The Pastor’s Piece – April 21, 2024

The Pastor’s Piece


April 21, 2024

One Sunday a grandma came to church with two of her grandsons who were about 13 and 15 years old. We hit it off right away and invited them all over for Sunday dinner and football. Grandma liked Westerns better than football, so she passed on the invitation and went home and watched John Wayne movies instead, but the boys were happy to come over. They were good kids but had no farm experience so when 5 o’clock rolled around and we told them we had to go out and do chores, they were very curious and couldn’t wait to help. So, we found some extra boots that fit and headed to the barn. They got right into fetching the cows from the pasture and playing in the creek along the way. By the time we got back to the buildings, they were both pretty-much covered in mud from head to toe and soaked to the skin with creek water. Our daughter, who was home from college at the time, took over as their supervisor and she soon became affectionately known as “The Commander.” And that was just what they needed.

When the weather was nice, the younger of the two boys would ride his bike the two and half miles from town, up and down some pretty steep hills, to the farm. Sometimes in the morning, we’d come out of the house just as the sun was coming up and he’d be sitting in the yard swing, waiting to greet us for the day. He always had a smile on his face. We were getting attached. One year their adult sister was visiting from another state and she showed up one day and said she was there to see what all the excitement was about coming to our farm. It wasn’t that exciting to us, just everyday farm life. 

One evening, the younger was dragging his feet a little and working very slowly. He would stop frequently and lean on the scraper handle or up against the doorframe of the barn or a fence post. I scolded him a couple times, telling him to pick up the pace, but I should have known that it was more than that. After the work was done, he asked to go straight home without supper despite the rule his Grandma very dutifully enforced. She made the boys wear clean clothes home after the work was done. She didn’t want her house to smell like a barn. So every night, the boys would clean up, shed their barn clothes, put them in the washing machine, and go home in clean clothes. But tonight, he just wanted to go home. So I took the smelly lad home.

Later that evening, his grandma called and said she had to call 911 because her grandson couldn’t breathe. He had asthma. I felt bad I had pushed him so hard, but I was also very impressed at his drive and insisting he finish his chores before he went home, even though he couldn’t breathe. I guess he carried an inhaler with him all the time and his inhaler had run out while he was on the job, but didn’t want to leave until the job was done. 

Another time I took them out to the timber to cut wood. I cut the pieces into 18 inch lengths with the chainsaw so they’d fit in the woodstove and the boys split them with the wood maul. We didn’t have a power splitter then, but who needed one when you had them?  It’s amazing how the use for power tools increased over the years when the kids left the farm and dad had to do all the work himself. I showed them how to swing the ax and come down just so on the block of wood and split it with minimal effort. They watched, but didn’t get it. When I gave them the maul to try it, they did this crazy swing where they started with the axe on the ground behind them, then with great effort and mobility they gave it a full swing up over their head and came down on the log with terrible accuracy. Sometimes they’d splinter off a tiny piece. Other times they’d miss the stump completely. And other times the axe head would get stuck in the wood, buried about 3 inches deep – and no split. Then they’d have to wiggle the thing back and forth a bunch of times to get it unstuck. I tried to explain how you could start by bringing the axe up in front of them to about eye level, then with a very calculated downward motion they could hit the log exactly where they wanted and the piece would split off cleanly and after a couple of swings, the entire log was split.  They preferred their way and after a while it took more energy to argue than it did to just let them do it their own way. They were young and youthful with lots of energy to waste, they’d learn eventually by trial and error. I was older and less energetic, so I needed to conserve my strength and use it wisely. But at the end of day, we had a load of wood ready to burn when the time came.

These boys have grown up now and moved away and taken on other challenges in life. We rarely see them but their grandmother keeps us up to date on what’s going on in their lives. They are one of many blessings God has brought into our lives over the years. It makes me wonder where we’d be without our church friends. Just about everybody we know started out as a friend from church. All the way back to my earliest memories in childhood, my friends were church friends. When we went off to college, the first place we went when we arrived was to church where we met people and have stayed friends with many of them to this day. When we moved back closer to home, we found a church where the Bible was taught and we made friends with the people. As I write these words, I am about to meet up with a bunch of church friends and other friends that don’t go to church, and we’re going to talk and laugh and we’ll invite them to church – again. If it wasn’t for our church friends, we would have missed out on a lot over the years. I think that’s the way God intends it to be. 

(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).