Black Tea Strong and Sweet with a Drop of Milk

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

She always asks me if I’d like a cup of tea.

From visit to visit she remembers I like black tea, not those fruity teas or herbal teas.  She places the sugar beside my cup and says, “You like it strong and sweet, right?”  Then she sets the milk down on the table because she knows I pour in a little milk and not cream.22615807_s

Her house is a home.  It’s clean but not perfect with all the signs of family and love and growing.  Magnets of the kids’ artwork dot the refrigerator door.  I see toys and school papers and the book she set aside so she could sit with me.

I marvel at her because this gift she has, this hospitality, this welcoming friends into her home and making them feel cozy and relaxed, this is a gift I don’t have.

I always thought hospitality meant fancy party planning and expensive china.  It meant having a house straight out of a decorating magazine and the whipping up of gourmet dishes with names I can’t pronounce.

And here I am this simple girl.

Hospitality seemed so complicated.  So stressful.

But my friend shows me this, it’s really pouring a cup of tea and welcoming someone in.

She never makes me feel like an interruption in her day and she sits there and lets time pass without stress or bother and just chats in this easy way she has of talking open and honest.

It’s refreshing like cool water on a parched soul.

All this month, I’m pursuing the presence of Christ by investing in friendship because when I’m learning from His people, I’m learning from Him.

My friend reminds me that Abraham didn’t scramble to shove dirty dishes into the oven, toss the laundry pile into the backroom and stash papers into the closet when God showed up unexpectedly with two friends.

He didn’t shoo them away with a list of why he’s too busy that day to chat, but maybe they could schedule a lunch date next week….

He didn’t flick off the lights, close the curtains and duck in a corner, pretending he wasn’t home in hopes they’d back on out of the driveway and leave him be.

No, when Abraham saw the three visitors trudging up the distant path, he “hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground” (Genesis 18:2).

Then, he immediately (and without complaint) abandoned his plans for the day and made their comfort his sole focus.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.  Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant” (Genesis 18:3-5).

He showed hospitality to God.

Abraham begged the Lord to “not pass your servant by” and God didn’t.  He rested in that place.  Rather than delivering a divine message and being on His merry way, He sat in the cool shade of the tree, eating and chatting with Abraham.

God and Abraham “hung out.”john15-15

And when the visit was over, the Lord, having been shown hospitality, shared with Abraham the plan for Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction.  This was not the purpose of the visit, but it was a divine revelation borne out of intimate fellowship.

While we have the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives continually, still there are moments when He shows up in clear and powerful ways in the middle of our busyness.

He appears at the tent of our heart.  He inquires if we’re home, if we’re willing to spend time with Him.

Do we tell Him to come back tomorrow because we’ve already fulfilled our quiet time quota for the day?  Or do we usher Him into the center of our hearts and show Him hospitality?

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When He comes to you in the heat of the day, do you bow before Him, offer Him the refreshment of your hospitality, and give of your possessions?  Do you aim to serve?  Then don’t be surprised if God lingers.  Don’t be surprised if He communicates with  you as with a privileged friend.”

And this is my heart, that God linger here and “not pass your servant by.”

So we make Him welcome.  We invite Him in.  We rest in His presence and rejoice in this miracle of friendship with Him.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Invest in Friendship’?

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Roller Coaster Friendships

I thought I just wasn’t into roller coasters.

This summer, though, I discovered I couldn’t even handle, much less enjoy, the whirling tea cups at Busch Gardens.  I rode them visit after visit because my three-year-old finds them great fun and she has to ride with an adult.

But I braced myself each time.  My middle girl always yelled the same thing, “Spin the wheel!  It makes us go faster!”

As I hung on with a white-knuckled grip, I managed to sputter out something like, “Aren’t we spinning enough already?”

It gets worse than that.

Recently, I sat on the swing next to my preschooler as she shouted at me to “swing higher.”  I gave it a try even though it’s been years since I’d swung on a swingset and I’ll tell you what I discovered.

I’m old.  Even a swing made my stomach flip into complicated and tangled knots.

How is this fun?  This little girl next to me in a ponytail and light-up shoes was giggling and squealing that she needed to rise higher and higher.

I suppose I just prefer solid ground.  No need for speed.  No desire to let gravity wreak havoc on my digestive system.  Fun for me is a trip to the library, a hushed walk through a museum, a long stroll on a cool day, a comfy couch with my book, chocolate and cup of tea.

That is fun.  Spinning, screaming, and lifting off the ground = not fun.

This is, perhaps, why first grade friendships have me befuddled lately.  Friendship means loving one another, believing the best about each other, laughing and crying together.  It means loyalty, sharing, encouragement and support.

In first grade, though, the kids are still figuring all that out.  So, instead of the solid ground kind of you-can-count-on-me, dependable r049elationships, they end up with something more like a daytime soap opera, a roller coaster of kindness and backstabbing.

My first grader reports one day that so-and-so said, “she can only be friends with one girl and nobody else” and she stuck out her tongue or wrote a nasty note or stole my daughter’s glue stick and mocked her hair cut.

The next day, my daughter says they are friends now and played together all day.

The day after that, she reports the girl “just left her alone and ignored her.”

Even as adults, we can find this world a dizzying place to live, a roller coaster ride of the unexpected and occasionally the downright scary.

We are blessed, some of us, to have friendships and marriages that keep our feet firmly locked onto the unshakeable ground of trustworthy relationships.

And yet, how often lately I have heard of lovers who swore to “love, honor and cherish ’til death do us part” later end up enemies on the opposite sides of a divorce attorney’s table.

Even truly loyal relationships end eventually, maybe through moving or even death.  The people we count on and love won’t always be with us, not here on this transient planet anyway.

That’s why it’s so precious that Jesus declared,

“I no longer call you servants.  I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

He’s our forever friend!  So faithful, so eternally compassionate, so genuinely understanding.  This is no first-grade cohort, kind today and snippy tomorrow, supportive today and jealously cruel the next.

He’s day-after-day, in-and-out, always-and-forever loyal to those He calls friends.

But am I?

That’s what Joni Eareckson Tada asked in Diamonds in the Dust:

“What a friend I have in Jesus.  But I wonder….what kind of friend does He have in me?
Too often we stay at an arm’s-length distance, pulling back from the full intensity of an intimate friendship with the Lord.  We satisfy ourselves with “less” when it comes to our relationship with Him” (p. 400).

Of course, Jesus is faithful.  That’s His character.  It’s who He is no matter what.

The question really is more about me What kind of friend am I to God?  Do I pull away, afraid to get too close for fear He’ll discover the ugly truth about some of my faults, foibles and (to be honest) sins?

Do I chatter and laugh with Him affectionately some days only to abandon Him the next for busyness and more instant gratification?

Do I deny Him and stray from Him when I’m angry or hurt?  Do I believe the best about His character even when I don’t understand what He’s doing?

To be a better friend with God requires maturing past our first-grade relationship tactics and becoming day-after-day loyal and true regardless of our emotions, circumstances, or the enticements of others.

Today we can choose to be better friends to each other and to our trustworthy God who is so consistently faithful to us.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Quick! Close the Curtains, Turn out the Lights and Hide!

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her third chapter: “Take a Load Off”

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“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

I hadn’t invited her over.  It was a busy day with a lengthy to-do list and I had no time for visitors.

Yet, my best friend in the whole wide world unexpectedly appeared on my doorstep in the middle of the day and she brought some friends with her.

My first impulse was to hit the light switch and hover in the back of my house in the dim light, hoping she thought I wasn’t home.

But I didn’t.  I scooped up the laundry from my couch and dumped it on my bed, closing the bedroom door behind me. Glancing in the mirror, I smoothed back my hair and threw open the front door, pasting a welcoming smile on my face.

Hey!  What a surprise! Come in!  Welcome, welcome.  Have a seat.  I’ll be with you in a minute.

The sound of the dryer finishing a load cut through the small talk.  I meant to get my guests something to drink and scan the fridge for some lunch prospects.  I meant to.  But, I took a detour to the laundry room to switch over the clothes.

Then the phone rang.  I answered it and made apologetic faces at the visitors while ironing out the details for an upcoming church program with the lady on the other end of the line.

Hanging up the phone, I remembered that I had to get dinner in the crockpot right away or the 6 hours my food was supposed to spend on low heat would end up being 3 hours on high or maybe even 15 minutes in the microwave.

So, I shouted out, “What brings you here today?  What’s new with you?” from the kitchen as I chopped carrots and celery.  Then I made occasional sounds of mild interest and attention, (mmmm hmmmm,  Oh, I see, Wow) while my very dearest and best friend in the whole wide world told me what was on her mind.

Seeing my to-do list on the counter, I entered the living room and gave verbal cues to my friend that it was now time to go.

Well, it was great to see you.  I’m so glad you could stop by for this little chat.  Maybe I’ll call you later this week and we’ll schedule time to get together.

She quickly caught on and stood up to go.  The visit ended, just like that………………………….

Now, don’t cancel your plans to visit with me.  While hospitality certainly isn’t my spiritual gift, I’m not as rude as that made-up story would suggest.

Still, does it amaze you how Abraham reacted when God showed up at his tent door unexpectedly with two friends in the heat of the day?  God didn’t even call first!

When Abraham saw the three surprise visitors headed his way, he didn’t run inside his tent, hang a sign on the door that read “Out to Lunch” and then shut the flaps, hoping they’d think he wasn’t home.

No, he “hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground” (Genesis 18:2).

Then, he immediately and without complaint abandoned his plans for the day and made their comfort his sole focus.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.  Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant” (Genesis 18:3-5).

He showed hospitality to God.

Abraham begged the Lord to “not pass your servant by.”  And God didn’t.  Instead, He rested in that place.  Rather than delivering a divine message and then disappearing, He sat in the shade of the tree, eating and chatting with Abraham.

That’s right.  God and Abraham “hung out.”

And when the visit was over, the Lord, having been shown hospitality, shared with Abraham the plan for Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction.  This was not the purpose of the visit, but it was a divine revelation borne out of intimate fellowship with God.

While we have the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives continually, still there are moments when He shows up in clear and powerful ways in the middle of our busyness.

He appears at the tent of our heart.  He inquires if we’re home, if we’re willing to spend time with Him.

Do we tell Him to come back tomorrow because we’ve already fulfilled our quiet time quota for the day?  Or do we usher Him into the center of our hearts and show Him hospitality?

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When He comes to you in the heat of the day, do you bow before Him, offer Him the refreshment of your hospitality, and give of your possessions?  Do you aim to serve?  Then don’t be surprised if God lingers.  Don’t be surprised if He communicates with  you as with a privileged friend.”

I don’t know about you, but I echo Abraham’s prayer that God will “not pass your servant by.”  Oh, how I long for friendship with God.

But, why should He linger with us if we make it clear by our actions that He’s not welcome?

When He asks to spend time with you, turn off the TV.  The next time hubby watches the kids, don’t hit the shops, grab your Bible and journal and visit a park instead.  Or grab a cup of coffee (or in my case a scoop of ice cream) together—yes, go on a date with God.

Make it clear to Him, the best and dearest Friend you’ll ever have, that He is welcome in your life—not for what He does for you or because He fulfills your needs or fixes your problems—but because of who He is.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King