November 12, 2023
It’s easy to read attitude and motives into people’s actions and text messages. I understand that not everyone respects God, the Church, church-goers or pastors. Some people even despise us. I know that some people don’t care for this column or me, even though we’ve never met and maybe never will. I don’t often receive fan mail, but occasionally I get an encouraging letter in the mail about something I wrote. One editor I submit my columns to told me one time that people were threatening to cancel their subscriptions because they didn’t like my content. Fair enough. But you don’t have to read it either. However, I suspect, it’s like watching a train wreck - you don’t want to read it, but you can’t help yourself because you might read something that stirs you up. That’s fair too. Imagine CNN, MSNBC, FOX NEWS, Newsmax and all the other news and social media outlets if they did not promote controversy and emotion in their posts and broadcasts - they would have very few viewers. Controversy sells. I would rather enter into lively debate, than just be canceled or ignored because of a difference of opinion.
Actions speak louder than words. With all that said, I’ve made some observations about our church parking lots. They are paved, striped, and nice. There is expense involved in maintaining them. They also seem to invite people to abuse them. A few years ago, a nearby farmer decided that our parking lot, which is made for passenger cars and light pickup trucks weighing less than 10,000 pounds, was a good loading dock for his 80,000 pound semi. Add in the weight of the tractor and grain cart, and you have about 50 tons of weight pushing down on pavement that was engineered for less than 10 tons. That will cause some cracking and crumbling. Another guy used it for his semi turnaround when he came home at night with his truck.
One day last week, while I was at church, I noticed an old car pull into the parking lot. It was from the decade of the 40’s. It was under repair, as one fender was a completely different color from the other three. He pulled into our south lot and did a tour from north to south. He then entered our lower, east lot and pulled up to the far corner and got out and stood by the driver’s door, presumably I thought, to look out over the terrain. It was a beautiful view with bluffs off in the distance and some pretty fall trees in the foreground. I was busy with something else and did not think much of it until after he pulled away. Then a puddle of water caught my eye. It was running down the hill to the drain. Here, he had pulled in, gotten out and relieved himself right on the blacktop in the church parking lot. Now, I can’t judge his motive, but his actions are suspect. Maybe it was random. Maybe it was intentional. Maybe he was desperate. Who knows?
I would like to think that out of respect for the church, or maybe for God, or maybe even for the people who walk across that parking lot a couple times a week that he would have chosen a different venue. I wonder.
On a different note and at a different time ... There was a couple I knew from years ago who owned a milk hauling business. They had a total of about 20 trucks and hauled milk in about a 100 mile radius of their home base. Then they transferred the milk from their straight trucks into semis and hauled it to other places. When they first started out, it was mom and pop. Mom did the bookwork. Pop drove the truck. In the early days, before they had all those trucks, they always had a backup in case the main one broke down. One day, for whatever reason, Mom had to drive the backup home from the shop, which was about 20 miles away. She didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, but he told her to just get in and put it in first gear, let the clutch out and do that for the other three gears, shifting up as she went. Well, she got in, got it in first gear, let the clutch out and then left it in first gear and drove it all the way home, the full 20 miles without shifting into second, or third, or fourth. That was the first and last time she ever drove a milk truck. They laughed about that all the way up the very end (it wasn’t so funny when it happened). He plowed the church parking lot for decades, up until he had a stroke and couldn’t do it anymore. I remember sitting with him at the nursing home during therapy while he recovered. I watched him put the different shaped pieces into the right hole on the Fisher-Price toy for kids. The half moon went in one hole. The star in another. The circle and square each in their own hole too. It was sad to see him struggle with such a simple task. But he was determined and within a few weeks he had his right hand working again, and he got to go home.
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).