Free Wine – Fridays with Robynn

English: Glass of Red Wine with a bottle of Re...

On a day this week when I most needed it, Robynn’s post on Free Wine arrived. I hope you will receive this as the gift that it is. Sit down and enjoy “Free Wine” by Robynn.

Lowell and I went to see All My Sons, an Arthur Miller tragedy, on Saturday night. During intermission we decided to share a glass of wine. We got in line. It’s a small community theater. The foyer is intimate, small, cozy. As we waited in line Lowell chatted with the gentleman behind him, his major professor from his graduate study days. Its small town moments like this that I love. We are part of the community.

When we got to the front of the queue I handed the bartender my credit card, asking simultaneously, “Do you take plastic?”

He shook his head with a little regret and a little joy but then he continued, “What do you want? I’ll be happy to get it for you.” I was embarrassed and a little flustered, “Oh, that’s ok.”

       “No really. I give away alcohol all the time. I’m technically not allowed to charge. This is all donation based. If you want you can come next time and leave a donation to cover it.”

Knowing myself, my memory, I shook my head, “With my forty- two year old brain I don’t trust myself.  I wouldn’t remember!”

   “Oh that’s ok. What do you want? What can I give you?”

I was flustered. The line was waiting. It’s a small space. Everyone was watching as this intermission drama unfolded.

“I’ll have a glass of red wine please.” I asked sheepishly, awkwardly.

Lowell’s professor leaned in and offered, “Lowell, what do you want? I’ll cover yours.”

“Well now you have a choice!” the bartender replied flamboyantly. At this point Lowell leaned in and whispered that he was going to the restroom. I was on my own.

The grey haired bartender began the tour of red wine choices. He described each one with poetry and enthusiasm. This one was mild and dry, this one full-bodied and rich. I tried to interrupt with a quick choice. Sure, that one, that sounds great. Thank you.

I was so self-conscious.

The bartender grabbed a stemmed glass and flew it through the air. He placed it on the table and poured the fluid red generosity into it. I thanked him sincerely and walked down the line, past the audience.

As I passed, the mom of our high school son’s friend spotted me. She reached out and touched me on the arm and said she’d pay for it.

I was flushed and flustered as I found my seat in the dimly lit theater. I blushed as I sipped my blushed beverage. Slowly. Hesitatingly. This generous glass of red wine.

Lowell joined me. He whispered in close, “You handled that really well.”We shared the wine. Savoring it. The lights dimmed and the play continued.

Later that night as I relived the play and the memory of the intermission– I was struck by the grace and generosity of it all. I was also amazed at my own reactions. I had been so unsettled. So self-conscious. So disconcerted.

But God is like that bartender.

He gives away Free Wine. He wants us to have the best, our favourite. He wants to lavish it on us with flare and flash. It’s grace! It’s unmerited! It’s extravagant and embarrassing and unnerving. And we’re surrounded by it. We receive it; we extend it to those around us. This is amazing grace!

“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.”

Isaiah 55:1-3

Amazing Grace in a Hospital Atrium

I stand in the atrium of a large city hospital complex. I am waiting for the woman I am meeting, but I am early, so I put in my ear buds and press the Sufjan Stevens album. Amazing Grace begins to play and suddenly I am acutely aware of the words to the music and my surroundings.

Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound

The woman in labor, walking slightly supported by her husband, clearly early in the process as she is still smiling. They walk to the small café, get some juice, preparing for later in the day when she will not be smiling. Today they will welcome a new baby to the world. I already see a glimpse of the joy that is imminent, joy complete at the cry of a newborn.

On the other side of the atrium is an older woman, limping with a cane, a concerned husband by her side, holding her and zealous for her well-being. They too are waiting. Passing time before an appointment or procedure.

That Saved a Wretch Like Me

I catch sight of myself in a reflective window and shake my head. I belong here. With the limping and hurting, with those who need surgery and help.

I once was lost, but now am found

People mill around, many looking lost and slightly dazed. Time has stopped. We are now on hospital time and hospital time is like no other. Hospital time is measured by procedures and diagnoses, bad news and good news, chemotherapy and x-rays. Minutes and hours don’t matter – what matters is what the doctor will tell you and when.

Was Blind But Now I See

A blind man walks in from the street with a service dog followed by a family. It’s unclear why they are there, but their faces show signs of stress and anxiety. What is their story? How have they come to this place at this time? Is it a relative? A mom or dad; grandma or grandpa, sick and in crisis?

T’was Grace That Taught My Heart to Fear

I see the woman I am to meet coming my way and immediately know there is something wrong.

And Grace My Fears Relieved

She tells me in a broken voice that her mother has died. She is leaving for Taiwan in a few days to go be with the rest of her family. We talk about this and I hug her – knowing there is nothing I can say or do, but in faith believing that maybe, just maybe, being present will help ease the hurt. In this place her tears do not bring even a glance. Many have tears in this place.

How Precious Did That Grace Appear

We get down to business and the meeting goes well. And then it is time for both of us to go, to leave this place of those who know they are broken, and go out in the street, to those who think they are whole.

The Hour I First Believed