Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Knitting a Lesson




My mother taught me to knit when I was 5 years old.  At first I just moved the stitches from one needle to the other, the only 'growth' happening when my mother 'borrowed' my work for a time. I remember well how I enjoyed the hours I sat in my little chair 'knitting' and proudly showed my Dad what I could do when he came home from work. 

It has been a life long hobby for me. 

Last summer , I picked up some yarn in a specialty wool shop on a vacation day with girl friends. 
Because I was not willing  to hold the group up, I took only a few minutes to peruse this shop wishing I could stay for hours.   There was one yarn, however, that I simply could not pass by - a variegated yarn in my favourite colours,  a blend of wool and silk from Italy, hand painted in Chile - how special is that?
I grabbed a couple of skeins and quickly paid for them, thinking that would at least be enough for a scarf.  
But now, what pattern?  What width?  I soon realized I had only enough for a narrow scarf and I searched for a stitch pattern that would compliment  rather than compete with the variegated yarn.  

As I tried one pattern after another, after unraveling my work several times because it wasn't quite right, I finally settled on one that pleased me. As I worked my scarf, .my thoughts were inspired to recognize the many analogies my project pictured.

Let me share them with you.

1. I loved the yarn too much to 'pass it by'
Isn't that how God is pictured in scripture?   Each one of us is too special in His eyes to 'pass us by' and He picks us up where He finds us.

2. I willingly paid the price. The yarn I bought was a little on the pricey side but I happily paid the price - it was worth it!
Hasn't God also, because we were so special to Him, paid the highest price possible - the death of His Son? He declares that we too were worth it to Him ...

3. I needed a special stitch to suit the yarn.   Aren't each of us 'wonderfully knit together in our mother's womb' - each with our own DNA?

4. Finding a suitable  pattern - For each of us, God looks for the perfect 'pattern' - or life circumstances -  that will complement our talents, natural abilities, interests, circumstances, personality ... so that that when we are completed we will be satisfied and He will be pleased and glorified.

5. Errors and mistakes are so easily 'unraveled' ...  I am also a seamstress and when I make a mistake in my garment I have to be pretty creative to cover it up, but I always know where it is and I can point out where it is, even if no one else would notice it. When I am knitting, and I make a mistake I can unravel my work to below the mistake and pick up the stitches again and continue knitting - no one, not even I could ever point to where the mistake is - it is as if it never was.  That is how God forgives - it is as if it never was.

6. Stitch by stitch, row by row -- only the knitter knows what the end result will look like. Watching someone knit the question is invariably asked "what are you knitting?"    Do we not often wonder the same about God's plan for our life ? "What are you making, God? I don't see what I will be."

7. Often in a knitted garment the wrong side does not show the beauty of the design the knitter is creating.  It doesn't look pretty at all sometimes, especially if the design is worked with multiply yarns.   So often the 'wrong' side of our life- this earthly side - does not show the glory of what God worked in and through us until it is revealed in eternity.

8. To a knitter its all about the knitting  Someone so truly said..."My husband and kids think the purpose of knitting is the garment, but they don't know the purpose of knitting is the knitting."  I often think of God looking at us with a 'knitter's heart'.   Its all about what He wants to do for us, delighting in daily 'loading us with benefits', blessing us ... just enjoying being with us and in us... communing and fellowshipping with us.

9.  When I bought the yarn to make a scarf, it was summer !  Not the season I could wear a wool/silk scarf over a sweater, but I worked on it anyway so I would have it put away ready to wear when the winter came.  So often God also works in our lives 'out of season' and we think everything is going wrong.  On the contrary,  often it is God working into our life today what we will need tomorrow, preparing us to be ready for some purpose or task that He will ask us to do in the future.

10. I did not have enough yarn to make my scarf as long nor as wide as I would need the scarf to be to be able to wear it in any style of current fashion, so I needed to be creative.   I had a little yarn left and out of it I fashioned a cabbage rose that I fastened to a band wrapped around the two ends of the scarf and I found some complementary yarn to lengthen the scarf with a fringe.   Isn't God like that with us too?   He has to work with very limited resources, I don't have much in me that is 'enough' and so God gets creative -  He takes the 'little' I give Him to work with and He creatively makes it more beautiful than I could imagine possible !

God has worked so many ways into our daily lives by which we can 'see Him' if we are looking for Him.
 Is He not ever so worthy of our love and devotion?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lesson from the Oak Tree


Flanking our clubhouse entry sidewalk stand two oak trees. Oak trees have a unique characteristic that sets them apart from the other deciduous trees in our area.
In fall, we enjoy the changing colour of  leaves, but we know they will shortly turn brown and fall off.   All the trees follow that set pattern every year,  except the oak tree.  Their leaves turn a brilliant colour, then turn brown but the leaves do not fall off. They cling to the branches all through the long winter months inspite of storms and strong winds.
But then in spring a wonderful thing happens.  As the new leaves begin to push their way out in fresh growth responding to awakened life in the tree,  the old dead leaves are forced to give way to the new and one by one they fall off.

What a wonderful spiritual lesson for us to see and learn.
Believers, in scripture, are compared to a tree "planted by the rivers of water" - Jer. 17:8 - our leaves are not to be withered but they are to stay green even in times of drought.
But wait ...  most of us turn to the Lord at a time in our lives when we have come to the end of ourselves - when we are in trouble,  finally aware of our failings and sinfulness and our need of a Saviour.  We come already a 'tree' with brown, dead leaves.

We eagerly embrace the life giving promise of hope in 2Co_5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  Promised new life has sprung up with us and we look forward to walking in that life.

Then, oft to our disappointment, the 'old dead leaves' don't just fall off, but they cling to us , old habits, sinful thoughts and ways. Our actions and reactions don't always look any different, and others looking at us do not see the new life we know we have tasted of. The more we try to rid ourselves of the 'leaves' of our old life, the more they seem to cling to us.

So what do we need to do ?

What is the secret of the oak tree ?  Can it get rid of its old dead leaves?  No, they cling, they remain ..... until when ??    When the new growth pushes them off the branches !

Too often our focus is on overcoming our 'sinful habits'... we focus on the things we want to change in our character or life and though we struggle valiantly, nothing changes.

But if we, like the oak tree, focused on what we wish to be -  focus on the character traits we desire, the 'fruit' of the Spirit we wish to grow on our branches ....  then,  the old  just falls off because there is no longer any room for it.

The 'old' has to fall off, when we 'put on the new' .... as we are taught in Eph. 4:21-24
    
 ......This truth is in Jesus:  
 that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,   
and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, 
in true righteousness and holiness.
 thereby putting off , concerning your former conduct, 
the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. 



Friday, January 2, 2015

Wishing everyone of you, my dear readers,
 a very
BLESSED NEW YEAR!
We are starting a new year -- again!!  It seems we hardly have time to get comfortable with writing one year and the next is upon us.
New Year's resolutions are still being made but I have noticed that for most people they are not made with the same zealous intent to keep them.  Seems we have all been there and failed too many times.

Today, I came across some notes I made last summer that made me think about how important it is to know who we are.
We have all heard the phrase "Know Thyself".  It is an ancient Greek aphorism that is  inscribed in the court of the Temple of Apollo. So from ancient times we know there has been a recognition of the need and importance of knowing oneself.
How many religious thoughts or paths start or focus on self,  understanding the world from a self-perspective, finding the god within?   How many ad campaigns are successful because they convince us of some self-need?  How many self-help books feed that inner pride that we can do it ourselves, be self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-driven, self-aware. Do you know there are 113 English words prefixed by self ? see a list here.

Yet for all our self-focus, can we really ever know ourselves by looking within ourselves?
It is so easy to delude ourselves into seeing ourselves as we wish to be seen rather than as we are.  Scripture refers to what happens when a man looks at himself in a mirror.   "....for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was." (James 1:24)
Until we are willing to see ourselves through God's eyes, see ourselves as He declares we are,  we cannot truly 'know ourselves'. As Jeremiah astutely notes ...  "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9)

Even when we give mental ascent to the 'wicked' tendencies of our heart we are far quicker to see those tendencies in others than ourselves. And while we would not define self-awareness as wicked, does all sin not start with a 'self-focus' ?

I recognized an example of that in myself this summer when I made the notes I came across this morning.
I was following the US Open Tennis tournament where I knew most of the major players.  One afternoon I was in the kitchen multi-tasking - baking and watching a match where one of the players was Roanic -a fellow Canadian. The match was a tight one with winning points going back and forth. All three sets were won by tie-breakers.  While I was watching the match, I realized I was not enjoying the match as much as I had the others and emotionally wanted to turn it off.  I had enjoyed all the previous matches - but this one was different.
Why?

Reflecting on the question, I realized that there were two reasons.
One -  in all the other matches I was simply enjoying the games, noting the great shots and cheering for the best man to win. But in this match I had a 'personal' interest.  I wanted one man to win, not because he was playing better than his opponent but because of what his win meant to ME. I wanted a Canadian to win.
Two - Some of the other matches I had watched were taped and I knew the outcome of the game, so the stress level in watching the game was much relaxed.  The game with Roanic was live, the outcome to me was unknown and it was stressful to watch, especially because I knew who I wanted to win the match. I wanted to control the outcome and couldn't.

Isn't that how we walk through life ?   We are quite objective and reasonable in how we judge the things that we encounter UNTIL we have some personal issue or involvement or interest.
I'm not saying that is wrong -- I don't think it can be avoided.  But recognizing that that is what we do can help us to not fall into the traps a self-focus lays to ensnare us.

How often are our prayers formed/worded from our own perspective or desires?   Do we really want God to choose the best solution/answer or do we want Him to answer according to our own desire?  Do we already know how He should answer ? Do we want to be in control? Do we want the answer to fit in with our own desired end?

What does "Thy will be done" really mean?   Can we really bring a burden or a need or a worry or a request to God and with a calm heart say,"Thy will be done" ?"   Can we from our heart pray .. " I leave my request entirely in your hands knowing that my own intense desire in how I want my prayer to be answered is based on my limited vision and knowledge.  I thank you for understanding my human weakness and I willingly give you the right to overrule my own self-wisdom."

Can we 'watch' what God will do simply from a trust-perspective that He will of course do the best thing, the right thing?  Do we recognize that holding tight to our own self-focus interest in our requests may actually 'hinder' God's best for us and for others rather than make room for God's best?

It is not an easy thing to do, is it.... to lay down the way we KNOW a prayer answer should come, but we can grow more and more into that kind of trusting place where our prayers simply bring to God's throne the things that are on our heart.

As the world around us reflects less and less of God's wisdom, God's children have the opportunity to show a world of lost souls  that we have Someone we can trust... the Unchanging One who is all wise - our Eternal Father, who has only our good in mind even when at first it seems to be contrary to what we think is clearly best for us !

Would it make a difference in how 2015 ends if all God's children lifted their eyes off of 'self' and looked more and more  to Him in childlike trust - knowing that in everything we ask we can trust God to do what is best?  He is the God who hears and acts - always - in answer to every prayer.
One of my favourite shows of this season is It's a Wonderful Life.  Wouldn't it be fun if we could see a movie that would show the differences that would happen  in 2015 if more and more of God's people forgot about 'self-interest/focus and turned their hearts and eyes to a God-focus?



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Born to Die

We are in the most celebrated season of the year.
While I love Christmas,  the lights, the glitter, the celebration with family and friends, I know that for those 'on the outside' Christmas can be a time of acute loneliness and pain.
I think we often forget that Jesus Himself came to be on the 'outside' - He was born to suffer and die. As He lay in the cradle, the cross hovered nearby.

We too know that death is a given that we will all one day experience, but we are also called to a 'living' death.  We are called to crucify those things that are of self  so that we can shine forth the love and life of Christ that indwells us.

The devotional for today from a book gifted to me by a friend was very insightful and I share it with you here - food for thought and self examination.
It was written by Thomas Watson who lived from 1620-1686.

Love Crucified 
"I have been crucified with Christ , it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  Gal. 2:20 NKJV

He who loves God will have nothing to do with sin unless to give battle to it. Sin strikes not only at God's honor but also at His being.
Does he who loves his prince protect a traitor to the Crown?
Is he a friend to God who loves that which God hates?
The love of God and the love of sin cannot dwell together. A man cannot love health and lvoe poison, too. He who allows any secret sin in his heart is as far from loving God as heaven and earth are distant one from the other.

He who is a lover of God is dead to the world. He who is in love with God is not much in love with anything else. The love of God and ardent love of the world are inconsistent. Love  to God swallows up all other love. When a man's heart is raised above the world in the admiring and loving of God, how poor and slender are those things on earth below!

Will God ever bestow heaven upon them who so basely undervalue Him, preferring glittering dust before the glorious Deity? What is there in the earth that we should so set our hearts upon it?  The world has no real intrinsic worth; it is but paint and deception.

Thomas Watson (1620-1686)