“Why did you give me a discount?”

In a world intoxicated with speed, progress, efficiency, and productivity, go the other way.

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Edinburgh, Fringe on the Royal Mile 2One of the joys that I have several times a week is walking the Royal Mile to New College. It is a beautiful stretch with shops, statues, and an overall nice atmosphere. I study here at the college on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. The other two days I study from home.

In making this walk, there is a little coffee shop I like to frequent. One of the main reasons is that their Americano is a pound cheaper than anywhere else. I am a PhD student, after all.

One of the reasons I like to buy items from the same place is that sometimes you get the chance to actually learn names and give the city more of a “village” feel. As a Christian, I am convinced that this type of living can result in more authentic connections that hopefully, at some point, result in an open door for sharing the Gospel.

Today on my way to the school, I made my usual stop (coffee is in hand as I type). Over the past few weeks, I made a point to learn the name of the young man (from a country in the EU) who is there every morning. His name is “Niko.” He is very kind and has a cool accent (I wonder what he thinks of my Texas accent?). Last time I was in the shop, he felt bad that he could not remember my name. Today, when he saw me, he said, “Is it J.B.?”

“Close,” I replied. “You got the letters right, and that is the hardest part.” I then looked at him and addressed him by name. I have come to really enjoy this moment and appreciate that in some way, this is our way of acknowledging that we do not merely exist as a means to complete a commercial transaction. We are humans.

As he stood at the register, he said, “I am giving you a discount.” I then asked the reason. He immediately responded, “Because you know my name.” Just like that, my coffee was cheaper.

For some, this might seem to be much ado about nothing. But for me, especially in this large city, there is a young man named Niko that I enjoy seeing. Considering how long I will be here studying, who knows what may come of this connection. I know that ultimately, my heart is that somehow, a spiritual dialogue ensues. We shall see.

If you are a Christian, slow down a bit today. Look people in the eye. Ask their name. Try to remember it. In a world intoxicated with speed, progress, efficiency, and productivity, go the other way. Take the narrow road. See people. Look at people. How else will the second greatest command of Jesus (Matthew 22:36-40) ever have a chance of being fulfilled in your life?

My Experience at Home Depot

20140604-120912-43752662.jpgProvidence – divine guidance or care.

The other day my family went to Home Depot. As a Christian, I try not to shop there too much because of how proactive this company has been supporting the homosexual community. I am not against homosexuals, but I am against the sin. The Bible is clear about this issue. However, I’m not perfect, loved their faux wooden blinds, and succumbed to the financial temptation to save a little money. At this point, it is what it is.

We were in Slidell, LA which has two stores. I went into the first store over by Outback and Texas Roadhouse. I went in to buy blinds and have them cut (all blinds must be cut 1/2″ less than the actual measurement). Nobody was working that department so they sent another man over to help me. IT WAS QUITE POSSIBLE THE WORST SERVICE (or the lack thereof) I HAVE EVER RECEIVED. The man was sarcastic, short, and flippantly mentioned that if they end up wrong, I could bring them back. Here is the problem: I am very, very busy. I do not want to “just bring them back.” I want him to care enough to strive to get it right. I am paying money, aren’t I? He in a not so friendly manner informed me that he did not know about the 1/2″ rule but would cut them however I wanted. But that was not good enough for me. I want you to care, not just get the job done, and I definitely do not want you taking my word for it. I need your help.

Anyways, I was so disappointed in his carelessness, sarcasm, and rudeness, I asked him to box up my previous purchase and that I would go somewhere else. In our free market society, there are other options. You are not getting my money if you do not care enough about people to treat me decently. So I went to the other store.

When I arrived at the other Home Depot across from the mall, I experienced the opposite. A young man by the name of Jade helped me. I am guessing he was no more than about 20 years old. On his way over to the blinds section, he was already looking over displays shouting in a friendly manner, “How can I help you?” It was awesome. He went out of his way to apologize for the other store’s treatment. Then, he took his time explaining to me the ins-and-outs of the 1/2″ rule for the type of blind we were buying. Then, he went the extra mile. He labeled each box according to the scratch notecard I had so when I returned home, I would know which blind went with which window. His kindness, concern, focus, and commitment to quality was wonderful and extremely refreshing. I gave him my word I would fill out a survey on his behalf. Today I will keep my word on that.

At one point, he asked me what I did. I told him I was a pastor and professor. He then looked up and told me that he had been looking for a church to call home. I told him all about ours and how awesome it is (don’t underestimate the power of how you describe your church to others). I asked him, “Do you know The Lord?” He said yes! I gave him my cell phone and told me to text or call me when he comes so he can sit by my family.

Two things I took away from this experience:

First, I wanted to lash out at the first store. But, upon further reflection, what if God knew that the only way to get me into the right position to connect with Jade was to have the guy at the first store be extremely rude. Afterall, it was already 7:30 at night, we had an infant in the back, and we were ready to get home. It was going to take a lot to cause me to be willing to give up more time and energy to drive to the other side of town to the other store. Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). I am so glad that I did not go off on that guy. He was the Lord’s instrument to get me into the right place at the right time. How horrible it would have been to sin by lashing out when it was really The Lord pulling strings to get me into a position so Jade could hear about a life-giving church? The Lord had not problem arranging a situation that offended my flesh for His higher purpose of connecting with Jade for the sake of Jesus. I have a lot to learn.

Second, how you treat people matters. I started thinking just how important our door greeters are to our local church (and every local church). Before someone ever hears a song or sermon, they have probably already formed an opinion as to whether or not we are kind, Jesus-like people, or whether we are standoffish and unconcerned. This could be the difference maker whether or not a person joins our spiritual community.

Everything matters.
Every person matters.
All things are spiritual.