Jesus Next to the Barista

Thank you.  You.  The person who is connected to me by  that first degree of separation.

Perhaps you crafted the coffee I decided to splurge on tonight.  Maybe it was the end of your shift.  And maybe you are afraid that this is as good as it gets, maybe you are afraid that you had one chance and lost it, so this is as good as it gets.  Despite your fears you did it just right, white-hot foam and the perfect balance of peppermint and coffee; it was tempting, I know, to forget those little details, take the easy way out, and offer me a mediocre mocha.  But you didn’t.

Or maybe you passed me on the street and you summoned up a smile.  Or you saw that I was trying to turn left, in front of you, so when the light turned yellow you stopped instead of it gunned it.

Thanks to the person who can read the tax code like a wizard reads forgotten languages, who can summon the right numbers into the right columns.  Thanks to the guy in the auto supply shop who helps me find the right kind of break fluid.  I am sure it tempting to shake your head in wonder that I can even figure out how to put my pants on in the morning.  I am so deficient in your little corner of the world.


And thank you to those of you separated by two degrees of separation.  The people who can bring gifts of wisdom to my kids; teachers, and friends, and frenemies and even enemies of them.  Manager at the star bucks; mom who taught the driver at the light courtesy; tax code teacher of the tax code guru; supportive coworker of the patient auto supply store guy.

In that third degree of seperation, the people who get the stuff I need where it needs to go, the people who equipped my kids’ teachers, the Starbucks manager, the driver’s mom, etc.

They say that there are seven degrees of separation and that we all exist in these seven levels with each other.  Seven concentric rings.  Seven pebbles dropped in the water, rippling outword.  A seven-tiered spider web, each of us living in the middle of our own, interconnected with every other person.  Everywhere.  Ever.  It is the nature of geometry that each ring gets bigger than the previous…

Thank you.

Thank you for what you do.  Because the other day the pastor was preaching about work, the holiness of it.  He said some things that got me to thinking about why I do the things I do.  The answer was so easy for me.

I teach kids who have almost nothing.  They are kids that have been locked up.  Kids that have been forgotten.  Kids that have been abused, broken, and so very much worse.  Of course there are days that my job sucks.  But in that moment, it was so very easy for me.  Why do I do the things I do?

Because that is where Jesus lives.  I get to live with Jesus.  Every single day, right here, in my tiny little circle.

I had this overwhelming sense of how easy it is for me to see him here, among the sick, naked, orphans.  Even a blind man who hadn’t had the scales taken off his eyes could see it.

Out of all the people connected to me, how many people could claim this incredible blessing?  Ten percent?  One percent?

It became worth it; being so underpaid.  Having to put my hands on kids who aren’t safe.  Facing a mirror of my own brokeness, in the incredible brokeness of others, every time I look in my own students eyes, it became so worth it.

Thank you.  I could not make a mocha, or do my taxes, or figure out what kind of break fluid to put in my car.  For some reason I can never explain, I ended up in a place where it is so easy to see Jesus every single day.  It must be hard, some days, to see Jesus in the places where so many other people are.  But we need people in those places, too, and he is there, I know that he is.  So thank you, for working in those places where he is hard to find.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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