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Friday, May 29, 2015

TranquilliTEA

Tran*quil*li*tea \tran-ˈkwi-lə-tē, traŋ-\ - n A steady state of peaceful calm. The quality of being undistracted while enjoying the aroma and flavor of earl grey.




          Sitting on the hard exam table, draped in a drafty hospital gown, I waited for the technician to return with the results of my second mammogram and breast ultra sound. The previous one just a few weeks before had revealed something that seemed amiss and the Doctor wanted a closer look. Oddly enough I found myself in a lovely, tranquil state of mind.
         
         “Whatever it takes Lord for you to be glorified in my life I’m game for it. If you allow me to have cancer You’ll give me the grace to endure and survive or die fighting faithfully.”
          
         I know this sounds absurd but I almost hoped it was cancer because I felt the need to be pruned a bit. I longed to be conformed to Christ’s image regardless of the cost.

          The Technician returned happy to tell me I simply had dense breast tissue and there was nothing to worry about. So I put my street clothes back on went on my merry way. No new storms that day. So where did that peace come from?
         
          I can assure you it is not something I’ve always had. My heart is prone to worry and fear just like yours. I have experienced deep depression at times due to unchecked anxiety. However, that day I enjoyed the peace that passes all understanding because I have learned to sip tranquilli~tea as a habit of life. This tranquilli~tea is served daily as I have breakfast with God.
         
            Every mild morning I gather my Bible, pen, and paper along with my cup of hot Earl Grey and something toasted; English muffin, bagel, or whole grain bread, and proceed to my yard. I sit in my glider listening to choirs of birds perform their morning anthem.


          Smelling the scents of new blossoms and fresh air has the power to both calm and awaken me. Here I visit with my Maker. I open the pages of His Word and feast my soul on the bread of life. I listen for His still small voice and He listens to my myriad of praise and prayer. I pour out my concerns releasing all worries to Him. These conversations are generally the highlight of my day. This pursuit of tranquility in God’s presence strengthens and sustains me more than the tea and toast. These peaceful breakfast dates with my Father are my soul source of continuing inner peace.

          If the weather does not permit an outside venue I still take time to have breakfast with God each morning because I am not a mere fair weather follower of Christ. When my schedule becomes exceptionally demanding I’ve discovered the secret of stopping. I take a full day away sometimes, just to be still and know He is God. Without him I can do nothing of any eternal significance but with Him all things become possible. Pursuing the peace of God in the midst of life’s storms pours tranquilli~tea into my soul. As my cup overflows my fretfulness spills away.
       
       It is possible to have a stormy heart in a tranquil setting. It is not what is out side of me that causes me to sin with anxiety. That anxiety is the state of my heart because I’m failing to trust God and let Him be God. Anxie~tea, a bitter brew, leads me to depression. God tells me to cast those cares on Him because He cares for me. He also created bergamot, the delightful citrus fruit used to flavor black tea and create Earl Grey. Bergamot is a natural anti depressant. Its fragrance is bright, calming and joyful. Just smelling it produces a calming effect. A true cup of tranquilli~tea! God’s provisions of His Word, His presence and His creation bless my soul daily. After a cup of Earl Grey and a conversation with God I’m good to go, Unhurried and unflappable, tranquil inside.



How do you find tranquility in the hustle and bustle of life? What are some ways you enjoy fellowship with God? When is a time you’ve enjoyed His peace in the midst of a storm?


Dear Father, may we enjoy Your calming presence daily. May we experience the peace You offer, the peace that passes all understanding, as we relinquish our futile attempts to control what we cannot. Amen

Friday, May 22, 2015

VarieTEA

Va*ri*e*tea  \və-ˈrī-ə-tē\ n-  the quality or state of having or including many different variations best appreciated with a cup of spiced chai.





        My good friend and fellow writer, Nancy Swihart, has had a variety of farm animals through the years. Her favorite were her sheep. Her home displays her collection of sheep; sweet reminders of the creatures she once cared for. She also serves me chia on Fridays as we meet to encourage each other in our pursuit of word crafting. This scrumptious brew of tea, spices, and milk gives my routine of Earl Grey a little variety.

              Where as Nancy collects sheep, I collect collections. My Dad, a career Navy man, sent me gifts from all over the world. These tokens of affection resulted in my many collections. In elementary school I began collecting dolls and glass animals. As a preteen I added candles and piggy banks (many were not pigs) to the mix.  Frogs, fairies, tea pots, and tea strainers have joined my collections in adulthood. Endless variations on a theme intrigue me.



some of Nancy's sheep

        Apparently God delights in variety as well. Consider how many colors appeared when He said, “Let there be light.” With each creative word He spoke seemingly endless varieties of plants and creatures were formed. Then He made man in His image; male and female, alike but varied. No two human beings are exactly the same. Like snowflakes we possess a uniqueness all our own. Each individual, like a single facet of a diamond, adds sparkle to God’s infinite image. The Lord is a God of infinite variety.



        I love to hear how people come to faith. The same Gospel saves us. Yet our stories are not the same. As most mothers will attest each labor and delivery varies, so our Heavenly Father births us each into His kingdom in different ways. All come through the cross but we each arrived via different paths. Once born again we become His body; a variety of members gifted in a variety of functions.

        So why do I fall into dull routines of seeking this God of infinite variety? His mercies are new every morning so shouldn't my pursuit of Him be renewed as well? These questions provoked my thinking through the years and set me on a course of another collection. 

Here are a variety of ways I've been blessed to use in my pursuit of God:
Prayer;

  1. walking
  2. kneeling
  3. standing
  4. eyes wide open
  5. flat on your face
  6. extended thanksgiving with no intercession
  7. extended praise with no intercession 
  8. intercede  all the way through my churches directory a page a day.  Praying very specifically for people.
  9. interceding for my city, state, and federal leaders
  10. walk through my neighborhood praying for each household I pass
  11. cry out in an honest lament when my heart is heavy 
Praise;

  1. Go through the alphabet reciting attributes of God
  2. Sing from a hymnal or along with youtube
  3. Dance as I sing
  4. Write a poem or anthem declaring His greatness
  5. Recite and contemplate His names and their meaning 
Bible;
  1. Approach my reading conversationally; begin by asking God to speak. Then as the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, confess. If I don't understand I ask Him to explain and study to find His answers. If He impresses me with a task to do make a plan to do it.  I interact with Him as I read because His Word is alive!
  2. Read for mastery; a micro approach. Read an epistle as a letter, in one sitting. Then continue doing it day after day until I've read it 40 times. Sum up the theme in one word discover the natural outline of the book.
  3. Read the Bible chronologically; a macro approach. This discipline reveals the unity of the books of the Bible. I discovered the Bible, though many books, tells one grand story, HIS story of redemption! 
  4. Spend a year in Proverbs reading one a day to gain a heart of wisdom.
  5. Read through the Bible in a year mixing both Old and New Testament passages.
  6. Speed read the Bible through twice in a year.
  7. Reflective reading (great way for the very busy person to slow down and be with Jesus); pick one short account of Jesus from the gospels and approach it several ways through the week. Example; day 1 read to understand, get cultural insights. Day 2 put myself in the story. Consider how it may have looked, what do I see, hear, smell, taste. Day 3 breath prayer, after reading in one breath respond to God. Day 4 meditate after reading intentionally retell myself the story throughout the day. Day 5 apply it to my life, think of something intentional I can do in light of what I'm learning. Day 6 journal write down my responses and understanding of what I see Jesus do. Day 7 repeat one of the practices I enjoyed most. Pick a new account each week. Try it for a year!
(My dear friend, Nancy, you can visit her at http://www.nancyswihart.com/)

"The only wrong way to worship is the way we always do it." (Unknown). Let's grow in our understanding of God's infinite variety by letting Him pour into our lives in a varie~tea of ways.

What are some ways you've added variety to your time with the Father? Which of the variations I shared seemed most interesting to you?

Dear Father, You Who made all things fresh and new, please, revitalize our lives in a variety of ways. Help us appreciate fellowship with you in new ways that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Amen

Friday, May 15, 2015

SimpliciTEA

Sim*plic*i*tea \sim-ˈpli-sə-tē, -ˈplis-tē\  n- lack of complexity or difficulty, plain, uncomplicated much like a bag of Lipton.




          Four active children, one in college, two in high school and the last in elementary, claimed me as mom and dubbed me their taxi driver. My pastor doubled as my husband. I had about a dozen children’s church teachers to train and schedule. Lessons for women’s Bible study and Sunday school I needed to prepare. My part time retail employment provided my only paycheck which provided braces for one of my girls. The women’s retreat coming up required publicity and I served as the soul graphic artist in our women’s ministry. Are you tired of watching me spin plates yet? I was sure tired of spinning them!

          Taking my Bible, tea, and toast to the patio for my usual breakfast meeting with God, I plopped it all down and sighed over my to-do list that lacked margins.

          “SIMPLICITY, LORD! I long for simplicity. What do I quit? What should I say no to? How long can I keep spinning all these plates before they crash on my head?! HELP!!”

          Silence, I was hoping for at least a still small voice but no just silence. Since God wasn't whispering to me, I opened my Bible to read His word and try to find resolution to my problem. A familiar buzz distracted me from reading. I looked toward the sound and the sparkle of bright green feathers caught my gaze. God’s gentle voice whispered in my ear, “You asked Me for simplicity. Watch this humming bird and I will show you something better.”





          I watched intently. The first thing I noticed was how still the body of the bird was. It just hung there fixed in mid air. Then I studied its wings or at least the blurred traces of them. Humming bird wings move with such rapid motion that it produces that loud buzz but the movement is not frantic. It’s controlled and rhythmic. Is it any wonder these tiny creatures eat pure sugar? That was my next observation; the bird had its long beak buried in a flower sipping long and deep of the nectar within.

          “I AM your sustenance," the Lord reminded me, "Feed on Me. Keep your heart still and focus on Me. Then I will strengthen you and sustain you in the constant activities I give you to do for My glory.”
(Understand His voice was not audible but the whisper of His Spirit to my heart.)
       I recalled Jesus words in Luke 10:41-42,  “Martha, Martha you are worried and troubled about many things but one thing is needful. Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her.”.


          I wanted less. God wanted to give me more; more of Himself, His power, His grace, His peace. I wanted plain. He gave me extravagance, the “one thing”. He is that One thing; His Word, His presence. Going out to my patio that morning was like going into a fine tea shop and asking the retailer for a bag of Lipton. 




Instead the retailer poured me a fine cup of Ceylon steeped from loose leaf. I ordered simplici~tea but God served me singulari~tea instead.

Are you burdened by the business in your life or blessed by the opportunities to serve?

When you are over committed do you feel too busy to spend time with God or do you draw closer to Him?

Can you share a time when spending time alone with God sustained you through an impossibly busy day?

Thank You, Father, that you work through our weakness.You know when we need to work hard and You sustain us. You know when we need rest and You provide it. Thank you that You give us Yourself. Let us learn to take time for the One thing that we need, You! Amen


Thursday, May 7, 2015

SerendipiTEA

Ser*en*dip*i*tea \ˌser-ən-ˈdi-pə-tē\  n. The faculty of discovering desirable or valuable things accidentally or unexpectedly while sipping high quality Darjeeling for the first time.

          The sun glistened on the damp pavement as I walked into Antique Sandwich Co. the establishment of my employment at the time. Sunshine lit the walls of the restaurant making for a happy work environment (Sunshine in the Puget Sound in its self is serendipitous.) Adding to my already good mood was the fact that I arrived early enough before my shift that I had time to enjoy a cup or two of tea. The An. San., as it was called by the regulars, pandered to tea snobs. The owners served about a dozen varieties of high quality loose leaf tea.

  When patrons ordered hot tea they were served a full pot, not in a plain, white stock style pot either. A beautiful antique porcelain tea pot was delivered to the table. So I chose a pretty pot and set the water to boiling. Now to the counter where the glass canisters sat neatly in a row displaying all the options of tea. Lovely shades of varying browns and greens shone through the canisters. So many choices! I began to lift the lids one at a time inhaling deeply as I went. My nose danced on the variety of fragrances until I picked up the lid to smell good Darjeeling for the very first time. At the moment I inhaled serendipity twirled my senses, lifting me high into past olfactory memories. My mind traveled to the southern California sunshine of my youth, in the branches of my grandma’s apricot tree when the fruit was ripe. YUM! Eureka, Darjeeling it would be! So began my life as a tea snob.


        My discovery of Darjeeling, as serendipitous as it was, cannot begin to compare with the Holy Spirit’s serendipity of unwrapping the treasure and delights of God in the Bible. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask or think…” Ephesians 3:20. He is not only able to answer our prayers but He can do it in a way that exceeds our expectations. As I write, this refrain sings in my heart, “How wonderful, how marvelous and my song shall ever be. How wonderful, how marvelous is my Savior's love for me!”

         I remember the wonder of the answer to a prayer early in my walk with Christ. I was between paychecks, and as often happens in life, I reached the end of my money before the end of the month. Desperate for clean clothes to go to work in, I cried out, “Lord, I really need some laundry money.” Two steps later I noticed a quarter on the ground, exactly the amount I needed to complete the sum to do one load! Serendipity! A delightful unexpected treasure! I burst into praise as I picked up the gift from my new found Father. Struck with the reality He really does listen to my prayers. He really does care for me!


        My discoveries of the serendipitous nature of God have been many through the years. His beauty and creativity displayed in the most unexpected ways never cease to amaze me. I remember reading how He sealed the deal with Noah by placing a rainbow in the sky. Only God can sign His name like that! 

        Think of all the marvelous discoveries of Jesus in the New Testament that reveal the mysteries of Messiah in the Old. One of my favorite is the first of only two references to Melchezidek in the Old Testament. Hebrews declares Jesus is the High Priest of this heavenly order. When we first meet Melchezedik , he brings bread and wine to bless Abram. Can you see our high priest, Jesus, blessing his disciples on the night he was betrayed? Like God’s original priest of old he breaks bread, serves wine, and blesses them. Mystery revealed! Serendipity!
        
How has He inspired awe and wonder in you? When has He stepped into your life with serendipity? How can we provide serendipity to others, maybe sending a hand written note or an unexpected gift simply to add pleasure to an ordinary day?


Father, You are the personification of serendipity! You never cease to surprise us with the riches of Your glory. Thank You for being You! Please, open our eyes in wonder to the Wonder that You are. Amen

FYI, I worked @ An. San. Co. for a few short months in 1980. It is still in operation by it's original owners. So if you're ever in Tacoma, WA check it out! They make the best cheese cake on the planet!  http://antiquesandwichcompany.com/

Friday, May 1, 2015

Spring Flings: a Whirl Wind Road Trip & a Party Invitation

Spring ushers in new life and color. It is my favorite season. Its teeter totter temperatures create a wild weather ride; from warmth and sunshine to fierce thunder and pouring rain. I love the thrill of lightning, such a wondrous display of God’s power. Birds make melodies to their mates and hatch-lings sing for their supper. Pink snow falls as blooms give way to chartreuse and emerald leaves.The air fills with the smells of both flowers and fresh turned soil. Spring throws a party from the thrifty stores of winter and I love parties.




In my last post I shared a bit about my Grandma and her 100th birthday party to celebrate her life. This past Tuesday I returned from another celebration of life. My mom and I had a spring fling in New England. Our travel plans emerged spontaneously. My Grandmother died April 11th. My mother’s Cousin Bobby, on hospice fighting a losing a battle with bone cancer, is still alive. She wanted to visit him last year but she had a stroke before we could make plans. Then my Grandmother required more help. Now with Grandma gone and Bobby alive she was ready to roll. “I want to go soon. If we do this I can bury my mom’s ashes with her parents. When can we leave?” she asked me. 

We bought our tickets to Boston two days after Grandma passed and flew out one week later for a whirlwind road trip. With all the fury of a spring tornado our unexpected adventure took us to three states, six relatives, eight of my mom’s high school class mates, an old graveyard, and several nail biting detours through Boston. 

I had a hard time packing for this trip. Spring is that way; never know what the weather will do. I failed to remember Maine and New Hampshire are right up there with Canada and even thought our tulips and daffodils were past theirs were just starting. It was cold and found me unprepared but I managed to layer up sufficiently. 

I also found my heart battling anxiety before my departure. The roads in New England are the worst in the country. I hoped I had exaggerated this when I asked my Bible study group to pray for me. Then one of my friends asked why the roads were so bad, "Is it the road conditions or the traffic?" 

Another friend piped up just as I answered  and simultaneously we said, "BOTH!" So I'm not crazy! 

The phrase "You can't get there from here." was coined by an New Englander but apparently the google maps programmers didn't realize this. It became obvious as I followed their directions they had never used them and were only making wild guesses based on satellite photos taken hundreds of miles away. This lead to my new road trip phrase; DeTour de jour! (Blame it on my French heritage) I have only been lost once. Then Jesus found me. Since then I take unplanned detours. If I end up where I'm supposed to be I am not lost. My mother and I experienced at least one detour a day and two our last day in Boston. 

Another component to my uneasiness was the realization that I may well be both pilot and navigator on this trip. My mom and I had not done a road trip since her stroke. I felt she may not have regained her excellent map reading skills. I was right. At one point on a detour during Boston rush hour traffic that was rushing not gridlocked, this became comical. 

I had to pay attention to traffic because I was driving. So I asked my mom to please, try to study the map and help me get back to where I needed to be. In a fairly freaked out voice she exclaimed, 'I CAN'T DO THAT NOW! I HAVE TO WATCH TRAFFIC!"

Prayerfully and as patiently as I could I responded by saying, "Then I guess neither one of us will know where we're going." 

"That's right!" She snapped. 

In spite of white knuckle driving God is good. I am so thankful for those who prayed us there and back again. I feel blessed that God interrupted my calendar with this tornado of travel. We were able to visit every one on my mom's list plus more. One of her class mates arranged a reunion party on very short notice allowing my mom to reconnect with her class for the first time in sixty years. 

My mother turns eighty in November. This may well have been her fair well tour. She hugged her cousin Bobby good-bye and kissed him on the cheek for the last time. I am glad God used me to make that possible. She never would have made this trip alone. We also got to see two Maine lighthouses (fodder for anther post) and had a relaxing tour of Boston from a trolley bus. And yes my grandma was laid to rest in her parent's family plot. My mom shared her gratitude for my willingness to take her by sending me the lovely basket of flowers you saw in the "Happy May Day" picture.



I'm glad I made the great exchange; His peace for my stress. I confessed my fear and chose to fear Him more than driving in New England. That's the beauty of fearing God; no fear of anything else!

Oh, I did promise a party too. May is my birth month and I'm serving tea in my next four posts;

You are cordially invited 
to join me for a birthday celebration
as I serve you tea for the remainder of May.

 One party favor a week will be given to someone who leaves a comment and emails me their address along with one element of their birthday; month, day or year.

Hope you join in the fun!