Friday, January 12, 2007

Another Cup of Coffee

"Good morning, Lord."

The cold winter had seemingly disappeared again as I stood on my balcony, breathing in the spring like air that had melted most of the snow. It was one of those days, when the world slowed down a little bit, enough for you to see where you stood. Or if you were still standing. I'd been thinking about re-entering the ministry lately, more as the weeks and months progressed, but wasn't anxious to dive back in. I'd been there before. I remembered what it had done to my faith.

I took a sip from my morning coffee and listened to the birds chirping in the tall set of bushes alongside the building. I wondered if this weather confused them as much as it was confusing me, if the mild winter had upset their migration patterns or eating habits. The past week I'd felt... off at times, unable to explain it even as I thought about the future, about working in 'paid' ministry again. Maybe that's what got me thinking about the past.

When I'd first entered the ministry as young twenty year old with nothing less than dreams and goals of worldwide success, I'd been rudely chastened. I might have been working for the God of the universe, but nobody on this planet, especially the teens in my city, seemed to recognize that. It was frustrating. So I worked harder, combining Anthony Robbins with ultra-charismatic Theology. I confessed the greatness of my ministry, the success, claimed all the victories, and drew... about twenty or thirty kids every Friday night. It was so disheartening.

Eventually I resigned, started another ministry, and resigned after that. One of my difficulties about being involved in paid ministry was the expectation of success, measured of course, by attendance. The other issue, though more subtle, was the way Christianity so quickly evolved into a cause, something I worked for. And let's be honest, it's a great cause. The political and theological and emotional angles are all there. You can minister for the sake of Christianity without ever thinking about the relationship between God and man.

I leaned forward in my chair. Most winter mornings it was too cold to sit outside, but not this winter. I'd taken advantage of the mild spell to spend a little more time on the balcony, a personal quirk that somehow sensed God a little easier when I was outside. I started praying for my family and friends, but this morning I wavered halfway through my prayers.

"Hi ya, Lord. I hope you're doing okay."

It was a strange, nonsensical prayer in so many ways. Yes, I was praying to the ALpha and Omega, the King of Kings, the Creator and Master of the Universe. But these days, more than ever, I sensed a sadness in my prayer time when I thought about God as a cause or, on some days, more like a vending machine. I sensed a Person who longed to get to know me. And strange as it sounds, I had the power to say no. It was up to me whether I let Him into my house.

Finally I stood, the chair creaking beneath my weight, as even the mild winter air became uncomfortable. I wanted to reassure God that if I did go into ministry, that I wouldn't forget Him again, like I had the first time. I wanted to tell Him that He was the most important thing in my life. I wanted to pray a super-spiritual prayer filled with words from the Bible, one that conveyed just how serious I was about being a Christian and why God would never have to worry about me being anything less than a superlative servant.

Strange, though, that more than anything, I sensed a smile on God's face when I said "Good morning." I heard the echo of a heartbeat very similar to my own, the quiet stillness of a close friend listening to another, and the unrestrained joy of a parent's voice upon hearing their grown up child's news for the day.

I sipped my coffee and glanced up at the graying skies. I knew what to do, what was expected of me, and even what others did. But this morning, well, this morning was something different. God had taught me something new. I sat back in my chair, and with a flicker up at the gray skies, started talking.

"Well, I had a good day yesterday, Lord. I'm having my article published this year in Discipleship Journal, isn't that cool..."

Sometimes we don't treat God with the reverence He deserves. Other times we don't realize how easily He forgives. But often times, well, I think a lot of times He just wants to visit with us for a while, and have another cup of coffee...