Archive for July, 2009

BLACKBERRIES

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

 Have you ever heard or read something that triggered a memory of something, someone, or a time long forgotten? Before you think I’ve run off the road and into a mental ditch, read on.

 I’m having a hard time being pushed into the world of technology. For instance, I just can’t get accustomed to the abbreviations that folks use these days in emails and texting, but I just had to LOL the other day at something I read at the end of an electronic message. Here’s what it said – “This email sent from my blackberry.” In the flash of a nano-second, I landed smack-dab in the middle of a briar patch back home at Route 4.

 Just reading the word – blackberry – I can close my eyes and get lost in the aroma of Mother’s blackberry cobbler coming out of the red-hot oven of that old wood-burning stove. Her mouth-watering masterpiece was covered with lattice-work strips of her homemade dough and sprinkled with sugar and cooked to a golden brown perfection! It just doesn’t get any better.

 Blackberries – the word sure has a different meaning in today’s high tech world. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the convenience of all the mechanical toys and gadgets that promise to make our lives  easier. But is it just me or have you also noticed that the technology has just increased the pace of today’s world? Cell phones, blackberries if you will, GPS navigation, the internet all are wonderful inventions for which I’m thankful. But sometimes I confess that I use them to try to crowd more minutes and chores into a busy 24-hour day. I overheard someone on their cell phone the other day saying that they were so tired they could hardly walk. Well, hang up that cell phone and get some rest!

 I realize that I’m from a land and a time long ago and far away, technically speaking, but I believe that Jesus got tired at times in His earthly ministry and needed to rest. And if rest is good enough for Him, it certainly is good enough for me! He knows that our frail human minds and bodies need rest and if we don’t get it, the ‘wheels will eventually come off the truck!’

 In fact, He gives us the prescription for good old-fashioned rest that brings healing to the body, mind, and soul. In Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV), He invites all of us tired, worn-out, and weary warriors to find rest in Him. And it’s rest that only He can give because He takes away our heavy load (yoke) and replaces it with One that is easy and light. In His gentleness and humbleness, we can find rest for our souls.

 Are you tired and worn-out today? Put down the BlackBerry for 15 minutes, close your eyes, think about that blackberry cobbler, and find rest in the Master.

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HOMEMADE ICE CREAM

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

The other night after a delicious family birthday supper (that’s Route 4 language for the evening meal!), I made the remark that it sure would be nice to have a churn of homemade peach ice cream. After a chorus of “Oh, Yes” from the family gathered around the table, I climbed aboard the Mental Time Travel Pickup Truck and raced back in time over fifty years to Route 4 with this comment, “And it just has to be from a hand-cranked churn!”

 Well, a certain twenty-something member of the family who shall remain anonymous for her own protection said, “Oh, no, just forget it – can’t deal with it if it’s not electric!” Too late – I’m already sitting on that cold, cold, churn under the big oak tree in the grass-less yard at Route 4. And one of my brothers, either Ollie or Wade, is cranking the handle. Probably Ollie, because Wade always liked to show up just as the cranking was finished!

 But, hold the handle for just a moment! To get to the churn, I have to plow a couple of rows in Daddy’s way of thinking. Early on a Summer Saturday morning, he would say, “Boys, if you get your work done before dark, and do it right the first time, we just might have us some homemade ice cream when you’re finished.” For some reason, I always heard that “us” part! I think Daddy loved that homemade ice cream more than us because it was the “us” who did the work!

 But this was not a committee meeting. Daddy was just making a statement. It was not up for debate. There was no vote to be taken by a three-judge panel. If I could have voted, my vote would have been to knock off work about dinner time (that’s Route 4 language for the noon hour) and have the delightful frozen treat about two o’clock in the afternoon. But life back home at Route 4 was never a democratic society. And, looking back now, I’m thinking it probably had to be that way for survival.

 For those not fortunate enough to have been a part of a two-man homemade ice cream team, I must explain. Daddy would already have gone to the ice plant in town and brought back a huge block of ice for us to chip off with the ice pick into pieces small enough to use in the wooden ice cream churn. He would pour the rock salt around the cylinder holding Mother’s heavenly mixture and we would load it up with those small pieces of ice. Then the two-man, or should I say, two-boy, team of alternating crankers and sitters would take over.

 You see, someone had to sit on the burlap fertilizer bag that Daddy brought out of the barn to cover the ice while the other half of the team turned the crank. Then, when the sitter’s backside was turned to a popsicle, the sitter and the cranker would swap places. And so the rotation would continue until the combination of the ice and Daddy’s generous portion of rock salt took effect. And it never failed. Somehow, I always wound up in the cranking spot as that handle got so hard to turn, I thought my 12-year-old, noodle-for-a-bicep arm would surely fall off!

 Then, after Daddy had said, “Give it one more turn, boys,” and when we couldn’t, he’d always say those words that our mouth-watering taste buds hated to hear, “OK, boys, let it settle for awhile.” (The girls didn’t have to sit on a wet fertilizer bag- that wouldn’t have been lady-like!) But, I never have understood why homemade ice cream had to settle. Not to belabor the point, but Daddy NEVER passed out the secret ballots. So, after the passing of about twenty agonizing minutes, we watched as Daddy ‘taste-tested’ to be sure it was OK, and then we enjoyed the fruits of our labor!

 And so it is in our Christian life this half-century removed from Route 4. First the labor, then the joy. I think theologians might call it God’s Promise and Reward System. Just like Daddy’s homemade ice cream system, if we are obedient and follow God’s plan, He promises us great delight. And He has never failed yet to keep every single promise He has ever made!

 David, the shepherd boy turned king, probably never tasted homemade peach ice cream. But in his first words he talks about how happy is the person who delights in following God’s instructions (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV). Read it again today and enjoy.

 Sometimes in life, we have to be the ‘sitter’ and sometimes we have to be the ‘cranker.’ But always, if we follow the rules, there’s a bowl of homemade peach ice cream waiting at the end.

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TWO YELLOW JACKETS

WOODSHED WISDOM!

By Freeman Martin

 When I’m kicking up gold dust (barefooted!) on the forever streets of Glory, I want to look up ol’ Noah and have a little sit-down with him. I’d like to ask him about some of his fellow ark-mates during the Great Flood.  For instance, I’ve never liked chiggers and mosquitoes and especially yellow jackets. Used to get eat up with ‘em back home at Route 4, especially in the summer time.

 That would always bring out Mother’s rubbing alcohol or calamine lotion. In her opinion, a bite from any kind of varmint lower than a grizzly bear could be properly cured with generous portions of rubbing alcohol and/or calamine lotion and sometimes a combination of both.

 But we could always feel safe if we stayed on the front porch near Mother in the cool of the evening because she was never far from her battled-scarred fly swatter! I mean, when that thing was worn out, she would weave string through the holes in the mesh and it became a weapon against the mosquitoes and yellow jackets or an instrument of punishment, depending on the situation. But with no central air conditioning (imagine that!), the windows were always raised out of necessity and the screens were long since lost.  

 Now the girls, that would be my little sisters Estelle and Anne, could be involved in starting another world war and they’d get a little love tap from the fly swatter! But you let one of us boys be accused of something as monumental as maybe leaving the door open, and WHAM! It’s repair time for the old fly swatter! I guess that was Mother’s mini-woodshed, ‘cause the heavy duty stuff occurred, of course, with Daddy at the main Woodshed.

 This trip down the dirt road of my memory was inspired by a recent evening on the back porch. We were enjoying some sandwiches and chips with family when a couple of uninvited guests, two hungry yellow jackets, showed up. Helen immediately called for the heavy artillery, her store-bought, plastic-coated, wouldn’t-hurt-a-flea, fly swatter, which she promptly handed right over to her brother, James, who was sitting closest to her.

 To the delight of his grandson Isaac, James took a couple of wild, left-handed swings and misses. After each miss, Isaac (his name means laughter) would squeal even louder, “Get him, Papa. Hit him, Papa.” And each time his Papa missed, Isaac turned up his laughter another decibel or two until James finally connected and the game was over.

 Whenever I hit the replay of that scene, I feel how urgent it is to spread the Good News. Without a close personal relationship with Jesus, some would think that God is holding a Holy Fly Swatter, just waiting for us to fly around and land in sin so that He can whack us for doing wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all come up short against His measuring stick. But He is loving, kind, compassionate and seeks to renew, restore, and reconcile when we land where we shouldn’t. Not to say that, because of our mule-headed stubbornness, He won’t ever have us visit the Woodshed for a lesson or two. But His rebuke and discipline is because He loves us (Rev. 3:19 NIV) and it is not His will that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9 NIV).

 Keep telling the Story, be faithful and true……..and, by all means, keep whacking those yellow jackets!

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BAREFOOT IN THE COUNTRY

The arrival of Spring each year with its rainbow of blooming dogwoods and azaleas never fails to generate awe and wonder and amazement at the natural beauty and majesty of God’s creation.

 

But the arrival of Spring back home at Route Four meant that once again we could enjoy the pleasures of going barefoot. The memories of jumping in mud puddles after Spring showers, playing in Coneross Creek, and the feel of newly plowed earth between our toes as we worked in the garden are now just memories of so many Spring-times ago, and a lifestyle long abandoned, if not forgotten altogether.

 

Sure, there were challenges of going barefoot on the farm. Tree stumps, briars, sharp rocks, and yellow jackets under the pear tree are just a few that come to mind. Try putting on shoes and socks to go to church on Sunday after you’ve stumped your big toe on a tree root on Saturday afternoon! Joy and pain – sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it? But that’s a thought for another trip to the woodshed.

 

At the end of the day, going barefoot meant having dirty feet! And that brings up the memories of Mother’s nightly foot inspections. Without the benefit of a hot shower (hard to accomplish without running water!), Mother would always have some warm water in the reservoir of the old wood-burning cook stove to take the chill off the well water. And then it was foot-washing time. And don’t even think about wiping your feet on the apron tied around her waist if you haven’t completely scrubbed between every toe on both feet!

 

There were no portraits on the walls of the four-room, weather-board, no central air conditioning or heated farmhouse at Route Four. But today, my favorite portrait of all time is the Last Supper. It was there in the upper room, just before Jesus was to be crucified, that the Apostle John described (Ch. 13, NIV) how Jesus planted a seed in the minds of His disciples, and left an example of service for all eternity, about washing each other’s feet. By performing that lowly, dirty, smelly job of washing the stinking feet of those guys around that table, our Lord taught us what it means to be ‘saved to serve.’ And as He told them, if it’s good enough for Him, it’s the least we can do for each other.

 

How do we wash someone’s feet? Don’t look for somebody going barefoot. You won’t find many ‘stumped big toes’ in today’s world! Rather, look for needs and hurts. Widows, orphans, poor, needy, sick people all need their feet washed. I think that hospital waiting rooms should be called foot-washing rooms. I received the blessing of a foot-washing recently when two dear friends, Judy and Jeanette, waited with me while Helen was having surgery. And before she went in to surgery, Helen’s feet were washed by Walt Sweet, one of our ministers at Rock Springs Baptist Church. Walt made the sixty mile round trip to spend five minutes in prayer with Helen before her surgery. After her surgery, Don Pressley from our church made the same drive the next day to check on her recovery. And, oh my goodness, the casseroles that so many people brought to our kitchen were loaded with much more than physical nourishment.

 

So, grab a towel, folks. Even in a world of fancy footwear, we’re still surrounded by people going barefoot!

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HE LOOKS JUST LIKE HIS DADDY!

At a recent family gathering, the subject of conversation turned to how we begin to resemble our parents as we get older. My niece Bethany, a teacher and coach, and my nephew Andrew, a recent college graduate,  both said they find themselves saying some of the same things their parents said while they were growing up, sounding like their parents did, and even beginning to resemble their parents in manners and attitudes. 

Bethany said that she has found herself giving the same advice to the girls on her basketball team that her mother, Estelle, gave her as a child. And Andrew chimed in that he has found himself on occasion relaxing (and dozing) on the couch after supper in the very same position as his Dad, Tony. As my Mother used to say back home at Route 4, “they look like two peas in a pod!”

And when Bethany and Andrew have families and children of their own, I’m sure that their children will resemble them in many of their manners and ways. It’s a natural generational progression that children act like, think like, and resemble their parents as the children grow older.

Case in point is that Bethany and Andrew’s brother, Joel, has grown to the height (about 6-feet-4) that was common in his grandparents on his mother’s side of the family. Bethany probably wishes she had inherited that height so she could know what it feels like to dunk a basketball!  I guess she’ll just have to be content to teach Joel and Gwen’s baby, Riley Kate, how to dribble and apply the full court press. 

During this discussion, Helen turned to me and said, “And you’re the spittin’ image of your Daddy.” While I admit that I don’t know exactly what a ‘spittin’ image’ should look like, the fact remains that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree that it came from.

While this is true in the physical sense, it brings to mind a question worth pondering. What or who do we resemble, act like, think like, talk like in the spiritual sense?

In Psalm 145, David, the shepherd boy who would be king, describes his Heavenly Father as gracious, compassionate, not easily angered, and abounding in love. He also adds that God keeps all His promises, loves everyone alike, and picks us up when we’ve been knocked down. What a wonderful image of our loving Heavenly Father! And a great example for us earthly fathers to follow. Could it be that’s what it means to be a spittin’ image?

After all, shouldn’t a child of the King bear a family resemblance??

Psalm 150:6

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THE TREE THAT WOULDN’T FALL

The list of my Saturday chores recently included cutting down two small pine trees that were stunting the growth of a couple of Helen’s azalea bushes. Nothing to it, or so I thought. Growing up on the farm, the passage of a boy into manhood was marked by his ability and strength to take down a couple of trees, saw them up for firewood or stovewood, usually with a hand saw,  clean up the limbs and pile them neatly out of the way.

Working my way down the list on this particular Saturday, I brought out my trusty chain saw, filled it with gas and oil, and then it was me and the tree. The first one was no problem. Cut the notch toward where I wanted it to fall just like I learned over 50 years ago back at Route Four. Went to the other side and cut into the notched-out area and in a manner of seconds, that tree was on the ground! Just like riding a bicycle, you never forget how.

Then on to the second tree. Or, as I call it now, the tree that wouldn’t fall! Little did I know this one would consume most of the rest of my day! Following the same process – notch out, cut through the other side – that stubborn tree slid right off the stump onto the ground and just stood there! That’s right, sawed off its stump and standing straight and tall!

At this point, my sweet wife offered an ‘encouraging word.’ As she sat on the porch in the shade, I might add, she was heard to say, “Do you think I should get the video camera?” I’m convinced now, in hindsight, that she must surely be prophetic! A video of the rest of this little stand-off between me and the tree that wouldn’t fall would surely win the grand prize in that funniest home video television program. But back to the tree. The top of it is hung up in the limbs of fellow tree, wrapping their arms around each other to frustrate that guy on the ground with the chain saw.

Not having a chain, I begain piecing together every short length of rope I could find, tied it to the back of the little red pickup truck and away I went! Well, I had enough rope to go all the way across the yard and out the driveway. Coming to the end of the rope, lil’ red truck just stopped right in its tracks. Calling Miss Helen from her perch in the shade to drive the truck, I began to add my weight to the rope by swinging on it.  Another woodshed experience!! It wasn’t the fall that hurt so much as it was the sudden stop that took my breath away.

Are you alright,’ said she from the lil’ red truck with a smile that said “I knew I should have had this on video!” Then with all her care and concern, she said, “Just let it go – the wind will blow it down.” And it surely would have. In either of two directions. One, where I wanted it to fall. The other, toward the power line, her car, and the porch she was sitting on.

When I could breathe normally again, I sat down on the tailgate of Lil’ Red and uttered this prayer. “Lord, you gave me a brain. Please help me use it to find a way out of this dilema.” And at just that moment, I spied the hammock that I had moved out of the way earlier. At each end was a three-foot piece of chain! One end I tied to the base of the tree that wouln’t fall and the other end to the hitch on Lil’ Red. Crank it up, let the clutch out, and…Thank you, Jesus, the tree that wouldn’t fall came sliding to the ground as I drove away!

Now, God didn’t make that tree get wrapped around the others. That was all me and my lack of planning. But He used the situation to teach me a valuable piece of Woodshed Wisdom! The are so many situations, trials, troubles, tough decisions in life that seem just like that tree that wouldn’t fall. We might think that there’s just no way to solve this problem or to get out of that situation, or to know just which way to go and what decision to make. But, I can do everything through Him who is my strength (Phil.4:13, NIV). It’s when we only hear the first part of that verse that we get into trouble. The ONLY way the first part is possible is when we hear the rest of the verse. It’s through the strength of Jesus Christ that we can do ANYTHING. And that most certainly includes taking on the tree that wouldn’t fall!

Psalm 150:6

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A LOW-SODIUM DIET?

Because of health problems, many people in the world today are on a low-sodium, no-salt diet. On doctors’ orders, they must be very careful about how much sodium is in the food they eat. For health reasons, My wife, Helen, is one of those people that always check the ingredient label to see how many grams of sodium are in their food.

But there are some foods that just don’t taste right without salt. Have you ever tried to eat unsalted French fries? Some even like to put salt on their watermelon, although that’s not one of my personal favorites! Salt adds flavor and seasoning. That’s the purpose of salt. Before refrigeration became common, salt was also used as a preservative. That woodshed, back on the farm that was the scene of all those boyhood lessons, was built on the side of our smokehouse where hams were salted down and acquired that unforgettable flavor.

But how about our life as a Christian? Are we on a low-sodium Christian diet? Dr. Jesus has given us instructions to be ‘the salt of the earth.’ (Matthew 5:13, NIV). What does a salty Christian’s life look like? It adds flavor, even zest, to the lives of those it touches.
RAK’s (random acts of kindness) like little hand-written notes of encouragement, an up-lifting phone call, a smile, a meal, or maybe just being optimistic (so important in the world we live in today!), are just a few examples of ‘sprinkling salt on someone’s life.’

And, although she’s on a low-sodium diet for her health and constantly battling health problems,  Helen ‘grabs the salt shaker’ every day and shakes it all over the lives of people around her! It’s called making a difference. And that salt that we shake on others should make them thirsty. That is to say, after we’ve sprinkled them, they should have an intense desire for the Water of Life. Do others want to have the ‘salt’ that seasons and flavors our lives?

I remember those big boxes of Morton salt that Mother always kept in her pantry back home at Route 4. And the slogan we all remember today was ‘when it rains, it pours.’ Meaning that when the Morton salt starts coming out of the box, it pours all over the place! Could the world be a better place today if we just ‘let it rain’ all over the people we know and love?

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