Eugene Cho

the soul of starbucks?

Yesterday, Starbucks was again in the local and national news because about 7100 of the national Starbucks stores were closed around 5.30pm so that their 135,000 employees could undergo about 3 hours of training for:

Part back-to-basics tutorial, part pep rally, the teach-in aimed to reacquaint baristas with the art of pulling the perfect shot of espresso and steaming milk to add a subtle hint of sweetness to a latte and give the velvety foam on top just the right thickness. [full article]

This is one of the many recent changes that have taken place at Starbucks since the return of Howard “I Sold out the Seattle Supersonics” Schultz.  There are too many to name but I’d love to hear what your thoughts are about these changes. 

  • For real or for show? 
  • Do you like or dislike Starbucks?  Why?
  • What do you think about their coffee?

Most folks here in Seattle either love or hate Starbucks [with most leaning towards “love”].  Those who hate Starbucks really hate Starbucks. But the reality is that Starbucks has been the most prominent influence in making coffee a desired commodity not just locally but globally.  As difficult as this might be to hear, local coffeeshops exist because of Starbucks.

But there’s where the problem begins. Starbucks is a “good company” and even a better company to work for.  They treat their employees well.  We have numerous folks at Quest Church that work at Starbucks and most very much enjoy their work there.

But the issue with Starbucks and any other big company [including churches as well] is that folks just don’t know where and when to stop.  Capitalism and free market, at its core, isn’t a bad thing but its danger lies in thinking that bigger is always better; expansion is necessary and often times, the only sign of success. More more more.  Growth and more growth.  And the next thing you know, you end up selling breakfast burritos in your cafe and use automated machined where baristas don’t actually know how to make coffee.  Starbucks may have introduced and cultivated the concept of “third place culture” and once served good coffee – but no longer.  When a coffee company produces mediocre coffee, that’s a problem. 

And while Starbucks is a great company to work for, they are a beast to compete against.  And because of Starbucks, most local coffeeshops don’t have a fighting chance.  You speak to any local or independent cafe, Starbucks is like Goliath.  Why?

Some of the methods Starbucks has used to expand and maintain their dominant market position, such as buying out competitors’ leases, acquiring independent coffee shops and converting them into Starbucks stores, and clustering several locations in a small geographical area (i.e., saturating the market), have been labeled anti-competitive by critics.  For example, Starbucks fueled its initial expansion into the UK market with a buyout of its only major potential competitor (the 49 outlet, UK-based Seattle Coffee Company), then used its capital and influence to obtain prime locations, some of which operated at a financial loss. Critics claimed this was an unfair attempt to drive out small, independent competitors, who could not afford to pay inflated prices for premium real estate. [wikipedia]

Well, I’ve given a moderate perspective about Starbucks.  If you want to read a more brutal, blunt, and “real deal” perspective, click on the “Crapbucks” logo [not my doing!] to get a perspective from another local cafe owner

crapbucks1.jpg

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35 Responses

  1. Jin says:

    For real or for show?

    haha, i think you know how i feel about it. this is the biggest farce i’ve seen in a long time. im sure it was really worth the millions both in lost revenue and ‘training’ costs. they could’ve saved a small third world country w/ that much corporate waste.. but thats a different topic.

    Do you like or dislike Starbucks?

    I LIKE THEM, as the company that can and has demonstrated social awareness in its community development programs, like the Starbucks foundation. But when you’re that big and have that much money, its good publicity and social awareness is so chic!

    But I DISLIKE THEM when it comes to competition. Schultz caught a break in the 80’s… a big one that got him where he is now. he didn’t create anything. what he had in starbucks wasn’t even the best. but asides from that…. Starbucks is the only company willing to cannibalize itself consistently to drive out competition. No other corporate entity can claim to have 2,3,4 stores in one field of view… designed to hold mini monopolies (when they’re in every high rise and strip mall, with exclusivity rights) so that other competitors can’t take root.

    as a cafe owner, even if it was just Lounjin vs. 1 Starbucks store, its not a fair playing field. that 1 store has millions of dollars backing it. it has 10 baristas on its payroll… that store doesn’t get tired… doesnt have a daughter to support. but here’s the funny thing… i will never worry about who serves the better product. that alone gives me security and the umph to compete head to head.

    they open all those stores b/c they can… not b/c its good business. (more to come on my blog on this topic) and its biting them in the ass. this will continue.

    What do you think about their coffee?

    its crap… simple.. when you roast in quantities that starbucks does, you can’t avoid burning the beans. that is why for them bitter coffee is more of the norm than the exception. w/ their reach, that is why they’ve programmed people into thinking bitter coffee is stronger coffee. wrong. i will go out on a limb and say that their ‘premium’ or ‘super’ blends or whatever they call it, are probably decent. Even starbucks would know that they need to serve real coffee in some capacity… so they choose to serve it in $20/lb bags. but don’t be fooled… their drinkologists are the culprits. when the baristas follow the starbucks recipe for a vanilla latte that doesn’t taste like coffee or when they’re adding water to chai when chai lattes shouldn’t have water in them at all… i blame the idiots at corporate. the only gripe i have w/ the baristas is that they actually think their baristas. My mom, who make one of the best lattes, foam art and all, would put all the starbucks baristas in Seattle to shame. i would bet money on that.

  2. David says:

    Sometimes it does swing the other way…

    Here in Kansas City a Starbucks was opened right next door to a local shop, but just in the last month the Starbucks shut it’s doors.

    At least here Starbucks is seen as the suburbia/yuppie coffee joint, while the local shops are where all the ‘cool kids’ hang out.

  3. Randall says:

    Back in ’97 I used to sing and play guitar at a local coffee shop in Hawaii (it was a kind of experiment to see if posing as an “artist” would get me dates). Unfortunately, this was right around the time that Starbucks hit the island. Probably within two years, all the local coffee houses closed down. A couple managed to hang on for a few more years but today only one from that era still survives (go Coffee Talk, go!)

    So when I came to Seattle, I was pretty shocked to see the number of independent coffee shops. I was even more surprised at how good their coffee was. I mean when all you’ve had is Starbucks, you get to thinking that that’s supposed to be good coffee. Then you go to Zoka or Diva Espresso or Vivace and then you swoon!

    I don’t know how I feel about the whole Starbucks vs the little guy debate because as far as I can tell (which isn’t very far…haven’t done my homework) Starbucks isn’t WalMart – I know some of the coffee they sell is free trade and they have those composting buckets (which always seem to be empty) and they play pretty good music (smaller artists and jazz rather than corporate rock crap). Apart from trying to dominate every market they enter, they do seem to want to do good in the world.

    But I still get coffee from independent coffee shops.

  4. Kacie says:

    Starbucks is great when you’re overseas and wishing for a taste of something familiar.
    When you’re in the US and wishing for variety, it’s not so fantastic.

    I was upset with Starbucks bought out and then closed down our local Seattles’ Best in Chicago. One summer I worked at Torrefazzione, a fantastic small coffee chain with roots straight back to Italy and REALLY good coffee. The amount of time spent training me on making the perfect latte and cappuchino was really impressive. My bosses took PRIDE in their lattes – and their customers were loyal as a result. Mid-summer, Starbucks bought them out. At the end of the summer my store closed and I was transferred to Starbucks. As you say, it’s a great company for taking care of their employees. They meet the needs of the mass hordes of Americans who seem to NEED a four dollar cup of coffee and sugar every day. But the different between Torre and Starbucks was staggering. There was no personal touch to the coffee, NO ONE knows how to make a real latte. It’s more like, hot milk with flavoring. In the short time I worked there I attempted to implement my own knowledge as much as I could (their system is much more instant, so more difficult to perfect), and began having people come back and ask for MY free-pour latte. Yay!

    In any case, Starbucks does what they do well. On the other hand, most of their customers don’t have any knowledge of what a real latte or cappuchino should look like.

    Oh – PS, I noticed the Flight of the Chonchords on your list of bands yesterday. My hubby discovered them last week and can’t stop laughing at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGOohBytKTU

  5. DanK says:

    They did the hard work of creating the market and their Starbucks branding and now are doing what most will do and that’s make money and make as much as they can. It’s too bad that they are doing it at the expense of compromising their core product of coffee. Most folks really don’t know what good espresso should taste like and in part, it’s because of Starbucks. But hey, like you said, they are a good company and are doing some good. Imagine the number of jobs they have created in the world.

  6. James says:

    Well, I think the average person is happy with average coffee. I love Starbucks because it’s convenient, love the space, enjoy the service, and love meeting my clients there. Why? Because they know exactly where they are and feel safe meeting there. It’s called name recognition.

  7. Dan Hauge says:

    For now a brief comment: the training is supposedly about ‘reacquainting baristas with the art of pulling the perfect shot of espresso.’ Um, does that mean they’re going to stop using their automated machines? Starbucks baristas haven’t been crafting their own drinks for some time now. Which means, ‘stunt’. Obviously part of Schultz’ drive to ‘bring back the magic’ that he was talking about a couple months ago.

  8. DanW says:

    I’ve got to be careful. . .my sister-in-law works for Starbucks corporate in downtown Seattle. Still, I’ll only do Starbucks if it’s the last choice available. I can’t imagine that this training thing was anything more than show, although it may have had the deeper purpose of “rallying the troops,” getting all the partners excited about their work again. Starbucks works hard at creating a sense of ownership, of family among their workers, and this whole training might have been as much about reaffirming solidarity as it was about teaching them to make better coffee. So it was show for the masses (and the press sure helped them out there), and show for the partners as well. As to my opinion of the company, I would say their corporate policies are the biggest turn-off. I witnessed it first-hand in Turlock, where they opened up 5 stores within a couple miles of each other, 4 of which were directly across the street from local coffee shops, all of which were out of business or forever altered (i.e. going into the sandwich/curio business to maintain customer flow) within a couple months. (The other humorous result was all the people showing up at church on Sunday mornings with their Starbucks in hand, all desperately saying “look how cool I am! I shop at Starbucks!) And finally, I can’t stand their coffee. The cliche is that it always tastes burned, but in my experience, it always tastes burned. Of course, as the other cliche goes, Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business, they’re in the milk and sugar business, so maybe they really don’t care all that much about their beans.

  9. Steve says:

    I work at a Starbucks, and found the whole thing to be not very inspiring…as noted in earlier posts, the training was about “pulling the perfect shot of espresso” and “handcrafting the perfect drink”…so basically i still push the button that says “espresso” and it comes out, and i push the “auto” on the steam wand and the milk gets hot. We were taught about espresso times, and foam look on the latte, etc…but the reality is Starbucks customers want it fast much more than they want it right…

    we just found out we were going to start carrying sweet iced tea as well…imo, just another non-coffee thing to take up our prep time and storage that has nothing to do with the coffee house feel…don’t get me wrong, my wife has worked at the ‘Bucks for a couple of years and i just work about 12 hours a week…they have treated us great and do take care of their employees! but in terms of “getting back to what got us started”, i felt let down last night…

  10. Sam says:

    Hello,

    1/ Perhaps both.
    2/ Dislike. Too expensive.
    3/ Too bitter.

    Take a look at this: http://www.slate.com/id/2180301/. An interesting look at the overall effect of the Starbucks empire. I suppose, to those who were in fact muscled out (whatever their number), this isn’t much comfort, though.

    – Sam

  11. jackie says:

    i like starbucks coffee, but considering the service they usually deliver in NYC, i think this training was long overdue — even when there are more barristas than customers in the store, it still takes 10 minutes to get a simple cup of coffee.

    i’m happy to hear that indie coffeeshops are still thriving in seattle. here, almost all of them tanked at the Advent of Starbucks, but starbucks has become so tiresome to deal with that many have reinvented themselves and returned.

    and it’s true that there’s never any indie artist activity at sbux, unlike other local coffee shops, and that’s a very important flame for us all to nourish!

    good luck with your blog. you’re supposed to get a million visitors now that it’s appeared on Yahoo buzz. if you find yourself with a spare moment or two, please visit my blog at http://www.getangrywithme.com — we may be kindred spirits of a sort.

    jackie

  12. Capt Ralph says:

    It is said that Vince Lombardi started every training camp with “gentlemen, this is a football”. Starting with the basics with professionals. I start my science class lessons on the microscope with “ladies and gentlemen, this is a microscope” and we go through the basics. Not a bad idea, in most arts and ventures.

    Starbucks fills a need. The preferred taste of the coffee is in the individual (“eye of the beholder”).

    Starbucks should be avoided, not for the coffee, but because Schultz sold out Seattle (Sonics)!

  13. Brian D. says:

    For real or for show?

    A real show

    Do you like or dislike Starbucks? Why?

    Too expensive and the coffee often tastes burnt. And as a drinker of large (not “venti”) cups of coffee I would just as much pop into any given gas station for a refill. I find that the people at your average gas station coffee refill center are usually less chic, hip, trendy and plastic there, but nonetheless more real.

    What do you think about their coffee?

    Again, too burnt tasting. I also feel embarrassed for other men when I hear them order things like “skim latte with caramel drizzle”. I though lite/light beer was the cause of the feminization of modern man. Now I thinks it’s Starbucks.

  14. Paul says:

    *For real or for show?
    For show, for sure. Gets their name in the news real easily.

    *Do you like or dislike Starbucks? Why?
    I like the products they serve, as well as the atmosphere of most of their outlets, but I think the prices of some things could be a bit more reasonable.

    *What do you think about their coffee?
    Never really tried it. I’ve had a lot of hot chocolate and tea there though and that never lets me down. Especially the peppermint hot cocoa in December/January.

  15. Bill Bessonette says:

    Their coffee is, in general, a lock-step fad, overpriced, a faux status symbol, and like Wal Mart, predatory against smaller, cozier and better small town coffee shops whose stance is good coffee, not image.

  16. Jersey says:

    3 starbucks in my town. several indies are well adapted to compete with them because most of the dudes i know say they make their coffee either better, cheaper, or both.

  17. Starbucks is a cool place. I love going out shopping with someone else and stopping to get a coffee, and if we have extra time, it’s nice just sitting in their comfortable atmosphere and talking. I love coffee, and Starbucks’s is good, but waay overpriced for what you’re getting. That’s the biggest thing that pisses me off. Also, I hate that you have to actually be hungry to get a coffee there. That just proves how many freakin’ calories are in those things—they make you feel full afterwards. It’s just unnatural, in my opinion, to feel full after a drink.

    What I think is utter bullshit, too, is the whole Tall, Grande, Venti crap. What’s wrong with Small, Medium, and Large? Foamy the Squirrel has a brilliant rant on this called Small, Medium, and Large.

  18. Jersey says:

    too bad starbucks sells what is really overly roasted, months’-old coffee. you want real fresh coffee? hehehe…my secret, but i like coffeefool.com, the stuff they sell you is 3 days roasted when you finally get it in the mail. not bitter, tastes a bit sweet and like what cuppers — professional coffee tasters — really drink. Coffee is supposed to light and sweet, not bitter and burnt.

  19. Jersey says:

    Of course, I mean if you have your coffee like me — doppio espresso macchiato, a doppio espresso, or coffee black no sugar.

  20. Ben C says:

    Just order up a doppio espresso “for here” from SBUX and one from Stumptown. Even a quick 1 second glance will tell you why SBUX will always be the McDonald’s of burgers.

    You simply cannot match the quality of a smaller cafe/chain given the volume that SBUX pushes out.

    Given Howard’s penchant for showmanship, this is a marketing show. 3 hours downtime for training that’ll make any sort of real quality impact? Pls.

    SBUX is a last resort for me as well. Places like Stumptown and Q Cafe is where it’s at for coffee lovers who have tried them all and value good tasting coffee.

  21. cyclepromo says:

    I’ve also read about some indies who appreciate the fact that Starmucks basically does all the marketing for them. The indie shop just has to take advantage of that fact once the customers enter their shop instead of Starmucks (better product, lower price etc.).

  22. missallaneous says:

    PE, you’re on the wordpress dashboard! You’re famous!

  23. justin says:

    For real or for show?
    both. a few people have already pointed out that machines at sbux make the coffee, not people. so the barista training is needed. and what company– large or small– would turn down a marketing opportunity?

    Do you like or dislike Starbucks? Why?
    people want to hate sbux because they’re big. because there’s too many of them. and, frankly, to alot of people it’s just not cool/hip/street-credible anymore. consumers are fickle. people used to LOVE krispy kreme. when i lived in nyc, tourists would be proud to visit, partake and then brag to their friends back home. now that they’re in every mall and airport, they’re not as special anymore. and what about in-n-out? if they were on every street corner and infiltrated every food court, i’m sure people would hate them too. (and what about grey’s papaya? pinkberry? portillo’s? chik-fil-a?)

    you’ve got to admit: sbux was one of the first ones to hit the gourmet coffee market and they did a good job growing and making money. and they did a good job creating a new experience… gave people a new place to meet friends, read a book and/or blog. and created a whole lot of coffee-lovers. if it was stumptown or tully’s or caffe vita, i’m sure we’d be hating them too.

    What do you think about their coffee?
    i’m not a coffee drinker. but i like their green tea frappuccinos.

  24. me says:

    justin: i think you’re on with the idea that folks just have a tendency of disliking something that has grown too big.

    i don’t think it’s bad that starbucks has grown big; i just wonder when growth gets too out of hand. to drive profits, starbucks started selling stuff that they shouldn’t have. i don’t have any answers. but in my post, i wrote what you basically said: starbucks is mostly responsible in my opinion for creating the market for gourmet coffee. indie cafes exist because of starbucks.

    but what is clear in my opinion is that the quality of their espresso is mediocre at best. and the changes the management are making only confirms they are being honest with this assessment.

    i can’t drink coffee at starbucks. just can’t do it but i admit, i love their green tea latte and frappuccinos.

  25. KL says:

    What’s not to like?

    Starbucks
    Top 20 Rank: 2
    Rank among: Food Services: 1
    For years now Starbucks has paid fair-market prices to Third World coffee farmers and helped develop ecologically sound growing practices. Starbucks is also a regular on FORTUNE’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. It’s green, it’s humane, it’s politically correct, it sells a popular product and provides a comfy place to hang out and consume same – what’s not to like?
    Certainly investors have no complaints: If you had put $1,000 into Starbucks stock when the company went public in 1992, you’d have been $52,718.10 to the good at year-end 2006, vs. just $3,515.30 for the S&P 500.

  26. Paul says:

    Of course it was hype. Really, why was it necessary to train every employee at every store at exactly the same time?

    That said, I don’t hate Starbucks as much as it’s fashionable to hate Starbucks. They are a local company that made a fortune selling high-profit luxury products that people are willing to buy.

    Still, I much prefer the homemade individuality of smaller coffee shops like Top Pot, Extac, or B&O to the corporate mass production of Starbucks. Plus, it’s nice to sit down to a latte served in a reusable ceramic mug instead of a throw-away paper cup.

    The fact that places like Top Pot and Extac and B&O still exist in my neighborhood demonstrate to me that maybe Starbucks isn’t as evil as its made out to be, Maybe.

  27. JB says:

    A soul? It’s like, a coffee shop, right? Serves a specific target with a specific thing. I know that Q Cafe’s coffee is better (had a nice latte there today) but my palate is not really all that sophisticated, and coffee is really a caffeine delivery system for me so Starbucks’ quality is good enough. And when I’m somewhere unfamiliar and want a cup I don’t have to hunt all around and read store names and try to figure out who sells espresso and how good it is: I see that SBUX logo and I know exactly what lies within.

    MacDonalds doesn’t make the best burger, but it’s ubiquitous and consistent so they sell a ton of burgers. That doesn’t mean there won’t always be room for the smaller places but they need to find a unique position in the market and then get known. MacDonalds will always have the average-but-consistent-quality-with-ubiquity market sewn up, and so will Starbucks.

    I think SBUX doesn’t really know what business it is in, and that lack is the root of their profit problem much more than how good the shot or the foam is. What are they doing buying a water company? And a tea company? Products that sell in a grocery store? Are they a beverage company? A consumer packaged goods company? A caffeinated beverage company? A purveyor of culture to a market that thinks coffee has a soul?😉 A bean shop? A pour shop with coffee tchotchki? This company has more personalities than Sybil.

    Once you are publicly held, it’s not enough just to print money: you have to print MORE money than you did last year. SBUX growth is topping out and they are looking for growth in all the wrong places, which diffuses their focus and success.

  28. Daniel says:

    http://www.thetruthaboutethos.com/

    This is the kind of stuff that makes me upset at Starbucks. I know there’s good stuff that they do but the whole water campaign sucks.

  29. chad says:

    i’d honestly rather support local coffee shops, but to be he even more honest……..
    Starbucks coffee is REALLY good.

  30. I like Starbucks fine from time to time but they need to understand that they operate in the real world where a bad economy can wreak havoc on their bottom line. There are seasons of business flow just like there are seasons of ministry. The coffee is good bu I save lots of money making my own brew. But I will still pop in or a soy white mocha after church from time to time. Peace out!

  31. Mrs.K. says:

    Hmm…the for real question – I don’t know. They didn’t do it here in Canada as far as I know, so it wasn’t a big deal to us.
    Do I like Starbucks on the whole? In this town, not so much. People here were practically salivating when they heard we were getting one. And then they stuck it in the Safeway right in front of the entrance where you get nice cold blasts of air from the doors as you’re trying to enjoy your drink (and when I say cold, I mean cold – our temperatures get down to -40 in the winter, if not colder at times). I like the Starbucks atmosphere in other places, but here it sucks. I think that when they started putting them in grocery stores, it definitely became more about money than what they seemed to be about in the beginning. In Seattle and the surrounding areas (I’m from Auburn), it seemed like you could hardly go into any grocery store without finding a Starbucks, Tully’s or Seattle’s Best. Okay, I can’t actually remember if Tully’s had locations in grocery stores, but I’m sure Seattle’s Best did.
    As for whether I like starbucks coffee or not? Yes, I do, sometimes. But I’ve stopped buying coffee there very often because it’s so stinking expensive and if I’m in the mood, my father-in-law makes a very good cup with his french press. Anyway, I can’t do coffee when I’m pregnant (makes me want to puke), so if I’m at Starbucks, I get a venti shaken black tea, which is well worth the price in my opinion. I would pay the same (or more) for a tall caramel macchiato (which is my favourite when I’m drinking coffee). I’ll take bigger and cheaper on most days.

  32. I used to drink the caramel macchiato quite a bit, but recently I’ve tightened the financial belt and realized that Starbucks coffee just wasn’t worth the cash. In most regards I’ve been trying to buy local even though sometimes local shopping is more expensive. I do however hit up Starbucks to listen to some CDs, but don’t usually purchase. Also, the black pepper and sea salt potato chips are rather delicious. If I buy a drink I now get the Chai, but that hasn’t been for a while.

    If the new policies revert back to the old policies once sales improve then it was for pure show. If the attempts at drumming up support weren’t for show, then why implement it with such drastic measures? Shut down in the middle of the day? Strange to me. Hopefully they prove people wrong.

    Don’t like or hate Starbucks. It is a product of this global capitalist mentality, as said in the post. That is what we expect. If people don’t like Starbucks then stop going. Get your coffee somewhere else.

    What I’m curious about is how are economic conditions treating independent small business cafes and coffee houses? I saw a news report that said people are cutting out extra expenses, and with that no more Starbucks. What about the locals?

    Peace

    Oh, and one more thing… Does coffee have any health benefits?

  33. j says:

    the question is, should corporation try to remain the same or be the front runner with ideas that non others have tried. Many cafes have reaped the benefit to that of pioneering spirit of SBUX. Now, that their eyes are open the espresso, they are so quick to judge and condamn based on the size and innovative approach to conducting business. I believe Q has and will continue to benefit based on opening the espresso/coffee industry which SBUX created. Again, so darn quick to bite the hands that provide. Just amazing.

  34. me says:

    j: i have to say that you are one interesting guy. you’re a contrarian – you oppose everything a person writes or shares. that means it’s time for you to start your own blog. good luck.

  35. […] for a church to grow disconnected in our insular world.  As I’ve shared on a post entitled Soul of Starbucks, it’s a great company to work for but brutal to compete against.  And intersting that this […]

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One Day’s Wages

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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