Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

His hair was black as coal and he had tips of white on all four paws. So we named him Tippy.

Real creative, right? Anyway, it seemed to fit. Sort of a fun name, and that’s what Tippy was all about – fun. That Cocker Spaniel puppy loved to romp and tromp through the woods and fields with our bunch of farm boys. Wherever we went and whatever we were doing, or supposed to be doing, Tippy was right there by our side.

Through rain, sleet, or snow, it didn’t matter. I’ve seen him splashing with us in the swimming hole down at Coneross Creek, and I’ve seen him up to his belly in the snow as we headed for the barn to do our chores on a cold winter morning. If you looked up ‘faithful companion’ in the dictionary, you’d probably see Tippy’s picture.

I don’t remember where he came from. I just remember Daddy saying that Tippy was the pick of the litter. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but Tippy won a place in my heart when he learned to eat the boiled okra that we fed him through the knothole in the floor under the kitchen table. I didn’t know that dogs would eat that slick, slimy stuff.

I’ll bet if Kibbles & Bits had a boiled okra flavor, you could set a sack of it down in a ten-acre field and not a dog in the country would come near it. And to tell the truth, Tippy’s city cousins probably would turn up their noses and run from it. Sorta like some of us farm boys did back home at Route 4.

But, since he was the pick of the litter, I guess he was trying to fit in with his new playmates. That’s when I knew that litter was something good if he was the pick of it.

I was a little older the next time I heard that ‘pick of the litter’ phrase. I had chosen to raise pigs as my FFA project, and Daddy told me that the next time our Momma pig had little piglets, I could have the pick of the litter to begin my quest to become a world champ-een future farmer. They just forgot to tell me I’d have to feed and water those little mud-lovers twice a day! I think Tippy tried to help me out by sharing his stash of boiled okra with ‘em, but my pig-farming career ended almost before it began!

Even so, I always thought that litter was something nice since we had the pick of it. But you don’t hear ‘pick of the litter’ much anymore. These days pick up the litter seems to be more appropriate! Have you ever seen so much trash in your life? Even with our man-made trash mountains that we build at the landfill, our highways and byways are still littered with used bottles, cans, bags, greasy hamburger wrappers and empty soft drink cups. We are indeed a society of litter bugs.

Folks don’t give a second thought to tossing their trash by the side of the road creating a mess that others have to come along and clean up. That’s why I’m tipping my ol’ baseball cap today to the folks who participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program. They walk up and down our roadsides picking up other people’s trash. You’ve probably seen those orange bags full of trash. At several locations along the road this weekend, I saw piles of those orange bags, not just one or two every now and then.

It made me wonder for a minute if we’d litter God’s green earth if we still lived in the Garden of Eden. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible speaks of the beauty of the earth. For instance, in Gen. 1:31, ‘God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.’ And in Gen. 2:9, ‘the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.’ How can we possibly bear the thought of littering what was once so beautiful in His eyes?

Now turn over to John’s account of the city that he saw coming down out of Heaven from God. He described the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:16-19) that was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide, 1400 miles long, 1400 miles wide, and 1400 miles high. With 200-feet thick walls made out of jasper. The new city that John saw was made out of pure gold. And even its foundations were decorated with precious jewels. Do you reckon the Adopt-A-Highway folks will have to pick up litter along the Golden Avenue? I don’t think so!

Still in chapter 21 of Revelation, verses 26-27, John says that the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into the New Jerusalem. Nothing impure will be brought in, and no one who does anything shameful and deceitful will be allowed to enter its open gates. This is just me, but I think that shameful part includes making a mess out of what God created to be beautiful.

So I don’t think we’ll be seeing any piles of orange bags full of litter and trash waitin’ for somebody to come by with a truck to haul ‘em off. And I don’t think we’ll see any signs on the Streets of Gold that say ‘$100 fine for littering.’ Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be so awestruck by its beauty and majesty, the thought of littering won’t even enter our minds.

Down here on earth, we’re just like those puppies and pigs back home on the farm. We make messes that somebody has to clean up. Likewise, spiritually we’re nothing but litter and trash. It’s been that way ever since sin entered the Garden of Eden. As my pastor, Dr. David Gallamore has said a hundred times or more, sin will take you further than you want to go, make you stay longer than you want to stay, and make you pay more than you want to pay. And when it’s through with us, sin throws us out on the side of the road.

In fact, sin made such a trashy mess of our lives until, about two thousand years ago, God decided that the only way to make His Creation beautiful again was to send His only Son to walk down our road and pick up the litter. But instead of hauling it away to be destroyed, Jesus picked us up, adopted US instead of the highway, and gave us a new direction.

And what is that new direction? Thanks for asking. Flip back over to the first chapter of Genesis, verse 27, where it all started. So God created man in His own image, both male and female He created them in the image of God. He didn’t make any junk, and even when sin leaves us stained and dirty like roadside litter, we’re still precious in His sight. And if we’ll let Him, He will adopt us, clean us up, and write our name in His Lamb’s Book of Life and, thereby, giving us entry into His New City.

And why does God choose to reclaim and redeem us? Yep, you guessed it.

We’re His pick of the litter!