Thirty-five years ago, one of our neighbors raised some eyebrows when as President of the United States, he wore cotton blue jeans in the White House. Some worried that this might be a sign of disrespect for the office. Today, our family had the opportunity to visit the Sumter County Producers Gin and see the cotton unloaded from the fields and process for shipping. I have a new perspective on President Carter’s clothing and now I believe he was wearing cotton out of respect for the Southern farmers and the hard working men and women everywhere who labor to produce our goods.
Unfortunately, too many families in our nation are struggling to “keep a roof over their head.” That is an interesting phrase. Clothing, food and shelter are among the most basic universal needs of all of humanity.
There’s a fascinating story in the Bible about Jacob that inspired the popular song “Jacob’s Ladder.” He was on a journey and fell asleep with only a rock for a pillow. Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven and when he awoke he declared the rock the house of the Lord (Bethel), and then he pledged a tithe of 10 percent to God for sheltering, feeding and clothing him:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” – Genesis 28: 10-22
So from the first book in the Bible we find this story linking of our wellbeing with our relationship with God. And it is interesting that Jacob’s House of God wasn’t a house at all. It was just a rock, out in nature, under the stars. Vulnerable, defenseless, and exposed, the temporarily homeless Jacob found God’s blessing and promise to watch over him and his descendants.
Jacob was a more adventurous traveler than I am. When I go on a journey, I usually stay at a Holiday Inn Express. They have pillows there that are actually labeled “firm” or “soft” but I’ve not yet found one labeled “rock.” Camping is not my first choice either. I’m too comfortable in the hotel sleeping under their 800 thread cotton sheets.
There’s another wonderful thing that can be made from cotton and that is a quilt. I love the image of a hand-sewn patchwork quilt that keeps us warm in the cold winter evenings. The pieces of cloth come from old garments, recycled and reused to bring a new life to worn out clothes. They have different colors and different textures. They come from different backgrounds and different communities. But when woven together the patchwork quilt becomes beautiful.
This is just a sampling of the activity that is going on. When woven together, it makes one beautiful, quilted message of God’s love and promise of shelter that began with a crazy dream, on a rock pillow thousands of years ago.
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