Coffee or God? Can I have both?

A dilemma this morning; on the way to church we stopped at 7-11 for some wake-up help. For me it was coffee, for my husband, tea and m&ms. Church was just around the corner, so when we arrived I still had a full cup of steaming coffee.

I dropped the kids off at Sunday school and then considered my options. My husband was in the chapel, but one can also sit out on the patio during the service. That is generally where I sit; the cool air and fresh breeze helps keep me awake and I, for one, tend to feel closer to God when I’m outside.

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I had my coffee in hand and a choice to make. Do I throw it away? Suck it down fast? Take it with me? Ooh, that had the most appeal. Could I sit outside, listen to the sermon, all the while sipping my coffee, or would that be frowned upon? I hadn’t been here in a while…maybe it’s the thing to do these days. There are many churches opening up little coffee shops on-site. Is it generally open before the service or only after? Are refreshments allowed in the chapel? Bookstores are more lenient these days…

I’m not a -regular- regular at this church, rather a sporadic regular, trying not to let life get in the way of the occasional and essential dose of spirituality and religion. As I pondered my situation and wondered what was acceptable here (so far this church had a bookroom, but no coffee shop) I caught the eye of an older woman watching me. She had the air about her of being both friendly and wise, and a regular here, unlike me. I approached and presented her with my predicament.

“What shall I do?” I asked, clearly unwilling to throw away my prized cup of steaming coffee.

She looked at me and smiled, secure in the knowledge that I already knew the answer.

“No,” I said, “I suppose I can’t take it with me, it’s not exactly respectful, is it?”

She shook her head, although in agreement. “This is a spiritual engagement, not a social one.”

I opened my mouth, prepared to argue. Drinking coffee can, at critical times, reach certain levels of spiritualness for me; but I kept quiet. I sighed, looking about for a garbage can.

The woman placed a hand on my arm. “I suspect if you take your coffee with you and place it on the ground by your chair…”

I brightened. “Like a purse!” I chimed in with agreeable enthusiasm.

“Yes,” the woman said, nodding patiently, “and pick it up again after closing prayers, I think that would be fine. I wouldn’t sip it during the sermon.”

“Right! I can do that!” And I scurried off to the seating area on the patio. Once seated, I tucked my coffee carefully under my chair, promising not to leave it behind.

I listened, I learned, I meditated, I prayed. Occasionally, I thought about my coffee. There were times when it would have been nice to reach down and have a sip, but doing so would have altered the spirit of the moment. It would have dampened the impact the sermon had on me, and dulled the clarity of God’s message that morning. Still, it was darn comforting to wrap my hands around that coffee after closing prayers…and take a beloved, invigorating sip.

And as for the fellow behind me who was gently snoring through the service, might I recommend grabbing a cuppa’ joe on your way to church next week. Maybe in some ways it can bring you closer to God?

Cheers and God bless.

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