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)

 

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)

Out of Love

The desire for the “best of the best” directly from our Fathers hand is available and stretched out to us. He wants to be a Father, to welcome us and dwell with us.

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From the moment we feel the first flutter of life, excitement stirs to see this little life filled with all the “best of the best”. We protect and provide but most of all we love! There is a place within us that is so full of love for this precious one, that it often overwhelms us. As they grow and become adults – well, it NEVER changes – that love grows too. As parents we always want to see the best for our children and that desire comes directly from Heaven.

Our Heavenly Father desires the “best of the best” for us – He protects and provides but most of all He loves, loves and loves. He promises us He will dwell with us, He will receive (welcome) us and He will be a Father to us.

Just as we try to warn our children from making life-impacting mistakes, so does He. The desire is not to manipulate, control or be harsh but is poured out – out of love!

The words “unequally yoked” strike many feelings in us – most eliciting thoughts from our past; but in truth this passage is written to us out of love – great love. The desire for the “best of the best” directly from our Fathers hand is available and stretched out to us. He wants to be a Father, to welcome us and dwell with us. The HOWEVER – is our choice. That HOWEVER says light and darkness cannot share the same room – that’s our choice. If we walk unequally yoked – it is a place that “daddy” just can’t come into to visit.

Yes – there is His unmerited favor and grace extended to us through Christ – that’s a gift – given to us. BUT the “best of the best” that your Father desires to give to you is available for those who walk purely in the light. So take a minute and “reformat” your brain around this scripture – seeing what He is giving you in exchange for that choice of not being unequally yoked (those who you choose to intimately fold into your closest circle).

Daddy has the “best of the best” waiting for you – the however – is up to you.

IICorinthians 6:14 You are not the same as those who don’t believe. So don’t join yourselves to them. Good and evil don’t belong together. Light and darkness cannot share the same room.(ERV)

 

Flaming Warriors

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     Flames shooting 200ft in the air as billows of grey smoke darken the sky. Trees burst into flames due to the close proximity of this intense heat – spreading  un-containable -the fires grow – consuming everything in their path. Fires stretching down the entire west coast and moving east ………

     The natural often seems to signal that which follows in the spiritual.

     Complacent “life is wonderful-just enjoy it” lifestyle has consumed us, leaving our thoughts far from God, far from the clarion call to intercede in prayer, far from the Heavenly agenda, purpose and call “to stand guard on the wall”. Our armors have been left rusting in the ash as life has gotten in the way of many of His warriors – the flaming swords have been extinguished and lay on the sidelines. We are far from flaming warriors.

     It is time to put on those armors, pick up those swords and accept the call – not to devastate those around us but to cover them with the love of Christ; To bring hope where there is none, to bring peace where chaos reigns.

     It is time for us to be the flaming warriors that walk in boldness, that are seen from a distance for who we are. Flaming warriors filled with His love that spontaneously ignites those in close proximity. It is time to pour out the gospel of LOVE. It is time to intercede, break the chains, free the oppressed and declare the love of Christ to the broken. It is time to stand up and spread the un-containable fire of the gospel as it consumes the despondent hopelessness, fear and hate that has consumed everything in its’ path. It is time for the fire of God – His presence, His love to heat up and stretch from coast to coast breaking the chains that engulf this nation.

II Timothy 1:6-8 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (ESV)

Grandma Blankets

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     Pregnant with my daughter, I began a craft that has covered babies for over 40 years. Now hundreds upon hundreds of blankets made from yarn or fabric, covered with love and prayer have warmed so many little bodies.

     Recently I have begun to hear and see what I never expected – those much older children and adults still have their “grandma” or “Judy” blankets. Tattered, torn and covered with patches they still cherish those “blankies”.

Why?

It’s just a piece of fabric long outgrown.

Secondhand stores are filled with old beat-up blankets.

But these seem to be different, held in unusually high regard.

     As I pondered this I felt the Spirit of the Lord speak – encouraging me that each act of love poured out will reap a harvest and that is what I am now witnessing. He reminded me that every blanket I have made specifically for that one “special” little one – or now “special” loved one; is soaked in prayer as each stitch is added.

     It’s that Love that is felt – as it saturates and covers them right there, as they cuddle down into its warmth. It brings peace and comfort – so years later when hard, painful times are faced – the heart, the mind and the emotions return to think on the “blankie” and what comfort was found there. So they keep it – treasure it – fold it away for another time – a time to be reminded of the comfort found there.

     Those “blankie”s are simply an earthly example of a heavenly, eternal comfort available to us all. So for now, I have been blessed to pass on a little bit of heavens love to the “littles” around me – those “grandma” blankets.

II Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (ESV)

 

Together As One

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     This morning I watched as my arbor became filled with fluttering activity. All different species of birds together – flying in and out taking a waiting perch for their turn to be filled with the juicy ripe grapes that now dangle ready for consumption.

     When we have forgotten to fill their bird feeders they will group together and come asking for help – in their lack; but what a joy to watch it when there is an abundance. You can hear the chatter and singing, you can feel the anticipation and joy as they hop from one place to another waiting – anticipating – sharing.

     In lack and abundance they group together not caring about size or difference but together united on a focus for the good of them all.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

     In the midst of the chaos, anger and hate currently harbored in our nation we have seen a momentary glimpse of what I witnessed with the birds this morning. A compassionate flood that has surfaced in the heart of people as images of great pain and loss have triggered a unity that only a few days ago was devoid. Now the united focus does not care about difference but to help those hurting and in lack. Together they are pouring out help – sharing from their abundance and even from their lack.

     Isn’t this the heart of Christ? To care for the hurting and broken? To pour out love and compassion on the most vulnerable?

     Stepping up, setting “our” lives on hold, giving from our abundance and our lack, helping in any way possible is what it is to be a loving human being. But we, as believers in Christ have a bigger assignment – it’s not just for a disaster – it is a lifestyle! A lifestyle of sharing our abundance into the lives that surround us that walk daily in lack.

     Unfortunately – just as the birds will revert back to their natural thinking – most people will quickly become cold to the needs and revert back to living their “own” lives with no thought to those still hurting and continually living in lack.

     But for now my heart smiles as I watch the birds united and full of joy sharing with one another – just as Our Heavenly Father must be doing now too. But also, with a renewed outlook on what my lifestyle needs to shift to – one of daily walking in a lifestyle of sharing – hopping from place to place waiting, anticipating and sharing as HE directs.

Isaiah 58:10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

Where is Your Trust?

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     Fear has become a constant whispering companion as destructive acceleration surrounds us…global warming, earthquakes, famine, increased hate and violence as well as the rumors of a possible approach of nuclear war. It is so easy to “buy in” to that fear and panic, that “be prepared” mentality that is erupting all around us. Here – in the midst of this chaotic surge – is our place to walk in a different spirit.

     It is now that the LOVE of Christ is needed to dispel that fear. It is now that FAITH in Christ can shine in the darkness – teaching and building hope in the confused. It is now that the HOPE in Christ within us must stand firm, declare and encourage in the midst of what is seen.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.              Psalm 91: 1-6 (ESV)

     Let these words infuse in you today the strength to stand firm. Find rest under His wings – find peace in His refuge as you trust in Him. Remember in HOPE the goodness of your God, remember in FAITH you are called to proclaim that goodness, and remember in LOVE all that Christ did for you and those around you.

     Fear not what you see with your eyes and hear with your ears – look only with your Spirit to the promises of His faithfulness. Breathe easy today as you walk in peace in the midst of this storm, finding refuge in Christ – for there is where your trust dwells.

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)