Sunday, February 7, 2010


This weekend I’ve been attending Extravaganza 2010 in Charlotte, NC. Though I am in my 8th year of ministry to and with youth and I’ve been to several major youth conferences, this is my first year (few months actually) as a Lutheran and my first time at this particular conference.

That’s not the point, that’s the context. The point is, I’m a loser. I’ll admit it. And what’s more, I think I sort of like it that way. And, I’ll admit this: I skipped the free lunch that the network had for us today. Hey – they told us in orientation to the conference to go to what we wanted to and skip what we didn’t. So, instead I took my mom and four year old son (who are here with me) to Wild Wing Café for lunch. Then I walked them over to Discovery Place before heading back for the afternoon workshop.

I was weirdly (for me because I hate exercise) looking forward to the walk back the hotel … about three quarters of a mile. About 5 minutes into my walk, I hit up a Starbucks for a mocha … it was really cold outside and I thought that would make my saunter back to the hotel even more perfect and relaxing.

That’s when it happened. I had the most surreal experience as I finished the walk. I became broken. I wept. I drank my warm, chocolaty coffee in guilt. The saunter
became what felt like a get you out breath sprint.

You see, about 30 seconds after I left Starbucks, I walked by a bench on the side of the street that had a container of Chinese food on it and a note written that said “Food for You.”

This struck me, so much that I had to turn around, go back to it, and take a picture. It just struck me. Perhaps this was because on the walk to Discovery Place with my mom and son, I noticed the large amounts of homeless people near the library (which is next to Discovery Place). Perhaps it was because it was just an odd sight. Perhaps it was because I allowed my mind to wander – how long has it been there … has someone poisoned it … is it a joke?

I continued on my way with not much more thought. A few moments later, I came upon a covered seating / waiting area for Charlotte’s transit system (the bus). These covered areas are very frequently found throughout the city. In this one sat an older, disheveled, overweight, bundled up to protect himself from the cold, man. As I came closer, I realized he was homeless (or so I assume). His bags were by his feet and he was making coffee. Not hot coffee; not fresh coffee, not coffee as you and I would make. He had what appeared to be a used filter with coffee inside of it and an old scratched and warn blue with black handled coffee mug. He had the filter over the cup and was pouring some bottled water over it. My thoughts immediately wandered to wondering how many times he had used it, what trash can he dug it from, how weak the coffee must taste. I then looked back to the path in front of me, sipped my coffee, and continued toward The Westin.

Just after I passed him, my heart sank and tears began to flow from my eyes. I felt for this man. But, I didn’t do anything about it. Then I looked up and saw this statue. It was made of silver pieces and a great red heart was in the center. It was bright and shiny.

I realized as I stood there that my heart was hurting for this man; I literally ached for him. I felt broken because I didn’t think there was anything I could do.

When I returned to the hotel, I was convicted about the cup of coffee, still in my hand, half-drunken. That was the point it was still in my hand. But, why? I realized that Martin Luther was right: we have to do more than believe in Jesus, we have to possess Jesus. I should have given that cup of warm coffee to the homeless man.

I wish I had a great story to share with you of going back to the man, offering him my coffee and loving on him. I wish I could tell you that I told him of Jesus’ love. But I didn’t. I wandered back into my hotel room and then headed to a workshop on post-modernity.

Why oh why didn’t I offer my warm, sustaining coffee to this man. Why aren’t others offering theirs?

A workshop that I went to this morning, we talked about being losers in youth ministry. We heard of losers in the Bible like Peter and Job and Zechariah. We talked about how we grow in our broken-ness. We are all created in the image of God. The Bible doesn’t say only the baptized are the image of God. The question becomes: At the center of our relationship with Christ is there love, acceptance, and grace or is there sin or judgment? For me, today, it was the difference in keeping my coffee for myself. Or rather that in future days, I want to offer my coffee; I want it to be second nature that I offer my coffee. And further, I want to teach my students the same!

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