There’s a Place Underground…

Midwest City, Oklahoma

There is a part of me that believes that everyone has a sort of unacquainted love for coffee shops, and I’m not going to claim that I’m one of only a few who is so encompassed by the fresh, exotic coffee, easy music, local artwork, a wealth of books, and soft, old couches. Our human person can’t help but be at least a little drawn towards it.

I suppose I’m just one who takes that and runs with it.

Underground Coffee is maybe 2 minutes from my house, which makes it the perfect… place. The Underground has become my thinking place, my resting place, my homework, frantic-essay writing place, my catching-up-with-old-friends place and, ultimately, my place. With inexpensive coffee and an abundance of very exceptional house specials, there is always something new to try, though my go-to is simple: a regular 12-oz coffee with coconut (It’s a Tica thing).

Though there are countless numbers of coffee shops here in Dallas, there will always be days when my heart longs for the familiar feel of the Underground and it’s breathe-easy, everything-is-going-to-be-alright atmosphere. I am capable of giving Underground Coffee such an strong and gentle place in my heart because it is here that good conversations, honest thoughts, and real feelings have taken a hold of me and those whom I’m surrounded with. I’m sure you have those places for you too. Think about it. What does it look like? What does it smell like? Do you sit; do you stand? Who are you with? Do you write; do you pray; do you think; do you talk? What is it, exactly, about this place that makes it so unique, so special, so yours?

I’d love to meet you there.

Peace.

 

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The Good Creatures

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I met a puppy in the mountains of Monte Verde. There he was, just sitting there on a step, looking at the world around him in a kind of contemplative gaze. He had curiosity in his eyes, but remained still. The puppy’s feet were caked in dirt, yet his thick fur wasn’t matted. It was clear the soft and silent creature had adapted to such an environment; he didn’t belong to anyone here. This pup was a roamer of the rainy green mountain jungle. And, of course, just like all puppies, if not more, he was really, really cute.

Animals are some of the only creatures we are able to love completely and indiscriminately, something we have such a hard time doing with each other. We love these creatures for what they are and what they are not. Perhaps our dominion over and likeness to such creatures is reflective of God’s dominion over us: we watch them make silly decisions, run around in circles, get a mouthful of dirt or poo or roll in the trash or whatever, but at the end of the day we are always given what it is we need and are a part of a ceaseless and forgiving love.

A passionate bishop in the 2nd century, Gregory of Nyssa worked on merging the truths of science and the truths of  faith. One of his main areas of focus was the study of animals and their relation to man. Good ol’ Greg’s argument is essentially that animals are created for the good of humans. It is the ox that tills the land, the sheep wool that keeps us warm, the alligator skin that protects us in battle, the wood of the tree that creates our ships and houses. Humans have a deeply-rooted dependency on animals and nature in order to survive and, in turn, for animals to serve their purpose to God.

Now, there should be something bothering you about this argument here.

If humans are created to be so dependent on animals, then why are they no longer a part of our everyday lives? The only creatures I regularly come into contact with is my dog, the birds, squirrels, and the melancholy farm cows I pass while connecting the dots between Texas and Oklahoma via I-35.

But maybe this is a part of the problem. It is no secret that we are not exactly taking the best care of our precious Earth. I think we all know that regressing back to the pre-industrial revolution is not the solution; technological and mechanical innovation is natural and good for human progress and development. But, I will dare to say that the solution probably lies beyond the easy recycling or the designation of reserves to keep our greedy, grimy hands off of  certain parts of God’s green earth. If animals and the environment were created to serve humans, are we not depriving them of their purpose by only widening the gap between our everyday lives and the great outdoors?

Is this perhaps why we are so willing to trash our oceans, pollute or skies, slaughter thousands of animals a day just to sustain our everyday lives, because we lack the understanding (or acknowledgement) that such a creation is created for us, and, in turn, we are responsible for it? 

What if we made an effort to integrate ourselves within environment again? Is it possible to maintain a symbiotic relationship between ourselves and the natural world around us? How difficult it would be to create such a relationship again.

I loved this puppy in Monte Verde.  I loved this puppy because he was a puppy and it was almost unnatural for me not to. I loved this puppy because he was a living creature. I loved this puppy because he was simple, he was unique, and he was good.

If Gregory was right, then does our abuse of what was created for us reflect how we believe God looks after us? How do you believe that God loves you?

I’m still thinking about this.

Peace.

Mud

Cafe Cristiana

This house is dark. It is nice for sleeping or watching movies but the lazy residue of those who live here fog up the windows and let little to no sunlight in. It is quiet. It is sullen. It is a beast with missing potential, only dripping what is left of the dry remains onto the carpet, staining it in soft, silent argument. The slow death of action and thought cling to the walls like dust waiting to be drawn in.

Why is it that we go to beaches, climb mountains, slip into the cool bonds of a free-flowing river in order to find our greatest sense of peace? Why do we awe in the beauty of the sunset, the promise of the dawn, the feel of the cool, wet mud beneath or feet?

Imagine squishing your feet around in this mud. Do you feel the chunks of clay, the rough outline of a leaf brush against your toes, a worm wiggle under the arch of your foot? Is it a thick, heavy mud, or is it creamy, the product of a recent rain? Is it a dark, almost black or does it gleam a rusty red? Is your mud warm and gentle or is does it have a biting chill? Let it slosh up onto your ankles. Roll up your jeans if you’re wearing them; perhaps allow a hand to slide into the slippery concoction to feel it just a bit more.

In Costa Rica we visited Cafe Cristina, an all-natural coffee farm where everything is cultivated on the land. Every bit of what would be considered “waste” is part of an intricate process in which the elements in the air and a wild combination of worms and beetles break down the extra grass, suffocating weeds, fall brush, and rotting seeds and turned into a compost that carries more nutrients than any man-made fertilizer. This compost in turn is used for the growth of new plants and trees. The natural process is cost-effective, cuts down on the amount toxins emitted into the air, land, and water, and significantly reduces the amount of waste the farm produces. The whole thing is more than a respect for nature, it is a connection to it.

Perhaps this draw is due to the simple fact that we are created from such nature.

Earth was created from the debris of gasses and dust that were left over from the formation of the sun, which in turn collided to form comets and asteroids. Over millions of years these collisions began to form planets. Water began to show up as the earliest volcanoes ejected mass amounts of steam, and, nearly 3 billion years ago, new underwater bacteria used a combination of this water, carbon dioxide, and the sun’s energy to create an energy of its own- photosynthesis. This established oxygen in the oceans and atmosphere, allowing for life to develop into the complex form that it is today.

Life began with dust. Life began when God took this dust and breathed into it the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  And, just like the mud we loved to slosh around in when we were young or the beautiful mountains that take our breath away or the mysterious jungle floor that is painted with hundreds of thousands of living creatures, we are created from the dust of the ground, and this dust is good. We are Good.

There is a reason we go outside to rest and find peace. It is in this wilderness that we find home, that we find ourselves, and, ultimately, that we find God.

Java Me Up

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Irving, Texas

I picked up a little collection of writings on display as I waited for my Something With Cream at Java Me Up, the coffee shop I had searched so long for.  Grub Street Grackle, it read. The Grackle is Dead. Long Live the Grackle! There was a light coffee stain on the front of the paper cover on the small, handcrafted booklet. I opened it up and flipped to a page about miniature black holes- according to the entry, a patent was filed in Japan on a “Personal-Sized-Black-Hole-Powered Light Reduction Apparatus.” Drawn into the passage, I didn’t even hear the barista come up behind me and set my Something With Cream on the table beside the book.

“Are you ready for this?” She smiled as she took the paper wrapper off the tip of the green straw in my Something. “It’s pretty unique…”

“What is it?” I laughed and took a sip of the mystery drink. Ha! It was spectacular.

“It’s French Toast.”

This place knew how to please me, that’s for sure. “It actually tastes like french toast!”

“Yup,” the barista smiled, clearly proud of her creation, as she went to attend to other customers. “It sure does.”

So now there’s a week until finals and I’ve managed to find myself lounging on a worn, greenish-yellow chair surrounded by magazines, tea, and local artwork in the corner of a little coffee shop right next to the neighborhood library as I’m drinking the one-and-only French Toast Cappuccino. I’m an hour and 16 minutes (give or take) away from the school and $14 shorter (couldn’t leave the Grub Street Grackle behind). My essay remains unwritten, my math problems uncalculated, and my laundry unwashed. But sometimes you just gotta get out and explore, you know? Take chances, even if all that chance is is finding your way to that coffee shop you’ve been thinking about for days and leaving your drink in the hands of the barista who would love nothing more than to create something “interesting” and “new”. Sometimes a little spice to your day is all you really need to keep going.

I went out with no plan and took 3 hours on bike, bus, and train to end up at a little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop to order a Something With Cream and be presented with a French Toast frappuccino and immerse myself in some of the most bizarre literary pieces I’ve ever read.

Welcome to the first of my coffee shop adventures. Brace yourself, this is gonna be good.

Until the next time,

Peace.

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