MARTA is Smarta

MARTA-logo

 

 

Whenever I talk to someone in the suburbs of Atlanta about my commute to work using our public transportation system the usual first response is: “Why in the world would you do that to yourself?” Let’s be honest, MARTA has a bad reputation. I’m not that surprised really. I’ve had some interesting and fun experiences. I’ve seen the same panhandler use multiple stories as to why he’s broke and needs a hand out. I’ve heard a loud woman explain to no one in particular that “Touchdown” is her husband and no other woman is gonna take him away. I’ve been manipulated into “buying” a breeze card that didn’t actually have any money on it. As all these seemingly abnormally moments happen on the train and bus to and from work I’ve also been able to experience a simpler life. I’ve been able to connect to a city that I never thought I would love. Atlanta is very much an amazing city. People are starting to acknowledge and appreciate this more than ever. Not just the hipster coffee and vinyl loving scene that is found in places like Little 5 or Grant Park. It’s also the music at venues like Variety Playhouse, Vinyl, or Piedmont Park with Music Midtown. It’s the professional sports with the Falcons, Braves, even the Hawks somehow made the playoffs.

 

MARTA helps me to enjoy the city that much more than spending time hating traffic or the gas pump. I started taking MARTA out of necessity. My wife and I had one car with two jobs a half hour apart. I found that I could walk 12 minutes to a train transfer to a bus and get dropped off at the front door of my job. I then began to see the people around me as coconspirators for a better world. Maybe some of them take MARTA out of necessity too, they don’t have a car, it’s cheaper than paying for parking, whatever reason they might give. This transportation system has given me perspective and enjoyment in my routine. I need to plan ahead more now, leaving almost an hour early instead of half an hour but the sounds of the train and the “stop requested” bus signal are gentle reminders that I have come a long way since small town Michigan. I don’t always take MARTA anymore, sometimes I need to drive to multiple locations for my job so a car is a luxury I’m grateful to have available to me. When the snow storm hit Atlanta this past January and February, the highways might have shut down but the train got me to where I needed to be.

 

Often I ride very late at night. While some caution this decision what I see on the bus and train are mostly working folks trying to make it. People in server uniforms or nursing scrubs. I see people rising above a struggle to survive, never allowing the lack of a vehicle (a tragedy for some) to be an issue. It’s sad to me that this public service has such a bad reputation that some suburb folks look down upon people for riding it, or will only struggle through it on route to a Braves game or another large event in the city. MARTA is a gateway to connection, it’s a way of experiencing the city through old eyes realizing you might not know it as well as you think. Thank you MARTA, thank you to the drivers who never receive enough credit and the unseen thankless workers who keep it moving. Thank you for allowing me to change my opinion of urban living and begin to love a city. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to continue at my job when I didn’t have another way of getting there. Thank you for being a wonderful reflection of a city I love. To the people who think it’s not for them give it a try with an open mind and connect with the city and it’s people. ATL, I love you.

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Light of Truth – A Poem

Who are you my dearest Lord and what am I but your useless servant…”

 

Walking in a valley of concrete it’s easy to feel useless surrounded by sleeping bags, surrounded by heads hanging low and spirits even lower.

It’s easy to feel useless, when you have no idea what to do.

Walking in shadows make our actions sound silent, searching for light is the only conceivable plan.

Light, it never wants to be hidden, never wants to put under a shade or forgotten like it never existed.

The light of this world seeks to be seen, assisted by the most commonplace of people.

The splendor of gold and kings of the marketplace never notice the monetarily week as they hold eternal power. This light isn’t seeking to be reflected by silver, or create a glittering sparkle.

This light seeks to dispel darkness and disappear, seeks weak and wounded, seeks the never expecting and is reinforced in the corners of the world never heard of in a headline.

Seeking justice in the crisp cold of hatred wandering paths of confusion. This light is reinforced by the extraordinary in the normal the extraordinary of unknown souls noticing Truth and feeling light from light.

Knowing Truth has been there unnoticed begging to be.

It’s unnoticed by a man walking to a street corner thinking he’s trading sobriety for sanity, wandering streets searching for clarity and he honestly knows it’ll never be found in a high.

Truth is seen in the lives of others, beauty in waves gently kissing the shoreline, silent glistening mornings far removed from grungey abandoned sheds of shelter.

 

Far removed from addicts who can’t imagine life beyond their needle or hand grasping a beer. Because when I walk these streets I see there is a very thin line between heaven and here.

A very thin line for those folk who think they’re past saving because merciless people don’t understand grace. Grace restores and sees past anger of bigotry and hypocrites.

 

There are some like Bubba Al, scratching away selling water. Plastic hub cap round his neck, 5 years clean and forever to go. A curse on his life is what others may scream while Blessing walks among him daily. Blessing in the midst of confusion, Blessing as he speaks Truth.

 

While many walk blind surrounded by excess of materials, it is joy in simplicity that reminds me I am useless on my own. It is in this uselessness that grace springs forth, acknowledging faults, knowing we are dust and to dust we will return forever trying to love the rejected. Forever trying to reflect true justice that can’t be found in a courtroom reflecting the true heart that proves all of you, are accepted.

Coffee Changes Things

Ruli

Coffee has changed lives. The ones who dedicate their lives to it, the ones who drink it on a daily basis and especially the ones who grow the delicious product. It can sometimes be hard for me to admit this, but coffee has completely changed my life. It’s hard because I never thought something that seems so simple could do that for me. I never thought that a beverage could have that effect; I never thought a tree could impact my life in the way that it has.

There is a wave of craftsmanship that is captivating people across the world. Hand crafting food and drinks is not just for professionals anymore. There is an elemental love of watching each particle extract from coffee that is fascinating to me. This combined with unlimited ways of making coffee taste different and I start to sound like a tremendous nerd. But what I’ve discovered is that I am definitely not the only nerd out there. Coffee is much like other things people can become passionate about and that passion can turn into great knowledge. In my life there are several ways I make what some consider a simple cup of coffee. Pictured here are a V60 pour over, an Aeropress, a Clever dripper and the most fascinating and frustrating: espresso. People looking to get more out of their morning ritual can look to methods like these to slow down for a bit and enjoy the process. The fun part is, it’s really not that hard.

 

There are certainly minor differences the sensitive palate will detect but I’ve experienced not only my taste buds rejoicing with manually brewed coffee, but my soul as well. First you have to start with ethically sourced, excellently processed, freshly roasted, high quality coffee. Next I like to decide what type of mood I’m in, often in the morning I’m looking for a hearty cup but still smooth so I go with a Clever, other times in the evening I’m in need of a really smooth cup with some oils still left in it so I use an Aeropress. No matter what mood you find yourself in, there is great satisfaction in creating your own coffee rather than allowing a machine to do it. It does take a bit more attention to detail but when you pour a cup of a Moka Pot, or sip on a Chemex life just seems richer.

For a lot of people coffee might not mean this much, you might not care where the coffee comes from or how it’s made as long as it’s hot and has caffeine. You might have no idea what an extraction percentage is or even what TDS means. But there is care in your coffee, not just to prepare it properly but to take a produce that is as delicate as coffee and create something life changing. Coffee addicts meticulously combine the science and precision of gram scales, thermocouples, and particle size with the creativity that was evident in the lives of Picasso, Robert Frost, and Walt Disney. Then, these coffee purveyors create something mind-blowing all in the name of perfection that is entirely subjective and probably impossible. Me, I’m going to keep trying and I’m not the only one. For you out there that might think what you do doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. You hold up high the torch for quality in all things even in preparing a customer’s coffee. You are the cultivators of culture ready to remind the world what love is like, in the form of beautiful liquid in a cup. Coffee will continue to change lives and when we give of ourselves to our customers in the perfect pour, in a smile, when we give of ourselves to the farmers we sometimes take for granted, this world is a better place. This world doesn’t need more mediocre. Don’t settle for allowing the waves of perfection to stop, this world needs you. Thank you for allowing me to join this journey with you. Now let’s make some coffee.

 

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Peace Be With You

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Peace is a foreign concept to many minds. Mostly for me it’s because I’m always trying to think 4 steps ahead when mostly that means acting 2 steps behind. When I think of peace especially during this lenten season I think of a calm almost meditation. Simply enjoying being alive for a moment. Enjoying the fact that God’s murdered Son paid for my resurrection. I think for a moment I should simply enjoy being, then a text messages is sent, a phone rings, coffee needs to be made and thoughts come flooding in like the dam I set up to stop them never stood a chance. This week along with preparing for Holy Week I’ve been reflecting a lot on the events that transpired in Rwanda 20 years ago.

20 years ago, what can only be described as a horrible tragedy unfolded in a tiny country and no one thought it would survive. People went after each other with machetes and other deadly weaponry trying to completely eradicate a people group. This was done with no regard to the physical emotional or eternal consequences that would occur. Amazingly, by God’s grace this was not the end of their story. This country 20 years later has taught me more about forgiveness than I believe anyone has or could have since Jesus on the cross. There was no peace for those 100 days, there was no peace as people were murdered in the streets and in their homes. Even now peace is hard to come by, but people who admitted their wrongs are now going back to the families that survived and asking for pardon and forgiveness. Not only are they asking but they are also receiving holy pardon from the families they destroyed. One of the themes of many movies in our culture is revenge, often audiences cheer when the good guy gets his vindication against the bad guy. But in real life Rwanda the victims of these atrocities aren’t seeking to be vindicated with blood but seeking peace. I hope these events don’t just mark history but mark my heart.

I confess that this lent I have failed in what I set out to do. Taking time to intentionally create sacred space everyday, to read scripture everyday. Yet as Holy Week approaches I am reminded that Jesus still rose. I am reminded this time is about preparation. Preparation for the knowing that Jesus has conquered death for us, forgiven our minor and major sins when we come to him. From the washing of feet, to the agony of the cross, to the waiting on Saturday night, to the triumph and hallelujah of Christ risen from the dead. May we take the example of Christ washing feet, the example of saints like Francis who gave up everything to live in solidarity with the poor and lepers, and other saints like the ones in Rwanda that with God’s help have forgiven the unforgivable, and live in the peace of Christ.