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 see.”
I took it and looked at it and shrugged. “Yup, that’s Abraham Lincoln alright.
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.
“Good sentiment.”
“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 destination.
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, and stopped:
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 continued.
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, Father!”

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.