Apples and Mondays


Mondays are not easy for me.

For some, Mondays are a new start — kids go back to school, the counter is wiped clean, there is space and time.

For others, Mondays are perhaps like mine. They are a reminder of my disparate existence, a reminder that even as I cocoon myself in a home with warmth and white lights there is a world out there that can’t be ignored. A world where I smell pot at 6:45 in the morning as I come out of the subway. A world where Mary warns me yet again to “Be careful up there!” A world where I can smell the alcohol from 10 feet away on the breath of someone I regularly communicate with.

And that’s how this Monday began. Except for an apple. A bright, red, beautiful apple.

A man who couldn’t have been older than 25 dressed in business clothes was seated next to a woman who had all her household goods in a shopping cart. Only her face and eyes peeked out from a coat that was too big for her. The man was white and the woman was black. The contrast between privilege and poverty was stark. And then he reached into his bag and brought out an apple and he gave it to her. There was no drama. I was the only one sitting across from them and I doubt anyone saw the act except me. As they made eye contact, she smiled her gratitude through dark brown eyes and they exchanged greetings. A conversation started that was over almost as soon as it began – but at least it started.

It was so small but it felt so big.

I know there are those who would be cynical about this. A young, white man with everything takes pity on a black woman with nothing. But it didn’t feel like that. It seemed redemptive for both, certainly for me.

Much is written on privilege and recognizing privilege. In this, the act of giving an apple, it felt like a young man who knows his own privilege wanted to reach over that division into the life of someone who would be easy to ignore, easy to dismiss. It seemed thoughtful and without guile.

So an apple and a Monday help me to reach across the Sunday – Monday division believing that redemption happens in small ways all around me.


Stacy’s recipe this Monday combines my all-time favorite liqueur with one of my all-time favorite foods. This combo is called Stacy’s Bailey’s Irish Cream Muffins. (Actually, I added the ‘Stacy’s’ to the title.) I cannot wait to try these! May the Irish among us rejoice!

That Holy Ache

Spring 2017

I awake with that Holy Ache.

If there is any time I feel this acutely it’s on Monday mornings, where I try to move between a resurrection Sunday and the real-world Monday. Where I move from the weekend rest and peace, to the week day chaos and problems.

We who are human know this Holy Ache. It is something that transcends cultures and generations, something that will be part of us until our life on this earth is complete.

It’s the one that reminds us that we are in between. We are in the not yet; the messy middle. That place where we know what we see is only a fraction of the real story, yet we ache for that real story to be revealed, to come to fruition. We are ‘between the lost and the desired’.

A Holy Ache.

That ache we feel when we read or hear the news and our hearts stop with the horror of it all, the longing to make all right, to gather up all the orphans, the widows, the sinners and show them the love of God. The holy ache that acknowledges we are capable of so little in comparison to the great need. That ache we feel when we are at a funeral of one we love, knowing we will never see their faces, hear their words, hug their bodies again. That ache we feel when the rich thrive and mock while the poor struggle to survive. That ache we feel of injustice and wrong and all those things that remind us we are in the between.

It used to be that the holy ache would direct me to despair. It’s all too much, I thought. It’s too hard. Seeing through a glass darkly is not enough. But lately I have embraced the holy ache as an integral part of my faith journey – a critical part that brings me to a greater love and desire for God.

Yesterday our priest said it well. We are caught, he said, between irrational joy and sorrow.

I have embraced the holy ache as an integral part of my faith journey

Irrational joy and indefinable sorrow.  Waking to the smell of spring, knowing we are alive, seeing new buds coming out on trees and bushes fills us with joy, even as we face the sorrow of a world that is not as it should be.

So welcome to today’s Holy Ache – may we walk in faith that aches will be redeemed and in the middle of Holy Aches we may know Holy Joy. 

Coffee: Black as Hell, Strong as Death, Sweet as Love

It’s Monday morning and as I head to my grey cubicle in a building that houses several hundred state government employees, I am aware that I need the drink that tops all others, coffee.

Waiting in line at a coffee shop, my vacation from last week feels like it was months ago, the sun and sand of a beautiful beach merely an image on my camera and my memory. As I wait, my mind drifts off to the Turkish Proverb painted across the top of a wall at a coffee shop in Rockport, Massachusetts. The proverb reads:

“Coffee should be Black as Hell; Strong as Death; and Sweet as Love.”

It was written in artistic script at the Bean and Leaf Cafe at Bearskin neck and I immediately knew I would love this café, complete with ocean views from every angle in the small seating area at the back of the shop.

Just as Americans sometimes think they are the inventors of Christianity, they also sometimes err in believing that they were the inventors of coffee and the great idea of the coffee shop. While the likes of Starbucks and Seattle Coffee did have a great deal to do with today’s obsession with the drink, it may interest readers to know that coffee was alive and well in the Middle East as far back as the sixteenth century.

Chapter 9 of A New Introduction to Islam  takes us back to that century where coffee and coffee shops were newly introduced from Yemen and coffee was “all the rage*”. The author, Dr. Daniel Brown states

“Coffee houses punctuated the urban landscape of Middle Eastern cities like oases, as they still do”

In a section called “The Coffee Debate”  he goes on to say “Arabic accounts of the earliest uses of coffee agree that the first to drink the brew were late fifteenth-century Yemeni Sufis, Muslim mystics, who found the effects of caffeine enlivening to their late night devotional exercises“.  The author cleverly lures the non-scholar into the chapter via coffee and moves on to discuss Islamic Law. Evidently the widespread use and popularity of the drink were enough to cause alarm and debate among scholars on whether it was permissible and prudent to indulge in coffee, but that is a post that I do not have the knowledge or authority to write! My interest on this Monday morning is in the fact that centuries later in the year 2011 Americans subject themselves daily to long lines, desperate for that early morning ritual to enliven their senses and shoot some badly needed motivation, disguised as a caffeine drink, into their bodies and minds.

So as I move through the line and get my drink of choice, I join millions who have gone before and will probably come after me in getting the drink that has inspired scholars to debate, mystics to meditate, and government employees to survive budget cuts and bureaucracy – the drink that is known in the Turkish Proverb as Black as Hell, Strong as Death, and Sweet as Love.

A happy Monday and if you are a coffee drinker, enjoy, knowing that you will never be alone in your need for this centuries old drink.

*Bloggers Note: All excerpts come from Chapter 9, Islamic Law, in A New Introduction to Islam. The author also cites “Coffee and Coffee Houses” by Ralph Hattox.

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