Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/congmicj/cathyconger.com/wp-includes/query.php on line 751

As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

Scripture: Acts 16:25-35; Luke 19:40; Revelation 5:9

MAKE MUSIC UNTO THE LORD

The church choir is gearing up for Easter. Each year my husband and I look forward to singing in the choir for the Easter season (sadly, this year we won’t be able to). I do love the amazing music, such as that from “The Messiah”, as it tells of the prophecies and their fulfillment of Christ’s birth. What heart cannot help but leap at the sound of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”? Music, more than anything else, feeds my soul. Music was a balm to Paul and Silas too while they were imprisoned and in shackles. Their songs of praise to God surely were like salve to their physical and emotional wounds and to the other prisoners (Acts 16:25 -35).

God provides us with many kinds of music and joyful noise. All kinds of creatures sing. Of course, we are all familiar with the songs of birds, but did you know that whales make inaudible, ultra-sensitive “music” while moving through the water? Dolphins and seals sing. Bears and other mammals “sing” to their young and to their mates. Frogs and wolves sing out to each other. Even rocks cry out! Jesus told the Pharisees after they told Him to rebuke His followers who were shouting hosannas to Him, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40) Imagine! If we don’t “sing” hosannas to Christ, the very rocks in the fields will. Even a donkey “talked.” Check out Numbers 22. And the book of Job tells of how God spoke to him about “the morning stars singing together.”

We can also hear God’s praises in the form of rustling leaves on a breezy day, in the hissing and crackling songs of the aurora borealis, and through the kind words of a friend or loved one. It even comes through God’s still, small voice as He speaks to our hurting hearts. The sound that especially dances in my ears is the laughter of children. Then there’s my favorite Christmas carol, “Joy to the World” which makes my heart soar. Heaven and nature surely do sing at such Good News.

Yet, earthly music is drowned out by the sounds of “tens thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands (of angels) saying with a loud voice: “worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:9)

What a marvelous gift God has given us to be able to make and listen to music! He invites us to praise him with instruments and song at all times! No matter what style you prefer, take some time this week to feed your spirit with some great music of praise.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for creating music and for giving people the talent to write, play, and sing it. All the praise and glory be unto You forever and ever! Amen

Scripture: Proverbs 15:15, Nehemiah 8:10, Numbers 21:1, Psalm 142:1-2

Spreading Your Germs

I’m back! Before I tell you where I’ve been, remember that jealousy is a sin and that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice. My husband and I spent the last two weeks on a Caribbean cruise. It was everything you imagine a tropical cruise to be, romantic, warm, sunny, turquoise blue ocean and powdery white sand, gourmet food, dancing under the stars on a gently rocking ship, stewards at your beck and call, and germs. You’ve read about the viruses that have spread round cruise ships and left passengers flat in bed in their cabins. Well, I’m happy to report that the ships – our ship in particular- are battling this disaster with every weapon they have. It seemed to work, because there was no outbreak of virus on our trip. Everywhere on the ship – and I mean everywhere – there were ship’s staff with high-powered hand sanitizer requiring you to hold out your hands while they squirted the germ-fighting gel into them and watched you rub it in. They even provided alcohol cleansing pads to wipe off your ship’s ID card and credit cards upon leaving and returning to the ship in port. Signs were everywhere asking you to cough into a tissue, wash before entering any pool or hot tub, use a paper towel to grab the handle of the bathroom door on your way out (after you have washed your hands for at least 45 seconds, the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday), and report any illness to the ship’s doctor. And guess what? My husband got bronchitis anyway! And he’s a doctor! Poor guy practically felt like he should be wearing a mask wherever he went. When he coughed (into a tissue) he got nasty looks as if people were thinking, “Thanks for sharing, pal. Now I have to go wash my hands and face AGAIN.” Just goes to show that germs are everywhere and contagion is part of life.

You can have some say in what seat you get on an airplane. In fact, I usually reserve an aisle seat in advance. But you don’t have any say about who your neighbors will be. Have you ever had this experience? A harried mother is seated directly behind you with her two small children. Your first clue that it was going to be an interesting flight is their squealing and crying before you even take off. Mom just doesn’t have her young daughter and her younger son under control, but she’s trying. As you take off, you hear her snap at her daughter, “Don’t squeeze your brother’s head!”, which sounds like a reasonable request to you. Then she gives the reason. “You know he’s got a fever and he’ll throw up!” Oh, great! You find yourself instinctively ducking. You look at the passenger next to you as you both reach for the air-sickness bags to hand back to Mom. Nothing terribly gross happens, but all during the flight, you keep thinking about those flu germs flying all around. Maybe the airlines could take a lesson from the cruise ships. Of course the most considerate of us would stay home and keep our germs to ourselves.

That’s what Miriam should have done - keep her germs to herself. Her story is in Numbers 12:1. Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. ”Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this. At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. God goes ahead and confronts them for the critical germs that they were spreading. Verse 9 says, “The anger of the Lord burned against them and he left them.” Ultimately the Lord’s instructions to Moses were these, “Confine Miriam outside the camp for seven days.” Sounds a little like quarantine, doesn’t it?

It’s obvious that God is very unhappy, very angry, when we start spreading our emotional and spiritual germs around. After all, we know it’s just courtesy to cover our mouth when we cough or sneeze, to stay away from people when we have a fever, to do everything we can to protect others from being infected with our germs. We need to think that way about the germs we spread with our words, with our attitude. We’ve got a complaint, so we cough that complaint all over everybody else. We’ve got a criticism of someone, or a conflict, or a frustration with someone.

Do we cover our mouth and keep it to ourselves? Not usually. We spread those germs to other people who should never be involved. We’re feeling depressed, or down, or tired, or stressed, but we have no right to infect others with that infection, too! Nehemiah was one of the Bible’s amazing leaders. He motivated a demoralized team to an amazing accomplishment—the rebuilding of the devastated walls and gates of Jerusalem, against all odds. Here’s his secret from the Bible: “The joy of the Lord” he said, “is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. Nehemiah was a thermostat, not a thermometer. He set the temperature instead of just reflecting the temperature of the people or the situation around him. That’s what every Jesus-follower is equipped to be—the thermostat who sets a temperature of God’s joy; no complaining, no criticizing or trash talk…just positive.

You say, “What do I do with all this junk then?” There is someone asking for your germs, who’s ready to take them. Psalm 142: 1-2 says, “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.” Take your germs to the Doctor! Dump your complaints, dump your frustrations and your anger and your hurt on the only one who can really fix things and change people, the One who can give you perspective, and give you the joy again. Your germs can’t infect Him, but they can certainly poison the people around you. If you’re not feeling well emotionally or spiritually, please keep your germs to yourself – unless they are “happy” germs!

There is recent research that there are some happy germs that people spread around, too. One article said: “We can catch happiness from friends and family members like an emotional virus. The research shows that every happy person in your social network increases your own chance of cheer by 9% and those effects can last up to one year. When someone gets happy, that person’s friend experiences a 25% increased chance of becoming happy, and at least two more friends will be affected—happy germs!” What a fulfillment of what the Bible has said for 3,000 years, “The cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15 Joy really is contagious, which leads us to ask the question, “What am I spreading?” Do you bring the sun with you, or do you bring clouds?

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for my wonderful vacation, germs and all. I pray that I won’t be a Miriam but that I will keep my complaining germs to myself or, better still, give them to you so you can change things. Help me to spread happiness wherever I can and to be the emotional thermostat who keeps the temperature in the pleasant zone. Amen

p.s. It’s good to be home from our vacation! I was so pleased to find out that the weather at home was unseasonably warm while we were gone. We came home to leaves on the trees and blooming daffodils! Unheard of in Wisconsin! Hey, maybe it won’t snow on Easter this year. I hope you are blessed beyond measure as we once again walk through the week before our Lord was crucified and realize that his suffering and death was just for you and just for me

My heart was warmed and my cynicism reduced by two different, but connected, stories written by Allison Engle, in the June edition of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine.  As a quilter who makes every effort to check out the quilt shops in any new place I visit, I can tell you that quilters are good people.  Quilt shop owners are among the friendliest and most helpful of business people anywhere.  Need some quilting direction or wisdom?  Feel free to ask a shop owner or, for that matter, other quilters who happen to be in the shop to buy or take a class.  Just passing through but need directions to the state highway or a recommendation for a good place to eat?  Just stop in the local quilt shop.  They’re just as pleased to help a non-quilter as they are us afficienados.

Quilters equally return that helpfulness and loyalty to their shop staff.  We quilters do really regard each other as family - particularly in smaller towns.  Ms Engle wrote that after an F-4 tornado leveled the town of Ringgold, Georgia in April 2011, the town took awhile to recover from the shock.  When everyone in town has lost everything, who do you turn to for help getting back on your feet?  For several days, Gloria Black, owner of the Sew Bee It quilt shop in Ringgold couldn’t even bring herself to go look at the pile of rubble that had been her 4,00 square foot business, but her loyal staff and friends did.  They soon arrived at the site and began to rescue muddy, wet bolts of fabric, strewn yarn, thread notions, and shop samples.  When Gloria did arrive, she was overwhelmed by what they had already cleaned up and by her customers, who were providing food and hot coffee to the volunteers.  Gloria’s landlord immediately set about rebuilding the shop, which re-opened on August 1st, only 3 months after the devastation. Employee Martha Steele said, “We’ve gotten our old customers back and more new ones, including travelers to the area who have followed the re-building process on the internet. It just shows you that in the worst of times, you can count on the quilting family.”

In another part of Ringgold that April day, Jeaneane Hullender, a Sew Bee It customer, and her husband lost their home, barns, trees, fences, and even four cows.  But the possession she mourned the most was a quilt she had made from blocks hand-stitched by her deceased mother-in-law. The quilt could not be found in the rubble.  It had simply blown away.  Then that September, one month after Sew Bee It’s re-opening, Jeaneane received a phone call from Marcia Barker, who had found the quilt in her pasture in Riceville, Tennessee, 50 miles northeast of Ringgold!  The only reason Marcia knew who to contact was because Jeaneane had sewn a quilt label on the back of the quilt (like all of us quilters have been told to do), embroidered with the following: Stitched with love in memory of Nita Hullender  1916-2009.  Not owning a computer, Marcia called her sister in Florida and asked her to “google” the name Nita Hullender. From that they were able to track down Jeaneane’s address and phone number.  What a reunion that must have been!  On top of that, Marcia had cleaned the quilt such that you couldn’t see any evidence of its muddy flight to Tennessee.  Jeaneane’s quilting friends washed and ironed the yardage in her fabric stash recovered from the mud.  A local dry cleaner - whose business had probably just re-opened - cleaned the remainder of her quilt collection, that had been rescued, free of charge.  A group of California quilters collected money for Jeaneane to rebuild her sewing studio. Quilt designer Anne Sutton, having read that Jeaneane lost all her patterns, sent replacements and a box full of fabric!  I must agree with what Jeaneane told reporters, “This has really shown me the bond among quilters.”  Yep, quilters are good people.