Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

It’s still hard for this me to remember that I can take a picture with my phone. Can you just imagine the family album we could have had back home on the farm if we could have whipped out the cell phone and taken a picture whenever we wanted to. And speaking of whipping, maybe it’s a good thing that the lessons we were taught at the woodshed aren’t recorded anywhere.

And that’s just the misdeeds that we were caught in red-handed. Or that Mother and Daddy found out about because of some little tattle-tale brother. The names have been omitted on purpose to protect the guilty! Once caught, though, you might as well ‘fess’ up, as Daddy would say, ‘cause he had eye witnesses.

But wait a cotton-pickin’ minute. They are indeed recorded. They just aren’t on film. At least not the kind of film we used to see when Daddy would promise to take us to the picture show in town to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and Trigger in 3-D. I always wondered if Trigger could pull a plow like our ol’ plug mule.

But anyway, there are reels and reels of film about growing up at Route 4 stored in this ol’ country boy’s movie library. And it doesn’t take much for something to reach in there, pull out a highlight and pop it into the mental DVD player.    

Such was the case the other day. There on the wall in the restroom at the café (okay, restaurant) was a sign that turned on the projector in the picture show of my mind. Uh-oh, there’s a sideroad. Be back in a shake. After all these years removed from Route 4, I still want somebody to explain to me why they call it a ‘rest-room.’  I promise you, there certainly wasn’t a lot of resting goin’ on in our two-hole facility down behind the woodshed back home on the farm! Daddy could always tell when we ‘really, really, really had to go.’ Or if it was just an excuse to get out of hoeing the garden.

But back to the main road. The sign on the wall in the restroom was printed in letters large enough for the astronauts to see from outer space. And here was it’s message. All employees MUST wash their hands before returning to work! Well, I certainly hope so. Why would they need a sign on the wall to tell ‘em that?

Anyway, as soon as I saw that sign, I started looking for my seat in the Route 4 picture show. I could smell the popcorn. Hope they’ve got a roadrunner cartoon. Beep-Beep, there he goes, down that dirt road toward home. I can still see the picture in my mind.

Mother is standing there at the back door wiping her hands on her apron. She did that a lot. And she didn’t have a sign in the ‘restroom’ telling her to do it, either. But she’s standing there watching us get ready for supper time. And I can still hear her very words. “Boys, WHAT IN THIS WORLD is that mess all over your hands?” Did your folks ever talk in capital letters?

We might have been up to our elbows in axle grease. Or making enough mud pies, with rain water and red dirt, to feed every chicken and cow on the farm! But she never waited for an answer. She just issued this iron-clad declaration. “You’re not coming in my kitchen till I see some clean hands!” Now, you know if you grew up on the farm, there are some messes you could get on your hands that  Octagon soap and Red Devil’s Lye couldn’t get off!

Well, after you had scrubbed so hard till you thought your skin would fall off like a snake’s skin, you just prayed that Mother’s hand inspection would allow you to head for the pone of hot, buttered cornbread already sittin’ there steamin’ hot on the kitchen table.

But that sign on the restroom wall got me to thinking about some of the messes we get on our hands in our world today. Not necessarily stuff that would keep you away from the supper table. But, on the other hand, there might be some ‘mess’ that would keep us away from the feast at God’s table. Maybe some anger, harsh words, grudges, jealousy, hatred, intolerance, greed, or maybe, as Mother used to call it, ‘just plain meaness.’

David brought up the subject of who gets into ‘God’s kitchen’ in Psalm 24:1-4. There’s no question about whose kitchen it is. Just like we knew who was in charge in the farmhouse kitchen, David admitted right up front in verses 1-2, this ‘farm’ and everything on it and everybody who lives here belongs to the Lord. He made it. It’s His. Period. End of the sentence.

Whenever I read those two verses, I automatically start humming “He’s got the whole world in His hands; He’s got everybody here in His hands; He’s got you and me, brother, in His hands; He’s got the tiny little baby in His hands; He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Now, I won’t be able to get that tune out of my head all day long.

But David, who was caught red-handed with a few messes on his hands, got to wondering one day who would be allowed in God’s House. And God gave David the answer to his question in verse 4. He who has clean hands. Bingo! There it is.

As the sign on the restroom wall said, we MUST have clean hands before were allowed in the kitchen, or anywhere else in God’s house.

And while we’re cleaning up our hands, there are some other areas that might need scrubbing, like our heart, our soul, and our mouth. Sorta makes me wonder if God ever looks at ‘this whole world in His hands’ and wonders how we could make such a mess. 

But wait, there’s a Good News reel at the end of this picture show. God has enough Octagon soap and hot water (His Word) to clean up the dirtiest hands in the world! And, like Mother standing at the farmhouse door, God is standing at Heaven’s door saying, “When you get that mess off your hands, you can come on in.”

Here’s your sign!