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.