Tuesday, October 31, 2023

95 Reasons to be Thankful this Reformation Day

(Totally, Unconditionally, not Limited to 95, but Irresistible to try to Persevere... and as October, month of the Reformation, turns into November, month of Thanksgiving, it's a good place to start).

  2. I have a Bible in my home. You probably do, too.
  3. You know how to read it (universal literacy is prevalent in countries touched by the Reformation).
  4. You went to school, so you can understand it better (universal education, likewise).
  5. The Bible is available in every language spoken on Earth. Not so before the Reformation.
  6. Churches that preach from God's word are found all over the world.
  7. God blesses these churches and brings new believers to them.
  8. When believers read the Bible, that's enormously powerful. It changes lives.
  9. Humans constantly fail, but the word of the Lords stands forever.
  10. We must test human teachings against the Scriptures. So even when we sin, and our leaders sin, the standard doesn't change. It is there, like the North Star, pointing the way.
  11. Martin Luther took a courageous stand at the Diet of Worms in 1521, refusing to recant, because of this core principle. And to this day, he cannot be proven wrong from Scripture.
  13. None of the blessings we receive from God are from our own efforts.
  14. Most notably, our salvation is by grace alone.
  15. Not because of any work we have done, so we shouldn't brag about it.
  16. Many blessings we receive are from what is called "common grace" - available to all humans.
  17. God pours out His grace in a special way on His people, in ways that are often intangible but obviously God's work by those on the receiving end.
  18. God blesses our efforts as Christians to grow in understanding.
  19. God gives us courage to stand for the truths revealed in the Scriptures. 
  20. God gives us courage to stand against the culture, when necessary. He puts the right words in our mouths, as he did with Martin Luther so many years ago.
  21. God raises up leaders at the right time, and performs mighty works at the right time. His time, not ours.
  22. We don't have to understand God's grace. But we should acknowledge it.
  24. We are saved by faith alone, not works. Our faith doesn't come from ourselves; it is the gift of God.
  25. A gift! From God! 
  26. If that's not amazing enough, read the "Faith Chapter" (Hebrews 11). Let's take the heroes in groups so we don't go over 95:
  27. Abel, whose faithful sacrifice was approved of God, and who still speaks even in his death; Enoch, who was translated and never tasted death; Noah, who built the ark to save his household;
  28. Abraham, called to go to an unknown country; Isaac and Jacob, his promised heirs who were nomads all their lives; Sarah, who got over her laughing disbelief and conceived in her old age;
  29. Joseph, who trusted that one day his bones would be buried in the promised land; the parents of Moses, who hid him from the pogrom of that day until he became protected by a princess; Moses, who when he grew up, rejected the privileged position he held and identified with his people, and led them out of Egypt;
  30. the children of Israel who conquered Jericho under Joshua's leadership; Rahab the harlot, who believed;
  31. Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah;
  32. David, Samuel, the prophets;
  33. women who received their dead raised to life again; those tortured to death, hoping for the resurrection; 
  34. those who were mocked, scourged, bound and held in prison; 
  35. stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword; 
  36. wanderers in goatskins, destitute, living in caves and deserts...
  37. "of whom the world was not worthy." And that's it. Grace, and faith, which is a gift.
  39. Christ is our mediator; we can only approach God the Father through Jesus the Son.
  40. We don't have to worry about going through any human mediator. 
  41. Not the Pope (don't even try to say this is a good idea, it is laughable).
  42. Not Mary. She would be profoundly offended if she knew people were praying to her, and point them to Jesus.
  43. Not church hierarchy, whether bishops, pastors, elders or other; they, just as we, must approach the Father through the Son. If they are fulfilling their calling, they would all point to Christ.
  44. Not the saints, prophets, or apostles and martyrs. They would all point to Christ.
  45. Christ was born at a specific time in history, 
  46. lived a sinless life, 
  47. suffered an unjust death on our behalf, 
  48. descended into hell,
  49. rose victorious from the dead
  50. ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father --
  51. and He shall surely come again, in power and glory, to judge the living and the dead.
  53. Glory to God alone - J.S. Bach chose this as his signature line for a reason. This is where the Christian life begins. 
  54. What is the meaning of life, anyway? What is, (not) to coin a phrase, the chief end of man?
  55. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1, which you probably know if you've read this far).
  56. And that looks different with every Christian. But there are family resemblances.
  57. We meet once a week to praise God and rejoice in Him,
  58. We build friendships and structure our home and work lives around those priorities.
  59. When this world, with devils filled, threatens to undo us, we will not fear --
  60. Not to fear is a choice of the will, and it's necessary to remind ourselves of this, because the world is indeed filled with devils.
  61. But we do not tremble for the prince of darkness, because his doom is sure.
  62. We have the Spirit of God, and the gifts that come from Him.
  63. If God is for us, who can be against us?
  65. Giving thanks: here are some more things, stemming from the Reformation, that we should consider:
  66. Countries touched by the Reformation have been blessed by their embrace of the freeing truths Luther first articulated.
  67. The printing press was invented at just the right time to give access to the Bible and educational materials to ordinary people. That led to...
  68. Upward mobility: Martin Luther lived in a feudal world, where only the hereditary rich had power. But if common people could learn to read they could improve their lot, and learn new trades... 
  69. And they did, in large numbers. Printing presses made Bibles affordable and a rising middle class had time to evaluate things that needed to change.
  70. The rise of the middle class led to much-needed reforms in government.
  71. Every European country had to come to grips with the reality that Protestants existed and demanded reform.
  72. And if the government was not responsive to the requests for reform, a whole New World was waiting for settlement.
  73. Protestants wanted more freedom and, 3 or 4 some generations after Luther, migrated to  America in astonishing numbers.
  74. In the Old and New Worlds, representative government became the norm, gradually of course, and with many setbacks. 
  75. 500 years after Luther's 95 Theses, it is almost unthinkable for a modern country not to have checks and balances on its head of state.
  76. Universities were established in America at first with the primary purpose of training preachers. 
  77. Medical doctors also.
  78. And lawyers. 
  79. Some polymaths loved learning so much that they got degrees in multiple professions, for the sheer joy of it, and to serve God better. I'm rather fond of some of the clergymen-physicians of New England.
  80. Slavery still existed as it always has, but increasingly frowned upon by Christians, and with less institutional support. Abolition of the slave trade in England was a long and frustrating process. It would take a terrible war and untold bloodshed to stop slavery in America.
  81. Women more frequently learned to read and were granted agency in ways that had been inconceivable under feudalism.
  82. Women were more likely to be provided for in their husbands' wills, for example. 
  83. 500 years after Luther, it is almost inconceivable for a modern state that has been impacted by the Reformation, not to have universal literacy...
  84. universal suffrage...
  85. accountability requirements for government leaders...
  86. a free press that is allowed and expected to expose corruption...
  87. a police force that is bound to serve and protect the public good...
  88. judges and legislators that are held to a constitutional standard...
  89. a standard of fairness in the treatment of the poor, elderly, and disabled...
  90. toleration for religious minorities...
  91. laws against oppression of ethnic minorities.
  92. But civilizations wax and wane, and it is easy to be discouraged about the negative trends that we see today, as God is mocked in American civil life and Christians are as well.
  93. No civilization is eternal, except for the City of God...
  94. But it is the City of God that is our hope and our eternal citizenship.
  95. May we all keep the vision of that bright city firmly in our minds as we tread the pilgrim highway.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Abner's Mill - a Quilt finish.

This is my take on Rhododendron Trail, the Bonnie K. Hunter mystery quilt event from 2021. You can get the pattern here. Obviously, I went rogue with the color scheme. It was an homage to a spring walk along a trail with brilliant yellows, pinks and aqua ribbons of sky. But it was autumn, my father was in failing health, and I felt the cultural upheaval and the oppression of the COVID lockdowns and groupthink very keenly. I was physically ill looking at such cheerful colors. So I played with opposites.

Brown instead of pink. Tan instead of cranberry. Gray instead of yellow. And "Blue is the new neutral." Medium to dark blue. I played with these colors for the first clue or two.
Steve liked my color scheme. "Masculine colors," some of them from old shirts. I wasn't convinced at first, but I wanted to piece a quilt and bright colors were just unappealing to me. I went with it and moved forward on the mystery quilt, but slowly. 

Through the fog of all the confusion and anxiety of early 2022, I pieced, in fits and starts, until I had quite a bit of the clues done, and I couldn't justify not keeping at it. As my father's health worsened to a crisis, it sometimes felt like the one thing I could do.

The blocks started adding up.
I didn't stick with somber blue, there were some brighter blues mixed in. But it's still a sober, somber quilt.
The main block, when revealed, reminded me of a millwheel, not a cheerful path strewn with flowers.
The old wooden mill turns, with creaking that could be ominous, and the little sawtooth accent blocks reminded me of the paddles, that shed water as the wheel turns. There are many metaphors to be found in this quilt. The wheel of time, the whirligig of time, water moving over the millwheel. I wasn't looking for the metaphors, they are just there. I decided to call it "Abner's Mill" in homage to Abner Landon, an ancestor who was a millwright in Connecticut and Upper Canada, whose sons were millwrights and moved into the Ohio territory in the early days, when people needed to clear the land before it could be farmed and if you had the skills to build a mill, you wouldn't starve.

And the only fabric I bought outright for the project was the constant fabric, which had to be pieced oh-so-carefully in very narrow strips between the blocks. Instead of that cheerful aqua, I looked for a deep forest green... and found it within seconds of walking into the quilt shop. It's that "Grunge" fabric in the colorway "holly." It was like a shaft of sunlight illuminated it and a bright soprano voice was hitting a high A.

A lot of slow, painstaking piecing getting those pencil-width sashings and tiny cornerstones in.
I had to use the seam ripper on the final flying geese borders a few times.
But the quilt cooperated and it lays flat. For the first time ever, I took it out to be quilted by a longarmer.
Just for Fun Quilts did a fantastic job. Kind of an antique gold thread with a bit of shimmer and a leafy, scroll-y allover pattern.

And that's Abner's Mill. I gave it to Steve for his birthday last year and it's been on our bed ever since.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Randomday, with an actual blog post

 How's this for a Randomday? I'm actually blogging, and that's random.

I have a new profile picture. This is even recent! I made Lake Life Henley by Megan Williams, back in 2020. The lovely green yarn is by Cedar Hill Farms. Both pattern and yarn are sweet. I won the pattern during one of the Down Syndrome sock challenges on Ravelry, before Ravelry went woke and shadowbanned all the conservatives.

Pictures are the thing that keeps me from blogging. Adding pictures to the blog requires me to think in computer, which I don't do so well. So I put off blogging, which is a shame, since I can write without anxiety and I need the outlet.

Every few months I have a struggle session with my iCloud where it refuses to back up my phone because there's no room on the cloud, so I download a bunch of photos from the cloud to my hard drive and then lose track of them and redownload, or end up forgetting to move them to the current year working file. Or I copy them to Steve's family picture file, and then forget which I've copied so I'm afraid to delete them without comparing both folders. Or I have a panic attack because I thought I downloaded them but they're in a zip file and I can't get them out. Steve is very patient talking me out of corners but I do forget and it seems like a lot of busy-work just to make sure pictures aren't lost in the void. So I'm not even going to worry about crunching down photos to a smaller size because no one ever yells at me from Google blogger that I still need to be doing that. Maybe if they do, I will try to remember how to do that. But for now, I'm in this weird kind of world, closer to 60 than 50, where all the stuff I used to know how to do on computers is no longer relevant, and people are supposed to do everything with a smart phone, and everything is streaming and archives are nonexistent. Why should I trust a Cloud, anyway... and let's not even start on AI. I'm still upset about the loss of the Great Library of Alexandria.

I have two granddaughters now, and that is amazing.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Barbie meets her maker

For Quarta's 21st birthday, we had our nails done, dressed in pink and went to see the Barbie movie. I had avoided listening to reviews beforehand; I was not particularly looking forward to it because despite avoiding reviews, I could pick up on the buzz that was pegging this as a radical feminist manifesto ("poisoning the well" would not be an exaggeration). But I was pleasantly surprised. And yet, conflicted. Which is perhaps what director Greta Gerwig intended. I respect her previous work enough to give her the benefit of the doubt... and she has brought forth something I wouldn't have thought possible: a Barbie comedy... with depth.

I didn't play with Barbies growing up. I read Nancy Drew instead. I don't consider myself a feminist and never have; if pressed, I'd say I'm a Christian Classical Humanist. I was mildly surprised to see Barbie brought forward as an icon of feminism at all; that is a very 21st century rewrite of a 20th century marketing strategy that seemed designed more to promote materialism and capitalism aimed at children (must buy all the accessories!!) Also, Barbie was always shallow to me, and self-absorbed in a way that I disliked more as I grew older; she was the stereotypical "cheerleader type" who was the arch-enemy of us smart/awkward girls. Maybe Mattel made Doctor Barbie and Politician Barbie, but I certainly don't remember them featuring prominently, or at all, in the Saturday morning ads. Or maybe, my mother was skeptical about the advisability of Barbie as a role model for me until I was old enough that, when I finally did buy one, I developed a slight aversion to Barbie all on my own. Because I had my loyalties, and they were to Nancy Drew. So, I was going into this prepared to be a bit cynical... and Barbie surprised me by being a bit cynical back, but with a core of human-like compassion that elevates the story above fluff. 

Toy Story taught us that a movie about a child's playthings could have great emotional depth and be appropriate for all ages. I thought at first this was a pink-flavored riff on Toy Story. But there, the toys unquestionably serve their kids and rigorously obey the rules of their world when kids are present, only taking on a life of their own when no humans are around. Here, Barbie herself, played to blonde perfection by Margot Robbie, begins a human-like quest for self-actualization when she wakes up one morning with flat feet and thoughts of death. 

Stereotypical Barbie, after this sudden awareness of her mortality, seeks help from Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), an outcast who resembles what happened to my sisters' Barbie when they tried to turn her into Ken. She is told she needs to leave Barbie Land and go to the real world to find her girl, because she is being affected by her girl's thoughts. So Barbie sets off using all the pink modes of transport available to her... and her counterpart Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, stows away until it's too late to leave him behind. When they reach the real world, Barbie goes into Nancy Drew mode to find out what has caused the sudden self-awareness. It's a quest for the meaning of her life, and ultimately strikes the viewer as religious in nature.

Barbie infiltrates Mattel headquarters, which is in this setting run by an all-male board designed to produce a sense of vast unfairness in the audience and seems a bit of a cheap shot... until you realize that Mattel authorized this movie and will profit from it handsomely. She finally finds her girl (not quite the first one she thought it was), who is also dealing with thoughts of death, but who has some wise advice to give about Barbie's fears: "That's life. It's all change." To which Barbie responds, "That's terrifying."  

While fleeing from Will Ferrell and numerous dark-suited executives who are threatened by her intrusion into the "real" world, Barbie meets her creator, Ruth, played sweetly by Rhea Perlman. Her quest to the "real" world awakes in her a need to become real herself and find meaning by transforming from a perfect doll to a flawed real woman. At this point I realized this was a story more like Pinocchio, or the Velveteen Rabbit.

Meanwhile, Ken is discovering that men in the real world have more agency than the Kens in Barbie Land, where Ken is basically an accessory to Barbie and his only job description is "beach." So, he sets out back to Barbie Land to introduce the concept of patriarchy to the other Kens. When this news reaches Barbie, she enlists the help of the America Ferrera's character and her daughter. They have a little hesitancy about leaving everything to go to Barbie Land, but they decide that Dad will be fine without them for a bit, as he is practicing Spanish on Duolingo.

The battle of the sexes back in Barbie Land is a little over-the-top... but then, this is a comic movie about a doll developing self-awareness so... I took it as comedy. You might cry at parts though.

Barbie is appropriate for older children, but not really for the 8-10 and under set. It has a great deal of irony that will just be confusing to young children and adults who don't fully process irony. And because it posits a "Barbie Land" where women rule and men are just ornamental beach bums, you shouldn't inflict it on men or boys unless they come willingly. (I mean, give Ben Shapiro a break, of course he's going to trash the movie if he was forced to watch it. I would have done the same if I had been forced to watch Rambo.) Others have criticized the symbolism of little girls smashing their baby dolls in the first scene as being a metaphor for abortion, but I wonder if they've ever actually seen little girls play with dolls, because that part seemed humorous to me. Oh yes, and Doctor Barbie was a ringer. Again, I'd caution against ignoring the PG-13 rating.

My mother would have disliked the fact that the movie portrayed most of the men as buffoons, like too many cartoons and sitcoms of the 20th century. And my harshest criticism would be that Ryan Gosling's Ken was not given the same opportunity for character development. Maybe, there should be a sequel giving Ken that opportunity. I think it would be great if Mel Gibson directed it.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Finished top: Rainbow String Star


Hey, here's a radical idea... an actual quilt featured in my blog, which is mainly about quilting and knitting! 

Based on "Santa Fe String Star" from Bonnie Hunter's book "String Fling" (2012). Bonnie's designs have been a huge part of my quilting life since about 2010, and I've made her mystery quilts almost every year and had a grand time doing them. For this one I was playing with my strings in color families, so I took it in a different direction. I made the center star a color progression, and I used leftover diamonds to piece 8 mini stars to set around the center star. Bonnie's design has a double border of flying geese, but I used applique to attach the mini stars. That was a slow process and it sat for a long time between stitching sessions, but it's finished now. Except for the quilting, sigh. I'm thinking of trying to achieve a "pebble" circular pattern for the background gray. 

Many of the strings were from my MIL's scrap collection, and she loves bright colors. I seem to have even more than when I started though. That is the way of scraps!

Friday, June 30, 2023

Things I picked up from my father - Part II

(Last blog entry, more than six months ago. Let's see if I can do a little better.)

I was recounting shaping influences of my Dad, and how reflecting on his life makes me realize some of the intangible things I've always known were true, but not why. I'd left off a few years after this photo was taken, around Christmas 1967, at my grandparents' home in Princeton, IN. My oh-so-young parents with me, and that's my dad's sister Carol and her husband. Aunt Carol died, too suddenly, in December 2021, a few months before Dad's last illness started.

My first memories were of the Allenside UPC, the congregation that was my father's first pastorate. We lived in the manse, I learned to ride a two-wheel bike in the church parking lot, and I would visit Daddy in his office sometimes. Mrs. Hawley, her hands purple with ditto machine ink from printing the bulletins, would show me in, and Dad would give me a handful of cinnamon red-hots and let me draw a picture with his colored pencils, which he would then attach to his filing cabinet with a magnet.

Among many other tasks, my parents took charge of the youth group. And you had to have summer projects for the young people... this was in 1971, when they went on a work camp trip down to New Mexico. My brother and I went along, but I'm hazy on the details. This may have been the trip when we were each sick with different things, pinkeye and an ear infection, but we swapped midway through. I do remember the "big kids" and their projects - a paper drive, a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis, and witnessing youth group in the basement of Allenside, with pillow fights (Mom wouldn't let me participate) and the game where you have to blow a ping-pong ball across the goal line.

When she wasn't helping lead the youth group, Mom spent a lot of time stripping the varnish off of old oak furniture that had been stored in her grandparents' barn, rubbing it with linseed oil and restoring it to beauty and utility. She proofread, typed and retyped my dad's thesis. She took us to doctor's appointments and the special evaluations my brother needed, and made sure I knew about stranger danger and how to walk the two blocks to Rimer school safely. She was active in the women's Bible study, and both my parents took the training and were leaders for Evangelism Explosion, which sparked a mini-revival within the church. Dad was active in shaping the church session and participated in Presbytery and Synod while he prepared to return to the Netherlands to defend his thesis and receive his doctorate.

But unbeknownst to me, storm clouds were brewing. The mainline UPC church was liberalizing, and ordination of women elders was the issue they used to force Dad out. He became one of the founding fathers of Ascension Presbytery in the PCA. You can read the big picture version on the Aquila Report Founding of PCA Ascension Presbytery , written by my dad's good friend Dick Knodel. I was seven, and the months from March-July of 1975 (and for a bit after too) are a series of flashbulb memories with mostly a blur in between:

FLASH * Daddy is preaching his resignation sermon, wearing his black robe, I'm watching from the church balcony and seeing him cry for the first time in my life. There's a crowd of people all around * FLASH * Miss Hall, Miss Barrow, the Bruders, the Oldakers, the Peppers, the Calers and a bunch of other people are seeing us off at Akron-Canton Airport. I'm excited, it's the first time I remember being in an airplane and I have my own flight bag and I get a whole month off of 2nd grade while we are in Holland. *
FLASH * Arrival in Holland, picked up at the airport by the Van Vlimmerens, our home for the month is a 2nd floor apartment in Dordrecht and my room has a wardrobe... does it lead to Narnia? But it's locked. * FLASH * Organ recital at the Grote Kerk. There are people buried under those carved stones on the floor! * FLASH * Rainy days, visit to the toy store to buy Lego sets to keep Andy and me occupied while Dad studies. Mine is a windmill. * 

FLASH * April 11. A large lecture hall and everyone is talking in Dutch. Daddy is now a Doctor. He wears a formal suit with tails on the coat. The Princess Beatrix passes by on her own business accompanied by a small crowd, remarks on the cuteness of my brother, doesn't notice me. But her coat is in Daddy's dressing room and I get to see it. It's plain white wool, not purple velvet like I was expecting. * FLASH * Markets, De Efteling, rijsttafel, Madurodam, Kinderdijk, Rijksmuseum, Dutch cheese, flowers... * 

FLASH * Back in the US, Faith PCA is begun and meets at Erwine Middle School. We sing "Faith of our Fathers" in the gymnasium. * FLASH * I have no memories of how or when we moved, but we are living at 4105 State Rd. I have my own room. It is smaller than the one in the manse, but I get to choose the paint color. I choose orange. * FLASH * The church has a property. It is a former golf course clubhouse. The men from the church do a lot of work to make it usable as a church. * 

FLASH * I am in 3rd grade at Turkeyfoot Elementary, and I have no friends. * FLASH * The house is small but there is a lot of land with many apple trees, a grape arbor, cherry trees, berry bushes, and woods in the back with blackberries and blueberries. I learn to climb the maple tree in the backyard. * FLASH * 4th grade. Mrs. Lucia. Mrs. Fink who teaches music. Bus 19. I start reading Nancy Drew. * FLASH * My baby sister is born. I get to share a room with her. Two years later another sister is born, and I get to move upstairs to the attic guest room. Except when there are guests, when I sleep in the basement rumpus room. Dad builds a really cool treehouse in one of the apple trees. * 

In the 5 years between 1975 and 1980 we lived in 3 different houses and I attended 5 different schools. I'm pretty sure we were below the poverty line for that first year, but I never felt it and Dad never looked back. They were hard years, but the thing that made the difference for me was church family. I'm sorry for people who don't have an extended church family. Mr. Pepper taught Dad the finer points of gardening and Mr. Beckley was his fishing buddy and brought bags of day-old bread and government surplus cheese on occasion. There are so many others who were our social safety net, and I think of them even today in the same way as family members... just "church family" as Dad would call them. But a big part of it was that they were incredibly grateful and loyal to my father. He had, in a sense, led them out of Egypt. 

He never did get the seminary or college professor post he had prepped for, but he had a very busy life and played an active role in the PCA in those first years. He served on multiple committees and always attended General Assembly, forging new friendships each year and returning to us with a few of the new jokes he collected. Sometimes we went along and set our trailer up in a nearby campground so we could experience the host city of General Assembly before heading to New Mexico for the rest of vacation. I remember doing this at Covenant College, Calvin College, and in Baton Rouge, Saint Louis, and somewhere in Wisconsin, when we bought an enormous wheel of cheese and ate it for the rest of vacation. He mentored several young men who are pastors today. He served as a fraternal delegate to the OPC on a few occasions, and served on the "Joining and Receiving" committee when there was an attempt to complete a merger of the two denominations. We had many missionaries and guest speakers come through for special conferences and speaking events, and we put them up in our home. He was intellectually honest, fair to everyone and never spiteful to those he disagreed with.  As a teacher, I tried to emulate that and still keep reminding myself that there are no stupid questions and everyone is a beginner at first. Some of us have to begin multiple times.

Eventually his extensive correspondence will be donated to the PCA Historical Center in Missouri. Many of his sermons are available now on Sermon Audio for everyone.