Cheers!

Jesus and his contemporaries do not appear to have had hot coffee in their day. If they had, clearly, Jesus might have performed one or two miracles involving lattes.

Love Latte

No. It seems they had wine. And, in the tradition of kings, Jesus fearlessly offers more wine for guests at a wedding party  (John 2). (Esther’s King Ahasuerus gives a week-long banquet for the people of Susa with an open bar and no limits on the royal wine, Esther 1:1-8.)

winebreak

The Psalmist says wine “gladdens human hearts” (Ps. 104:15). And the prophet Amos tells us to hold on; life will overcome death, the time of exile will end, and God’s people will drink their wine and eat their fruit in the days to come (Amos 9:13-15).

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At the Passover celebration and Last Supper, Jesus raises his glass and says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28).

Forgiveness is poured out for us. Abundantly. Without cost to us and without limit.

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I have been relishing the luxury of time these days, time spent sitting on a porch, drinking a cup of hot coffee with cream or a glass of wine. I drink it in — this gift of unbusyness. He leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.

So, Cheers. May your heart be glad. May your life have still, unbusy spaces, and may you know the abundance of the One who gives freely, without charge.
(wine photo, courtesy of L.D.)

 

Grace


Grace. Generous, free, totally unexpected, and undeserved. John Piper says we are to “suck it up through our roots and grow by it; that we might soak it up like sunshine through our leaves and grow by it.”

For many, myself included, it is hard comprehend that God desires for us to receive love and mercy just because–not because we have done anything to earn it, but because he is good.

“Grow in grace…” 2 Peter 3:18

Great Faith & Grit

The thing about dead-looking things (or the absence/opposite of thriving or a very bare thread of hope) is that it really does take great faith to believe that it can be otherwise. It takes grit to press through the manna of every day, every sink full of dishes, every dirty bathroom, every broken relationship, and every severely disturbing reality we find as we walk through the wilderness.We must fix our eyes on every good thing we’ve received that we can possibly find and “re-member” (literally — put together) those good things for the future.

Remember every sign of life, every evidence of grace, and every mark of growth.

As much as we may want to look forward to what lies ahead, we need strength to live in the present. We can lean in to the future, but the present rests on the foundation of the past and what has come before. The only way to have the Hebrews 11:1 faith that is confident in things hoped for and assured of what is unseen is to receive the gifts we have received and are receiving today.

“You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.” (Nehemiah 9:20-21)

When You Least Expect It

Day and night, I found myself checking in on my new hibiscus (a Brilliant or San Diego Red Hibiscus). I brought it home from the nursery in full bloom and quickly began googling plant care instructions. I mean, come on, those itsy bitsy plant tags seem like shorthand for people who actually know how to make plants thrive. How much water? How much sun? I had to check to see how much sun actually reaches each corner of my small, east-facing balcony throughout the day!

I learned that hibiscus blossoms flash out brilliantly. They last a day, maybe two. Then, they fold and drop to the ground. I wasn’t worried, though, because little buds of promise danced all over my leafy plant (I admit I felt a little giddy). This bud was leading the pack.

budding promise

The next day I found this very same bud all shriveled and sad and lying on the ground. I returned to the internet to research what was happening. I learned that some pests attack the buds before they blossom. So – I took a close look. Tiny white aphids had found their way to the buds. I kept thinking — what have I done? I don’t have time for “problem-child” plants!!

There was no time to lose. I spritzed it (okay, I doused it) with natural repellents, cleaned, and pruned that plant with a passion. By the time I was done, I wondered if it would survive the shock of such treatment and nakedness.

I almost tossed the plant. I didn’t think I could bear to watch it shrivel and die. But, I figured the least I could do was give it a good soak with water and sun and wait.

Bit by bit, this little skeleton of a plant resisted the rubbish heap. Drooping buds began to perk up. And, soon, another bud began to reach higher and grow larger than the others. Sure, I knew what could happen, and I held my breath.

When I woke to this juicy, red blossom last week, I was so tickled. Blossoming out

I am still getting acquainted with this plant and learning its rhythms and ways, and I don’t for a minute assume we are out of the woods.

I have new respect for things that look dead. They may not look pretty, but scrubbed, pruned limbs can surprise us with life. Beauty can flame out when you least expect it.