Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Someone in the post office the other day pulled a handful of mail from his box. In big bold letters across the front of the first piece of mail he saw were these words. ‘YOU ARE OUR LATEST MILLIONAIRE!’ To which he was heard to reply as he tossed it in the round file, “Yeah, like I believe that!”

I once read where some educated and intelligent scientist had said that the human brain is bombarded with over a million messages in a single day. Whew, that’s a lot of noise, way over my five-gallon bucket limit. And, I’d dare say, probably about 75-percent of all that noise is trash.

Take the county landfill site, for example. Ridin’ by it the other day, I noticed that they had capped off a huge pile of trash and dug a big new hole to start all over again. I mean it’s a mountain of garbage right there in front of your eyes every day. It’s so high, a mountain goat trying to climb it would pass out from lack of oxygen.

Coming back from a few days off, a friend said that he had over 800 messages on his email. And about 700 of them were junk. I don’t know about you, but I get these junk emails all the time telling me that a long-lost, distant uncle of mine in Great Britain, or somewhere, is at the point of death and I’m the last living relative to inherit his fortune. All I have to do to claim this gazillion-pound fortune is to send three hundred American dollars to some off-shore bank account. They must think this farm boy is a couple of rocks short of a wagon-load.

Junk mail is mental garbage. Seems like everything you hear and see these days is advertising something. Believe this or believe that. Buy this or buy that. The latest and the greatest. It’s new and improved. Hurry, order today. Only three days left for this special offer. And with a million of those messages a day, it gets harder and harder to find something (or someone) that you can believe is real.

Have we seen and heard so much bad, evil, untrue, or downright ugly and mean stuff in our world today that we become insulated or immune to believing what’s really real? I realize I’m plowin’ a deep row here, so follow close.

There was a time when we were growin’ up back home at Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina, that you could believe. Especially if Mother or Daddy said it. When she caught us sneakin’ her long kitchen matches out of the house, Mother said, ‘If you play with fire, you’ll get burned.’ Ollie found out that was absolutely true. Trying to strike a match on the zipper of his overalls, he didn’t pull it away quick enough. He burned a hole in his pants, and got his behind scorched, to boot, at the woodshed. 

And when we used to bring the cows up from the branch to the barn at milking time, Daddy would always say to us, “If you follow the herd, you’re gonna step in something that Octagon soap won’t get off.” Truer words never spoken! Following the crowd today will get you in trouble, too, especially if the crowd is headin’ in the wrong direction.

One of the millions of messages coming down the pipeline these days is you can’t ‘make it’ in this dog-eat-dog world if you’re not tough. And to some people tough translates to mean and ugly. And treatin’ others badly. The plaque on their office wall says, ‘When you get him down, step on his throat. Show no mercy. Take no prisoners. Repay mean with mean. Don’t ever be accused of being kind. Kindness is for sissies.’ I’m thinkin’ of a word from Route 4 that describes that kind of attitude. And that word is HOGWASH!

But, I repeat, some people say you can’t make it in this world if you’re not tough. To which I say, you can’t make it out of this world if you’re not kind. Tough isn’t mean. Tough is having and believing in a set of absolutes, and standing up for ‘em. Tough says live and act like what you do makes a difference; because it really does.

Growin’ up on a farm in the fifties was tough. No frills. No bells and whistles. Just tough. Ask anybody who grew up that way. Especially in big families, parents had to be tough to survive and see their kids survive. But, just like Mother’s homemade apple cobbler, underneath the crust you’ll find the good stuff.

Our friend Joseph in the Book of Genesis was a tough guy, a good guy, and a kind guy. All rolled into one. His brothers deserved to be hung from the tallest oak tree in the barnyard, but that wasn’t Joseph’s way. More importantly, it wasn’t God’s way for Joseph’s life. Or for yours and mine.

After Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers got scared and were afraid that he would repay them for all the wrong they had done to him (Gen. 50:15-21).

Look at verse 18. They came full circle. In the early days they had thrown him down into a hole. Now they come to throw themselves down at his feet and beg forgiveness.

But Joseph told them not to worry. They intended to do him wrong, but God intended otherwise. So that Joseph would be ready ‘for such a time as this,’ the saving of many lives. Verse 21(b) would make a great epitaph for all our headstones. He spoke kindly to them.

Are there any rock-solid absolutes in our personal and public lives? The sign out front of the little white church at Madison, SC, a while back read, ‘God’s Word is not obsolete. It’s absolute.’ The more I see and hear, the more I want to say, that’s absolutely right!

 OK, now let me see a show of hands. How many of you remember The Rhinestone Cowboy? Also known as the Wichita Lineman? And do you remember where you were and what you were doing in January of 1970 when Glen Campbell sang this song.

If you see your brother standing by the road with a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed, and if you see your sister falling by the way, just stop and say you’re going the wrong way. Don’t walk around the down and out; lend a helping hand instead of doubt. And the kindness that you show every day will help someone along their way. You’ve to try a little a little kindness, yes, show a little kindness; just shine your light for everyone to see. And if you try a little kindness, then you’ll overlook the blindness of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets.

Are you and I walking billboards for the Lord? Are we, in truth, what we say we are? Showing to others the same kindness He shows to us? If we are, why don’t we all order Glen Campbell’s “Try A Little Kindness” as the ringtone for our cell phones! Now that’s what I call truth in advertising!

If I can’t be anything else, Lord, let me be kind.