Waiting for Some Joe

Four empty coffee mugs and one partially filled mug

One of my daily rituals is pulling into my favorite coffee shop first thing in the morning for a quick cup to go.

It’s the kind of place that has those pump pots all lined up on the counter with exotic names and flavors aplenty, but I’m a creature of habit so I always get the same thing: French Roast Decaf. Yeah, decaf is essentially useless hot brown water, but I like it, and the truth is that I’m already high strung-enough as it is. Every morning for the last two weeks, though, I have repeated the Groundhog Day of coffee experiences: I pay for my cup and start pumping away, only to get about a quarter of a cup out of the pot followed by horrific gurgling sounds that tell me I’m ¾ of a cup too late.

I’m not sure who all my decaf brethren are or why they have to be there so early, but the fact remains that every morning I’m left standing there with a pitiful sampling of lukewarm coffee. So, the young woman behind the counter and I engage in the same witty repartee each day: “Decaf’s out,” I say. “Sorry about that,” she says. “Mind waiting for a new pot?”

The first couple of days this happened, I said a terse “No time, thanks” and headed for the door. But by day three this had become a bit ridiculous. I’d wait, but I’d stare at my watch and think about all the stuff I wasn’t getting done. By day five, though, I began to enjoy the waiting — picking up the newspaper, chatting with some of the other customers, watching the hurried businessmen frantically pump their own coffee as they have loud, one-sided conversations into their cyborgian Bluetooth devices. I began to wonder where everyone was going, what they do, whether they are filling their cups knowing the joy of a new day or are just trying to get enough caffeine and comfort to get through it. There’s a lot to observe and think about when you have to wait.

Yesterday, the young woman behind the counter offered to save some decaf for me each day so I wouldn’t have to wait. Through the daily gurgling grind, we have come to have the kind of informal bond that regular customers and good servers tend to form. To her surprise, I said no. I told her that I think that God is trying to tell me something.

Fall is a brutally busy time for most of us, with new programs to get off the ground, sermons to be written, people to be visited, leaders to mentor, and the holidays looming in the not-so-distant future. Unchecked, I will work from morning to night doing the Lord’s work while ignoring him completely. It’s an occupational hazard for many of us.

The truth is that I need some time for God to fill me up every day. Waiting is a gift — a few moments at the beginning of the daily grind to sit and remember that it is not I who makes the world turn on its axis — that serving God is not about newsletters, Bible studies and sermons as much as it is about paying attention to the world around me and engaging people like those who furiously pump at these pots every day, hoping for a fresh start.

So, tomorrow morning I’ll look forward to waiting. After all, it’s only when you’re willing to wait that you get the good stuff!

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Bob Kaylor

Bob Kaylor is the lead Pastor of Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church in Monument, Colorado. He is also a clergy transitions guru, Wesleyan theology aficionado, historian, drummer, husband, dad and the author of "Your Best Move: Effective Leadership Transition for the Local Church."

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