He Saves the Choice Wine for the End

wine and bread psThe firewood is stacked on the side of our house.  You don’t feel how cold it is outside until you turn the corner, the wind isn’t blocked  there and blows sharply across the bricks. The chill cuts deep.  Deeper than usual for the south in December.  I make a fire to warm up the porch before my girls get here.  My Bible is open on the table and the printed words are nearly audible with a proposal singing from the pages of John’s Gospel.  I want our ears to be tuned to his message of radical, wild love this Christmas season, and every season, so today we are going to look at a wedding.  From where I sit I can see our tree topper, twisted thorns held together by mockery.  They’re painted a regal gold because it’s Christmas, but that day in the spring nearly 2,000 revolutions around the sun ago, they were stained red.  It’s heavy to think of it, but I can’t not think of it.

tree psgold crown psOnce you know and receive His story, you can never not think of it anymore.

I can’t look at the manger and not think of the cross.  The same company of heavenly hosts who awed and overwhelmed the shepherds on a dark, silent night, would 33 years later grieve deeper than our minds can fathom.  The manger is there and He is swaddled tightly, but He’s only there because The Bridegroom chose to spread wide His arms on the cross.  Bethlehem and Jerusalem, eternally grafted together.one tulip pscrosssliced ps

So if even we cannot think of the manger without remembering the cross, how much more the One who came to suffer?  If you are the Bridegroom who came for your bride, would your thoughts ever wander from your mission?  What if you are the One who came to die, knowing all along your purpose?  What if the end goal of what lie before you was so big that all of humanities’ fate hinged on the outcome of your willing purpose?  What if you are the Bridegroom who came to die for His bride, to redeem her and make her fit for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, could you ever attend a wedding and not think of your own?  Could you ever not think of the hour and the cost required for you to bring your bride to the feast?

I can’t fathom that Jesus could separate the two.

fire psberriesflamesThese girls I mentor come into my house, carrying with them their dinner and also all the worries of this world.  They’re so young and this world is hard, even for ones like these who are so loved and cared for.  They talk and eat in front of the fire, I keep my eyes on the crown of thorns on top of the tree, reminding myself He already overcame all of their struggles.  I open my Bible and they do the same.  There was a wedding in Cana and Jesus was there, and I want them to know it.

Jesus, the Bridegroom, was at a wedding.

Pure glory revealed.

How beautiful that picture, and if we are not careful, we will read through those words and miss it.  I can hear Paul’s commissioning words in Romans, “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  This world is longing for love and I don’t want my girls to miss this, because everything they are longing for is right here.  Sure they know Jesus, but do they know the full extent of His love for them?  Do I?  Can we receive the beauty that Jesus, the Bridegroom, the One who would soon lift a cup of wine in the upper room and say, “This is my blood”, was standing at a wedding looking at His children and seeing that there was no wine?

And who did they come to for help?

Who was the only One able?

We don’t know with certainty what Jesus was thinking at that moment, but His response offers so much to me and these young girls sitting around me and to this whole world, to all of us who need to know how loved we are.  Jesus looks at the empty wine vessels and responds, “My hour has not yet come.”  A beautiful choice of words for the Bridegroom who knew He would soon say, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (emphasis mine)

“There is no way Jesus can think of what it will take to give his bride the cup of joy and gladness without thinking about the cup that He was going to have to drink.  If He is going to feast with us and have us in His arms, if we are going to drink from the rivers of His grace, if we are going to come into the festival joy of the marriage supper, He is going to have to go through the hour and drink the cup of justice.  They will only have my joy through my sorrow.” Tim Keller

glass ps 1The marriage and mystery of joy and sorrow, we see it started in the manger and finished at the cross.  The same joy that Mary treasured up and pondered in her heart, will one day pierce it.  We can’t separate the two.

The master of ceremonies that day in Cana tasted the divine wine and called aside the bridegroom saying, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  Jesus must have smiled knowing His future, because God was saving the best till the end too.  We all eat, drink, and are merry every Christmas.  And we should be.  He came and that is sweet wine for the soul.  But the choice wine won’t be brought out until Easter.  Yes He came at Christmas, and a weary world rejoices at His birth; but He came to die at Easter. He saves the choice wine for the end.

The Sublime Studio: {Karen Appleton}

The Sublime Studio

Appropriately so during this season of giving, how about an artist feature on an artist who paints beautiful presents?  Karen Appleton’s gift paintings would be too pretty to open if they were real.  Her work is unique, and her ability to capture light and whimsy will bring a smile to your face.  It’s a cold, grey day here in the Carolinas; hoping this brings warmth and cheer to your December day.

You can find Karen here on her website, as well as on here on her blog.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas to you.

gold bowpink bowgreen bowcurly pink bowgrey and blue bowpeachblue bow


The Reverse Midas Touch

So here’s the thing.  I might like elementary age/middle school age parenting more than baby/toddler parenting.  This has potential to be the greatest revelation I have received in quite sometime.  I just never knew.  I always thought I was a tiny baby loving kind of mama, a chubby toddler loving kind of parent, but it turns out, that might not be the exclusive reality.  Maybe the real truth is, I like most, whatever stage of parenting we are currently in.  Because it’s not that I didn’t love parenting my kids during the younger ages…obviously, but goodness gracious that was a lot of work.  I feel a little guilty saying that because we live in an age of washing machines, dishwashers, and indoor plumbing.  When we traveled to Zimbabwe last year, I saw how my friend Judy raised all of her children in the African bush during wartime.  Okay, so maybe that was harder.  But still.Ella

Last week at dinner I was reminiscing about those times of no sleep and nursing babies through the night.  Kev looked right at me and responded, “I’m gonna be completely honest with you.  I don’t think it was that rough back then, and I really don’t remember you loosing much sleep.”

If I didn’t know Jesus, I would have had so many things to say to him, or throw at him.  You know what I’m saying?  But Jesus said something like, “Thou shalt not kill your husband and bury him in the backyard.” So I instead replied, “Sweetie, you were unaware of my lack of sleep because of all the sleep you were getting when you would place a pillow over your head as soon as a baby began crying in the night.”

Whatever man.

But now we have a daughter in middle school, and it’s a whole new world of experiences and life and independence and I just think the whole thing is fun.  When your oldest child becomes a sixth grader, it causes you to mentally relive a little of the past you haven’t thought about in 25 years…or that which you have spent the past 25 years trying to forget.  Same difference.  One change that has taken place with this new generation is boys and girls no longer speak to one another.  It’s not that I care, I just didn’t know this would be the case.  You don’t think about this stuff until it’s happening, and then you kind of relearn the rules as you attempt to help and parent your kids through new stages of life.  Make no mistake however, the boys and girls are still aware of each other, but verbal interchange between them is unacceptable.  Enter in texting.  Texting is acceptable, and so begins the story of how I ruined Ella’s sixth grade year.  And it’s only November.

Admittedly, my kids have been somewhat sheltered.  Two years ago Ella came home traumatized from a weekend at church camp because her roommate “cussed the entire weekend”.  “Wow.  Really?  Like what were some things she was saying?” said this confused mother.  “You know, the ‘s’ words.  Stupid and shut-up.”

Oh my dear Ella.

We aren’t really that uptight around here, I’m not sure why she thought those were cuss words, but it kind of proves my point.  And then we pulled the girls out of school to homeschool, and I’m thinking somewhere in those years the “sheltered situation” was unintentionally magnified a bit.  And then my friend Cambre got Ella hooked on The Duggars, so now she has vowed she will not a kiss a boy until her wedding day.  We are good with that…thank you Jill Duggar for arguably being one of the only female role models on TV.  Ella is a rule follower, she’s strong-willed and determined, mature for her age, and she is easily frustrated when others around her will not follow the rules.  So when a boy began texting her and asking if she liked him (because he liked her), you would have thought it was the equivalent of a marriage proposal via iPod Touch.  She lost her mind, seeing as she translated this to be a threat to her Jill Duggar vow.  Lord have mercy.

I’m talking tears people.  “Why me?!?!?  Why is this happening?!?!?  This is the worst thing that could happen!!!  Ever!”

And because I have never raised a teenager before, and because it’s the most ridiculous conversation I have ever listened to thus far in parenting, and because I hate iPod touches, I told her to get a grip and just ignore it already.  “Ella, this is not that big of a deal.  I think this is just what some kids do in middle school, and all you have to do is ignore this and it will go away.”

She didn’t believe me, so she called my older sister who has ‘brainwashed’ Ella into believing she is the wisest of us all; but she heard the same advice there and was therefore satisfied.  So we ignored the kid with Justin Bieber hair and wearing a bow tie and seersucker pants in his Instagram profile picture.

A week later, he texted again.  Same question.  Same hysteria.  Same advice.  I talked her off the ledge, and convinced her to again ignore the text.  “This is not a big deal Ella, it will go away, I promise.” said this naive mother.

And then this week Mr. Justin Bieber hair texted again.  Bless his little persistent heart.  She brought me her iPod touch and in full Scarlett O’Hara drama exclaimed, “I can’t deal with this anymore.  Will you please tell him to stop texting me.”  I agreed it was probably time she responded, seeing as all the ignoring wasn’t working.   Now, I will also agree my attitude was somewhat flippant.  Being involved in such silliness is not how I intend to spend my time; but somehow, something was lost in translation because this kid replied back with an ambiguous comment that made both Ella and I think he didn’t understand, or worse yet, thought she was saying she liked him (even though it was me texting, but he didn’t know that).

Are you confused yet?

Ella began squealing, “Mother, what did you say?!?!”

And now I’m squealing, “I have no idea!  I thought I was clear!  How have I been sucked into this situation?!?!”

My heart began racing out of guilt as I reread the text.  I was starting to realize my wording wasn’t the best, and in my attempt to keep it simple and let the kid down easy, I actually kept it too vague.

Now there began the loud wailing, and next everyone in the house was awake and rushing to the scene.  Kev enters just as the final blow came through via text from the boy who was making my life difficult, “So I guess this means we like each other.”

Y’all.  There was not enough sedation in this world to have calmed Ella in that dark moment.  Kev laughed for a solid 20 minutes at my ability to enter a situation and cause death and distraction when I was armed with nothing but good intentions.  We call it the reverse Midas Touch.  It’s a curse.

Oh these poor firstborn kids.  They’re nothing but Guinea Pigs to parents trying hard to do the right thing, but cluelessly fumbling along the way with them.  Lesson learned.  But regardless of what Kev’s memory of the past is, I still say a crying 12 year old at 8:00 pm is less torture than a screaming infant at 2:00 am.  Hands down.

Have a great weekend.

Astonishing Simplicity

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On day one of vacation, I was already arguing with my books.  It’s what I do.  I pack a library of heavy reads (both physically and figuratively) in the man’s backpack, and he lugs them for me from home to island.  He limits his playful, sarcastic remarks to one or two, and I let it go because it’s a fair trade for the hard labor.  Then from room to seaside he hauls them to our claimed spot at the shore, the place where the turquoise water laps just to the edge of our chairs.  I open them all on my lounge chair like I’m preparing to write a thesis, and immediately begin getting uptight.  Kev settles into his chair, wearing a smirk as easily as he’s wearing the baseball cap on his head and states, “Well this worked out well.”

I think maybe it’s simply that I’m annoyed I didn’t go to Seminary, and now I’m trying to make up for lost time.  I circle, cross reference, find more differed opinions than this brain of mine can handle, all the while reading every other paragraph aloud to Kev.  He squints, ponders, smiles, and nods agreeably, “That’s a good point.”  That’s always what he says.  I keep on reading.

By day two I’m searching for email addresses to get in touch with some of these authors.  I have a few questions.  Why can’t they all be like Bob Goff and include their cellphone number at the end of their books.  God bless that man.

By day three, in the midst of reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Kev declares, “From now on, I screen all the books you bring on vacation.”  God bless that man too.  I picked up Melanie’s “The Antelope in the Living Room” right before my anxiety hit a peak, and laughed for awhile instead.  It felt so good.  Laughter is a gift.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m6 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWe can make ourselves crazy you know.  All this reading of hundreds of opinions.  It can make me question and fret over everything I have ever taught from God’s Word.  I know the obvious solution is to stick with the Source, but that’s hard too, and anyone who says it’s not is lying.  But without question, all of us do get to a point in seeking to know Him that we must strip away every other perspective “on the market” and simply look at the black and white pages of Scripture.  Because my Jesus came for the child-like and not the haughty, and I’m certain that means even a non-seminary mind like mine, ordinary girls like you and me who want to know Him, can and will be made wise by Him.  Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWe’re home now, where the temperature read 26 degrees this morning instead of 86.  The kids and I finally finished listening to Exodus on the way to school.  As The Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, I thought of all that would come later with Jesus and His Holy Spirit.  I drove home thinking of the pattern of God, always moving toward and closer to His beloved.  I’m so grateful that all that might and majesty, all that thunder and lightening, the pillar of cloud and fire, all the shining Glory of the Lord which filled the tabernacle that day in the desert, eventually came and filled flesh and was tabernacled among us.

He became approachable.  He lived what He taught, and people were drawn to Him.  He stopped for those in need.  He had compassion on the masses.  He cared about the everyday.  He attended weddings and honored special requests.  He heard those who prayed.  He spent time with children.  He ate dinner with sinners.  He healed the sick.  He declared the ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness were blessed.  He honored women, when no one else did.  He gave to us who would believe in His Name the right to become children of God.  The Almighty came close so that the everyday you and me kind of people, could know Him.

Oh to know Him!

I’m not going to stop reading and learning from great teachers (obviously, none of us should).  I will wrestle this thing out to the end.  But I’m also not going to forget that Jesus came in astonishing simplicity, approaching the most ordinary of people with a simple command and promise, “Come, follow me. And I will make you fishers of men.”

So let’s follow close, and toss our nets where He leads.

I’m staking my whole life on His simple promise.