Epic Failure

It’s been so dry that every time I hose down the potted mums, a half dozen bees appear for a drink.  They don’t bother me.  All they want is some water.  Yes, that’s how dry it’s been in Ohio.  The finches hang out at the thistle seed, lazy and fat.

I love the sound of rain even when it’s been raining for days. This morning, I got up early just so I could stand outside in the dark and feel drops falling on me.  But the drops did not fall.

I pulled my container plants out in a nice messy row so that they could soak up the freshness.  But they remain dusty and pathetic.

I am not fresh.

This has been a week of epic failure.  Can you spell A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E?

I think it all started earlier this month when not one but every clerk, waiter, checker, and retailer asked me if I was getting ready for the big weekend.  Did we have plans?  What big weekend, I wanted to know?  Oh, yeah.  Labor Day Weekend.  I felt like asking the Lady Violet question in proper Maggie Smith British (For you Downton Abbey fans),  ”Excuse me, what is a week-END?”

My husband is a pastor.  We work on weekends.  Did I really spout this to every poor unsuspecting person?  Even the girl at Target.  Yes, I did.  I tried to sound joyful about the prospect, but inside, I confess, I was wishing that we were getting ready for the big weekend.  Our daughter called, and I promptly told her that everyone else in Ohio was at the lake.  What were they doing for the Big Weekend?

Never mind that we have been given the privilege of sharing God’s hope, love and peace.  Never mind that we can freely worship and enjoy the encouragement of other Christians.

I yelled at the cat that he was in my way, when clearly, I was in his way.  Picked an argument with my husband, who picked back.  Quit on changing the seasonal decorations in our house, because why put up any autumn decorations when it’s 80 degrees outside?

The epicness (is that a word?) of my failings culminated with an hour back and forth “discussion” in an online comment section under an article about Donald Trump.  Please don’t judge me. Thank you, God, for the Bible study on Hosea.  This week, I learned about God’s unfailing love and how He rescues us over and over and over….

Even from online comment sections.

Seriously.

And then I saw this.

pumpkin

I knew everything was going to be all right.  To everything there is a season.  Maybe we need seasons of A-T-T-I-I-T-U-U-D-E to understand why we need G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E.

“Bless the LORD O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…”  Psalm 103:2

These benefits would include the amazing creation of the pumpkin.  Oh, yes, and people.  We all need hope.

What are you grateful for today?

 


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Lessons From Baltimore

Because Christian mother, writer, speaker and activist Jen Hatmaker writes it so much more eloquently than I could…thank you for making us think, Jen.  We pray for the larger issues at hand.

Click on the link below to read her article in the Washington Post.

I, as a white mom of two black children do not share Baltimore’s pain. Instead, I grieve with you.  by Jen Hatmaker


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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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PUT. ON. LOvE.

The Creator created.  A living organism so complex and intricate that it works with twists of nerves and the beat-beat-beat of a heart and a neck that turns a head pregnant with brilliance and glorious emotion any way it wants.  A myriad of colors doesn’t splash across our wings like a humming bird in flight, but it formed together in our mother’s womb, stringing together DNA to gaze across from us in the form of violet or topaz eyes, or maybe eyes the nondescript reflection of a cloudy ocean.  Yes, the human body almost taunts us with its miraculousness (is that a word?).

The body of Christ was meant to function in comparison.

“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  Ephesians 4:16

I confess that the body of Christ drew me to Christianity.  The joy, the love, the peace that bonded the lives of the college students I knew who embraced this thing called a relationship with Jesus left me wanting more.  Finally, a place to be accepted for who I was, a place where honesty replaced pretense and grace trumped the need to succeed.  The body of Christ must be a strange term to those who look from the outside in. The body of Christ was meant to shine like a city on a hill, its mystery is in the love that those people who are the head and hands and feet and mouth of Jesus all give to each other and then in turn encourage the Godfidence to pour it out to a hurting world.

But just like the human body sometimes turns on itself with mutated cells or fights the invasion of foreign bodies that sicken it, I learned the hard way that the body of Christ is no different.  Perhaps a part of the body of Christ blocked your heart like so many constrictions or a wounded person in turn wounded you.  Perhaps you limp along because you have been blindsided by the sometimes sickness of these humans.  After all, the Apostle Paul wrote with that infuriating thing called a conjunction -”when.”  When means ” during the time that” so Paul added a condition to the body growing and building itself up in love.  During the time that each part is working properly, the body will grow and build itself up in love.

What do you do when the body of Christ, made up of miraculous creations who profess a relationship with the Son of God called Jesus, does not work properly?  I search my own heart,  asking God to change me.  Change me.  Protect me from bringing harm.  Enable me to be a part of healing in the name of Love- that God man who forgave on the cross and from the cross.  That God man who cried at the death of his friend, even though He knew- HE KNEW- that death was only temporary.  He still knows.

I see more lack of love in the body than at any time in my 35 years of relationship with Christ.  I read unkind and hateful comments on social media, written from “Anonymous” sources.  Church members become judge and jury, accusing each other and arguing over trivial concerns that take away from sharing the good news of the Gospel.  Rather than helping the wounded, we condemn and bury them.  Arguments erupt over worship style, leadership style.  Maturity is not “in.”  Required for upcoming church leaders: Facial hair and hipster glasses, acid washed jeans and shirt tails untucked.  Is LOVE required?

Am I part of the problem?

WE.  MUST.  STOP.

STOP what you are doing.  DROP to your knees.  and PRAY.

Jesus did.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and PRAY for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers,iwhat more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”   Matthew 5:43-47

We think love binds like so many strands of thread bind together to make a beautiful garment.   Love also separates.  It separates us from hatred.  It separates us from vengeance.  It separates us from envy.  It separates us from self-seeking.  When we are too consumed being about the business of loving, we are too busy to hate or judge, accuse or envy.

Put on love.  Adorn yourself in your finest.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:12-17


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