Let’s Have Coffee

personal-pic-1Coffee has gotten a bad rap. Sure, too much coffee often has a negative impact (nervousness, adrenal strain, and sleep reduction to name a few), but there are some terrific benefits coffee has to offer as well.

So, grab a cup of coffee (if you haven’t had too much already), and join me for a look at the positive side of that magical brew that has been around for centuries. (Coffee originated in Ethiopia. Some say its cultivation began in the 9th century while others claim it’s been around since AD 575.)

Health Benefits

Coffee has a high level of antioxidants, enzymes and nutrients that help prevent disease. It actually has more antioxidants than green tea. It also speeds up metabolism and reduces hunger, aiding in weight loss. Because coffee is a diuretic, it also helps flush the bladder and prevent it from developing disease.

In a very real sense, coffee is a healthy energy drink. Many people even use it in smoothies. Step aside green smoothies and Red Bull!

Mental Benefits

Coffee enhances brain function by aiding performance and memory function. This enhanced brain function helps those who struggling with boredom or fatigue by giving them a much-needed mid-day mental perk. In much the same way, it also works as an anti-depressant.

In addition, but spending time having coffee with friends is also great therapy, perhaps equal only to the therapy sessions with my exercise partner. As expensive as specialty coffee is, it’s still way cheaper than seeing an actual therapist.

Nostalgic Benefits

When I was a teenager, my mom brought me coffee in bed every morning to help wake me up. While this likely created my coffee addiction, this memory serves as a pleasant reminder of the man ways my mom showed me she loved me.

Experts say the sense of smell evokes strong memories. (See “The Nose, an Emotional Time Machine” for an interesting read on the power of smell.) Whenever I smell coffee, I feel calmer, and I think it’s because I associate it with so many great memories created having coffee with people I care about.

Social Benefits

Coffee has long been a center of business meetings and social gatherings. Rarely do you find any such event that does not at least have coffee available. When people who haven’t seen each other in a while cross paths coincidentally, you often hear, “We should do coffee soon!”

My husband and I try to spend one-on-one time together often, and often that is over a cup of coffee. I have several friends with whom I also try to meet regularly for coffee, which really means spending time chatting and catching up with life.

The phrase “Let’s have coffee” seems to offer a comfortable way of saying, “I miss you and want to spend more time with you.” Even my non-coffee-drinking friends will “have coffee” with me, and we end up creating great memories as well as spending valuable time strengthening our relationship.

Consider Coffee Balance

As with so many aspects of life, balance is key. Too much coffee, and you’re constantly jittery and craving more coffee. Too much coffee can have negative health benefits as well (such as those already mentioned).

But, a cup or two, strategically placed serves to increase productivity and energy not to mention add tremendously to your social life and strengthen relationships. Coffee can actually be a medium through which your life finds balance.

Are You All In As A Christian?

poker-chips-3-1422891-1600x1200An “All In” Lifestyle

In December 2011, the New York Giants adopted the motto “All In” after hearing a motivational speech by Gian Paul Gonzalez during a chapel service. The immediate impact of this speech is truly amazing.

This “All In” lifestyle, as Gonzales calls it, caught on in every facet of the Giant franchise. They even placed the motto on towels to remind the team and to show the fans their commitment. Oh, and they went on to win the Superbowl that season too. They were 7-7 when Gonzales spoke to them.

While “All In” is best known as a poker term, it certainly well represents the idea of a full-commitment standard that can be applied to almost any area of life.

The “All In” Christian

Being “All In” as a Christian means, as Paul phrased it, to “run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24). It means being comfortable with being considered as “aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11) in this world. And it means “making the most of every opportunity” sent your way on a daily basis and in a determined and deliberate way (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Being an “All In” Christian means living in a way that puts Christ and obedience to Him first and that does not adhere to the shaky (yes, that’s putting it kindly) morals of the surrounding culture. It means staring that culture in the face and saying, “I’m not going to be molded by you!”

While being “All In” essentially looks different for every person, every person who is “all in” needs an unprecedented level of passion and commitment. They need to find another level, a higher standard, for which they continually reach. They need to find a way to dig deep and refuse to quit, making perseverance a way of life.

Have you decided to go “All In”?

Coffee Habit Chronicles

A habit that began at age twelve. One fed by my mother who brought me coffee in bed every morning throughout my teenage years.

An addiction. Something I needed to wake up every morning. Something I got withdrawal from if I didn’t get my fix.

More than just a habit or an addiction, though, coffee was a part of m, a coffee gene if you will.

My desire for coffee defined me like nothing else. The rich, creamy brew lured me to activity. It encouraged interaction. It simply had to be more than just a stimulating beverage.

Developing the Coffee Habit

Before this daily habit started, I sipped from my parents’ daily habits. My 6’4” dad used to say, “Coffee will stunt your growth. Good thing.” He started drinking coffee at age twelve too. The coffee gene runs deep in my family.

In sixth grade, we sang the “COFFEE” song. I remember being resentful of a song with which I did not agree. After all, how could I know “coffee is not for me” at age 11? Didn’t really matter anyway. I already knew I liked coffee.

In college, I worked at 7:30AM every Saturday morning. When I realized I never saw my co-workers until after 10:00AM and at least four cups of coffee, I finally fully realized the impact the beverage had on my morning personality.

Grown Up Coffee Habit

I remember needing a cup of coffee so badly at work one morning, I skipped cleaning out my mug from the day before. Maybe the hot liquid would dissolve the brown crust on the bottom of the mug and kill any lingering germs. Turns out coffee mugs are a major source of bacteria. Now, my mugs are usually clean.

At age 26, I got pregnant with my oldest son and lost my craving for coffee (along with a desire for food in general). Maybe I no longer needed to drink coffee every morning. But, when my son was six months old and stopped nursing, back to the addiction I obediently went.

Conceding the Coffee Habit

At some point, I gave up trying to give up coffee. I simply decided I could not overcome the power of that aroma that seemed to be everywhere. The mall, restaurants, church… I couldn’t get away. Time to finally admit I didn’t want to get away.

I was never shy about admitting my addiction to coffee. With the onslaught of coffee houses throughout the country, I realized I was not the only person living under the direction of a coffee gene.

Balancing the Coffee Habit

About 25 years after the addiction began, my body demanded I make some significant health changes. One of the culprits, you probably guessed it, was my coffee habit. With my adrenals in overload, I better understood the negative impact of a high level of caffeine constantly in my system.

The past five years have produced an amazing change in my health through a variety of factors, not the least of which is breaking the coffee habit. Drinking coffee is now a deliberate choice and not a need that controls my personality.

I think I actually enjoy coffee more now than when I drank it constantly. Coffee shop outings are a treat, as is an extra cup or two on the weekend. In fact, “Let’s Have Coffee” now exists as more than just an addiction-feeding frenzy. My coffee habit now serves to connect my life in many highly beneficial ways. And I’m glad for this evolution of my coffee habit over the past 30 years.

Sunday Reflections – “Be careful of what you ask for…

… you just might get it!” Ever request something only to regret making the request after receiving what you asked for? Maybe it was a drastic change in hair style, perhaps a job promotion, maybe a running partner pushing you to break a personal record, or perhaps signing up to take a class at a community college or online. In all of these situations, challenging change is experienced. And regardless of the significance of that change, something was requested and expected as a result.

But what many don’t consider before asking is that they might not like the process of change or simply the results themselves. Maybe the hairstyle does not give the desired look intended. (Ladies, I know you understand this.)  Perhaps the new position causes more stress or comes with hidden responsibilities that had you known ahead of time would have caused you to not seek the promotion.  Maybe your body just isn’t cooperating with the increased speed or mileage you asked your running partner to lead you through. Or perhaps the class you are taking ends up being more work than anticipated, and you just are not finding the time necessary to complete the work. (It could just be too hard too.) The point is that often when we ask for a change to take place, we receive an undesired (more like unexpected) result or the process is more difficult than we anticipated, and we question our initial decision to seek that particular change. Change, large or small, is difficult and seems to go against our natural instincts.

There’s a wonderful portion of scripture in Jeremiah 18 that describes God as the Potter and us as the clay. The Potter’s eyes are all-knowing, and He understands exactly what type of vessel each individual should be shaped into. The Potter’s hands are all-powerful, and no circumstance is bigger than He who shapes us. The Potter’s feet go everywhere we go, and He is always present to re-shape us and to put us together again as the difficulties in life cause us to crack and break. The Potter wants to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11), and no circumstances in which we find ourselves is too big (or to small) for Him. He wants to teach us during difficulties, and he wants to use them to help us grow as well as to learn to depend more on Him.  The process that the Potter takes us through when he molds us and shapes us is often one we ask the Lord to take us through, and it often comes with a more involved process than we anticipated as well as with change that is not only painful but also something we question wanting in the first place.

Often, when it comes to change of any kind, we give up too soon. The change is difficult and painful, and we decide it is not worth the result for which we were striving. We forget that in order for a clay pot to be put on display, it must first go through the fire in order to be strong enough to survive the elements of everyday life. We forget that the Potter also gets dirty too as He goes through the shaping and molding process with us every step of the way. In order to be vessels of use to God and others, we must go through this often painful process.

There are two facts about change with which we must all come to terms. First, change is usually difficult. We like routine and habit, and because of the discomfort, we often avoid or at least resist change in our lives. Second, change is inevitable. You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting. Since change is going to happen whether we like it or not, we need to set ourselves up to be the kind of clay that makes the best vessels. Doing so will make the discomfort of change at least somewhat less painful.

Interestingly, clay itself comes from granite rock that has undergone years of weathering (contact with sunlight, rain and ice) to undergo a physical change involving being broken down into smaller and smaller particles until it becomes clay. Life this side of heaven has made us into small particles that need shaped. Some clay is better than other for shaping because it is more pliable. In order to be moldable, we must be pliable and able to be shaped. So the question we each need to ask ourselves is, “Will I allow God to shape my life?” We need to consider what we will allow God to do in our lives. The more we deliberately and intentionally allow Him to mold and shape us, the more likely we are to become a vessel worthy of display and use by others, most importantly by God Himself.

Note: This blog post was inspired by “God Treats Me Like Dirt,” a sermon delivered by Associate Pastor Jeffrey Zachary on Sunday, January 15, 2012 at New Hope Assembly of God.

For additional study on this topic, please read the devotion “Change” found in Everday God. This is a section included in the Victory! area of Struggle to Victory.

Sunday Reflections – A Piece of the Puzzle

If you enjoy putting puzzles together, nothing is more frustrating than getting almost done with a puzzle only to find that a piece is missing. What a letdown! No matter what, that puzzle will always be incomplete. There is no substitute for the missing piece. Even if you were to go and buy the exact same puzzle and get the piece you were missing out for the puzzle you put together, the puzzle you took it from would be incomplete. One piece is indispensible for the complete picture that a puzzle creates.

Likewise, you have something I need. Without you, my picture will not be perfect. Without you, there will be a piece missing. If you are reading this, you are a piece of the puzzle that is my life and I yours. With every interaction we have in life, we become a piece of another person’s puzzle. And those pictures combine together to create an even bigger picture.

My boys once put together a puzzle shaped like an elephant. The elephant was made out of hundreds of smaller pictures of other animals. So, not only was the puzzle itself a picture, but within that picture were other pictures. Therefore, a missing piece not only affects the puzzle as a whole, but it also affects all the individual pictures that combine to make up the whole picture.

We all have our own puzzles that are our lives. Each of our lives also combines to create a larger picture. For the Christian, that is the body of Christ. The absence of any one piece and the picture is incomplete. The absence of any person and the whole picture is marred by the gaping hole much like a missing piece stands out in an otherwise-completed puzzle.

A body of believers (often called a church body) works the same way as a puzzle. Every individual in the body is a crucial piece for the complete picture. In the 12th chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul writes that “for even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” In other words, we are all integral parts of the whole, which is the body of Christ. Each part has a specific function with a different purpose. We must avoid thinking we are the most important part, but we also must not think we are unimportant either. Instead of comparing one part to another, each part must fulfill its own purpose and must also work together to create a cohesive unit that glorifies Christ.

When a piece of the puzzle is missing in the body of Christ, there is a void that cannot be filled. While that does not mean that the work of Christ won’t ultimately be accomplished, because we know it will, it does mean that it will go forth differently than if that void was filled by the piece created to go in that space. God created each person to play a role in His will with each role being unique and able to be filled by only one person. If you don’t place yourself into the pile of pieces, you can’t become a part of the puzzle and the puzzle essentially can never be completed.

How does this transfer into specific activity? Well, there are three basic steps for helping to complete the puzzle.

  1. Make sure the edge is complete. This means attending a full-gospel, Bible believing church.
  2. Organize the middle pieces. Submit to the structure of leadership. Let them direct the pieces.
  3. Work away diligently. Get in and row the boat. Commit to being a part of the larger picture.

Life is so much bigger than any one person, but each person plays a part in making life complete. No one has all the pieces alone; we all need each other to complete the puzzle. Church is a commitment by each of the individual pieces. God will make room for your gifts and talents in the church, but you have to make sure you are a willing piece of the puzzle. We are each a piece of the puzzle of God’s will within the larger picture of the church. We all need to be in the box together, ready to complete the picture.