But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
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1 Samuel 15:1-16:23
My sweet friend had driven four hours to see me. Not only that, when she arrived, she immediately rolled up her sleeves and helped us move a garage-load of boxes from one storage shed to another — a job that took the better part of a day. When we finished, I asked if she wanted to go get coffee at a nearby mall.
Women don’t turn down trips to the mall. We don’t get that tired.
We chatted ferociously all the way to the Clackamas Mall. I hadn’t seen her in months, not since we left our farm and moved south to be closer to Dave’s seminary. Though we’d talked nonstop while transferring boxes to the new shed, we hadn’t yet run out of topics. Away from the apartment complex, we talked about her new church, and ours, and my friend had lots of questions about our neighbors and how Zac was adjusting to the new environment.
“He misses the woods,” I told her, “but he likes having cement.” Back home, Zac never got the chance to ride his bike on a smooth surface. It was all bump and slide and skitter as he maneuvered his wheels over our dirt driveway.
My friend was impressed with the mall. It’s not everyday you see an ice skating rink dropped in the midst of shops and restaurants. The espresso stand I brought her to was situated just in front of the broad glass windows above the rink.
“Let’s get our coffee and watch awhile,” she suggested.
As we approached the stand, my friend said, “I’ve been craving a mocha. I know exactly what I want.”
The stand looked empty when I leaned against the counter. The structure was shaped liked a horseshoe, and I couldn’t see the barista tucked around the far corner. But he heard us and came into view.
“Hi,” he said. “Can I help you?” he asked, looking directly at me.
“She knows what she wants already,” I said, nodding to my friend. But my friend shook her head.
“No, I don’t.”
That seemed odd since she’d just told me otherwise. But I didn’t argue. “Well, then … let’s see ….” I scanned the menu and nibbled my lip. “Hmmm. I think I want a grande almond latte, but I don’t want it too sweet.”
“How about if I give you three pumps instead of four?” the boy asked.
“That sounds good.”
As we settled on my order, a second barista appeared from around the corner, saw my friend standing at my side, and said, “I can help whoever’s next.”
My friend left me and walked around to the far side of the “U.” I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her giving the girl her order.
I watched my barista empty the metal, coffee-ground holder and fill it with fresh grounds. He was a nice-looking boy with wild hair, earrings, a pierced eyebrow (the first I think I ever saw), and two arms full of tattooes.
“I have to ask,” I said.
“The eyebrow … did that hurt?”
He grinned. “I won’t lie. It did. But I got over it.”
I laughed. “I almost left with just one ear pierced when I was sixteen and sitting in the back of a jeweler’s store. That first one hurt so much, I didn’t think I could take the second.”
I watched the boy fly through his routine and listened to the birth of my latte. Click, twist, burble, drip. The slurp and splat of three pumps of almond liquid dropping into my paper cup. The “hooo-whaa, hooo-whaa” of the milk steaming to a froth. As he was sliding a lid over the milky concoction, I noticed the tattoo encircling his left wrist.
“Hey! That’s Greek!” One of the perks of seminary was that I got to sit in on Dave’s classes with him. For a few months, I’d been learning Greek alongside him, and while I couldn’t read the word upside down, I did recognize the letters.
“You’re right,” the barista said, grinning again. “It says, ‘Savior.'”
“Are you a Christian?” I asked, smiling back.
“What a great tattoo.”
He handed me my latte and turned his wrist so I could see all the letters. “I know. It’s my favorite. I’m going to get another on this wrist that says “Messiah” in Hebrew.”
We talked for another minute or two about seminary and tattooes and Jesus, until I noticed my friend sitting by the window of the the skating rink. “Well,” I told my new favorite barista, “it was nice talking with you.”
“You, too,” he said.
“Perfect latte. I’ll remember to ask for three pumps.”
“Good. And I’ll remember when I see you next.” He gave me a last smile and we exchanged ‘God bless you’s’.
Feeling very happy with the coffee and the conversation and the way God has of crossing our paths with lovely souls, just to surprise us, I crossed the floor and took a seat next to my friend.
She looked at me, looked at my coffee, looked back at the espresso stand … and shuddered. “I nearly died when that boy asked me what I wanted. I wasn’t about to let him touch anything that was going to go in my mouth.” She glanced again at the cup that had paused itself halfway to my lips.
“How can you drink that?”
I didn’t know where to begin.