I can write a blog titled “We’re all a little stressed” and there will undoubtedly be someone who thinks or says, “I’m not stressed!” When I write that, I am talking about various groups I am affiliated with, including family. I do not write this to gain sympathy or praise. From the onset, my intent is to write it to remind myself, and remind you, to show grace and understand that everyone is fighting a battle that nobody else knows about. I admit from the onset, my words will fall short. Where I end up, God only knows.
On a personal level, my father in law…
And that is exactly as far as I got with today’s blog when the fire siren went off and I left to go on an ambulance call responding to a patient with a fever and shortness of breath. (I am not sharing information that is not readily available to anyone who has a scanner.) We all know fever and shortness of breath are two of the main factors in the current coronavirus chaos. So we treat fever and shortness of breath as a positive, even though the odds are very small that it is: full personal protective equipment is required on the ambulance. Upon returning, we spray down the ambulance with anti bacterial spray. We move the ambulance that was in the back to the front and leave the one we just sanitized to the back opened up to air dry.
And now I return to my blog post nearly two hours later. The Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company is one of the groups I am involved with that understandably might be a little stressed. As a side note, my main partner on the ambulance is Brenda Long. She has an upcoming surgery. Should she be quarantined for 14 days because of exposure to the virus, she would not be able to have her surgery. (Shared with her permission). You could understand she might be a little stressed on top of the normal stress of going on 911 calls.
Another group I am involved with that might be a little stressed is my employer – The UMC, and more specifically Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. It might sound bad to some to put it that way. I am definitely fulfilling a calling, but the church does pay me and by definition is my employer. A month ago we decided to shoot for June 7 to open the building for indoor worship after having it shut down for the last 10 weeks. Then it was reported this week that a church in the next county opened their building for worship and is now shut down with 9 positive cases. I have to talk to church leadership and a decision needs to be made by Sunday so our plans can be announced at our drive-in worship. We have been having drive-in worship with people remaining in their vehicles for the last 9 weeks. I would never be part of shutting down “church” because the government ordered it – never. I would go to jail instead. But I also would not be a part of keeping the church open if it would be a bad witness to the community. Strangely, safety is not my priority. Glorifying God is my priority. Sometime to glorify God, He asks us to risk safety. He always has and, in spite of how the American church gathers in safety and freedom, all around the world people still literally risk their lives every time the church gathers. On top of that I am stressed about my sermon. I know the Lord has given me one of the best Pentecost sermons I have given as a pastor. I have been so excited for six weeks about this Sunday’s sermon. I even talked to one of the people at the worship last week about having fire trucks with lights and sirens “blow in” this week. Now, the lights and siren do not seem appropriate with the injustice and aftermath of what is going on in Minnesota. How can this keep happening? Do I change my sermon? What would honor God? I will be judged either way – in the sermon I give and whether we open the church.
Which leads me to the stress of this event. I thank God that injustices like this are now caught on video. The unjustified homicide of George Floyd must be addressed, especially as it was yet again a death perpetrated by one whom society has trusted to serve and protect people. As a pastor and as a human, it truly breaks my heart. I am stressed about it from a human standpoint, and even more as a pastor and follower of Jesus. Time after time when something like this happens, I am reminded that evil still runs rampant upon the earth. I cry out, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.” There is a price to be paid for taking a life, and my prayer is that justice is served and more lessons are learned and we are changed for the better. On the other hand, it is not right to demonize police. And if that line makes you mad, you have my prayers that you cannot see that lumping everyone of any group together is not beneficial or just. I am a pastor and when another pastor embezzles, commits adultery, manipulates, or spews hate at funerals, I do not want to be lumped in with them. Yet, we are all imperfect – in that we are all lumped together. I serve a God who loves each person so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins – everyone’s sins. I call people to repent of their sin. Given the opportunity, I would call the officers involved in the death to repent of their sin. I am developing relationships with law enforcement in my county – primarily as a first responder myself, and partly as a pastor. They are mostly good guys doing their best. They are under stress. When they go to work and kiss their wives goodbye, they never know if they will make it home. And, by saying that, I am in no way defending what happened to George Floyd. It is inexcusable and those who did it must be punished. Yet, it is not the fault of those from the Mineral County Sheriff’s department that others in their profession are taking lives unnecessarily and causing all this harm to our country once again. I can tear up thinking about the family of George Floyd and their loss. Their loss is society’s loss. It is my loss as one who hopes for reconciliation with the One who created us and with each other through Him. My mind wanders to the abuse my friends in Haiti take from many of the Haitian police there with no hope of justice. Some police murdering and stealing as they please. Evil runs rampant.
(P.S. – There was a break in the middle of that last paragraph as the repairmen were here to fix the air conditioner at my home. Thank you Jesus, it is fixed now.)
I know this is long, and I hope you have hung in there with me. Finally, to the stress in my family. As I started to say, my father-in-law is 90 and likely in his final hours or at most days. My wife, her brother, and her mother went to see him today. Over the past couple of months, there has been stress about his deteriorating health. This past Saturday we moved him to a nursing home to receive end of life care. My son and his fiance have two cats they dearly love. One of them had surgery this week and Diane and I have been earnestly in prayer about that. We have a cat that Diane loves and is growing on me 😉 so we get it. Employment has been an issue in our family.
Now, six hours after I began today’s post, I have reached the conclusion. The fire siren just went off again, but two of my brothers are taking the call. There is so much more I would like to write. I know this is no different than you and your life and your stresses. Homeschooling, depression, job losses, businesses closing, day cares being closed, social distancing, staying at home, anxiety, etc. And we ask ourselves how long this can go on like this?
Throughout the Bible people are always asking, “How long, Lord?” Habakkuk asks in 1:2, “How long, LORD, must I call for help and you do not listen or cry out to you about violence and you do not save?” Job 19:7 screams, “Though I cry out, ‘Violence!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.” The Psalmist in Psalm 94:3 asks, “LORD, how long shall the wicked triumph?” And we have the same questions today. The one thing that brings me a little peace is that I know none of this world’s evil, worry, stress, hate, surgeries, uncertainties, or even death have the final say. I know that every person who asked those questions in the Bible has now come face to face with the God to whom they were crying out. And they have realized this God they now know face to face is the same God who was willing to walk through the storms of this life with them. Indeed, He was with them even when they were asking where He was. And His same presence is available to you and me. He is there for me and He is there for you. I claim it. I pray you would give Him a chance to minister to you, to comfort you, and to bind your wounds, even though the pain persists for a while longer.