The Suffering Grape

Once I stepped on a grape, and it gave out a little whine. But never I did I imagine it had suffered.

I was watching a bit of a travel episode on Rick Stevens’ Europe show the other day. It does get a little annoying to see how much fun he’s having sometimes. As I was sweltering in my living room, he was sitting on a chair in a boat on the river, sipping wine, and the lovely breeze was blowing his hair. What a nice gig, I thought! as I wiped the upper lip sweat from face, and tried to get my hair up in a ponytail.

Rick went to a vineyard in the region of Burgundy. Wines in France are not named after the grape from which they are made, but for the particular region from which they come. Each area has a particular blend of soils that produces a unique flavor in the grape. Even a few hundred yards can create a whole different tasting grape.

When Rick remarked on the soil there, and he said, “This doesn’t look like good soil for growing.” I agreed. The soil was light brown, (much like the picture below) and looked nothing like the futile, jet black soil in the midwest bread-basket of the USA, like Iowa, where millions of acres produce abundant crops.

“No,” the vineyard expert said.

She said that the soil has to be bad. The grape has to work very hard to get the good from the soil to become its best, to become sweet, and to become just right for the most amazing and flavorful wine. She said, “The grapes have to suffer!”

It seems to be one of the most incredibly common notions that struggle and suffering is bad, or negative.I know I don’t like it much. Yet, when has anything truly good come to fruition without struggle? Putting someone through suffering is a  wholly different matter, and I stress that we mustn’t ever assume the role of victimizer, to produce good in someone or not. Here, I speak instead about our personal perspective on our own suffering and struggle.

It’s easy to think, “Oh no ,something is totally wrong!” when we suffer, or that good isn’t being created in or around us, somehow, in the midst of it all. Some suffering is unavoidable, like sickness, or accidents. In those times, maybe we can remember the suffering grape who can never be a fine vintage without being planted in poor, harsh,ill-suited soil. It works hard to find the nutrients it needs, but alas, it does find the goodness to be healthy, and sweet. All this time I thought the only grapes that suffered were just the raisins!

Are you suffering? Take encouragement in this story. Leave a comment if you’d like.

The picture below is under a Creative Commons license from photographer “focalplane” at Flickr (image). Note the photograph’s interesting information from the artist below. 

French grapes

Photographer’s notes:

Within the Coteaux de Languedoc Cru “La Clape” near Fleury. 
Geologically this is an interesting area with soils derived from both volcanics and limestones, so the terroir, also influenced by proximity to the sea, makes for interesting wines, both red and white.
These photos were taken on the road between Fleury and the coast.

Let them eat cake

Well, all that dialogue in the last post has made me quite hungry. Everyone who knows me will tell you I have more than one sweet tooth. Bill has really inspired me to rethink me habits, and consider name-calling as an evangelistic “technique”. As a dry run, I’ll probably just start with snarky sarcasm, as it has served me quite well in the past, if only to avoid growing hopeless. No, I’m joking. I won’t really go down that road too far.

I’d like to thank all the people who posted, and others who may join in later, and of course all who visited just to read, chuckle, or wipe the tears away as they realized the state of Christianity, or remembered being treated badly by Christians. 

So, after all this you might be wondering, as I have been, what on earth, or what in hell, do children of the devil eat? I mean primarily (besides sulfur, of course). It’s really the burning question, isn’t it? Well, the answer has been right in front of most of us all along. Cake. Devil’s food cake. 

I found this recipe in Bill’s underwear drawer, but trust me, he’ll deny the whole thing to his grave.

I’ll rename the recipe here as-

Bill’s Children of the Devil’s Food Cake

This recipe is down right sinful. Holy Rollers, God-fearers, and agnostics alike will agree, if you like chocolate, and fudge, this will be your guilty pleasure.

devilcake

The following is a recipe for devil’s food cake with cocoa and fudge frosting, not the picture shown which came from here.

I’ll just finish off with one more thing. Let’s enjoy each other, enjoy this beautiful world, and enjoy God. Let’s act and be beautiful to each other. Life is too short to waste on things that take away from God’s gifts.

I welcome dissenting viewpoints and comments from any visitor. Keep the posts coming. (And please read the guidelines on “The Skinny” page) The page called The loop is the contact page. Blessings all.

-Lisa


Time for CAKE!

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, scalded
  • 2 cups cake flour, sifted or stirred before measuring
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation:

Grease two 9-inch layer cake pans and line bottoms with wax paper. Grease wax paper. Sift the cocoa with 1/3 cup sugar; pour into the milk gradually; stir until well blended. Set aside to cool. Sift together flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, soda, and salt. Add shortening and half of the cooled cocoa and milk mixture. Beat at medium speed of an electric hand-held mixer. Add eggs, vanilla, and remaining cocoa and milk mixture. continue beating for about 2 minutes, scraping bowl with a spatula occasionally. Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes; turn out on racks and peel off paper. Cool and frost devil’s food cake as desired.

Fudge Frosting:

Chocolate fudge frosting recipe is cooked to a fudge consistency.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 squares (3 ounces) unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, corn syrup, milk, and chocolate; stir to blend well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture forms a very soft ball when a small amount is dropped into cold water, or about 232° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; add butter without stirring. Set aside and let cool until bottom of pan is lukewarm, about 1 hour. Add vanilla and beat until frosting is creamy and just begins to hold its shape. Spread quickly on cake before frosting hardens. Makes about 2 cups.

 

 

 

(link to this and other recipes)

Lost or Missing? (An Open Letter to Christians)

 

To you, is he missing or lost?
To you, is he missing or lost?

Dear Christians,

 

When was the last time you made a stupid mistake, or took a wrong turn?

Did anyone ask if you were lost?

If someone asks, “Are you lost?” It can feel like a pointed remark. It emphasizes what is wrong, not what could be right. Most don’t enjoy feeling lost, being called lost, or being accused of being disoriented, and confused. Do you?

It’s often best to take the references to “being lost” in Biblical stories in their typical context of searching and finding something dear and misplaced. (Think: 1 lost sheep of the 100, the lost and valuable coin, etc.) What is lost is not something denigrated, but something worthy/lovable and missing from home. It is not speaking of a foreign thing, or scrappy thing.

Often Christians talk of “The Lost” (the sinner) though not in the context of finding them, but of fixing them. It doesn’t only strike me as rather rude, but it strikes most people this way. Since it’s typical “church speak,” most Christians are totally immune to its unloving sound.

The fact is we all feel a bit lost sometimes. We all feel lonely or afraid at points. It is when we can awaken to the Reality of God’s consistent love and power, and especially when we experience it from others, that we may see huge transformations for the better. Even then, we will still have our ups and downs, but the chance to have joy (sturdy happiness) and then, when a fuller, more abundant life is accessible. This is truly a gift of grace, (not merit).

As children of God, God’s love can show through us, like the father in the story of the Prodigal son, who exclaimed when his son came home, “He was lost, but is now found!” Did he want to fix him? Did he want to teach him a lesson? Hit him? Did he want to get him tested for HIV, ground him, give him a tongue lashing, or tell him what was right and wrong? Um. nope. The son knew already. Most missing people know right and wrong all too well, also. Many think they won’t be welcomed “home,” or think of the community of Christians as “home.” So, they can think, why should they bother trying? Ironical, isn’t it? Hospitality and hospital come from the same root word, and this manner of comfort just must be there to truly show God’s love.

What is a “missing one”? This one is not a person who is less than. It it not one to whom another human should “straighten out,” and save to the narrow path. People aren’t that powerful, and shouldn’t think they are. It’s just tacky. Most of it involves, standing true, and getting out of the way so grace can work its amazing-ness. God doesn’t need us to hold his hand. He asks us for our loyalty, but not just in our love to him-it is in our love to others from the perspective in which he sees them also.

How do you see it?

photo credit Creative Commons Andy Piper

God with a Spatula

spankingWhen I was in under my parent’s care, I was hit with a spatula among other things, in what my parents called discipline with “the rod”. This was picked over “time outs,” or being grounded, and my back side broke many a spanking implement–wooden rulers and cooking spoons, frosting spatulas, pancake spatulas, and probably other stuff I’ve blocked out psychologically. (I won’t even go into the things that didn’t or couldn’t brake on my backside!)

I guess you could say it sort of got pounded into my mind that God must operate the same way. To me, it seemed he would get peeved, and then, lower the boom. So, when bad things would happen, it was probably because of some kind of Divine spatula. I thought God was like a human, and most likely like a human parent who spanks.

Well, nope. God is “Other.” How we’ve interpreted Scripture has often reflected how we’ve been parented. In other words, we figure that God gets ticked off, and gets out the belt, and begins whipping his kids, until they “get it,” or have been punished sufficiently. Actually he usually lets them get away with murder, if you want to know the truth. But I won’t digress on that right here, and now.

Some years ago I heard a visiting pastor in my church say, “God will sometimes need to give you a whipping. You probably need it, and deserve it.” I maced him. Okay, I didn’t, but I thought if I hadn’t already known God through the character of the Incarnation (Jesus), and fully accepted the fleshly God/man, as the same God, I would have decided then and there to become Buddhist, or something other than whatever this guy was. What a crappy religion if this is the God he describes! This way, God sounds like a craptastic, unloving parent who needs medication. I thought this preacher guy was probably trying to manipulate the audience, and I wasn’t going to fall for his weirdness. I had already encountered God deeply, and I wasn’t going to throw it all away because this preacher pictured God as punitive, and wielding a spatula, or perhaps a thick belt, as I bent over to get my beating. God doesn’t have a spatula. He’s gracious.