Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Our neighborhood friends Buddy and Susan have some of those cute little solar-powered lights in their front yard. I see them every night as I turn off the main road and head for the house. You know, the kind that store up the sun’s energy, and then light our walkway when the sun goes to China or India or somewhere else on the other side of the world.

Oh, they’ll never be used to land airplanes at night. In fact, their glow sorta reminds me of those lightning bugs that we used to catch on warm summer nights, and put in a mayonnaise jar with holes punched in the lid. But last night the glow of those little ankle-high solar lights took me back home to Route 4 and the twilight scene around the old barn and farmhouse.

Even after a hard day’s work in the field, there were still chores to do before gathering around that long kitchen table to enjoy a bowl of Mother’s cornbread and cow’s milk. And now that I think about it, we would be so tired from working in the field that we couldn’t remember how to put one foot in front of the other. But, boy, just get me to the house and let the games begin.

See, there were no nightlights, street lights, and for sure, those cute little solar-powered walkway lights had not been invented yet! Although we did have solar-powered bath water. We didn’t call it that, but that’s exactly what it was. Fill up a wash tub with water on Saturday morning and sit it behind the house in the sun all day. When it came time for the Saturday night bath, you had warm water.

But back to the main road! About dark-thirty every night when the chores were all done, it was time for SCAREDY CAT! You know, fear of imaginary monsters in the shadows can make you run fast. Let me explain. The farmhouse was not equipped with lights on timers, dimmer switches, or even fancy on-off switches mounted on the wall. A long string with a washer tied on the end was our on-off switch.

And we always knew when Mother pulled that string in the kitchen to fix supper, the glow of that 40-watt bulb would shine just far enough out in the yard to make perfect shadows for a game of Scaredy Cat. And the goal in this game was to see who could stay out of the house the longest as the velvet blanket of darkness covered the farm.

And I have to tell you, as the shadows grew larger and larger, the imagination of a ten-year-old boy seemed to increase in direct proportion. Monsters were everywhere! In the trees, under the house, behind the barn, in the smokehouse – green-eyed, two-headed monsters everywhere you looked! Speaking of the smokehouse, one night I thought I had found the perfect hiding place.

Ollie was always hungry, so he was waitin’ in the kitchen for Mother’s cornbread to come out of the oven of that ol’ wood-burnin’ cook stove. Younger brothers Wade and Eddie (Wendell hadn’t been born yet), had already accepted their loser status as Scaredy Cats by joining the girls in the kitchen. Well, there I was, hiding in the dark in the smokehouse, feeling pretty good about winning my first game of Scaredy Cat. When all of a sudden, something moved over in the shadow of the corner! First, I heard it move. Then it bumped into me!

Call me Scaredy Cat if you want to, but you could call me Speedy Cat that night! After I was able to un-freeze my legs and feet from the spot where I stood, I probably could have set a new land speed record for the forty-yard dash to the house! Especially after a hand reached out and grabbed my arm as I flew out the door of the smokehouse.

After a couple of weeks, I was able to calm my nerves enough to play the game again, but I gave up my hiding place in the smokehouse. And, I never knew for sure, but Daddy always had a funny look on his face, and looked straight at me, when he asked, “Who’s the Scaredy Cat tonight?”

Silly little games that children play, right? Well, most of us, if we’re honest, become real scaredy cats when we’re faced with the shadows of life. And make no mistake. We all have to face them.

Is there anything that you’re afraid of today? Do you have any fear and trembling when you look around? Anything waitin’ in the shadows just down the road to reach out and grab you? Monsters in the shadows such as disease, death, debt, divorce, doubt, or depression?

As a shepherd boy, the psalmist David spent many dark nights taking care of his sheep, protecting them from the wolves and other monsters lurking in the shadows. Was it scary for this young boy? I’d bet my cornbread and milk on it! He didn’t have the cute little solar-powered lights energized by the sun. He only had the Light of the Good Shepherd to guide him through the valley of the shadow. And to make him feel safe, secure, and protected.

Drawing on that experience, David penned the 23rd Psalm, one of the most well-known scriptures in the Bible, and one of my personal favorites. It was with confidence that he wrote in verse 4 that, because the Lord was his Shepherd, he wouldn’t be scared of the monsters and all other evil, even when he walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

David knew in his heart that the Good Shepherd was there with him to protect and comfort him. Just like He’s there with you and me today in our valleys.
Two words in that verse 4 just echo through my consciousness every time I read them. David wrote, “even though I walk through the valley…..” This is just me, but I take that to mean that it’s going to take some time to get through most valleys of life.

Walking is slow. It takes time to find your way in the dark. If I become a scaredy cat and try to run, I might trip over something, fall down and break my neck. So, our steps in the shadows are slow, but they are sure. How do I know that? Thank you for asking. It’s the word that comes after walk – through! Not in, but through. We won’t stay in the valley forever. If we put our trust and confidence in the Good Shepherd, He will lead us through to the other side!

In saying that, I humbly ask you and everybody you know to pray today for my boyhood pal and lifelong friend, Ralph Nix. Ralph, his daughters Chandra and Sherri, his four grandchildren, and all the members of the extended Nix and Brock families are “walking through” the valley today following the home going yesterday of Ralph’s wife, Brenda.

I think it’s safe to say that Ralph has probably made thousands of trophies, plaques, honors, and awards for other people during the many years he’s been in business. All bright and shiny and glistening like a new penny. But if you put them all together, they couldn’t hold a candle to the ceremony that honored Brenda yesterday when she heard her Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come now and enter into your eternal reward.” (Matthew 25:21)

Ralph and Brenda have trusted the Lord throughout their lives. And today, she can run up and down the Streets of Gold if she wants to. Following her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, she’s made it through the valley of the shadow of death.

Somebody say AMEN!

Ed. Note: Originally published on Aug. 24, 2009, revised and edited in memory of Brenda Brock Nix, 1943 – 2011.