Tutorial: Meal Planning

We are starting off with the tutorial first today, friends! This is one that my dear friend, Heidi Goehmann, wrote about meal planning. More than a tutorial, it’s a few tips geared to help with the process. Without further ado, here’s Heidi:
Creating a meal for my family makes me simultaneously joyful and full of dread.
It’s a spiritual practice, feeding people.

Jesus fed the five thousand. He ate with his people before his arrest. He broke bread and
revealed himself to his followers on the road to Emmaus. Long before that, the Angel of the Lord sat underneath oak trees and ate with Abraham – curds, milk, and cake. This story is my favorite eating story in the Bible. It reminds me that we eat for a reason. We eat to build intimacy, to share time together, to be nourished by both food and conversation, each a gift from our dear Father.
Read Genesis 18. What details do you notice? What prevailing attitude is present for each
individual in this account? What is the place of food in the story?

How different is Abraham and Sarah’s life from mine?

At first glance, yes, very different. I don’t live in tents unless I make a conscious decision to camp for fun. But my husband occasional comes home and says, “Quick! Knead it! Make cakes!” for a colleague, neighbor, or friend. I generally run down to Hy-Vee, our grocery store, for a box mix, but have been known to craft a scone or a Star Wars waffle for my children and their friends. I’m unashamed to say that I have also laughed at God, complained about being worn out and old, and denying anything of the kind all at once. Yes, we are different, but not so different.

 

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When you set out to meal plan you jump on the internet and quickly become overwhelmed.

There are print off menus, binders involved, and tabs for months and days. Even when we feel like, “All right. This is the system. This is going to work for me. All systems a go!” We quickly figure out that one child won’t eat a particular ingredient, this other ingredient costs too much money, your nearest Aldi is two hours away (heavy sigh), and meal prep day just got scheduled over with a music concert and small group Bible study.

I feel a little like the writer of Ecclesiastes with meal planning, “I have tried it all…There is nothing new under the sun…meaningless, meaningless…” I have tried meal planning for an entire month and laying my year out ahead of time. I thought with this method I’d be done and after one year my life would be neatly organized and dinnertime would be bliss. That didn’t work for me. I am more spontaneous than I thought, grocery ads are slightly less predictable than I thought, and I didn’t gain zeal, I lost it. I have tried cheap plans, healthy plans, Whole30 plans, day-of- the-week plans and nothing quite stuck.
So I offer you here only a few tips for what I know does work for me in getting to a good place, being less frustrated with meal planning, and more joyful about our slim but very clear abundance. You will take some and leave some. You will add your own. These things may look different next year, next month, or next week for any of us. Just like the rest of life, we all have our own systems, and enjoying the toil demands a little bit of creativity.

Heidi’s 15 tips for meal planning with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength:

Tip 1 – I reward myself every week that I go grocery shopping.

This may be a refillable soft drink to enjoy as we walk around the store. It may be that ice cream that’s on sale. It may be meeting my husband for thirty kid free minutes for a half off local brew from the bar in our grocery store. Whatever it is, I have a clear reward in my head. It’s a mental motivator to stay the task each week and write the menu, make a plan, and carry it out.

Tip 2 – I meal plan on Wednesday’s because our grocery store ad comes out that day. I meal plan around what is on sale and anything else I buy is generic ingredients. Our store brand is called, “That’s smart!” and I’m grateful that when I pick it off the shelf it affirms my thrifty ways.

Sometimes I seem a little hardcore when child one wants enchiladas, but enchilada sauce is not on sale, but I can usually skirt around what people are requesting with something close from the ad.

Tip 3 – Because the ad comes out on Wednesday, I shop on Thursdays when they have all the deals still in the store. I despise raincheck and not being able to get what’s on my list. There is no way I want to have to run back to the store to have to get something, so there’s more motivation for me to just get ‘er done.

Tip 4 – I let kids (and my husband) shout out requests for certain foods within the half hour time period I am meal planning. After that, your request is saved for another week. I love you and want to feed you what you love. Mama also ain’t got time to dilly dally while you think.

Tip 5 – I only meal plan dinners, usually six a week with one floating “make something work” night for flexibility.

Tip 6 – We make one to two soups a week to stretch the budget and always serve it with one side like crackers, a slice of pie, carrots and dip, etc. Sarah asked me what I do when it’s hot, spoken like a true Texan, and I told her…eat soup. We have air-conditioning. 😉

Tip 7 – I buy three items for breakfast each week whether bacon, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, etc. and we stretch that out for the week.

Tip 8 – I plan two meats for lunches either from the deli, a slab of ham or chicken breast to cut up, summer sausage, etc. Our kids mostly eat bento box lunches, which is a fancy way of saying I cut up whatever we have in small chunks and fill little compartments with them. It’s easier to mask “we’re almost out of food” with small compartments of cut up goodies, than it is with sandwiches.

Tip 9 – I am an evil person and no one gets a drink in their lunches. Then, when I make them powdered gatorade in a water bottle once a week, they think I am a rockstar.

Tip 10 – I have strict price points for different items we buy. Yours will be different, but once you figure out your price point, it’s easier to stay in budget. For instance, I don’t buy deli meat that is more than $5.99 a pound or cuts of beef, chicken, or pork that is more than $1.99 a pound. This means only produce in season, including grapes, which makes me sad, but my bank account happy.

Tip 11 – I have found that to stay in the budget at our house we have to choose between carbs and produce. It is very hard for me to stay in budget with both. We might get a box of crackers, or tortilla chips each week, but if I want to buy romaine, apples, broccoli, avocado and all the good stuff, most of the packaged stuff has to go. This makes bread and crackers just as special as cookies and cake. Our kids all got a loaf of bread in their stockings at Christmas and thought it was the best gift ever.

Tip 12 – It helps to even vaguely figure out what you are going to always buy each week, such as a gallon of milk, two blocks of cheese, a head of lettuce, two bunches of bananas, etc. This just makes the mental work lighter. Keep this list on your phone where it never goes away and just add to it.

Tip 13 – I admit, I do have a binder that has our favorite family recipes in it, but only what we have made 10+ times. It’s saying something if a recipe makes it into the binder. I look at this when I can not think of what should be on the menu to save my life. Then I jump onto my Pinterest board to try one new thing most weeks to stave off cooking boredom. Cooking is a creative endeavor for me and I found that having something new to look forward to trying on a regular basis is a big piece of finding some joy in the dailyness of it.

Tip 14 – We grill something from meat and veggies to pizza once or twice a week, mostly
because that means my husband cooks and I do not. It works for us and makes for a happier marriage. Your breed of sharing the household duties and cooking may look different, but I think it helps to find a balance in most chores.

Tip 15 – I have a pretty menu chalkboard that I spent actual money on because it makes the whole task feel more beautiful.

Last, when I get overwhelmed by the constant-ness of feeding my tiny army. I remind myself of these three ingredients:
Curds
Milk
Cake
I have them permanently written on the grocery list section of my menu chalkboard. These ingredients aren’t to buy, but to hold in my soul. They remind me that I am making something more than a meal for my family. In this weekly, never-ending toil of meal planning, shopping, prepping, sauteing, baking, and serving, I am serving up something more – laughter, conversation, a time to discern, a time to grow, a time to ask questions, a time to just be together, and to welcome the Savior to our table underneath the oaks of our family tree.

That is something I don’t mind planning for.

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Closely Knit

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One of the passages that comes to mind when I think of knitting is from Psalm 139. “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Translations vary in how that is expressed, ranging from knit or weave to carried or covered to even protected. But the idea of knitting also conveys the primary idea, which is that we were all created in the wombs of our mothers.

In that trail of thought: Happy (Belated) Mother’s Day! To adoptive and biological mothers, practical and spiritual mothers, and women through whom God’s care and love flows to those around them: Happy Mother’s Day!

Let’s dig in to Psalm 139:13-16.

Verse 13 speaks of the intimate manner in which God makes us: “For you formed my inward parts and you knitted me together in my mother’s womb”. When a person is knitting something, they put it together stitch by stitch. Knitting has so much variability, all of which contributes to the finished product. Needle size, yarn tension, and number of strands all can result in variants in the item. Each part is made carefully and follows a specific pattern, with each piece unique in its creation.

The care and intentionality in God’s creation of us far exceeds this, as verse 14 points out. Phrasing like “fearfully and wonderfully made” lead us to consider the intricacies and mysteries of the creation of life. Our scientific learning in the latter part of history still has not revealed all there is to know about life, and in some ways has created more questions than it has answered. For all our learning and discovery, we have but a drop to the ocean of God’s wisdom and knowledge.

And verse 15 give an example of the depth of God’s knowledge. Even when a baby is developing within the protective womb of his or her mother, God can see each milestone, each part developing, each cell as it reproduces. Further, verse 16 expands God’s in-depth knowledge of us from cellular-specific to the entirety of our lives. We are truly known by the One who made not only us, but the stars and planets, the hidden creatures living at the depths of the ocean, the mighty and powerful beasts as well as the too-small-for-our-eyes creatures whose existence was hidden to us until recently.

Let’s explore now, a step further into the idea of God’s hand in our creation: that of His hand in our re-creation.

We know from Psalm 51:5 that we were conceived and born in sin. From the earliest moment of our existence, we were both known by God and steeped in sin. It has been a constant from the beginning.

Read John 3:1-8. When we are born anew in the waters of Baptism, God is equally involved as He was at our first creation. His Word spoke to our hearts, dead in sin. His Spirit made us alive again through that same Word and the water. His Son’s blood covers us and cleanses us.

For another facet of the beautiful truth of God’s grace poured out in Baptism, turn or click over to Titus 3:4-7. Paul writes in this letter of Baptism being a “washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit”. As we live in this new life, the grace of God flows in and through our lives, abundantly spilling out to touch those around us.

Here is the tutorial from Elisabeth. She’s a great knitter, and I’m excited to share her lovely tutorial with you! And please go check out her Etsy shop, The Caffeinated Sheep.

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Woven, Knitted, Stitched Together

Needlework has been making a comeback in popularity in recent years. Knitters, crocheters, and even some weavers and embroiderers are adding their skills to the collective creative effort to make more.

img_0149Taking yarn or thread, though, and using it to either craft something or to embellish something already made is an art that’s been around for several millennia. Many who practice these crafts find it relaxing and therapeutic.

For those of us who have worked with yarn to make something, whether it’s a crocheted blanket, a knitted scarf, or a woven cloth, we know that there is a beginning and an end. Having that definite starting and finishing point helps us to define the item we’re using. For example, knowing that I’ll knit 30 stitches across and 30 rows down tells me that I’m roughly making a square (though with my uneven stitches, it might not turn out an exact square–remember: I’m a dabbler in much but a master of none!). If, however, I go past those 30 rows and keep knitting until the yarn is used up, I might find myself with a scarf. The parameters help to define the use of what I’m making. Taking this a step further, the sort of yarn or thread and the way it is used can further affect the purpose of the item being made. A tight weave on a bag serves a different purpose than a lacy crochet pattern.

We, too, as God’s workmanship, serve different purposes and use our creativity in different ways. Today, we’re going to look at how that all relates — our mindset regarding our creativity and even our lives, the using of that gift as part of our Christian vocation, and the ways that we are made up as individuals and as a community of believers.

Like a Weaver’s Shuttle

In a couple of places, people are recorded in Scripture as comparing their lives to a weaver’s work, the threads intertwining closely and creating a specified item. Both of the mentions we’ll be looking at today are by men who believe their lives are nearing an end, and who are feeling oppressed by their health and circumstances. Their response to those circumstances, though, are vastly different.

The two we’ll look at are Job (in Job 7) and Hezekiah (in Isaiah 38). Remember that at this point, Job has lost his house and children, and even his health. His friends have come to commiserate with him, but their “help” is lackluster. Job believes that his death is imminent. Hezekiah, similarly, has fallen ill, and God Himself sends a message telling Hezekiah to prepare, for he will not recover from his illness.

Look especially to Job 7:6. He says plainly that his days “come to their end without hope”. He sees no good in his situation. And haven’t we all been there, for at least a moment in time, during our lives? The gravity of our situation presses down and even knowing that there is hope for our lives in eternity, the here-and-now of our suffering is too heavy, too burdensome, for us to lift our eyes to God under our own strength.

This is the place, though, that hope comes even when we can’t find it. Whether in the fiftieth time of reading the same verse and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to fresh truth; whether in the spoken words of our pastor or a close friend or sometimes even a stranger; whether in a way that you can’t imagine or anticipate…God’s hope finds us. We’ll get more into it in a bit, but this is part of the importance of community; we aren’t designed to endure alone, to exist apart from others. Job’s journey stretches on, but we later see that hope finds him, when we read Job 19:25-27.

Is this even the same man? The same one who said that his days are flying faster than a weaver’s shuttle and ending without hope?

Have you ever watched a weaver’s shuttle? If you have a chance, do an internet search for a weaver’s shuttle video. It’s amazing how quickly it flies through the weft threads, adding warp to the fabric, string by string. It seems a slow process, but when you watch that shuttle fly, and think of our days passing with similar swiftness . . . it’s not difficult to see how Job says what he does.

Once the fabric has been completed, the extra strings are cut from the loom and bound off. This is what Hezekiah is imagining when he says in Isaiah 38:12, “Like a weaver, I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom.”

Once that piece has been cut loose, there’s no re-tying. The cut fibers can’t be re-fused or mended. And still, Hezekiah seems to have a slightly different mind-set from that of Job. Similarly facing death, Hezekiah’s grief turn his face to the wall (Isaiah 38:2) and he prays.

It’s worth pointing out that Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 38:3 isn’t a “I’ve lived a good life; You should spare me” sort of prayer. This is Hezekiah pointing to the fruit of a faith that God gave him. He is humble as he does this, and God hears him. Isaiah 38:6 shows us that Israel is in the midst of conflict with a foreign army, and God heals Hezekiah, giving him additional years to continue living out his vocation as King, leading the people in faithfulness.

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graphic made at https://www.canva.com/

A fun tidbit: did you know that finger-weaving is a thing? I’d never heard of it until a friend started doing it a few years ago…she makes beautiful things with this time-honored technique. Search for a video demonstrating the craft of finger-weaving, or for some beautiful examples of what can be made, check out Keena’s Etsy shop!

Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at being knit together as individuals and as the Body of Christ! And I’ll also have a great tutorial for you from the talented Elisabeth, a skilled knitter!

Tutorial: The Craft of Hymnwriting

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author Lisa Clark

Hello again, lovely readers! Let me introduce to you Lisa Clark. She’s an author of YA fiction (check out her books here!) and a writer of hymns, as well! Please check out her blog, Why of a Writer, too. And here’s her tutorial on the Craft of Hymnwriting.

 

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First of all, I’d like to thank Sarah for inviting me to visit with all of you on her blog. Also, what a great idea! A series looking at craft is a great reminder that our Creator has crafted us and that He has given us creativity to create for His glory. In fact, two of my favorite words when talking about hymn writing are “craft” and “wordsmith.” I think it helps me picture the care and time it takes to create a hymn text, just as it takes care and time to make any number of tangible creations.

 

So, let’s get to it, shall we? As with any of the posts in this series, you may not always feel particularly gifted or interested in a particular craft. But if you enjoy poetry, writing, music, or a combination of those three, you might find that you enjoy writing hymn texts. And if not, we’ll all learn and grow as we appreciate the gifts everyone has as brothers and sisters in Christ. (Hint: Read this through once before getting started. It’ll take less than fifteen minutes, and you’ll be better prepared when it’s time to dig in.)

I’ll start with one caveat: not all hymn writers write this way. If fact, I don’t always write this way. But I’m going to walk you through one of my most tried-and-true methods of writing a hymn text so that you can see one example of the process. And if you want to go from there, find me on the Internet and ask me more! Or ask someone you know who writes hymn texts too.

 

SuggestedMaterialsSuggested Materials:

Bible

Hymnal

Paper (a notebook or journal is best)

Writing utensil

Computer

 

 

First, think of a topic you’d like to write about.

Topic

Maybe you’re interested in creating a hymn for family devotion time. Or you’d like to meditate on a favorite Bible passage. Or you’d like to encourage a friend. (Hint: Notice the scenarios do not include riches, fame, and esteemed publication. Focus first on serving your neighbor for the most fulfilling writing.)

 

StudyItOnce you know what you want to write, study it. Read over the Bible passage, or use your Bible’s concordance to find some readings that pertain to your theme. (Hint: With any devotional writing, it’s always best to start with the Word rather than cram passages in later to make your point.)

 

When I study a Bible passage, for example, I’ll often print it out, read it over, and highlight interesting turns of phrase. Then I let it all marinate in my mind while I move on to the next step.

 

TuneThink of a tune you’d like to use. No, this may not be the tune you will always use for this text. But finding a good tune can help give you a framework. It’ll help you focus on a certain mood. And it’ll help you find the right places to rise and fall with your theme.

In other words, grab that hymnal. If you don’t have one at home yet, see if you can borrow one from your church the first time around. (Hymnary.org can help in a pinch, but it’s best to start with what you know.) Think of a fitting tune by considering your topic. If you’re thinking about a Lenten text, find a tune used during Lent. If you’re wanting to write something for your family’s bedtime routine, look for an evening hymn. It doesn’t have to be quite so direct, but it’s a place to start. (Hint: Look at the bottom of the page. Does it say “public domain” for the tune? If so, great! If not, that’s a different discussion.)

 

Okay, now this next step might seem silly, but it’s essential. Especially if you’re picking a tune from a hymn you know, take a look at the text that’s already there. Study it too.

RhythmMeterParticularly, look at the rhythm and meter.

Rhythm, simply put: where the stresses fall

Meter, simply put: how often the pattern repeats per line

 

 

 

Common rhythms:

Iambic (stress on the second of two beats: unite, divide, agree)

Trochee (stress on the first of two beats: offer, given, happen)

 

So write until you have it right. (iambic tetrameter)

Sister, help me learn this meter quickly! (trochaic pentameter)

 

We could go on, but you can easily find more on this topic elsewhere. Before we move away from studying the text, look also at the rhyme scheme. Try to copy the pattern or do something similar, but also be wary of taking these words! Your brain will naturally go to them if you’re using the tune of a hymn you know well.

ReadyReady? Let’s go! I encourage you to grab a notebook or journal. If you don’t love hymn writing, you can always use it for something else. If you do love hymn writing, you’ll forever regret that you lost some of your earliest texts because you misplaced them in the shuffle (ahem, cough, cough). Sure, you could start writing with the computer. But there’s something about hymn writing that is satisfying when you look at a page full of scribbles and messiness. Also, I use pen. Why? Because I change my mind. I’ll write arrows, cross out lines, and make all kinds of silly notes in the margins, and I’m glad I have everything right there so I can go back and remember my original words if I want to use them somewhere else.

 

How’s it going? Got your first line? First stanza? Here are some tricks as you go:

Tricks

  1. If you’re really stuck early on, try a different tune. Yes, that might mean a different meter too. But maybe it’s not the right skeleton for your hymn’s body.
  2. Hum as you write. But don’t forget the rhythm and meter! Some of my earliest mistakes happened when I relied so much on the tune, that my rhythm—and even meter—were off.
  3. Not enough words rhyme with love? I hear ya. If you want to use a phrase that doesn’t rhyme well, try recasting your line so that it ends differently.
  4. Hate it? Take a break. Frustration muddles the wordsmithing.
  5. Rhyming is soooooooooo easy? Great! But hang on. Is that because you’re using very common words and religious clichés? Make this text your own by challenging yourself to say something in a different way.
  6. Speaking of rhyming, you may have noticed I didn’t mention a rhyming dictionary. I challenge you to try to think of rhymes that come naturally to you. Maybe not the first rhyme that comes to mind, but the second or third. You could also run through the alphabet in your mind (bat, brat, drat, fat, beGat . . . ). If you are totally stuck, you could use help on occasion, but be honest with yourself: if you’d never use a certain word on your own, try not to use it in your writing. And as far as tools go for rhyming helps, an Internet search engine works as well as anything else.

 

Time to edit! Okay, so you were probably editing as you went along, but now it’s time to really evaluate the text. So, first, let it rest. Walk away. Give yourself time to breathe. You’ll either love or hate the text a little too much at the moment, so take some time to separate yourself from your work. Ready? Okay. Here’s the part where I pull out my laptop. As I type in the text, I’ll catch a few things I’ll want to change. I’ll tweak a little more. Then, I read it again. Does the rhyme still work? How about the rhythm and meter? Does it still sing well? Did you use the same word too often? Is there a better way to say this line? How about that one? (Hint: Grab a snack of a favorite beverage to keep yourself going. This can be tough.)

 

Print your work. It sounds silly, but do this: Type your name and date. Even use this handy sign: ©. As your text rolls out of your printer, you are officially published. (There are other ways, but this is easy enough.) Hey, that was easy, right? Now comes the best part. Bring the text to life: Sing it. Teach it. Hang it on your wall to remember it. And then? Try another one.

 

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Joyful Noises

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Songs of Praise

Songs appear throughout Scripture. Moses, the Israelites, and then Miriam sing after God leads the people through the Red Sea when fleeing Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 15). Mary sings after the words Elizabeth speaks, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, about the Child she carries (Luke 1). David wrote an entire book of songs, called the Book of Psalms.

Let’s turn to one of those songs now, Psalm 150. It’s the last of those in the book, and sort of sums up a lot of them.

It opens with a call to praise God. As His redeemed people, we have ample reason to praise Him. Notice that the psalmist says to praise Him in His sanctuary and in His mighty heavens. These are places that He dwells. Because of Christ, we have no fear approaching God for praise or prayer or anything…He sees Christ when He sees us.

We praise Him anywhere and everywhere, because He dwells in our hearts.

Verse two goes on to address the “why” of praising Him. Mighty deeds and excellent greatness. We praise Him because of what He has done and because of who He is.

Verses three through five describe the “how”. It’s almost like a listing of instrumentation of an orchestra. His list seems pretty comprehensive, bringing in stringed instruments, wind and percussion, and even dancing!

Finally, in verse six, he tells us “who” should praise the Lord: everyone and everything.

A Song and Dance

Like songdance is a recurring theme in Scripture. A mode of creative expression, dance has many positive references in Scripture (see 2 Samuel 6:5-15). Like many good gifts that Satan likes to twist and pervert for his own purposes, there are also negative mentions of it (see Mark 6:21-29).

Much of the book of Jeremiah is full of rebuke and the call to repentance; during Jeremiah’s time, God’s people had turned away from Him, following after other gods, reveling in their sin. God called Jeremiah to bring a message of repentance, and he did. Nestled in this book, though, are several chapters that are clearly prophetic in nature, speaking of the promise of salvation, of rescue to come. It’s ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

Let’s read one mention of dancing from Jeremiah 31:1-14. The passage addresses the restoration that salvation brings. Jeremiah 31:13 especially points to dancing:

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,

and the young men and the old shall be merry.

I will turn their mourning into joy;

I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

Restoration is at the heart of what God does in the lives of people. He gives faith and brings us into His family. Forgiving sin, clearing consciences, strengthening and encouraging, comforting and soothing.

A Song Unsung

What about those inevitable times of sorrow, though? Whether from our own sin or from living in a world sick with sin, we will all know pain. Sometimes, we just don’t feel like singing or dancing.

Music and mourning have an odd relationship in my own experience. On the one hand, emotions that run high make it nearly impossible for my voice to carry a note. Sometimes I just can’t sing. But on the other hand, music has been hugely cathartic in my mourning process. Maybe you’ve listened to the same song on repeat, like I have, to help you process a loss in life. . .

The fact is that similar to happiness, music can touch a depth of sadness in our hearts that words alone sometimes can’t.

As we already mentioned, Jeremiah is full of messages of “repent!” and other similarly non-happy messages. It’s natural, therefore, that there would be words of mourning and sadness among those messages.

Let’s turn to Jeremiah 9:17-24. As you read, remember that this is couched in a prophecy of the children of Israel being exiled to Babylon, after a terrible defeat . . . God sees that their hearts are turned from Him, and He will act for the ultimate good, even if it requires exile and mourning for a time.

The “skillful women” mentioned are professional mourners, who lead the assembly in crying for their dead. Sometimes, we just can’t sing. Sometimes we need a track to listen to, that will sing for us. Sometimes our hearts cry out in a way that our voice can’t match or our words fail us when praying. Ever a good and gracious God, our Lord helps us even in this.

Read Romans 8:26-27. In the Body of Christ, in the relationship with our God, in the day-to-day of vocational living . . . we aren’t alone. We aren’t left to our own devices.

Music and the Day-to-Day

Throughout life, we go through seasons of rejoicing and seasons of sorrow. We thrive and we suffer. In the midst of this, music can have a profound impact on the day-to-day of life.

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Music can be a central part of that day-to-day. An upbeat song when you’re cleaning the kitchen or bathroom can make all the difference. Quiet, soothing music can help thoughts to calm and center on Scripture during devotional time.

Let me know in the comments how music affects your lives! And stay tuned, because very soon, I’ll be posting a great tutorial on hymn-writing from author Lisa M. Clark! You can check our her blog here, or go check out her books, The Messengers series!

In Stitches: Sew Fashionable Tutorial

I’m so pleased to introduce Grace, a friend from a church we belonged to before moving to our current home. She’s a sweet person who shared some books with our daughter, always had a welcoming smile and a kind word for anyone, and graciously agreed to put together this tutorial for you. She has some great pictures and easy-to-follow instructions. The tutorial is in the form of a PDF, and you can access it TunicTutorial.

Grace doesn’t have an Etsy shop yet, but if she opens one, I’ll be sure to add it to this post.

Enjoy!

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graphic made at https://www.canva.com/

Full of Good Works

This title might raise some red flags for those of us who take Ephesians 2:8-9 at its word:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

We touched briefly on this verse yesterday. We can’t leave out verse 10, though:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So even the “good works” that we do are given to us by a loving and gracious God. He works both in and through us, for the purpose of seeking and saving the lost.

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Let’s turn to Acts 9:36-43 for an illustration of what it looks like to walk in the good works that God prepared for us. Tabitha was a woman, a disciple, living in Joppa. The second part of verse 36 tells us that she was “full of good works and acts of mercy.”

Now, before Luke (the writer of the book of the Acts of the Apostles) even tells us about her story, he is sure to tell us these two things: she was a disciple, and she was full of good works. Notice that he doesn’t say she was full of good works and was a disciple. The order follows the truth of our Ephesians 2:8-10 verses above. Faith through grace, and then follow the good works, prepared for us. Tabitha was walking in those good works without a doubt.

As we read on, we learn that she grew very ill, and died. In the midst of their funeral preparations, they heard that Peter was nearby, and they send for him. Acts 9:39 gives us a clue about the sort of mercy work she was doing in her life. The women, the widows, who are mourning her have with them tunics and other clothing she had made for them. She had clearly made an impact on their lives, and they mourned the loss.

Luke goes on to tell us that Peter comes to them, and God uses him to raise Tabitha from the dead. Verse 42, though, shows us the greater good that He was working through first Tabitha’s good works, and then through her death and raising.

And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

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This is at the heart of Christian good works, of Christian vocation: making known the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a tutorial by Grace Hughes, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear about some people you know that are “full of good works”, that God is doing great things in and through their lives.

You Clothed Me

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Looking at sewing and particularly clothing, this week, we have to return to the idea of vocation as it intercepts with creativity.

Remember, vocation is integral to creativity at its most meaningful. Thinking of creativity as separate from vocation can make it an end, when it really is a gift, a tool to be used. And just as we can hone and improve tools in the garage or toolshed — or with gifts of musicality or relationship or mathematical prowess — we can do the same with creativity. But it’s the reason behind it that motivates us to do what we do.

Service to our neighbor and glory to God.

Let’s explore this in light of Matthew 24:31-46. Consisting of two juxtaposed scenarios, two juxtaposed groups, Jesus is making a point about faith in action.

It opens with Jesus saying in verses 31-33 that when He returns, He will separate the “sheep from the goats”. While this is a judgement scene, the focus isn’t on judgement or even on belief or faith, but how that faith played out in the life of the person.

Jesus then goes on to address each group, beginning in verses 34-37. It seems a rather standard commendation, such as when an earthly king rewards the noble behavior of his subjects. But as we read on, we see that there’s more going on than promoting desirable behavior.

In verses 38-40, the “honored subjects” or the “sheep” ask the King, “When did we do all these things?” There’s a lot of repetition in this passage, which may be boggy to wade through, but if you look at it from a few steps back, is rather poetic and perhaps even rhythmic in its telling. So many ways the people ministered to Him, and so many ways that we minister to one another. It’s really beautiful!

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And of course, verses 41-46 are the other side of the coin: those who did not minister to Him by ministering to others. We must be careful, friends, when we consider this passage, not to confuse the purpose of the faith and the works, nor to confuse their respective sources.

Faith is a gift that is given by the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 2:8-9). By it, we believe and are saved. Without it, we are lost. Similarly, works are a gift, prepared for us by God and we do them at His moving (see Ephesians 2:10). It’s the faith that makes the works good. Anyone can feed or clothe or visit. Many do! But the good works that we do are only as good as the One from whom they stem.

We do good because He has done greater good for us.

Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the raising of Tabitha and her ministry of clothing the poor. In the mean time, please let me know about a favorite clothing gift!

Again, I’ll go first: My amazing sister is such a sweetie and much more fashion-minded than I am. She pretty regularly cleans out her closet and offers me whatever I’d like from the clothes she plans on donating. For me, a gal who doesn’t enjoy shopping all that much (gasp!), she’s a huge blessing in my life!

In Stitches: Contentious Clothing

She couldn’t believe her sister. It was just a sweater, and it hadn’t even shrunk that much in the drier. And she’d given it back, hadn’t she? Her sister probably wouldn’t have even noticed it missing in the first place, if she had kept it.

His daughter must be trying to kill him; that’s all there was to it. Why else would she try to go to the movies wearing that? He was just glad he caught her before she left.

How many times did he have to hear his mom gripe about his favorite jeans? It seemed that everything in life was changing, but the jeans still covered the important parts and were too comfortable to throw away. So what if they had a few holes?

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Maybe you’ve never had an argument over clothing before. Maybe you have. But most of us have likely watched a scene in a television show or a movie in which there was some sort of argument over clothing.

Something that is necessary for survival in the elements, something that was a gift from God to grant us modesty after the fall, (like most gifts) isn’t off-limits where Satan is concerned. Where he can stir up contention, he will.

And trust me! This isn’t a new thing. As we mentioned last week, and as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new…” It was even happening in Genesis.

We learn through the later chapters of Genesis that Jacob, whom God gave a new name of Israel, married two women, and favored the younger, Rachel. She was barren, while her elder sister Leah bore Jacob many sons. When they were older, God opened Rachel’s womb and she had Joseph. Playing favorites is always a dangerous game, but this is an instance where a piece of clothing, meant as a gift to a beloved child, plays a part that Jacob certainly wasn’t anticipating.

Please read Genesis 37:3-4.

Let’s pause for a moment to consider how color was added to clothing in the ancient world. In addition to the wool being shorn from the sheep, carded and cleaned, spun and woven, it would be soaked in boiling water with whatever dye would make the desired color. Various stems, leaves, roots, and blossoms might have been used, or shells or rocks ground into a powder, or even secretions from a snail or other creature.

Imagine doing that enough to make many colors! Even if, say, Jacob had saved pieces of many other dyed things (say some red from a tent, some blue from a tunic, some yellow from a headcovering, etc), he would have to save and store all of those things for some time, and then stitch the pieces together. Either way it happened, he put a lot of work into it.

And Joseph’s brothers were jealous. Not only of the coat, though that certainly didn’t help matters. But we know from the verse we already read that Jacob loved Joseph more, and it would be difficult to imagine that Jacob hid it very well. Heap onto that the fact that Joseph had dreams that indicated his family (and brothers!) would some day bow down to him. Looking back with hind’s sight, we know that they did indeed bow down before Joseph, years later, when he was in Egypt after God blessed him and used him as an instrument to save many lives in the face of a terrible famine. But first, Joseph has to be sent to Egypt.

Read Genesis 37:18-28. There’s a lot happening in this account, and while we could spend hours delving into it all. Consider, though, how quickly the brothers’ jealousy devolved into hatred, and eventually murder. Reuben is an exception, and those verses concerning him are worth further study. We’ll have to save that for another time, though.

Think of the coat of many colors, and what it represented for Joseph: his father’s favor, safety and security, a place of honor. When the brothers took the coat to use as proof of Joseph’s made-up fate (being eaten by a wild animal), they also took those things the coat represented as Joseph would be uncertain of his future and separated from his family.

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Isaiah 61:10 also speaks of a robe that instead of being removed, is placed on someone. Where are we clothed with a garment of salvation and a robe of righteousness? While the removal of Joseph’s coat symbolically represented the apparent removal of the good in his life (though not really, for God was still orchestrating things for a greater good), we are given, in our Baptism and in the faith there planted by the Holy Spirit, a robe of righteousness.

We’ll close there, but I’d love to hear, in the comments below, your thoughts on this question: What other places in Scripture use clothes as symbolic or even literal blessings?

In Stitches: Leaves and Hides

The clothing industry is a big one (to put it mildly), and many people really enjoy putting together fun and stylish outfits. For our generations, most of us don’t need to make our own clothing, and it’s not always a cost-effective endeavor. Two hundred years ago, you’d either have to pay someone to make clothes for you, or make them yourself. Two thousand years ago, most people likely had one or possibly two sets of clothing only, traded or made by the wearer; shearing the sheep, carding the wool, spinning it into threads, weaving it into a garment…it was a lot more work than driving to the store or clicking “place order” on a website!

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As integral as clothing is in our world, and how styles and fabrics define cultures and societies, it’s easy to forget the reason for our clothing…the Fall.

Let’s turn to Genesis 3:7. We read it last week, as part of the larger story of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

We wear clothes to preserve modesty, because of sin. For me at least, it’s weird and uncomfortable and strange to think about clothing as being tied to that. And yet, Scripture makes a point of including this detail of the Fall. Imagine, if you will, what would have happened to Adam and Eve’s fig leaves…the durability of even the most tenaciously sturdy leaves is temporary at best, and short-lived at worst. Theirs was a “quick-fix”.

After detailing the consequences that their sin would bring, we read in Genesis 3:21 that God isn’t going to leave them in their flimsy fig leaves.

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

It’s a relatively brief verse, and fairly easy to skip over. But let’s see what digging a little deeper might show us.

Right away, we can see that God is caring for them, providing for their needs before they even know them, and before the needs arise. At this point, Adam and Eve are still in the Garden of Eden, but in the next verses, we see that God sends them out from there. We also see God doing this at the expense of the life of an animal. It points first to the sacrifices that will take place and ultimately to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin, we see God’s mercy being poured out. In providing for them in spite of their sin, God sets the pattern for the rest of His interaction with humanity.

He cannot ignore sin, because He is just. Because of His mercy, He will not leave us in our sin, because He is love. Even before we could begin to comprehend what it would cost, He had in the works a plan for our salvation.

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God clothed them.

And He clothes us.

We’ll explore that more in the coming week…in the meantime, I’d love to hear in the comments below about your favorite article of clothing and why.

I’ll go first: I love sweaters; they are very comforting to me. In Texas, I don’t get to wear them all year, so for the few months that it’s chillier, I’m so happy to be able to snuggle into a cardigan with a cup of warm coffee or tea and a favorite book!

PS Sorry this post is a day late! Look for today’s post later today! (Thank goodness they’re short, yes? ;))