French Press and Innovation

Not long ago our Jura Capresso coffee machine died. It was a calamity on the scale of a hurricane or your washing machine flooding your house.

It hit us hard!

Those of you who know us, understand. The whine of our Jura is the town-square clock of our home.

Isn't it beautiful?

But Jura was gone.

Enter the French Press, which in our opinion is the second best coffee around. Sometimes, if we are honest and if the person making the coffee is skilled, it is the best coffee around. We pulled out our old burr grinder and prepared to wait out the two week repair hiatus.

A funny thing happened.

Coffee became an event in the house. The first person up “got” to make the coffee, and we would pause in the kitchen to time and press and pour. The smell of the coffee slowly worked its way into our sleepiness. In the afternoon the coffee being made became an excuse to stop our work and sit down for a few minutes. If we had visitors, we served them first and then chatted while we made a second pot.

It was…lovely.

Now nothing beats the push-a-button-and-drink-your-coffee convenience of the Jura Capresso. But I sure liked the party around the Press.

It is worth considering, I think, how many of our “time saving” techniques have robbed us of something precious. We may be hungering for an side-benefit of doing things the old fashioned way without even realizing it. Whole books have been written about our modern isolation and our desire for community. Two or three of the interesting ones are listed below.

Unintended consequences of innovation.

We’re back to pushing our buttons to get our brew around here. The days of the French Press are gone again, for awhile. But as I consider how to build community and touch people’s lives, the French Press comes to mind. It might be time to be more mindful.

Note: I don’t agree with everything in these books…I just find them interesting.

Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam

Suburban Nation

Third Places are sometimes more churchy than church

It slips my mind, sometimes, that someone reading my posts may not know where they are written. With very few exceptions, most of my writing is done in Starbucks. If I didn’t write the actual post there, I at least scribbled notes to remind me later of the direction I’m going to take.

I don’t know all the reasons why Starbucks is my choice, but one of them is because it simply isn’t HOME. I can come here and focus, be myself, daydream and create. At home, well there’s laundry to be done, a new magazine in the mail, roaming dogs who terrorize me at every opportunity. The stuff of life. I connect with myself better — sometimes — when I’m not so surrounded by myself.

The other day I listened to two guys do the same at Starbucks. One was a regular, Dan, and I never caught the other’s name. Let’s call him Fred. These two guys began jabbering, and when I got up to go, literally two hours later, they were still jabbering. In the course of the hours they covered politics (conservative, but Dan has a liberal bent that inclines him to social justice), chiropractic (Fred is a chiropractor, and was convincing Dan — accurately in my humble opinion! — that chiropractic care could help him recover from his recent shoulder surgery), the military (both served, one flew planes, the other loved them). They covered their families, their work habits, their Starbucks drinks. They circled back around to why character and integrity matter in politics more than party affiliation, though each were registered Republicans. In short, they connected.

It was a life group in action. What do you call it at your church? At ours, during various moments, they have been life groups, journey groups, small groups, affinity groups. Whatever your definition, these two men joined a small group.

But let me ask you this question: when was the last time you saw two men begin with a passing nod acquaintance and end up with an intimacy and a feeling of belonging to the same tribe over the course of two hours?

That’s the genius of living life out in the community, in third places, shoulder to shoulder with your neighbors and strangers. Alan Hirsch, in his new book RIght Here Right now, says that “We have to be able to speak meaningfully into a culture, but in order to do that, we have to seriously examine a given culture for clues to what God is doing among a people….what is good new for THIS people?” My friend Dan was doing that. He was listening to Fred and conversing with him where he was at, the conversation meandering. And because it took place in this third place, others were welcome to join in or not. Some did, interacting as long as time and circumstances allowed. Others didn’t, living their own lives.

Either way, small group was had here in Starbucks, and a whole bunch of us got to join in.

I’m making the choice to go for community wherever possible. After all, I’m, pretty sure that’s where Jesus hung out. I just wonder if he’d have picked MY Starbucks!

Missing shots?

It’s an old saying and you have undoubtably heard it before. I last heard it when my Pastor, at a leadership conference, was encouraging leaders to be BOLD in their choices.

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

And it’s true, right? This sports analogy has encouraged us to be bolder in our decision to step to the line and shoot. Go out there and do the Nike thing…just do it.

It’s a great motivator, but I am just so not a sports-type girl. I get it, but I have no desire whatsoever to take any shots. None.

Yesterday, however, my friend Steve Helm, a pastor at Woodlands Church in Texas, put that quote into a whole new light for me. Retweeting my Pastor, he said this:

Leaders be BOLD! You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Espresso your life!!!!!!

Oh. Now this I understand.

Think about it: why in the world would you want to drink a Frappuccino without the coffee shots? It’s just a milk shake. Why settle for a weak brew when you can add some espresso shots and transform it into energy, depth of flavor, pure coffee heaven?

What would our lives look like if we “espresso our lives”?

Would we be so excited to get up in the morning and see what’s new in God’s kingdom?

Would we be unable to stop the flow of creative energy?

Would new ideas no longer seem daunting, but completely doable?

Would we have more depth and exhibit more complexity of character in our faith and our attitudes?

And what about those infamous missed shots? How many times have we been standing in front of an incredible opportunity and missed it just because of fatigue, fear, uncertainty or complacency? We have all had phenomenal works of God come about because of one teeny, tiny first step that we took. Chain reactions get started that echo from earth to heaven. I have a friendship that is becoming precious to me and it started because of a rainstorm and my husband giving up his seat on a boat to a soaking wet woman. My friend and I have now walked through an amazing adoption (hers! No new announcements!)  and are starting to dream about new ways to impact the kingdom. All because of wet jeans and a caring act of kindness on David’s part. An espresso shot.

So what will it be? A cup of Folger’s? Or are you willing to go for it.

Take an espresso shot.

Life happens at the Coffee Shop


The kid was a 20-something surfer dude with flip-flops and tank top. In South Florida he’s a pretty common sight. He was tan and fit and thoroughly enjoying his Sunday morning coffee with his companion. And he was obviously deeply head-over-heels for his coffee buddy. The Kid’s face lit up at every word. We watched them for maybe twenty minutes while we sipped our pre-church Starbucks at City Place.

What made this kid engrossing was his companion: a very elderly, very small grampa in a wheel chair. Grampa had bright yellow fuzzy socks on, with the side that should have been to the floor on the top of his foot. He had a lap robe, and a fun red baseball cap. The Kid wheeled Grampa in through the door of this very busy Starbucks and helped him get the coffee he wanted. Getting back out through the door was trickier, carrying coffee, but David and I helped hold the door and listened t0 The Kid.

“Let’s sit outside, today, ok? It’s awesome out.”

Grampa didn’t speak much, so outside they went. The Kid found them a table and began a running patter with Grampa. Now I’m pretty much an expert at playing word charades in order to understand an older person, so I watched The Kid try to understand what Grampa was saying.

“You have your drink. Oh, something to eat? Is that it? OK! What do you want?”

Grampa tried, using his hands. He seemed Italian: they talk with their hands.

“Is it hard, Gramps? Is it sweet? OK, sweet, then, not salty. Is it cake? Does it have icing?”

I looked away for a few moments, and when I tuned back in The Kid was wheeling Gramps back through the door to go buy the treat. Minutes later they came struggling back out through the door again and Gramps happily had a biscotti in his hand. I could have predicted that. The Kid settled them back at their same table and began to look over their biscotti.

“Let’s see, Gramps, what have we got here? Oh, 170 calories. Not bad. Hmmm…no protein, but we’re not working out right now…”

And so it went, this constant patter. Through it all, The Kid’s attention never left Grampa. He was completely, one hundred percent in the moment on this beautiful Sunday morning. David initially wondered if he was being paid to be a companion to the elderly man, but you can’t buy that kind of focus and love. Literally The Kid’s eyes twinkled when he looked at Gramps. None of us existed for those two.

It touched me, this moment of unbelievable companionship. It had depth and reality. It was as true a sermon as the one I was getting ready to go hear. And I may remember it longer (No offense, John Poitevent…it was a great sermon at Ascent CityPlace!).

What a gift, being totally in the moment with another person.

Just for fun, read this post from Coffee Shop Journal about our City Place campus.

Starbucks Via: how does it stack up so far?

I’m curious to hear what everyone is thinking about the new Starbucks Via packets. David and I have used them for quite some time, and won’t leave home without them anymore! Below you will find a list of my own posts about Via if you want to read about our experiences.

For those of you already sold, I just have to get this brewed coffee mug. It has slots around the base to hold the Via packets! Now if I could figure out the cream and sugar issues…


Life as a Coffee Addict

Starbucks Via: Perfect or Summer Travel

A Recipe for a Mocha Via…yummy

ONE coffee drink and Starbucks Via: Coffee news day!


David and I tried a new coffee drink called O.N.E. Coffee Fruit drink. It is a juice based on the whole coffee fruit, as opposed to just the roasted coffee bean in coffee. We stumbled across it during a foraging visit to Whole Foods, and of course had to bring it home!

O.N.E. is a cold drink. It contains various fruits such as acerola (Amazon cherry) and strawberries, grape juice and the whole coffee fruit. The flavor is sweet…like a juice. I think the grape juice flavor is the dominant taste. But there is a coffee flavor permeating through it, too. The coffee flavor comes at the start of the flavor profile, and kind of drifts through your senses. Then the juices take over with a sweet finish. Best description I can give. Overall I really enjoyed the sensation. In addition, the makers tout these benefits:

  • O.N.E. Coffee Fruit Drink is a high antioxidant, naturally caffeinated fresh juice.
  • O.N.E. Coffee Fruit Drink has a similar level of caffeine as a cup of green tea, and offers a mild, unique taste, accented by the sweetness of strawberries.
  • O.N.E. Coffee Fruit Drink is rich in antioxidants called phenolic acids.
  • Phenolic acids may help: fight the build up of free radicals, promote healthy lipid levels, and protect against oxidative stress.

So I guess I’d call that a win/win drink!


And in other, highly anticipated (in this household) news, Starbucks announced that they are releasing the VIA instant coffee packets nationwide starting September 29. You can read my review of Via here. Now quite seriously, all you Starbucks fans need to have a box or two of VIA in your cupboards. It has saved us so many times on long flights (or short) where the coffee served doesn’t deserve the name. In one case, the flight attendant came to US for coffee! And we happily donated one of our packets of VIA to the cause of better coffee everywhere. September 29.

Starbucks Iced Coffee from espresso: get your Agave Syrup first!


We are in the midst of packing up Kylie for college once again. The very items we so happily shoved to the back of our minds and closets we are now dragging out and packing up! This leaves little time for writing, so I’m going to share my secret to getting through the hot summer day and lots of pressing work: my iced coffee recipe. 

Marla’s Iced Coffee


2 Happy squirts of Agave Syrup (see below)

4 oz. espresso (or double strength coffee if you can’t make espresso at home)





Fill your ultimate glass with ice. Don’t be shy…put in about as much as a Starbucks Grande would hold, just shy of the top. Make your espresso, and while still hot add two squirts of Agave Syrup. You can buy Agave at any grocery store. It’s flavor is identical to sugar, but it has roughly the nutritional equivalent to honey. It has the advantage of being liquid, so it will melt nicely along with the coffee. While the coffee is still hot, pour it over your ice. Add enough cream to lighten it to your preference. Use a straw!!!

Oh, I love facing the end of the day with a cool glass of coffee in my hand. 

By the way, my laptop has gone mute. No audio whatsoever. My MacBook Air has been a faithful travel companion, but it needs to be able to speak to me! So away it has gone on trip without me. I am bereft. I am also reduced to bumming a laptop or writing in the middle of the hubbub of my family room. I’m just saying. I shall soldier on.

Gardening with Coffee Grounds, Peace Coffee


So many blogs to write…so little time!

I saw this an ad in Natural Home magazine by Peace Coffee. They are a sustainable, socially conscious, fair-trade coffee company. Go to their website and check them out. Peace Coffee offers these tips on what to do with leftover coffee grounds, which is something we have an abundant supply of in this house!

  1. Sprinkle used grounds around plants before rain or watering for slow-release nitrogen.
  2. Add to compost piles to increase the nitrogen balance. Coffee filters and tea bags break down rapidly during composting.
  3. To make a gentle, fast-acting liquid fertilizer, dilute a half pound of wet coffee grounds with five gallons of water.
  4. Mix into soil for household plants or vegetables.
  5. Encircle the base of plants with a coffee and eggshell barrier to repel pests.
  6. If you are into vermiposting, feed a little bit to your worms.

Thank you, Peace Coffee, for reminding us that there is a nutritive value to the grounds we through out. Pop them in the garden, instead! Wouldn’t life be wonderful if our gardens smelled like coffee??? Yes, I know it doesn’t actually work that way…the smell disipates quickly. But I can dream, can’t I? And in the spirit of true confessions, in our active homeschooling years, we did keep a worm composting farm. It was fun. Honest. For awhile. haven’t seen too many worms aroun d here lately, for which I’m grateful!

This barista brews up community: Starbucks Palm Beach Gardens will miss you!

Jeremy and David before a coffee cupping!

Jeremy and David before a coffee cupping!

Today the inevitable happened. We walked into our favorite Starbucks and Jeremy wasn’t there. He’s been there, in one way or another, for the last year and a half. But today was the first day our little band of coffee lovers had to realize Jeremy really is moving. Or trying to, as he and Maria are in the throes of packing madness. After commiserating and chatting for awhile, I grew philosophical as I realized all that Jeremy has taught us over the past year. And taught you, too, since most of the time what I learn sitting on my seat at the bar gets written in the electronic pages of Coffee Shop Journal.

Thank you, Jeremy, for teaching us…

  • Have passion. I don’t know anyone as passionate as Jeremy is. But he isn’t passionate about everything, just the things that really matter to him: Jesus, Maria (his wife!), coffee and people. I will never forget the night Jeremy and Maria came over to the house to eat shortly following the last Starbucks convention in New Orleans. He reminded me of a teenager hopped up on sugar, he was so high with the outreach, learning and fellowship. In those days, or any days, you couldn’t meet Jeremy without knowing his passion.
  • Coffee is complex. After hanging with Jeremy this year, I’ve realized that coffee deserves a capital C: Coffee. It is complex, filled with social justice issues. It brings people together and divides us into drinkers and non-drinkers. There are flavors for everyone, brewing methods galore, pairings and even a few disasters. Surely that’s the mark of a special person, if they can enlarge your view of the world just by being part of it.
  • People come first. Over and over I’ve seen how Jeremy treated his staff, his customers and especially his family. Even the coffee takes a back seat to the relationships.
  • Leadership is a byproduct. Jeremy illustrates this principle so clearly. He is a leader, but his leadership is a byproduct of his life and relationship. His staff is anxious to make his life easier, to do what he needs, to grow and make the store prosper. But they do it because they know Jeremy wants to do all those things for them, too. It is a relationship.
  • Kingdom comes first. Jeremy is moving because Maria got a job working in the church they feel most connected to, in Tampa. She’s going to be guiding and pouring into countless children’s lives as a result of her opportunity. In spite of having just gotten settled, even though Jeremy liked his job here, the kingdom comes first. They move. Great example.
  • Life consists of details. Over the years I have noticed that in the service industry, it is the manager who notices the details who does the best job. Jeremy is skilled at noticing and accomplishing the details. Scheduled lobby clean ups (often skipped by sloppy managers at other stores) are always done in his store. The cream is filled. The staff follows the recipes. It works. I’ve been inspired to work on the details of my life many times, just from watching his gang hit the mark over and over.

That’s probably enough. If Jeremy reads this, knowing him, he’s going to be embarassed. But sometimes we wait until someone leaves our life before we reveal how they impacted our thinking. Once in awhile I believe it’s good to encourage each other, to see the purpose in a friendship and a season of life. Jeremy and Maria have been a relatively short season of time in my life, but the Kingdom has been at the center of our relationship. I believe there has been — and will be — a purpose in our shared time in the coffee shop. And maybe that’s why I keep coming back to write about community and companionship in the third places of life, in the coffee shops and bookstores and malls and restaurants. There is a purpose greater than we can imagine, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

Safe travels and God’s blessings on you and Maria, Jeremy. May he guide you to the next phase of your unique ministry, giving you enough glimpses of the purpose along the way to keep you energized, but hiding enough surprises to delight you each morning with unimagined life. David and I pray blessings over you and Maria and your family — present and future — knowing that He has a great plan for you. Find the people in Tampa who are waiting for the knowledge that people like you exist. Keep inspirng, keep leading, keep dropping on your face before the King. And next time we see you we’ll sit down over a French Press of some good African coffee and marvel over the twists and turns.