Monday, May 8, 2017

Grace in a Coffee Shop

Waiting in line for my morning coffee, the buzz of the small space alive with activity and fueled by caffeine.  There is a hum that comes from people clicking keys of lap tops, pouring over spreadsheets with a colleague, from workers behind the counter busily racing around filling paper cups and tiny bags crammed with bakery items.  There is a hum that smells like roast coffee beans and sweet sugary treats.  There is a hum that I feel vibrating as I lean up against the rail that helps keep the queue of people in order.

I look around at my fellow passengers waiting to fuel our lives.

Many stare down at the screens of phones lost worlds away and perhaps unaware of the world around them.  A few talk to the friend they had scheduled to meet there.  A couple in line studies the menu intently weighing the endless options of flavors and wondering why some words are written in Italian?  I keep glancing around, taking in the people who I will probably never see again. These are God's people with whole lives and stories that don’t involve me, and yet I often feel like I am the central actor in the story of my life.

Inch-by-inch; order-by-order; we slowly shuffle our way forward.  Sometimes when that progress is stopped a few folks sway side-to-side keeping the momentum flowing through them.  There is a groan when a person ahead pulls out a piece of paper, obviously sent by an office to collect coffee for everyone.  He rattles of concoctions both warm and cold like a little child on the lap of Santa.  He points at the glass case fully of various ways flour and sugar can be blended together.  The person behind the counter lets his fingers fly across the buttons of the computer capturing each item so that someone else can begin to pour, shake, blend, and prepare the items.  When I finally reach the glimmer steel counter I feel the cold metal against my fingers.  I order a simple coffee.  Something I could have gotten at any number of other places I passed by to come here.  Something so ubiquitous, it is boring.  The worker pauses just a moment as if thinking, “That can’t be all, look at that menu.”  But it is.  A simple cup of coffee.  No need to leave room for me to add cream or sugar.

The cup is warm when he hands it to me.  The brown sleeve invented to protect me does about as much good as sitting on your life vest as a cushion in a boat when it tips over.  The lid, without the slightest bit of irony, reads, “Caution: Contains May Be Hot”.  I hope so.  And I discover it is so the moment I remove the lid and steam escapes out.  I swear I can hear it saying, “Free at last!”  I feel the steam tickle my nose.  Tiny drops of water from steam condensing into liquid has clung to the lid and now fall onto my pant legs.   Few others in the small shop seem as interested in the beauty of this moment.  They are too wrapped up in other worlds to see the world contained in that cup.  We don’t always think about the hands of farmers who tend and harvest.  The trucks that transport.  The plants that process.  If every cup of coffee came with a travel log and list of people whose fingerprints helped put it in our hand, it might be more than our minds could comprehend.  The beauty is that this cup of coffee connects us.

In a few minutes my once overflowing cup now empty sitting beside me.  What a beautiful, indescribable blessing.  Elizabeth Browning said it better, “The world is crammed with God.”  But most of us only see a cup of coffee.  But it isn't lost on me right now.  A moment of thanksgiving for the ones who helped provide me with the cup of coffee.  A moment of gratitude for words that I type on the page.  A prayer that somehow in my fragmented sentences or the spaces in-between God’s grace and love might meet you dear reader.  And a hope that if God’s loving presence is found in a coffee shop, then maybe wherever you are right now, God might show up in such a way that your heart is strangely warmed.

May such traces of God's grace be found in your life this day and this week.
Many blessings ~~

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