Call the first rock Linda B., a face in the halls at church, whom I shamelessly phoned when I heard she had an eye for color, who came though she had paperwork, and owed me nothing; who stayed beyond the perfunctory time. Have you ever seen a gifted person in the grip of her gift? Time goes relative, people themselves flee away, self is absorbed into object. I stood back and watched, for it was all I could do. There was a rustling and shifting of chairs, a considering and reconsidering, the removal of a piece that "hurt my eyes." And at the end of three hours, a floor plan.
But no, begin at the beginning: Tina K., the vision, distillation of theology to praxis (How did no one see it before?), who looked at a rundown, written-off canteen on a seminary campus and saw Paris on the left bank but with a Christian twist. Who had the testosterone to go after it, coax dollars out of bottom-line men, peel layers of uninspired accretions to liberate original rough-hewn stone and the 1898 rustic charm of this erstwhile carriage house. God "calls things that are not as though they were" (Romans 4:17); now and then He gives to men the privilege also. That was Tina, filling her role, a Deborah in her time-and then gone.
Concept: If you build it they will come. Louis Kahn and something about light and space, mining God's raw materials to create anew. "Every room needs something yellow and something living" (That was Joan H.'s contribution, which I duly noted). It's biblical: Plant a tree, give it branches, nesting places, inviting, private corners, and true theology will happen. Theo-logia: "knowledge of God," I remember my Greek now. Not something you do on paper but in the highways and byways. At the café.
Enter Rhonda C., a daughter called out of Canada, a shoe to click to my clack in the kitchen. Then, a little later, Nan P., easing in like the string section of the second movement, raised up for this very hour. Who else could it have been? So obvious now. She, the beating heart of the café, reminding me, by example not by precept, that customers are not just masticating machines but souls to be groomed, stories waiting to be told, if there's an ear. Call her a rock, indeed.
I saw professors venturing out of musty offices, blinking in the light, East meeting West, streams merging into streams, fortresses crumbling, understanding happening. I saw my old history professor with a red, short-sleeved, button-down shirt; came right into the kitchen and said hi. Pretty soon someone will discover some startling difference between Korean and American Christianity that I know by marriage, not by book, and will write a helpful dissertation on it. This could be, finally, the opening salvo of John Frame's proposal for a new seminary, the bearded ones and their disciples fraternizing out of the classroom, thinking outside the box. Someone realized that if you make a professor walk 20 steps across the foyer to get his coffee, he will probably meet a student on the way.
Do I recall Jesus at Zaccheaus's dinner table? Raised eyebrows. Revolution. Reformation.
Granola isn't working, fruit isn't taking off, we're tinkering with the wraps. Too soon to say that guys aren't into health food. Not mine to impose (or is it?). Be all things to all men. In bed I think (no longer romantically inclined): Is it ethical to price at $2.99 when that's really $3? Are these the ways Paul rejected in 2 Corinthians 1, or just good business? Bounce it off Rhonda and Nan; we are more together than we are separately.
So head on down to the café-and bring a professor with you. You will find the nations here: Emmanuel and Samuel from Nigeria, Jasna and Antonija from Croatia. We're open till 2 and the menu is limited, but do not despise the day of small beginnings (Zechariah 3). I'll be in the kitchen on a quest for a better sandwich for the glory of God, as noble an aspiration as I've ever had.
The Jordan is crossed, a heap of stones laid on the shore, 12 stacked one on another by the 12 tribes, a testimony. God is the builder. "In those days 10 men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one prof by the hem of his robes and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'" The "not yet" begins "already" at the café. I think that's what Tina had in mind.