Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Okay, this is a strange subject for me to write about, and even makes me a bit nervous. There is so much criticism on the subject of alcohol among Christians. Never mind that Jesus turned water into wine as his first public act of ministry and miracle. Never mind that Jesus began at a party of all things. Never mind that the Bible only says not to be drunk. We have a strange attitude toward alcohol and other things in the church.

I was a tea-totaller until I was 30 if you don't count the two drinks I tried in high school, communion wine (blech!) and a taste of an almond wine a guest brought to thanksgiving dinner while still living at home. At thirty I realized that my kids were picking up the same attitudes that frustrated me in the rest of the church. One of my kids made a comment about someone having had a (gasp) beer! They were horrified and judgemental and I realized then that I had not communicated what the Bible says and what I really believe.

That being said, it was a little hard for me to have a glass, as I could feel hundreds of disapproving eyes on me. Still do sometimes. Also, there is a strong history of alcoholism in my family. So I sat the kids down and explained the dangers given our family history, but because I was pretty sure I did not share the family alcoholism, given my reaction to alcohol as a kid, I began having a glass of wine on occasion. It had become clear to me that my kids were not going to believe what I said, and that I needed to model responsible drinking.

There are things about a glass of wine that really appeal to me. Wine glasses are lovely in shape and form. wine bottles are beautiful and the color of wine so beautiful. The process of wine making is filled with beautiful images. Vines heavy with grapes, the picking, crates filled with lush clusters, the crushing, the fermenting, the rows of oak casks, bottling, tastings. The whole thing invokes images of long tables set in sun-dappled gardens, crisp white linens gently flapping in the breeze, while a dozen or more friends and family laugh and talk and eat fresh produce, fine cheeses, and pass glorious platters of pasta and bottles of the latest vintage. In these visions I always hear Italian spoken.

So, to the point of my particular favorite wines.

Generally speaking, I prefer reds and have a partiality to slightly, or even more than slightly, sweet reds. I also have a kind of rule about wines--I usually only buy wines in the $10 range, either recommended by someone I trust or fairly highly rated in wine snob circles. Two of my top wines don't fit that, but instead are wines that were given to me by someone else, and are a bit out of my budget for all but the most special occasions.

1. I wish I could remember the name of this one. It is a lovely merlot in a very simple bottle with the simplest and classiest label. I remember a simple gilt outline "T" as the main visual of a very subtle label. Dark bottle. A co-worker and his wife made me a gift of this one. I meant to keep the bottle til I wrote the info in a wine-tasting book, but the bottle disappeared. I would know it if I saw it, but I know it is more than my $10 range.

2. Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir. Without a doubt the best wine I have ever tasted, but at $40 a bottle, a bit out of my price range.

3. The wine I buy and try to keep in my wine rack at all times: Roadkill Red by Colorado Cellars. At $12/bottle, it is more than what I pay to try new stuff, but I already know I will love this one. It is a semi-sweet light red wine that goes with a lot of stuff, or stands on it's own. I missed the Wine Festival in Manitou Springs this year, so I am down to my last bottle. My local liquor store can't get this one (you can buy it online, but they self-distribute, so he can't get it for his store) so I plan to go to the wine festival on the western slope in September. I fully intend to make Colorado Cellars one of my stops and to pick up several bottles of this one.

I don't drink often, and I hate to open a bottle and drink alone (Steve is diabetic and can't drink), so it only takes a few bottles to be my yearly allotment. One of my plans for the kitchen remodel is to install a small wine refrigerator so that I can have a selection of varieties of wine for cooking and drinking. The sweeter wines aren't so good for sauces and stews, so you need a selection of Burgundy, Cabs, and I will occasionally open a generic red or chianti and use it for both.

For sparkling wines, I like Moscato d'Asti. It is much sweeter than champagne, which I find distasteful.

My daughter laughed when she saw me drinking White Zinfindel. Working at a five-star restaurant, she became conversant with good wines, so when we ate there, I let her pick for me. I don't know the name of the white she chose for me, but it was lovely, I will admit.

That being said, I will admit that some of the things people talk about when they describe wines are a mystery to me. I must have a poor palate, as I don't taste "plums, with a hint of cherry and a nice oaken finish" Huh? I do sometimes smell the oak of the wine cask, but when they start talking about smelling and tasting the entire produce section, well, I don't know what on earth they're talking about. I often wonder about the wine that Jesus made. Was it dry? Was it sweet? What were the topnotes? What was the bouquet? Do NOT tell me it tasted like Mogen David or Manischeiwitz, it was supposed to be the best wine.

A nice glass of wine in a long-stemmed goblet. Lovely. Good for the stomach and ONE glass will help you get a good night's rest.

Given my family history, I must leave you with this caution: Always drink in moderation. Never drink at all if you cannot stop with one, or if it starts longings that make life difficult for you. This post is not intended to give you permission to drink if it is against your conscience or medical history. I do wonder when the modern church developed it's horror of wine. Perhaps it is the same thing we try to do with a lot of things. Since a lot is bad for you, have none. No moderation required. Well, it's a nice idea, and I understand the fear, after all, how do you know when to scold your neighbor. Is it after the second glass? See, that's the problem, somewhere between the 2nd glass and 6th is the cutoff, but since we are all built differently (different weight, metabolism and different eating and drinking habits) you can't just look at your neighbor and know it is one sip too many. Nor can you always know with yourself.

It seems to me that it is much easier to judge matters of conduct than of the heart and motive. If one person has a hard time with TV, then no one should watch it. We all instinctively seem to know that there are shows that definitely have crossed the line, but since we cannot see the line, we must be led by the Spirit. Well, for me, having certain propensities in the area of sins and desires, the Home Shopping Network may be an absolute no-no, while for you, it doesn't cause you to stumble in any way. But it is easy to find the areas we personally struggle with and then attempt to make everyone else show the same restraints as we must have in that area.

No offense intended to any Christian ministry, but I interviewed with a ministry several times, and was absolutely puzzled by their code of behavior and dress code. They were so much stricter than Scripture that I wondered what it was all about. Why, I wondered would sling-back shoes be forbidden? I was told that it was to avoid criticism from within the church. Wow. Silly, ridiculous rules to mollify people who find some issue with footwear? So instead of sharing God's grace and freedom and scriptural truth with the complaintant minority, freedom is taken from hundreds. This is so like the church. Gertrude doesn't like the paint color. It's not enough that it's beige, but it's not the right shade of beige. It doesn't have the essence of beige-ness necessary for painting the sanctuary. Also, the pastor insists on calling the sanctuary an auditorium, but that isn't a holy word... Then there is John. John grew up reading the Authorized King James Version, just like his father and his grandfather. That new preacher uses the New King James, the NIV, the NASB and sometimes Phillips. He sometimes says that the King James doesn't always express the intent of the Greek or the Hebrew as well. It's heresy, I tell you, and John is raising a stink in the church. So the deacon's board gets together to find a shade of beige paint that will mollify Gertrude, because even though 90% of the congregation wanted tan walls, they won't complain at all the meetings that the color doesn't bring about the right spirit of worship and devotion. The elder board counsels the pastor that John has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the building fund and asks him to teach from the KJV. After all, we shouldn't offend John.

I wonder if it isn't sin for us to be adding rules and regulations to Scripture. After all, if the goal is personal holiness and a heart for Christ, why do we suggest that God was almost right when he inspired Scripture? When we say that holiness is more complete with closed toe, closed heel pumps, that pantyhose are a requirement for righteousness, and that pants invite permissiveness, we are adding to Scripture. So, most of us don't do that, but the church and para-church ministries often say this without words. We don't even roll our eyes at these kind of restrictions. We accept as given that we must cater to the most irritable and vocal of our brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Moses and Peter

I was reading in Exodus today the record of Moses, as he argued with God. "They won't believe you sent me." So God gave him the words to say and signs to convince them. He persisted and then objected, but I can't speak well. I'm don't speak clearly or quickly. You know, he told God, hey, you got the wrong guy. I'm not a public speaker. I can't do what you told me. It's almost as if he was saying he had a speech impediment.

You know what God's response was? He said, aren't I the one who made you? Don't you think I can give you the ability you need?

On a day when I am feeling like such a failure for my inability to keep a clean, orderly and organized house, feeling defeated by my FM, my ADD, my's as if God reached down and said, Do you think I'm surprised by any of this? I know all about your physical disabilities. If you will depend on me, I will give you the strength and resources to do this job.

So, what I need to to is really depend on God for all, refusing to give in to defeat. If he says I can do this, then he will give me the ability and I will know it is him and not me, cause I've given it over 25 years in my own strength and my own striving.

So, I worked as long as I could on the problem, quitting only when the aching go too bad. I intended it to be a break, but the ache didn't leave. Sometimes it affects me that way, one arm or the other, sometimes both, a leg, the back, the neck, ankles, someplace will develop an ache that makes me feel I have no strength left. I have to convince myself that I have the strength to drive, or pick things up or grab a book, whatever.

Perhaps that is the issue. Perhaps most of us have strength we don't know about, because we are created in the image of God. So if the creator says, "I want you to do this" then you can count on him to give you his strength and wisdom. Not to make you someone entirely different, but empowering you with His strength in your weakness.

After all, Peter walked on the water when Jesus called. You know what's interesting? The original language (I have been told) makes it clear that Jesus wasn't speaking just to Peter when he gave the invitation. Peter was the only one who stepped out of the boat.

Moses balked and God provided a mouthpiece for him through Aaron. Peter stepped out in faith and walked on water. Moses journey took him back to Egypt and into the company of slaves distressed with their bondage. It took him to face Pharaoh over and over and over. It took him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert. Peter's journey took him over the side of the boat. It seemed to be a short journey, but Peter walked by Jesus' side when the soldier's came to take him away. He leaped to his defense and cut off a soldier's ear. He followed closed by, scared and alone, as Jesus was tried illegally. His failures were noted, but following Jesus' death and resurrection, and the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke openly to the crowd about Jesus.

So I can be empowered to do the things that I need to do as well.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Savoring Temptation

I've been thinking on the nature of temptation. More precisely, on why some temptations are so hard to resist and so hard to get over. Whether that temptation is for a chocolate brownie or something else, what is it that keeps the temptation alive?

Sometimes for me, it is that I allow myself to savor the temptation(let's call it a brownie). There is a deliciousness to the desire that simply feels good. Whether it releases pleasure chemicals in the brain or there is something else going on, it is so incredibly appealing that I don't want to let go of the temptation itself. I allow myself to think about the brownie, and soon I can smell it, I can feel myself lifting it to my mouth--oh, it's warm from the oven. I can feel the cakey gooeyness on my lips and can taste the rich, chocolatey flavor. I can feel my teeth striking a not quite fully melted chocolate chip, and can feel the endorphins release.

There is nothing wrong with a brownie, and perhaps your other temptations as well, as long as they are in the right context. In a reasonably healthy and moderate diet, and occasional brownie is a wonderful thing. The problem comes when we would rather have that brownie than the healthy foods that provide proper nutrition, or when we will eat it even when we are full, or when it becomes the staple of our diet.

What about the nature of flirtation, either expressed or merely in one's own head? See the pleasure of anticipation is a wonderful thing. It can be a great part of dating, engagement and marriage, but when a man or a woman savors a thought of that outside of that relationship, or with someone who is either married, engaged, or is otherwise completely inappropriate, it's trouble. And the same things we must do to avoid the brownie temptation we must do to avoid the inappropriate flirtation and fantasies.

If you are having trouble with brownies, you stay out of the bakery! You don't bring them home and say, well, I'll just have a little now and save the rest for another day, when you know you won't do that. If you're having trouble with fantasy or flirtation, you avoid that person. In both situations, and with other temptations as well, you discipline your mind. When you find yourself mentally savoring the object of your desire, you change your thoughts. Go for a run, call a friend, read a book, read the Bible, pray. Don't allow yourself to luxuriate in thoughts and desires for things you should not have! Flee temptation.

I was watching a show the other day where the lead character was following the path of betrayal. As it unfolded I found myself wanting to shout, "Run away! Hide! Leave!" But, of course, she didn't, because we are told in our culture that we cannot help these attractions. Also, we don't want to look like idiots running away. So her relationship was destroyed, and her affair ended, and she was none the wiser, just in a lot of pain. None of her friends told her the truth, though one kind of tried, they were just "there for her". Whatever that means.

Gosh, I hope my friends would be there for me too, but with love and truth, not love and wishy-washy platitudes. See, I've been taken to task by friends at times, and when it is done by people who love me and will stick by me, it has made a profound difference in my life and in my behavior and attitudes. I have a greater respect for people who will speak the truth in love. It is the harder path to take. It's riskier.

But when it comes to resisting or even fleeing temptation, what is the risk? Looking foolish? People who really love you (and have a working brain and common sense) will be proud of you for doing what it takes not to mess up your life. They will be pleased that you will do the right thing even when it's hard or embarrassing.

But what happens when we give in and allow ourselves to merely enjoy the desire. Well, desire gives birth to lust and lust to action (sin), and that action has terrible consequences. The Bible talks about sin birthing death. Well, certainly in the TV show, the death was to the relationship. There was the terrible wounding of other people. In the case of the brownie temptation, well too many of those and you'll have yourself a case of obesity, and that leads to diabetes, heart disease, stroke... None of those are on the "good" list.

So what do we do when the brownie calls to us? Put a stop to it! Some people do this by sticking a piece of strong mint gum in their mouth, or by drinking a glass of water. Some might take a short jog, or meditate on a verse of Scripture. Some might call a friend. I just say, do whatever it takes. The verse I think about is Romans 13:14 "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." I have a version in my head that is almost the same...don't know why the words are slightly different, but this is how I recall it: make no provision for the fless, to satisfy the lusts thereof. This verse runs through my mind when I pick up a package of Oreos. It runs through my mind when I open the freezer for ice, only to find that someone has bought Entennman's chocolate glazed donuts. It runs through my mind when other temptations face me. I'm thinking about getting it painted on my refrigerator door.

Make no provision for the flesh.