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When Coffee Isn’t Just Coffee


Every so often, I treat myself to a drive through Starbucks before I get into the tasks of the day, instead of just pushing the button on my Keurig.

This little guilty pleasure generally includes a non-fat no-water Chai or a skinny Caramel Macchiato.

And for the past couple of months it has also involved paying for the coffee of the person behind me.

I’m not the first to do this simple “random act of kindness” thing.  I definitely won’t be the last.

I don’t do it because I’m so generous or selfless.

I actually do it because, by nature, I’m incredibly selfish.

I do it to get out of my own head.  To step out of my self-involved focus and take a break from the dysfunctional mindset that the sun revolves around my own little planet.

I do it to remind myself that there is so much more to life than the checks on my all=important to-do list.  

That people are God’s priority and need to be mine, too.

This small gesture has little to do with a $4.00 cup of coffee and more to do with praying for that stranger behind me who might just need a jumpstart of joy in their day, a reminder that God is thinking about them, an encouragement in the middle of a rough spot.

So as I wait in line to order and pay, instead of impatiently wondering why this is taking so long (my normal reaction), I check my rearview mirror and catch a glimpse of the person that needs that touch today.

That stranger in the Starbucks Drive-Thru.

 – Are they overwhelmed by life?

 – Are they struggling in a relationship?

 – Did they just get a bad report?

 – Have circumstances left them weary and defeated?

I’m learning to pray with full confidence that they are behind me in line for a reason that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God’s desire to send them a love note through their morning caffeine.

I never get to see their reaction, but I love to imagine that they hear Jesus whisper, “I love you”  as they take their first sip.

Today was different.

Today I drove away, as usual, already mentally moving on to the plans of a productive Tuesday. (Selfishness wastes no time in wiggling back into its comfy spot.)  But, as I stopped at the light right before my street and leaned over to grab a quick swig of my Chai latte, I saw a woman motioning to me from two lanes over.

There she was, that sweet stranger, holding up her coffee with what looked like tears in her eyes.  She rolled down her window and said, “Thank you SO much!” with as much heart and enthusiasm as I have ever seen.

Her face said it all.

It wasn’t about the coffee, though I’m sure Starbucks made a great drink for her.

She felt a little love this morning from the One who loves her more than she can imagine.

As the light changed, I called, “I hope you have a really good day!”

And with a smile as bright as the sun just starting to emerge from the morning clouds, she declared, “Oh, I WILL!”

My selfish tendencies will resume as I become consumed with the projects and tasks that beg my attention for the next 12 hours.  I will tend toward forgetting the world around me as I focus on what is right in front of me.  The tiny universe of “me”.

But I’m praying that God will bring the precious face of that Starbucks stranger to my mind’s eye, a reminder that above all else, I am a messenger with an urgent message:


So whether it takes a long line in the drive-thru or a quick kick to my backside, Jesus keep reminding me that every encounter matters, that every stranger counts.

And that even a hot cup of coffee wrapped in the protective sleeve of prayer can deliver a message of love….





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