Monday, June 2, 2008


Listen, God!
Please, pay attention!

Can you make sense
of these ramblings,

my groans and cries?
I need your help.
Every morning
you'll hear me at it again.
Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar and watch for fire to descend.[1]

A friend of mine owns a coffee shop. His shop is no ordinary cup of coffee. Walk across the outer courtyard, past a large fountain, weave among cafĂ© tables, through the tall entrance door, step between two stone sculptures of lions. Check out the plush leather couches embracing an over-sized fireplace. Then take a glance up. There she ascends in all her glory, high overhead, exalted above the people, Mary the mother of Jesus. My friend not only owns a coffee shop, he’s also a gifted painter.

The Assumption of Mary, a 10 by 30 foot remix of several master renaissance paintings, suspended from the ceiling, evokes a sense of sitting not in a coffee shop in the Pacific Northwest but in a European chapel. My friend describes his architectural vision as “cathedral coffee”, a curious blend of earthly delights and heavenly vision. He claims that people don’t just want a cup of coffee, but are actually yearning for a taste of transcendence. He’s on to something.

There will be those reading this who will resent marketing spirituality for commercial purposes. I’d love for them to meet my friend. There is nothing crass or materialistic about the man. He’s first a man of deep spirituality. Second, he’s an artist. To pay the rent in his modest rental room in our coastal town, he’s also a businessman.

As a businessman, he knows some things many have yet to realize. We stop for a few minutes each morning for a cup of coffee. Why? It may have little to do with coffee. It may just be that we sit and sip dark hot brew every morning to reconnect somehow with that place of grace deep inside which will largely be neglected in the upcoming eight hours of business. Of course, who hasn’t rushed roughshod over this fragile time with a cup of coffee, squandering these few minutes with newspapers, televisions, noise, laptops, palm pilots and other ordinary time distractions.

That doesn’t refute the real thirst involved in our morning cup of coffee rituals. As you sit before that expensive hot drink in a paper cup, consider the possibility that your first thirst has little to do with coffee, but is really a thirst for inner renewal of your soul, for an experience of what an English mystic, Dame Julian of Norwich, envisioned six hundred years ago, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.[2]

Step up to the counter and order your standard double-tall, skinny, sugar-free, vanilla mocha extra-hot latte hold the whipped cream and then be my guest and join me over on the leather sofa in the corner by the fire. Personally, I’m drinking coffee, dark roast coffee from the pump pots over there on the side counter. It really doesn’t matter what’s in our cups. With hot drinks in hand, with heads resting back into the leather, we’ll sit in silence together and meditate upon the heavenly grace ascending high over our sleepy heads.

[1] Psalm 5:1-3, The Message, by Eugene Petersen.

[2] Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1998), 79.

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