy, she can truly say “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept my faith”. Cancer is a terrible thing to deal with and chemo can be worse than the illness but through it all, she and her family have stayed the course and been faithful followers. How much of a joy and inspiration is that?
So my question for you this week asks when were some challenging times lately that made it difficult to stay the course?
PS. I’m away from my home base computer so will have to post this week’s prayer flag when I return early next week. Stay tuned!
PPS Now that I’m back at home base, I realized that the flag for Timothy 1 and 2 as well as Titus and Philemon are one and the same. Please check it out on the next posting and enjoy the beautiful colors, elements, and the focus on “Love”
This beautiful Prayer Flag by Linda Hoover (and Dr. Ann Osborne) refers to 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 (The Message) “Let your Heart Sing”. Linda notes: Ann had included ideas about dancing so I embellished/finished it with more tutu fabrics and ballet themes, reflecting on my granddaughter’s love of this dance.
According to the study Bible, this letter, written to Christians in Thessalonica, expressed joy at the progress the new converts were making despite their lack of teaching. He instructs them how to live with joy as they await the return of Jesus. Dance and Sing? Of course this is the way to live in the light of the coming of Christ.
So my question comes to you at this time of Lent . . . . We often find the focus of Lent being more solemn, quiet, meditative, introspective and not at all the period when dancing and music come to mind. Some churches focus on the darkness of the crucifixion for these 40 days and the buildings “wear” black or purple mourning. My heart is singing today because we are heading back to Lancaster so Jim can join a mission trip group and I can connect with friends. On Sunday, I will be singing and dancing for joy in my Christian community because I am returning to loved ones. I celebrate the joy each day of being alive and knowing Gods love and struggle with having to be in an environment that brings out the mournful side. So, is there a way to recognize the current Lenten focus at the same time Linda’s lovely ballet tutus are part of my joyful celebration each day? Any thoughts????
Rev.Dr.Ann Osborne who did the initial conceptual planning for this project, noted “I have some wonderful African fabric with ladies standing head high, carrying wonderfully designed pots upon their heads. The fabric seemed to go with the passage” (2:15-17 So, friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a firm grip on what you are taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech!” (The Message)
Juanita Fowler, the quilt artist who did the final design/implementation on the flag, had this to say “This appealed immediately to me because of my earlier trip to Ethiopia and the visions of women all over the world, standing tall. If they can do it, so can I!” Juanita, coordinator for Global Church Mission activities for many years and participant for numerous overseas/local/countrywide mission trips, often speaks for the women who cannot speak for themselves. She’s a strong advocate for women’s justice issues and, I suspect, smiled the whole time she was working on this flag which now hangs in the church as a reminder to all.
2nd Thessalonians also speaks to the return of Christ by Paul. Several key scriptures are “3:10 If you don’t work, you don’t eat” and 3:13 “Do not grow weary in doing good”. As you read through these two books, think about yourself today. Many political commentaries are made about the first and yet its too simplistic to let it go so quickly. What work? What’s available? Where does the food come from? etc. I might focus more on the growing weary phrase and wonder about the relationship of work, rest and doing good. Any thoughts on this?
“Be who you are called to be!” (Colossians 2:6-7) Isn’t this prayer flag a beautiful representation of the book having the theme “Fullness and freedom in Christ”? Another letter by Paul to followers in this city of Colosse (Asia Minor). Much as we see today, followers were using teachings from other religions, blending them into Christianity, and diluting the true meaning of One God, One Christ who satisfies all needs. I found it interesting that this practice of syncretism (combining various teachings to come up with something new) has followed through the ages. Then, Greek philosophy, cultic practices, Christianity and Jewish speculations were coming together to give a practice in which Jesus was one of several deities. Do we do this now? As you read through this book, think about how outside practices may have impacted or diluted your own faith. A famous verse in this book is 3:17 (“Whatever you do in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus”)
When Joyce Shaffer finished created the design on this Prayer Flag (Started by Ann Osborne), she used some lovely nature focused colors or green, yellow and blue. She notes that “My flag shows the nature of God as being representative of nature so my quilting includes leaves, vines, and flowers. Living a simple and Godly life means being close to nature”. This one speaks to me today, too, as spring comes slowly to the Midwest. Crocus are beginning to bloom and bulbs are peeking up out of the ground returning my mind to the simple joy of watching God’s creation evolve. Just a few minutes ago, a tugboat pushing several barges loaded with work equipment, chugged past our backyard (We live on shores of the Mississippi River). When the barge traffic begins, especially with this particular one, it signals that spring is returning to the area. The ice pack has moved past us, there has been very little flooding in our “pool” area above Moline, Illinois and new birds are moving in. Eagles come to sit in our trees and theres’ a cardinal outside the window now. Yes, God is everywhere in nature and it is reassuring to see.
Today the sun is shining, a touch of spring is in the air here in the Midwest and we get to focus on the theme of the joy of knowing Jesus. Paul apparently was in prison and wrote this letter to Christians in Philippi (northern Greece). He calls them (and us) to “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice” (4:4) As a reminder, we are to remember that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone. As you read through this book, look for that joyful spirit and think about how it relates to your life today. A question from the Serendipity Bible asks this: “God does not always change negative outside forces so what can He change in you so that contentment or joy is possible?”
This week’s Prayer Flag comes to you from Ann Osborne, Sparkle Osborne, and the ever creative and talented Judith Gray. This image is done with thread painting and is a likeness of Sparkle. It reflects 4:6-7 As Ann notes, what could be a better illustration of not being worried? Sparkle is an exuberant ball of energy all the time. She is determined to help everyone, be in the middle of whatever is happening, to rescue, to love and to be in constant motion. She represents the peace of God which passes all of our human understanding that is our promise when we put all our frets and worries into prayers and praises. Let Christ at the center of your life displace all your worries.
Another letter written by Paul to believers in Ephesus (60AD) while imprisoned in Rome. The theme focused on God’s new society with new standards and new relationships expected of believers (according to the Serendipity Bible). It is a short book but has some key verses that seem to stand out: 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism: one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Again, this makes me ask questions about why there are so many variations of churches today, even within my small community. Have we and do we continue to create divisions in our Protestant churches that focus on polity and not theology? Especially in the Presbyterian churches, we have PCUSA, PC and now another division that is divided over the chastity/fidelity issues (Homosexuality).
When I first started going to a new church at one time, I felt that there was an underlying need that some had for all to be on the “same page” theologically. As I grew in my own faith and knowledge of the Bible and other Christians, I realized that there are often more questions without answers. To all be in agreement when we are not all coming from an identical focus is pretty ludicrous. I love the diversity of opinions and the approach to all coming together to serve within a church despite disagreements. Ephesians 5:22-27 where Paul talks about wives submitting to their husbands makes me grit my teeth. And the man being the head of the household? My “Women’s lib” background cringes at the wording on this. However, the idea of being submissive to Christ and His authority, makes total sense to me. Do I behave differently from someone who is wholly in agreement on the husband wife role? Personally, my husband is a very religious man and we are in agreement on how we handle spiritual and life issues. Would I “submit” to his views on something? Of course BUT he would also (and has) been in agreement with my views and thus “submits” or defers to me. Hmm . . . getting too deep here! Anyone want to touch this with a 10 foot pole?
How about the very visual description in 6:10-18 of putting on the Armor of God? Don’t you love this imagery? . . the belt of truth . . . breastplate of righteousness . . . feet fitted with readiness from the gospel of peace . . . shield of faith . . . helmet of salvation . . . sword of the spirit. Today’s young people love to be superpowers like superman, Spider-Man, wonder woman . . . and they associate with strength as a way of handling issues. I’m thinking that Nancy is drawing this image of herself as Wonder Woman right now, right Nancy?? Maybe that’s what we should all do to be strong in the Lord. Gotta run now and get my cape and T-shirt out of the dryer . . . Wonder “Oma” is ready to tackle the world once again!
Finally, here’s another Prayer Flag for you to contemplate. This is one I did with Ann Osborne’s fabrics. It represents Jacob’s Ladder as a quilt block. I had a lot of fun overlaying the piece with glittery netting and sparkling buttons. These, pouring down the ladder, represent God’s wonderful blessings to us all and serve to remind us to hold together as a church in His name. 3:18-19 “May you be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”
Salvation is for all of us through God’s grace. In Paul’s letter to the Galations, a group of Jewish Christians in Asia Minor, he teaches them that God saves them by trusting in Christ alone and not by doing religious things. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery” (5:1- Justification by Faith)
The prayer flag for this book was done by Ann Osborne and Shirley Burns, representing 5:22-23. “Be the fruit of the Spirit in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control”. Each of the blocks within this flag represent the fruits of the spirit so check out the embellishments carefully. Shirley noted that the “chaos of life is shown by the random crossing of the ribbon, held together by the overall netting that is God’s spirit”. Love the beauty of this one, the message that it embodies, and the reminder about God’s grace and love.
So here’s the question of the week as we head into Lent: What can you do in the days ahead to be more faithful to Christ and his Gospel? (Which spiritual fruits are blossoming in your life right now?)
More letters to the church in Corinth from Paul . . . According to my study Bible, Paul writes to explain to the believers in that city, the true nature (its joys, sufferings and rewards) and high calling of Christian ministry. Our prayer flag for this book, done beautifully by Ann Osborne and Judy Mitchell focuses on verse 4:6-7 “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” From the message, this is described as such: “We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives”. I love the way Judy decided to create the clay pots and embellished them with shiny crystals and yarns. How are you sharing your light?
Written by Paul to the church in Corinth, one of the larger cities in the area, around 55 AD. He emphasizes unity, deals with immorality, role of women, Lord’s supper, spiritual gifts and above all love of each other. We are to laugh, love, and live in God’s love, grace and delight as God’s special and beloved children. As you look at this special prayer flag designed by Ann Osborne, you can feel the joy just jumping off the fabric. How do you share love in this world with others? What messages are you finding as you read?
From this point on, we will be reading 1 or more books per week since several are very short. Each has a special message, though, so stay with us. Romans focuses on Paul’s continued travels and his letter to Christians in Rome (us too!) while he is in jail. Despite being written around 57 AD, the message that we are “saved by Grace (undeserved and unearned) through faith” rings loud and clear. 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. What a great message for the early Christian “newbies” and for us today.
This week’s prayer flag, again started by Ann Osborne and further designed by Peggy Burdge, is a beautiful one! The message of Hope comes through in the imagery of the seed pod releasing its seeds. I’ll check with Peggy and see if she can add her comments on this. But in the meantime, how would you draw “Hope”??
As you continue reading the book of Acts (finishing up on Tuesday, January 23, take a look at this beautiful prayer flag created by Carol Nielsen and Ann Osborne for this book. The conversion of Saul is pictured along a path and reminds us that we, too, are on a journey. What would your flag look like? (Don’t forget to click on comments above to see what others have written too)
After finishing the gospels and reading the scriptures of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, don’t you think “Now that’s a tough act to follow!”? Interesting how the next book is called “Acts” and begins the recorded events following His resurrection. How did a small band of followers grow into the strong Christian Church it is today? This is truly one of the most exciting books because it outlines what we, too, should be doing to follow Jesus’ words to be His witness throughout the world.
This book was probably written by Luke and covered the spread of Christianity. At the beginning, Jesus ascends into Heaven before witnesses. The Holy Spirit returns at Pentecost, 10 days later, when the church is officially born. Believers are baptized and a more united fellowship begins. Read 2:42-47 to see what the early church did in community.
Is your church doing these things? Could you be more involved In anything?
So . . . Our move went well and we are settling into our new community. We have visited three churches, all of which provide a community of believers and could use the gifts we have been blessed with. But I find myself struggling with that age old challenge of wanting to worship in a place that feeds my soul. What does that mean? If I’m confused by liturgy or disheartened by the driving distance that would make it difficult to fully participate in other activities, am I just finding excuses to not committing fully? Do others also find they are making excuses? Weather, conflicting activities, etc. I find myself wanting to dig into these upcoming scriptures to how others find answers to the realities of life and church membership.
So here’s my question to you today: how can you use the gifts you have been given to be a witness to God? How does church membership help?
May you all have a wonderful 2018 as you journey through the New Testament to discover messages that remind you of God’s path for you! Today is a beautiful sunny, blue sky start to a new year and the cold temps here in the Midwest (-11 with a windchill of -23) make us immediately think of the blessings of shelter, warmth and family that surround us. I wonder how many are struggling this morning with the simple basics we often take for granted? How best can we help out of our abundance?
As I opened my emails today, I found a Facebook entry by Noe Juarez, one of our pastors. He shared his goal of exploring deeper meanings through his devotional studies using “Streams in the Desert” by Letti Cowman. It begins with the phrase “God leads us on paths we do not know”. So, my friends, I invite you to continue your study with us this winter that you, too, might find your way on these as yet revealed paths. We will begin the book of Acts on January 3 through January 23 so you have 3 weeks to read this exciting Book. Blessings to all!
Are most of you reading through an advent devotional from the church or online? I thought it might be a good idea to take a brief hiatus from focusing on the specific books of the New Testament and comment on what you have been finding as a message for today. I enjoyed reading through the ones from Highland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster because I know all of the writers and appreciate their individual insight. Connie Towers did a lovely one on catching the excitement of the season through the words of Peter. Rick Brackbill reflected on Matthew 21:23-32 and how challenging it can be during this busy season to spend time with God. Ben Pember shared his thought on the parable of the Tenants in Matthew which gives much food for thought. God sent his son into the midst of the violence to help and we all pray that the Holy Spirit is at work in those sites of our world today. I’m looking forward to Dee Dee’s tomorrow because she, along with her husband Roger (who did one to kick off advent) always have good insight and a lot of food for thought. Can’t forget Josh because we’ve already talked about the music in our lives and heads earlier in our own study. Can you hear me humming “Joy to the World” right now? I’ll pop in a pic of our tree tomorrow as it overlooks the Mississippi River here in the River House as a reminder of the joy and beauty of this advent season. There might even be snowflakes in the background as the temps dip into the teens, the river freezes around the edges and the clouds release some of the white stuff. Winters here!
Love the beginning of this book where it says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. . . We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. (We usually hear this around Christmas, don’t we?) It’s a different kind of gospel in that it’s not really very chronological like the others yet seems to be a meditation on Jesus’ life and the significance of His death. Supposedly written by John, the disciple, this book is full of metaphors and phrases that leave one pondering the meaning long after having read it.
So I’m pondering some questions here this evening: Today’s Mary Martha Bible study focused on the power of word as spoken by God right from the beginning: “God said, let there be light”. Throughout scriptures, we are reminded that God’s word is both living and active. The focus on John is considering the concept of the eternal Christ at one with God. So, what phrase of God’s word that you are hearing in this study has impacted your life today?
Here’s my thought: It’s often a challenge to leave familiar surroundings, pack up and move everything. While I’m familiar with where we are going this time, the turmoil is still there and reminds me of when the disciples are in the rough lake. As Jesus walks on the water towards them, he says “It is I; don’t be afraid”. Reading through the scriptures, learning more about Christ and how He works within my life is reassuring these last months while working on this online class. The phrases above as well as “Peace be with you” often help me stay calm, joyful, loving to others, and appreciative of each moment.
Are you often confused by what this book is talking about? With all the symbolism, “bizarre images, vivid pictures of death, supernatural creatures and cryptic language” (according to our Serendipity Bible), it can distract us from the real messages: Christ shall overcome! So, be faithful to Him and beware of outside influences that take you away from your love of Christ. There, in a nutshell, is what we will be reading about these next two weeks.
Written during a time of Roman oppression (90-95 AD), these messages were often “hidden” in rhetoric to remind the frightened Christian to keep the faith. “Symbolic pictures of timeless truths”. There are many interpretations however so be aware that this book especially may be interpreted in a large variety of ways. How do you see it?
Pastor Ann, in creating her prayer flag for this book, used 21:3 and 22:2 relating to the tree of life with the leaves for the healing of the nations. Further, the imagery that God will live among us and we will be his peoples. She says: “My inspiration came from a metal worked art piece from Mexico that was hanging on the wall of the Chesapeake Bay Cottage: Clearly the tree of life, complete with the twelve different fruits as well as birds and other beautiful creatures found in the tree. The second image references God dwelling among mortals. The Greek verb “to dwell” actually means “to pitch one’s tent”.
Linda Matthews, the artist who picked up on this imagery and completed the flag noted:
“I added a few leaves to the tree and quilted the tent image after merging two pieces of fabric: Batik strips. This brought out the colors in the tree and the sunset sky was the perfect color wash to join with it! Creativity is using or making something new from what you have. The quilt tradition of patchwork was born of necessity and then became a way to create beauty”
In Linda’s summary of quilting, she reminds us that these series of prayer flags have been a way to both tell the message of the New Testament and create beauty from each of them. My thoughts as we leave this particular Bible study is to continue, each in our own way, of creating beauty as we see it. Art Walk with God, a former art journal blog site,continues to be open and I will be returning to that to paint, draw, quilt, photograph, etc. and post with scriptural messages. Come join me when the spirit moves you! It’s been a pleasure to have you travel this particular path and I hope to see you soon.Art Walk with God