Posted tagged ‘Starbucks’

A Creature of Habit

November 27, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 27, 2017

                                  

Perhaps you can identify with what I’m about to write. I am a creature of habit!

My habit-dominated life begins with my wake-up routine. I rise from bed fifteen minutes either side of 6:30. If I’m still in bed at 7:00 Carol knows that I’m either sick or dead. The second hasn’t happened yet so it’s usually the first!

I shower, brush my teeth, shave…the usual morning routines, head downstairs to feast on…yogurt! If I’m not substitute teaching I’m usually out the door by 7:15 headed to my local Starbucks, where I am now sitting on the last stool on the right looking out at Pike’s Peak. If someone is already sitting on that stool I make an adjustment…and sit on the last stool on the left! It is on one of these stools that I peck out my blog each time, sipping Pike Place coffee that has been flavored with cream and two raw sugar packets. The baristas at Starbucks know that I’m there for my coffee with my reusable Starbucks cup, and that I will stay there until I’ve gotten my second free refill with my Starbucks Gold Card.

Coincidentally, the book I finished writing, and am now writing the sequel to, gets created at Library 21C in Colorado Springs from the last chair on the right  at a counter that is looking out towards Pike’s Peak. Go figure!

I drink juice from a plastic cup that looks like it belongs to a first-grader. I wear low-cut white socks to bed that get taken off sometime before I fall asleep. I sleep with my “blankie” that is hovering around forty years old. I like to read for an hour or two at bedtime…underneath my blankie…that covers up my displaced white socks.

When I go to our fitness club I run/walk on the treadmill, do weight training, swim, and then shower in that order. Always…in that order!

By now you’re thinking I’m a bit anal, but if I had the habit of betting I would wager that you’ve got some ingrained habits as well.

Habits bring order and structure. They’re like the side wall of a pool that you know you can grab on to when things seem to be getting a little too hairy!

When I retired from pastoral ministry I suddenly realized that I had the freedom and the choice to go to a worship service on Sunday morning. The first Sunday after retirement, guess what I did? I got up and went to worship at First Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. The next Sunday I got up and went to a Church of Christ that friends of ours belonged to. The habit of worship continued to resonate with me. It was foundational, and continues to be.

Habits, however, need to emerge out of a purpose, a reason. Why is it that I attend Sunday worship? Because of my love for and relationship with Jesus. Why is it that Carol and I hold hands and pray before we share a meal together? Because we are grateful! Why do we contribute to ministries, churches, and other charitable organizations? Because what we have is all God’s to begin with, and we believe that giving a portion of what he has blessed us with is a privilege and an obligation.

Sometimes people adopt habits because their family had the same habits. They, however, never bought into the purpose of the habit. When a crisis happens, or a change occurs that causes them to evaluate what is going on in their lives the habits often get tossed to the side because of their rootlessness.

It seems that I serve a God who is also into the habit of doing certain things that have meaning and purpose. I’m extremely grateful of the fact that he is forgiving, gracious, and loving. That those habits are rooted in his desire for relationships with people. God has good habits!

Perhaps deep within my soul is that yearning to be relationship with him as well, and that yearning has caused some of my spiritual practices to become holy habits.

Generic Christianity

November 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           November 17, 2017

                                         

Starbucks is decorating their stores with Christmas…err, Holiday gifts and ornaments. Although they have a dark roast coffee called “Christmas Blend”, as far as I can tell it is the only reference to the name we place on December 25. They use words and terms like “joy”, “peace”, and “give good” to point to the festive holiday time without saying Christmas.

Starbucks keeps it generic in order to be more appealing…and raise the profit margin. I don’t fault them for this. Although I enjoy my coffee I don’t see it as a spiritual experience to sit on a stool in a Starbucks for an hour…as I’m doing now!

Christianity and the Christian church, on the other hand, should stand for something solid and transformative. The Christian faith is decorated with words like “redemption”, “transformation”, “grace”, and “forgiveness”. They are pillars built on the sacrifice of Christ.

It seems that churches are in danger of becoming generic in their presentation, their terminology, and their beliefs. I’m not talking about churchy terms like benediction, narthex, Eucharist, and sacraments. No, I’m going in a different direction…kinda’! Instead of mirroring Christ, the church too often mirrors culture. Instead of counter-cultural we mostly go with the flow. Instead of transforming we have been mostly transformed…by the NFL, The Bachelor, and CNN and Fox News.

There are encouraging signs, however! The relief efforts of various churches and faith organizations in recent months to help those affected by flooding and hurricanes has been awesome. It reconnects with the early Christians in Rome who would minister to those dying of smallpox. The epidemic that killed as much as a third of the population in AD 165 spared no family. Even the emperor, Marcus Aurelius, succumbed to it. Families would push their sick out of the house and into the street to die alone. Followers of Jesus, however, remembered their Savior touching lepers and healing the sick, and so they willingly became infected with the disease in order to show love and compassion to those who were dying. John Ortberg, in his book Who Is This Man? (page 38) refers to sociologist Rodney Stark who argues that one of the primary reasons for the spread of the Christian faith was because of the way Jesus followers responded to sick people. Comforting the afflicted gets us back to our roots.

Generic Christianity sets up a buffet table of doctrinal sample and avoid…like the prime rib of beef and the peas and carrots. This looks good for me and that has no place on my plate. Generic faith gets customized for my taste. Prayer may have a prominent place but grace gets avoided; worship is appetizing but confession is about as appealing as week-old fruit salad.

Authentic Christianity is life-changing and, perhaps, that’s why it gets avoided. It requires our surrender, our yielding.

Red-Green Color Blind on St. Patrick’s Day

March 18, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 18, 2017

                            

I needed Carol…but she had departed the house early for a day of being a para-professional with middle school students who have special needs.

Unfortunately, I had a special need also! It was St. Patrick’s Day and I didn’t know what to wear. Being color blind I couldn’t figure out what I could wear that had green in it. I was scheduled for an interview that morning at a school, so I couldn’t wear one of my Michigan State tee shirts. They were the only shirts I owned that I was sure had green because the Spartan’s colors are green and white.

I faced a closet full of mixed-up hues and vague hints of color schemes. They looked like a color calculus problem with no clear solution.

People don’t quite understand the effects of color blindness. They ask me what is it I see? I see what I see, but am often confused by what it is. As I approach a stoplight on a foggy morning I have to slow down to see which of the three lights is shining. If it is the bottom one I know I can go.

I remember when I was first diagnosed as color blind when I was in fourth grade. I was given a group of circles, each filled with dots, and asked to say the number that was inside the circle. A couple of the numbers were as clear as day, but a few of the others…in my view!…had no number in the middle. In fact, I thought it was some cheap school prank made to make me look silly!

I drive a white car! I can figure out white usually! But white is not green, and my granddaughter has informed me that people will pinch me if I don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. She had a smile on her face as she said it, like she was choosing the body part to grab hold of.

I settled on a new Roundtree & York shirt that looked like it could possibly have some green in the crossing pattern of lines and designs. There had to be some green in it! If I would have thought about it a little more I could have taken a selfie picture and sent it to Carol. Hopefully she would have a moment to view it before I headed out into a world obsessed with greenness.

At Starbucks I got looks! I checked my zipper! I was okay. My dense brain figured the looks were because of my favorite Starbucks cup, which is starting to look a little weathered in its whiteness.

Or maybe it was because I was a good-looking 62 year old man!

I thought I noticed one elderly lady looking at me and positioning two of her fingers into a tight position. I wondered if she was having a stroke! She wasn’t! I remembered my granddaughter’s words. This lady was ready to pounce…or, pinch my arm! I scurried to my white car!

But I had my new Roundtree & York green, brown, red, and blue shirt on! Perhaps this lady had a distorted kind of color blindness, like a color blind psycho…seeing things that aren’t there and not seeing things that are there!

St. Patrick’s Day is torturous!

After my interview, in which I got concerned looks at my color attire, I stopped at Carol’s school to check on something else with the athletic office secretary.

“You’re not wearing green today!”

“I’m not!”

“No!”

I flinched like she was about to pinch me. “This shirt isn’t green?”

She laughed deeply at my tainted tintness! I scurried home to the safety of my vacated residence…and changed shirts!

Ground-Daughter

February 19, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  February 19, 2017

                                 

It had been one of those weeks! You know the kind…where you go a thousand miles a minute and never seem to get anywhere. It had been a week filled with always getting behind the person driving twenty miles under the speed limit; a week of dealing with a cold, and speaking of that, a week of dealing with snotty-nosed middle school students who seemed to think Valentine’s Day entitled them to hallway intimate embraces; a week of dealing with belligerent basketball coaches and fans; a week of neck pain, backaches, and throbbing knees.

And then our granddaughter got sick Friday night!

Both Carol and I were free on Friday, and I was looking forward to some early morning writing time perched on my Starbucks stool, but our daughter and granddaughter needed us. Admittedly, I agreed to come over early in the morning and sit with Reagan, who just turned six the week before, but I was muttering to myself!

I arrived at 7:40 so our oldest daughter, Kecia, could head to school, where she would face a full day of fourth grade parent-teacher conferences. Reagan was half laying and half sitting on the couch watching TV. We greeted one another and then I sat down at the kitchen table to do an evaluation for a friend. I thought it might take an hour, but, instead, took only about ten minutes. I went over to the couch and sat down by my oldest granddaughter.

On the TV was a kid’s show called Mia and Me. I started watching it with her, not realizing that it was a Netflix season series! After the first episode, seeing that the next episode would start in twenty seconds, I asked a few questions to the recovering sick one.

“So is that lady the bad guy?”

“Yes, she’s trying to get the unicorns.”

“Why does she want the unicorns?”
“To take their horns so that Queen Panthea can stay young.”

To myself. “Huh?”

“Who are the two kids flying around in the air?”

“Those are elves. They are trying to keep the unicorns safe.”

“Oh!”

We sat there for a couple of hours watching six episodes. Reagan leaned into me, like I used to do with my dad in church when I was her age. She settled into my side as Mia faced another riddle to solve in Episode 4.

We journeyed through the land of Centopia together that morning, the old guy asking questions and the young one providing the answers.

It was a morning that we both needed. A morning where a six year old got me grounded again, with some moments of quiet and togetherness. Sitting on the couch with my granddaughter was without a doubt the most meaningful experience I had all week.

Sometimes the inconveniences of life lead us to the moments that God most desires for us. They are moments that won’t make headlines, but are moments that plant the treasure of life within our hearts.

Wanting the In-Between

November 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 21, 2016

 

I went to Walgreen’s a few days ago to buy a bag of cough drops. I located the aisle they were displayed in and scanned the selections. The Walgreen’s brand had a couple of flavors to offer, but the first bag I found only had thirty cough drops in it. Knowing that I was going through about six a day I thought the next size up would be a better choice. At the other end of the shelf was a bag of two hundred.

“There must be a size in-between”, I thought to myself. I searched back and forth, and I slowed down my gaze trying to locate the in-between. To my amazement there was no in-between. It was either 30 or 200. It was either five days of relief or five years of taking up cabinet space.

Where was the in-between? And another question, where is the in-between?

Even Starbucks calls their in-between size drink “Grande!”

But the in-between is about more than just food and drink. It’s also about position and value. The American middle class has shrunk in the last few decades. During the last decade of the 20th Century it shrank because more people were moving upwards in economic class, but in the  first two decades of this century it has shrunk because more people are moving down to being lower in economic status. The importance of that can be seen in nations where there is a very small middle class. Also, without exception those countries are impoverished and unstable. People recognize that there are the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and there is a ripple effect of unrest, hopelessness, and social anger. The in-between holds the extremes together. When there is no in-between division and dissension define the culture.

I’m an in-betweener politically. I’m not sure when I settled in that position. Perhaps it is simply a part of who I am. Back in the 1990’s when I won an election for a seat on the Board of Education for the Mason, Michigan school system I ran as an in-betweener. The community was divided between those who did not want to pass the school bond issue and those who saw the increasing need for it. I ran as one who could help bring the community together, won the election, and helped in the effort to pass the school bond issue the next fall. Sometimes it takes an in-betweener to help end the tug-of-war in a community.

Even in this past presidential election I was an in-betweener! But the in-between has not been a popular place to be. It’s too rational in a time of sniping polarization. I feel like the marriage counselor in the midst of two adults screaming at each other and telling them that I’m not on the side of either one of them.

People think the in-between doesn’t stand for anything, that it’s fickle and uncommitted! Contrary to what liberals and conservatives think, the in-between is a place that looks at the long-term possibilities and direction. To use a word picture, it looks out from the top of Pike’s Peak through the clouds and haze and sees Kansas. The in-betweener is the optimist in a scuffle where everyone else is determined to be the winner.

The other night Carol and I were babysitting for our three grandkids. Reagan, our five year old granddaughter, likes to have me tell her stories. She has gotten into the habit of draping her feet across my lap and asking me to tell her a story that includes the participation of her feet. So I told her about a worm named “Squiggly” who was looking for a nice warm place to sleep that night, a place of protection and coziness. Squiggly found that place in-between her toes, and I tickled the inside spot to pinpoint where this story was going. Reagan squealed with delight and laughter, and quickly removed her feet from my lap. Fifteen seconds later she placed them back across my legs and said, “Tell me the rest of the story!” That finding of the in-between spot and laughter continued for several minutes. It humored each of its participants.

The in-between is a place of delight, a giggling warm spot that is delightfully good. It’s the place of peace in the troubling spirit of population. It’s the disappearing place where harmony can be seeded and flourish.

The Morning After…Watching The Grandkids

August 2, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 2, 2016

                              

It’s the morning after supervising the three grandchildren for ten hours. I’m feeling the effects!

First of all, there’s my speech pattern! I’m talking in one and two word phrases, and repeating them two or three times. For instance, I stood in front of the refrigerator this morning looking at the containers of orange and apple juice and saying to myself “Juice! Juice! Juice!” I said it non-audibly to my inner self, but I said it with the voice of my sixteen month old granddaughter.

The morning proceeded.

“Waffle! Waffle! Waffle!”

“Keys! Keys! Keys!”

“Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!”

I’m afraid I’ll carry this toddler stream of repetitive verbiage too far. How will Carol react when she comes home from an errand and I greet her with “Hi Wife! Hi Wife!”? Or what if I discover the Half-and-Half container at Starbucks is empty and I carry the container to the counter shouting “Cream! Cream! Cream!”? I may never be able to go back to that Starbucks where I’ve been seen as a responsible adult for the last several years.

Really! Really! Really!

I’m looking at Pike’s Peak right now and saying to myself “Big! Big! Big!” This afternoon when I lay down for a nap I just hope I don’t whine “Pac-i!” Pac-i! Pac-i!”, as in “pacifier!”

The second after effect is my body whining to me. My lower back is reminding me that I’m not a young man anymore. Every time the grand baby looked up at me and said “Up! Up! Up!”, I obliged. Is there rehab therapy for grandparents? My arm muscles feel like I’ve done a full weight training workout at the Y.M.C.A. Actually, it has just been a day of squat thrusts and arm curls with a twenty-two pound weight! I thought I would sleep soundly last night out of exhaustion, but instead I tossed and turned in pain. I’m hoping I have the strength to fix lunch!, lunch!, lunch! I’m now speaking to myself again and thinking of my massage therapist, Jackie Landers. “Massage! Massage! Massage!”

Finally, the third after effect is a different kind of feeling whatsoever. It’s a feeling…a realization of blessedness! In the midst of one word demands and tried muscles I know without a doubt that I am a blessed man, a graced granddad! As I wrote in a blog post a few days ago, I am in marvel of the little ones! They make me feel young at heart even as I feel the age of  my body. I actually get a little emotional thinking about them.

Today is our five year old granddaughter Reagan’s first day of kindergarten. Jesse, our eight year old grandson starts third grade. They amaze me even as they cause me to need a nap. They have amazing parents who keep them grounded in the Word, on-course with figuring out what is appropriate and what isn’t, and immersed in unconditional love.

So even as my speech pattern has changed today and my body has gone south I wouldn’t change anything. To my heavenly Father I say the two words that the toddler does not repeat, but rather only says once as I hand her the sip cup full of juice.

“Thank you!”

 

600 Posts!

July 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 8, 2016

                                              

Today I’m writing my 600th Words from WW blog post. It’s been an adventure! The first post emerged on December 30, 2008. There have been times of writing frenzy, like in June of 2014 when I took on a challenge that wordpress.Com presented of writing a blog post each day for the entire month. Plus, they gave you the subject matter.

I’ve written about death…greatly on my mind when my mom passed away Labor Day weekend of 2013.

I’ve written about grace…and how it so often is lacking, oddly enough, in the church.

I’ve written imagined coffee conversations with Jesus…stressing that things are not always so cut and dried as people think.

I’ve written about personalities…people who have greatly influenced my life in various ways.

I’ve written about how weird people are…or should I say we all are!

I’ve written about stories in Scripture and what they teach me.

I’ve written about the church…my hope for it, and my frustration with it.

I’ve written about life…normal life and life moments that have a sense of sacredness to them, like my daughter’s wedding and car rides with my granddaughter.

I’ve written from a stool at Starbucks, my home study, and a cubicle at the public library. There’s been many occasions where I’ve sat on my Starbuck’s stool, looking out at Pike’s Peak, with no idea what I would write about and then God gives me a thought, an idea, a moment of remembering something from the past…and the words tumble out. With my earbuds in, tuned to the Coldplay station on Spotify, I go at it.

And the thing is, I write and trust that God will take it from there. He’s like the paperboy for my blog. I trust that he hits the driveway to whomever he sends it to, and it doesn’t end up underneath the shrubbery.

A couple of weeks ago someone I least expected told me that she really enjoyed my “Words.” “It is so where I live!” she exclaimed. I greatly appreciated that. I’ve never been one for high academia, as my college grades would attest to! I’m more like “The Hardy Boys”, rather than “The Brothers Karamazov!”

One of my best friends suggested that I try to get money for my blog. He knows someone who does. My mind can’t fathom that. My writing is kind of like my baseball card collection. It keeps getting bigger, but I never sell any. I’m just thrilled that people seem to enjoy reading it. According to WordPress I have 128 followers. I’m not sure what that means, and, quite honestly, I don’t know ninety percent of them. How closely do they follow? Are they more like stalkers who are following me, or readers who are looking for a chuckle in the midst of a ho-hum day?

And so I write as I sip on my Pike Place brew. Perhaps someday I’ll be on The Today Show…not!

What or whom might be the subject for #601?