Image by mag3737 via Flickr


Downtown Prescott comes alive when the sun disappears behind the mountains.  The engines get louder.  The traffic thickens.  The lights from Whiskey Row flood the sidewalk.  Ice cream and restaurants have lines.  People are holding hands and walking around the Courthouse Plaza.

We park downtown on Union Street and walk around the square.  We talk like in times past.  Eventually, our feet head in the direction of Starbucks.  It’s a ten-minute walk.  Under the black sky, tall trees and wrapped in the coolness of fall we enjoy the intimacy of being together.  Six-minutes later we pause in front of the abandoned dealership on Montezuma and Sheldon Streets.  From the former dealership office lights spill out over the asphalt.  Cars drive into the lot and park.  Someone has converted the glassed-in building into a coffee shop; a band plays rock n’ roll on a make-shift stage; and the coffee bar and tables make the old lot into something new.  I gape as boys in Mohawks are mixing with the clean-cut.  A simple sign blinks on the glass walls:  Open.

They are playing Christian music.  Tony and I smile.  We almost walk in, but it’s so crowded.  Was this a church gathering?  A coffee shop?  Open blinks on and off and on again.  Eventually, a customer at my job would explain it to me.  He goes to that church.

His church rents the lot.  It’s a leaky building, he explains.  They are hoping to get a better place so when it rains water won’t puddle on the floor during their Bible studies.  Once a week volunteers run the coffee shop for the youth.  He agreed with me when I mentioned how Tony and I were attracted to the Open sign.  It’s simple.  It’s welcoming.  Eventually, the owners of the lot mowed down the dealership.  In its stead is a giant bank building.  People fought it because the original height would have dwarfed the other historic buildings in Prescott.  No one wanted a Phoenix in the mountains.  Tony and I will never forget that church coffee shop.  Every Friday night we walked past it and saw the youth from different backgrounds enter and the band play.

Does our home say open?  Does our church say open?  Do our hearts wear an open sign?  Or do our hearts say, ‘open only for____________?’  Open is a perfect sign for a church youth group, coffee shop, or a ministry.  Christ’s arms are open.  His Spirit dwells in our leaky, imperfect shell.  I recall this passage of scripture when I think of that Open sign:

“To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  – Mark 12:33

Strange People


Image by BattieQ via Flickr

My strange experiences at the library mounted.  I reserved a computer and sat down to login.

“Hello!”  A red head smiled broadly at me.  She looked me in the eye as if she knew me.

“Um, hello.”  I wore a half smile.  Who was she?  Do I know you?  She apparently seems to know me.

She kept staring at me with her chin resting in her hands and her elbows propped on the table.

“Um, do I know you?”  I tried to soften my words with a smile.  I didn’t want to seem rude, but she kept staring.

“I’m Betsy.”  She grinned.

“Oh, hi.”  I nodded and pretended sudden busyness. Great.  A loud, chatty person.  I just want to social network quietly and breathe in the silence of the library and the scent of musty books.

Eventually, she returned to her computer.  The problem with an online presence and networking with total strangers is trying to place a face in public to a face of your favorite blogger or twitter person.  In this case, Betsy was no one I followed, but it could have been someone.  I have several Arizona contacts that I have never met in person.  One lives in my town.  We’re neighbors.  One of these days we’ll meet in the grocery store.

Another woman reserved the computer next to me.

Chirp.  Snap.  Mumble.  Crinkle.  Squeak.  Snap.  Chirp.

She went to get her copies again and I peeked at her screen.  Why was she taking photos with her phone of the computer screen?  My mouth parted in an ‘oh.’ Professional shots of one woman in many seductive poses wearing skimpy clothing covered the screen.  The prints next to her computer were one of the same.  I’m not up on the hip-hop or celebrities, but the pictures looked like a cross between two stars from various movies.

Chirp.  Snap.  Mumble.  Crinkle.  Squeak. Snap.  Chirp.  Sigh.

People glanced up when her phone chirped.  She had the volume too high.  She looked between 18 and 20-years old, and completely unaware of her surroundings.

Chirp.  Snap.  Sigh.  Crinkle.  Squeak.  Snap.  Chirp.  Mumble.

The chair squeaked back again.  The copies crinkled as she took them and logged out of the computer.  I smiled, then.  What a distraction!

Squeak.  Tap-tap.

A man slid into the seat beside me.  He wore a hood over his face.  His hands were large.  I thought this man would play the part of a serial killer nicely.  He wore a hood indoors.  He slid into the seat by chance and logged into the reserved computer.  He never removed his hood.  He said nothing.  He didn’t blend in with the rest of the crowd.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of ‘Criminal Minds.’