A Beautiful Cup of Coffee
I am no expert. I do not invest all the time, research, and money in order to become among the elite. But I do know how to make a pretty satisfying cup of espresso. An aficionado would correct me, but I've learned a few things about the art.
I say "art" not because I'm a great artist, but that making the most satisfying cup is like art - the goal is a form of beauty, and there are certain techniques that help achieve the goal. Ignore some of the techniques, and the resulting work of art will be less appealing.
First, you have to have the right beans - espresso roast. But not just any espresso roast. I have secretly used different brands, and Lynne says, "What's wrong with the coffee today?" We use one particular brand that we have to order online - it's a very common brand in Italy. On occasion, I even tried using a different (and more expensive) espresso roast from the same roaster, and Lynne says, "What's wrong with the coffee today?"
The beans must be ground just so - not too coarse, but not too fine. And you want to grind the beans less than 4 minutes before brewing. The water must be filtered - it really does matter. You need the right equipment. I use a moka pot - it makes a smoother cup than any of the espresso machines that cost less than $1000 (in our opinion). The grounds must be tapped in, not pressed, lest you get the wrong compaction. And the rim must be clean to keep a good seal. Too much or too little water in the pot will create the wrong amount of pressure and ruin the brewing process. The heat must not be too high nor too low - both will spoil the art. Less than medium, higher than the low setting. The lid to the moka pot must be open during brewing. Really. It even matters what kind of coffee cup you pour the artwork into - it's like having the right lighting for your painting. And you must drink the coffee at the right pace - too fast and you can't savor; too slow and it cools off.
When it all comes together - artwork and satisfaction.
Think of discipleship like artwork or a beautiful cup of espresso. The goal is more a work of beauty than a rightly functioning machine. There are certain techniques of the art that make for a more beautiful result - regularly reading the Word, consistent prayer, simplicity, authentic Christian community, serving, generosity, and so on. They are skills we can learn, like learning to paint. Yes, you can have a work of art without paying much attention to the artistic skills, but that affects the beauty of the result.
We want to savor the Christian life like art. And we certainly don't want it to cool off from lack of use. The spiritual habits we take on are not "have to's" but "get to's" for amateur artists as we constantly work on our art.
And do not forget the greatest Artist is at work in you, and He will create a work of beauty. We are His work of art, created in Christ Jesus, for doing good and beautiful things which He prepared beforehand (cf. Ephesians 2:10).