By Thomas Walker
Pastor, Stuart Baptist Church
When I moved to Virginia, I was shocked at how many restaurants served hot dogs, and that a hot dog included Cole slaw. It may be hard to imagine to you reader, but I never had a hot dog with slaw on it. After, I tried one, I made it a point to try every hot dog in Patrick County; from Primland to Dry Pond Cafe (miss you guys), I tried every hot dog and hamburger in the county. By 2018, I was able to discern the best hot dog is from the Critz gas station. In 2019, I made it a point to find the best hamburger, from Primland to Howell’s Grocery. It was a tough competition, until I asked a local chef to make a premium hamburger so I could truly compare apples to apples or burger to burger in this case. If you stick with me and read on, I’ll tell you where to get the best hamburger, in Patrick County (if the COVID is gone in 2021, I’ll submit this burger to Rotary Fair for it’s Blue Ribbon certification).
Why all this focus on food? As a preacher, I often fellowship with believers and those seeking answers over a cup of coffee or a meal. I do the same for my other vocation, my company encourages it by picking up half the tab. (As a side note, I’ll be searching the county for the best SALAD in 2020 and 2021 by doctor’s order. Too many hotdogs and burgers.) Food brings us together, usually. In a time when I am getting too good at recognizing people at Walmart and Lowe’s by their eyes, we are six feet away from our friends, and some are trapped in quarantine, I miss getting together. “Man was not meant to be alone.” This verse from Genesis is speaking about God creating Eve, and the verse applies as much today as then. It’s not good for us to be alone. The loneliness and isolation from the lockdowns, business closures, and social distancing prove that we need each other. We need encouragement, friendship, someone to live life with, to challenge us, and to love us. As such, I’d like to share with you a few things you can do during this strange time to reconnect.
First, create a plan to safely get together with close friends and family. Having a quarantine group you meet with is good for your mental state and your health. The Center for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov, gives guiding principles for social gatherings. The lowest risk is through virtual-only activities. I never expected to thank God for Facebook or FaceTime, or Zoom, but I’m very thankful for the means to virtually meet with friends and family. More risky is smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in “which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area. Prioritize attending outdoor activities over indoor activities and stay within your local area as much as possible.” We have a few families that gather together, that are also social distancing and following all the rules. We eat together, the kids play together, and we survive together through this difficult time. If you don’t have family close, or you are limited in your social circle, try going to one of our local, safe churches. From the beginning of the COVID crisis Stuart Baptist Church has been meeting outside, socially distanced apart, following CDC guidelines, and even have an FM transmitter for those wishing to stay in their car. Many churches are doing something similar, and would be glad for you to join them with a mask and hand sanitizer. Our area is already experiencing an uptick in self-harm and suicidal actions. I want you to encourage your family, friends and neighbors to safely reconnect, because you might save a friendship, a marriage, or even a life.
Next, spend some time with the One who has never ‘socially distanced’ Himself. God loves us so much, and desires a true relationship with you dear Reader. He made you and made you to be in fellowship with other people, but also with Him. It’s not good for you to be alone in this world. He wanted so much to have a relationship with you, that Jesus left Heaven to come to our hurt filled and diseased world to die for our sins. The Bible describes this relationship He wants as being “One who sticks closer than a brother”, that He “adopts us into His family, we are His sons and daughters”, and that relationship goes on from this world and into eternity where He has “prepared a place for us”. Are you lonely? God wants to spend time with you. You can read the Bible and learn what joys He wants for you, and you will learn that He is ever in intercession for you. The word intercession means, Jesus is listening to your prayers and responding. You can talk to Him anytime, anywhere, and He won’t be six feet away, He will be right with you for He is not far off, but in Him we live and breathe.
Speaking of breathing, take a deep breath and thank God for all your blessings. God has given each of us many things to be thankful for. This past Sunday, I was preaching about how God fills us up and gives us reasons for joy and thankfulness. (You can view the sermon on our Facebook page, or join us on Facebook for Bible study on Philippians on Monday mornings at 830, and Thursday night at 700 for studying Psalm 23.) There is a wonderful song that says, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, see what God has done.” It’s a good idea for each of us to take a moment to do just that. When things are constantly changing, and 2020 is constantly changing, it is all the more important to remember the unchanging blessings of God. The earth below us moved a few weeks ago, many of us lot jobs and income a few months ago, but we have not lost God’s gracious purposes for our lives, His mercy that is new every morning, or His love.
Lastly, if you can, come by Coffee Break on Main Street in Stuart and ask for a “Tom Burger.” He named it after me! It was a close competition between many, with Honorable mention to Howell’s Grocery and the Pub at Primeland, but last week I realized Denny made fresh, large biscuits that were size of my hamburger bun, and that sealed the deal. The biscuit by itself is worth writing an article in the paper about, but with a fresh off the grill hamburger patty, it is the Best I’ve ever had! I’ll be there Saturday to have it again, in person or through take out, but please don’t tell Dr. Kelly with Veteran Affairs. It’ll be our secret.