Headlines: Gas Station Blows up when Patron Tops Off her Gas Tank


Have you ever felt like Alice in Wonderland? Like you've just followed some magical rabbit into a strange sort of weird fantasy land where life as you know it ceases to exist? Like maybe you've just entered-the Twilight Zone?

We sure did! Last summer! Although we weren't following a rabbit, we entered our weird fantasy land when we stopped for gas!

We should have realized right away that something was wrong. All the other gas stations were full of customers and this one was empty. But the price was right, and we didn't really want to wait in line, so we innocently turned the wheel of the car and entered-the Twilight Zone!

The strangeness became apparent as soon as we pulled up to the gas bar. An older car was parked parallel to ours, over by the garage. There was a baby and a toddler in the car, and the toddler was amusing himself by dropping items from the car's interior out the open window. Their dad stood outside the car, smoking, and as soon as he caught sight of what his toddler was doing, he began yelling and waving his fists in the air. Both kids started to scream. But they weren't the normal screams of a child not getting his way. They were screams of terror!

As far as we could tell, however, the dad wasn't abusing the children physically, and as we were on foreign soil. We decided that the best plan of action would be to pray for those poor kids. As my wife got out of the car to begin pumping fuel, we couldn't help but feel out of place. I, for one, sure wished we had gone somewhere else for gas!

My wife was just topping off the tank when the car containing the two screaming kids and the smoking dad pulled up behind us at the pump. I didn't think much about it, other than to figure that he needed gas as well. I was completely shocked when he stuck the hand holding his lit cigarette out the window, waved it at my wife and yelled, "Lady, I'm the owner of this station, and what you're doing is very dangerous!"

"Since when is topping off your tank dangerous?" I wondered silently.

My wife response, though perhaps a bit calloused, was calm: "So is smoking at a gas station!"

Her comment apparently didn't go over very well. The arm waving the cigarette immediately pulled back into the car: "I'm smoking in my car, ma'am!" he shouted.

She smiled calmly. "Yes, and you're the owner of the station."

I could only hear sputtering coming from the car, but I could just imagine what he must have been saying. Then he stuck his head out again and yelled: "You better hurry up! We're closing!"

A gas station closing at six in the evening? Interesting! But why would he care? Why did he think he needed to wait for us? Weren't we using the "Pay at the pump" option? Hadn't we already inserted our credit card?

My wife quickly returned the nozzle to the pump, closed the gas tank and got in the car. The engine gunned, and we were gone. And not soon enough to please anyone involved! I couldn't believe what had just transpired! With this type of a reception, I no longer wondered why we had been the only clients at that particular gas station! There was little doubt in my mind that we would NOT be returning there for gas!

Now let me ask you a question. If you had been in the same situation, would you have felt comfortable and safe? Would you have wanted to go back?

My next question may take you by surprise: Would you feel comfortable returning to a church that treated you the same way?

Wait a minute! Churches don't yell at visitors!

True, but many tend to ignore them. Someone usually shakes your hand and gives you a bulletin, but after that, how many people ever end up talking to you? You know what I mean! If you are a visitor to a church, you are left feeling like a total stranger, even though you are really among your brothers and sisters in Christ!

Is this normal, or have we followed the rabbit into the Twilight Zone?

In some large churches, the end of the sermon marks the beginning of the stampede as members rush out to their cars. It makes you wonder if they are worried that a thief may have come and stolen their goods during church! Strange, don't you think?

Smaller churches seem to be friendlier, but one tends to wonder if their interest in you is genuine. Especially when they look around at the empty pews and then beg you to come again!

Why don't people pay attention to you and your needs? Why are we so wrapped up in our own needs?

Then I must ask you yet another question: What would Jesus think of the condition of our churches today? Especially when He insisted: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35 NIV)?

How can people know we care if we don't have time for them?

"Welcome! Please hurry and do your business, then leave as soon as possible! I don't have time to wait on you all day! Come on! Can't you hurry? What wrong with you?"

"But I need to talk with the pastor!"

"Here's his number. Call him!"

Ring, ring, ring.

"Hello?"

"This is an answering machine. Please leave a message after the beep. If the pastor deems that you are important enough to merit some of his time, he will call you back."

Isn't this how many newcomers perceive their welcome at our churches? Is this why so many are not attracted to the real, passionate love Jesus is offering them? Where has our passion gone?

May we be revitalized by God's Spirit to love one another like Jesus does, and to reach out to one another, instead of dispersing cold showers!

"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." (Mark 9:37: NIV)

May we prayerfully take this message to heart. May we pray to be filled with the same passion Jesus has for each one of us! Only then will we experience real revival!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Col 3:17, 23 NIV)

"But everybody acts like that at church! What difference will it make if I even try to be different?

It sure will make a difference to the person you genuinely greet!

"Welcome! Let me give you a hug! May I invite you for a cup of coffee after the service?"

"Am I in the right place?"

You have finally entered in the real Twilight Zone!

Rob Chaffart

P. S. My wife later regretted her response to the gas station owner. Knowing that her words had enraged the already angry man, she fears that he might have taken it out on those poor kids. It certainly would have been possible, and I would challenge each of us to remember to ask God to help us when we are faced with similar situations, so that our words will serve to calm the waters instead of further agitating them.

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