Learning to Make Food Memories with My Kids

kirra cookingKids should have pleasant memories of home.

I want our daughters to have more than they have time to tell.  I hope for stories of home that brings comfort to their souls.  Not only that, I wish for our stories to be so powerful they inspire new stories to be told with their own lives.  Memories inspiring memories.

One way I have decided to create these impressionable moments is with food.  Homemade food.  At the New Year, I set a goal to make one new food or meal a week.  So far, I may have missed one week.  Pretty good for a beginner.  In this 3 month trial time, my goal has expanded to include my daughters, Kirra and Mya.  I want them to prepare every new dish with me.

I told Kirra about my idea yesterday while she was watching Disney’s Frozen.  If you haven’t seen the movie, what I am about to say is not a spoiler.  If you have seen one, you have seen them all.  One or more of the parents must die.  In this case, both parents are lost at sea.  Zoning in and out of the movie while processing my idea, Kirra has this thought:  “Yea, Daddy, if you teach me how to cook, then I will know how to take care of Mya if mommy and you die.”  Morbid, and sweet at the same time.  She was in.

That very same day we planned our first meal together:  Annettes Enchilada’s (I discovered the recipe when reading Shauna Niequist’s book Bread & Wine:  A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes).  Let’s just say it required alot of cutting raw chicken, which Kirra was eager to do.  I taught her how to hold a knife correctly while I handled the chicken.  Slowly (and I mean slowly), Kirra cut every single piece.  Two pounds worth.

I taught her to wash her hands after touching anything raw.  I taught her how to use a can opener, which according to her requires a strong person.  Luckily, she is strong.  I taught her to carefully clean and throw out an aluminum can.  I taught her how to mix the ingredients.  I taught her how to dip tortillas in hot chicken broth with tongs and place it in glass pan.  I taught her how to warm cooking oil and preheat an oven.  She did it all.

When all was said and done, she asked me with a proud smile on her face, “Daddy, when is the next meal.  Do I get to help you with it too.”  My heart was full of joy.  “Yes, Kirra,” I said, “you can help me with every meal you if you would like.”

Our first memory is made.  The first of many.  As far as food is concerned, I can only imagine what dishes and desserts will be in our future.  Looking forward to it.

How do you make memories with those you love? 


Learning How to Speak Well: It’s the Way I Say It

EarMost of us have some form of communication deficiency.

It’s normally a habit we pick up from from our family, our friends, our neighborhood, and/or our region of the country or world.  To my own ear, it sounds normal.  Those closest to me have learned to know what I am saying, even if it is not well-spoken.  But, unfamiliar listeners struggle to look (or hear) past the problem in my speech.

I will never forget the critique from my High School speech teacher.  She said, “Coy, you are an excellent teacher when you speak.  But, you need to work on articulating the words that you are saying with more clarity.  If you don’t, you will not reach your full potential as a speaker.

As a 16 year old, those words hurt alittle.  I felt dumb.

Nearly 20 years later, I am realizing what she was trying to tell me.  As one who speaks to a large group, I am learning the habits that inhibit my effectiveness.  The combination of audience feedback and watching myself on video, I am beginning to recognize what I need to work on improving.

  • My tendency is to be a fast talker.  My pace of speech causes me to shortcut words and phrases, which makes what comes out of my mouth difficult to understand.
  • My tendency is to think faster than I can speak.  When I feel a personal sense of urgency, my articulation is incomplete.  Feeling pressed for speed, my intonation suffers a serious blow.
  • My tendency is to ignore when to take a breath.  Also related to my rapid rate of speech, I gloss over key moments to take a breath.  Sentences, paragraphs, and thoughts require moments to breath.  Without a breath at the proper moment, I lose the power of emphasis.

This is the work that I need to do, but it may be different for you.  Other specific problems in the way we say it are:

  • Talking softly.
  • Talking loud.
  • Talking high.
  • Talking indecisively.
  • Talking abruptly.
  • Talking breathy.

Speaking well is more than the content of what is being said, it is the way I say it.  Problem is, very few people will tell you what they think is the problem with the latter.  So, we continue in our bad habits unaware of the detriment to our ability to communicate effectively.  Overcoming my deficiencies begins with me.  I need to ask someone I trust to be honest about the way I say it.  I need to practice hearing myself say it on video, so I can recognize the problems as well.

Do you want to speak well?  What do you need to work on?

Learning the Power of External Pressure from Exodus 6:9

Exodus6.9One would think an offer for freedom to those stuck in slavery would receive an easy response.  “Yes, please.  I accept.

I doesn’t always happen that way.  I didn’t happen this way with the Israelites in Egypt.

Enslaved by the king of Egypt, the people of Israel had been experiencing cruel and severe conditions for a couple hundred years.  They had enough.  They were crying and groaning for freedom.  For relief.  For justice.

God heard their cry.  In Exodus 6:5-6, God says to Moses, “I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.  Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the LORD, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them.  I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.”

Yes!  Finally, the offer is made.  Or so I imagine that is what I would be thinking.  But, no.  Their response to Moses is different.  “They woud not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery (Exodus 6:9, NRSV).”

The power of external pressure influenced the people of Israel to hopelessly reject the notion of freedom.  The burden of slavery weighed too heavy.  It blurred their reality.  It atrophied the muscles needed to run toward a new tomorrow.

I’m not sure we give enough credit to the power of external pressure.  We are more likely to place the blame on the individual or the group.  We ignore the cruel and severe circumstances some have or are currently enduring, against their will.  Our focus is directed toward the one simple choice that we see.  When they don’t choose, we put the onus on them.

When in reality, they are enslaved.  The burdens they are carrying are too much.  They are buried beneath the wreckage of brutality we couldn’t even imagine.  A long time ago, the possibility of freedom was set aside.  Now, it’s just of a matter of coping with the pain.  Hope is a distant memory.

Their slavery is sexual abuse by a parent, relative, family friend, or neighbor.  It is losing a father to alcohol only to be raised by an alcoholic grandfather.  It is being ridiculed by so many for the things they hate about you, yet it is the one thing you love about yourself.  It is growing up in a home with parents who never stop fighting, until the day they finally divorce.  Even then, they still fight over you.  It is an abusive relationship with a boyfriend, boss, or worse yet, law enforcement.

I could go on.  You can name it for me.  Much of the pressure we experience today is the result of circumstances that were out of our control.  It happened to us.

I love God’s response.  God takes away the power of the external pressure.  God instructs Moses, “Go and tell Pharoah king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land (Exodus 6:11, NRSV).”  If you don’t know the story, the king refuses.  God inflicts ten plagues on the kingdom of Egypt, which convinces him to reconsider.  He orders the Israelites to leave.

Why don’t we as Christians do the same today? It seems like we may be hurting the wounded without even knowing.  We offer the hope of Christ, but they don’t accept.  And, we blame their choice.

God gives us the example of setting people free.  Not just offering the opportunity to be free, and then leaving it up to them.  God removed the chains and opened the borders.  God isn’t focused on their ability to see hope.  God takes away anything blinding their view.  God makes external pressure impotent.

God’s Holy Spirit empowers us to do the same.

Are you ingoring the external pressures of your friends and family?  Are you doing everything you can to remove its power in their lives?


Learning to Hear a Prophetic Voice in Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’

jeepOne Love has been Kirra’s favorite song as long as I can remember (she is 7 years old now).

Definitely before she could talk, it was her song.  It’s ironic, really.  Part of the lyrics at the beginning are, “Hear the children cryin.”  Every time she would cry in the back seat of my jeep, I would put in this one CD I owned.  The first song on the disc is One Love.  And, it worked.  My baby Kirra would stop crying.

When she grew old enough to request the song with words, she did.  Over and over again.  “Daddy,” she would say, “feel alright song.”  Everywhere the two of us drove, we cruised to the beat of steel drums.

Eventually, my CD player broke.  I’m too cheap to buy a new one, so we have been driving without music for about the past 3 years.  With the addition of a baby sister, Kirra had other things to keep her occupied.  Until recently.

My ’97 jeep had some work done on it (installed A/C for the first time).  I hopped in for the first time, turned the key, and music came on.  Miraculously, I guess.  I said thanks to the mechanic for fixing the CD player, and his reply was, “Oh, it was broken?”

Now, we are back to a Bob Marley marathon again.  It has expanded one song to include, Iron, Lion, Zion.  It sounds like Mya on Fya in Zya, which makes her feel happy.  Don’t ask me what Zya means, I made it up.  Instead of one daughter,  I have two giving me song requests for One Love from the back, always with an extra “Turn it all the way up!”

I have heard One Love hundreds of times at this point.

With repitition, I am learning to hear a prophetic voice in this song.  Each time it is played, my spirit feels receives a challenge.  It challenges the way I live, the way we live.  It calls into question the systems of injustice I (we) uphold, whether it’s conscious or not.  It begs me to open my (our) eyes and ears to the hurt that is all around me (us).

I hear it the words sung in the second stanza:

There is one question, I’d really love to ask.  Is there a place for the hopeless sinner, who has, hurt all mankind to save his own..beliefs?

When it is sung, there is a pause between “to save his own” and “beliefs.”  My listening ear has nearly left out the word beliefs, and stopped at his own.  I have always interpreted the hopeless sinner as saving his own kind.  I guess you could really substitute almost anything for beliefs, and it would be just as poignant.

The point is, religion is not more important than people.  Neither am I.  Jesus introduces a way of being that liberates our world from systems of oppression and self-aggrandizement.  The fist will be last.  Love God, and equally important, love your neighbor.  

How is my grip on my reality, my beliefs, my security, my system, my wealth, my time, my power hurting others?  Should anything be given priority over love?  Where is my place if I am (we are) not willing to change?

One Love by Bob Marley.




Learning What Mark 7:6-7 has in Common with The Croods

hopeNever not be afraid.”

“Fear.  It is what keeps us alive.” 

Or so teaches the patriarch of the Croods. His name is Grug (voice of Nicolas Cage).  If you have never met the his family, let me formally introduce you:  Meet the Croods.

It’s an animated film about a neanderthal family at the verge of experiencing the splitting of the continents.  They spend the majority of their life in a cave, hence the nickname “cavemen.”  As some of the first humans, they barely understand the outside world.  Fear of the unknown has caused their father to establish one rule:  “New is always bad.  Never not be afraid.” 

I’ve been hearing this phrase over and over again as of recently.  Not because anyone I know keeps saying it.  But, because my daughters have the DVD and have been watching on repeat in our car for the past couple weeks.  Needless to say, I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to hearing it.

I’ve also set myself on a search to discover how Jesus spoke to his contemporaries.  I am mostly interested in how he interacted with those who were not believers.  In the process, I am tracking every time Jesus says something to anyone in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John).  I have it broken down into categories.

One of the categories is Jesus’ encounters with religious leaders.  I have written down every verse Jesus says something to one or more of them (Pharisees, Scribes, and Lawyers).  Recently, I read Mark 7:1-8:

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.  (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands,  thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.  So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”  He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’  You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”  (NRSV)

As I contemplated the meaning of these verses, they collided with the words coming from the back seat of our Jeep:  Never not be afraid.  

Like the Croods’ father, the tendency of the religious leaders was to live in fear.  New is always bad.  Fear keeps them religious.  Risking the unknown must be avoided.  Stay aware from it.  Protect yourself and others from getting close to it.

Washing their hands, cups, pots, and kettles was a long-standing tradition of the Pharisees and scribes.  Seems reasonable to me, too.  Especially considering what we know about germs today.  But, Jesus and his followers were not confined to the boundaries of what has always has been.  Jesus and his disciples eat without fear of what might happen if they partake with a proper washing.

It is interesting that Jesus chooses to quote Isaiah 29:13, and in verse 7 suggests the religious leaders are  “teaching human precepts as doctrines.” 

I think this is one of our greatest religious struggles:  living in such fear that we create laws and rules, then claim them as God’s Word.  Afraid of what’s new and unknown and risky, we teach ourselves to “never not be afraid.”

Seven verses later, Jesus turns to the crowd and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand:  there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

If the religious leaders had been listening, they would have been scared out of their cloaks.  Maybe they would have thought:  “No way.  Can’t be good.  Fear is what keeps us alive.  That is exactly why the rules were established in the first place.

Jesus answers, No.  It is not about what you can do on the outside.  It is what makes up who you are on the inside that counts.  If the inside is healthy and alive with God’s Spirit, then what you do on the outside will take care of itself.

I think it is time for religion to break free from fear.  Time to throw out the underlying mantra, “Never not be afraid.”  Human laws and rules will not make followers Christ.  God didn’t create us to be kept in a cave.

I’m learning to replace fear with HOPE.

Do you live in fear? 

Learning Improvement Comes with Desire

paitingTry to improve anything without desire, it’s tough.  What I have realized is this:  the level of improvement I experience is comparable to my desire.

It’s true with sports, relationships, education, work, play, and religion.  How deeply I desire something determines the effort I will put into doing what it takes to experience positive change.  I may wish for something.  But, it remains a wish until a desire burns deep down inside of who I am.

The thing is, desire can’t be forced or fabricated.  It is not something that someone else can put in you.  No person can talk you into it.  Not your parents, your teacher, your boss, your spouse, or your pastor.  You can’t fake it, either.  You can try, but after a short time you will lose interest and drop what you are doing altogether.

The questions I must ask myself are, “What would I like to improve?”  “Do I have the desire?” If, yes, then “What is holding me back?”  If ,no, then “Why not?”

Once I have discovered my true desire, then I must answer, “What is the source of my desire?”

The best source out there is God.  Not some hyper-spiritual, uber-religious, strictly-demanding kind of God.  I mean a God whose definition is LOVE.  Not selfishness. Not power.  Not greed.  Not destruction.  But LOVE.  Any other source falls short.

Do you have a desire to improve?


Learning Why I Need to Change My View of Christianity in America

World GlobeThe shape of Christianity is changing, so should my view.

I grew up in small town Ohio.  Way down in the Southeast corner of the state, many referred to us as hillbillies.  In our town, people were all pretty much the same.  Diversity in language, color, economics, ethnicity, religion, politics, and culture were at least an hour away.

It was almost if we were living ten years behind the trend.  Whatever was happening in places like Los Angeles or New York City would eventually crawl its way into our world years later.  It is like someone hit a delay button.  Things change faster than my Midwest, rural town can keep up with.

Growing up there also influenced my view of Christianity.  Pastors and churches taught us to see America (aka, the United States) as the most Christian nation in the world.  We would hear things like, “America was founded on Christian principles.”  It was said that Christianity in Europe was dying, which is our Christian birth mother.  The burden of carrying forth the center of Christianity had fallen on Americans.  Us.  Or, so it was assumed.

Like I said, trends made it to our hometown with much delay.  It may be true that Christianity at one point in history was on the rise in this land.  But, it happened much earlier than my lifetime.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, “there were approximately 381 million Christians in Europe, 79 million in North America, 62 million in Latin America, 10 million in Africa, and 22 million in Asia.”  (statistics taken from To All Nations from All Nations by Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi and Justo L. Gonzalez) 

One-hundred years later, things drastically changed.  “By the year 2000, there were 481 million Christians in Latin America, 360 million in Africa, and 313 million in Asia.”    To put it into perspective, approximately 58 percent of Christians live in the third world, which means 42 percent reside in North America (US and Canada, excluding Mexico) and Europe.

The shape of Christianity has changed.  It is no longer centered on America or the Western part of the world.

I’m learning it should also change my view.  Here’s how:

  • Christian America is not the hope of the world, Jesus is.
  • Christianity is not synonymous with democracy.
  • Christians in America have much to learn from Christians around the world.
  • Christianity is not partial to the color white.
  • The poor are the main agents of spreading the hope of Christianity.

What is your view of Christianity?  Is it consistent with the movement of God’s Spirit around the world?


Learning More Men Need to Stand Against Human Trafficking

To learn more, go to http://ncm.org/freedomsunday/

To learn more, go to http://ncm.org/freedomsunday/

Standing against human trafficking is not a women’s issue.

But, we treat it that way sometimes.  Oftentimes.  We relegate it to the women in our sphere.  When the ask is made to rise up in defense, men slowly fade into the background.

I’m not sure why.  Maybe it is fear.  Or shame.  Or ignorance.  Or selfishness.  Or sin.  Or naivete.  I don’t know.

I have a good friend who is passionately working to start-up local initiatives to end human trafficking in our own community.  She commits several hours a week, without pay, diligently seeking creative ways to protect vulnerable young girls and boys from abusive relationships.  She spends time educating teenagers of the danger signs.  She trains small groups of people in local churches to educate local hotels how to recognize a trafficking situation.  She networks with foster care agencies and other organizations working against trafficking.  She plans fundraisers to raise support for her local chapter of Love146.  She is committed to taking a stand.

But, she expresses one negative experience she faces on a recurring basis.  Few men are willing to take a stand with her.  Instead, they usher their wives and daughters in her direction.

Kelly needs more men to stand with her against human trafficking.  Organizations in the United States and around the world need men to step forward.  Vulnerable young girls and boys in every city need men to rise up against oppression and injustice.

It is time for men in the Church to change the status quo.  This weekend is a great opportunity.  Here are two ways to help us get started:

  • Freedom Sunday  3.9.14.  NCM (Nazarene Compassion Ministries) is marking this Sunday as time to focus on the church’s role in addressing human trafficking.
  • Love146.  This organization is about putting an end to child trafficking and exploitation.  Love is the foundation of their motivation.  For the Lakeland chapter, you can check out Love146 Lakeland Task Force.  On April 19, you can join this local task force and Run4Love at Lake Hollingsworth.

(This was meant to be posted last Friday, March 7, but it falied to post according to schedule.  I was away from my computer from then until now.  I’m bummed, but wanted to get it out there anyway.  Thank you for reading.)

What is keeping you from taking a stand?

Learning a Prayer for Lent

Lent PrayerSometimes I don’t know what to pray.  It may be that my mind is blank.  Or, it may be that my mind is inundated with thoughts running all over the place.  These moments are okay, God understands.  But…

Lent is a season to focus my prayers.

Here’s one I will be praying these next 40 days:

God of all good life,

on our journey toward Easter,

cleanse our hearts of every desire to mimic

the violence of wrongs that befall us.

Save us from becoming the evil we hate.

Save us from denial of abuses which daily crucify Christ afresh.

Drive away,

the chilling cold, the wintry frost of numbing detachment from others’ pain,

and our own hurts also.

Breathe, O breathe your empowering Spirit

into the troubled hearts of your children

who wish they could wish to love but cannot.

–Obie Wright, Jr (1944- )  Elder in the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church

Prayer is taken from This Day:  A Wesleyan Way of Prayer by Laurance Hull Stookey

Will you pray this prayer with us over the next 40 days?

Learning to answer, What is Lent?

Ash WednesdayHow would you answer the question:  “Ok, you have to explain this whole Lent thing to me?”

It is a question I hear this time every year.  What is Lent? What is the meaning of Ash Wednesday? Isn’t it a Catholic thing?  Why are ashes put on the forehead?  Do I need to do it? 

Here’s how I’m learning to answer.

Lent isn’t Biblical.  That doesn’t mean it’s not Christian.  It’s just that you won’t find it in the Bible.  It is a practice created after the Bible was written by Christians seeking to deepen their faith.

It originally began as a final time of preparation for those who were awaiting baptism at Easter.  Unlike many of our churches today, baptism in the ancient church wasn’t a spontaneous decision.  It came after months and even years of spiritual direction and maturity.  Persecution forced it to be this way.

The dominant powers were not okay with Christianity.  Persecution was the chosen method for snuffing it out.  Not willing to give it up, the Church went underground.  Literally, they met in catacombs (ancient burial caves) in secret.  To keep it covert, they couldn’t let just anyone in.  Anyone could be a mole.

New believers (converts) had to go through a process of learning about and showing their authentic commitment to the Christian faith.  During this time, they were not allowed to participate in church worship.  Their spiritual development was dependent on the leadership of individuals or small groups of already mature believers.  The goal of this process of spiritual maturity was baptism.

In those final moments heading into baptism, they were put through a time of final intense preparation.  Lent.  40 days of fast leading up to Easter, which begins on a Wednesday (Ash Wednesday).  The number of days reflects the same amount of days Jesus spent in the desert.  Every sabbath (our Sunday) is excluded from the 40 because it is the one day we always celebrate Jesus’ defeat of death.

The ashes placed on the forehead represent two things.  (1)  They are a sign of our repentance.  Rubbed into the shape of a cross, we are reminded of our dependency on Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  (2)  They are a sign of our finitude.  From dust we were created and to dust we will return.  We depend on God for every breath of life, and any hope for eternity.

Lent is a deep spiritual journey representing a movement from death to resurrection.  It is an opportunity to gain new depth in our faith through greater dependence on God.  It is time for intense spiritual renewal, wherein God puts to death some of the brokenness of our old self.

Is Lent necessary?  No.  Is Lent too mystical?  No.  Is Lent wrong?  No.  Is Lent something I should feel guilty about not doing?  No.

Is Lent beneficial?  Yes.  If done with authenticity, it opens the way for maturity through greater dependence on God.

What is Lent to you?  What stories of deeper faith can you tell from your experience with Lent?