a gift worth opening

I pulled into the drive-thru lane at 5:57am on Saturday and answered the welcoming voice with “Ten Sausage McMuffins with Egg, please.” I knew we’d be short a couple of guys this morning, but the four regulars would be there. You never know how hungry they will be, and we always got a few extra McMuffins for our baristas.

The voice in the speaker responded with, “Are you the usual guy?”

“Yep, that’s me, the usual guy.”

“Okay. That’ll be $10.64 at the second window, please.”

They were a little faster than normal, so I didn’t have to go park and wait for them even though there were a couple of cars waiting behind me, but it was after 6:00 when I got the bag and pulled away.

So, I was late, as usual, pulling into the parking lot outside Starbucks at 6:08, and I was crushed to see there were no vehicles belonging to my friends waiting there for me.

Tony is always there when I get there, so I panicked a bit, assuming that since I hadn’t replied to his email from Friday afternoon, in which he said he was “in” but Jim, a recent newcomer, couldn’t make it, that maybe he had misunderstood my silence and changed his mind. I’m always disappointed when Tony can’t make it or if he has to leave early.

Tony is married and the father of 2 girls. As an artist, and the Director of Kid’s Konnection, the ministry to elementary-school-age kids in our church, Tony brings a great perspective to our conversations. He’s solid, thoughtful, very creative and has skill in boiling complex things down to the basic ingredients. He keeps us honest and from getting too philosophical and high-minded, while he sips his chai or any other drink that doesn’t taste much like coffee. I usually call him Friday night to confirm, but the email threw us off, so I was worried.

KJ should have been there by that time, too. I tried to recall whether we had confirmed he would be joining us, and although I had left a message the night before, I hadn’t heard back and couldn’t remember if he had made a commitment during breakfast the day before.

KJ is the fire of our conversations – by far, the most unique perspective and adventurous mind. He’s the reason I started this 6:00am, Saturday-morning tradition over three years ago, and for a long time it was just the two of us. KJ is married and has a baby boy. He’s the Director of High School Ministry at our church and one of my best friends ever, but we make a bit of an odd couple at first sight. I’m an old accountant with a tame goatee and short-buzzed, graying hair. KJ is a young man with a thick, red beard, lots of tattoos, some piercings, and shoulder-length dreadlocks. But KJ is as tender toward God as a man can be, he loves the kids in our church like nobody else, and we’re in the process of changing the world together.

So, I sat there in my car in the parking lot, looking back and forth over my shoulders for familiar traffic with a bag of hot Sausage McMuffins next to me, cooling by the minute. I didn’t want to go in by myself and have the other regular customers think I had been abandoned.

I had sent a text message to David the night before – something typically silly like, “You coffee?” He hadn’t replied, and I remembered that as we were leaving basketball Friday morning, he mentioned he was working late Friday night. Maybe he was recovering and decided to stay home.

David is one of my brothers-in-law. He’s also married and has two kids. Although David is the newest “regular” in our Saturday-morning events, he’s been coming around for over a year, and besides that, he’s known me longer than the other guys. David’s never afraid of a good discussion, and he keeps me honest about our family, and who I really am, but he has a deep, abiding respect for the Bible and loves us enough to acquiesce on a hot point when necessary to avoid an ego catastrophe. I love having him around, and I love him.

At 6:15, just as I was contemplating how my Saturday was going to be ruined by these no-shows, David drove in and parked next to me. I breathed a sigh of relief and sent a text message to KJ. A minute later, he replied, saying he needed a few more minutes – he had been out for a run, a newly discovered passion for him.

David and I went in with our McMuffins, and as we were chatting with our barista friends, Tony entered and walked up behind me. Things were looking up! He explained that he had a sick baby at home who needed extra attention before he could get out of the house.

By 6:30, the four of us, the core group among a cast of newcomers, occasional attenders, special guests, and familiar faces, were all around a table filling our bodies with hot food and drinks, and our minds with KJ’s stories of a new discovery: hot yoga – a one and a half hour session in 105-degree heat with a drill instructor for a class leader. It was going to be a good day after all!

I sat there thinking, as I looked around the table at these three familiar faces, how grateful I am for good friends and Saturdays at Starbucks with guy stories and God conversations.

If life is a gift, times like this with friends like these are a substantial part of what makes it worth opening. Thank God for my friends . . . and a good cup of coffee.

One thought on “a gift worth opening”

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