Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. You’d think that somebody as old as I am would know better. I mean, folks, somebody who’s been to the woodshed so many times the woodpeckers know his full name, address, phone number, and last four of his social, would have learned at least one or two lessons along the way. But the temptation was just too strong. Even for someone with an advanced B.B. (burnt britches) degree!  

After risking rotator cuff injury jerking on the handle of my old weed eater, with the same results as last Spring and Summer, I followed Mimi’s advice. She had seen one advertised on television with ‘a new and improved pulley that was guaranteed to start every time with a maximum of 4 pulls.’ Yeah, right!

In the past, I had always been able to get my little green monster started. Somehow, some way, even if it took about fifty jerks on the rope. Not this year. I don’t think it would have started if I had given it CPR. It probably wouldn’t have fired off even if I had had some of those paddles to shock it back to life like they do in the ER on General Hospital.

So I gave in. Went to the weed eater store and came home with a big box covered in large print and pretty pictures. Three easy steps, no tools needed. Lightweight and easy to use. That’s what it said on the box. Right beside the picture of a perfectly manicured lawn. And a lady wearing shorts operatin’ this thing without a single blade of grass on her legs!  Why, if this thing works like that, I’ll be able to turn over the weed eatin’ chores to Mimi!

But first, I have to follow the ‘three quick and easy steps’ to assemble this modern miracle of lawn care. Step one, ‘using the wing nuts, spacers, lock washers, and bolts from the parts list, attach the handle as indicated at arm’s length on the shaft of the trimmer.’ Question one, whose arm am I supposed to use to measure the spot?

Step two, ‘following the same procedure as in step one, attach the trimmer string guard to the end of the shaft.’ Question two, what happens if my arm’s length won’t reach to the end of the shaft? Step three, by pressing down and turning counterclockwise, attach the trimmer head to the end of the shaft making sure that your spindle is fully seated.’ Step three comment: I had been standing up, but following the easy-to-read instructions, I turned counterclockwise and sat down. Nothing happened. Unless you count the weeds laughin’ their heads off at me!

After two tall glasses of sweet iced tea had calmed my jangled nerves, I remembered one of Daddy’s Ten Thousand Lessons Learned at the Woodshed. “Boy, when are you going to learn to follow instructions?” Bingo, the instruction book! Why didn’t I think about that an hour and a half ago? 

After a thirty-minute search, I located it. Sealed in a plastic bag and glued to the underside of the top of the shipping box with about ten pounds of that glue that resembles Stretch Armstrong when you pull on his arms. I thought briefly about going to get my chain saw. But it probably wouldn’t start either.

Grabbing the plastic bag containing my instruction book, I jerked four or five times like I was trying to start my old weed eater and the bag fell off on the ground. Now we’re getting somewhere. Turning it right side up, I immediately saw a huge skull-and-crossbones warning. In big bold letters that I could read without my bi-focals. “THIS BAG COULD BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH!”

Thinking that the plastic bag couldn’t be any more hazardous to my (mental) health than the ‘three quick and easy steps,’ I ripped it open and pulled out my instruction book. There on the front cover, printed in French, Spanish, and English, was another dire warning. “To reduce the risk of injury, the user must read and understand this operator’s manual before using this product!”

The reading part I can handle, even though in my way of thinking, the two extra languages are a bit of overkill. But it’s the understanding part of the warning that’s going to take some time.

But this whole process has confirmed for me a long-held theory. Trying to assemble a godly life without reading the Maker’s Instruction Book can be equally frustrating. In an email the other day, Grandson Kirby asked me, “Papa, do you know what B.I.B.L.E. stands for?” To save me a few more rapidly declining brain cells, he went ahead and answered, “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” I like that!

The Bible is God’s Operator’s Manual for us to follow for our own benefit. It’s chock-full of instructions and warnings designed by Him to save our life. All we have to do is read the manual and follow the instructions. Why is it, then, that we run into so much trouble? This is just me, but I think it could be because we try to do things our own way without reading His Instruction Book.

Consider if you will, these instructions written by Paul for his friends at Thessalonica. The Thessalonians were good, loving, faithful, hard working folks. Paul wrote that he was always thanking God for them in his prayers. And, before wrapping up his first letter to them, Paul had these easy-to-follow instructions for them in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18.

Be respectful; work hard; be loving, kind, peaceful, encouraging, helpful, patient, forgiving, and don’t look for revenge when somebody does you wrong. Be full of joy everyday of your life, even when you don’t ‘feel’ like it; pray all the time; and give thanks to God in all circumstances. Paul didn’t say give thanks to God FOR all circumstances; he said IN all circumstances. Because, frankly, a lot of our circumstances are not of God’s doing. Instead, they are the direct result of us not following His instructions.

Is your Bible dog-eared, falling apart, and held together with duct tape? Wonderful! That means you’re good at reading and following instructions. Like the sign read out in front of the old country church, the Bible that’s falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn’t.

Remember, B.I.B.L.E. stands for basic instructions before leaving earth. Does that mean we should consult it for help only at the last minute or when everything else we try doesn’t work? NOT! Every day and every step of the way will be easier if we just learn to follow instructions. 

The operator’s manual for my new weed eater also has something else printed boldly on the front cover. SAVE THIS MANUAL FOR FUTURE REFERENCE. That’ll come in handy when I get to the two-page fold-out containing the seven-step Fuel Mixing and Engine Starting Procedure!

Heaven help me if I try that without reading the instructions!