Second Cup

FB0_mugondesk-724020It’s Saturday morning, and I’m savoring my second cup of coffee.  I hate the morning, but I love the brew.  Actually, it’s not the morning that I hate–it’s the feeling I have when I wake up.  My wife is a morning person.  She pops out of bed and becomes fully awake in a matter of seconds.  I’m like one of those hold t.v. sets that had to warm up before the picture began to fade in.  It takes me about three hours, a very hot shower, and a second cup of coffee to get going at full steam.  Very frustrating, that, since most of the world is trucking by the early hours of the morning.  I suppose my theory should mean I will wake up, given the requisites, regardless of the time I start.  The fact is, however, that I’m set back considerably until about 10:00, at which point the sun tricks my body into thinking its not morning anymore.  Since I usually get up around 7:00, my theory still holds, but there are some obvious variables.

Back to the coffee.  I’m a second degree coffee snob.  There are many things in life that I do not require to be name brand.  Certain foods, like spaghetti o’s and macaroni and cheese, have an obvious taste factor involved.  And for a lot of other things, “you get what you pay for” does seem to be true.  But I guess I’m a cheap-o at heart, because I am very willing to go generic.  Yet, with coffee it’s something more.  Not only will I not consider generic, I buy Starbucks.  Let me add here that Megan and I are newly married and both paying for graduate school.  Starbucks is really just a bad financial decision.  I can’t help it though; it’s my vice.  I think anyone with a taste bud left in their mouth will admit the taste difference between Starbucks and Folgers.  An interesting observation along those lines, made by a friend of mine after we bought gas-station coffee on a road trip (regrettably): “The generation before us doesn’t care how coffee tastes, as long as its cheap.  We don’t care how much it costs as long as it tastes good.”  I thought it was right on the mark, and my case is a perfect example.  There is more, though.  I refuse to buy ground beans.  I have a coffee grinder that sings its tune on a regular basis, freshly unlocking the roasted goodness of the whole bean.  It’s a beautiful thing.

I am, nonetheless, only a second degree snob.  I make the distinction thinking of some friends who manage turn their nose up at Starbucks!  The preference is for some esoteric mark of locally roasted coffee.  Or for something exotic if that happens along.  I’m not saying there isn’t better coffee out there.  My point is–come on!–Starbucks tastes good.  I’m not a connoisseur, but I’ve drank a lot of coffee, in country, from some places in Latin America that have a claim on good coffee.  I’ve not made it to Europe, and I hear Italian expresso is the best, but at all odds, Starbucks tastes good.  Let’s not hate on it just because they had the good sense to hire someone with marketing skills in addition to making good java.  It’s just a little like those people who have that bizarre need to know where the “the best” restaurants  are.  Even if there is nowhere good in town, they’ll take you to one they’ve been in once because they enjoy the self-perception of knowing, talking the whole way there about how good it is.  One is left with the impression that they have actually convinced themselves the food tastes first rate.

Anyway, I’m really only making distinctions within snobbishness, and at the end of the day, I’m a coffee snob too.  There is probably a “Folgers tastes good” blog out there somewhere.  At last I’ll say, in order to identify with all the common folk =) , that if I’m struggling to make it through class, I’ll drink the mud they burn up at school, and that hardly even qualifies as coffee.  In fact, I think it’s God’s way of punishing me for being caffeine dependent.

Second Cup

Some Old Newsletters

I went to an event last weekend called the World Missions Workshop.  Not only that, they even let me participate in a couple of the classes.  Ha!  It was hosted at my alma mater–funny, I never thought I’d use the phrase ‘my alma mater’–so it’s not that just anyone thought I’d be a good pick for teaching missions related stuff.  I guess they think highly enough of their own degree to trust me with the task.  Anyway, I was really glad to have the opportunity, and since one of the classes was on missions in Peru I got a chance to do some research I needed to do anyway.

I ended up trying to get a handle on the history Church of Christ missions in Peru, and since my school’s little library has a room devoted to CofC missionary newsletters from aeons past, I was able to sit down and learn a bit of relevant information.  The short of it is that reading those newsletters turned out to be a profound experience.  If you’ve ever read a newsletter from any given missionary, you know it is not all that impressive an experience.  At least I’ve never read one that just really got my blood pumping.  What I did in this instance, though, was somewhat different than reading the month’s international mail.  Now, our history isn’t all that rich, meaning we just haven’t had all that many people in the country for all that long.  But there have been some key families there, and one in particular.  As I read their newsletters, then, in chronological order, it was something like reading the book of Acts for the first time.  No, I don’t actually remember what that was like, but I can imagine.  All I mean to say that is that it was a moving spiritual experience.  What I read was a story of the lives of people, just ordinary people, who had made an extraordinary commitment to live their lives out in sacrifice for the Kingdom.  Though often summary in form, the scraps of information in those letters let me piece together a view of the successes, failures, disasters, unexpected blessings, sicknesses, longings, joys, comings, and going of the missionaries in this one country.  Reading the whole story at once I could see the dance of these missionaries’ faithfulness and God’s faithfulness.  It was a wonderful thing to do accidentally.

Then the unexpected happened (again).  I received word that the wife of that key family was going to be at the WMW.  It occurred to me that even with me teaching the class she was more than likely going to come, given her obvious interest in the country.  I realized immediately that I was going to have an emotional time of it, talking about this history that had so moved me while looking into the beautiful aged face of a woman who had been there all those years.  The day before my class I asked Mrs. Kramar if the team could take her to lunch.  Obviously it would do us good to know her and hear what wisdom she might have to offer.  Not knowing exactly what I was getting into inviting an elderly former missionary to lunch, I was delighted to find that she is one of the rare people whose keenness of mind can still manage in later years to capture the attention of young Americans who have a despicably low appreciation for age.  I, perhaps more than anyone else because of my newsletter reading, was totally drawn into the conversation.  I hung on every word.

Lunch conversation did not prove an adequate inoculation, however, and as I began my class the next day I introduced Mrs. Kramar.  I still feel some frustration that there was no way to convey to the class the significance of her presence.  The workshop was teeming with missionaries, and it was not great honor (sadly) simply to note that she had gone before us in the work.  The words certainly did not get my point across, but perhaps the silence in the room when I couldn’t continue talking for the knot in my throat communicated something.  Not enough, I’m sure, but maybe something.  It wasn’t long and I regained my composure, cleared my throat, and forestalled any threatening tears.  Class went fine, blah, blah, and life goes on.  What is left now is only to express how I cherish the chance to meet her.  To me, the story is so rich, and I thank God for the chance to be a part of it.  We will have our own comings and goings, and while no one is likely to weep over our newsletters in a musty library some day, many will weep over the story.  To be even so small a part of it is good.

Some Old Newsletters