Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Walking out on the back porch the other day reminded me that winter is just around the corner. A few leaves were floating across the yard on a cool breeze. Others still on the trees were beginning to change color. I guess it’s time cover up the old grill and all my barbecuing utensils. We’ll probably use it a couple of times during the nicer days of fall, but cooking out, for the most part, is a spring and summer activity around our house. Why heat your house and then go stand outside on the porch when the cold wind is howling around the corner of the house? I guess we’re just a bit spoiled, probably a little like everybody else these days.

As I tightened the cover around the grill, I smiled just a bit remembering our last cook out. Family and friends were gathered on the porch for ‘out back burgers.’ And that’s not something cooked up by Crocodile Dundee. I had the burgers ready with all the secret ingredients. The grill was hot and folks were hungry. And then the fire went out. Literally. The burgers had just started to smell good when the gas ran out.

Favorite (only!) brother-in-law James said, “Come on. Hop in my Jeep and I’ll run you to the store for a new tank of propane.” Long story short. New tank of gas. Burgers cooked. Everybody happy. Remembering that summer day as I checked all the Velcro straps on the barbie cover this week, I added a few more frequent flyer memory miles. Back to Route 4.

A barbecue grill, charcoal or gas, was never a fixture on our back porch. I don’t think we ever had a cookout back home on the farm. Every meal was a ‘cook-in.’ And wood, not gas, was the fuel Mother used in the care and feeding of her nine rambunctious offspring. And you didn’t run out of stove wood. No, siree, not when it was your job to be sure the stove wood box was full. There was no running to the store for more fuel. You just ran to the woodshed, grabbed a quick armful and ran back to the house. Before Daddy found out and you were ‘invited’ back to the woodshed for a different reason! If you catch my drift.

But back to the main road. There are literally thousands of recipes for things to grill. From hamburgers to chicken to steaks to pork chops to seafood. And side items like corn-on-the-cob, still in the shuck. I can hear Daddy now. “Shuck that corn, boy. The cows need those shucks for their roughage.” Funny. I just never gave any thought to being sure the cows were ‘regular!

But a good cookout usually has some delectable side dishes. Like Estelle’s baked beans with pineapple, warming on the side burner. Now, that’s a mind-bender, right there. The side burner, I mean, not Estelle’s beans! Maybe some baked sweet taters, or squash in the grilling basket that looks like you could seine catfish with down at Coneross Creek! But, you know, what? I don’t recall ever seeing a grilling recipe for okra!  Praise the Lord! And please don’t send me any of your favorite okra grilling recipes. That’s one thing I don’t figure on ever firing up the grill to cook!

But I bet there’s one thing you never thought about grilling. It’s called Barbecued Goat! That’s right – barbecued goat. And the recipe is right there in the God’s Holy Cookbook. Look it up. Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31 through 46.

Jesus is talking about having a Great Cookout in all its heavenly glory. And everybody in the world will be invited. I’m talking about a BIG back porch for this one! And then He’ll start separating the people. Some on His right. Others on His left. Like the Good Shepherd that He is, separating the sheep from the goats.

A side road right here, please. Have you ever just really taken a good look at a goat? They look like they have a permanent streak of mean painted all over their faces. I mean, they act like it, too. Most times, anyway, they’re running around heat-buttin’ others, eatin’ tin cans, chewin’ up flowers, and just being a real pain-in-the-party! I’ll never forget one time when a neighbor’s goat got loose and strayed over to our farm. It was wash day and Mother had hung all the bed clothes, overalls, and shirts out on the clothes line in the sunshine. Underwear and socks on the fig bush, too. And guess who was supposed to be keeping the wash up out of the dirt. Yep. You’re right! But I was too busy runnin’ from yellow jackets under the apple tree. Or something. Besides what I was told to do.

Anyway, the old goat started his ‘meal’ with appetizers at the fig bush. Colored or white socks. It didn’t matter to him. They were all delicious. Then he head-butted the plank I had standing under the clothes line to keep it from falling down. And proceeded to the main course with multiple entrees. Have you ever been so hungry you thought you could eat some of everything on the menu? That old goat made himself a sampler platter of denim, flannel, and cotton!

By the time I heard the screams, it was too late. But let me just come to the old goat’s defense. All of the holes in our britches were not caused by him. There were matching holes, mainly in the seat area, caused by some intense activity at the woodshed!

But back to Jesus’ story. He’s got the nice, friendly, smiling, helpful, obedient sheep on His right. And on His left are the head-buttin’, clothes-chewin’, making-life-miserable goats. And then Jesus says to those on His right, ‘Come on in, all you blessed sheep, to the banquet feast that Father has been getting’ ready for you ever since He said “Let there be Light.” (Route 4 translation)!

And then He goes on to describe why the Sheep on the Right have been so blessed. They always had some food and water for other hungry and thirsty sheep they met along the way. They were friendly to sheep that they didn’t know. Could have been dangerous being friendly to strangers, but they took the risk anyway. They set up clothes closets so the sheep that had been ‘sheared’ could stay warm when the cold winds howled around them. Often, they went to check on their sick friends. And they even visited those in prison. And we all know, there are many different kinds of prisons.

And then Jesus told the Sheep on the Right that they punched their meal ticket for the Great Cookout every time they did any of these things for His little brothers.

Then He told the Goats on the Left to get out of His sight. They were toast. Their goose was cooked. They had the same opportunities as the sheep to help Jesus’ little brothers. But they chose their own needs and wants instead of helping others. No cookout feast for the Goats on the Left. Instead, they would spend all eternity just being cooked in a fire that never runs out of gas. Jesus’ message is simple. For all of us who act like old goats at times.

Get Right or Get Left!