Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

I’ve seen and heard about some strange things that grown men do while frailin’ away at a little round ball with a long stick. Things like twisting their bodies into something resembling a pretzel trying to coax that little white ball into that little round hole. Jumping into the air and falling flat on their face seem to be a couple of other favorite moves.

Or making a whirly-bird out of the stick they’ve just used when the little round ball found its way to the creek or down behind a big pine tree in the woods. Reminds me of the story about the guy who said he gave up golf because he spent so much time in the woods and the water that he came up with an 8-point buck and a 6-pound bass.

On occasion I have even felt some of that frustration. Like trying to knock that little white ball through the turning windmill. With no sense of timing on my part, the turning blades of the windmill just kept knocking my ball back to where I started. Then after seven tries to hit it through the windmill with no luck at all, they told me I had to pick up my little white ball and move on to the next hole. And that’s where I gave up golf. I could’ve sworn that the alligator statue closed his jaws every time I hit a ball close to him.

But I should have known better, anyway. I had the same kind of ‘skills’ when it came to playing stick-ball back home at Route 4, Seneca, SC. As farm boys growing up in the fifties, there were no fancy little dimpled white balls to hit. Or fancy metal titanium golf clubs with those fancy socks on the end of ‘em. We just had rocks and sticks. Except one time, we found an old baseball with the hide already knocked off. Wasn’t long before it was just a mess of unraveled string. And then it was back to rocks. And our clubs were tree limbs of varying degrees of straightness.

Put the two together and you just never knew where the ball (rock) was going or where it would land. And that fact was the cause of one of my most memorable woodshed experiences. Ate off the mantel board for about two weeks while the backside was healing. But with short britches and brogans as my golf attire, I made up my mind that I would out-drive my older brothers, George and Ollie, and give Wade, Eddie and Wendell something to shoot for.

Long story short. I swung that crooked tree limb with every ounce of strength my 98-pound weakling body could muster. And I set a record for the longest-drive. That ball (rock) curved around the cow tree and headed straight for the back door of the old farmhouse. Now, you have to get this picture. Like many others of that era, our old farmhouse had a heavy wooden door on the kitchen side of the back porch. It stayed open most of the time during warm weather.

And then there was the screen door, the only ‘air conditioner’ that we ever knew. And, without a screen door, the flies would tote off every left over piece of cornbread or cathead biscuit they could find. Can you guess where my longest-drive, record-producing shot landed? Yep, you’re right. Smack-dab in the middle of that screen door.

I can still see Mother standing there in the kitchen, her face outlined by the hole in the screen door that looked to me like it was as big as a watermelon. And in her hand she held my longest-drive, record-producing ball (rock). She knew the answer before she ever asked, “Who did this?” The look of absolute terror on my face, and the giggles of my brothers behind me were dead giveaways. They didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quiet.’

That scene came flooding back down the dirt road of my memories the other day while watching a golf tournament on television. One of the players had taken what seemed like an hour and lined up his shot just like he wanted it. And then while he was standing over it, I saw one of the tournament officials hold up a sign that literally screamed “QUIET, PLEASE!” Even the announcers on television were whispering. What I would’ve given for one of those signs back home on the farm!

This world we live in these days is such a noisy place. What with planes and trains and automobiles and machines of all kinds, it can be just almost impossible to find a quiet place. We’re light-years removed from the old front porch back home on the farm where sometimes about dark-thirty, the only sound you heard was the symphony of the tree-frogs and katy-dids.

And it’s not just the external noise that we must contend with in today’s world. How about the internal noises in our heads and hearts? Sometimes the roar can be deafening from job responsibilities, marriages, children’s activities, civic and volunteer duties, earthquakes, floods, tornados and all the other demands on our time and energy. It leaves many folks these days searchin’ for something called ‘me time.’

In times like these, you ask, where can we find that sign that says, “quiet, please?” Is it even possible to silence the roars, both external and internal? Thank you for asking. Here’s your sign. It’s found in Psalm 46:10. God is holding up the sign for our tournament called life. And, like the sign at the golf course, I believe there are serious consequences if we don’t follow its commands.

The Lord’s first command here is the simplest but hardest thing in the world for many of us. “Be still,” He says. In our rush to nowhere, just stopping and being still and quiet for a few minutes is a wonderful medicine for what ails us. It is in those still and quiet moments that He can help us understand the second part of His sign, “and know that I am God.” No matter how noisy or how busy we get, He’s still in charge. He created the world. Nothing that happens surprises Him. That’s an invitation and a guarantee that, whatever happens, we can trust Him.

But, as someone asked the other day, how can you be still in the world we live in today? I know you’re not supposed to answer a question with another question, but my response was this. Do you have a quiet time? The other person replied, do you mean a ‘me time?’ And I said, “No, I mean a me-and-God time.”

I find that a quiet time in the early morning hours can be the most spiritually refreshing time of my day. The whole house is silent save for the ticking of the clock. The only light in the house is from my desk lamp. I begin with prayer that includes thanksgiving, intercessory, and personal. If you’re an old farm boy like me that needs help remembering, I just have T-I-P written on a sticky note on my prayer journal.

After prayer comes a time of Bible study. That’s when God talks and I listen. Now, I realize that you might not think I learned much while I was growing up, but if you don’t remember anything else, remember this. God has a woodshed, too. And just like the farm boy back home, I have two choices. Be obedient or head for the ‘shed.’

In the grown-up life, I think that translates to this equation. No spiritually refreshing quiet time equals woodshed suffering time. That’s where we get introduced to things like worry, weary, and worn-out. In your rush down the super expressway of life, could you have missed God’s sign somewhere along the way? If so, it’s not too late to turn around and read it. He’s still saying, “Be still, and know that I am God.” And once you get started, your quiet time will turn into a spiritual swap shop. You give God your cares and He gives you His peace.

Me-and-Him time. As my pastor says, not good English, but good theology.