Zaxby’s, One Penny and a Slap Across the Face

A few weeks ago, Rachel and I were out late and both got a pregnancy craving. So we did what all responsible adults do and made sure that craving was quenched. It just so happened that Zaxby’s was the first restaurant we came to, so we thought “why not?” and pulled into the drive-thru.

I ordered the delicious Wings & Things and Rachel ordered some mouth-watering chicken tenders.

As we pulled up to the window we were greeted by a sweet, I’d guess high school-aged girl. She gave us our total and Rachel handed me some cash to pay with. Not paying too close attention to the differential between our total bill and our cash payment left me surprised when our change was one penny.

That’s right. She handed us the receipt with a single penny. One cent.

Now most people wouldn’t have said anything about that one penny. Maybe you would have tossed it in your change purse or thrown it in the cup holder. Maybe your pocket. Maybe just dropped it on the floor. Because I mean after all, it’s just one penny.

But I’m not most people. It was late and that drive-thru wasn’t getting any more action. And for some reason at that moment I wanted to have some fun. So of course, as Rachel rolled her eyes, I made a small scene.

It went something like this:

Me: “Wow! One penny!? Thank you so much for making sure we got our correct change. I don’t know what we would have done if you’d not given us back our penny.”

Her: [Awkwardly smiling and not sure what to say.] “Ha. You’re welcome?”

Me: “I’m going to make sure this penny goes in a very special place and I’ll never forget this moment.”

Her: “Haha. Okay…I’m so glad.”

Me: “Haha. I’m just messing with you. Thanks for being fun to joke with, doing your job well, and seriously, thanks for the penny!”

Her: [Now realizing I’m not one of those crazy customers (well, maybe I still am), she laughs and enjoys the moment.] “You’re welcome. Have a good night!”

That was it. Nothing too monumental. But more than the normal “Thanks for the food.” with a less than truly grateful look on the customers face.

People are longing to connect with other people. And most people won’t take the initiative. That means it’s up to you. And sometimes it takes being willing to be awkward and going against “normal.”

I learned this first hand from my Dad and one of my mentors in high school. They’ve both never met a stranger and are willing to be awkward to make a connection. And they’re pros at it. So maybe I have a leg up on you because of my upbringing. Regardless, you know what it feels like when someone goes out of their way to make a connection with you. It makes your day. Wouldn’t the world be different if we all focused on connecting with one another?

Years ago I worked at Chick-fil-A and would be placed in the drive-thru window. When people came to pay and receive their food, I’d have a small conversation to just try and brighten their day. Sometimes it went well, sometimes it didn’t. But one thing was for sure: I wasn’t fast. Long story short, it didn’t take long before someone else was working the drive-thru window.

If you’re going to connect with people you have to slow down and take note of the smallest things in life. Laugh at them. And make a moment. Sometimes even with a penny.

As I drove away that night from Zaxby’s, I was reminded of a story in Scripture that basically slapped me across the face. It highlights the significance of “one coin” and is found in Luke 15: 8-10. Here’s what Jesus says:

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

You see why I felt slapped across the face? I had been joking about one penny as if it was truly insignificant. And in reality, one penny isn’t a big deal. But when it comes to making a spiritual connection, one life is never insignificant. That was Jesus’ point.

It’s easy for you to see how 1 coin out of 10 is significant if that’s all you have. Jesus is essentially saying that searching for 1 lost coin out of 10 is no more justified than searching for 1 lost person out of billions. So then we can never say “that’s just one penny” or “that’s just one lost person.” He’s passionate about not losing one.

Connecting with people and laughing isn’t bad. That needs to happen and is an end in itself. But the greatest end is connecting people with their greatest need. And their greatest need is a relationship with Jesus. 

So the next time you get a penny as your change, maybe make it awkward, laugh and connect with the cashier. It’s awesome! You have to try it. But don’t forget that that person might very well be like a “lost coin” who needs to be found. Try to bring Jesus into the conversation. It won’t happen every time. And it will be difficult. Don’t beat yourself up. But if you’re able to connect them with Jesus…Celebrate! The angels in heaven will be. Let’s not let them have all the fun!

What is Love?

Today is Valentine’s Day.

It’s the annual day where loved ones profess their love for one another verbally, tangibly and with the rise of social media, publicly. The common gifts are flowers, chocolate and love letters. Some go out for a nice dinner. Others buy jewelry, a stuffed animal or a special custom gift. It’s a “sweet” time of year.

The most profound thing about this day is that the motivation behind it all is this idea of “love.” “I love you” is thrown around more on this day than maybe any other day of the year. There is a feeling of love in the air. And yet, we live in a culture where true love is distorted and misunderstood.

Love cannot be bought.

Love is not cheap.

Love is not easy.

Love is not exemplified by 50 Shades of Grey.

Love cannot be relegated to one day a year.

Love is not a feeling.  

So what is it?

Dr. Tony Evans, defines it like this: “Love is the decision to compassionately seek the well-being of another even when the emotion of liking them is not present.”

I believe he is spot on. But how opposite is this definition of love from the love we see all around us?

In our world today, if someone doesn’t feel like loving, they won’t. If loving gets hard, they stop. If loving takes work, they quit.

So how do we cure this false, pitiful attempt at love we’ve been buying in to? How do we embrace true love? Receive it.

We will always be unable to perfectly show love. However, we can receive perfect love. And by receiving it, we will be transformed in the process and begin loving others the way we were created to.

True, perfect love has a name. Jesus. 

We see what true love is in 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Jesus embodied true love through dying for you, me and every soul who ever has and ever will live. Even though he may not have felt like loving (Matthew 26:36-39) he followed through.

Through Jesus’ life we see that love is a choice.

Love is unwavering commitment.

Love is sacrificial.

Love is unconditional.

Love is selfless.

So when you say “I Love You” today, is it the kind of love that would lead you to lay down your life for that person? It is unconditional? Is it selfless? Or is it some weak, twisted, “feeling-founded” love that has no basis?

If you’re single, you aren’t a loser. Get to know Jesus so that when you are in a relationship you will know what true love is.

If you’re dating, be careful not to say “I Love You” if you don’t mean it, aren’t willing to follow through on it or have no idea what true love is. Instead, get to know Jesus.

If you’re married, engaged or heading in that direction, get to know Jesus. Learn how to love the way he modeled and commit to it. Your valentine is worth it. Just don’t let today be the only day you show and tell how much you love them.

Beyond romantic relationships, we all are called to love one another (John 13:34). But that’s another conversation for another day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

4 Things I’ve Learned from 4 Years of Marriage

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January 7, 2011.

To most people this date means very little. You may not remember where you were or what was in the news, what the weather was like or who you were with. But I do. I was in Charlotte, NC at Hawthorne Lane UMC with my closest friends and family. It was cold and rainy. The anticipation and excitement had been building for close to a year. I cried my eyes out as she walked down the aisle. It was the day I married my wife, Rachel.

That was 4 years ago today. 4 years! I can’t believe it’s been that long. I know it’s an overused saying, but it really does seem like it happened yesterday. I can still play every detail of the ceremony and reception over in my mind. It was beautiful. Emotional. Spiritual. Worshipful. Detailed. Fun. I’ll never forget it.

And while our wedding day 4 years ago was fantastic, it pales in comparison to our 4 years of marriage. Why? Because a marriage is better than a wedding.

Think about it.
It’s great that we made a public commitment to each other 4 years ago, but what’s better is that we’ve stayed committed for 4 years.
It’s great that we said “I do” 4 years ago, but what’s better is that we’ve said 1,460 “I do’s” since.
It’s great that we loved each other on our wedding day, but what’s better is that our love has grown each year.

That’s why we’re not just celebrating 4 years since our ceremony. An event. We’re celebrating 4 years of being married. A relationship.

Our marriage is not perfect. It’s not without disagreement at times. We have many areas to work on as a couple. I have a LOT of areas to work on as a husband. But it’s a marriage. A relationship. Something we are committed to. And that’s cool. That’s worth celebrating!

I don’t pretend to be a marriage expert. I’ve only been at this for 4 years. But as I was thinking about this post, I realized there are lots of things that I’ve learned from 4 years of marriage. And some of those greatest lessons have been discovering what strengthens our marriage. Since I couldn’t write about all of those, I narrowed it to 4 things. They are commitments we will continue to strive for as we press on to our 5 year anniversary and beyond. If you are married, thinking about marriage, or think you might one day think about it, take a look at these. I pray they help to make your marriage better than your wedding day.

1. Assume the Best.
Every relationship will have tension at some point or another. How you enter it could make all the difference in the outcome. I don’t know about you, but I am great at making up stories in my head about the intentions of other people. And those intentions are not normally good ones that I imagine. But that’s my bad. That’s assuming the worst. When you have an attitude of assuming the best, tension is easier to work through. Because you go in believing that the other person is on your side. They love you. They want what’s best for you. And they don’t want to hurt you. It makes a world of difference.

2. Talk About the Deep Things.
I’m not necessarily talking about having intellectually deep conversations. Though those are good to have as a couple if you’re into those. I’m talking more about the deep things you wrestle with. The disagreements. The frustrations. The things in your heart. The questions you have. The doubts. The feelings. The ups and the downs. The emotions. Your dreams. Your goals. Your passions. Don’t stuff them. Talk about them. And say “I’m sorry.” Talking leads to growth.

3. Love Jesus.
This might sound cliché to some and counterintuitive to others. I get that. But this is the single most important factor to our marriage growing. Two people striving to love Jesus learn more and more about the love, forgiveness and sacrifice he modeled and called his followers to emulate. Husbands are challenged to love their wives like Christ loved the church…that’s quite a challenge. And most importantly, couples are called to love Jesus more than each other. As they do that, they actually love each other more than if they were trying to love each other without Jesus. Out of their overflow for Jesus they love one another. It’s a lifelong journey. And it grows the relationship. It’s the foundation.

4. Become Best Friends.
I believe a lot of people who are married love one another, but I’m not sure if they like one another. Once the romance of the honeymoon wears off and the kids are born, marriage becomes tough to tolerate. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Thankfully I don’t just love Rachel. I like her. I like hanging out with her. I like laughing with her. I like going on dates with her, and learning more about her. I like surprising her and not taking ourselves too seriously together. We’re friends. The BFF kind. Become best friends. It’s worth it.

I love Rachel. So much. She’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever known. She loves me more than I deserve. She is a mom who cherishes our little girl. She’s a worshipper who loves Jesus most. She’s my best friend. I’m beyond blessed to call her my wife. I wouldn’t want to spend my life with anyone else. Here’s to another year.

Happy 4 Year Anniversary, Rachel!