History and stories will flow, but for now I will mention the event last Saturday that was Sokol in a nutshell. It was Pinot Gris and Seafood Day, and they were pouring gris from 1998 up through the present release, while Bamboo Sushi was busy putting out scrumptious seafood.
I confess I had never had sushi before, and the oysters and tuna were amazing, really really good, and pinot gris was the perfect thing to sip while noshing the bounty of the sea.
We drove up Breyman's Orchard Rd on our way...I just love to see things from up there...
Here is where it all started, the original homestead...
This is a place I need to figure out how to buy...that way I can put down roots in the heart of Wine Country...
The member's room was hopping under the able hands of Jeff Knapp, a master at making every person he encounters feel like the most important person he has met that day.
An absolute jewel, his dry sense of humor and quick mind serve him well in dealing with all of his carious jobs he carries out with excellence and deft skill.
Over in the tasting room Eric Titus had his forces marshalled with his usual professionalism and cool headedness while he kept things hopping for us peeps, wine flowing and information going forth.
(That is Eric to the right of the 2 pretty ladies so full of class and spirit! It is tough to get a pic of him, as he is always serving, keeping it going!) If you haven't met Eric yet, get up there! This is a guy who knows how to serve and will nurture your wine interests into a full blown obsession...I KNOW! Lol! His kindness and attention to the little things as he serves sets him apart.
Eric was supported by Tomislav Papec, the Tasting Room Manager...what a cool guy. His humor and stories and rakish winning ways provide such a vibe to events...he was right there, helping rolling up his sleeves, chatting us up. He has been a delight to get to know and such a great addition to Sokol. ANd he has such winning ways with the ladies...lol!!
My friend Forrest Schaad was working hard as well...I respect Forrest so much. For one so young to know so much, but not to be one of those arrogant youngster boy-wonder know it alls...he has an amazing future ahead of him and I am blessed to call him friend. (You can also see Eric on the left...hard at work as usual).
We came home with a bottle of the 1998...it was falling off into creme overtones and was distinct, different than other gris I have guzzled...another superb event from a superb place...the heart of Oregon Wine Country, Sokol Blosser.
Check out the short clip to get a little flava from Saturday... http://www.youtube.com/watch
We were already going to be out and about attending the Pinot Gris Release party over at Sokol Blosser, so we decided to stop over at Seven of Hearts as well. Truth be told, we were going there to taste the Burgundies they had advertised to be pouring, and not their own wines.
During Thanksgiving when we went to the big tasting at 12th and Maple Wineworks in Dundee, there were a number of people there pouring, and Seven of Hearts was there...for whatever reason, the wine tasted far too sweet and jammy for my palate...as I recall it had a strong cotton-candy aftertaste, a lot of candied-apple flavor, and was just not my cuppa! So we figured we would just ask for the Burgundy flight, and call it good.
We arrived to a very nice little shop,
...it was a rainy day, not sunny like this picture, but dummy me forgot to snap the exterior.
Once inside, we found the shop quite roomy and bright, and the heavenly aromas of fresh caramel haunted my senses...home made caramel will forever have a special place in my heart, thanks to a neighbor girl, her mom's candy making talent, and sweet childhood kisses...
Byron Dooley was behind the counter pouring his wines,
and his wife Dana was busy back in the kitchen making the wonderful candy.
We were greeted as if we were old friends, and Byron assured us that he was not going to allow us to "just taste the Burgundies" but wanted us to have the experience of his wines next to them. I didn't tell him that I thought I didn't really like his wines, and he was so generous of spirit and kind in nature, that we acquiesed enthusiastically! LOL!
He first poured us his Chardonnay, and again I was stunned by a Chardonney...it was absolutely smack dab on the money! The color was a rich gold, the nose was of apples and lemons...not sour, but like lemon meringue pie, and the palate was soft and firm, with the oak notes from the barrel providing the proper structure without being hectoring like some heavily oaked Chards can be. I immediately looked Byron in the eye and told him that I thought this was one of the best wines I had tasted recently and I genuinely liked it! I do not normally comment right away on what I think of the wines...I like to wait and listen. But this wine was like a bright and cheery beautiful woman...you don't need time to figure out she is gorgeous, though you may well want time to figure herout!
We moved on to his Viognier & Roussanne blend.
It was a new experience for me and by now I was feeling my heart be won over by this genuine winemaker. His passion for his art and his land was easy to see, but he lacks the nearly religious fervor so many are developing...have you noticed the somewhat crazed zeal that is sweeping through the ranks, leading some into the arms of poor wine making decisions as they strive to please some higher principle of harmony...if you read this blog you know I am all about the relationship and the gestalt of all aspects of life...but when one gets too much prominence for improper reasons, problems begin to show, and usually the end result is mediocre wine.
The Viognier/Roussanne blend is Byron's expression of a common blend in Rhone that is a jewel in that region's treasure purse. Byron is responsible for a planting of this varietal in Columbia Valley near Arlington, and I think he will make marks of distinction as he continues to learn the ways of this blend. Having never had it before, I appreciated the ginger hints and lemon promises the Rousanne brought to the apricot/peach flavors of the viognier. The combination lent a bright grassy-herbacious hint that was so refreshing.
We then tasted the Rhone version of this, and it was very nice...honestly I think I liked Byron's better!
Then we began with the pinot noirs...let me just recommend at this point that you head to the shop and taste...there are many, all different in taste and character that are all very nice. However, the one I enjoyed the most was the LUX from the Luminous Hills Vineyard...
Just go taste! You will not regret it!
While we tasted, I wandered around, letting the wines talk, and I listened to Byron tell us about his wine, his land, and as he spoke, his dedication and integrity spoke the most.
There was a beautiful table there, and I hope to return with a group sometime to take our seats at this chivalrous table...
The decorations were tasteful and unique, and they were a good reflection of the medieval name and theme...as well as the candy shop, which kept wafting seductive aromas my way...
Here are some pics I cadged from the site showing somewhat the interior of the shop...
It was not full like this when we were there, and I liked the languid and calm feel of the shop...and the day...one mirrored the other, and I was thinking of this when I decided to snap the really cool big mirror they have there...
Byron mentioned that the vineyard was in an area that is one of my favorite short training rides...up on WIllis Rd here in McMinnville, and that led to an informative train of conversation from him about the individual blocks, the soils, the micro-climates, and his plans for them. Jane wandered over to the candy counter, for she is in a swoon anytime there is chocolate, and Byron had devilishly paired his pinot with some scrumptious chocolate from Dana's alchemical kitchen!
Byron makes his wines at 12th and Maple, and is well acquainted with Chris Baker, so I am certain this will be a fruitful connection for them both.
What a lesson for me that day...it is wise to not be hasty, wise to stay open minded, and wisest of all, before you decide what you think of a wine, talk with the wine maker himself and don't judge too soon...otherwise you will miss out on great wines, and even worse, miss out on great people. I am looking forward to cultivating a long and fruitful relationship with Seven of Hearts, and this very nice man who has a real touch with the vino!
Thanks for a great afternoon, Byron and Dana!
We look forward to our next time, and until then, salud!
In still night the must calls...
pure flute and woodwind spice
scents rising soft, unseen
on bright brass trumpetings
of cunning magic hidden
to work a wonder war
on this old dreary world.
The deep bass heartbeat drums,
comes thrumming thru the must,
and swelling symphony
so old, so new, so fresh...
the dewy year looks up
to see the conductor,
to be heard and be breathed in
... in still night the must calls...
We ride steadily, tired
from our loving labor
and crusted with our works,
and wondering when we'll end
tonight and sleep, and when
we'll rise again, awake
in the new day to work
refreshed, to live again.
The cap is full and thick
and covering liquid fire
that's running deeply dark,
so purplely rich and red,
the twigs, the stems, the seeds
and skins...the must so red...
beneath the silky skins
so softly rich within.
So we punch down up down
Arms push and pull, backs bend,
wide smiles of working joy.
We're captured in its rhythm,
the rhythm of the punch,
our hearts echo the singing
so red beneath our skins...
How many times, the punch?
How many years have sung?
Is this song That, played over
thru wooly years but changéd
instruments and players...
or do we bathe our spirits
in echoes of the echo
of echoes of The Song?
And still we punch...the air,
still, pregnant with passion,
a blanket full and heavy
with yeasty moist desire.
We plunge in--out--and breathe
in heady air that gooses
our heads giddy with wonder
and with creation's dancing
and fragrant must desire
(Desire! Oh Desire...).
Sweat beads, drips, white blood running,
and falling into red,
and tumbling terroir breeding
its brick-bronze grape blood brew...
"unless you drink my blood
you have no life in you"...
Then wet washing, flooding,
the ragged rinsing scours
away all evidences
of work, and only wine
is left fermenting...singing
and playing in the darkness
orchestral magic mysteries
and alchemal aromas
(plum leather chewy cherry
bright red chocolately berry
red purple blowzy jory
cigar-box smoky loam).
The lights dim, darkness drawing
the velvet curtain closed
but underneath: the song,
the must, and still the song...
In dark night the Must beats
so stridently inside me,
its pounding rhythms driving,
its needing, capped and covered
by Crush, and skins...and silver,
the silver punch is raising
and down again comes piercing,
and punching, rending roughly
the crusty carnal cap and
then pulling up the Must from
the purplely unknown deep
(deep calls out unto deep). Oh...
It breaks my stubborn body,
and rends my soul in darkness,
still the Must calls from body
to body...in the darkness.
Up and down and up and down
it pulls and thrusts and pushes
the jangly pain and joy...
The pungent Must shall mingle
with living dirt that's red, red,
red underneath the skins, and
The Song! The Song... is floating...
It beckons, drives and drags me,
chained captive to the Crush and
the skins, the seeds, the stems and
the Must moves on, and in and
the Must moves thru and sings out...
in the night...
in the night...
in the night...
In still night the Must calls...
Video courtesy of Argyle Winery showing the process of punch down
To backtrack a bit...I first met Chris at the Indie Wimemaker's tasting out at the Brookside Inn that I posted about earlier.
He is the Winemaker and creative wine force behind Ancient Cellars.
He is bright, inquisitive, and as kind as they come...and he makes damn good wine to boot! Over the course of time we had opportunity to interact, and I have come to believe that Chris is an up and comer in the industry and will leave us with many great vintages.
His wines are crisp and on point without being overpowering or "wind-bag" wines. Layered in underneath the body of the wine is a fine and elegant structure that balances what the varietal is and what the fruit is and what his vision as a winemaker is. His Pinot Gris, called "Gilt" is as good as any I have had and better by far than most.
Dry but not puckerish, and the most wonderful swirl of citrus, pears, and apple that balance the dryness with sweet nuances. It refreshes the palate and cleanses the soul from a hard day's labor of honest work! As Chris says, this wine is a most excellent "lawn mowin' wine"!
His Pinot Noir is a solid example of upper echelon Oregon Pinot Noir, and shows well early with promises that the years will be very kind to this wine.
Named for a duck that was put into the pain locker by a vehicle (at the cost of all but one toe), it has the silky texture of a fine leather glove pulled tightly over a very strong, supple and capable hand.
Chris has a real knack for combining elements of his training in the sciences with elements of his soul and the result is very very nice. I give Ancient Cellars an unqualified recommendation, and urge you all to try any of their wines, and to get behind a true rising star of the future.
- Current Location:McMinnville
- Current Mood: content
- Current Music:Ida
...posts on tasting with Et Fille, touring with Ancient Cellars, tasting at R. Stuart in downtown McMinnville, some thoughts about our Christmas time, and some end of last year wine stuff...
“ Grandpa! Please, please tell us a story,” the young children exclaimed.
They were seated in the lap of a man who had seen many, many years. His gnarled, rough hands were like the branches of an oak tree, and his hair was thick and full, and white as snow. His face was a harvest apple in January—wrinkled and browned, but sweet to the taste. He was old as the hills and yet his eyes…full of light and joy, tears and grief, brokenness made whole… they made this old trooper seem like an eager child on Christmas Eve! He gazed down at his grandchildren, Young Frederick on his right knee, sweet Caroline on his left.
“So!” he boomed. “‘Tis a story you be wanting, is it my sprites? Well then! ‘Tis a story you’ll be getting, only then you’ll have to run off to your beds! For tomorrow we celebrate HIS birthday, and GLORY what a celebration we’ll have, eh? Frederick, throw some more wood on that fire whilst Sweet Caroline and I scoot closer to it.”
Frederick jumped down to obey. The old man rose with his granddaughter under one arm like a kitten, and with a casual flick of his wrist he tossed his huge oaken chair about three feet closer to the fire, like it was made of twigs. He sat down, and Sweet Caroline squirmed up his chest and wormed her arms around his corded neck. “Grandpa,” she said with a solemn face, “Tell us about your journey. Tell us about Him.”
“Yeah!” Frederick chimed in excitedly as he launched himself upon his grandpa. “Tell us about when you were The Light King, and when you went to see Him when He came, and about Gillae and Brownie and—“
“Whoa, slow down my bumpkins,” interrupted the old man. “You’ve heard that story so many times it must be nearly worn out from the telling! Surely you’d rather hear about how your papa, the King, killed the ugly dragon, Ba’alzamon, or about how he rescued the beautiful Princess Katherine and made her his Queen and your mother?”
“NO GRANDPA!” they shouted in concert. “Tomorrow ‘s the Day--—His day and it’s your day too, said Frederick.
“Yes, Grandpa,” said Sweet Caroline. “It’s my favorite story, to hear how you met Him and everything. Please, Grandpa, oh please?”
The old man sat looking back and forth between them as if caught deep in indecision. He glared at them in mock irritation while delight danced in his eyes. The children sat in suspense, hardly daring to breathe, hearts straining with desire to hear the magical story. Sweet Caroling looked at Frederick, and had a giggling fit. Frederick shushed her with an agonized frown and the darkness of the night pressed in through the windows as they huddled close to the fire. The room was full of lamps, all of them unlit and dormant. The fire popped and crackled fiercely. The old man drew in a deep breath, held it, just to build the suspense and then exhaled in mock resignation and secret gladness.
“Oh very well you smooth talkers. The tale is yours for the telling.” Frederick let out a whoop and Sweet Caroline accompanied him with gleeful clapping. “I swear! You two could talk an elephant out of his trunk while making him feel he was the talk of the town for the bargain! Okay then—gather close and settle in, and you shall hear the telling of
He took a deep breath, and began…
“‘Twas on this very day, 77 years ago that I left this very castle, LIGHTSHINE HEARTHHOME and began the journey. I was sick, and full of torment. The fever upon me was getting worse. The times I felt whole and pain free were fewer and shorter, as aches and hurts grew like hungry dragons feasting on my days and devouring my nights.
“The Light King” they called me then, though the name was given first in mocking jest. But King I was…then. Before the pain there was not a man under my eye that didn’t pledge his all for mine. What needed doing we did! No hesitation or moment of indecision! Strength it took, and strength I had! But it left me, strength, deserted me just when I needed it the most to fight off afflictions that no sword and shield could slash or beat down.
I loved the light in those days—and now—more than all else! I remember how sunlight through clouds and moonlight through trees fascinated me. I wanted to touch that light! To hold it, to drink it, to breathe it! To live IN it…ah. In those days men said there was a shine upon me not seen around others, a shine that matched my strength. But my strength began to fade, and the shine began to cease.
I was terrified. Oh, I put on a brave face, but secretly I cried in desperate agony and fear. I began to collect lamps and fill LIGHTSHINE HEARTHHOME with as much light as possible—lamps in the kitchen and lights in the hall, lamps in the library, wherever I could fit them. But the more lamps I brought inside the castle, the less light I had inside of me! It was like they were stealing their light from mine and burning my strength for fuel. The castle and all in it was brighter, but me—I was growing dimmer, fading you might say.
I heard whispers behind my back, and “LIGHT KING” became a mocking title because I had so many lamps and so little light. Oh, to my face it was all peaches and cream, but behind the curtain I was mocked as a laughingstock—king in name and calling only. Always remember: position and riches do not royalty make. It takes qualities of spirit that cannot be bought, but only earned.
Then it got worse. The dreams began—awful dreams of agony and torment over what I saw in the dreams. I feared going to sleep, and with the coming night came dread as well, to lie like a great monstrous dog across the foot of my bed.
“Oh, Grandpa,” gasped Caroline. “What were the dreams about?”
Ahh. They were about a new baby who became a noble man. This man was…well, it’s hard to say after all these years…he was light! I know that seems like an odd way to tell whom someone is, but there it is.
He’d be laying there, a new baby shining like a diamond, and right before my dreaming eyes he’d grow up into a man, who was LIGHT!
He was incredible to behold! Not exactly handsome, or attractive, even…but he was beautiful! And if I was “The Light King’, then he was King of Lights! I thought if he’d just reach out and touch me, then I’d be so full of such light as’d never fade nor flicker and the pain would be eaten up and I’d be strong again!
But then the awful part of the dream started. The darkness took on shape, like dragons and daemons, and it gathered against my King of Lights and tore him with claws of hatred. It beat him and broke him into a bloody horror. Then he was nailed to the stake and blood was everywhere. Finally the darkness set its teeth into his torn body to drag him down into its maw…deeper and deeper down…I screamed in rage and terror and ran to him and grabbed him to keep him from being pulled down into the blackness. But I wasn’t strong enough and I was dragged down with him into the pit and I wasn’t brave enough to hold on and face the terror at his side so I let go in despair and shame…and woke up screaming and weak, dim and dying. This nightmare happened all night every night, and it was killing me.
I was near death when the Star King and the Mountain King arrived. The Star King had seen great portents in the sky of a Mighty One who was to be born, and together with the Mountain King was making pilgrimage to do him homage. To survive this journey they needed the support that my treasury could offer them, and they desired me to accompany them! The fading Light King—nearing death, and I was supposed to help them? But I was intrigued by these tidings. A mighty one born in my lifetime. “Perhaps the Mighty One of All,” the Star King kept saying. It stirred…truly and deeply.
The kings stayed with us three days, and I was determined to accompany them despite being in no condition to make such an arduous journey. We had no idea where we were going, or how far it was. All we had was a new star that the Star King said sang to him to follow until it stopped where the Mighty One was. I would most likely die before I returned and yet…I knew in my heart of hearts that I was destined for such a quest.
And so we set out that fateful morning so long ago. The Star King had a big barrel of frankincense to give to the Mighty One. The Mountain King had a big chest of gold to give to Him. ‘What will you give Him?’ they asked me. I laughed in mirthless despair. What could such as I give to such as Him? I would most likely be dead before we found Him, but I said, if I was not dead, then I would give Him myself. HA, HA—a joke on the Mighty One—a dead King as a gift. So, I loaded my pack animals with food, water, and a large trunk full of burial spice—myrrh. It would most likely be used on me before we arrived, but if not, then I would complete the joke and give it to the Mighty One in the face of death, as a down payment for his dead King. My subjects lined the roadway and cheered us—some in jest and some in sorrow. Deep inside it was like everyone knew I was not coming back alive.
We traveled for months, following that star, and I grew weaker and weaker, and my dreams more and more terrible. I saw each blow of the whip and heard each gasp from His mouth. I saw each drop of living blood fall, liquid ruby light. I saw each time He was hit. I saw every crystal tear drop, and I saw the hammer fall time and again as it drove the nails through Him and stuck Him to the stake. I saw Him dropped into the earth like a broken sword in the midst of an empty grave. I needed constant care but death like the tide just kept creeping closer and closer.
Finally one night, in the dreams, I held onto the King of Lights as He was drawn down. Deeper and deeper into the teeth of the darkness I was pulled, but still I held on, down into such hell itself. The pressure and sorrow and grief and the undead dark were overwhelming and again, in shame and despair I had to let go and seek the light of the world I knew. But I couldn't find my way back. I was lost, and in the darkness, I wandered alone. The Star King and the Mountain King thought me dead and left me with all that I brought.
And I lay, I know not how long.
Sensations swirled behind the darkness that I wandered in, and in the tenuous patterns slowly formed. I listened eyes closed, and was comforted by noises that gave me hope all was not lost. Bells…voices …and then I noticed aromas of fields and wet wool…SHEEP! That was it! I was walking in a dark cloud surrounded by sheep!
A rough, wet, slobbery thing touched my cheek and my forehead. I was being LICKED! I pushed out with my hands and found the rich wooly coats of sheep gathered round me. I was not walking upright in the darkness at all, but was actually laying on my back in a dewy, cold field, and these sheep were gathered around me, licking me like I was Hiram the Shepherd’s salt lick!
“Gillae, come quick! An angel lays in our midst, fallen and ill!” I heard a high-pitched young voice scream. I turned my head and the world tilted violently as I did and I felt sick and began to groan and heave in dry wracking spasms.
“HIE! Back off there, Brownie! Not too close! After what we just went through I be not wanting ye to take any chances! Let us have a lookee!” The voice that spoke was like a waterfall’s roar, deep and loud, and not a little alarmed. With all my might I tried to turn to look, but before I could I felt a hard rap to my ribs and a persistent jabbing. The fool was poking me with a stick!
“WHAT BE YE!?” shouted the voice! “Speak up, now, and be quick about it! We are in no mood for further shocks and surprises, for the events of the night have greatly unsettled us!” Somehow I managed to get my head turned and my eyes open, and there I beheld a giant of a man.
He rose from the ground like the Yule Tree in the Castle Courtyard. At the top of his head was the bushiest, tangledest mop of hair that ever crowned a head! His beard was long and it moved in the wind with a life of its own. His hands were like shovels, and they held a staff the size of a small sapling! His eyes flashed brightly in the moonlight, and his teeth glistened like pearls as he spoke to me. He was one of the most commanding men I have ever met.
“Hie! I’m talking to you, there! Be ye man or be ye angel or be ye demon!?"
“I’m just a king” I managed to choke out.
“A king? You are a….KING?” The giant threw back his head and laughed like his sides were split. “You are no king, that is for certain! Brownie, bring us a light.”
A small, slight boy stepped from behind the man, bearing aloft a lamp. He was quick and well built, and had a pleasant, intelligent air about him. He gave the lamp to the giant shepherd, who scrutinized me closer.
“Hmm. Now that I can see things more clearly I am certain that you are no angel either. You do not seem to be much of anything!”
“He’s no king...is he Gillae?” said Brownie, seeking reassurance from the big man.
“Back away there Brownie,” Gillae said, and he took the lamp and drew it close to my face, and began to study me intently. His gaze was piercing, but strangely inspiring, and I felt life begin to flow again. I stirred myself to his challenge, and sat up to return his look. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed there were several other shepherds on the fringe of the lamp’s circle of light.
“By the Maker,” said I, “King I am…in a land far away. ‘Tis true that I do not look like a king, nor feel much better, but far I have journeyed to find the end of my travels. I seek the treasure of the ages. And why, by the heavens do you talk of such things as angels and demons?”
“Hmmm…perhaps I see royalty in yer veins, it may be as ye say”, Gillae said. “‘Tis evident that you have many miles of a journey upon ye, and ye are not well. But after this night’s drama it is no wonder that we knew not if you were human or inhuman. But ye speak of treasure…what is this treasure that a king would leave home and kingdom for?”
So I told him of the Mighty One that we sought, of the star that traveled and moved, and drew us on to the One. I told him of my illness and of my companions who had gone on without me, and Gillae grew evermore full of wonder and comprehension. Finally I was too weak to go on.
I raised my arm towards the sky, and gestured weakly at the night, at the star that still shone brightly and steadily overhead, silently shouting of great wonders.
“I must find Him!” I gasped. “I must….”
Gillae rubbed his chin, regal as any king I ever saw and sat silent and brooding as he considered all the things I had said. He was weighing my story, weighing me by some measure that I knew not but I cared very much to be found adequate and worthy of his good judgement.
A short and chubby shepherd stepped up to Gillae and began to speak to him in whispered tones that I couldn’t make out. Gillae nodded and answered something back, and then the little butterball stepped back to the small group of shepherds and began to urge them out to the flocks, and there they went to work gathering the sheep together as if to make a journey.
“Well, King. You are fortunate that we happened upon you. Our good man Dannaeo says that we should bring you with us on our journey, and I concur. It seems that your quest overlaps considerably with an errand that we have recently been…charged with. The boys are gathering the sheep, and when they are finished, we will fashion a means to take you with us.”
“Sir Shepherd,” I said, “you have mentioned dramatic and unsettling events. Pray tell, what happened to you and how did you stumble upon me?”
Gillae fixed his eyes upon me and stared sharply. He shifted his great bulk and rubbed his jaw reluctantly.
“Please, Sir, speak up,” I commanded in as regal a manner as I could summon. He cast his eyes down, and said “Very well Sir King. I will tell you enough to get us all to the fold in the same herd, but most pressing is our errand.
“Nigh on three hours past sunset the boys and me were on the move from yon ridgeline headed toward this very field to set the flock in for the night. It is well protected and the sheep love the sweet grass of this swale. Brownie had the flock well bunched and moving a good clip. Up at the head of the copse yonder we began to allow the flock to spread out, and we looked for firewood in amongst the trees. Dannaeo rustled up some grub and soon we were cozy in the shelter and settling in for a cold but not unpleasant evening.
“Several of the boys were nodding off and there was peace in the still night. But things began to change. I noticed that the sheep were restless and stirred myself to look for some slinker that wanted an easy meal. The air grew heavy, and shivery like, and then began to glow with golden glimmers that grew brighter each passing moment. Suddenly there was a brilliant burst, like when a big knot bursts in the midst of a roaring fire, and standing before us was a gigantic shining man! I must confess that I was undone, and I fell to my face before him like a dead man.”
“YOU DID NOT, GILLAE!” shouted an outraged high-pitched voice. I looked over and saw that young Brownie had been lingering on the edge of our conversation listening in. He rushed into our midst and began to shout, “Gillae is always changing things around to cover up his bravery! He is the biggest and bravest shepherd of all, and he stood up to that guy and made him tell us wh---“
“Hush yourself Brownie!” Gillae said sternly. “Since when did I ever teach you that it was polite to eavesdrop on the conversation of others, let alone listen in to a royal report to a King?”
Brownie dropped his eyes and hung his head. “Umm, never sir” he mumbled.
“What was that, young whelp? I can’t hear you,” Gillae chastised, all the while managing to conceal the indulgent look in his eye. It was evident to me that Gillae loved Brownie very much, and was secretly pleased with the spunk and spirit of the young shepherd.
“Brownie, it is important that ye learn to listen twice as much as you talk. This will please the Maker to see you use EACH of your ears so when you return to Him you will be full of wisdom and not emptied of sense.”
“Aww, yes Sir” Brownie mumbled, but then his fire rose up and he just couldn’t help himself, bursting out with ”but Gillae, if this is a king he should KNOW of what you are!”
“That will be QUITE enough, Jubal Dripsten…do you HEAR me!” This time the note of command and chastening was unmistakable and evident. “Back to the flock with ye, and make things ready. Have Mikkens and Towser fashion a litter upon which we can bear our companion. Sir King, I apologize for this whelp. He is young and impetuous.” Gillae followed Brownie’s departure with his gaze.
“No apologies needed, Sir Shepherd” I retorted. “I too have been his age. But pray tell me more, and do feel free to give me the FULL story.” I sensed that there was more to the tale than Gillae was telling…indeed there was more to this man than he was revealing.
“Oh, well. Let’s see…where was I?” he muttered.
“I believe you were laying on the ground like a dead man?” I remarked dryly.
Gillae shot a hot look at me that bordered on anger, but then he got a hold of himself.
“Yes…laying on the ground. Well it turns out this was the angel of the Lord, and he gave us word that the Redeemer of All Things had just been born. We were supposed to find Him in Bethlehem and declare His birth to all that we meet. Then the angel disappeared, and all was still. So we roused ourselves, and set off towards Bethlehem. Just minutes later we stumbled across you, and now you know the rest of the story.”
I looked Gillae squarely in the eye but he quickly cast his eyes down, and I was certain that he was not telling me everything. I just nodded, and said “Well, Sir Gillae, what now? Off to this Bethlehem, to see the King?”
“Aye, that is the path for us all.” Gillae answered.
He stood quickly and began to call to the others. Mikkens and Towser came over to me carrying a rickety looking litter and my baggage. They gently picked me up and placed me on the litter and then lifted me up onto their shoulders.
“I am sorry, good men to be a burden unto you. Thank you for your sacrifice and good hearts.”
“Sir King, I tell you that you are light, not heavier than a yearling lamb” said Mikkens.
“Aye”, echoed Towser. It is our privilege to carry you. It is not every shepherd that gets to carry a King to meet a King.”
And off we went, Gillae leading the way, the flock following close at heel, the group of shepherds scattered round them, and then Mikkens, Towser and I bringing up the rear. We travelled an hour or so in this manner, following the star, men speaking to one another in hushed expectant tones.
As we travelled, I marveled at the endurance of my 2 bearers, and I could not help but reflect on the difference between these 2 and my previous 2 companions. One thing was becoming evident the more time I spent with these shepherds: Royalty is not a title or station in life, but rather a way of being that is oriented towards joyful sacrifice. Perhaps my bearers were kings more than the ones who had left me to die.
After a while, I started to doze off, rocked by the soft motion of our travel.
I was startled by a voice and woke to find myself staring into Brownie’s intense gaze.
“Gillae wasn’t telling you the whole story, and I think you should know it, being a king and all. I don’t know much about kings, you being the only one I ever met” (and with this he eyed me dubiously), “but I can tell you that Gillae is braver than any man I ever met, and he is stronger and more giving than any person alive. Many times we have all been too tired to take our watches and we fall asleep, only to wake and see him on guard, over us and the sheep both. And in truth, tonight's events have only added to his exploits!”
“Brownie” said I, “You have all seemed on edge and wary, and of course all of your hints and outbursts tell me there is more going on here than meets the eye. What exactly befell you on this evening of wonders?”
Brownie looked forward at Gillae to make sure he wasn’t listening…and no fear of that for Gillae was leading, and walking at ready as if expecting an attack of robbers, or worse. Then in a low voice, Brownie began to speak.
“Well, it all happened like Gillae said, but when the gigantic man appeared to us, we fell to the ground like dead men, but not Gillae! He stepped forward and raised his staff, and challenged the newcomer to identify himself as friend or foe, and if foe to prepare to meet his doom. The giant shining guy began to speak to us as we all clung to the ground like babes to their nursemaids.
I will never forget his words:
“His voice hung in the air like a living thing, and was frightening but beautiful. He said he was the angel of the Lord come from the throne of the Maker.
‘But what are we supposed to do, break into people’s houses?’ Gillae said. The angel gave a thunderous blast with his voice, that must have been angelic laughter, and it both chilled and invigorated my soul.
“’A manger'" Gillae replied. ‘What kind of king is it that is born a Savior yet is lying in a feeding trough?’
When he said this, the guy just threw back his head and again thundered a laugh. But bold Gillae demanded proof that he was the angel of the Lord, and not some seducing deceiver from the Breaker’s dungeons. He actually stepped forward and thrust his staff into the face of the angel!
When he did this, the angel rose straight up about 50 feet, and clapped his hands three times…and the night split open and rolled back like a scroll and in its place was light like you cannot imagine! It was like a hole had opened in the night, and the shadows were torn away, and Heaven’s own glory was invading the dark earth, and if you think we were scared before, we were simply undone now!
For as the light rushed through the tear in the night it filled up the air around us. This light was SOUND! Crazy I know, but the light was music, and the music I heard was the light! But the worst was yet to come, for suddenly, out of the very midst of this heavenly light angels began to pour forth.
Hundreds upon hundreds, and thousands upon thousands! Like grains through the glass they came, each one singing loudly at the top of its lungs!
Over and over they sang this, and the song took wings and flew forth from around us out into the world. It is flying still, of this I am sure, to the darkest and loneliest places in the world. It is a song that will never be stopped. It will live with heaven’s life and all that hear its triumphant ring will thrill in their hearts with hope and comfort and joy.
“As this all happened even Gillae was knocked down, but while we all buried our heads in our arms and sought to hide in the dirt, I snuck a peak at Gillae. He lay on his back, face unveiled and eyes alight. As the gigantic angel of the Lord sang, he flew round and round over Gillae’s head and Bold Gillae just laughed in great bellows almost as loud as the angels.
And then, things started to go backwards-like, and trickled in reverse, and began to flow upwards, back to heaven, until only the angel of the Lord was left.
Gillae stood immediately, and the angel’s booming laugh echoed in my head, and he said
“’Bring them on!’ shouted Gillae. ‘The evil doers will regret the day they opposed the Maker, and shall be sent back to the chaos that spawned them,’ and Gillae brandished his staff towards the angel of the Lord in skillful and dangerous flourishes!
The angel rose up on high with a loud shout, and then with a clap like thunder disappeared in a lightning bolt! All was still, except for the gentle wind and the sound of our hearts hammering in our heads and the echo of Heaven’s Choirs ringing in our ears.
We lay there like dead men, but Gillae roused us up and said ‘Come lads! Heard ye not the angel of the Lord? We have a KING to find.’
“We slowly lifted our heads, still quaking from Heaven breaking into the night, but as the seconds passed, we got excited, for Gillae was jabbering and encouraging us constantly, prodding us with his voice like we were sheep on the business end of his staff."
Brownie was silent after this, and I waited for him to resume. He glanced around uneasily, and then looked at me as if I might still just be a phantom.
“Speak on, Brownie” said I.
“Well, Sir King, off we went as the angel had said, but suddenly we heard something that chills the bones of shepherds everywhere…the lonesome sinister howl of a hungry wolf!
“’Hie! To the flock men!’ shouted Gillae. ‘Remember the angel’s warning! We have a king to find! Let nothing quench your heart! Defend the flock!’
And then they were on us in a flash, 6 big, black wolves with red eyes and yellow teeth. They were taller than my head, and the likes I have never seen and hope never to see again. We tried to stand, but the howling, slashing mouths were terrifying! I was frozen in fear, and one of them actually had me by my cloak, and was dragging me off to eat me, but Gillae came flying out of nowhere in a leaping shouting whirling wind of vengeance.
He whacked those skulkers with his staff, and their bones cracked like kindling! They crumpled with yelps of pain and death, but still Gillae pressed on for though 3 were slain, the rest had him surrounded. He circled as they darted in and slashed, and parried each attack. The rest of us were milling about chasing the sheep so we were no help to him as he fought for his life and ours.
“But then the air grew cold, like the grave, and a dank foul smell arose from some evil place. Life was draining out of me and I wanted to run away. I glanced at Gillae and saw that something blacker than night was floating toward him. It was like a tear in the night that let in death and despair and it was painful to look at.
Gillae slashed at the wolves and cracked the head of one like a ripe melon as he backed off from the dark thing. He drew himself up to his full stature and shouted ‘HALT FOUL HELL SPAWN!’ Leave us for we are on a mission for the Maker!’
“Everything was still, and then from the midst of the black, 2 red eyes opened and an awful black hole gaped like a mouth. From the midst of the dark came a scream so evil it must have been from hell.
At this, my knees DID buckle, but still I looked on at Gillae. I thought that if I could just keep my eyes on him I would be safe.
When Gillae heard that death cry, he actually threw his head back and laughed!
‘Be OFF with your foul self!’ he commanded.
And the thing actually stopped. But then IT spoke, and the sound was terrible, like the squeaking of a cemetery gate. It dug savagely into my mind.
‘You have no authority to make such command’ it hissed. ‘For your insolence I shall stop your heart and feed it to my wolves!’ the thing continued. ‘You have no part of this. But, in my great mercy I may let you live and even give you wealth and fame and comfort! But you must walk away and leave the night to us.’
“Gillae jumped forward with a war whoop and swung his staff with all his might right at the center of this thing, and screamed ‘In the name of the Baby King and Heaven’s Song I come against you to the death and I rebuke you!’
And with that his staff found its mark. The demon gave a scream of pain, fear, and rage mingled with defeat, and then with a bang the monster was gone!
Gillae looked at me as I sat speechless and frozen in fear. The great man winked and nodded, and gently said ‘Eh, Brownie, pick up your jaw and rise up! We have a flock to lead and a king to find!’
And then he was off to slay the remaining wolves.
“I hurried off across the field in search of the sheep, and that is when I stumbled over you! All this time you had been out of it, lying in the field while angels and demons made war round about you. I looked over for Gillae just as he slew the last 2 beasts, and hollered for him, and, well, you pretty much know the rest. Can you see why we were uncertain regarding yourself? After what we had been through you could have been nearly anything! It is funny when you think about it…we found our king all right, but one who was old and dying, rather than a newborn babe who is called Wonderful Counselor!”
Brownie walked in silence and I pondered what he’d said.
Finally I said “Thank you for the tale Brownie. I understand why you are such a fierce defender of Gillae. He is brave AND modest, a rare and pleasing combination. Your testimony is true and loyal.”
“Aye, and it is also too much talking and not enough working!” that booming familiar voice thundered. There stood Gillae, big as a horse! He had slipped back to us unnoticed as we talked, and overheard everything Brownie said. Brownie hung his head and hurried off to help the other men with the flock.
“Forgive the boy, Sir King” Gillae requested. “He is forward and given to bragging. It is to my detriment that I have not succeeded in instilling within him some restraint.”
“On the contrary, Sir Shepherd,” I answered. “He is a bright boy, and I sense his story is true, yes? A more complete picture worthy of reporting to a king?”
Gillae reddened and inhaled sharply. “I am reluctant to speak about such things” Gillae answered quietly. And then Gillae would speak no more on the subject.
After a while, Dannaeo fell back to walk with Gillae and Mikkens and Towser and I. “We draw near, Sir King,” he said.
Gillae looked intently at me and said “Know that all is not as it seems. High is come down and low is lifted up. Light is cloaked and darkness becomes light. Even as He comes, so too must you come.” I was at a loss when he spoke, but my heart stirred at the promise of light. Gillae gazed at me unblinking, eyes glowing.
I looked back in exhausted confusion. “What do you mean, Gillae?”
“I will say no more, lest I put you in danger of pride. Only realize that to rise you must descend, to be found you must be lost. Take heart and be bold. Believe your heart, and remember your dreams!”
“Remember them!” I repeated in pain. “I spend all my waking hours trying to forget them!”
“Nevertheless, again I bid you—REMEMBER THEM! For the Master wastes nothing.”
We finally came to the outskirts of a small town and the Star stopped, and fell lower and lower until it was drawn impossibly near to earth and hovered there, motionless in stellar proclamation of heavenly portents.
The town was bursting at the seams with impossible crowds of people all trying at once to find food and lodging. We came to the inn, and I was sure that Gillae and the boys would get a room for me to rest and prepare to meet the Mighty One. But they walked straight on by with nary a glance! Down a narrow lane into an even narrower alley, flock and all, only to enter into the gloomy darkness of a smelly, dirty old stable!
“Gillae, why do we come to THIS place,” I asked him in confusion.
“Listen in your heart, and you will know, Sir King,” he answered, “but if you are deaf, then lift up your head and you will see the star over your head like a bonfire of comfort and joy.”
And I looked up and there it was in its beauty to take away your breath. I looked around us and saw animals, some people (shepherds mostly), and even Kings! Yes—the Star King and the Mountain King had found this decrepit place, too.
But no one was looking at us. They were all looking at a manger, or rather, the small baby who lay in the manger. He was newly born and at peace.
The Star King wore a look of disbelief. The Mountain King seemed disappointed, like someone at the end of a long, unfruitful quest.
I cleared my throat, and said weakly, “Hail and well met fellow kings. Why be you in this god-forsaken place?”
The Star King glanced, then did a double take. “Hail and well met fellow King,” he replied in astonishment. “We thought you dead this night. Even now you look more dead than living. But alas for us all. We came looking for the Mighty One of whom the Star sings, but found only yon babe and vanity!”
Gillae spoke up, eyes blazing: “Good King, yon babe IS the Mighty One! Do not err! Take heed my counsel: to rise up you must bend down. The eye of pride cannot see the light of humility.”
I glanced at the Star King to gauge his response, but he merely stared at Gillae like he were some dirty peasant beneath his notice and station. I looked back at the baby, and noticed a man and a woman seated near the manger looking overwhelmed by all the attention and commotion.
All at once, the babe opened his eyes, and gazed straight into mine. I felt lost in their depths.
Then I heard a Voice… “Come to Me, Light-King,” it said.
I looked all around but I couldn’t see who was speaking. Suddenly Gillae was thrusting his staff against my back, pushing me towards the babe.
“Go on, quickly!” he hissed. “The Master calls you.” I laughed out loud.
“The Master? Him? That helpless babe? Surely you jest. He is no more master than you are, Sir Shepherd!”
Brownie ran up to stand at Gillae’s side. “Go on,” he urged. “Remember what Gillae told you! ‘…As He comes, so to must you come...’ He sent for you: now you must answer Him!” I looked back and forth between the baby and my friends.
“Remember your dreams!” called Gillae.
“Yes,” said the Voice. “Remember your dreams.”
Suddenly I realized that the baby before my eyes was the same one I had dreamt of for all those years! He was the King of Lights who was savaged by darkness. I gasped in awe and terror. If the dream baby was real, were the dreams real as well?
"Yes, they are,” he said. It was the baby who had spoken, though His lips had not moved. The Voice I was hearing was His!
“Draw near to me, my Light King and learn the meaning of these things.” He called me “Light King”, but in his mouth it was not a curse but instead was a caress.
I knelt at the side of the manger. Memories swept over me and in pain I wept. Tears ran down my face and crowned the baby’s brow. His tiny hand reached out and grabbed me with a grip stronger than life, stronger than death. I tried to pull away. But he held me stronger than chains and looked into me.
“My precious Light King. I called you. You answered. I prepared you. I send you. But first I will heal you.”
The stable fell away and we were in my dreams, only this time he held onto me. Darkness came rushing at us with hungry teeth and sharp screams. I was terrified. Claws of dark tore at Him and His light bled out and the darkness took us down, down deeper into Hell.
I screamed and tried with all my might to get free but He held me there with him. The awful stake came and pinned Him there with nails of death, but still He held onto me, and still we went down. His light was pouring out, but we went down deeper than I’d ever been in any of my dreams.
He took me down all the way. It was there, at the bottom that I saw what I’d never been able to see before…the ending of all His light at the bottom of the end of down.
I screamed in despair, certain that all was lost.
But then came His blood in a rush!
His light had made a way into Dark’s evil heart and the flood of His blood raced on the heels of the Light! Dark thought it devoured His light, but Dark was deceived! Like an arrow straight and true Darkness was pinned and blood consumed it.
And by His blood the Breaking was broken,
and by His blood death undone.
By His blood all light resumed flowing,
by His blood all healing begun.
From the lowest, most impossible place of all, we began to rise, He and I and still His marvelous hand gripped me. We were rising on a tide of living light; lifted by the flow of His blood and He sang with victory and triumph!
Bruised and poured out from on high,
The Blood King’s battle now is done
And Death’s devoured by victory!
King of Lights, Eternal Fount
The Blood King conquers every foe
Rising with triumphant shout
Peace, Goodwill to those laid low!
As He sang the light grew brighter and blood redly ran deep and wide and we were high and lifted up, and still He held me. He held me! And I understood.
The stable came back. I was still kneeling beside the manger; my tears were still His crown. The others had all gathered close and were waiting in a hush.
The baby let go of my hand. He turned His tiny head and looked at the side of the manger. The point of a careless nail protruded starkly through the wood. Slowly, deliberately, He reached His tiny hand toward it. The woman perceived His intent, and started forward to stop Him, but the man stopped her.
The baby covered that nail point with His hand, and then, deliberate and slow, He pushed His palm against the nail. He never hesitated; he never even winced. He drew back his hand, and there in His palm lay a red pearl of great price—a drop of His innocent blood.
He reached His wounded palm out to me and then He pressed it against my forehead like a kiss… and my pain was gone. My grief and sorrow vanished, and I was healed, and filled with light—HIS very light!
I rose and ran to my packs and drew out the chest of myrrh. I took it to the baby and laid it at his feet.
“Oh my Blood King, my death is your death, and your life is my life,” I said. I was still weeping, but now with tears of joy and gratitude.
The Star King and the Mountain King were transformed by these events came and they bowed low, laying their gifts at His feet. They had found the Song of the Star!
Gillae, Brownie, Dannaeo, Mikkens and Towser also stepped forward. The Baby giggled and petted each one. They received His touch like knights receiving the dubbing of their King’s sword.
Gillae turned to me and said, “I see now, Light King, the hidden ways of the Master. I honor Him and acknowledge you, His messenger and Giftbearer.”
The old man’s voice faltered and grew and silent. He seemed lost in memory. Sweet Caroline and Frederick waited, and waited for him to continue, but finally Frederick could wait no longer.
“Finish the story Grandpa! PUH—LEEZE!”
“Yes, oh yes”, chimed in Sweet Caroline. “What happened next?”
“Huh?” asked the old man. “Oh. Sorry my bumpkins, I was just remembering. Well I told the Star King and the Mountain King all that had happened to me and introduced them to my shepherd friends. Then an angel told us to go home a different way. Seems the Breaker had gotten hold of an evil king’s heart. But that’s the stuff of other tales.
"I finally arrived back at LIGHTSHINE HEARTHHOME exactly two years to the day I had departed. Everyone was shocked to see me. They thought I had died. And –in a way—I had. They had let all the lights go out.
"Except for your dad! Maker’s hands, he had kept his burning for me, and he stepped out of the crowd that day, marched straight up to me, and proclaimed, 'BEHOLD THE LIGHT KING!' And nobody laughed, for it was finally, impossibly true.”
"And all the dead lamps, Grandpa”, asked Sweet Caroline. “Did you light them?”
“Yes Grandpa,” echoed Frederick. “Did you bring light back home?”
The old man was quiet, and then said simply, “Yes. I did.”
“Oh, show us, Grandpa. Please show us,” the children begged in unison.
“Now, now,” protested the old man. “It’s time for bed, you fuzzyheads! Come into my arms and I’ll carry you to your room.
“Oh, Grand-pa!” they wailed, but they obeyed.
He hoisted them like they were babes and turned to leave the fire’s light. He hesitated, and then he strode over to a dark, lifeless lamp, and stood still a moment. The Children, one under each arm, looked at each other excitedly and held their breath.
And then...the old man breathed on the lamp...WHOOSH...and laughed as light
leapt up in the lamp in answer to the call of his breath.
The old man laughed and danced around the room, swinging the children high and breathing upon lamp after lamp until the whole room had blossomed, ablaze in light, and then he whisked the children out of the room and whirled down the hall to their room.
Some time later, he emerged.
“Hello Father”, came a deep, strong voice.
The speaker was a tall, noble man with grey streaks of wisdom in his beard and a golden crown upon his head.
The old man looked up and grinned. “Hello son, err, Your Highness,” he bowed with only a hint of teasing.
“Kids settled in, Father?” asked the King. “I was just coming to tuck them in."
“Oh yes. I expect you’ll find them ready and waiting. Ready and waiting”.
The king looked at his father…all dressed beautiful red—like blood—and hair white as snow and shinning bright.
“You’re putting’ on a little weight, there Father. Your belly looks like jelly!’
“Aye, that it does, son, that it does. Too much ale and good cooking’ I guess.”
“But you look healthy, dad. By the Star—you look like you will live forever!"
The old man threw back his snowy head, pulled his crimson cloak around him, and roared in delight.
“That I may, son, that I may”.
Then he walked down the dark hall to his chambers and as he passed, every dark dormant lamp blazed on in glorious heavenly echo of the light of his passing.
The King stood and watched him until he disappeared round the corner, and the echoes of his laughter faded in the distance.
“Behold, the Light King”, he said softly. “Behold.
He turned and went in to his children.
I avoid situations where I have to be with these people...and I feel guilty about it from time to time because these are spiritually my "brothers and sisters"...but I feel no kinship with them. I share different presuppositions about God, about Life, about Joy and Faith, about Love...my values are different and the songs of my heart are in a different key...
So what are the values?
I like to be with people that realize that Life is good and abundant and embrace-able. I like people who treat creation with respect and reverence, and understand somewhere inside that it is to be stewarded with care.
I like to be with people who put relationship high on the list of priorities, and believe that maintaining relationship is more valuable than being right. I like people who notice the pain of others, the burdens of others, and who are quick to feel compassion and take what action they can take to help out.
I like to be with people who are expansive and inclusive...generous of spirit and heart. I like to be with people who give you the benefit of the doubt, so you don't have to parse everything you say and worry about having your words used against you later. I like people who are grace-filled and tenderhearted to the downcast.
I like to be with people who keep their word...if they say something they stick with it, and if they change their mind they don't try to pretend they never thought other-wise. I like people who will be loyal when you are not there as well as when you are.
I like people who are bold enough to stride through life with trust and goodness as bedrock for their feet, and laughter and love as air for their lungs, and optimism and joy as blood for their heart.
So if I like that in others, am I those things?
Here is my goal right now, and I say right now because I anticipate it will transform as I transform: Be a blessing to others...give what you can and a little more. Take the burden onto myself instead of passing it on. Let my face be a reflection of who I know Jesus to be...joyful, kind, compassionate, tender-hearted, accepting, forgiving, dependable, consistent in value and creative in application, resolute, truth-loving and truth-telling, loving.
That's enough to last a lifetime!
Vintages vary and each has its strengths and weaknesses, its stars and its forgettable tepid tailings...may the vintages of my days be memorable, and may the tailings be set aside, admitted and recognized for what they are, and never passed off as something they aren't.
I think the secret is this: never lose touch with God! As long as you are holding on tight to Him, and letting Him hold on tight to you, the reflection will be accurate and the reality true.
The character, heart, motives, deeds and works, intents and resources...all of these would have to be quite high and pure and good and benign before I would want to choose to be a love slave (slave to loving the beloved one) and receive bonds which would unite me with that one forever...
This is the Heart of Christmas! Immanuel is His Name! The One who willingly gave up everything He was to For the sake of His Father, His Beloved Father with whom He was one,to become the Father's Bondslave, His Doulos. Andy why? So that in the end He could save us from sin and death and unite Himself with us, no, in us and of us...chained to us with chains of love, forever, Immanuel...God with us.
We are arrived back to the statement in question now: "To be alive is to be broken..."
There is a different light shining on it now...brokenness is a different thing, a chosen thing, a practiced thing. In this sense that statement is absolutely, revolutionarily true. But it points at a high calling and a high view of one's value and worth and significance. (I will post later about Grace and what it is and where we stand and need...)
In conclusion, what are we to say then about our afflictions, our stunted beings, our flaws and and trials, our selfish points of view, our tempers, the ghosts of the past that haunt us? I would simply say this: It is the glory of God to work His great love through such vessels, and these afflictions, as difficult and painful and polluting as they seem right now are truly in reality completely unworthy of consideration when they are viewed in light of the all surpassing and completely true weight of glory that is being stored up right now.
You have the opportunity right now to follow the path of Philippians 3, to know the Lord in the power of His resurrection and from that place to share in the fellowship of His suffering, and thereby begin to experience death to self and ressurrection Life in Him in this plane right now! Eternity started for you the moment you first believed and put your trust in Jesus. So what we go through here, stark as it is, painful as it is, horrifying as it sometimes can be, is something truly other for those within whom He is incarnate.
Before, you were a slave to death and its foul effects. But now, in the midst of a broken dimension, you are free, and have opportunity to give up freedom willingly to receive liberty and become a slave of Love, and in those bonds have the results of death manifest from you as life, and life abundantly.
What a high calling! What an opportunity! What an honor and privilege! What a contrast to the notion of being ragammuffins and homeless and bums and worthless and contemptible, and all the other rot! Such as this YOU ONCE WERE!! But thanks be to God, who in His marvelous great love has changed our essence and made us vessels who, though cracked, and maybe even shattered, now contain great treasure, that can leak out most effectively through the cracks and broken places, is made most perfect and contaigious when it manifests through our greatest weaknesses, that can taste the sweetest when it oozes from the wounds of humility that is lived out in joyous faith that though it is dark now there is this day coming...
GO! Laugh! Live! Cry! Sing! Drink wine! Love people! Cry when you hurt! Cry with others when they hurt! But always, ALWAYS know who you are, and turn your heart and soul from the tempting pity parties of the grave. Haunt not the graveyard where who you once were is buried...put down the shovel of your affliction with which you dig up the old dead one you were...stop indulging that spiritual necrophelia as you roll around in the embrace of what no longer has anything within you (YOU)...for He has turned your mourning into dancing and your tears shall bring a harvest of rejoicing...
...and use the shovel of your affliction to the glory of the One who set you free!
He had heard of a very very wealthy man who it was rumored often bought out the debt of people, and in return asked that they would become his slave and work for him until the accounts were settled...no wage, no status, but room and board was provided, and the nature of the work caused riches to multiply, so there would come a time the ledger would be even, and he would be set free to start again.
He found his way to the man's estate, and thought it odd that the man was waiting for him at the end of the gated private 2 mile long single lane that led up to the mansion...he said as much to the man who just chuckled cheerfully and told him that he had heard rumors that this guy would be coming around, and as he thought the guy had great potential was indeed eager to transact his debt and put him to work.
The man was somewhat taken aback by this assessment and began to let the rich guy know all of his debts, but the man stopped him gently, and said that he knew all of them already, and had done extensive research into the matter and had a full accounting ready at hand if the guy wanted to proceed with the debt acquisition and subsequent indentured slave status.
The man swallowed his pride, and stared at the sheaves of paper stacked up to the rich guys knees...and said yes, let's do this thing.
At this, the rich guy smiled slightly and seriously, and then picked up the paper and motioned with his chin the new slave should follow him, and began to walk outside the fence of the estate to a nasty looking old pit that was covered in soot and grime and surrounded by ashes. Upon arrival, he threw the whole stack in, rummaged around in the stones, found an old gas can and emptied it on the pile.
They both stepped back from the edge, and then the rich guy flicked his Bic...and the
conflagration began. The newly minted slave started to protest worriedly, for he feared that the man would lose track of the debts and never get them settled properly...but the rich guys reassured him that he knew every debt by heart and was intimately acquainted with what was required to settle his account.
They watched together until the flames died out and nothing was left but ashes, and the slave felt sick and empty inside, the realization dawning on him that his old life was ashes too, gone in a moment and now mere dust...and his new life only uncertainty at best and drudgery at worst as a slave to who had to be the most wealthy man in the entire world.
The rich man threw a kindly arm around the shoulders of his new property and they began to walk that long 2 miles up to the Big House. He didn't talk much, and the new slave did not say anything at all, for he didn't know his place or the rules. But he did see quite a few other people wandering around the place involved with various tasks and duties...they all seemed in pretty good spirits and all looke well fed and well clothed, but there was a peculiar similarity between all of them.
They all had a gold ring in their ear.
Seemed odd...but when he asked the rich guy if he had to get one, the rich man answered firmly with a no, he did not have to get one. The man was glad and told the rich man that he had always thought earrings looked strange on men.
After they reached the house, the master told the slave to go find the foreman who would set him up with living quarters and begin showing him the ropes. So he did, and was surprised to see the place he was given to stay...it was more like a guest cottage than a slave cottage. The foreman then began to show him around the place and answer questions, and his easy manner and quiet spirit soon put the new slave at peace...except for that obnoxious gold earring!
Meal time came, and along with it another surprise...the master ate with the slaves! the food was awesome and plentiful, the camaraderie was superb, and the meal over all too soon. People got up without being commanded and began to gather up the dirty dishes and clear the table, and the new slave stood by uncertainly, afraid to do something and afraid to do nothing, but the master noticed him, and called him over to tell him that he did not let new slaves do anything but rest and recover from the trials in their life that led them to sell themselves into slavery in the first place. He told the new slave his only required service was to sleep, eat, watch the others, and walk everyday around the estate and think about things.
The new slave was understandably shocked, and somewhat confused, but the duty seemed pretty sweet, so that is what he did for quite a few days.
Somewhere towards the end of this period it seemed that a lot of his walks ended up crossing paths with the master as he was on his rounds looking after his estate, and when this occurred the master would ask him to walk with him and watch him, and talk with him and share with him...and soon there was an actual friendship between the two. The slave began to try to make pretexts to cross the master's path, and the master often enjoyed tantalizing his new servant with hiding places he would pop up out of unexpectedly, much to the great delight of the servant, and all the rest, who were standing by watching...remembering their own walks with the master and how pleasant they were.
As the master and the slave got to know one another, the master began to give the slave tasks to do for him, and they were tasks that the slave just seemed to have a knack for...some were things he was familiar with from his past and he could do in his sleep...and though these things were very very fruitful to the master's coffers and the slave thought the master would be exceptionally thrilled, he was actually only mildly pleased with them...it was the unfamiliar tasks that the master was most interested in...the things which the slave was not by nature accustomed to, though he sort of had a knack for them. The master would get pretty pumped up when these tasks were carried out.
Time passed...and time passed. Soon the slave forgot he was a slave, and actually did not think about his old debts he was working off, or his old life of ashes. But there came a day when the master sought him out, and with one look at the master's serious and pensive face the slave was immediately reminded that he did indeed owe this man more than he could ever repay even if he lived to be a hundred years old, and he anxiously watched the master draw nigh.
But the master just quietly asked the slave to please come to his office at the end of the day...it was time to settle up accounts. The slave stayed calm outwardly and told the master he would be there...but inside he was a veritable maelstrom of emotion and turmoil. Had it really been enough time to pay off all that? He hadn't really done anything, and he definitely did not want to leave. Life on the master's estate was good...actually better than anything he had known when he was not the master's slave. Truth be told, the slave had come to realize that he had truly always been a slave...he was a slave to his lusts, his fears, his emotions, his failures, his flaws (he was especially addicted to those and had wallowed with a backwards glee in how awful he was)...now he was slave to the best person he had ever met!
The fact of the matter was the slave did not want to leave. Ever! His life had meaning now, it mattered what he did, to the other slaves and most of all to the master. He had goals to accomplish for the master, and saw ways to grow the master's holdings...not because the master needed any more money, but because it was the slave's only way to say thank you for all the undeserved and unmerited favor the master had lavished on him...he had realized that the master treated him far more like he was a son and a partner in the estate, and it was sooo cool that each and every slave felt that way.
The day dragged on, but the hours flew by as the slave anxiously awaited the meeting. Perhaps he was going to be cut loose and counted as incapable of paying off the debt and sent away to prison...perhaps...and the fears grew and multiplied and the voice of doubt grew louder...and then the 5:00 chimes struck, and he began the walk to the master's office, and went to the door and knocked.
The master bade him enter in a voice that had a strange quiver in it. The slave walked in and looked to the desk expecting to see the master in his usual posture of study and work. But the chair was empty! Amazed, he cast his glance around the room and its rich furnishings, until he saw the master seated near the large fireplace in a plush leather chair, sipping a glass of deep red wine. Without looking up, the master bid him to come and sit with him, and gestured at the empty matching chair. When the slave was seated, the master leaned over and poured the slave a glass of wine as well.
The slave noticed the vintage year...it was the same year he had entered into service at the master's estate...and he was amazed to see that it was 7 years earlier. Had it really been 7 years?? And if only 7 years, how was it possible that his account was paid? It could only mean that he was going to the prison cell he had earned in slavery to himself!
The master bid him to take the cup and drink. Shakily, the slave reached for his goblet of
beautiful lush pinot noir, and he trembled as he drew it to his lips, thinking it was the last drink of a condemned man...but the master spoke, telling him to fear not, and so he sipped, slowly, and the silky smoky spicy draught swirled smoothly over his palate and down his throat.
It was the best wine the man had ever had! Simply the best. He closed his eyes and savored the moment, and temporarily forgot his fears of the future, and just tasted, and received.
Soon he sensed the master's gazed, and opened his eyes to the master's questioning eyebrows, raised as if to ask "how was the wine?" the slave blurted out it was absolutely the very best wine he had ever had...and the master was glad, and poured some more.
They sat together, drinking wine, watching the fire, and the slave became aware that the master was pensive also, and seemed uneasy about...something...but finally the master broke the silence, and began to talk about the wine, the grapes that it had come from, the stresses of the vintage year with weather, drought, and fire, the difficulties the vines endured and how it posed unique challenges to him as he made the wine (and this was something the slave was surprised to hear...that the master was also a maker of wine), the fining that was needed and the racking off processes that were applied, the cellaring and bottling...and the waiting...and as he went on it began to dawn on the slave how close the story of this wine paralleled his his own story...and he could see the master's hand in his life in a whole new light.
Finally the master came to the point, and drew from an inside pocket what looked like a deed of title. He unfolded it, stared at it a while, and then drew breath and quickly, authoritatively signed it. Putting it down on the table, he looked up at the slave and pushed it toward him.
The slave looked down at the document uncomprehendingly as the master explained that it was the deed ending his period of slavery, proclaiming all debts paid in full and full status as a free man restored along with a promissory clause granting him funds to get back on his feet.
The master told him he was free to go, and go with his blessing and promise of aid whenever it was needed...he merely needed to ask. The slave finally found voice to ask if he did this with all his slave, and the master said yes. The slave grew quiet, but still had questions so the master drew him out...and the slave got to the heart of it by asking if slaves actually took him up on the offer. He blurted out that he couldn't conceive of how anyone could possibly want to leave...ever!
But the master smiled, sadly, and said that actually most slave left when given their freedom, and did so joyfully and without regret. The slave asked how their lives went when they left, and the master said he was glad to say that it was far better than their life before slavery, but still had its share of difficulties, and then he murmered how difficult it was for them to take him up on his offer to help them with whatever they needed...somehow they were just too proud to seek out his help, and since they were free the master had to respect that freedom.
He grew quiet. The slave sat there with a lump in his gut, and tears welling up. And he began to sob and weep. The master asked him why he wept, and the slave poured out his heart in a torrent of words as he wailed his sorrow over having to be leaving and his longing to stay on with the master...and the master comforted him with caresses and reminded him that he could ask for assistance anytime and it would be given freely...but the slave wrenced away and jumped to his feet and shouted out
"Being a slave to you is far better than being free! Would that I could be your slave the rest of my life and dwell in your house all my days!"
The slave came to himself and realized he had shouted at the master, but when he wiped his eyes and looked up he saw the old familiar mischievous glint in the master's eyes...and the master began to tell him he was welcome to stay on as long as he wished...but there was only one condition.
The slave threw himself at the master's feet in relief and clung to them in desperate thanksgiving, saying over and over that he would do anything, anything at all, that he would give his very life to be the master's slave, as it was far better than freedom, just tell him what the thing was so he could do it with all his might...
And at this the master threw his head back and began to laugh loudly and vigorously...tears of joy and good humor fell from his eyes, and the slave was happy too, though as one who knows there is a joke but hasn't quite caught on...and finally when the master caught his breath, he told the slave the condition was that he had to wear one of those gold earrings in his ear for rest of his days, as a sign to everyone that he considered slavery to the master far better than his own freedom...
...and then burst into new gales at the puzzled relief on the slaves face as if to say "is that all?"...and the master good naturedly needled the slave with a mocking imitation of the early days when the slave would speak of how silly the earrings were and finally the slave was laughing as well, louder and louder until the other servants began to poke their heads in the door, and be pulled in by the master, until the whole office was packed to the gills by the party.
Late that night, the fires were lit round the courtyard and a solemn procession paraded down the walk and off to the large wooden stake rising vertically from the garden hillock. The slave had always wondered why this anachronistic stained and weathered wooden length was perched there...but he was thinking he was going to find out, as they made their way soberly but with joy over to the ancient relic.
The procession stopped about 50 feet away, and the master came and took the slave by the hand, and led him to the stake, and the slave saw at the base of the stake was an awl and a hammer. The master said nothing...only motioned for the slave to kneel and put his ear to the stake and wait. The slave did so, and the master picked up the awl and quickly pierced the slave's ear through with a vigorous blow of the hammer to the awl.
The pain was sharp, and short, and vanished under the wave of sensations emanating from the wood's rough rugged texture and spicy rich smell. The master reached into an inner pocket and drew out a ring of most precious and pure gold, and put it in the slave's ear, pronouncing him a slave forever, but a special kind of slave...a slave of love...doulos.
The slave looked up into the master's face, and the master raised his hands to his longish hair, drew it back, and turned his head...and the slave saw that the master himself had a gold earring too!
The master offered his hand to help the slave up, and said
"Come on, son. Let's go inside."
For the record: I utterly and completely reject the notion that I am nothing before God, or a bum or a raggamuffin! I refuse to reduce God and insult Him with such drivel that is nothing more than the overflow of my contempt and the rejection of His glorious new creation! Even when I was lost, enemy of God and murderous towards Him I was/am far more than that...more for the worse then, and more for the better now.
I spit on the old saw that smugly names one's self "just a sinner begger, who has found bread and is trying to show others where to get it!" Bull Crap! If you read Ephesians even in the slightest you dare not call yourself a beggar, a worm, or anything other than either a joint heir with Jesus and a child of the Father, or one of the damned, an image bearer who has chosen to repose in death.
Literally: you are a new creation. You are not a sinner and can never again be one! You can still disobey the Father, you can still violate the moral code, you can still wallow in the mud of your flesh, but you...you yourself...you have had a change in nature, a transformation, a metamorphisis! By degrees, as you behold Him, you are being transformed from the fading glory of the deathrealm which even though it is dead is still glorious, to the new glory of the Spirit, the new creation whose glory never fades but ever grows brighter...slowly changing...by degrees, from one to the other. Contemplate 2 Corinthians 3 as you think on this, and know that it is one or the other.
To indulge a beggar mentality or a worm theology is to either be falsely humble which is the worst kind of pride, or to be engaged in wish-fufillment and sub-consciously wishing to be anything other than an image bearer. I challenge you to find any identity statement in the NT that says that is who you are. I challenge you to search out all identity statements regarding who you are in Christ...
Identify with the Hope of Glory and not with the affliction...consider the afflictions you are beset with as the occasions to be the face and hands of the Hope of Glory.
This is who you are.
...I will summarize it in one world: doulos
If you want.
To be alive is to be whole. To be dead is to be dead. But to be broken...ahh, this is a rare result of a combination of the yet to be resurrected realm of creation which groans and longs for the revelation of the sons of God, and spiritual discipline to follow Jesus down the Philippians 3 road.
Cogitate it...I am going to write an aside.
I dwell together with Jesus in a body that bears afflictions. Kidney trouble, a touchy stomach, lung afflictions, feet afflictions, failing eyesight, skin afflictions, bouts of melancholia, anxieties, autonomic reflexive responses to stressful situations (and the fact that stressful situations even are...in an of itself this is an absurdity unbearable and manifestation of death), loneliness, inadequacy, self-doubt, shame and self loathing, contempt for myself and others...wait, stop, you say? I am just reciting your list??? LOL!
But we live in this body, indeed, we are this body...I am my body, and I am my soul and I am my spirit which once was dead but is now green. And until the Day of Jesus Christ it shall ever be thus. For me, until the day of my death if it comes before that DAY. Some might call this brokenness, and as I mentioned somewhere else, I get why it would be named thusly...but it ain't brokenness. It is the fruit of the flesh which is death. The fact that my body doesn't work right and my soul is stunted and deformed is simply death's manifestation...and here is where it gets exciting.
It is into these vessels God comes! And delights to do so! Is eager to do so...wriggling with joy like the speckled pup! He stands at the door and knocks and knocks and knocks...and when we open, He comes in and prepares us food and feeds us! Christ in you! The Hope of Glory!
It is the magnificence of the revelation of "Christ in you, the Hope of Glory" that gives the fuel to surrender ever deeper to Him...and this is crucial, this notion of surrender , yielding. It is impossible to do anything for God. It is impossible to perform for Him...all there is for we new creations is surrender, yielding.
Consider the Life in which we now dwell, Jesus: "I delight to do Thy will, O lord...a body Thou has prepared for me...not My will, but Yours be done...I do only what I see the Father do...". His whole journey here was marked by yieldedness. He was in a body, He felt pain, He suffered, He learned obedience in the school of suffering with loud cries and vehement tears, He walked in the same realm I am in...and He overcame, and did not give in to another way. He was given the Holy Spirit, and this is what He lived by!
We have been given the Holy Spirit too! That same spirit, and in fact He even told us that the things He did we would do, and greater things...because He knows the Holy Spirit and knew we would have Him in us...and btw, I ain't one of those miracle chaser types looking for flash. that ain't the greater thing! Nope. Laughing in the face of despair with a true laugh instead of a bitter defiant harelip the world laugh, holding onto the wounded one who bites me as I seek to get the leg extricated from the harsh jaws of the trapper's snare, and blessing...pressing beyond mere endurance into the power of embracing...Disregarding my fear, anxiety, contempt and refusing shame as a partner...etc. THOSE are the greater things!
Here is an equation for you: the measure of the Holy Spirit in your life is directly proportional to the degree of your surrender to Jesus. A little yielded, a little power to overcome available to you...A lot yielded, a lot available...fully yielded, then like Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit without measure.
So we can conclude this: affliction is not brokenness...affliction is the stage that our new creation and order is the player upon! For I consider these momentary light afflictions as nothing compared to the all surpassing greatness of the glories that the Father is preparing for us...for eye has not seen and ear has not heard anything like the glories that are coming...the words in the greek have mathematical connotations too. Essentially, God is figuring out for you the absolute minimum amount of affliction for you to endure that will produce the maximum amount of glory and fruit through you.
So hear me, all ye afflicted, all ye brokenhearted, all ye heavy burdened...it ain't nothing but a thang, y'all! If your life is hid with God in Christ, then all the writs of accusation against you have been nailed to the cross, and you are at liberty to surrender...
...and find yourself on the foot of embracing brokenness...
A way out. A way in! There is a way. But you cannot take the old with you. None of it. It is all ruined...all dead...all of no effect. What to do?
Here is where the stuff about faith comes in. If you look at the world, at your existence (notice I did not call it your life, for you do not have one...you never had one because of the first Adam and Eve), and your suffering and longings, at your recoil in horror from the alien other that death is, you will seek an answer. And if you are among those who have heard and believed the story of the good news, then you must put your faith in the Great One I posted about previously...and know this: He is not the weak and somber one, the crutch for the crippled, the great do-over, the rewinder of your video tape...and most of all: He is NOT the God of the Second Chance!
Heresy? Hardly. As we are wont to do, we have remade Him in our image and likeness and ignored that He was made Himself in our image and likeness by the Creator...and we subtly and unwittingly also remake the gospel into something that is for man! But I tell you a mystery...the gospel was, is, and always be for GOD! God: the Way-Maker, the Life, etc etc (I could go on forever here).
The Fall did not take God by surprise. Your transgressions did not shock Him into speechless horror. The cross was not some plan B that God put into effect. When God accounted for His Image being in death and made The Way to unmake death, it wasn't a counter-maneuver brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed that came as a reaction to the moves of satan and the rebellion of His Image.
And when The Way came to give us The Life it was not and is not a "Holy Do-over" for you that somehow just erases the board and gives you a clean slate! You simply should not go on in life until you truly and deeply have this truth in your gut! How dare we reduce the GOSPEL to such a weak and ineffective tool?
YOU. ARE. NEW!! What you are when united with Jesus is something that has never been...I never tire of repeating that! Since this is the case, when you put your faith in Christ and His work and the efficacy of His sacrifice, you are transformed from death to Life. This is so much "other" than the notions that float around regarding how God "gives us a second chance"...that is OLD realm thinking!
truly, if He were the God of the second chance, how would you do? Really...how would that second chance go? God what a terrifying thought it is to have my hopes pinned on the second chance I got...because I would go out as soon as I could and get my dog suit on as fast as I could and return to my vomit...as the proverb says...because that is who I WAS! And without a change in being, I could do no other.
If God sort of "passed my life under the blood of Jesus and washed me clean, but brought me out essentially the same as I was" I would be utterly lost...like a new born babe, my "innocence" would be restored, but my essence would remain and my identity unchanged and death would begat more death.
As an aside, Jesus DOES put us under His Blood and wash us clean...after He first buries our old self in His death and renders death in us dead forever, and then raises us up in His life to be alive with Him and by Him and through Him, which life is eternal and unquenchable...that's when He washes us! Because now we are His, and He is ours, and we are one, and getting clean is a necessity when a living being dwells for a short season in the kingdom of the dead...oh dear Reader, I pray that the eyes of your heart would be opened to receive this incredible joy!
If God just rewound the VHS tape of my life to the beginning, and passed it near the magnet of the cross so all the data recorded there was erased, and then plugged the tape back in to the player in your heart...oh the horror of that...presented with the second chance while burdened with the knowledge of how bad you had F'ed up the FIRST one!
If God had a perfect plan for my life that could be F'ed up, and then had a plan B that was the next best life, and a plan C, ad infinitum, I would be so doomed! But thanks be to God in His glorious wisdom!
THERE IS NO PLAN B! There is only Plan BEST.
Those of you who are burdened with carnal minds that are enmity with God (Romans 8), as I am, will be trying to squirm off this point and start thinking "This yayhoo is saying that God will not give a second chance! But there is lots of teaching about His mercy, and forgiving 70x7, and keeping on going and..."
...but that misses the essential point: before there can be progress in life there must be life! And the Lord in His perfect Love does indeed present each man with opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to chooses life. The Lord in His Great Love has made this choice very simple and easy...but it is a choice nonetheless that must be made, a choice to surrender all you are (Hah! As if that is worth hanging onto), and to receive from Him all He is (Life, and Life abundantly is who He is). Then comes the walk, the journey, the washings, the forgivings and being forgiven, the transformation by degrees of our souls, the process of perfecting His Image in us, the learning how to yield and let Him flow, the abiding in Him and bearing fruit, the pruning seasons and fits and starts, the feasts and famines and droughts and floods, the changes of life ridden out with the One who never flinches nor fails.
Plan Best. It was for God...it is for God...it always will be for God...the Gospel. The key to plan best is surrender, for this will put you through far fewer contortions than His love will give you if, being new and living, you still seek your own will instead of His...never again "not-new" but definitely in the arms of chastening for your best.
Can you get a glimpse of why I say that it is untrue to call God the God of the second chance? Why I vociferously reject worm mentalities and beggar theologies?
Here are the things you must spend your faith on: First of all, the Life of Jesus offered for you is sufficient and in need of nothing from you in any way at any time. Second: the resurrection of Jesus made a way for you to enter into wholeness (shalom in the full sense of the word and all its connotations). Third, you can make a faith transaction: you can give up all you are (all) and allow all you are to be buried in Jesus with Jesus in the death that He died, and allow Him to resurrect you as something entirely new in every sense of that word! Literally! This is the faith transaction that you either make or don't, and often a combination of both as you journey in this sphere.
If you make the transaction, the result is transformation...and that is the next step: understanding transformation. Paul tells us in the glorious 2nd letter to the Christians in Corinthians that if anyone be IN Christ, that one is a new creation, and that old things have passed away, and what is old is passed away and what is new is come!
Dudes and Dudesses, you simply must get that and get it now if you want to go on. There is no more journey past moving from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, if you are unable or unwilling to accept this truth.
Old things means all that was from Adam to Adam...and whatever in your days that is a result of that realm of the old is truly literally gone if you are in Christ, and Christ in you! (Yeah, I can hear ya...but what about sanctification? What about positional grace and experiential grace? What about...yeah, I hear ya. Ya sound just like the voice of my carnal mind which is enmity with God and doesn't want to be terminated...ya gotta just quote Sarah Conner and tell it "Yer Terminated, Mutha F__er!!")
What you were, how you were in terms of who you are...dead...is dead, in the death of Jesus, and in that eternal grave ever shall ye lie...and what you are, how you are in terms of who you now are...alive, and in that eternal life ever shall ye glory...is alive! But deeper yet, when the word tells us that we are a new creation it means that we are entities that have heretofore never ever existed! Never! It is a brand new having never been creation! We mistakenly call a baby "new". It isn't. It is newly come into this realm to have biological animation and still born spirituality driven by demonic zombie life...but it isn't new. It is merely the offspring of the old Adam and his realm.
No, the new of it is that it has never been before, the incarnation and melding and complete union of Jesus...and man. And this can never be undone. He can never go back to "what He was", and neither does He want to! As my brother said to me, the blue of our being is melded with the yellow of His, and we are green forever! Don't you see? You are NEW! And if you orbit around the old realm, caught in its gravitational pull, and if you happen to auger in and slam into the dirt, HE is inside you...in some strange way IS you...and He is power-full, and has given us the same spirit by which He walked among us blamelessly, namely the Holy Spirit, and by the power of that Spirit we rise, muddy, dirty, but rise to go wash, and still we are green! The greenness never diminishes, the blue never shines through, the yellow never leaves! FOREVER! AND EVER!!
SO, dear earthen vessel, you now hold treasure! You now ARE treasure holding treasure. The same clay pot that you see walking around you...except you do not have a dead zombie baby possessing you any longer. You have a babe, laid in the feeding trough, the Bread of Life come down from heaven, and as you hunger, take and eat! you have within you the resurrection and life, and as you believe in Him you shall never die! You are now incapable of dying...ever. For He who came that we might have Life and have it abundantly is actually incarnate, married, melded and wedded to you. You are WON! You are safe...you are found and beyond being lost.
SO then...let us consider again the quote: "To be alive is to be broken." As we shall see henceforth, there is a deeper truth contained in this statement...but the way that it is taken on the surface, as a truth statement regarding the state of being called "alive", it is grievously reflective of the "realm of death" mindset that equates animation with life. As we have seen, LIFE and being ALIVE has nothing to do with having biological animation...and he who is truly alive is the essence of wholeness, completeness, lacking nothing in any way.
So, out there...if you are among those who call Jesus Lord, do you know who you are? Do you know who HE is? Do you know who He is in you? You who once were dead are now alive. You who once were enemies He has made friends. You who once were far off (as in another existential state of being) He has brought near. The teabag is in the water and the tea has formed. The caterpillar has emerged from the cocoon a butterfly.
There is a new creation, and it is called the sons of God!
Transformation...the antidote to brokenness...
Ponder: where was death before it entered the world through the breach that sin made? Answer...it wasn't.
Reams and reams of writings inserted here regarding the loving intercession of the Father, and the longing lenghts He went to prepare for the regeneration and redemption of all things...well, from our perspective they were things He was doing...from His, I am certain they were transacted far earlier than the earliest created thing...but I digress...that is a vision for another time.
When the time was right, there was born into this abattoir of absurd alienation...the Life! The Light! Jesus unmade Himself, unknit Himself, and became nothing...entrusted Himself to the Father's goodness completely. Oh my friend, read Philippians 2:5-15! I absolutely dare you to consider the arc of the 2nd Person of the Trinity! I will post on this passage some other time, but the implications of this are absolutely staggering! HE NEVER CHEATED! He was all man, all ways, and shall ever more be in the flesh! Evermore! What He "once was" He forsook, receiving what the Father willed for Him, and what He wanted as well...and now, He is STILL in that body, glorified and resurrected, but still in that body, and He stands at the right hand of the Father, our great High Priest, ever living to make intercession on your behalf and on my behalf...ALWAYS, and always for us!! Never against us! And in the days He was before the resurrection, He walked His journey with the exact same power that He provides for us, and never reached back to His power as 2nd Person of the Trinity, for in the truest sense, that person no longer existed!!!
He was unmade, and remade forever in the flesh and our likeness and in every way man. Oh, the implications are staggeringly, mind-blowingly glorious!
Picture the tableau from Heaven's POV: a world bereft of light and life, with millions of still-born, zombie possessed bearers of the Image, from time beginning, until...the great dive...and poof! A light appeared in the darkness. One light in a world without life. Just one. Here is what the incarnation was in a basic transactional sense: it was the making of the 2nd Adam! A human being, living flesh, whose god-light was on!!
God rest you merry, gentlemen! Let nothing you dismay!
Remember! Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day
to save us all from satan's power cuz we had gone astray!
Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy!
Oh tidings of comfort and joy!
That was it. It is that simple. That is the whole plan. Adam again...and He had the same call and mandate that Adam had! Walk with his Father, talk with his Father, stay connected, channel the Life through his being and let it guide him, feed him, fulfill him, heal him, comfort him, give him joy, give him comfort...
And in the midst of this broken wheel, Life was more than enough! His joyful delight crashed through, His love and mirth broke the barriers over and over, His compassion overflowed again and again to the bereft and brokenhearted. And He simply stayed "on" and never switched off, the whole time...and then it was time to take "Eve"...all of us all and all things that are created...to the Father, and step up to bear the consequences and close the breach.
As an aside, there are those who think it silly that a price had to be paid for sin. Their reasoning is based on the notion that God requires a price before relenting, so He could just not require it and no price would be necessary...this notion arises from zombie thinking and does not grasp either the nature of God Himself or the nature of the existential state called sin and a creature in the Image of God irrevokably and inextricably in sin!
Making vast leaps now...Jesus closed the breach, and forged the Way...WAS the Way and IS the Way! And in the process, because the Great High Priest passed through the veil of the heavens and poured out His own blood as the offering, the Holy Spirit Himself gained access to the Imagebearers in a whole new way. Get this: Even as death entered the realm of creation on the back of sin, riding like a vampire bat on the back of a ravenous rabid wolf through the rent and breach that sin made, so too did the Holy Spirit enter creation's ruined realm through the rent in the veil made by our Glorious and Triumphant Lord Christ, Long Awaited Deliverer, Wonderful Counselour, Price of Peace, Everlasting Father, Comforter and Friend, Healer and Redeemer, Constant Fount of Joy and Mirth, Light of the World and Song of our Spirit,River of Life and Well of Delight, the Cup of Consolation and God with Us, the great I AM and the greater I AM WILLING...the Dove riding on the back of the Lion bursting through the rip in death into the realm of the dead, only to unrend and unbreak and untear all that is torn and rent and broken...
There is a quote from a man named Brendan Manning: "To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of Grace."
This is from his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, and it struck me as inadequate on many levels. Let's consider them.
First of all there is a question: what does it mean to be alive? this is a very serious philosophical question to me, and one that is rarely considered. Usually people equate biological animation with life, but I don't. Life is a state of being, one of only 2.
There is Life, and there is death. God is Life. Jesus is the Tree of Life and The Life, The Vine from which we draw life, if we are grafted in.
And there is Death. Capital D Death is the result of sin and sin is the state of being whereby we take full advantage of our free will and choose to run our own show apart from God. It is ultimately a big middle finger into the face of God. God is Life, so to be apart from him is to be a cane cut off the vine and laying dead, powerless and unfruitful. Small d death is merely a subset of the larger state of being, and it is its own little maelstrom of corruption and horror...it is the cessation of biological animation. Yeah, that's all. Riiiiggghhhhttt.
Keep the above statement in mind: Sin is the state of being apart from God! Do not allow yourself to reduce the notion of sin to a mere list of moral transgressions! Would that it were so small, so easy to fix, alas.
Further, death has afflicted all of creation, from the inside out, and lays inextricably entwined (for now...) in the warp and weft of creation. Things are wrong! Disease, deformity, calamity, affliction, woe, troubles, despair, alienation, suffering...all of the ultimate and horribly wrenching conditions of simply BEING in this world are upon us, and they are death.
Period. Just death.
Biological animation is wrongly defined as "Life"...for the sake of communication today it is necessary to allow this, but the truth is this: just because you are animated biologically doesn't necessarily mean you are alive.
Sooo...Life, and Death through sin (separation by one's own decision from the Life)...the only states of being. Let's go a little further now.
Back in the day, when Adam and Eve were not naked, they strutted around the garden like king and queen. Clothes were not necessary from any standpoint of sin because they were not naked! Most of my christian readers will scratch their heads at that because they read ahead in the story and know that Adam and Eve were ashamed and gathered fig leaves to cover their nakedness...yeah that is right! But here is a Q: what is naked? Remember, there was a point at which they became naked!
So, strutting Adam and Eve, and see them...GLOWING...SHINING...
radiant beings full of connection to the Life, and shimmeringly wreathed in glory. I call it the God-light. The God-light was on inside them. And so even though they wore no clothes, they certainly were by no means naked! Further, for the longest "time" (yeah, there is a whole nother post right there...time in creation before the fall), Adam and Eve and God were the only beings that had the radiance and glow of the God-light...for there was God, and there was man in the Image of God...the life and radiance of His glory being the visual manifestation of the existential wonder of "in His Image" (things like free will, creativity, having a heart, having an imagination, and realms of other things to post on later).
Enter the serpent (Hebrew word nachash from the root meaning "to shine")...I suggest that satan appeared one day in the garden as "an angel of light", and what Genesis is commenting on is the arrival of another spirit-being in addition to Adam and Even and God! It is not a snake, really, but another who claimed to be like them! Thus Eve's fascination and enthrallment with this being, and thus her deception being easily accomplished. (For further thoughts on this subject consider E.W. Bullinger's comments at http://www.therain.org/appendixes/a
Eve was deceived, but Adam, willingly following Eve into desecration, despair, and death. And I submit that he knew she had disobeyed even before she told him about it...I submit her god-light had gone out, and he could see it!
Men, how often have you traveled this road away from life? Forsaking your estate and place to seek fulfillment in a woman? Every last mother-dawg of you has! Me too...What if Adam had taken Eve to the Father, told the Father what had happened, and volunteered to pay her price? Sacrificial love anyone?
But he didn't. He willingly forsook his relationship with the Creator to seek fulfillment in the created--the essence of idolatry. And his god-light went out too. THAT'S when they knew they were naked! They were no longer radient!
At that moment, that instant, their existential state of being underwent a transaction and moved from the state of Life to death. Biological animation remained...but no life. Ever again. none. Thus the horror, the tragedy, the strangeness, the wrongness. You all know the feeling...you would do anything for it to be undone, but the bell can never be unrung, can it? Even worse, their sin took on some weird and awful force, and ran viral and rampant throughout the warp and weft of all creation, and the ramifications began to echo and grow and reify themselves in the matrix of creation over and over again. Sin begat death which begat sin which begat death which resulted in sin which resulted in death, on...an on...and on.
And I think they could feel this, while simultaneously being unable to feel the former rightness, congruency, shalom, wholeness. So they sought to cover up the fact that their god-light was out (their nakedness) by covering up their bodies (the god-light vessel made of earth). thus the fig leaves, a child's charade sought out to fool a father. Onto Him was projected all their own horror, fear, desperation, and the lies of satan about Him, and He became in their minds all of the lies we see in flower today.
HE became the reason for it all and a smiter and seeker of vengeance and a pay-er-backer...HE became the punisher uptight squealcher of pleasure, etc etc.
So, go read the story if you don't know it...I am jumping ahead to Eve, pregnant with child and also with the promise she had received that a deliverer would come from her...waiting as this new thing occurred, and fearful due to the promise of labor and pain in childbirth...but hopeful, like a child hoping for the night to end and morning to break...and then the child comes forth and Adam and Eve look to see if he is radiant, glowing, god-light shining...but no. no. no light. no life. only an earthen vessel, on its way to the cessation of biological life.
Dead. But "alive"...but dead. And reproducing death, and sin, and death, and sin...and this was just the first human born and stillborn all at the same time.
Jump ahead, generation after generation after generation of dying dead people...people born with a spirit that is a still born babe...but when it hits this existence, that still born spirit receives a demonic parody of life, and becomes a spiritual zombie that needs to eat! So it starts devouring its host...from the inside, until it is hollow and used up, and then it starts to feed on its neighbor, sucking "life" as food and emotion as drink, until they are empty, and it moves on, and on...but wait! Each person is doing this, feeding, spiritually shambling and lurching down the journey through this tragic broken plane attacking anything possible to feed the gnawing demonic longing parody of life.
One thousand, two thousand years pass by...and the wondrous mind we have been given has been co-opted by death and driven to try to put out fires that are only fed by the effort to fight them...and learning increases, and vanity, and death...death...death...suffering, pain, sorrow, grief, longing unfulfilled, groaning, crying, horror, abuse, alienation, insanity, torture, screaming, the vast tableau of DEATH and separation.
Thousands of year roll on, and not one person ever born alive. Not one. All dead.
Are you getting this? Can you begin to roll with where this will go? Timely, coming during this season of celebrating the birth of the Light, the Life! So go, and consider again the notions of life and death, wholeness and brokenness, and the state of grace...I will be back in awhile for more posting.
like a curtain blown by a breeze from beyond
(you are the wind, you are beyond blowing)
Velvet muting night sounds, gentling edges
like a noise-whisperer
(you are the whispered, you are the whisperer)
Entering rivers, finding endless oceans
rising, swelling, taking shape
(you are the shaped, you are the shaper)
Oh form, oh wonder draw me in
like a brittle bottle stuffed with messages
(you are the drawn, you are the draw-er)
And focused, all into small into all
like a velvet spinner of wheels
(you are the spun, you are the spinner)
and the wind blows and is blown and blows
and the stars shake in place and quiver
And I am lost at sea, I am found in thee
Here is a link:
Chenin Carlton is named for the Chenin Blanc varietal, and has been in the wine industry all her life. I met her at the Thanksgiving Tasting put on at the former Calamity Jane's in Dundee.
She is a very nice lady, and she makes a good wine, so we bought a few bottles. They make a nice Chenin Blanc called Shy Chenin, and I liked it...
quite a bit...somewhere between apple and peach, very nice light mouth feel, with good thirst quenching powers.
Yesterday we decorated our tree, and after a long afternoon of getting the darn thing in the house (it was over 14 ft long and 8 ft wide before I trimmed it), trimming it down, getting the stand mounted, getting the tree up and then trimming off the extra width, stringing the lights and garlands...whew! I needed a nice libation...
...and into my mind popped the Shy Chenin. We iced it up nicely and poured. It was like heaven and washed out the strain of the day's preparations, and washed in the beauty of the Christmas spirit.
Thanks Chenin! :-)
and that He loves life! In light of the mysterious wonder of a fantastic wine it seems a given that He loves us too!
In thinking about the metaphors and parables provided to us by viticulture, I began to ponder what kind of wine comes from my life? Am I a muscat grape, growing hithery dilly...am I a pinot gris or muller-turgeau grape? Am I a cab, or chardonnay? Or am I a pinot noir grape...stubborn, recalcitrant, resistant to the will of the wine-maker, but ultimately under a skillful loving hand, the yielder of beautiful complexity?
I see myself as pinot noir...needing lots of contact with the skins...and then left in barrel for a long time, in dark toasty barrel...needing to be turned on the lees and drawn off many times, and when barrel tasted super tannic and tightly packed, tasting puckerish...people are put off by the size and whoosh of the foundational aspects of the vintage, but to the palate of the winemaker...
...it is fraught with potential and excellence...He knows this wine merely needs to mature and it will yield a beautifully cooperative wine that is strong and complex but gentle in the mouth, deep on the spicy side and tempered by forests, and smokes, and caramel/butterscotch and cocoa...a wine very much worth drinking but only there for those who had the confidence to cellar it until it was time...
How about you? What kind of wine are you...feel free to describe yourself in the comments...
- Current Location:McMinnville
- Current Music:Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin' Daddies
They thought that God was an uptight harsh old spinster killjoy who's chief pleasure consisted of squelching all pleasure, sending people to hell, torturing babies and powerless people, and controlling everybody's freedoms. And the horrible sadness of this all is that the reason they thought this was due to those who claim to be His followers...I had to admit that the ones who had spoken in the name of God were indeed guilty of the very accusations laid at the Father's doorstep.
I listen to the things coming out of churches in the precious name of Jesus that are a direct antithesis of who He is...and I grieve because I KNOW the people who espouse these religious epithets and curses. I grew up amongst them. I know the sincerity and deep desire to please God, I know the zeal, and I know the fear that drives them, the ignorance...not ignorance in an educational sense...ignorance in the knowledge of God's heart. And this drives them deeper into the arms of dead law and powerless rules, and they drift further and further away from who He is...and I grieve.
And I know that every last thing said by the people I overheard was their experience and also their rejection of things they wanted nothing to do with. How tragic that the very ones who are called to bear His Image and be a reflection and incarnation of Him were the very ones to pollute and trip up people everywhere, until the name of God has become a curse in the land...and I grieve for that. Too often we have laid down with idols and perverted truth and blurred who He is in the world, and comforted ourselves with things of this world that are temporal and insufficient and anathema and evil...our religious trappings and our so-called righteous deeds that are filthy rags and chains that bind us...
...and I grieve...
In terms of actions, there is often a vast gulf between those who are pious and those who do not profess to be...the pious keep rules about where to go and what to do and what to eat and what to drink...those who profess no piousness go places and do things and eat and drink things that the pious would take offense over.
The outward appearance is vast...but what of the heart? Is there a speck of difference there? Is your heart changed by what you do? Those who profess no piousness are more honest in their answer to that question, I think. Often they have lost heart and despaired and their years have become a life sentence to be served aimlessly seeking sensory escape.
And the pious know deep down inside that actions cannot change a heart, but they are too fearful or too proud or too comfortable or too SOMETHING to do otherwise...so they seek to lay their yoke on others too...it is a mentality that says if I am suffering then EVERYONE must suffer too, so they seek to impose their standard of righteousness upon everyone else...
...and I grieve.
To anyone out there who has been wounded, attacked, let down, lied to, manipulated, controlled, abused, abandoned or rejected by someone in the name of Jesus, I deeply and humbly apologize to you...and especially to anyone that has experienced this from me personally.
I am so sorry to you that the name of Jesus and the character of Jesus has been assassinated within your heart. I long for you to know the One who has patiently been walking with me and drawing me deeper into a relationship with Him that is of the heart first, of transformation and metamorphis, of grace and acceptance and forgiveness. Please please know that Jesus is not like He has been portrayed all these long years.
So who is He then? That is the question, and I only have one answer for you...I am spending my alloted days trying to find that out, and though I will never even scratch that vast surface, let me tell you about what I know so far:
HE is the most joyful person I have ever met. He is funny and of irrepressible good humour. He laughs more than anyone, and He laughs at nearly everything. He is easily delighted, and ever so entranced with what I am going to do next. He is captivated by my life, even as I am with my own childrens' lives.
And yet, He is above and so much more...
He is the man that prostitutes came to and wept with absolute passion over the depths of acceptance they experienced from Him, and the depth of WORTH He placed on them so they would not ever be driven and compelled by rejection and abuse into self-debasement...this means everything to me...because I too am a prostitute. I have prostituted myself over and over for gain, for acceptance, for love, for position...there are prostitutions far deeper than mere sexuality.
DO you know the story about the woman caught in the very act by the religious and pious of the day...how pious could they have been, to be peeking through windows and voyeuristic-ally deriving pleasure in what they saw, and sustenance from the evil they planned to do in the name of God...and they brought her to Jesus as a test of His piety...and He just waited them out and waited them out and then uttered the eternal phrase "let He who is without sin cast the first stone..."
,,,and they all left, until there was only He, the One without sin, and the prostitute...and He whose prerogative it was to cast the stone of condemnation did not! He revealed to the woman that her accusers were gone, and forgave her and restored her and filled her with purpose and sent her on her way, free to start again and not walk down the road of lonely despair...
...this the Jesus I know, and He has wiped away my grief and sorrow and pain and sin and stinkyness and selfishness again and again and again, and sends me on my way with a full cup and a renewed spirit and the encouragement to go and sin no more...
TO all of you out there reading this, I weep that so many stumbling blocks have been strewn like mines between what you have been attacked with about Jesus, and who he truly is. Please know that I have no agenda with you, no desire to convert you or convince you or prod you or push you...no desire to control you or judge you or anything that you have seen over and over and rightly rejected.
Here is what I want...I want to be a blessing to you. I want to be to you who Jesus has been to me, my friend and comforter, my encourager, my healer and confidant, my funny discombobulator, my life. I want to raise you up when you are down. I want to help when you are burdened. I want to be a beacon of hope and light in the darkness of struggle.
I want to celebrate when you are in victory and I want to inspire and comfort when you are in defeat...I want to bless you with generosity and serve you great meals in all realms that would be faint echoes of that supper coming...
I want to worship Jesus by honoring the work of His hands with the value it deserves...the fine wine coming from fine grapes that have been farmed in harmony and reverence for the land that grows them and sustains us...I want to have an open heart of blessing and never be a curse or shame to Him.
And why? Simply because I am overwhelmed that such a one as I would be deemed precious in His sight, and be given the privilege of life and family and friends. Simply because I want to be like Him...
The deepest longing of my heart is this: for someone to tell me that if Jesus is anything like me they would like to know that Jesus. Then I would weep with joy and know that the wine of my life was worthy of drinking.
- Current Location:McMinnville
- Current Music:Adagio in G-minor for Strings & Organ by Tomaso Albinoni
Sokol Blosser 2007 Goosepen Single Block. This wine is the sleeper of the vintage. I anticipate this overtaking the other single blocks in 7 years and surpassing most of the rest of the 07 vintage by 10 years from now. It is tightly packed, but there is a burst of flavour mid palate that is like a fireworks burst and then gone. I think this burst will become a blossom. I am calling this wine "The Ugly Duckling" of the 07...swans are coming!
Et Fille Pinot Noirs...these wines will need to be thought over more, 'round the warm wood stove while staring at the Christmas tree...Nicholas has me by the tongue! It twists round and round my tongue and swirls and swirls through my mouth...swallowing it only make him more mischievous and he gives off espresso and cocoa hints that sort of hang around. Never gets puckerish, and is eminently drinkable!
Laura Volkman Chardonnay of any year. This is the first Chardonnay that made me stop my tasting until the flavour was completely gone from my last sip. Jane patiently sat with me for 20 minutes before we went on to the pinots...yeah I know...ME? Wait to taste PINOT? Laura did it. It is soft but not mushy, appley and with enough tropical acidy fruit so it doesn't wilt...buttery gentle but definitely not a wimp...this is the wine that has the strength of yieldedness, for who is stronger or more at liberty than the one who chooses the path of yieldedness? I could drink this wine all day and think of pinot only in the sense that I would not want it right then!
I cannot emphasize enough how good these wines are. Sokol Blosser is the gold standard of Oregon Pinot and blazed the trail. Et Fille and Laura Volkman are hot on their heels, drafting in the sweet spot and carving out their proper place. How blessed am I that I get to drink them? Guess I will have to demonstrate...Nicholas, look out! Jane and I are gonna uncork you!
(the impressive, capable, and beautiful
Carmen Miller) informed us that Alexana Winery was offering a tasting at their Tasting Salon in Carlton (116 W. Main St, Wed-Sun 10am-6pm and by appointment). Knowing Jane and I, Carmen felt this event would be something we would enjoy.
She was right! We set out from McMinnville around 6:00PM on a very crisp and cold December evening. The wind was whistling out of the North, and for all the world appeared to be waltzing the stars around in the velvety sky...or perhaps it mistook the stark clear jewels for diamonds scattered by Her Majesty's generous Hand...
...beauty sown ever so carelessly and ever so precise. Becki Sue & her Big Rockin' Daddies was blasting out through the speakers and my fine red wine truck was putting out the heat to bring the bloom back to our cheeks.
A few minutes later we were parking on Main St, and looking in through a window glow at an inviting and warm tableau.
Quickly scurrying up the ramp, and eagerly opening the door, we were swathed in a heady brew of lively conversation, sensory delights to eyes and nose with great decor and appetizers fit for princes, and the friendly welcoming smile of Kelda Kinne. Her competent skills with people and with the wine bar kept a steady stream of goodness pouring out.
The room glowed in the soft golden light and the hardwood floors set off the rustic and tasteful furnishings.
Clearly this was a room closer to a small temple of wine than an opulent lounge of leisure! Tasteful prints of the vineyards hung from the walls, and flower displays added color and detail. Along the back wall was a great rack holding bottles of beautiful wine.
Soft finger picking came from the back room, and there was a minstrel playing somewhat Spanish sounding classical guitar with just the right touch...unobtrusive and helping to provide a pleasing backdrop while simultaneously challenging and intriguing the ear...
Kelda got us glasses and began to fill us in on each one. We started with a lovely pinot gris that was typical of a good Oregon Pinot Gris, except more so...sometimes I struggle with descriptors, and thus describe things in other ways to try to bring out the flavour (one of the things I like about Fille at Et Fille! lol)...think of the things you like in a pinot gris...crisp, but not puckerish, fruity but not in an overly sweet clingy way, apple-y amd honeydew melon-y but not overpowering...plenty of structure to carry the flaovurs into the contemplative place of "the linger" (that is what I like to do...linger over the sip and allow it to sing).
Next we had the Revana Vineyard 07 Pinot. I felt that this wine was still tight, but it was not a bad thing, because there were all the hooks in the mouth that tell how it will unfold with time. Spicy notes of things like all-spice and nutmeg, cocoa and cola notes, and hints of beautiful floral things that will emerge. After those things what I anticipate are black silky tastes of dark cherries and marionberries that will ultimately lead to that loamy smoky goodness I so love in pinot noir...pungent and silky all at once. This was a wine for cellaring, even though it drank very pleasantly.
The 06 Shea Vineyard Pinot is a true star. Wow. Just...wow. What a beautiful drink. I sat down and took my time with this pinot. Beautifully drinkable with very soft inviting fruit flavors,anise, currants and luscious blackberries...and that wonderful carmelly-toasty undertone from the tannins...but all of this in a lush blended balanced "gob" of flavour...gob is the only word I can think of to describe the truly wonderful wine. It's funny, because it is not in the wheelhouse of my favorite wines...but it is sooo good that it entices me to come over to her house and linger awhile...
Beautiful wine, really. In fact, the best of the night...except for this beauty whose wine is my life, my breath, my intoxicating draught and doom from which I shall never, ever recover...and what sweet non-recovery it is!
Check out the website at http://www.alexanawinery.com/alexana/in
In quiet lulls and lilting song,
I think about you all day long.
I always ever have so thought,
Before I knew your name I sought,
I always ever have so thought.
The silences redound with song,
Those cataracts of thunderous throng,
And I think about you all day long.
Years come and go, an avalanche,
Days sprout like leaves that spin and dance,
Years come and go, an avalanche.
And on that day that is my last
The culmination of my past
I’ll think about you…
All day long
on a summer day it looks like Milan-San Remo road race through some of the sections…low stone walls, azure seas, and awesome cliffs.
In the winter, the stormy ocean waves dash themselves against the stubborn obdurate stone faces as the birds wail like mourners at a wake, and you ride thru mist that is torn into lace by the sharp and jagged fir trees that stand, silent sentinels in the storm, wild witnesses to the ride of lonely austere splendour…this is what you ride thru!
Primeval forests with huge ferns and wild tangles of vines and brambles claw at the naked deciduous trees which seem to covet the vines’ rough and ready caress as some futile cover against the winter onslaught.
Lying asleep between the strokes of night
I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
Pale as the duskiest lily's leaf or head,
Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat made to bite,
Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
But perfect-coloured without white or red.
And her lips opened amorously, and said-
I wist not what, saving one word - Delight.
And all her face was honey to my mouth,
And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
The long lithe arms and hotter hands than fire,
The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
And glittering eyelids of my soul's desire.
Perhaps it describes that ohh so perfect vintage too, no?
...and were rewarded handsomely! This was a prototypical Red Hills Pinot with that special undertones that always remind me of how the best wood fires smell...fresh toasty but not bitter or mossy (I just love to be out and about on a cold morning and smell the aromas curling up from the frosty rooftops in the neighborhood where woodstoves furiously huff and puff their flaming goodness, bringing roses to cold white cheeks and contentment to cold piggy toes-eys!).
Sweet on the back palate but in the sense of how vanilla is "sweet"...not like sugar-sweet. Tastes make you want to smack your mouth to try and savor all the flavors of these big black fruits, and lots of cherries...again, don't think of sugar sweet, just flavor.
But what is special about this wine to me was the florally like finish, with hints of roses and violets that faded to the spicy, earth-tangy cola finish of the Red Hills. The best pinots from here have this finish...Winter's Hill 05 Reserve has this finish...you make your own conclusion.
As for me and Jane...I think we will head on up there for a TASTIN'!
Before I tell you about what a great event it was let me relate a little history...
I first ran onto Et Fille the weekend before Thanksgiving at a small tasting event held just North of Lafayette at the Brookside Inn out on Abbey Rd. (This is a picturesque and inviting place worth checking out. Smack dab in the middle of wine country, it would serve as an excellent base for a weekend tasting trip.) The event was called the Indie Winemakers Pre-Thanksgiving Tasting Event, and it consisted of several winemakers who are smaller, somewhat "boutique winemakers" eager for the chance to get their wines some run. Though I did not attend the big Indie Winemakers'Festival last spring, I am imagining this was similar to that event except in miniature.
As we tasted around the room, we came to the display of Et Fille, and immediately noticed the extraordinary label which struck a very deep chord within my being. It is a striking and elegant pink label with a lovely depiction of a large father's hand holding a small daughter's hand as if they were walking together.
Wow! If you have been reading what this blog is about you can imagine the cascade of thoughts and connections triggered within me. I will let you all cogitate on those for yourselves.
As Jane and I walked over to taste, we were greeted...nay, welcomed by one of the most amazing people I have ever met. Jessica Mozeico (the "Fille") has that rare ability to make everyone she meets feel like the most important person in the world. Warm and full of life, humor, enthusiasm and skill, this young lady drew us in immediately. She expertly and effortlessly began to tell us about Et Fille and the wines that her father and she had created. As she spoke, I just opened up my heart to listen, and to taste...for here was a vessel full of true wine, the wine of humanity at its finest. What a cuveé of professionalism, creativity, vision, maturity tempered with child-like good nature and Wonder (in the deep and true sense of that word), beauty, hard work and dedication...I could go on but I already risk losing credibility in that it sounds like I am exaggerating. I assure you that I have not yet found an adequate word to describe this unique lady.
She then gave us our first taste, and it was a very nice 07 Viognier. I think I will do a separate post regarding their wines and try to go into more detail about each of them, as I want to be accurate about my impressions. Of course, I will have to open each one to be sure I don't get it wrong...tsk, tsk, such a pity! Heh.
I continued to listen, and to watch as she served others. Rosé came next, and it was a very nice and somewhat dry styled rosé, not too fruit forward but very refreshing. I then had the first of 4 pinots. Et Fille obtains fruit from various high quality vineyards in the area, intentionally choosing top of the line fruit that is different in character, taste and terroir, and then applies their committed approach to the resulting wine...an expression of the specific vineyard that is true to their vision as a small family run winery...for the best recitation of that vision, please go here :
The first sip I took of the Blakeslee Vineyard 07 pinot told me that not only was I in the presence of a gifted young woman, but I was also in the presence of very talented winemakers as well. I stepped back a little and pondered my way through this pour, and began to watch Jessica's dad...and as I watched, I understood the source of this wonderful dynamo...the source is love. Howard felt no need to say much, or really to do much. He was just letting the love and pride flow, and when needed, he would add comments regarding the wine. Here was a special man, who had no ego on display or hard sell to push. Clearly this was a man who loved his family and loved making wine. He is gentle but not weak, and is thoughtful but not ponderous. He has a light and deft touch...with the wine, but also with people, as I have come to discover.
To me Howard and Jessica were the essence of those relationships I have alluded to in the early posts here, and they were living out the very dynamic that I have sought to create with my two daughters. I said as much to them, and they both were gracious and joyful in the compliment.
Let it not be lost that the pinots were terrific, and at times stunning. Et Fille has quickly risen into the top tier of my favorites. The wines show marked difference from place to place, and having had wine from each of the AVAs they represented, I can say that Et FIlle effortlessly captured the "place", while filling the cup with the nuanced expression of individuality.
We chatted more, and I will post about that later...I want to move on to commenting about yesterday, so watch this space for more back story about my beginnings of the honor of coming to know these gracious and talented winemakers.
Yesterday Et Fille released the 2008 wines in their lineup: Viognier, Rosé, Willamette Valley Pinot, 07 Kalitas Vineyard Pinot, 07 Nicholas Vineyard Pinot, 08 Maresh Vineyard Pinot, 08 Kalitas Vineyard.
We arrived on a crisply cold and bright sunny day that was perfect to be out and tasting. It was like the day was playing music on the reeds of the trees and grasses and the flow of traffic in front of August Cellars sounded the bass and percussion notes. As we entered we were greeted by a beautiful lady who got us all set up with glasses ready to go. We stood several feet away and sort of got our bearings as we looked around. We were on the fermentation deck, perched loft-like above the settling and blending tanks below.
The room had been transformed by elegant and beautiful decorations that were very tastefully arranged around the fermenters and other equipment. Several ladies were present and manning various stations where one could purchase wine and Et Fille swag, and it sure seemed to Jane and I there was a definite family resemblance (much to my delight, we asked and discovered they were all indeed family, and this even further raised the whole Et Fille operation in my estimation as a place where the metaphor of wine as relationship was being lived out and lived out well. Curiosity being both my blessing and bane, I asked them later what nationality they were, as I had decided they were of Japanese heritage...the elegant simplicity of things gave it away...they graciously confirmed this).
Tables were set out in the middle of the space, laden with perfect wine-tasting snacks...some very nice Italian salami, an ohh so tender and succulent smoked salmon, a wheel of gruyere cheese, a goats milk and fig cheese, and crackers. On the far wall was a place where the most delicious chocolates from Majestic Chocolates was paired with the pinot noirs. Everywhere was the Et Fille name in its elegant calligraphy.
Jessica and Howard were busy pouring and expounding on the characteristics of the 08s, when suddenly Jessica looke up and saw us standing across the room. She literally stopped in mid sentence, gave a gleeful wave and shouted out hello, excused herself graciously and nearly ran over to greet us in a big hug, one arm for me and one for Jane as she asked after our oldest daughter whom she had met (another post, dear ones...), and then urged us over to the tasting table. Howard saw us and lit up like a Christmas tree, glad to see us...
...and we began to taste. Let me just tell you these things off the top in brief: the Viognier outdid the very nice 07 with ease! Just a touch sweeter but not cloying, and the fruit expressed itself in a panoply of layers and notes of melons and apples and citrus with some hints of tropical things like mangos and papayas. The rosé took a step up too (unbeknown to me at the time was the fact that this wine was Jessica's first attempt to make a wine that was her own expression, and I kept raving about how I liked it, and she kept beaming bigger and bigger while shooting her dad wicked knowing grins...I, always the court jester verbally capering about, finally asked what was going on, and Howard glared at me with mock sternness concealing his fatherly pride and exclaimed "you like HER wine better than MINE, and you keep going on and on...I now pronounce you CUT-OFF for the rest of the tasting!!" We all laughed heartily while Jessica assured me that I would be well rewarded for my obviously refined and educated palate! It was an LOL moment to be sure) A bit fuller mouth feel and a tad sweeter, the rose left the very pleasant taste on the back palate of the perfect strawberry:
...not too tart and not too sweet.
Among the many impressive things about the day, one thing stands out: as people arrived, it was striking how many the Mozeicos knew by name, and they each have such a deft skill at excusing themselves from a current conversation in such a way that makes you still feel like you are the most special person there, and then going to the new guests with greetings that would make you swear they were dear relatives just arrived from out of town.
Tasting through the pinots...the 08 WIllamette Valley was an extraordinary blend of fruit from all of the source vineyards. When I heard this, I was cautious and somewhat dubious, for I have not yet tasted a truly successful attempt of this many sources blended together, but this one just jumped up and grabbed me and pulled me in! I told Howard that it was like being outside on a cold and blustery evening, and then entering into a place where there was a party in progress...one of those parties that is loud and exuberant in the best sense, an event that makes your heart leap and your soul eager to enter into the camaraderie so you quickly strip away the protective and ponderous winter shell, grab a glass and a plate and launch into the swells of laughter. Really, that was what it was like to me...
all the notes riotously reveling on the palate but not clashing in the slightest...full bouquet and inviting nose round out an absolutely delightful pinot.
We then had a short review with the 07 Kalitas and Nicholas (can't wait to post in more detail on these), and proceeded to the 08 Maresh...this wine reminded me of fine silky soft cashmere scarves still in their package...you can feel the quality in the openings enough to make you rush to the register to purchase them to be opened when at home dressing for an elegant evening out. In contrast to the WV pinot, the Maresh reminded me of entering into the Schnizt concert hall to hear a virtuoso performance of nuance, professional quality, power and tender tempo...yeah, none of the usual wine descriptors there, is there. Nevertheless, this was my impression, and it led me to seek to project forward into what would emerge as this wine unpacks...silky mouth feel, toasted carmelly notes underneath black fruit and delightful velvet warmth...hints of blackberry honey but without the sweetness...spicy feisty beginning with some dash of pepper which will elegantly mellow with time...I can't wait!
The 08 Kalitas...well, for now, just say that I bought a bottle of it to put in the cellar instead of my favorite Et Fille wine, the 07 Nicholas that I had planned to buy to drink now! Sorry Nick. Love ya, but I will drink you later!
As I sit and recall the day, I am struck by the wonderful counterbalances extant in Et Fille...the delightful and dare I say sacred father-daughter familial bond that gives such foundation and affirmation and power to daughter and such delight and fulfillment and purpose to father; the exquisite blending of East and West influences with wines of both expressive dynamic presence and elegant still nuance, the tantalizing tension of complexity and simultaneous simplicity expressed in the strong and vibrant family dynamic, the attractive and elegant labels and marketing materials...
I cannot say enough about each aspect of this work: Et Fille is top notch, from top to bottom and side to side. If you read here for wine recommendations, RUN, don't walk, to your nearest outlet or computer, and close your eyes and just point...there is not a bad one in the bunch! I guarantee it! If you read here for the insights that come to me through wine, wine making and cycling, then Et Fille is currently the best expression of the most relational aspects that touch my soul through viticulture.
I thank the Vine Dresser for His mercy to give me the honor of meeting Et Fille and the privelege of journeying through the coming vintages with them, and I seek His richest blessings please be bestowed on them!
PS: Howard & Jess...thanks for letting me filch images for this post...dummy me was so into the tasting that I forgot to snap a few pics of my own!
A scourge of the modern dining experience is that attitude of striving for recognition and attention which results in food that is distant and unapproachable in nature, presentation and taste. We have been to plenty of “fancy” places, and the problem often is that the food is implacable and unapproachable, as if it is a work of art meant to be admired and memorialized…or sometimes it takes on tinges of absurdity as chefs get distracted by avant-garde notions regarding presentation…the quest for significance dilutes the essence of the whole beauty of breaking bread together is obscured, leaving the diner alienated and unfulfilled.
The Bistro prepares a table...no, it IS a table! From the moment of arrival you are made welcome and integrated into its "terroir" as if you are simultaneously a royal guest and a family member. Deborah brings a gracious and luminous delight into your presence as she welcomes you in.
Her heart of blessing and spirit of celebration make it axiomatic that everything be the best it can be...food quality, drink quality, presentation, purpose, treatment of the guests, attitude and actions of the staff, the surroundings of the restaurant, the landscaping in the patio...nothing is allowed to be mediocre! But here is the best part: the motive for this is not some austere effort to offer up something so high and perfect that it is off putting and intimidating. Rather, it must be the best because that is what best honours the wondrous experience of breaking bread together.
Deborah treats every meal as if it is what Christmas feels like. Whether we are ordering a lot of dishes, or just having simple fondue and fruit, it is the same for her: as if we are the most important service of her career. In essence, it is an introduction into the sacred, in the old sense of the word, and here is where it gets even better...
All of this, and amazing as it is, is merely the vehicle for the amazing food. It is as if the food becomes the "vision made flesh" if you will, a culinary incarnation of the "sacred"! It is so simple, and yet so nuanced and balanced. It is so tasty, and yet fresh and clean and never heavy and burdensome. Chef Jean-Jacques matches Deborah's front of the house ever so perfectly, and the food is that culmination of vision which rends the veils of time to allow eternity to leak through into the evening.
The presentation is elegance wearing clothes of utter simplicity, and unlike the plates alluded to above, these beautiful plates whisper into your ears so delightfully and seductively and invitingly, begging to be eaten!
I recommend you oblige them!
Being run by humans, it is inevitable that the Bistro will have shortcomings and occasionally fumble something. But if one is paying attention, it is abundantly clear that all you need to do is nicely and genuinely let Deborah know, and you will discover that Deborah will go the second mile, the third mile, however many miles needed to go until you are transported to that place of satisfaction and contented joy the Bistro holds as its vision. As the meal is to the guest, so too the guest's experience is to The Bistro...that is their true food and drink.
The staff is a seamless extension of the purpose and vision of this place, ...and a visit to the Bistro will be remembered as one of those magical "time stands still for awhile" evenings.
Each occasion we go there, we experience that magic, that delight! They have been among the best we have ever been graced to experience in our lives. They are absolutely perfect. We depart glowing, and bubbling over with the life, the fun, the company…and we feel restored and renewed and deeply content.
If you are searching for exterior signs that confer status and importance, this is not the place for you. Go elsewhere and be dazzled by the inevitable culinary sophistry that is the inescapable result of seeking to make the "road sign" into the destination. If you are searching for a fawning flattery that falsely inflates an infatuated sense of self, The Bistro is wrong for you, for they will not violate their purpose in this way, and you will leave disappointed and unfulfilled...
...but if you love the essence of breaking bread together...community, hospitality, joy, contentment, satisfaction, celebration, then the Bistro Maison is for you, for The Bistro is your Way Station into the Kingdom of Delight!
It has my utmost recommendation and my utmost gratitude for being honoured in having memories and experiences there that will outlast a lifetime.
3:00 AM on Thursday morning July 12th, and I pop wide awake. I elbow Jane hard in the ribs…roust her out of bed, get the coffee made, and by 3:36 AM we are on the road, with the cds I burned cranked and raring to go.
The drive is swift and beautiful at this time of day. She drifts off back to sleep, and I drive through darkness, lost in the songs, lost in the miles, lost in the sweet apprehension and anticipation of the challenge that awaits me in the distance, implacable, immoveable…has been waiting since God created those mountains…waiting to accept my assault and test my mettle, to see if I am worthy to be allowed to ascend their lofty and starkly beautiful heights.
I drive down Hwy 99w to avoid the drunks, the skunks, the cranks and the skanks. When I hit Eugene, I get on the 5 for a few miles, and then turn off onto the road that goes over Willamette pass through Oakridge…58, I think. Up into the mountains I go, and the sun comes up and tears at the cloud cover that resists its advances like a pretty girl resists the passes of her lover…and then I am through the pass, and headed south on Hwy 99w.
I run into the mother of the cloud cover, and it is a blanket of fog that stretches all the way to Klamath Falls, and people are driving like it is a blizzard, or something. I am passing, and moving steady, and I find that pocket where I can rocket…and we are in KFalls by 8:00…gas up, and hit the road…back roads through the Modoc Forest twining our way across the high desert towards Susanville, and it is like the state line pulls back the fog…Cali…dressed in a string bikini compared to Oregon, parka clad and hairy legged and loony…ahhhh, Cali….yeah Baybee, YEAH!!!
Susanville rolls closer, and I am booking along to the cool sounds of Booker T & the MGs…get ahold of his tune called “Melting Pot”… Holy Moly what a song. Susanville is mine before 10:30 AM.
Jane has to offload coffee, so we stop at a little bakery/coffee shop, do the deed, buy futures in bathroom stops (called coffee), and roll out onto the 395 south to Reno, and on to the mtns…we hit construction, and traffic slows, but I can see that if need be, I can do this drive in under 10 hrs…I could actually drive down to train in the mtns and then get back all in one weekend.
The mtns rise up on my right and they start running silent smack straight at my ass, and they are zeroed in, man! It is a fearsome sight to see the cliffs, and the bulk and the height of these brutes.
We hit Carson City and stop to load up on groceries, and liquor…tequila and good scotch for the campsite, and it is a bargain. Tenting always is easier with a shot in one of something warm and slow…yeah.
So, I get there and get registered, and it is only 4:00 PM, so I take my bike out, and decide to tackle Carson Pass, as it was rumored to be the worst. As I rode, I realized that I had trained so wisely. I never rode in my 39x25…always rode my 39x19 or my 39x21, and this was smart, for it built my strength and left my 25 for the steepness that would seek to mind rape me and rip my legs off. I easily overcame the gradient, and began to fly up the climb…and 1 hr 50 mins later I was at the top of the pass, some 8500 ft above sea level.
At the top, I saw some crunchy groove hikers backpacking, and I talked to them awhile, and then told them I would drink some tequila for them that night and think of them as they sat in the wilderness…they liked that, for some reason…
I come off the mtn on the descent, and I am passing cars on the way down! It rocked the house, at that speed, everything else disappears, and there is only the moment.
That nite, I get a good dinner, read, have some scotch, get a leg massage…and then dream of the deathride.
Friday I pop up, and I am 48 that day…wow. I go to tackle some other passes, figuring I need to ride to stay sharp, but not too hard. I was going to back the front side of Monitor and the front side of Ebbitts…Ebbitts by the way is totally beautiful…indescribable and picturesque, and HARD, freaking A stone cold hard, dude!!!!
So I am riding towards the passes, and I see a deathride volunteer, out getting things ready. I stop to talk with him a little, and he casts a haughty eye at my cassette, and wants to know if my smallest gear is a 27…I say no, it is a 25. He sneers, and says: Oh, so you think you are one of those strong boys, eh?” I say I don’t know what I think I am, but what is your point…and he basically says that I won’t be able to finish the ride without an easier gear…well, I don’t tell him that the 25 is already way easier than the 20 tooth cog that was my “granny” years ago…what is the point, he is the freaking expert, right? Then he wants to know why I am out riding the day before the ride and not resting…I tell him that I am going to do Monitor and Ebbitts, and he nearly craps bricks! He shakes his head, and all but says that I will never make all five passes…I stay placid with my best Gomer Pyle look, but on the inside I am going all Travis Bickle on his ass…and I ride off, and bag the 2 passes.
It was epic, and they were hard climbs, but it was easy too…I was ready. I was trained and the only question was could I string it all together when it counted…could I do it the right way? I had to ignore all the hard chargers, all the rabbits, all the macho fast starters, and ride within myself.
I went back to camp, loaded up on food, and hit the hay.
3:30 AM, I pop awake, and I am ready to rock and roll…everything laid out, everything ready to go, and so when it is time to drive to the start, off we go, to the sounds of a great Matt Redman worship tune called “To You Oh Lord”, and what a perfect song for the deathride! At 5:15, I launch, and I am passing people like they are standing still, and not riding hard…wanting to ride worthy of the mountains and worthy of my chance, and I work my way up Monitor pass. I am wearing a black new Vermarc jersey, full zip style, some black bibs from River City Bike Shop, and my yellow Lion of Flanders socks that Caitlin gave me for my birthday.
I summit the 10 mile climb in 58 minutes,
and I pass way more people than pass me…and many who pass me, I know I can ride with, but think they are too fast too soon, so I let them go. I come to the top, and get my sticker, and off I go to the bottom of the East side. They give me sticker #2 down there, because the only way back is back up. This is one of the climbs I had not done yet, so I was very cautious, and it was a long brute of a climb! I rode in small gears, spinning lightly, breathing easy and feeling alive, singing that worship tune over and over.
I look down…there is $20 laying in the road. No one wants to stop because the road is too steep to get going again…and boom, I am twenty bucks richer!!!! I stop and grab it. Some numb nuts had it in his back pocket instead of up the leg of his bibs…whatever, I get started easily and keep going.
After a few minutes, a mtn biker rides by and hears me talking to another guy about Northern California, and so the mtn biker starts to ride near me, and talks with me some…turns out he is born in Belgium, and the Lion of Flanders socks grab his eye…their flag has that Lion on them. We ride for awhile, and I let people go by me who are obviously not as good a cyclist as I, but I make no attempt to ride their speed. I can tell this guy wants to go faster, so I tell him to feel free to ride faster if he wishes, but I know my pace, what is best…he asks me my goal, and I tell him it is 10 hrs or under…he gasps, and then begs to ride with me all day. I tell him that is OK by me, but if he rides with me he goes my pace. He says fine, but wants to know why I am riding so easy up the back side of Monitor, and I tell him it is because I am not riding Monitor, but the 5th pass right then…and after he thinks on that awhile, he gets it…settles down, and rides my pace. Turns out his fastest before was well over 12 hrs, and his trouble was that he always went out way too fast, burned out, and had to suffer to finish.
I have a lot of funny stories of different riders, and some of the dicks that thought they were in a race, but that is for later.
The mtn biker was named Mark, and it turned out he was a pro mtn bike racer…he was riding his mtn bike by the way…but dude starts to cramp a little, and we have a long way to go…but he was a nice, guy, so I slowed a little, and when we summited, I gave him some of my electrolyte capsules, and basically nurse-maided him through the rest of the ride, although he rode real strong on the 3rd pass.
Just before we were set to launch on the descent and head toward the 3rd pass, I asked him if he liked going downhill…he said yes. I said, “Do you like going downhill fast…really fast” and he said yes, but looked puzzled…I told him to get on my wheel and not turn loose, and we did the 10 mile descent in 10 minutes!!!!!!! That is 60 mph average! Some was definitely not that fast, so some had to be waaayyyy faster, too. Remember, the road was closed, and it was an alpine situation, so it was as close to the Tour descents as I will get…ohh, BAYBEE!!!!!!!! It was so beautiful, so fast, so much like flying…there is your incentive to train!
We head to Ebbitts, and Mark is chomping at the bit, but I am holding him back, telling him we have a long way to go…and by the time we summit Ebbitts and descend, I am seeing signs of weakness in him. On the way back up Ebbitts, to pass #4, he starts to drop, and sad for him, I am getting my breakthrough, and feeling better than when I started…I have dosed this thing perfectly!
But, I felt so full of Love, so full of Worship and Praise for the beauty of what I was in and what I was doing, that I really wanted to help this guy, so I slowed even more, and gave him my wheel, and I could feel the pleasure in that…and people would pass us that I knew I was faster than, and it was OK…I did not need to prove it, for I knew in my heart that I was.
We summit #4, descend, and we are in Markleeville ready for the last one, and our riding time is 6 hrs…so if we rode a 1:50 like I had that Thursday before, we would be under 8 hrs! Alas, it was not to be, as Mark was just barely there. He kept telling me that I was a truly stud rider, and since he was a pro racer who had raced in Europe and Africa, this made me feel so good.
By now it is nearing 100 degrees, and I unzipped my jersey so it is flapping in the breeze, and I give this guy a 2 hour lead out…and it was so fun, because I kept hearing Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin in my head announcing our ride as if it were a tour stage…what a gas!
We summit strong, and then fly down the mountain into the check in center…where they verify our 5 passes, and then I went to get Jane…and never saw Mark again! We finished in 8 hrs 59 minutes, and that was with a lot of waiting to get water that I forgot to turn the watch off for. Our total elapsed time was 10 hrs, as we were done at 3:15 PM. Dude was so happy, for he did it 3 hrs faster than ever before, and felt way better to boot!
I got my special 5 pass pin and jersey, and I cannot wait to do it again, and someday, you gotta ride with me!
Then I ate like a horse, drank some tequila, and said nitey nite!
Later that night in the tent...Laughs!
And even later, a night of epipheny...but that is another chapter of Evening Punch...
- Current Location:Markleyville CA
- Current Music:Matt Redman "To You Oh Lord"
Anyway, John Paul is the winemaker in question, and he is the creative force in J. Cameron wines. His comments truly piqued my interest, and set off that inner itch to receive teaching and become wiser. So when I heard he was open on Friday, I made a beeline for his place, and was rewarded with an impromptu instructive dialogue on the nature of the 07s, the need for craft informed by the vines and site rather than the pocketbook and market force, the unique weather of 07 and how it was misinterpreted at best and misunderstood at worst, the philosophy of winemaking and its relationship to terroir, and a wealth of other gems I am still cogitating on. This man is out there, in the best of ways.
From respect for him, I am posting an interview I ran across online and originally at
By Scott Frank on 6.1.2006
Whenever someone starts talking about Cameron wines the conversation inevitably turns to owner and winemaker John Paul. After earning a PhD in Marine Biology in the mid-70s, John Paul chucked it all and went to work in a California vineyard for $5 an hour. After a stint as the assistant winemaker at Carneros Creek in Napa Valley, he purchased a vineyard in the Dundee Hills within Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Today, his wines are as much an expression of his irrepressible personality as they are the Dundee Hills terroir he champions. Whether it’s the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay he crafts with monastic patience or the Nebbiolo, Tocai Pinot Bianco and Moscato he’s embraced from many pilgrimages to northern Italy, each wine is a singular reflection of one place, one time and one winemaker.
The wines also reflect an ecological approach that he has fostered not only in the vineyard, but the winery as well. When the cellar was constructed he seeded the walls with spores so fungus would flourish and create the appropriate environment for fermentation and aging. Walking down the staircase into the cellar, there’s a sense that the cellar is actually alive. This may well be the source of the classic “Cameron Cellar Funk”, a quality that pervades nearly all the wines made there. If tasting blind against other Oregon Pinots, even other Dundee Hills Pinots, you can pick out Cameron nearly every time.
Dry viticulture is first among the factors he lists in making great wine and this point he tirelessly promotes whenever given a chance. Other tenets he follows are spontaneous fermentations (fostering wild yeasts rather than inoculating) whenever possible, long maturation times in barrel that extend up to 24 months or more and also a cold, underground cellar. No heaters will be found at Cameron during crush, pumping up the temperature to encourage fast and furious ferments.
One of the things you start to love about Cameron wines is the inconsistency from vintage to vintage. He believes wine should reflect the vintage as much as possible while trying to produce a great wine. You won’t find any gadgets or techniques designed to make a product that tastes the same from year to year, or that takes any of the uncertainty out of the experience of opening a bottle of wine.
But ultimately, to understand his wines you have to understand the man himself. We recently sat down over dinner, opened some of the Burgundies that have influenced his style and let the tape recorder roll:
SF: With a PhD in Marine Biochemistry, do you think you have an advantage or a unique perspective on winemaking that some of your peers don’t?
JP: Yeah, because I understand the chemistry of wine. I mean, look, all the basic tenets of modern biology and biochemistry came from Louis Pasteur. He was a wine chemist. He’s the father of modern biology. A wine chemist! Right and Left Handedness, which is a basic tenet of biochemistry and microbiology—he found that with tartrate crystals that had dropped out of wine. He looked at them under a microscope and he saw that there were two different types of crystals and he painstakingly, with tweezers, separated the crystals out into two groups, redissolved them and found that one bent light to the right and one bent light to the left. And that was DNL isomers, which are a big part of biology and biochemistry. It was from wine! All the basic stuff in microbiology is from wine yeasts and lactic acids and bacteria from wine.
SF: You accepted a research fellowship after getting your PhD, right?
JP: Yeah, I had received a PhD in marine biochemistry from SCRIPPS Oceanographic Institute in San Diego and I got a post doctorate fellowship with a Nobel Laureate. I remember when I first arrived in Berkeley, walking around campus and here I am going to work for this Nobel Laureate who won the prize in chemistry in 1964 for elucidating the dark reactions of photosynthesis. That was my gig—plant physiology and photosynthesis. And I remember walking around the campus going, “Wow. I’m here. I made it. I’m at the pinnacle of my academic career. Which also played into my later thinking, “Well, where the hell do I go from here?”
SF: It’s all down hill, maybe!
JP: I may have peaked! (Laughter) I went and started working for $5.00 an hour at a winery and working in a vineyard. I was in Lake County pruning grapes. I was the only Anglo in the vineyard and I learned Spanish and I learned how to cook tortillas at noon, out in the vineyard. Taking the cuttings and making a little fire and putting your tortillas on top of the fire…
SF: Do remember the moment you realized wine was something special to you?
JP: I can tell you when I decided Pinot Noir was it. I got into wine when I was living in Berkeley and thought it was pretty neat. But when I got the job as assistant winemaker at Carneros Creek Winery in December of ‘79, and because I was in that position, I got to go to a tasting the following spring at Walnut Creek of 1976 Domaine Romanée-Conti wines. All their wines. So there was La Tache, Romanée-St.-Vivant, Blochet and Richebourg—they were all there. And there were these big Burgundy-type glasses. And they were all in front of me. I mean, I had never had any wine like this before, and I sat down—‘76 was an absolutely brilliant vintage in Burgundy—and I remember I just started smelling these glasses and I couldn’t drink them. They were so gorgeous I couldn’t drink them. I just wanted to smell them. I was going from glass to glass to glass and that was my epiphany that this is the greatest grape variety in the world. I fell in love with Pinot Noir.
SF: The press still seems to focus primarily on California as the center of Pinot Noir in America, but I suspect you feel its heart lies in Oregon?
JP: Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. That’s why I came up here. I felt that back in the early 80’s. I tried David Lett’s ( The Eyrie Vineyards ) Pinot Noir and it was like, this is… you know, after doing Burgundy, the more I was in Burgundy the more I realized this is it. Oregon is the place to do it. This is the most like Burgundy. This area. If you want to make something like Burgundy, which—let’s face it, that’s why we’re interested in Pinot Noir, because of what Burgundy’s done. You know, everyone tries to go, “Well, you know, we’re not making Burgundy here.” Well, you know… yes we are. Yes, that is what we’re trying do. That really is what we’re trying to emulate.
SF: There’s no other bar that’s been set somewhere else?
JP: No. That’s the bar. So yes we are. We are trying to make something that’s kind of like Burgundy. At least I am and I think if you’re really honest, yes we are. And I’m not pretentious enough to say that I’m making anything like any of these Grand Cru Burgundies. Maybe I’ve made some things would be on the level of some of the Premier Cru wines. But that’s it at this point.
…I’ve always felt Chardonnay was a brilliant variety here. I’ve always thought it was completely the wrong variety to plant in California. It’s too hot, too alcoholic. They irrigate their vines so they get eight tons per acre instead of like, two, which is what they need, and they’ll never make decent Chardonnay.
When the white winemaker from Mondavi, who does their Chardonnay, their Reserve Chardonnay, was up here several years ago he came out to the winery. I was dropping crop and he was sitting up on the deck and he goes, “What are you doing?” And I go, “There’s too much crop. I’ve got to drop it down to about two and half tons, two tons per acre.” And he goes, “Why would you do that?” I went, “So I can make decent wine. What do you use for like, the Reserve Chardonnay at Mondavi?” He says, “Oh, eight tons.”
SF: Ok. Let’s talk irrigation. You’ve founded the Deep Roots Coalition to advocate dry viticulture. You’re quite vocal about opposing irrigation. What’s the deal?
JP: You know, you’re talking about a hundred years from now, what are people gonna say? Just that. Is there even a wine industry here in a hundred years? If we’re all irrigated and they’ve depleted the water, there might not even be a wine industry here. So I’m talking about sustainability. I’m talking about people doing a hundred years from now, what they doing now. Clos Electrique will still be here. Abbey Ridge will still be here. But will Argyle’s vineyards be here that are irrigated? Will Stoller still be here? Will Domaine Serene be here? Will Domaine Drouhin be here? Gherts will be here, but will Archery Summit be here? Because if they have to cut off irrigation on those vineyards, they’re just going to die. They’ll die.
So that’s my problem. It’s sustainability. It’s about doing what’s right for the environment. We can talk about the niceties of the wines, and that you can do this and that but let’s talk about what’s best for the environment and the water table and the viability of the region.
SF: You think it’s irresponsible to think of wine outside of its environmental impact, its sustainability?
JP: I do. You have to think of like oil. Water is a finite resource. And losing it has way more difficult repercussions than losing oil. There is no replacement for fresh water. When it’s gone, it’s gone. When we use up these aquifers…and everybody thinks, “Well, it rains here.” Rain doesn’t necessarily replenish these aquifers. They’re below the basalt layer. It’s not clear that water percolating down from rain goes through the basalt… I tell you what, water tables are dropping in the Dundee Hills.
SF: What other arguments are there for dry farming?
JP: Another would be terrior—an expression of site and vineyard. I think that’s why people drink wine. They want a place associated with it. It’s clear to me that these wines that are coming from irrigated vineyards have a sameness to them. They don’t have a place to them. You taste them and they all seem alike. Then you start hearing consumers out there who go, “Hey, these Oregon Pinot Noirs taste alike.” You ask them which ones they’ve had and they start going, “you know, I’ve had Domaine Serene, I’ve had Archery Summit…” and you have to agree. Then you go, “well, have you tried Evesham Wood, have you tried Brickhouse, have you tried John Thomas?” If it’s “no,” then, okay. You understand you’re talking about two different types.
SF: What other beefs do you have with the direction wine is going?
JP: The attraction of wine is its inconsistency. That’s what makes it fascinating... There’s another great argument for not irrigating. Irrigating wipes out all the peaks and valleys and you wind up with boring, industrial wine. My quote as of late, from Oscar Wilde is “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” It’s true.
SF: Last question for you. Why would someone with a PhD and a potentially lucrative and respected career in science or academia toss that away and play with grapes?
JP: It’s a good question. Why are we sitting here burning up all this time talking about it? Julian (his son) will often say, “It’s a freaking beverage, man.” And it is, but what is it about wine? There’s just something about it. It grabs a hold of you. It’s got a history, a brilliant history. I’m growing grape varieties in the vineyard that are centuries old. It’s got a place to it.
You know what? It reflects the cycle of the year. The cycle of nature. You’ve got a certain year and you work the vines all through that year. Then they produce and what they produce reflects on the year that you've just worked. Then it ages in the cellar and you get this chronological thing, with all these vintages back there. It’s really interesting, I look at my two kids-- One was born in ’82 and the other in ’87. I can remember those vintages better than I can anything else about the year they were born in. What the growing season was like. What the wines were like. That’s what it is about wine. It’s the memories.
Sometimes it serves to uncover something already within you. I love 2 words of wisdom that relate to these spirit-dumps, and they go like this: It is God who is at work in you both to will and to do according to His good pleasure, so therefore work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...and also: The Kingdom of God is within you...
Consider the work within and its source, and then the working out of that with grace and humility...and consider what is within you that wants to be revealed through you...
SO back to wine...a substance that is the culmination of the most basic and complex relationships in creation. I had the amazing blessing of going on a tour of Sokol Blosser Vineyard and winery. As this blog grows, I will post about that, about Sokol Blosser and many good times and learning experiences they have graced me with. But for now, this tour was the spark in the dark, the big bang in the creation of the Wine Universe within me that I feel like is expanding and growing every day.
Since then much studying, discussion, learning, tasting, and pondering...and make no mistake: the Creator set this wine thing up in motion. It involves the complete "earth-organism" and the best wine is created from the best and most whole and true relationships and motives.
My life and experiences have deeper layers of meaning as I apply the metaphor to them and the essential truths are crushed out. My day to day purpose is sweeter, understanding that the vines of my being are in the care of the Vine Dresser, and His pruning shears reduce me to increase quality and vitality and flavor and depth...stress is no fun, but I am far more pliable now, far more at ease in its midst, knowing that it has been allowed into my life by wise and decisive decisions made by One who's goal is to have a precious draught to quench the thirst of the parched, to brighten the life of the gloomy, to intoxicate the life of the dour, and to comfort the life of the brokenhearted.
Seasons of budbreak,seasons of fruitset, seasons of pruning, seasons of verasion, seasons of fruitdrop, seasons of harvest, seasons of crush, seasons of fermenting and aging, seasons of fining sometimes, seasons of bottling, seasons of being poured out, and seasons of dormancy...all of these are at work, not randomly, any more than wine is randomly produced...all of these are at work PURPOSELY, in the Hands of a Master Vintner who loves His vineyards and loves His vines and loves their fruit and loves the wines, and it is good, and shall be good, and the vintages will add to His renown...if I let them, eh?
- Current Location:McMinnville
- Current Music:Handel Water Music
...and it hit me. Talking about insights, thinking on the bike, seeing sights like rain-swept mountains wielding tall fir trees doing battle with the onslaught of smothering cloud-banks that grab in kamikaze grip only to find themselves torn and reforming...rising roads twisting and switching back upon themselves and pointing up up always up, and the rhythm of breath and leg and the vision of cuttingly achingly beautiful creation...
...walking the red-ribbed rows of the Dundee Red Hills amongst the vines and smelling the jory dirt so rich, so mineral clean and pungent, while the bluebirds flit amongst the vines and glory in the provision of the One who cares for every falling bird...vines laden with future vintages and stretching in the sun like lovely lasses luxuriating in the summer caress of Old Sol while the wind plays the courtly suitor's song among the leaves and trees...the sounds, the smells, the rhythms of relationship...
...and I knew I had to begin a blog. Why is it called Evening Punch? Why, that will be fun to discover, won't it? Heh.
Here is my purpose: to capture the arc of revelation as I live day to day...to chronicle the experiences and understandings revealed by the relationship between the soil and the sky, the vine and the vine dresser, the grape and the grower, the crush and the crusher, and the wine-maker and the wine...to bring from the inside of my heart what was poured in from Without while I wheeled down the road and poured out from within...to somehow convey the amazing person I know named Jesus who has been so trivialized and shamed by the woman He loves deepest and best...to somehow be a blessing to the people I meet and live with and work with...to somehow let people know the Jesus I have come to know and love, the funniest, cleverest, most joyful, compassionate, resolute, adaptable, understanding, accepting and alert person I have ever met.
Some of my deepest frustrations have to do with the fact that He isn't here physically right now...He is about His job...and that He has left folks like me to "be Him" physically in this sphere...but cycling helps me to understand and grow in this task, and Viticulture is a profound living metaphor of the kind of relationships necessary to take us into a deeper and more full place...
So off I go...recording rides, transcribing tastings, heralding harvests, chronicling crushes...and opening bottles! Get ready for the Wine Key, and Welcome to Evening Punch.
- Current Location:McMinnville, Oregon
- Current Music:Planxty