Today I am wearing a shirt that many people would throw away. These fire department shirts were very new when the Covid hit early last year. but this one looks old because it has bleach spots on it. I also have an orange Samaritan’s Purse shirt from a mission trip that has a white paint roller splat on the back from where JoLynn Sullivan purposely whacked me on the back with a loaded paint roller. In her defense, it may or may not have been a retaliatory strike 😉 I wear both the “paint roller” shirt and the “bleach spot” shirts in public, likely against my dear wife’s wishes. Both shirts are special to me because I know how the imperfections got on the shirts. The bleach spots got on this shirt when I was on an ambulance call. After taking a patient to UPMC Western Maryland I went to a designated area to clean the stretcher. Typically, they graciously provide us with sanitizing wipes, but wipes became scarce last year during Covid, and they provided us with a bottle of bleach water. You can put two and two together…
A bottle of bleach water + a dark shirt + a little carelessness = bleach spots.
I have other shirts and shoes that have special meanings to me. I have two pair of shoes that belonged to a troubled man who tragically died under dire circumstances. I purposely wear a pair of those shoes on mission trips and it makes me think of all the events, both good and bad that led those shoes to be on my feet in Texas or Haiti or wherever I happen to be.
I see the hand of God in all of the clothing, not in the clothes themselves, but in their stories and their use for His glory. It is my hope that people will see His purpose, provision, redemption in my own life, for His glory.
Last night I went to the church to check on things as I do nearly every night. I saw something unusual at the edge of the parking lot so I went to investigate. It turns out it was a pretty good sized frog, bigger than my fist. I immediately wondered if it could be one of the tadpoles I saved last year (you can read about them here.) Well, of course it cold be one. Of any of the frogs I have seen in the last year, this one looks the most like those little 1 inch frogs that fled a year ago. Is it one? I admit it is very unlikely. There is no way to know what the little guys would look like today. But it is possible that I was face to face with a little tadpole I saved.
Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror and when I think about what I see, I cannot believe the old man I see in the mirror is me. We think most others our age look old, but I think most of us still think of ourselves as the younger version. of who we are. If I continue to live in this life, I know it will only get worse. Every year the man in the mirror keeps looking older and older.
But one day, this life will end and when it does I will be face to face with the one who saved me. When that day comes, I want to have lived these days as one who was constantly preparing for that day, hoping to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. I am not hoping to live a life worthy of my salvation. I can never earn that. But I want to spend my life living it in such a way that expresses my thanks for what Jesus did for me. That is why I do what I do – not to earn anything, but to express my thanks for what I freely received.
One day, you will also be face to face with the One who created you. Will He recognize you?
Diane was at the beach last week and took a picture of the sunrise on the beach and the full moon in the sky in the opposite direction, both in the sky at the same time. When there is a full moon, the quick explanation is that the earth and moon are positioned so that the earth is not blocking the sun’s light from reaching the entire moon. There is always an entire moon there, but most times the sunlight is only reaching part of it, due to the earth blocking the sunlight. When we say “full moon”, what we mean is it is fully illuminated.
In the pictures Diane took, they look about the same size. We all know that the sun and the moon both usually look larger on the horizon and smaller when they make it high in the sky. In general, though, they do appear to be about the same size. I can imagine the first people to see the two would have assumed they were the same size. Through science, we came realize the the sun is much bigger…much, much bigger. Most of us do not realize how much bigger. The radius (the distance from the center of a circle to the edge) of the sun is 400 times the size of the moon, This means that its volume is 400 × 400 × 400 times the volume of the moon, which makes it 64 million times larger than the moon. That is an incomprehensible difference. Still, when we look into the sky they look to be about the same. I hope I am not losing you, I am almost done with numbers! The easiest explanation is that we are 93 million miles away from the sun. The moon is “only” about a quarter of a million miles from the earth. So the sun is about 375 times further away than the moon.
Now think about this. There is a God who made it all. He placed the earth just the right distance from the sun to sustain life. He placed the moon the distance necessary from the earth to control the ocean tides. He said, “Let there be light” and a big ball of fire appeared. He is a big, big God. I have seen it written, “Don’t tell God how big your problem is. Tell your problem how big your God is.” So whatever your problems, take them to Him. He’s more awesome and amazing and “big” than we can imagine. He can do anything.
Nearly every one of us celebrate or mourn milestones. Years since graduation, birthdays, years since we lost a loved one, pounds lost, and the list goes on. Diane and I have a “big number” anniversary coming up in August, when we will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This post is yet another mile marker for my blogging. Today is the one thousand-seven hundredth post to my blog. Here was my first post eleven years and two days ago:
I hesitate to mention names because I will undoubtedly leave people out, but here are a few. In the very beginning Amber Tracy was my biggest encourager, second only to Diane. Along the way, our dear friend Lisa Ohlinger from the Elk Horn Lodge in Cooke City, Montana has continued to mail me handwritten cards to spur me on when I have a dry spell without writing for of a couple of weeks. Beth Foreman, whose name could well be changed to Barnabas (which means encourager) has shared my blog with others probably more than anyone else.
It can be discouraging to put an hour+ work into writing a post that 3 people will read. But I did my best to be faithful to what I believe I was called to and God has blessed this online ministry. Now, on an average day there are visitors from at least 25 countries. It is humbling. I have written a couple I regret, but I have never deleted one.
I want to thank you who have continue to encourage me by reading, liking, and sharing my posts. My prayer for you today is that you would be faithful to follow through with whatever it is that God has called you to. I know it is not always easy. In the days of discouragement, I pray He gives you one person to spur you on. If that person is not here in bodily form, I pray it would be the Holy Spirit Himself.
One of my Facebook memories from five years ago today shows our perennial flower bed. Someone had left two plastic flamingos in our yard upon our return from a vacation. The same picture would show many changes five years later. It now has mulch (which I hate bringing up because Diane will remind me it needs re-mulched), it has a much wider variety of flowers, the Moonbeam Coreopsis has spread like crazy, and the flamingos are faded. Some of the plants from five years ago have not made it. Others have flourished. New plants have been added and we usually have some sunflowers pop up later that chipmunks “plant” for us.
I was told that years ago Butch and Sherry Strietbeck had paid to have this area landscaped. Pastoral changes and different pastors’ tastes had left it mostly just a yard with a Peony when we arrived in 2013. These photos from 2016 and today show it has made somewhat of a comeback. And who knows what the future holds for the yard? I know as long as Diane has a say, it will be maintained. And I predict we will soon be turning in a bill to the church for some mulch.
Life is a lot like that, is it not? Ebbs and flows, highs and lows, seasons of growth and seasons where we seem to be overtaken by weeds. Yet with all the uncertainties of life, as we have especially been reminded of in the last 15 months, I am certain of the end… at least the way it ends for me. I have confessed my sin to God. I have received forgiveness from our Creator through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross who paid for my sin. I live freely now as one of His children so that no matter what happens, I know how my story ends. Do I have all the details? Of course not. Is it going to be easy until then? It is not. But I will not despair. One day I will join the One who made me and saved me. I will worship Him forever and it is going to be greater than any of the highs I have ever experienced here on earth. And there will be no lows.
For we see now through a dim window obscurely, but then face to face; now I know partially, but then I shall know according as I also have been known.1 Corinthians 13:12
The Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company is nearing the end of a building expansion. We cannot wait. It has been tough having vehicles stacked three deep. We have been going in and out of the doors at back of the station. This morning after a call as the driver backed the ambulance in it was confusing for the driver. To go by the back up camera it leaves the front of the ambulance too close to the garage door to comfortably walk through. To back up where you need to be it appears in the camera that you have hit the truck behind you. The truth is it is just that the backup camera is a little off kilter. I kept saying from the passenger seat, “You’re OK, you can back up more”, but the person had to get out and look for themselves. Then, and only then, would they back up a little more. In their defense, it is tricky. I have backed it up enough to know, though. However, you have to know what ambulance you are in – the camera works correctly in the other ambulance and if it looks like you hit the vehicle behind you… well, you’d probably feel the bump first because you did hit it, lol. (And this is not a criticism of the camera not working correctly, I know it is going to be fixed.)
At the moment this was happening I took a picture thinking it might be my blog post for today. What Biblical truth might you draw from this “parable”? Things are not always what they appear? That would be a good one. Proceeding with caution or being patient would be good paths to go down as well. As the one who was seeking to be trusted when I said the driver could continue backing up, I am going to close with the idea of trust… and more specifically, trusting God. I am pretty certain I have backed that ambulance up more than anyone else since the construction began. If anyone could be trusted about backing up the ambulance, it would be me. But I get it, I am a fallible human and I sometimes mess up.
But I can tell you for certain that God can be trusted. And you CAN trust me about that.
“The Lord will keep your going out and coming in from this time forth and forevermore” ~ Psalm 121:8
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7
My wife Diane is in Myrtle Beach this week….again. Brenda Long is running on the ambulance…again. Weekly church dinners will soon begin…again.
Diane’s beach days are coming to an end for the summer because our little beach house is rented out for 12 straight weeks starting Saturday. (For a post about our beach house purchase you can click here.) None of us know how long Brenda will feel like running on the ambulance. (For a post about Brenda’s story you can click here.) And as for the dinners, let me just say it has been very strange not doing them for the last year after doing them for 13 straight years between the two churches we have served. I am constantly reminded that everything has its season.
I love the word “seasons”. It is probably my favorite word, with the word “journey” coming in a close second. Thinking of things as a season helps me put things in perspective. It helps me more fully appreciate the good times and helps me persevere in the tough times. Yesterday on an ambulance call with Brenda I sat in the back and videoed her driving back from the hospital. I was appreciating the moment. The reality is that it may be another month or six months, but her time back on the ambulance is going to be a short season. You may think it is morbid to think or talk about, but it helps me to cherish the time. And trust me, Brenda knows this. It is not like we talk a lot about it on the calls, but we both know. So we laugh and joke and reminisce.
Diane’s time at the beach is coming to an end, but she knows that is only for a season. In the fall after the summer renters graciously pay our yearly HOA fees, she will be going back down on a pretty regular basis. She told me she could stay in Short Gap forever as long as she can go to the beach whenever she wanted. Which leads me to another season we are in… our time in Short Gap. One day everyone at Wesley Chapel and in Short Gap will talk about us like they talk about other pastors who served God here. We will begin our ninth year here in July and I am 59 years old. I know I will not be here forever.
This idea of seasons sometimes makes me glad and sometimes makes me sad, but one day there will come a time that is more than a season. The Bible calls it eternity. This entire earthly life is itself a season. For some it is long and for others not long enough. Some parts of it go too fast and others not fast enough. But this I know: when this life is over, the decision we make about God will determine where we spend forever. There are only two options. With God or separated from God. I hope you will be joining me in that place where there are no more tears and no more pain and a season that never ends. There is only one way. His Name is Jesus. For a post about sin and salvation you can click here.
Today on an ambulance call I was one of two EMT’s who got the ambulance out and then a paramedic showed up on the scene. I was also the driver. As the driver I do what the paramedic or EMT in the back tells me to do. If they say go to UPMC Western Maryland, that’s where I go. If they say PVH in Keyser, I go there. If they say priority 3 I drive with no lights or siren and go with the flow of traffic. If they say priority 1, it’s lights and siren as fast as we can get to the hospital. As an EMT with a paramedic I can give my opinion, but I am not the decision maker when it comes to care or transport.
Other times, I am the sole EMT and I have a driver who assists me and follows my orders. In this case I am the decision maker when it comes to patient care. I talk to the hospital on the radio. I decide if the patient needs oxygen, if I need to do a 12 lead, or if we need to call for a medic.
Today as we were coming home from the hospital I let Brenda drive and I rode in the back. As I sat in the back I thought about following orders verses being in charge. I like driving. I like assisting another EMT. Part of that may be because I have only been an EMT for 11 months. But I think another part of it is that being a Christian calls me to be a follower. Even as I pastor and in some ways “lead” a church, I still follow. I follow Jesus. I constantly need reminded that He is in charge. Just as a paramedic and an EMT who has run 1,000+ calls knows and has seen more than I have, I follow a Savior who laid the foundations of the earth and said “Let there Be Light”. I know in my heart that I can trust that when He tells me something in His Word or through the Holy Spirit, that He knows what He is doing. Sometimes I simply have to get past my pride to be able to follow.
I was going through some blue jeans this morning and there was a pair that was too big. They were not always too big. At one time they fit. I hope they never fit again. But if history is any indication, they will. So I hung them on a hanger at the end of the closet. I know some people take their too big clothes to Goodwill. I love the positivity in that, but I do not want to go back to Goodwill in a year to buy pants the same size as the ones I would give away today.
My weight has been a lifelong battle. I was at about 250 pounds at the height of my disobedience. For the last 10 years I have fluctuated between 180-200. When I get to 200, I consider that a guardrail to keep me from flying off the road (a term I took from Andy Stanley) and I know it is time to do something. These are my 200 pound pants. This battle that I am in is “not against flesh and blood”. It is against Little Caesar’s Pizza and peanut butter fudge, which in moderation are not terrible, but when the enemy tempts me and I let my desires control my decision making, I end up in the “danger zone”.
We are immersed in a society that celebrates sin that put us in the danger zone with God. Society has tricked us into believing that it is unloving to call people to turn from their destructive desires. If you picked up on it, I used the term “at the height of my disobedience” when describing my highest weight. The enemy makes it seem like sin satisfies. I know through my relationship with Jesus, that with the Spirit’s help, my obedience satisfies. Obedience is not a burden, but a blessing. But just in the event I stumble, I have some denim jeans to help me get back on track.
Yesterday I got an email with an offer to buy one of our vehicles. It was an email regarding our 2016 Toyota Prius. The timing was funny to me because in the last couple of days someone said to me they needed to buy a small car to drive around because their truck gets such poor gas mileage. I remember the value of small cars skyrocketed about 10 years ago when the gas prices were way over $3 a gallon and over $4 a gallon in some places. And I remember you could not give gas guzzling trucks away. The political conversation around this is not my intent today and I do not want to lose you here.
The book of Ecclesiastes has some famous verses about timing and seasons. We bought the Prius in 2017 when they were trying to get rid of the previous year’s model and gas was about $2 a gallon. The time to get the best deals on small cars is when fuel prices are lower. We got a good deal in that season. People who are looking for small cars today may have missed the boat (pun intended). “To everything there is a season… A time to live and a time to die…”
Whatever season we are in now with all the uncertainties in our world and country, there is one thing for which it is always the perfect time. It is always the right time to turn to (or back to) God. It is always a great time to trust God. While we often lament missed opportunities, we rarely think about the time it will be too late with God. Because it has been such a long season of grace, we take it for granted. For those who are not saved, my prayer is they would seize the opportunity to turn to God and be forgiven through Jesus. But most of you who read my posts are already His. So this part is for you:
When I look back on my life, I want to be able to say I trusted Him. In seasons of uncertainty, I want to be certain of Him. He is always doing something. It is a good time to be His.