Archive for April, 2010

RAGWEEDS AND CRABGRASS!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Whenever I have a few minutes to spare, I like to stroll through the lawn and garden section at one of those big box stores. And I can’t help but smile when I hear snippets of conversation between the clerks and the part-time farmers. Saturday mornings are ripe for these kind of opportunities. That’s when most of the part-timers take their cups of latte and go pick out just the right plants, poisons, and power tools for their gardens.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not eavesdropping. I’ve never dropped any eaves, so I wouldn’t know where to start. But my funny bone gets tickled when I hear the questions asked by these gallant gardeners who’ve never known the feel of a freshly plowed furrow between their barefoot toes.

Herewith are some of my favorites. “Does this cute little begonia like the sun or the shade?” That always reminds me of Wade. That boy had more tummy aches than a dog has fleas. ‘Cause he knew Mother would always say, “Just go lay down in the shade for a while till you get to feelin’ better.” What she didn’t know was that he had just swallowed about two pounds of powdered milk straight from the box. And the hot sun in the garden was about to turn it into buttermilk!

And I almost laughed out loud when I heard a lady ask, “How often do I need to turn on the sprinkler system so our dainty daffodils won’t get thirsty?” I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling her about our sprinkler system back home at Route 4 that involved four or five boys totin’ a bucket of water in each hand from the branch. It’s just as well that she didn’t hear that. She probably would have thought we had dinosaurs out in the pasture behind the barn.

But the one that made my back hurt was when a grown man in flip-flops and short pants asked the clerk, “What kind of weed killer do you recommend for those pesky little dandelions?” The only weed killers we ever knew were all us boys (the girls didn’t get their hands dirty!) on our hands and knees pulling up the ragweeds and crabgrass by the roots. And don’t you even think about not getting’ all the roots.

Daddy believed in having the cleanest middles ever known to mankind. For my non-farming, mill-hill, city slicker cousins, the middles in the garden were those spaces between the rows of corn, beans, maters or whatever. I always thought that back-breaking job was just to keep us busy. Only later did I learn that the ragweeds and crabgrass needed to be pulled up by the roots to keep them from choking the life out of the tender corn or bean plants.

Daddy always liked to wait till we were ready to dig into a platter of hot, buttered corn-on-the-cob and some fresh, vine-ripe mater-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. Then he’d say to no one in particular, “Boys, just remember how this smells and tastes the next time you’re on your hands and knees pulling up those ragweeds and crabgrass.” But, of course, we’d still gripe and belly-ache every time we had to get our hands dirty cleaning the middles in the garden. And that would prompt Daddy to declare that we wouldn’t work if we had a job in a pie factory!

Any time my mind wanders back to the garden, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 15 when some Pharisees and other learned folks looked down their noses at the disciples because they didn’t wash their hands before they ate supper. Now I’m a firm believer in ‘washin’ up before supper,’ as Mother reminded us every day of our life on the farm.

Jesus was givin’ these folks a woodshed lesson that day when He told them that it’s not what goes into a person’s mouth that makes him dirty; it’s what comes out of the mouth that makes a person unclean (Matthew 15:11). Some of the Pharisees got their feelings hurt when they heard this. I guess Jesus stepped on their toes too hard. Anyway, that’s when Jesus taught them about ragweeds and crabgrass (v.13), “every plant that’s not planted by our Heavenly Father will be pulled up by the roots.” That’s the only way to keep the middles clean in the garden. And give tender young plants the chance to turn into something good.

God works the garden of our hearts every day. And sometimes he finds stuff that He needs to get rid of so what He has planted there will have a chance to grow and be something good. Maybe we could give Him a hand today by going to our knees and gettin’ rid of those briars, wild onions, ragweeds and crabgrass. Just pull ‘em up by the roots.

It’s the only way to keep ‘em from spreadin’.

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I CAN’T WAIT!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

It was the answer to a Wheel of Fortune puzzle the other night. Phrase was the category. And before Mimi could buy a vowel, I knew what the answer was. ‘Waiting Is The Hardest Part.’ And it was a prize puzzle, too. Those usually involve a trip to some exotic part of the world. Usually. This time the wheel spun its magic and away I went. Not to some white-sand, blue water beach in the Caribbean, but to the banks of the mighty Coneross Creek and the nearby fields and woods of the ol’ home place at Route 4.

To the best of my recollection, it seems like waitin’ was always involved in everything that happened while we were growin’ up on the farm. Our favorite expression was ‘Man, I can’t wait till……’, and you could fill in the blank with a multitude of answers that you’ll never see Vanna turning letters for on The Wheel.

Just like it was yesterday, I can remember gettin’ off the school bus up at the tar-and-gravel main road and walkin’ down the dirt road to the house thinkin’ to myself, ‘I can’t wait till I’m old enough to drive that school bus right down this dirt road and park it in the barnyard.’ And Wade always had eatin’ on his mind. He’d come out with something like ‘I can’t wait to see what Mother’s cookin’ for supper.’ Even though we all knew it was going to be cornbread and milk. Oliver would usually chime in with ‘I can’t wait till I get out of school, get me a paying job, and buy me a car.’

See, we all had our jobs to do. We just didn’t get paid. Well, not with money anyway. What with all the feedin’ and waterin’, plowin’ and plantin’, cuttin’ and totin’, and the gazillion other things that made it necessary for farm folks to have about a dozen kids. I mean, it was as rare as hen’s teeth findin’ an “only-child” farm family.

But anyway, around our place, it didn’t matter what job we had. Whether it was cuttin’ stove wood or drawin’ water or pickin’ blackberries, we’d always somehow find a way to lolly-gag around, waitin’ on this or that or the other. Daddy liked to call us the “W&W Boys,” ‘cause every time he came to check on how we were doing, he’d find us watchin’ the clock and waitin’ on quittin’ time! And that usually won us another all-expenses paid trip to the woodshed for another lecture in his continuing series on the merits of hard work.

And he’d always start off by sayin’, “Boys, my patience is wearin’ thin. While you’re out there watchin’ and waitin’, there needs to be some workin’ going on.” I would liked to have seen how thick his patience was before he and Mother had six boys and three girls! But don’t you think that’s a unique concept? Watchin’ and waitin’ is OK. That means we’re hopin’ and expectin’ something good to happen.

Like smellin’ Mother’s coconut cake in the oven, and thinkin’, “I just can’t wait till it’s done.” But there needs to be some workin’ going on while we’re waitin’ and watchin’. I’m here to tell you, if you hadn’t finished your chores and washed your face and hands, you’d find yourself on the back porch while everybody else is diggin’ in to a big slice of that moist and juicy coconut cake!

So, the more I think about it, the more I’m believin’ that the Wheel puzzle hit the nail on the head. Workin’ is not the hardest part. It’s the waitin’. And don’t you just know that the Lord’s patience is wearin’ thin? I mean, He’s told us how wonderful Heaven’s gonna be. No more pain, no more tears, no more grief, no more evil, no more dark, no more tired, ol’ wore-out bodies. For over two thousand years, Jesus has been gettin’ that place ready.

And all we have to do is believe Him and trust Him and obey Him and get a little work done while we’re waitin’ and watchin’ for the good stuff. If I told you that next Sunday you and everybody you know are invited to our house for all the cornbread and green beans, fried chicken, saw mill gravy over cat head biscuits, corn on the cob, and apple cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert, do you think you could draw a crowd? Would you tell anybody about it?

Likewise, it’s not hard work to tell somebody how good Jesus has been to us. The hardest part is waitin’ till all the good stuff is ready!  So, maybe, we just need to give ourselves a little check-up from the neck up. Like David did in his 27th Psalm, verses 13-14. He reminded himself (and us) that no matter how rough things get, he will see all the good stuff that God has waitin’ for us.

But here’s what’s tough for us humans to understand sometimes. God is so patient because He wants every single person he has ever created to come Home with Him after ‘church’ is over down here. I heard somebody ask a question the other day about ‘this ol’ world.’ They said, ‘How much longer do you think God’s gonna let this go on?’ I wanted to say, ‘I’m not the one baking the cake.’ God’s a whole lot smarter than I am. He made it all and when He’s ready, He’ll call time.

Till then, we just gotta do what David said in verse 14. Be strong, be encouraged, and wait for the Lord. And get to work tellin’ everybody we know how good it’s gonna be. And how much Jesus loves every one of us. And how He promised to come get us when the places are all set around the banquet table.

And even though the waitin’ is hard, David offers proof that it’s worth it. Check out his evidence in Psalm 40:1-3. Because he waited patiently for the Lord, he was lifted out of the muck and mud and given a rock to stand on and a new song to sing along with the heavenly choir, just praising God for all his goodness.

For somebody who’s never been able to carry a tune in a water bucket, that’s exciting to me! I’ve always wanted to sing bass in the choir. Now I know I’ll get my chance.

I just can’t wait!

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JUST READ THE INSTRUCTION BOOK!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. You’d think that somebody as old as I am would know better. I mean, folks, somebody who’s been to the woodshed so many times the woodpeckers know his full name, address, phone number, and last four of his social, would have learned at least one or two lessons along the way. But the temptation was just too strong. Even for someone with an advanced B.B. (burnt britches) degree!  

After risking rotator cuff injury jerking on the handle of my old weed eater, with the same results as last Spring and Summer, I followed Mimi’s advice. She had seen one advertised on television with ‘a new and improved pulley that was guaranteed to start every time with a maximum of 4 pulls.’ Yeah, right!

In the past, I had always been able to get my little green monster started. Somehow, some way, even if it took about fifty jerks on the rope. Not this year. I don’t think it would have started if I had given it CPR. It probably wouldn’t have fired off even if I had had some of those paddles to shock it back to life like they do in the ER on General Hospital.

So I gave in. Went to the weed eater store and came home with a big box covered in large print and pretty pictures. Three easy steps, no tools needed. Lightweight and easy to use. That’s what it said on the box. Right beside the picture of a perfectly manicured lawn. And a lady wearing shorts operatin’ this thing without a single blade of grass on her legs!  Why, if this thing works like that, I’ll be able to turn over the weed eatin’ chores to Mimi!

But first, I have to follow the ‘three quick and easy steps’ to assemble this modern miracle of lawn care. Step one, ‘using the wing nuts, spacers, lock washers, and bolts from the parts list, attach the handle as indicated at arm’s length on the shaft of the trimmer.’ Question one, whose arm am I supposed to use to measure the spot?

Step two, ‘following the same procedure as in step one, attach the trimmer string guard to the end of the shaft.’ Question two, what happens if my arm’s length won’t reach to the end of the shaft? Step three, by pressing down and turning counterclockwise, attach the trimmer head to the end of the shaft making sure that your spindle is fully seated.’ Step three comment: I had been standing up, but following the easy-to-read instructions, I turned counterclockwise and sat down. Nothing happened. Unless you count the weeds laughin’ their heads off at me!

After two tall glasses of sweet iced tea had calmed my jangled nerves, I remembered one of Daddy’s Ten Thousand Lessons Learned at the Woodshed. “Boy, when are you going to learn to follow instructions?” Bingo, the instruction book! Why didn’t I think about that an hour and a half ago? 

After a thirty-minute search, I located it. Sealed in a plastic bag and glued to the underside of the top of the shipping box with about ten pounds of that glue that resembles Stretch Armstrong when you pull on his arms. I thought briefly about going to get my chain saw. But it probably wouldn’t start either.

Grabbing the plastic bag containing my instruction book, I jerked four or five times like I was trying to start my old weed eater and the bag fell off on the ground. Now we’re getting somewhere. Turning it right side up, I immediately saw a huge skull-and-crossbones warning. In big bold letters that I could read without my bi-focals. “THIS BAG COULD BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH!”

Thinking that the plastic bag couldn’t be any more hazardous to my (mental) health than the ‘three quick and easy steps,’ I ripped it open and pulled out my instruction book. There on the front cover, printed in French, Spanish, and English, was another dire warning. “To reduce the risk of injury, the user must read and understand this operator’s manual before using this product!”

The reading part I can handle, even though in my way of thinking, the two extra languages are a bit of overkill. But it’s the understanding part of the warning that’s going to take some time.

But this whole process has confirmed for me a long-held theory. Trying to assemble a godly life without reading the Maker’s Instruction Book can be equally frustrating. In an email the other day, Grandson Kirby asked me, “Papa, do you know what B.I.B.L.E. stands for?” To save me a few more rapidly declining brain cells, he went ahead and answered, “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” I like that!

The Bible is God’s Operator’s Manual for us to follow for our own benefit. It’s chock-full of instructions and warnings designed by Him to save our life. All we have to do is read the manual and follow the instructions. Why is it, then, that we run into so much trouble? This is just me, but I think it could be because we try to do things our own way without reading His Instruction Book.

Consider if you will, these instructions written by Paul for his friends at Thessalonica. The Thessalonians were good, loving, faithful, hard working folks. Paul wrote that he was always thanking God for them in his prayers. And, before wrapping up his first letter to them, Paul had these easy-to-follow instructions for them in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18.

Be respectful; work hard; be loving, kind, peaceful, encouraging, helpful, patient, forgiving, and don’t look for revenge when somebody does you wrong. Be full of joy everyday of your life, even when you don’t ‘feel’ like it; pray all the time; and give thanks to God in all circumstances. Paul didn’t say give thanks to God FOR all circumstances; he said IN all circumstances. Because, frankly, a lot of our circumstances are not of God’s doing. Instead, they are the direct result of us not following His instructions.

Is your Bible dog-eared, falling apart, and held together with duct tape? Wonderful! That means you’re good at reading and following instructions. Like the sign read out in front of the old country church, the Bible that’s falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn’t.

Remember, B.I.B.L.E. stands for basic instructions before leaving earth. Does that mean we should consult it for help only at the last minute or when everything else we try doesn’t work? NOT! Every day and every step of the way will be easier if we just learn to follow instructions. 

The operator’s manual for my new weed eater also has something else printed boldly on the front cover. SAVE THIS MANUAL FOR FUTURE REFERENCE. That’ll come in handy when I get to the two-page fold-out containing the seven-step Fuel Mixing and Engine Starting Procedure!

Heaven help me if I try that without reading the instructions!

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BLOSSOMS, BLESSINGS, AND BUMBLE BEES!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

They said on tv last night that the pollen count would be extremely high again today. That means another day of runny noses, watery eyes, and itchy mouths. It seems like I need to tie a box of Kleenex around my neck every time I go out the door.

Pardon this little side road, but I don’t recall ever seeing any Kleenex around the ol’ farmhouse back home at Route 4. Did we not have pollen back then? I’m sure we did. That was before we cut down most of the trees and bushes to build our wonderful shopping centers, malls, and parking decks. But I guess that bandana we carried in the back pocket of our overalls served a multitude of purposes!

I remember the first time I saw a box of Kleenex. Actually it was a little, itty-bitty, cellophane-wrapped pack that would fit very nicely into the back pocket of my overalls. I was on my way to wealth and fortune, at the rate of 40 cents an hour, as a bag boy at the A & P. And this little pack of cut-up tissue paper squares cost a nickel. Goodbye, bandana; hello, Kleenex. The only problem was that I just didn’t look very suave and debonair walking around with my other back pocket full of used tissue paper. But, hey, progress has its price!   

Back to the main road. It seems like the whole world today is covered in that yellow dust. The winds and breezes blow it all over the porch and steps and decks. Speaking of decks, there’s another modern invention. We never had to take a hose pipe and wash the pollen off our deck back home on the farm. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. That was before decks and hose pipes were invented.

But if you’re outside at all these days, we get the sneezin’ powder in our hair (for those who have hair!) and then we bring it in the house on our clothes. You can almost see it as it falls and covers everything in sight.

This might just be my imagination, but as I was runnin’ from the bumble bees and washing down the deck last night, a strange thought came rolling down the dirt road of my mind. It seems to me like the buds on the trees and flowers and bushes just exploded and spewed forth their yellow, dusty, bumble-bee food about three days ago. Well, guess what? Three days ago was Easter Sunday! The day that we clebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the cold dark grave, forever bathing all believers in the Sonshine of His love and grace and mercy.

And, again, this is just me, but I believe that it’s all according to God’s master plan for His creation that He’s allowing the tulips and pansies and daffodils, and the dogwoods outside my window to join in our celebration. It’s like their little buds are bursting forth with their rainbow of colors as their way of shouting their praise and thanks to their Creator for bringing them through another cold, dark Winter into the warmth of the Spring sunshine.

By the way, that’s exactly what happened when God brought His creation back to himself from the darkness of sin through the crucifying death and glorious Resurrection of His Only Begotten Son.

After he saw the Light that day out there on that Damascus dirt road, the Apostle Paul became a great writer, penning over half of the 27 books of the New Testament.

And it was in his letter to some ‘budding’ Christians, “the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse,” that he describes how we should ‘blossom’ for the Lord. Ever since he heard about them, Paul said he had not stopped praying for them to understand God’s will for their lives (Colossians 1:9-14).

And he prayed that so that they (and we) might live a life worthy of Him and pleasing to Him in every way (v.10). How do we do that? Paul said it’s by bearing fruit and growing strong in the power and knowledge of God. And to know God, we have to study His Word so that we can develop endurance and patience with joy and thankful hearts for being qualified for a share of the inheritance of the saints.

In other words, like the trees and flowers, it’s only right for us to seek to please Him by blooming where we’re planted. He sent Jesus into the darkness to rescue us and save us. And, what’s so amazing, He even forgives us for wanderin’ off into the dark to begin with!

So, go ahead and let your blossoms develop into full bloom. Put a smile on God’s face by growing strong in His power and bearing the fruits of endurance and patience. And don’t worry about the pollen. When the bumble bees have all they need to keep the process going, He’ll send the rain to wash it away.

And, along the way, He’s promised to send showers of blessing, too. Let’s all turn to page 264 in our hymnals and sing, or, in my case, hum, the words of Daniel Whittle’s great song about the Christian life. “There shall be showers of blessing, this is the promise of love; There shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Saviour above. Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need; Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”

ACHOO! GOD BLESS YOU!   

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WHAT’S THAT DINGING NOISE?

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

“Dad, what’s that dinging noise? And that flashing light is gettin’ on my last nerve,” said my mill-hill bride. After we said ‘I Do’ almost 46 years ago, we decided that if God blessed us with children and grandchildren, they would never hear us calling each other by our first names.

It took several trips to the woodshed for me to learn that you better not let your folks hear you calling a grownup by their first name. Even after I was a safe distance away from the shed, we became Mom and Dad to each other. Even before the pitty-pat sound of tiny little feet on linoleum filled the house. When they were young, our grands got quite a kick out of hearing us call each other Mom and Dad. In fact, Sarah-Parker was often heard telling Mimi,”He’s not your Dad, he’s Papa.”  

And we still call each other Mom and Dad. Even now when it’s just the two of us in our side-by-side recliners. With our multiple electronic devices on the table beside us. Hence, the recent commotion and hullabaloo caused by the incessant dinging and flashing light.

So, it was on the third electronic device she picked up that Mom asked about the dinging noise. Dad patiently explained that the noise and light meant that she was receiving a text message from one of the children. Whereupon this mill-hill Mom called both our children to inform them that when they had something to tell her, she wanted to hear their voice. Not some dinging noise and flashing light!

Yes, our kids are right. They’re having to drag Mom and Dad into the 21st Century. Just when it seemed like we could function intelligently in a www-dot-com world, along comes this phenomenon called texting!

I mean, it’s hard enough for my stiff old digits to land on the right key on a regular size keyboard. And now you’re telling me that I have to use a keyboard that’s so small, it fits into my shirt pocket. Where the end of one finger types tygh when all I want is to type the?

The realization has hit us. We’re electronic dinosaurs. It seems like the whole world is sending text messages. Sorta funny, though, to this old country boy. I know some folks who will send a text, and if they don’t get an answering text message immediately, they’ll pick up the phone and call the person and say, “Did you get my text?” HELLO! Why didn’t you just call ‘em in the first place?

I read a story the other day about a teenager who sent or received over six thousand text messages from her cell phone in one month! In fact, I think the number was 6,473! Let’s see now. If I do my gozinto math that I learned at the three-room Return Primary School, 30 gozinto 6,473 for an average of about 215 text messages every single day for a month.

And, according to researchers, the average American teenager with a cell phone sends or receives over two thousand text messages a month! That kind of data just absolutely throws a short-circuit into my hard drive! And when you ask them why they’re inviting arthritis into their young knuckles, teenagers say they just ‘have to stay in touch with my friends.’

Speaking of driving, it should be against the law in every state of the union to text while you’re driving an automobile. Or flyin’ an airplane. Or ridin’ a bicycle, for that matter. Try to imagine this. You’re at 30,000 feet on a flight, say from Atlanta to California. And somewhere over New Mexico, the stewardess, excuse me, the flight attendant, comes on the speaker and says that she’s just received a text from the pilot. My heart would jump up into my throat! Doesn’t the pilot, and the stewardess, too, have a few things more important than sending text messages to each other?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think there are times when a text can deliver a wonderful message. Like the other day. Our first-born daughter, Kim, sent us a text. And even more amazing, this text had a picture that unloaded, I mean, downloaded itself right there on my cell phone. It was a photograph of Kirby, our number one grandson, holding his letter of acceptance to college. Hallelujah! Praise The Lord! Our prayers were answered!

Speaking of prayers, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we sent as many texts to God as we do to our friends? But instead of using our fingers and thumbs, we just use our lips and hearts. You can do that with both hands on the steering wheel while you’re drivin’ down the road.

I wish I had the know-how to start a spiritual communication phenomenon with God that would sweep the world like texting has done. Instead of texting, though, I think I’d call it wingingit. That means all day long every day in every circumstance and on all occasions, we could be winging up millions of messages to the Lord. Don’t you know He’d be tickled pink to hear from us!

Maybe it’s about a situation at work, or the loss of work. Just wingit. Or family, friends, and neighbors having physical, financial, or marital problems. Just wingit. Maybe you drivin’ down the road and see a wreck. Or somebody who has hit the ‘blue light special.’ Wing one up for them, too. Our preachers and Sunday School teachers and public school teachers definitely deserve our prayers.

And when we go home at night, we could ask each other, “how many times did you wingit today?” Like a preacher told me one time when I told him I was praying for him, “I need the prayers and you need the practice.” The power of prayer can never be under-estimated. It is life changing. Yet it is the most under-used power on the planet.

Taking a lesson from the average teenager, just think what would happen if we ‘texted’ God with our prayers an average of 2,000 times a month! Can I see a show of hands of everyone who prays 500 times a week, asking for God’s correction, direction, and protection an average of 75 times a day?

This is just me, but I think that might be what Paul had in mind when he was writing to his Christian friends, ‘the saints at Ephesus,’ (Ephesians 1:1). And in the third chapter of his letter to them, verses 14-19, Paul told them that he goes to his knees before the Father praying for the strength and power of Jesus Christ to dwell in their hearts.

Paul also prays that his friends will be able to understand how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for each one of them. A love so big that their cup of life could be filled to the brim and runnin’ over!

And wrapping up his letter, (Ephesians 6:10-18) Paul told them (and us) that the strength and power of prayer is part of the full armor of God that’s available to us in the fight against the forces of evil in this dark world. When we’ve buckled our belt and put on the breastplate and the right shoes, and taken up the shield, the helmet, and the sword, we’ll be able to stand up against the devil and all his schemes and tricks. And when it’s all said and done, we’ll be the ones still standing. IF we do this one thing. Pray all the time, all kinds of prayers, and keep on praying (v.18).

How many times will you wingit today? That’s between you and Jesus. But, could I ask a favor? If you ever run out of anything to pray for, would you to please wing one up for the Woodshed?

I need the prayers and you need the practice!

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BUNNY RABBITS & BOILED EGGS!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Easter Egg hunts were never one of my favorite activities back home on the farm. For several reasons. Number one being that since all us brothers couldn’t agree on where we’d hide the eggs, Daddy would settle that argument up front before it ever began. He’d stake off the territory with an imaginary line setting the boundaries.

Upper side of the dirt road only. From the barn to the chinaberry tree. All the way around the house, up to the muscadine vine at the edge of the woods. Swing out around the crab-apple tree, then behind the pear tree and the fig bush.

From there, the line hugged the back of the smokehouse so as not to get too close to the facility with the crescent moon on the door. I could never prove it, but I think that was always Daddy’s vantage point to be sure we played by the rules. Anyway, from behind the smokehouse, the line made a big loop around the woodshed (you learn to avoid that place if possible), and back to the barn.

That was about a five-acre egg-huntin’ ground, give or take a little, to search for those delicately designed eggs that Mother had spent most of Saturday afternoon boiling and drying and dipping and dying. She always let me help and I liked opening that box of PAAS Easter egg dye that she had brought home from the A & P.

Mother showed me how to take that wax crayon out of the box and draw invisible patterns on the eggs. Then she’d let me hold that little wire dipper that came with the box of dye. And she would very carefully place one egg at a time on it, and I’d lower it into the dye. And with a steady hand, I’d lift it out of the dye, being very careful not to let it drip all over the kitchen table. Once the egg dried, the invisible patterns came to life like a Polaroid picture developing in your hand!

And after a little experience, I learned how to put a secret little mark somewhere on the prettiest one of all. That was the prize egg. And even though I couldn’t look while Daddy hid ‘em, I knew what to look for to find the prize egg.

And if Wade or Oliver or Eddie and me spied, at the same time, what we thought would be a good hiding place for the prize egg, look out! Don’t get in our way. There’d be skinned knees and elbows at the very least. See, whoever found the prize egg was exempt from doing night-time chores on Easter Sunday.

As you can imagine with a bunch of country boys, many an argument ensued over who had the prize egg. To settle the argument, we’d all take our discoveries to Mother who was waitin’ on the front porch with iodine for our skinned knees! And after she pointed to the prize egg, usually in my blackberry-pickin’ basket, the rest of the band of country brothers would go off sulkin’ and poutin’. And peelin’ and eatin’ their eggs. Or so I thought!

I had to learn the hard way to stay on the front porch for a while till they cooled off. If I went back out in the yard too soon, that’s when the Easter Egg War started. And I don’t have to tell you what was used for ammunition. What followed after Daddy broke up the fight was an Easter Sunday group experience at the woodshed!

But the emptiest feelin’ of all was when we couldn’t find the prize egg. One of two things caused that. Either Daddy peeled and ate it while he was hidin’ the eggs. Or, most times he hid it so well that even he couldn’t find it! Not at all like our grand-daughter Sarah-Parker, who likes to spread the eggs out in the front yard in plain sight of anybody walkin’ by! Her joy is seein’ our joy when we find the eggs. And a little child shall lead them!

Anyway, it’s easy to understand now how Daddy could forget where he hid an egg or two. Including the prize egg. Especially after he had to break up the egg-throwin’ fight and head us all toward the woodshed. By the time that was over, it was time for us to do our chores.

And another thing I’d like to know. Who started all this nonsense about the Easter Bunny? If Peter Rabbit had come hoppin’ down the bunny trail at Route 4, I’m reasonably sure he would have met the same fate as his country cousins who decided to check out the inside of our rabbit boxes. From there, he would have been field dressed, rolled in flour, and fried in Mother’s cast-iron skillet. And served with lots of saw mill gravy and cathead biscuits. A country boy’s supper to die for!

To die for – there’s a phrase that’s thrown around way too casually in today’s world. Have you ever noticed that we use that phrase a lot when somethin’ is really special? Like a coconut cake that’s so moist you have to eat it with a spoon.

Or a gorgeous new Easter outfit, complete with bonnet and matching colored patent leather shoes. Or a banana puddin’ with three inches of golden brown meringue topping. All very special in their own way. But “to die for?” I don’t think so.

The only thing that’s special enough to die for is what you saw in the bathroom mirror this morning. Yep, you guessed it. You and me. And most of the time we’re not as pretty as a prize egg. But that’s what Easter is all about. Every single person ever born is so special and dearly loved that Jesus chose ‘to die for’ us (John 3:16).

He is indeed the One and Only Prize Egg of life. But, unlike our egg-hunt prize back home on the farm that we sometimes found three days later, His Resurrection on the third day provides the sweet fragrance of hope and help for all the dark Fridays of our lives.

And what does He require in return for His special, to-die-for love? Only that we believe, trust, and obey Him. And like our special and dearly loved grand-daughter when she ‘hides’ the eggs, we should put Jesus out there in plain sight of anybody walkin’ by us. After all, it’s like the sign at the country church.

He chose to die for me. The least I can do is live for Him.

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