Teaology 101

I’m the kind of person who hates to be overheated, and it doesn’t take much for that to happen. I’m most comfortable around 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit, hence I am a big fan of air conditioning and household fans. Thank God I live in The United States! I am also overweight, and because of that I don’t like to wear shorts outside of my house. Summer reminds me of all my issues. This summer comes along at a time when I have been trying to get my health under control. I want to treat my body as God’s temple but it needs some much needed overhauling. In that attempt I am eating better, exercising more, and trying to rid myself of my Diet Pepsi/Diet Coke addiction.

I’ve never been a big fan of plain ‘ole water. I’ve bought a new infusion pitcher and have started drinking water infused with lemons, limes, and assorted berries. I am growing to like that. I have also been learning more about the health benefits of tea. I have been doing research on the various types of tea, what they offer in terms of health benefits, how to brew them, etc. I’ve learned so much, but still have a lot more to learn. Needless to say I have become a big fan of loose leaf teas, both hot and iced. Now that summer is here I have been brewing up iced teas everyday and loving it.

True teas come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The true teas fall into one of five categories: black, green, oolong, white, and pu-erh. Herbal teas are not true teas as they do not come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Flavor and nutritional content of the tea depends upon the maturity of the tea leaves and how it is prepared. Some teas are wilted, some are from the fresh buds of the plant. Some are fermented, some oxidized. Caffeine levels vary amongst the types of tea.

Some teas require higher temperatures to brew the tea. Duration of brewing also varies depending on the type of tea. If you go to a tea shop like Teavana or the Tea Smith and purchase tea, the bag will give you brewing instructions. Brew your tea too little, and it will produce a weak cup of tea. Brew your tea too long, and you will have a bitter cup of tea. The wrong temperature will also mess up your cup of tea. It can bruise the leaves. There is a lot to the process of making the perfect cup of tea.

Take one look in a tea shop and you will be overwhelmed. I know I was the first few times I entered one. Not only are there five types of tea, plus the herbals, but there are many variations within each type. Take, for example, black teas. This category would contain your standard breakfast cup of tea similar to Lipton, or English Breakfast as well as the various chai teas. Chai teas add spices to the black tea and vary depending on the part of the world they come from. These can include cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Green teas often have fruit pieces added to them. It’s a lot to wrap your mind around.

My newfound knowledge of tea has had a major impact on my faith walk. In Psalm 139:13-14a we see this, “For you formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We may all be “human”, but our own particular “blend” is unique and handcrafted by God. In many ways He is the Master Teaologist, knowing just what to add to our blend, how long to “brew” us, and at what temperature we need to be brewed at.

I don’t know how many times in my life I have looked at my circumstances and compared them to others and questioned why I have had so many trials to go through when friends seemed to have it so easy. But now I think I know why. I think God created me like a black tea: rich and full bodied, a little more caffeinated than most, needing a higher temperature and longer brewing time in order to be the best me I can be. He has a purpose for me being a black tea. (I’d like to think I am a nice exotic chai, just a bit spicy). God also needs other “teas” in His Kingdom. Some of my friends are probably more delicate white or green teas and therefore require less steeping at gentler temperatures. Others are exotic oolongs. It would be a boring world if we were all the same. And I need to remember this so I don’t steep too long in my circumstances and become bitter.

Too often we try to sweeten up a bitter cup of tea by adding sugar. This is just a cover up, and we might need to just start over with a new cup. Luckily, that’s exactly what Jesus offers us: a chance to start over with new life if we just ask. He will brew up a new cup of you, done to perfection as only He can.

So what sort of tea are you? When you see the circumstances of your life and they seem to overwhelm you, don’t steep to long and become bitter. Know that the Master Teaologist knows just the right circumstances to brew you to be the perfect you. Just let Him do His job and trust Him for the results. And appreciate the variety in His Kingdom!

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New Life

The day before Easter brought new life into my household. A little one year old Japanese Chin came into my life. Jackie is the son of my nine year old chin. We adopted momma Cleo about a year ago. She had come into rescue pregnant. After giving birth to four puppies, which were all adopted, she was spayed and waiting for her own adoption. Cleo and I found each other after almost a year of being in rescue. And even though I wanted a black and white male, and she was a red and white female, it was love at first sight! And now, a little over a year later, Jackie is returned to the rescue.

I wasn’t looking for him. I actually called the rescue looking for a Shih tzu for my kids. But my rescue contact knew I had wanted a black and white male when I called about Cleo initially, and that was Jackie, so she sent me his picture. I was instantly hooked and needed him to come be mine. So he did. (The kids got their Shih tzu too, in case you’re interested).

Jackie is a wonderful, loving PUPPY! It has been years since I have had a puppy. I’ve been involved in dog rescue for years but I never took in puppies. The youngest I’ve had in recent years was three and that was pushing it. Usually I take in middle aged or senior dogs. Now comes a lovable little dog that I adore, but he’s still such a baby. He chews stuff. Thankfully he prefers to chew my plastic water bottles and not shoes or useful things. He wants attention. He loves to play. And he has this unbridled enthusiasm for life. He is so full of energy and love and life!

Shortly after Jackie’s arrival at my home there was another new arrival in my life. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I lost my beloved friend Doc, a Percheron horse who resided at Soby Ranch, my second home. Doc’s death was crushing. Jackie helped me through it by his unconditional love. But he hasn’t done it alone. A few weeks after Doc’s passing, a new resident moved into Soby Ranch, a young, male draft horse named JAG. He’s part Percheron, part Belgium, I think, and only six months old. He has already stolen my heart.

And not to lump him in with the animals, but due to schedules aligning just right and the time of year and all, I’ve recently gotten to spend more time than usual with my adopted two year old grandson, Daniel. This boy knows no fear. He climbs anything and everything. He runs full speed and crashes full speed. He’s either on his scooter, or his bike, or running. Always on the move. Living life to the fullest.

Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. It’s a day in the church where we celebrate the day that Jesus’ followers were waiting in a room and the Holy Spirit showed up in a powerful way. Jesus had been crucified and rose from the dead. It was now about 40 days later. The apostles were together in the room waiting as they were instructed to do. Then it happened. As they waited and prayed, the Holy Spirit showed up. Tongues of fire appeared over their heads and they began to speak in other languages. They left the room, overflowing with life, and told everyone what had happened. 3000 people came to faith in Christ that day and The Lord added to that number daily. You can read all about it in Acts, chapter 2.

So what does Pentecost have to do with Jackie, JAG, and Daniel? I’ll tell you how I see the connection. These youngsters know how to embrace and enjoy life. They attack it without fear. They see joy in each moment. They ooze life! This is how we should be, but too often adults get bogged down with the daily grind that we don’t truly live. We give up the “moment” in exchange for the total sum of our days. The early church embraced the “moment”. It’s time for us to do the same. Let’s learn from Jackie, JAG, and Daniel and LIVE! Let’s bring life to those around us! Embrace the Moment!

Expectant Hope

Expectant Hope

The moment I had waited for most of my life was finally here. Since I was about five years old I dreamed of having a son. I looked forward to our life together: the things we’d do, the places we’d visit, the love we’d share. I even had a name picked out, Thomas, after the apostle who doubted and a friend I knew from high school who passed away shortly after graduation. I’d always loved that name.

I had a close thing with my little brother. In many ways he was my first son, allowing me to practice my mothering skills. We did everything together until I left for the service when he was in junior high. Then I married Tim and within a few years was expecting my first child, a boy. Timmy was born and I was in love, but I was to have him only a few short months. He died of SIDS when he was just eight weeks old. A year later I had my twin girls. I loved them dearly but still wanted a son so very badly.

I begged my husband to try one more time. It didn’t take long and I was pregnant. At my 20 week ultrasound I learned I was carrying another boy. Needless to say I was happy beyond words. He grew fast and was a very active baby. Towards the end of my term I could see his feet pushing my tummy. It was such a cool sight! I talked to him every day even though he wasn’t yet born. I waited expectantly for the day I would see him face to face. I yearned for the time we would spend together as mother and son. I had such hope for him.

Finally, at thirty eight weeks and near ready to split open, the doctors decided to induce labor. But Tommy would have none of it. After nearly a full day of labor he was taken by C-section in the evening. I was tired and hungry but so happy to finally meet my boy. Thomas Nathan Bremer came into the world at 7:09 pm weighing 10 lbs 15 1/2 ounces and 20 3/4 inches long. He was everything I hoped for, and more. But I didn’t see the whole story when he was born. I would learn years later that Tommy would have a genetic miscoding that would leave him in a wheelchair. He wouldn’t live the life I dreamed for him.

In Matthew chapter 21 we see Jesus entering Jerusalem as a king. Verses 6-11 state ” “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Christian Holy Week. On this day over 2000 years ago, the Jews had high hopes. They praised Jesus as he entered the town and threw down their cloaks and palm branches as he passed by. They anticipated the arrival of a king and prophet who had been blessing them and healing them and performing miracles. This king would surely get them out from under the yoke of the Roman Empire. Surely the tide was going to turn. But alas, their attitudes changed when their hopes were dashed later in the week. They would soon see this king on trial and headed to Calvary for crucifixion. And they turned on him. He was not what they expected. Their hopes were left unfulfilled. But they were so wrong.

Like my hopes and dreams for my son Tommy were dashed, so were those of the Jews as Holy Week progressed. But God knows so much more than we will ever know. My plans for Tommy’s life were to be very different than the reality of his life, but the reality has actually been so much better. Despite his disability, and maybe even because of it, he has exceeded all my dreams. We are very close, and have shared so many things: trips, conversations, fun times, and such, and most importantly, my son has a strong faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He has right priorities. Jesus may not have been the conquering king that the Jews expected, but He went on to conquer death and save His people eternally. Now that’s hope!

Today is Tommy’s 21st birthday. Instead of partying like other young men his age, he began his day at church and with his family. My hopes for him are now eternally focused because he knows The Lord. My prayer for all parents who may be reading this blog is that your children may know Him too. Happy birthday my dear son. The best is yet to come!

Out of Whack

For a little over three years I have been seeing Dr. Joel and Dr. Sam at Family First Chiropractic. I bumped in to their office staff while volunteering at a bird adoption event. The bird group I was with had a booth set up at a “green” event in town. I didn’t realize how that chance meeting would save my life.

I had been dealing with back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain for so many years that it was just “normal” to me. After all, I had diabetes, was inactive, severely overweight, on a bunch of medications to treat it all, and I had to transfer my kids in and out of their wheelchairs, or assist them walking in/out of the house, bathroom, etc multiple times a day. All this took it’s toll on me physically. I had neglected taking proper care of my body and it was falling apart. Enter Dr. Joel and Dr. Sam…

One of the things I love about Family First Chiropractic is it’s emphasis on dealing with the “whole” you and the priority they place on educating/training you. My initial X-rays were very eye-opening. I needed a lot of work. There were subluxations everywhere. The lines of communication between my brain and the central nervous system had too many roadblocks and that was causing dis-ease. We needed to clear the channel of communication through weekly adjustments (they were more frequent in the beginning) and changing of habits. I learned about better food choices, supplements, and the importance of exercise. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew much of this in my head before. But now I had people to walk this path with me. I had support. I had encouragement. And because of my adjustments, I felt good enough to start down that road to health.

Now I’d love to say that I’m down a ton of weight and only eat healthy food and I exercise every day for an hour but I’d be lying to you. I am still a work in progress. My eating habits are better than they were, but not perfect. And exercise is still my enemy, but I am walking more and being more intentional in being active. I haven’t stopped any meds yet, but I haven’t had to add any either, so I have no complaints there. And I do feel much better. But what does my going to a chiropractor have to do with the ministry of Crow’s Nest?

It dawned on me just the other day how similar the doctor’s adjustments were to my time spent with God. When I spend regular time with Him, he removes the subluxations (sins) in my life so that the lines of communication between us are opened up. Like with my bad habits, it’s a continual process, and its not always fun. I mean, who wouldn’t rather have cake than spinach? But as tough as the spiritual disciplines can be, they are necessary for my health. Dr. Joel has a saying he uses at the end of every visit, “Power On”. Spending time with God is how we access His Holy Spirit power. It’s what enables us to not only get through another day but to live life to the full. (John 10:10
New International Version (NIV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.)

My life has changed by going to Family First and adopting some new habits. But this stuff, as important as it is to my physical health, is nothing compared to eternity. However, allowing the Great Physician to adjust the spiritual subluxations in my life and aligning my life with the Source of Power, brings about eternal change. If He will do that for me, He’ll do it for you. You have only to ask. So in light of that, Power On!

Yellow Snow

It snowed last night. I love snow! I love the feel of it. The taste of it. I enjoy watching the snow fall as I sip my hot cocoa wrapped up in a tied fleece blanket. l like the cold weather. I like winter. I don’t like driving in it or shoveling the driveway but after a bout with pneumonia a few years ago my husband doesn’t let me shovel anyway. When my kids were younger and still living at home I relished snow days as much as they did, if not more. Snow always meant a chance to put the chores aside for a few hours and enjoy the moment. Snow hid the mud, the leaves that hadn’t been raked, and looked so pretty on the trees. I went to sleep last night anticipating the view from my back door of a fresh, clean blanket of snow.

I woke up this morning to a totally different view than I expected. You see, I had a headache and didn’t have anywhere to go today so I slept in a bit. By the time I had gotten up my husband had already let the dogs out. There were track marks in the snow out my patio door where the dogs had gone out. There were track marks surrounding the borders of the fence from their running around. And then in multiple places around the yard, marring my beautiful blanket of snow was…yellow snow. The dogs had marked, and marked, and marked the snow. The beautiful snow was ruined by ghastly patches of yellow snow. And at that moment I was reminded of something by God.

My life, your life, everyone’s life is marked by patches of yellow snow. What God intended for us in the Garden was a pure white blanket of love and communion with Him. But we marked it yellow with our sin. Once marked, it would never be the same. Perfection was ruined. But here is the good news. God can fix it. He causes the sin to be washed clean through the sacrifice of His son. The snow melts and we have a clean slate. And He covers us with a fresh blanket of pure white snow through Jesus. Sure we will probably mark it up again but He just cleans the mess up again. The following scriptures give some insight into this: Isaiah 1:18. “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool”, and Psalm 51:7. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Don’t forget this important concept: We are the ones who make yellow snow of our lives. God and God alone purifies us and makes us white as snow. This season reminds me of the gift of forgiveness and salvation I have received because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. Regardless of what my back yard looks like, I know I am made right and am pure in God’s sight. If you can not say that for your own life and you want that assurance, please contact me or Tim at crowsnestministries.org or talk to your local pastor. And enjoy the snow days!

The Artist

God is called the creator because the bible says He created everything. He also imbued that quality into us, some more so than others. I have a bit of a creative streak. I enjoy writing and decorating cookies. But while my writing has sparks of originality, the cookie decorating is really just copying well. I may have great ideas and concepts in my mind, but I lack the ability to draw them myself to make them known.

The other day I found myself somewhere I never thought I’d be, doing something I never thought I’d do, in the presence of a very gifted artist. You could even call him a creator. My husband decided to get another tattoo. He got his first two tattoos many years ago, before we met. He’s dragged me into several tattoo pallors over the past year or two and I never felt overly comfortable in them. But recently we found out that a young man we’d known since he was in junior high, had become a tattoo artist. He had always been an artistic kid. Kind of a different sort of kid. But I’d always connected with him.

So about two months ago we went to see Aaron about Tim’s desire for a tattoo and the design concept. About three years ago I had an idea for a ministry concept called Crow’s Nest. I felt that God was calling me to be a pastor to those people who were sort of on the outs anywhere else. I went from being a regular, suburban church youth minister to working as a chaplain to at-risk youth, those with addictions, mental health issues, or problems with the law. And with my own children being disabled, I felt their isolation as well. This was the beginning of Crow’s Nest. I had an idea for a logo but I couldn’t even draw stick figures so I never thought it would go anywhere. Enter Tim…

Tim decides to get that logo image, which is in my head, as a tattoo. We go visit Aaron and relay the concept to him and explain the ministry focus. He draws up a concept, measures Tim’s calf and says he will call us soon. A week later he sends a design image to us and I am blown away! Aaron has captured the concept far better than I can imagine. It’s a line drawing and I think it’s awesome. How little do I know.

Then a few days ago we go in to get the work done. I watch as he puts on the stencil and traces the outline on Tim’s leg. I’m thinking it’s looking pretty good but he’s just getting started. He adds shading, puts in more detail, inks, wipes off ink and blood, inks some more. I’m sitting there amazed. This is so much more than what I saw in that line drawing. It is so much more than the image in my mind. Three hours pass. Tim’s leg is petering out. We have to finish the rest at our next appointment, in two weeks. What’s on his leg is amazing. What the finished design will be I can only imagine!

This whole thing got me thinking about God. (I know, God in the tattoo pallor but why not? ) The artist knows what he wants to create. He sees the end result before he ever starts his work. It may look rough along the way. He adds some color, takes some off, cleans, causes some pain and bleeding, and gets working at it again. His hand may go numb throughout the process. He sets his tools down for a minute but picks it back up again. The cycle repeats and repeats until the image he sees is the image he had in mind from the beginning. Only then is he satisfied. How much this process of watching Aaron the artist work compares to watching God the Father work! God knows what we are designed to be. He never gives up until he sees us as He created us to be. Sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes we even bleed. But always it is worth the end result. Aaron has a gift. I am grateful that he decided to use it to create this image, which will be our Crow’s Nest logo. Whether he realizes it or not, God had this in mind when he created the artist in him.

The Decoy

Back in the early 80’s, when I was in my twenties, I played in a Laser Tag league. Only in New Jersey. Laser Tag was just coming on to the recreational entertainment scene and I was talked into playing by a group of friends. Now you will have to take my word for it, as I now am an old, half-blind, overweight, not able to run to save my life woman, but back then I was half the woman I am now and I was agile and a really good shot. I wasn’t much of a team sport kind of girl. I didn’t play softball or basketball. I couldn’t make the track team. But by the time I was asked to join the laser tag team, I had endurance from working as a letter carrier at the post office with a walking route. I had experience shooting real guns at the firing range. And I was short and thin. That made me the perfect decoy!

The goal of the decoy was to draw fire from the other team in order to distract your opponent from the main thrust of your own team. This allowed your team to fulfill its mission. Hopefully, the decoy would escape with little to no harm to his or her person but it was considered an acceptable risk to meet the team’s objective. I had quite a good record as a decoy. More times than not I escaped with only minor hit points. There were a few times however where I was ” killed” in the game. Sometimes my team won the game, sometimes we didn’t, but we always played to win.

In real life, it takes a very special type of person to take on the role of decoy. Not many would willingly risk their lives for another, teammates or not. But that is exactly what we should be willing to do. If you look at nature you can see plenty examples of predators. They don’t pick off the strong and healthy but the weak. Some prey animals realize this and form protective circles around the young, elderly, and injured to ensure their safety. But more often than not the prey animals work together to isolate the weak, the young, the elderly, the outcast. Once alone they are easily turned into food and are no more.

The church should be a protecting circle but too often we leave the weak, lonely, and injured out of our circle and they become easy pickings for the enemies around us. Sometimes they are assimilated into outcast groups, safe for the moment but ultimately lost from God. Most times, they are left to face the enemy alone. In Psalm 41:1-2 it says” Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble. The Lord protects and preserves them—they are counted among the blessed in the land—he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.” We need a few more decoys in the church! We need some nimble, well armed, men and women of God willing to take a little fire to bring the “prey” into the fold. Then we need the church to “circle up” and surround these “easy pickings” until they can stand up to the enemy. It isn’t an easy task but we are called to do just that.

So which are you? Are you “easy pickings”? If so, you need to find a circle and get in it. If they don’t want to let you in, remind them that it’s their job to do so. It’s what Jesus would do. Or maybe you are part of the circle? Hold up your end and defend the weak. Or perhaps are you a decoy? That’s a tough position to be called to, but if its your calling, do it with your whole being. You may take fire but you are valuable and needed to fulfill the mission, God’s mission to save the lost. It’s a holy mission! Are you prepared for the fire?