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Geraniums, Geriatrics and the UPS Man

We were planting a church in the late ’90s, and doing all we could
to keep from slipping into the rut of focusing on ourselves. We would
take our core team out nearly weekly to do ridiculously simple
outreaches to show people God loved them in a practical way—but also
to train ourselves in the power of serving.

One Saturday, we went to Walmart and bought a van load of
geraniums. I won’t lie. They were pitiful-looking plants. To take a
weed whacker to them would have been a mercy killing. Nevertheless, we
had a plan. We took these sickly plants to an area of town inhabited
almost entirely by elderly people … the sort of people with time on their
hands. The sort of people who would appreciate a friendly face. The
sort of people who were unlikely to notice that their gift-plant was
about to croak.

We went door to door in that community, asking if we could plant a
geranium for them in their flower beds. Only those with the greenest
of thumbs said no. We were near an 80 percent approval rate. Invariably, as
we planted, they’d hang out on the porch and we’d talk with them about
life. Work. Kids. Jesus. It was a great afternoon.

I went to one door and knocked, but no one answered. Eventually, I
started to walk away. As I did, a guy in his late 20s pulled
into the driveway. I glanced over my shoulder as he opened the car
door and sat fiddling the the radio. I saw he was wearing a UPS
uniform. I also saw that my team—the team I was leading in this
gonzo evangelism project—was watching me.

Everything in me wanted to walk away. It’s not too weird to give an
old person a flower. It’s very weird for one young man to give another
a flower. Yet, God seemed to have brought him to me … and I was being
watched. And I was the leader. Ugh.

I turned around and made my way back to his driveway. He glanced at
me suspiciously as he got out of his car. I’m convinced that he
thought I was selling the flowers like some Moonie who had escaped from
the airport. Painfully aware that I was being watched, I mumbled
“We’re just out planting flowers for people to show them God’s love in
a practical way…” Actually, I mumbled it. “We’rejustouthereplantingflowersforpeopletoshowthemGod’sloveinapracticalway…”

“Huh?” he asked.

“We’rejustouthereplantingflowersforpeopletoshowthemGod’sloveinapracticalway…”

He sat back down in his car seat with his legs stretched out the door and grew very quiet. “Tell me that again.”

I don’t know what he’s thinking, but it appears he’s not going to
punch me. This is progress. I repeat it, slower this time. “We’re just out planting flowers for people to show them God’s love in a practical way…”

He puts his face in his hands for a minute, shaking his head, and
then looks at me again. “Do you know what kind of day I’ve had?” he
asks.

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“Uh, no.” I don’t know where he’s going with this. I’m totally off script. I only had that one line anyway.

“See that house over there?” He points at one a few doors
down. “This morning, the girl I’ve lived with for seven years moved
out, into that house with my friend. I got to work late. I’ve never
been late. I backed my truck into a car in a parking lot. I lost a
package and my boss yelled at me. As I was driving home, I said,’God,
if You care at all, You’ve gotta show me’ … and now this. Tell me what
you said one more time.”

God, in His infinite wisdom and peculiar sense of humor, sent me as
a geranium-toting answer to prayer. We talked at length about God’s
heart for him and how he could find peace. I didn’t "seal the deal" in
the terms of praying with him for salvation, but I presented him with a
perspective of God he never had before—active, living and intimately
concerned with him.

What’s the point of all this? Not once in the time leading up to
this encounter did I have a sense of this being anything special at
all. I had no word of knowledge, I had no "Thus sayeth the Lord." I
had a geranium and people looking to me to lead. That was enough to
make me step out of my comfort zone—and that was all God was
waiting on to reveal Himself to the UPS man in a new way.

This week, look for an opportunity to speak truth to someone. You
might find that you’re answering the very questions of their heart’s
cry.

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