What if you could ask God anything? What would you ask? And how would He answer?
Chelsea Chambers is on her own. After a public split from her NFL superstar husband, Chelsea takes a bold step out of the limelight and behind the counter of the Higher Grounds Café, an old-fashioned coffee shop in dire need of reinvention. But when her courage, expert planning, and out-of-this-world cupcakes fail to pay the bills, this newly single mom finds herself desperate for help. Better yet, a miracle.
Then a curious stranger lands at Chelsea’s door, and with him, an even more curious string of events. Soon, customers are flocking to the Higher Grounds Café, and not just for the cupcakes and cappuccino. They’ve come for the internet connection to the divine. Now the café has become the go-to place for people in search of answers to life’s biggest questions.
When a catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling, Chelsea begins to wonder if the whole universe is conspiring against her quest to make it on her own. After a shocking discovery opens her eyes to the unseen world around her, Chelsea finds the courage to ask God a question of her own. Heaven answers in a most unexpected way.
About the Author
Since entering the ministry in 1978, Max Lucado has served churches in Miami, Florida; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and San Antonio, Texas. He currently serves as teaching minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. He is America’s bestselling inspirational author with more than 130 million books in print.
Follow his website at MaxLucado.com
Read an Excerpt
Miracle at The Higher Grounds Café
By Max Lucado, Eric Newman, Candace Lee
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Max Lucado
All rights reserved.
With one cup of coffee, Chelsea Chambers could rule the world. And by six a.m. she'd had several. Four, to be precise. The morning demanded it. Today was the grand reopening of her family's café. The quaint two-story structure had welcomed patrons in one of San Antonio's oldest neighborhoods, the King William District, for decades. As skyscrapers erupted a mile north and east, the neighborhood quietly maintained its distinctive old-world charm. Dormer windows. Pecan trees. Shingled houses with wooden porches. The homes sat in the shadows of bank buildings and hotels thirty stories tall.
Chelsea had grown up here. Her enterprising grandmother Sophia had converted the lower level of her Victorian home to a coffee shop just in time for the 1968 world's fair. The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas was the fair's theme, and Sophia Grayson had made good on its offer, flinging her doors wide open for coffee-loving patrons from around the world. Even Lady Bird Johnson paid a visit to the café, or so Grandmother Sophia had boasted. "The First Lady sat right on this very sofa, sipping cappuccino!"
Chelsea glanced at the floral Queen Anne sofa, still sitting in the corner after all these years. Every nook and cranny held a memory. When Sophia passed, Chelsea's mother, Virginia, took ownership of the café and its legacy of hospitality. Like Sophia before her, Virginia delighted in serving her guests a soothing cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and, when the occasion called for it, a prayer of encouragement.
And now it was Chelsea's turn. The plan was simple: occupy the twelve hundred square feet on the second floor and run the shop on the lower one. At least that was her mother's expectation when she willed the café to Chelsea. But times had changed. People were busier, coffee shops trendier. The antique lamps, sunken cushions, wooden floors, and delicate tea tables of the café were a far cry from the modern aesthetic of popular barista bars, but Chelsea hoped her patrons could appreciate the suggestion of simpler times.
The grandfather clock in the corner chimed six thirty, and Chelsea stopped to take one last look around the store. A chalkboard menu—painstakingly lettered—hung above the counter, and a glass-front case displayed the pride of her pantry: secret-recipe croissants and cupcakes. The blue swinging doors behind the counter concealed a gleaming kitchen. She should know—she'd wiped it down ten times that morning. There was nothing left to do.
Chelsea turned the lock and flipped the switch on the retro neon sign. "The Higher Grounds Café is officially open for business!" she announced.
The café's moniker echoed her grandmother's aspirations to see her customers leave with their spirits raised. Chelsea appreciated the lofty ideals. She only hoped she would live up to them.
"Isn't this exciting?" she asked her lone employee.
Tim nodded his head and fiddled with his handlebar mustache. The action hardly seemed sanitary, much less celebratory. Per résumé, Tim was the perfect employee. A recent graduate from the University of Texas, he had learned to pull a shot of espresso during a semester abroad in Rome. He spoke Italian and Spanish and claimed to be a morning person. Chelsea shuddered at the thought of what he might look like by noon.
"This is a historic moment!" she said, begging for a little enthusiasm.
Still nothing. Nothing but the pained expression Chelsea had come to know as Tim's face. Never mind. She was not about to let the faux lumberjack put a damper on her day.
Twelve-year-old Hancock bounded down the stairs wearing an oversized Dallas Cowboys jersey with Chambers emblazoned on the back. He surveyed the café. "What time do you open?"
"We are open," Chelsea said.
"So ... where are all the people?" Hancock had a knack for making Chelsea feel self-conscious.
"They'll come," she said. "Where's your sister?"
Emily burst into the café just then, a six-year-old version of her mother. Except where Chelsea liked to blend in, Emily sparkled. Her glittery Mary Janes added to the effect. "Hancock helped me pick out my outfit," she boasted.
Chelsea took in her daughter's ensemble of sequins and stripes, and smiled. Yesterday's Chelsea would have made both children change before leaving the house. But today's Chelsea served her kids chocolate chip muffins and walked them to the bus stop, leaving a trail of glitter and crumbs.
"I hope you can manage the morning rush without me," Chelsea called to Tim.
Tim gave his boss a thumbs-up.
As the trio hurried down the front sidewalk, they felt the bite of cold air. The January sky was impossibly blue, but the temperature was surprisingly chilly.
"Let's zip up your jacket." Chelsea knelt to help Emily, venturing one more glance at the café front. Dormer windows protruded from the black-shingled roof. Vines crawled up a trellis on the side of the porch, where two worn wooden rockers sat side by side. A sidewalk bisected the neatly trimmed front lawn. Apart from the sign that hung from the porch, this could be someone's home.
Hard to believe it's my home again. So many memories.
But with each passing block of pristine Victorian mansions and refurbished Mission-style homes, the nostalgia began to wear thin. Everything Chelsea saw triggered a fresh idea, and by the time they reached the bus stop, her mental to-do list had grown:
buy new rockers for the porch
wash the windows
plant a garden
learn how to plant a garden
"You don't have to wait with us, you know," Hancock said as the yellow bus rounded the corner. "We've been doing this for two months now."
Chelsea looked at him, and for a moment saw his father in his face. High cheekbones and wide eyes bluer than a Texas sky, blond hair and small nose. As long as he doesn't have his wild side, she said to herself. "You're right. You two can walk back to the house on your own after school, okay?"
She turned her attention to Emily, who was bouncing with excitement. "Do you have your lunch box?"
"Si, madre," Emily said, giving her backpack a pat. Their new school had a Spanish immersion program, and Emily delighted in practicing her new words.
Chelsea gave her a big squeeze and then went to hug her son, but the look of dread in his eyes stopped her. She recalled a similar moment at the bus stop with her own mother.
"Hancock, I know we've been through a lot lately. Thank you for trying to make it work."
As the bus pulled away, Chelsea inhaled deeply. This was a new thing for her. She could remember almost anything, but she had a bad habit of forgetting to breathe.
She rushed back to the café, arriving just in time for her first customer. Chelsea had met Bo Thompson only once, but at seventy years old and well over six feet tall, he was memorable. The gentlest of giants. Bo had been her mother's most faithful customer—one of the few remaining regulars of the Higher Grounds Café. "Best coffee in town," he insisted. It didn't hurt that he lived just across the street.
At the sight of Chelsea, Bo removed his baseball hat, revealing a shiny bald head. When they shook hands, his meaty palms swallowed Chelsea's.
"Big day for the neighborhood," his deep voice announced.
"Indeed it is." She smiled.
"Hope you don't mind the jersey, but my team won yesterday." He unzipped his jacket just enough to reveal the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers.
"You won't get any pushback from me," Chelsea said. "I don't really follow sports these days. Now if I recall correctly, you go for a small cappuccino with extra foam?"
"I'm impressed," Bo said with a grin that filled his whole face.
Chelsea could feel Tim's critical eye as she worked. She might not have trained in Italy, but she knew how to make a cappuccino. Her mother had taught her to steam a pillow of foam so thick you could sleep on it. But as soon as that thought crossed her mind, the espresso machine began to sputter. Then it stopped.
Chelsea fiddled with the steam valve. "I don't ... it's not ..."
Tim plodded to Chelsea's aid. Out of the corner of her eye she caught Bo stealing a glance at his watch.
"How about a black coffee after all?" he said with a wink.
"One black coffee. On the house," Chelsea insisted with the promise of a cappuccino by morning.
"I'll miss seeing your mom every day, but it's good to see the shop open again," Bo said as Chelsea served him his drink. "Of course, it'd be even sweeter if you still had your mother's famous pumpkin cream cheese muffins."
Chelsea smiled. She was pleased to know the recipes she'd created for her mother were a hit. "Here. My gift to you." She bagged a freshly baked pumpkin muffin and handed it to Bo.
He found a dozen different ways to say thank you, then doubled back to tell Chelsea she had made his morning.
"You're not gonna make much money, giving stuff away," Tim said.
"Thanks for the tip, Tim," Chelsea said.
Chelsea could afford to sponsor as many free muffins as she liked. She had built up a treasury of mouth-watering recipes, and her sister, Sara, had been begging her to open up shop for years. But for Chelsea, the Higher Grounds Café wasn't really a business venture. It was a safe haven.
Ding! Ding! "Surprise!"
The slow morning had drifted into an even slower afternoon, and Chelsea lit up when she turned to see her sister standing in the doorway, holding a sunny bouquet of flowers.
"My house is spotless, and Tony has the twins for a few hours. So I'm here for your grand reopening."
There was an air of springtime about Sara. Everything about her radiated happiness. Her hair was long, straight, and golden as a sunrise. Her brown eyes sparkled and turned into half-moons when she laughed. Her smile lifted more on the right than the left because of the scar that stretched like a piano string from the corner of her mouth to her jaw.
"I thought you were showing your house today!" Chelsea said, succumbing to Sara's bear hug.
"Potential buyers cancelled. Again."
"Oh no! Well, when you do find a house, my offer still stands," Chelsea said. "I'm making the down payment. Maybe we'll end up neighbors after all!"
No one would ever peg the two as sisters. Sara was bubbly, Chelsea bookish. Sara was tall and blond; Chelsea, medium height and dark-haired like their mother. Sara had always had her pick of boyfriends. Chelsea, not so much. Still, they were best friends. Sara looked out for Chelsea. Chelsea looked up to Sara. For over a decade, the two had dreamed of living in the same city again.
"I still can't believe you're back in town!"
"Not exactly the way we wanted it to happen," Chelsea said.
"But you're here. And that's what matters, right?"
Chelsea marveled at her sister's optimism. More than once she'd wondered if Sara had been born with a double dose.
"You're right. Opening day is great. Great!" Chelsea tried mirroring Sara's rosy perspective. "Just getting the hang of things. It's fun being anonymous for a change, though a few more customers would be nice. 'Slow' doesn't do it justice."
Ding! Ding! The shopkeeper's bell announced an arrival. "You must be good luck!" Chelsea said.
Tim had been fiddling with the espresso machine since Chelsea's epic fail in front of Bo. Now he turned a nob, releasing a hiss of piping hot steam from the espresso machine. "And we're back," he said with satisfaction.
And not a moment too soon. A surprising rush of customers had filled the shop. Chelsea put on her warmest smile. "Welcome to Higher Grounds. What can I get y'all?"
"We heard you had some autographed football stuff from the Dallas Cowboys," said the group's ringleader. His towering size and lettered jacket pegged him as a high school football star.
"I wouldn't know anything about that," Chelsea said. "But our customers say we have the best coffee in town."
"Customers?" Tim mumbled behind Chelsea's back. She knew it was a stretch.
"But you're her, right?" asked a prom queen with a Café Cosmos coffee tumbler. "The wife of that football guy."
Chelsea struggled for words. "I am ..."
Sara swooped in for the rescue. "She's the owner of this café."
"So is Sawyer Chambers your husband or not?"
A simple yes or no might do the trick. But to Chelsea it was more complex. More layered. There were nuance and history to consider. Lots of history.
"Some kid in my little brother's class said so." The quarterback turned for confirmation to a middle school version of himself. "Right?"
Ding! Ding! Hancock and Emily entered the café.
"Yeah! He was telling people at school." The middle schooler outed Hancock, who stopped dead in his tracks.
Hancock knew he was in trouble but did his best to play it cool in front of the older students. "Hey, man ... I, uh, better go start on my homework," he said to his classmate. "See ya tomorrow."
Chelsea eyed her son as he made his escape. "I was just trying to get you some customers," he mumbled on the way up the stairs.
Emily had spotted her Aunt Sara and run to her for a hug.
A boy with a smartphone held it up for all to see. "That's her all right. Look. Mrs. Sawyer Chambers."
Mrs. Chambers. There it was, plain and simple. Practically Amish.
"You're kinda famous," the boy said.
If a picture could tell a thousand words, then a Google image search could tell ten thousand. Swipe, swipe, swipe. Chelsea's life flashed before her eyes—and everyone else's, for that matter. The room was getting smaller, the smartphone screen bigger. Until finally ...
"Who's that?" said the young magician who had turned his smartphone into an IMAX screen. The image stretched as far as the east is from the west: Sawyer Chambers in the arms of another woman. A redheaded beauty. A triple threat—younger, thinner, and prettier.
The leader of the pack looked at the picture and then at the woman behind the counter and stated the obvious. "That's not you."
"OMG," said the prom queen with a look of pity.
All eyes shifted to Chelsea. "Can I interest y'all in a cupcake?" she managed through gritted teeth.
The prom queen broke the silence. "I'll take one," she said, motioning for her friends to flee the awkward scene. "To go."
As the café emptied, Chelsea melted into the counter, defeated. "Life was so much simpler before the Internet," she moaned.
"Don't you waste another minute worrying about the Internet," Sara said, wrapping her in a hug.
"You're right," Chelsea said, pulling herself together. "I'm sure it'll never take off."CHAPTER 2
Samuel watched from a distance. From heaven's view, things were simpler. Clearer. Unobstructed by the clamor of everyday life. He peered through the stars, assessing the once familiar landscape.
What he saw stirred concern. He remembered his first assignment here. The region had a sparkle to it, a glow. Now a pall had settled on the city. Entire neighborhoods were hidden by shadows.
But still there were beacons of light. Like spires alit with gold, they punctured the darkness, streaking past Samuel and into the heavens.
It's dusk, Samuel thought, but not night. Not yet.
He took note of an embedded glow and set his eyes on the source. The corner of the Higher Grounds Café. This place had been prayed for and prayed over.
The Father won't relinquish this territory easily, not without a fight. And I love a good fight!
Prayers move God. And God moves angels. So Samuel was being sent. Other angels had more experience. Other angels had more strength. But no angel in heaven could match Samuel's resolve. This was his first solo mission.
"Sammy," he said to himself, "time to fly."
He grasped the hilt of his fiery saber and lifted his small frame to its full height. He tightened his muscles, squinted his eyes, leaned forward, and speared earthward. The wind rushed his hair straight back. As he broke through the clouds, he spotted the figure of Chelsea sitting on her porch and wondered what role she was going to play in this unfolding saga. He was, after all, her guardian angel.
Excerpted from Miracle at The Higher Grounds Café by Max Lucado, Eric Newman, Candace Lee. Copyright © 2015 Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One day in a coffee shop, God answers a letter via the internet chat room. Is it real? Is it a fraud? And who's paying for the wifi?? Its gonna make you want a starbucks and a scone REAL bad. :) Praise God for awesome writers.
Lovely tale of a fallen away Christian woman rediscovering her amazing connection to God and finding her way to deal with her cheating husband. It truly was a good story albeit an tad predictable. I enjoyed every word.
A blessing to read. I am glad to have found this book and read it. Would love to read more by this author.
It really brought out the scripture that reads in part, all things work for the good. I also thought it was a brilliant idea to show how the elders prayer works.
A wonderful uplifting story.
Written in a steady pace full of realistic emotions I found myself able to relate with most of the characters!
Great characters, inspiring read. I was sad when i reached the end.
Max Lucado's new fiction release, Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe, is unusual and quite unique. I greatly enjoyed it while reading, but like it even more as I reflect back. Rather than critiquing from a literary standpoint, my reviews are usually based on how a book affects me, and this one hits a home run. Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe is a beautiful example of the power of story. Max is a wordsmith. He has an exceptional, God-given ability to communicate spiritual truths by painting pictures through the written word. This is not a long read, but it doesn't need to be, for Max shares volumes in only 184 pages. It may seem like a predictable, lighthearted fantasy on the surface, but there are untold hidden depths. It is an imaginative concept to spin this story around modern social concepts like a San Antonio coffee shop, wifi, lattes, baked goodies, and an interactive blog. I loved all the characters and how readers will be able to identify with their struggles. The use of angels in fiction often comes across as somewhat cheesy, but Max did a great job in making Manny humorous, quirky, and sincere. There are some great scenes where Manny views events from heaven's perspective. This is a story about relationships - with spouse, family members, friends, community, and with God. Spiritual warfare and the power of prayer are major themes. Issues of adultery and divorce are woven into this story, but never as a main theme nor in a condemning, "preachy" manner. That's not Max's style and he has a gift for keeping the focus where it needs to be - on God's love, repentance, and forgiveness. This book is filled with spiritual themes that will speak to readers - the personal cost of unforgiveness, the effectiveness of prayer, that everything in our lives has a purpose, and that no matter how devastating the circumstance, we are never alone. One scene that especially touched me is when Manny wanders into what had once been a prayer room in the coffee shop, and he listens . . . "Decades of prayers resounded through the small room. Prayers that pass through the lips in a moment, but endure for all eternity." Spiritual warfare is very real, yet it's not something to which I give a lot of thought, so I found this theme fascinating and extremely moving. I'd like to end with this touching and victorious scene that gives cause for rejoicing, a visual that contrasts the forces of light and dark . . . Through the window, Manny noticed dark shadows lurking . . . Voices emerged from within: throaty and gutteral, filling the atmosphere with lies of shame, abandonment, and despair. "God has no place for you . . ." "God? What God?" Gabriel began to sing. "Holy is the Living God." At the sound of the angelic voice, the murky cloud stopped its advance. "Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord!" The shadows inched back at each chorus. One by one the angels joined Gabriel, lifting their voices to heaven. It soon sounded as though hundreds, perhaps thousands were singing. . . . In the presence of such mighty voices, the evil held no sway. There was no shadow for such lies to hide. Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe is a story that could possibly impact new believers, seekers, and seasoned Christians alike. I hope we see more fiction from Mr. Max. Highly recommended. Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
This book opens up questions about your own life. It allows you to open your mind to the possibilities of heavenly warfair around us and Gods ability and love to sustain us.
Loved this great book! A life changer. I highly recommend.
I have read this twice now. I really enjoyed this book.
I love this book it made me cry, laugh and enlightened me and answered a lot of questions I didn’t even know I had. It also help deepen my faith and helped me to realize that I had some underlying doubts that I wasn’t clear were there
Awesome read! God does perform miracles.
I love this book and author.
Our redeemer loves us and never leaves us
I have had this book awhile and just decided to read a few days ago. I loved the main character, Chelsea, and her struggles to find her footing. I loved all the reminders that God is always near. No matter what, even if we don't always feel it. I would love to know more about her cafe and the people who visit. How did Chelsea and Sawyer end up later? What changed Chelsea's mind about Sawyer? How is Bo? What about Tony and Sara?
Miracle at Higher Grounds is a wonderful and uplifting read.
Can God use modern techology to speak to those who seek Him? Do angels exist? This book lets the imagination soar in those directions. I would consider it a light read even though it addresses some heavy issues like divorce and infidelity.
I loved this story, so comforting and encouraging. The setting and characters are very welcoming. It is so easy to relate to them. Max Lucado is a gifted writer and fantastic Pastor and teacher. This book like so many others speaks volumes. The sense of Gods incredible love for us is overwhelming.