I believe what the world needs is a nice cup of tea right about now…

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The real genius behind tea resides in its redemptive and civilizing characteristics. Tea is all about the preparation, the time invested, the intention of community, and – most importantly – the act of service.

There is a lot to be said for the civilizing ethic of mutual service, of intentional kindness, of entering tomorrow with a servant’s heart regarding all of our relationships.

IMG_0325For me – and Rebekah – our all-time favorite wedding present to give is the classic English teapot. Not a kettle, that’s for boiling water, but a real teapot.

This week we wrapped one for Donna Reynolds (a longtime family friend from the Florida congregation we left almost five years ago) and hubby-to-be Shawn. There was the pot (stainless steel makes the absolute best hot tea), the card, and the note – plus all the love enclosed. Then Rebekah called out, “Derek, do you have the ‘recipe for tea’ article you wrote for the Tampa Tribune?”

She was referring to a popular column I penned many, many years ago that – when we remember – we always enclose with the wedding gift when it’s a teapot.

The column may be dated but it is very much apropos (“both relevant and opportune”) in a world where the civil is often absent from civilization, and where a few good manners and a dose of kindness would go a long way.

So here’s the column (originally written for a New Year’s edition). Read it, then think about who you need to make a cup of tea for – and to serve – in order to help put the “civil” and the “kind” and the “generous” back into the heart of our life together as a people in desperate need of a cup of tea.

The Gift of Tea

(Derek Maul, The Tampa Tribune)

I first arrived in the United States in September of 1975, and I have been a proud citizen since early 1985. Contrary to some naturalized Americans, I do not believe in dual-citizenship.

But then there is the subject of tea.

The residual British tea-gene is a deeply important element of my social and behavioral composition. I may drink a lot of coffee, but there is a quality to tea – and its preparation – that I believe can be instructive as we look to another new beginning.

Recent research suggests that many teas are invigorating, health giving, and anti-oxidizing – agents of therapeutic revitalizing energizing herbal nirvana. Whatever.

The real genius behind tea resides in its redemptive and civilizing characteristics. Tea is all about the preparation, the time invested, the intention of community, and – most importantly – the act of service.

Let me explain. The teapot is our favorite gift to give as a wedding present, and the instructions we sometimes enclose look a lot like this:

IMG_0326Please read before preparing tea: Life is inherently difficult. As beings made in the image of God, our design encourages us to act on our environment with creative purpose. Each challenge we face is an opportunity to engage the intention of creation, and to live on the cutting edge of possibility. Marriage is loaded with such opportunity. Tea can help here.

Love is never about winning, it is always about healing, and the best relationships nurture one another. As men, especially, our primary responsibility is to love our wives; love means nurture, nurture means service, and service means tea.

Preparing and serving a hot cup of tea is a selfless and redemptive act of practical love. Here’s how it works:

Imagine you are in trouble with your spouse (this works equally well if you are not, but this is a newspaper, and we deal with reality).

Say, “Let’s have a cup of tea.” This is code for “I want to sit down with you, and to serve you; I want to be with you and to share something meaningful.”

It takes time to boil water (the microwave does not make good tea); it takes time to properly warm the pot before pouring the boiling water over the leaves; it takes time to pour the tea into china cups and to select the appropriate cookie or cracker.

When you sit down with your spouse, then, you bring a good ten minutes of preparation and positive intention to the act of loving service; the opportunity for healing dialogue is set.

 Offering tea declares, “I love you enough to serve you; to prepare something with the entire civilizing weight of British history behind it; to spend ten minutes – knee to knee – sipping something good and looking into your eyes.” It says, “I want this relationship to work.”

I have made tea for Rebekah as late as one o’clock in the morning. Neither one of us was looking for a hot drink, but we certainly needed the ritual.

Okay then, enough with the wedding gift instructions; what about the gift of any new day?

There is a lot to be said for the civilizing ethic of mutual service, of intentional kindness, of entering tomorrow with a servant’s heart regarding all of our relationships.

Pick a difficult work colleague, and serve them a hot drink one morning; let someone into your lane on a busy street; write an encouraging letter to your county commissioner; help your crankiest neighbor with a project.

Make your wife a cup of hot tea. Start the day… the week… the year… the marriage… the rest of your life out right.

– DEREK

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