Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.~2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
Sometimes, hot dogs and Holy Spirit nudges happen at the same time. Such as the time when I was eating at a local burger restaurant and felt an inner nudge to visit a clothing store. So, I did.
When I arrived, I recognized a homeless man named Mike. I got caught between two car mirrors, which caught Mike’s attention. He laughed, and we struck up a conversation. Soon, Mike asked for money.
“I can’t give you money, but I’ll be glad to buy you a meal. Do you like hamburgers?” I asked, pointing toward the restaurant.
“Can I get a hot dog? Or two?”
“Sure. Let’s go get you two hot dogs. And we’ll get you fries, a drink, and ice cream.”
“I don’t want no ice cream. It’s too cold fer that.”
“I understand,” I said.
But I wondered if I really understood the bone-chilling cold this gentle soul faced every winter. As I stepped inside the burger joint, Mike hovered at the door. As is often the case, a homeless person is so used to being shamed that he won’t enter a building.
“It’s okay. Please, come inside.”
“Is ye sure?”
“Okay, but I’s gonna eat outside.”
Mike entered cautiously and looked around. I wondered if he was checking to see if the management would kick him out.
The server looked at me, puzzled, “Back so soon? Did you decide to get ice cream?”
“My friend is hungry. Mike, tell the lady what you want.”
“I wants a hot dog. Make that two, please.”
Mike was modest with his order. He asked for a cup of water without ice for his drink. He did not order fries because he said he had chips in his backpack that were “not too old to eat.” The entire order cost less than five dollars.
While we waited, Mike talked and I listened. I knew this was God’s heavenly assignment, so I also listened for the still small voice within, knowing God would guide our conversation. Mike shared about his former employment as a painter. But that had been fifteen years before. He had been unable to get disability, even though he had applied several times.
“Perhaps you haven’t been able to get disability because you can do something,” I said.
“That’s what they says, too.”
“I can’t climb ladders no more.”
“So, what’s stopping you from trying something new?”
“I care about you, Mike, so tell me straight. Do you want help to overcome the drinking?”
By this time, Mike’s hot dogs had arrived. He could have fled, but instead, he bowed his head like he was determining whether I was a safe sounding board. Mike rested his hands open on the bar top. I gently touched his wrist. He grasped my hand, and with sincerity that melted my heart, he bore his soul.
“All’s I gots is my drinking.”
“I can help you.”
“Ye jest don’t gets it does you?”
“Help me to understand.”
“Some days it’s lonely, an’ a good drink takes the edge off.”
“But it also prevents you from working.”
“Lotsa days, it’s cold, ‘specially when the winds a knockin’ at yer collar like it was last night. If I takes to the bottle, I don’t feel it as bad. So, no, I don’t wanna give up my booze.”
“When you’re ready, let me know. I’ll be here for you.”
“Okay, but we’s friends, that bottle an’ I. We’s old friends. I don’t think I’s ever gonna be ready.”
“Would you believe me if I said God can give you a new beginning?”
“Is yees talkin’ bout Him? Cuz if ye is, I likes Him, see?” Mike rolled up his sleeve to reveal a cross tattoo.
“Yes, I am. Jesus has a good plan for you. And He is just the man who can help you to get unstuck. When was the last time you visited Him at church?”
“I walk past a church from where I sleep in the woods. I wants to go in. I think ‘bouts that. I think ‘bots that a whole a lot! Purty much always. An ever’ Sunday there’s a knockin’ at me mind that I’s shuld jes’ walk in.”
“Well then, what’s stopping you from carrying through with that plan?”
“I don’t think them people would wants someone like me.”
Mike glanced at his attire. He straightened a wrinkle on his threadbare shirt. I could see moisture forming in his eye, and his lip had a slight quiver. He stroked his tattoo.
“Hey there. It’s okay,” I said, patting Mike’s arm. I could sense his quandary. He could go to the house of God in worn-out clothing while the church members showed up in their Sunday best. He knew he’d be the oddball.
Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes!~Psalm 119:12 NKJV
“I’d like to, but I’s too messed up fer church-goin’ folks.”
There it was again, rearing its ugly head. A creature named “Shame” had browbeaten this gentle man once too often. I was ready to act. The same Spirit who had nudged me to drop by the store Mike was sitting at was also prompting him to attend a certain church. My guess was there was a preacher who was being prompted to deliver a sermon that would be just what Mike needed to hear. I was also certain congregants would sense urges to welcome this gentle soul into their fold. God was converging forces, attempting to rescue a soul who had wandered for over fifteen years.
I was ready to act.
“Listen to me, okay? You go to that church and hold your head high. God loves you just as much as He loves the preacher at the pulpit and the people who attend. You are welcome there. The church folks are most likely waiting for you to visit. So, this Sunday, go up the church steps and walk inside. Even if you’ve been drinking, go in anyway, okay? When you go inside, listen to the message because I’m sure the pastor has written it just for you.”
“Is ye sure?”
“I am positive.”
Mike rubbed his tattooed arm methodically.
“Do you believe me?”
“I hopes so.”
“Hold onto that hope. Don’t let go of that hope. God’s got this.” I knew Mike would answer my next question as candidly as he answered the others. “Will you go to that church this Sunday?”
Mike put his hand to his chin. He rubbed it for what felt like an eternity, although only a minute or two passed. Then he rubbed his tattooed arm for another minute.
“Imma gunna go. Yes, I’s gunna go. I’s goin’ inside ‘steada listen’ in the woods.”
“Can I pray with you because your new beginning will start when you walk through those church doors.”
And you will seek Me, and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity.~Jeremiah 29:13-14a NKJV
Mike removed his cap and grasped my hands. I felt the cold of my friend’s skin and the slenderness of his fingers clinging to my hands as if holding mine tightly would make his world straighten. Mike’s new beginning would start when he chose to hold tightly to his Savior’s nail-scarred hands.
I prayed and thanked Mike for allowing me to share a part of his day, then offered to get him clothing, but he declined. I was glad he relied on the generosity of others to provide meals because this afforded him numerous opportunities to hear about how deep and wide God’s love is.
As I walked away, I felt Sunday could not come fast enough. I brushed my cheek as moisture eked from my eye. I looked at Mike one last time. He too was wiping a tear. God had used hot dogs and Holy Spirit nudges to get my attention.
Who is the person God is nudging you to encourage?
Father God, fill me with love for those You send my way. Help me to help those who have lost their way and discover the good plan You have for them. Help me to respond to Your Holy Spirit’s nudges, and not be too busy to accept each one of Your heavenly assignments. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Genre: Creative Non-fiction
Copyright © 2019: Hot Dogs & Holy Spirit Nudges: Diane Virginia: All Rights Reserved
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