Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I wonder how many people can say that they’re doing exactly what they always dreamed about and planned on doing in life. What’s that old nursery rhyme – butcher, baker, or candlestick maker? I’ve been told that back in the Old World, your last name was an indication of what kind of job you held.

For instance, if your name was Baker, of course, you baked bread. A boyhood friend, Ronnie Tucker and I used to love the doughnuts at Johnson’s Bakery on South Walnut Street. Wonder why Mr. Johnson wasn’t named Mr. Baker.

Also, back in the old times (my grasp of world history is a little less than magnificent), if your last name was Carter, you probably drove a cart pulled by donkeys or camels. Or mules, if you lived on a farm. So, if you were named Carter, you became a delivery man.

Mr. Miller made his living grinding flour. Mr. Wall was a brick mason. And Mr. Fisher, you guessed it, loved to catch that big mouth bass and bream down at the fish pond.

Now, class, close your books. We’re going to have a little pop quiz. What do you think Mr. Chandler did for a living? If Miss Plyler had given us a question like that back ol’ Seneca High, I would have sat there till time for me to sign up for social security, and still would not have had the answer.

Wanna know what it is? Are you ready for this? If your last name is Chandler, your ancestors were the famous…drum roll, please, ……candlestick maker!  Yep, Chandler comes from chandelier. This one I can handle.  Chandelier, as everybody knows, is what the uppity-ups in France used to call their light fixtures. I wonder if they had a string with a washer on the end of it to turn their chandeliers on and off. Like we had tied to the 40-watt ‘light fixtures’ in the old farmhouse back at Route 4. You could change every light bulb in the whole house with one pack of bulbs. Four rooms, four strings, four bulbs.

Well, I’ve known a few butchers in my time, too. One that comes to mind is a good one. Furman Gibson knew his way around the meat market at the A & P when I was a bag boy there. And it only seemed natural that I would work for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. ‘Cause that’s where Mother and Daddy always went every Saturday morning since I was old enough to remember.

And old enough to get into some kind of trouble while they were gone. Usually at the instigation of one or more of my brothers. Like the time they convinced me that it was OK to ride the mule. Wish I had known at that time that mules are for plowing and pulling. Not for riding. Would have saved me a lot of pain and embarrassment.

But I haven’t worked at the A & P in many moons. Don’t know anybody who does. But that’s where ‘you-know-who’ first saw my baby-blue-and-white, ’57 Ford Fairlane 500, two-door hard-top with fender skirts. Was it me or the car? I’d better get off that side road right now if I know what’s good for me! Anyway, I guess it was meant to be for one of my first jobs to be at the A & P.  

Speaking of jobs, some learned person did one of those scientific studies and came to the conclusion that most people in the workforce today will work for more than five different companies and have more than ten different jobs before they retire. And, again according to the study, it takes about ten years for most folks to find out what they really like to do and have the talent and ability to do.

And once they’ve learned that, they wake up one morning and don’t like their job, or realize that they’re in the wrong job. Back home at Route 4, we’d say they got sideways in a curve on the dirt road of life.

I heard a story about a young guy who, at the age of 17, thought he knew what he would be doing for the rest of his life.  But, like a lot of us, he hit one of those curves, too. In fact, Joe not only got sideways in a curve, he slid off in the ditch. And, life a lot of us country boys, his brothers helped put him in the ditch. Because they were jealous of his nice sport coat.

Life beat Joe up quite a bit while he was in the ditch. Even the people who rescued him shipped him off to a foreign country. But here’s where the story gets good. Joe always kept a good attitude. And when he got out of the ditch, he got a new job.

It was nothing like what he had always thought he’d be doing. But, hey, maybe this was what he was meant to do. And because he kept a good attitude about it, his life took on a completely different meaning. For him and for his family. And he was able to save the lives of many people.

By now, I’m sure you’ve already figured out that I’m talking about Joseph. The one with the coat of many colors. I’ll hit a few highlights here, but if you’ve seen that sign that says ‘curve ahead,’ you might want to study the whole story about Joseph’s life. It’s found in Genesis, chapter 37.

His brothers didn’t like him a lot. In fact, they even wanted to kill him. So one day when their daddy sent little Joe out to check on the boys, they came up with a plan to get even with him for all his dreamin’. They tore his sharp-looking sport coat off of him and threw him in a big hole in the ground. And while they were eatin’ supper, another bunch of guys came by on their way to Egypt.

Little Joe’s life took another curve when his brothers suddenly decided to sell him to these guys going to Egypt. After all, he was their own flesh and blood and they really didn’t want to kill him. So they pulled him out of the hole and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the guys going to Egypt. And then they even lied to their daddy about what happened to Joseph. And their lies caused a lot of pain and agony in the family.

Joseph’s life, and the job he would eventually have, took even yet another turn once he got to Egypt. But that’s a story for another day. But to say that he never dreamed of doing what he wound up doing is the understatement of the century. Through all the curves in his road and through all the bad stuff that happened to him, God worked His plan. And His plan was for Joseph to get to Egypt so he could eventually save many lives. Including his brothers who had thrown him in the hole to begin with. Every thing that happened in his life was in preparation for God to use Joseph in a mighty way.

Butcher, baker, or candlestick maker – it doesn’t matter what you’re doing right now. God has a plan for all our lives. And the curves we hit on the road of life aren’t what’s important. Curves don’t last forever. It’s what we do when God brings us out of them that counts. He has the perfect job for each and every one of us. Don’t let the curves you have to go through send you flying sideways into the ditch.

Hands on the wheel. Eyes on the road.