Heightened Sensibilities (Part 1)

Last Thursday, Kirk and I were looking for someplace to set down our bags and study. He had a midterm, and I had a paper. We wanted the freedom to get online. We needed to eat dinner. Usually we would head on down to Panera to fit this bill, but then Kirk suggested we try a new coffee shop we'd heard about through a classmate. Cup o' Soul, it's called. Free wi-fi. Coffee and sandwiches and soup. Owned by Christians, from the look of their logo (where the "l" is an upended ichthus).

"Ooooh," I said. "Wouldn't it be cool if we walked in and there were soft couches and dim lighting and it felt like . . . like . . . like a living room or den in someone's house?!"

"Go check out their website," Kirk said, with an air of mystery. (He'd already checked it.)

So I did. Here's what I found: "We saw a need for a place where people could meet, connect, and serve each other, and what better way to do that than in a living room environment, enjoying coffee house music and a great cup of soul straight from our kitchen." Cool, huh?

Even cooler is the actual place. As soon as we walked inside, it felt like we were stepping into someone's cozy home. Red comfy couches. Red cylindrical hanging lights. Mocha-colored walls. Abstract artwork on the walls in warm colors. A dark wood bookshelf that looks like an oversized stepladder leaning against the wall. Brown leather, art deco-looking stuffed chairs. Big windows that face the street. Trunk-sized coffee tables with trays of decorative stones on top. You know, good stuff, all.

And even better than all this were the people we met. Bob, the owner, introduced himself and stood talking with us for a good half-hour. We learned that he used to attend our church but now attends a church started by our pastor's son across town. When his wife came in a bit later, the four of us chatted in the main area about their vision for the shop and some of the challenges they've faced in these opening days.

Soon after we began studying, a young guy sitting across from us commented on our Mac covers (mine's green, Kirk's is red), which led into a conversation on film and art and faith. Jonathan shared some of his story with us, and also a few of his short films. (He does the film work for his church, which is the same church the owners attend.) When he showed us a short film he made of their recent baptism event at a local beach, just the looks of joy on the faces, along with the strong feeling of family projected forward from the film, made tears flow down my face. It felt like home. It felt so much like the spirit that surrounds my church back home, a spirit I've missed so much as I've been struggling to find a place I belong here. I felt an incredible ache deepen on my insides.

We left that evening in ultimate bliss, feeling like we'd just met family. And we had -- spiritual family, that is. As we drove away, Kirk and I first talked about our mutual desire to help this little coffeeshop succeed in the small ways we are able. For instance, Kirk scheduled a business meeting with a friend today in the small conference room at the back of the shop, instead of where they would usually meet down the street. I have plans to meet a friend for coffee there tomorrow night, and we've already been back to visit a couple more times ourselves.

But more than that, I hesitantly shared with Kirk that this visit to Cup o' Soul opened up a desire in me to give Summit Church a try, which is where the owners and most of the staff and customers attend. The church we now attend is wonderful in many ways, and it has been Kirk's home church for about fifteen years, so I wasn't sure he would feel the same way I did about trying something new. But Kirk understood my desire and suggested we try visiting after the first of the year.

I titled this post "heightened sensibilities" because this last week has provided a handful of experiences that have cracked my heart open in new ways, exposing desire and ache and longing for things that have long been there and things that are new. I look forward to sharing about these unique experiences in the posts to come over the next few days. Until next time, I'll leave off by saying that this first experience, the inaugural visit to Cup o' Soul, widened the gaping chasm in my heart that longs to be filled with community in this still-new home of mine. Hopefully it is just the beginning of something more yet to be filled.