Into the Wine-Press

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The scent of fermentation is distinctly nauseating. The process can’t be rushed. Days pass as you find yourself periodically retching as a whiff catches you off guard. Finally, at just the right time, you can bring out the wine-press. Its brutal archaic feel is needed to exert continuous force on this batch of crushed, fermented grapes. The pressing process now removes all the solid bits and from it begins to flow pure rich wine.

We don’t think of the pressing process often; we take it for granted. We press many things without a second thought; juicing a lemon, rolling out cookie dough, ironing out wrinkles – all are a form of pressing. Applying pressure always changes the original form. A solid lemon becomes juice, a bowl-full of dough becomes a tasty well-formed cookie, your just-out-of-the-dryer shirt changes from “a mess” to a smooth presentable clothing item – all from that process.

When Holy Spirit works the pressing process in your life, you must remember that His plan is always to change you, transform you into new wine. He works on one batch at a time and the process must be yielded into and walked through. How you chose to walk through it is the key – eyes on Jesus, trusting that He is in control and laying down your “fix it” mentality.

You have made it through the crushing and fermenting of this batch but the pressing now begins. Yielding your heart, mind, body and spirit to the loving hand of the Father will allow this process to bring forth a sweet wine.

Leaving behind all that was you to become what you were planned for is the ultimate process of pressing. Holy Spirit’s desire is to move you into a position of contact with the face of Jesus. The pressing will release a free-flowing wine and here you are changed. The pure rich wine that flows sends an aroma of worship to the Father that is intoxicating. It is a worship not made from man, not a music or performance but a purity of true worship that can only be found as you yield to the wine-press.

II Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)

 

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Ready to Stomp Grapes?

Lucy

Making a good wine requires time, energy and a lot of science. The process from start to finish can take years. The planting, tending, and harvesting of the grapes is just the beginning; the chemistry kicks in later as the crushing, pressing and fermenting is launched.

Whenever we hear the word “crushing” it invokes a negative response. Anything that endures “crushing” will never be the same. But this process is necessary to make a good wine.

We have all laughed hilariously as we watched Lucy in the grape vat stomping the grapes but that process is real. To get to the good stuff – the grapes must be crushed. The skins must be burst, the flesh must be mashed and the stems dislodged. This whole process doesn’t sound funny but rather brutal. Once the crushing has occurred there is a time of waiting that allows all those parts to mingle, creating a unique complex flavor.

A number of years ago we endeavored to make our own wine; making many mistakes and learning what and when to do each step (as well as many “opps, we won’t do that next time’s”).  In our memories one of the best, though difficult, processes was the crushing. The sweet aroma that enveloped us that day as we watched our fruity jewels be transformed into a messy mush, stirred anticipation of the ultimate outcome.

We often pray for “new wine” and ask for “new wineskins” from the Lord but when the process begins we pull away, run away, or cry out “why me God”. Understanding the process of making natural wine gives us a little insight into the spiritual process that “our winemaker” undertakes in our lives in order to produce the very best wine from us.

Once the grapes – all of our natural spiritual maturing – is complete; the process is just beginning. Our yielding to the process requires a deep trust that He is in control of every aspect of our lives.

The crushing breaks the skin – the “me” – and allows the yeast of the Holy Spirit unrestricted access to the good stuff inside. The crushing breaks up all the “all about me” thinking, changing us to look outside of ourselves to see a bigger picture then us alone. In the crushing process, all of the stems – the unimportant hooks of life – are pulled away. Then comes a waiting time, a mingling of all of the parts. A unique complex flavor will ultimately arise, moving us to the pressing phase.

What does the “crushing” look like and feel like? You may already find yourself there If you are in the middle of life’s struggles; physical, emotional, mental or financial. Not the everyday ones but those that take everything out of you. Those times where you can only look up, focus on Jesus and trust that He loves you and has the best for you. It’s a time where you know you have nothing you can do yourself; it’s here that you surrender, yielding into the “crushing” process.

There is nothing fun or funny when you find yourself in these difficult places of life. It is a brutal time. However, you are not alone – Jesus is there to pour out His love, encourage and strengthen you. So be courageous, look up – fix your eyes on the one who loves you and remember the outcome will be the very best wine possible as you chose to yield to the hand of your wine maker.

Romans 5:2-5 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  (HCSB)

 

Sweet or Sour Grapes?

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The sweet burst of flavor is anticipated as you hold a cluster of grapes in the palm of your hand. We have grown accustom to enjoying this late summer fruit uninterrupted by the hard, woody appearance of the dreaded “seed”, within our mouth. My preference is always “seedless” – how about you?

Spiritually, your fruitful growth, comes by laying down your past at the feet of Jesus. You grow as you walk through trials with your eyes focused on His face. Faith then says to persevere – your persistence builds a trust that He has a specific plan for your life.  Ultimately the growth of sweet seedless grapes comes from a place where your faith – your trust in Jesus only – has been built over time.

Over the last decade my husband and I have tried our hand at growing grapes; at one time having seven vines containing five different varieties. All have grown prolifically but we found that even those who were tagged as “seedless” still touted that woody seed. So, several years ago with chainsaw in hand, we took them to the ground.

Each year we have fought with those roots that have continued to shoot up. This year, three finally conceded and died, two only produced leaves but two, again took off. Our diligence lapsed and those two suddenly had clusters growing. “Oh well, two wouldn’t be too bad to clean up after.”

To our great surprise – they matured and the desire to “taste and see” outweighed the dreaded seed. The sweet burst of flavor was an unexpected experience but the joy came when we found them “seedless”. How did that happen?

As we learn to walk with our eyes focused on Jesus, not our circumstances or our past; amazing transformations occur in and around our lives. Our internal and external environments shift and to our great joy our sour grapes become sweet and our woody seeds disappear. These changes come from persistence to sit in His presence, allowing His transformation to occur. He does all the cultivating, He feeds, sends the sun and the rain; we say “YES”, receive and grow. And suddenly we taste the sweet burst of flavor and with great joy we find that we are “seedless” and full of His sweetness.

Join me by laying down your past and your current trials. Let’s persistently pursue the presence of Holy Spirit at the feet of Jesus. The transformation will be sweet!

II Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there if fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (ESV)

Stuck in the Brush?

He desires to free you! You can never get so far away from Him that His great love will not find you. You can never hide from Him where His love and persistence won’t search for you. Your anger at Him, can not separate you from the love He has for you.

Landscape Water *JKSLW047 (Quiet Resting Place)

The darkness is filled with silence as the chill of the night causes him to pull a woolen blanket close around his shoulders. Tonight, his awareness of creatures quietly waiting and watching is heightened. The stones piled high make a quasi-safe barrier encircling his flock but experience warns him that hidden danger waits all around – hungering to make a meal of his little ones.

The open entrance gives access not only to those who are permitted but to those who would steal and kill; so here is where he sits on this dark night, here is where he will lay down across this entrance to rest, as the night wears on.

His mind wonders to the afternoon’s activities. As he had begun taking stalk of his sheep, readying for his evening gathering – one was missing. He thought of nothing but that one lost sheep. He searched through the brush, down the mountain side, by the river, and anywhere this little one might have gone. He never once thought of the ninety-nine others that he had left behind as he searched for his lost one. He knows each sheep personally – its looks, characteristics, habits, and movements – to this shepherd, each sheep is as individual as a human. Each one holds a special place in his heart. This has happened many times to him and each time the love he has for that lost one overwhelms him as he persistently traverses dangerous terrain, never thinking of himself – only that one.

Thankfully, today the lost one was found. It had wondered off, all alone and soon had become tangled under brush and was unable to free itself. The shepherd called it by name and with loving hands reached down and set it free. He lifted this tired little one out of the entrapment, drew the quivering body close and with joy, placed it over his shoulders to carry it back to a place of safety within the flock. 

Just like that little sheep, we can find ourselves tangled under many different entrapment’s, unable to free ourselves. We wonder off – away from the safety of the flock; or even worse, are snatched from the flock by claws and jaws desiring to steal and kill us. But look up, for you have a good, good shepherd. He knows you by name and without hesitation; with great love, He will leave all the rest, just for you. He desires to free you! You can never get so far away from Him that His great love will not find you. You can never hide from Him where His love and persistence won’t search for you. Your anger at Him cannot separate you from the love He has for you.

If you find yourself stuck in a lost empty place – listen and look up – you will find Him calling your name and He will be right there to free you, draw you close and with great joy He will place you over His shoulders and triumphantly carry you to safety.

Luke 15:4-6 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was last.’ (ESV)

God’s Today Assignment

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     As the cool of early morning covers my yard I see activity in my filbert tree. Every year there comes a harvesting time for the local squirrels. We have grown to expect and joyfully watch when these few days each year arrive. It is fascinating to watch the acrobatics and diligent work that begins at sunrise and continues to sunset for several days in a row. Every nut is gathered, checked, shelled and tucked away for future use.

     However, that tree has now grown to be nearing 20 feet tall and this morning I found myself holding my breath as my little woodland critters began this tenacious dance. They teeter on thin branches pulling and shelling nuts, then as if the height doesn’t matter; they jump and swing from branches high in the air to reach the next tiny treasure.

     They have no fear and nothing distracts them – even my yapping dachshunds who circle the base of the tree. Their eyes are focused on the assignment at hand.

            Prov. 4:25 Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. (ESV)

     We can learn a spiritual lesson from these little squirrels.

     They woke to have one assignment today and that has been their job – and only job – all day long. Nothing distracted them from that purpose.

     Jesus walked with so many needs and expectations circling him every day but He chose to focus on the voice of His Father. Only doing what He was called to do – thus when His short three years of ministry was complete, He could say “I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given me to do.”

     We allow everyday expectations and needs to pull us, run our lives and distract us into exhaustion. We must choose to listen and obey the Spirits voice. When we say no, begin to manage our own expectations-as well as realign others expectations; we are then allowed to joyfully pick up His specific assignments, stay on task and with joy have plenty of strength to accomplish what He desires for us.

     Just as my little squirrels focus only on the prize – the tiny nut treasure – our forward focus on God’s assignment for TODAY will bring an eternal treasure and allow us to rejoice with the words that Jesus spoke – “I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given me to do”.

     Join me today in a choice to jump and swing from the highest branches – reaching for the next treasure – HIS assignment set up just for you to complete. Willingly lay down those urgent things that distract and open your eyes to His eternal plans for your TODAY.

Philippians 3:13-14 Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (ESV)