Joe Cocker got my vote to win American Idol, 2010. He was not eligible and I didn’t watch the finale (or any other episode), but Cocker sang on the show and that fact alone got my attention this morning. I have a long history with Joe Cocker, going back to the angst of high school and more recently in a real life bitter failure in my walk with God that I lived through a few years back. I tell that Joe Cocker story in my book, Nine Ways God Always Speaks. Here’s the excerpt…
Mark rose early on Saturday morning and realized there was no milk in the house. With company that would soon wake and want breakfast, Mark knew a trip to the store was in order. He threw on sweats, shirt, and a baseball cap, and headed out.
The aisles were sparse and the workers were few as the night crew was finishing their shift before the day crew arrived. Mark grabbed a gallon of milk and a package of blueberry muffins. As he walked to the front of the store, he looked for open checkout lanes. There was only one. He got in line behind a man with a cart filled with boxes of donuts. The man noticed Mark’s glance. “Garage sale,” the man said, pointing to his load.
Mark looked up and his gaze landed on the checkout lady. Clearly, she had worked all night. Exhaustion and boredom draped over her like a heavy blanket. She appeared to be in her mid-fifties. Life had been difficult, that much was certain. Mark glanced at her nametag. “Macy,” it read.
He shifted on his feet thinking of nothing in particular. Then from somewhere deep inside a Voice interrupted his indifference. “Tell Macy that I think she is beautiful.”
Mark coughed out loud.
“Not a chance,” he argued to the inner Voice. “I’d get slapped. Or worse, I’d get slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit! I’m not telling a 50-year-old grocery clerk she’s beautiful.”
Garage Sale Guy packed his donuts into the cart and headed toward the door. Mark set his breakfast items on the conveyer belt. Macy avoided his eyes and maneuvered the milk and muffins through the bar-code reader and waited for his payment.
Mark fumbled for time as he continued arguing with the voice in his head. “I don’t even know her. I’m married, and I’m a pastor. What would it look like if I said something like that?”
“$5.49,” Macy said. Her voice sounded worn from cigarettes and screaming.
“Tell her I think she’s beautiful,” the Voice said again.
“I can’t.” Mark felt sad–a helpless regret that comes when you buckle to your fears.
The Voice fell silent.
All Mark could hear was the Muzak playing over the store’s speaker system–some tired hit from the seventies. He reached into his wallet.
“All right,” the Voice broke in with a tinge of irritation. “Then I will.”
One song ended and immediately a new one began. It was Joe Cocker crooning, “You are so beautiful, to me.”
Mark handed Macy the money, stuffed the food in a bag, and slouched toward the door.
He missed his chance, and he knew it.
Speaking is a volitional act, and God gives us the privilege of participating in his work, but he doesn’t need us to speak for him when he wants to get his message across.
He can do it himself, thank you very much.
I’m listening… Hopefully, I’m listening and responding. God’s voice comes to us in so many different and sometimes strange ways. He can even speak through the oddly placed lyrics of a Joe Cocker song. For that he would have gotten my vote, eligible or not…