How’s Your Slumber?

I heart satellite radio and when I’m in the car that’s what’s on. Sirius XM The Message is the flavor of choice. And the song that is running through my head today is “Slumber” by NeedtoBreathe. “Wake on up from your slumber, baby, open up your eyes.” That’s the chorus. Here’s a youtube link if you’re curious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaZbq2EH3fU&NR=1
Every time I hear this song, I hear something new. And it’s haunting me.
“All these victims stand in line for crumbs that fall from the table, just enough to get by, all the while your invitation… wake on up from your slumber, baby, open up your eyes.”
Is this song simply about how, here in my cushy little suburban life, I’m insulated from the pain of the outside world? I need a wake-up call? But there is pain and poverty here, too. There’s the mother of a classmate of Clara’s who can’t read and write and therefore can’t get her driver’s license. There’s the family whose father has been out of work for months. Just enough to get by. Or there’s the friend who doesn’t think anyone notices he’s sneaking off to satisfy his addiction. And in my work with Compassion Tea, there’s a larger picture of pain and poverty, of malnutrition, dirty water, sporadic medical care in rural Africa.
No. There’s more to this song, to this wake-up call. In fact, wake-up calls are everywhere. On the rare occasions I turn on the TV and watch something not on cable or “On Demand,” I’m shocked by the droves of celebrities who are supporting and promoting different causes, who are attempting to open up our eyes. There is a cause for nearly everything, it seems. What color is your ribbon? Pink? Yellow? Rainbow?
In many respects, simply feeding the victims is too easy. It’s so easy for us to say, “Hey, I’m doing my part!” I can buy products labeled “green” and feel like “Hey, I’m doing my environmental good deed for the day.” I can put a quarter in the folder on the bagel shop counter and support children with leukemia. Or I can donate a dollar every time I shop at a certain store to support their cause of the month. That’s just too easy and regretfully impersonal.
There’s more to this invitation to wake up. And I think it’s personal.
“Hearts are stronger after broken.”
It’s personal in that we are all sleeping in some way, not fully living. Are we asleep to hide some pain? Is it a drug addiction? Is it a status and fame addiction? Is it abuse? Is it alcohol abuse? Are we sleeping to hide the past? Something we think we can’t be forgiven for? Something we can’t forgive? Are we sleeping out of fear? Fear of driving, bridges, open places, heights, failure, sickness, the monsters in the closet, of letting people see who we really are, of death? How’s your slumber?
Recognizing our individual brokenness is where compassion begins. Once you’ve opened up your eyes to see, feel, and experience another’s brokenness, how can you shut them again without wanting to help?
And it’s personal in that it’s an invitation from our God to engage with Him. Compassion comes first from God, like a father wiping away the tears from the cheeks of his little girl who scraped her knee. Can you feel it?
“Sing like you used to. Dance like you want to. Come on darling open up your eyes.”
You know, people who talk in their sleep don’t remember it the next morning. People who walk in their sleep don’t remember their wanderings the next day. In order to remember, experience completely and fully, one has to be awake. If we’re slumbering, how can we sing in that full-throated way of a little child full of joy? If we’re slumbering, how can we dance with the abandon of our earlier, less burdened days? If we’re not in a tight relationship with God, if we’ve gone to sleep on Him, how can we feel the longing of His compassion to reach out, to interact, to be the hands and hearts and feet of God on Earth? I for one miss abandon. How’s your slumber?
“Wake on up from your slumber, baby, open up your eyes.”

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Not For The Impatient

“Okay, kids, I’m adding the water!” I pour the water in the mug and we hover, waiting to see what is going to appear.  Will it be an elephant? Or a dinosaur? Maybe a crab or seahorse? You know, the kind that comes in a little pill shaped container and when you add water it grows into a shape? Nope!

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you it was a tea flower, but that’s what it was! Straight from the recently stocked shelves of Compassion Tea Company. It was a little brownish green ball of tea leaves wrapped in an intricate manner so that as the tea leaves absorb the hot water, they slowly unfurl.

“Slowly” may seem like an understatement to the under 10 crowd. My children and I watched and waited. Several times, the kids asked, “When is it going to do something?” But of course, tea takes a little while to steep, and after about two minutes, we began to see the leaves waving in the water not unlike a bit of kelp waving in the surf of the Monterey Bay. The flower itself looks like a cross between a chrysanthemum and an aster, only washed in olive drab. As it grew in the water, it was oddly calming, a thing of beauty awash in the quiet of water. Momentarily, I got lost in the peace of the moment of watching and waiting.

Then, I took a sip! Clara and Joseph each took sips. We all agreed this was a tasty cup of tea. More refined than most of the tea I throw down during my occasional forays into tea these days, I realized this tea needed to be savored. Its rich green tea flavors took me back to favorite Asian restaurants, the more expensive ones, where the tea is served as a ritual, not like a common glass of water.  There were richer layers of flavor to this tea and I assume with practice I will be able to pick them out, much like comparing notes on a glass of wine. But what a delight for my taste buds!*

If you are interested in exploring this tea or other exotic, premium teas with me, let me know! Compassion Tea Company is stocked and, although the online ordering service won’t be up and running until September, we have order forms ready to take your order! Every penny of every tea sale goes to the CareNow Foundation. Nothing like saving lives while sharing tea! But hey, that’s Compassion Tea.

*Note: Because my life isn’t always conducive to savoring a cup of tea for long, I am pleased to report that this tea withstood a prolonged steeping, even though it is not recommended. And even tepid or cold, it is a delight to drink.

A View From The ER

I’m starting to get really good at praying in the ER. We can all agree that ERs are not the most relaxing place on the planet to begin with, but when faced with fears of disease, uncertainties about injuries, or the devastation of bad news, there is very little else one can do but pray. At least, that’s how I see it. Asking God to make His presence felt even more strongly in the moment is a calming reminder that He is always with us and like the popular “Footprints in the Sand” poem suggests, when we can’t feel Him most it’s because He is actually carrying us through.
So, last night, while sitting in the ER with my eight year old who was having a mysteriously difficult time of breathing, that’s where I turned. In the midst of praying for God to comfort little Clara who was a nervous wreck about the upcoming chest x-ray, asking Him to guide the doctors and Clara so that she could give them more information about what she was feeling, and begging for the strength to stand strong through whatever lay ahead, my mind started replaying how we ended up in the ER and contrasting that to a video I just saw.
Please watch this two part video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN3VJJcEXok&feature=relmfu and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpQT3gf2CiQ&feature=channel_video_title
Did you notice anything? Here’s where the contrast struck me most. Clara had been complaining of breathing trouble sporadically for the past 24 hours. She looked fine and actually seemed to be breathing fine to my untrained eye. But, she has a fear of doctors, so when she told me she thought she needed to see a doctor, I took her seriously. We hopped in the car and drove the 10 minutes to the hospital. It being after regular office hours for the pediatrician, we went to the emergency room. Within half an hour, two nurses and a doctor had been in to see us. After a thorough exam, a chest x-ray, and a tablet to help her nausea, we were released. It could be allergies or anxiety, but within the span of 2 hours, we knew there was nothing life threatening for our little angel.
Now, I realize that was a charmed ER visit as often ERs can be jammed packed with patients and the wait can be interminable. Nevertheless, contrast that with the 25 year old man in the video who was too ill to leave his bed, who was caring for 7 hungry children while deathly ill, and who had been released from the hospital the day before in this same condition. What would have happened to him if the clinic helpers hadn’t happened to make a house call that day? The children indicated that their mother had already died. Would this uncle die too? What would then happen to the 7 children? Why was the man released from the hospital in this condition?
Fortunately, while rural Africa is lacking the kind of sophisticated medical care we enjoy here in the US, there are organizations such as the 1000 Hills Community Helpers Clinic that are working to bring medical care and medicines and medically trained community members into rural Africa so that those who are in need of care can find it. Dawn Faith Leppan and her 1000 Hills Community Helpers Clinic are supported by the CareNow Foundation.
Soon, you, too, will be able to support Dawn Faith Leppan and her clinic through CareNow and its sister organization Compassion Tea. Are you as excited as I am! I can almost smell the tea!

Teach, Inspire, Build, Sustain… All in a Cup of Tea

Several years ago, Matt and I vacationed in California, traveling the length of the state multiple times. I enjoyed the scenery, the “golden” hills dotted with dark evergreens, the swaying grasses, the foggy and craggy coastline, but the strongest impression of the trip was in the book I was reading at the time… Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. More than once, McCourt recounts returning to the incredibly meager structures he called home over the years and finding his mother, Angela, waiting with a cup of tea to warm him. The tea was often weak and overbrewed, but it was dinner most nights. And it sustained him during a very dark and bleak childhood.
Tea as sustenance. That theme is emerging again as I’m reading Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission To Promote Peace… One School At A Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Here, Mortenson describes his aimless wanderings on the glaciers of the Baltistan region of Pakistan where he is finally found and revived by his porter, Mouzafer, who makes him three cups of the unique Balti butter tea. Shortly thereafter, Mortenson, lost again, stumbles into the village of Korphe and is treated to tea with sugar as he recuperates. The sugar is a luxury which Mortenson doesn’t appreciate until later when he begins to look around him at the poverty, at the people daily living on the edge of hunger.
But tea becomes more than just sustenance as the book progresses. As Haji Ali, the headman of Korphe, explains, “The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die…. [Y]ou must make time to share three cups of tea” (150). Mortenson reflects, “Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them” (150). *
Tea as teacher? Tea as relationship builder? These aren’t the normal views of tea, are they! And yet how delightful it has been at different times in my life to brew tea for a friend and to invite that friend to sit down, relax, and chat. How meaningful it has been at different times in my life to have someone make me a cup of tea, and to then snuggle up, sip tea, and share life stories. That’s relationship building. That’s teaching.
And that is what Compassion Tea Company is all about.
By sharing a cup of tea, of Compassion Tea, one can learn about people in remote parts of Africa, the villages served by clinics supported by the CareNow Foundation, and the needs of those villages and people. By sharing a cup of Compassion Tea, one builds relationships of caring… caring for those least served, caring for those serving in rural Africa, caring for one’s neighbor as one invites that neighbor in for tea, teaches that neighbor about CareNow, and thereby inspires compassion. By purchasing a cup of Compassion Tea, one supports the CareNow Foundation and its compassionate outreach as all profits from the sale of Compassion Tea go to CareNow. These profits will help sustain rural African villages with medicines and medical training. Starting in September, you’ll be able to buy your own Compassion Tea.
Tea can teach. Tea can inspire. Tea can lead to relationship building. And that is sustenance greater than daily bread.

*While working on this blog, I became aware that Mortenson has been accused of fabricating parts of the Korphe story. In an interview with Outside Magazine dated April 13, 2011 (found at http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/Greg-Mortenson-Speaks.html?gclid=CPfKpM-MpaoCFQYLbAodulkHXg) Mortenson answers these allegations by admitting that some of his experiences and trips were compressed for the sake of storytelling. Nevertheless, Mortenson stands by the basic facts of the story. I regret that there are questions about the veracity of Mortenson’s story as these words capture so perfectly the joy of sharing life with not only the next door neighbors but those on the other side of the world.