Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

It was really a simple question that my bride asked when she walked into the study the other day. No cause for great pondering or meditation. But it did turn the switch key that opened the gate for a nice stroll down my dirt road memory lane. Not that we ever had one of those fancy-smancy automatic power gates that you see these days. Nope, back home at Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina, our gates were simply old rusted-out metal headboards that Mother didn’t want her babies sleeping on anymore. ‘Cause, don’t you know, when that boy is teethin’, he’ll chew on anything he can reach and pull up to.

Pardon the little side road there. If you’ll remind me, we’ll reminisce about gates and headboards on another visit. Today’s stroll down memory lane, ignited by Helen’s question, ended at the ol’ farmhouse where I walked right into the kitchen.

You see, sweet thang had sashayed right into our study with a little jar in her hand. In the bottom of the jar was about one-finger’s worth of chicken broth. When she saw the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face, she quickly explained. “I saw Rachel Ray fix this mouth-waterin’ new chicken recipe, and she said to use a splash of chicken broth. How much do you think a splash is?”

Now this question comes from a lady who owns a collection of probably a hundred or more recipe books. If the WMU at your church sold one to raise funds for a new organ, we own it. If Good Housekeeping put their seal on one, we own it. She even brought home one the other day that was a compilation of recipes from a bunch of master chefs – third graders down at the local elementary school! In fact, it was so ‘cute,’ she bought two of ‘em!

Goin’ on 50 years now, I’ve learned to pay attention to every word that comes out of her mouth. Hey, I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night! So, after careful consideration, I replied astutely, ‘Yeah, honey, that looks about like a splash to me.’ Happy with her confirmation, she departs to the kitchen to pour her ‘splash’ of broth into her Rachel Ray recipe.

And I find myself standin’ beside the kitchen table back home where Mother is mixin’ up one of her famous thirteen layer cakes. I got lucky and called dibs on lickin’ her mixing bowl before any of my brothers got there. Wade, I think, was next, so he got to lick the spoon. Not much of a consolation prize. Lickin’ the spoon was quick. One and done. But when you called dibs on the mixin’ bowl, the other brothers could only stand there with envious drool runnin’ down their chins as you slowly run your forefinger all the way around the bowl several times. And each time comin’ up with a mouthful of that sweet cake batter. Lookin’ back, I can’t decide which was sweeter – each delicious finger full of batter, or the pained look on their faces! Forgive me, Lord, for torturin’ those boys.

But in all her mixin’ and cooking, I don’t recall ever seein’ Mother consult a recipe book. Or a cookin’ show on tv. (Ooops, I better not go down that road!) Not one single time. Come to think of it, I don’t think she even owned a recipe book. Probably why Estelle paid attention and wrote down every ingredient in Mother’s thirteen-layer homemade coconut cake with a wash tub full of ambrosia on the side.

But, you know, we’re all cookin’ something. And have you noticed some of the ‘cakes that are comin’ of the oven’ out there in the real world? You would think that their recipe calls for equal portions of greed, jealousy, selfishness and hate. Throw in a dash of pride and a splash of arrogance. Dump in a cup of bad attitude and a pinch of revenge. Sprinkle in a stream of cuss words. And don’t take time to let it simmer. Just bake it as fast as you can with a thousand-degree temper.

Is it any wonder that many relationships ‘taste’ sour? Have you ever burned the cake and tried to cover it up with smooth, sweet icing? Once you get past the frosting, you still wind up with a bad taste in your mouth.

But James, the brother of Jesus, offers us a recipe for a ‘heavenly’ tastin’ cake. Just listen as he describes the ingredients. Purity, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, sincere, and with some good fruit mixed in (James 3:17). I’ll take a hunk of that  cake and a tall glass of iced tea any day of the week! Wouldn’t the world ‘taste’ better if everybody was bakin’ that kind of cake?

I got dibs on lickin’ the mixin’ bowl!