Last week, my pastor asked me to share about "being a lifestyle witness to Jesus" during our Sunday service. When I inquired about what he wanted me to say, he answered, "I want you to share Starbucks stories of blessing and sharing your faith." That's what I thought he meant. These "Starbucks stories" are what I describe as divine appointments---unexpected encounters with people who need a word of encouragement, a listening ear, a caring heart or, in short, a touch from the Lord!

Thank God I keep journals, because although I come across these opportunities frequently, for the life of me, I couldn't recall any of them. Not knowing exactly what the pastor would ask, how much time I would have or the content of his message, I began to PRAY! To my dismay, my first thoughts were distinct memories of the times I failed to "keep" divine appointments. My mind filled with the image of little girl in tattered clothes begging for food. She needed to hear about Jesus, but I failed to tell her about the "Bread of Life." Then there was the memory of a young woman who asked to sit with me at a local coffee shop. She was searching for direction and her life's purpose but I fell short of telling her about Jesus---The Way, The Truth and The Life! There was the young mom who spoke with me while our children played in the park. She was wrestling with issues about the Holy Spirit and at that time I didn't know the Bible well enough to answer her questions. Finally, I remembered the young man who sat next to me on the trian and challenged me to show him Biblical evidence for the Trinity. Again, I was ill-equipped to defend my faith. Thankfully, along with the memories came the realization of a few lessons I learned about being a lifestyle witness to Jesus.
Three lessons came to mind, as I prayerfully considered what to share. The first one was, TO BE AWARE! Divine appointments happen to Everyone! We can ask God to open our eyes to recognize the people He puts in our path everyday. The people He wants us to bless, encourage and minister to. I also find they can happen anywhere! I flipped through the pages of my journals looking for entries of successful encounters. There, I found the story of an appointment God planned for me on a Southwest flight from Phoenix to San Diego. (Yes, I did write about another Southwest encounter in my last post. It happens a lot!) I had written about my futile attempts to print the coveted A-section boarding pass hours before my departure and how finally the thought occured to me, Lord, do You have someone You want me to sit next to? As soon as I thought this, the website came up and I printed my C-section e-ticket! At church on Sunday, I read from my journal: I knew God had a reason and the reason was a young man I sat next to in the plane named Marvin. He confessed to me about being on the fence of his faith but wanting to be on Jesus side. At the end of the flight both Marvin and I knew God was the one who had arranged our seat assignments.

The next lesson was TO BE AVAILABLE. Being available is more difficult because there is a cost involved that may require risk and sometimes sacrifice. It also may be inconvenient. I prayed for a fresh story to share on Sunday morning and it happened Saturday afternoon when I ran to the grocery story to pick up a few groceries. I grabbed a cart and headed down an aisle toward the dairy section. I didn't get far, because a little old man was taking up the whole aisle with his motorized chair. Annoyed, I contemplated turning around as I watched him scrutinize the plethora of potato chips. I could see he was frustrated and unable to find what he was looking for. So, I parked my cart to the far right and offered to help him. He was gruff and seemed ungrateful, yet he asked me the prices of several types of chips as he grabbed one after another, leaving me to figure out how to put them back in the overfilled bins. Finally, we found one he could afford and a flavor he approved of. Then he motored away without a thank you or have a good day. But I smiled as I returned to my cart knowing I'd kept a divine appointment and that I had a new story to tell.

The third lesson I shared was TO BE READY. Ten years ago, the number of divine appointments God brought into my life increased significantly. Around that time, I became very ill and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. At the same time, I felt compelled to memorize God's Word more than I ever had before. Not just a verse here and there or now and then, but to memorize passages, chapters and even books. The disease caused me to slow down and memorizing Scripture prepared and equipped me to better answer people's questions as well as share life giving truths with more courage, confidence and conviction.

One of my most memorable divine appointments in this season was at Starbucks where I went to have my morning devotions. I sat at my favorite corner window seat with my venti black ice tea (no sweetner, please), my journal and my Bible. Suddenly, a long, slender, perfectly manicured finger pointed to the page I was reading. I looked up to see a beautiful, professional looking woman standing beside me as she asked, "what does it say in the there about...?" From that morning on, and for months after, this woman showed up and asked me questions about the Bible, stretching me beyond my comfort zone, forcing me to articulate my faith and to find the answers to questions I didn't know the answer to. I confess, as I did on Sunday morning, that I don't possess a college degree (I have enough hours, just not all in the same field) and because of this I often feel imtimidated by well-educated and professional people. So, if I had known ahead of time about the degrees this woman possesed, the professional field she worked in and the book she was writing, I never would have had the courage to talk to her about anything, let alone issues of faith and doctrines of the Bible. However, God used me to help answer her questions (some she even used in her book) and He used her to increase my boldness and to strengthen my faith, my knowledge and my witness. 
Even as I become more aware of the opportunities God gives each one of us every day, I am still surprised when they happen to me. Regularly, I tell my family, "you'll never believe what happened today." And they laugh and listen to another one of my stories. I find that being available to share your love and faith with others can be as simple as a smile, a kind word or a helpful gesture and as powerful as sharing God's Word and praying for others. However, there are days I don't feel like being available and I pray for God to hide me. Sometimes His answer is yes and sometimes His answer is, "I will provide what you need to bless this person." And, I am encouraged when I find in Scripture that even the apostle Paul wrote, "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4: 3-6  

To hear the message that inspired this post please listen at:  8/28/2011, Let's Give Them SomeOne to Talk About, Pastor Mark Slomka, Faith Comm. Church  (My small part is at the end)