Star Wars Mug

Mug - 09A long time ago, in a galaxy… Well actually it is this beautiful morning, just outside my house… with EARL GREY, hot. See what I did there? Anyway…

I was still about a year and a half from entering this world when the original Star Wars movie was released into theaters in May of 1977. When the sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back,” came out a few years later, its success and longevity in the theaters ensured it was among the first movies I have vague memories of seeing. The impact that Star Wars had on me, and millions of other kids since then, cannot be overstated. By the time I was 10, I had the original three films pretty much memorized. Because my mom and dad were both awesome, each Christmas and birthday, and trip to Children’s Palace toy store (anyone out there remember the old palace?) saw my collection of Star Wars toys grow. My imagination would run free with new adventures that I would conjure in my mind, given life through massive toy battles spread across the house. It was especially exciting when it snowed outside, and I could bundle up and go re-enact the battle of Hoth out in the backyard/frozen tundra.

Anyway, I’ve had many similar mugs like this one throughout my life, this being only the most recent, given to me by my long time friend, Seth Sharp. Star Wars still holds up for us now that we’re adults, because the underlying themes of its story resonate even louder now. In simplest terms, it is about the idea that good and evil do exist, and they are constantly at war. It is about the decisions we make, and where those decisions cause us to land on the battlefield of life. It is about how pride in our own abilities and knowledge can send us down the path that will corrupt even the purest heart, and it is conversely, about how those enslaved to the darkest evil are never beyond redemption. And it is about how R2- D2 is one cool gangsta!

Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 21, 2014
Throwback to my original Star Wars mug from 1980…

Winebrenner Mug

Winebrenner Mug
Mug - 08As one of the previous Curry House regulars pointed out yesterday, sometimes these mugs have seen a little more than just coffee and tea. Such is definitely the case with this Winebrenner mug, which has seen its fair share of rice and curry.

It’s hard to think about my time in the curry house without also thinking about Winebrenner–together the two occupied nearly all of my time between 2008 and 2010. We were always grateful that the professors and staff at the seminary encouraged us so much, with many of them even finding occasion to come to our house themselves and share in our weekly curry night meal.

I think what is most interesting to me when I think back on curry night, is that none of it was planned. The four of us guys who lived in the first incarnation of the Curry House had already been cooking and sharing Indian food with our neighbors for years prior to us moving to Findlay. It’s just what we liked to do. It was hard to explain that at times, especially when leaders and pastors from some of the other churches in town would come to visit–always looking for the secret of our success; always wanting to figure out how to duplicate what we were doing. We always told them the same thing… The truth was that we really didn’t know what was happening most of the time, or why. I moved to Findlay so I could attend Winebrenner without having to commute four hours there and four hours back every week. I didn’t expect (none of us did) that within a few months of moving, a hundred people would be coming over to our place for dinner. It was not always that convenient, and there were many times when we didn’t think we could keep doing it (it was kind of expensive for four graduate students), but we continued on, putting ourselves into God’s hands and trusting him to provide–and of course he did. In four years we never had to call off the meal.

For those out there wondering how to do ministry… It’s not as complicated as we’ve tried to make it. It might include going to bible college or seminary, but it doesn’t have to. All you have to do is look at what God has already given to you, and then share it with those around you—for free!

Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 18, 2014

Russian Espresso Cup

Mug - 07This cup is really different from the others I’ve talked about. It’s not a traditional mug by any means, but I have had coffee and tea in it before, and it is the perfect size for an espresso shot. I bought this little tumbler at a factory that produces all sorts of similar goods. It was in an old Russian town called Semyonov, which was a few hours from Nizhny Novgorod — where I was studying for the semester.

It is hard for me to believe that was just over 10 years ago now. When I see the way Russia is often characterized in the news, whether because of the Olympics or because of the actions of its government, I just think to myself–that’s not the Russia I remember.  Those aren’t the people who brought me into their lives, into their homes, who took care of me like I was one of them.

Experiencing Russia was a life changing endeavor for me. It challenged me in several ways. Just living in a city was a new experience for me. It’s really too much to go into for a small post such as this, but I have written about it much more extensively before. If you follow this link, or type it into your browser, it will take you to the chapter of a book I finished writing in 2008 about my time in college. This particular chapter can be read apart from the rest of the book, and is a stand-alone story about the time I spent in Russia.

Anyway, that’s all for today’s installment. As they say in Russia, “paca.” Until next time.

Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 17, 2014

Laura’s Mug

Laura’s Mug
Laura's MugI really love this mug. There is none other exactly like it on planet Earth. It was a gift from my friend Laura, a.k.a. @sweetlauralai (she also painted it herself, which makes it even more awesome). I met Laura at Kentucky Christian University back in 2002. I was skeptical at first. My bros and I were a close knit group. To be honest, there weren’t very many girls that you could just have fun hanging out with on the campus back then. They were either the kind who looked down at you for listening to ‘non-Christian’ music, watching rated R movies, and wearing jeans to chapel services–or they were the kind who just wanted to graduate with their MRS degree. There were some exceptions of course. Laura was one of the exceptions. I realized that when she was hanging out with us dudes one night, and during a conversation she just lifted her leg up and farted really loud–then went on like nothing happened. We were buddies after that. I think Laura was only at KCU for about a year or so before transferring to Johnson Bible College (now Johnson University), but we still stayed in contact and whenever our larger group of friends would come to my parent’s house to visit in Indiana, she was usually there. These days, I haven’t talked to her for quite awhile, but I still remember how fun it was to hang out with such a great sister, and I especially miss those times we would have long talks and pray together. I’m also really happy that this mug has survived all these years intact. I still have plenty more to talk about, and I’ve enjoyed sharing the others so far, but I think this one is my favorite.
Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 16, 2014

Taizé Mug

Taizé MugThis particular cup is very unique. It comes from an old monastery in the middle of France known as Taize. A description from their website reads:

“Today, the Taizé Community is made up of over a hundred brothers, Catholics and from various Protestant backgrounds, coming from around thirty nations. By its very existence, the community is a “parable of community” that wants its life to be a sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and between separated peoples.”

I think it sounds like a pretty neat place, and it must be, because every year thousands of people visit the 74 year old Taizé community which was founded during WWII by a man named Brother Roger. Brother Roger himself was stabbed to death in 2005 at the age of 90 while leading the evening prayer service.

If you’re like me, I had never even heard of this place until I was told about it several years ago by a friend who had visited and in the process had acquired this coffee cup for me. The cup holds a great deal of meaning for me, and it harbors a great deal of irony as well. Sometimes, in this journey of life, we become alienated and separated from those we were once very close with… Sometimes, good friends can even become bitter enemies. Sometimes it’s our fault, and sometimes it just happens–and there is nothing we can do about it. But it always hurts. The friend who gave me this cup from Taizé has been long gone from my life, though he was once a very close brother. And even though we were deeply alienated from each other many years ago, I have kept this cup as a reminder of my friend–there is a hope there, however small, and I think of him whenever I drink from this coffee cup — made by the hands of people who have devoted their entire lives to Brother Roger’s vision of bringing together and reconciling Christians who have been divided.

Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 15, 2014

Boston Stoker Mug

Boston Stoker MugToday I’ll jump forward a bit in my coffee cup timeline. I guess they don’t have to be in chronological order. I obtained this mug from my days in seminary, and it’s the only one I have from an actual coffee shop. Boston Stoker is a chain of coffee shops in and around Dayton, Ohio. Discovered by my friends Keith, Kiel, and Jeff just off the Troy exit on the outskirts north of Dayton on I-75, they passed its location on to me sometime in the late autumn of 2007. During my first year in seminary, I commuted to Findlay, Ohio from my parent’s home in central Indiana every week for class. I would usually leave on Monday night or Tuesday morning, attend class on Tuesday evening, and return on Wednesday. That first year was grueling. It wouldn’t have been possible if my parents hadn’t allowed me to drive their only vehicle back and forth (because I didn’t have one at the time), leaving them stuck at home for those couple of days I was gone each week. It seems ludicrous, but that’s only a small example of how my mom and dad helped me over the years I was getting a college and seminary education. Along the same lines, my friends and I were invited to spend each week at our professor’s home on Monday & Tuesday nights while we were commuting–something we took full advantage of for an entire year! Dr. Gary Staats and his wife Janet opened their home and their lives to us on a level far surpassing the fragile understanding that many of us often have in regard to hospitality. I’m not sure how many trips I made up and down I-75 that year, and in the four years following–they became more frequent as my mom’s health deteriorated–but Boston Stoker was always there to help me along… They had the best coffee in Dayton, and the best bathroom for those much needed pit stops. And for that, I salute them!
Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 14, 2014

Arizona Mug

Arizona MugThis next coffee mug, like the one I posted yesterday, is also an old classic in the Coffman house. It’s been in our repertoire of mugs since as far back as I can remember. Though we did take a couple of family trips to Arizona in the mid 90s, I think it goes back even further, and was most likely a gift from my Aunt Charlene & Uncle Joe (Snell) who used to spend their winters camped out in Apache Junction, at the foot of Superstition Mountain. As a child I was always fascinated by their old farmhouse (near Hazelwood, Indiana) with its many mementos and pictures of the Old West. If you knew my Uncle Joe, then you also knew what it was like to sit in the company of John Wayne. Their house was a portal for my young mind to imagine the mysteries and wonders of Arizona, taking me forward in time to a place I would eventually see for myself later on when I was in high school. It was even more fascinating in person. And just as I once went forward through their mementos, their potted cactus, their pictures, and hearing their stories as I grew up–now I go back, through my coffee mug!
Originally posted on Instagram @ajcoffman on April 12, 2014

Mug Stories – Great Grandma

White MugRecently, while setting aside some things that need to be packed away, and while unpacking some boxes that had not been opened since I left Ohio, I had the realization that a great portion of my life can be recalled through coffee mugs. This small white cup, for instance, saw heavy use in Findlay most recently, and if you ever had coffee or tea at the Curry House, chances are good that you’ve held one of these. But this is actually from the first set of coffee cups I can remember. I can still recall my great grandmother sipping her coffee from one many years ago (I must have been 8 or 9 at the time). It was Thanksgiving, and she called me aside later in the evening to talk to me specifically. She wanted to tell me about prayer, and how important it was (I think she was a Roman Catholic, but whatever specific strain of Christianity she held to, she was very devoted and very spiritually minded); she told me that God would always be there and would listen if I just took the time to talk to him–and though it seemed strange at the time, and most of my mind was probably elsewhere, I still remember it to this day when I see this coffee cup. It was the last time we had a conversation before she died.
Originally published on Instagram @ajcoffman – April 11, 2014