Finished NYB

Over three years in the making, I finally finished my New York Beauty quilt.  Now all these quilted blocks had to be sewn together, partly by hand, and it was a daunting task.

I had sketched a plan for sewing them together, and Sarah happened to be home and was able to help sort them out.

It was a horrible job sewing them together, because of the thickness of the pre-quilted blocks.  I also accidentally stuck my fingers with pins over and over again.

Once they were finally sewn together, I cut off the edges so I could sew on the binding.

Here is the finished five-year quilt!

Here is the full pic — I shared it with friends at Ucross.




Today’s quote is from Michael Card’s book, Joy in the Journey.  The story of Simeon is amazing.  The story looks back at the birth of Jesus, but also forward to His return some day.  Astounding but true!

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon.  He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.  The Holy Spirit was upon him, and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  That day the Spirit led him to the Temple.  So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there.  He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.  I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel.” — Luke 2:25-32 (NLT)

Simeon was an old man when he received a very special promise from God, that he would not die until he had seen the coming of the Messiah.  For an elderly Jew and a man of faith, there was no greater promise.  From that time on, Simeon spent the remainder of his days waiting, as did all the faithful who lived before the advent of Jesus.  Having faith meant waiting for God to keep his promise.  Abraham.  Moses.  The prophets.  All those who trusted God demonstrated their faith by their ability to wait.  So Simeon waited in the temple for God to make good on his fantastic promise.

We do not know what Simeon was expecting, though we can guess.  Perhaps as he sat in the temple court, he kept his eyes focused on the sky, waiting for the clouds to part and reveal a great and glorious king.  Perhaps he was expecting a warrior.  Many hoped the Messiah would be a warlike leader who would kill the Romans.

We do not know what Simeon expected, but we know what he got.  A little baby wrapped in rags, with paupers for parents.  A most unlikely person to change the world.  Yet there is hardly anyone, even an unbeliever, who could imagine what this world would be like if he had not come.

There the Holy Baby was, cradled in his mother’s arms.  What must have gone through Simeon’s mind when God pointed out his Promised One? Simeon was wise enough to expect the unexpected from the Lord.  He went straight to Joseph and Mary.  Luke gives us the wonderful detail that he took Jesus and held him in his arms. That, for me, is one of the most significant moments of the nativity narratives.  In this one simple man two worlds meet.  The Old Testament embraces the New.  For what is the Old Testament but a collection of promises?

It was good news for Simeon to finally be able to embrace the Promised One.  But far away the best news of all is that Jesus embraces us. That was the reason for his coming. Most of us describe our coming to faith by saying, “I’ve asked Jesus into my life.”  We should really say he has invited us into his life!

That was the reason for Simeon’s song.  Deep inside his tired old heart, he knew that the infant he held in his arms was in truth the One who had been holding him all his life long.

Then I saw a Lamb, booking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.  — Rev. 5:6

In the Old Testament, the lamb is the helpless innocent substitute and sacrifice.  He is victim, not victor.  Even in the New Testament, when the Lamb of God appears he seems an unlikely conqueror.  It is not until the close of the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, that the Conquering Lamb appears.

Christmas, the celebration of the first coming of the Lamb, looks back to the humble stable and the simple shepherds.  The setting is a dark, fallen world.  He has come to expose through his weakness the impotence of what the world calls power.

In that sense Christmas is a preparation for the celebration that will be the second coming of the Lamb triumphant.  The contrast between the two settings could not be more extreme.  Instead of a silent stable and bunch of motley shepherds, there will be a resplendent multitude whose praise can only be described as a roar!


Today’s fascinating Christmas quote is from C. S. Lewis.  This is an excellent explanation of a word we barely understand:  “Begotten.”  It’s a lengthy quote but brilliant; stay with it to the end:  there’s a punchline worth seeing.

Begetting and Making

One of the creeds says that Christ is the Son of God “begotten not created”; and it adds “begotten by his Father before all worlds.” …We are not now thinking about the Virgin Birth.  We are thinking about something that happened before nature was created at all, before time began.  “Before all worlds” Christ is begotten, not created.  What does it mean?

We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean.  To beget is to become the father of:  to create is to make.  And the difference is this.  When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself.  A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers, and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds.  But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself.  A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set:  say, a statue.  If he is a clever enough carver, he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one.  It cannot breathe or think.  It is not alive.

Now that is the first thing to get clear.  What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man.  What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is.  They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.

A statue has the shape of a man but is not alive.  In the same way, man has (in a sense I am going to explain) the “shape” or likeness of God, but he has not got the kind of life God has.  Let us take the first point (man’s resemblance to God) first. Everything God has made has some likeness to Himself.  Space is like Him in its hugeness:  not that the greatness of space is the same kind of greatness as God’s but it is a sort of symbol of it, or a translation of it into nonspiritual terms.  Matter is like God in having energy; though, again, of course, physical energy is a different kind of thing from the power of God.  The vegetable world is like Him because it is alive, and He is the “living God.”  But life, in this biological sense, is not the same as the life there is in God:  it is only a kind of symbol or shadow of it.  When we come  to animals, we find other kinds of resemblance to the unceasing activity and the creativeness of God.  In the higher mammals we get the beginnings of instinctive affection. That is not the same thing as the love that exists in God:  but it is like it—rather in the way that a picture drawn on a flat piece of paper can nevertheless be “like” a landscape.  When we come to man, the highest of the animals, we get the completest resemblance to God which we know of.  (There may be creatures in other worlds who are ore like God than man is, but we do not know about them).  Man not only lives, but loves and reasons:  biological life reaches its highest known level in him.

But what man, in his natural condition, has not got, is Spiritual life—the higher and different sort of life that exists in God.  We use the same word life for both:  but if you thought that both must therefore be the same sort of thing, that would be like thinking that the “greatness” of space and the “greatness” of God were the same sort of greatness.  In reality, the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names.  The Biological sort which comes to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc., is Bios.  The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe is Zoë.  Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoë, but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or a statue and a man.  A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoë would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man.

And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life. – C. S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian,

Heart’s Desire

Newspapers can have some of the best quotes about Christmas and other holidays sometimes.  I found these amazing Christmas thoughts a year ago.  My Word of the YearJoy — is sprinkled all the way through, along with one of my words from the past.

The best part of Christmas for me is how joy burst onto the scene…The season doesn’t just ask us to think joyful thoughts, to wish compassion and kindness on our valley, to hope those who have little might be provided with enough.  The story bursts into our lives and demands some action. “Don’t just think about joy,” Christmas says, “Be joyful!”  Don’t only wish compassion and loving-kindness on our valley; embody it, spread it, give it away!”  What joy! What a blessing!  — Rev. Jimmy Bartz, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Jackson Hole Daily, 12/20/17

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of man in Israel,” Simeon tells Mary.  “And a sword will pierce your soul, too.” These are admittedly dark thoughts in a season of light.  Many of us come to the holidays with pierced souls…but Christmas is not about mere nostalgia, and not without its comforts.  The British author J. R. R. Tolkien – something of an expert on such things – argued that every great fairy story has a “turn” in which despair is suddenly and miraculously reversed and the heart’s desire is fulfilled.  “It denies (in the face of much evidence if you will) universal final defeat…giving a fleeting glimpse of joy, joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”  For Tolkien, this moment “rends the very web of story,” and allows us to see something real about the universe itself.

For Christians, the nativity story is the “turn” of human events.  In a world that would not yield a bed to a pregnant woman, the miraculous reversal arrives in a manner no one expected.  All involved are ambushed by hope.  The very strangeness of the deliverance – involving angels, kings and a pregnant virgin – indicates that God alone has taken hold of the storyline. But there is a glimpse of joy beyond the walls of the world…It means that the cruel appearances of life are the lies, and that joy and grace are the deeper realities.  It means that God is with us, that God is for us, even when we feel forsaken, especially when we feel forsaken.  It means our exiled souls can find a home in Bethlehem.  – Michael Gerson, Washington Writer’s Group, 12/25/17


From the Outside

Today’s Christmas quotes are from Oswald Chamber’s amazing devotional, My Utmost for His Highest.  I’ve been re-reading this book and his insights truly are helpful in my faith journey.

His Birth in History. “Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it.  He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside.  Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of — He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all.  He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate — God coming into human flesh from outside it.  His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors.  Our Lord’s birth was an advent — the appearance of God in human form.

His Birth in Me.  My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you… (Gal. 4:19).

Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside.  Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God?  I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth.  “You must be born again” (John 3:7).  This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God.  The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that “Christ is formed” in me.  And once “Christ is formed” in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

God Evident in the Flesh   This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.

A Real Working Barn

Michael Card is an amazing writer and musician.  I love his book, Joy in the Journey, and am happy to share several quotes from that book today.  I hope these are a blessing to you as the holiday approaches.

Christmas is the celebration of the keeping of a promise.  Faith, in the Old Testament, is defined by a person’s willingness to wait for the promises of God to come.  Faith, in the New Testament, means following the Promised One.  In that Promise One God gave to us all that He could give.

It is our family Christmas tradition to pile in the car and go to a real working barn, with horses in their stalls and a barn cat on the prowl among the hay bales.  There, together, we read the Christmas story by candlelight.  The odor and the dark seem to press in against the fragile light of our candle. The shabbiness of this setting reminds us of that other shabby place.  Jesus chooses every day to be born:  the human heart a place more filthy and cold than any stable.

As our family gathers around our faint, flickering candle to read the Christmas story, the loneliness of the stable reminds us of the loneliness of another place on a hill outside Jerusalem.  The rough trough seems almost as cruel a place as a cross.  The infant cries we hear coming from the stable seem no less desperate than his final cry, and no less forsaken.  Celebrate? You say.  Yes, most heartily, amidst the dung of the stable which is, of course, the refuse of the world.  Celebrate at the foot of that ghastly cross because it is the hope of the world.  Gather around a cattle trough and celebrate a baby born in poverty and rejected, because he is the Savior of the world!

A simple carpenter stands in the shadow of history.  People come and go.  The shepherds have seen angels.  The Magi have seen a star.  Others have heard fantastic rumors.  Some of them have come hundreds of miles.  Some have only come across the street.  The silent figure stands there watching them come and go, the weeping ones who adore and the curious ones who merely gape.  He is the gentle foster father of Jesus, a rural carpenter named Joseph.


The next two weeks I’m sharing Christmas quotes from my journals, and will highlight my Word of the Year–past and current words (and their derivatives)–as these words always seem to jump off the page for me.  This first quote comes from a surprising source.

We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the incarnation as an indistinct and doubtful, far off event unrelated to our present problems.  We miss the purpose of Christ’s birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever living and true God.  In love alone, the love of God and the love of man will be found the solution of all ills which afflict the world today.  Slowly, sometimes painfully, but always with increasing purpose emerges the great message of Christianity:  only with wisdom comes joy, and with greatness comes love.  — Harry S. Truman

There are many of you in this congregation who think to themselves, “If only I had been there!  How quick I would have been to help the baby!  I would have washed his linen.  How happy I would have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord lying in the manager.”  … Why don’t you do it now?  You have Christ in your neighbor, you ought to serve Him, for what you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ Himself.  — Martin Luther, quoted in Parables of Peanuts, Robert Short, pg. 198

He whom the world could not enwrap yonder lies in Mary’s lap.  — Martin Luther

The wonder of Christmas is its simplicity.  There is Mary the mother; and there is Joseph, to whom she was betrothed.  Plain and simple folks, these, even as you and I. There are the shepherds—the first Christmas congregation.  Humble folks, these, folks who lived close to the things God made—the earth the carpet for their feet, the sun and stars their coverings.  Yes, and the child, too.  Nothing here of the pomp and circumstance of life; only the simplicity of the divine.  It is the simplicity which makes Christmas wonderful.  Here may we all come, suppliant.  Not to a throne of human exaltation, but to a throne of divine simplicity.  Here may we worship recognizing in the simplicity of the Child the meaning of God’s redeeming love.  Here may we bring our joys and our sorrows; our joys will be hallowed, and our sorrows will be lightened.  Here may we receive strength for the days to come, light for the time that shall be. And the Light that shines from a humble manger is strong enough to reach to the end of our days.  Here, then, we come—the young, the old; the rich, the poor; the mighty, the servant—worshiping in the beauty of divine simplicity, marveling at its simple love.  – L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert