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Monday, December 21, 2009

"I didn't have the heart to tell them."

"I didn't have the heart to tell them."

I heard someone say this the other day and for some reason it just lingered inside my head the whole night. I made a mental note of it and went on with my life. But over the course of the last several days I feel like I've heard it a couple more times in different contexts of humanity.

It takes heart to share certain things with certain people. I think it's easy to just glide through life taking the path of least resistance with the convoluted motto: "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will". A motto I've found to be so misleading it makes me want to vomit. I think the most dangerous place to be is in the center of God's will. Climb into God's will and you'll experience butterflies and battlefields like never before. You'll be called upon to do the unthinkable. You'll undergo a gauntlet of misunderstandings. And above all, you'll be asked by God to muster the pluck (heart) to tell people things that are unnatural to say out loud.

It reminds me of what Jesus told Peter just before he took off and went to sit at the right hand of his Daddy, "You used to be able to dress yourself and go where you wanted to go, but now someone else will dress you and you will go where you don't want to go." A very interesting bit of enlightenment from the Messiah as to the rigors of discipleship. Namely, "you are in for a counter-intuitive" Jesus-journey. You will be asked to do things that any thinking human being would intelligently decline. You will be taken to places that will crucify you upside down. You will be invited to join Jesus in proclaiming his upside-down, inside-out Kingdom message...a message that, frankly, people will feel uncomfortable with. They will kick against the goads. Heck, we will kick against the same goads on days wondering if their is any other way -- "let this cup pass from me"?

Sometimes I struggle to have the heart to tell people what they desperately need to hear. I'm scared of their reaction. I'm wondering if it will sound maudlin and sappy. I'm scared to tell my wife what's bothering me. I'm fearful that my dad wouldn't understand. I don't want to go first risking no reciprocation. I'm nervous of being misunderstood by my colleagues. I'm anxious that it will come out wrong or that I'm in no moral position to point out the glaringly obvious. I feel my insides contracting and constricting with self-doubt and self-paralysis.

Even in ministry, I can sense when it's time to go there. God is telling me to address something that can't be delayed another day. To broach the issue. To ask the question. To share the dream. To wonder out loud in the presence of the staff. To ask my wife the fearful question, "What's wrong?" Oh my, having the heart to go there not knowing where there might take you is often a daunting notion. In some ways, I'd rather go anywhere but there. Is there another way? Can't someone else do it? I'm not equal to the task! I'm out of my league!

And then the voice of God whispers in the stillness and the smallness I've become accustomed to: "Now is the time, this is place, you are the person. I will be with you." And with painful trepidation, I muster the man inside me to take heart and speak truth as I see it. I may not always be right, but at least I'm not living in silent misery. I'm making my mark on the sands of time. I'm staking my claim. I'm numbering my days instead of numbing them.

Lord, give me the heart to tell people whatever you lay on my heart to share. "I love you." "You make me proud." "I disagree with you." "I have an idea." "I'm scared, are you?" "Thank you." "I miss your friendship." "That is sin." "I'm depressed and borderline suicidal." "I'm lonely, can we meet up sometime?" "You hurt my feelings." "You make me very, very happy." "Are you ok?" "Why do you keep doing that?" "I'm going down...I need help." "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?" "You know what I love about you...?" Yeah...give me the heart to tell people what could easily just rot inside my soul.

I want to number my days instead of numbing them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Straining gnats and swallowing camels...

"You strain a gnat and swallow a camel." - Jesus

This is hands down my favorite sarcastic quote of Jesus.  

I think I can easily picture Jesus as this meek man who turns the other cheek, sleeps on a rock as a homeless man, and lets little kids climb up on his knee for a tender Bible story.  But it's tough for me to imagine Jesus as tough.  It's even harder for me to picture Jesus as sarcastic--saying something that slices through diplomacy to the core corruption of the moment.  He's been given such a pleasant face-lift throughout the years, that the general populace couldn't fathom Jesus getting mad, joking around, or picking a fight (I'm not necessarily implying a physical fight, though there are times his aggression definitely manifested itself in the physical. aka - the temple tirade)

The aforementioned quote is one of my favorites because I feel that humans, by nature, tend to make mountains out of molehills, and conversely, molehills out of mountains.  They overreact and overcompensate.  I say they, but I'm part of "they".  I'm a sucker for turning big things into small things and small things into big things.  Someone said it well..."We make majors out of minors and minors out of majors."  This is an evil unspeakable.  I believe it is these subtle evils that put Jesus in a straightjacket more than beer, sex, and swearing.  But so many people get off the hook because these latent evils aren't as pronounced and announced as the blatant evils.  They are malignant just the same.  I hate how we treat them as benign nuisances.

When people make a big deal out of small things, Jesus gets torked off!  Here we are straining gnats with our self-made soul-sifter thinking ourselves cunningly intelligent and uniquely positioned to point out others' shortcomings and overgoings, when we are beautifully blind to the camel hanging out of our own soul.  We are gnat-pickers, nit-pickers.  We love to grind axes and split hairs, but are woefully unaware of our own glaring idiosyncrasies.  

Gnat focused people...
1. Are in a constant state of evaluation.
2. Try to justify themselves by tearing others down.
3. Look for ways to catch someone else in a lie.
4. Can't relax in their own skin.
5. Think everyone is just like them.
6. See the 10% bad and disregard the 90% good.
7. Are paranoid of people's opinions of them.
8. Make a big deal out of minutia, mincing and mulling over scenarios.
9. Are hard on themselves and, thus, other people.
10. Position themselves are morality cops.
11. Guard the "letter of the law" while disregarding the "spirit of the law".
12. Obsess over policies, procedures, and protocols.
13. Are master trouble shooters and horrible beauty shooters.
14. Make everyone else around them nervous with performance-anxiety.
15. Are wound up tighter than a snare drum with controlling demands.
16. Are impossible to love because they don't love themselves even though they're narcissists.
17. Are ready to crucify anyone who disagrees with them. 
18. Stubbornly refuse to be teachable because they know everything.
19. Have intelligent arguments to defend their gnatty behavior in the court of law.
20. Are largely unaware of how much people dislike them and avoid them.

The camels that are hanging out of their mouths are:
1. A gross lack of self-awareness.
2. A refusal to see themselves through the mirror of people's reactions to them.
3. A condition I call "diarrhea of the mouth".  (talking without saying anything)
4. An inability to ask questions or inquire of someone's else's story/reality.
5. A clueless conscience; very little conviction over blatant sin.
6. An obnoxious, noxious attitude that acts as a people-repellant.
7. An addiction to the approval, affirmation and attention.
8. An angry spirit that drives their every dealing.
9. An unstoppable urge to talk about other people behind their backs.
10. A perfection disorder...they can't relax in their own skin for the life of them.
11. A desire to impress others with one-upmanship.
12. (and worst of all) A stonewalling of anyone who tries to confront them on their camel.

And Jesus got sick of it.  He called it out.  In another passage he put it another way, "You point out the speck in someone else's eye when you have a big-honkin'-dog log in your own eye."  You're accusing a room of stinking when you're the one with dog poop on the bottom of your shoe.  You're making fun of someone for sneezing when you have a green burger hanging out of your nose.  You're evaluating the performance of someone else's singing ability as a tone-deaf critic.  It is this discernment-discrepancy that drove the heart of Jesus nuts.

I love how he picked this fight.  I love how he didn't back down on this issue.  I love how he stepped into the ring, put on his boxing gloves, and came out swinging.  He was tired of this tomfoolery.  This immature horseplay.  This ridiculous rats nest of religious blindness.  Jesus knew that only sarcasm would cut to the quick.  The rabbi turned rabid.  The prophet protested.  Jesus snapped.

When will the church quit its gnat-sifting ways?  When will we clean our own house instead of cleaning everyone else's clock?  How long will we live under the enchanting spell that the problem lies with "everyone else"?  Here's how you will know when the Holy Spirit has come to town...people will start asking this question, "Could it be me?"  If everyone would just concentrate on their own crap, they wouldn't have time to stir up the stink in everyone else.  I think the reason so many people have so much time on their hands is because they aren't--as a step in Alcoholic Anonymous says to do--"taking a searching and fearless moral inventory of their own soul."  When you start doing that for real, you'll be amazed at how little time is left to butcher everyone else around you.  

Lord, keep me from "Straining gnats and swallowing camels." 

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

the HRT and broken expressions of affection...

Taylor wrote me a note the other day in the broken, untrained English of a kindergardener: "I luv you dad.  I luv owr hows.  I luv owr famle.  yor datr, Taylor."

The translation in case you need it: "I love you dad.  I love our house.  I love our family.  Your daughter, Taylor."

I can't tell you the nourishment her writing has become to me.  Sometimes I'll get out a piece of paper and tell her to write a note, a story, a letter, a song...anything...just to hear her convey her heart brings me great joy.  I love how she takes words and sounds them out phonetically into her own little broken language.  It is the lack of training that brings such a freshness.  It is the purity of her heart that makes such rudimentary sentiments so life-stoppingly brilliant.  

We had steak last night.  One night I was playing with Taylor and we decided to make up our own game called, "Questions".  Our games are quite simple in case you haven't gathered that along the way.  This game of Questions is nothing more than me asking her a question and her writing down the answer.  I will say, "Question number one." and she will write the number "1" and proceed to jot down her one word answer.  The first question I asked her: "What is your favorite food?"  Her answer: "Sdak".  So now whenever we are having steak we are careful to dictate it as Taylor wrote it out.  Our whole family does this.  It's not longer steak; it's "sDaK".

Here's how she spells Holloween:  HLYN  (our family now calls it ha-leen).
-or how 'bout Rainbow: RABO 
-check out Sisters: SISBERS
-I love this one, Pumpkin:  PUKIN

I have to believe that this is how God interacts with our beautifully broken speech.  He loves to hear us talk in our cracked-up, shattered logic and ana-logic.  He feels the affection of our misspelled language of love and life.  He loves hearing our child-like responses to his Quest, his Questions.  He feels our hearts behind our unedited expressions...and his heart is moved.  

We beat ourselves up trying to "get it right" as he smiles with delight, moved by our attempts.  Our attempts, in themselves, are enjoyed.  Do you get that?  It's like he's says: "I see where you were trying to go with that."  We see them as failed attempts, he sees them as valiant attempts, affectionate attempts.  In this case: "It is the thought that counts, and counts most."  Our thoughts will never be His thoughts, our ways His ways, our words His words...at best it will be slurred speech, stuttering lips forming a clumsy "I LUV U".  And in his Father-love, he translates them with great joy into "Grammatical Correctness".   

Or maybe he doesn't.  Maybe he doesn't care about grammar as much as we might think.  Maybe he just looks at the heart to begin with.  Maybe he just leaves our "love note" just as it is, reveling in the attempt, glorying in seeing his child fighting for expression, laughing at the signature of that unique soul and feeling the warmth pulsating in his heart through his veins, crying at the customized affections of his cherished child.  At least this is what I feel as a father with Tay.

I don't want her to learn to write like me.  I wish she could stay in this uninformed altruism.  I hate thinking more about my grammar than my guts.  I wish I could just pour out my guts without thinking about how it's dressed and how that dressing compares to the refined outfits of others.  If I could just pour out my heart unedited, unrefined, un"adult"erated.  It is that adult thing that seems to kill genuine feelings, thoughts, and actions.  I hate my adulterated affections.  Sullied by years of editing.  I'm so conscious of MLA formatting that I lose the man in the "man"ufacturing.  

"Man"ufactured, "Man"icured, "Man"ipulated, "Man"euvered, "Man"aged...and in the end I feel like my heart is "Man"gled.

And then you're reminded of what it's all about when you watch your daughter "put it out there".

It's all about--as Taylor writes it--the HRT.

Gd,  hlp mi hrt to b truw.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you for my life.  Thank you for my girls.  Thank you for ears to hear their voices.  Thank you for eyes to see their beauty.  Thank you for arms to hold their bodies.  Thank you for a heart to feel their girly love.

Thank you for my life.  Thank you for my wife.  Thank you for the beauty of her heart.  Thank you for the strength of her passion.  Thank you for the enveloping love of her affection.  I cherish her.

Thank you for my life.  Thank you for my church.  Thank you for people who love your kingdom.  Thank you for friends who support me.  Thank you for a place where I feel freedom to be me.  Thank you for a body that loves wonder.

Thank you for my life.  I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pastor and Person...

Being a pastor and a person sometimes seems mutually exclusive.  The reason I know this is because I'm inordinately conscious of the difference between the two on most days.  Oh, there are small bits of time when I live in a pure stream of consciousness that blends the two together seamlessly.  But on most days, I find myself torn between the two, asking God to give me fresh ways to be both without canceling either one out.  The neutralizing/neutering of either would honestly break my heart.

This could be one of many reasons why I'm deeply intrigued with the God-Man Jesus, not that I'm equating myself with His Majesty, but you see what I'm getting at.  How can you live in the one role without losing the other.  How can you be fully both instead of working out some 50/50 deal?  How can you feel "today" and yet live in the realm of "forever".  How can you feel people's emotions in the moment all the while knowing the future?  How do you walk the tightrope holding that pole, with those polarizing polarities, without overcompensating and consequently losing balance.  I know they aren't enemies, but sometimes it seems so.  It can't be easy to be God and Man.  

I'm not implying that I relate to the God/Man Christ Jesus on all levels, but sometimes the peculiar nature of Pastor/Person seems to carry a similar tension.  The Pastor in me knows truth.  The Person in me knows temptation.  The Pastor in me is drawn to people.  The Person in me is cautious of people.  The Pastor in me leads.  The Person in me needs.  The Pastor in me is happy.  The Person in me is crappy.  The Pastor in me feels high.  The Person in me feels dry.  The Pastor in me can't help myself from caring.  The Person in me can't help myself from falling.  This juxtaposition is ever reminding me of its existence.

There were days when I wasn't so aware of these schizophrenic personalities.  I lived with a solidarity filled with unknowing altruism and innocence.  I hate admitting that.  I feel so sullied by years of expanding awareness, like a kid that thought his city block was the whole world only to find out that his house was on a block in a town outside a city within a county that was part of a state in a region of a nation on a continent of a planet in a galaxy within a vast and infinite universe.  All the sudden the simplicity and wonder of the city block prunes up, taking its place in the great circle of life (reference the the epic animation "Lion King").   Things that used to be wonderful slowly become wonderless.  It's funny how knowing less actually led to living more.  It seems that the opposite would be true, but I guess that's why I've increasingly used the word "seemingly" to begin sentences when explaining life.  Oh, to return to the boyhood neighborhood where the world was your oyster, and life wasn't lost in the explanation of it.

But I digress.  I only speak of the wearing down that happens over time making you painfully aware of things that break you into pieces; pieces like Pastor/Person.  And yet, there is something in me rebelling that division.  I'm fighting tooth and nail to be both simultaneously.  I'm fighting to not lose my personhood in my priesthood.  I'm fighting to hold tightly to each role knowing the loss of either invalidates both.  The church has suffered greatly from Pastors who forgot they were People.  I think the opposite is also true, that we live in a world filled with People who have forgotten that God has called them to be Pastors (caretakers, sheep-tenders, shepherds of humanity).  There's a bit of holy and human in us all, really.  The disregard of that reality spirals us into a tailspin of madness.

I am a person. I am human.  I love being human.  I love my frailty, my fragility, my finicky fascinations and fetishes.  I love my weaknesses as well.  I'm a sucker for feeling things deeply to my own detriment.  I love that.  I love that I can't help myself from being swept up into the stew of story...whether it's a love story, horror story, or sob story.  I'm undeniably and irresistibly human through and through.  "Fearfully human" as Anne Lamott eloquently says.  If someone is looking for chinks in my armor or chips in my character, they will surely find them.  The reason being I love my life and I stubbornly refuse to treat myself inhumanely for the sake of image.  I know a good many pastor-posers who have fallen hard due to this self-destructive/seductive inhumanity.  

I am a pastor.  I love being a pastor.  I love caring for people's souls.  I love seeing life change and being right there when it happens in real-time.  I love listening to people share their struggles for the first time.  I love expelling the darkness with truth.  I love reminding people of their glory and taking their hopeless grope and attaching it to a gropeless hope.  A hope that isn't something you touch with your senses, for hope that is seen is no hope at all as it says in the Scriptures.  Helping people toward hope is what I live for.  I love being a see-eye dog for the blind, a crutch for the cripple, an IV drip for the famished, a hug for the hurting, and hand for the amputated.  And it is this divine calling that compels me to give when I have nothing left.  And I will not treat myself indivinely which is just as detrimental as treating myself inhumanely, in my humble opinion.  And so I seek to cling to the one without losing the other.  And herein lies the dilemma that led me to write this in this first place.  I've come a full circle now, haven't I?  

Maybe this is the circle of life.  If so, I suppose I shall be running in circles the remainder of my earthly life.  But if keeping both alive means feeling like I'm running in circles, I will embrace this dizzy discipleship. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bright Star, John Keats...

I went to a movie a couple days ago, Bright Star.  It was a beautiful depiction of the life of John Keats, the luminary of romantic poetry.  This particular poem was quoted in the movie and it stirred my blood so deeply.  I would encourage anyone who loves romance to find where this movie is showing within a 200 mile radius and take your heart's companion. 

Read and weep....



Bright Star 
by John Keats 

 
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-- 
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death. 


Friday, November 13, 2009

Aly's last Daddy/Daughter dance...

The time had come to dance again

You could feel it in the air,

I saw it in my daughter’s eyes

As she practice-primped her hair.

 

“Are you getting excited?” Aly said

as she hugged me ‘round the waist,

“You better believe it!” I replied

as I picked her up with haste.

 

I swung her clockwise in the air

And sang a made-up song,

And as she smiled with girly glee

She sighed, “It won’t be long.”

 

I laid her in her fluffy bed

And hugged her with a cleave,

She shot-gun giggled with delight

on this Daddy-Daughter Dance Eve.

 

The whole day long my mind would drift

To dancing with my princess.

As she gathered with her giddy friends

All dolled up in their dresses.

 

Before I knew it, the time had come

to head toward my home,

where Aly was prepping for the night

with her makeup-artist-Mom.

 

As I turned into the gravel drive

And pulled up toward the garage,

I saw my girls off to the left,

And it felt like a mirage.

 

All preened and prissed was Aly Grace

With a mother’s custom care,

She stood there proud inside her dress

With her curly brunette hair.

 

She posed against the maple tree

As her mother snapped some shots,

I walked toward her with a smile

“I love you lots and lots.”

 

“I love you, too, Daddy!” she said

nasal toned and nostrils flaring,

I needed to go and change my clothes

But couldn’t keep my eyes from staring.

 

My little girl was growing up

Right before my aging eyes,

These moments won’t be here for long,

You get no second tries.

 

I hustled to my closet space

And fetched my nicest suit,

I combed my hair, put on cologne

That smelled like passion fruit.

 

I went downstairs and presented myself

As my daughters “ohhed” and “ahhed”,

They love it when I get all dressed up

And become the handsome dad.

 

We packed the family in the car

And headed out to eat,

Aly wanted for everyone

To enjoy this special treat.

 

Logan’s Roadhouse was the chosen spot

For our little pre-dance meal,

We ate free peanuts like elephants,

While Kami said, “What a steal!”

 

We finished up and headed home

To drop off her mom and her “sissies”,

And then we traversed o’er to Meijer

To get a surprise for “Miss Prissy”.

 

We parked the car and Aly said,

“Daddy, what are we doing here?”

I told her she had 10 dollars to spend

On whatever would bring her heart cheer.

 

She picked out a Webkin, I think that makes 12,

It was a Reindeer with antlers and fur,

She decided to name it Rudy for short,

I said that was entirely up to her.

 

We left the store and turned toward the school

She hugged her new animal tight,

The weather was perfect, the sky was clear

This was gonna’ be a glorious night.

 

When we walked in the school she skipped to the desk

Where they handed out tiaras and sashes,

Just like you’d see in a Miss American pageant,

Where the whole place sparkles and splashes.

 

We hit the dance floor like two butterflies

Spinning and swirling around,

No happier couple in the town of Lowell

Could possibly ever be found.

 

Between my legs I swung her frame

Then I snapped her to her feet,

Jigging back and forth like squirrels

We swayed to every beat.

 

The faster songs she danced with friends

And I would bow it out,

But when a slower song came on

I’d hear a little shout.

 

“Dad!” she cried with her little voice

“It’s time for us to dance.”

She’d grab by arm and lead me out

Where we’d assume the stance.

 

I took her little hand in mine,

she hugged me around my waist,

And bending down to cradle her,

I softly kissed her face.

 

The slower songs would settle her

And sedated in romance,

I’d pick her up; she’d straddle me

we'd spin as if entranced.

 

She’d bury her head into my neck

As I kissed her peach-fuzz ear,

I’d quietly whisper, “Love you, Grace”.

While I shed a fatherly tear.

 

Crying happened throughout the night

As I’d watch her lost in life,

There’s nothing better than innocence

To cut me like a knife.

 

As is the custom the night would end

With a love song for each date,

Aly knew it was coming really soon,

Like predestinated fate.

 

And when it came the song rang out

Like a spell was cast upon us,

I closed my eyes and took it in

Like a first encounter with Jesus.

 

“The smile on your face

lets me know that you need me

Theres a truth in your eyes

sayin youll never leave me

 

The touch of your hand

says youll catch me if ever I fall

You say it best

when you say nothing at all.”

 

I rocked her back and forth that night

Remembering her birth,

When I took her in my loving arms

And heaven came down to earth.

 

As time stood still her life had passed

Before my mindful eye,

And as the song came to an end

My heart began to cry.

 

These moments in a daddy’s life

Are fleeting as a mayfly,

Here today but gone tomorrow

How quickly time goes by.

 

I kissed her neck again and again,

She snuggled on my chest,

I tilted my neck toward her ear

And said, “Gracie, you’re the best.”

 

We pulled away that cool fall night

She sighed and held my hand,

“I hate when this happens,” she blurted out

I completely understand.

 

When we got home, she brushed her teeth

Preparing herself for bed.

I was downstairs upon the couch

Resting my weary head.

 

When all the sudden I heard a sob

That spoke of a broken heart,

Aly was weeping to her mother upstairs

Falling helplessly apart.

 

I heard her coming down the stairs

To give a goodnight hug,

She climbed upon my manly chest,

As snug as a bug in a rug.

 

She started to weep with sorrow deep

Like my little mourning dove,

I clasped my hands around her back

Embracing her with love.

 

I told her that we’d always dance,

We didn’t need an event,

We only needed our heart’s to seize

The dance in each moment.

 

With swollen eyes she smiled at me,

and I kissed her salty face,

This ends this story of my second born,

The adorable “Alyvia Grace.”

Vintage Marriage...

check out this article on vintage wine...

________________________________

Vintage Wine

Generalization can help the wine lover grasp wine complexities to a certain extent. The weather conditions (mild winter, frost, hail, rain before harvest) undergone by the vines and grapes give collective traits to the wines of a certain year in a given region. Here I am thinking about a cool climate such as in Oregon, France or Germany. Here below are examples.

In France and the Italian Piedmont, the 2003 spring rain deficit and the ensuing summer heatwave often resulted in wines that lacked freshness.

In practice, wines of a given county - if bottled at one or two months interval - may share some features:

  • They are difficult to taste for the same length of time (a few weeks for the 1997s in Burgundy and the Loire Valley, a few years for the 1998s);
  • They share an acidity tendency: most of them taste fresh (1996 and 2001 in France) or most of them taste flabby (2003 in Europe);

  • They are rough (1998 in France) or smooth (1996 and 1997 in Burgundy);

  • A fine wine in an "exceptional" year (1989, 1990, 2000, 2005 in France) is a keeper: it will reward being cellared longer than a wine from the same plot in a "difficult" year (2003, 2004 in France). 

    ________________________________________________

    Vintage as a word hails from vineyard antiquity.  It is used for a variety of things in our culture, but it's origins are found in the vineyard field of interest, which makes sense based on its root word, "vine".  I've often thought of vintage meaning old, precious, priceless, seasoned, valuable, rare, etc. ... which would be accurate in some senses.

    I love the idea of weather conditions (mild winter, frost, hail, rain before harvest) in a certain season affecting the vintage nature of the wine in good or adverse ways.  I can think of seasons within my marriage where we've undergone inclement seasons that have produced a more vintage texture and taste within our relationship.  There have been very cold seasons, early frost even, that directly impact the wine produced in that year, for the good or bad.  There are certainly exceptional years followed by a "cellared" aged wine that makes me think there isn't a rival glory in all creation to marriage.  However, there have been certain very "difficult" years that have produced a very different product.  Some of those days and years are ones that you wonder if you should bulldoze the whole vineyard and call it quits.  

    I'm reminded that the care of a vineyard, much like the care of a marriage, is deeply reliant on an outside source, a Chief Vinedressor to provide the weather patterns that produce vintage wines.  You can do all you can in your own power to care for the vine, but if "Mother Nature" (or "Father Vintner" rather) isn't providing rain and shielding frost, it won't matter.  

    The absolute collaboration with God is essential to producing vintage wines.  These seasons that we go through Rough/Smooth, Fresh/Flabby (I love that one!), Difficult/Exceptional . . . we won't survive unless we are praying to the Vinedressor/Vintner of Heaven to send rain and to protect from heatwaves.  He has to be an intimate part of the marriage for it to produce vintage wine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Song of Solomon for Literalists...

Just click on this image and watch what happens when an analogician meets a logician.  Literalists slay me....



Kierkegaard does it again...


Here is a quote from Kierkegaard that will hopefully do your heart some good.  I received it from a fellow warrior/poet who used to be in my Student Ministry in Ohio, Caleb Barrows.  It's text has burnt itself into the tissue of my soul.

"What is a poet? A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music.  His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalais imprisoned in a brazen bull and slowly tortured over a steady fire: their cries could not reach the tyrant's ears so as to strike terror into his heart.  When they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music.  And men crowd about the poet and say to him: "Sing for us soon again"; that is as much as to say; "May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be formed as before; the cries would only frighten us, but the music is delicious."  And the critics come too and say; "Quite correct, and so it ought to be according to the rules of aesthetics."  Now it is understood that a critic resembles a poet to a hair, he only lacks the suffering in his heart and the music upon his lips."

May new sufferings torment your soul today, my poet friends, and may the blood that flows be the transfusion this fainting world is fainting for, is dying without.

And may the Ecclesiastes that pour forth warm the cooling, leaking, hardening arteries of this watching world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2 Buck Chuck...

This is a note I received from a brother in my Talmidim that meets each week, Dave Talcott.  Our brotherhood is exploring this "vineyard" theme together and I must say that I'm nourished by the sunken treasure we are discovering.  I decided to share his email to our band of brothers just this morning...

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Vinedresser--Vinters,
Here is a excerpt of a rather timely e-mail that I recently received. Check this out...

Dear David, 
Perfect for holiday gifts and entertaining, the $49 2005 Diamond Terrace, Diamond Mountain Cabernet is a fantastic deal!  Made by Thomas Brown, the winemaker for Schrader Cellars and Turley Cellars, who has achieved two 100 point scores from Robert Parker and two 99 point scores from Wine Spectator in the past, the quality of the Diamond Terrace is sure to exceed your expectations.   

Diamond Terrace is a micro-production, family owned winery.  Its wines are priced at a fraction of Thomas's other wines, but are made with the same passion and dedication to his winemaking philosophy.   

The 2005 Diamond Terrace Cab is indeed a gem from Diamond Mountain. 

Winemaker tasting notes -  
The wine has really blossomed in the bottle. First you notice the saturated garnet color and then you are hit with super expressive nose of graphite, white flowers and cassis. The blue and black fruit dominated palate contains crushed blackberries, blueberries, liquid mineral and wet gravel notes. The finish showcases its hillside fine-grain tannin component without turning dry. The drinks well now, but will continue to develop nicely for 5 - 10 years.

Sincerely,
Aabalat Fine & Rare Wines

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This thing just seems to be so ripe with metaphor to the marriage relationship as I have been reading it through this new lens of Husbandman/Vinedresser, Winemaker/Vinter. I've noticed that the name of the winemaker, his status or renown is directly related to the quality of the wine produced. The quality and value of the wine is derived from the passion and dedication of the winemaker. However, it is ultimately the wine that defines, not only the Vinter, but the Vinedresser as well. Because it all starts at the vine, it is the time spent in care of and cultivation of the vine that determines it's fruitfulness and quality of fruit produced. It reminds me again of the verse in Jeremiah 31:22 "...For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth-- A woman shall encompass a man"

Then there is the Winemaker's tasting notes. As the Vinedresser 'loves' his vine, so the Vinter 'knows' his wine. As he pours it out into a long stem crystal vessel, long before he ever takes a sip he gazes deeply into the wine and is captivated by its color, its character and body. He is overwhelmed by the diversity of its aroma and he affirms that his wine has really blossomed in the bottle. Next he takes in the fruit of his labor of love and is once again captured by all of the subtle nuisances of the wines taste and finish. And although he declare's that the wine drinks well now, in anticipation he knows that the taste will continue to develop and become even finer for years to come.

Wow, put in this context I have to wonder how well do I 'love' and 'know' my wife, am I even getting close or am I behaving as one merely looking for a cheap buzz from out of a brown paper bag. If the Husbandman is known for the fruitfulness of his vine; and the winemaker for the essence of his wine; when it comes to how well my wife has been loved. What will my name's renown be?  Will I be a 'Mr. Chardonnay' or more of a '2 Buck Chuck'? The honest pursuit of that answer is proving to be very sobering indeed.

In the apprenticeship of the Master,
'Cellar Rat' dave

Friday, November 06, 2009

the vintner...Mr Chardonney

Their is a vinedresser, and their is a winemaker.  The winemaker is traditionally called a vintner.  I love the following article that speaks of the humble beginnings of a "cellar rat" who studied the trade and craft of winemaking becoming a world renowned "vintner".  I love the nicknames that attached themselves to him after years of refining his wine.  Mr. Chardonnay, the Godfather of wine, the Winemaster.   And I especially love how this article ends..."he enriched the wine world with his outstanding work and is now passing the torch to his son Matt."  Oh, that this could be said of me.  I long to enrich the world with my delicate treatment of marriage.

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Here's the article...

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with legendary winemaker Chuck Ortman, “winemaster” at Ortman Family Vineyards. After talking to him for more than two hours about his 40-year career in the wine industry, I think calling him a winemaster is an understatement of his career achievements.

Ortman, whose passion for wine soon overtook his career in graphic arts, began in 1968 as a “cellar rat” (I love that...that's where it always starts as husbands) for legendary winemaker Joe Heitz of Napa Valley’s Heitz Cellars.

During my visit, I was able to taste many of his offerings, including the 2007 chardonnay from Edna Valley.

I can see why Chuck Ortman was nicknamed “Mr. Chardonnay” (my emphasis) in the ’70s as a pioneer of barrel fermentation. It is a balanced chardonnay in true Burgundian style.

I moved next to two 2006 pinot noirs, one from Fiddlestix Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills, the other from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. They were different but both outstanding. The Fiddlestix pinot had the classic big fruit while the Oregon pinot was earthier and more of a French Burgundy style of pinot.

The last wine I tasted was the 2007 Rhone style blend called CuveƩ Eddy; a blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and petite syrah, it was excellent.

Chuck Ortman, the Winemaster, Mr. Chardonnay and The Godfather (my emphasis)— a nickname bestowed on him by tasting room staff — has enriched the wine world with his outstanding work and now is passing the torch to his son Matt.

__________________________

The vintner spouse.  Mr. Chardonnay.  Wouldn't that be a great way to be described as a husband.  "Here is a man that produces a great tasting wife (wine)."  She sparkles.  She glows.  She's smooth.  She's soft.  She's colorful.  She's irresistible.  She leaves you smiling.  She leaves everything around her tasting better.  She leaves you mildly intoxicated.  She tantalizes your taste buds.  She has a brilliant beauty to her smile, a gentleness to her eyes.  She is fine.  She is fine wine.  She is the wife of Mr. Chardonney...the vintner extraordinaire.  She's loved. 

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Vine then Wine...



I was just thinking... "The health of the vine determines the taste of the wine."  or "As goes the vine, so goes the wine."

We love to drink the wine, but the vinedresser is thinking about the vine first.  He is not rushing to the wine quite just yet.  He understands the idea of putting "first things first".

So many men just want to enjoy the wine.  They are winebibbers instead of vinedressers.  They want to enjoy the fruit without the labor.  But the passage in Psalm 128 says, "then he will enjoy the fruit of his labor..."  Interesting.  The foreplay (or forework in this case) become crucial to the unfolding story.  Rush to the end without thinking of the means, and things will surely come to an end.  

"If a man won't work, he shouldn't eat" as it says in the New Testament.  I find this to be true across the board.  The principle is this... Invest/Harvest.  Without investment, there is no harvestment.   And when their is reaping without sowing, it is more akin to raping without knowing.  You cannot continue to pick fruit if you're not interested in the plowing, planting, pruning seasons as well.  Invest then Harvest.

The labor with the vine leads to the ardor of the wine.  I see this time and time again with my wife.  As I elevate her as the primary interest, the wine follows.  Oh, does it follow.

Just some more thoughts from the demented mind of Jason...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

God and Trailer parks...

I asked my daughters a question last night at supper, "What would you think if we sold our house and moved to a trailer park?"  The conversation that unfolded lasted almost an hour.  They climbed up on the kitchen table and sat there with Indian-crossed legs as we talked about possessions, what is important, what we think we deserve, where Jesus would be if he lived in Lowell, why we think we need more, what clothes are really supposed to be (stuff to cover your privates) instead of what they've turned into (stuff to adorn you in order to get people to look at you with either jealously or contempt or lust or comparison), what life is like in Africa and what kinds of homes they live in....

IN fact...

I took a sheet of paper and drew out the floor plan of a trailer.  I then drew out our house in comparison to show how much bigger it is.  Then I drew a little hut off to the side and showed how much bigger the trailer is than most houses in the world.  They sat there stupefied.  

I then did a dramatic monologue of what can only be described as a "california hollywood girl" who is spoiled rotten and who lives in a huge house but is miserable cause her parents have been divorced and remarried four times.  She has the coolest stuff, but she is spoiled and bratty and unhappy.  That went on for about 10 minutes.  They laughed and yet I used the humor to crack open their hearts to the sickness of our society, and worse yet, our Christianity.

I couldn't believe how much they absorbed this line of logic.  Though they pushed back with the perceived embarrassment (much of which comes through false ideas peddled at school) of living in a trailer park, and the "making fun" that they would get from their friends, I turned that into a teaching time of how we view people of lower income, lower position, lower social status.  "Who do we think we are?"  I said that about a hundred times.

Later that night, after I had put her to bed, Kami wrote a letter to Heidi and I that started like this: "Mom and Dad...I am so thankful that God has placed me in our family.  I love you both so much!  Make sure that when you go to be you turn the fan toward me feet.  The End."    She underlined the words "God" and "placed"...which are, in my opinion, the two most beautiful words in this note.

I share this to let you all know that the "rabid rabbi" would have been having these conversations.  They are not pleasant, but they are pleasurable.

I don't know where to go from here, but I'm sure glad I'm here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

the veins, not just the vine...

This is where it gets a little more sticky.  The troubleshooting of diseases isn't fun at all.  Thoughts like, "Can it still bear fruit even with disease?" or "Shouldn't the vine self-heal?  Why am I responsible for the strains of virus that it catches along the way?" or "Why not just pull the vine and plant a new one?" (a.k.a. - divorce)  All these questions and more flood my mind when it comes time for the vinedresser to treat the diseases that creep in along the way.  I'm looking for a way to avoid this part of the husbandman's responsibility.  Anyone else feel this way about Grapvine virus diseases? 

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Grapevine Virus Diseases

NEPOVIRUS DISEASES
This virus group includes at least 13 different viruses that can cause disease in grapevines. They share in common transmission by nematodes and a polyhedral physical structure when purified and examined with an electron microscope. This is the source of the name “nepovirus”: “ne” for nematode, “po” for polyhedral. Fortunately, only a few of these viruses are reported to be of importance in grapes in the U.S.

Fanleaf Degeneration — Grapevine fanleaf virus — GFLV 

GFLV is perhaps the best characterized virus of grapevines, causing fanleaf degeneration in affected plants. It is widely distributed throughout the world. Fanleaf disease is a major viticultural problem in California, causing reduced yields due to poor berry set. The reduction in yield can be over 80% in some varieties. Symptoms include fan-like distortions of leaves and chlorotic yellowing as ringspots, vein banding, and mottling or mosaic patterns. The virus is transmitted by the nematode Xiphinema index and can infect all Vitis species. 

Yellow Vein — Tomato ringspot virus — ToRSV

ToRSV causes yellow vein disease. A similar disease is caused by tobacco ringspot virus. These viruses are transmitted by several species of nematodes including X. americanum, X. californicum and X. rivesi. Symptoms of both diseases include shot berries, shoot stunting, and devigoration of the vine. These diseases are common in vineyards in the eastern U.S. and in fruit trees, but are rarely seen in California vineyards. The symptoms of yellow vein resemble those described for fanleaf, and they can be easily confused.

Arabis mosaic virus — ArMV 

This virus is widespread in grapevines in Europe. Although not found in California vineyards, it has recently been reported as common in Missouri and some infections have also been reported in Canada. Infected grapevines show symptoms similar to those of fanleaf, and ArMV can be present in a mixed infection with GFLV. Several nematode species can transmit ArMV to grapevines, the most common being Xiphinema diversicaudatum.

LEAFROLL

There are at least seven distinct viruses reported to be associated with leafroll disease. These viruses are collectively referred to as grapevine leafroll-associated viruses (GLRaVs) and are designated GLRaV 1 through GLRaV 7. ELISA tests are currently only available in commercial labs in the U.S. for GLRaV 1-5.

Symptoms of leafroll disease may include downward rolling of leaves, leaf reddening in the fall of red-fruited varieties, poor fruit color development, and delayed fruit maturation. Yield losses of 10 to 20% may occur. In cases of mixed infections with more than one virus, vines may be severely weakened and vine death may occur.

RUGOSE WOOD COMPLEX 

Diseases in the rugose wood complex are characterized by trunk and stem disorders (pitting and grooving). Foliar symptoms similar to leafroll may also occur. Diseases in this complex include corky bark, Kober stem grooving and rupestris stem pitting. Their effects on grapevines vary from mild to severe. Disease severity is compounded when multiple infections of the rugose wood complex occur, or by the presence of other viruses such as leafroll.

In recent years, individual viruses have been discovered and characterized which has made the detection of these disease agents much easier. There are still some rugose wood diseases for which the agent has not yet been described, making it necessary to perform laborious and slow biological tests.

Rupestris stem pitting-associated virus — RSPaV 

RSPaV is associated with rupestris stem pitting of grapevines. This disease is usually of little consequence. Decline due to rupestris stem pitting has been reported, but is not well-documented. RSPaV is widely distributed and is not targeted for elimination in most certification programs. 

Vitiviruses — GVA, GVB, GVC, GVD

The vitiviruses are a group of viruses associated with the rugose wood disease complex. Four vitiviruses have been discovered in grapevines: grapevine vitivirus A (GVA), grapevine vitivirus B (GVB), grapevine vitivirus C (GVC), and grapevine vitivirus D (GVD).

GVA is associated with Kober Stem Grooving. Affected vines may show swelling at the graft union and fail to thrive. Ungrafted vines may be infected, but usually do not show symptoms. 

GVB is associated with corky bark disease. The disease affects only grafted vines. The severity of corky bark is more pronounced in vines infected with other rugose wood complex viruses. 

Neither GVC nor GVD have been proven to cause disease in grapevine but their structure and genetic profiles have shown that they belong to the vitivirus group.

FLECK 
Grapevine fleck virus —GFkV

GFkV is a graft-transmissible virus that causes symptoms of disease only in V. rupestris. Other Vitis species can be infected but remain asymptomatic. In infected V. rupestris, symptoms include localized clearings (flecks) in the veinlets of young leaves. In older leaves, the symptoms diffuse into a mosaic pattern and the leaves wrinkle and curl upward. Symptoms persist during mild weather and disappear with the onset of hot temperatures. Very little information is available about the economic importance of fleck virus.

OTHER VIRUSES

Many other graft transmissible diseases, likely caused by viruses, can infect grapevines. These include asteroid mosaic, enations, vein necrosis, and vein mosaic, among others. These diseases have been studied to varying degrees, but have never been demonstrated to be common or severe.

Occasionally, new diseases appear that are significant. Recently, a new stem lesion virus disease was discovered in California (see California Agriculture, July-August 2001). Also known as Redglobe virus, this disease can kill vines on certain rootstocks. Continuing research is necessary to identify important new diseases like this and to develop diagnostic tools to help minimize their future impact.

____________________________________

I am struck by the nuanced nature of disease.  You can't see it by just looking at the vines, sometimes it can only be seen by looking at the veins, those little darkened spiderwebs within the leaf that can only be seen by drawing close.  It's like the difference between the tree and the twig.  You can think the tree looks great all the while the twigs are speaking a different story.  

And here's the skinny...until you get closer to your wife, you will keep seeing her as a tree instead of a collection of twigs.  You will see the leaf (the vine), but miss the life (the vein).  Some diseases can be seen from the watchtower within the vineyard.  Discoloration is detected in a section of the vineyard that needs some attention.  But often, the diseases can't be seen without walking through the vineyard, taking each vine in hand and feeling the texture of the the leaf's skin, looking at the changing colors within the vine's veins.  Without this vine-dressing, without this botanic EKG, the wife-vine can begin to die a slow death and unknowingly be left for dead by her husband.  She will even bear fruit during her diseased state, but the wine will start tasting sour, wild (but we will get into that another day).

Suffice it to say, that woman-wine comes forth when she is handled as a veined vine.  The disease/dis-ease that can be avoided with early detection and early treatment is quite profound.  I've found some viruses that have crept into my wife over the years that I've had to treat with Truth-pesticide.  I call it truthicide.

Things like...

- Insecurity stem virus (ISv)

- Replaceable anomoly (Rp A-2)

- Lonley bark syndrome (LBsyn)

- Significance vein strain (SgnVS)  - this strain of disease can't be seen on the surface.

- Discoloration of Face/Joy Disorder - DF/JD

It's been good for me to see my responsibility in fighting these diseases that creep in along the way.  I can't just hope the vine heals itself.  I can't just say, "It's not my fault she has such a low immunity to viral infection."  I'm the vinedresser.  I'm the husbandman.  I have to be protecting the vineyard that is my wife.  

So I keep my eyes on the veins, not just the vine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crawlers...

I'm intrigued by these little buggers found on vines...they are called crawlers...

My wife has thousands of these things sprawling out looking for something to attach to.  The crawlers are questions that need answering like...

1. Do you really love me?
2. Can I rest under your banner of love?
3. Am I secure in your strength?
4. Will you give up on me?
5. Will you abandon me if I don't change?
6. Can I trust you?
7. Do you care about my heart?
8. Am I worth your pursuit?
9. Do you think I'm attractive?
10. Can I hold your attention until "death does us part"?

I wonder what other crawlers could be identified by soul-searching husbands?  Something to think about today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Husbandman...

Psalm 128

A song of ascents.
 1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD, 
       who walk in his ways.

 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor
       blessings and prosperity will be yours.

 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine 
       within your house; 
       your sons will be like olive shoots 
       around your table.

 4 Thus is the man blessed 
       who fears the LORD.

 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion 
       all the days of your life; 
       may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,

 6 and may you live to see your children's children. 
       Peace be upon Israel.

____________________________

A piece of writing written quite obviously to men.  This makes me immediately curious and inquisitive.  What could the author be trying to stir up?  Who was he writing to and how was this guy struggling with his home life?  I'm not gonna lie, there is hardly a subject the interests me more than the home.  The family.  The marriage.  I'm not telling you something you don't already know if you frequent this blog with any regularity.  But I might as well state the obvious if for no other reason to "name my passion".

I have found my heart mulling over this passage for weeks now, each day unfurling a new fold of tender truth.  Each week ushering me into a fresh metaphorical magic of sorts.  Deep magic as C.S. Lewis describes it.  There is something magical about marriage, especially as it is treated in the Scriptures.  

The description of the the wife being a "fruitful vine" jumped off the page a few weeks ago longing to reason with me, reckon with my former judgements and ideologies as it relates to marriage.  I felt invited into new round table discussion, unlearning as much as I could about my preconceived notions and opening myself to new analogical pictures and textures tucked tenderly in the Hebrew text of the Psalter.  It's no secret, this is a fetish of mine...finding neglected nuggets of truth that for years have been left for dead in the Old Testament.  Especially nuggets that relate to men and women.

How is it that the woman could blossom and bear fruit when a man lives and loves well?  What would it take for me to live in such a way as to provoke/evoke such fruitfulness in my wife's heart?  How could I pick the fruit of my loving labor, a toil of chivalrous ilk?  How could I tend the vines of my wife's life to drink of the wines of her soul?  

It didn't take long in in my exploration of this metaphor to happen upon a beautiful, lost word.  Husbandman.  I love how the word husband is rooted in this ancient word, this almost ancient occupation of Husbandry.  I looked up the word looking for a cross-pollinating picture of marriage.  I was pleasantly surprised to unearth some hidden treasure.
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Husbandman/Vinedresser:

A vinedresser, or husbandman, is more than a mere farmer. Grapes are more than an annual crop. The vinedresser's grape vines remain with him for decades. He comes to know each one in a personal way, much like a shepherd with his sheep. He knows how the vine is faring from year to year and which ones are more productive or vigorous than others. He knows what they respond to and what special care certain one's need. Every vine has its own personality. And the vinedresser comes to know it over the years. The vinedresser cares for each vine and nurtures it, pruning it the appropriate amount at the appropriate times, fertilizing it, lifting its branches from the ground and propping them or tying them to the trellis, and taking measures to protect them from insects and disease.
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Robert Scott Stiner writes in his article called [Lessons from a Venetian Vinedresser]… "The rolling hills obscured my view from seeing very far ahead, but as I walked I heard someone singing and stopped long enough to recognize a man’s Italian voice nor far ahead of me.  I approached with caution.  Slowly, I moved into position as if to look at a wild deer before it spots you and leaps off into the forest.  Just as I  go to the crest of the hill, down the same row and about fifty yards ahead of me, was a man.  He didn’t see me, so I  squatted down and watched him working.  He was an Italian man that looked to be in his sixties with silver hair and a few darker traces still left from his younger days.  He had on a long sleeve shirt, work pants and boots.  Hanging out of his pockets were handfuls of those green rubber tubes and in his hand was a pair of small pruners.  He worked alone in this vast vineyard.  After watching him for only a few moments, it was as if the Holy Spirit said, “that’s the vinedresser”.
My mind reeled with excitement as I watched this man and for the first time I saw John chapter fifteen come alive before my eyes.
Here was an old man singing to the vines as if to serenade them as he did the work that only he could do.  Each branch he touched and ran his fingers along it; inspected and trimmed it in such a way that would cause it to bear the most fruit, the best fruit.
He wasn’t in a hurry and the time this process took seemed to be irrelevant to this vinedresser.  It was the end product, even if it would still be a long time away, which was of the utmost relevance."
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I'm continuing to hunt for more of these little jewels.  The forthcoming posts will be the journal entries of my findings.  I hope they enrich you as they are enriching me.

Further up, further in.