About Ebola

I haven’t wanted to write about Ebola. In part, because I don’t want to add to the already rather loud and raucous hysteria.

But also because for some reason I think if I say the name I make it somehow more real, somehow closer to home.

The other night as I was tucking my son into bed, he began talking about a “disease from Africa that is really bad and so we’ve got to remember to wash our hands.” All true and all appropriate for his age. But I reminded him that we must wash our hands for more reasons than “this mystery disease out of Africa.” Enter sis, toothbrush in hand. “Is he talking about Ebola?” she asks, eyes huge and terror etching her brow. Somewhere, she is hearing the hysteria.

And so I launched into my mama-bear act. “Ebola is a disease we want to avoid, and yes, it is imperative that we wash our hands to protect us from all kinds of diseases, from the common cold to the flu. But here in the United States, we have very good doctors and lots of medical supplies to help people recover from Ebola. We have big drug companies who are working hard to find cures and vaccines. We are going to be fine.”

End of discussion.

Except for the ongoing discussion we’re having at Compassion Tea. The weekly prayers for our clinics in eastern and southern Africa, that Ebola doesn’t find its way to them, these speak to a very different reality. Western Africa, where Ebola is rampant currently, is not unlike eastern and southern Africa. There are parts of the entire continent where there is just not adequate healthcare. There aren’t enough doctors, medical supplies, surgical gloves, masks, medicines, sanitation, and ways to isolate. There isn’t enough knowledge and expertise, particularly in the rural parts of the continent.

In a recent USA Today article, Alimatu Sesay, a nurse at a government hospital in the northern city of Makeni, Sierra Leone, is quoted as saying, “We’re getting frustrated because we are not equipped to respond to cases…. When there is a suspected case, we have to send to Freetown for tests and when confirmed, send to Kenema for treatment. But by the time they reach the treatment center, they are already too weak to recover.”

This is in a city, at a government hospital. This is the best medical care Sierra Leone and its neighboring countries can provide.

According to the article: “While much of the fight against Ebola in West Africa focuses on highly populated cities, often overlooked are rural areas where inadequate infrastructure and health care fuel its spread. The lack of any medical facilities for hundreds of miles in these remote regions of Sierra Leone — like in neighboring Liberia and Guinea — is a main reason the country is failing to gain control of the crisis.”

One example of the troubles rural patients face is getting to adequate care. On Oct. 10, a group of infectious Ebola patients was being transferred for treatment from their rural village to a nearby government hospital in the northern region of Sierra Leone. The ambulance carrying them “overturned on a narrow, dirt road, injuring the driver and patients and exposing the area to the deadly virus.” The government hospital proved unable to deal with Ebola and the patients were then “placed back in a vehicle to be driven to a treatment center more than 100 miles away.”

In much of Africa, hospitals are not equipped to provide for more than the medical care of patients. Family members are usually expected to provide food and clothing and clean bedding. With Ebola patients having to travel hundreds of miles to find healthcare, another problem arises. “When our relatives are taken to the center in other areas there is no one to comfort and support them – a few days later they will tell us of their death,” said Mohamed Milton Koroma, vice president of the Makeni Union of Youth Groups.

While the lack of medical care is hampering any efforts to stop Ebola, the disease’s ravages are felt beyond the threat of the disease itself. Another USA Today article says this:

“As Ebola continues its rampage across Liberia and elsewhere in West Africa, thousands of children are taking a double hit: losing parents to the fatal virus and then being shunned by relatives who fear they will catch the disease.

The United Nations estimates the virus has orphaned nearly 4,000 children across the region, and that number could double in coming weeks. Aid groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, fear the orphans are at risk of starvation and disease.

The children also could pose a risk to others by spreading the disease if they are allowed to roam free without being tested for the virus.”

The article tells of the growth of child-headed households due to Ebola and the struggles these children face when grandparents and aunts and uncles walk out of their way to avoid being near the homes of Ebola victims. “I went to my relatives after my mother died, but they chased me away, even after I told them that I didn’t have Ebola,” said 12-year-old Frank Mulbah, whose mother died in Liberia in August.

“In Liberia, the hardest hit country, with nearly 1,000 deaths from Ebola as of last week, about half of all mothers in the country are raising their children alone because thousands of men died in a 1999-2003 civil war. So when these mothers catch Ebola and die, their children have nowhere to turn.
Frank, whose father died in the civil war, said he found no one to care for him — neither in northwest Liberia, where he lived before dropping out of school, nor… in the capital [Monrovia], where he traveled in a desperate search for food and shelter from relatives who refused to take him in…. Frank hopes his relatives will change their minds, but he isn’t hopeful. He tries not to think about getting home-cooked meals or an education.
‘I don’t know when I’ll go back to school,’ he said. ‘Right now I’m just looking for food and a place to live.’”

 

While CompassioNow doesn’t have the resources in place to currently aid with the medical crisis in western Africa, we are praying for an end to the crisis. And we are redoubling our efforts to support our clinics in eastern and southern Africa. Won’t you please join our efforts and our prayers!

Go here to donate directly. And don’t forget that 100% of our after tax profits at Compassion Tea Company go to CompassioNow to aid “the world’s least served.”

I-See Update

Back in April, Cindy Cunningham traveled to Uganda to visit her dear kiddos at the Village of Hope villages. She carried with her an I-See Kit donated by CompassioNow. (Click here to read more about the kit!)

To date 19 children have been blessed with the gift of improved eyesight through this kit. And 43 others have been assessed and they need glasses. That’s just one of the two villages!

Lucy is one of the girls given a new perspective on life through this gift of improved eyesight.

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Won’t you join us at Compassion Tea and CompassioNow in raising the funds to buy the needed eyeglasses for the other children! Go to http://www.compassiontea.com to order tea which supports this effort or go directly to http://www.compassionow.org to donate directly.

There. I’ve Owned It.

Last night, I was driving home from a meeting and my car struck a deer. There. I’ve owned it. I was at this meeting and off-handedly said as I walked out the door, “I hope I don’t hit a deer on the way home.” Everyone chuckled because it is fall and the deer are down out of the ridgeline looking for water in the arroyo and they are constantly crossing our yards and streets. It is what it is. And with this thought forefront in my mind, I headed for home.

It was over before it happened. And I have been oddly peaceful about it. Oddly in that I haven’t cried or dreamed or fretted. I feel bad, yes. So, please don’t go throwing bricks through my windows for being a careless vehicular operator. I feel bad, but not broken.

So, here’s the throwback. About 15 years ago, I was driving home in the dark on a road I didn’t normally travel. I hit an opossum. It nearly broke me. I cried the entire way home and well into the night. The next day, when I went to school to teach, I was still shaken. A mentor friend of mine who is well-versed in Native American mythology and spirituality tried to comfort me with the Native American belief that often animals will sacrifice themselves for a human in order to impart a particular characteristic of theirs to the human. She suggested many noble characteristics that the opossum might have imparted, but the one that sticks out after all these years is “what does an opossum do when it is afraid?” It plays dead. Fear and playing dead.

There has been a lot of fear these past 15 years. Fear that has grown cold and immoveable, dead weight. Fear that has robbed joy, that has bound and stifled life. Fear that has taken me down to the core at times.

So, I’ve been mulling last night’s events in light of my earlier experience. If it is possible that the opossum imparted some of its characteristics to me 15 years ago, than what did the deer impart last night?

Beauty? Strength? A wild freedom? Graceful gentleness?

Maybe this marks a new start? Maybe this is the breakthrough I’ve been awaiting? Maybe this is symbolic of a restart? I can throw off the opossum, stop playing dead, and can wow, run and leap and flash great big doe eyes and stop hearts with the beauty and grace my heart now possesses. Can it be?

I’m thinking about the moment, about how one moment there was an open road ahead of me and in the blink of an eye there was a deer. Was it a sacrifice? I can’t really wrap my head around that notion. It seems a little too egocentric. And not for a second would I believe that God placed that deer at that exact moment for that exact purpose. No. I can believe that He is able to redeem the situation, make good come out of it, but it is a broken world and sometimes animals do jump in front of our cars.

There’s something about that word – sacrifice. I’m trying to see around it. Sacrifice. A giving up of something, a replacing of something in order to save it, blood and pain. And there it is. Sacrifice. I don’t need the deer to sacrifice for me. I don’t need the sacrifice, because a sacrifice has already been made.

When Jesus died on the cross, he was the sacrifice.

And what did he impart through his sacrifice? I am made new. He washed me clean, sainted me with righteousness, set me free from the law, and established residency in my heart.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we can take off the old, ragged, dirty clothes of our sin. We are wrapped in a beautiful cloak of strength and righteousness. Language is a struggle here. How do words express the transfer? How do words hold the magnitude of meaning?

I’m asking if this is a new start, if this is a throwing off of the dead opossum act and putting on the wild freedom, grace and beauty of the deer. But that is a moot question. Because I am already wildly free from shame and guilt and the past and from the labels of old. I have already been made beautiful.

I emailed the friend I spoke my hope to last night and shared with him how indeed my words had come true. He queried, “Does this fall under the name it and claim it category?”

I don’t know. But I do know that I can name my salvation. My salvation comes from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). And I can claim it. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to save us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Because God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that whoever believes in him might have life eternal (John 3:16). There. I’ve owned it.

Of Tears and Tears and Daisies

Sometimes when you’ve been to the top of the mountain, coming down into the valley of every day life feels more like hitting the skids. When you’ve spent time tucked back into the redwoods in the mountains focusing on the swaying of the tippy-tops of the trees and the way the light touches just that leaf there and tracking the path of the dragonfly, when your path collides with that of someone else and you realize your sisterhood runs deeper than you could ever have imagined, when you pray so deep the tears come and then when God answers so loudly you have nothing but silent awe, when all of that holiness and sacred ground walking and tender communion ends because life… well, sometimes life feels worse, even when it isn’t.

That’s where I’m at this morning, kinda like Jonah wrapped in seaweed sinking to roots of the mountains. But I haven’t really left Joppa. I’m still on solid ground. But the airplanes I’m supposed to build while brushing my teeth, and her morning snarl, and his need to build a crane and race track before school, and that comment hubby made before leaving for work, and the “he touched me” and “she looked at me mean,” and the child crying in the corner because mommy can’t fold the airplane right and she’s frustrated by airplanes and toothpaste drooling down her chin and she’s asked that child to get dressed and that feels like separation and punishment but mommy is just pleading “get dressed” because she needs a moment to wipe the toothpaste off her chin and to address the labels coming fast across her radar… loser, wreck, failure.

These are the labels that on the mountain I had thought were thrown away, were banished from my brain. Alas, they were lurking in the shadows of my new labels. Princess, adored, adopted into God’s family, beloved, redeemed and righteous. These are the true labels, God’s names for me. But when the morning started too early, and the washing machine fritzed again, and when I toss the ball to her on the playground and she snarls and I take that to mean that she’s not interested and so I stop and then she says I’m excluding her… yah, when all that hunkers down… and there are dead fish in the tank that have to be removed in secrecy, and another mom is telling me it’s breast cancer awareness day at the middle school and everyone is supposed to wear pink and I’m concerned about boys wearing pink and is that emasculating them, and he asks for the 15th time today “what are we doing tomorrow,” and that girl stuck her tongue out at my boy on the playground, and I had to pull him off another boy because wrestling isn’t allowed in school, and … really I’m on a wild hamster ball ride of self-loathing and criticism. Am I raising children who can’t fend for themselves? Am I enabling them and sheltering them and just being the tiger mom of the century?

And my friend sends me a text this morning. She speaks truth plain and loud. She writes, “Made in the image of God! That’s what it says. But You (God) and I both know that my image feels less than ‘complete.’ Life wears me down and struggles take bits and pieces of me. But maybe You mean… our ‘image’ with the tattered, torn places is just a way to share your tattered, torn body with others. Even the worn and weary can reflect Your beauty and … still smell great. ‘Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.’ 2 Corinthians 2:14-15a.”

And she includes a picture she snapped of a little torn-up daisy reaching its yellow sunshine upward, giving it back to the life-giver.IMG954621

Gotta lay some things down here. Gotta drop some tears, gotta assess the tears I’m making, and they can be one in the same, the tears and the tears. Noun and verb create each other.

Back on that mountain, I heard loud and clear “beloved” and “adopted” and adoption was acceptance and not rejection and beloved was deep and not performance based. And here I am made in the image and if I’m made in the image I can’t also be loser, wreck, failure. Because each tear (verb) is another slit for the glory of God to shine through. Each tear (noun) is a prism for diffusing His light, distilling it into fractals of color.

There are plenty of holes in my petals, rips in my jeans, dents in my fenders, dirt in my nails. The wounds of life, the scars of walking through the valley. But the truths of the mountain, those truths carry down here too. Even more so down here.

So, old habit of self-loathing and criticism, I must tear you up, stop my ears to your siren-song. Life is too short to bemoan the holes in the petals. Because those holes are beautiful and fragrant and that friend I met on the mountain needed to hear about my holes because her holes look strangely like mine and we needed to hear that about each other. And how many other daisies have these holes? And how is God going to use those holes for His glory?

I want to stomp on the old labels. I want to beat them to a pulp, those old lies.

I hear this song and I hear these words like I’ve never heard them before:

So I’ll stop living off of how I feel
And start standing on Your truth revealed
Jesus is my strength, my shield
And He will never fail me

No more chains, I’ve been set free
No more fighting battles You’ve won for me
Now in Christ, I stand complete

Yes and yes and yes again. I’ll stop living off of how I feel because how I feel is performance based and conditional and fed by lies. But His truth is and was and forever will be. Like that daisy, I will lift my tatters to the sunshine, giving back to the life-giver.

Kumbaya

He squirms into my arms, his hair, hot from the day’s play, tickles my nose as he buries his head in the spot under my chin. This little wiggly boy keeps growing and changing and he doesn’t fit in my arms in the same way, but he still wants to be in my arms so I’m not complaining. All this will be past in the blink of an eye.

“You sing so beautifully Mama,” he whispers almost drunk with the sleep that is taking him over. “I know why God wanted you to marry Daddy, why Daddy wanted to marry you. Because you are just so amazing and you sing so beautifully.”

I’m breathless, smiling, and fighting against the age-old voices that want to drown out his sleep words. This moment is sacred, and if I breathe, it will puff away.

“You can sing now, Mama,” he sighs. His eyelids are relaxed and closed, his face peaceful and still. Now I can breathe, the long sigh of contentment. And I listen for the song of my heart.

It’s an old song, one I learned in my early days. It’s simple and profound. Come by here, Lord, come by here to this holy ground, this sacred moment of motherhood and childhood colliding, two bodies no longer resisting and struggling and moving but now breathing and relaxing and slipping into the peace of rest.

Kumbaya, My Lord, Kumbaya.

Someone’s praying, Lord, Kumbaya. And I’m on my knees with the saints. There is so much to lift up, so many wet socks and tattered blankets to hang on the line. I start here.

Someone’s running, Lord, Kumbaya. And I’m thinking of the Iraqi Christians on the run from ISIS, and the women on the run from the sex slave trade, and the men running from their inability to provide, and the children running in fear from the armies and the soldiers and the bad guys. And the daily running to provide, to get, to exceed and excel, to surpass, and to score another point in life’s game.

Someone’s dancing, Lord, Kumbaya. There’s Prosy in Uganda and in my minds’ eye she is always dancing, my little Ugandan daughter, saved from the running and now dancing in her DADDY’S love. Loved, provided for, safe… dancing is the joy springing forth from a full heart. Love her dancing. Yearn for her dancing.

Someone’s crying, Lord, Kumbaya. Yes. There are broken hearts and broken bodies and broken spirits. And broken families and broken lives and broken backs. There are rifts in the earth, rents in relationships, fissures that will crack and quake into faults and will leave people stumbling and ducking and faltering. So, I have to move over this verse quickly.

Someone’s healing, Lord, Kumbaya. Oh the healing, Lord. There’s the surgery healing and the divorce healing and the loss healing. There’s the lack of healing and the cure from cancer healing and the pain and the swelling and the baby that shouldn’t come yet… healing. There’s healing on this side and there’s healing on that side of the time/space continuum. Hang it on the line.

Someone’s growing, Lord, Kumbaya. I brush a tendril of hair from his face. Sleep almost has him completely. But I think he still hears me and my prayer over him and over his sister in her hot pink nest next door. “I am the vine and you are the branches. Remain in my and you will bear much fruit. Without me, you can do nothing.” Grow, little branches. Let the vine feed you. Cling to the vine. And my prayer is against the prunings of the world that will slice that connection, against storm that may rip you from your vine, against any and all growth-stunting. Grow in Him.

And now sleep. Someone’s sleeping, Lord, Kumbaya. Come by here, Lord. Abide over us all, Lord. We can sleep knowing you are coming by, knowing you’ve got this all.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

I hang it on the line, the burdens of the day.10500300_10204115702430932_7825614723200437113_n

He’s asleep. And I’ve emptied my basket. Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya.

I slide from the bed, careful not to step on the dog. Everything is dark around me. Everyone is asleep. But the song of my heart has taken off. Lifted like a sheet hanging on the line. Sacred. This bed time ritual.

We Call Them Gifts

What kind of music did the Pilgrims listen to that first Thanksgiving?
Plymouth Rock!

What did one coffin say to the other coffin?
Is that you coughin’?

What did the watermelon say to the honeydew?
NO! We cantelope!

What kind of coffee did they serve on the Titanic?
Sanka!

I was rolling. Absolutely rolling. The barrister at Starbucks wrote my name as “Giggles” on my cup. Peter, the guy behind me in line, was cracking joke after joke and I had but one response… to throw back and laugh. Refreshing and fun and good for the muscles… this was deep laughter. The kind I can’t wait to share with my kids.

“But Mary kept all of these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

I walked away from this chance encounter and thought of Mary and her pondering. Because I pondered why this morning? Why this man and this laugh and this joke-ful joy? What does it mean and what lies ahead?

Pondering. Thinking about something carefully. Holding it in your hand, like a snow globe, and examining it from every side. What happens when you shake it? What happens when you hold it upside down? Is the beauty still there? Is there detail I missed?

Pondering. Tucking it away, wrapping it in white tissue paper, and then taking it out again to marvel afresh.

There is sacred in the every day. There is every day beauty. There is repeated meaning. But we miss it.

I’ve determined not to miss this gift. Because it was a gift. I had no idea I remembered to laugh so hard. Life is hardly a laughing matter most days. Today’s encounter was a gift, planted and nurtured and plucked like a rose for me to savor, press, store, and take out again to laugh at.

It’s like the morning I went hiking sure I heard His voice urging me on, “I have something to show you!” And there from the underbrush sprang a buck, snuffed out by the dog, crashing and huge on the path in front of me. Artistry and power and beauty in one flash of a glimpse and the words, “If I provide for him, how much more I will provide for you!”

Every day is a gift, several gifts tucked into one rise and fall of the sun.

We can choose to call them gifts. Or coincidences. Or we can even just ignore.

But to laugh, we call them gifts.

Tea Tasting

What is it about tea parties? How do little girls and even little boys know about them? Right? How many of you have sat through a tea party with a collection of dolls and such fine edibles as leaves and sand and rocks pretending all the while that you are at the finest of establishments?

Since my early days of plastic teapots and muddy tea, I’ve taken tea at the Savoy London and at Brown’s Hotel. I graced Betty’s Tea Room once or twice and thought for a while that Darjeeling was my best friend. In short, I love a good tea party.

I can’t claim to organize anything nearly as posh as these establishments. But what fun to taste tea with a group of friends and a wide variety of tea!

Edibles:

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Scone bites
I used the Women’s Bean Project Denver Tea Room Cream Scone Mix from Trade As One to make tiny bite-sized scones, which I placed in a little plastic dish and topped with Strawberry Jam from The Cherry Hut. A dollop of whipped cream on top makes a delightful and light twist on the tea room tradition.

IMG_7145Berries in a tiny cup with a pinch of lemon zest and a taste of mascarpone are super refreshing and a great way to cleanse the palate.

IMG_7149 IMG_7146Melba toast with a spoonful of brie and apricot jam looks like little eggs but packs in the flavor.

I like to taste the gamut of teas when I do a tasting so we all get a sense for the nuances between greens, whites, oolongs, and blacks.

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My recommendations are:
Pai Mu Tan (white), Jade Cloud (green), Formossa Oolong, and Lover’s Leap (black). To round it all out and if there is time, I end with the tea that isn’t tea – our Compassion Spice rooibos. It finishes so well as it is comforting and calming.

With fall here and the holidays creeping up, now is a great time to break out the fancy china and plan a tea tasting with your friends!

Rocked

I hiked up the ridge today like my life depended on it.

And maybe it did.

Like pounding up that path would shake out the clutter of my brain, like I could physically purge in all that huffing and puffing the stuff I’m carrying around like so many suitcases.

It worked for Abraham; he found a ram there. It worked for Moses; he saw God face to face. It worked for Elijah; he heard God’s plan for protection. So, maybe God is at the top of the mountain. Because sometimes resting in God means pounding hard the things that aren’t Him.

Because it’s been a rough week. Rough in a dying to self kind of way. And I have to pause and ask myself what I even mean by that. What am I even talking about?

In the first flushes of accepting what I believed was God’s call on my life to act as the head of our Women’s Ministry team, I quickly came to the conclusion that this was way bigger than me, than anything I could manage to pull off. This remains my operating platform. And therefore I have to leave ego at the door and leave things open for God to work.

Things have been working in only the ways that God can make them work. People have stepped forward and volunteered at the last moment. Ruffled feathers have smoothed over without much more than solid prayer. Our groups are full to bursting and the continual feedback is that we’re tackling some really good stuff in our groups. And each time someone compliments me on writing our study of Jonah, there is a moment when I want to take credit. But I can’t. That wouldn’t be right.

So that’s what I mean. Acknowledging over and over again God’s complete control over this is breaking me down. The fact that He is blessing this so richly right now suggests to me that yes, this is His work and that for this season I get to be one of His instruments. And if that doesn’t rock your world, I don’t know what will. That the great big God of the universe might say, “Hey, gorgeous! I created you for this season, for this time, and this place.” Excuse me. I need to take off my shoes because this is holy ground I’m standing on.

But what happens when the wheels fall off the bus? Because they will. Because this is a broken, messed up world. Because we are human and we like falling down rabbit holes, especially ones we dig up for ourselves. And because on every front I’ve got front row seats to her cancer story and his business going under and her messy divorce and his infidelity and her long battle with mental illness and his greed and these are the things that crush and hurt and muddle. How do you say to someone looking down the hallway of a life of pain or rejection or anger that God isn’t sending this as punishment but that yes He is allowing it so that He might be glorified through it all? How do you take someone’s hand, hand them a Kleenex, and pray over them with bold claims for healing, knowing that sometimes… often… the healing doesn’t look like our idea of healing. How are these not just empty words?

It was this that sent me fleeing up the ridge today. Fear. Fear that this is all going to come crashing down around me in a colossal earthquake of failure. What, God, what will I do when You turn your face from me?

Because in the past, it has felt like you have. After the first miscarriage, I was rocked. After the second, mad and determined. After the third? That completely shook my faith. I had no ground on which to stand. Why would the great big God of the universe, the benevolent savior-sender, sin-forgiver, ABBA father do THAT? How could He rob a mother of not just one but another and another and still another child? Where could there possibly be glory in that?

And do you know what He keeps saying? “I didn’t hide my face from you. I have always been there. And we’re dancing together right now; so enjoy the dance.”

And the glory? Where is the glory?

It’s in the ego checked at the door. It’s in the leaving room for God to work. It’s in the full dependency, in the complete breaking apart of self and ego and independence. There on the tear-stained floor, in the fleeing from fear, in the running because it can’t be fixed by my efforts… there is the glory that is the moment of complete surrender.

When you leave the door open for God to work, He does.

And it becomes another step up the mountain of unshakeable faith.

Psalm 27

4 The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
6 Then I will hold my head high
above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
singing and praising the Lord with music.
7 Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
Be merciful and answer me!
8 My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
9 Do not turn your back on me.
Do not reject your servant in anger.
You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.
11 Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
12 Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Remain…

I asked my daughter yesterday on the way home from school if her friend had been there in school. Yes, why? Well, I had seen her friend’s beautiful face posted on Facebook with a lanyard and Katy Perry ticket dangling from her neck. Sweet little 11 year old so excited to go to her first concert. It would have been a late night for a school night, but if it’s important, than it’s important.

I had asked the question innocently enough but I’m glad I asked it because the yearning that came through my daughter’s next comment blind-sided me. “Lucky!” she muttered.

We don’t listen to Katy Perry. I can’t even name any of her songs, so this isn’t about Katy Perry.

Yes, we choose differently what we fill our ears and hearts with musically. We can sing the lyrics to nearly every Newsboy song and we even play name that artist around the dinner table sometimes, but our artists of choice are people like Laura Story, Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, Natalie Grant. Because singing scripture, singing praise, singing our prayers grafts us ever more strongly onto the one and only true vine.

So, this is more about this… “My daughter is choosing the ways of the world over godly ways lately,” a mom told me just the other day. And after little miss’s “lucky” comment, I wonder if I need to be nodding in agreement.

This is a tension I knew would get stronger before it gets weaker. The flash and pomp and allure of the world is going to look ever more appealing… perhaps. And that’s a bad thing? The world? Yes. Because the world says God is dead, that the soul is the omnipotent, that the individual is god, that all is chance and you only live once so you better make the most of it by having as much fun as possible. Are these the voices by which we want to make decisions?

As my conversation continued with my daughter, I shared with her a time in my middle school days when Amy Grant came in concert to a nearby city and I wanted desperately to go. I was too young and therefore I wasn’t allowed. It didn’t leave that big of a scar; it’s just a story to share to suggest that I’m not the only “mean mom” out there. Then, Little Miss asked, “Are you going to be like that? Are you never going to let me go to a concert?”

Never is not a word I use lightly. So, no. Not never. But the conditions and circumstances have to be right. We’ll cross that bridge when the time is right.

On my hike this morning, I went further than normal and ended up at a bench overlooking the valley from a new perspective. Looking down, I saw an old bridge. It took me several seconds to discern that that was the very bridge I cross daily. It looked so old and out-of-place surrounded by our growing city and the modern amenities sprouting all around it. And then I wondered if our way of life, our focus on God looks like that sturdy but old-fashioned steel bridge. Unlike the soaring bridges that span the bay, their masses of concrete seemingly suspended in thin air, this bridge is set, its steel arms surrounding the car. You almost feel like ducking as you go across.

I like that old bridge. It feels stable and secure, like if an earthquake should hit, this one will stand. I don’t have the same faith in the flying concrete that marks so much of the Bay Area highways and byways.

But do my kids? Do they like the less-glitzy, the more stable, the “no” when it comes to things Mom and Dad view as tempting and tantalizing and off God’s path? I think I’m asking the wrong question!

On the one hand, I ask, “How can I make sure my kids aren’t complete outcasts because we shelter them so much?” and on the other I ask, “How can I make sure that my kids make wise decisions as they grow up?”

It’s really simple actually. Pray this verse over them!

John 15: 5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Asking God to hold my children so that they continue to abide in Him? If we can weigh every decision against that framework, we probably won’t go terribly awry!

And then I’m looking at this problem with eyes from Africa and thinking what a first world problem this is. Worrying about my kids living for the world… for Katy Perry and Minecraft and Disney and “your way right away” and “make it a great day or not the CHOICE is yours”… those are worries that are indicative of the first world.

Because there are kids in other parts of the world who are worried about where they are going to find the day’s food and water, who will go to bed tonight on the ground, with an empty belly, and with wailing younger siblings who depend on them. There are child-headed households throughout the world where there is no adult to direct and provide and sustain and hold. The full brunt of holding the family together falls on 11 year old shoulders. There are children around the world for whom the dark isn’t just scary because of a movie they saw or because their imaginations are playing with them. No, these kids have seen with their own eyes things unspeakable, horrors one can’t even imagine. Like the kiddos at Village of Hope, Uganda. For them, the world has proven itself to be the dark mirage that it really is. For them, turning to God feels like living in light. The old bridge is comfort.

Because when we see enough of the world, we recognize that it is all cotton candy… sugary lightness that promises much but that melts and hardens and crusts and doesn’t fulfill.

So, I shared these thoughts with a mommy friend after school and found myself saying., “You know, as they get older, the friends have more influence than Mommy and Daddy.” My friend nearly choked. I nearly sat down and wept. But I’ll keep praying that Little Miss abides in Jesus and He in her.

And when Little Man is scared of the dark and afraid to move into a room by himself and when I’m tired and frustrated and just want to go to bed and to stop singing him to sleep… well. There’s a voice that says someday soon he’s not going to need me for any of this and the bedtime cuddles and the squirming on the lap and the sloppy whispers of “I love you” in my ear… it’s all going to stop.

We spend so much time hurrying our kids toward independence and big-people things. And then they grow up and do what we’ve taught them to do… be independent and self-reliant.

“Remain in me”… just keep praying that the old comfortable bridge will serve them well and that they’ll remember to come back to it when they need it. It’s a much better crutch than anything the world can offer.

Addressing the Fair Trade Question

Inevitably, the question arises. “Which of your teas are Fair Trade?” It’s a valid question because we want to support fair trade practices, protect workers, and pursue sustainable and ethical methods of production. But it is a question that actually is a bit dodgy for the tea industry.

Fair Trade blankets many industries and its guidelines for membership are not industry specific. And because so much tea is sold to places like Russia and Turkey, where an emphasis on equality and fairness in the workplace is much less than it is in the US, it is not economically prudent for most tea companies to pursue Fair Trade status.

However, in 1997, a number of large tea companies decided “to work together to monitor and assure their own supply chains.” They formed the Tea Sourcing Partnership, which would evolve into the Ethical Tea Partnership in 2004. Its vision is to promote a “thriving tea industry that is socially just and environmentally sustainable both now and in the future.”

Specific to the tea industry, the Ethical Tea Partnership monitors tea estates “to help protect the environment as well as [provide] social and labor provisions.” Among the programs the Ethical Tea Partnership overseas are training and support programs “that make workplaces better, fairer and safer” and that “reduce poverty and improve progress… in tea communities.”

According to the Ethical Tea Partnership, ”The organization is run and regulated by member companies and bolstered by regular external audits by Price Waterhouse Cooper. The goal of the organization is to provide consumers with a complete understanding of where tea is grown and manufactured. Everything from fair compensation to health coverage, housing and childcare comes under close scrutiny. The ETP is similar to the Fair Trade organization, but has a much broader scope for tea consumers since its focus is on tea only. Because tea is not a publicly traded commodity like coffee, Fair Trade is unable to penetrate many of the nuances and regional peculiarities of the tea trade.” (Visit http://www.ethicalteapartnership.org for more information.)

The majority of our tea is sourced from members of the Ethical Tea Partnership.

Back in January, several of our board members traveled to Sri Lanka and met with one of our biggest sources of tea. They were impressed with the provisions made for tea plantation workers, provisions such as quality housing, educational opportunities, and healthcare. And they commented on the tender care taken of the tea plants and their environment. Many of the tea bushes are hundreds of years old. Their health and well-being are critical to the quality of the tea they are producing. Therefore, they are treated with care and reverence.

We also carry two teas from Africa, Ajiri tea from Kenya and Igara tea from Uganda. Both of these teas are produced on co-ops where the profits from the sale of the tea are used directly to fund educational opportunities and healthcare for the workers.

Ajiri tea from Kenya

Ajiri tea from Kenya

Igara tea from Uganda

Igara tea from Uganda

If you still desire Fair Trade tea, we recommend you try our Jade Cloud green tea or our West Cape Chai, both of which are certified as Fair Trade.

Our Jade Cloud is Fair Trade, but most of our teas are ETP.

Our Jade Cloud is Fair Trade, but most of our teas are ETP.

West Cape Chai is also Fair Trade certified.

West Cape Chai is also Fair Trade certified.

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