Saturday 24 March 2012

A pincushion filled with sand

A while back I came across the idea of an emery pincushion: a pincushion filled with a fine abrasive powder that sharpens your pins and needles when they're poked into it.  Sometimes you find emery pincushions 'as is', but more commonly they're tiny pincushions stitched onto a bigger pincushion: the small emery one for actual sharpening and the larger one for storage.  Emery is both heavy and expensive so you don't want to use more of it than you have to.

I hate waste and I do a lot of handsewing, so I liked the idea of not having to throw out a needle every time it went blunt.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a source for tiny quantities of emery but I did, eventually, find an excellent alternative.

It turns out that any very fine, very hard powder will do the trick.  Sand grains are not only very hard, they're also very easy for most Kiwis to come by :-)  Also easy for many Kiwis to come by is muslin, which can be used as a very fine-meshed seive.  Bingo!  So I took some well rinsed and dried beach sand, poured it onto a piece of muslin and squeezed it a bit until a half-teaspoonful or so had passed through.

To make my pincushion I then sewed the sand into a double-walled fabric pouch and sewed that into the centre of an ordinary pincushion.  In the year or so that I've been using it I haven't had to throw out any blunt needles :-)

My original pincushion, with sand in the brown bit in the middle. I do like wrist pincushions!

A sand pincushion I made for a friend - the sand pouch is under the centre of the red fabric.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Masculinity - Two Links

I ran into an interesting post from Mark Sayers today, when I failed my lenten challenge to forego my news feed.

Sayers describes the historical choice of evangelicals to promote a gentler masculinity, and the context which prompted it, to argue that rather than simply looking back to some hardened 'machismo' we should again seek to recentre from biblical principles.

This historical perspective has never featured in the many articles I have encountered on how the church suppresses my manhood, and I found many points still resonated. The world is not so rough and tumble as it was, thank God, but power and dominance are still key temptations men face. The Invitation is still daunting:
In coming to Christ, hardened men were forced to leave their pride at the foot of the Cross. They were invited to follow a Messiah who shunned all of the world’s ideas of honour, who could have struck back with the force of an army of angels, but who chose to die a death that was shameful in the eyes of the world but that brought eternal glory.

I wonder if I Sayers has read this resource, subtitled "A Church Manual on Men as Partners: Promoting Positive Masculinities". I haven't read it yet, but am intrigued that two major organisations (World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches) have set out to build new understandings of masculinity.

As I may have said elsewhere, I personally think that the big noise about men in church is misguided.* I am therefore very pleased to see other voices which seem to build positively but still critically on our history, rather than optimistically reaching for a golden former age.

*David Murrow's recent comment that the church's 'core product' has changed from salvation to relationships may explain why he says that men lack 'risk, challenge and adventure'. Not only is he confusing Sunday services with the Church, but he has lost the whole Change the World element! What bigger challenge and adventure does he want?  Sorry for blowing out my two-link title once I got my rant on.

Thursday 1 March 2012

An unlikely intercessor


God shows His sense of humour again

As mentioned earlier, I've never really 'got' intercessory prayer, although I have recently started to pray for a list of people in a systematic and disciplined way never-the-less.  Two recent happenings suggest to me that praying for people and situations may well be a much more significant part of the work God wants me to do than I would ever have expected.

I've been praying for the situation in Syria for some months now and recently I wanted to see if there was anything we could actually do about it as well.  So I went online and found a list of charities that were doing aid work in Syria (or with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey) as well as contact details for various political bodies who I could perhaps try to lobby.

As I was musing about this one lunchtime and asking God what we should do, I sensed very clearly that what I should do was pray!  It felt so preposterous to me: terrible things were happening and all I should do is pray?!  I guess that shows, yet again, how little I really believe that prayer can change anything....

Then, a couple of days ago I was reading through newsletters from a couple of organisations that send missionaries from New Zealand to various foreign countries to tell people about Jesus.  When I was 16 I felt called by God to be such a missionary and when we got married, such a life was what Martin and I were expecting for ourselves.

My illness has thus far prevented us from going overseas (although we remain open to the possibility), but sometimes I wonder about that sense of call.  What does it mean that, despite it, 20 years later I'm still living here in New Zealand?

I was musing about this as I read those newsletters, and a certainty grew in me that God wants me to pray that people will come to follow him.  Not just the people on my prayer list that I know personally, but people in foreign parts.  For now at least, that is the missionary service he wants from me.1  So as of yesterday that's what I'm doing.

It seems that God may want me - someone who doesn't even really believe that praying achieves anything and only does it out of obedience - to be an intercessor!  I find that somewhat stupendous...

1This reminds me of something I read a while back in the biography of St. Therese of Lisieux (also called St. Theresa the little flower). She was a Carmelite nun, living in the cloister with no contact with the outside world beside occasional visits from her family (all Christians), yet she saw herself as an evangelist. She spent hours a day in prayer, including praying for the salvation of condemned prisoners and other specific individuals she suspected were living apart from God.  Maybe that's the kind of foreign missionary God would have me be?!