It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st
Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square . Early November
weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter
chill of late December and January, but it’s enough to send the masses
crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.
For a musician, it’s the most lucrative Starbucks location in the
world, I’m told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you
play your tunes right. Apparently, we were striking all the right
chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing. It was a
fun, low-pressure gig – I was playing keyboard and singing backup for
my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion
instruments. We mostly did pop songs from the ’40s to the ’90s with a
few original tunes thrown in. During our emotional rendition of the
classic, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” I noticed a lady sitting in
one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat
and singing along.
After the tune was over, she approached me. “I apologize for singing
along on that song. Did it bother you?” she asked. “No,” I replied.
“We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up
front on the next selection?”
To my delight, she accepted my invitation. “You choose,” I said. “What
are you in the mood to sing?”
“Well. … do you know any hymns?”
Hymns? This woman didn’t know who she was dealing with. I cut my teeth
on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I gave our
guest singer a knowing look. “Name one.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There are so many good ones. You pick one.”
“Okay,” I replied. “How about ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’?”
My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on
mine again and said, “Yeah. Let’s do that one.” She slowly nodded her
head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center
of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing.
Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed. Even the gurgling
noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what
they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion.
I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free.
For His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me.
When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening
roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.
Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din, “Oh, y’all go back
to your coffee! I didn’t come in here to do a concert! I just came in
here to get somethin’ to drink, just like you!” But the ovation
I embraced my new friend. “You, my dear, have made my whole year! That
“Well, it’s funny that you picked that particular hymn,” she said.
“Why is that?”
“Well . ..” she hesitated again, “that was my daughter’s favorite song.”
“Really!” I exclaimed.
“Yes,” she said, and then grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause
had subsided and it was business as usual.. “She was 16. She died of a
brain tumor last week.”
I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence.
“Are you going to be okay?”
She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. “I’m gonna
be okay. I’ve just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his
songs, and everything’s gonna be just fine.” She picked up her bag,
gave me her card, and then she was gone.
Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that
particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Coincidence
that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular
shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just
happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter,
who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it. God has
been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of
time, and it’s no stretch for me to imagine that he could reach into a
coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a
revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting him and
singing his songs, everything’s gonna be okay.
The next time you feel like GOD can’t use YOU, just remember…
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer…
AND Lazarus was dead!
No more excuses now!! God can use you to your full potential. Besides
you aren’t the message, you are just the messenger.