Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kazak Rug in Progress

This is a dollhouse rug I've been working on using Hand-Dyed Fibers, luscious silk threads with subtle color variations perfect for this tiny scale.  The gauze is 48 threads per inch.  This particular rug will always bring back memories of my dad, as I've stitched a large portion of it while staying at his house during the last two months of his life.  It will also bring back memories of all the wonderful people who came to help out and stumbled on the world of miniatures - my mother's dollhouse displayed in the living room, and me with my special stitching lamp and my jeweler's loupe stuck in the middle of my forehead (when not stitching).  One of the last things my father said as he examined this rug was that he would like to see our family crest done in petitpoint....  I don't know, Daddy, maybe some day when I have lots and lots of spare time!  Click to see the full-size picture.

Recognized by His Wounds: What good is a suffering God?

In Memory of my Father...
John R. Boling, April 7, 1932 - May 22, 2012

A little over a year ago, a few days after Easter, my dad commented that he had always wondered why the risen Christ was recognized by his wounds, and not by his face.  He was referring to a comment the pastor had made in the church newsletter about the biblical text from John that would be read the following Sunday.  The text below from John's gospel is traditionally read on the Sunday after Easter, the Sunday which is often referred to as "low Sunday" in the church year.  The brass fanfares are only a memory, the lilies have faded, and the crowds have dwindled.  John's story about the visits of the risen Christ to the disciples on Easter night and again the following week is appropriate for the Sunday after Easter because it helps us move away from the euphoria of Easter morning and understand what the Resurrection means for us every day of our lives.  As I pondered my dad's comment over the past year, it occurred to me that if it helps us understand what the Resurrection means for us during the ordinary times of our lives, than how much more helpful it might be in helping us understand what the Resurrection means for us on the lowest days of our lives - the days when our hearts have gaping holes in them and our stomachs are tied in knots with grief.  And so I decided to preach the sermon for my father's funeral based on this passage from John.  I'm posting a slightly altered version here because so many people asked for copies of the sermon, saying it was helpful to them in thinking about the problem of pain and suffering, the oldest and most difficult question that most of us have ever asked.  I don't have the answer, but perhaps John's gospel can give us a clue.

Rembrandt - The Incredulity of Thomas

John 20:19-31

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.  NRSV

Certainly, we know that the Resurrection means that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and because he has been raised, we know that death has been overcome.  We know that death is not the end.  The promise of the Resurrection is that we, too, shall be raised to eternal life with God.  But in this story, John tells us something more about the Resurrection.  It certainly has to do with our death and our resurrected life with God, but it also has to do with our living now.  It has to do not only with our daily lives after the euphoria of Easter is over, but also with the times of deepest despair... the times when joy and hope seem forever gone and our hearts are breaking.

John tells us that on Easter night and again the following week, Jesus appears to the disciples in a house where the doors were locked.  Both times, he shows them his hands and his side, without being asked.  It is clear that none of the disciples recognize the risen Christ until they see his hands and his side.  The wounds are proof that the one who stands before them is the one who was crucified.  The wounds are his very identity, giving us the truest revelation of God available to us.  If the risen Christ is the crucified one, then what is revealed is that God is a vulnerable, suffering God.

Traditionally, we think of God as infinite, omniscient, without passion, almighty, most absolute....  William Placher says that the God described this way is a God who can do anything to anyone, but no one can cause this God pain.  But John's account of the appearances of the risen Christ show us that the God revealed in Jesus Christ has another side.  The God revealed in Jesus Christ is a wounded God, a suffering God, and therefore, a vulnerable God.  When we think of resurrected bodies, don't we usually imagine a body that's young, beautiful, and healthy?  But the body of the risen Christ has wounds.  Those wounds went to the grave, and they rose from the grave.  Jesus broke the bonds of death, but he kept his wounds.  Even after rising, his wounds remain.  The wounded Christ who shows his followers his pierced hands and his side reveals a vulnerable God who is open to our pain, who enters into our suffering.

Jesus did not come into the world merely to reveal God's power.  Yes, the God depicted in the scriptures is a God of power, but it is a strange power, an upside down power, a power made known in the cross, a power made known in the wounds of the risen Christ.  But what good, you may ask, is a suffering God?  What good is a God who does not exercise power to relieve our suffering?  How does a suffering God help?

What does one say to someone who is suffering?  Nicholas Wolterstorff says, "The heart that speaks is heard more than the words than are spoken..... Not even the best of words can take away pain... What I need to hear from you is that you recognize how painful it is.  I need to hear from you that you are with me in my desperation.  To comfort me, you must come close.  Come sit beside me on my mourning bench."

God did not stand over there, apart from us.  God came close - really close.  Emmanuel - "God With Us" - came close.  God Incarnate, God of the flesh, came really close, close enough to enter into human pain and death.

Wolterstorff says that "to redeem our brokenness and lovelessness he who suffers with us did not strike some mighty blow of power but sent his beloved son to suffer like us, through his suffering to redeem us from suffering and evil... Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it."  That's worth saying again.... "Instead of explaining our suffering, God shares it."

William Sloane Coffin, in a sermon on the Sunday following his own son's death at the age of 24, tells of a woman who arrived at his door the night following the death with about 18 quiches.  He says, "[She] headed for the kitchen, saying sadly over her shoulder, 'I just don't understand the will of God.'  The grieving father exploded, "Do you think it was the will of God that Alex never fixed that lousy windshield wiper of his, that he was probably driving too fast in such a storm, that he had probably had a couple of 'frosties' too many?  Do you think it is God's will that there are no street lights along that stretch of road, and no guard rail separating the road and Boston Harbor?"

Coffin goes on to say, "The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is 'It is the will of God.'  My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God's heart was the first to break."

I certainly don't have the answer to the problem of pain and suffering.  I don't know why God doesn't prevent babies from dying, or why so many must suffer from chronic debilitating illness, or why we have natural disasters or terrorism or any of the other endless causes of suffering.  I don't know why my father had to suffer from cancer and the effects of the treatment for 5 years.  I don't know why he had to suffer the trauma of suddenly losing the love of his life just when he felt he needed her the most, just when he needed her to be with him through his last days on earth.

But because of John's story of the risen Christ being recognized by his wounds, and not by his face, here is what I do know.  God Almighty, manifested as Jesus, suffered and died.  It is this suffering, dying God who appears to the disciples on Easter evening and again the following week.  So I know one thing for sure:  God does not stand off somewhere at a distance, isolated from our pain, insensitive to our suffering, unmoved by our dying.  As the risen Christ entered through the locked doors and showed the skeptical disciples his hands and his side, God breaks through the locked doors of fear and doubt and comes close.  When we hurt, or weep, or cry out, God's heart is the first to break.  Rather than explaining our suffering, God Incarnate, Emmanuel, actually comes close, infinitely close, and shares it.  And the risen Christ, who kept his wounds and still broke the bonds of death, does much more than weep with us.  The risen Christ, coming to us as the Holy Spirit, dries our tears, creates hope out of despair, and lights our way in the darkness.

For further reading, you might like to see these books which I consulted and/or quoted in the preparation of the sermon:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Petitpoint chart in 40th issue of Artisans in Miniature IMag

I have a chart for a red rose cushion with a dark chocolate background on pp. 22-23.  What could be better than red roses and dark chocolate?  It's designed for 40 ct silk gauze and DMC floss.  The background is Gentle Arts hand dyed floss in "dark chocolate."  For the cording trim, I made my own out of 2 strands dark chocolate, 1 strand of gold, and one strand of red.

AIM Imag 40th issue

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Camera for Taking Pictures of Miniatures

Just got this camera yesterday and have been playing with it.  Here are a couple examples of pictures of miniatures that I took using the supermacro mode.  No tripod needed - the antishake/stablization system worked perfectly!

Olympus Stylus 7040 Camera

I got it for $129 from Amazon, ordered Fri and arrived Mon with free shipping!

Miniatures made by Nantasy Fantasy

China by Christopher Whitford, peonies by Michele Carter, pottery plate by Jane Graber, pottery vase by Joni Heitz, table by Bob Carlisle.
It also takes excellent pictures of full size things...


Panoramic shots...

And special effects...  the camera took this line drawing in line drawing mode.  I did no editing at at, except a slight crop.

It also does HD video clips with sound!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Miniature Tea Cozy

Just finished putting together a tea cozy after stitching it twice.  The lesson here is to double check the count of your gauze, as it may not be the size it's labeled to be!  After stitching the front, and being unable to find a backing fabric that was the right color and thickness, I decided to stitch a back.  I quickly stitched it up, but when I went to sew the front to the back, they were different sizes!  Well, since the back was larger than the front, I experimented thinking I might be able to trim the excess off the back.  Nope.  Then in the process of ripping out the stitching, I cut both the front and the back.  Sooooo, back to the drawing board, stitching both pieces on the same piece of gauze.  One important note - since silk gauze is not exactly even weave, it is important to orient front and back in the same direction (parallel rather than perpendicular to each other).

Here is the finished tea cozy.  The back is plain yellow with the scalloped blue border at the bottom.  The blue splotch above the border on the back is really my initials.  I can't get a good picture to save my life - my camera used to take wonderful mini pics, but it's become crotchety in its old age.  If anyone has suggestions for a new camera, I'm interested!  This one is a Fugi Fine Pix, and won't work with Windows 7, another reason to get a new one.  Downloading pics onto my old slow desktop and transferring to the new laptop is not worth the effort for such poor results.

The tea cozy, when stitched on 48 count silk gauze, is a perfect fit for a Christopher Whitford 1:12 scale teapot. This one is the Blue Net Lomonosov pattern. It also works well on the slightly smaller pottery teapot I have that was made by Jane Graber. Her tea pot is about the same height, but smaller around.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

More on my Dick Van Dyke Show house

Last fall I received this wonderful painting done by Karry Johnson for my Petrie house.  She is a joy to work with and did an amazing job!  I have two color still photos taken during rehearsals, and Karry used those to choose the colors.  The painting was not shown in those color photos, but she took colors from the rest of the room to coordinate.  The painting measures 2 inches by 3.75 inches.  Now to frame it....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wise Words from Keeper of the Fire

Eileen Campbell-Reed was one of my teaching assistants at Vanderbilt who is now a leader in academia and a fine example of ministry.  She has an exceptional talent for blogging, and this is a post from her archives that is directed to women considering a vocation in ordained ministry, but there is much practical advise here for anyone who is concerned with living well.  Click on the 'advice' tag of the blog if you're interested in reading follow-up posts that flesh out each of the numbered pieces of advice.

Wise Words from Keeper of the Fire

Thank you, Eileen!