By Kristine A. Luber—
Raised by devout parents who sent me to Lutheran schools, I soaked up the words of faith at an early age. I can still recite the first hymn I memorized and my confirmation verse, as well as the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. I also learned to sew as a child. Now I use both gifts—of belief and quilting skills—to piece together, quilt, and do appliqué and embroidery for faith-filled wall hangings, fabric sculptures and liturgical stoles.
Phrases, stanzas and passages I’ve memorized often find their way into my textile art. Recently I was asked to present my work to a secular audience. That’s when I realized it’s impossible for me to separate what I create from what I believe.
I believe in God the father
I began art quilting to contribute to a quilt auction for Camp Tomah Shinga in the Central States Synod of the ELCA. I didn’t have the time and patience required to make a full-size bed quilt, so I decided to start small. Geological features of the camp inspired me: scenic overlooks, broad vistas, a rock cross that campers made on a hillside, gorgeous sunsets and pitch-black, starry skies. Even the camp’s name, Tomah Shinga, a Kaw Indian phrase meaning “shining waters,” and a phrase from the camp’s song, “God is with us in all nature/We can see his mighty plan,” stirred my creativity.
It went well. People liked my small quilts depicting the camp’s features. My God-given talents helped raise money for the camp. I honed my skills and developed techniques that I continue to use.
One day, on a flight from Kansas City to Phoenix, I gazed out my window after take-off. After a few minutes, the familiar urban landscape quickly changed. We began passing over the Great Plains—from the sky, a beautiful patchwork of wheat, corn, soybean and milo fields.
I took lots of photos during that flight—the inspiration for an art quilt made with rectangular patches in shades of green, gold, rust and brown. While some call the Midwestern landscape “flyover country” or some other pejorative label, for me the view brought to mind a hymn verse:
“ We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand, who sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain, the breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain” (ELW 680).
The verse seemed as true in the air that day as when Matthias Claudius first wrote it three centuries ago.
I believe in Jesus Christ
My husband, Elwyn, a graduate of Concordia Seminary in Exile (Seminex), was ordained in 1974. Setting the tone for his ministry of servant leadership, he chose John 3:30 as his ordination verse. In this verse, John the Baptist says about the Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
For his ordination I made a banner full of words, typical for the 1970s. Using basic design skills and simple construction, I glued rug yarn to a couple yards of heavy fabric, dividing the length of the banner diagonally to indicate increase and decrease.
Forty years later when Elwyn retired, I made him a stole to coordinate with that banner. Again I included John the Baptist’s words. Although it mimicked the banner’s use of space, this time I was more intentional in my color choices. On the stole, there is an increase of color from light pink to deep burgundy on the left side and a decrease (using an inverse order of patches of the same fabrics) on the right.
Another time, I was commissioned to make an Advent stole for a first-call pastor. Instead of using traditional Christian symbols, I chose a broader theme of darkness and light. As I worked to piece and quilt the stole, Marty Haugen’s “Awake! Awake and Greet the New Morn” (ELW 242) inspired me:
“ Rejoice, rejoice, take heartin the night,though dark the winterand cheerless, the rising sun shall crownyou with light…”
I sewed together various shades of dark blue sky fabric and appliquéd a bright sun shape. I also slipped in cloth strips I’d printed with a repeating pattern taken from the church building’s stained glass windows. Then, because I knew the congregation had a contentious relationship with their previous pastor, my mind returned to the remainder of that stanza:
“ …be strong and loving and fearless. Love be our song and love our prayer and love our endless story: may God fill every day we share and bring us at last into glory.” (“Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn” by Marty Haugen © 1983, GIA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)
As I worked, I sang Haugen’s words as a prayer that the time these people of God and their pastor shared would be filled with love, peace and the full measure of God’s grace.
For many years, Kristine A. Luber served as education director at First Lutheran Church, Topeka, Kansas, using her gifts to help children and adults express their faith through art. More recently she has been displaying her fabric creations in galleries and designing personalized liturgical stoles.
This article is excerpted from the November 2017 issue of Gather magazine. To read the full story or more like it, subscribe to Gather.