Thursday, January 17, 2013



 It's a global phenomenon.
The Internet has become
flooded with reports, and 
YouTube clips currently are
generating views in the
millions. And as my nasal
passages continue to burn
this morning, I'm reminded
of the saying, "If I only knew 
then what I know now."

Oh sure, "The Cinnamon Challenge" sounds innocent enough. Heck, I've frequently enjoyed more than generous amounts of cinnamon on delicious buttery slices of toast countless times over the last 50 years. Hence, the "challenge" of simply consuming a teeny tiny tablespoon of the delightful spice seemed like no challenge at all.  But in hindsight, I wish that I had read the recent telling feature in The Wall Street Journal, warning of the game's reality ahead of time.

As a church youth leader, I occasionally can experience difficulty generating teens' enthusiasm for  the weekly icebreaker game at the opening of Wednesday night service. So I should have been tipped off immediately when I announced that last night's game was something called "The Cinnamon Challenge" and instantly throngs of young people roared as they rushed the stage with iPhones in-hand, eager to archive the event. But at that moment, I was un-phased. Although I spend much of my day working online, I'd not yet become familiar with accounts of this craze currently sweeping the Internet — I merely was going through the bi-weekly motions of hosting what I thought was just another fun-filled game.

Teenagers leaped from their seats and soon the stage was filled with volunteers. Spoons were handed to each contestant and I quickly filled each with heaping portions of the brown powder. One by one, each teen attempted the challenge — ingesting just a bit before quickly coughing it up and making their way back to their seat. However, one savvy young gal knew exactly how to play the game. Like a skilled sword swallower, she tilted her head back and began to methodically allow the powder to run slowly down the back of her throat as her peers cheered her on. It took several minutes to accomplish, but she ultimately succeeded in the challenge.

As I observed these proceedings, I couldn't help but think, what's the big deal? It's just cinnamon! So as I became totally caught up in the hoo-ha of the moment, I poured myself a handful of cinnamon and attempted to choke it down — "choke" being the operative word. In short order I was forced to make a beeline to the sanctuary's adjacent kitchen to seek water to clear my throat and a sink in which to puke as I continued choking.

Here I am, puking and gasping desperately
for my final breath as result of taking on
the moronic Cinnamon Challenge.
(Photo: Bryan Moore)
I wish that I was exaggerating the experience, but it's the absolute truth. I literally was choking to death on a flaming, fun-size ball of powder! Even my nasal passages were filled with burning residue. I couldn't breath, swallow or speak. Given my reputation as a rather wacky guy, people aren't always certain when I'm really in trouble or when I'm just goofing around. What a predicament.

Considering all of the things that should have killed me throughout my rather chequered past, I was pissed that this was what finally was gonna do me in. Had I in fact "bitten the big one," I certainly would have gone to a better place. But when I do go, I want to go out in a blaze of gunfire, battling for Jesus in the jungle of some faraway land — not lying on the kitchen floor at church, covered in puke with a wad of cinnamon stuck in my craw.

But it apparently was not my time. And after 15 minutes of choking, puking, gasping, gagging and taking in water to clear my passages, I finally regained a state of (semi) normalcy and returned to service. A VERY close call to be sure.

In sum, as the saying goes, "Kids, don't try this at home," at church or anywhere else for that matter.

-Christopher Long
(January 2013)

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