Sunday, July 31, 2016

Staying Within Reach of Jesus

Jesus was talking to a group of people when a woman came behind him. She had suffered from severe bleeding for twelve years. Hoping to be relieved of her difficulty, she pushes through the crowd with great faith, desiring only to touch the hem of Jesus' cloak.

When she reached the cloak, Jesus turned around. He felt power go out of him and said, "Courage my daughter! Your faith has made you well." At that moment the woman was healed of her infirmity. The simple act of touch cloth, Jesus' cloak, made her well.

I, too, find healing and peace when I touch cloth while I quilt, imagining I am in the crowd right next to Jesus.

My interest in quilting began in 1973 when Mike began serving churches in rural North Carolina while in seminary at Duke University. One summer he pastored two small churches. Often the families invited us for lunch or dinner. We were glad to eat a "true Southern meal" and especially enjoyed getting to know the families, their hobbies and interests.

Most of the women quilted. They were proud of the quilts that they made, showing me stacks of sewed beauty in various colors and patterns. They told me the story contained within each quilt that involved the choice of fabric and design. I could tell that the quilts were a source of pride, containers of family history as well as a source of warmth and comfort on cool nights.

When we returned to Indiana following Mike's graduation, he received an appointment to a church in New Castle, east of Indianapolis. Remembering how much I like the quilts made by the women in rural communities, I took a beginning quilting class at the local YMCA.

A group of women at the church who learned about the class I was taking, gave me a generous supply of fabric scraps from their stash. I had a ready supply of fabric to begin my first quilt - the perfect project for a long Indiana winter.

Cutting the fabric, sewing the squares together and arranging the squares into a nine-patch pattern brought a feeling of peace to my heart. Was I experiencing a connection to Jesus' cloak like the woman long ago?

As I quilted, I remembered the scripture passage where that story is found, Matthew 9:20-22. Placing myself in these passages, I imagined myself touching Jesus' cloak as I manipulated the fabric into a colorful quilt. I truly believed the peace that came whenever I touched cloth was as if I , too, was in the crowd that day reaching for Jesus, content with feeling the hem of his garment.

Recently I read Still Life: A Memoir of Living with Depression by Gillian Marchenko. Early in the book, she references this same scripture in her desperation to find a way out of living with depression.

"There is a story in the New Testament about a woman who hemorrhaged and bled for years. Jesus walked by her one day in a village, and she reached out and grabbed on to his robe. Feeling power leave him, he turned and saw her. 'Take heart,' daughter, he said, 'your faith has healed you.'" I thrust my hands out in front of me. I am a little girl lost in a dark house alone. I need to find that robe. I want to be healed."

Through the years I have made many quilts for my daughter's twin beds, quilt for their dolls and stuffed animals. Quilt-making began for me in 1976 and continues today when I make small quilted pieces to give friends, for pillows or decorations. The feeling of peace that began when I first picked up and sewed fabric squares together and then rhythmically moved the needle in and out of two layers of fabric and one layer of batting, remains today, keeping me in touch with Jesus, the source of all I need.

Prayer: God, many ways connect us to you. Taking a portion of your life and blending with our stories and circumstances keeps us in your life-giving touch. Amen.

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