Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I rarely ever pick up a bag of grapes in the produce department at the grocery store without thinking about muscadines. And how we used to climb trees back home on the farm in search of them. Muscadine vines would climb over, around, through, and up most anything.

And Mother could make some of the sweetest muscadine jelly you ever tasted. You take a hot cathead biscuit right out of the oven, with cow’s butter dripping out the sides, and pack it full of her muscadine jelly! Now that’s what I’m talking about!

But I always had to work harder than anyone else to be sure Mother had enough to make her mouth-waterin’ jelly. All because Wade loved those things better than ice-cold watermelon on a hot day in July! I mean, we’d scour the woods all around Route 4 looking for the big ripe muscadines and, once we found a tree loaded with ‘em, we’d start climbin’ and pickin’.

Not little brother Wade. He could outrun a squirrel up a tree. Then he’d sit on a limb at the top and eat till his stomach hurt. He was a lot slower comin’ down the tree than he was goin’ up. Unless he heard the hiss of a rattlesnake. Then he’d play like Super Man. Without a cape.

You know, life’s a lot like huntin’ muscadines. We spend most of our adult lives climbin’ and pickin’. Grab a few ripe ones from the easy-to-reach low-hangin’ limbs. Test ‘em for their sweetness. At least that’s what Wade called it. Take a break and eat a few. Then keep on climbin’, always reachin’ for those last few big ones. Sometimes you grab a limb that won’t hold you. And you’re faced with decisions. Quick ones. Should you reach still higher for another limb that might break? Or should you drop back down to the more steady and secure limb where the muscadines aren’t as plump and juicy?  

How sad it is to see folks with so much God-given ability, just content to rest on a safe limb, paralyzed by the fear of reachin’ for the next limb up the tree and the sweeter fruit. If you’ve ever seen a brother sittin’ on a limb at the top of a tree, grinnin’ like a Cheshire cat, enjoyin’ the fruit of his climb, you have a picture of true happiness! In Olympic competition, I think they call that a gold medal.

This is just me, but I believe that if they had held Spiritual Olympic Games back in Joseph’s day down in Egypt, he would have won at least a couple of golds. Maybe even more. He would have won gold for sure for not givin’ up, stayin’ in the game. His life’s race started in the hole. Literally. Thanks to some jealous brothers.

Joseph would probably have won gold also in the Attitude Race. Forced to leave his home team and go compete in a foreign country, he never belly-ached or whined. And he would have scored a perfect ten from all the judges for listening to his Coach and following the game plan. God told Joseph that he’d be in the medal ceremony and he won gold goin’ away by saving the lives of every person in his country! Wow! Fly the flag. Play the anthem.

Joseph’s Daddy, Jacob, had 12 sons in the race. Read how he described the starting line-up in Genesis 49:1-28, particularly his description of Joseph in verses 22-27. If you don’t read anything else today, please read those six verses.

I won’t steal your blessing, but Jacob starts off describing Joseph like he was a muscadine vine, full of much fruit, climbing over walls and probably up trees, too. His enemies tried to cut him down, but he stayed strong and fit. And with the blessings of the Almighty, the laurel wreath of victory rested on Joseph’s head.

And you know what? We’re in the Spiritual Olympic Games every day of our lives. We might not win a medal, at least here on earth, but there might just be somebody sittin’ in the stands watchin’ how we compete. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be inspired to get in the race, too.

I can see Wade right now sittin’ at the top of the tree. Grinnin’ and eatin’ his big, juicy muscadines. And callin’ me a scaredy-cat every time I heard a limb crack. Go ahead. Put the Route 4 gold medal around his neck for climbin’ the highest and eatin’ the most muscadines. But, hey, I think I smell Mother’s biscuits comin’ out of the oven.

Would somebody please pass the jelly?