In the same way, let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
“Use me today for your glory, God. Put someone in my path who needs to know of your love.” These are the words I speak most mornings before I get out of bed. Most mornings. Not every morning, and especially not when I am on vacation!
But last week, while I was on vacation in Napa with great girlfriends, I felt the urge to pray that prayer. It was day three of a four-day trip. Oh boy, I thought, what is God going to do through me today? I know there is no stopping God when he has plans. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Let me begin with some background information. My two friends and I planned this winery trip months in advance. Because of Covid, it was not possible to just walk into a winery without a reservation, so we strategically booked tastings at just two wineries a day. But on day three of our four-day trip (the same morning I said my little prayer), Tristen decided we needed to add a third winery to the list. I wasn’t even sure this was possible, but figured we’d give it a try. She picked the winery, and I made the call. Wonder of wonders, there was availability at the end of the day!
To maintain privacy and not elevate one winery over another, I will not share names. Suffice it to say that we began the day with a wonderful tasting at winery #1, followed by a not-so-wonderful tasting at winery #2. Then it was on to winery #3.
Denise was not confident that a third winery was a good idea, so she prayed that God would protect us. Praying for protection is always a good thing, but in this case, it was necessary. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, we felt a darkness that was not visible to the naked eye. Everything looked beautiful, but it felt dark.
We were greeted by a beautiful young lady with piercing blue eyes who walked us to our table overlooking the vineyard. It was a stunning sight to behold—perhaps the best view of any winery we had visited. We were seated at a lovely table with the most comfortable outdoor seats my tush has ever graced, and we were handed a tasting menu of exquisite wines. Everything appeared perfect.
Jesus warned his disciples to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing when he addressed the church leaders as hypocrites. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). We three were on high alert.
Our wine pourer arrived with several bottles and introduced himself as Nabeel. “Are you Lebanese?” I asked. “My husband is Lebanese, and he has an Uncle Nabeel.”
“No,” he answered, “I’m not Lebanese or Arab in anyway.” Surely there was a story here itching to be told. But first, there was wine to taste!
We let Nabeel tell us about each wine, the story behind the label, the grapes used, and the aging process. He had a smooth voice, and there was a gentleness about him that didn’t match his tattoos. “What did you do before you worked here?” I asked.
Nabeel shared that he had been a bartender at some rough establishments. Pouring wine allowed him to continue interacting with people while providing a sense of peace. “Are you a Christian?” I asked.
Nabeel hesitated. So, I responded by telling him that we three women all went to the same church and were Christ followers. It was what held us together. He thought that was cool. And he was right! Having Christian friends IS cool! We shared a little about us, and he began to share a little more about himself. Then I asked, “Tell us about your name.”
We were Nabeel’s last customer of the day. He excused himself for a moment, then returned with more wines—better wines—and sat himself down at our table with a glass in hand. As he poured, Nabeel began to share a personal and moving story about his name, his childhood, and his hopes for the future.
Talk about a God-ordained moment! While I would like to share Nabeel’s story with you in detail, it is not my place to do so. It is his story to tell. I can only tell you my story, and how God showed up that day.
When I learned that Nabeel was an avid reader, I said, “I’d like to suggest a book for you to read.” He grabbed a pen, ready to write. “It’s called, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.”
“Who’s the author?” he asked.
I answered, “Nabeel …”
We all took a moment to look at each other. This was no coincidence. “Nabeel Qureshi,” I finished.
“I will definitely read it,” he said. And I believe he will.
Some may call this a coincidence, but I know it was a God thing. I felt called to pray that God would put someone in my path who needed to know of His love. Tristen felt called to add a third winery to our schedule. Denise felt called to pray for protection. The winery was beautiful to behold but felt dark, and we learned later that the owners have a somewhat scandalous background. Our wine server’s name was Nabeel, which sparked a personal conversation. And I—no, God—suggested a book for Nabeel to read by an author with the same name.
We didn’t purchase any wine from that winery, but that wasn’t the purpose of our visit. We were on a mission from God to plant a seed, which we did. Whether that seed takes root and grows is between Nabeel and God.
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND is God Thing by Anne Wilson.
Lyrics: “Don’t say it ain’t a God thing. Don’t say it ain’t a miracle. It’s so obvious when He does His stuff. It’s not anyone else but Him.”