lenten journal: changing my daily grind


I’m learning to drink my coffee black.

As far back as I can remember, I have put cream in my coffee. I have often said that if the day came that the doctor told me I couldn’t use half and half, I’d cash in my chips right there. But the doctor wasn’t the one who said it. I did. I am making some choices to work on my health—specifically my weight, which I had allowed to set a world record for The Amount of Milton on the Planet. The program I chose has called me to examine my relationship with food, and to make some choices about what I eat and drink for the near future.

Jesus said we did not live by bread alone. Right now, I’m living without bread at all. Or cream. Or butter. But I digress . . .

One of the lessons I am learning (again) is how comfortable I can become with my choices, even when they aren’t getting me where I want to go. One of my favorite miracle stories is Jesus’ encounter with the man at the pool of Bethsaida who had been trying to beat everyone to the water everyday for thirty-eight years without success—and he kept doing the same thing. Jesus saw him and asked, “Do you want to get well?”

Once again, the tone is difficult to discern, but it’s one of my favorite questions.

I cook healthy food. I work hard to open as few packages as possible, to eat fresh, to eat local, to use up what I have and not waste, and I have eaten my grief for the past few years. Even when the food is good for you, if you eat too much it leaves its mark. In some ways, I suppose, the weight is more symptom than problem. I have felt alright, but not at my best. I have felt like myself. And there’s the part about my doctors saying my weight would have a direct effect on things like my blood pressure, my sleep apnea, and the possible return of my atrial fibrillation.

To find my way back to health means, when it comes to food, I am having to tear the house down so I can rebuild it. Everything needs to be up for examination, for negotiation. And so, I am learning to take my coffee black. I will not have to live at these extremes forever, but this is the call for mow. It sounds more dramatic than it feels to live it. The biggest challenge for me has been coming to terms with how this program differs theologically with how I think about food. They aren’t making a theological case, but that’s how it hits me. “You eat to live, not live to eat,” they say. Though I understand the idea that I don’t want to be driven by my appetites, I do live to go to the table because of who else gathers there. The point of the meal is the fellowship more than the food, but I live to eat, and not eat alone. Check the masthead on the blog. The most difficult part of keeping my promises these days is the program most all of the social and spiritual meaning of mealtime as gone the way of the half and half in order for me to answer the call to better health.

I don’t think the two will always remain at odds, but so it is for now. Maybe that’s it: we are called to answer for now, and then called to renegotiate and reconsider when tomorrow comes, responding to new calls, to new hopes, to new expressions of the creative work of God in our lives. God’s call is not necessarily to stick with the familiar or the comfortable, though that would be nice. The call—or at least part of it—is to repent. To come to terms with what we learn and what we see and reorient our lives in response. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to get well, the man responded by telling him that he didn’t have anyone to help him get to the pool. He didn’t answer the question. Jesus listened and then said, “Get up and walk.”

Rachel Held Evans says,

[Life] is just death and resurrection, over and over again, day after day, as God reaches down into our deepest graves and with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead wrests us from our pride, our apathy, our fear, our prejudice, our anger, our hurt, our despair. (21)

I trust her list is not exhaustive. I look down in my empty coffee cup and realize what I am about here is a slow resurrection, but a coming to a new life nonetheless. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but my cream-less coffee offers me hope. I look forward to the day when we can talk about it over dinner.



  1. inspirited! stripped, but a happy stripped. Mike Nichols said there is only three dramatic scenes: seduction; fight; negotiation. He never found another. I love you, pally.

  2. This reminds me of a day I was grazing throughout Central Market . At the bread counter in the bakery, a woman nearby said to me, “I think Jesus was wrong.” Quizzically, I said, “pardon?” She said, ” I think I could live on bread alone!” And we laughed. That’ll preach. Go for it, Milton. And blessings on your current efforts at food and faithfulness.

  3. I can find myself walking through your words as I sip hot coffee while reading this. My life the past three years has found me eating for comfort not to fulfill bodily needs. And so I am now taking up more physical space than I should. Eating alone can do that. Spring is here, well coming soon, baseball season is about to begin, the beach beckons, and life feels new. New attitudes come with healing and with that new beginnings towards better health.
    As I look in my lighter shade of coffee, I am thinking it might be time to try coffee unaltered. There really is no need for “clouds in my coffee” especially this day.

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