PENNIES, FEATHERS AND HUBCAPS FROM HEAVEN
Not long after I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was flying by
the seat of my pants faith-wise, a good friend of mine gave me a piece
of unexpected advice: “When you see a penny—be sure to pick it up.”
Well, yeah, I thought. You’d have to be from another planet not to
know the old ‘pick up a penny for good luck’ adage. Seemed a bit
simplistic considering the direness of these particular circumstances
but I appreciated the thought so I said, “Okie doke. I’ll keep an eye
out. I can use all the good luck I can get.” Which was certainly true
since I’d chosen not to do any of the conventional cancer treatments
after my lumpectomy, opting instead to trust in God’s biblical
promises and His leadings to dietary changes and alternative medical
treatments to keep me healthy.
My friend shook her head, “No, it’s not about luck, silly. She
held out her hand, “Here, look at this penny and tell me what you
I took it and looked at it and shrugged. “Yup, that’s Abraham
She laughed. “Read what it says over his head.” 1
So I did, out loud. “IN GOD WE TRUST.” I handed the penny back
with a smile.
“When you find a penny,” she said, “it’s a special little
reminder from God to trust Him. It’s His way of letting you know that
He’s on the job, taking care of you.”
I’d never really thought about the words written there. But now
that I gave it some consideration, I liked thinking that God would
send a silly thing like a penny to remind me of His faithfulness.
My friend left and I gave no more thought to the penny issue until
I began to find pennies everywhere—the grocery store, gas stations,
Starbucks—I’d look down and there they’d be. People would be standing
right above them and never seem to see them—it was like they were
invisible to anyone but me. I’d pick them up, grinning like a little
kid, say a quick “Thank you, Lord” and go on my way.
If the weather permitted, I liked to take walks around my
neighborhood and inevitably I’d look down along the way and there the
penny would be. I got to the point where I simply expected them to be
there. And when I traveled by air, somewhere between the security
check-in area and the plane itself, a penny always showed up and I
knew it was God’s way of letting me know I’d arrive safely at my
Pennies appeared on my clothes dryer, in my closet and in the
aisles at the grocery store. They were a constant source of comfort
to me in those early days following my cancer experience. I rarely
felt anxiety or fear, but one morning, I woke to a strange, ominous
dread, a sense that fear was right outside my door, waiting. It stayed
with me all morning as I got dressed to meet with a friend for lunch.
I kept my eyes open for any pennies around the house, but none made an
appearance before I left to keep my appointment.
In the car on the way to the restaurant, I prayed. “God, I need
you today. I’m feeling so alone and scared for some reason, even
though I know you’re right here with me. Help me…please.” I pulled
into the restaurant parking lot and saw that my girlfriend had already
arrived so I parked and hurried inside. Spotting her seated in a
booth, I leaned down to give her a hug, moved to sit across from her,
There, on the seat, was a penny.
I grabbed the little copper coin, held it to my heart and started
to cry. He had heard my prayer. His answer was, “I’m here, my love.
Don’t be afraid.”
The coins continued to appear on a regular basis and then one day
another good friend presented me with a copy of Psalm 91. I read it
and was deeply touched by the scripture: “He shall cover you with His
feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge”. That image took
root in me; I found it coming to mind often, bringing me comfort. Then
suddenly, feathers began appearing everywhere I went, just as the
pennies had, feathers of every variety, size and color. They would
show up in the most unlikely of places—inside shopping malls, in my
garage, parking lots and once, while on vacation in Mexico, a feather
fell from the sky at my feet when there was not a bird in sight.
I began tucking the feathers into a mesh cell phone holder hanging
from the rear-view mirror in my car; within a month or so, it looked
like a large multi-colored bird had exploded above my dash. Every time
I looked at it, it made me smile, and people’s reactions to this
display gave me a great opportunity to talk about God’s faithfulness
and protection. As the months turned into a year, the little blessings
Then one day, the Lord added something new: I was driving across
town when I noticed a shiny hubcap on the side of the freeway. Not
unusual, of course, but then moments later, I spotted another hubcap,
followed by three more in less than a five mile radius. “That’s
strange,” I said out loud. God however was determined to pique my
interest. From that day on, every time I drove in my car, there were
hubcaps: on the freeway, on side streets, in parking lots—I counted 12
one day on my way home from work. It was clear that something out of
the ordinary was going on. “Okay, God—what is it with the hubcaps?” I
asked. He didn’t say a word, but over the next months, the
appearances continued to escalate.
Finally one day, He took pity on me and when I’d counted 8 hubcaps
in a short drive to the mall and cried, “Come on, Lord! What are you
trying to say?” He spoke. Not in an actual voice but in my spirit, I
felt a response: “What do they look like?”
Surprised, I said, “Uh…like big silver plates? Giant Frisbees?
Spaceship steering wheels?” No answer. I kept racking my brain but
nothing else came to mind. “Okay, I give up,” I admitted. “Please tell
me.” A few minutes later, the word Shield popped into my head. And it
finally dawned on me: “Hubcaps look like little shields!” I had been
studying in the bible with a focus on faith scriptures for months. I
laughed and found myself saying out loud, “Ephesians 6:16—Above all,
taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all
the fiery darts of the wicked.” I picked up the next hubcap I found
and hung it above my bedroom door.
So you see, it’s all about faith—trusting in God to see you
through. He always will, you know. And now that you’ve heard my story,
don’t be surprised if you suddenly begin finding pennies and feathers
and hubcaps everywhere you go. And don’t forget to say, “Thank you,
As you pass through the doors of Spokane businesses between
November 20th and December 24th, you will surely hear the familiar
sound of ringing bells, the words Merry Christmas and God Bless, and
the sight of shiny red kettles and smiling faces. The Salvation Army
of Spokane is counting on nearly $400,000 passing through its kettles
this year to support their vital programs throughout the year. They
will employ more than 200 low-income individuals and count on several
hundred volunteers to man the 62 different kettle locations.
2015 marks the 125th Anniversary of the Salvation Army Red Kettle
program and this is how it all began…
The Salvation Army’s Captain McFee in San Francisco had resolved in
December of 1891 to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area’s
poor. But how would he pay for the food? As he went about his daily
tasks, the question stayed in his mind. Suddenly, his thoughts went
back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. On the Stage
Landing, where the boats came in, he saw a large pot into which
charitable donations were thrown by passersby.
On the next morning, he secured permission from the authorities to
place a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing, at the foot of
Market Street. No time was lost in securing the pot and placing it in
a conspicuous position so that it could be seen by all those going to
and from the ferryboats. Thus, Captain Joseph McFee launched a
tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but
throughout the world.
By Christmas 1895, the kettle was used in 30 Salvation Army
locations in various sections of the West Coast area. The Sacramento
Bee of that year carried a description of the Army’s Christmas
activities and mentioned the contributions to street corner kettles.
Shortly afterward, two young Salvation Army officers who had been
instrumental in the original use of the kettle, William A. McIntyre
and N.J. Lewis, were transferred to the East. They took with them the
idea of the Christmas kettle. In 1897, McIntyre prepared his Christmas
plans for Boston around the kettle, but his fellow officers refused to
cooperate for fear of “making spectacles of themselves.” So McIntyre,
his wife and sister set up three kettles at the Washington Street
thoroughfare in the heart of the city. That year the kettle effort in
Boston and other locations nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas
dinners for the needy.
In 1898, the New York World hailed The Salvation Army kettles as
“the newest and most novel device for collecting money.” The newspaper
also observed, “There is a man in charge to see that contributions are
not stolen.” In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided
funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden,
a custom that continued for many years. Today, donations to The
Salvation Army kettles at Christmas help support the nearly 30 million
people served by the Army through shelters, after school programs,
addiction recovery programs, summer camps, disaster assistance and
many other social services.
Kettles can now be found online and at sites in many foreign
countries such as Korea, Japan, and Chile, many European countries and
Australia. Online Red Kettles make donating even simpler and have
raised millions of dollars in donations over the past seven years.
This year, The Salvation Army is making Red Kettle Donations a social
experience by encouraging people to share their reasons for giving
with #RedKettleReason. It’s a chance for people to think about and
share how their donations are making a difference.
Wherever people find The Salvation Army, public contributions to
the kettles enable The Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas
to those who would otherwise be forgotten all year long – to the aged
and lonely, the ill, the inmates of jails and other institutions, the
poor and unfortunate. In the United States, kettles at Thanksgiving
and Christmas, although changed since the first utilitarian cauldron
set up in San Francisco, help make it possible for The Salvation Army
to do the most good possible for 30 million people each year.