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.

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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.

Something Monumental

I love magic shows. I love to try to catch the magician in the middle of his illusion, making the “magic” happen with a slight-of-hand or distraction or other trick. And don’t you love it when you go to a kid’s birthday party and the magician is in the middle of his act and the kids are all cocky and trying to reveal his secrets and then the magician does something that completely defies all the rules of the world as we know them!

I took my little guy last night to see Danny Ray; he did not disappoint! I’ve never seen tricks and illusions so complicated and mind-blowing as those he did last night. I’d love to tell you that we spent the entire car ride home talking about what we had seen. But the reality is that we were stumped into silence. We couldn’t verbalize a favorite trick or moment; they were all so GOOD!Danny-Ray images

So, Danny began explaining magic last night. He called it a plan. Really, all it is is a plan carried out to perfection. The magician says, “My plan is for you to see this and this instead of this and this happening over here.” Or we might see a fraction of the plan, but we didn’t see the set up beforehand or the practice of the implementation or the hours of planning. Magic is a plan.

I mention this because there’s something monumental going on right now. I’m seeing bits and pieces of it, like puzzle pieces being revealed slowly and one or two at a time. There’s no picture on the box, however. I just have to trust that in the end the pieces will make a picture.

One of the pieces is this. I’ve been a mom now for 11 years. It’s difficult for me to remember life before motherhood except in the kind of fuzzy, glorified way we sometimes view the past… you know, like fantasizing about going to the bathroom alone or moving at a pace slightly above that of a snail and less than full sprint to avoid disaster. But the day to day of holding a job or doing something other than cooking, cleaning, shuttling, and bandaging knees… it’s all rather fuzzy. In fact, I guess I had pretty much shelved that part of myself. It was a necessary shelving and one that benefits my children. People ask if I ever think about returning to teaching and my standard answer has been, “Yes, I’ve thought about it but no I won’t.” And then I’d launch into a million reasons why teaching was no longer my gig.

But I came home yesterday from a full day of meetings at church, running our Tuesday morning Bible Study, leading a small group through the study of Jonah I wrote this summer, and a quick trip to the grocery store and I thought, “Wow. I think there’s a part of me that just came back.” Like God had taken me down off the shelf, dusted me off, polished the tarnished spots, retooled some design flaws, and set this old/new part of me in a new place of prominence.

This floored me because on the way to the day’s events I had been in tears. Which actually is a beautiful place to be. I was in tears that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish everything that needed accomplished. And in that state of distress, I asked God to pick it all up. AND BOY DID HE EVER!

And there’s this matter of a drought. Several times this week, I’ve been reminded to pray in anticipation. One friend reminded me of Elijah standing on the mountain in front of King Ahab and the prophets of Baal and praying for rain. He prayed and then sent his helper to watch the skies. After a cycle of seven prayers and sky-watching, Elijah called out to Ahab ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’” (1 Kings 18: 41-46). By the time Ahab got underway, the sky was pouring buckets of rain down upon the drought-ridden land. And the Jewish tradition tells of Honi who drew a circle in the dirt and told God faithfully, “I’ll not leave this circle until you send the rain.” Honi’s faithfulness impressed God and He sent the rain to end the drought.

These are small pictures of a greater puzzle, and perhaps calls to a new kind of faithfulness… one of expectancy. (Perhaps we should all start carrying umbrellas and wearing rain boots!)

There are things happening at Compassion Tea and CompassioNow right now that are monumental, but we’re still only seeing bits of the puzzle. You better believe we’re expectantly anxious to tell you about them, however!

But there’s a plan behind it all. There is a picture to this puzzle and we will some day see the box top, the completed vision, the unveiling of the magic behind the “trick.”

And so I’m thinking about the plan behind it all, and Ann Voskamp puts this in my Facebook feed:

“We want clarity — and God gives a call. We want a road map — and God gives a relationship. We want answers — and God gives His hand.
The whole room, it’s still quiet and holy full and God singularly calls you and a call from God is about relationship and a call is something one keeps listening for — come this way, come to the land I will show you.
God didn’t give Abraham a map — He gave Abraham a relationship. He doesn’t want you to lean on a guidebook. God wants you to lean on the Guide — who speaks to you through His Book. Why would God give a map — when He wants to give you Himself?
We need the person of God more than we need the plan for our life.”10593126_869168973095278_6479032667097960325_n

You just don’t always need to see the way the trick is done or the way the puzzle looks. Sometimes, you just have to watch and accept, walk step by step in faith that it’s going to turn out. Not the plan… but the Planner.

Danny Ray also did a trick last night that centered around this Bible verse: John 15:5
“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.”

Here’s the clincher. Elijah didn’t bring the rain. God did. Honi didn’t bring the rain. God did. I didn’t accomplish my morning of meetings and leadership roles. God did. We didn’t create a non-profit that would successfully provide healthcare to the world’s least served. God did. We didn’t create an online tea company that would help provide healthcare to the world’s least served. God did.

And the promise is that if we remain in him, in Christ, actively seeking and praying and learning and imploring, then we will bear much fruit. Apart from God, we can do nothing.

I’m not sure how to say this last part in a clear way. But for me, being apart from God has no magic. Random events remain simply that… random. Things begin to look like failed magic tricks. But with God, random events become puzzle pieces, the steps to the completed picture, the successful “trick.” And for me, this gives life a meaning that goes so far beyond “the seen,” the daily grind, the ordinary. It gives life an expectancy and beauty and thrill that I love. Like watching how those overturned cards are going to reappear and the coins are going to fly and the lime ends up in the Coca-Cola can thrilling. Only better. That’s a magical I can’t live without.

Proclamation

I don’t usually consider the hair salon to be optimal thinking grounds. I suppose it is the mix of stewing chemicals in my hair (because, yes, I do pay to have highlights like my kids) and the eardrum crushing sounds of blowdryers, 80s music, and girl talk that I find so mind-numbing. But today I took my computer with me so that I could presumably work. Instead, I surfed Facebook and came across a blog written by one of the pastors at church. In the blog, which tackled many things, I read something so profound I had to share it. The one sentence… “The gospel is not presented; the gospel is proclaimed…” reverberated inside my head like gongs in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

YES! Here’s the deal. We can show people charts and Evangicubes and we can draw diagrams and bridges, but these are all human attempts at explaining something that really in essence doesn’t need explaining because explanation demands reason and reason, human reason, is insufficient here.

Here it is in a nutshell.
There is something called sin in the world. It’s the bad things we do. No one is exempt, even the people who believe that everything they do is right because they choose to do it. Step one? Recognizing that that lie told, that bad name called, that false information shared, that deed left undone, that sneer or eye rolled or unkind thought… those are all sins and really because you are murdering a reputation or a relationship they are just as bad as the deadly ones. Sin.

But that is not the end. There’s this wild thing called grace and grace is forgiveness and not just a pat-on-the-head kind of forgiveness but really deep internal forgiveness. We can try to offer ourselves this kind of grace but we end up in quagmires of sin as we justify our actions, forgive ourselves, and turn around and do it again.

Or.

THE OR.

You see. There was this guy. His name was Jesus. He actually had a whole bunch of names. But he was born to a woman named Mary. He walked the area of modern day Israel some 2000 years ago. He was also God’s son. This guy, Jesus, lived for roughly 30 years and then for reasons really hard to fathom, he was nailed to a cross where he died. Three days later, his friends went to his tomb and his body wasn’t there. Angels proclaimed that this Jesus guy was alive. And then, one by one and group by group, people began seeing this guy around town. He ate with them. Some of them touched him. He had substance, he had scars, and he had news for them. And his news would change everything.

His news was that while on that cross, God had piled the sins of the world on his shoulders. His groans on the cross were not just the groans of pain from the nails and the spear and the crown of thorns and the beatings. They were groans from the weightiness of gazillions of sins. He carried these sins, crucified them, buried them, exhausted all punishment for them.

And because of that, that one man on a cross, we are forgiven. He chose to do this and he chose to do this for all the people of the world. Not just for the holy few. Not just for those who choose to choose him. For all people.

And here’s the critical. Jesus didn’t just say, “Hey, Linda, thanks for choosing to believe in me. Because you chose me, I’m going to hop up on that cross and take your sins for you! How does that sound? Buddy?!?!?! Fist bump!” No, he went to the cross even for the people who are downright evil, for the people who mock him, for the people who deny him, for the people who worship their own works and their bodies and the earth and the things of the world. Can you even wrap your head around that?

Try. Try to wrap your head around it. It doesn’t make an ounce of sense from human terms.

Because we have a hard time loving anything but ourselves quite that much.

The proclamation is this. Because God so loved the world. SO LOVED THE WORLD. Love is proclamation. Reason is presentation.

Sure, we can choose to follow Christ. In fact, we’re encouraged to do that. But truly following Christ comes when we open our eyes to the LOVE that is God, that God showers on us, that takes on incredible burdens, like all the sin of the world.

It already happened, radical grace. Our choice really is whether to accept it or to continue to throw our hands up in defense and say, “NOPE. Got this on my own. I think. I mean. Sort of.”

I couldn’t proclaim this until I felt it. But once I felt it, this radical grace that swept through my physical house of a body like a mighty wind, rattling the windows and knocking down the ceramic idols I’d placed on the mantelpieces of my soul, not until then was I able to proclaim and not just present. I was okay at presenting. I knew the facts at least. And facts are good. But there is very little passion in a fact.

When we look at descriptions of the early church in the Bible, the picture they paint is one of passion. Never does it say, “They invited each other over for coffee and presented the bridge diagram of the pathway to salvation.” Oh my gracious, NO!

It actually says this: Acts 2: 42 ”They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.
46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.”

Did you catch that? People liked what they saw!

Here. Let’s try this. I was out at coffee with a friend the other day. We noticed a lady with a service dog who seemed to be loudly having difficulty. I asked if she needed help. She really just needed some ears to listen to her. Her monologue was full of bitterness and broken relationships and innuendo and even the occasional low-blow. As I listened to her, I thought, “This is the kind of person Jesus would cry over. She needs prayer.” And then she apologized for taking up our time. I explained that we were preparing for Bible Study and that it was no problem. When she heard we were Christians, she proceeded to tell us about how she was saved and about how she prays. I was floored momentarily. I had been 95% convinced the woman knew Jesus only as a curse word. I guess I was wrong! But her time with me was a stark reminder that as a passionate follower, my life is either a presentation or a proclamation. Do people like what they see? Is my proclamation accurate and appropriately representing Jesus? Does it offer more than facts?

Because there’s this wild, crazy God who sends me daily reminders that He loves me. He tucks encouraging Bible verses in my newsfeed, and spurs friends to send texts. He delights me with a whisper of wind or of butterfly wing or just the right song on the radio to remind me, “Now is as good a time as any to praise me.” His love is so abundant. Shouldn’t I let it spill over all around me? And isn’t that a more powerful proclamation than anything?