The Word was Made Flesh . . . and dwelt in coffee shops?

(sort of related pic brewery picture . . .)

Those who know me know that I’m probably one of the least hipster/culturally aware people in the entire world. I’m serious. I’m usually six months behind on any given trend and prefer to forge my own way that is less “hipster” and more “I don’t even know what Spotify is so I just replay songs on youtube.” Anyways! This last Saturday I found myself waiting for my  friends (thank you, Jesus, for real, live friends) at a local coffee shop before going on an afternoon brewery tour (not hipster, I just like beer).

And, you guessed it, the coffee shop was way too cool for school, and certainly too cool for me. Organic coffee. No artificial sweetener. Lots of tattoos. I. Was. Out. Of. My. Element. But once I set my mind on iced coffee, there is no turning back. So I nervously sat down and tried to look like I belonged. After discovering a melted Reese’s cup in my purse (gross, I know), I nervously took out my laptop (with said melted chocolate on it) to do some “work.” And theeennnnnn there was no wifi, so I was forced to “do work” on my comp and nervously text Theresa asking where she was.

As I was awkwardly taking in my surroundings, all the while trying not to be that creepy girl that just sits in the coffee shop staring in awe at everyone else, something incredible happened. In front of me there was a woman–actually doing real work–that had a Bible sitting on her table. Another patron (medium hipster-status, I’d say) noticed the Bible and struck up a conversation. After they had exchanged a few pleasantries, she asked him if he wanted the Bible. Just like that! He gratefully accepted it, equal parts shocked and elated, and after a bit more conversation walked away.

Even while attempting to stave off tears, I immediately began to weigh the pros and cons of saying something to her. After sending various frantic messages to friends asking “should I say something to her?!?!!?!?”  (thanks Arleen & Greg), I found a beautiful prayer card in my wallet from a dear friend’s ordination. I packed up my chocolate-smeared computer and decided to go for it. I nervously walked the three steps to her table, told her how much I admired her–I think my actual words were, “That was really awesome, very incarnational”–introduced myself and handed her the prayer card from Fr. Taylor’s ordination (see, it pays to grab a stack of fifty . . .) We exchanged contact info and promised to pray for each other and connect again.

I walked into that coffee shop feeling like a complete outsider, but I walked out with my tears in my eyes grateful for the reminder that the Christian life is inherently relational and rooted in authentically encountering the living God in those that we meet. Although the early Apostles probably weren’t hanging out in coffee shops waiting for a brewery tour (I think their preferred drink was wine . . .), I felt a certain solidarity with them, even as I sat there awkwardly contemplating whether or not I should slip in an affirmation of the Christian life bearing fruit in another person. At this point in my life, God is calling me to not merely find Him in Himself, but to find Him everywhere and anywhere He may be found, especially in the most unexpected places and circumstances. By opening one’s heart to these incarnation experiences, we can remember that we are not in this alone. And there is joy, such joy.

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Blanket Statement.

 

Not quite home, but something beautiful.

Not quite home, but something beautiful.

This past weekend, I was able to spend several days at home. This involved several perks like laundry service, Minnesota nice, and an almost embarrassing amount of HGTV. It also allowed for some much needed rest. As I settled into a comfortable position on my parents’ living room sofa preparing for a pre-dinner nap (you all know the kind, right?) I muttered to my mom “Hey, do we have any blankets?” hoping to make my cat-nap a little more comfortable. Of course I knew the answer – we have plenty of blankets in my house – however my expectations were exceeded when my mom came over and placed the blanket on me, ensuring that I would be as comfortable as possible.

Now, I don’t share this story to tell all of you how great my mom is (although it’s true! She’s the best), what it points to is something much deeper – when we ask for something in faith, what we receive is always so much greater. Although my day-to-day day life doesn’t usually involve moments of real luxury like this (let’s be real . . . I’m trying to save money by not using the air conditioning in my apartment . . . so blankets aren’t super necessary), what our day-to-day lives do involve are opportunities to call out and ask for things knowing that our loving Father will take care of us.

My parents have proven time and time again that they are willing to go the extra mile to make me as comfortable as possible – but why is it so difficult for us to ask God for what we desire? Why is it that whenever I fall to my knees in prayer I am scared to ask God for what I really want? Why is it that I am hesitant about fully trusting that God will always provide?

Unlike the short cat-nap that I took that was made all the more comfortable by my being hand-delivered a blanket, the comfort that we receive from God requires a response. And more than a response, every good thing that we receive from God also requires an action. More often than not when God provides some great comfort, He is also preparing us, readying us for something greater to come.

When we ask for things in faith, not only is God quick to provide (as He sees fit, of course), He uses it as an opportunity for us to grow in the knowledge that we are made for more than mere comfort. Pope Benedict XVI once said, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

In the Christian life, the moments of comfort that we receive (from God or from others) always require a response. Whether it is a seemingly smaller action like a word of gratitude (thanks mom!) or something bigger like a move or new relationship, every time we act upon the comfort that we were given, we acknowledge that we are made for this greatness and receive a joy we never expected.

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Joy, Unexpected.

A few months ago after awkwardly explaining to a small group of highschoolers our first retreat ice-breaker, I found myself staring at a pile of magazines wondering how I could accurately describe myself in a simple collage. I started rifling through and ripping out whatever I could find: . . . an ad for coffee (self-explanatory), a woman’s mouth (weird, I know, but I like to talk!), and then without really thinking I ripped out a short phrase: “Joy I Never Expected”.

After sloppily pasting everything down, I waited my turn and listened to my small group describe their collages. They were filled with sports, celebrities, and other equally surface-level things. It was my turn – I started describing what was on my page and trying (and failing) to make a few jokes. Then I came across that phrase that I had hastily ripped out and without thinking looked at them and said, “The Christian life has brought me joy I never expected.”

In the months since that retreat, I have constantly found myself coming back to that phrase. What started as a quick attempt to describe myself has turned into a reminder of the promise that exists for all of us – a promise of a life of joy. The world is constantly trying to tell us what it thinks will make us happy – money, sex, success. But the reality is that what we are made for – and what we so often forget that we deserve – is a life of joy, a joy that comes alone from knowing Jesus Christ. This world that can so often try to suffocate us – it can try to fool us into being satisfied with the way things are or the monotony of the day to day. The beauty is that whether we realize it or not, the promise of the Gospel of John rings true for all of us – He has come that we may have abundant life.

So here I am – new city, new job, new relationships. Of course there is a fair share of fear and uncertainty, but the joy that comes from knowing and serving my God conquers all that and makes it worthwhile: joy in the excitement of a new state in life, joy in baking homemade bread (I know, I’m legit), and most importantly joy in the knowledge that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. There is abundant life to be found in this crazy thing we call the Christian life. And that is precisely why I’m here – to share the struggles, yes, but to focus on the joy.

 

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