Coffee Matters

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I’ve been waiting for ages for the release of the film version of The Shack. Not to worry, no spoilers here. I have read that book at least twenty times, if not more. I can recite most of the major conversations from it. And knowing the film is never quite what the book is, I can honestly say I was not at all disappointed in the movie and I’m hoping to catch it again while it’s still in theaters.

That being said, as I was driving home from the theater, there was something nagging at me. Like there was something missing in the film version that was vital and yet, I couldn’t quite place it. I knew what conversations were in it or not in it and what things had been changed even slightly. But this was different, more subtle. It wasn’t until I walked in the house and smelled the pot roast my mom had simmering on the stove that it hit me.

Much like the book, the focus of the movie centered on relationships and those relationships were framed in conversations. Mack was often split off talking to Jesus or Sarayu or Papa one-to-one as he established some sort of working relationship with each but the overall mealtime camaraderie of the book was lost. The lack of time that Mack and his hosts spent around the table gnawed at the back of my brain. Very little of the playfulness and love shared amongst the Trinity over meals made it to the big screen. In addition to lighthearted flow of love within the relationship of the Trinity and also in their love for Mack, there also was a deeper level of kindness and thoughtfulness that went into something as simple as a bag of sandwiches. While I wouldn’t say the movie faltered for lack of a bag lunch or a cup of coffee left on the bedside table, those small acts of love demonstrated a deep level of intimacy and care for Mack and an anticipation of his needs that are an important piece of the story. It’s one thing to tell someone you care for them and another thing entirely to know exactly how they like their morning coffee.

In an odd sort of way, I was kind of glad those details were missing because it forced me to really focus on what I was not seeing rather than what was right in front of me. For all my bluster about wanting God to be a little – okay, a lot – more direct, I can’t point to a single time in my life that I didn’t have exactly the right books, the right music, the right poetry, or the right scenery to show me that God is present in all those little details that make me so happy. It’s still not easy for me to accept that such little things about me would matter to God and yet if I’m being really honest, I have to say God knows how I take my coffee. And that matters.

“…if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will be the same again.”

Wm. Paul Young

The Shack

Unexpected God

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I don’t know why it caught me so off guard. I mean think about it, God showed up in a barn as a baby when everybody looking for the Messiah expected a great warrior. So it’s not like I don’t know He’s got that weird element of surprise and He does love to use it. But still…

Yesterday morning, I had coffee with God. Yes really. Face-to-face. Sat down and had coffee in a restaurant in New Haven with God, who decided to show up as Andrew, a large raucous gay black man on his third screwdriver at 11:00 in the morning. I wasn’t even there to meet him. I was there to see my best friend John who was home for one last time and his friend George, who had made the trip with him. Andrew just happened to be with them when I got to the restaurant.

Breakfast dragged out until well past lunchtime. We lingered long over coffee. Well, no, George and I lingered over coffee while John and Andrew knocked back vodka and orange juice while joking with the waiter in Spanish. And then suddenly, it was just me and Andrew. George had gone back to the hotel room to finish packing. At Andrew’s suggestion, John disappeared for an extended cigarette break.

This guy who thirty seconds earlier had been making raunchy jokes suddenly got quite serious and quiet. His face and his eyes softened and changed, almost like they were lit from the inside. “Girl, we need to talk. You need to listen to me. You are a beautiful woman and I don’t just mean on the outside but inside too. You radiate beauty out of your face and you don’t even see it. You been hurt. I can see that too and it just made you stronger and kinder and more beautiful. Don’t you go wall yourself off because some men treated you bad. There’s good men out there still. You’ll see. You will find someone who will love you right and treat you the way you deserve. You just got to be patient and you don’t give up and you don’t lower your standards for no man.”

It went on from there. Dating guidelines, boundaries, and so on but you get the idea. Okay so he’s not the first person to tell me any of this. I’ve heard it. Over and over and over and over again. My mom, my friends, my therapist, spiritual director, my confessor, they’ve all said it to me these last six years. But this was different. It was unexpected. It was from a stranger. More than that, it was just a plain flat out strange situation. Hanging out in a restaurant watching two men get drunk and loud before noon is so far outside my comfort zone it’s not even on the same map. And I guess that’s what got me. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what defense to put up. So I didn’t. And He used that and He got through.

So then what? John came back. Serious conversation over. Light in the eyes was gone and the raucous conversation started anew like this little talk we’d had never happened. But it did and it blew past every single one of my usual defensive walls. A few months back, Deacon Ron mused that it seemed to him that I needed to meet God with some skin on Him. Yesterday, that’s exactly what happened and it was nothing like what I would’ve expected.