God in a Gas Station

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Whenever I visit my family in southern Washington, I often take a walk around the town’s central park. Last weekend while there I headed outside a little before dinner for my usual jaunt.

“Which direction should I go?” I half-asked myself, half God in a semi-prayer fashion. I got an image of a gas station which reminded me of what a few of my friends have described as “prophetic treasure hunts” where they ask God for an image then go find it, then ask what God wants them to do or say there.

The nearest gas station I knew of was about a mile away.

“I’ll show you what to do when you get there,” I sensed God say. So I headed in that direction.

I had thought the nearest gas station was on the same side of the street as me, but the first one I spotted was opposite, just beyond Lowe’s and Fred Meyer.

“Is that it?”

“That’s the one.”

I headed towards it, praying God would speak through me and not let the person remember me but merely the words God wanted them to hear.

When I arrived, I instantly knew God had a word for the woman behind the counter. I had no money or credit card with me so couldn’t buy anything even if I wanted. I pretended to browse the energy drinks and candy while praying God would reveal to me what to say. Although I’m new at practicing receiving a word for others-even in a church setting- I’ve been amazed when God gives a message that’s totally on-point, particularly when it’s a for a stranger or someone I barely know.

As I prayed, customers streamed in as if this was the only shop in town! I continued to pray and God showed me that this woman was going through some changes. However, God wanted to take care of her and heal her son. At last the place cleared and I approached her at the counter.

“So God told me to come to this gas station and give you a word of encouragement,” I said. “I don’t know if you’ve been going through a rough time…”

“Nope. Things are actually pretty great in my life right now,” she replied with smug enthusiasm.

“Or maybe your son…”

“No, things are better than they’ve been in a long time.”

“Well I’m just down here visiting from Seattle,” I said, my face flushing. “I came for a walk and thought God wanted me to come here and affirm that you are noticed and cared for.”

“I just moved here from Seattle,” she replied curtly. Then she described how the rising house prices had forced her to leave. I commiserated with her for a few minutes about Seattle housing then wished her God’s blessings and left.

As I headed towards my aunt and uncle’s house, I acknowledged to myself that I’m still a baby in practicing the gift of hearing God speak on account of others. The woman had been so distant and probably didn’t even have a son. However, I had sensed the presence of God’s Spirit while browsing Gatorade and Red Bull in the same way that I do when worshiping at church.That was cool. Why had I been surprised? Jesus was born in a barn, so God can show up anywhere! I was encouraged that even though my message had seemed a bit off, I had felt the presence of God in a gas station. Now, I was done for the day.

“Go back,” I heard God whisper.

“What? God, she already thinks I’m crazy.”

“Go back.”

“I need to get home for dinner. My family will be waiting for me.”

“Go back and let Me show you what I will do. Watch Me work!”

“OK, God. I’ll go back. But You’ve gotta give me a word for her first.”

I sat down on the curb outside of Lowe’s and placed my head in the palm of my hands. I got a vision that indicated she felt swallowed by life–perhaps she was struggling financially. After all, she worked at a a gas station and had just relocated due to unaffordable rent. I determined to go back and ask her if I could pray a financial blessing on her. Who doesn’t want that? I anticipated that even if she said “I don’t believe in God” I would tell her that she doesn’t have to for me to pray a blessing-I believe in God and that this God wants to bless her!

When I arrived the place was quiet. As soon as she saw me her face slightly lit up.

“Can I pray a financial blessing over you?” I asked.

“Yes!” she replied. Then continued, “After you left, I thought I should have told her how I came to move down here. I’d lived my entire life in Seattle and never even heard of the town of Longview. But then our landlord decided to sell our house and we couldn’t find anything that would accommodate my disabled parents and my two sons unless we earned $15k a month. My mom never prays, but she prayed for housing. That was the first time she had prayed in YEARS. And right after she did, we looked up and saw three doves flying. A the same time, her phone buzzed with a zillow posting for Longview. We started looking at houses in this town and discovered they were much more affordable. We came down to look in-person and the first one we saw had only been posted 15 minutes earlier-they weren’t even ready to show it yet when we arrived. But it had four bedrooms and was perfect for us. We got that house and then I got this job right away. The owner actually knew me from when I worked at a station of his in Renton 11 years ago.”

“Wow, thank you for sharing that story with me,” I said in awe.

“I think you’re prayer for financial blessing has to do with some funds we’ve been waiting on for hospital bills,” she continued. “You see, my dad had a stroke recently.” She also told me that one of her sons had a chronic illness.

“Yes, God was trying to show me something about your son and his health.”

So I prayed, right there in the gas station. I prayed a financial blessing over this woman, her sons and her parents.

When I stepped out the door a second time, my phone was buzzing with texts from my family asking where I was. But my faith had grown from this simple experience in trusting God and seeing how this woman and her family were in fact cared for deeply.

 

 

The Virtuous Woman: A Social Entrepreneur

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Neighbor and dear friend of mine when I lived in Bangladesh

The Bible may not be the first place you’d look for examples of social entrepreneurs-men and women who enter the business world with a purpose beyond making a profit. However, I believe social entrepreneurs existed even back in Old Testament times. When social wrongs needed to be made right, men and women who loved God extended that love by helping their neighbors much like social entrepreneurs do today. Perhaps few have recognized these individuals as “social entrepreneurs” because people have traditionally viewed them as saints. And saints seem impossible to mimic. As Bornstein put it in How to change the world: Social Entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas, “One can analyze an entrepreneur, but how does one analyze a saint?”(p. 92).

One such saint is a woman I have re-identified as a social entrepreneur: the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31. As I unpacked each verse, I discovered traits that could be applied to any woman desiring to honor God through her business and social engagements. Let’s take a look, verse by verse:

Proverbs 31:10. A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.

She’s high-value because quality traits define her character. These traits form the foundation of all she does-from caring for others to starting a new business.

Proverbs 31:11. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

The people she is close to trust her. She handles money and resources wisely. Furthermore, she can be trusted with people,  finances and key information. She is dependable, delivering on what she said she would do.

Proverbs 31:12. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

Throughout her entire life she works for the good of those to whom she is close. She gives herself to this work for the long-term. It is not a passing phase that she tries for a couple of years and then moves onto more interesting endeavors. She offers life and energy to those whom she’s around in a fashion that’s consistent and sustainable.

Proverbs 31:13. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

She is an ambitious, hard worker. She does not limit her products to one source, but utilizes renewable forms of both plant and animal materials for constructing her products.

Proverbs 31:14. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 

She will gather resources from distant lands. She is not content with the limitations of local options and is willing to travel to secure quality products. In order to do this, she is aware of what is available in the world beyond local market.

Proverbs 31:15. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.

Although an ambitious business-woman, she does not neglect her family and the people closest to her. She ensures that her family is well-fed and nourished. She also treats her employees well, even rising early in order to feed them.

Proverbs 31:16. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

By considering her purchases, I infer that she shopped around before securing this vineyard. Besides, she had already made a profit from other endeavors and with those profits, she invests in this new enterprise.

Proverbs 31:17. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

She has physical strength and stamina and is relentless in her work (nowadays we might denote this as #womenwholift).

Proverbs 31:18. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

I used to think that a lamp not going out at night was an indicator that this woman never slept. Perhaps, however, this actually means that because she is only buying quality products, she will have the sort of oil in her lamp that lasts through the night.  In the King James Version, trade is called “merchandise.”  Another interpretation could be that she leaves a lamp on for traders who might arrive in the middle of the night.One thing, however, is certain from this verse: Her business secures profits. 

Proverbs 31:19. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

Like Ghandi, this woman is a spinner. She engages in the same basic skill work as any other woman or servant girl of her time and culture would do. In Globalization, spirituality, and justice, Groody wrote, “Gandhi grounded his life on the plight of the poor, and he dedicated himself to living in solidarity with them” (p.  157). The virtuous women seems to build similar solidarity by working with her hands.

Proverbs 31:20. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Her business is about more than making a profit so family can live in comfort! She is concerned for the poor and needy and gives of herself to help them. The heart of a true social entrepreneur.

Proverbs 31:21. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

She is prepared for life hardships and challenges. She is not intimidated by seasonal changes or nature’s difficulties. Boldness defines her outlook even for the more difficult seasons.

Proverbs 31:22. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

She dresses in a way that garners respect. Silk and purple were items only nobility could normally afford perhaps because they were imported from faraway places or possibly simply because of the silk-making process at the time (Good, p. 959).

Proverbs 31:23. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

She will only be closely connected to those who are also respectable. Conversely, by association to her, close relationships, such as a spouse, automatically gain respect.

Proverbs 31:24. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

She produces quality products and keeps her merchants well-supplied.

Proverbs 31:25. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Strong character enables this woman to be hopeful and optimistic. She is not anxious but can smile because she has prepared for the future.

Proverbs 31:26. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She does not waste words gossiping, but considers others when speaking. Her words are both kind and intelligent to all she’s around, whether training employees or networking with other entrepreneurs.

Proverbs 31:27. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

She is responsible with all that she has been entrusted. She is not lazy but equipped herself to manage her household.

Proverbs 31:28. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.

She has not neglected family in all her business endeavors. In fact, those closest to her are first to praise her.

Proverbs 31:29. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.

She does not settle for meritocracy.

Proverbs 31:30. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

She is not defined by outward appearances but rather her relationship with God.

Proverbs 31:31. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

She deserves the reward she worked hard to earn. She will receive civil recognition. She does not praise herself; others do that for her, as do her good works.