Tag Archives: coffee

talking coffee

smiling coffee cup“FYI to Brands – Trust does drive sales. 10 mins of tweets will now lead me to try McD’s coffee. Simple example, but true.” @cc_chapman

“The real point of the coffee conversation? Coffee is relational.” @jnswanson

“It unites us.  Coffee can do that. What else can we talk about and be relational? @debworks

Some friends were talking about coffee, talking about what kind to drink, talking about how they like it fixed. It was, in a sense, pointless conversation. To anyone who doesn’t like coffee–or twitter (which is where the conversation was happening), there was little of value in this conversation.

Of course, as Deb pointed out from Iowa, it is a common denominator. It is a safer topic than religion and politics and the Red Sox/Yankees/Cubs. But I think it is something more than merely a safe topic. It is a topic which relates to a ritual with warm emotional attachments for many of us (pun partially intended). Many of us delight in the process of making coffee, of drinking it as we think, read, converse. A cup of coffee, for many people, symbolizes both contemplation and community.

I know that many of us also drink coffee for the perceived energy. It keeps us awake, alert, wired. In that, it is the antithesis of reflection. But such uses, if they were all coffee represented, would not be the source of a conversational culture.

Thanks for the conversation this morning, friends. And the relationship it both reflects and extends.


me and Hannah Montana

hannah montana mugIf you know me, you know I drink coffee. I talk about drinking coffee. I take pictures of coffee mugs. I always have a coffee mug within three feet of my hand. (At this moment, I have my feet on my desk and so have two feet within three feet of nine mugs (only one is active)).  I even have a domain for coffee mugs.

It started because I needed something to drink when I started college teaching more than two decades ago. I liked coffee. I decided to take coffee to class with me every day (rather than the usual water.)

Over the past 25 years, I have no idea how many presentations, lectures, conversations, counseling appointments, essays, sermons, blog posts, trips, hospital visits, video productions, concerts, and quiet moments have been accompanied by a mug of coffee.

So what does that have to do with Hannah Montana?

Two things.

1. A friend and his family were on vacation. They saw this mug on clearance in a shop in the Outer Banks. They decided I needed it. While I had never thought that I needed a Hannah Montana mug, they were partly right. I, like all of us, needed to be given a Hannah Montana mug, an action that acknowledged the kind of relationship that knows what I like well enough to gently mock it.

That is delightful.

2. Though I know little about Miley Cyrus (an actor) and Hannah Montana (a role), I know that the former is somewhat reluctant to release the latter. The latter is how the former became known. The former (who is only 16) will likely be known for many of the years that will follow for her four year role as the latter. That kind of branding, similar to my coffee brand, can be challenging. A role, a part, a job, a mug can become the shorthand for a person. When we do that, we reduce them, we flatten them, we may even discount them.

That isn’t delightful.

I will, on occasion, drink from my Hannah mug, though probably not when preaching or teaching. I will remember the friendship that brought me the mug and pray that I remember to not commoditize Miley–or anyone.

Including you.

Social media chaplain

Emilio stood in the shower trying to think.

Sometimes it seemed that it was the only place he was able to think.  It was probably the only place he unplugged.

He was struggling with understanding what, exactly, he does.

Emilio is an associate pastor. He has been described as a social media pastor by both Chris Brogan and Jon Swanson. He has, however struggled with that label. In his local congregation, he is a pastor that uses social media. It’s a face-to-face congregation,  different from the online church where Tony Steward is a pastor. Not that one is more community than the other, they are just different setting, different communication tools.

At the same time, Emilio has  number of friends in the social media world, people who aren’t connected at all to his local congregation. They interact often. He writes a daily devotional. He often has people say, “can you pray for me?” He chats about coffee and about life on twitter and elsewhere.

He often has felt a tension about the two worlds. In one, he is clearly a pastor, caring for a flock, connecting them to each other and to God. In the other, there is no clear each other. They don’t gather in the same place at the same time–physical or virtual.

And he struggles with what to call his social media presence. Reading about branding, reading about marketing, reading about expanding influence, all of it sounds fun and compelling and important. Except that it felt somehow uncomfortable. For him.

He shook his head and wiped his face. It was time to quit the struggle. He had to just do what he does, regardless of what it’s called and whether it fits with any categories.

And then it hit him. “I’m a chaplain. I’m a social media chaplain.”

Everyone knows about chaplains. They carry bedpans and assist with surgeries on MASH, but no one mistakes them for competent. Until the mortar rounds explodes and people wonder about surviving. Then Father Mulcahy has some interesting conversations.

Chaplains stand on the sidelines at football games. People look at them, wondering why anyone that unathletic, that uninvolved is wasting valuable bench space. Until there is an injury and a player is abandoned on the sideline, and there is a guy holding an icepack and a guy listening.

Chaplains show up in hospitals and listen to stories. They are the one in the room that isn’t family, that isn’t medical, that isn’t healthcare. They are just there.

Present, listening, available, comforting. That’s a chaplain. Doing it in social media circles, that’s a social media chaplain.

It seemed a workable balance. Pastor in one setting, chaplain in the other. Leading in one setting, waiting in the other. Available always.

He turned off the water, grabbed his towel, looked at the counter. His coffee cup sat there, the second of the morning.

“And chaplains get to drink lots of coffee. It’s perfect.”

i thought it would be quiet

I’m sitting in a corner trying to work. Two feet from me, three workers from a fast food chain are working through a list of agenda items. They are making enough noise so that the conversation between a friend and a sales person is being blocked out. And the people doing some kind of employment screening or testing are pretty quiet.

I’m here to think about vision. I’m doing drafting on a document that is about preferred futures for our congregation. We’re looking a few years into the future, thinking about what vision and processes and images will help us.

I came here because it’s challenging to think creatively in my office sometimes. But I’m thinking I may have picked the wrong place.

Except I think I’m learning.

1. Church doesn’t happen in the quiet sanctuary. It happens in offices and bowling alleys and coffee shops. It happens only when people connect. This is probably a really good place to think.

2. I don’t get to pick how my days turn out. I can choose places, but people always intrude. And people are the point. (And I understand that these are minor interruptions…but they are directly related to what I am trying to do.)

3. I can pick a place that is usually quiet, but focus is inside my head, not outside.

4. Fast food people are better at training than I am. Though I am responsible to help people grow, I am not nearly as effective with training as these people who are interrupting my thinking.

For example, yesterday a bunch of people spent time teaching other people. I never talk with them about how it went. I never make suggestions about how to sharpen what they are doing. I assume they are trained and am just grateful that they are doing what they are doing. Except I don’t think I tell them that, either.

5. How is Sunday permeating Monday? I’m supposed to help people who are running training sessions like the one next to me run them the way Jesus would if he were a manager at that fast food place. That’s what formation is about. If I want to help this guy, I need to help him understand how to value people, how to value time, how to value purpose. (He’s doing great, by the way. I’m not sure what I could add).

6. I gotta quit making assumptions about my friends. Across the room, my friend is talking with the sales rep about God. She had raised the topic earlier, identifying what some of her objections were to what she thought he must believe. He’s helping her understand the inaccuracies of some of those objections. It’s not a big “evangelism” conversation, the kind that people both in and out of church dread. It’s a real conversation between real people.

I am pleasantly surprised by him.


The challenge with learning, of course, is that it doesn’t count until it works.

Time to work. I’ll let you know if I really learned anything.

The link for my new ebook again? Unchurchy: reflections on communication and church.

my fault

Every time we stay in a hotel, I hope that the in room coffee tastes great. Every time I’m disappointed.

This morning I realized that I could bring coffee with me. When traveling by car I could even bring water with me. I could bring my own real mug.

All it would take is remembering that I could make a change and not just blame the hotel.

I wonder it there’s a lesson here.

Have a seat. Just for a minute or two.

January is almost over. It’s been a strange month of weather delays, traveling, inaugural activities, sickness, bills, economic uncertainties, and everything else that disrupts our schedules.

Many of us are trying to remember the commitments we made at the beginning of the month (year). Some of us had three words. Some had a goal. Some had a strong commitment to not set goals or pick words.

I understand.

I had three words – focus, singing, deliberate practice – and I’m wondering what it was I was going to focus on, and what, exactly, I was going to practice. And yet, I still remember the words. I have made incremental progress. I’m guessing that you have, too.

But there is still a bunch more to do.

So take a couple minutes. Take a deep breath. Take another drink of coffee. I’ll have a couple questions for you in a minute.


What one thing are you going to make sure you get done today?

How are you going to do it?

What’s the first step?

How do you want me to ask God to help you?


Okay. Take off. Go do it. Let me know how I can help.

Reflections over coffee.

If you know me, you know I drink coffee. In truth, even if you don’t know me, you know I drink coffee. I offer it on twitter. I have a mug in my hand most of the time. I bought a domain just to have a made up place to go about coffee mug values: coffeemugvalue.info.

Over at smallbizsurvival.com today, there’s a post I wrote about customer service at a coffee place that advertised the world’s best coffee. I still don’t know how good the coffee at Biggby‘s is. I know that their process for helping me have the best possible opportunity to have a good experience is great.

You can read the post over there to find out how they served me. Over here I have just this obervation.

How we treat people matters.

From a business sense, certainly, it is helpful. But there are examples of people who provide lousy customer service and still have a lot of business. (A Seinfield character comes to mind.) And at times, in a business sense, there is a financial benefit from niceness. I mean, Biggby is getting some traffic which may lead to some sales from this (unsponsored) post.

But it’s more than business.

If I say that I am about life-transforming love, if I shout from the (digital) mountaintops that God is great and God is good and we should thank him for our food…and I do not have a life that is shaped and showing, at some level, love, then I might as well be a pair of marching band symbols. Getting attention, yes, but in no way conversational or compassionate or relational.

Not a perfect life, mind you. Our opportunity is to grow, to be shaped. But our lives are shaped by our relationships. Who we hang out with, who we drink coffee with, what we talk about while we are drinking coffee will shape us.

I understand that more people would be interested in church if we spent more time over coffee. It is valuable to sit side by side and sing and listen. (It really is.) But somehow, I think I need to spend more time sitting face to face talking and listening.

Biggby Coffee had two people sending me emails and coupons and asking for clear information about how they can help me have an accurate experience.

Of one short cup of decaf.

What could we do to spend that kind of attention on what is important to us?

IV pouches of sunlight

A friend said that coffee wasn’t working. She said she needed an IV of sunlight.

I laughed. When is coffee not enough?

But then I went into my online file of pictures and found some sunlight.

It was, I admit, kind of old. It had been on the shelf for a year and a half. And it wasn’t pure sunshine. There was an iris in the way. But the iris was growing in ground carefully tended for more than a decade by the woman I love. She planted the iris, watered it, worried over it for a growing season or four.

The sunlight was even older. It had been traveling for awhile. It was planted, carefully tended, and intended by it’s Creator for growth and warmth and life.

Neither the sunshine nor the iris were intended as ends. For that matter, neither was the photo which capture the two.

All of the pieces are about people, about stuff to help people.

When I get too much focused on stuff at the expense of people, or accumulating versions of stuff, or piles of words, or attention or books or gifts, I’m doing it wrong.

It’s about using the pouches of sunlight to give life to people around us.

not everyone likes coffee

I was raised well by my Swedish family. I always offer coffee. (and then take some myself, thank you very much).

Some people like tea. My offer of coffee is misguided. Some people are opposed to caffeine. My offer of coffee is an affront. Some people aren’t thirsty. My offer of coffee is irrelevant. Some people like coffee, but not the way I make it. My offer of coffee forces them to be polite.

I could, of course, only talk with people who like coffee the way I make it. I could (implicitly) demand that they conform to my tastes if they are going to talk with me. But that would be come tedious after awhile.

I thought of this today when someone said that a group of people didn’t understand something that I had written. I realized that how I write here, where you choose to drink the coffee, where an audience gathers because they have acquired a taste for the way I brew ideas, will be different than how I write elsewhere, on behalf of others. When I am writing on behalf of my organization, I have to remember that the audience isn’t my audience, it is the organization’s audience.

That audience is part of a microculture that has formed in this organization over the past century. While I’ve been forming elsewhere for half that time, I’ve only been here for a year. And while I can use my voice and perspective, there is an edge in my personal writing that is not part of the organization’s persona.

I read today about buyer personas in a case study of rightnow.com. The post talks about identifying clear profiles of the buyers you are seeking. Once you have this picture, you structure your communication strategy, a website, for example, to answer the questions that this buyer has. the company is an IT company, but the application became clear for me.

On my blog, I always offer coffee. But what if I help our church think about our people. There is a group of people in our church who are parents of young children. They really don’t care much about coffee. They pretty much want to know what time and where and how long the children’s events are. They want to be able to find that information quickly and really don’t care about my odd photos and clever wording.

There is a group of people in our church who are committed to learning and want to know where the learning opportunities are and whether we have anything online and what we have offline.

There is a group of people in our church who want to serve other people. They need to know when and where and how and who.

And as I think about those buyer personas, I realize that we haven’t been thinking that way. I realize that if we did, we could help them very well and could be much clearer in our website and all of our communication. And that’s a good thing.

I think I’ll get some more coffee and work on that. Can I get you some?


That ringing sound? It’s my virtual Red Kettle.  But it’s okay to give at the office.

Hospital coffee

It’s much better than it used to be. Hospital coffee, I mean. You can get varieties now. There are carts that give you as many choices as you could ever want. Not that it matters much to me.

Black, usually with caffeine.

The other week as I was walking down the hall carrying a cup of coffee, I wondered whether it would bother the person I was visiting. Then I decided that I wouldn’t worry about it. He wasn’t concerned much, either. He was more concerned about getting out.

He did.

Four of us had coffee today. The man we were visiting is still being fed through his vein. A little water is all he can drink. But he’s getting better. The stem cell transplant is working. So far. (And the prognosis is good).

The sleeve of today’s cup talked about change. It was about heart and cancer screenings, about changing habits for better health, making life changes.

That’s probably a good idea, actually.

I mean, hospital visits don’t make me queasy anymore. In fact, it’s kind of a honor to show up and talk and listen and hold a hand and pray. It’s a welcome low-tech, high-touch break for both of us-the person in the bed and me.

But as I think about it, if we put as much money into research, into care, into meds, into prevention as we do into all of our coffee choices, maybe there wouldn’t be as much need to visit.

And drink hospital coffee.

After all, I’d rather meet in a global coffee chain.