Don’t you just love coffee?  Yeah, me neither.  But I drink it. I drink it because there was one time, it might have happened more than once, but there was one time when I was tired and cold, I may have been camping, and there was a pot of coffee and I poured a cup and without sugar or cream or anything it just tasted so perfect, just like it smells.  So I thought, hey, this stuff is pretty good!  But most of the coffee I’ve ever had has been bitter and acidy, and I can’t drink it without sugar or cream or both just to make it palatable.    I tried Kool-Aid once without the sugar; big mistake.  It tasted awful, and since Kool-Aid is a cold drink, there was no aroma to mitigate the bitterness. So sugar is needed to rein in the bitterness of two of the most popular drinks in America and it is most likely the sugar that makes them popular.

Coffee is so popular and has been so specialized that you can pay more than $7 for a cup of coffee at the big urban coffee shops.  Or you can buy a cup of coffee at a restaurant in Stafford, Kansas for 50 cents.  And the variety, the little nuances of flavor that go with coffee!  Mocha-choca-latte Grande, and that’s just the expensive stuff. Coffee doesn’t even grow in our country.  And after petroleum oil, it is the most consumed product on the planet.  It’s even bigger than tea.

So a lot of people make a lot of money and take a lot of effort to consume this bitter, acidic, highly caffeinated, not-really-healthy-for- you, beverage.  And most people don’t really like it, they just remember the one or two or five times when they had some on the perfect day with the perfect blend and the perfect strength and it was wonderful.

How about God?  Don’t you just love God?  You do?  Many people experience God in the same way they do coffee.  They had that wonderful experience that one time and they hope that the next cup full will be like that one.  And it never really is.  So they put lots of stuff in hoping to make it all taste good, and they are disappointed because they don’t really know God at all.

Experiencing God is not at all like a cup of coffee, although there are moments in our lives when we experience a heightened awareness of God. But living lives filled with the Holy Spirit is not all mountain-top experiences, we live most of our lives in the valleys and plains and on the sea-shore, so our experience of God has to be an everyday experience; an experience that comes to us when we come to God in prayer.

Jesus tells us to pray without ceasing, to pray all the time, and how can we do that when we are busy doing the daily business of living our lives.  Living is messy, there’s lots of cleaning up to do when you’re living.  There are conversations going on, there’s TV to watch and there’s coffee to drink.  How can we spend all our time praying?

Praying without ceasing is an orientation to God that is pervasive and life changing. You come to understand that all of your life is centered on God.  And that instead of hoping for that one experience of the Holy, maybe on Sunday morning, or maybe only on that one Sunday morning in Spring, or maybe on an actual mountain top, you begin to see that all of life is Holy.  You begin to see that God is not just a part of your life, like a few moments nestling a cup in your hands and enjoying the aroma before getting on with the real business of the day but that  God is all of your life.  You can take a coffee-break when you need a little rest from your daily routine, but if your orientation to God is that you take a God-break every so often to recharge your religion meter, well, you’re missing out on what God is all about.

Our relationship with God is more important than petroleum oil, or coffee or tea, it’s the one thing that we can do all day, everyday, even when life is messy and noisy and busy.  God isn’t waiting for us at the end of the day like a comfortable chair and an entertaining show on television.  God is with us throughout the day talking to us, reminding us to be kind and merciful in our dealings with others; sharing our pain and our joy at each turning of our lives.  Pray, listen, talk, God is with you, and you are with God all day long.  And when you take time to have a cup of coffee, God is there too, and the peace that you feel isn’t about aroma or flavor, it’s the peace of God.    Shalom.


Guest-blogger Reverend Paul Porter is Pastor of First Christian Church in Stafford, Kansas. His EMC blogging debut has been long-awaited, and we’re overjoyed it’s here!


Real Food is FAMOUS!

Well the K-State Collegian published an article all about ECM’s Real Food Lunch!  Read up on the link above to see what they said about our awesome new program!

KSU’s Fair Trade Travels to Boston

      Two weekends ago a group of K-State students traveled to Boston, Massachusetts. These students were members of the KSU Fair Trade Advocates, whose mission is to educate and advocate the uses of Fair Trade products to the KSU and Manhattan communities. KSU Fair Trade Advocates has a long history of working closely with ECM. Fair Trade is a movement towards a consumer system that allows each purchase you make to guarantee a fair wage is being paid to the producer of that good. This system empowers farmers in developing countries to build their communities and become self-sustaining.

      In Boston we met up with 780 people from across the globe to be a part of the “Fair Trade Futures Conference.” The goal of this gathering was to bring people from all parts of the Fair Trade system (producers, wholesalers, retailers, consumers, and advocates) together to discuss what positive things are happening with Fair Trade, and what parts of the system need to change.

      The conference began with an inspiring welcoming speech by Kevin Danahar of Global Exchange, Green America, and Green Fest. He encouraged event participants to view Fair Trade as a “global values revolution” and to incorporate the values of fairness, justice, opportunity, and transparency to all aspect of global relationships.

      Later in the weekend a panel of producers from Global Mamas, TEMA, CEPICAFE, and Candela Peru Farmers Cooperative spoke to the conference attendees about their organizations, positive outcomes their members have seen from Fair Trade, and asked conference attendees to put the focus of Fair Trade back on the producers.

      Additional topics included whether or not Fair Trade’s current system was working well, and how to look toward the future of the organization.

      We were able to participate in smaller, more intimate and interactive workshops throughout the weekend. These workshops covered a variety of topics-including “Fair Trade and Faith”,“Fair Trade 101”,“Social Media”, and “Answering Tough Questions”, among several other topics.

      One of our favorite parts of the conference was the Fair Trade Marketplace- where over 50 vendors had Fair Trade products for sale, such as body care, jewelry, and clothing.

      The conference was two-days of intense learning and growth for the Fair Trade community and for the K-State students who were able to attend. We have brought back, ideas, plans, new relationships, and a fresh perspective on the movement. 

Stephanie Alderman-Oler, Senior Secondary Education

KSU Fair Trade Advocates-Marketplace Coordinator

ECM-Special Activities Coordinator

The Garden Movie

Movie Night at the ECM!

Announcing the next big ECM event!  Monday October 4th the ECM will be having a movie night at their building.  We will be watching “The Garden”, a Academy Award Nominee documentary.   Check out their website for more information about the film, it’s message, and the trailer here at  Enjoy, and make sure to be at the ECM at 7:30pm Monday October 4th.  We’ll have the snacks and goodies for all who come!

The Barnabas Blog, 1.4

Yesterday was my birthday, and as one of my FB friends with whom I share a passion for running put it, a celebration of my 52nd lap around the sun.  It was a blast–probably the best birthday I’ve had since I was 12. 

After yesterday, I’m convinced that all birthdays should be on sunny, 80-degree Fridays with a slight breeze.  That way, you can take a day off with a minimum of disruption and simply soak in the pleasures of God’s creation and human innovations.

Actually, it all started the evening before with my first ever “skype date” with my daughter, Lindsey, who goes to school at a college in Iowa.  It was great to “see” her and share some special father-daughter guffaws.

Another FB friend asked early on Friday if I had any plans for the day.  Sure, I replied, I’m going to take the day off, go for a run, pamper myself and use the gift certificate for a full body massage my sister and her family gave me last Christmas, and later, go out to dinner with my wife, Linda.  Sounded like a great plan to me. 

But the Force at work in the universe that holds it all together with Love–dare we call that Reality, in this secular age, “God”?–far exceeded the plans I had for myself.  

My dog, Bear, the friendliest half-Husky, half-brown Lab mix you’ll ever meet, joined me for my morning run.  Pure joy.

The massage, by Amy at Shear Dynamics, was exquisite. 

Another FB friend had counseled that I spend the day enjoying good friends, family and good food.  So I headed next to IHOP to catch up on some reading while savoring my favorite: a garden omelette and pancakes, washed down with black coffee.  Fantastic.

Next, I headed out to run some errands, but was interrupted by a call on my cell phone from an unrecognized number.  Turns out it was a former K-State student from Norway, Kristin Pernille Boe, who called across seven time zones to wish me a “happy birthday!”  Wow, surprises are great!

At this point, I realized that this was one of those days when I was being taken on a journey, a tour of blessings you might say, that was not of my own making.  Time to just soak it in, and roll with the tide.

That meant heading home for an hour-long nap.  Didn’t make it to the hammock outside, but settled for my favorite recliner with the gentle breeze blowing in through the open sliding door.  Renewing.

Next up, taking a few spins around the yard on the riding lawnmower.  But with weather like we had yesterday, and no pressing deadline to meet, this was no chore.  A delight maybe, but not a chore.  Work can be that way, really.

Dinner at the best Jamaican restaurant most people have never heard of–The Little Grille–was next.  That, in itself, would have the highlight in a day of highlights, except that a few minutes after we sat down our recently-turned-21-year-old son, Nathan, who goes to college in Nebraska, surprised me by walking through the door!  Really, can this day get any better?!? 

Of course, with dessert provided by Baskin Robbins and Linda, it did. 

By then, though, I should have known.  This was a day that unfolded in such a way as to remind me of how richly blessed I really am. 

But lest you think this blog is just the blathering self-congratulations of a eg0maniacal narcissist, let me share with you that I woke up this morning to discover that the grandfather clock in our dining room had stopped during last night, at 1:50 a.m.–a none-too-subtle reminder that our time on this earth has a definite endpoint.

Knowing that, it makes what are now birthday memories all that much more precious.  And in trusting God to unfold a plan even more spectacular than the one we had sketched out for ourselves, we discover resources for living well that we all too often ignore or take for granted.

There is an old saying, “Man proposes, God disposes.” 

So on this morning after, it seems good that we make plans for our lives, better that we trust God to improve on those plans and best to remember that we are not God.

May your day, and those that follow, be blessed!

The Barnabas Blog, 1.3

We all know there is a lot of “unhealthy religion” out there.  And a lot of young adults walk away altogether  from organized religion because of it.  To a certain extent, that’s understandable.  But it’s important to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater.   The key is to look for oases of “healthy religion” and when you do find one, spend enough time there to get refreshed and renewed for the journey ahead.

One such oasis for me are the beatitudes, sayings of Jesus, that give us hope and comfort.  I encourage you to check them out in Matthew 5:1-11.  One of them goes like this: “Blessed are the merciful, for theywill receive mercy.”

We’re far enough along into the semester now that we’re starting to get a little testy with one another, right?!  Our tendency is to judge people, to separate ourselves from people who aren’t like us, who don’t share our values or our viewpoint, and we judge them by the world’s standards.  The world defines us by what we do, how we behave, how we look, what we own. 

But God loves us, just because we are children of God.  The mercy and love that  God shows us are not based on what we do but on who we are.  God will always love us, period.  The real question is whether we can love ourselves and others.   

Jesus says, basically, “If you want mercy, give mercy.”  It sounds easy, but it’s not.  Not even for Jesus.  If you don’t believe me, check out Matthew 15:22-28 in the Bible.  It is hard work loving others, especially those  who are different.  It’s hard to listen to someone else’s story.  It’s hard to “walk a mile in another man’s mocassins,” as the old Indian proverb goes.  It’s hard because doing so will change our hearts, and most of us really don’t want to change. 

But if you want to live the good life, don’t judge your success based on the world’s standards.  Instead, spend your energy learning to love as Jesus loved.  And practice being merciful at every opportunity.