Prior to this morning, I'd only been in a Starbuck's twice in my life. Trendy, I'm not, and certainly I'm no connoisseur of fine coffee. My first trip I had hot chocolate and, on my second, my beverage of choice was some sort of purified bubbly water, likely infused with essential minerals. It tasted like . . . water, but it cost close to five bucks and my life was not changed by the experience.
This morning's trip yielded nothing but a rather festive, but empty, holiday cup. My wife dispatched me to the Starbuck's tucked inside a local Kroger grocery store, so I stood in line to ask for the cup. My beloved, you see, has bought someone a Starbuck's gift card and she believes the festive cup will make for creative, and easy, gift wrapping. Ingenious, the woman is.
On the way out with my FREE! cup - I fully expected I'd have to pay something for it - I happened to notice a sign at the entrance. Handwritten on a chalkboard, the message grabbed me such that I went back for a second look. I failed in remembering it exactly, but I think I'm close enough you'll get the point, and the power, of it.
Remember that the person standing next to you may be trying
really hard to keep from falling apart today.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness!
It reminded me of something a preacher from years back said that his preaching professor often told their class in seminary. "You don't know exactly where those shoes have taken your congregation that week," he'd say. "So, every Sunday, no matter what else you do, make sure you offer them a little comfort and encouragement."
Those two admonishments ring so true and powerful this time of year. In the midst of the happy music and the decorations and the get-togethers, we can rest assured we're crossing paths with somebody whose world is anything but joyful and whose nights are anything but silent and calm. They're waiting on results from a doctor, or they've already gotten them and the report is not good. Some key relationship is strained or frayed and near breaking. They're mourning an empty chair around the table, a vacant space around the tree. They've been laid off, the kids are in trouble, the parents are getting old and frail. They're struggling to get clean, to stay sober, to white knuckle through just one more day, one more long and desperate night.
Truth is, we might be the one in line who is inches from breaking down or falling apart. This time last year, we were hovering around an ICU bed for more than a week as my wife's beloved stepmother passed from this life. From the outside, everything looked fine, but . . . looks don't tell the whole story. Yes, last year, we were the ones.
How I appreciated the care and support of those who love us, of those who knew the road we were walking. And, what a blessing every little grace from a stranger was - the person who didn't stomp down on the horn when I absent-mindedly sat at a green light, the one who held a door open and said "Merry Christmas," the smile of the clerk at the convenience store who wished me a good day. They had no idea the gift and godsend they were.
"Treat others the way you want to be treated," Jesus said. And He also said, "Love one another as I have loved you." That's a good word for this season, and for any other.
Finally, remember that we all face the awful times at some point. So, if you're the one walking the rocky road today, hang onto Jesus and know that He's hanging onto you, even when you're losing your grip. Trust in the promise of heaven and in the wonder of His Holy Spirit, and remember that He's promised to be with you, no matter where . . .