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?