It’s On My Heart

There’s a weight, a pressure that has been sitting there in my chest for a week now. And when she honked her horn at me this morning, I thought my heavyweight heart was going to jump right out of my chest cavity.

There are times to honk and times to keep quiet.

I couldn’t/wouldn’t turn right and run down the man crossing the street but apparently that was what she expected me to do. “What’s the rush,” I wondered, “that your getting somewhere is more important than the life of the man crossing the street?”

What is the ever-living rush?

And then, as if to make an exclamation point to her honking, she pulled into the next lane, the going straight lane, maneuvered around my car, and proceeded to turn right in front of me, grazing the last steps of the crossing man. And then, traffic ahead of her stopped. She, in her impatience, saved herself nothing.

Between trying to put my heart back in its chest and marveling at her maneuver I had less than a split second to decide. How am I going to react in front of my children? Because this could potentially be big.

And hadn’t I prayed just this morning that when I come face-to-face with the ugly and the impatient and the rude and the chaotic and the pain of this world that I would respond with something other, something that might look like a ray of light in a dark place, something like a hand-up or the face of God or an unidentifiable calm?

What was the knee-jerk going to look like?

Surely, this could be a time of righteous indignation; any anger I felt could be justified. A man’s life was a stake for goodness sake.

But we also reap what we sow and what did I want to sow in my heart, in the hearts of my children, in the fertile fields of life? So, I laughed. Out loud. And I prayed a blessing over her. Out loud. And while my heart still hurt and while inwardly I felt another little darkening, I waved good-bye and wished her a Merry Christmas and we went a separate direction.

“Why did you wave good-bye Mommy?” came the question from the backseat. “Because that is a very grumpy person and I think she needs a little love. “

“When I’m grumpy I would rather everyone around me be grumpy too,” Little Miss chimed in. “I want them to be grumpy and angry and fight me.”

Oh my heart. Yes. I know. I’ve seen that all my life. Grumpy. Angry. Fight. But what does it solve? We’re all just in the mud pit together. Where no one can gain traction. There is no upper hand although the sharp-barbed arrow of the tongue, the poisoned thought… it feels good to launch… for 1.001 of a second. Just the time it takes for a heart to beat.

I hear Little Miss pouring out her heart and I know. But maybe I can change her course from here. “If we respond with grumpiness to other grumpy people, we never get out of the grumps. But if we respond with love, maybe we can pull the grumpy person out of the grumps. Love stops the cycle of hurt.”

It’s not easy and it comes with a cost. Me, myself, and I, we wanted to rain down chastisement. Indignation was ours to grab. But.

But there was a little baby boy who was born into the dark places. He sought out the dark places and tore the curtains that kept out the light. He tore the curtains of disease and demons and despair and even death. In one powerful gut-wrenching act of obedience, he tore the temple curtain that separated the holy of holies from mankind. Because Love stops the cycle of hurt.

Yes, my heart still hurts. There are arrows from the past that I’ve tried to pull out, but they fester right now. Like arthritis in a joint that developed from an early injury, I feel their pain still. Aching and heavy. And there are fresh pains for friends and family who are going through it right now. Going through the dark, the valley of the shadow of death. And what do we do with our hard, aching hearts?

He stepped into the world. He said, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt 11:30) And He asks us to hand it over. Whatever the it is.

Ann Voskamp is talking this morning about how He traded His heart for ours, how up there on the cross He took our hard, aching hearts and traded them in for His. Heart transplants.

And when we feel it is His heart beating in us, when Love is the beat of our heart, ahhhh. The sigh of relief. Like the sigh of a snowflake falling. Like the milk-drunk coo of an infant. Like peace. The kind that passes all understanding. The kind that waves and wishes a Merry Christmas.

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.

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!

Just yesterday I was driving to an event. My heart started racing. As I become more aware of how this kind of thing gets going in my body and may or may not send me into a full on panic attack, I stop to ask myself why. Why, little heart, is the approach of this event, sending you into spasms. The answer? Because I’d rather be at home writing.

“The Introverted are the people who live in the constant tension between the desire to communicate… and the desire to hide.”
This from Ann Voskamp, another “I’d rather stay home and write” kinda gal. So she wrote it out, her story, and it has launched her into comfort zones far beyond staying home. She says, “…well, when you’ve been revived from the dead, you keep mustering the courage up to communicate this story because maybe it will help just even one other person?”

And today Maya Angelou died and I’m thinking about how her voice was my first experience with poetry that licked my heart as it sang to my brain, how her words opened new doors and suggested to me that form in poetry could be more organic, subtle, sensuous, slithering up the backside. Her voice, husky, grandmotherly, wise, pooled around my high school self and flung wide doors of language.

And I think back to three days ago when I was watching my daughter perform with her choir during a church service and how words, lifting in song, touched people. The choir cast the words of The Battle Hymn of the Republic into air, and I watched as the grey haired ladies in their own special pew popped above the surface to nip at them. Joy spread across their faces and their lips moved uncontrollably, lipping the words, eyes bright. I had glimpses of young girls in those wizened faces. Young, smooth skin under the wrinkles, tossing curls under the white and grey. Age remembering youthful prayer meetings and days spent with beaus and a patriotism that is no longer politically correct. And I thought, “Oh how God loves you, ladies.” More than me, they have seen Him marching on.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
[originally …let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

It was here, at this verse, that my own tears started, flowing fast, joy … joy that my daughter was in a choir that was teaching and challenging and training her voice and that that voice was singing one of my favorite hymns… a hymn for crying out loud. On the cusp of Memorial Day, it had meaning.
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free…
There are men and women who stood up, left their comfort zones, their homes, their cozy and with racing hearts faced the enemy, the freedom takers. Their voices, their stories were shortened, heroic, often unsung, unheard. But their acts made differences, changed tides of battles, changed lives. Their passing may have seemed a blip on the map of strategy, but in God’s great economy, not a drop of blood was wasted.

These words of march and fight and triumph are reserved for Memorial Day, for funerals, for times of passing. But we need them every day. Because every day is a battle. We need to know that there is purpose, a strategy, a plan in place, a plan for victory, and an exit plan, even before we move from our beds in the morning. God’s plan, God’s march, God’s victory.

Plan enacted, sweet son sent. Holy oneness broken for a bit so that holy becomes human. Holy takes on skin but not the depravity of human. Holy walks soil, holy sleeps and eats and touches and feeds and speaks words of love and healing and dangerous words that turn thousands of years of “God says” into “but now.” Holy from the beginning, there in the beginning, there in the early sacrifices that will herald and explain and ready hearts.

Yes, oh sinner. God spent those years teaching his children that certain actions are sin, the most offensive of which is turning away from God.

There must be retribution.

Retribution taken by himself on himself for me so that the swift sword loosed is not for me deserving though I be. Oh be swift my soul to answer Him, be jubilant my feet!

It makes me want to stand at attention, eager along the parade route, listening for the trumpet that shall never sound retreat, butterflies in my stomach anticipating the display that is about to pass. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Drips from lips like so much honey.

Can I stand at the parade route and stay home and write too? Can they be one and the same? Can my voice raised in writing be loud and cheering? Can yours?

So, I’m writing and I’m crying, my soul purging. And my daughter comes in and says, “Why? Why are you crying?” Crying and writing, writing and crying? Isn’t that normal? Because it is in the writing that I feel the hand of God, like He is pouring His voice into me, filling me. In the preaching gospel to myself, I touch God, spend an hour at His feet, rest in the beauty of the lilies, glory in His glory. Voice my own hallelujah. Cast it out into air. It’s the introvert way, the God way for me. For now.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

Masterpiece

I have so much else to do, but there’s a refrain playing in my heart and if I truly believe God is a God of abundance and generosity, He will take the time and bend it and shape it and time warps are possible. And so I believe He, who spoke this refrain, will sanctify the time I spend mulling His words in it.

Masterpiece. I showed the ladies a copy of the Sistine Chapel. “They should have clothes on.” I showed the Mona Lisa, the façade of Notre Dame, Paris. I handed out copies of War and Peace, Hamlet, Moby Dick. I passed around Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and Handel’s Royal Fireworks music. What do they all have in common? Masterpieces. Someone’s hard work, opus magnum, life’s blood spilling in artistic fervor, passion in word or paint, creative genius, something that had never been before.

And then the mirror comes out.

What do you see? “A wreck.” “Oh dear.” That one actually turns the mirror and won’t look. “My rosacea.”

One gets it. “God’s masterpiece.”

God says, “We are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

God’s masterpiece.

Compassion Tea's Anne and Chris learning about the first pluck in Sri Lanka.

Compassion Tea’s Anne and Chris learning about the first pluck in Sri Lanka.

Visiting the doctor in all her finery at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Visiting the doctor in all her finery at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Clinical officer David at Tanzania Christian Clinic

Clinical officer David at Tanzania Christian Clinic

One of the "mommies" caring for the orphans at Village of Hope Uganda

One of the “mommies” caring for the orphans at Village of Hope Uganda

Celebrating at the watering hole… masterpieces at Village of Hope Uganda

Celebrating at the watering hole… masterpieces at Village of Hope Uganda

Dawn at 1000 Hills Community Helpers holding two new masterpieces

Dawn at 1000 Hills Community Helpers holding two new masterpieces

A masterpiece with ice cream at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

A masterpiece with ice cream at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Wendy Bjurstrom of CompassioNow with Scovia

Blowing bubbles at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Blowing bubbles at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

I’m preaching this to everyone who will listen. To my daughter who thinks holding her nose when a certain boy walks by is okay. To my friend who has a “thang.” To my husband who needs to be reminded as he walks through the lonely halls of business. To myself because the accuser and the world conspire to whisper the opposite. Why do I even give them audience?

I’ve been putting off reading this blog. But this morning, reciting “We are God’s masterpiece created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago,” for the 10th time today, I click on the link. And I find that God is preaching this message through others too.

God’s masterpiece. Creative genius. Passion in flesh and blood. Unique and never been before. His blood spilling in artistic fervor. That’s you.

But Now

We’re taking a stroll down memory lane. Looking back at where we’ve been. How we’ve built a radical new company out of the desire to make money, not for ourselves but for the people in Africa who don’t have quality health care. Who does that? And why?
Why? Because we are privileged!
Remember this?

Talk about privilege. A friend of mine just posted a “notable and quotable” on her Facebook page. It reads:
“If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering. If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.” I have seen statistics like this before. It always shocks me. Understatement.
Our good friend Dawn Faith Leppan at 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa recently posted on Facebook the following:
“If you think you are feeling the cold dear friends, snuggled in your warm home, think of those who have a stone floor to sleep on with a thread bare blanket. Lousy, I would say. What do you say?”
This week, our church held their annual missions conference. Missionary, after speaker, after business leader brought to our attention the plight of people in far away places, places where women are sold into heinous slavery and prostitution, where people are desperate for dignified employment, clean water, medicines, where a home is a mud covered hut on stilts or a mat on the street, where children play in sewage, where the same water hole serves as laundromat, bathtub, and drinking fountain. I was particularly moved by this video.  Sany makes a comment in the middle of the video, “but the important thing is when I was young, I was sold.” Can you see the pain in her face? Can you hear the pain in her voice? Another video shown over the weekend showed another woman in Cambodia. Her comment was that she lives her life feeling like someone is constantly watching her. Paranoia like that isn’t without warrant; it is a form of survival. And it has haunted me all day today.
Yes, we are privileged here in the US. I’m watching my kids swimming in the pool as I write this. 50,000 gallons of clean water, just for the kids to splash around in. They are cannon-balling into the water, their cries of joy echoing. The dog is barking on the edge, weighing his desire to get his floating chew toys versus having to swim to get them. Privilege.
One of the weekend’s speakers, Nathan George, founder of a company called Trade As One, talked about this privilege. He suggested that God doesn’t just care about the tithes we give in the church offering plate once a week or once a month. God cares about the other 90 or so % of our wealth. What do we do with that privilege? How do we spend our wealth? George suggested that if we use our purchasing power with taking care of others in mind, we can do amazing things. His company sells fair trade products… high quality products produced in places where a dignified job can mean the difference between poverty, slavery, and disease and a life of hope. Similarly, we at Compassion Tea believe that by selling high quality tea we can provide amazing hope and health to people in parts of Africa where hope and health are rarely felt. We believe our purchasing practices can provide compassion NOW. And quite frankly, I think it a privilege to do so.

Yes, we are privileged, each of us enjoying earthly blessings – family, financial stability, relative health, needs and wants met practically on demand. But wait! There’s more. There’s this.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— Colossians 1: 21-22

But now.

When you are radically grateful, you live out of a place of radical abundance — there’s always more space for more to share the grace.
And don’t confuse the idea of personal pride with radical gratitude. You aren’t actually thankful for something if you think you actually earned it. That’s pride, not gratitude.
You are only actually grateful for something if you see it as actually a gift -– as an unearned gift that was bestowed unexpectedly upon you. — Ann Voskamp

But now.

Because Jesus Christ, God’s own Son came to earth and offered himself up as the ultimate blood sacrifice for the redemption of sins and for the extraction of guilt, because He did this not because of what we do or did but because of who He is, was, and will be forever, because of this, we are grateful.

There is deep mystery here. The why and really of it gets muddled and messy, because we are trying to humanize God, make Him think and act like we would.

Take it at face value. The but now means He has and that is all that matters.
All that matters is that we’ve been given this free gift with His purchase. Without merit, without right or entitlement, without even a proper sense of the scope, we receive this gift.

When you are radically grateful for what you have, you will go to radical lengths to share it. When you are radically grateful for being blessed — you are radically generous to the oppressed. — Ann Voskamp

So, why do we do what we do? Why do we explore the best teas to bring to you? Why do we care so much about people we may in fact never meet? Why do we travel to regions of the world deemed unsafe carrying duffel bag after duffel bag full of medical supplies? Why do we take this all so seriously? Why?
Because He first loved us, gave us a gift… the best gift. That’s radical and requires radical gratitude, which begets radical generosity.

And it’s there for you too.

There’s This

When you are radically grateful for what you have, you will go to radical lengths to share it. When you are radically grateful for being blessed — you are radically generous to the oppressed.
When you are radically grateful, you live out of a place of radical abundance — there’s always more space for more to share the grace.
And don’t confuse the idea of personal pride with radical gratitude. You aren’t actually thankful for something if you think you actually earned it. That’s pride, not gratitude.
You are only actually grateful for something if you see it as actually a gift -– as an unearned gift that was bestowed unexpectedly upon you. — Ann Voskamp 

Radical. Grace. Abundance. And when you see what you have in comparison to what they have…well. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, perusing bits of past blogs to see where and why and who… and you in it all!

First, there’s this:
The CareNow Foundation was created after Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom visited several countries in Southern Africa in 2002 and again in 2004. Aghast at the enormity of the AIDS crisis, Ed and Wendy saw that solving the AIDS crisis was an incredibly daunting task but that other aid could be offered immediately. Ed commented the other day that while one could sit around and discuss plans for solving the problem, that wasn’t caring now and caring NOW was what he and Wendy wanted to do, to find ways to help immediately. That people were dying due to the lack of a medicine that cost 25 cents, Ed added, seemed ludicrous and unconscionable to him. Hence, CareNow was created…. (Please remember that CompassioNow was originally called CareNow Foundation.) Lee Kennedy, another founder and Matt’s uncle, explained to me, “Seeing first hand, looking into the eyes of people and realizing how much I have, how much even the poor of this country have, by comparison, changed me. Bill Hybels (Founder and Senior Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago) once stated that when he went to Africa and saw it, something changed and relocated in his gut and it never returned to where it had been. I understand that. Scriptures often talk about how Jesus looked at individuals, the leper, the prostitute, the down and out, and saw them, not their titles, illnesses, occupations. There is something about really looking into the eyes and seeing that changes you. I went through life looking at pictures and news and not really seeing. Once I saw, I had to do something.”

And of course, this:
Jack and Chris Faherty, Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom, and Lee and Anne Kennedy met that weekend in February in Palm Springs as friends whose life experiences had scattered them around California. They left Palm Springs as the founders of a new business… Compassion Tea Company. (**Later, life-long tea drinker, friend, and relative of the Kennedys, Donna Cribbs was asked to join the core group of founders. Together, the board has built this very exciting new company!)
Jack explained to me that all three couples have been actively involved in the CareNow Foundation. Ed and Wendy founded it while Anne and Chris have served on its board and made trips to Africa taking wheelchairs, other medical equipment, and medicines to clinics supported by CareNow. All three couples are intimately involved in the fundraising efforts of CareNow as a result. But Jack wasn’t satisfied with the results. Surely, he thought, there must be a better, more sustainable way to raise funds and awareness.
After looking at the business models of several charitable organizations and after much prayer and research, Jack and Chris felt the answer was tea. Tea, they learned, is the number one beverage consumed worldwide after water. In 2009, Americans alone consumed over 60 billion servings of tea. Improved health is often attributed to drinking tea. Because tea is often produced in poorer, more rural areas of the world, places like those CareNow seeks to help, it seemed like a natural product for increasing awareness of those places. And finally, tea tastes great, encourages relaxation and conversation, and is the perfect event through which to spread compassion.
I remember Aunt Anne excitedly telling me shortly after this February meeting in Palm Springs, “God is our CEO!” The company has chosen this Bible verse as their standard: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble” 1 Peter 3:8. It is this awareness, awakeness to use a theme from previous blogs, that started Compassion Tea, and it has been God’s hand that has driven its creation process. We, at Compassion Tea, are all ecstatic about the future… especially since the first shipments of tea have already gone out to eager customers. We have already begun to “Share Tea, Save Lives!” What can we order for you?

And because of all that, there’s this:
Nellie Chitambo, a worker at Mission Medic Air in Zambia, recently wrote the following report: “The airplane is under maintenance so this trip was made using our land vehicle. It started as a normal trip when we left Ndola… Thursday morning. Unfortunately, the vehicle broke down partway to our destination. We had to rebuild the diesel pump and filter which delayed our arrival at the mission hospital significantly. We finally arrived in the early morning hours on Friday….
After resting, the medical team was allocated rooms to operate from and the team got their bags to the rooms to begin their work. There were so many patients that the Optician missed lunch in order to clear the long line of patients.
Medical side was also busy with the group having to take turns to have their lunch. On Saturday after finishing the clinic, the following numbers were treated:
-Medical 251 patients
-Optical 120 patients
15 patients booked for surgery
-Dental 44 patients
TOTAL 415 patients in all” (Read the full report at www.compassionow.org.)
415 people served during a two day clinic in the bush! CompassioNow has in the past provided funding for that airplane which has carried more than one person to hospital in the larger cities to get treatment he or she couldn’t possibly receive in the bush. Back in November, CompassioNow team members carried over suitcases full of eyeglasses and shots of Novocaine which would have been used by the optician and the dentist during this clinic.
We could stop here and pat ourselves on the back. Hey, great job, Compassion Tea/CompassioNow! But that would be all wrong. It feels great to know that what we are doing has dramatic impact on our neighbors in Africa, don’t get me wrong. But we love because God first loved us. And that love aches for those who haven’t been served, it rejoices for those who have, and it hopes for a future wherein we can love on even more people. Love is why.

Radical

We’re celebrating this week! Three years ago, Compassion Tea was born. It came out of a radical desire to make a difference now for people in Africa who have very little or no access to quality health care. As if written for just this purpose, Ann Voskamp wrote about radical grace and how it is the game changer in a life. Gratitude is the fire in the belly that says that and that are unjust. Read here.

More later about the radical people behind Compassion Tea and the radical grace that put the fire in their bellies to make a change.

Napkins

My last pregnancy was really messy. I was pregnant, but I kept losing pregnancies so we had to watch the first weeks carefully. Then we found out the hormone levels were doubling and tripling what they would for a normal pregnancy… that seemed great, except I felt like I was swimming in a sea of off-balance, out-of-body nausea that wouldn’t quit and I didn’t want it to. Then there two babies to rejoice over and plan for and there’s our nearly 4 year old to take care of. Plans came to a halt because there was only one baby now, and deep, deep ugly mourning. And that one night when I rocked my babies, one alive and kicking and one dead. And God spoke clearly to me that my baby angel had done his purpose, had accompanied Joseph through those difficult first stages and was now living in Heaven… twins separated before birth. The prolapsed cervix that followed had me struggling to move. Afternoons of Angelina Ballerina on the sofa trying not to vomit, to mother my out of the womb child and my in the womb child simultaneously when all my energy seemed to be going to growing that baby and there wasn’t anything left over for me or her, my already been born baby. There are videos, songs, books, and smells that have such strong nausea associations with them that I can’t look, watch, read, or sniff without a physical and emotional reaction. There was bleeding and pre-labor and a shot to speed up the lung development and then swollen ankles and fingers and pain in every ligament as the stretching stretched me taut. It could have been a lot worse, but it certainly wasn’t a beautiful thing to watch… not in the way that some women carry babies like a fanny pack. Into that mess stepped a few women who agreed to bring meals to help us out. Women from church, who were living chaotic lives raising children of their own, swung by every other day with a meal, a moment of explanation of what needed to be done to finish it off, a smile and an encouraging word. Then they were out the door easy breezy and I felt like the Holy Spirit had just swept through. Because I was hungry for sisterhood, for someone to come alongside me and wrap her arms around me and tell me that this is what women do for their families. And it would be okay in the end. One poor woman arrived with a meal, harried, rushed, and I needed to talk about the news I had just received that my cervix was prolapsed and I would really need to be careful and I was kind of at the end of my wits. And she was too. I felt it in her presence and I saw it in her face as my need to gush overpowered her need to get out the door. Shock, unpreparedness, discomfort all played like banners across her face. She wanted to scream, “TMI!” And I wanted her, anyone, someone, to sit and listen and grab a Kleenex for me. I bring this up because something is trying to break through in my mind. Women’s Ministry has often been about cute little tea parties and happy little socials where women dress up, show off their new hat, gush a bit over each other, and then fold the napkin prim and proper and leave. That’s been my impression. But, I’m starting to see that the napkin isn’t to be folded. It’s to be used as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding, or as a handkerchief soggy and slimy, to wipe away the stains, to give the other a soft lovey, to sponge up the mess. Ministry of all kinds is more like walking into triage than through a flower garden. Because it’s messy out there. The word in Christian circles has been about glorifying God in the little things, in everything we do from changing the diapers, sweeping up Cheerios, carpooling, folding laundry, photocopying at work, grocery shopping. Ann Voskamp is writing about doing what He tells you to do, even if you’re limping along. Stephen Curtis Chapman is singing about it. So is Josh Wilson. And I try. I try to say as I’m folding Mt. Laundry that this has a very important role in my family life and I’m doing a great service of love for my family. I try to look at the grocery store and the playground and the baseball field as my mission field. And I see the women around me and I know they are coming from seminary and life-experience and while I can’t hold a candle to their Biblical knowledge I can see their scars and their wounds and their pain. Because it is my pain and my scars and my wounds. Sometimes we call it spiritual warfare, sometimes we call it out as Satan attacking, and sometimes we just need to go in a room and cry. Someone pass that napkin, we’ve got an ugly cry in room 3. Cancer strikes. Death leaves a void. People betray trust. Sanctity is destroyed. Families are tearing each other apart. It’s messy out there. I have times when I think, “My goodness, I should be traveling to Africa. I need to go and see for myself. I need to take a greater stand, do more, be more… for Africa.” Because I’m certain that God called me to be a part of Compassion Tea and CompassioNow. He gave me an interest in writing. He gave me modest talents in that vein. He gave me a heart that weeps and weeps and weeps for those less cared for. But the door to Africa is shut for now. Instead, He points me to a friend, a neighbor, a fellow mother and says, “Get busy.” The problem is that I’m feeling a lot like I did in those pregnancy days, a bit consumed with what is going on in my immediate vicinity. Whether it’s a secret room under the house still full of wet insulation or a daughter who’s trying out this new attitude and persona or a son who feels left behind because sister doesn’t have time for him anymore, it is consuming me and when another hurting being comes close I want to gush my woes more than listen to her. I mean, what would have happened if I had stopped my gush and asked my meal-bearer for her story. What kind of meeting would there have been? Or it is okay for a season to be the gusher? Can we even glorify God in the gushing? Can the exposure of our wounds to full view be a blessing to someone else? Put out the napkins. It’s messy out there.

Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp

As part of her musings on how to truly live, Ms. Voskamp suggests breathing in the scent of steaming tea. We’re thinking Compassion Tea English Breakfast or maybe Monk’s Blend….

Finding the Joy in the Mess

Took the dog for a walk yesterday.

It’s been a while. He’s had to settle for chasing balls and frisbees in the front yard… what with the flu striking the house and now the water issues. Poor dear.

We circled the block near the school and ended at the park where he could go off-leash. The boy went nuts! He was free and literally jumping… every step had a bounce. And he stopped and turned and looked at me and there was a smile on that dog’s face. Joy, covered in shag. It was uninhibited freedom and joy with a big black nose and floppy ears.IMG_20130208_115154_813 IMG_20130823_105449_287 IMG_20131019_165045_397

And I thought there’s a story here, a message. Because that is the kind of joy I seek. Right here, in the middle of the mess, joy. Over the sound of the blowers and the air scrubber… joy.

There was joy beyond compare yesterday and today, too, for my son who found a pile of gravel left over at the park. Some really big sticks and rocks and this pile of gravel and he could play for hours. Imagination working overtime, joy in the physical labor of digging a cave, body heat and the sun’s warmth pinking his cheeks. The stick is a sword, a gun, a laser beam, a shovel, a tool depending on the moment. Sand in the shoes and the pockets, grime on the hands, grit in the hair… is there anything that announces the joy of a boy so loudly?IMG_20140110_143815_362 IMG_20140109_133617_039

I delight in their joy. It brings a smile to my face and lifts my spirits. But where do I find that same kind of joy? I’m envious of the freedom dog and boy have to feel intense joy. (And maybe non-dog lovers are tilting their heads asking do dogs really feel intense emotion. I have to argue that yes joy is in their sensory data.) Where do I go for that same kind of kick-in-the-pants frolic?

Really been feeling kind of blue today. I blame it on the sound of jet engines in my kitchen, the slow drying out of my house, the tedious calls with insurance, the waiting. Waiting is my personal pariah. Not good at it. Horrible actually. Just ask my husband about the time I couldn’t wait for him to help me paint the back door, or the time I enlisted the help of the children to help me move the sofa instead of waiting for him to return home. I want action, decision, answers, progress.

And yet, funny thing. God hasn’t been content with my moping. “Look for the blessings! At least this isn’t happening over Christmas,” quips a friend this morning. Another friend texts me Psalm 16:11, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” During some quiet time this morning, my Bible study takes me to James 1: 2-4, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing…” and to Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ….”
He’s got my attention. I’m listening. And I’m asking. Is this wet kitchen a trial, a challenge that ranks with the biblical challenges faced by the heroes of the Bible? There seem to be categories of challenges… something like this… challenges to one’s ministry, challenges to one’s safety and security, challenges to one’s beliefs about self and/or standing in society, challenges to one’s health and comfort. There must be some variation in the intensity of the challenge too. Right? And don’t challenges to one’s ministry rank higher in biblical implications than say challenges to one’s comfort?

I’m confused. We are to count each challenge as joy. I can understand how the apostles felt joyful over a flogging because they felt like they were experiencing what Christ had suffered and there was testimony in coming through it well. Not that I personally want to experience this particular challenge. But I’m having trouble finding joy in the mess that is my kitchen. And I just can’t reconcile my challenge as necessarily bringing God glory. How? No, it just seems like a major inconvenience, a distraction sent to derail me… like the plethora of distractions this fall. Kind of sick of the derailments.

The Bible study went on to talk about how we are not citizens of this world, this is not our home, we are mere travelers, nomads on earth. This is Christianese, church talk. I like it, I get it. There was that time I heard Beth Moore talk about going out to a Mexican restaurant and ordering fajitas. After the meal, she smelled like fajitas. She equated it to our lives here on earth. We are to eat the fajitas but not smell like the fajitas, be a part of the earthly world, but not act like it, smell like it, or cling to it.

And really it’s not the kitchen itself that has me upset. I know that it will all get sorted and a kitchen is just a kitchen after all and at least I have a kitchen and hot water and electricity and food to prepare. So I don’t think I’m clinging to the world; I don’t think that is really creating the funk.

Really, I’m just not sure where to find the joy and … big AND… can I come through this without smelling like the world? Can I deal with the inconvenience and the disruption to plans and the kids telling me I’m not fair because I have to choose being home to meet a plumber over going to the park and claims agents who may or may not have our best interests at heart? How do I live in the world, because this is where God put me, for just such a time as this, how do I live in this with a soggy kitchen when I’m really seeking Heaven? I have to deal with the here and now. And do soggy kitchens really have eternal implications?

Is there a 12 step program out there on how to live in the world and not smell like it?

The answer is right in front of me… in the words of my friends, in Scripture. Count the blessings. Look for them, seek them out, open the eyes. Dig in the dirt to find them. Take off the leash and jump. Count God’s gifts. Because in God’s presence is fullness of joy… not in the kitchens or the other things of this world… in God’s presence.

So, counting the blessings of today:
1. Sunshine and a dirt pile
2. Making a new friend
3. A tree full of birds
4. 3 multi-colored chicken eggs in a freshly cleaned roosting box
5. Following 3 police cars rather than being followed by 3 police cars
6. A surprise gift arriving
7. Lemons hanging on a tree
8. The beauty of sharing faith with a friend
9. Quiet time… despite the fans
10. A dog’s nose resting on my arm in companionship

And each of these is a gift of God, a little treasure He tucked into my day, moments to stop and feel His presence.

Reveling in those moments, counting them, listing them, publicly announcing them for what they are, that is how one doesn’t smell like the world. It derails the funk, turns living into thanksgiving, ushers us into God’s presence, and makes us look different, smell different, less worldly. We can rejoice in our challenges, whatever they may be, when we count the blessings.