The Ways I Like Coffee

I need to set the record straight about how I like coffee.  The other day a friend and mentor sweetly informed me that she had studied up on lattes, so that when I come by to see her she could indulge us in my favorite drink.   After doing some research she had found a recipe for lattes to make with her Vita-mix.  This was after our first meeting at our local coffee shop, where I think I must’ve taken her by surprise with my  coffee choice.   While it seems natural to me to choose a latte with no flavorings, (though sometimes I indulge in half the regular flavoring amount), skim milk and slightly less hot than normal temperature, it was a new thing to her, to order beyond a simple cup of “joe”.  So while I have fun with a love of coffee and have even blogged about methods (check out this post if you’re interested), here’s the REAL scoop on my coffee habits.  My favorite thing really isn’t about the coffee, it’s about what that cup of joe, latte, tea, juice, water or whatever the drink is, really speaks.

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My favorite way to have coffee is with a Bible nearby on the arm of my recliner.  It may be accompanied by a devotional book, a Bible study book, Sunday School literature, and definitely a highlighter and ink pen.   Though I put this at the top, it often gets put off until afternoon, due to blurry morning vision.

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This coffee method ranks right up near the top, and occurs when Tony has picked up his FedEx load and comes back through right past our house on the way to his route.  It is a blessing of enormous magnitude to have a few minutes together over a cup of coffee before we embark on our separate daytime roles.  That stern look is only to belie the fact that he spoils me with great breakfast eggs before he rushes on.   It also may be expressing how he feels about me having Hannah take this picture.

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This is another lovely way to drink coffee.  In a chair beside my teens who wish to remain obscure after stumbling out of bed to the couch while they try to make their eyes open for the day by way of a cup of coffee.  This is that time of day that I enjoy bugging my children with conversation.  Sometimes they actually wake up and converse coherently and pleasantly back with me.  And that makes my day.

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This is a great way to enjoy an occasional sip of coffee.  I love to sit on the back deck and enjoy the view while I sing hymns or practice choir or ensemble songs.   Not only does it afford a great view, but it makes my kids happy when I take this part of my day outdoors.  Buck, my Boston, often joins me, and, when I have to hit the high notes, he accompanies me with howling.  I’m not quite sure how to take that, but it’s camaraderie with the dog and worship time together.

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Here is another enjoyable way to have coffee.  Sitting at the computer writing, blogging, or connecting with friends.  Yes, I’ve enjoyed many a cyber cup of coffee.  If the drink cools, which I am not really focusing on, anyway, I may add a splash of  hot coffee from the pot.   If I can connect with friends in person, that’s all the better.

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This is the “siesta” cup of coffee.  Not long after lunch, I often gravitate to a cozy sitting position on the bed with pillows of every shape and variety to support my neck, which often needs a rest.  I love having a lamp on, a Scentsy warmer wafting some favorite or seasonal scent, and a stack of books beside me.   I may even read a chapter or two if my eyelids allow it.  There is usually a prayer list tucked inside the books for this “coffee” time.   The rest of my day may be on  autopilot, unless I get this little break.  During the days of all (or most) of the kids at home and doing their school, I often unintentionally took this little break in a living room chair “while” reading History to them.  They hated it when I began slurring words and nodding and jerking my head.  It is the time of day that may be beyond the reach of a cup of coffee.  Sometimes it’s just better to take a 5-20 minute time out!

Though it may seem like I drink coffee, espresso and precision lattes all day long, that is only a little bit true.  I just like to have a cup of something nearby, even if it has the original morning coffee in the bottom of it and I’ve just refilled it once or twice.  So, please, don’t think I am truly a coffee snob.  I mainly just like all the pleasant habits that I associate with it.  And for that friend who is investing in me, mentoring me, encouraging me, and/or allowing me the privilege of mutual friendship, I don’t even need a drink at all!  It’s just an added nicety any old way you serve it!

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Trading in the Security Blanket

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What we depend on for strength and encouragement may not always be there, but that can mean a shift in our focus back to God, alone.  During various seasons of my life I have felt enveloped in “normal” circumstantial security.  As most of us do, I was fortunate enough to have had an anxiety free childhood.  And throughout life, I have enjoyed the security of many friendships, of a happy marriage, and of wonderful church families.  During the season of raising kids, I was quite secure in the hustle and bustle of large family life.  Mass chaos never bothered me as long as we could laugh regularly.  I have enjoyed seasons of ample income, in which my husband and I enjoyed opportunities to pay off things and give to favorite causes.

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All these things and more can be a blessing God allows, but sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can take it all for granted and not notice an insidious feeling of false security centered on these circumstantial things.   Gideon, a man riddled with insecurities and with whom I can totally relate, had a “security blanket” when God called him to fight the Midianites.  It was in the form of 32,000 soldiers.   After patiently debunking Gideon’s faulty logic that led to Gideon hiding in the wine press and after tolerating Gideon’s requests for fleece proofs that God would make good on His word,  God sent him on a mission to rid the Israelites of the Midianites once and for all.  But God was going to rid Gideon of the security he found in his own logic while He simultaneously put the glory for Israel’s relief smack where it belonged; i.e. on Him.  So he whittled the army down to 300.  To fight against 128,000 Midianites, who were described as a swarm of locusts.  They had “innumerable” camels (which can sprint up to 40 mph and cover 100 miles per day), giving them another huge advantage.  God did not want Israel to brag.  I’ll say.

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Apparently, God is intently interested in us putting all our hope and trust in Him alone.  Ps. 62:5 says, “Rest in God, alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.”   I personally find it comforting that God was patient with Gideon with all his insecurities.  He still allowed Gideon to find strength from a friend, his servant Purah,  and made provision for Gideon’s looming trepidation by allowing Purah to accompany him and hear the enemies’ fearful dream.  Puram was that friend we all need from time to time who reminds us who we are and what God said to us!   Sure enough, the Israelites tried to honor Gideon for the miraculous outcome, but by this time, Gideon was well aware of Who gets the glory and determined to give it to Him!

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As Pastor Matt said yesterday in his sermon from 2 Kings 3, often our greatest need becomes a blessing when it causes us to depend on Him.  Yes, God offers us great trades when we hand over our unstable comforts and our failures; i.e., beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, freedom for oppression, trust in God for insecurity.   All He asks is the glory that is rightfully His, and this for the benefit of our own hearts.

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Perspectives and Priorities

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In the famous Mary/Martha story in Luke 10:38-42, differing perspectives were not recognized and conflict ensued.  Have you ever been around someone who never seems to stop working and adds a new twist to it, such as, whistling “Whistle While You Work” or some other such catchy tune that makes your relaxed skin crawl while you sit on your backside and try to stay in the tranquil realm you were in.  I’m sure my kids probably have felt this many times, as I have done more than whistle a hinting tune!

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However, Mary wasn’t just being selfish or thoughtless here.  She was absorbing the teachings of Jesus for one last time as he was traveling the road that would lead to His destination.  Jesus had stopped at the home of his good friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary, to indulge in a meal and restful time.   Martha, probably in a floury apron with  sweaty, disheveled hair to show for her time spent poking coals and fussing over the meal preparations, was frazzled, and the close relationship she and her siblings shared with Jesus precluded airs.  After all, Jesus had wept with them and raised their brother from the dead not so long ago.  Martha’s  growing resentment at Mary was likely becoming more and more evident as she wasn’t bothering to conceal it.  Mary wouldn’t even have the right to enjoy this visit had Martha not extended the invitation.  And now Martha was intent on going down the checklist of duties that was necessary to pulling off this shindig, while Mary was cool, calm, collected and serenely listening to Jesus talk.

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Taking her self righteous frustration to the next level, Martha publicly asked Jesus if he did not care and demanded that He insist Mary help her.  There is no indication that He was defensive that she questioned His heart, or that their friendship cooled in the least.   I suspect Jesus would rather have had his discussion with Martha in private; however she chose the venue.   So ever so gently, He began His effort to widen her perspective with a gentle “Martha, Martha…” and proceeded to explain to her that Mary had chosen rightly.  It was not that Jesus didn’t have an appetite for whatever delicious aroma Martha had wafting around the home, or that He did not appreciate the thoughtfulness of the invite, or that He wasn’t grateful to recline around the table with good friends in fellowship.  However, he probably regretted Martha not joining in the conversation more than he appreciated the delicious meal.   His point to Martha and to us, is that when we choose the things of an eternal nature, it produces eternal fruit and won’t be taken from us.  The rest, though affording us temporal pleasure, we leave behind.

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No matter our gender, we all have times of being a Martha and times of being a Mary.   And, despite our stereotyping based on this instance,  Martha and Mary may have had times of role reversal as well.  Martha probably planned on that down time after the meal was over.  She may have even been willing to leave all the dishes until the next day.  But she did not and could not, in her own understanding, realize the time for sitting and listening may not come her way again.   How often do we think we will get back to what is best, but somehow it passes us by while we are busy with too much busy stuff.

Jesus was on a mission that would take Him away from this earth, in his human form.    Mary probably didn’t understand that either, but I wonder if, as she sat and listened, she was prompted by the Spirit with a sense of urgency to just stay and listen, despite the guilt trip Martha would have put on her.   A prompting she may have only gotten because she was willing to “be still”.    If Martha had stopped long enough to sense this urgency, I wonder if she would’ve just scratched the “program” and sat down.  Another clue comes from John’s gospel where we are told that Lazarus was sitting at the table with His Healer, Jesus, as Martha served.   Just seeing them there together should have been a reminder to stop and worship!  I wonder how many times Jesus gentle admonishment, “Martha, Martha” rang in her ears after it was too late to recognize the fine line we sometimes walk between good, better and best.

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Sometimes I struggle with knowing which is good, which is better and which is best from day to day.  Do you?  It is not always the same for each of us.  I wonder what promptings we miss when we choose one of the first two rather than the last.  I wonder how often we could avoid conflict if we could understand that one person’s good choice is not wrong even if it’s possibly not the best, and that it is not our job to compare or judge.  I am glad that Jesus widens our perspective to understand each other better, just as he did for these sisters.  It is comforting to know that He did not condemn Martha.  He just changed her perspective.  In response to her own struggle, He just pointed her from good to best.

Forgiving

Amazing Grace

Many of us love the dear old hymn “Amazing Grace“, written by John Newton, a man, at least indirectly, responsible for who knows what all sorts of atrocities as he dealt in the slave trade, but saved by the same amazing grace that we all need just as much as he did.   So many other songs have also been written and composed along the theme of God’s amazing grace.   If we dare to think of our worst moments, (and most of us have had a few), we are exceedingly glad for the grace that flows down from the cross and covers us.  Those are moments that we would rather not be broadcast, despite that they may be forgiven history.  We delight in a God who moves our confessed sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12) when our hearts are penitent.  If there are some who can’t think of anything they’re ashamed of, then they likely deal with either forgetfulness or pride, but regardless, we were born with a need to be saved thanks to Adam and Eve.   C.S. Lewis considered pride to be the the essential vice, the utmost evil.  How can one admit his need for the grace of the cross when pride blinds him to it?

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Pride also causes us to have blind spots that allow us to judge others sins and consequences by our own experiences, culture’s standards, or our governmental system of justice.   Justice has it’s necessary and helpful purpose, of course, especially in regard to consequences and safety.  Though we can and should find comfort and relief in necessary steps to stop an injustice, generally, our purpose is to humbly pray for heart changes and for what we can do in our society to make a difference.  How often we involve ourselves in the news reports of someone’s sin with just a tad of satisfaction in the back of our minds that we would never do that.   I remember a pastor once saying regarding the worst of offenders, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

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For most of us forgiveness is hardest when the infraction is personal.   In a just over two minute video,  Corrie ten Boom tells how we can actually let God do the hard work through us if we are just willing to take the next step (or, as she did, extend the hand). She said, “You see, you never so touch the ocean of God’s love as when you love your enemies.”

When we deal with forgiveness it helps to remember that we are only promised the amount of grace and forgiveness from God that we extend to others.  One of the hardest areas of forgiveness is when time has gone by and the offense was never dealt with, or perhaps continues.  (Outside of forgiveness, I am not referring to physically abusive situations here.)  But in emotional mind games,  subtle or outright meanness, bullying, betrayals, rejections, slights, “cold-shoulders”,  favoritism, backstabbing, etc., James 5:8-9 gives encouragement.  “You also must be patient.  Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Brothers do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged.  Look, the judge stands at the door.”  “Patience is the attitude that can endure and bear suffering without getting angry…Patience is the evidence of the love inside of us…You win by waiting and trusting in God….When you complain against others, you put yourself in a position to be judged.”  (Lifeway Student Commentary, Fall 2013, Session 6)