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Merry Christmas!

Grace to you and peace, from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As the Advent days flow into Christmas, we see signs of celebration everywhere. Some secular, some religious. The crowds, the traffic, the frenzy of shopping, the Christmas trees, the carols, the ubiquitous Santa Claus jollying ho-ho-ho’s, the gift buying, the gift giving, the decorated churches, the Christmas plays, the sermons. This Advent has boundaries; it begins December 1st and does not exceed December 24th.

Yet, beloved in Christ, for all the millennia plus of its existence, the Church, unbound, has lived and continues to live in the Advent.

What?! How could that be? What nonsense! The Church exists year round! There must be another Advent!

Indeed, it does, and there is.

There are two Advents.

One Advent is that which the Church celebrates in December, and it points towards Christmas Day. In this Advent is the recounting of the narrative of the swaddled Baby (born to die) laid in the manger, the night-watching shepherds; the long-journeying Magi; the wondering parents; and a king who slaughtered innocents so that God’s will would not be done and His kingdom not come to His oppressed people.

The other Advent, uncelebrated by the Church, is the one in which she lives, and its terminal event is the eschaton or the Second Coming. That is the Christmas towards which all those who died in faith, that great crowd of witnesses have looked and yearned towards. This Advent, so full of dangers and threats on every side, in it we live the Church Militant: prayerful, a remnant, under siege, watching for the dearly longed-for Christmas Day.

The Church Militant is not the Church waging war with secular weapons of warfare. Instead, it is the Church on its knees; weak, yet strongest in weakness “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor 4:7b) The Church is not ours though we are the Church. It is Christ’s. She is His bride. He died for her. He is her head and she the Body. The Bride is strongest when she knows that she needs her Lord; therefore, the Church is strongest when persecuted for then, unable to save herself, she is confronted with her weakness and crying out to her Lord for for deliverance.

The Church Militant is not about great numbers, for where the two and the three are gathered in the name of Christ, there is the Church, and she will endure to the end. Instead, it is about the remnant, which the number 144,000 may signify, who are faithful to Christ to the end, regardless.

The Church Militant is the Church under siege, the blood of the martyrs mingled with the blood of Christ on the blood-stained banner ever rampant on the field. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed”. (2 Cor 4:8-9) We are reviled and hated by the world for the sake of the Word of God. Still, we continue teaching and preaching the forgiveness of sin and salvation by baptism, through grace, through the hearing of the Word, and through faith in Christ alone.

In many countries today, we are imprisoned for righteousness sake. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “when Christ calls a man He bids him come and die.” Holding fast under persecution, “we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter”. (Ro 8:36c-d) Yet, we refuse to renounce our Savior deeming death preferable to denial of Him, knowing that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”, (Ro 8:37) and “[a]lways bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Cor 4:10) Furthermore, we have the assurance of our reward for enduring through the tribulations of this world. (Rev 7:13-17) Though under siege, some will fall by the way, those who endure to the end will be saved.

It is brutal, this Advent. It is filled with wars, rumors of war, earthquakes in divers places, famine, distress, persecution, and prosecution. Perhaps the membership is falling because the cultural mavens mock at faith and the flesh of some is weak and so they fall away, preferring to be pleasers of men. Or, perhaps the shepherds think they can grow the church if only it would bend to the world and declare that some things in the Bible are outmoded. Why preach against sin? Why preach repentance for sin to make people feel uncomfortable? Perhaps, buildings are being destroyed by the heathen, or converted to heathen or other secular use; after all, who will object when the membership have fled? Though we may lose all, let us count it for naught.

There are those who would mock, deride, scorn, revile, rape, burn, persecute, prosecute, imprison, behead, and kill us. Nevertheless, they are not the enemy. Indeed, our enemy is well known and has been from before the Fall. Moreover, we know that he has already lost the battle. Jesus lives; the victory’s won, and that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 8:38-39)

In this brutal and trial-filled Advent in which the Church lives, bloodied but unbowed, we are sustained and consoled by these words of life: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev 2:10) Planting the cross firmly before us, we can look past our present troubles to the joy of a New Christmas Day.

This, the longest and unkindest Advent of all, wherein we live crying out “how long, Lord?” takes us to the Christmas of God’s rest. On that Day, like John, we will hear: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4) “

That is a Christmas Day devoutly to be beheld and celebrated. Until then, beloved, watch and pray.

Merry Christmas.

The Road to Luo Ma

Sunday, we went to Luo Ma to hunt down some fabric.

Luo Ma is a small dusty village three hours or so away from the city where we live, and getting there means two long bus rides interspersed with another long waiting period.

The journey commenced at 10 AM when four of us boarded the 701 bus to Ba Miao. Our company consisted of three men and one woman, one of the men being the guide to the village, the other a friend, and the last a young student of the friend.

Being a foreigner traveling through China is not for the faint of heart. One must have the equanimity to deal smilingly with the stares of strangers who may have never encountered a foreigner or sat next to a person of African descent before. Additionally, one must be aware that the curiosity of locals is boundless so that people listen unashamedly to one’s conversations in some hope, sometimes vain, that they may gain insight into the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the foreigner. Some people wilt under such intensely curious examination; we don’t because that curiosity is well met and returned on our part.

Anyway, on the bus, our friend enquired of a young male traveler concerning good food to be had in Ba Miao. That focus on food is one of the interesting facets of life in China, along with being regaled with stories of “famous” place. In fact, it may even be considered a standing joke by expats that every place in China is “famous” for its noodles or some other thing. So, it was with no surprise that we heard the young traveler declare that Ba Miao is famous for its noodles, a staple of Chinese life, and recommend that we lunch on it.

Upon our arrival in Ba Miao some twenty minutes to noon, our friends expressed their intention to fill their hungry bellies. That is another unsurprising part of life here since the Chinese prefer to eat at set times, without much deviation. As we are not given much to eating when on various expeditions, such as shopping or knocking around town, we did grumble at having to stop for the “famous” Ba Miao noodles but yielded to the in-built local clocks.

The noodle joint was packed with diners, and we placed our order and settled in for a long wait. When the food came, we wondered why Ba Miao noodles were “famous”.

After lunch, we meandered to the bus station, bought tickets, and waited for a while, only to discover that the Luo Ma bus was not going to come into the station. We had to go out to the street and meet it. The driver, for some reason unknown to us, insisted on rolling the bus as we were about to board, which caused our hesitation. The guide then said the driver would move up to a small gap in the side walk and let us board there, apparently because he could remain in queue only so long before moving to allow others to take his place.

The road to Luo Ma is long and dusty. White dust. Clayey red dust. Along it are unpaved and rutted lanes leading to other communities. Their dusty-clay and pocked surfaces convey the legend of their appearance after a rainfall. On either side of the road are fields of corn and other vegetables or mulberry plants. At some points along the way, the plants and other vegetation have resigned themselves to the dusty domination of the roads and yielded their verdancy.

So, rolling along, sometimes bumpily, we came to the sparse, signboarded junction that is Luo Ma and disembarked.

TO BE CONTINUED….

Yum! Yarn!

We bought these new yarns to weave Thong.
plantfiberblend
This yarn is a plant fiber blend. It is approximately 90%+ cotton with the remainder perhaps hemp or some other natural fiber. We know it is natural fiber because we did the burn test.

woolblend
This yarn is an animal fiber with touches of plant fiber blend. It contains wool, cashmere, some silk, and other natural fibers. The burn test has a fast moving orange flame, and the residue crumbles quickly into dust when rubbed between the fingers. Plus, it smells like burnt hair or such. There is no hint of man-made fiber in the mix.

The Hemp

The two cones of 100% hemp yarn, 8.5/1 and 10/2, came two days ago.
twohemp
The cones are short, squat, fat cones of hemp weighing about 1.6 KG each. That’s a lot of hemp yarn.

Well, it so happens that we are expecting the new 32″ Ashford rigid heddle loom in a week or two. We don’t wish to say that we are slavering, but we are salivating at the prospect of experimenting with the hemp.

What to weave? We requested and the vendor agreed to replace the usual 7.5 dent heddle for a 12.5 dent one. Whoo-hoo! Sure, it is possible to weave rugs with a 7.5 dent heddle, or at least we, in our blessed ignorance, think so. However, with a 12.5 dent heddle it is even more possible to weave BOTH rugs AND tapestry, or whatever captures our fancy.

The point of the acquisition is merely to learn to weave. To learn the fine art of weaving with a mindset towards applying the new knowledge and skills gained to the weaving of tapestry. It’s all about tapestry with us, where the rubber hits the road. Every loom we have is for tapestry. We delight and wallow in it.

So, if that means weaving towels and other such cloths, we will take our lead from other weavers who have mastered the art of cloth-weaving. It is a fine and grand adventure we shall set upon when that Ashford arrives.

The hemp will play a signficant role in it. Will 10/2 hemp be adequate for warp, or will it be better suited to weft? What about 8.5/1?

Who knows? The weaving gods know! Tune in, same time, same channel!…

The Fragrance of Raw Silk

silkbatt
Raw silk has a unique fragrance all its own. It’s a silky perfume that whispers “rich, decadent, luxurious, yum!” It just invites you to “bury your nose in me. You know you want to!” That invitation is irresistible.

Today, by happenstance, we bought silk batting, a lovely, rich white and creamy silk from mulberry-leaf-fed silkworms. We were walking along Gucheng Road after a trip to the bank when, lo and behold, we spied raw silk batting in the window of a silk shop.
silkbatt1
Drawn by the prospect of caressing and inhaling that decadently luxurious silk fragrance, we went into the store and engaged the clerks in conversation. The upshot was a purchase of two pieces of silk batting. One piece is 1.6 KGs and almost the size of a full sized bed. The other piece is .1 KG and was purchased to experiment with spinning silk yarn.

This wonderful and richly fragranced length of silk batting can be yours for $130 USD, plus $30 shipping.
silkbatt2
Just think of pampering yourself with a luxurious silk-filled comforter or a winter jacket with a wondrously warm silk-filled

Work Smart

My mother, God rest her soul, would always drum into my head, “don’t work hard, work smart” because she saw I would work myself into the ground getting things done. It would drive me nuts. Now that she’s gone, would that she were around to say that again in relation to the Simply Warped store.

Why?

Drupal itself, Commerce Kickstart, Open Deals, and such, each has a learning curve. Learning curves are not bad in an of themselves, but the point is just to have the store up and running, to sell something and make some money instead of putting out money all the time. So, it’s time to rewind the tape and let my mother’s voice play.

Taking her words to heart, it’s best to have a very simple store with no CMS commerce software. Just your average everyday listing of what’s in stock, the price, and a PayPal link.

eBay sales are a viable option, but the fees are a killer! The Etsy fees aren’t so bad, but between Etsy and PayPal, a nice little chunk comes out of the profits. Since Simply Warped is a very small business, the money it makes is plough end back into the business, and there is some resentment of the fees, no matter how small they are. consider each fee paid thus: one less ball of yarn that that can be bought, one less kilo of yarn. So, sales will be conducted from this site and from the Etsy store where the fees paid are the price of reaching a wider audience.

Finally, there will be no more worrying about things; at Simply Warped, we’ll just ship yarn from China because there’ son one in the USA to handle shipping on a consistent basis. The cone yarn won’t be shipped from here, but things like silk batt, balls of yarn will be.

Yarn sales will be listed at Grapson!

Overpriced!

Curious to know how other people are selling yarn, I moseyed on over to eBay. I found balls of yarn selling there for $16.99, by a seller out of Shanghai. That means the seller is saying he paid 102 RMB per ball, or much less than that since he would’ve bought wholesale. That is crazy, not for the kind of yarn that was so priced. I’ve found boxes of high quality wool, NZ and Oz wools, for 300 RMB – 400 RMB. That box would usually contain four to six balls, along with a couple of spools of thread and small cones of yarn.

I guess, in the true spirit of free marketism, $16.99 is what the vendor thought the market could bear. The market is saying “no” because there was only one sale of the yarn.

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