Pursuit of Relationship: healthy or unhealthy?

I'm at  a new coffee shop this morning.  Never been here before, but drove past it a couple times so thought i would check it out.  I like it - cozy couches, cool atmosphere.  Just ordered a "spicy Mocha."  Not sure what that means yet, but it's one of their specialty items so I figured I'd check it out.  I love Portland.  I'm looking out the window at a clear blue sky, florescent colored leaves on the trees, damp streets.  Walking in I could see my breathe just a little - the fall is my favorite season!

I'm looking around in the coffee shop and I see what looks like a couple talking.  My guess is they are about 21 or 22 years old.  They don't seem to know each other that well - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this their second or third time together with the way they're talking.  Yes, I've eavesdropped a little.  Listening to them got me thinking about something for this series of blogs I'm doing.  The issue of identity and meaning is closely tied to relationships.

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Pursuit of Vocation

 I'm not sure where you are in life, but if you're in your early twenties I hope this is going to help you think more deeply about yourself and pursuits.

 All of us are gaining a deeper sense of meaning and hoping in future things to bring that about.  This is never more true than our college-age years.  These years that are filled with hope in a successful career and possibly even a family life.  It's totally natural to place a lot of hope in these things, but I would also have to say it's not necessarily healthy.

There's a sub-culture of people, maybe you'll find yourself in this one, that are highly motivated in their education.  Even though I hate categorizing people in anything, for the sake of this blog I will call this person the "vocational."  The vocational has a very practical approach to school, seeking to gain skills and knowledge that will directly assist them in their future vocation.  The underlying hope of the vocational is that an education will be the first step toward a successful career and making more money.

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Temporary Meaning, False Identity

Who am I?  Not so easy to answer is it?

I’m sitting at Ava, my favorite coffee shop.  I moved up to Portland about six months ago from the LA area, and love it here.  There are a lot of differences, but the biggest one being in the people.  Now, it’s still America, but the truth is the culture here is different.

People ask me what the difference is.  I can’t say exactly, but I often use the illustration of musicians to try to try to explain...

This is a generalization of course (and in ways unfair), but in LA the musicians seem to have an identity in the image of a musician.  It’s not that they’re not good.  They just seem to love the image of a musician more than they do music.  More than that, they seem to see themselves in what they think the image of a musician is much more than authentically being one.

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In Line for the Bathroom

I was just in line for the bathroom at a coffee shop and had an interesting conversation with a guy.  I know, a little weird.  There's only one men's restroom here so when someone's taking a while there can be a bit of build up (no pun intended).  The guy in front of me was sighing a lot, seemingly out of frustration more than physical pain.  At least in this situation patience was not his strength.  Either that or his holding pattern was about to end.

Anyway, he turned to me and said, "Do you like your blackberry?"  Kind of random, especially since I wasn't holding it!  I left it on the table, next to my computer.  I guess he saw me on it prior to the frustrating (for him) wait for the restroom.  Whenever I get a call I use that as an excuse to get up, walk outside, and pace as I talk (I've always walked around while talking on the phone, not sure why).  Anyway, I replied to him, "Yeah, I love it.  Do you have one?"

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Striking Up Conversation

I was working at Ava last week when I noticed a book someone had.  It was titled, "Speak and Grow Rich."  It had a "get rich quick" look to it.  I'm not sure what that look really is, but you know what I mean - you've seen infomercials!  In fact, if you're anything like me, you've watched them, get sucked in a bit, and then after its done wonder why in the world you wasted your time.  But since it was 1:00 am you couldn't have been doing too many other things anyway, so who really cares?  Plus, then you probably wondered (at least a little bit) if it could work for you!

Anyway, I noticed this book sitting on the table by this guy.  So, looking for anything to strike up a conversation, I walked by and said, "I couldn't help but notice that book, is it good?"  

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Getting a Visual - Part 2

I haven't blogged recently because I was in El Salvador.  I had some great encounters with people there, so I will let you know about that VERY soon.  But first, continuing the visual series...

Ok, I know Starbuck's isn't unique to Portland, but there is one I go to often.  When I'm at a Starbucks I usually get the same thing: skinny vanilla latte.  I mix it up sometimes...sometimes it's iced.  I've also been known to buy a "Naked" drink, the green one (I'm not even sure what the name is).  I love the banana nut loaf, and I also like the Black Forest morning sandwich.  Anyway, I go to this starbucks for a few different reasons:

 

  1.  It's two blocks from my house.
  2. It's across the street from massive business center.  This center has 100's of businesses in it, so there is constantly business meetings, or people that walk over for a quick break.
  3. It's right by a freeway, so it's a great place for people to meet up.  When this happens, you can see it immediately.  People walk in and immediately seem lost.  They're looking for the person they're meeting, most of which they've never met before.  Not knowing what the other person looks like leads you to accidently walk up to the wrong people....which from my position is humorous every time I watch it.
  4. I sit in a place (every time) where I can see the entire place - I can see both doors, the entire seating area, and the counter.  This way I can make sure I notice people I know.  Briefly saying hi (as I so casually get up, walk toward the bathroom - even though I don't have to go - just to walk by a person and say a quick "hello").  I've found these quick little encounters pay off down the road!
  5. It's right by Washington Square - the biggest mall in the area.  So, you even get people stopping by after shopping, and especially those that went to Barne's N' Noble.

Well, I have some conversations I want to tell you about next blog...
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Getting a Visual - Part 1

I'm a visual person.  I like to see things I know about, and I can often see things before they exist - not in a freakish way.  But, for example, I can go into a house and see the potential it has, some things constructionally or decoratively that can be done to make it better...wait, that may not be the best example.  Now you know I'm a little emo.  Dang.  Well, the truth is I couldn't have a show on HGtv, but I do have an eye for certain things, I hate dirt on my clothes, and I have a thing for shoes.  Man, I wasn't expecting all that to come out this early in this blog venture.  

Anyway, to the point.  I thought before I got into too many stories of people I'm meeting in coffee shops that I would give you a visual understanding (a basic one) of the places I frequent.   So, over the next couple weeks I will be showing you the places I go to and explaining why it is I go there.  The first place I'll share with you is my favorite, Ava.  I love this place and come here for a few reasons:

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3 Conversations at Ava

Well, I met three great people today.  i was at my favorite coffee shop, Ava (I'll include pics soon), writing, and like always, i had one eye and one ear open - seeking non-awkward openings for discussion.  So, here's a little about one of my encounters (I'll let you know of the others later, kind of funny encounters):

I was writing and sipping on a Milk Chocolate Mocha.  The amazing thing about this coffee shop is that they make their mocha's with REAL CHOCOLATE!  Amazing.  Big difference.  I'll never go back.  More on the mocha's later.

The first open door of the day was when the internet in the coffee shop went down.  As soon as I noticed it I asked the guy sitting in front of me if he was having trouble with internet.  This is always a good teaser!  You quickly see if the person will talk or not by their response to these simply questions.  

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New to Conversant

I spend most of my time in coffee shops around Portland, drinking mocha's, writing, and talking to people.  I am a church planter and my goal is to meet 15 new people a day.  Don't get too excited about that number, I fail at that most days.  Usually, I end up talking to more like 5 or 6 people.  My goal is not to "convert" people, it's simply to strike up a conversation and hope that over time I will continue to see them - overtime building a friendship.  What do I talk about?  Well, anything.  It's hard to make sure I'm not awkward in approach, but I've worked out some kinks and can pretty much talk about anything now.  

That to say, that's what this blog will be about.  I will share my thoughts on conversations I have around Portland.  I have 6 coffee shops in particular that I make rounds at.  I've gotten to know a lot of the employees and some regulars.  I've only lived here 5 months, so much of what I'll share is the things I'm learning in my interactions with the people I meet and how that affects me, my faith, and my venture in church planting. 

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About
Every once in a while I have something happen that I think others might be interested in reading about. And, before it makes its way into a book, it usually ends up on a blog like this.


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