I want to be a hipster. Not that kind of hipster. A new kind of hipster. The original hipster.

You might say, “What in the non-mainstream world could you be talking about?”

The hipster subculture typically consists of white millennials living in urban areas. The subculture has been described as a “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior” and is broadly associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility (including vintage and thrift store-bought clothes), generally progressive political views, organic and artisan foods, and alternative lifestyles. Hipsters are typically described as affluent or middle class young Bohemians who reside in gentrifying neighborhoods. – Wikipedia

Just like every new generation of young intrepid souls, a sector of the current “Gen-Y millennial” has created a lifestyle vibe in an effort to stand out and be unique. At the core, it’s the natural inclination and desire to make a mark on the world, but as each one before it, the “hipster” culture is just another fad that will eventually fade away and morph into another fad as a new generation arises. But who was this “original hipster?”

Jacob was the original hipster.

Not yours truly, but the Jacob of Biblical times.  Oh you thought he was just a lying crook who stole stuff that didn’t belong to him? His brother Esau would probably agree with you, but you’d both be missing the bigger picture.

Aside from being misunderstood, Jacob was stubborn. He was passionate. He was a fighter. How do we know this? Here’s the account from Genesis 32:

“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall be no longer called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. – [Genesis 32]

What would it be like to be able to say that you literally wrestled with God and then He broke your hip? But you were persistent, weren’t satisfied with the ordinary, wouldn’t give up until He blessed you, and wouldn’t give up until the breakthrough was made.

I’ve often wondered at what point during that epic all-night showdown that he began wondering, “Who exactly is this guy?” Historical Hulk? Ironman? Captain Canaan?

Jacob had just finished preparing a massive “don’t hate me” gift to his brother Esau out of fear for his life and family in hopes that Esau wouldn’t kill them all. Jacob gave explicit instructions to his servants to butter Esau up as much as possible before they arrived face to face. It even says that Jacob was “greatly afraid” and packed up his wives and kids and sent them across the river for protection while he stayed and waited for the arrival of Esau.

Isn’t that just like us? Fearing for our livelihood and making plans to thwart our imminent ruin as best as humanly possible? How many times have we done that in our own lives?

Then the crazy part happens. God shows up. Of course, like many of us, Jacob didn’t immediately realize it wasn’t Esau trying to strangle him to death. Only the fight or flight instinct kicking in, propelling him forward to fight for his very life.

Suddenly, after an entire night of wrestling he feels a sharp pain in his hip and realizes that his socket is out of joint. I’ve never dislocated my hip, but I’ve got to imagine it must be pretty painful. And that’s when he goes for broke and declares he won’t let go until he gets blessed.

That’s an incredible story. Jacob limped for the rest of his life as a mark and reminder of having encountered God face to face. The great preacher Jonathan Edwards once said:

“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” – Jonathan Edwards

It’s easy to get caught up in the trappings of the next big thing, but how do we anchor ourselves in the midst of the many shifting trends of our time? I believe it’s a matter of being intentional about where we set our hearts and affection. Every human on the planet has to choose where their affections will rest. For the believer in Jesus Christ, our highest affections must rest in Him.

I want to be known as this kind of “hipster:” the one marked by the uncompromising pursuit of God.

 

(Disclaimer: This post is not intended to bash hipsters or those who proclaim themselves to be such. I too drink only black coffee and wear beanies and plaid shirts. miffed? Inspired? add a wonderful comment below!)

(Originally published July 10, 2008)

Kevin Durant was all-smiles last year. Drafted number two overall, Durant was heralded the savior of a franchise lost in the dregs of the NBA. His mission was to rescue the floundering Seattle SuperSonics from their playoff-missing 35–47 record of the previous year and spiraling descent of the previous decade.

He did his best.

Averaging 20 points-per-game while earning Rookie of the Year honors, Durant showed the league what everyone had seen in college; the calm, cool Kevin Durant who just goes out and scores points. The Sonics only won a dismal 20 games, but there was hope in the form of a Top-5 draft pick to bring in extra help for their budding star. If not the present, at least the future seemed bright. After all, they had Kevin Durant.

Had?

It happened quickly. There are some things even a 22-year-old, rookie superstar can’t save. After a confusing, chaotic ordeal, order was finally made from the mess of court dates, trials, and a judges’ decision. The people of Seattle were chagrined, those of Oklahoma City, elated. The team name, colors and history would be staying in Seattle; the rest of it would be headed to Oklahoma City. As a sort of reward for enthusiastically embracing the homeless New Orleans Hornets from the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Oklahoma City would finally have a professional team to call their own.

It happened quickly. There are some things even a 22-year-old, rookie superstar can’t save.

Even amid cries of foul play and stealing the franchise through back-handed, sleazy dealing, new owner Clay Bennett is excited to own a team in his home state. He tried everything in his power to make it happen, and he did it. Sonics’ fans feel cheated and misused, but the simple fact remains. The Sonics are no more, and Oklahoma City now has an NBA team. Granted it’s still nameless, but they have a stadium, coaching staff and players; and of course, Kevin Durant.

He’s still all-smiles, but you can’t help but almost see the determination within him. He had it before, but it’s different now. Everything is different now. Now, his mission is to carve this new franchise’s very face of existence out the red Oklahoma dirt and forge history from a clean slate.

He’s not alone this time either.

Some may laugh and ask why they’re all not in high school. They certainly don’t have immaculate beards like Baron Davis, or the aura of Kobe Bryant, or the hardened muscles of LeBron James. Nor do they have the giant banners of 17 championships hanging from their rafters, and the history to go with them, like Kevin Garnett and the rest of Boston’s Big Three. Who then, are these young pipsqueaks from OKC? Aside from Durant, most probably couldn’t tell you their names. Jeff Green? Russell Westbrook? Second-year player hotshot? Rookie from UCLA? They have merely two years of professional experience between the three of them, yet, in all certainty, they are Oklahoma City’s Big Three.

Without a doubt, they realize the seriousness of their charge. But, like the fresh-faced young men that they are, having loads of fun playing pickup games and dominating the summer league seems like a good way to spend a few months. Perhaps older, wiser veterans would admonish them for not spending every available hour in the gym working out and pushing their bodies to the limits with exhaustive training regimens in preparation for the new season.

“But we are preparing!” they’d say. They’re bonding, they’re learning to play together, and developing the chemistry they’ll need to lead this team to greatness. Theirs is no walk in NBA-park. Ask them what they think and they’ll shrug and maybe grin, not saying much of anything, but that doesn’t matter. You can see it in their eyes. Jeff Green’s icy determination. Russell Westbrook’s desire to prove himself in the big leagues. And of course, Kevin Durant. He just smiles, but he knows it better than anyone.

There are no greats from the Oklahoma City past, no heated playoff battles for championship rings. No winning seasons to be proud of, not even any history to model after.

They’ll have to make the history themselves.

(Originally published August 16, 2012)

Ike Taylor gingerly pressed against the swollen gash under his right eye and grimaced.

The 32-year-old Steelers cornerback wasn’t upset though. He’d recently fielded a punch while engaged in another fight with close friend and teammate Antonio Brown, their second of a training camp seemingly more ferocious than usual, and once again they’d both played it off as merely a product of their competitive personalities.

Even with the respected captains of the team stepping in to diffuse the situation, for all the speculation regarding the possible cause of their disputes during practices, neither man would offer an explanation, saying they were on good terms with each other.

A band of brothers, said Brown. Nothing personal.

Brothers get into it, said Taylor. That’s how it is.

Perhaps Taylor was being emphatic.

He’s been a rock for a vaunted and storied Pittsburgh defensive unit in this modern era of the forward pass. It’s a quarterback-friendly, pass-happy league now, creating a greater demand for defensive backs to keep pace with the influx of wide-open offenses catered toward multi-receiver sets. And few have stepped up to the challenge the way Ike Taylor has.

Now entering his 10th NFL season, Taylor climbed the ladder from special teamer to shutdown corner with little flash or frill, only hard work, determination, and solid performance. The main knock on his skill set is having hands of stone, notching only 13 interceptions in 9 years. But those looking for the splash plays miss the point. He’s a gamer. He gets assigned the opposing team’s best receiver and told to hold him in check, a task he’s completed efficiently time and again. Ask Chad Johnson for the gritty details. What Taylor lacks in splashiness and accolades, he makes up for with consistency, serving as the unheralded anchor in a secondary that includes All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. Taylor’s posted well over 100 consecutive games-played through the 2011 season and playoffs, and hasn’t missed a game since 2004.

To be a brother, you gotta fight. For yourself. For each other.

And more recently, with the departures of the much-maligned William Gay, and oft-injured Bryant McFadden, it’s up to Taylor to not only again be an anchor but also a guiding light to the trio of young guns battling for the No. 2 spot. On a team laden with knowledgeable veterans who enjoy the process of taking the young hopefuls under their wings, it’s Taylor who will be the example to guys like Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, and Curtis Brown. It’ll be up to him to model the Pittsburgh standard at cornerback for them.

They’re all guys like he himself once was: a big, strong, fast, extremely raw talent. They have a combined five years of mostly special teams experience and only one official start between them, yet one of them is likely going to be called upon to man the left corner spot opposite Taylor and another for the nickel slot when the 2012 season starts.

Keenan Lewis, entering his 4th year, has the most experience, including that one lonely start, and seems to have the inside track toward nabbing the starting job. But Lewis knows if he looks over his shoulder, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, even with their limited playing time, are right there behind him ready to snatch it from his grasp. They’re all young, hungry, ready for their big break. And they’re watching the in-house veteran of their craft, observing, dissecting his every movement, his every step.

Ike Taylor knows it too. And perhaps in his own way he’s embraced it. Fire is started by friction, and maybe he got a little carried away, but to those young men watching him so closely, he sent a subtle, slightly skewed message addressed to Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, and Curtis Brown from that vacant No. 2 spot:

To be a brother, you gotta fight. For yourself. For each other.

That’s how it is.

I’m in Houston. It’s three miles from the apartment to the coffee shop that has internet and the white chocolate mocha that I’m craving, but it’s raining during 5 o’clock traffic which has only exonerated an already pushy crowd of drivers.

These drivers are different than those found in Dallas. I’ve determined that they’re most likely second cousins with New York City drivers; they’re unafraid to use the horn for even the most minor annoyance. It seems an accepted practice though. Nobody sweats or loses their cool, and once disembarked they’re the genial, calm and collected classic Texan with plenty of Southern hospitality to spare.

Several wrong turns later, I finally arrive at my destination. The proclamation that ‘everything is bigger in Texas’ seems to take more precedent the further south you go; this coffee shop could easily house three of the shops from Dallas.

There are a few outdoors-inclined customers outside in the patio enjoying the light mist while seated under the oversized white table umbrellas. Inside, I’m greeted by the greatest expanse of bean community that I’ve yet encountered; a regular mecca of coffee drinkers, business people, laptops, and shoulder bags. A long narrow bar-like table spans nearly the length of the large open space, outfitted with electrical outlets underneath and two-dozen stools surrounding it. Nearly half of them are occupied on either side, almost all with an open laptop and a stack of study books. It seems summertime isn’t all fun and games.

I merge to the left side of the long bar to enter the line and look across the room to take stock of my surroundings. One half contains a large conference table and many smaller tables all occupied by clusters of suits and shorts. The suits are decked out in finely tailored jackets, gelled hair and and actively gesturing toward the spreadsheets on their laptops in intense discussion. The shorts are sporting hip arrangements of designer t-shirts, flip-flops and canvas shoulder bags as they chill on their own laptops that are heavily decorated with stickers.

The other half of the room is set up in several circles of stuffed leather chairs, love seats and side tables with a large ottoman in the center. This crowd is of a wide age range, some of the younger wearing headphones and earbuds, some of the older relaxed with a cup of steaming espresso and the day’s newspaper. All, however, have one thing in common that I’ve come to realize is part of the essential nucleus of the bean community: a cellphone.

Every culture and race is represented, but they all are either on their phone or just recently pocketed it after checking for new messages or notifications. It’s the “handshake” of this modern dialup connection, it’s what drives this whole central indoor crossroad.

I give my order to the smiling cashier who passes my yet-to-be-filled cup to the easy-going guy running the espresso machine. He confirms my suspicions of the Houston traffic relation to New York City, even though he’s from Kansas and claims that they win the award for the craziest drivers. Every city I’ve ever visited makes that same claim though so I just smile and laugh in agreement as he puts a lid on my drink. Coffee in hand, I navigate to a nice just-opened chair in the back corner; a perfect vantage point.

I look up from my own laptop several minutes later and find almost an entire new crowd gathered in their respective clusters and corners. Looking around for awhile, I notice others doing the same. It’s hard not to gaze around at the gamut of people here, it’s what makes this world so interesting. Every race, tribe, and color; all partaking of the coffee bean. It’s a viable peace treaty.

Take note world.

Gusts of heavy wind blow through my already-tussled hair as I get out of my car. Combing my shaggy mass with my fingers, I quickly pop my Texas Rangers brim cap over top of it to keep it down. I grab my laptop case and pat my pockets to determine possession of my wallet and phone before I shut and lock the car door. I’m at a vintage-hip coffee shop in the similarly styled metro city of Dallas known as Grapevine, Texas, and I’m here for the same reason everyone else is; it’s a cool place. And it serves fantastic coffee.

Walking from my parking spot toward the front sidewalk sitting area of the coffee shop, I’m thinking I look pretty fly with my just-washed and still-tight jeans and cool t-shirt. Probably not, though, but why should I trifle over such a triviality?

There are several tables and chairs arranged outside the shop and several loyal customers are seated around them drinking coffee and chatting amiably. I smile just slightly to those who look at me as I encounter the front door. I let my eyes adjust to the dimmer light source as I enter and nod to the employee whose friendship I’ve gained as a semi-regular customer. He’s a nice guy and he nods in return as I keep heading toward the back of the surprisingly large and long tube-shaped store.

It’s the people who make a place into a community. And this coffee shop has a variety of them. A middle-aged couple is sitting and chatting in the upholstered chairs near the front window. The barstools pushed under a wraparound shelf on the other side of the front chairs are empty, but they won’t be for long. It’s still only 4 o’ clock. At the square tables situated in the middle section of the store are more varieties of coffee drinkers; mostly creative types. The bits of conversation I overhear as I continue walking to the back point toward two amateur moviemakers discussing a new deal at the first table all the way back to a laughing group of college kids huddled around a small table playing scrabble while probably supposed to be doing homework. I notice there are new paintings on the wall opposite my habitual spot as a lady in a ball cap is working quietly on her laptop just underneath them.

Ah, my favorite spot is not yet occupied. Plopping my laptop case on my table, I head back toward the cash counter and gaze undecidedly at the chalkboard menus while knowing full well which drink I’m going to order; I always order it. I’ve only ordered one other drink, and that was the pretty-good mocha before I discovered the rich beauty of a raspberry chai latte.

The nice guy behind the counter already knows my name and order. I grab a couple of handout peppermints as I pull out my debit card. This place requires a signature on the receipt which I horribly mangle. No worries though, it’s not like it’s an autograph or anything.

“Mug for here, right? he asks. “Be right out.”

That’s another addition to the likable rawness of the place; who would actually sit down to drink coffee in a paper cup? It just seems absurd. One needs a mug and a table at which to sit to adequately appreciate the atmosphere.

Back at my table I unzip my laptop case and carefully remove my Apple MacBook Pro. My big oversized headphones come out next as I situate myself and my gadgets in preparation for a long sit. Free wi-fi is another attraction to the geek and business culture here. For me it’s the secondary reason that I come, or possibly the primary, but I try to be loyal to the in-house roasted beans that form the foundation of the coffee shop.

From my perch near the back I always sit facing the entrance and thereby gain clear view of incoming customers. It’s a male trait that requires one to never have his back to a door. It just wouldn’t be right if I was betrayed by my posse and shot in the back, would it? Completely outdated Wild West, I know. But regardless, it’s still the perfect place from which to observe life.

Communities from ages past gathered around the fireplace. Any establishment that offered a roof and a warm fire was the place to meet, swap gossip, and hear about current events. The roof has remained true, but in today’s modern comfort the centerpiece of sociality has morphed from burning firewood to roasted beans.

As I work on my laptop I look up from time to time and look around at the constant movement of this community. Stretching, I check my smartphone for new messages before taking another sip of my raspberry chai. It’s an interesting place. Somewhat odd, but a thriving one nonetheless. It’s a community built on the demand for beans.

Strange.