New Wineskins

A few years ago, my husband and I visited one of the oldest wine cellars in Germany.  The tour included an underground maze of Roman cellars.  At one point we stopped to look down at ancient cellars that had been dug out seven floors below us, deep into the earth, frightening, winding staircases lost in the dark, now roped off across a not-so-sturdy looking metal railing.  The damp, moldy stench stuck to our clothing as we meandered back to daylight. The guide gave us free time to browse the cellar’s museum that included vats and glasses from several centuries.  As I gazed through the protective glass at Roman goblets and wine sacks, I could not help but feel the rush of time’s wind.  Who had put their lips to these goblets?  Who had carried the vats?  And then I thought of new wineskins, the home of fresh wine.

As I was talking and praying with a dear friend Monday morning, she spoke passionately about a book she is reading at her church and how she is being called to new wine.  Now, I can’t imagine this merciful and godly woman being any more merciful than she already is but God is doing a new work in her life.

He is doing a new work in my life.  And I couldn’t get the imagery she shared with me out of my mind. New wine.  And new wine cannot be put into old wineskins.  So.  Then.  New. Fresh wineskins.

In ancient Israel,  grapes were pressed in the winepress and then left in the collection vats for a few days. Fermentation started immediately on pressing, which allowed the first “tumultuous” (gassy) phase to pass. Then the must (fermenting juice) was put in clay jars to be stored or into wineskins if it was to be transported some distance.  It was these clay jars and old hardened wine skins that the museum so carefully displayed.

The wineskins were made of partially tanned goat skins, sewn at the holes where the leg and tail had been. The skins were filled with must (partially fermented wine) in the opening at the neck and then tied it off.

If the workers poured freshly pressed must directly into the skin and closed it off, the tumultuous stage of fermentation would burst the wineskins. After this stage, however, the skins stretched enough to handle the rest of the fermentation process. Skins that had already been used and stretched out (“old wineskins”) could not be used again since they could not stretch again. If they were used again for holding wine that was still in the process of fermenting (“new wine”), they would burst.

New wine needs time to become the perfect end result.  A true vintner (winemaker) schools himself in the art of winemaking.

But a vigneron cultivates the vineyard for winemaking.  A vigneron’s care and placement and tender care of the vines and fruit ensure grapes that produce the best wine.

And so God is The Vigneron, the Vinedresser.  Jesus, the Vine that produces good fruit.  (John 15:1)

Is God calling you to new wine?  It could be a new ministry, a reshaping of who you are.

For me, it is a deepening of this realization that Jesus died on that cross for the ugly in life.  He resurrected to defeat the ugly and replace it with grace.  All around us are people with messy lives, even those who seem to have it all together – and yes, maybe, especially those who seem to have it all together.

I don’t yet know what the new wineskin will be made of or what the new wine will taste like.  But God knows.  And so I trust the One who loves and wait expectantly for His tender shaping.

 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Matthew 9:17

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Love. Is. Hard.

“You can’t sit here anymore.”

My seventh grade brace-faced, frizzy-haired self felt that plummeting, sickening feeling in my stomach.  Rejection.
“Why not?” I asked the girls who were supposedly close friends.
“We have boyfriends, and you don’t.  This is a ‘boyfriend only’ table now.”

Occurrences like this one happen so often that comedy movies are made to record the culture of junior high and high school.  But to the person they happen to, there is nothing funny about them.  Fortunately, we matured out of our 7th grade days, and many of us remained friends through high school.  But I still remember what happened.  Not because I want to relive junior high, but because I ache for fringe people, people who hang in there with a group and are never quite accepted.  People who seem, well, lost.

I thought when I left adolescence behind that mean girls would be left behind, too. I was wrong.  Insecure teens grow into insecure women.  I was one of them. Whether it be the unheard thoughts of criticizing a woman for how she looks or the somewhat intentional shunning of one who hurt our feelings or not reaching out to someone who is different or we just don’t want to take the time to bring a woman into our private circle, we all have the potential to be a mean girl.  Mean girls cross socio-economic and racial boundaries.  In other words, mean girls aren’t just rich and beautiful or whatever mold we create for them.

Only the power of a relationship with the living Christ can truly change us.  When we give our broken pieces to Him, when we rest in the power of purpose…His purpose…we can love with abandonment.

Isn’t that what Jesus did for us?  Love with abandonment?  It started with His birth, really.  He gave up His rightful place in heaven to become Immanuel, God With Us.  Fully human and fully divine.  And then He submitted Himself to God the Father’s purpose, which was to go to the cross for us.

I have been through times when friendships were hard to come by and mean girls flourished in abundance.  God wants us to be women of grace, not girls who are mean.

Women of grace reach out in the power of love even when it’s out of their comfort zone,  rather than finding protection in numbers.

Women of grace work out differences when they’ve been hurt or offended rather than shunning the offender.

Women of grace help each other grow, as people, as Christians, as mothers and wives, as leaders, even when it involves loving dialogue that is hard.  Mean girls use the faults of other women to feel better about themselves.

Women of grace recognize their own needs for forgiveness and readily forgive others.  Mean girls find reasons why others don’t ever deserve forgiveness.

Yes.  Love. Is. Hard. Let’s be women who love with abandonment and forgive the past.  Even yesterday can be a past that sets the course for a future we regret.

 


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Reunions

Have you ever been to a reunion of any kind?  High school?  College? Some kind of group you belonged to?  We become aware of them usually long before the date.  And preparation begins, especially if we haven’t seen people for a long time…how much weight do we need to lose?  What will we wear (don’t kid yourself, almost every woman asks herself these questions)?  And then the pull begins…the pull to go backwards.  It is stronger than gravity, because it is a pull of memories, good and bad, how we defined ourselves, and more powerful, how others defined us.  35 years may have passed with many life and character changes, but let’s be honest, sometimes we think we WANT to go back.

This autumn, the college sorority I belonged to is having its 100th anniversary at the University of Kansas.  Alpha Chi Omega.  The “house,” as we call it, played a big part in my life.  I learned leadership skills that I still use today, made wonderful friends, and felt, for the first time really, like I belonged to something.  But the most important relationship I ever made also happened in the Alpha Chi house.  My relationship with God.  I still remember lying in a bunk with a broken heart and a family falling apart and calling out to God in the dark.  “If you are real, then make yourself known to me.”  Kind of a selfish prayer when I look back at it.  God answered. He is real.

As this 2014 reunion gets closer, it has caused me to pause and look back.

Married for 29 years as of March 2 to a pastor, a man of deep conviction who served in the military as a chaplain after 9/11.

PAUSE  The experience changed our family’s life forever.  Our youngest daughter went to 10 different schools, lived in 9 states, 12 cities and on another continent.  I guess that means I lived all those places, too. The everyday life is sometimes hard for me to grasp anymore.  I used to envy those who lived in the same city, grew up with the same friends, and seemed to live a never-changing existence.  Now, I thank God for the path He took us on and treasure what He taught us through it.  I met and bonded with people from every walk of life, every part of our country, and from all over the world.  UNPAUSE

Serving in a church as The Director of Communications and Family Ministries, a position that challenges and humbles, as I watch the issues that families deal with today and the warp-speed changes to communications on almost a daily basis.

Three beautiful daughters, one of whom is an Alpha Chi at KU and quite by accident, living in my old room, two who are married to men we love.  I am a grandmother.  By May, we will have 3 grandchildren.

PAUSE  What do I want to pass on to them?   We pass on a heritage to our children and grandchildren, whether we think we do or not.  Are we intentional about that heritage to pass on things unseen of character and soul and are eternal?   UNPAUSE

I have had a couple of health scares in the past. PAUSE

What do we see when we reconnect with people at a reunion? Do we see the person we knew so many years ago?  Let’s face it, by the time a person is in their mid-50s, the body may not be what it used to be.  No amount of exercise, healthy eating, and facials will deny the fact that we are older. We may have lost parents or be dealing with their aging health and mind.  We are planning weddings and seeing our children have babies. A couple of years ago, I had breakfast with a sorority sister that I hadn’t seen in years and realized I knew nothing about her immediate family when we were in college.  Unless we grow up with people, isn’t that often the way it is? What I am getting at is that life happens.  One of my best friends in college, one whom would have meant the most for me to see, took her own life.  She was a precious person.  I wish I had kept in touch better.  I would rather be real and have a couple of in depth conversations about life than 20 conversations about seemingly nothing. UNPAUSE

Because it is in the midst of life where God meets us.  We all have this place that longs for reunion.  Reunion with God.  Whether it be in this life in a relationship with Jesus Christ, or in heaven, where eternal life takes a new turn with no pain or suffering, or reunion when Christ returns forever, we long for reunion.  And not meaning to be philosophical, well, yes, okay I do mean to be, I think that’s why some people go to reunions…there is an expectation of connection, an expectation of familiarity, of something that we knew how it was in the midst of we’re not always sure how it’s going to be.

God never changes.  That was the message a couple of young women shared with me 34 years ago, and that is still the message.  He changes us, life changes us, but HE never changes.

That one reunion with the unchangeable changes us forever.

best-friends-women

 

 


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