Tomorrow is National Coffee Day, and to celebrate my husband, Dan, is offering free downloads of his first novel, Playa Perdida. What's the connection, you wonder? Well, the novel is loosely based on our experiences of starting a church in a beach community in Costa Rica, and Costa Rica is well known for its amazing coffee.

Anyway, to give you a taste of the book - you'll have to grab your own coffee - I'm posting one of my favorite sections in which coffee takes the main stage.  And to get the free download, you can head to Dan's website at toucanic.net.

from Playa Perdida by Dan Schmidt

Playa Perdida’s marina lay a kilometer south of the Arawak, on an estuary where the coast turned in sharply. On a local map, I’d seen that further inland, the sea met a river running down from the mountains and spread in the flats to create a marsh—part salt, part fresh. 

The sky was bright as I walked along a road more dust than dirt. I’d heard that this was its standard condition; the only changes were after a rain that turned it to mud, or when the municipality had extra cash and sprayed it with molasses. That was a quick fix which both cleared and sweetened the air, but inevitably the molasses melted, making a sticky goo that found its way into the undercarriage of vehicles. The road would devolve to its prior state; cars developed problems of their own.

It was a gorgeous day for a stroll, despite the odor of marine creatures stranded by tides and cooked by an unrelenting sun. My sandals stirred up little puffs as I made my way south. Shabby stores hawked their wares with misspelled signs. I saw few tourists.  A motel on the water’s side tilted precipitously beneath ancient
coconut palms—the Dorado, according to a plaque hung from a porch column. A smaller sign promised 'cleen' rooms at low rates, but someone had scratched out most of ‘cleen’. Stretched between two palms in front of the motel, a hammock bowed under a sleeping kid whose shortboard leaned against one of the trees. 
 
Next to the Dorado, listing slightly, sat a dilapidated mansion. Its fence of rotten boards failed to hide a profusion of tall grasses and weeds. A rusty shopping cart lay overturned near the front door which, like the adjacent windows, was partly covered with chipped plywood. Second floor windows had been pummeled by rocks; jagged remnants of glass hung in rotting frames. 
 
Another hundred yards past the once stately house, the Marina View Apartments sat perpendicular to the street. More weeds than gravel filled the parking area separating the apartments from a second structure of roughly the same dimensions, split into two large storefronts on the lower level. One bore the sign Marina Office. The other blared messages painted on plate glass with heavy orange strokes: Learn Spanish! Speak Like A Native! Includes Surfing! A hand-lettered sign hanging in the door read, At The Beach. 

Snowy’s Bar occupied the second story of this building. I took the broken concrete walk toward the Marina Office and branched off for the stairs. At the top landing, a massive chunk of driftwood propped open the outside door.

“Watch out for the—” I heard someone yell, too late. A metal pipe hanging just inside the door connected with my forehead.

“Man walks into a bar,” came a chorus from weathered men on stools. 

Once my eyes had adjusted to the dim interior, I saw a length of galvanized pipe that had been threaded with nylon rope and suspended from the ceiling. It seemed to have just one purpose.  

“All this for a joke?” I asked the man standing behind the counter. What I could see of his face bore no expression

“Priceless every time. What’ll you have?”


 
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I realized after I finished yesterday's post that I should have mentioned Dan's newest book, Playa Perdida (click here) as a great read that touches on some of these ideas of work and rest. The novel chronicles the journey of Gray Albright, a burned out pastor who leaves the mind-numbing pressures of a northern US congregation for the warm and whimsical grace of a church plant in Costa Rica. You'll enjoy Dan's great sense of humor and gentle reminders that God desires our good, and that gifts come in unexpected packages.
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One of the dangers of including personal journeys in your blog is that often the very thing you're blogging about rears its cheery head and gives you a nip on the backside. I hadn't even hit the "publish" button at the top of my screen yesterday when I noticed that I'd begun to lose it - peace, that is. The airwaves got scrambled with concerns about time commitments, which led to anxiety (so low-level it almost slipped under the radar) and I brought the static into my subsequent conversations. This led to confusion, misunderstanding and a whole lot of wasted time. 

However, it did help to confirm my working thesis that peace is important to maintain if you want to keep in step with the guidance of the Spirit. Disruptions to our peace keep us from being able to sense where the energy of God is leading. Recently I've been using the phrase "What wants to happen" as a fresh way of speaking of being led by the Spirit. Though I have a mental idea of what I think might be good, I am learning to submit my conscious plans to the internal nudge of the Spirit. I'm assuming that God is working through my thoughts, my desires, my intuitions and feelings as well as the people around me to guide me into the path for the day. (One way of living into the phrase "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.)

It's easy for the airwaves to become muddled, especially if our radar has been tuned to pick up other people's feelings and responses, the "you shoulds" of the multiple voices in our heads, or the expectations of the culture in which we're steeped. To enter a watchful stillness, I think it's necessary to lean into the deep love of God. This love, in which Paul reminds us we are "rooted and grounded" (Eph 3:18) is the only thing strong enough to allow us to stand down from defcon 3 or 5 and enter peace.

It's still a challenge to believe that all is well, (that all will be well) that God's love is deep enough to hold me. Surely I'll make mistakes, incur other's displeasure, ruin expectations that are beyond repair. But that's not true. Either God's love is enough for the long haul, or it's not worth my allegiance. However, it's also true that changing my mindset and moving my focus is difficult, and because of that I need the grace of God to even begin. But God is willing and eager to extend that grace, as Paul reminds us with his wonderful prayer for the Ephesians.
 
"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  (Ephesians 3:14-19)