No Coffee

Some of the coffee that I enjoyed on my Feast Days during the season of Lent

Some of the coffee that I enjoyed on the sabbath

For the past month or so I have refrained from drinking coffee. 

This was quite the undertaking for me since I regularly consume four cups a day. I always wondered if it was physically possible for me to give it up, but what actually got me to take the plunge was a Christian tradition called Lent.

Since childhood I have heard that Lent is a time when you stop eating sweets or drinking your favorite soda. And as a child, that sounded awful! I never had a good grasp on the reason for it…possibly just a churchy  endorsement for New Year’s resolutions? It wasn’t until a friend explained it to me, that I saw Lent as good.

The Lent season is the 40 days leading up to Easter, when Christians celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. During this countdown, you voluntarily give up something that you regularly enjoy (the fancy word is fasting). During Lent, whenever you would  normally partake in that action/thing, you instead focus your attention on Christ & his love for you personally. But, on the sabbath (most commonly Sunday) you take a break and “feast” on the thing that you have refrained from as an act of worship to God, Jesus’s father.

So, here’s how it played out for me: I love coffee, I’m obsessed with it. I enjoyed every bit of it: purchasing it, making it, smelling it, sipping it, chugging it, then repeat! So naturally, coffee seemed like the first choice for my Lenten fast . Every minute I would have normally devoted to coffee, I instead had gaps of empty, quiet space. In those places I began to reflect over life, pray to God, read the Bible, & even take some naps. It surprised me how much time and attention I gave to these little caffeine-infused beans. Without it, I had much more time to worship, create, & rest. It was refreshing to refocus my time and attention on the God’s love for me—and for the world.

Now, by no means is coffee bad!. It’s actually really good for you. But it started to become an addiction in my life. I was not only addicted to the caffeine but also to the coffee-making ritual. It began to be the reason I got out of bed—and a material thing like coffee should never be the reason I get out of bed.—Not saying it can’t help me get out of bed!

The coolest thing about this “no coffee” journey was my sabbath feast. I took time out of my schedule to go to my favorite coffee shoppe & reflect over what I was learning  about myself, my God & others during my fast. Sips from a beautifully crafted cappuccino fueled my journaling. I drank and cherished each beverage more deeply then I would regularly have. It was a great exercise of thanksgiving for everything that came to make each cup of joe, as well as life in general.

My fast from coffee concluded on Easter this past Sunday. Before I joined my family at our local church service, I brewed a cup of coffee. As I drank it, I was reminded of this great truth:

Through an amazing occurrence of events, the Creator of the universe allowed His son to be the punishment for all of the world’s wrong and injustices. Then, He brought him back to life so that the world could also live a restored and full life with God.

So yes, I actually did give up my coffee habit & learned a whole lot about myself and my God who created me—and the great drink that is coffee!

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn DavisThe latest Coen brother’s film, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is not a film for everyone. It’s not soaked in gore, sex, or foul language; the usual reasons to turn people away from seeing movies. (Okay, it does have foul language, but in good taste.) Instead, its not for everyone because it isn’t Hollywood enough. And that is what makes it good.

The Coen brothers capture the essence of the struggling musician. We find Llewyn on the stage, singing with life & passion. Yet, beaten in back alley the next moment. This cycle sets us off on the bobbing that is Llewyn’s reality. As bad luck strikes him, you desire for him to speak up for himself or get over it somehow, yet he does not know how. Until he pulls out his guitar, then the pain, strife, & desires of his life truly come out. You join Llewyn as the struggles of life wash away with each chord & note. The Coen’s enhance this with blurred edges & over muted tones of color throughout the entire film. From time to time, Llewyn seems to find a way up & out, and your helpless not to route for him in this, yet much like a dream he snaps out of it, unwilling to compromise to the polished image & tone that dominated music back then. As we follow Llewyn, we desire that “big break” for him & hope for it just before the credits. But the Coen brothers bring us back to the first song that we saw Llewyn perform. Then the beating in the alley. And leaves us with a taunting track of Bob Dylan as Llewyn picks himself up again. The lack of resolution is fitting for Llewyn’s life. You are left questioning if he ever makes it as artist. And the fact that you ask yourself that question is proof that he already is.

Its not for everyone but Inside Llewyn Davis is for the musician at heart, the folk music fan, & the eccentric movie goer.

Thanks to the Knoxville Film & Music Festival for the advanced screening & to Downtown West Cinema 8 for the theatre.

To Younger Me – Patrick Teasdale

This is the final installment of six of a blog series about, ”What would I tell my younger self? What advice would you give, yourself?”

Dear Patrick,

Monsters DO roam the street at night. 
Your Dad IS the strongest man in the world. 
Santa Claus DOES exist. 
Skyscrapers ARE built out of Legos.
Army training with your best friends DOES saves lives
How to survive in the woods DOES come in handy.
Time capsules DO communicate with aliens. 
Submarines DO explore new worlds underwater. 
Robots DO rule with humans in the future. 
Flying cars DO exist.
Vacation on Mars IS hot.

A day will come when you will debate on wether or not to unfriend your imagination. Or more specifically, you will try to tone it down by giving it limits. Do not. I repeat, DO NOT do it. Your imagination is the most unique thing about you. You, your friends, your family, & even God will delight in what comes about in the friendship you have with your imagination. Hang out with it, chat often, dream big together, find ways to express what y’all come up with, then show off & don’t look back. Because the world will try to separate y’all, it will promise you gimmicks of fulfillment. Don’t fall for them. You & your imagination will create worlds in which you will even surprise of how lucky you are to have a friendship like this. Trust me. 

Sincerely Patrick

P.S. – Time Travel IS awesome.

Be sure to read the rest of the To Younger Me series. Thank you to all my blogging friends that contributed. But now, I beg the question. What advice would you give, your younger self?

To Younger Me – Summerlin Lewis

This is the fifth installment of six of a blog series about, ”What would I tell my younger self? What advice would you give, yourself?” Summerlin is a friend of mine and a great question asker. Here’s her advice to her younger self.

Hey girlfriend.

I know how you are. I know you don’t want fluff; you just want answers, so I’ll not tarry.

University of Tennessee is the right choice. You’re going to go back and forth about it like you’re doing right now. Somewhere in early 2008, you’ll seriously consider moving back to Chattanooga and going to UTC. But if you just go ahead and commit to Knoxville from the get-go, it’s going to be better. Knoxville holds very powerful life-change for you. I know it’s tough to let go–that Chattanooga is your home. But you’re making the right choice by leaving. It will get easier, and the day you graduate, your heart will be broken that it’s over.

CRU is the right choice, too. Invest in it from the moment a boy named Ryan invites you to the weekly meeting at the barbecue in Presidential Court.

The boy that comes around on September 13, 2006 is the wrong choice. I know a lot of these types of letters embrace mistakes because they teach you life lessons or whatever. Summerlin, this is a mistake we are better off not making. Run away from him. Do you understand me? 

And the boy after him, too, in the summer of 2007. Sorry about that. 

Love, your life is going to be way harder than you thought it would be. On October 4, 2006 you will make a list of things that you could never live without. Within two years, most of those things will be taken from you. Every time you will think you can’t cry harder, you will. You will know some deep pain.

There are some things about your family that you’re not ready to hear about. And some things about law school. Summerlin, you will not be Miss Student Council for very much longer. I know you’ve never failed a test. But you will, in more ways than one.

Here’s the thing, though. You are going to like yourself. You are going to stop comparing yourself to other girls and you’re going to stop crying about being ugly. Soon, you’re going to start seeing that you’re pretty. Very soon, actually. Within a year from today. 

And people are coming who are going to love you so deeply. Frankie. Kim. You’ll meet really awesome guys at CRU that you think are too cool for you, and they aren’t. They are going to like you, Summerlin. They want to be friends with you! So don’t waste time being insecure about them.

Get over your rivalry with Missy quickly. She’s a good friend and you don’t need to wait until you live together at the end of college to invest in her. 

Summerlin, there is a rich, rich life coming for you. And the hard things make it as rich as the good things. You probably don’t believe me; I know you! I know how you are. Here’s to hoping this letter will push you off the edge a little quicker.

“No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it–

What God has arranged for those who love him.”

It’s true, love. It’s true. You’ve no idea what God has in store for you.

Summerlin is a friend, a pretty writer, & blogger at www.turningpretty.com. Follow her on Twitter: @besssummerlin.

To Younger Me – JR Forasteros

This is the fourth installment of six of a blog series about, ”What would I tell my younger self? What advice would you give, yourself?” JR Forasteros is a friend of mine and fellow movie lover. Here’s his advice to his younger self.

Here’s the thing they never tell you: everyone’s insecure.

Okay. Not everyone. But like 99% of people. No kidding.
 
I know that’s not what it looks like to you right now. You feel like you’re the only one (and yeah, I know. Not the only one. But you see this big gulf between you and your fellow dorks and the “normal people” around you. 
 
But what I’ve learned from a decade of leading people is that all those normal people are every bit as insecure as you are. And most of their fears are the same as yours – isolation, inadequacy, anxiety about the future. 
 
They say knowledge is power (I actually don’t know who ‘they’ is, and Google doesn’t seem to either. By the way: invest in Google. Trust me.). And they  are right. This knowledge – that everyone is insecure – gives you tremendous power.
 
Not power over them (you could – that’s what ad agencies make billions doing, but that won’t be fulfilling). Understanding that everyone is insecure gives you tremendous power to connect with people. To build rapport with them. To lead them.
 
This is the key to leadership: (okay full discolsure: there are like 1,000 “keys to leadership” and everyone will tell you theirs is the real key. But this is future you, so that should count for something, right?). The key to leadership is connecting with people. Making them believe you understand them and can show them a better way. 
 
When you can name the fears they have, the anxieties and insecurities that lurk in the corners of their souls, people start to trust you. And when you can say “me too!”, that trust hardens into loyalty, courage and even excitement. 
 
When you do this dishonestly, it becomes manipulation. Fear is a strong emotion, so when you tap into it you get strong reactions. That’s why you have to lead out of your own weakness, your own fear, your own insecurity. When you say, “I’m not the only one who’s ever felt this way, right?” what you’re really saying to them is “Me too!”
 
This is what Paul means when he talks about leading from weakness. When we’re honest about where we are insecure, we’re displaying how we rely on God for our security. When we can be honest and vulnerable, we create spaces for everyone else (who, remember all feel the same way) to be honest and vulnerable too.
 
The community that forms in these insecure spaces are surprisingly secure. All those fears we share – isolation, inadequacy, anxiety – seem much less real in the presence of all these insecure people who find security in the community they’ve been welcomed into to. 
 
So what’s the “take away” for you, my younger self? Walk across the room. Introduce yourself. Extend a hand in welcome. Invite some people over for dinner and prepare a feast (I know you like to cook). Or for a movie night. Ask to join a table at a coffee shop. 
 
Those people are just as insecure as you are. And they would love for someone to take the lead in creating some community, even in something as small as a hello.
 
Don’t be afraid. Everyone’s insecure. So say hello. But don’t tell ‘em I sent you. You don’t want to sound crazy. 
JR is a friend, relevant blogger at jrforasteros.com, & podcaster with the Storymen at www.storymen.us. Follow him on Twitter: @jrforasteros.