Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Framing the Story

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Genesis 50) transports me to my grandparents’ house near Gashes Creek, the place to be in the fifties and early sixties on Sunday afternoons, when a good number of their 12 children and dozens of grandchildren would congregate for food, fellowship, and fun. Stories abound about the horse shoe matches, the cow pasture baseball games where you might slide into what you thought was second base, and granddaddy’s ongoing battle with granny’s cats. A favorite story comes from my brother David; when he and cousin Charlie were kids, they liked to see who could hit rocks the farthest with makeshift bats. One Sunday, they were searching around for something to use as a bat, and came across a wooden structure in the basement. They tore it apart and found the sticks to be the perfect size for swatting rocks. All went well until somebody spotted them and ratted them out to Granny. They had torn apart her heirloom quilting frame, a well-used prized possession that would be difficult to replace. It was a day of reckoning for the 2 young home-run derby stars, who were probably seeing stars after it was all over. You have to remember that Granny was a product of the Depression era, and quilting for her was a frugal necessity, not the boutique art form it is today. Going to a fabric store to buy material for quilts was unheard of back then. Quilting served two essential functions; it was a means of recycling old and worn out and threadbare clothes, turning them into utilitarian pieces of art that provided warmth on cold winter nights. Secondly, the quilting frame provided the means for Granny, her sisters, and other women in the community to gather and talk, sharing news and worries and hopes and disappointments. It was a means of forming and sustaining community. Two kinds of fabric were being worked there on the frame – textile and social.

I can’t help but think about that quilting loom when I read stories like the one in today’s passage of Joseph and his brothers at the end of their long epic drama. When patriarch Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared for their lives, suspecting that Joseph had been holding a grudge against them for their actions against him in his youth. They channeled some of Jacob’s authority, sending a message to Joseph that his father’s last wishes were for him to forgive them. They approached him and threw themselves on the ground, foreshadowing the Prodigal Son as they hoped to be received as slaves, even as they felt they deserved death. Joseph was more than gracious in his weeping response. He put their history in the context of God’s providence and sovereignty over the affairs of human beings. Don’t be afraid, he said to them. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. It gives me a picture of God as the grand quilter, taking the threads of history, the old and worn out fabric of our foibles and failures, weaving all these threads into a beautiful and useful work of art – salvation.

In a week when I’ve had my faith questioned and my core values berated and castigated in a public way, I’m glad to have Joseph’s story to remind me that what people intend for harm, God can use for good. The master quilter can take the discarded fabric of animosity and the loose threads of desperate rage, and weave them into a garment that will ultimately prove salvific for someone. Such a trust in God’s sovereignty and providence was confirmed today when someone who had read some of those online attacks told me that it only motivated him to re-double his efforts in the outreach and ministries of our church. After that word of encouragement, I found myself humming one of the old hymns Kim and I played last Sunday at First Baptist Morganton’s homecoming service, When I Can Read My Title Clear. The second verse reads like it could have come from Joseph in his encounter with his brothers: Should earth against my soul engage, and fiery darts be hurled, then I can smile at Satan’s rage and face a frowning world. A healthy belief that the whole world is indeed in God’s hands, hands that are constantly weaving worn out materials of meanness and fear into a fabric of faith, enables us to smile and face a world that is nothing these days if not frowning. It also reminds me that even those life experiences that lead to a dreaded day of reckoning, like tearing up a treasured quilting frame, can eventually be woven into our lives as a treasured story that brings smiles and laughter.

How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.



  • October 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    How I have long, and dearly, loved that verse you quote: “…then I can smile at Satan’s rage and face a frowning world”!

    Comment by Ken Sehested

  • October 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Well said my brother.

    Comment by Bro Jerry

  • October 25, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Stan, I have read this blog a couple of times now and it brings back good memories. But what I want to say to you is this: There are always going to be nay sayers in this world. And I believe everyone has a right to agree or disagree respectfully. However it is really not ok to be disrespectful, hateful, hatefilled and judgemental in our disagreements. Do not be discouraged by the rude nay sayers of this world. You have made such a difference in the lives of so many people and are living a life as close to Christ
    like as anyone I know when it comes to matters of importance such as promoting peace and living out the sermon Christ did on the mount. Be encouraged by the good coming from your ministry and not discouraged by the rude and disrectful of this world.

    Comment by Bro Jerry

  • October 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    A note from the one of the homerun derby participants – thanks for bringing back the good memories of those Sunday afternoons at the old Gashes Creek home of granny and granddaddy. Those were awesome times of great fellowship. And I met the right hand of fellowship in a very meaningful way that afternoon when Charles and I played our game of homerun derby over the alfalfa field. Keep up the good words Stan.

    Comment by Bro Dave

  • October 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Loved seeing the picture of Granny! Loved reading todays installment of inourelements. Love you! Love the difference you’ve made in my life and the difference you are making in the life of my son. Keep living out the message!

    Comment by Kelly Dotson

  • October 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Thanks for the blog….I also read and re-read today’s thoughts. I appreciate and admire your creativity and your abilities to bring together your life experiences with the scripture. I can see Uncle Dave getting popped with his homemade bat :) I also want to thank you for yet another “teachable moment” for me this week. Great analogy with the loom by the way…made me think of an artist I have become friends with…he told me a few weeks ago his inspiration and vision is to take the “ugly, not accepted” things in our everyday life and put them all together to make something beautiful….we all have different thoughts, we all have different ideas, we all express ourselves differently….we may not all think the same, but I agree our differences can make us stronger…through it all we must know we can come together using our differences to strengthen ourselves. One piece of the old fabric mentioned is weak, but isn’t it amazing when each piece of the old and fragile fabric is woven through the loom how strong the pieces become as one quilt….something to think about.

    Comment by Kris Dotson

  • October 26, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Ken – it’s one of my favorites, too. And a great hymn tune as well, especially on hammer dulcimer.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 26, 2012 at 5:04 am

    Jerry, I sure appreciate the good word of encouragement and wise counsel. I’m grateful for all the folks, especially those in our church, who are able to have that kind of respectful and civil dialogue that enables us to learn from each other. And I’m grateful to be in such fruitful ministry alongside you and all the others at Ecclesia.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 26, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Bro Dave – you’ll have to make sure and tell Phillip that I’ve written more stories about you! I love how you described meeting the right hand of fellowship in a meaningful way. I’ll bet!

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 26, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Kelly – love you right back! The photo of Granny sure brings back lots of memories. Love you right back, and you keep living out to the good news, too.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 26, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Nephew Kris – mighty glad to have run into you yesterday. Thanks for your good comments here, I especially love the quote from your artist friend. It’s what we’re all about, and it’s what God’s all about in our lives.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Stan, I think you are already reading ‘your title clear.’ Keep your compass on due north.

    I do want to know if the quilt frame was repairable, though… after the game was over, anyway.

    Comment by carolyn christman

  • October 31, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Carolyn – thanks so much for the kind and encouraging words. I don’t know what happened to the quilting frame, and I don’t think David or Charles remember much of what happened after they were “busted.”

    Comment by Stan Dotson

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