Thursday, December 1, 2011

The God of Soap & Starbucks


I have been a Jesus-follower since the tender age of seven. It was then that I finally understood the story of the Cross and His death and Resurrection and what that meant for me -- of course in my 7-year-old way.

However, it was real, nonetheless.

I remember finally "getting" how much He loved me (and the world....but ME!!). I marveled at the Bible stories of the miraculous. Need some money to pay your taxes? No problem...throw out your line and reel in a fish that just happens to have a gold coin in its mouth. About to starve and watch your son do the same? Simply be obedient and use the last of your oil and flour to make a meal for a visiting prophet and voila...never-ending bread buffet!

As a child, believing these stories as gospel wasn't a leap at all. Children are predisposed to believe in wonder and to not let things like "logistics" or "relativity" or "gravity" shake that belief.

But as adults, we tend to put on our "reality goggles" and see the world and our lives through the harsh pragmatism of experience.

That's why when we read things like a story told in a letter from my aunt and uncle about their trip last month to Tanzania to install an internet tower at a Bible school, we're not sure whether to laugh or be amazed.

One of the local pastors connected with the Bible school shared a story about the early days of his vocation. He is Masai and his people live out in the Bush away from the cities. They raise cattle and by any standard, they are extremely poor.

This pastor told of "how an eagle brought soap to the same tree outside his hut everyday for three years in the early days of his ministry when he was so poor. The soap was needed to wash the clothes and bathe his 4 sets of twins."

I know some people would express disbelief that God would use an eagle to bring soap to a man and his family. Actually, that part of the story does not make me incredulous -- rather it's the notion of FOUR SETS OF TWINS!

Wow...that's a lot of soap that young family would need. And before you start to dismiss the notion of soap being important, try being without some. It's not like they have Pampers and baby wipes out there in the wild tundra. There is no Whirlpool side by side set to toss in soiled garments -- no shower/bath set up like we have here. There is water and buckets.

Soap is essential.


I love this story. I love that God cares about soap. Or rather, He cares about that Masai man and his family.

Many of us (especially in the Western World) may have never seen something so overwhelmingly miraculous. You may never have seen someone healed of a disease or chronic pain. You probably have never witnessed the dead coming back to life.

But you might have seen someone (or been that someone) who was down to their last dollar receive an unexpected check in the mail. You might have been headed towards an unavoidable auto accident, only to realize once you opened your eyes that you somehow managed to escape unscathed.

Like I said, I have no problem believing the above recounting of God's provision. I've heard enough stories of miraculous blessing in my family history and have seen my share of it firsthand.

Also...I have my own "Soap Story." However, mine involves coffee.

Starbucks...to be specific.


Where I live, soap is plentiful and easy to get your hands on. In fact, we probably have too many choices - bar, liquid, scented (Irish spring, lilac, Summer Breeze), unscented, foaming....you see what I mean.

And, yes coffee is too -- to a degree.

What's not so easy to come by when you are pinching and squeezing every penny is the special treat of purchasing a high-cost, hand-crafted espresso beverage from your local Starbucks cafe.

Before I go any further, I want to point out that this type of splurge purchase is NOT essential and it's fully self-indulgent at times -- especially when you can get a cup of brewed coffee for $1 at McDonalds, or even make your own at home. I get that in this scope of the world's poverty levels and the list of "the essentials," this does not make the list.

But I live in America, and in America, Starbucks is part of our landscape. It just is. And I enjoy a nice Grande Skinny Caramel Latte from time to time. I budget for it and I don't feel bad about consuming them in a modest manner.

But what happens when you find that you no longer have the budget for Starbucks?

You go without.

You might be a little sad as you drive by a cafe every couple of blocks, but you remain fiscally responsible. And in my case, God brings Starbucks to you.

This is what happened to me at the beginning of last month. As I was allocating our monthly money, I saw that we didn't really have the $15 that I would normally use to load on my registered card. To be more specific, we needed to spend it elsewhere.

So, since I had a few dollars left on my card, and I had two empty bags of brewed coffee that I could turn in towards a free tall brewed coffee, I decided to forgo loading my card. I was a bit sad, but since I had received and enjoyed a free any-sized drink the week before for my birthday (courtesy of the Starbucks Rewards program), I decided that I was okay.

So, I went about my business.

The next day, I was sorting through "the pile" that builds up on our kitchen counter (mail, school papers, toys...etc) and I found a $5 Starbucks gift card that my parents had brought back (along with a cool commuter mug) from their recent trip to Seattle.

I added that to my registered card balance and rejoiced that now I had 2 FREE tall brewed coffees to redeem and enough for two Starbucks drinks for the month. God was good.

The next day in the mail, I received another card for a FREE any-size coffee because I had reached a certain number of purchases via my registered card. I used that one that same day.

A few days later, I was given a late birthday present and guess what it was...a $15 Starbucks gift card!

So by then I had enjoyed a free Venti drink (which I would never buy normally) and had added $20 to my Starbucks card.

I thought that was pretty amazing.

Two nights later, I met up with a friend for coffee and when I got there, she insisted on buying my drink as a belated birthday gift.

God & Starbucks: 4; Me: 0.

Even an hour later when I got up and refilled our drinks with brewed coffee, the swipe of my registered card took the $1 charge down to $0!

God & Starbucks: 5; Me 0

The very next day, I took advantage of Starbucks BOGO offer and bought a drink for me and got the free one to take to my dad at work. As the cashier handed me my receipt, he told me that I got a free drink offer -- all I had to do was do a brief online survey. So even when I actually paid for a drink, I still got one for free.

God & Starbucks: 6;  Me: 0

I laughed when he handed it to me (he probably thought I was loony) and I told my dad about it and he thought it was pretty cool.

And then yesterday, I went to Vons to get groceries. I bought my two boys donuts and myself a latte at the Starbucks cafe inside so that we could sit and enjoy our treats while I looked through the store ads. When the cashier handed me the receipt...guess what she said?

Yep...another survey offer!!!!!!!!

God & Starbucks: 7; Me: 0

It's comical at this point. I really couldn't make this stuff up! No way.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "you can't out-give God?" I believe it with all of my heart. Because I've seen it in my own life and I've seen it in this situation.

As crazy as it seems. As "coincidental" as some people might see it....

I know better.

So, does God care about soap and Starbucks?

I don't think He does.

But, He cares about me, and He cares about you.

He will bring to you what you need...and yes, sometimes even what you want.

Why?

Because He's God...and nothing is too BIG or too small for Him.

He longs to provide for His children and to see the smile of delight on their faces when they see him do something miraculous.

All you need is the faith of a child.


(*Postscript:  It's the day after I wrote the above post, and the fun continues. Today a friend came over to drop something off and out of the blue came bearing a caramel latte from Dutch Bros. Coffee! She hadn't even read my blog post or was aware of any of the crazy awesomeness that has been happening!)

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Related post: My God Wink


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