Milestones

When there is a new baby in the house, you mark milestones. Whether is it the first time he rolls over or mutters a discernible word, mommies and daddies mark it down. And in today’s world, we post it online, on some form of social media, for the whole world to enjoy with us.

 

We have a new baby. She’s 15 weeks old and already potty trained. Ornery and feisty in the morning, she is the perfect lap dog in the evening when we’re all on the sofa ready to read and relax. Yes, she’s a fur baby, another goldendoodle, and she is the perfect compliment to our 4 ½ year doodle Winston. Maggie is her name and we are smitten. We are marking her milestones, her shot schedule, waiting impatiently for the day we can safely take her for a walk around the neighborhood, tracking her weight gain, and teaching her manners. It’s fun marking those milestones!

 

As I mentioned, Maggie has a big brother, Winston. While Maggie is very much her own dog, she looks up to her older and wiser doodle. While they play together something fierce and while I love watching them romp, I most enjoy watching Winston guide Maggie, showing her the ropes, minding his manners so that she learns hers. I caught this photo of them together the other day. You get the idea.12510461_10208182632501642_3559157654668221333_n

 

I wanted to share this photo with you for two other reasons.

 

  1. When Compassion Tea started on February 26, 2011, (Do you note the date? Do you see the milestone?) we began much like this photo, looking up to our God for guidance and direction. We founded our company on these 5 Bible verses:
    1. Proverbs 19:21 “You can make plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
    2. Psalm 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”
    3. Psalm 16: 1-3 “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.’ The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”
    4. Psalm 90:17 “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!”
    5. Isaiah 46:9-11 “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. I will call a swift bird of prey from the east – a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding. I have said what I would do and I will do it.”

Over the past 5 years, we’ve held approximately 250 prayer calls to pray over our tea, over our business, over our customers, over the people we are serving in Africa, over the people in Africa who are providing medical and spiritual care at our partner clinics, over each other. We have consistently held up the company before the Lord and asked him to heal, redeem, direct, guide, provide wisdom, to multiply efforts and monies and supplies, to give us strength to keep walking forward, faith to take the next step, and hope for an even bolder, broader, and beautiful future wherein we are able to serve more and more people. 250 calls. Yes, we’re like puppies looking up to the big dog to see what’s next!

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2012-10-13_14-10-53_91tea rounds ready to goTea pouches for Christmas Tea bazaarAnd he has rewarded that faithfulness on our part, offering the next steps when the time was right, bringing new customers and directions, and multiplying the funding we are able to provide to CompassioNow. And the number of prayers He has answered in those 5 years is astonishing. With God as our CEO, we have built a thriving business, we have changed lives here in the US and in Africa, and we have brought Him continual glory. That’s not to mention the new connections and the healing and the stronger relationships and the safe travel and the beneficial exchange rates and shipping costs. The list of success and answered prayer goes on and on!

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Reason 2:

On February 4, 2006, CompassioNow was awarded its non-profit tax status, making it a legal and legit organization. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom recently tabulated what they have been able to provide monetarily to the clinics in Africa over the last 10 years. They discovered that it was over $1 million! Another milestone… $1 million and a 10 year anniversary! Woo hoo! But that hardly shows the full impact of those 10 years. It doesn’t tell the stories of the lives changed, the clinics that have been built, the new buildings and medical wings, the staff and supplies, the men, women, and children who have turned to one of our partner clinics as a last resort, after the witch doctor didn’t work, after the government hospital sent them away without proper treatment, after they’ve come to the end of their ropes, desperate for relief and healing.

It doesn’t tell the stories of the people tested early for AIDS and who began early medical intervention, the lives saved from parasites, which could have been lost had it not been for a basic antibiotic; the children who have been given life through urgent medical care and/or pre and perinatal care of their mothers; the home-bound who have community health care providers making regular visits; and the children who have been granted eyesight from a donated pair of eyeglasses.

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This doesn’t tell the story of medical training and supplies, of medicine shelves stocked, and birthing beds delivered, of bicycle ambulances, and fixed airplanes to transport medical staff and those who need more urgent medical care.

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We can put a number on the money raised for Africa but we can’t put a number to the people who have been touched by CompassioNow and its mission to bring “life-saving medical care to the world’s least served.”

 

Oh the milestones! Biblically, when people wanted to celebrate and remember what the Lord had done for them, they built an altar or raised a rock on end. They made a physical mark on the landscape to say, “Here, God answered us.” That is no longer tradition. But here, we raise our Ebenezer, we make our mark on cyberspace, we count the successes and mark the milestones. And we look forward to the future, knowing that with God as our CEO there is more goodness to come. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you.”

 

 

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Raising Our Ebenezer

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9

When Compassion Tea Company began in 2011, its founders planned a course for a company that would provide a steady income for CompassioNow so that quality healthcare in rural parts of Africa could be consistent and growing. At inception, the company appeared to be solely a tea membership venture. We watched as the club grew in member numbers thanks to our friends, families, and opportunities at church events, craft shows, Christmas teas, and holiday bazaars. At heart, we remain a small company dedicated to its members.

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But God, ever interested in the steps, has guided our company toward new partnerships, ones that reach more people and, we’re hopeful, will make an even larger impact for Africa.

It began with an opportunity to supply tea at Valley Community Church, Pleasanton, CA, for their evening worship service. This connection grew into our supplying the tea for their burgeoning tea and coffee shop, Inklings.

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Shortly thereafter, we approached Barnstormers Coffee Shop at Lighthouse Christian Supply in Dublin, CA, about carrying our tea. Friendships led us to Tifa Chocolate and Gelato in Agoura Hills, CA. Word of mouth led us to Brew Unto Others in Lamar, CO. And Homeboy Industries of Los Angelos, CA, serves our tea in their Homegirl Cafe.

As if this wasn’t blessing enough, we now find ourselves heading to the East Coast through an exciting partnership with Ebenezers Coffeehouse on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Compassion Tea will now be served there along with their “coffee with a cause.”

Some may call it karma or kismet, but we call it a “divine appointment” that CompassioNow founder and Compassion Tea director Wendy Bjurstrom found herself with a $35 plane ticket to Washington DC earlier this fall. While in DC, Wendy met with Ebenezers staff and introduced them to the work of CompassioNow and to Compassion Tea. Nor did we find it at all odd or coincidental that Lee and Anne Kennedy, Compassion Tea directors and CompassioNow board members, were at that very time reading The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church, the church behind Ebenezers.

Ebenezers Coffeehouse is located at 201 F Street NE on Capitol Hill. “In 1908, Ernestine Reuter was granted a permit to build a one-level diner…. The estimated cost of construction was $2,000. The diner originally served ‘butter and eggs’ to the Union Station travelers before food service was available on the trains.”

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According to Batterson, “[W]e had a dream we decided to circle in prayer. It seemed ridiculous, but sometimes those crazy prayers have a way of working their way into our spirits. We had the dream of converting a former crack house into a coffeehouse. One block from Union Station, the property had an asking price of one million dollars. At the time, our attendance and budget were nowhere near enough to reach that amount. We were a church. Churches don’t build coffeehouses, and we had zero experience in the coffee business…. Six years after we began praying we miraculously got the property even though we had been outbid by four other potential buyers.”

The Ebenezers Coffeehouse website adds, “After nearly twenty-five years of neglect, National Community Church purchased 201 F Street NE on February 7, 2002. The property was successfully rezoned from residential to commercial use in January 2003. Architectural plans were approved by the Historic Preservation Review Board in February 2004. Construction began December 2004 and we opened our doors March 15, 2006.”

Ebenezers Coffeehouse is “the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill” and its “profits go to local and international missions projects.” Explains Batterson, “The driving motivation behind building a coffeehouse was the fact that Jesus hung out at wells. They were natural gathering places in ancient culture. Ebenezers is a postmodern well that has served more than a million customers—neighbors, business people, and congressmen alike.”unnamed-1 unnamed-2

The term “ebenezer” means “a monumental stone set up to signify the great help that God granted the one raising the stone.” As the stones that built Ebenezers Coffeehouse were renewed, there had to be a moment of recognition among the National Community Church community that they were setting up a monument. We see this new partnership as another way God is helping us and we are pleased to set up this monumental stone.

What exciting opportunities God is opening up for us! As God establishes our steps to help bring “essential healthcare to the world’s least served,” we are humbled and amazed and thrilled.

If you are ever on Capitol Hill, stop in Ebenezers! Enjoy the venue, the history, and the tea!

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?