Home | Philosophy | Happiness

Blue, Purple and Red Yarn

In faith traditions, there are themes of waiting and themes of being fully engaged in the present moment. Sometimes religious traditions teach people how to wait, with many centuries of tradition of waiting for a promised land, waiting for a return from exile, waiting for a new and better world, waiting for a savior, waiting to see what God will bring.

An attitude of prayerful waiting transforms difficult life situations into lives of faith and strength. The same religious traditions also give us guidance for living lives that are fully engaged in the present place, time and situation.

As a single person, I want to create a life that is fully engaged, centered in the world I live in and in the present time. I want to appreciate this year, this city, this neighborhood, this current life situation.

I have been writing about the art of creating a life that is fully engaged, filled with faith, with values of connectedness, community, creativity, sustainability, service, prayer and study woven throughout all aspects of life. As people of faith, we are meant to be salt for the earth and light for the world, fully engaged wherever we can be engaged.

The title "Blue, Purple and Red Yarn" comes from verses in Exodus about the people creating fabrics for the tabernacle with blue, purple and scarlet yarns. The story celebrates creativity, the joy of good craftsmanship, and the invitation to create something beautiful for one's present life, time and situation.

The story is this: While Moses and the Israelites were in the desert, God gave Moses an intriguing command. Even though the people were not settled in their own land yet, God told Moses that he wanted the people to have a place to worship. The place of worship would be beautiful, built by the skilled hands of the people. It would be decorated with fabrics, precious stones and carvings. It would echo the beauty of the garden where human life began so long ago and it should foretell the beauty of the land the people would settle in future generations. It would be something to be carried from place to place; and it would be the temple where God and the people would meet.

The Lord said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them."
- from Exodus 25, NIV
And everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.
All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold ... blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen, or goat hair ... ram skins dyed red or the other durable leather ... silver or bronze ... acacia wood ... onyx stones ... spices and olive oil ...
Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had spun - blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen.
All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do.
- from Exodus 35, NIV

Ancient writers celebrated skilled craftsmanship as a way of capturing and reflecting the natural beauty of the created world. The colors blue, purple and red were colors that could be created from natural dyes, with berries and roots providing vibrant hues. Spinning and weaving were valuable skills in the ancient world, with these arts found in the artifacts and stories of virtually every ancient society, and still practiced worldwide today.

The image of men and women offering precious stones and wood and spinning colorful yarns for the tabernacle is a strong image, reflecting the value of creating beauty wherever you are, from whatever resources are available to you, of freely offering your talent to projects that matter, and of the universal value placed on work, art and craftsmanship.

November 2013