Espresso Faith

Today’s post comes from Emily Hornburg, a Chicago native who moved down to small town Missouri to work as a youth minister. Her post links our November theme of Food with our December theme of Traditions, as she talks about traditions she has made surrounding faith and coffee. You can read more of her writing on her website, Love Woke Me Up This Morning, or  follow her on Twitter @LoveWokeMeUp. And now…take a sip of your own coffee and enjoy Emily’s caffeine-enhanced wisdom.

For some reason, I associate coffee with faith.

Maybe it’s because in high school my friends and I were all coffee addicts and we named our Bible study “Espresso.”

Maybe it’s because in college the guy I had a crush on lived at the coffee shop and convinced all of his “fan-girls” it was the best place to have a deep discussion about life and faith. Even after he graduated, and my overly-romantic heart had found another guy, I still had weekly coffee dates with friends so we would talk about the Bible and pray together. Searching for Sophia together if you will.

Maybe it’s because whenever I lead chapel at a local school I have to run by Starbucks on my way. Now, the students say when they go for a Starbucks run before class it’s called “pulling an Emily.”

If you were to look at my old Bibles, you would probably find multiple coffee stains splattered on the pages. But still now, years after high school and college, you’ll still find me sitting at a café with a warm cup of steaming caffeine goodness, a Bible somewhere nearby (even if it’s on my iPad where it can’t get stained), and a good friend sitting across from me.

I think though, it’s because in our world today, or at least in my world, it’s the equivalent of breaking bread in the Bible. In Jesus’ day, when people broke bread together, it was a sign of community. A sign of friendship and family and being together. Being able to break bread together was something special and holy.

In my world, it’s coffee. If I ask you to share a coffee date with me, it’s holy. It’s taking a moment to take a breath from the world and enjoy someone’s company. To share life together. To share faith together. Even if you’re drinking tea or hot chocolate while I have my coffee fix. While it’s not quite the same as the Eucharist, it’s still community. It’s still holy.

I think today, if Jesus were to walk up to me, he wouldn’t invite me somewhere to break bread. I think he would invite me to coffee.

Loose Thread: Thankful Thoughts

Charles M. Schulz once said,

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

For our part, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are, as always, grateful for all of you. And for food, and chocolate, and of course, wisdom, love …and lint.

We invite you to share something you are thankful for with the community of Searching Sophia’s Pockets.

What’s your thankful thought?

Turkeyless Thanksgiving

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This year there will be no turkey on my Thanksgiving table, and not just because I don’t eat meat, or because I am thousands of miles from the United States of America.  This year, both in preparation for the coming advent season and to honor and raise awareness for those who go hungry everyday, I will be fasting for Thanksgiving.  


As someone who was raised Catholic, I have been aware of the power of fasting since childhood. When we remove the metaphorical and literal filler of food, we can become aware of other ways to fill ourselves. To mark this year’s U.S. Thanksgiving, which comes to close the the start of advent, and which has already been embroiled in controversy about worker’s rights, with an absence of food seems the only right course for me.  I will have time to think about the meaning of gratitude, of gifts, of wealth, in light of both the upcoming advent season and the existence of massive worldwide poverty and hunger.

Given the confluence of Advent and American Thanksgiving this year, I have to wonder, how would Jesus celebrate Thanksgiving?  It is hard for me to imagine the Jesus I know, the Jesus of the poor, the outcast and the overlooked, sitting at a table overflowing with food in a nice warm house discussing how early he will be getting up to stand in like for the best black Friday discounts.  I imagine Jesus might be at a soup kitchen, or might hang out on the street corner with those who don’t have houses or dinners.  Jesus might be so shocked by the gluttonous feast, he might spend the day in the temple praying.

I don’t really know how Jesus would celebrate Thanksgiving, but I can do my best to follow his example. Maybe next year I’ll be out on a street corner, but this year it feels right to pray for wisdom, for change, for love.

There will be no turkey on my table this Thanksgiving, no mashed potatoes, no green bean casserole. I will sit, at my table, an ocean away from Black Friday plans and pumpkin pie, and pray for the wisdom to celebrate all my blessings the way Jesus might. So, no matter how, or if, you celebrate Thanksgiving, I’ll be praying for you.

Eating our Values

Today’s post is from Max Fischlowitz Roberts, who is a history teacher in the Boston area.  Max writes about how being a vegan is not always easy, but it is a way to live out values of love and respect for all of the creatures of the universe. For those considering veganism, Max offers some good starting point for that journey  but no matter what your dietary choices are, Max offers us some wisdom about living authentically with our values.

As humans, we are often concerned about what our peers think of us. Those of us who identify as vegan are no different.  Although the world is gradually becoming more accepting in this regard, I still cringe a little on the inside when I identify publicly as a vegan. Too often, people assume my veganism means I am some sort of extremist; they ask (in bewilderment) where I get my protein; or they inject their own opinion – “I could never give up [x, y, or z animal product]!” Most of these people with whom I talk about my veganism are not mean-spirited, but perhaps they haven’t fully understood where I come from with regard to my dietary choices.

Why do I follow a vegan diet (one that avoids meat, dairy, and eggs)? Quite simply: to reduce as much animal suffering as possible. In the U.S. alone, over nine billion animals are raised and slaughtered for food each year. The vast majority of these animals – chickens, cows, pigs, and others – live their short lives on “factory farms,” with little or no access to the outdoors, all the while being pumped full of antibiotics to avoid infection – which is rampant because of how closely they are crowded together. The standard American diet has produced such incredible demand for animal products that the modern factory farm looks nothing like Old MacDonald’s farm. Instead of cows happily giving us their milk, hens happily laying eggs, and farm animals of all kinds willingly sacrificing themselves for our tastebuds, we know from research that the animals living in these horrendous conditions experience stress, fear, and pain.

Thinking about life on a factory farm, it’s not unusual to realize that farmed animals don’t like this arrangement. How would our pets react if they were held in captivity and led to slaughter? How would we?

I approach veganism from three perspectives. First: I see veganism as the best way to align one’s diet and one’s values. The overwhelming majority of people love animals; in fact, most are appalled to learn of the intense cruelty that takes place in producing the animal-based food on their table. Most people of faith already believe in the humane treatment of animals, and biblical texts contain many references to this tenet; the next step is to find ways in which we can more fully marry our actions with our beliefs.

Second: I think it’s important for vegans – and anyone who cares about animals – to find a way to get active to promote their cause. Spreading the word about the abuses of factory farming has exponentially more impact than simply following a vegan diet in silence. Everyone has a specific talent or way they can get involved that can benefit animals, whether that’s leafleting, writing letters to the editor – one of the most widely-read parts of a newspaper – or making financial contributions to existing nonprofit groups.

Finally: it’s helpful to remember that veganism shouldn’t be a contest about who can best scour a list of thirty ingredients. We all cause suffering in our lives, whether that’s by stepping on an ant or running over a squirrel. Sometimes things happen. What matters is that we work to reduce as much animal suffering as possible – and avoiding meat, dairy, and eggs as much as possible is a great first step on that path.
For more information about veganism and ways to become active for animals, check out one of the most effective and efficient advocacy groups out there, Vegan Outreach.

Loose Thread: Thankful Thoughts

Melody Beattie once said,

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

For our part, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are, as always, grateful for all of you. And for sandwiches, and candy, and the possibility of ending hunger with Heifer International.

So, we invite you to share something you are thankful for with the community of Searching Sophia’s Pockets.

What’s your thankful thought for the week?

Heifer International and My Brother’s Gifts

Today’s post from Jenn Schultz Simmons, who works as a pastor at  a church in Springfield, Mo. Jenn gives us a personal look at Heifer International  and how her family chose to keep their loved one’s spirit of giving alive. Her poignant words remind all of us that our lives create ripples of change, and that our generosity lives on long after we are gone. 

My mother walked up the stairs and said, “Heifer, I want to invite our family and friends to give animals in Sean’s memory.” When my brother died very suddenly at at 27 after suffering a head injury and severe trauma we searched for the best way to invite our family and friends to celebrate his life.  Years ago he put the heart donation sticker on his drivers license.  He wanted to be an organ donor. So, when we had to decide how we wanted to honor and celebrate the life of my brother, giving flocks of chicks, ducks, rabbits, and cows was a perfect fit.

Jenn and her brother Sean

Jenn and her brother Sean

Over the years, I have had the privilege to see the work of Heifer International first hand.  In Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to meet families that received pigs, trees, plants, and chickens from Heifer International.  The pig farmer, a mother of three kids,  was so proud of her pig and the way she had changed the lives of those living in their village.  Her children had the opportunity to go school all because of a pig. After receiving lessons about how to care for their pig, they were asked to teach others in their community.  I met their pig as she was about to give birth to the next generation of pigs and impact a whole new family.

While serving at Webster Groves Christian Church, I had the honor of getting to take youth and adults to the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, AR.  Everyday we signed up for new classes and chores.  Some of us learned about bees, others milked goats, while some cut down trees.  One night we stayed in the global village representing many different countries and situations.  There was a refugee camp, an urban setting, and various economic experiences in numerous countries.  Some youth had to sleep on the hard floor while others had a bed.  Each youth was given some resources and then had to decide how to share their resources for the night so that they could eat.  The overall experience at the Ranch gave the youth and adults hands on experience to begin to understand how animals really can change the lives of people and impact communities.

When I first saw the work of Heifer, I asked my family members to buy me chickens for the holidays.  At first my brother thought it was silly to ask for a flock of chicks for people in another country (I mean how do you put that in a Christmas box?), but over time, and with many stories of the difference those chickens made in people’s lives, he began to love it.  Now over the years, we have given flocks of chicks, ducks, and trees as Christmas gifts in our family.

We decided to ask our friends and family to celebrate Sean’s life by giving to Heifer. We realized giving animals through Heifer to families all over the world so that others might have new life was another way to honor my brother’s decision to give new life to others via organ donation.  Now, in celebration of my brother, chickens, pigs,  and heifers will impact new families and communities all over the world.

Heifer International in the Spare Change Spotlight

Today, we introduce another great organization that could use your spare change. Heifer International fights poverty and hunger all over the world, while maintaining a commitment to environmental sustainability.

It is impossible to talk about food without talking about hunger. Some of us are fortunate enough to only experience hunger as a desire to eat, but for those who are served by Heifer International, food means life and continued hunger means death.

We believe all people deserve dignity, opportunity, and a future free from hunger. We believe we provide the tools of transformation to bring about that opportunity.

Heifer International works all over the world to end hunger and poverty, and they need your help. There are lots of ways to get involved via their website, or check out their amazing Gift Catalog. By buying a flock of chicks as presents, you not only help spread the word about Heifer International’s work, but you also actually give a flock of chicks to someone who needs it!

Tomorrow, we will have a personal post about the ways Heifer Gifts can change even the giver’s life.  For today, we leave you with the words of Vineeta Sharma speaking about her experience with Heifer International and their incredible set of values that guide all their work.

I finally got an opportunity to attend the Cornerstones Training taking place at Alwar, Rajasthan, India. The training started with a candle-lighting ceremony. Interestingly, each participant had to light the other one’s candle. By the time the last partaker’s candle was lit, the training hall had kindled beautifully, exuding brightness and positivity reaching every corner of the room and perhaps the corner of our hearts as well! It was a sight! 

I learned that the Cornerstones in Heifer’s perspective are  time-tested principles and values that are followed in order to make development ecologically sound, socially just, culturally appropriate and economically viable. They constitute the holistic approach to development to which Heifer International will always aspire and strive for.

Vineeta Sharma of Heifer India 

La Cocinera

By: Jenni Taylor

“Wow, your rice is really good,” he says, scooping up the last bits from the rice cooker before tossing it in the sink. We had just finished one of the three meals I was capable of making. I took the basic compliment.

“I just add some salt and garlic, like Deysi taught me,” I say. I turn on the hot water and begin to wash the pot from the rice cooker. It’s thick. “The trick is to always use a thick pot, the thickest you have,” Deysi had said. She didn’t have a rice cooker. Rice to her was an art, including thick pots, salt and garlic, low heat, plastic bags, and the right spoon.

Deysi was a Peruvian woman who had taken me into her home when it became widely known that la americana couldn’t cook worth a lick. At first I was embarrassed to go. I didn’t mind living off tuna and street hamburgers. But there was Deysi, waiting for me with my covered plate, determined to put extra meat on my bones.

I tried to make excuses during the week, so I would only have to go when I really had nothing. I felt ridiculous taking charity from a woman who had a whole family to feed, this woman I had met a church who always sat in the front on the right and spun to the music in her flowered skirts. But each meal was better than the last, and next thing I knew I was there, every day, 2:00pm Peruvian time.

Our friendship started slowly, cautiously. I would talk about my English students, she would gossip about her neighbors. I would try to wash the dishes and she would firmly push me down in my seat, refusing to let me help. She wouldn’t take money, either, though once or twice I was able to sneak it into her bible when she wasn’t looking. It took me a while to realize the most precious gift I could give her was time.

I stopped showing up for meals and began to show up while she was cooking. She wouldn’t let me touch the food, but would stand there stirring and tell me everything. When she was angry, she chopped. She would chop so hard and fast that I couldn’t listen to her words anymore, just watch her fingers and pray they wouldn’t come off. When she was happy, she would always throw in extra spices, and tell me their strange names in Spanish as long as I promised not to repeat them.

Some days, her family was there. Other days, they would come in and grab their meals to go before heading back to work, and Deysi and I would be left alone at the table. It was our special time together.

La Cocinera gave me family when I had none, and I was her daughter for a brief moment in time. She fed my body and soul, always whispering a kind word as she hugged me before I left, giving me bible verses on slips of paper with cartoon characters, and adamantly taking my side when I had been wronged. We cried together a lot, and laughed together even more. She was energy, she was life, she was strength and health and a bleeding heart still beating out love. She was my friend.

I still can’t cook very well, but I try to use the few secrets she gave me. A thick pot for rice cooking, and a smile even when life hurts. Salt and garlic, and some prayers of thanks. Turn the heat low, and life is going to be okay.

She’s the best cocinera I’ve ever met.

Food, Submissions and You!

Well it is November already. The harvest has come in and it is time to eat! We have dedicated this month to the topic of food. So we are asking for your words, foodie photos, and thoughts about the ways we encounter the holy through food. We will also be featuring the organization Heifer International this moth in our Spare Change Spotlight.

Whether it is eating food, preparing food, helping the hungry, or deciding what to eat, we are excited to explore the ways spirituality and food intersect. So send your posts, pictures or ideas, to

We look forward to hearing from you!

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

Autumn and Jenni

Create, Eat and Be You

Today’s post comes from Myra Biernat Wells.  Her post transitions us from our theme creativity to our November theme of food, but her writing touches on greater issues of self-worth, individuality, and spiritual calling.  She gives us a a great deal of wisdom about seeing each person as a unique member of our human community.  You can find more of her work on her personal website

We are in the season of fall. It’s a season I do not relish. I don’t rejoice in what it is: brilliant colors, snuggling in sweaters, hot apple cider taking off the chill. I merely view it as the start of winter. And in doing so, I miss the best part of fall. Instead of enjoying its treasures, I make it into something it was never meant to be.


Photo By: Autumn Elizabeth

I’ve tried this past month to make healthy meals, different meals, even some fun meals. I thought I was doing well. Then Richard complains. All the energy leaves me. His mother, for example, only went to the store once a week. She planned all her meals for the week ahead of time, got all her supplies in one trip and never had to go to the store in between. Why can’t I be more like his mother? The words chafe. I can’t be more like his mother because I’m not.

My sister is a Martha Stewart type. All the preparation, all the planning energizes her. Her meals aren’t like mine; they are lavish, orchestrated events. She tackles recipes that would leave me flattened. Why can’t you be more like her?

Why do we do that?  Why do we compare ourselves to others? Why do we try to make people into other people? I’m not sure, but I have felt forced into a mold when all I wanted to be was free. I’ve felt beat up by images of what others want me to be. Not a better me, but a different me. A me I was never created to be. I want to be winging my way, liberated and light, towards who I really am. I don’t want to be assessed. I want my words and ideas and dreams to carry more weight than any number on the scale. I want to be appreciated for the best parts of myself.

We fracture community when we compare. We find the weak points in someone else and tear at them. Does that make us feel better about ourselves? Shouldn’t we just rejoice because we are together, that we are close? Can’t we use our communication, our words, to deepen intimacy?

I was never meant to be a weak imitation of someone else just as autumn was never meant to be the poor stepchild of winter. God is all over the details of my life. He smiles at the times when I am truly me. When I laugh at something no one feels is funny; when I cry because the sorrow cuts quick to the pain in my heart; when I give thanks for something deeply moving to me; those are the times God rejoices and says, “It is very good.” If you do one thing today, celebrate someone for the truly marvelous person God made them to be. Give the world that. Be the audacious, untamed someone who breaks out of the mold by giving others the courage to just be themselves.