Jeremiah, Ministry, Narrative Lectionary, The Inner Landscape, Writing

Drink coffee where you’re planted

Feeling a little sorry for myself, I drove to the Starbucks in Camp Hill this morning to work where I wouldn’t be underfoot for the cleaning lady.

A mother and son sat down next to me, the mom an elegant, Middle Eastern woman with dark skin and long hair, an expensive though casual outfit, and a pair of unlikely and inelegant shoes – desert boots – which, along with her face, said sixty. The son was nice-looking, maybe 30ish, dressed in jeans and a windowpane-checked shirt with a lightweight quilted vest, and loafers without socks. They talked about a family business, a restaurant. He complained, mildly, that his mother compared his new girlfriend to his old girlfriend, “practically every day.” Her smart phone (cracked screen, fuschia case) sat on the table while she ate food she brought in with her, but they both drank coffee from those red holiday cups.

Wherever they came from, they’re here now. Their family owns a restaurant. They meet and drink coffee.

He goes back for a second cup, an Americano.

They are living fully where they are planted.

At Starbucks.
At Starbucks.

Part of my pity party revolves around my grown-up children. I miss them. They are living their lives in Brooklyn and Boulder and Northampton. I am living mine in South Central Pennsylvania. They are doing what I hoped, pursuing their interests and working hard to make the most of the gifts God gave them. The actor (Brooklyn) and the musician (Boulder), both craftsmen, audition and perform and take class and rehearse. The student (Northampton) shows us with each passing week that she is truly a scholar as the grades come in and all the things she feared weren’t good enough get an A-.

But what am I doing with myself?

I’m continuing to grieve the end of my work in the local church. Most of the time it’s okay. I understand the reasons it isn’t happening and may not again. There are other things I’m doing, but they don’t pay anything right now and they may not, ever. I find that hard. There is, after all, a daughter in college, and a younger child who will get there eventually. I sort of thought if God really wanted me to be doing particular work, it would end up paying, which would be great for practical reasons even though it’s not the ultimate mark of value.

In the midst of my pity party (Classic Coffee Cake and a Tall Mocha), I opened the text for this week and proceeded to be worked over by it.

Honestly, I expect this from the Revised Common Lectionary. We’ve been in relationship since the late 1980s. Inevitably, some portion of the various texts takes me by the shoulders and gives me a good shake. But it’s all new with the Narrative Lectionary. How can it know me so well?

Still there he is, Jeremiah, ready to take me for a ride around the block. Not only is he exhorting the Israelites to make a life in Babylon, he assures them that God has a plan for their future.

Shoot.

I am such a proficient mourner! By the waters of the Yellow Breeches I lay down and weep for Back Cove. I pine a little, anyway. Mostly I pine for a sense of identity and a place to go.

When Google Maps asked if Kathryn’s church was my “Work,” I admit to feeling a sense of despair. Instead, I typed in this Starbucks. (12 minutes from home, under average circumstances. Clearly, this is a first world pity party.)

Immigrant or exile, I admit I am struggling to carve out a new identity for myself and to get somewhere in the work I am doing.

“I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, Common English Bible)

I’m calling.

“Write your stories. Craft your prayers. Listen. Read. Turn the farm share into a nutritious and interesting dinner. Love your family. What’s next is next. For now, drink coffee where you’re planted.”

15 thoughts on “Drink coffee where you’re planted”

  1. I preached on this passage from Jeremiah last month. It also shook me up and spoke to me. On another note ~ I was looking at advent liturgies and activities today, and google led me to another one of your blog posts. Thank you for the paths and strong walls of words that you create (both online and in person) to build up God’s kingdom. Peace be with you.

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  2. It could be worse… you could be drinking Postum instead of coffee. Keep praying and listening. I am sure your answer is not far off!

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    1. Patti, it’s a 4 year lectionary with a year for each gospel. It runs September to Pentecost, encompassing the narrative arc of the Bible, starting with Genesis, going on through early history into the prophets, and starting the Gospel on Advent 4, then going on through Easter with some epistles on the way to Pentecost. http://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_faqs.aspx
      It’s a project of Working Preacher and Luther Seminary. Kathryn’s church is using it and I’m leading a Friday morning study.

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  3. Keep writing . . . Keep praying . . . And keeping drinking coffee . . . I’ll keep reading . . . I’ll pray for you . . . And I’ll drink coffee where I’m planted ❤

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  4. I miss you at St. Paul’s! I love it that John is back, but so often you spoke to me personally, woman to woman. Keep praying and searching, something is out there that has your name on it.

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  5. Oh Martha! So much of your self in this and something of myself as well – or at least aspects that I can identify with, particularly as a ‘clergy spouse’. I’m not really a huggy person – but warm introvert thoughts beaming across the Pacific and the whole continental USA to you at this time. After 8 months of no paid employment in Sydney I was asked to take up a university teaching position which I love. It was such a good feeling when the maxed out credit cards were replaced by a positive bank balance! I hope it’s not too long before this happens for you. It does make university fees less of a challenge.

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    1. Amazing how connected I feel to your situation. Especially missing my children who have been grown up for some time and are doing great things despite the distance from me. For one, it is being all the way in Brooklyn (!) and the other, an emotional distance that has grown up like a thorned rose bush. I am retired now for five years and still dreaming almost every night of crazy church-related scenes. Jeremiah is a favorite source for lamentation as well as stern words of hope. Peace tonight.

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  6. “I sort of thought if God really wanted me to be doing particular work, it would end up paying, which would be great for practical reasons even though it’s not the ultimate mark of value.” Yes, I have had that particular struggle too. I love what you did with the Jeremiah passage, which is one of my favorites.

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