Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Just wonderin’ out loud – do kids play marbles anymore? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen a good game of marbles in forever. Been many a moon since I played one, too. And for good reason. If I got down on my hands and knees in the dirt, somebody with a strong back is going to have to come along and help me up!

But shootin’ marbles is a fun game. Teaches you a lot about life. What can be learned from a game played by skinny little kids in short britches?  Thought you’d never ask. Just in case you’ve never had the privilege, allow me to ‘splain’ how we played marbles back home at Route 4. All you need is a ten-cent bag of marbles and your favorite ‘shooter.’ And some strong thumb action. 

Then you take a stick and draw a big circle on the ground. Right there is a big draw-back for today’s kids. Where in the world are they to find a place to play marbles? Certainly not in the concrete jungle of our world.

But, anyway, back to the game. Everybody empties their marble bag into the circle. Then everybody gets down on all fours around the circle. And you take turns using your ‘toy’ or shooter, as we called it, to knock other marbles out of the circle. What you do is first make a fist and then tuck your thumb under your forefinger. Let’s all practice that right now. You’re looking good.

Then you put your shooter in the crook of your forefinger and let it rest on your ‘trigger,’ which is your thumb that’s tucked under your forefinger. Now, here’s where the action starts. It’s all about wrist movement and thumb strength. Pull the trigger and see how many marbles you can knock out of the circle and capture. When all your marbles are gone, you’re out of the game. And whoever takes all the marbles wins. The combination of a strong thumb, a good aim,   and a good shooter marble will make you Champy-Un of the World!

Hey, I just had a thought. Maybe I could invent a marble game to be played on these remote-controlled electronic gadgets that the kids hook up to the television set when they come over to the house. I’ve seen ‘em play those things. Their thumb action reminds me of a hummingbird’s wings. And you could play marbles rain or shine. Wouldn’t have to wait for a sunny day to go outside and draw a circle in the dirt and get down on your all-fours! We may be on to something here. If one of you high-tech wizards will get in touch with me, we’ll put everything together.

Back to the main road. I was never very good at marbles. First of all, I didn’t like spending hours hunched over in the dirt on my bony knees and elbows. And secondly, I’ll admit. I just wasn’t very good at it. Weak thumbs. No wrist action. And no aim. My brothers, even the younger ones, would pull the ‘trigger’ and my marbles would go flying!

But one day I got even for every marble I had ever lost. After being knocked out of the game, I was rummaging around Daddy’s tool shed. And there it was! The shooter marble that would win me the title belt. It was shiny and hard as steel. Actually, truth be told, it was steel. A ball bearing about the size of a marble. Don’t know where it came from. But for a long time, it went everywhere I went. Even under my pillow when I was asleep!

I borrowed a couple of marbles to get back into the game. And when it came my turn, it was like shootin’ fish in a barrel. With my new-found ‘toy,’ I took dead aim at every marble left in the circle. Nobody else gets a turn till you miss. And I didn’t miss! With the memory of every marble I had ever lost, I wiped the circle clean!

But my chest-thumping, banty-rooster struttin’ didn’t last long. One of my cry-baby brothers went runnin’ to Mother and told her I wasn’t playin’ fair. Can you imagine that! Every time I had ever put my hands on a dime, it went for another bag of marbles. And I lost ‘em all. Every single one. Till I found my new ‘shooter’ at the tool shed. I just thought it was meant to be. Hey, maybe God was lettin’ me get even for all the abuse I had taken.

You know how race officials always inspect the winner’s car after every stock car race? Well, Mother called me to the house for inspection after whinny-boy cried a few alligator tears.  And, hidin’ behind Mother’s apron strings, he snickered out loud and made goody-goody faces at me when she asked to see my new shooter marble.

The gig was up. I was caught red-handed. It was a short trip from the penthouse to the outhouse! With a stop along the way at the woodshed! After I had to return all the marbles I had won by not playing fair, I never cared too much for the game anymore. Especially after my winning toy was confiscated.

Long story short. The game of marbles we play called life just ain’t fair sometimes. My spell-check is trying to get me to change ain’t to isn’t. But, let’s just face it. Life ain’t always fair. Take the case of our friend Joseph in the 39th chapter of the Book of Genesis.

When he was a young boy, he took a lot of abuse, too. His brothers took his nice jacket and threw him into a gully. Then they pulled him out and sold him into slavery. And then he was taken down to Egypt. I’ll bet there have been some times in your life when you’ve been ‘taken down to Egypt’, too. Am I right? People don’t always play fair. They’ll take all your marbles and laugh at you while they’re doing it.

But God doesn’t promise us that our game of marbles here in earth will be fair. But He does promise us that He’ll keep an eye on the game. And if we play fair, it will be worth it. Have you ever heard somebody say when something wonderful happens, ‘I’m so happy I think I’ve died and gone to Heaven?’ Maybe that’s a sign of why it pays to play fair.

But there are some who get mad and bent out of shape when you do what’s right. And chief among them is that one called Satan. He doesn’t deserve a capital ‘S’ but, once again, my spell-check overrode me.

The Lord was with Joseph and blessed him abundantly while he was living down in Egypt (Gen.39:2). But whatever you do, don’t miss this. When his master saw that the Lord was with Joseph and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph was put in charge of everything that Potiphar owned. Lock, stock, and barrel. All the marbles (Gen.39:3-6). And the, up jumped the devil and caused Joseph to be thrown into prison.

Now, this is just me and you can take it for what it’s worth. But it seems to me that if the devil ain’t on our back, we might ought to inspect our game. When we’re not doing what’s right in the eyes of God, the ol’ devil could care less. But when we’re playing fair, watch out! It makes him mad as a settin’ hen!

The devil got a hold on the ‘lady of the house,’ and she tried to get Joseph to break the rules (Gen.39:7-10). He refused to be led astray, stood his ground, and even ran from her one day when she was trying to ‘get her claws into him.’ He ran so fast from evil that she was left holding nothing but his coat. Joseph knew when it was time to get out of Dodge!

But she pitched a hissy-fit, screamed and hollered and yelled. And told a pack of lies which her husband believed. Whose side did you think ol’ Potiphar would take anyway? Don’t you know life ain’t fair? So Joseph went to prison (Gen. 39:11-20).

And here’s something else we can hang our hat on. Even while he was in prison, God rewarded Joseph for his faithfulness. The warden of the prison put Joseph in charge of everything and everyone there. You think it might have been because Joseph chose not to be a whiny cry-baby, not complaining about how unfair life is? Instead, he was like a kid that played fair and square and won all the marbles, anyway. Because God was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did (Gen.39:21-23).

So whenever we’re in a hole and think that life just ain’t fair, all we need to do is read  the 39th chapter of Genesis again. Joseph did nothing wrong and got sent to prison anyway. But God was still with him, even in prison. And if we’re still not convinced, just flip over to the 23rd chapter of Luke, verses 44-46. Jesus didn’t deserve to die on that old rugged cross, either. Spotless and without stain, He was still crucified. Life just ain’t fair sometimes.

But hold the phone! Whenever there’s a Friday in your life, just remember Sunday comes three days later. Jesus showed us how to win this game of life and play fair and do what’s right. Check out Luke 24:52, ‘Then they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.’

Are you still trying to play the game of life without lettin’ Jesus keep an eye on things? What are you thinkin’?

Have you lost your marbles?