I've been driving by a local coffee house for some time now, thinking that one of these days I would have to stop and go in. It's not a chain, it's a local joint, so rare these days, not just in coffee shops, but in everything.
One day we finally carved out a little time to stop in and get some coffee, pull up a lime green easy chair and stay for awhile. It turns out they have a small menu as well, including some homemade breads, instant oatmeal and quiche (while it lasts). I brought along the book I was reading at the time, Everything Happens For a Reason (and other Lies I've Loved). There were a couple of local mystery writers sitting in one corner, discussing plots and current events. Every once in awhile someone would drive up to the window and order something to go.
We carried on a conversation with the young, friendly barista. She's originally from Montana, but lives now in a tiny town just west of us. Besides her work at the coffee shop, she also babysits a young boy. And she reads. She loves to read. Right then she was reading the book Accidental Saints, a book by a pastor from my particular tribe (Lutheran). Although Nadia has tattoos, and I don't.
I talked a little bit about my church, just a little way down the road, and its pre-school. I told her a little bit about one of my dreams: to have a tiny children's bookstore, and call it "The Wardrobe." It would only need to be the size of a walk-in closet, and specialize in children's books with spiritual themes.
She said, "I would soo... hang out there!"
I don't have a plan for this dream, knowing as I do that bookstores are sort of the wave of the past, not the future, what with online purchasing and e-readers. But it was nice to share it with someone who could see its possibilities.
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This morning we were back at the coffee shop. We made small talk with a woman who was there, purchasing fresh-ground coffee. She loves sushi and is learning Spanish. She has a four year old son who does not yet talk much. "Einstein was a late talker," I offered. She counted her change in Spanish, just for practice.
The barista and I had another conversation, over coffee and oatmeal. She likes to read the feminist Christian writers, she said, and we took turns naming some: Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker. We talked about a book club starting at the coffee shop. The next book they are reading is a mystery.
I love my congregation. I love leading worship every Sunday, all of the voices lifted in praise, making sure all ages and all people have a place, and know they belong. It makes a hinge on my week. But it's too easy for me to get the impression that all the important things happen inside its doors, when that is not really the case. The most important things happen when we meet God through all the week, in all of the conversations, in the details of each other's lives, where God is at work, if only I had more time to listen.