How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalms 119:103

I am a coffee drinker: hot, iced or cold brewed.  I love to explore small coffee shops when we travel and try their signature drinks.  Yet, in my attempts to be more cultured, I’ve been trying to cultivate a love for tea as well.  My husband bought me a cheery yellow teapot that sings when the water is ready.  I found a delicate cup to drink my tea from and even purchased a tea ball for lose-leaf tea.  Despite these purchases, my tea appreciation has never topped my love for coffee, but I have discovered that fruity herbal teas, spicy black teas and refreshing peppermint teas have their place in my life, especially during the mid-afternoon slump.  Furthermore, although sugar cubes are dainty and charming, my preferred method of sweetening tea is honey.

Honey, that rich gooey substance, has always been one of my favorite sweeteners.  As a child, I would watch my grandfather pour Grape Nuts cereal into a bowl and spoon honey over it, discovering this was the only way to eat Grape Nuts!  Many years ago, I shared the love of honey with my children by exploring a local honey museum in Wisconsin.  We learned that God created bees with a desire for nectar.  This love for nectar is what helped pollinate lots of our favorite plants, and the busy bees turned the nectar into honey.  We learned that the honeycomb design of a bee hive was a masterpiece of design, yielding the most amount of honey per square inch.  We learned that local honey helps reduce allergies and is the best substance to stop a cough.  We saw the bees inside a hive actively working to produce honey.  Sampling different honeys, such as wildflower, clover and buckwheat honey, delighted our taste buds, leaving a desire for more.  We left the museum with honey sticks and jars in hand, planning to savor the sweetness at home.

Photograph taken by Margaret Collins

This morning, in my daily devotional time I read a quote by Puritan Thomas Brooks.  He said, “Remember, it is not hasty reading but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul.  It is not the bee’s touching of the flower that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time upon the flower that draws out the sweet.  It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”  I know this is a long quote, but friend, reread it again.  Let it soak into your thoughts and reflect on what it is saying.  The quote sparked contemplation in me and I was inspired me to record it in my journal.

The first word that jumped out at me was the word “hasty”.  For years, I’ve been attempting to read, aka conquer, the whole Bible in a year.  Too often, it’s a check mark that I make, another goal accomplished, and I move on to the next task in my so-called spiritual discipline.  This quote made me ponder, am I hastily reading my Bible, or am I spending time in God’s word, letting it speak and minister to me?  Do I sit and meditate on what God is trying to say as I read the account of his creation, or am I already thinking about my next task?  Is God’s word really sweet to me, or is it the kale I choke down because I know it’s good for me?

These are hard questions to answer and the truth is somewhere in between.  This “in between” really signifies a “maybe”, akin to lukewarm leftover pizza.  I like pizza, hot out of the oven, or cold right out of the refrigerator, but never lukewarm!  Pizza that’s lukewarm has the cheese congealing in an unappealing manner, the sauce tastes tepid and the sausage loses flavor at room temperature.  It’s also the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.  I have no desire to incur the wrath of salmonella from lukewarm pizza.

It’s interesting to me that God says in Revelation 3:16 “So then because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”  The word translated as “spue” is Greek for “vomit”.  God doesn’t want us to be lukewarm, because it’s the perfect breeding ground for apathy, bitterness, sin and complacency to thrive in.  When we are lukewarm, he needs to vomit us out in order for the kingdom to thrive.

I don’t know about you, but I hate vomit, bacteria and any microorganisms that are going to wreak havoc on me or my loved ones.  What I hate even more is the image of God vomiting me out because I’m lukewarm in my faith, having made my Bible reading an item on a checklist.  I don’t want my answers to the hard questions to be “maybe”.  Instead I want to make a commitment to “meditate on holy and heavenly truths.”

The second part that really jumped out on me was the part that says, “it’s not a bee’s touching a flower that gathers the honey, but her abiding for a time upon the flower that draws out the sweet.”  A bee spends a good deal of its’ day gathering nectar.  According to the Apex Bee Company, one bee visits 50-100 flowers during each collection trip and can harvest several thousand flowers in a day, making twelve or more trips gathering pollen and nectar.  They can’t just touch the flower, the bee has to suck up all the nectar it can with its proboscis.  The bee diligently spends time and effort in performing its task.  Despite all its work, in a bee’s short life span, it ends up making only 1 ½ teaspoons of honey.

Now, all this work might seem futile.  Only 1 ½ teaspoons of honey, that hardly seems worth the effort!  Yet, if I measure carefully, this is all the honey I need to sweeten my cup of tea.  It is the perfect balance to brighten the flavors of the herbal tea with a touch of sweetness.  Two teaspoons of honey is typically the recommended amount to help soothe a cough in the evening, in order to provide a good night’s rest.  And a little exposure to local honey on a regular basis can help reduce allergies.  These little amounts of honey go a long way in providing sweetness, relief and inoculation.

My effort in spending time in God’s word is not futile.  When I take the time to digest the scriptures, research the original language, and study the broad concepts of God’ message to us, I can really taste the sweetness of God’s love for me.  If I take the time to ponder a scripture and meditate upon its meaning, I can have relief in the midst of daily stresses and conflicts.  If I take the time to apply the scriptures to my life, I can inoculate myself against sin and its effects.  The key is to take time and not make it an item on my check list.

After reading that quote, and feeling the conviction that I needed to repent of my hasty reading, I spent some additional time in my Bible, pondering scriptures that stood out to me.  I shared a thought I had about a scripture with my daughter, and we discussed what it meant to us.  It was a beautiful conversation about God’s word, and it was “sweeter to me than honey to my mouth.”  My goal this year is to be more conscientious of my personal devotions and to imagine a bee and honey as I dive into God’s word.

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