I was recently at the Crema Coffee Shop in Nashville meeting with my friend, Thomas. We were discussing church life in our city and leading our churches forward. Crema is a cool shop that is a short walk from LP Stadium where the Tennessee Titans play football on Sundays. But the cultures between these two locales could not be any more different.
The coffee shop was filled with musicians (carrying their guitars), hipsters (you can spot them by their scarves), at least one Baptist (me), and at least one Anglican pastor (my friend). For all of the espressos and macchiatos being consumed, it was amazingly quiet and subdued. People were conversing in hushed tones or tapping away on their Macbooks. (There must be a sign on the door that stated “No PCs allowed.”) Really, you could sit next to a few people at a table just twelve inches away and still have no idea what they were talking about.
Just a few hundred yards away, LP Stadium was being prepped for the thousands of rabid NFL football fans that descend upon it each Sunday during this time of year. There will likely be some musicians, plenty of Baptists (this town is overflowing with them), some Anglicans, but I’m not so sure about the hipsters. It will be anything but subdued. It is overt. It is loud. It is a “what you see is what you get” kind of environment. My family recently went to the Titans vs. Steelers game. And, we were surrounded by a sea of Terrible Towels. I wondered if the entire town of Pittsburgh had come to Nashville just for the game. In that environment, I knew exactly what was going on with everyone around me. They cheered for the Steelers, screamed at the referees, and then experienced the dejection of being beaten by a last-second field goal to give the Titans a victory. The few brave Titans fans that were sprinkled throughout our section took great pleasure in driving home the point of the victory. Meanwhile, my family and I feared for a lives… just a bit.
In moments like my trip to the coffee shop and pilgrimage to the stadium, there are unexpected moments of beauty. At the stadium, in the midst of the ranting and raving, I noticed a young couple who cheered for their team, held hands, and seemed to generally enjoy their time together. The insanity of the stadium disappeared for them. It was just a backdrop for their relationship. At the coffee shop, after I’d finished my conversation with a friend and he had left, I stayed behind to work a bit – on my Macbook, might I add. During my hour at the shop, I’d paid no attention to the music playing in the background. Then, a familiar sound rang out. It was the song “Hallelujah” sung by John Cale. Though written and first recorded by Leonard Cohen, it has been Rufus Wainwright’s version from the movie “Shrek” that has gained the most popularity. How’s that for beauty in unexpected places?
As I sat and reflected on the song, the coffee, and the stadium, I realized that the beauty we constantly seek for in life is likely all around us. It simply arrives through unexpected means. The beauty of friendship forged during a football game. An Anglican and a Baptist discussing faith and leadership in our city’s Mars Hill. The multiple versions of a song written out of pain and agony by a bass that has been reworked to fit a Dreamworks cartoon about an ogre in love. At times, beauty is obvious and, at other times, it sneaks up on us. My encouragement is for you to take care and look for it in every moment of your day.
With that thought, I give you one of my favorite versions of “Hallelujah.” Sung by four Norwegian singers, one of whom many say bears a striking resemblance to Shrek. So, hang on for the fourth singer.