Wednesday, January 23, 2013

the beginning of a beautiful relationship...

I noticed that I was drinking a lot of tea to soothe my throat or my aching belly. So it became the norm every morning and evening. I reminisced the days as a child having tea parties with friends or just me and my dolls. "I need a tea set!" I thought. I began to search different types of tea sets. While exploring Google communities, I came across a "tea lovers" community. What the hay? I joined the community and found there's much more to tea than I thought!

I used to work at a high end coffeeshop in Ithaca and became fascinated by the art and science of brewing coffee. So many factors contribute to the quality of the brew, from the way the beans are produced, roasted, the temperature of the water, humidity and the pressure applied just to name a few. I never saw coffee the same again and made it a point to learn all I could. God had different plans for my life, but I still have the same fascination to learn things like this.

One of the teas my father got me was Pu-erh tea from Numi. Reading about it's production and health benefits, I decided to try loose Pu-erh tea. If you are new to Pu-erh tea, this is a great introduction. It was suggested that I see Yunnan Sourcing for the best selection of Pu-erh teas and it indeed is. I got a recent sample of raw and ripe Pu-erh to compare to a several year old raw and ripe Pu-erh. I also got a couple different oolongs to compare. After much anticipation of the package, I received my first shipment of Pu-erh tea yesterday! I'll be honest and say I have no idea how these varieties will taste. I'm completely new at this and learning as I go along. 

The first sample I'm trying is 2012 Yunnan Sourcing "Shang Chun" Raw Pu-erh. The first thing I noticed pulling it out of the package is how much it looks like ganja! It smells sweet but not "skunky." The first "infusion" was just for rinsing any impurities from the tea leaves. The next infusion was for 30 seconds to try. Then 1 minute. Then 3 minute. The liquor, or color of the tea, was a clear golden color. I can't control the temperature of the water, as I'm getting hot water from a machine, but I've read it's best not to have it boiling. Immediately, the taste reminded me of green tea: light, vegetal, astringent. It goes great plain, with honey and I imagine would make a great iced tea. I'll try to note other nuances as I go through the sample. Then, I'll compare it with the older raw sample.

 This way of making tea is a bit laborious so I got loose tea that would be easy to measure out from MightyLeaf. They have a decent variety and a well organized website to choose by ingredient, caffeine content or region. I also got a small Gaiwan style tea set for two. I'm usually in my room alone, but I also like sharing tea with others. Come have tea with me soon! 

Lastly, I was amazed to learn that there are "tea rooms" places that serve mainly tea and restaurants that serve afternoon tea! It is mainly served with small sandwiches, scones and jams. Here is a list of the best tearooms in NYC. Of course, it needs to be accessible for me, so I searched for accessible tea places through Yelp.  I'll write reviews as I go along. Make sure you call ahead and confirm their entrance is accessible! I've learned that generally, the lower parts of Manhattan are less accessible. Even if the restaurant entrance is accessible, their rest room is not. You have to make sure there's someplace you can go to cath if you need (like a large library or chain store like Barnes & Nobles.) Happy tea time! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Where will you be in Eternity?

What is the meaning of life and what happens when I die? Why did God allow me to survive this way? Wouldn't it be more compassionate to have me die? If God is loving, why does he allow anyone to suffer? Being close to death and seeing how fragile my body is as a quadriplegic, if anyone should ask these questions, it's me. 

King Solomon wrote that God has put eternity in our hearts and this is certainly true for all people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Just as we understand right and wrong by our God given conscience, we long for something beyond the finality of this life. As children, we just see what's in front of us. We want to be gratified now and then, having little to no sense of our limited time here. It gets easier as we get older, but we still  are never satisfied with all we acquire in our lifetime. We want to be remembered, we want to leave a 'legacy', we want to stay younger longer, and increasingly, defy mortality. Across all cultures are stories of a 'next life.' Although the West is increasingly secular and hostile to notions of heaven or hell, we cannot escape the idea that there is more than this life.

Steve Berger writes on his blog: "Many times we can’t quite articulate this feeling. Songs, books, movies and visual art tries to capture it. Many come close, but most fall short. The problem is the authors, writers, painters and actors don’t know the Scripture. They know and recognize the longing, but they don’t know and recognize the Savior."

In a post-modern society where we are taught that truth is relative, very little people are searching for the truth about life after death. But the Bible answers all the questions surrounding the meaning of life: Why am I here? What is right and wrong? What is my purpose? and what happens when I die? 

In an atheistic worldview, we have evolved by chance and so everything is arbitrary, without real purpose. Sure, an atheist can choose to live morally, but according to his worldview, that can be no better than one who chooses to live immorally, for all choices are subjective. Bertrand Russell, an atheist philosopher admits: 

"That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."

Other atheist philosophers like Nitzsche and Sartre also admit that life is meaningless without God. The only way atheists can live happily in their worldview is to live inconsistently. We see that the wealthiest populations are the least happy and have the highest rates of suicide. Solomon had it right centuries earlier when he declared emphatically "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" (Ecclesiastes 1:1) Solomon was the richest, wisest man of all time and had plenty of time to ponder the meaning of life. He first pursued all the pleasure he could. He realized that no matter how much you enjoy, you still crave pleasure like a bottomless pit. The eye is not full of seeing, the ear, not full of hearing (Ecc 1:8). 

We are constantly striving for global peace. No war. No famine. No injustice. Really, we want to return to Eden. Only then will our souls be satisfied. King Solomon got it right when he said: 

"I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him." (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

There is no purpose to life if everything stops at the grave. We all long for eternal peace and that can only come when we have peace with God. Jesus said, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly." How do we clean our sinful hearts? How do we obtain peace with God to enter into his eternal Kingdom? Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." One is born again through faith in Jesus Christ and calling out to him to be saved. The apostles testify, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36; John 14:6; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Tim 3:5; Acts 10:43; Psalm 2:12; Prov 30:4)

In my difficult circumstance, God has answered my questions concerning who he is as revealed in the Bible. Through my condition, God is glorified as many can see how I've changed and my joy. It's still difficult but I have a peace that's beyond what the world can give. It was by God's plan that I would come back to the Bronx where my family is, be reunited with my father, have him close so he can advocate for me in this institution, and be restored to the Lord, growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is a painful circumstance, with eternal purpose to bring others to himself (Romans 8:28; Isaiah 6:10; Psalm 138:8; Proverbs 19:21 Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 3:11; Revelation 17:17). 

Where will you be in eternity? Tomorrow is not promised to anyone and if you feel God speaking to your heart, please listen. You can have your questions answered at:

God Bless