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Top Holiday Memories - Merry Christmas!

Frankly, I don’t remember if it was a gift on Christmas or one that arrived during the Christmas season, but it is a gift that captures much of what Christmas is truly about – simple giving in love.

My son crafted a Christmas coffee mug when he was a very young lad. He drew the picture himself on the side of the mug – a Christmas tree, two wrapped presents, and angel on the tree top - and then presented it to me. Every year when we bring out the Christmas decorations we replace our normal glasses and mugs with Christmas ones. His gift is always among them, and all season long I reach for that mug with great love and care.

The mug sits around reminding me that I am a most fortunate father, step-father and husband. It reminds me that we never know what act of kindness, no matter how small and ‘imperfect’ will remain permanently in someone’s life. It reminds me how quickly life can change and how important it is to enjoy each simple moment. It reminds me that taking time for a quiet cup of coffee and delicate reflection is important in the busy holidays. It causes me to hear the carols of children singing in church.

Mostly, I see that angel, perched atop the tree and hear an ancient voice speak a timeless message softly through thousands of years, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas.

Sunday Coffee Cup - Cafe Roche

Jazz floats through the space accompanied by a pleasant din of community conversation. A chat about home repairs, banter about the most accomplished local jazz groups and the common agreement that this is the best coffee served in tow are all a part of my morning today.

I often drive the short distance from my home to Café Roche on Sunday morning. If you’ve been there you know why. There is a welcoming eclectic mix of décor and people– always. Today’s coffee cup doesn’t come from my cupboard and isn’t adorned with a clever saying or photo, but it is rich and familiar in both its simple form and steaming content.

I enjoy my stops at Café Roche. This morning is a writing day, so I’ll nestle into the back corner of the use to be white sofa and pound out an hour or so worth of creative writing. Maybe I’ll write down my thoughts about the current craze around Tebowing (oh I have some strong thoughts about God and football), or continue my work on “Things I Wish I Had Said from the Pulpit”, but whatever comes the energy here will help. It is strong, animated and stimulating – just like this Sunday Coffee Cup.

Note: If you like, find out more about Café Roche over at Sarah’s blog.

Sunday Coffee Cup- My Sister

We all have them stashed and stacked in the cabinet. Why do we collect so many coffee mugs and cups? Some are little more than clutter. A plastic memento of a meaningless event or casual encounter with a random company. Yet, for me, what I see when I reach for a Sunday morning cup for my coffee is a cupboard full of significant life moments, memories of time well sent and people kindly known. My Sunday morning coffee cup selection is never really casual. Each time I choose a mug, I'm choosing to remember and reconnect with a segment of my life.

It seems selfish to keep all of these moments to myself, so each Sunday I'll plan on posting a Sunday Coffee Cup photo and story. Enjoy this inaugural post.

My Sister - Burp!

It was Christmas of 1999. I was just months past my departure from the ordained ministry, my spirit and my life still reeling from the trauma of personal burnout. Finances were bottomed out. I was working my first 'sales' job and beginning what would become a new career chapter. It was one of those life moments when all I had of certainty and peace was each emotion filled moment, each small rational choice and a tenuous faith that somehow God would see me through.

The trip to Myrtle Beach, SC for our extended family Christmas gathering was tentative, lacking in joy and confidence. There wer to be few gifts given, few life accomplishments to celebrate. Enter my sister.

My sister is, and mostly has been throughout her life, a mess. Sometimes that 'mess' was of the playful, mischievous childhood variety of 'mess.' A mess you find yourself admiring for tenacity, boldness and undaunted determination. Sometimes my sister's 'mess' was more of the personal life catastrophe variety. Bad choices, bad timing, bad comrades and all in the worst possible order. Mt sister was going through a 'mess' of the second variety in 1999. She was, simply put, in worse shape than I was - at least it looked like it from the outside looking in.

That year, my sister took the time and a few of her very limited dollars and bought me a Christmas present. She gave me a perfectly selected mug. When I unwrapped it, the crass imprint on the outside and the playful lettering inside the rim gave me pause. The I felt a giggle forming deep inside, a giggle that begin to bubble up into a joyous laugh.

Now, years and gallons of coffee later, I still cherish this bold, playful, timely and loving gift. It makes my Sunday cup of coffee perfect. Thanks Sis!

On Having Lunch at Panera - A Poem

On Having Lunch at Panera

The din resonates
Countless voices frantically
Proclaim facades and personas

Below the cascade
Simplistic souls stand
Wall flowers alone and longing

Within, a voice asks
Shall we dance?

Cup of Coffee and Quality Conversation

Yesterday I had a visit with a good friend of 5 years now. We met innocently enough at a local coffee house (Café Roche) and talked over hot coffee and warm pastries.

We spent about 2 hours together and I left with a bitter –sweet awareness.

The Sweet – We listened and talked to each other. We asked questions to better understand perspectives. We recalled life experiences and things we had read or seen to add depth and breadth to the conversation. We wondered together. We laughed, debated and shared silence together. I left feeling grateful for the time and stimulated in my thinking and creative passion.

The Bitter - I don’t have good, quality conversations of substance nearly often enough. I know I am busy at work and at home. I know the trend is for 140 character interactions, online chatting, blogging/commenting and trite verbal exchanges (and I’m very good at those – I’m just saying), but I wonder if there isn’t more to it.

Have we somehow developed into a culture where conversation has been replaced with brief proclamations and affirmations? Has the art of informed group inquiry (was there ever such an art) become too complicated, too time consuming? I think one of the reasons that I love sharing coffee with others – just about anyone – is that it slows things down and creates a moment for conversation. It is hard to be in a hurry when you are holding and trying to drink very HOT liquids!

My life needs more time for coffee and conversation, more space for debating, wondering with others. What about you? Care to join me for a cup of Joe?

Home Coming of Female Progeny

My daughter, now living in L.A., is coming home for a Thanksgiving visit. She arrives today.

We have a tradition of sorts - breakfast together at The Bagel Station. I'm hungry already!

My Life Is Waffle House!?

It is very interesting what one can learn from listening.

I treated my appetite and ignored my need for low a cholesterol diet (shhhh! If you don’t tell my doctor, it doesn’t count), and had breakfast at Waffle House "the other day." As I ate, I listened.

Karen is in her mid thirties, has two children and hates it when her kids stay home for snow days. She drives an older Nissan. She has a small space between her two front teeth that she tries to hide by rolling her lip over them when she is laughing. It doesn’t work.

The cook, an all but kid in his twenties, plans to get his GED this year and then study at the community college, or maybe join the Navy. He likes his job, and doesn’t cook rubber eggs. I think that is considered an accomplishment. I know my eggs were very tasty. I think his name is Mack, or Mick. He didn’t have on a name tag.

Betty is clearly the matriarch of the group. She smiles as she listens to the banter of the ‘younger’ staff. She moves effortlessly from one task to the next, often working ahead of the others. She greets regulars by their first name, or with a knowing nod. Her under the cuff comments to the others often brings a smile or a giggle. Betty is, and wants to be the Queen of the WaffleHouse.

As I sat at the counter, eating my cheese eggs, grits and butter soaked raisin toast, gazing at the laminated menu pictures of the many heart-stopping, artery clogging, cholesterol enhanced foods, this thought crossed my mind: Is there really a difference between any of our lives, other than the package that that life might reside in?

A Cup of Character

Below are some excerpts from an essay I'm developing.

The coffee here is horrid. I forget this little fact between visits. It is weak in flavor and appearance. As I settle into my place among the identical sets of heavily varnished oak furniture, I notice this restaurant offers a similar transparency. Country curtains on every window and systematically placed cut-glass salt and pepper shakers proclaim homey character. Maps printed on faux aged parchment and brochures labeled by decade tell us this place is rooted in our own ancestry. Here our personal memories have been catalogued for us, our own character defined.


The character they would have us find here is one of home as if presented in the tidiness of a Norman Rockwell painting. Yes, this place has character written all over the walls, menus, nick-knacks, and the wardrobes of the waitresses. It is a script carefully written by some deliberate designer and published by a majority vote in a boardroom. Yet, if it reads character it reads too loudly…


This place fails. It isn’t the character that fails. This restaurant doesn’t lack for location, or presentation. What is missing here is something less easily conjured up on design tables or decided upon in board rooms.


The ‘Stinky Cat Coffee Shop’ wasn’t pre-planned. It just happened. Over time, it grew. In its own lore the place was a house, a home. People lived here. They dreamed away nights, ate breakfast together, thought of and planned for days at work and activities at school. They went about practical tasks and created meaningful moments. There are records of this planning and living preserved here. Faint lines on the back of doors catalog the slow ascent of children. Scars on the cabinet doors mark the memory of child safety latches. Claw marks on a door frame are deep assurance that a cat was part of the family.


Time passed and the family left. The house passed from family to tenant to vacancy with each chapter adding its own story to the place. For a while the building sat empty, housing only the occasional vagrant that slipped in to sleep or drink himself into unconsciousness. One sometimes stood in the corner and peed himself when he could do no better. Those stains don’t really come out, no matter how many times you clean and polish. The stains fade and become part of the character of the wood, but they do not disappear.


People disappeared and smaller occupants arrived. Squirrels hoarded acorns, rats nested, insects bored into the wood and things too small and transient to leave much of a legacy for us to see all made their contributions. In the scratches on the doors, the discolorations of the wood, the layers of paint, partially missing wallpaper and yellowed tile they all left their marks. People, insects and rodents alike have all left something of themselves…


…This place speaks its story softly but intently brushing against every occupant, purring an old and worthy message…