Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Making Magic Happen (in a Panera restroom)

Based on the title, you have no option but to read on... and this is not another story about an elected official or pastor making a poor decision. It is a story about God speaking and a shocked Panera employee seeing mercy lived out.

A bit of back-story. A few months ago, I had a generous family approach me and say, we want to put some money in an account at the church that can be used to help folks that are having a tough time. A line that has stuck with me is, "We want you and Jonathan to be able to make magic happen for some folks..." So while the official name of the fund is "The Benevolent Fund", I simply call it the "Making Magic Happen Fund." This is my favorite fund at Catalyst.

Sunday night I met with a group of about 15 folks who are starting a church (Modern Life Church) in Chattanooga, TN similar in nature to Catalyst. We met at a restaurant in downtown Chatty and I chose the Pepper jack Chicken Nachos and encouraged them for about 45 minutes that they could make it as a church, but it would be a lot of hard work. I stayed up until 2 a.m. talking with my buddy, Ian Shaw, the pastor of Modern Life, which threw my body into complete disarray when I woke on Monday.

About 10:00 we head to Panera Bread to grab a bagel, and my stomach was "jacked" from the nachos and lack of sleep. I told him I would see him in a bit headed to the porcelain throne. I was a bit erked when I arrived to see & hear a Panera employee talking loudly on the phone IN THE RESTROOM. I am hunkered down in the stall trying to ignore the conversation I am hearing. It was a dude named Brenn on the phone with a dude that was about to repossess his car.

Brenn was saying, "I have made the payments on time for two years... I only have a few payments left; it is humiliating and embarrassing to be in this situation.... I have hit tough times and need a break... I am waiting on my W-2s from my other two jobs to show up at the house, they were sent to the wrong address.... when I get my tax refund I can take care of all this"

Being "moved" in more than one way, I exit the stall and begin to wash my hands. Brenn's voice is shaking as he tells the man on the other end , "I will give you this debit card number, but the funds simply aren't there." This dude was at the end of his rope because if he gives that number, his problems multiply because they are going to come get his car AND he will incur overdraft penalties.

I look over my shoulder and ask, "How much money do you need?"

Brenn replies, "$78.03"

I kind of chuckled and said, "Give me the phone". Brenn protested for about .5 seconds and said, "You have got to be kidding me."

I took the phone, made a payment in the amount of $200 for Brenn, made sure they shredded my card number and went to find Brenn ( his break was over and he was hauling ice to the ice machine).

He thanked me gregariously and said; "sir, you are a Godsend" Those words were the truest words I heard yesterday.

I honestly believe that it was no accident that I ate spicy nachos, stayed up to late, and had a "jacked" up stomach when I entered Panera yesterday morning. I have no doubt that I was sent by God to make some magic happen in the life of a hard working young man.

They say grace is "not getting something (bad) we deserve" and mercy is "getting something (good) we do not deserve"

I was able to live out a life of mercy thanks to the generous giving of a couple who trust me to discern when we need to "make some magic happen".

I thank God that he is still using and speaking to ordinary people to make a difference in the life of those that need it.


Unknown said...

That's cool...

Unknown said...

I like how you stepped around the fact that you were in "heavy meditation" when the conversation when you overheard occurred. Really though it is such a testament to how God works with the trust of the couple to the, can I say it.... divine potty appointment.
Very cool and I am glad you were there to be faithful.

Rich said...

Levi, Dude! That ROCKS! That's kingdom work right there. And I love that it was just you being at the right place at the right time. In a bathroom no less!! Lol! Thanks for sharing this story. It has really inspired me! Much needed. Peace brother!

Erin said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing!