I’ve mostly been working and though I may write about that soon, it has been somewhat of a break in the action and allowed me to catch up on some other writings for the near future.
Today was a little different and I felt I should write about it, while it is fresh on my mind.
In my walks about town here, I often find myself along Minor Lane. Most of the land and homes here have been sold to the airport and/or UPS. The main hub for UPS, is right here in Kentucky and apparently not big enough, yet!
A few of the more resistant folk have kept their homes and businesses, despite the offers. The house I am staying in and fixing up is one of them. So is the Baptist Church, just down the road.
I’ve walked by it, several times. I always wonder about it each time I pass. It always looks empty, though not dilapidated. Just unused, perhaps.
I saw it again on Friday while passing by and I took note of the hours, displayed on the paint chipped sign:
Bible Study 10:00 a.m.
Morning Service 11:00 a.m.
Evening Service 5:00 p.m.
Evening Service 7:00 p.m.
On Saturday, while finishing up work for the day and making small talk with Mike, I mentioned that maybe I would go there on Sunday and asked him if he knew anything about it.
“Well, no. I’m not even sure if they are still open.”
“Maybe I’ll go find out.” I said.
Sunday rolled around today and I sanded some of the drywall spots, ate a couple bananas, took a shower and put on my cleanest clothes. At 10:45 I left and arrived at the nearby church at 10:55.
I wasn’t sure if they were open, or not. I saw one car leave as I started down the driveway and suspected the two remaining cars to just be parked there for other reasons. A sign on the small building out front declared “No Trespassing.” I hoped they would forgive my “Trespasses.”
I walked to the front of the fair sized church and the door was ajar. I opened it and stepped into a small vestibule and could see into the larger sanctuary, where there were enough pews to seat perhaps about a hundred sinners. The Pastor was speaking, finishing up the Bible study and upon seeing the door open, with me now inside, he said “My goodness…..”
There were four other people inside, seated in the pews and they all turned to look at me. Me with my beaming face, although I didn’t know what to think of the situation. “Well maybe a bunch of others are about to show up.” I hoped.
Two ladies sat in the middle on the right side and two men sat in the very front rows, one on each side. I found my place in the second row, directly behind the man on the left.
The Bible study ended shortly and all three men rose and now stood in the front, beginning to sing from the very old Hymnals. I followed in the book, the melodies I vaguely still remembered, though I didn’t sing. The words were a comfort, though.
Other than the lack of people in attendance, there seemed to be something missing. I didn’t know what but it was inescapably noticeable.
The pastor started his sermon. The man on the right, in the front seemed like he was almost folded in half. I thought maybe he was looking down into his Bible but he seemed almost troubled, like he was bent in grief or some other inner pain.
The bent over man preached over the pastor. It was rather irritating. The pastor had to remind him several times “I’m The Preacher!”
Prayer requests were asked for and given up. I noticed as I have in most churches that people didn’t really pay attention to what they were saying. Amens were flung out like beads at Mardi-Gras.
The pastor asked for a multitude of Amens. Often inappropriately.
“Sister so-and-so just found out that she has cancer! Amen?”
All the people said “Amen.”
“Think about what you are saying!” I prayed.
“Amen” as closely as it can be translated, means “Let it be so!”
It seemed to me, they were wishing cancer upon a lady who just found out she has cancer!
Some people chose their church on the basis of comfort. They never get shaken by anything. Never learn or grow. Never question anything said by the pastor, or whatever his “Holy title” may be.
They follow the leader.
The Bible quite clearly teaches us otherwise. The Bible teaches us to question everything!
1 John 4:1King James Version (KJV)
4 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this man is a false teacher. Quite the contrary!
I think that the situation of the church has made him rather mechanical, in his preaching.
I also think his message changed, from the moment he saw me. It became rather obvious, as in most churches, that he didn’t think of me as a redeemed sinner but as a sinner in dire need of salvation. He seemed to adapt his message towards his belief that my soul was balanced on the brink of hell.
Well this was part of my plan, from the beginning of my journey. This is why I grew my hair longer than ever and cast away my razor. I told several friends of this muse. I knew it would be easy to spot those who judge the outside, instead of taking a moment to look inside. So many pastors try to teach on this and fail miserably. “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” they say. I’m sure it fills the coffers. Well I throw this right back at you; “The proof is in the pudding!” and “Practice what you preach!”
Okay. Enough of my preaching.
The hellfire directed toward me finally wound to a close and the alter call for my redemption, went unheeded but I stood at the end and thanked everyone for allowing me to fellowship with them and that I enjoyed hearing the sermon.
After the service I “mingled” with the other five and some ideas came into my head. I asked the pastor if they had any AA Meetings at the church. He said “No, nothing like that.”
I asked other questions and had other “ideas.”
I was ready to go outside, for some sun and I said as I was leaving “I’ll see you tonight, at the evening service!”
“No,” started the pastor “we don’t have that, anymore. We don’t have enough attendance.”
The bent over man talked to me for a bit. He asked where I was going.
“I think I’ll go to Wal-Mart. As much as I don’t like it, I think it’s my best bet for some decent food.”
“Yes, it probably is.” he agreed. “I’ll give you a ride!”
He still seemed troubled by something and very distracted by it.
We walked outside and I followed him to a very beat up red car. The car didn’t seem to fit him, with the nice suit he was wearing. The car could have used some duct tape.
We both got in and he said: “This is my baby, I won’t get rid of her. She has 292,000 miles on her and she’s still going!”
“She’s faithful!” I quipped.
He opened the glove compartment and the look of dismay returned.
“That daughter of mine! She borrowed my bank card because she needed $20.00 for medicine and hasn’t returned it!” He had a very loud voice. It sounded great while he was singing but not so great, in his anger.
He yelled a lot. There was no swearing involved but it wasn’t needed.
He got the car going and despite the shaking and rattling, we rolled out of the parking lot.
He said several times: “That’s a long walk back; are you sure you want to go?”
“Oh, yes. It’s not that bad; I walked to Thornton’s, the other day.”
I shouldn’t have said that! He turned in a direction I didn’t expect. “Oh, no!” I thought. “Well, maybe he just knows a better route.”
At the suspicious turn, we noticed a bad accident. A white car with the front very smashed in and totaled, had one person standing next to it. A red car closer to us, had two people still in it. Two police cars were on the scene.
He started in about how people don’t pay attention, anymore. He seemed to link it to their sinful nature and haste, all the time in his yelling voice. I felt very uncomfortable. I just wished I had walked.
Within a half a mile, we passed another accident, this time a white truck and a white suburban were on the grassy median.
He started in on them. He went back to the grief about his daughter. ” She’s going to wreck everything with my fiancee, I just know it!”
The man appeared in his seventies. I just had to ask: “You have a fiancee?”
“Yes.” Is all he said.
He drove far in the wrong direction. Miles, in fact.
We soon came to a Thornton’s convenience store and he said again: “Are you sure you really want to walk this far?”
I was at a loss for words. There was no way I was going to correct him. I just wanted out!
“Yes, this is fine. I appreciate it, thank you!”
He finally pulled over to let me out.
He said more madness about his daughter, who’s name I now knew to be Vicky.
I realized I didn’t know his name. I had to try to help, though.
“Sir, could you call her? Would you like to use my phone?”
“That would be great!”
He had trouble with the gadget and I helped him, as much as I could. He had three different numbers for his daughter and tried them all. He yelled into the phone at her, each time. At least one of the times he was yelling at a recorded message, from the phone company.
He seemed sweaty and shaky. I waited for his marbles to start falling. I was shaking myself, I think.
“I may as well take you to Wal-Mart.” he said out of the blue.
I was very confused! I just said, “Oh, that would be great.”
Off we went and I thought desperately about a different subject.
“Have you folks at the church ever thought about allowing an A.A. meeting at the church?”
“No. We just have the Wednesday service.”
“Oh, sure. It just occurred to me earlier that you need more members in your church and that right across the road is a huge trailer park, that I hear has a lot of problems of it’s own, with addiction troubles and such.”
I saw a light go on, in his eyes. He actually looked at me for the first time.
It was fleeting but God was moving.
He went back to the daughter dilemma.
“Maybe you’d like to use my phone again, when we get to Wal-Mart.”
We soon arrived. “Thank you, Lord.” I thought.
We did the phone thing, again.
Upon calling the third number, Vicky answered!
It was a cacophony of “WHO? WHERE? WHEN? WHAT? WHY?”
I could hear Vicky answering in a trembling, seemingly young voice.
I heard several times “I DIDN’T SEE YOU IN THAT CAR!”
I never heard a soft, fatherly word.
The call ended and he handed me back the phone.
He buried his face in his large hand.
“That was my daughter in that red car.” he said.
I didn’t get what he was talking about. All I was thinking about now, was my own self. “It was?”
“Yes. She was in the red car.” It was the softest I had heard him speak.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean.” I apologized.
“That accident.” he said. “She was in the red car.”
“Oh, Lord! Is she okay?”
“Maybe broken ribs.” is all he could say.
He looked at me with tears in his eyes, now.
“Would you like to pray, together?” I hoped he would.
“Yes.” He cried.
We prayed. Mostly him but I got a little in sideways.
He seemed better.
I reminded him about what the Lord said:
Matthew 18:20King James Version (KJV)
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
We said hurried good byes, yet he had to ask, one more time, “Are you sure you want to walk back, that far?”
“No problem, Sir. Go take care of your daughter.”
“I will, and don’t forget about Wednesday evening!”
He zoomed away. The car seemed to rattle a little less and I seemed to finally be accepted by him.