Saturday, June 11, 2005

coffee at clackamas

My friend had driven four hours to see me. Not only that, when she arrived, she immediately rolled up her sleeves and helped us move a garage-load of boxes from one storage shed to another -- a job that took the better part of a day. When we finished, I asked if she wanted to go get coffee at a nearby mall.

Women don't turn down trips to the mall. We don't get that tired.

We chatted ferociously all the way to the Clackamas Mall. I hadn't seen her in months, not since we left our farm and moved south to be closer to Dave's seminary. Though we'd talked nonstop while transferring boxes to the new shed, we hadn't yet run out of topics. Away from the apartment complex, my friend had lots of questions about our neighbors and how Zac was adjusting to the new environment.

"He misses the woods," I told her, "but he likes having cement." Back home, Zac never got the chance to ride his bike on a smooth surface. It was all bump and slide and skitter as he maneuvered his wheels over our dirt driveway.

My friend was impressed with the mall. It's not everyday you see an ice skating rink dropped in the midst of shops and restaurants. The espresso stand I brought her to was situated just in front of the broad glass windows above the rink.

"Let's get our coffee and watch awhile," she suggested.

As we approached the stand, my friend said, "I've been craving a mocha. I know exactly what I want."

The stand looked empty when I leaned against the counter. The structure was shaped liked a horseshoe, and I couldn't see the barista tucked around the far corner. But he heard us and came into view.

"Hi," he said. "Can I help you?" he asked, looking directly at me.

"She knows what she wants already," I said, nodding to my friend. But my friend shook her head.

"No, I don't."

That seemed odd since she'd just told me otherwise. But I didn't argue. "Well, then ... let's see ...." I scanned the menu and nibbled my lip. "Hmmm. I think I want a grande almond latte, but I don't want it too sweet."

"How about if I give you three pumps instead of four?" the boy asked.

"That sounds good."

As we settled on my order, a second barista appeared from around the corner, saw my friend standing at my side, and said, "I can help whoever's next."

My friend left me and walked around to the far side of the "U." I couldn't see her, but I could hear her giving the girl her order.

I watched my barista empty the metal, coffee-ground holder thingy and fill it with fresh grounds. He was a nice-looking boy with wild hair, earrings, a pierced eyebrow (the first I think I ever saw), and two arms full of tattooes.

"I have to ask," I said.

"What's that?"

"The eyebrow ... did that hurt?"

He grinned. "I won't lie. It did. But I got over it."

I laughed. "I almost left with just one ear pierced when I was sixteen and sitting in the back of a jeweler's store. That first one hurt so much, I didn't think I could take the second."

I watched the boy fly through his routine and listened to the birth of my latte. Click, twist, burble, drip. The slurp and splat of three pumps of almond liquid dropping into my paper cup. The "hooo-whaa, hooo-whaa" of the milk steaming to a froth. As he was sliding a lid over the milky concoction, I noticed the tattoo encircling his left wrist.

"Hey! That's Greek!" One of the perks of seminary was that I got to sit in on Dave's classes with him. For a few months, I'd been learning Greek alongside him, and while I couldn't read the word upside down, I did recognize the letters.

"You're right," the barista said, grinning again. "It says, 'Savior.'"

"Are you a Christian?" I asked, smiling back.


"What a great tattoo."

He handed me my latte and turned his wrist so I could see all the letters. "I know. It's my favorite. I'm going to get another on this wrist that says "Messiah" in Hebrew."

We talked for another minute or two about seminary and tattooes and Jesus, until I noticed my friend sitting by the window of the the skating rink. "Well," I told my new favorite barista, "it was nice talking with you."

"You, too," he said.

"Perfect latte. I'll remember to ask for three pumps."

"Good. And I'll remember when I see you next." He gave me a last smile and we exchanged 'God bless you's'.

Feeling very happy with the coffee and the conversation and the way God has of crossing our paths with lovely souls, just to surprise us, I crossed the floor and took a seat next to my friend.

She looked at me, looked at my coffee, looked back at the espresso stand ... and shuddered. "I nearly died when that boy asked me what I wanted. I wasn't about to let him touch anything that was going to go in my mouth." She glanced again at the cup that had paused itself halfway to my lips.

"How can you drink that?"

I didn't know where to begin.


24 Comment:

At 6/11/2005 9:08 AM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Shannon, what a thought-provoking post, especially on the heels of the last conversation. It's just another example of why appearance can be misleading and deceptive, and how our reactions can be downright ridiculous.

If any of the shudderers of the world ever need emergency CPR, I doubt they'd care whether their rescuer has piercings or tatoos.

At 6/11/2005 9:59 AM, Anonymous Xavior had this to say ...

:) A very fine example of why we, as christians should dress modestly.
Look from a non-believers point of view. When you go witnessing to strangers.. people who do not know you,
when they look at you, what's the first thing they will see? How will they view christianity if they see you, as a lady, wearing a short mini-skirt, a top that barely covers anything?
Or as a guy, we have tattoos all over our body, dressed like a hooligan?

At 6/11/2005 10:27 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Well, first, I hope I never conveyed the idea that I'm running around in mini skirts and barely-there tops. Modesty is an entirely separate issue from the one we've been discussing.

But the point, Xavier, is that Christianity isn't something you can exude through your appearance. Many, many unbelievers walk down the streets in Armani suits and silk ties -- and we would be wrong to look them over and conclude, simply by their appearance, that they must be Christians. On the flip side, you can't look at a tattooed barista and make a snap judgment that he couldn't possibly be a Christian.

As to our witness, Jesus said it was our love for one another that would testify to the world that we belonged to Him. It's a cop-out to think that as long as we look the part, we've fulfilled our witness. You can't just throw on your finery and dust off your hands, thinking, "There. Now I look like a Christian."

What I've found is that the world scoffs when it sees a thin layer of Christianity. I'm not advocating that we all run out and get tattooes, but I'm saying that we've got it backwards if we think it starts with the exterior and works its way within. Christianity is birthed in the heart. I've known some to come to Christ and radically change their exteriors, but I've know others who took to heart Paul's admonition to "stay in the condition you were in when God called you." (The New Living Translation says it this way: "So, dear brothers and sisters, whatever situation you were in when you became a believer, stay there in your new relationship with God." 1 Cor 7:24)

The truth is, that tattooed barista will reach people with the gospel that I probably never could. Others will be open to him because they relate to him. He has a ministry I will never have -- to hearts God certainly desires to reach. Likewise, I'll be able to reach some that he may not be able to.

Sometimes I think dress bars the way for people to approach God. They already have a sneaking suspicion that bowing their knee to Him and inviting Him into their lives will cause a radical change (and it will -- a wonderful, adventurous, radical change), but if they see a peripheral, outward "standard" they aren't sure they can meet, it can tilt the whole thing in the wrong direction. "I might like God in my life, but if it means I have to throw out my wardrobe, I'd better think about it some more." God is so much more concerned with hearts, which are eternal, than He is with things that will eventually burn.

I'm realistic enough to know that I won't change many minds on this subject, but I do want to ask one favor, as one family member to another (to you, Xavier, and to anyone else reading). Please ... let's not make assumptions about anyone. Don't assume people are Christians, don't assume they're not, and whatever you do, don't assume that the next person you meet wouldn't be open to God's love worked through you, regardless of how they look.

God bless you, X. :)

At 6/11/2005 2:40 PM, Blogger thequeen had this to say ...

AMEN Shannon!
Personally I would have been more comfortable talking to your barista about God. Simply because he is more like me. That in itself is wrong but it is the way of things. I have come to see a different point of view here. It still doesn't matter how we dress. GOD see's our hearts. But when it comes to our fellows it does matter. Example: Some folks would be more comfortable hearing the word of god come from you and some would be more at ease with me. or the barista. or a biker, or a man in robes. Everyone is different, everyone has there way of living. THere is no right or wrong way to believe in god. THere is no right or wrong way to dress when you are worshipping, praying, or discussing god. Okay, I am going in circles now. The point I am trying to make is that we need to accept each other. God already accepts us each the way we are. It is up to us to learn that lesson now.

At 6/11/2005 6:15 PM, Blogger Michael had this to say ...

Thrown-away people. There are too many that we discard for all sorts of reasons. I am glad you didn't throw him away too.

Take Care

At 6/12/2005 12:13 AM, Anonymous OldGuy had this to say ...

Lovely story Shannon.

It's nice that you were able to speak with this person so easily.

While I enjoy talking to most people I might have wrongly assumed that he wasn't someone I could talk too and not said a word.

At 6/12/2005 1:24 AM, Anonymous susan had this to say ...

Wonderful post. I too feel very comfy with folks with peircings, tatoos etc. Ive worked in psych and addictions in a nursing capacity. , with the homeless and the down trodden, prostitutes and dumpster divers. Next to this crowd, this boy sounds pristine!
It never fails to touch me when a patient states that sometimes, coming into the clinic is the only time another human being looks them in the eye and actually sees them as such..... a human being. No lesser or greater than myself in Gods eyes. Ive had days were I have huged these individuals. Because sometimes that is the best medicine that can be dispensed.

At 6/12/2005 5:04 PM, Anonymous crickl had this to say ...

Beautiful story! Since the early 90's, upon getting to know a teenaged boy who was 'goth' (and who I was scared, yet compelled to get to know), I have been trying to look at the person inside the package, and not to be fooled by the package itself. The concept not only applies to people who look like hippies or tatooed rebels but also with people who are in the nicest, most well appointed outfits, hairstyles or manicures as well. (Sadly, sometimes these are the people who are really trying to fool us.) Whether a person presents themself according to our taste or in something we find offensive is not the question. The question is, how does Jesus see this person and how can I show them that?

You are really making us think....carry on and God bless your socks off!

At 6/12/2005 6:18 PM, Anonymous Jeff had this to say ...

I would disagree with the earlier comment that God does not care how we dress. Leviticus 19:28 warns against cuttings and marks in the flesh. Earrings and tattoos have roots in witchcraft and pagan religions, which is why the Lord spoke against them in Scripture. Having a relationship with Yeshua (Jesus) does not give us a license to dress or act any way we want. As Messiah's bride, we should want to please our bridegroom by obeying His Word. That does not mean a person with tattoos, earrings or wild hair cannot be redeemed and adopted into God's family. But once a true conversion takes place, the person should be immersed into God's Word to learn His ways.

Over time, a transformation takes place on the inside and outside of the convert, which should reflect our Savior and His Word, which are one and the same. That's why I was surprised that the barista, who claimed to be Christian, said he wanted to add a tattoo that says Messiah in Hebrew. I don't see how that honors God because if conflicts with His Torah, or instructions. Perhaps this young man is unaware of God's warning. I wonder how the barista would react if a brother or sister in the Lord approached him and told him, gently and in love, what God's Word says about tattoos and earrings. Without condemnation.

At 6/12/2005 6:20 PM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

I like this story--I try not to judge people and always ask myself, "Would I judge Jesus if he walked in looking like that?" I don't dare JUST for that reason!

great post!

At 6/12/2005 6:29 PM, Blogger Donna J. Shepherd had this to say ...

Great post. Glad I stopped by. We have to strive to do as Jesus did, and look past the temporary outside to the permanent inside - the heart. Thanks for the insight. - Donna

At 6/12/2005 7:39 PM, Anonymous Jeff had this to say ...

In my earlier post, when I referred to God's warnings about earrings, I meant those worn by men. Sorry for any confusion!

At 6/12/2005 8:16 PM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

I had a post on the whole tattoo issue all typed up here, but I deleted it because I know that you're a smart chick and that you will already know exactly what I'm thinking. Giving my opinion would just start another 35 comment war.

I am so blessed by your writing, and I hope you don't get discouraged by the comments that have come against you. Keep doing what you're doing and don't change a word unless your editor is paying you big bucks to do so!

Having said that ~ I really love the story, it's one of my favourites :)

At 6/12/2005 10:56 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

The dividing line for all these issues is the cross -- and on which side your convictions fall.

Jesus was the new covenant. He didn't negate the old; He fulfilled it so that we who identify with His death and come under His blood have that law fulfilled in us. But think about what He did: the covenant He ushered in nullified the peripheral, physical, outward "appearances of obedience," and instead He elevated the law on every point.

Here's what I mean by that. The Old Testament taught that the Jews were to circumcise every male. But in the New Testament, under the new covenant, circumcision was not required for believers. Timothy did undergo circumcision as an adult so as to not stumble the Jews he was trying to reach. In other words, he marked his body to gain a hearing from the Jews. But we're told in Romans (as we were told in Deuteronomy) that true circumcision is of the heart, not of the physical flesh. So Jesus reduced the emphasis on the physical sign and put that emphasis where it belongs--on the heart.

Israel was forbidden to eat certain foods (shellfish, pork, etc.). But what do we learn on the other side of the cross? That God had pronounced all food to be clean. Peter was given a vision of a cloth being lowered from heaven with all kinds of forbidden food on it, and told to eat (Acts 10:1 and following). To make sure we understood, God wrote in 1 Corinthinans 10:27 that if we were invited to dine with someone, we could eat whatever they put in front of us with a clear conscience.

It is true that the Old Testament talks against marking your body. But on the other side of the cross, Paul referred to himself as a bondslave. Bondslaves were those who desired to serve their masters for life and would, to indicate this devotion, permit their ears to be driven through with an awl. Forever after, they would wear an earring to indicate their devotion to their master. It's a beautiful symbol. Whether or not Paul actually did this is not stated, but God did permit the comparison to stand.

Many scriptures minimize the physical ("What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean." --Matthew 15:11. "But the things that come out of a man's mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean." --Matthew 15:18. "Woe to you teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men's bones, and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." --Matthew 23:27,28.).

On the flip side, Jesus elevated the Law. "You have heard it said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." --Matthew 5:27,28. He said the same thing about murder--that anger toward our brother is the same thing as murder.

What does all that mean? That God is far more concerned with our internal cleanliness than with outward shows of righteousness. No one ever looked as righteous as the Pharisees! No one ever clung so strictly to the Law. And yet how much patience did Jesus have with them? Not much. In fact, He expressed great vehemence against their piety, for He saw that they laid heavy burdens on the people with their insistence on strict obedience to the Law.

1 Corinthians 10:23 tells us, "For the believer, all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. The question then becomes, what is beneficial and what is not? We can't decide that for each other. We must let God be the author of each individual conviction. That's His right as Father, Lord and Savior, and that's part of what keeps our relationship dynamic. It's a day-to-day inquiry which keeps us at His feet.

This has been an interesting week. I had NO idea, when I wrote the post about my daughter and her shorts, that it would lead to all this. But God is sovereign. I'm sure there's something here He wanted to bring out. :)

Thanks to all who have ridden this out with me!

At 6/13/2005 9:28 AM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

Wonderful comment, and I was right, you pretty much said everything I wanted to say, but you say it better. I agree whole-heartedly. I also find an interesting Levitical law was the mixing of two fabrics, such as something like wool and cotton ~ it seemed so basic and yet it was forbidden because of what it represented.

At 6/13/2005 9:29 AM, Blogger CJ had this to say ...

What an unbelievable follow-up to the last post and debate. I was heartbroken to hear your friend's comments about the barista. Everyone has value. Even the homeless man on the street. Even the lonely elderly gentleman I saw this morning shuffling his way through life. Even the teenager who has the debilitating disease and is in a wheelchair. Even Nelly. Even Britney Spears. Even the tattooed barista. I think it's a sad sad thing when a person will shut down when approached by someone "different" than themselves. That person could offer us something of far greater value that we quite possibly would never get somewhere else. They could hold some magic key (in the form of encouragement, a smile, a comment that forces us to look closer at our own lives, our own judgements, our own walk with Christ). I know what Jesus would have done had he been approached by that barista. He would have asked the boy to walk and talk with him a while. Told the boy that He was coming to his house for dinner. Everyone is worth getting to know. That barista is one of God's children (whether saved or not).

That just broke my heart.

At 6/13/2005 11:16 AM, Anonymous Jeff had this to say ...

1 Peter 2:9 says followers of Yeshua are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. What kind of statement do we make if, as priests, we adorn ourselves in pagan apparel and markings? We are in this world, but not of it. I don't understand why modern Christianity believes it has to conform to this world to try to save it. Even though we live in a season of grace, that does not give us license to dress or act as heathens. We need to ask ourselves when debating the merits of tattoos and piercings, who are we trying to please? Ourselves or God?

At 6/13/2005 11:34 AM, Anonymous Jeff had this to say ...

Shannon, yes, God did declare all food clean. Yet it will benefit us if we follow His dietary law. You have the freedom to eat pork and shellfish, but you put yourself at risk of contracting cancer and other diseases. Along the same thought, God does not demand the stoning of a Christian male for wearing a tattoo and earrings, yet is it beneficial for him as a witness? Is it pleasing to God?

Yeshua reduced the emphasis of circumcision only because it was a foreshadowing of what the Holy Spirit would do at Pentecost – circumcision of the heart. Tattoos and piercings are another matter. Those markings are portrayed in the Bible as an outward sign of rebellion.

At 6/14/2005 10:26 AM, Blogger Teresa had this to say ...

My, I don't know where to begin either. I would be curious to know what you said to your friend? I don't remember if you mentioned that she was a Christian or not. What a response you have gotten--variety of opinions. My 18 year old son pierced his tounge as soon as he turned 18 and at 19,has recently sported a bright orange mowhawk. He attends our previous mega church and was stopped by an usher going into the worship center. I told him, if I were him, I would never return to a church like that. We had some homeless people staying at our home during the rainy season. We took them to the same church and had dinner in the fellowship hall. They were obviously homeless and no-one spoke to them, in fact, the room cleared. Starring. The pastor was the only one who made a beline across the large room to shake their hands... I'm still not sure if his motive was to head off a problem or to set the pace. I have more difficulty with Christians like this than non-believers. No wonder we get a reputation of being hypocrites!

At 6/14/2005 11:40 AM, Anonymous Jeff had this to say ...

Teresa, my heart broke when I read how the church treated your son, as well as the homeless. Despite what I wrote above about my disdain for tattoos and earrings, a house of God should never turn ANYONE away. What kind of witness is that? A church should receive anyone with a seeking heart – regardless of their looks or circumstances – and teach them God's Word without compromise. I mean, the Bible is clear that God's eye is on the widows, poor and homeless. Shouldn't ours? Thank you, Shannon, for providing this very interesting forum and topic. Blessings.

At 6/14/2005 11:52 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

You're right, Teresa ... I neglected to mention that yes, my friend is a Christian. That was what was so heart-breaking to me. She's a wonderful person who loves the Lord very much, but she's also fearful of many things and fellowships in a much more conservative church than mine. None of that bothers me, except that I feel sad to think there is a portion of the population that my friend will probably ignore the rest of her life. It's hard to be "all things to all people" if we discount a segment of the population right off the bat.

I'm so sorry about the experiences you and your son have had. Judgment is an ugly thing. God bless your pastor for welcoming those folks--and your family for ministering to them! You have set a good example. You never know who was watching and learning through what you did.

Thanks, Jeff. It has definitely been an interesting week. :)

At 6/15/2005 6:19 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Teresa, I kept meaning to tell you that I really loved the picture you drew of Jesus taking the barista for a walk and telling him He'd be coming over for dinner. That's exactly who Jesus is. Thanks for that beautiful observation!

At 6/20/2005 8:47 AM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

I loved this post. I may get just that tatoo yet. hehe

At 10/03/2005 8:10 PM, Blogger Kevin Jackson had this to say ...

Well, this is interesting. I did a blog search for starbucks barista and found your site. When I get some time I'll come back and find out where starbucks barista appears and how it relates - if it even does. Take care - nice work.


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