Monthly Archives: June 2011

Tea Bag Philosophy

Coffee or tea?

David makes a pot of coffee in the morning and drinks from it throughout the day. But I’m a tea drinker. A cup of tea causes you to slow down, to wait, to get involved in the process of brewing. And it’s hard to gulp a cup of tea – the distinctive flavors of herbal teas beg to be enjoyed. To me, coffee tastes like, well, coffee – some stronger, some weaker, but still it’s coffee.

There’s a brand of tea I drink which offers a variety of leaf combinations from plants known to offer various ministrations to the human body, such as: quieting an upset stomach, boosting the immune system, soothing a cough, cleansing the liver, etc. I drink the teas of herbs and plants that God placed here for our nourishment, health and enjoyment.

These teas are based on herbal remedies passed down from generation to generation, from a time when people lived close to the land. People who realized that we have a symbiotic relationship to the earth that we inhabit. God created the earth as a place for us to live and He created us to take care of the planet – or as the Bible says in Genesis, “to have dominion over it and subdue it.”

Anyway, one particular brand that I use has tags on the tea bags with pithy little sayings on them – some profound and some mind boggling in their combination of words that are, frankly, meaningless. I have to do mental gymnastics to make sense of the content.

This morning’s philosophical offering was, “The other person is you.” Okay, what? Obviously, I am me and you are you –  each unique in our make-up, with private thoughts and feelings and beliefs and histories. But perhaps there is a sense in which I need to think of the other person as “me”.  Jesus taught us to “treat others as we would like to be treated”. Given their circumstances, how would I most likely benefit from or respond to what kind of treatment? which choice of words? which tone of voice?

The Bible further says that in our treatment of others we should be “speaking the truth in love”. Some people like to speak the truth to others, informing them as to how they got where they are what they should do about it. But that love part can get tricky. That’s where we need to rely on the Spirit of Christ who lives in us. God is love. Even as He disciplines His children, the platform He operates from is love. When love is your character, your very nature, you cannot operate apart from love. You won’t treat one person with love and another with disdain.

Hey! There are people who tire me with their complaining and endless talk, their finger pointing or excuse making, their self-focus and self-pity, their seeming inability or lack of desire to change. But there is no excuse for unkind treatment from me. I don’t think Jesus would shut them out.

So getting back to the morning tea bag – I was thinking that this week my focus will be to attempt to see the other person as a human being like me; with the same needs for affirmation, encouragement, healing, provision and someone to love them and speak the truth to them out of that love. Because it’s the truth delivered in love that sets people free.

So what’s on your tea bag tag today? And how does your life philosophy compare to that of our Creator? Are you living more out of the tea bag tag, or out of the character of your heavenly Father?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Prayer and Angels

Recently, during one of my quiet times, I was praying for my husband as he prepared his message for Fathers Day. His schedule had been very full for the week and the pressure was on. I prayed specifically for the Lord to give Him the message for our congregation; to put all the pieces into place – Scriptures, illustrations, main points, and peace of mind as he worked.

David came upstairs to get his shower just a short time later and was very excited. He said that he was really on a roll and that everything was coming together, including the illustrations for his message.  I told him I had just prayed specifically for that and it was already answered.

Immediately a Scripture came into my mind regarding Daniel in the Old Testament. He was praying for Israel and for Jerusalem. He was fervent in prayer confessing the sins of the people and asking for God’s mercy. Then he prayed that God would answer quickly. While he was still speaking and making his request the angel Gabriel came and said to him:

“As soon as you began to pray an answer was given and I have come to tell you . . . “  Daniel 9:23

However, in another instance Daniel was praying and fasting for 21 days. He had a vision that disturbed him and even frightened him. As he was in fear and trembling, an angel spoke to him saying:

“. . . since the day that you first set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself  before your God, your words were heard and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one-days[the exact time of David’s fast and prayer].

The angel added that Michael (the Archangel) came to assist him so that the answer to David’s prayer could be delivered.

Now, I’m not saying that an angel came to David to tell him what to preach when I prayed. But I do believe that there are many battles going on in the heavenly realm – the invisible realm – and that there may be hindrances to our prayers and the arrival of the answers to those prayers due to forces in the spiritual dimension. And angels are a part of the delivery process.

Hebrews chapter 1 verse 14 says:

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”

Some prayers are answered before they are prayed – like Holy Spirit initiated prayer; if God implants the prayer in us, He certainly already has the answer. What wows me is that God makes us a part of the process of getting His will done on earth, through the avenue of prayer.

Other prayers fall into the category of “praying until” – until you get a release in your spirit that the answer is coming. When we are led to continue in prayer for something, perhaps our prayers are a part of the spiritual warfare going on in the heavens?

I have to admit that I prefer the times when the prayer is answered almost before I finish making the request. However, the persevering kind of prayers, which involve waiting and watching, probably do more to build strong faith.

And after all, isn’t that what prayer is really about. It doesn’t change God, but it changes us and the world around us. What a gift and privilege He has given us. And somehow, we partner with the angels  as God directs His forces to carry out His plans.

So, what’s happening in your prayer life these days? Any exciting prayer answers you would like to share?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Renovations? Hurry Up and Wait

Change is inevitable. Renovation is necessary. We know it has to happen, but we put it off as long as we can. No matter if it’s our house, our church building, or our lives – we delay as long as we can, then we want it to happen “right now”. Extended process is not fun – but often it can’t be done any other way. We just have to wait for completion.

Our church sanctuary is currently under renovation. It’s a rather extensive process and when I say “under” renovation, I mean that literally. There are pieces of equipment, tools, supplies, plywood, etc. lining one side and the back of the room. The chairs which are being used at Sunday Celebration are arranged off to the other side and in the middle of the room. The re-structuring part of the renovation project will probably take a few more weeks, then comes painting, laying of carpet, and somewhere in the schedule the installation of the new audio equipment and the sound tech’s work table.

The job is taking a long time for completion because volunteer churchmen, most of whom have full-time day jobs, are doing the work for free – which is saving our fellowship a great deal of money, but not sparing the hassle of sanctuary clean-up prior to each Sunday service – and yes, the not-so-eye-pleasing temporary “décor”.

We believe that the project will result in a beautiful and functional new worship room. But we’d really like to hurry the process along. The problem is that certain things have to be done before other things can happen. It does no good to paint the walls and install carpet before the bigger jobs are completed and the equipment and supplies for those jobs are removed.

I was thinking today of how the renovation project in our church Celebration Center is similar to our personal renovation. We know there need to be changes in our lifestyle or character.  Mental and spiritual structures need to be torn down and replaced with firmer, more reliable structures; we need better “audio receptors” to be able to hear our Heavenly Father’s voice; our spirits need dusting off and regular vacuuming after the messes we make with our self-renovation projects; we need new insulation in our souls to keep out the cold winds of adversity and to hold  in the heat of the Holy Spirit.

And occasionally we need a new spiritual paint job to brighten up the space we occupy in this world – something that speaks of faith and love and joy and a trusting heart instead of depression, gloom, complaint, anger, irritability, jealousy, etc.

We know it needs to happen, and we want it to happen “right now” – all-at-once instead of a long, drawn-out process. But just as timing is important in the renovation of our church celebration room, the timing of our own spiritual, mental, emotional and even physical change can’t be rushed.

Just as we see the weekly results of our volunteer laborers in the worship room of our church, though most of us haven’t seen them doing the actual work, in the same way, God is steadily and patiently and invisibly working in us. We have this hope from Scripture: Philippians 1:5  “Faithful is He who has begun a good work in you, for He will bring it to completion in the day of Christ.”

“In time” our church renovations will be completed. And in “His time”, our personal renovation will be completed by our Father God.

Don’t quit in the middle of the project. Don’t settle for half-way-there. Don’t get discouraged in the process.

That’s where trusting God comes in: Romans 8 tells us that God will pull it all together one day – causing “all things to work together for our good” and this will result in our being “conformed to the image of His Son”. When He’s finished His work in our lives, we’ll look like Jesus. Steady and slow – progressive conformation.

Where are you in this spiritual renovation process? Are you any different this year than last? Any closer resemblance to the image of God’s Son?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Do You Want to Be Healed?

It was a time of celebration in Jerusalem, a day of feasting for the Jewish people. Jesus went up to participate. He stopped by a public pool called Bethesda, which is near the Sheep Gate entrance into the city. There were five covered colonnades that surrounded the pool providing shade in which a large number of invalids lay on pallets.

There was a folk-belief at that time that an angel would occasionally come down and stir up the water in the pool and that the first person into the pool would be healed.

Several of the Scripture translations say in the Gospel of John, chapter 5, that there was a multitude of blind, lame and paralyzed lying there in the portico. Among them was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. We aren’t told why Jesus noticed that man among the large number of disabled people.

Jesus asked the man a strange question. At least I think it’s strange. He learned that the man had been in this condition for a long time and asked him: “Do you want to be healed?”

Why would Jesus ask that question? If Jesus were to ask me, “Do you want to be healed?” I would say, “Duh, of course. Why would I not want to be healed? Wouldn’t anyone who is ill or invalid want to be healed?”

Not necessarily. But why not?

Some sick people have learned to live with the illness and are used to others taking care of them. They may not be able to imagine a life of wellness with all the responsibilities that go with being well.

Perhaps their illness is used to get attention or to manipulate and control others.

Maybe it’s pay-back for some grievance or wound in their spirit from a spouse or family member or some other person.

Or the invalid may be full of self-doubt and insecurity. It’s easier just to be this way, depending on others to provide personal care and make decisions that seem impossible for them to handle.

Even asking God for healing is untenable for some who are ill. They are be too proud to ask God to heal them, or uncertain that He is capable of healing them, or doubt that He would even want to.

Others believe it is humble to accept illness as God’s will.

Or as we learn later about the man Jesus confronts, their illness may be due to personal sin and they feel unworthy of God’s attention.

It’s obvious that the man at the Pool of Bethesda does not know who Jesus is, perhaps because his public ministry had just begun. The man does not directly answer Jesus’ question; he tells Jesus that he has no one to put him into the pool when the angel supposedly stirs the water.

Even with his indirect answer, Jesus has compassion on the man. Jesus has already gotten His assignment from His Father, God. Remember Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing? (John 5:19)  And He only spoke what His Father commanded Him to say? (John 12:49)

The passage says nothing about the invalid’s faith, or the faith of anyone near him. The man does not even ask to be healed – he just expresses his need and his position of helplessness.

Jesus does not say, “You are healed.” He says, ”Get up. Take up your sleeping bag and walk”. What confidence His presence must have radiated! The man did not argue “What do you mean walk? Didn’t you hear me say that I can’t walk? Can’t you tell that I’m an invalid?”

I believe the lame man read compassion in Jesus’ eyes and sensed authority in His words. Power was released as he obeyed Jesus’ command. He was healed in obeying that voice. He stands and rolls up his bed and walks.

It was only later that Jesus finds the man again and warns him: “See, you are well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” This leads us to consider that the man’s invalid condition may have been brought on by his own sinful actions. But even so, Jesus heals him and gives him a second chance.

This passage in John 5 also points out that even invalids sin – sickness does not cure the human nature of sin. But the Son of God heals both sin and sickness.

What a Savior we have!! Even if the mess our life gets into is our own fault, God forgives, heals, sets us straight and warns us away from further danger.

So how about you? Do you want to be healed? Of sickness, of sin, of bad character, of anger, of addictions, of self-righteousness, or selfishness and self-centeredness? Let’s dialogue.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Accidental Encounters

While on vacation this past week I was sharing with a young friend about God’s timing in our lives and the junction of “chance” encounters with others whose flights are also on God’s radar screen. Though airplanes on a collision course would spell disaster, when God designs our travel plans, amazing things happen, even through accidents.

When David and I were first married and living in Kentucky, I was invited by a church, located on Cape Cod, to present a program at a mother/daughter dinner. Since David was still in college and had a part-time job, I drove alone to New England.

I was not in the habit of using a seat-belt, but David had put a note on the dashboard that read, “Please wear your seatbelt for me.” I complied out of respect for him, even though he was not with me. I believe now, looking back, that God motivated both David’s gesture of protective love and my response of respect, to save my life.

Somewhere northeast of New York City on Rt. 95, my car stalled in the passing lane – I did not have enough speed to cross over to the right-side shoulder of the highway. There was no shoulder on the left, only a concrete barrier. As my car slowed to a stop, I put on my flashers. It was mid-afternoon in bright sunlight, so not easy for vehicles approaching from the rear to see my car in time to change lanes easily.

Several cars got around me, then one car clipped my rear passenger side while attempting to change lanes; that car spun around and was hit by a motorcycle. The next car in line had no place to go except into the rear of my car.

After the sounds of screeching tires and metal hitting metal and shattering glass ceased, and the traffic behind came to a stop, I shakily got out of my car and sat on the concrete divider, glad to be alive. Had I not been wearing my seatbelt I have no doubt that I would have been seriously injured.

The young woman whose car had clipped mine while changing lanes was a Christian. We had a quick word of prayer together, thanking God that no one had been seriously injured.

The ambulances arrived and the EMTs insisted that we all be taken to the emergency room of the nearest hospital, where I was admitted for overnight observation due to a partial memory loss. I also sustained whiplash.

My roommate was a young married woman who had been in the hospital for several days to determine the cause of her back pain. After running tests, the doctors had concluded the pain was psychosomatic, caused by emotional stress. My roommate had marital problems, augmented by interference from her over-involved mother. She was thinking of legal separation and possibly divorce.

I asked for permission to share my personal testimony of God’s grace and love that had changed both my life and my husband’s life. She gave me permission to do so.

Later that night she said, “I need what you’ve been talking about.” I led her in prayer to begin a personal journey with God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The next morning her husband came to visit. My roommate excused herself for the bathroom and I began to share the Lord with her spouse. He stopped me and said, “I came to the Lord last night with the help of my friend in whose apartment I have been staying.” I told him that his wife had something to share with him. They went for a brief walk in the hospital corridor.

When they returned to the hospital room, they sat on the edge of the bed and the wife said to me, “We feel so responsible for your accident.” And we all had a joyous laugh.

I heard from that couple about six months later in a Christmas card. It read, “We have moved away from my mother and live in upstate New York. Our marriage has never been as happy as now.”

There is a sequel to this story. Twenty-plus years later I was invited to speak at a women’s brunch in Vermont. A woman approached me at my table and asked if I had been involved in an auto accident in New York on Rt. 95 some years before. I replied that I had. She said, “I am the woman who shared the hospital room with you. I didn’t know who was speaking here today – I came because my mother-in-law invited me. I saw your name on the program and then recognized you.”

When I inquired about how she was doing and how her marriage was, she said her marriage was very good and then added that she and her husband were involved in ministry. I asked what that ministry was. “We are commissioned as official church-visitors.” she said, “We visit people in the hospital, and pray with them.” I got thrill-chills.

When we commit our lives to a love relationship with God and to declare that love to others, our Father then commits Himself to us to co-ordinate all our travel plans – destinations, arrivals, and encounters along the way.

What God-timing story do you have to share? Let’s hear it. We need to build each others’ faith. I may even invite you to do a guest blog.

©2011, Marcy Alves

%d bloggers like this: