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)

 

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The Moles Won’t Win!

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The weather is warming and my eyes have begun to see all that needs to be cared for in my large backyard. To my horror – it appears that the moles won! My lawn looks like a war was waged and definitely lost. My looming decision is: do I allow it – covering it up, leveling the mounds and top seeding? The result to the eye, will be nice and clean. But, walking across that lawn come July, the truth of uneven “bumpy” “ankle twisting” under-tunnels will be very obvious.

The best choice requires preparation – tearing up the old. The best choice also requires a dying process – a good seed!

The best fix begins with a choice, works through the preparation (cost and effort) and ultimately requires the re-seeding of new grass. However, if that new grass doesn’t germinate (having good soil, water, and warmth) its outside hull will not burst – it will not DIE – therefore, it will not bring forth new life.

We are rather like my lawn, spiritually speaking.

When we desire more of the presence of God – we want that, but do we really want Him? The best requires a choice, preparation and a dying – both in my holey lawn, as well as in our desire for more of His presence.

How you step into that desire is the question. Do you just apply the top seeding method – keeping those “bumpy” “ankle twisting” under-tunnels hidden? It may look good but the result is not the same. However, the complete fix – the fix that gives you a life of abundance at His feet, requires much more from you. So, making a choice is your first step.

Then the preparation begins – how much time do you want to devote? In our society we run at a chaotic speed – we are inundated with constant urgent demands. Here is where you will need to count the cost. Slowing down to sit and wait at His feet; to read, study and listen to His voice; and to set aside consistent prayer time will cost you something. You will need to make choices everyday – somethings will need to be laid aside. But here is where you will find Him! He is waiting for you to enter this place.

It is in that preparation time that you will find a seed within that is ready to germinate – but one more step will be required. It is a letting go of everything, a place of release, a place of repentance, a dying to liveAn abundant life where His presence is priority in all you say and do is where you find this process – a dying to live process. It is here that new life springs forth, free from hidden, under-tunnels. In this new life you will begin to be transformed into all that He has for you, you will find joy at His feet, you will find LIFE in His presence.

Let’s make the choice – the choice to do the complete fix – the fix that will allow us to step into the process of dying to live.

John 12:24 Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

ALL Glory to the King!

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Countdown officially begins. I am honored to announce this coming book. It is Fantabulous – that is a fantastic fabulous word – to describe this wonderfully inspiring book. LOOK for more info to come in the next couple of weeks.

A Lifetime of Chocolates

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I love a new box of chocolates – surprise waits in every bite. When I was a child it took a long time to decide which was the very best one and that choice would bring delight to my taste buds – most of the time. My mom’s rule was “if you take it – you eat it.” When it was that “gooey” Caramel I was in heaven but then there were those ones – you know those ones that ruin the whole chocolate experience. The only name I had was “nastiness.” When I was the unfortunate recipient of that choice, my only focus had to be on the fact that it was wrapped in chocolate and I would will my mind to think of that. Soon I found a trick – at least until I was found out – if I stuck my fingernail in the bottom I could know what was inside, and avoid a “nastiness” experience.

Well, “life is like a box of chocolates” and we wish we could use that fingernail trick to check inside. However, just like my moms response to my great idea; life’s response is the same – “no peeking allowed”.

We receive those “yummy gooey” Caramel’s, those “ok” cream centers and those “nastiness” unknowns – in our lifetime box of chocolates. Each filling is wrapped in chocolate. The chocolate is the ultimate focus. When we get the “yummy gooey” and the “ok” ones we often miss the chocolate so lovingly covering it. But, without that covering layer those “nastiness” ones just wouldn’t make it down.

Jesus has lovingly covered each of life’s fillings with chocolate – giving us a gift of the Holy Spirit. He is always there covering us with that sweet layer as we enjoy the “yummy gooey” and the “ok” fillings of life. But when we get a bite of the “nastiness” fillings, the reality of His presence – His very taste – is our comfort and focus to get us through.

Our box of chocolates comes pre-sorted just for us from the Father’s hand and we don’t get to peek. Whatever each piece brings into our lives, we can depend on that sweet chocolate taste to get us through. As we focus on the chocolate, not the filling, we will find the surprises He has planned for us – even in the midst of the “nastiness”. Our box takes a lifetime to complete so allow each piece to produce its effect in your life – and don’t forget the chocolate.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness, have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)

 

When You’re Broken Beyond Repair

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     Football practice wouldn’t be the same today. With the snap of his arm bones, my grandsons’ hope for a winning season was broken before it began. Silence and chaos broke out all at once; covering the field quickly as realization of the accident spread. In the midst of the shouting and ambulance ride comes a calming voice from a trusted friend, “It’ll be alright, it’s a clean break – it will heal.” Surgery waits, not once but twice to repair this double bone compound fracture but in the hands of a skilled orthopedic surgeon it will heal, he will play again – life and his arm will be “good as new”.

     There are times in your life when you feel that you have been broken beyond repair. The tragic loss of a loved one looms over your heart. The betrayal of a trusted friend crushes your spirit. The angry vicious words spoken against you grip your mind. But through the pain there is a calming voice that can be heard – He is speaking in the midst of that pain – “It’ll be alright – you will heal – life will be good again.”

     Your brokenness can heal – It’s not quick, it’s not painless, it’s not easy – but the skilled hand of a surgeon can repair it. And you have a skilled surgeon waiting for you – one who knows intimately the pain and hurt you are walking through. Jesus is waiting; His surgery heals, restores and gives new life. He is there wiping every tear, whispering His love back into your broken heart, pouring restored trust into your broken spirit, eradicating lies from your mind – whispering “Life will be good again.”

     When you feel you have been broken beyond repair – remember – in the hands of a skilled surgeon you will heal, you will play again and life will be good. Trust your brokenness into the hands of your surgeon – He is waiting for you.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (ESV)

Psalm 147:3 He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.(ESV)

Beauty in the Fire-Pit

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Our warm summer sun continues to march forward toward fall as its rays have allowed sunflowers to flourish in my yard this year, like no year previously. Its rays have also limited our ability to burn our fire-pit – it sits unused, filled with scraps of yard wood, weeds etc. To my great surprise my fire-pit now boasts of a single beauty – yep – a sunflower. Right there in the midst of all the debris – right there where no water has been provided – right there where only rock supports its roots – there erupts a single beauty, her head held high – a single sunflower.

 As I contemplated this flowers unusual bedding choice I began to see a spiritual abstract. Beauty can come out of the midst of chaos, out of the midst of barren dryness, out of the difficult places we live in. From the depths of our pain and loss beauty can emerge.

     How does that happen in our lives?

It comes from the exceptional quality of seed that the cross of Jesus provides us, as well as a choice of our heart. Being willing to allow the Spirit of God to heal, strengthen and mature the seed of faith that’s been dropped into our mess is a decision. If we look to Him right there in the midst of the chaos, right there where all is barren and dry, right there where all is hard and difficult – suddenly there will erupt a single beauty, her head held high. A victorious example of who He has created you to be will proudly stand in the middle of your fire-pit.

Your God is faithful to bring beauty out of the most unexpected difficult situations in your life. He has lovingly offered you the seed of His son, it’s been placed within your heart – you only need chose to receive it, believe it and wait. Trust Him to complete the work – His time is perfect – His time produces the beauty hidden in that dark barren place.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Fluff & Stuff

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     The perfectly un-scarred teddy bear is unceremoniously opened from the center as stuffing is revealed. Then to my horror the insides are pulled out as if a search is on – looking for the unknown, down inside that fluff. Piles of “fluff and stuff” begin to accumulate – down into the hard packed head, arms and legs the search continues as the pile grows. Then I hear it – “thump, thump, thump”! I can see a small pulsing red light that corresponds to the sound and realize it is a small-computerized heart that had been placed inside long ago but had stopped being heard. Over time its sound had disappeared in the midst of the all the “fluff and stuff”.

     This was just a dream the other night but as my morning and day progressed it soon became a very real analogy that God was speaking into my own heart. All our “fluff and stuff” builds up, packs down tightly, stifling the beating of our heart – the love inside has a hard time being heard, felt or extended anymore.

       We need our own un-stuffing process. How do we get there? It sounds like a big project but it’s the easiest surgery you will every have – just look up, see His face and say YES.

       Our Heavenly Father is faithful to hear. He will reach down and open us up as the Holy Spirit begins un-stuffing all that we have packed in around our hearts. All the hurts, worries, and distractions; along with past regrets and future anxieties – physical and financial burdens – unproductive activities, ministries and relationships – wow and the list goes on. That unpacking can look overwhelming but the process is rather simple. Once His unpacking is complete, the renewal and restoration of Jesus will instantly flood back in – His love saturates and you begin to hear “thump, thump, thump” as the small pulsing red light comes back to life.

     All our “fluff and stuff” – stifles and wears out the pulsing movement of His love in our lives. We have made this journey complex – the reality is as simple as just loving God and loving those in front of us – everything else really is only more “fluff and stuff”.

   Look up, ask and in an instant you will be able to see those you encounter, with renewed love – all the “fluff and stuff” gone as you hear the beat of His heart – His love for each one of them as it begins to pulsate again within you.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (ESV)