On the Lighter, Brighter Side

facebook-closedIn case you haven’t heard yet, I was asked to share this. keep-goingHowever, even if you can’t access Facebook, you can still do this…advice-for-shopping-in-a-mallAnd, this is definitely great advice!  🙂 doctors-strikeHere’s one for all the doctors in your life! I love this!  🙂
(Do you know any who take time to picket? I do not!)kindnessIsn’t this the truth?! galatians-2-20May this one be true for each of us!

Did You Understand the Message of Arrival Before They Departed?

arrival_movie_posterHave you seen the super highly rated, PG-13, 2016 sci-fi thriller, Arrival?
Or, maybe first I should ask if you watched the Academy Awards last night.arrival-posterArrival was nominated for 8 Oscars (although it’s only win was for sound editing), not to mention 184 other nominations in other venues,
and it already had 34 wins going in to the 89th Academy Awards. trying-to-decipher-language-in-arrivalMy son Joel
(who’s an editor at a local publishing house and is fascinated by language) arrival-dvd-2016enjoyed it so much that he bought a copy shortly after Arrival was available,
and we watched it as a family.arrival-amy-adams-as-linquistics-professorWithout spoiling the end (if you haven’t seen it), I can tell you that the story
is about a linguistics professor, Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), arrivalwho is asked to leave her position teaching linguistics at a university arrival-jeremy-renner-as-ian-donnellyand join physicist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner) base-camp-for-studying-aliens-in-arrivalas part of a special army task force assigned to a military base in Montana arrival-space-shipin response to a world crisis, where 12 extraterrestrial spacecraft appear hovering just above the earth at various locations around the globe. arrival-what-are-theyAlthough throughout the world people feel threatened by this extraterrestrial presence, and some nations prepare to attack in hopes of destroying them,amy-adams-in-arrival-2Louise and Ian work together for months trying to decipher the aliens’ language in the hopes of understanding why they have come to the earth. trying-to-understand-the-aliens-in-arrivalAre the aliens friendly or dangerous? arrival-hetapodWhat are they trying to say? arrival-louise-banks-enters-the-sphere-of-the-aliensWill Louise and Ian survive their encounters?extraterrestrial-spacecraft-in-arrivalWill the earth survive their encounters?

arrival-space-ship-landingThere’s a lot of suspense, a fascinating plot with a good twist at the end, and a subliminal message that the viewers are left to ponder for themselves. Without saying too much that might spoil the experience for those who haven’t seen it yet, the message I took from the movie is that of transcendence. To me, God is the timeless, transcendent One who knows the past, present, and future. He sees all and knows all, from the beginning to the ending.

This goes beyond the movie, but I believe we can know some things about the future even in our present if we’ll only study to decipher God’s handwriting on the wall. God tells us in the Bible that He’s the great “I am,” the beginning and the ending.

Is God friendly or dangerous? Although many people fear God as a potential threat (just like many of the nations feared the aliens), God is actually friendly now. God is Love, and God loves us!

What is God trying to say? He has come with a message:  There is a Day of  Judgment coming in the future, for which we need to prepare now.

Will we survive our encounters? Only you and I can answer that for ourselves by trying, but it’s scary to try before you know, isn’t it? Just like Louise and Ian demonstrated, it takes a lot of faith, courage, and hope. God entered time and space in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, who came to die in our place, making reconciliation with God possible if we are willing to repent (change our ways) and accept the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ.

Will the earth survive our encounters? There is an answer in the Bible. Do you know it? (If you don’t, try reading the last book in the Bible, called Revelation.) Finding the answer is a lot more thrilling than watching Arrival! arrival-skyNow unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,  To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

Rise Up, My Love (224): Twin Fawns in Fields of Lilies

112-newborn-fawn  Song of Solomon 7:3 The praise given in this verse is a beautiful metaphor repeated from the husband’s earlier description of his bride, where he speaks of twin fawns feeding among a field of lilies. Can’t you just imagine such a wonderful scene from nature as if you were a hiker who had the privilege of being at just the right place at just the right moment? You are out walking in the woods on a sunny spring day. You’ve been following a gurgling stream lined with azure-blue forget-me-nots and wild purple irises, and suddenly you come out into a meadow where an open, breezy hill rises in front of you. The hill is covered—not with “a host, a crowd of golden daffodils”— but with the breathtaking splendor of huge, white-throated lilies, and high on the crest of the hill you see a fawn, up to its neck in flowers, with only its head peeking out as it grazes silently.

Double that image, and you have the sense of wonder the husband feels when he sees his beloved’s body. It is as if her breasts were hills covered by vast fields of snow white lilies dappled with two young deer—perfectly symmetrical twins, soft and rounded—quietly grazing among the flowers. And, for the wayfaring pilgrim who lingers to meditate thoughtfully on the picture, a message on gentleness appears.

twin-fawns-09-14-04What would be your first reaction to seeing a young fawn? Oh, how soft and lovely! Wouldn’t you love to be able to touch and pet it? to befriend it? to be gentle enough to win its trust? But, what would happen if you rushed up the side of the hill in an attempt to capture the fawn? It would disappear instantly! The analogy is obvious and instructive. Just as a man couldn’t win the trust of a fawn by rushing at it, so he will not be able to win the privilege of “petting” his wife without the long process of building and maintaining trust through love and gentleness…the way one might win the friendship of a fawn.

113-spring-twin-fawnsFor any husband who feels the frustration of not being given enough liberty with his wife’s body…try a new approach. Try thinking of your wife as if she were a fawn…easily startled…reactive to perceived aggression even if no harm is meant…slow to trust if trust has been broken…saddled with an inborn sense of vulnerability and insecurity…quick to flee rather than fight.

No matter how hardened women may appear on the outside, this delicate emotional nature is their almost universal heritage, and—except when they are driven by lust—women will react instinctively to advances not couched in genuine, gentle love! Does your wife brush off your advances? If so, ask yourself, “Do I truly love her…with the sacrificial love of Christ?” Are you thinking about what she needs more than what you need? Perhaps the most common cause of a woman’s rejection is just plain tiredness. Ask yourself, “Is my wife exhausted and in need of my help instead of my indulging my own desire to have my physical needs met?”

I never cease to marvel at how much more energy my husband has than I. He sleeps about an hour or two less most days. At that rate (if we live to 70), I’d have to live eight years longer than he lives just to be awake as many hours. (I wonder if that has anything to do with why women typically live longer!) Did you know the average man’s hemoglobin count is about fourteen…two points higher than the average woman’s? Unfortunately, a woman can’t just take iron pills to put more “iron” in her blood, because her blood won’t assimilate it beyond her genetically determined point.

Men, by the biological giftedness of God, tend to be stronger and have more energy. I have no trouble believing that women are indeed weaker than men, and I am glad for I Peter 3:7 which teaches, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them (wives) according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” If a man sees that his wife is exhausted, the loving thing to do is help her with her work, not add to her load!

Wives, on the other hand, need to understand that their husbands have tremendous physical needs that are the wife’s responsibility and privilege to meet. Yes, of course you’re tired at the end of the day. And yes, you probably aren’t as driven for sex as your husband is (if you’re more in the middle of the bell-shaped curve). Wives generally are more driven emotionally and experience the lion’s share of appetite for emotional intimacy, but husbands typically possess the lion’s share of physical drive. Just as women normally don’t need as much food as their husbands require, neither do they crave as much physical intimacy and release.

If I ate as much as my husband did, I’d be fat in no time, and yet there are plenty of times that I’ll fix him a snack and sip a cup of tea while he eats just to keep him company. As women, we need to be willing to be do the same thing for our husbands sexually. Even if we aren’t “hungry” for love, can’t we at least minister to our husbands’ needs by accepting their love?

My theory is that if “I ain’t dead yet” then I can be a conduit of God’s love by accepting my husband’s love. Sound right? This, I believe, is the sensitively worded meaning of I Corinthians 7:2-5. “…The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other…”

Spaghetti from Squash? It’s Not Bad…and Really—It Tastes Just Fine!

bowl-of-spaghetti-squashDid you know that one cup of cooked spaghetti has 220 calories? How would you like to have a cup of spaghetti with only 42 calories instead? Ever try spaghetti squash as a replacement for the traditional types of pasta? Most pastas are made from semolina (which is wheat product—”wheat middlings of durum wheat”) or farina (made from milled wheat). spaghetti-squash I’ve served spaghetti squash for a long time but never really gotten up my courage to try it as a replacement for pasta until recently. Spaghetti made from squash has less protein than those made from wheat, but if weight loss (or control) is more in your view than adequate protein, then consider at least giving this tasty alternative a try! spaghetti-squash-prepared-to-roastTo cook the squash, split it in half, take out the inner seeds and pulp, and roast it (covered) in the oven for a couple of hours with one inch of water in the bottom to keep it  moist.  (Some people cook it cut-side down for more moisture.)strands-of-baked-spaghetti-squashLet it rest in the oven (still covered) with the heat turned off until time to serve. preparing-spaghetti-squash-after-bakingMake your favorite spaghetti sauce and whatever sides you want, and just before you serve everything up, carefully scoop out the strands of spaghetti into a bowl, top with a little butter and Parmesan cheese, and serve with salt and pepper shakers available. spaghetti-squash-dinnerAlan loves spaghetti, so I was afraid he’d hate it, but he said it tasted fine. Actually, covered with enough sauce, I almost preferred it, because I don’t normally like the noodles without lots of sauce, and this way, every bite seemed rich, savory, and “healthy.” If you try it, let me know what you think!

Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.  Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.  So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.  And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.” (Daniel 12:12-16)

P.S.—Someone asked if I am vegetarian or vegan. I am not, but I eat too much protein and too few vegetables, so I’ve been experimenting with ways to add more fruits and vegetables to my diet. Being overweight is a personal problem and is becoming one of the biggest health problems in our world, both in developed and developing countries at this point. Many of us would profit from eating less and sharing more with those who are undernourished. purple-clover-on-losing-weight(P.S.—If you want the ultimate guide to spaghetti squash, check out this excellent resource by Lita Watson: https://www.quickeasycook.com/spaghetti-squash/

Before Black History Month Ends: Take Time to be Charmed by the Queen of Katwe

queen-of-katwe Have you seen Disney’s Queen of Katwe?
It’s a perfect movie for celebrating Black History Month! queen-of-katwe-enjoying-her-first-snowQueen of Katwe is a glowing tribute to the brilliance and beauty
of African people, as well as their capacity for integrity and perseverance.

queen-of-katwe-accepting-recognitionWhen I first started preparing for this post, I was tempted to complain that the shortest, darkest month has become Black History Month, and that if I were running the country I’d choose March or May—long beautiful months…until I read the reason why. carter_g_woodson_portraitDr. Carter G. Woodson (African American with a PhD from Harvard who is known as the Father of Black History) chose the second week of February as “Negro History Week” because two men who were very influential in elevating African Americans, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, were born then.

lupita-nyongo-as-nakku-harriet-in-queen-of-katwe Do you get frustrated by my rabbit trails? I hope not. phiona-mutesi-in-queen-of-katweAt any rate, Queen of Katwe tells the true story
of a young girl named Phiona Mutesi, kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katwewho grew up in “Katwe,” a slum of Kampala, Uganda. harriet-in-queen-of-katweHer father had died, and Phiona’s mother, Harriet,
fiercely defended the children, vegetable-market-in-queen-of-katweworking constantly in a street market selling vegetables so they could survive. phiona-at-mission-school-in-queen-of-katwePhiona and her little brother, hungry,
wandered into a mission school, where they were fed. missionary-with-child-in-queen-of-katweWhile there, they also met Robert Katende, a young missionary  robert-katende-praying-with-children-in-queen-of-katwewho coached soccer  chess-game-in-queen-of-katweand taught the children chess with the hope of helping them learn skills benjamin-in-queen-of-katwethat would enable them succeed in life generally. phiona-mutesi-and-madina-nalwanga-in-queen-of-katweThe rest is history
(current history:Phiona is only 21 today and still going strong!), returning-to-school-on-mission-bus-in-queen-of-katwebut I don’t want to say too much so you can fully enjoy the movie. receiving-prize-in-queen-of-katweAnd, if you have any school-aged children in your life, it would make a wonderfully inspirational movie to share with them too. Disney does it so well!

slum-of-katwe-in-kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katweBear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:2-10)

(I took all the photos while watching the movie, except for the first [publicity poster] and the B&W of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, which is public domain, from Wiki.)

Restoration Over Rest at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

group-of-employees-receiving-5-year-awardsPine Rest just celebrated their annual employee appreciation and award evening, gourmet-dinner-at-pine-restcomplete with a gourmet dinner group-of-people-receiving-employee-awardsand awards for employees
who have served 5, 10, 15, 20…and on up in increments of 5 years. recipient-of-55-year-service-award-at-pine-restOne lady flew back from Florida to receive her 55-year service award!
Can you imagine working at the same ministry for 55 years?!

employee-appreciation-dinner-at-pine-restThis bright, beautiful lady shared that the reason she’s persevered so long is that she has the same heart for ministry as Pine Rest: compassionate Christian care for those with mental health needs.pine-rest-appreciation-dinner-awardsAlan has been working at PRCH (Pine Rest Christian Hospital) for 23 years, so he wasn’t up for an award, but because he’s the CMO (chief medical officer), we’re always invited to enjoy the festivities and honor the faithful employees! pine-rest-ceo-addresses-employeesOur CEO, Mark, is such a stalwart, spiritually-minded leader, and he gave a brief but very memorable message about “Two Holy Moments.” He said the first is when people wake up in the morning and make the decision to go into work, even though they’d rather sleep and are weary of putting aside their own needs to serve others. The second is when they are at work and choose to be present with those who are suffering. Pine Rest ministers to over 50,000 people each year. Like all attempts at intervention, many people are helped, but not all can be healed. However, employees can all express love by their presence and efforts to assist in the healing process. This is a second “holy” moment: Choosing to love each patient and serve them with “compassion and understanding in time of need and offer hope and help through the provision of excellent care.” ceo-of-pine-restThat’s a very high calling, but I think it’s something we can all ascribe to in our daily lives, no matter what our job is, be it leading a company, serving others in hospital or school settings, working as a mechanic, waitress, hairdresser, babysitter, parent, or whatever!

Are you struggling with your job? I’m not saying you should stay in whatever job you have at present, but I would like to encourage you to feel a sense of holiness about whatever job you’re doing. Offer your decision to work as a sacrifice to God, choosing restoration over rest. As an offering to God, choose to love those you serve by providing excellent care. It will tinge what might otherwise be drudgery with the glow of Shekinah glory.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

And, here’s a verse that just struck me this morning as Alan and I were reading together: “ So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12, NIV). When we serve others in love for the sake of Christ, we are literally giving our life so that others may live. But, if we have eternal life within us by faith in Christ, then to give of our lives to bring “many sons to glory” is a supremely beautiful exchange!

Free Seminar on Learning “God Speech”…Christian Prayer

Did you know that at its root, “theology” means “God speech”? I always thought theology meant “the study of God,” and that’s the common modern idea, but in the original Greek, “ology” is derived from “logos,”  meaning “word.”  Biology is the study of life, but it’s also “life words”…learning how to speak the language of life. Similarly, “theology” means learning to speak the language of God.

Do you know how to speak God words? To talk to God? To let him speak to you and respond back to him, the way I toddling child learns to speak to his father?

Starting today, Wednesday, February 27, 2017, my son Jonathan (who is now a professor at Moody Bible Institute) is beginning a series on prayer, and I wanted to let you know, just in case it might be interesting to you. For those of you who may not know, Jonathan’s great passion is to make Christian education available to anyone who wants it, regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to attend a traditional university for training. Moody has been wonderfully supportive in working on this vision with him. Here is the specific information:

 

 

 

Dear Friends of Aqueduct Project,

We are incredibly excited to invite you to a live lecture series on prayer that will take place on Wednesdays beginning this week, February 22, 2017! You can join in on this live event from anywhere in the world with a single click. Full details are available at the course landing page: http://aqueductproject.org/prayer-seminar/

We have assembled a teaching team of seven gifted and passionate students from Moody Bible Institute who will be delivering these lessons alongside me. Whether you are able to join us for only one lesson or whether you will be able to participate in the entire series, we hope that we will see you soon for this transformative experience!

No registration is required, and all lectures are free! If you have questions, please email Jack DePuy at jacob.depuy@moody.edu.

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:17–18, ESV)

Yours,
Jonathan J. Armstrong, Ph.D.
President of Aqueduct Project

A Study in Aging Beautifully: Gardenias

As I mentioned yesterday, Alan and I just celebrated our 44th anniversary
this past weekend, and it occurs to me that we’re getting pretty old!gardenia-plantHere’s just a little thought, but I have a gardenia plant,
and I’ve been so inspired by watching it bloom! wilting-roses-at-nelson-mandelas-homeDo you know how most flowers turn brown on the edges as they get oldwilting-roses-in-africabecoming wilted and all bedraggled by the time they die? gardenia-flower-unfurlingWell, my gardenia blossoms unfold like a pinwheel of pure white…white-pure-rose-africa-copy-2slowly unfurling their petals day by day until their blooms
are as full and fragrant as the finest rose. gardeniaHowever, as gardenias age, the blossoms don’t turn brown like withering roses, they gradually turn deeper and deeper shades of yellow.gardenia-plantI would like to learn to age beautifully, like gardenias,
continuing to flourish and produce fruit until the day I die!   baobab-tree-the-big-tree-zimbabwe12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
(Psalm 92:12-15, NIV, emphasis mine)

(The baobab tree in this last photo is called “The Big Tree.”
We saw it recently while we were in Zimbabwe. It’s somewhere between 1000-1500 years old, and it’s still producing flowers and fruit!
Talk about incredible and inspirational!!)

 

When Do You Know If It’s Your Last Holiday?

happy-anniversary-card-for-spouseToday is Presidents’ Day…a special holiday set aside to honor all the amazing men who’ve shaped our country. I really want to share some thought-provoking quotations on time today rather than discussing the attributes and weaknesses of our various presidents (although I will confess to having done more than my fair share of complaining over the years and felt admonished by reading in Acts 23:5 last week, where Paul said, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people”). card-for-appreciating-spouseLast Tuesday was Valentines Day, and last weekend Alan and I celebrated our 44th anniversary. As we are now 66, that means we’ve now lived two-thirds of our lives together! That’s almost hard to imagine, even for us!!  🙂

I’ve really been thinking a lot about the privilege of still having a mate with whom to share holidays in the light of an increasing number of friends who’ve lost their mates in the past 10 years. In Sunday school, one of those friends, Jay Link, passed along some good food for thought on the topic of time, and I’d like to share a few of his quotes with you today:

“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” Theophrastus

“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” C.S. Lewis

“Time is what we want most, but…what we use worst.” William Penn

“We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch.” John F. Kennedy

“Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.” Thomas Hardy

“Time is the longest distance between two places.” Tennessee Williams

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.” William Shakespeare

“Time = life; therefore, waste you time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” Alan Lakein

“The key is not in spending time, but in investing it.” Stephen R. Covey

“Mind the moments because they become your memories.” Jane Anderson 🙂

valentine-for-wifeJay’s thoughts: Allot time to each season of life with care and intention, learning to grow in wisdom as we go. Each season of life is new to us, and it represents a path we haven’t traveled before. If it takes approximately 10,000 hours to become proficient at something, that’s about as long as many of the stages of life we pass through. I don’t know who said it, but Jay mentioned that in a car, the front windshield is larger than the rear-view mirror, because what’s in our future needs more of our attention than what’s already behind us.happy-anniversary-cardAnd, here’s my humble thought from becoming increasingly appreciative of every day Alan and I still have together: You never really know when it’s your last holiday, so “Savor each holiday as if it might be your last, because it might.”

heart-shaped-valentineSo teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

 

Rise Up, My Love (223): What’s the Distinction Between Liquor and Wine?

fresh-rolls-7-27-07Song of Solomon 7:2 The second question—what is the significance of “liquor” rather than wine, and “heap of wheat” rather than bread?—is harder to answer, but here are some thoughts. The word rendered “liquor” is the Hebrew mezeg and is only used this once in the Old Testament, although most Biblical scholars believe it is related to masak which is used eight times and refers to wine that has been mixed with something else…either diluted by adding water or strengthened by adding honey and spices (Carr, Lloyd. The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary, pp. 157-8). According to John MacArthur, wine was diluted with water both for the Passover meal and for special events such as weddings (see notes on Mark 14:18, Luke 22:17 and John 2:2, MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible, pp. 1494, 1559, 1578). The meaning of “heap of wheat” is clear enough…but a pile of grain isn’t quite as appealing as a freshly baked loaf of bread such as the priests laid on the altar or Christians enjoy at the communion table.

The liquor was something more or less than wine; the heap of wheat was something less than bread…something with potential but unfinished. Could it be that the Lord takes whatever we have…whether it’s “more” or “less” and feasts upon it? Could it be that he takes our “liquor,” and if it’s diluted, he distills it; if it’s laced with additives, he purifies it? (That’s a sincere question; I don’t know the answer, but I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts. Consider Mark 15:23; when Jesus was crucified, he refused to take the wine mixed with myrrh. See also Psalm 69:2.)

Or, perhaps the liquor is enhanced with good things, like honey and spice—a special anointing by the Spirit with sweetness and flavor—“sugar and spice, and everything nice.” That is what girls are supposed to be made of, isn’t it? Perhaps to our Lord, the wine of his bride is even sweeter than wine, because each individual’s cup of wine is mixed with the unique qualities and gifts the Lord has given that person.

And the heap of wheat? What a fitting description of the soul with his heart on the altar! Winnowed—the chaff blown away by the winds—, heaped together, and decked with flowers. What a beautiful thought—that we are like a grain offering— our lives laid on the altar, open, available, and waiting for the Lord to make us into whatever he chooses.

Wheat must be ground into powder, combined with other ingredients, doused with liquid, beaten and kneaded, poured out, punched down, allowed to rise again, and fired in a hot oven before it’s ready to be enjoyed. But, the Lord will do all that. He will choose how fine to grind our lives, what trials to add, how long to buffet, how long to abase, how long to abound…how long to bake in the heat of life’s trials. He will direct all that, and he will feast on us…now as a grain offering…and someday as a finished “loaf” when we’re complete in him on heaven’s celestial shores.

Think of wisdom’s invitation to the simple from Proverbs 9:5-6, “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.” Think of the invitation from Isaiah 55 to buy wine without money and to feast freely on the bread of goodness. Isn’t this the invitation Christ offers us? Can we not give him the offering of our body—as imperfect and unfinished as its “mingled wine and wheat” are—to be made into a love feast for him?

Think of our Lord in the garden. There he accepted the cup of agony that we could not bear for ourselves. See him on the cross…the taste of vinegar and gall…the crushing load of not only his own body but the weight of the world’s sin…the death of separation from God while he bore our sin…his body wracked with pain and his soul wracked with sorrow. This was the bitter cup he drank from the hand of God to save us from our sins and win a bride for himself. See him risen from the grave and glowing with his resurrection body.

Picture yourself as part of the body of Christ…his bride, the church. Visualize offering your own body as a living sacrifice…and understand that spiritually your navel is as a “goblet that wanteth not liquor,” and your belly is a “heap of wheat set about with lilies.” Imagine Jesus, who drank the cup of God’s wrath and sorrow for you, drinking from the goblet of your love, filled with the “liquor” of his Spirit, and feasting on the rich grains of wheat laid out in a heap before him. Doesn’t that thrill your soul? Oh, that he might be pleased to drink from our cup and feast on the wheat we’ve garnered from the fields that are “white already to harvest.” Oh, that he might be pleased with our sacrifice and find the taste sweet and pure. Oh, that we might refresh the heart of our Lord with our lives lived as a living sacrifice!