Saturday, April 27, 2013

Weddings, Wine and Saving the Best for Last

It was Jesus' first miracle. Turning water into wine.

And a party host's worst nightmare: to run out of food or drink for their guests.

Jesus' mother must have been friends of the Mother of the Bride or close to the wedding coordinator, head waiter or front room manager.

Like most women, she was a fixer and knew who was up for the job: her son, Jesus.

They had both been invited to the wedding. Was Joseph invited? Where was dad, I wonder?

Son was reluctant to fulfill his mother's request at first; to do something about the wine shortage.

"It's not my time, yet," he said. Not his time to show proof of his deity; to encourage his followers of his Lord-ship; to reveal to the world that He was Messiah - long awaited One.

 But none-the-less, it was His premier miracle, made at a first-class party - a wedding - the institution He as part of the God-head had thought up at the dawn of creation. His relational initiative: marriage. He was enhancing the week-long reception.

He, if you will,  brought the life of the party. 

He was the Life of the party....The Way, the Truth, the Life.

"The father of the groom said, most hosts serve the best wine first. Then, when the guests' taste buds are sufficiently altered by alcohol, the inferior wine is brought out.

Hence, Bourgogne Chardonnay first, Beringer later.

"But you have saved the best for last."  

Jesus did it right. Nothing but high quality, haute vin, for the debut evidence of His deity.

Do you think it was noticed by the masses? John's account reads that only the servers knew the real story.

I wonder if Jesus performed a wedding miracle anticipating that great Wedding Feast to come when we, His beloved church, finally wed the Lover of our Souls and dine at that long heavenly banquet table.

His first wonder was a foreshadow of that celebration of his prized divine union: marriage - specifically between the Church and Christ. He and us, finally united in a perfect world - the longing of this existence finally fulfilled.

Maybe that's why He turned water into to wine. It appeared to be kind of spontaneous, not on his list of acts, to perform. Because it was not yet time for His public ministry to begin as he explained to his mother.

Perhaps it was for Himself, a few servants, a future wedding feast.

The first act fore-shadows the First Heavenly activity, our reception party, where the best food and wine will be presented.

Or perhaps the wine miracle symbolized the future pouring out of His blood for the lives of many. The water, rivers of living water, the icon for the life he would infuse to His followers.

His very first miracle.

We remembered His last miracle this past month on Easter. The day when He showed His ultimate divine power through resurrection.

He went on throughout the 3 short years of His official ministry to prove his power over

Blood disorders
The weather
The fishery markets
The tax system
The demonic world
Satan's temptation
Multiplication of food stuffs (feeding the five thousand)
Religiosity of the clergy (whitewashed sepulchres)
Fatal sickness (Lazarus)

And finally He conquered, our dreaded inevitable end.


He defied death when he left the cave empty. He made that substitutional defeat of death and eternal separation available to those who believe He is God, by His spilled blood.

We drink the wine to remember at communion. That which enables us to commune, to have intimate relationship with Him, our bridegroom.

And Revelations 19:9  says, "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

He is saving the best for last.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Jesus Freaks in Venice Beach

They were both on the stage and in the audience.

The Jesus Freaks in the band and other strange birds listening. Venice Beach, 1975.

If you've ever been there, you know it's more than a motley crowd made up of serious drug pushers, prostitutes, transvestites, muscle men and other purveyors of oddness.

(On a recent California trip walking the beachfront sidewalk with my teenage boys,  I over heard two guys talking about needles and the previous night's narcotics exploits. It took me a minute to realize what I had overheard on my unassuming stroll).

Venice Beach now and then.

Back to then. You could tell who the Jesus people were by their faces. They had a glow, a light, a tranquility that was visible in each feature.

Some local youth pastors and volunteers came to reach out alongside.

It was part of a Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa sponsored concert circuit that trailed up the California coast to USC, UCLA, UCSB and various beaches. This was one of them.

Maranatha Music and Calvary had sent their bands: The Road Home, Mustard Seed Faith, Aslan and Bethlehem. Anyone around that time would recognize the people there: Oden Fong, Pedro Buford, Lewis McVay, Rick Conklin, Bill Sprouse, Ed McTaggert, Diana Hershey were just a few of the musicians.

 Some played inside, some on the public beach stage where passers-by could view the music and message.

My husband Tim Shaw brought the message to a rowdy, jeering, shouting bunch. But he stood firm and spoke despite the hecklers and hooting.

One band by the name of a character in C.S Lewis Narnia series, was so disturbed by the kind of people there, they left before the altar call, leaving it music-less. I'm sure  they had their reasons.

Amid shouting and jeering, the bands played, the message was delivered.

And some listened.

After the music and message, many came up front to talk
to pray
to hang out.

One guy kissed Tim's hand and said,
"I didn't just kiss you, I bit you."  Then introduced himself as the devil.

Tim sort of laughed saying he never thought meeting Satan would be like this.
"I imagined this moment, but never thought the devil would look like you, " he joked.

Those were the kind of eccentric, off-beat, unbalanced, peculiar folks frequenting the boardwalk.

But some of those people walked away differently
as a result of
the truth spoken
the love shown
and the music played
by all those

Monday, April 22, 2013

Your Brain on Housework

Have you ever noticed that manual labor breeds great ideas?

(Art credit - Brian Payne)-

I unwittingly discovered that when cobwebs are cleared from my house, the same thing happens to my mind.

Dusting off lampshades and tabletops seems to dust off my brain and voila! the proverbial light bulb turns on!

Working in the garden tills the cerebral soil.  There's a seed bed waiting to sprout originality.

Thoughts grow, stories blossom, melodies develop into mature trees of song.

Menial chores manufacture the meaningful. Petty tasks produce the profound. 

What a great discovery! My family is especially grateful that creativity results from  housework because they reap the benefits of clean towels, polished tables and lint free carpets!

It gives me some incentive to pull out the vacuum, Endust and Swiffer!
(Although, I can't say there's anything about cleaning a bathroom that's inspiring! Except to rearrange the soap dispensers and candles.)

The first time this happened I was ironing in my parent's spare bedroom. It was a sheet for the newest nephew. There were phrases from a Mother Goose poem printed on the fabric and before I knew it, a tune was bubbling up fitting the words into rhythm, meter and melody.

Wynken, Blynken and Nod, a children's poem by Eugene Field was set to song while I pressed wrinkles out of a crib sheet!

Ever since then, I've found that a small labor has proved fertile ground for ingenuity. Though quite a shock to the feminist mindset, rather than Necessity,


Domesticity might be the mother of Invention!

There must be a scientific explanation for this phenomenon: When the right brain is resting, the left becomes active?  Something like that. Does anybody know?

It's the perfect remedy for writer's block. The mere sight of the cleaning caddy gives my synapses a double espresso shot of adrenaline and story lines crystallize, re-wordings evolve with ease.

Then quick, while the juices are flowing:

Stop the vacuum!
Drop the dust rag!
Flip up the lap top,
Click Design!
Fingers flying to capture the words, music, and lyrics,
before they are lost.

We should all be encouraged to go out there and weed the garden, sweep the porch, mow the lawn, paint the house, mop the floor, walk the dog, throw in a load of laundry (and fold it).  Clean that room!

A masterpiece is waiting to be birthed!!

A Monet is waiting to be painted. A Bernard Shaw ready to be penned.  A Cole Porter song soon to be sung. An Aaron Copeland symphony scored! A Steven Spielberg about to be filmed.

A light bulb invented!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Passing the Faith Baton

 A rare morning coffee with my neighbor, a relatively new believer, focused on faith transference to our children.

"I find it very disheartening," she said, "that after my years of resisting, wrestling and finally yielding to God, my children may have to go through the same conflicts before their faith is made their own.
It doesn't seem fair, really."

"Yes,  I know," I commiserated. "Why can't our children just learn humbly and sweetly  rather than the hard way like we did?"

There are no grandchildren in the kingdom of God. Only children. In other words, the relationship is one generational.

Heavenly Father to son. Heavenly Father to daughter. No earthly parent go-betweens. It's a 1-point connection. Not 3, 4, 5 or 6 points between God and his kids.

What makes it worse is to think that your parenting methods may have pushed a child farther from God. It's a terrible thing to realize you may have had the wrong tactic when you thought you were doing it right. When the opposite result occurred because of your regulation or rule or limit was placed on a child.

How can that be when you tried and prayed so hard to do the right thing, only to see it backfire?


We hope and pray our kids learn from our mistakes. But quite often, they don't.

They have to learn the hard way, too.

We introduce them to Jesus and hope and pray and fast and pray some more.

I have to believe that God is bigger than my parenting mistakes.

The faith baton may get dropped. It can easily slip between our fingers and miss the transfer. We watch the runners take the wrong lane and even veer completely off the track.

But I believe, when they are ready, our children will return.

Pick up the baton where it fell, and continue the race.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's nothing that a little Equestrian Therapy can't cure.

After a stressful afternoon centered around a disappointing discovery about my teenage son's choices, I did what ever normal mom does to expend a little negative energy.

No, I didn't bolt to the local mall to shop.

Nor did I drive to the nearest World of Beer for a designer brew.

I took a sunset bike ride.

Pumping up my perpetually mushy bike tires, I rode my red cruiser across the neighborhood away from the busy main street. In less than a mile and a left turn onto a soft sandy road I found myself in a different world from my cookie cutter housing development.

My eyes drank in the placid green expanses, white railed fences and gentle horses grazing. I could breathe again.

At first the bronzed beauties nodded in suspicion. But then sidled up to me where I had dismounted and leaned against the pasture fence.

I wished I had brought apples or carrots to share. Noticing the grass on my side of the fence was much greener, theirs having been grazed bare, I plucked the long blades and offered them.  After a pat and caress on their smooth jaws and noses, they soon were eating out of my hand.

As a little girl, we had a nearby neighborhood of little ranches too. My dad and I would jaywalk across Beach Boulevard to that hidden enclave of rural life. There he taught me how to feed horses. You have to keep your fingers together and your palm very flat, so that their teeth don't bite. I loved the feel of their fleshy, soft-haired lips brushing my palm as they nibbled the food.

I like it just as much now, by myself, but thinking of my father and the gift of that experience....And then I think about my son.

If only I could endear my son as easily as I did these horses. The relationship is awkward and difficult to maneuver. If only he would respond to my overtures for companionship and nurturing as effortlessly as these creatures.

 But he is a lone ranger; a stranger in my house sometimes, whose thoughts are more foreign each day as he nears his exit to the university campus.

As I write this,  my husband studies a letter in the Hebrew alphabet that stands for an ox goad. A device that helps steer the animal on a straight path, when he is too stupid to know better. It pokes him gently to guide him when he is too obtuse to stay on course on his own. Most of us are.

 Mounting my bike to leave, I see another horse headed my way on the dirt road in the distance. As it closes in, I notice the rider has a polo mallet slung across his right shoulder, reins held tight with his left. I nod and pass as a Pizza Hut delivery car goes between us.

Suddenly I realize I need a picture of the polo guy. Sand flying as I make an abrupt U turn, I notice the pizza delivery car has turned around too, the three of us, horse, bike and Ford Focus jostling for road space, a little Three Stooges-like.

Hola. Como se llama?


May I take your picture with the mallet on your shoulder? 

Sure. Do you like polo?

Yes, I do.

 Snapping away as the sun has almost completely left the sky, Tito the trainer is captured on my smart phone, a bit blurry, but still there.

He is leading the pony home from the nearby International Polo field after an afternoon of Sunday games.

Thank you, Tito. Gracias!

Then, the Pizza car comes by and the driver calls me by name.

Lo, and behold it's a friend from church working at her second job. How funny. A little chit-chat and she finds her customer's address and pulls up to the long ranch driveway.

Tito continues into the sunset and dusk leads me back home.

I am refreshed, having biked off some steam.

Clear headed I can pray and devise a plan with my husband to draw our son in, not push him away; to help him rein himself in on a good road.

Thank goodness for a little equestrian therapy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

God is clearing His throat again...

From April to October, it's a common occurrence.

He breathes the monumental clouds; thick, dark, charcoal tinted billows of smoke.

Cumulonimbus formations as large as the Sierra Nevadas catch in His throat in an involuntary Divine inhale.

The peals explode popcorn-like, amplified through a monstrous sound system, reverberating through every corner of my chest, deep down to that space between my ribs in the seat of my soul where I ache before I cry;  where laughs bubble, and where I melt at the sound of grandiose music. The double bass pitch pulsates till my lungs fairly combust, jogging childhood memories of the same sensation while watching a parade pass by: the bass drum-line drowning out my very heartbeat.

Clouds of thunder paint His power, and though He can't be seen, He is distinctly felt.

The electrical storms of this peninsular state were such a novel and awe inspiring event during our first Florida summer.  Daily, all seven of us would sit in a row of lawn chairs in the garage, door up, sheltered from the warm deluge, to view nature's show as if it were a new release DVD or a Hollywood world premier. 

Spider lightening, double bolts, flashes from east to west instantly turning dusk into dawn are quickly followed by the heart-pounding sonic booms. This is entertainment we seldom saw growing up in the temperate climate of Southern California, except for a Big Bear or Idlywild afternoon storm while on vacation.

Certainly the South Florida locals thought us odd as we gawked and shrieked at every atomic clap of the suddenly vocal sky.

Minutes later the grey canopy could turn patchy, precipitation still going strong revealing yet another Florida weather wonder:

Blue Sky Rain.

That's right, sun is shining bright but the curtain of drops still falls heavy.

Sun Showers.

God is like that. Both terrifying and thrilling at the same time.
He is sunshine and clear skies and darkness and mystery concurrently.

He is an adventure to be had, a sight to be seen, a new thing to watch.

I look forward to another season of storms.

And to hearing Him in the thunder.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

If you could ask God one question...

...what would it be?

This was the challenge posed on Easter Sunday at our church. Flip the program over and jot down your question for God.

Wow. Only if it were that easy.

Who knows?  Your divine query may end up in the pastor's next sermon called:

 Truth And Dare-Know the Truth and Dare to Live it.

It was my job to organize the questions and give a report. It was kind of fun and interesting.

Except that there were over 500 cards to peruse. The questions ranged from flippant to poignant to desperate and everywhere in between.

The purpose of Life.
The problem of evil.
How did Adam's family multiply?
Who made God?
Why do You love me when I mess up so much?
Is there only one true religion?

 All I can say is, Have fun, Pastor.
At least he will have no shortage of material.

A quick search on the internet brought up these
oh-so-cute questions from the hand of children.

 Hmmm.... Good question....

 Having raised 4 boys, I love this one. Even though they

shared rooms all their lives, they somehow

avoided this outcome, and reached adulthood having

spared each other from anything fatal :)

But, back to the folks at church and their wonderings about God... Take a peak at some of them:

How did You come into existence?
Why do good people die early?
Why are there sick and suffering people?
Why do animals suffer?
Why is the universe so big?
Why and I here?
Why is life so hard?   (another good one)  
Will I ever have a barn horse when I'm older?
Why have you saved my life so many times?
How do I keep strong in spite of what the world is throwing at me?
Why did god put man and the devil on the same earth?
How can You care about everyone equally?
How can I love like you love?
Which is the true church?
Why did Eve disobey?
Why didn't God use the same size serving spoon when He was dishing things out?
Why do some children have abusive parents?
Why does the Catholic Church have mean nuns?
If the Bible says, Let no man pull asunder, why do so many Christians have permission to marry and remarry?
Does Heaven really have pearly gates and is hell really brimstone?
Does my mom see me from heaven?

I've wondered the last one, too, since my mom passed 3 years ago.

Whether the pastor will tackle any or all of these, I don't know.

But what I do know is God hears our cry
                                                      and bottles our tears
                                                                                           and  counts the hair on our heads,

so surely He's aware of our questions.

And if he cares about the birds that fall to the ground,  He cares about our ponderings.

And if we truly seek Him with an honest heart,
(And even when our motives are askew, which is most the time for me),

He will lean into us.

Maybe not answer every question, but certainly show us who He is.

That's what He is dying to do. That's what He died to do.

So we should go ahead and ask.

And then if we just listen...

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