Many years ago I was in the crowd when, during a talk, I heard a brief story as an illustration I seem to have never forgotten. I had an early-morning doctor’s appointment yesterday and, as I realized I would be even later if I stopped for my first Diet Coke of the day, I yielded to temptation, certain I could make my apology even more effusive if my throat wasn’t as dry. Yet between me and the store’s front door, a penny was lying on the ground. The speaker from years back had told us to never pass a penny by, but to pick it up, make careful note of the tiny “In God We Trust” over Abraham Lincoln’s likeness, and then trust God to answer a simple one-sentence prayer we should offer up on behalf of some unknowing stranger we might see who may benefit from a totally-anonymous nudge.
Ever since I heard the suggestion, it is a fun little extra on any given day to find a “one cent.” But was it just happenstance this time? Late yesterday afternoon, this in the big scheme of how stuff really works if you believe in such things as “a God moment,” I came across a story I had never read before.
Understand, this was about 10 hours since I first found Thursday’s penny and had used it about a half-dozen times. Laugh all you want and call me nuttier than a Reece’s Cup but, so help me, the story was entitled “Pick Up A Penny.” It was attributed to my all-time favorite writer, “Author Unknown,” and I must share it.
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It begins, “Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband's employer's home. My friend, Arlene, was nervous about the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine home on the waterway, and cars costing more than her house.
The first day and evening went well, and Arlene was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. The husband's employer was quite generous as a host, and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew she would never have the opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance again, so was enjoying herself immensely.
As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Arlene and her husband.
He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment.
Arlene wondered if she was supposed to pass him. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts. Still silent, the man reached down and picked up the penny.
He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. How absurd! What need did this man have for a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?
Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her. Finally, she could stand it no longer. She causally mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.
A smile crept across the man's face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the point of this?
"Look at it." He said. "Read what it says."
She read the words "United States of America."
"No, not that; read further."
"No, keep reading."
"In God we Trust?"
"And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him. Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God's way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!
When I was out shopping today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change. I read the words, "In God We Trust," and had to laugh. Yes, God, I get the message.
It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies are plentiful!
And, God is patient...
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It’s not lost on me that sometimes it is us who needs the penny the most. As my great mentor Elmer Pettyjohn used to teach: “Sonny boy, God doesn’t always come when you call Him, but there has never been once He wasn’t right on time.”