Not even Chick-fil-A is perfect

Many paramedics and EMT’s I run with love to stop at Chick-fil-A on the way back from the hospital and we stop several times a month. Things usually go pretty smoothly. But because you are dealing with humans, once in a while there is a mess up even though admittedly it is rare. That being said, Chick-fil-A itself has this reputation of being perfect in their systems… in the way they run things. There are always jokes on the internet about placing Chick-fil-A in charge of vaccine distribution, voting, etc. But I found out yesterday that even Chick-fil-A is not perfect.

Yesterday morning on an ambulance call we were leaving the hospital and we placed an order on the app. We submitted the order at 10:25 and headed to the restaurant. When you arrive, they tell you to put in the number of the spot you pull in to so at 10:32 I type in the number 4. Immediately a notification pops up on the app that this location is no longer serving breakfast. I was shocked. I went in, waited in line, and explained to the cashier what had happened. She said they quit serving breakfast at 10:30. I told her I placed my order at 10:25 and checked in at 10:32. She said it was out of their hands, the order comes in from headquarters when we pull in, so we technically did not place the order at their restaurant until 10:32 when we pulled in. I told her it was a bad setup even though I understood it was not her decision. In full disclosure and to give them credit, they did comp me the coke I ordered for the person with me. I cannot fathom, with as well run as Chick-fil-A is, that they do not have a simple pop-up notice that tells you if you do not arrive at the restaurant by the specified time that you order will not be filled.

I am not writing this to bash Chick-fil-A. They do an amazing job. But a Biblical teaching moment comes to mind. Actually several do. But the one I chose to go with today is the reminder that perfection is required when it comes to heaven. There is no sin in heaven. We all understand there is no sin in heaven, but it goes further in that not even anyone with a sin in this life is permitted in heaven to be in the presence of the perfect, holy, righteous God of it all. There is no sinning in heaven and no past sin permitted to enter God’s presence. The Bible teaches us that a perfect life is required to enter, and none are perfect. However, hope is not lost. The Bible also teaches us that if we will confess our sin, believe Jesus paid the price to take away our sin, and turn from our sin, then all of our sins will be forgiven and we will show up on heaven’s doorstep with nothing counted against us. God will consider us free of our sin… Perfect in His eyes, fit for heaven. Consider this the “pop up” warning that if you show up without having had your sins forgiven through the cross of Jesus, you will not get what you were hoping to get. And it will be too late.

T

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Failure is not final

This morning I was making some mini chocolate mocha cheesecakes in cupcake pans. I have made them before with foil cupcake liners. Today, I went with a simple non-stick spray and no liner. Let me say that turned out to be a great idea, and not for the reason you might think. It was impossible to get the cheesecakes out of the pans in one piece. It turned out to be impossible to get each one out in less than six pieces! At first I was trying to mold them back together and wrap them in plastic wrap until I realized that was not going to be acceptable.

I began thinking about how great inventions throughout history often came about through initial failure. I seriously did. Then I wondered if I might be able to mix up the little cheesecakes in a bowl like a dough, scoop them out into little balls, and cover them with white chocolate. One thing led to another and BAM. I ended up with these moist and delicious white chocolate covered chocolate mocha cheesecake balls. Initial failure turned out to be wonderful, but not how I planned. I would never have planned to make these because the ingredients are very costly and they are way too much work.

I then began thinking something else. I thought about how life as a follower of Jesus is a lot like that. Not many of us who call ourselves His followers are where we thought we would be when we initially said yes to Him. I think disbelief would have prevented me from saying yes to Him at that altar rail in Ravenswood, WV if He had told me where I would be today. It has not been an easy path. It has been and continues to be costly. It is nothing like I planned or chose. And yet, here I am for this season… sitting in the pastor’s office in Short Gap, WV… and come what may, there is no place I would rather be than to be in the will of God.

Posted in depression, Obstacles, Opportunity, peace, trust, Walking the Walk | 1 Comment

Worth saving

Yesterday there was a bee in the basement. After some investigating I realized it was a honeybee so I scooped it up and placed it outside on a plant. Honeybees are vital to pollinating our food, they provide honey, and they are not looking to harm us. Had it been a yellow jacket I would have killed it. Yellow jackets are just plain mean and nasty. A wasp? I would have smashed it. A wood-boring carpenter bee? Swat! Some bees are worth saving, others are not.

I am thankful that God does not see us like I see bees. He believes all are worth saving. When Jesus came to die on the cross, he died for sinners. There was nobody else to die for because we are all sinners. And yet, Jesus died for us. There is nobody beyond the reach of God and He desires that all would repent and turn to Him. If you are feeling unworthy or unloved, lift your head, for Jesus loves you. I know this because He loves everyone!

Posted in depression, Hard times, Obstacles, peace, prayer, salvation | 2 Comments

Always right there

Yesterday Diane and I had an out of town appointment. I took coffee with me in my favorite cup. It is my favorite because it holds twice as much coffee, keeps it hot for hours, and Diane got it for me. This morning as the coffee was brewing I was wondering where I left that cup. I know it did not wander off. I remember taking it out of the car we were in yesterday and putting in the car I normally drive. I ran out to the car to get it and upon discovering it was not in the car I thought perhaps I remembered carrying it in the church. I looked here and there with no success before finally grabbing another cup and heading to the coffee pot. Would you believe the coffee cup was beside the coffee pot? I wondered how I had not seen it before looking for it everywhere else.

Then I quit wondering because it happens all the time. Sometimes it happens because I am not looking for it and other times it happens even when I am looking for it. There are also times when something is hidden, as I wrote about a few years ago in this past blog when the fog hid the mountains. I know the same thing has to happen to you.

Without fail, when this happens to me my first thought is always about God. I know the Bible says He is always right there. And I know it to be true. Yet sometimes, mostly when I am going through a difficult time or things just do not seem to be going my way, I wonder. Doubt creeps in and I wonder if He is really near. Then, at moments like this when something I was looking for was right before my eyes, I remember: So is He. He is near.

*You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are true… Psalm 119:151
*The LORD is near to all who call on him… Psalm 145:18
*The LORD is near to the brokenhearted… Psalm 134:18
*God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble… Psalm 46:1
*We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks, for Your Name is near… Psalm 75:1

If you ever, or if you are even now wondering where God is in all this messiness that is this season of our lives, today He wanted me to remind you He is near. He is near the broken-hearted. He is near to those who call out to Him. He is always right there whether you can feel it or not.

Posted in depression, Hard times, Obstacles, peace, prayer, trust | 3 Comments

Pastor’s Report

This is the pastor’s report I have prepared for our upcoming church charge conference. I thought I would share it with you.

“As we have nearly finished our second year of the pandemic, none of us are who we once were. The church universal is not what it once was. Wesley Chapel Short Gap is most certainly not what or who it once was. And whether any of this is good or bad is yet to be determined. Common things we once took for granted that we have been able to resume are now cherished all the more. There is much uncertainty in other area that had such momentum 20 months ago that have yet to re-start.

Pastoral visitations have gone from normal to impossible to impractical to permissible, then back to impossible and impractical. Our weekly dinners that were busting at the seams with crowds are now a very easy place to practice social distancing with a mere 1/3 of the crowd we had before. Yet the people who come, 2/3 of which are from the special needs community, are so grateful to be back no matter the restrictions. Our outdoor worship at the time of our charge conference, will have held our 86th gathering in 87 weeks, only missing once last winter for a stifling snowstorm. After one prior period of attempting indoor worship, earlier in the summer we were finally able to begin and continue one indoor worship gathering. Our attendance between the indoor and outdoor has pretty much been divided evenly.

During the valley of Covid, we the people of Wesley Chapel have found ourselves in a similar spot as the disciples the time Jesus was being abandoned by the crowds to the point that He asked the disciples if they were going to leave Him as well. Their answer was the answer of those that remain connected to Wesley Chapel: “Where else would we go? You, Lord, have the Words of Life.” There is indeed nowhere else to turn. In the past 20 months we have been reminded that our hope is not found in government or health officials. It is not found in our possessions or our employment. Our hope is in Christ alone. And He is always doing something. At a funeral I always quote 1 John 3:2 – “Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed.” That seems a pertinent thought as we wait to see the good that God brings for His children that make up the church universal and more specifically those of us at Wesley Chapel Short Gap. This hope we have even as we continue to muck through and, awaiting God’s mercy, wrestle free from the valley of Covid.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~ Romans15:13

Posted in Walking the Walk | 2 Comments

Are you angry, lonely, or depressed?

I was listening to a sermon from pastor Matt Chandler this morning and he was setting up a twelve week sermon series titled “Unearthed”. This foundational sermon talked about how the world and the desires of the world can never leave us anything but empty. Even worse than empty, the end result in seeking satisfaction and fulfilment in our own worldly desires are designed by the enemy of God to leave us, as Matt Chandler said, “angry, lonely, and depressed.” The devil deceives and eventually destroys through this false advertising that everything is about us and at the end of the journey of indulging self, we will find satisfaction. The Bible says flat out that we will have trouble on that path. And the enemy of God tries to convince us that it can end otherwise. There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Even the rainbow is a mirage.

I saw this shirt at the beach. It happened to be on a guy so I discretely walked back and took a picture and then snuck away. It was a Coastal Carolina university shirt that said, “It’s About You”. Who in their right mind would tell a young person that? Is it any wonder people end up disappointed? Yet the devil whispers that lie and sets that trap and it ensnares us all too often.

In contrast to that way of thinking, God tells us we will find true peace only in Him. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…and then…”, the Bible tells us. And then what? And then we will find what we need. When we come at life from the angle that we were created for a purpose, and that purpose is not our own worldly desires, but to serve a God who loves us… that is the key. Only when I make my life about Him will I will have peace.

I admit I have not been in a season of peace. It has been a tough 20 months. There is no doubt I need to get back to putting God first.

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A little yeast…or baking powder

Last week I made biscuits. I am not talking about canned or frozen biscuits, but homemade biscuits. I always bought frozen pucks and baked them, and they were pretty good, but they are so expensive! One time I decided to try scratch biscuits and I could not believe how easy they were. I never looked back. Some flour, salt, butter, milk, and baking powder, and BAM. Homemade scratch biscuits.

Baking powder is the leavening agent that makes the biscuit dough rise. To rise, all dough needs a “leavening” agent. For bread, yeast is used. The interesting thing about bread dough is that sometimes you are told to let it rise, punch it down, and then it will rise again. That made me think of the life of a Christian and the Church during this pandemic as we have all felt punched down again and again.

This pandemic seems to be accelerating the decline of cultural Christianity. Cultural Christianity is a religion of convenience. Anything that makes following Jesus inconvenient stops the movement, if you could even call it a movement. You could also call it nominal Christianity or lukewarm Christianity. People looking for an excuse to stay home from church now have a good one. People who want to gather with the body to worship Jesus have not quit doing so for the last year and a half as enough churches have held “outside church” from the beginning of the pandemic. In his book The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus says the church is meant to be an unstoppable force, but to stop the American church, all you need to do is change the worship time. Or I might add “begin meeting outside.”

Actually, the pandemic has not stopped the church. The pandemic has only served to make what remains of the church more committed and concentrated. We have ended up with a smaller group of people, but a group willing to gather under less than ideal circumstances, like most of the Christians in the world do every Sunday. I cannot wait to see what the Lord does with what remains of the faithful in America. And I do not just mean faithful in attendance and finances, but faithful to historic Christianity.

I realize some of you reading this may feel like I am calling you or others out as lukewarm. I am not. If you feel angered by this post, you need to ask yourself if it might be the conviction of the Holy Spirit. If you have a legitimate reason for not gathering with other believers, or for anything else related to your faithfulness to God, then you have peace about that with Him. And if you are upset because you feel like you have grown distant from God through this, then turn to the Lord. He is always waiting with open arms. He is faithful. He welcomes you back.

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The recipe is as follows: Combine 4 cups flour, 2 tbsp baking powder, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp salt. Use a bladed pastry blender to cut 1 1/2 sticks butter, add to dry ingredients and continue chopping in until it’s mixed in (crumbly, butter barely noticeable). Add 1 1/2 cups milk. Mix together, not over mixing. Place on floured surface folding it over on itself 6 times or so. Flatted by hand to 3/4 inch. Cut with biscuit cutter, straight down, not turning cutter. Bake on parchment paper, biscuits placed about an inch apart, at 425 for 13 minutes. (Placing butter in freezer for 10 minutes before you start is a good tip. Keep milk cold. If you’re making multiple batches, put milk back in fridge in between use.)

Posted in Hard times, Obstacles, Opportunity, Walking the Walk | 3 Comments

The proper place

I have a shamrock plant in the office that someone gave me a few years ago. I had it on a shelf with limited light, obstructed by a big banana tree. Truth be told, I have probably kept it watered just enough to keep it from dying. A couple of weeks ago I placed it in a larger pot and moved it to a better spot. The transformation has been remarkable with larger leaves and flowers fighting their way out of the greenery. The plant has responded well to a little nurturing.

It is a good reminder to me that when things do not seem to be flourishing, it is usually because they are not receiving the proper attention. Think about it: grades at school, marriages, personal health, automobiles… none of them excel without some proper attention, some work, and/or some TLC. The effort we put in to things usually dictates the result we can expect. We should not be surprised when we receive a poor outcome from something we have neglected.

The same is true of our relationship with Jesus. Any time we feel distant from Him is undoubtedly because we have been distant from Him, because we have neglected Him. He said He will never leave you nor forsake you. If we give Him the proper place in our lives, everything other area of our lives will see a benefit.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:19

Posted in depression, Hard times, trust | 2 Comments

Christy Wilson and the Chaos in Kabul

“When Satan fell to earth, he fell in Kabul”—Oft-quoted Afghan proverb No matter what your politics may be, the images coming out of Afghanistan this…

Christy Wilson and the Chaos in Kabul
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New tools

Tools of the Trade

Yesterday a friend called and said he had been stung on the ring finger and his finger was swelling to the point that he needed his wedding ring cut off. He asked if we had a way to do that at the fire department. I told him I was pretty sure we did, but I could not remember the specifics. After contacting others with more knowledge than me, I was told where the tool was on the ambulance. I met the person there and was able to cut the ring off. I definitely learned a new skill for the ambulance. But then again I am always learning. It was a year ago Saturday that I found out I passed the National Registry test to become an EMT. One year into it I have learned and done a lot. But there are also a lot of things I have not done. I have not given epinephrine. I have not used some of the breathing and airway instruments. I know I have the training and those things are within my protocols, but I have yet to be in a position to need to implement those practices.

That makes me think about where I am in my journey as a follower of Jesus and as a pastor in His church. Wednesday will mark eight years to the day since I preached my first sermon at Wesley Chapel Short Gap. It will also be the beginning my 15th year as a pastor, my 9th year here. None have been tougher than the last year. As I take a quick survey looking back over the last 14 years it seems like I have been using the same basic tools. Like the tools I have not yet used on the ambulance, I know there are more that I have at my disposal, but have yet to utilize. I sense that it is going to be necessary to ask the Holy Spirit to do some maintenance on the old tools and teach me to use some new tools from His arsenal for the next few years. I know it is not going to get any easier, but I pray He continues to prepare and equip me for that which is to come. I pray the same for you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22-23a

Posted in Opportunity, Walking the Walk | 4 Comments