Conversation, Dialogue, and Speech

Constance…I think this is soo salient and has huge implications.  I want to encourage you to read this and consider it carefully, especially if you blog.

I would add this question:  What is conversation?  How does it relate to the quote below?  What is dialogue?  Are conversation and dialogue the same thing?

Where does correspondence fit into all this?

I have some thoughts about dialogue and especially correspondence.  I am old enough to have had pen-pals when I was a child and even all the way up through adulthood (when it became correspondence).  I think that dialogue is a sustained conversation that occurs over time, and that the key to fruitful dialogue leading to growing and thriving relationship is EFFORT.

Effort.

Having a relationship of any kind that is meaningful and more than just a surface association takes time.

It takes investment!  Investment of self…investment of energy…investment of time.  Time is really all we have, no?  Thus, the spending of time on someone is in some measure the true indicator of our heart.  Of course, this is given the context the relationship occurs in…obvi relationships that include distance or some form of separation as a component have to take those factors into consideration.

But once they are accounted for:  distance, daily routine and commitments that are not possible to alter, etc. well, then it comes down to investing one’s self or not, and that is what takes a conversation into a dialogue and a dialogue into a relationship and a relationship into a friendship and a friendship into love…agape love, romantic love, platonic love, brotherly love, whatever…love.  Where the other person matters to you more than you matter to yourself.

Anyway, please read the quote below and perhaps begin to actively position your online presence in such a way as to be strengthening things that remain instead of pass away faster than a deleted email.

And to those of you that I correspond, I am deeply thankful and grateful for you all!  🙂

“The great benefit of speech has been that it’s contextual.

It’s spoken to a particular person in a particular place at a particular time.

The great danger of writing is that it deprives speech of context.

It allows the illusion that something true in the particular can be universal. Literature and philosophy have been struggling with this tension of writing since its dawn, but its benefits and power are too great to ignore and writing has developed into a unique skill, generating great art and social movements based in finding the universal in the particular.

The problem of social media today is that it can’t sustain the inevitable issues caused when speech is treated as writing.

Social media masquerades as speech, invites the sharing of the particular, but is treated as writing. It is deprived of context, the speaker and listener removed from all that would make the act meaningful in the particular and left unable to bear the weight of the universal.”

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27 Signs of a Good Relationship

Constance, in general, I think that the stuff I am posting below is pretty good stuff…certainly my baby and me have experienced fruit in all of these ways and areas.  And it is a good friendship guide as well, filtered for the obvi romance stuff.

So what about it?  How are your relationships?  Maybe this guide can help…and if you find a trouble spot, maybe you can isolate it and then dress it so it heals.  Hey, when you get a sliver, just take the dang thing out, right??!!???  No need to cut off the finger!

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27 Signs of a Good Relationship

We’ve all asked ourselves the same question at least once in our life: “Is this relationship going the way I want it to?” Finding someone unique, someone who stands head and shoulders above all those who came before can be an exciting prospect. It’s all too easy to cling to the hope that the special someone you’ve been seeing is actually the one you’ve been looking for, and sometimes it is necessary to think logically about what that person offers, and how both partners behave when in each other’s company. Here are 30 signs of a good relationship.

#1 You can be yourself

In daily life, we put up walls to block out the people around us, and it can be difficult to let our guard down once we find someone we genuinely want to spend time with. Often, relationship woes are the result of this internal struggle. Being yourself is one of the toughest things to do- not only in relationships but in everyday situations. We sabotage our own chances of relationship success when we shy away from being ourselves, and the mark of a great relationship is one in which both partners don’t even feel the need to alter anything about themselves.

#2 You are able to tell them everything

If a couple meets for the first time and they are comfortable enough, they often get a crazy, sudden urge to come clean and reveal all of their dirty little secrets. At some point, both partners will have to decide whether or not to succumb to this urge, and the choice they make can have a huge impact on the relationship. The type of impact it has can tell you a lot about the nature of the relationship. If both partners are able to open up to each other and reveal things about themselves that they wouldn’t dream of telling anyone else, it is an extremely positive sign. It means that they both genuinely want to be with each other no matter what. The mark of a great relationship is one in which both partners don’t even think twice about it, they “come clean” with each other, about anything and everything.

#3 Strong emotional connection

A strong emotional connection with someone is hard to describe in words, everyone experiences it in a different way and everyone thinks they understand it. It can elude many, slipping out of one’s grasp easily, and there are many things which masquerade as a truly strong emotional connection. But nothing comes close to the real thing and when you have it, you know deep down that it’s real. This is an essential part of every good relationship. If both partners aren’t fully committed to each other and don’t truly care about each other, then it is a waste of time for both parties involved.

#4 They’ve been through a lot together

Sometimes a person’s true qualities are revealed when they are faced with serious, perilous situations. Sooner or later, a couple will be faced with such a situation, and the way that situation impacts their relationship is a sign of how strong the connection is. Sometimes a couple already has a long history of hijinks together, even before the relationship began, as in couples who have known each other since early childhood. In any case, shared experiences between the two partners strengthen the relationship immensely, especially if they are success stories.

#5 They’ve rarely fought as in really fighting; their arguments are usually playful and helps build their relationship

Fighting is never a good sign, but sometimes it is necessary, and never is it a good idea to keep concerns bottled up without expressing them. Communication is key in any relationship. It is imperative, however, that the need to express oneself does not overstep the boundaries of communication into physical violence. People who truly care about each other do not inflict pain on one another. In some relationships, levels of passion run so high that people are driven to do wild, uncontrollable things. Sometimes this is unavoidable, although still completely inexcusable. As long as there is no violence or abuse whatsoever, a fight can actually build tighter bonds and prove to both partners that intensity is present in the relationship.

#6 They both can trust each other

Trust is a crucial part of any relationship. One could even go as far as to say it is the foundation of a good relationship. Without trust, both partners will be fighting an uphill battle until they resolve this part of the puzzle. Trusting someone means believing in someone, it means casting aside all doubts and diving headfirst into the unknown. This is one of the hardest things to do in any relationship, because it means risking everything. That is why only the strongest of relationships exhibit true trust, because both partners risk betrayal and heartbreak when they put their trust into someone, but they do it anyway out of complete faith in their partner.

#7 They sleep together

Sleeping together is an essential part of a healthy relationship, and has been proven to provide many health benefits. It has been shown that sleeping together reduces stress in the human body by reducing blood pressure. It also has been observed that people who sleep together get a better sleep and an improved immune system. It is a way for the two partners to reaffirm their interest in each other, reassuring themselves that there is still life in the relationship. If a couple is sleeping together, it signifies a strong emotional bond, trust, and true unbridled passion.

#8 They get each other

Communication is a key part of any relationship, but it is also necessary that the message itself is understood. There must be some level of empathy between two partners, and the mark of a great relationship is one in which couples can finish each other’s sentences and put themselves in each other’s shoes. Sometimes this can manifest in an eery, almost telepathic connection between two people, in other situations it can be more of an unspoken understanding. If at least a basic level of understanding is maintained between two partners in a relationship, unnecessary misunderstandings and worries can be avoided entirely. A mark of a great relationship is one in which a couple is crystal clear about each other’s feelings at any given time.

#9 They take care of each other

When a couple are in a loving relationship, they are completely devoted to one another, each hopelessly dependant on the other. In a way it weakens them both, and in a way it makes them both stronger. They cease to be two individuals and become one whole. They take care of each other because if one partner is suffering, the other feels it as if the pain were their own. Indeed, it is almost as if they both exist as a single body, and one does not allow harm to come to one’s own body. It is a mark of great endearment when both partners take it upon themselves to look out for each other and put their partner’s best interests first.

#10 They can rely on each other

A couple’s trust is truly tested when the need arises for one to come to the other’s aid in times of dire need. Actions speak louder than words. It is one thing to claim devotion to someone, and another thing altogether to actually follow through with it. Even the most unreliable, forgetful and inconsistent person will still pull themselves together for someone they truly care about. A mark of a great relationship is one where a couple has no doubts about putting their fate in each other’s hands, because both partners will always deal with their own needs and desires only after the one they care about is satisfied.

#11 They don’t really keep secrets

A great couple is always confident that they will have a strong connection no matter what. Fear of rejection and abandonment can sometimes lead to one partner keeping secrets from another. This fear is understandable, because one partner doesn’t want to lose the other, but in the end it will always be detrimental to the relationship. People who truly care about each other cannot stand to feel the guilt that arises after the deception of one another. When a couple keep absolutely no secrets from each other, it is a sign that they truly have faith in the strength of their relationship.

#15 They commit to each other

Unless two partners are truly committed to each other, their efforts to please each other will undoubtedly be half-hearted. To be considered a great relationship, a couple must be overjoyed by the feeling of causing each other comfort and pleasure. It must be a top priority. Commitment can also mean being unafraid to shoulder increased responsibilities and taking more serious steps forward in the relationship, like moving in together or having a child. Commitment is present in every great relationship, and it means that a couple is devoted to making each other happy and plans to continue doing so for a long-term period of time.

#16 They have pure love

Ghandi once said that the strongest example of love on this earth is the love between a brother and a sister. A brother and sister have pure love, they care about each other and it simply because they care about each other, there is no other factor involved. Pure love is not loving someone because they are pretty, rich, famous or visually appealing. It is the love of who a person is, plain and simple. It is the intrinsic value of a person’s soul which inspires true love. Great couples have a strong emotional connection with each other based on who they are, not what they are.

#17 They don’t really need others to validate their relationship meaning approval from friends/family

In the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, two lovers from rival families fall in love and although their relationship is ultimately doomed, this is a great example of how two people who are truly passionate about each other will always find a way to be with each other, no matter what they risk and no matter who objects. A truly great couple will never put the wishes and opinions of their friends and family above their own and those of their partner. It a great sign when two people in a relationship overcome the opinions and objections of the people around them and persevere through faith in one another.

#18 They sacrifice for each other

A willingness to change things about one’s self, and to make concessions in order to please one’s partner is a sign that the relationship is a strong one. One should not feel the need to become a vastly different person in order to please one’s partner, or to spend lots of money on them, but in a great relationship both partners are willing to make sacrifices for each other. Sometimes this can end up improving both partners’ lives, especially if one is forced to give up a bad habit to please the other. A couple’s willingness to put their own needs after each other’s is a sign of a great relationship.

#19 They don’t focus on the past and when they do it’s more a matter of something they’ve accomplished

Couples who are truly content with each other’s company will always remain positive, no matter what has happened in the past. In a great relationship, two partners who are in good health will always be happy with the fact that they are together, and right then in that moment, that is all that matters. They count it as a miracle and a blessing that they have each other, and that feeling is so sweet that it makes them focus only on the here and now, the present. Often in great relationships couples are proud of the long road that it took to get them where they are, and count the path that lays behind them as further testament to the strength of their bond.

#20 They don’t expect each other to always be strong

A truly great couple can break down and cry together without fear of losing face. Neither partners tries to uphold a facade of being a superman or woman, they accept each other’s humanity and realize that life has its struggles, and that we all can feel low sometimes. A couple who truly care about each other doesn’t lose respect for one another when they see each other suffering, instead they try to understand it and help them through it. A mark of a great relationship is one where both partners have experienced firsthand each other’s weaknesses, and they have persevered with each other’s help.

 

#21 They ‘ve thought about as far as if their significant other is not around, they wouldn’t want to be around too.

Couple who are truly serious about each other often think about what kind of effect the loss of their partner could have on them. It is almost unthinkable for both partners in a great relationship to have to go through the pain of losing each other, it is not something that they even want to think about. This is because in a great relationship, both partners are such a huge part of each other’s lives that without each other’s presence their lives would be empty and meaningless. the acceptance of this sad truth is one of the things which makes a great relationship.

#22 They both appreciate each other’s flaws and bring out the best of them

It is often said that people are attracted by good qualities in other people which remind them of their own good qualities. On the other hand it is also said that people are repulsed by bad qualities that they observe in others which remind them of qualities they don’t like about themselves. In a truly great relationship, both partners are able to put these feelings aside, and instead focus on simply who that person is at their core, rather than what that person reminds them of. If in fact partners in a good relationship remind each other of their own flaws, this feeling is not met with reluctance but acceptance, and it can even inspire both parties to improve themselves and accept their own flaws.

#23 They don’t really try to make you jealous.

If someone feels the need to make their partner feel jealous, it is sometimes because they are not sure whether or not that person cares about them, and wants to see how much their partner will suffer after seeing them acting intimate or friendly with someone else. Other times, it is simply because they want to see their partner suffer and squirm. Either way, this behavior is not a hallmark of a good, functional relationship. A great couple is truly confident that they are desired by each other, and doesn’t feel the need to reaffirm this fact or prove it to anyone.

#24 They don’t take each other for granted; meaning each moment is something they appreciate.

One doesn’t simply get bored of a genuinely meaningful relationship. When two partners are truly captivated by each other, everything seems new and meaningful, nothing is routine. If the passion fades with time and a couple feels like they are just going through the motions, then the relationship is not a truly worthwhile one. In a great relationship, a couple may come to assume that they will always be together. Too often however, is the assumption made that this enables partners in the relationship to get away with all manner of wrongdoings and still be able to count on the one they care about to still devote themselves to the relationship. Truly great couples do not take the affection of their partners for granted, and will never abuse their partner’s trust.

#25 They feel like life is worth while

As long as two partners with a strong connection are in a relationship, life will always be worth living to both of them. If one feels dissatisfied or unhappy with their life and is currently in a relationship with someone, then the person they are in a relationship with isn’t someone they truly enjoy spending time with. A couple in a great relationship could be completely broke, going through the worst spell of bad luck imaginable and still love life, because in spite of all their difficulties they still have each other.

#26 They help each other stay grounded

Couples with a strong attraction to each other sometimes experience the strange phenomenon of being reminded of their true self when in each other’s company. It comes as a kind of heavy realization, that a couple only feels like they can truly be themselves when in each other’s company. Indeed, it can feel as though one’s whole life previous to meeting one’s partner was merely a false prelude to one’s true life. The mark of a truly great relationship is one where both partners feel at peace with themselves, each other, and the world around them when they are in each other’s company.

#27 They constantly empower each other

Couples that have a strong connection beleive in each other. Partners that are in great relationships never belittle or patronize each other, they take each other seriously. They might playfully tease each other or joke around, but it never becomes mean or distasteful. They are constantly encouraging each other to succeed and to try things which they might not believe they are capable of. A mark of a truly great relationship is one where each partner never looks down on the other. When people truly care about each other they compliment each other and constantly reassure one another of their potential

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Six Months Later

OMG…Constance, I am hunting back thru the archives at Gracenotes, and I just found something I wrote back in May that would have been PERFECT for last Friday when I had that 4 hour ordeal…I am excerpting it here for you…

Hi Constance…

…a quick note this morning to comment on some thing on my heart.

I know a lot of people over the years who are very drawn to me because I am open about the relationship Father, Jesus and Lady Grace have forged with me.  They get all the credit, for this is true:  there is none righteous, not one who has even sought after God!  That means that if you are in relationship with Them, it is Their doing, and none of your own, save the assent of your will.

And in the openness of our relationship, these individuals find a self-affirmation of their own faith, relationship, etc.

But here is the kicker:  I am also open about my struggles, my failures and flaws.  I put on no religious airs, and when They expose any that have crept in quietly when pride was crooning its deadly lullaby, I renounce those pretentions as quick as I can.  I try to boast in my weakness, and not in my strength, as Father promises that the Strength of Jesus is made perfect in my weakness.

So…it is just a matter of time before the people who are drawn to me are repelled by my lack of performance, my lack of keeping up the appearance and doing the things that signal that I am “orthodox”, saying the things that signal I am “safe”, and practicing the things that signal I am “one of us”.  Soon, there are judgements, accusations, demands that I toe the line and not use my freedom to “make them stumble”.

Huh?  I thought Paul was talking about someone who was weak in conscience and in their relationship, who might fall away completely from the life of someone strong in the faith, so the strong one should bear with the weak one patiently.  These people twist that word, are strong in their conscience and faith, and boast that nothing could pull them away.

No…they are simply using faith words to try to keep me in the christian gulag that they run.  And, as I know in my deepest knower that my Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness, and that all other ground is sinking sand, I regretfully, but purposefully ignore them, and thus end up branded a heretic.

You know the old maxim:  if you don’t tick like I tick, you’re a heretic!

So…that wouldn’t be so bad in itself…in many ways we are known by our enemies as much as our friends.

Dearest Christendom dweller…you who sits back and reflexively filters every word thru your fruit detector lenses and doctrinal code breakers, and then marks red lines in your mind all over everything that doesn’t match up with your current understanding of the magisterial magnificent word of God…you will not like me when I tell you that you are in greater deception than the ones you judge!  

You are in greater judgement than the ones you have consigned to your “love” (the affectations of behaviour that you manifest towards those you dislike or disapprove of or judge but know that they “need to know Jesus” so you will essentially brown-nose them into the kingdom)!!

Oh, oh how my heart longs for the day when we would take our eyes off each other, quit inspecting each other’s fruit as if we are Jesus, and simply open our hearts in joy and allow Perfect Love to fill us…to overflowing…and eventually to flooding the lives of those around us.

Constance…it is so simple and pure, really…just be kind…just do justice…just love mercy…just show compassion always…just let the abundant exceedingly great and abounding Grace make a “Grace-mess” everywhere.

Sorry Constance…that has been brewing in me for a good while.  Some email comments, and some other things I had to write out of my heart so they wouldn’t fester.

Your regularly scheduled mewlings will commence after She feeds me this morning!  🙂

Love always, with the Magnificent Love of Father shown in Jesus and revealed by Lady Grace…

Charissa Grace, the glad, golden and grateful (and sometimes defiant) daughter of Them

Whooaa…can you believe that I am sometimes defiant??  Moi???  giggles

well…it is not uncommon for me to be ahead of myself a half a year or more!!

Do justice
Love mercy
Walk humbly

Charissa

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The Compulsion to Correct Others

Constance, I am writing this post to you all, in hopes that someone would read and understand that the unsolicited correction of another’s point of view or conviction is almost never ever proper or appropriate…especially if they are someone you are not in daily relationship with!

I have a friend…I would say she is my very closest friend save my darling and our children.  Other than them, my friend is my heart…her words are like life and death to me, her silences agony and her noises symphonies…and her hurts are my badges, her wounds my vendettas…I am not proud of the latter, I am keeping it real.  That is how I feel.

Well, this friend received an unsolicited rebuke from a reader, a stranger that my friend had previously never been aware of, a person who is one of her readers.  This reader took it upon herself to tell my friend that she was likely going to hell, was sorely mistaken regarding a significant spiritual experience, and then proceeded to lay out her views of what the Bible teaches regarding salvation and faith.

This person acknowledged openly that her opinion had not been sought out or asked for, but then justified forcing it on my friend by saying that since she (the reader) knew “the truth”, she (the reader) would have her (my friend) blood on her head (the readers) if she remained silent and did not bring about this correction…no, she did not literally use those words, it was a variation on that common theme, and that was certainly the assumption.  It arises from the verse in Proverbs that says if you see someone being dragged away for destruction and you don’t intervene, then their blood is on your head…a stretch at minimum and outright misinterpretation at maximum!  Far better to follow New Testament exhortations of self-policing before saying anything corrective to anyone else!!

The final, ignominious nail pounded into my friend’s heart was a sop about how this whole thing was “done in love” and sincerely hoped that my friend wouldn’t take offense!!

Are you freaking kidding me?

This is wrong on so many levels…but let me just touch on something very basic, and that is the wisdom of giving correction.

Correction should only be given to people you have relationship with, directly and intimately.  Period.  No, you are not the only chance some stranger to you online has to go to heaven, and God is going to send them to Hell and beat the crap outta you if you do not speak!  You are deluded, and projecting your own evil heart onto God…He isn’t like you are.

God has servants everywhere.  God used a donkey to speak to Balaam, so he doesn’t need you to make an ass out of yourself!

Next…if you do have relationship with someone, and they do need correction, but you do not have a bank account of edification opened in them?  Then shut your face.  Period.  You should have at least 10 fold positive words spoken into someone’s heart for every one corrective word considered!  Let alone actually spoken.

Oh I can hear you…I have heard you, your cousins and aunts and uncles and other fellow heresy-hunter correctors…you just LOVE us sooo much, that you just have to speak to save us.

No.  You don’t.  The God who made Orion can get thru to me, or to my friend!  After all, He got thru to you didn’t he?

Note this:  what you did?  What you do?  That isn’t love.  Review 1 Cor. 13 for proof.

Here is a novel idea…just pray.  Pray that God will bless this person with Their Presence, that God will do for them what They did for you.  I mean, remember?  When you came to Them?  You were an enemy of God, actively opposing Them, and dead in your sins.  No, don’t lie…you were.  Scripture says so.  So if you being dead can somehow manage to end up saved, can’t the one whom you have judged condemned?  Last time I checked, dead things couldn’t save themselves…except zombies, and that is what you become when you do this unwanted correcting!  A spiritual zombie, biting the living and infecting them with your own poison.

Follow Philippians 2:  consider others above yourself…and then Phil 4: focusing on the good and dwelling on that.

God got thru to Jonah, to Balaam, to Cornelius, to the Ethiopian eunuch, to Nebuchadnezzar, to Matthew, …and God got thru to you.

I promise you…They can get thru to anyone.  So look at yourself, not others, not her…first tell God with utmost certainty that you know your heart and that you know your motives (if you do, then you are better than King David, by the way)…then and only then can you even think about praying about possibly correcting another.

Oh, and for the record?  My friend?  She is God’s property.  He is dazzled by her in His love for her…and He is pledged to perfect that work that He began in her in Christ Jesus until it is through!

I love you, Friend…Heart.  ❤

Love, Me

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A Fine Bottle of Wine

Have you experienced the so-called devotional piece, or the spiritual exhortation that ends up just sliming you with guilt and shame and failure?

I.     HATE.     Those.

You’re reading along, and suddenly you feel the writer’s fingers around the throat of your joy!  Generally speaking those writers have a very “works-based” relationship with God and are rooted in the ethic that right being descends from right doing…and a greater perversion of the true gospel message I do not know of!  Get this if you get nothing else:  if right doing could cement your redemption then Jesus literally died in vain and His resurrection is meaningless.  But that is a tale for another day.

Long have I been entranced by Paul’s words to the people in Corinth when he told them

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”

Wow!!  I was blown away by that statement when I first encountered it around 10 years old…to write upon someone’s heart!  I pestered a lot of people in our congregation about what this verse meant! lol!!  They got real tired of my asking, but nothing was giving me that “click of truth” that happens in my gut when I have the “aha!” moment of insight.

I have thought of this passage in metaphors of wine.

Wait, wha…???  I can hear it…WINE?  LOL!

Yes, wine, which may be the absolute greatest single metaphor in all creation.  Let me explain:  When you look at a bottle of wine, you are seeing the distilled essence of countless hundreds of thousands of relational decisions that have been made to get the bottle where it is.

Let that sink in…

First of all, there has to be a person who decides they want to plant a vineyard.  If they are wise, they will do research regarding weather patterns, soils, industrial presence or not, sunlight, and temperature extremes.  You could go outside and plant grapes in your front yard, take the fruit and ferment it, strain it, drink it, and get sick!  giggles!  But to make a memorable wine, a classic that is revered and sought after, this will not do.

You would go out to the actual parcels after doing your research, and you would touch the soil, breathe the winds, feel the heat and light, taste the water, talk to other farmers in the region…in short, you would enter into relationship with the land, the climate, and the people there…and you would need to cultivate those relationships assiduously.  Your decisions in each of these aspects will ultimately define the quality of the fruit that comes forth.

Next…you must till the land.  How do you want to do that?  With machines and brute force?  By hand?  Using horses or oxen?  Relational capital is once again required for that decision, as well as planting, what kind of varietal to plant given your soil, climate and geographic orientation.  What planting method will you use?

Then comes cultivating…which is a daily involvement!  Here, your initial relationship with the climate and soil will be vital and tie into your relationship with your vines and their needs.  You must watch daily, and then make decisions on what the vines need to flourish…sometimes more water, usually less water though…when the vines are properly stressed, their flavour is at its most vibrant (see my poem “The Vines”).

OH!  And of course, you will need workers, to help you with your vineyard…how do you treat them??  How do they treat each other?

Next comes thousands of decisions to make about rodent control, parasite control, etc etc.  You need to make decisions about dropping fruit to intensify flavour.  This is done in very heavy fruit years.  See, if your vines produce say 30 tons an acre, all the vigor of the vine goes into making 30 tons of fruit…it leads to grapes that taste limp, blah and forgettable.  Oh, you can make a liquid that will get someone drunk…but that is hardly the focus and goal of truly fine wine.  But if you drop fruit and reduce the yield to say about 1.5 ton per acre, all that vigor goes to those precious few grapes and they are soo much better! And so is the wine.

Then comes harvest…and oh wow what a time this is!!  First of all, are the sugar contents right in your grapes?  Have they had enough sun to ripen?  And what day should you harvest?  Do it when it is too hot, and the fruit is stressed and tastes flat…do it when it is rainy and wet then the flavors are so dilute from the excess water.  What harvest method should you use?  Machine pickers?  Hand pickers?  How careful are your picking techniques to leave the vines relieved of their fruit but intact and flourishing?

Next, how do we get the fruit to the crush pad?  How much fruit do we put in each tote?  Too much and it starts to press the grapes then and you lose the juice…too little and you are not going to get everything in on time.

Then comes the sort line…the clusters must be examined carefully, and ones with signs of rot, under-ripeness, mold, or insect damage must be sorted out and dealt with (sometimes by silage methods, and sometimes by making a cheap fermented product for other uses, but usually just composted).  So who sorts?  How will they sort?

And then comes destemming methods, pressing methods, fermenting methods, and hundreds of other crucial esoteric decisions made just to kick off fermentation!  Not to mention the decisions regarding when to barrel the new wine, what type of barrel to use, what toast it should have. whether the wine is filtered as it is barreled or not…whether to add sugar, or to add acid, and other things many intrusive oriented wine makers use.

How should it be cellared?  Where?  How long?  And then comes the blending of what will go into bottle…tasting the various barrels which are as different as your children from one another…the bottling techniques, the enclosure (cork?  Artificial cork?  Screw cap?  Glass?  Vacuum sealed bladders?).  And how long should we rest the wine in bottle?  Many wines are structured so that they will not even be mature and tasting good until a decade has gone by…other wines are sweet, light, and delicate, and intended to be consumed the same year they were made.

Believe it or not, that is a scant overview and very shallow…and these decisions matter…when made from a dysfunctional relational space, they will result in a dysfunctional tasting wine.  But when made in living and vibrant relational connection to creation, the vines, and your people, the resulting wine will be staggering in its beauty.  The bottle represents the distillation of countless thousands of relational decisions made well!

I have made it my aim to have my life be the result of countless relational decisions made so that when I am tasted, people will say “Wow!  What an amazing wine!  That winemaker really knows Her stuff!”

Remember, wine is alive, and tastes different from month to month, and year to year…as do you, and I.  What counts is at the end…when we are opened and poured out.

I exhort us to be unforgettable!  And I offer a metaphor to shed light on the path to achieving that “unforgettable fire” that burns and influences.

 

Blessings and love this morning to you Constance…and Grace upon Grace!

 

Love, Charissa

bottle

 

Gratefully Disillusioned by Darin Hufford

I have spent countless hours pondering what went wrong with Christianity in our generation. What happened to our religion to make everything so crazy and off track? How could something centered around authentic relationship with God become so dangerous and hurtful to its participants? More than anything, I’ve asked myself; why wasn’t it working for most people?

I’ve found that the pattern of growth for those who seem to truly know Him has been pretty much the same. The common thread I see over and over is that every person in relationship with Him must go through a shedding period where all that they have been told and all that they have believed is gently taken from them until they are left with nothing but what is. Each person discovers a contentment in knowing they were wrong all along and the stresses of what they had been told all their lives, whether good or bad, trickle away, leaving their spirit relaxed and satisfied.

It’s not as if merely the bad things they’d heard about God were proven wrong. Everything was wrong, the good and the bad. The spectacular claims that used to thrill them during worship services and the absolute promises that they stood on when they felt weak. It all gets stripped away as relationship blooms.

I’ve come to the conclusion that somewhere in the last 200 years, we felt that we needed to market our relationship as a religion. At some point in time, someone decided that Christianity needed to be packaged and presented in a way that would appeal to the masses. In other words, we purposefully marketed our faith to unbelievers. I am convinced that this is where the dominoes began to tumble.

If you’re going to market a pair of shoes to a specific group of people, you must find out what excites those people the most and convince them that if they wear your shoes, they’ll find it. If you’re selling shoes to gang bangers, you’ll need to convince them that these shoes will make them tougher and stronger, perhaps even invincible.

You must make them feel like others will be intimidated by them if they are wearing the shoes. They should believe that once they put those shoes on, something will happen to their very soul that will make them fearless and powerful. This is how marketing works. Once the idea is planted into people’s minds, they buy the product without thinking it through.

I believe that Christianity has been marketed to the carnal nature of unbelievers. We successfully got people who would not have otherwise become a Christian to sign on the dotted line and join our religion. We did it by presenting “relationship with God” in a way that would appeal to power-hungry money mongers who want to escape the cold reality of life.

We told people that God would financially prosper them. We told them that they would never get sick and if they did, God would make it go away. We’ve promised them that if anyone hurt them, their God would stick up for them and get revenge on their behalf. We convinced them that God would also give them godlike powers and they could dazzle their friends and family with magic tricks. We promised them that God would make sure they held a position of leadership in life where everyone would respect them and pay them honor.

I’ve even seen different ministries claim that Christians have better sex than non-Christians. The list goes on and on. One by one, people signed up for Christianity. People who would not have otherwise given it a second look, found themselves strangely tempted with a religion that promised to fulfill their every carnal desire. The offer was just too good to be true.

Generations later, people are holding onto the promises the sales agent gave them, in spite of the fact that they’ve never seen the results manifested in their own life. Others finally leave the “faith,” drained and disheartened. They didn’t get what they wanted from Christianity so they continue searching for a religion that will give it to them.

Then we have the people who would have given their heart to God without any marketing at all. It was already in their heart. They came to Him because they wanted Him and nothing else. They would have come without the fancy marketing and boastful claims.

Sadly, these sincere people go through life thinking they are always one step behind the rest of the crowd. They secretly feel like they’re doing something wrong and failing God because they get sick and are short on cash and are stuck in a dead-end job at the bottom of the totem pole. They aren’t full of intense joy and happiness 24 hours a day like they were told they would be, so they blame themselves for not getting it like they should. They beat themselves up because they truly love God and yet none of the explosions they were told about are happening.

These are the people who will eventually become Free Believers.

These are the people who will still stick around once the good and the bad of their religion has been stripped away. They never needed promises of power and prosperity to pique their interest. They didn’t go into it looking for an escape from normalcy. It was never about avoiding life’s hardships or obtaining magical powers. It was relationship that drew them. It was the Spirit of relationship that they first heard and listened to.

The process of stripping the good and the bad of religion is a long and painful one, but I’ve found that Free Believers love every minute of it. Their faith doesn’t shudder for even a second during the process. When the embellished things of God disappear, they find themselves becoming more pleased and pleasured by what they find behind it than most of their institutional friends would ever have been.

In fact, they would willingly give up everything they had ever been promised, if it meant they could be one step closer to the heart of the one they love. This stripping away of religion’s boasts and promises is truly what separates the sheep from the goats in our generation. The goats become angry and faithless and the sheep become “Gratefully Disillusioned.”

Darin Hufford