Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

There used to be a sign that greeted everyone at the city limits of Thomson, Georgia. It spoke volumes with its simple message – ‘if you lived in Thomson, you’d be home now.’ I think that message alluded to what makes a house a home. Just what is it, anyhow, that makes a house feel like home?

Take the street where you live, for instance. And it seems like everybody lives on a street in a subdivision these days. Not so back home at Route 4. We had never heard the word ‘subdivision,’ but if we had, it must have something to do with ‘rithmetic. And every house didn’t have a 911 house number. See, it’s called a house number, not a home number. Mr. Bill Hunnicutt, our mail carrier, knew where the Martin gang lived on Route 4.

Ours was the only home on our dirt road after you turned off the main road at the Gibson’s house. There it is, right there. The Gibson’s house. Home to the Gibson’s, but just another house to the Martin’s. And on your street, you probably visit your neighbors’ houses from time to time, but you always go back home.

And what is it the announcer always seems to say these days when a football player reaches the end one – “He took it to the house!” Didn’t say he took it home. That would imply that the runner left the stadium and took the football home with him!

And I just have to take this little side road for a minute. You know all those gyrations and that chest-bumping and jumping that you see when somebody scores? What are they so excited about? Coach Danny Ford used to tell his Clemson Tigers, “Boys, when you score a touchdown, act like you’ve been there before.” But back to the main road.

You don’t need directions to find your way home. Even husbands who won’t stop to ask for directions when they’re lost, know how to get back home. I think it probably was one of those guys who invented the GPS or nav-system, or whatever those things that sit on the dash in your car and give you directions. I’ve heard that some of those things even have a female voice telling you where to turn. How ironic is that? A guy won’t listen to his wife sittin’ right there in the seat beside him. But he’ll pay a hundred bucks to listen to a stranger in a box on his dash tell where to go!

I remember like it was yesterday when we would get off the school bus up at the main road (near the Gibson’s house). Then while we were walking down that dirt road toward home, one of us would always say, ‘I just can’t wait till I get out of school, get me a job, and move away from here.’ Yeah, right! Little did we know it then, but John Denver had the right idea when he sang ‘take me home, country roads.’

Helen used to have a little cross stitch ornament that said ‘it takes a whole lot of living to make a house a home.’ If you had enough cross stitch thread, you could add ‘and a lot of loving and giving and forgiving, too.’

And remember what your folks used to tell your aunts and uncles and cousins when they came to see you? ‘Yawl come on in and make yourselves at home.’ Boy howdy, would they ever!

Fifty-some-odd years of looking at Route 4 in my rear view mirror has confirmed that it’s the living and loving; the laughing and crying; the woodshed and the supper table; the bitter cold of winter; and the scorching heat of summer; the barnyard and the backyard; it’s all these experiences rolled up together that make a house a home. Even now as I write, the feeling of home wells up inside me. Maybe we could sum it up by saying it wasn’t the house itself, but what was inside the house that made it home.

That ol’ farmhouse never had a coat of paint. No insulation. Torn screens and broken window panes and a tin roof without gutters. Can’t recall ever having to clean out gutters! No running water or inside bathroom. No little box on the wall that you dial up or down to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

But we always knew we could jump out of bed every morning, grab our britches and shoes, and head for the warmth of Mother’s red-hot wood cook stove in the kitchen. Or stand on the hearth wrapped in a warm blanket just before going to bed in a room with no heat! There’s a verse in Stuart Hamblen’s old gospel song that says it all – ‘this old house was home and shelter as we fought the storms of life.’ 

I think that’s what David had in mind as he penned the last line in his ‘Shepherd’s Poem,’ Psalm 23. Thanks to an enlightening look at this psalm by Phillip Keller’s book, ‘A Shepherd’s Look At Psalm 23,’ (and thanks to my friend Rev. Marty McKee’s pointing me to it), we can see how David writing from the viewpoint of a sheep just makes perfectly good sense.

The sheep starts off by braggin’ about how wonderful his Good Shepherd is. He enjoys green pastures and quiet waters, safety and comfort, a bountiful table, and a cup that runs over into his saucer! Why on earth would this sheep even think about leavin’ home when he’s living the blessed life under the care of the Good Shepherd! You’re right. He wouldn’t. That’s why he ends this beautiful scripture with the awesome declaration that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!”

Most times when we hear the term ‘house of the Lord,’ we think of the church building or place where we worship, right? But could I suggest that the house of the Lord could also be the home where Jesus lives and reigns and ‘makes Himself at home’ in our heart? He is the front door, the only way to get in is through Him.

Every day of our lives, we rub elbows with ‘homeless’ people. Oh, they may have a house on a street somewhere that they go to at night. But have we told them by our talk, and more importantly, showed them by our walk, about the “green, green grass of home.”

If Jesus is at home in my heart, others will see and want to experience that at-home comfort and contentment that made David say he couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere else. And one last thought today. If what happens to us in life is not nearly as important as how we handle what happens to us, then I think we’re walking down that familiar dirt road toward home! And even more important, we can ask our friends to go home with us, like we used to do after church on Sunday morning.

There’s another song, I think Theressa Ruppert wrote it, that says ‘some call it Heaven, I call it home.’ With all He’s done for us, we can say nothing less than ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ And when we allow Him to take up full-time residence in our heart, we can truly say ‘Home, Sweet Home!’

Where’s home for you today? If it’s not where you want it to be, God allows U-turns on the road of life.

Can I get you a change-of-address card?