Christ Over Latte
Christ Over Latte
I was in Illinois and it was time for a stop. After all, I had driven for at least an hour. A sign on the road said “Antique Shops and Coffee Shop. Take the Benton exit and turn right.” Happy (my camper van) happily followed directions.
The antique shops in Benton circled Benton’s courthouse. As I drove the round-a-bout looking for a parking place, the steady stream of traffic surprised me. Looks like I’m not the only one with this idea, I thought. I parked, turned on the generator and air conditioner for Belle, kissed her goodbye, and set out on my adventure.
As I visited the antique shops, I lingered over the toys, walking down the memory lane of the childhoods in my life. Raggedy Anne and Andy almost came home with me as I remembered snuggling them. But they need me, I argued as God reminded me that I wasn’t spending unnecessary money. I spotted a dog pull toy like the one my son Chris had and remembered him pulling it across the red carpet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When I passed Howdy Doody, I was once again sitting in my small concrete block home on Attleboro glued to the black and white television set.
Finally, I came to the coffee shop. Right away, I noticed the window that said, “Bookstore, Conversation, and Expresso Café.” My kind of place, I thought. Pocket Full of Quarters is about conversations. It should be in this bookstore.
I walked into the shop with purpose and smelled the rich aroma of coffee. Looking at the enticing salad menu, I was sorry I’d already had lunch. I looked at the rich desserts and said, “Get thee behind me Satan!”
“Hi,” I said to the beautiful, slim, brown haired woman standing behind the counter. “Can you make a sugar free, fat free, decaf latte with 2 Splendas?”
“Sure can,” she smiled. “You must have a sweet tooth.”
“Unfortunately,” I laughed. “One of my mentors thinks I use entirely too much Splenda.”
As she made the latte, we introduced ourselves. Mary had bought Books at the Buzz a little over a year ago. “It was called The Buzz. I added the books,” she told me.
“I’m a Christian writer,” I told her. “My book, Pocket Full of Quarters, is about conversations I’ve had with people. I wondered if I could leave it here for you to look over and consider carrying.”
“Absolutely,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about carrying spiritual books. I could use some help in that department myself. I’ve let that slide since I bought this store.” I took a deep breath as I realized that God had been calling me to that coffee shop ever since I’d seen the sign. I don’t even like coffee, and if I drink it, it has to be disguised in something like a latte.
“That happens,” I said. “There’s an old saying. Don’t let the blessing of God take away your relationship with God.” I left to go get a book while she made my latte. When I returned, she made herself a cup of coffee, sat down, and we became instant friends. “Are you a Christian?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said hesitantly. “I’ve been a little off track lately.”
“Do you work on Sundays? Is the store keeping you from going to church?” I asked, remembering the storeowner who had told me she couldn’t go to church because of her business.
“No,” she said. “I don’t work on Sunday but I don’t go to church. I went to Unity for a while but I don’t even go there anymore.”
“Have you always gone to Unity?” I asked.
“No, I used to go to a Christian church but I stopped that when some things went wrong in my life.”
“Unity must seem like a big change,” I remarked. “I know that some Christians attend Unity but my understanding is that they aren’t really a Christian church. I don’t think they have any particular doctrine.”
“That’s right,” she agreed. “They were what I needed at the time.”
“What about the Bible?” I asked. “I met someone from Unity last week and they told me they rarely read the Bible. Do you read the Bible?”
“I used to but not so much anymore. I use books to help with my spiritual life. That’s why I was thinking about carrying some. I’m reading Melody Beattie’s newest book right now. “
“I enjoy books as well. I haven’t read her newest book but I did enjoy Codependent No More. I also love reading the Bible. I love to read God’s words directly. It speaks to me in a way nothing else does. Do you have a regular quiet time or devotional time?” I probed.
“That’s what I’m missing,” she said. “I used to be disciplined about that. Now, I’m too tired when I get home and I can’t make myself get up in the morning.”
“I used to own a business,” I nodded. “I was limp when I got home. There was no energy left to spend focused time with God. I learned that I had to get up in the morning or it didn’t get done. It sounds like you are figuring out the same thing. I know you’re a little unsure of the Bible right now but James 1:5 promises wisdom if we ask for it. I needed that wisdom to make good business decisions. It became so important to me that if I caught an 8:00 A.M. airplane, I got up at 4:30 A.M. to spend time with God. Since I’m not a morning person, it took a little getting used to.”
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. NASU
Mary and I spent a few minutes swapping war stories about running a business. Mary has recently added books to her business model. I was impressed with her knowledge of business and the food industry. “I can’t make money on the food alone,” she said. “It’s too labor intensive. I need to carry other products.” What she was saying made good sense. Throughout our conversation, Mary watched everything about her business. She left several times to help her employees find a missing product, to answer other customers' questions, or to answer the phone. Somehow, she made me feel like I was the most important customer in the world while continuing to run her business.
She’s got the touch, I thought. Aloud I said, “Something about church must have hurt you. What made you leave the Christian church?”
“Too many things went wrong in my life and I just stopped going,” she said. “We had problems with my son and after a 17 year marriage, I ended up divorced.” I understood and shared with her some of the painful experiences we went through in dealing with our oldest son, David.
“Trouble with children is hard on marriages and on churches,” I said. “Churches don’t always understand and sometimes they say the wrong things with the best of motives.” I told her some of my own hurts with how the church handled my son’s problems. “I got hurt and completely stopped going for a while. I even stopped reading the Bible because I kept gravitating to the passages that made guilt over my son worse. I did change churches but God led me back to the same denomination that I grew up in. That was years ago. I’ve never left church again and I love everything about church now. I believe church is the closest we can get to the kingdom of God while here on earth. When I go to church now, I listen with ears of grace instead of guilt. I see the church’s problems but I can forgive them. I hear the words of love that were always there and I somehow missed.”
“I could see myself going back to a Christian church,” Mary remarked quietly. “Maybe I’m ready.”
“I hope you do,” I told here. “I also hope you begin having a personal quiet time with God that includes prayer, meditation, Bible Study, and other study aids.”
I left Books at the Buzz with a sense of awe that I had been in the right place at the right time. There is more to the conversation than I wrote, but it was too personal to share. Mary and I had several things in common and we both knew our conversation had been divinely orchestrated.
Mary knew something was wrong spiritually and was ready to do something about it. God used a sign on the road to send me and He allowed me to be a tiny part of Mary’s spiritual journey.
Mary took a vacation from the Christian church and the Bible and God has been patiently waiting for her to return. While waiting, He has been working the entire time. She is remarried and has found her place at Books at the Buzz. As I walked out, I sensed that God has great things planned for her, plans to prosper her, and to give her hope and a future. Elegant Mary is going to find a ministry at Books at the Buzz.
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "And will bring you back from captivity.” NIV