Richard Exley Ministries

Three Cup of Tea
Posted on July 31, 2009

Few things in life are more important than deep sharing with good friends. That kind of talking nourishes the soul and reaffirms our place in the world. 

As I prepare to write today’s blog three or four memories juxtapose themselves in my mind. In the first I am just a boy ten or eleven years old. It is a Sunday afternoon and we have just arrived home from church. Although I waste no time shedding my church clothes for tennis shoes and blue jeans, our company arrives before I can finish. They have come to share Sunday dinner with us. The guests vary from week to week but we almost never eat Sunday dinner alone. We might scrimp all week, as Mom used to say, but on Sunday we had a feast – huge platters piled high with fried chicken, heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables from the garden, homemade hot rolls, and gallons of lemonade. For dessert there was always a variety of cakes and pies from which to choose.

When we couldn’t possible eat another bite, us kids disappeared outdoors, while the adults lingered around the table talking for an hour or two. That’s all they did – just talked. It seemed like such a waste to me then. Now, I know better. Few things in life are more important than deep sharing with good friends. That kind of talking nourishes the soul and reaffirms our place in the world.

A second memory now superimposes itself upon the first and I listen as our adult daughter bemoans the fact that no one entertains at home anymore. She and her husband tried it a couple of times, hosting small dinner parties in their home, but when several guests canceled at the last minute and no one returned their invitation they were forced to conclude that dinner parties are a thing of the past. “No one has time to be friends any more,” Leah says wistfully, “not with everything they have going on in their lives. Oh, I know my generation is into social networking – facebook and twitter and all that – but sending emails and instant messages isn’t the same as sharing Sunday dinner!”

Now a third memory pushes its way replica watches to the forefront of my mind. I am in the sanctuary of Dominion Church where my sister and her family worship. My mother’s funeral is nearly over and the mourners are passing by her casket for the final viewing. As they file past almost every one stops to console my sister, many of them weep with her, holding her close and I can’t help thinking how precious friends are in the hour of our loss. I am thankful for the support Sherry receives but my heart aches for my two brothers and me. Each of us is hundreds of miles from home and the friends who would have comforted us have not been able to attend.

Even if Mom’s funeral had been in my home church Brenda and I wouldn’t have received the kind of support Sherry did. That kind of support grows out of relationship and we simply do not have those kinds of relationship with our church family. Although we have been part of the Church on the Hill in Berryville, Arkansas for the past fifteen years, we are not truly an integral part of that congregation. Pastor Butler, a dear friend and a wonderful pastor, lovingly refers to us as his most unfaithful members because we spend most weekends on the road ministering in other churches. We are deeply loved by the congregation and they receive us with open arms each time we are able to worship with them, yet we are more like distant cousins than intimate family members. No one is to blame that’s just the way things are. Still, I hunger for the kind of relationship my sister has with her church family.

In his book, “Three Cups of Tea” Greg Mortenson relates a life changing experience he had while building schools in the remote areas of Pakistan. With the feverish impatience that Americans are known for the world over, he had pushed the Baltis to finish the school before winter. Although they loved his generosity, his hard driving manner was threatening to alienate the very people he most cared about. Finally, Haji Ali the presiding elder took him aside and over bowls of scalding butter tea he said, “If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways. The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die.” Laying his hand warmly on Mortenson’s own, he continued, “Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the time to build relationships is before tragedy strikes. Invite friends over for Sunday dinner or a cookout in the back yard. Open your home and your heart. Don’t wait for someone else to take the lead; you do it. And no matter how hectic your life becomes always make time to share three cups of tea.

This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.

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