Pieced Together

I have sewn for years, both for pleasure and for business. As I have honed my craft, I have learned that I dislike sewing quilts. They are too time-consuming for my personality; however, I enjoy the beauty in little bits of cloth intricately sewn together. It especially amazes me when I see a quilt that is entirely hand-stitched together. I can appreciate how much time is involved in piecing together some of the more intricate patterns.

Quilts remind me of the Church. The Church is made up of a patchwork of people sewn together into a beautiful creation that is the Body of Christ. Each person has a unique combination of spiritual gifts, personality, and talents that by themselves are interesting and useful, but when each unique design is skillfully pieced together with the others, the end result becomes something spectacular.

Some have been given the gift of teaching or prophecy, others are gifted in administration, and still others have the gift of prayer. Some are encouragers, and others love to serve. Individually, we can make a difference in our small circles of influence, but corporately, we are able to make a difference in the world. No one is more important than another. In fact, if one piece is missing, it leaves an empty space in the pattern.

God, the master artist, has pieced us together into a beautiful tapestry. No matter your gifts or personality, you are needed. One person’s gift cannot stand alone. One person’s gift cannot meet all needs.

1 Corinthians 12:18-20 says, “But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body.”

Each part of the body is necessary and important. The hand or foot doesn’t work without the head. The tendons can’t hold up the rest of the body without the bones. The veins can’t send blood throughout the body without the heart.

As I looked around the congregation I belong to one Sunday, I saw some people praying for someone going through a health crisis while others were busy using their gifts serving and attending to the business matters of the church. There was laughter from many, and there were tears from others. No one was being ignored, and all felt connected. It made my heart sing. Because we are individual members of one Body with Christ as the head, we all need each other, and that makes the Church a beautiful masterpiece.

Bicycles and New Beginnings

Although COVID restrictions shut our programs down, God has increasingly opened doors for other ways to connect with locals. Naomi*, 17, who had participated in my English class, began riding bikes with me. Many young women in our community are interested in cycling, but this activity pushes cultural boundaries. Some face harassment  and punishment from their families for participating.

Naomi and I have become quite close during this last year. One day, she came to my house crying. She had been so excited to share a cycling-related business plan with her father. But he told her she couldn’t ride bikes anymore—it was time for her to grow up and think about getting married. He also told her she could go to university, but her degree would just be for show. Naomi would never be allowed to do anything with her degree or follow her future dreams. She was devastated.

All I could do was sit with Naomi and share in her pain.

A few month later, Naomi told me that she needed to have surgery. I asked if I could visit her afterward, and she agreed. A couple hours after the surgery, I visited Naomi and her family in their home. It was a wonderful visit, but I could tell her parents were a cool toward me; they were kind but reserved, despite my best efforts to connect. I represent the West and Western values.

And I was the one who had encouraged their daughter to ride a bicycle, which is considered shameful in their culture.

As I went to bed that night, I felt discouraged about Naomi’s family ever being open to the gospel. As I was praying, God brought to my mind a story the family had shared during my visit. When they had moved into their neighborhood seven years prior, a family from the center brought them flowers and gifts and welcomed them. When I later asked my colleagues about this exchange, I discovered that they were the Alliance couple who had started our women’s jewelry-making business eight years earlier!

I began to realize that if this couple had taken the time to welcome Naomi’s family, they had probably prayed for them. Eight years later, I’m connected with this same family and have a friendship  with Naomi. I have great hope that God is working here, particularly in my friend’s life. Naomi and I have had many conversations about the gospel. She dreams of a future with more freedom.

It can’t be a coincidence that—of all the young women in our city—I ended up befriending Naomi. Please pray that Naomi and her family will open their hearts to the light and love of the Father.

Alliance Women has a goal to raise $13,500 for a wellness center that creates a welcoming, safe place where young women, like Naomi, can gather and be refreshed. For more resources on the project visit www.alliancewomen.org/resources.

For more information  on how to give to this project, visit www.alliancewomen.org/give.

*Name changed

Celebration Must Resist Cynicism

The month of May brings wonderful opportunities to celebrate! We affirm our moms and congratulate students who reach the milestone of graduation. We buy gifts. We gather. We eat. We laugh. We connect. This mental picture reminds me of the lyrical description: “Seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”*

Can you imagine a Mother’s Day or graduation gathering where the attendees are grumbling and complaining? No thank you. Count me out. I prefer gratitude and affirmation. I appreciate curiosity and childlike enthusiasm.

In the final chapter of his book Beautiful Resistance, Jon Tyson writes, “When we take time to celebrate, whether personally or communally, we are bringing the glory of God into the brokenness of the world around us. We’re accurately representing the God we serve and offering tangible grace to the world” (pg. 160).

Our world can be a dark, difficult place, and bad things do happen. The 24-hour news cycle and social media platforms constantly feed us a diet of despair, but the Scriptures declare that God is good! We see God respond to the evil in our world with sorrow and anger, but His character is defined by love, joy, and peace.

We are created in God’s image to be His representation in the world. May we be people of hope who can love others with joy and peace, giving out what we ourselves have received from the Holy Spirit (see Romans 13:15).

Our lives should celebrate the goodness of God because He is good. What He creates and accomplishes is good. God revealed to Job that when He laid the earth’s foundations: “The morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). May we also sing together and shout for joy as we celebrate the good that God is still producing in our world. Have you seen someone healed, set free, or restored? That’s the good work of God; let’s celebrate!

God is generous, reliable, ever-present, and strong. He has revealed Himself through the Word. Need I say more? I will! Forgiveness, restoration, and purpose is the “good news of great joy” that the angels proclaimed when the Father sent His Son into the world (see Luke 2:10). Jesus came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (see Luke 4:16-21). Tyson writes, “This is why Jesus came. He wanted not a year of Jubilee but a culture of jubilee. His whole ministry was to be defined as a celebration of our redemption and restoration by God” (pg. 153).

Take time to read the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15. These stories were told by Jesus to a group of muttering Pharisees and teachers of the law. Let’s be like Jesus and insist that the work of God includes celebration. Will we join the feast or refuse to participate?

To conclude, allow me to share one final thought from Jon Tyson: “Cynicism is killing our nation. It’s destroying our hearts. It’s putting us in a place where we cannot appreciate the joy that comes from the good news we have been given. But God has an antidote to cynicism—His presence, His redemption, and His fullness of joy. . . . May celebration overflow in your life and resist the cynicism we face today” (pg. 160).

*Home on the Range

Jon Tyson, Beautiful Resistance: The Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2020).

Proper Clothes

For several months prior to my daughter’s wedding, a prime topic of conversation focused on clothing—not only for the bridal party, but also for the immediate family, extended family, and guests. People wanted to know details about the attire of those participating and the colors of the wedding celebration.

Why? So, they could dress appropriately. And, while each person put on unique attire, they all sought to be respectful of the happy couple’s wishes. How one dresses for a wedding conveys an attitude of support and comradery, of entering into the lives of the bridal couple. Dressing appropriately is a symbol of community and shared lives.

Despite the RSVPs and interactions with invited guests, the bridal couple may have an unspoken worry: “What if no one shows up?” Oh, how awful it would be for two people who have planned long and hard for their special day, who have sent invitations well in advance and received encouraging responses, to be left standing alone when the moment comes!

Like the parable in Matthew 22:1-14, God has prepared a wedding feast in honor of His Son, and He has sent out the invitations so that everyone knows they are invited (Romans 1:20). The invitations went out first to the Jews, the ones chosen to share God’s love with the world, but they rejected Him. The invitations have now been extended to everyone to participate, not only in that grand wedding feast, but also in the opportunity to share the message of God’s love with the world.

On Good Friday, as we commemorate the Crucifixion of our Savior, let us once again consider God’s invitation. Do you fall into the category of knowing you are invited yet failing to accept? Perhaps you have grown up in a Christian home and have not yet made the faith of your parents your own. Perhaps you have fallen away from following Him. Perhaps you feel as if you are not good enough to have a seat at the banquet table.

Whatever the case, let us take this day to remember that God has graciously given us His invitation sent well in advance of the wedding date. May we all accept His invitation and share His gospel message with the world until the wedding date arrives. Let us dive deeper into His love for us so that He can transform our hearts, shape us into Christlikeness, and clothe us with attire that is fitting for the wedding feast to end all wedding feasts.

As we each take our seat, let us always remember that God has gifted us in unique ways and has clothed us with the righteousness of Christ. We do not have to earn or fight for our seat at His table; instead, we can bless one another as we grow together. None of us are good enough; it is the blood of the Lamb of God, whom we celebrate, that covers us and allows us to be present at His table.