Happy Sunday friends.
A very dear Priest friend often repeated, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” Today’s post is a little bit about that and a lot about repetition of the basics. Here in this beginning place is a link to the readings for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, and to Fr Mike Schmitz homily for this week. I once again ask you to bear with me as the connections are made between what comes next and the final words of the post.
Since the mid-1990’s the Yankees are the baseball team of choice, yes this now Texan is still a Yankees fan. I groan with the crowd when they are not playing their best (hello second half of this season) and I cheer them on when they are playing well. In and through many seasons we’ve witnessed players who, even when the team is playing poorly, rise to the surface play really well. This year it is Aaron Judge and wow, how cool is this! There is something beautiful, not so much with Aaron Judge breaking a previously held record, no that’s not it at all, it is beautiful watching someone who has practiced, and practiced, and practiced, and played, and honed skills, and worked on fundamentals, and tweaking things just a little bit become better, and better and better at a skill until, in this present moment he (or she) is the best at what they do. Aaron, being so tall, has had to work on making mechanical adjustments so that his swing stays in the strike zone and he can hit baseballs with some consistency and hit home runs, as you know the strike zone is the strike zone and it is what he has to to work with. Congratulations Aaron on this hard, well earned achievement.
You might be surprised to learn that piecing a quilt top is not one of my favorite things to do. I can and do it well, it’s not the part of the quilting process that make my heart swoon with excitement. Swooning happens in the free-motion quilting, which may explain at least in part, my love for whole cloth quilting. For in free-motion machine quilting is where getting lost in the process is often the order of the day. Here is where sometimes the shoulders hurt because bad posture or frustration, and brain hurt from the exertion of doing the work. And herein is where it gets painful physically when I can’t quilt.
Several weeks ago my Spiritual Direction suggested I start prayer time differently, based on both my own desire for intimacy with God and a place where the time in prayer is a way to be consistent in prayer and also something of an easy way through. This way of being consistent in prayer is, in and of itself good and I heartily recommend it for one good reason, practice. I want to say that this hasn’t gone where I expected, and in many ways this is truth, it hasn’t. I also can’t quite say what my own expectations were in this, as I *hope* that it is to go where Jesus is leading. At this same time I’m at the very first steps of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, this has similarities to Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) and I’m just at the beginning so explaining the differences is a bit challenging at the moment. I can share in Lectio Divina you read the entire passage of Scripture; in the Spiritual Exercises you pause to reflect when something speaks deeply to you. As a long time practitioner of the art of journaling both Lectio Divina and the Spiritual Exercises offer a place to explore how God is moving in my own life and heart.
Once I finish writing and publish this post I will head over to the Spiritual Exercises, and make some notes for Spiritual Direction. In the meantime I share with you what brings all of these components together. Practice. I may have already given this away in the title, in the previously written words. Practice. The last several months being something of an exception, the practice of free-motion quilting is a daily habit. When life gets personally challenging, as it has over the last several months I pull into myself and the practice of quilting gets set aside. What I teach as a free-motion quilting teacher are the fundamentals of free-motion quilting, needles, thread, tension, speed and beginner color theory. It is in practicing these, whether I fully understood them or not, and honestly there is still room to grow here, is what led me to what I do as a free-motion machine quilter. Add to this a consistent repetition of these, tweaking them so they work for me, and knowing them well enough I can share them with you, my students is where I am in this moment of my quilting life. I find life in sharing this practice with you.
Developing a consistent prayer life and practice of Faith has long been a goal of mine for both growth in holiness and having a relationship with God who loves me and wants to have an intimate relationship with me. One thing I know now is that all of this, the journaling, the committed time to Lectio Divina, this new practice of the Spiritual Exercises, the meditation and contemplation are all part of the Practice of Faith. Going to Church and being with the Community who are all in this same Practice all are part of this journey of faith. It is a practice. One that like quilting, like Aaron Judge hitting 62 home runs this season, like Naaman washing his body seven times in the Jordan River is is the fundamentals that both get us to the place of doing well, honing that skill and sustain us (me) when life is all kaflooie or we achieve some long held goal, like winning a big quilt award, writing a book on the basics of machine quilting. Practice the fundamentals, show up for prayer especially when not feeling it, show up to practice when it doesn’t seem like any improvement is happening, show up for Church when it seems like the Church community is falling apart. Practice in love when I don’t feel it.
In one sense I’m kind of calling myself out here on the quilting practice, however this little desert time has revealed something that I needed to change for my own practice to become fruitful once again and I am currently working on making that happen. Practice in prayer, Spiritual Direction and consistent Confession are so sweet right now and I may need to rely on this sweetness down the road to sustain if/when things become dry.
At the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises St Ignatius prays, “Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own You have given to me. To you Lord I return it. Everything is Yours do with it what you will. Give me only Your love and Your grace that is enough for me.” And in practice until I can freely do it:
Creativity is a gift from God, I return it to you.
My Sweetie is a gift from God, I return him to You.
Family is a gift from God, I return them to You.
Friends are a gift from God, I return them to You.
My body is a gift from God, I return it to You.
Quilting is a process. Getting healthy physically is a process. Growing in relationship with the Lord, Father, Son & Holy Spirit is a process. And perhaps one day these Practices will lead me where God desires me to go.