Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I did a little walking and watching yesterday. Normally, I get started looking for gifts on Christmas Eve. To you that might not sound like the action of a sane individual. But I like to watch people and how they react under pressure. You can always tell who has the real

Christmas spirit and who just got their last nerve stepped on in the gift-wrapping line.

There was the lady who jerked the coat out of another lady’s hand, claiming she saw it first. She definitely was a card-carrying member of the ‘last-nerve’ club. And the other lady was applying for membership when she called for store security! There were some tense moments before security arrived. These ladies definitely were not in the mood to sing Christmas carols.

My friend Michael would call this situation a skirmish. Back home at Route 4, we called it a knock-down, drag-out, free-for-all. I remember one time in particular. It happened at dinner time (the noon hour) while we were pickin’ cotton. That day Mother had packed some baked sweet taters in our ‘Dixie Crystals’ to-go bags. Sometimes the peelin’s would slide right off. Other times you really had to work at it before enjoyin’ this cotton-patch delight.

Well, my brother Wade had one of those taters that the peelin’ just zipped right off. Oliver was having such a hard time peelin’ his tater, he wound up droppin’ it in the dirt. We hadn’t heard about the five-second rule, so Ollie had to think fast. Just as Wade opened his mouth to insert his cotton-patch delight, Ollie hollered, “Look at the size of that airplane!”

What would you do? Exactly. Farm boys don’t get to see many airplanes, so every one of us turned to look at the phantom airplane. And while our attention was diverted, Ollie grabbed the tater out of Wade’s hand and swallowed it whole! I don’t need to go any further. You know what happened. Not exactly WWIII. But close to it.

Before security (Daddy) could get there, they must have knocked down about ten rows of cotton. And the first words out of Daddy’s mouth were, “OK, who started it?” He couldn’t get a straight answer from any of us. So he whipped off that black leather belt and ‘rang the bell’ for school to start and every one of us had another lesson at the woodshed.

The movie projector in my mind flickered and the sound of the film flappin’  at the end of the movie brought me from the cotton patch back to the ladies in the coat department. The security guard’s first question was, “OK, who started it?”

I thought about offering my eye-witness testimony. But that thought didn’t last long. Supper was waitin’ and somebody might get my tater. It did get me to thinkin’, though, about all the stress created by the gift-giving season. I think I could have eased that tension in the coat department if I could have introduced the ladies to our Christmas friend Leon. Leon always puts a smile on people’s faces. You can’t meet Leon, the Christmas angel, without smilin’.

We met Leon quite by accident one year. Helen and her sorority girls were exchanging Christmas gifts. And, according to the Legend of Leon, when Sandra opened her gift, the look on her face was one of puzzlement and bewilderment. When all the other girls had stopped oohing and aahing over their gifts, they noticed that Sandra was still studying these four beautifully decorated wooden letters in her gift box.

When they asked her what was wrong, she replied, “What does L-E-O-N  have to do with Christmas?” After the laughter had died down, she realized that the letters of her beautiful NOEL table decoration had shifted in transit to spell something entirely different.

But every Christmas since then, LEON  has made an annual appearance at our house. And we always have a smile when we see him. And for the rest of the day, at least, we’re humming “Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel.”

Amidst all the stress of the gift giving season, I think it might help us all to come up with an answer to the question of “OK, who started it?” I didn’t volunteer any information back home at Route 4. And I didn’t say anything as the ladies ‘skirmished’ in the coat department. But I’d like to offer this for consideration. God started it all. Do what?

That’s right, God started this gift giving. But somehow, we’ve gotten it all wrong. In all the gift-buyers traffic yesterday, I saw a three-car fender-bender. The drivers were standing out in the street screamin’ and pointin’ fingers at each other. And, I’ll just bet they weren’t discussing their favorite Christmas gifts!

In a world gone crazy with the frantic search for, and the buying and selling of ‘that perfect Christmas gift,’ is it possible that we’ve lost sight of GOD’S PERFECT GIFT? The first Noel (Christmas gift), the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay. And when they had seen Him (Luke 2:17-18), ‘they spread the word about this Child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.’ The gift of the shepherds was to tell folks about Jesus. What a novel idea!

This is just me talking, but I believe that when God started this gift-giving thing, maybe He meant for us to receive His Gift, unwrap it and open it up in our lives, and then give it away. Without temper tantrums and pitchin’ fits. Simply watch in amazement as lives are changed! There’s no stress and anxiety when we give that Gift. Just smiles all around.

Especially when Leon shows up!