For some time, I used to exchange notes with my pastor about the little ‘aha’ moments I’d had during some of his sermons.  I would always title these emails, “The view from the Balcony” because that’s where I sit when I’m in church.  I confused him once when I sent him this story, with the subject line

“The view from the parking lot…”

But it worked, and he liked it.  By way of intro, this happened a few years ago (2009) and I thought I’d share.  After writing it I realized it’s a long setup to something that happened in the blink of an eye…

So that said, bear with me.

I had to run up to Safeway near our house the other evening to get some groceries, and realized two very important things.

1. It was February.

2. That meant Girl Scout cookies.

Now for anyone who hasn’t had one of their “Samoas” or a “Thin Mint” – I have to say, you’re missing something….

The Samoas…

<note: I originally had called the cookies “Samoans” – but was informed of the following by a friend:

“Samoans are a lovely, typically dark skinned, often hefty people indigenous to the island of Samoa. They love life, dance, family etc. Samoas, on the other hand, are a Girl Scout cookie, chocolate drizzled onto a caramel coconut yumminess. Very popular. “

I chuckled as I tried to imagine a box of Samoans (which might end up requiring a rather large box) … So I had to do a little editing…

We now return you to your story, already in progress…>

…smooth chocolate, delicate coconut, and all on a donut shaped cookie holding everything together.  The mixture of the flavors, textures, and smells is – as my sister says, “to die for”.  (Note: They’re my wife and son’s favorites, which is why they disappear so fast.  In fact, I had precisely one of these, the rest disappeared.  Likely into that 18 year old maw that is my beloved son, Michael)

The Thin Mints…

My daughter likes those best.  There’s a little cookie with some kind of minty frosting on it, which is covered in chocolate.

Again, the Chocolate on the outside gives way to the sharp minty crunch of the cookie on the inside.

So why am I telling you this?

Well, it’s been said that Girl Scout cookies are unhealthy.  My feeling is that for the one time that they come out a year, I’m really okay splurging and doing something slightly unhealthy that brings joy and happiness to someone – and I’m not necessarily referring to the Girl Scouts.

Wait – that’s where we came in… The Girl Scouts.

So as I walked into the store – there they were, standing guard.  I told them that I’d be right back to buy some – but by the time I got back, they were gone.

I headed out to the parking lot with my groceries, and there they were – loading up the car.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask, “Hey, can I still buy cookies?”

The little girl looked at her mom, and they agreed.  I knew I wanted the Samoas – and called my wife real quick and told her I had a box of the Samoas and did she want anything else? (she did – the thin mints, for our daughter).  So I pulled a ten dollar bill out of my pocket and asked for the two boxes, which came to 8.00.

The young Girl Scout had been taught well.

“Would you like change?”

And there was a part of me that, for the blink of an eye, kind of lost it.

Would I like change…

Would I like CHANGE?

What kind of question was that?

It’s my money.

I worked for it.

I earned it.

I’m exchanging the money I earned for a product…

I was not interested in a little Girl Scout wanting to take my money from me.

So, politely, I said, “Yes, I’d like my change.”

And she went to her mom, and got the two dollars in change, and in that next blink of an eye, I knew what needed to be done…

She gave me my change back, and once it was in my hand, and had left hers, once she had given it up completely, I gave it back.  “Here, this is a tip.  Keep it. Thank you very much.”

And the look in her eye told me more than I have words to write.

From her point of view: She wanted the money – and letting go of it, risking not only losing control of the money she had in her hand, but actually risking losing it, was hard, but it was what she needed to do – the fact was, she wasn’t “taking” my money, she’d asked if I wanted all of the change I had coming to me.

From my, (at that point, reactive, cold hearted) point of view: It was my money, and given that, it was my option to give the money away or not.

But there was another side of me – not so cold hearted – that was there almost instantly.  It’s like electricity finally got to the light bulb, and it went on… Brightly.

See, I would much, much, much rather give something away than have it taken from me.

So when she gave it back, she gave me the opportunity to give.

And it got me thinking…

How many times do we not give God what is rightfully His? how many times do we hold onto something because, like a two year old (could you just see the two year old tantrum I had going on in my head when she asked if I wanted change?), or like the seagulls in “Finding Nemo”, the only thing we can think is that “It’s MINE!”

And how many times would God just Love to give us something that was His – if only we’d let Him do it?

Think about it, how many times have we not gotten the “tip” He’d be so willing to give us?

All of these thoughts went through my head in the split second as our eyes met.

And so…

God speaks to me – in the balcony at church, and sometimes in Safeway parking lots in Ballard.

And occasionally I hear Him.