//coffee and connections

I sat curled up in my favorite chair at the coffee shop, reading The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling (I highly recommend this book to everyone, by the way, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert) when a skinny guy with long hair and a backwards snapback walked in and plunked his backpack down on the couch beside me. I watched as he walked around behind the counter and began to make himself a cup of coffee, chatting with the other baristas.

This is my favorite coffee shop – a Christian-owned place so full of life and light that walking in feels like another piece of home. It’s also a great spot to watch people. Sometimes I take my laptop, sometimes I take a sketchbook, sometimes I take a novel; but I end up observing everyone around me the majority of the time.

Soon my mom and baby sister arrived, stopping for a coffee before they headed down the sidewalk to the health food store before circling back to pick me up . Snapback Dude had just settled down on the couch, and I didn’t want to think I was moving from the chair to a table just because of him.

I leaned over as I picked up my latte and said, “We’re not moving because of you, I promise. They’re my family and I was waiting for them, so we’re moving to a table where there’s more room.”

He gave me a big smile and said, “I can sit somewhere else, if you need me to!”

“No, no,” I assured him, touched. “We’re good. Thank you.”

“Okay,” he said, and I moved to a table with my mom and sister. We talked over scones for fifteen minutes or so before they left again, and I returned to the chair and opened my book again. Snapback Dude was listening to music, but after a few minutes he took his earbuds out and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Mirriam,” I said, shaking his offered hand. “What’s yours?”

He said, “Caleb,” and continued, “I just wanted to thank you for being bold.”

I blinked, but I didn’t have to say ‘uhhh, what?’ because he said, “You told me you were leaving and you talked to me and most people wouldn’t have done that.”

“I just – they came and I’d been waiting and I didn’t want you to think you drove us away or anything,” I stammered, taken aback.

Before I could say anything else, the man sitting across the table put down his phone and said, “I’m sorry, but I just have to say thank you two for interacting. It’s great to see that.”

“Exactly, right?” said Caleb, gesturing toward Phone Guy, whom I had privately dubbed James Spader 2.0. “People don’t connect anymore, and that’s what Jesus is all about.”

James Spader 2.0 retreated from the conversation after thanking us again, and I tucked up my legs and spent the next twenty minutes discussing God with a stranger who didn’t seem like such a stranger after all. When my sister came back and said it was time to go, I stood up and hugged Caleb.

“I’ll see you later,” he said, and I hope I nab him on his off-time again because there’s nothing quite like talking about deep, spiritual things with someone you’ve never met before – and yet, someone who feels familiar. And he was, because if we look and reach out and connect, maybe it’s not so hard to find family in Christ.

It was a fascinating morning – the discussion out of nowhere, and another stranger thanking us for talking. The impact we had on someone without really trying.

Unless I’m working a deadline, I don’t think I’ll be taking my laptop there again. I want to be open to more connections like this.

 

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//kintsukuroi

pottery

As I sat in a coffee shop the day before yesterday and watched people walk in and sit down, alone or in groups of two or three, I knew I was forming subconscious opinions of them. She thinks she’s too good for anyone else. He’s lonely. She’s unhappy. They might have been accurate observations, they might not have been, but as I sat there I realized that everyone who walked in was also forming a subconscious opinion of me. I wondered what they thought. I had a laptop and a stack of books; maybe they thought I was a college student. Maybe they saw the pink hair and flowered headphones and thought I was part of some weird little clique somewhere. Maybe they wanted to talk to me, but didn’t. Unspoken connections were made, thoughts were had, and lives moved on. I spoke to one girl before she left, telling her she looked pretty, and she returned the compliment with a bright smile and a compliment for my flowered snapback and headphones. As she walked out, I wondered more. What does she go through? What battles is she fighting? Who has broken her heart? What makes her happy?

I’m so easy to give grace to others, to forgive them for their flaws and to understand that they are not their mistakes. I tell people these things on a daily basis – I tell them what I know, that God has already forgiven them, that they need to move on, that I’m here for them.

When I tell people I don’t care what they’ve done, I truly mean it. I love them no matter what they’ve done. I want to love them in spite of it. I want to help them. I have love to give.

And yet, I don’t tell myself these things. I look at the horrible things I’ve done – things that disgust and shame me, things I wish so much I could take back, and I dwell on them. I roll around in the mud of past sins instead of allowing God to wash me clean. I am blinded, refusing to see myself as another human being, as another soul, so important in God’s eyes. Someone said that it’s harder to forgive those we know the best, and who do we know better than ourselves? We know every thought, every action we’ve taken that we wish we could take back. Someone might look us in the eyes and tell us how loved we are, but in our minds, we say You don’t know. You don’t know what I’ve done, and if you knew, you couldn’t understand, you couldn’t forgive me.

Just a few days ago, I was telling a very special girl I know that we need to forgive ourselves the same way we urge others to forgive, and it struck a chord I me, because I was being a hypocrite. I was encouraging her to do something I had failed to do, so many times. What right did I have, to tell her these things? To give her great advice that I can’t seem to follow?

I’m good at hiding how I truly feel. I laugh deeply and cry at the drop of a hat (seriously, I cried yesterday because a picture of castle ruins was so beautiful. I kid you not) but when it comes to how I feel about things, when it comes to sharing my burdens or concerns, I fall silent. I cover it up and say I’m fine. I say what people want to hear. I don’t do it for myself – I do it for others, because they don’t need to carry the weight of my mistakes as well as their own. And yet I wouldn’t have to carry my burdens at all if I would hand them over to God. If I would just do what He asks.

It doesn’t matter how many beautiful things I draw or how many novels I write – God doesn’t want those as much as He wants my flaws, my burdens and brokenness. There is a Japanese technique for fixing broken pottery called kintsugi or kintsukuroi. When something cracks, they mend it with gold. That’s what God does to us. He takes our imperfections and not only mends them – He turns them into something beautiful. We’re all broken, but not until we give our shattered pieces to God can He put us back together.

We give Him brokenness, and He gives us gold. And when we crack again, He keeps on giving. I need this reminder as much as anyone else – sometimes, I feel, maybe even more. He makes all things new. We just need to let Him.

Free Barabbas

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“Free Barabbas! Free Barabbas!”

It’s hard to imagine those words leaving their lips; leaving our lips. Choosing a murderer over holiness. Knowingly casting your vote for the man who would not have been released, if it were not for this day.

And yet, I wonder, what would have happened, had it gone the other way?

What if they had cried, “Free Jesus! Let Jesus go!” while Barabbas stood and watched?

I believe that Jesus would have taken his place. That he would have said, “Take me instead. Let this man go free.”

We may have chosen Barabbas that day, but we weren’t the only ones.

Jesus chose him that day, too.

Jesus freed Barabbas.

who is He

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Confession: I’ve always felt slightly pagan. My whole life, I’ve been drawn to the mystical side of the world – toward mystery and stars and standing stones. I’ve been more inspired to faith by works of New Age writers than by most sermons I hear on Sunday morning. I was thinking this over today, wondering how this began and whether it was wrong, and I came to the conclusion that no. It’s not wrong – at least, not the way I have it. I am very firmly a Christian. I love the Lord – and yet, I wondered, how come I felt closest to the Lord not inside a building with my back against a pew, but barefoot in the grass, or standing on my driveway looking up at the constellations twinkling in the blackness over my head? How come I find trees and a gray, windswept sky more worshipful than a devotional printed on a page?

I believe, too often, we attempt to fit God into a modern box. We poke a few holes in this box and set it on a shelf, and every now and then we take it out and revisit not the true God, but the small, dusty idea of God we’ve grown used to. This is a God of tiny communion cups and crumbs of bread, of badly-written worship songs and rules you won’t find anywhere in the Bible.

When you actually open up those sacred pages, this is not the image of God you find. No – the God you find there is the one who spoke the Universe into being. This is the God who set foot on water and did not sink, who bent to help the lowest and rose to give us life, the God who subverted cultural norms for women and who taught the most radical, newfangled notions people back then had ever heard. This is a wild God, a jealous God, a God who rides on thunder and lightning and whose still, small voice is more powerful than a hurricane.

In many ways, the true image of God is more similar to pagan gods of old than our modern idea of Him. He is not a tame lion, but He is good. He is ancient, He is new, He is eternal. Who are we to think we can confine Him into the finite, frightened, doubtful box that we label ‘Sunday’ and ‘Church’ and ‘Discipline?’ Not that those are bad in any way, but we have it all wrong; we see through a glass darkly and miss who He really is.

Today after we read aloud from Proverbs, Dad had us all read a verse we’d picked about God. I chose Psalms 135:7, which holds my favorite description of God.

“He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.”

I was inspired this morning to begin a journey through Psalms and write down all the descriptions of God that I find. It’s going to be an interesting, enlightening experience – care to join me?

fashioning our hearts

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During a Bible study in town with the Latigo girls, we came across this passage in Psalms 33 –

The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
14 From the place of His dwelling He looks
On all the inhabitants of the earth;
15 He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works.

Several phrases captured my attention. From the place of His dwelling and He fashions their hearts individually. It’s easy for me to hear the word ‘God’ and see a king on a throne in the sky, waving his hand magnanimously at the tiny human subjects below. This image may be partly accurate, but it’s not the whole picture. God fashions (doesn’t just ‘wave into being’ but fashions) our hearts in the place of His dwelling.

He takes His work home with Him. This is such a beautiful image of Jesus the carpenter, fashioning creations from wood in a room full of works-to-be. He doesn’t simply yawn us into being; he crafts us personally, with his own hands. How beautiful is that?