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Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

One of my offerings for the SPRING issue of Seasoned with Peace is this knitted log cabin tutorial.  It is also a guided prayer meditation, a way to pray without ceasing.  Below is my essay as it appears in Seasoned with Peace, along with more detailed instructions as promised there.  Click on the links for some of the knitting how-to’s.

(Click here to order the SPRING issue of Seasoned with Peace)

 

 

Piecing for Peace — a knitted log cabin prayer tutorial

“When I was in high school a sixth grade boy named Luke taught me how to knit.  From the beginning, I found knitting to be a soothing, meditative exercise.  As I knit a project or a gift, I become increasingly calm and centered.  When done intentionally and prayerfully, the act of knitting can also bring peace and wholeness to others and to the world around us.

The ‘Knitted Log Cabin’ project is in the spirit of “Gathering up the Fragments” from the More with Less cookbook, using leftover yarn from other projects, and can be used for anything from dishcloths and potholders, to afghans, lap blankets or even scarves.  I love the beauty of pieced quilts, so when I first saw a knitted log cabin square on Purl Bee’s website, I fell in love (http://www.purlbee.com/log-cabin-washcloths/).

The technical aspects of this project are not that important.  What is important is your intention and attention.  When sitting down to knit, you must first intend it as a time of prayer.  Take a moment to say a prayer of dedication for this time.  Secondly, keep your attention on what you’re doing.  You don’t always have to be “saying” something to God, just holding the prayer in your heart as you pay very close attention to your stitching.  When other thoughts come up (and they surely will), gently and without judgment, return your attention to your knitting and your prayer.  In this way, we can pray without ceasing.

Start by knitting a small square. Try to make it as equal on all sides as possible, as this will be the foundation for the whole log cabin block.  Using all the same weight of yarn will help the finished block remain even, and allow for easier piecing with other finished blocks.  Bind off the square except for the last stitch.  Cut the yarn leaving a 4-6” tail.  I know real knitters never tie knots.  So if you are a real knitter, do whatever it is you do when changing colors.  The rest of us can tie a new color to the old color with a knot.

With the new color, pick up stitches along the side of the square and knit rows until desired thickness.  Keep track of how many rows this is so that all your ‘logs’ are the same.  You’ll soon get the feel for it and won’t need to count anymore.  No matter how thick your ‘logs’ are, after picking up the stitches, knit an odd number of rows, then bind off.

Again, leave one stitch at the end of the row that you are binding off, snip the yarn, attach a new color, and now you will be picking up stitches with the new color along the bottom edge of your original square.  Continue, knitting straight across the ends of ‘logs’, knitting your block as large or small as you like.  When you finish, count up the ‘logs’ starting in the center to be sure you have the same number on each side.  I weave in the ends on the backside as I finish each block so that it is not an overwhelming task at the end.

Here are some ideas for implementing this project:

  • You might have a list of people and/or situations to pray for when you sit down to knit.  Dedicate one color or ‘log’ of the cabin to each item. If doing a group project, come up with a list together.
  • If making a gift for someone, keep track of the colors and tell them how you prayed for them with each one.
  • If donating the project to an organization, prayers and meditations can be focused on the work of that group.

Engaging in any act in an attitude of prayer grounds us in the immediacy of God’s presence.  Knitting in particular is an activity whereby a long, wound-up ball of yarn is slowly transformed into something whole and beautiful, bringing peace to the world one stitch at a time.”

 

 

 

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Like a Barb in the Soul

 

 

I’ve been thinking about this tree for months.  The first time I saw it I was shocked and horrified, and yet, I found something beautiful and inspiring about it as well.  It has part of a barbed wire fence running right through the middle of its trunk.

 

There’s a spot on one side of a pond that I like to walk around where there is a barbed wire fence.  The trees that grow along it remind me of the Ents who go to war against Isengard and the machine of industry, marching on the front lines to their “doom”. There is even one tree that seems to have actually broken part of the barbed wire, but still has it hanging out the other side.

 

For a long time I thought about the way that barb entered right into the heart of that tree: slowly, dully, imperceptibly.  And then one day it’s just there, it’s part of the tree.  Like so many of the wounds that we carry around, they’re just there, and we wonder in vain where they came from.

 

I wanted so badly for those trees to be whole.  I had the urge to yank that barbed wire right out, to tug at it with all my might.  In my frenzy, I could imagine even chiseling at the tree itself, performing a sort of hack-job surgery.

 

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that any effort to relieve the tree of those barbs would surely kill it.  It had learned to grow around and live with the barbs that had intruded on its life.  And it still sprouted branches and leaves and for all the world was still doing exactly what it should, still able to be a tree in all its tree-ness.

 

 

 

(My friend Erin and I paid a visit to these trees the other day.  For another perspective – and a profound one at that – read her blog post here.)

 

 

 

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Have you ever played that game where you sit across from a friend and you each draw the other without looking at the paper and without lifting your pencil?  I always loved how grotesque those drawings turned out and they were always hilarious.  A rollicking good time.  Those drawings required concentration and a good dose of will-power.  It was really hard not to look at the paper as you were drawing and stay focused on the face of your friend.

 

I’ve been reading — working through, really – two books lately.  One is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.  The other is The Zen of Seeing by Frederick Franck.  Both are about drawing, but even more about learning to see differently.

 

Today I did an exercise in seeing – I crumbled up a piece of paper and drew it without looking.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  And as I drew this crumpled-up piece of paper, an amazing thing happened.  I began to see an iceberg.

 

Now I’m not advocating drawing as the new hallucinogen.  What I mean is that I became so absorbed in the experience of seeing that it was as if I went inside the iceberg.  Oops, I mean crumpled paper.  See what I mean?  I felt as though I was exploring the cavernous expanse of an iceberg, making my way toward the shaft of light in the center.

 

I don’t mind telling you that I’ve been a little high-strung lately.  Nothing serious, just the normal ebb and flow of life, the human condition and all that.  And like the puzzle of Two Dutch Girls, drawing – without worrying about what it looked like – just doing it, and doing it slowly, settled me down.

 

The light in the center.  That’s where I went.  And when I came out I felt centered and full of light.

 

 

 

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Central San Joaquin Valley, California

 

 

I can’t get him out of my head.  The sparkle in his eyes.  His silent, toothless smile.  And the slow but enthusiastic thumbs-up he gave signaling he was ready to go.

 
During the pre-boarding on our flight from Phoenix to Fresno, a man in a wheelchair was brought up to board the plane.  He didn’t hardly move and didn’t say anything.  His skin seemed to be draped over the frame of his body.

 
When I took my seat on the plane, he was already seated directly across the aisle from me.  Something about him drew me in as I watched him, sometimes not-so-covertly, from across the aisle.  His eyes were so full of joy I expected them to overflow and trickle down his cheeks at any moment.  I nearly felt the same would happen to me.

 
He mostly held his hands in what seemed to be a very awkward position.  They were big and looked strong, like they had done a lot of hard work throughout his long life.

 
He sat, not staring bleakly into space, but watching everything and paying very close attention to what was going on around him.  He had no book, no iPod, no nothing.  He didn’t want anything to drink when offered, declining politely in his own silent way.  He just sat there, so utterly at peace.

 
The cover on the armrest where the tray table was stowed kept flipping open.  A couple of times I almost reached over to close it, wanting him to be more comfortable.  But it seemed to bother me more than it bothered him, so I left it alone.

 
His body was clearly no hindrance to his soul.

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Seasoned with Peace

Part 1, WINTER

 

And now, for a commercial…

 

Seasoned with Peace WINTER is here!  It is the first of four seasonal books with “Practical help for becoming a biblical, prayerful, playful peacemaker”, compiled by Susan Mark Landis, Lisa J. Amstutz, and Cindy Snider.

 

It is a daily devotional that begins January 1, which includes reflections, prayers, recipes, crafts, projects, information, poetry, and action steps.   And the best part is, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

 

This book makes a lovely Christmas gift — consider even getting a “subscription” for someone by ordering SPRING, SUMMER, and FALL as they come out.

 

The cost is $15.95 with approximately $9 going to peace and justice work!  An individual order of 5 books or more can be discounted at $12 each, but that just means less goes to peace and justice work.  All the work for it has been volunteer, with proceeds going to support Mennonite Church USA Peace and Justice Support Network.

 

They are available at: http://seasonedwithpeace.blogspot.com/ There are also sample entries on the website, a little sneak peak, if you will.

 

P.S.  Several of my entries, including craft projects, recipes and reflections will be in the SPRING edition:)

P.P.S.  If you have a reflection, recipe, poem, prayer, or craft project you’d like to contribute, email Susan at peaceforallseasons@gmail.com

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There used to be a spider outside my door.  A big, scary, stripey one.  Its legs looked like candy canes.  Before I walked by, I always made sure I knew where it was.  And then I made a break for it.  It was usually enthroned in the center of its web, and I swear it was ready to pounce.  I never saw any bugs in its web – I’m sure it devoured them all by morning.

And then there was another one.  This one was bigger and uglier, gray and kind of scaley looking.  That one moved around a lot, and blended in with the paint; you never knew where it was.

I almost took down the webs a couple of times.  But no way would I try to kill them – I’d probably just make them mad and then they’d charge me.  But mostly I didn’t want to hear the crunch of their exoskeletons… and the squish.  Blech!

Then one night I came home and they were gone.  I thought I’d feel relieved and safe and be glad that I didn’t have to hold my breath when I walked by or have to work up the courage to go out my front door.  More than anything I just noticed the big hole in the balcony where the great expanse of their webs had been.  And I felt a little sad.

I hadn’t realized that I’d grown a bit used to their presence and that looking for them in the morning had become a ritual sort of greeting.  And I kind of missed them.  And I wondered, if I can accept the presence of these scary arachnids, and learn to coexist with them – if we can agree that they won’t jump on me and I won’t knock down their webs – I wonder what else might be possible.

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