Unconditional Love

I was doing my favorite work-out this morning, on the floor for crunches, chest flies, bicycle legs, and side planks. As I was working toward that better, stronger body, I felt the tongue of my dog licking my face. It wasn’t the slobbery, stinky kiss you might associate with a dog kiss. It was the feathery lightness of memory. My dog died three days ago. He was my 15 year old, 15 year strong, friend and the pain of his loss is raw in ways I’ve never felt before. But that memory made me smile. And then cry. So much for the work-out.
Gipper’s death ironically coincided with something a friend posted on Facebook, a little song/video that compares God and dog. This isn’t really a new concept; we’ve all seen the “Dog is my co-pilot” vs. “God is my co-pilot” bumper stickers. The video furthers the comparison and sweetly talks about the unconditional love of both God and dog for us. My favorite line is, “They would stay with me all day. I’m the one who walks away. But both of them just wait for me and dance at my return with glee.” It’s that unconditional love waiting for me in a patch of sunlight that I miss the most, although the warm body sleeping in my lap, the vacuuming Gipper used to do for me with his snorty little pug appetite, the spring of his step before arthritis slowed him down to a crawl are all part of the loss too. Just knowing that Gipper was there with a plentitude of kisses waiting for me no matter what the day had brought, where I had failed, where my selfishness had taken me, or where my anger was directing me was enormously comforting. He didn’t care. He just loved me and that was that.
The lesson here is that God feels the same way about us. Even on a grander scale because He actually created us rather than merely lives with us. How much more then He must love us. No matter what. As we strive to become “the light of God in a broken world,” it is this kind of unconditional compassion and love that we must emulate. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 25: 40. Whether it be feeding the hungry, providing drink for the thirsty, clothing the poor, helping the ill, when we reach out to “the least served,” we are doing God’s work on earth, showing His unconditional love to the world. It requires looking past differences, perceived motives, barriers created in our own minds. It requires forgiveness, action, and unwavering kindness. It is motivated by compassion.
My prayer today is that we all feel some amount of unconditional love… whether it be a dog’s or God’s. And then having felt that, I pray we feel emboldened to try it for ourselves, that we try giving out unconditional love. Compassion Tea is a good place to start.

(Here is the link for the video if you would like to see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H17edn_RZoY)

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Hurry in the Harvest

There is an urgency in the air these days, a sense of haste even in the midst of crisp mornings and lazily warm, sunny afternoons. It’s my favorite time of year because the weather is so ideal. It’s the season of layers… piling them on and stripping them off. It’s the season of amazing colors… skies so vibrant azure that the greens and reds and oranges and yellows of the leaves look filtered, enhanced, Technicolor. It’s the season of dichotomy. Life feels so super-charged on those crisp mornings when you can see your breath for the first time, and yet, the smell of decaying leaves mingles on those mornings with the smell of last night’s fires in the fireplace. Even as the cheery faces of mums greet you, the crunch of dead leaves accompanies every step. And in the homes of small children, those fragile yet sturdy pumpkins nestle up with a reminder of death… perhaps a smiling skeleton or a silly sheet ghost. Halloween itself, today a festival of fun, candy, costumes, the lively screams of children running from house to house, grew from the festival of the Saints, a festival reminder of the soul harvest of the last year.
Harvest is the token word of the season. Harvest moons, harvest festivals, bring in the harvest, harvest bounty, soul harvest. I think the sense of urgency in the air is a part of that harvest mentality. Even as the squirrels increase the frequency of their trips across my fence in search of nuts, even as the turkeys are more plentiful along Foothill Road, fattening themselves for the winter, even as the harvest of my garden begins to taper and I turn my thoughts to winter plantings, the knowledge of the coming winter is pervasive. It calls us to soak in those warm afternoons, luxuriate in the blue skies, jump in every pile of leaves we can find. Winter is coming.
Harvest has everything to do with this month’s selection of teas for Compassion Tea Company’s members. Chris Faherty, co-founder of Compassion Tea, writes about her choice of the green genmaicha as one of this month’s special signature teas: “I grew up on a working farm in central Oregon and seasons are very important there for a variety of reasons. When we entertain I always plan my menu around seasonal things and have to bake an apple pie in the fall, make a strawberry cream pie in May, etc. The green genmaicha is actually made with toasted rice and gives a scent and taste to the tea that is toasted and “grainy” for lack of a better word. Drinking this made me think of harvest and the effort farmers put forth to provide us with nourishment. Even though rice is probably harvested earlier, October is harvest month to me. Hence, the selection!”
“What’s this?” you ask! Memberships? Yes! Compassion Tea Company has four different membership levels and each membership guarantees you the great taste of Compassion Tea every month. Every month, depending on the membership level you choose, you will be treated to two teas, either teas of your choosing or high quality teas, such as the green genmaicha, which are selected by Compassion Tea staff. The first three levels of membership are Compassion Member (for those who prefer loose tea, offered at $10 + $2.50 s&h), Compassion Pyramid Member (for those who like tea bags, offered at $12.50 + $2.50 s&h), and Compassion Elite Member (for those who may like a premium loose tea, offered at $15 + $2.50 s&h). The fourth level of membership, the Compassion Founder Circle Member, also receives monthly teas and has the opportunity for quarterly conference calls with one of the CareNow founders. This opportunity to increase your support for CareNow is offered at $50 + $2.50 s&h.
It’s the season of harvest, gathering the goods of the summer and preparing for the winter ahead. As we prepare for the cold, dark months, wouldn’t now be a great time to ensure a constant supply of tea and to cement your support for CareNow?

Cold Shower Water? That’s Nothing!

This morning, I stepped into the shower and sighed the half asleep sigh of contentment. Suddenly, my back arched as cold water plummeted out of the faucet and down my body shocking me into a state of awakeness I was sure I wasn’t ready for. ARGH! The cold water quickly warmed up again and I remembered that the shower often does that. There seems to be a pocket of cold water that somehow hangs out in the pipes until about the third minute of the shower and then WHAMOO! Aye Carumba! (Raise your hand now if you can relate!)
Water. We take it for granted. It will come out of the kitchen or bathroom faucet when we turn them. It will be there to flush the toilet. For consumption, we can choose between the water in the faucet or a plethora of bottled varieties – flavored, mineral, sparkling, purified. We trust implicitly that it will be safe, refreshing, and clean no matter what we choose.
Just the other day, I received an update from CareNow founder Wendy Bjurstrom, a letter email she had received from the missionaries Danny and Nancy Smelser at the Tanzania Christian Clinic, one of the clinics CareNow supports. In the letter, Danny and Nancy write, “While preparing to baptize Dada (a young Maasai woman) we set up the portable baptistery beside a small watering hole and observed many animals drinking there. A mother and son had just arrived with their buckets from a long journey. Yet, gut wrenching was watching that mother’s thirsty son drop to his knees in the mud and begin lapping up that filthy water. Is it small wonder that diarrhea steals the lives of so many in the developing world?” The Smelsers also write that “…patients with typhoid fever are arriving daily; the latter infection has escalated in this drought as many people drink from the only water source they can find – filthy water holes contaminated by animals.”
The situation at Chalabesa Mission Hospital in Zambia is similar. The clinic is run by a Polish nun, Sister Marta, and is the only one for miles. Sister Marta has been reporting that the solar-powered electrical system hasn’t been working and the water for the clinic comes either from a wind-powered pump that is leaking and that only works when there is wind or from a river 160 yards away. This river is visited by elephants and other animals who not only drink its water but who grossly contaminate it. To compound things, measles, deadly diarrhea, typhoid, and malaria are striking in epidemic proportions due to the drought in that part of the world. In one day alone, with flashlight in hand, Sister Marta took care of over 240 patients who had walked miles and waited hours in the dark, crowded rooms of the clinic. These patients were thirsty, feverish, ill, dehydrated, malnourished, and fearful for their lives. Chalabesa is their only hope.
Currently, the CareNow Foundation is raising funds to supply the Chalabesa Mission Hospital with a “bucket brigade” of relief. They would like to dig two new boreholes, erect two new 2,600 gallon tanks and necessary pipework, and purchase two solar pumps plus associated solar panels and control electronics. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom, CareNow and Compassion Tea co-founders, are planning to travel to Africa in November to see first-hand the situation in Tanzania and Zambia, to provide help where they can, and to find out what is needed most at these clinics, on what to focus the attention of CareNow.
Your purchase of Compassion Tea will help raise these funds and provide clean water and the necessary electricity to effectively run these clinics so that they may treat more of those affected by the drought. Please also consider offering an extra donation through the Coalition for Caring or directly online at www.carenowfoundation.org. Thank you for helping to supply the most basic of medical care… clean water.