Archive for December, 2012

AFTER-CHRISTMAS SALE

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

The lines were about 30 deep at every checkout. People were pushing and shoving each other. Shopping carts in the aisles looked like a demolition derby. It was noisier than a fox in a hen house. The shelves looked like a war zone. Actually, I think that’s putting it very mildly. And it was all created by a sign at the door that read “All Christmas Merchandise 50% Off.”

One woman hollered loud enough to be heard across the county line, “Where’s the manager? I want to give him a piece of my mind.” It was obvious to everyone who wasn’t wearing a hearing aid that she had already given away several pieces ‘cause there didn’t seem to be much left.

Out of respect to Charles Dickens, I started not to use his famous phrase from ‘The Tale of Two Cities,’ but it really was the best of times and the worst of times. Excuse me while I chase a rabbit down a side road. You see, after parking in another area code, I found myself in the middle of this madhouse at the direction of my MHB (mill hill bride). On my hike to the front door, I had recalled her words “don’t forget to pick up some of those beautiful boxed Christmas cards that are half price.”

Back to the war zone – it should have been an omen when I saw a guy with a slightly twisted green Christmas wreath with a red bow firmly planted around his neck. I think he belonged to that lady who was giving away pieces of her mind. But I just lowered my head and plowed right on through while dodging the flying rolls of wrapping paper.

The next time I made eye contact with anyone, it was with one of the blue-coated ladies trying their best to act like a traffic cop. With a warm smile on my face, I asked her, “Where would I find your beautiful boxed Christmas cards that are half price?” Now, I’ve known the power of words since Miss Barron’s Senior English class at dear ol’ Seneca High School. And considering myself a fledgling wordsmith, I was still taken aback by the stream of tears that cascaded down the cheeks of the sweet lady in the blue jacket. The next words out of her mouth brought similar tears to my own eyes. “You see that cloud of smoke over the lawn and garden department? That’s where you need to go.”

Right about then I had to do a quick search of the ol’ mental hard drive to bring up the slogan that I have to say to myself when my MHB sends me on perilous missions. I live my life to please my wife. This time I had to repeat it to myself several times before myself would pick up my feet and make my legs move toward that frightening place where babies in shopping carts were covered with gift bags, blinking tree lights, ornaments, and holiday tissue paper.

Let’s think about this situation for a minute. Back home on the farm at Route 4, my sweet Mother had a favorite person whose name she would invoke whenever one of her little darlings did something absolutely silly and/or foolish. She would say, ‘Now, young man, why in the name of Sam Hill would you do something like that?” I’ve never been privileged to meet Mother’s friend, Mr. Hill, but I find myself thinking about him occasionally. And this is one of those occasions.

Why in the name of Sam Hill would you buy something now, pack it up, put it in a storage bin on a shelf somewhere in the attic or basement, and pray that next year you can remember where you put it? Is it just because everything is half price? Do you reckon they might have a Pre-Christmas Sale next year and the same stuff will be half price again? Case in point. My MHB found some gifts the other day that she bought at an After-Christmas Sale in 2010 that she intended to give at Christmas in 2011. Well, guess what? They finally made it to our Christmas Tree 2012 celebration. Don’t tell her, but I’m nominating my MHB for the Sam Hill Hall of Fame.

I would crawl on my hands and knees through broken mayonnaise jars if that’s what it took to show my love for that gal that was raised on the Utica mill hill. But I hope I never, can I say that again, never have to experience another After-Christmas Sale. If I do, I’ll go prepared the next time with full body armor.

This is just me, but I believe our ol’ Damascus-road friend, the Apostle Paul, had some mighty important advice about puttin’ on full body armor in his letter to the saints at Ephesus. Now, I have no idea if there were any big After-Christmas Sales at the Ephesus Department Stores, or even if there were any stores like that in Ephesus. It’s true that Paul writes about belts, shoes, hats and swords, but I think Paul was telling them (and us) what kind of armor we should be wearing every day of our lives so that we can stand our ground in this dark world against the schemes of the devil, the master of darkness himself.

Ephesians 6:13-18

New International Version (NIV)

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

If Jesus comes again in 2013, and nobody, I mean nobody, knows if He will or if He won’t, but I have a feeling that, if He does, we’re not going to need a strand of 300 blinking white lights, or a dozen rolls of Santa Claus wrapping paper for a dollar and 49 cents.

Can somebody say “Hallelujah!”

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DON’T PUT YOUR EYE OUT!

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

It’s a discussion I’ve heard several times already, mostly from kids who go to the grocery store with their parents. They’re too young to drive and too bored to stay home, so they tag along with their pads or pods glued to their ears. Somebody on the other end of this electronic conversation will ask, “What did you get for Christmas this year?” You know, age is a funny thing. Back home at Route 4, a pad was what the bull frogs sat on down at the fish pond. And a pod was what we shelled on the front porch to get the peas that made supper complete when combined with hot-buttered cornbread.

Oh, my goodness, I’m about half a mile down a side road, but have you heard about some of the toys that kids got for Christmas this year? One cute little thing with pigtails and holes in her blue jeans was just gushing with joy about her LeapFrog LeapPad 2. If I live to be as old as Moses, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the images that ran through my dirt-road mind. In my mind’s eye, I saw frogs jumping back and forth from one lily pad to another. I could not have been further from the truth. Little Susie, who could have used some new blue jeans, told her friend on the other end of her pad or pod that her new frog pad had cameras in the front and the back of it.

Now, I’ve heard of cameras in the back of something. Brothers Wade and Ollie both have spent time in the woodshed back home when Mother heard them say that she had eyes in the back of her head. But cameras in the front and back of a toy tablet? Surely, this must have been from outer space. We all know that a tablet had Blue Horse on the front of it, but no cameras anywhere, front or back. And the wide lines helped us learn how to write in long hand in the third grade. But, wait, there’s more. This new leaping-frog-on-a-pad also has a VCR, 4 gigs of memory, 325 cartridges, downloadable apps and e-Books. And if that’s not enough, you can watch videos and listen to the latest head-banging songs.

Before they got to the checkout, Little Miss Freckles and Pigtails had also described in detail her new Radio-Controlled Hot Wheels Terrain Twister with pontoons sporting corkscrew-shaped treads instead of wheels that could go through snow, water, dirt, sand, or grass. And before my brain went to overload and smoke started pouring from my ears, I heard her say that she just absolutely adored her new Furby that speaks furbish.

It’s enough to derail a farm boy’s mental train. Speaking of trains, one of the new things this year even had my MHB (mill hill bride) sending me out on a search and rescue mission the other day. She said it was a train that didn’t run on a track. In fact, it just runs all over the house wherever it wants to go. Is that weird or what? Turns out, the only thing that was weird was what I felt when I asked the clerk for a train without a track. “Oh, yes sir,” she giggled through the metal in her mouth that looked like a train track, and made some orthodontist’s kids very happy this Christmas. “You’re talking about the Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train.” “Well, Hallelujah,” I thought to myself, “where can I find it?” “Oh,” she said, “it’s been on tv, but we don’t have them in stock yet.”

No joy in Mudville tonight if you’re looking for a Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train. But let me tell you, friends, there was something at our house this year that ran a close second to that weird train. It might have even been tied for first. Watching my MHB unwrap her new Daisy PINK bb rifle was something I won’t soon forget. Of course, my ol’ brain ran back down the dirt road to that Christmas when I was the proud owner of a new Red Ryder bb gun. For one day, that is. Before sundown on that Christmas Day, I had not put my eye out like Ralphie in that movie, but I had shot Brother Wade in the seat of his britches.

But back to my MHB and her new PINK bb gun. Of course, it just had to be pink with a couple of little pink tassels hanging from the barrel. But the sight that struck fear in my heart was when I saw her out on the back porch with our Number One son, Jeff, trying to teach her the fundamentals of shootin’ a bb gun so she could scare away those screechin’ crows that squawk at her every time she goes out the door. Whereupon, our Number One daughter Kim was heard to exclaim, “Daddy, please tell her to shoot towards the woods.” With that soon accomplished, I just had to grin a little when I heard my MHB holler loud enough for half the county to hear, “I just shot a tree.” The next thing I heard was the ping of bb’s hittin’ the side of my little red metal utility trailer. Somebody please get me some cotton balls to stop up my ears.

But you know what? The older I get, the more joy I get just watching my loved ones open their Christmas gifts. There’s even joy when all the gifts have been opened and there’s nothing but the tree skirt under the Christmas tree. What do you mean, Freeman? Thank you for asking. My MHB and I were just overjoyed on Christmas night when all the children and grandchildren and daughter-in-law and girlfriend (all those names that spell ‘family’) pitched in to clean up the mountain of wrapping paper, boxes, ribbons and bows, etc. And, of course, it must be sorted into separate piles of ‘save-for-next-Christmas’ and ‘it’s-been-used-too-many-times-to-be-recycled-again. And I can’t fail to mention the cleaning of the table and dishes from Christmas dinner.

Let me tell you, that’s a real gift that only aging parents with assorted aches and pains can appreciate. In fact, this ol’ country boy believes that you can’t spell Christmas without l-o-v-e or without g-i-v-i-n-g. If you want more proof, check out the most memorized verse in the history of Vacation Bible School.

John 3:16
New International Version (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

He loved. He gave. Case closed. So, instead of what did you get for Christmas, maybe we could ask ourselves, ‘what did I give for Christmas this year? What can I give Him to let Him know how much I love Him for what He’s done for me? It’s not leaping frog pads, kindles, clothes, cash, cookie makers, or even bb guns that He wants. We don’t even have to clean up a big mess. He’s already done the cleansing with His blood on the old rugged cross called Calvary.

There’s only one gift that He really wants and it will give Him great joy.

He just wants our hearts.

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FAMILY TREE

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

I was just standing there minding my own business when it happened. That’s what you say when you have more Christmases behind you than in front of you, and the ol’ dirt-road mind goes wandering off by itself. I was in the framed art department of the big box store. Love to stand there and gaze at all the beautiful plaques and pictures with motivational and inspirational sayings and verses.

This one particular picture caught my eye. It was turned sideways from Sunday down on the bottom shelf and looked like one of those things that you see at an art gallery that you can never really figure out what it’s supposed to be. The frame was coming apart at the corners and the glass was in about a dozen pieces. I stared at it for a few seconds, probably several minutes, trying to give my brain enough time to convince my ol’ sore back that here was something worth bending over to take a closer look at.

And, sure as shootin,’ when the brain won that battle, I picked it up and turned it right side up for a closer examination. And that’s when it happened. The very split second that the 40-watt bulb came on in my head, somebody standing beside me said, “Are you into genealogy?” I looked at him and then back at the work of art.

It looked like an apple tree that we used to have back home at Route. 4. It had a gob of limbs running off in every direction possible. And at the end of each limb, instead of a juicy red apple, or a golden delicious, there was a space for you to use Elmer’s glue and paste a picture of your parents, grandparents, great-grands, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on and so on till you run out of blank spaces on the family tree.

I guess it was the look on my face like a blank sheet of paper that made him decide to investigate further. After my polite, ‘excuse me,’ he said, ‘you know, genealogy, shake the ol’ family tree and see what falls out.’ Well, now he had my undivided attention. When you’ve been a skinny, scaredy-cat kid climbing up further than you should and crawling out on a limb further than you should to get the best apple on the tree, and had your brothers shake you out of the tree and take your hard-earned apple away from you, well that’s just something that you don’t forget in a lifetime.

And that’s where my Rte. 4 mind had wandered off to as my new friend without a name began to explain to me how he had searched his family tree back through eight or ten generations. At least he was honest enough to admit that some of his forefathers had been hung for stealing gold. And some others had been shot for being cattle rustlers. I guess if we go back far enough, we could all find some ‘squirrels’ jumping from limb to limb in our family tree.

Long after my friend had moved on to the hardware and power tools, I was still standing there. And, as I held the broken apple tree picture, I remembered another family tree that I have been studying about for a while in the Bible. It starts in the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament. Matthew tells us that he’s fixin’ (Rte. 4 translation, gettin’ ready) to tell us about the most important family tree the world has ever known or will ever know.
The Genealogy of Jesus:
1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
I’ll tell you right here that in the past I’ve skipped right over the first seventeen verses of Matthew’s gospel. Quite simply, there’s a bunch of names that I can’t pronounce. But there are some folks in Jesus’ family tree that I’ve come to know. And others I’m still learning about. If course, we all know about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, fathers of our faith. Then there was Jesse’s boy, David, a country boy who killed a giant, became king, and wrote a lot of poetry. And David’s boy, Solomon, was the smartest man that ever lived. Sounds like a Who’s Who of the Scriptures, right?
But you know what? Even some of these folks were real ‘characters,’ as my Mother used to say. At one time or another in their lives, they all spent some time in God’s woodshed. There was even a lady, again quoting Mother, ‘with a bad reputation.’ You would never have seen Rahab’s picture of the front cover of the Jerusalem Times. But there she is. Right there in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.
At one point in time, they all had to be sent to Babylon till they could learn to behave themselves.
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[a] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
But then, if you chase all the limbs of the tree, you come to the best, brightest, most delicious apple that anybody has ever tasted. In fact, after two thousand years, this One is still so sweet it is changing lives wherever and whenever will choose to ‘just taste and see how good it is.’
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
There it is! The Reason for the Season. God shook that family tree for 42 generations, ( verse 17) some good, some not so good, until He found a man named Joseph and a young girl named Mary, who decided to just trust and obey God, even though they didn’t understand what in the world was going on. If you think it’s hard for you and me to understand the Miracle of the Virgin Birth, imagine how hard it might have been for that little teenage girl. Through all those years God was developing His plan and purpose. And when the time was right, He chose the most unlikely two people you could have ever expected to accomplish something spectacular.
Today, life may have you up a tree, or out on a shaky limb. But take a look at your Christmas tree with all its limbs, lights, and lovely ornaments. And even if it’s just a ‘Charley Brown’ tree with crooked limbs and one little ornament, remember that little girl named Mary, “of whom was born Jesus.”
He has something for all of us to do, and He might just be waiting for you to paste your picture on His family tree.

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TWO NICKELS

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

There was a story on the evening news the other night about some gazillionnaire who had donated a hundred million dollars to some cause or the other that he was passionate about. It was probably pocket change to him, but my MBH (mill hill bride) said to no one in particular (that’s me), “I wonder what it would be like to be rich enough to give away that much money.”

Now get this picture. Here’s a girl from the Utica mill hill talking to her dirt-road, raised-on-cornbread, farm-boy husband. And neither of them seldom ever had two nickels to rub together. If, by chance, I managed to sell a dozen eggs for thirty cents, Daddy would say, “Boy, don’t let that quarter rub a hole in your pocket.” See, the nickel was OK by itself in one pocket of my over-all britches, but that quarter was ‘heavy’ money in the other pocket.

So, not wanting to have a hole in my pocket, I’d hitch a ride on Daddy’s pulpwood truck to Mr. Jim Stephens’ country store. That’s where I’d proudly plop that ‘heavy’ piece of money down on Mr. Jim’s counter, saunter over to the drink box, climb up on a milk crate and plunge my hand down into that icy cold water and come up with a small bottle of Coke. For you city kids, that’s a soft drink, not the brain-blowin’ stuff in today’s world.

Anyway, when the feeling returned to my right hand, I’d pop the cap off the bottle and hold my left hand to catch it from dropping into the bottle-cap holder. I had always heard that there might be a prize under the cork liner in the bottle cap, although I never saw one. Then I’d head back over to the counter, grab a pack of salted peanuts off the Tom’s peanut rack, and hold out my other hand to Mr. Jim for my nickel change. Now I really did have two nickels to rub together, one in each of the front pockets of my over-all britches so as not to rub a hole. Once I was back on the pulpwood truck, waitin’ for Daddy, I might add, to get through talking to Mr. Jim and all the other men who always seemed to be at the store, I’d bust open that pack of salted peanuts and pour ‘em down the neck of that small Coke bottle.

To this day, I remember thinking, ‘THIS is what I call living!” And usually, by the time Daddy turned off the tar-and-gravel and headed down the dirt road through Mr. Press Gibson’s yard toward our ol’ farmhouse, that little Coke bottle would be empty and my treasure would be gone. And I also still remember wondering to myself if those starvin’ kids in India who would go to bed hungry tonight if I didn’t clean my plate at the supper table, ever would be rich enough to know the joy of a pack of salted peanuts poured into a small Coke bottle. Maybe somebody someday will give them a quarter.

What is it about a rich man giving away a truckload of money that we find so interesting on the evening news? I hope and pray that it’s because he knows that the cash won’t last anyway, especially in this world’s current disastrous economy where many fortunes have gone down the drain. In fact, the Apostle Paul talked about uncertain economic conditions one day when he was holding a training session for young Timothy.

1 Timothy 6:17-19
New International Version (NIV)

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

In Rte. 4 language, Paul told Timothy to make sure that people who are rich in this world understand two things. Number one, how important it was that they shouldn’t strut around like a banty rooster in the barnyard. Also, how important it is not to put our hope in the uncertain riches of this world, but instead put our hope in the richest Man in the world – the One who made and owns everything, anyway.

Then, secondly, Paul gave Timothy (and us) a how-to manual for being REALLY rich. Stack up good deeds like stove wood; don’t be stingy with what you have; and, to prove what Mother always told us farm boys, Paul said, “Always share with your brothers.” Then you’ll be really rich with a treasure that’s worth far more than peanuts in a Coke bottle. In fact, it’s the foundation we can stand on in the bright future that’s waitin’ for us, a time when all God’s children will stop and say, “THIS is what I call living.”

Like Mother always said when we didn’t have two nickels to rub together – it’s not the change in our pockets that counts; it’s the change in our hearts.

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Editor’s note: Freeman Martin’s first book, Woodshed Wisdom, Vol.1, is now available. For an autographed copy, send $15.00, plus $3.00 shipping and handling to: Freeman Martin, 310 Andrew Pickens Dr, Seneca, SC 29678. Or you may be order online at: www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore.

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