Thursday mornings have become my favorite morning of the week. Much like Saturday mornings with my wife, Thursdays start with coffee and conversation at a local coffee shop. Unlike Saturdays these are spent at Cafe De Arts in downtown Waukesha, home of the best cup of coffee in Waukesha, in my opinion. The owner Ayhun is a wonderful proprietor and always has my coffee ready by the time I get to the register.
"I saw you coming," he says.
He is also the one who offered his place for my book signing on June 21st, completely catching me off guard. I like to support businesses like his because he really cares about his customers and has a heart for his community as shown through his suspended coffees program. (A sort of pay it forward coffee program for the homeless.)
Anyways, I meet between three and four other men there on Thursday mornings before work every week. Occupationally, we are a diverse lot. There's a metal worker, an engineer who works for GE, a youth pastor and an accountant/CFO.
I'm not sure what we call ourselves. We refer to it as a book study, though there are days we never crack a book. Our intent is to work our way through a book, usually an edgy Christian book or one that challenges us. At the moment we are working through some Christian blog posts by an author and that has been mind bendingly challenging as well. The group is turning my once nicely pigeonholed understanding of the Bible and Christianity on its head a bit.
And I can't get enough of it.
Understand that some of it makes me uncomfortable. When you grow up looking at your faith and the Bible a certain way and then someone or some contemporary cultural hot-point comes along and challenges that it makes me squirm a little. But this squirming reminds me that maybe I was a little to myopic in my thinking or running the risk of becoming too comfortable or stuck in my ways. This squirming is also where God works, I think.
So we talk about tough subjects. We've been talking a lot about the fury of insanity around homosexuality lately. We've been talking a lot about the literal nature of the Bible, the fact that it was ultimately written by men - humans over hundreds of years, in wildly different cultures and what that means and how to read it as a result. Like I said, it's pushing me out of my comfort zone, and I'm okay with that. I'm learning a ton along the way about the fact that the important part of the Bible is about grace, and forgiveness, and love and not so much about exclusivity and judgement and shame. This has been absolutely freeing to me - almost as much as my original coming to faith. Kind of a rebirth of the reborn.
But it's not always serious talk about heavy things. We discuss our lives and what's going on. For example, one guy showed an email from a coworker that was a tirade in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS that went on and on about how this guy DIDN"T KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING AND SHOULD LEAVE HIS PROJECT ALONE. We all had a good laugh at that one.
We discuss home improvement projects. We talk about my book or my buddies CD of music that he recorded. We talk about our wives and kids. We talk about our families and how nutty they are but that we love them nonetheless. We try not to talk about politics because, well, we just don't. I can tell you that this was one of the many things that led me to leave my last "Bible Study" because it became a big deal. Evidently I didn't get the party memo and well, lets just say I like this group a whole lot more - mostly because we don't talk politics.
I wish every man could have a group like this. I come away from the hour long gatherings super-energized and I can't explain why (though I think the coffee's laced with endorphins or something.) It is a great chance to get stuff off our chests, talk about something deeper than sports, and laugh our friggin' heads off in the process. I think God puts guys like this in my life to move me along the spectrum - much like my writing group in a different way, and much like my old Bible Study group met a need at the time for what it was. (Despite its fiery crash conclusion.)
It's a journey that has been really cool and I'm glad to be a part of it.