Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

This ol’ country boy waded right out into a deep, philosophical discussion the other day. I should have rolled up my britches’ legs. It was that deep. I’m telling you – it was like a Harvard ‘think tank.’ My grammar school teachers, Miss Armstrong, Miss Pruitt, and Miss Finkenstadt, would have been proud of me. Why did we call them ‘miss’ even though they were married? Save that question for another trip to the shed. The topic of  this discussion at the shed the other day with three of my favorite folks was a lot deeper than that.

We were discussing the merits of cornbread and milk for supper. Say what? That’s right. Sitting down to a meal of cornbread and milk. You could tell that all of the participants in this culinary conversation were all over the age of, shall we say, old enough not to have to ask, “and what else are we having with the cornbread and milk?” Just try to convince me that you can think of anything else when the aroma of hot cornbread spreads all over the house like the morning dew on the pasture at Route 4!

I confessed that I like sweet cornbread. A little sugar goes a long way – in a lot of things – if you catch my drift! In fact, our daughter Kim, has a dessert cornbread recipe called Georgia Cornbread that will make you ask for seconds and sometimes thirds! But, I like cornbread baked in the oven in Helen’s small black skillet, turned upside down out of the oven, cut into quarters, sliced open and stuffed with butter till it’s running out the sides. Then you pour a tall glass of ice cold buttermilk and crumble the cornbread into it, and dive in!

Linda said that at her house they need the big black skillet. And she doesn’t care for buttermilk – just sweet milk – without the wild onions, of course! Tiny said she’s not a big cornbread lover (hence her name), but her children and grandchildren grew up loving it. And Tiny’s favorite daughter NeeNee seemed to be enjoying her birthday cake as we discussed cornbread.

Now that I’m droolin’ all over my keyboard (gotta start wearing my bib when we’re talking about cornbread and milk), next question, please. OK, here goes. How do you like warmed-over, leftover, microwave-zapped cornbread? I thought so. Not my favorite, either. In fact, I have another confession. I’ll just get it out in the open right here. I am not a big fan of leftovers, period. There, I’ve said it. Now I feel better. Go ahead, all you lovers of leftovers. Send me your comments. I’ll put on my big-boy britches and read ‘em while I’m enjoying my next slice of hot, buttered, ‘first-edition’ cornbread.

Case in point about leftovers. Helen makes a wonderful chicken casserole. Now there’s a word we never heard back home on the farm. I’ll bet our old Route 4 roosters never had dreams of growing up to be the featured ingredient in a casserole! Whoa, hold up, boy. I’m not going down that side road today.

I’m expecting any day now that one of those cooking shows you see on television will call to ask for Helen’s recipe for chicken casserole. It’s that good. The first time. We had it for supper the other night. Then the next night on my way home from work, I asked the question of the day – What’s for supper? She said the words that made me want to find the nearest squawk-box drive-through window – leftover chicken casserole!  My point, if there is one in all this silly talk, is that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like leftovers.

About 400 years before Jesus was born, there was an Old Testament prophet named Malachi who had something serious to say about leftovers (Malachi 1:6-14). His name means “my messenger.” That means I’ll listen to whatever he has to say. And, long story short, Malachi said that we hurt God’s feelings when we give him our leftovers. And he’s not talking about scraps and pieces of food from our supper table.

It seemed like God’s people during Malachi’s time had lost their hope. They had begun to doubt God’s love and faithfulness. The fire and zeal of their passion had gone out, or at least been turned down to pilot-light. They had been lulled to sleep by the devil, just going through the motions in their worship, their work, and their walk with the Lord. Malachi was very vivid in describing how they (meaning God’s very own people!) “sniffed contemptuously” at God’s table. What a tragic picture! Have you ever seen a puppy dog sniff at its food, turn up his nose, and run away when he didn’t like what was in his dish?  

Sound familiar? Could this very same thing be happening right now in our country and even the entire world? It’s been over 2000 years since God served up His very best on a hill called Calvary. And ever since then, all He’s asked for in return from us is our very best!    

I cringe inside when I hear people cussing and using profanity. I get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see folks cuttin’ grass on Sunday morning. Empty church pews are common sights, but you let a disaster happen, and who do we call? Have we let the worries, cares, and concerns of everyday life lull us to sleep? Does the ‘busy-ness’ of business cause us to slide God over onto the back-burner on the stove of our life, and turn the heat down to simmer?

Oh boy, I’m messing up my own shoeshine right here, folks, but let me ask this question. When company is coming to the house, do we put last night’s leftovers on the table in front of them? Nope. It’ll be only the best for our invited guests. Hot, buttered cornbread, corn-on-the-cob, cathead biscuits and sawmill gravy, fresh ‘maters, squash, and maybe fried okra, too (yuck!)

Well, God demands, desires, and deserves our very best, too. After all, have we forgotten that He’s already given us His best many, many years ago? It’s sad but true. God gives and forgives; man gets and forgets.

We all sit down occasionally to leftovers on the supper table. And this is just me talking now, but I don’t think I can ever sit down to leftovers again without looking in the mirror of my mind and wondering if I’ve been guilty that day of giving God the leftovers of my life.

As Malachi, God’s messenger, said in Route 4 translation, “Give God What’s Right, Not What’s Left!”