I often tell people that I have a chain of offices across the country. After I give them a moment to be impressed, I always add that most are called Starbucks. It usually helps to break the ice.
I come here for several reasons. (Yes, I’m sitting in my “office” as I type this.) First, I hate the thought of being stuck in a traditional office—alone. If I tried to work from my office at home, I’d start to go crazy. I need to get out to do my work—and the coffee shop has many advantages. For the price of a cup of coffee (No, I don’t buy the fancy stuff—just coffee, thank you. And yes, Starbucks does actually sell straight coffee.), I have rented table space for an entire morning if I wish. That’s about sixty dollars a month. It’s semi-private, in the sense that I can choose to bury myself in my work at my own table when I need to. Or, I can take a minute to watch the, always entertaining, parade of humanity that passes through. Or, I can engage any number of regulars (We all share office space here, I tell them) or staff (excuse me—baristas) in a moment of pleasant exchange. And then I can get back to work. Always something to write—or a lesson to plan—or a book to read—or whatever.
But I think the point is the people. I really like the feeling of connection. But it must be connection for a purpose. I literally pray for divine appointments as I go about my day, including the hours I spend at Starbucks. And sometimes . . .
The lady sat down at the next table one chilly day last January. I was busy preparing a class I was to teach (New Testament Survey) to a class of deaf students, aspiring to ministry. My Bible and books and notebooks, and computer were arranged all across my table. I saw her out of the corner of my eye when she came in; but I busied myself with my work. After a while she spoke.
“Excuse me,” she said, “but I’m curious. Are you a student—or a teacher?” I informed her that I am a teacher, and I was preparing for an upcoming class. During the conversation that followed, she revealed several significant facts about herself.
She herself held several degrees in the areas of religion and psychology. She had taught college level courses in the area of religion as an adjunct at secular universities. So she was naturally interested in my work. We continued to talk. Was God up to something?
I soon learned that she had been a member of a church of my own denomination (Assemblies of God) back home. But church hurts, combined with a failed marriage had taken its toll upon her soul, and now she was basically homeless—in a spiritual sense. God was definitely up to something. I left her that day with a clear, but gentle call to come back home. I believe she even agreed to visit our church, which just happened to be right down the road from us.
A few days later, back at the office, I was glad to see her walk in. She took a seat at another table—right across from two men I recognized as being connected with one of the local Bible Institutes. A almost laughed when I overheard the gist of their conversation. I couldn’t resist walking over to her table and saying, “You know, you’re surrounded, don’t you?” She immediately brightened and said, “I want to talk to you!”
And that morning—at a table in Starbucks—the lady, with tears, began her journey back to the Father’s love. Since that morning, she has joined our church and has taken multiple classes to better equip her in the spiritual ministry she feels God is leading her into. She testifies that God has given back her song. (She also has a strong background in music.) So, among other things, she’s thinking about joining the choir. She has been like a beautiful rose, opening up before my eyes. She has declared that she has adopted not only me, but my entire family as her own. I can’t wait to see what God will do with her. As she reaches out to people who have been broken—like herself.
And to think that I might have missed it all—if I hadn’t been available to a conversation in a coffee shop. Or at another time on an airplane. Or at another time on a train. Are you seeing a pattern here? I hope so.
It’s what I call “Living in the Flow.” I’ll have more to say about that later.