Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?’ That handful of words caused a major mental meltdown when I heard them the other day. It was like a 40-car pileup in the morning fog on a busy interstate highway. And it sent my ol’ pickup truck mind reeling out of control down that dirt road again to Route 4, Seneca, SC.

For the first twenty years or so of my life, I can never remember Daddy asking us if he could have our attention when he had something to say to us. It was more like a drill instructor shoutin’ “Ten-Hut” in a raw recruit’s ear. And if we knew what was good for us, we learned to snap to attention, at least mentally, when D.I. Daddy said, “Boy, did you hear what I just said?” I knew it was one of those questions that did not require an answer, nor did he expect to hear any comment coming out of our mouths.

If we said anything, it should only have been ‘yes, sir.’ But sometimes it took several trips to the woodshed before a bunch of farm boys would believe that cow horns hook. On one such occasion, I don’t remember if it was Ollie or Wade. But whichever one it was let the devil jump up on his shoulder and whisper in his ear. I just remember that what came out of his mouth made the W-H-O-F (Woodshed Hall of Fame)!

‘No, sir, I didn’t hear what you said ‘cause I’m now deaf in one ear from all your hollerin’. Could you run that by me again?’ After I could breathe normally, I knew one of two things was fixin’ to happen. Either the rapture or a rupture. And I’ll bet you know right now what got ruptured. That boy ate at the mantle board for a month. And to this day, we’ve never talked a lot about it.

In basic training, drill sergeants expect and demand complete attention for about 16 weeks or so. And it’s all for the good of the ‘greenie.’ His life may someday depend on that training and how closely he paid attention. Growing up on a farm in the 50’s is a lot like basic training. Except it lasts a lot longer. Can you just imagine what would happen if DI’s and Daddies shouted their orders and some young buck replies, ‘OK, I’ll get around to that after a while?’

Have you ever stopped to consider that our military can produce a finished product in just a few weeks with undivided attention and complete obedience to every command? What kind of results could be achieved by God’s Army if we gave Him the same kind of attention and obedience? But God is patient with His new recruits. DI’s are persistent. God wants everyone to graduate from basic training. DI’s just want to get the job done as quickly as possible. Could it be that basic training for God’s Army lasts a lifetime because we have trouble hearing and obeying His commands?

The children of Israel were in boot camp all their life. And they never graduated. They never got to see the Promised Land because they had trouble paying attention and following God’s orders. This is just me, but I’m wondering – what’s the purpose of spending your whole life in basic training if you’re not planning to graduate to the Promised Land? Instead, they just wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years like a blind billy goat. Let’s just imagine for a minute how differently things might have turned out for them if Moses had had just a little DI in him.

The first word in Deuteronomy 6:4 is ‘hear.’ What if Moses had said, “Alright, you bunch of jug-heads. Listen up! I’m fixin’ to put into your empty heads the greatest command that’s ever been or ever will be heard. And if you don’t want to be a permanent potato peeler, you’d better clean the wax out of your ears and pay attention.”

Well, we all know that Moses went on, in Deut. 6:5, to give the Israelites what Jesus called the greatest commandment. And that is to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and will all your strength. If they had been truly listening, that little three-letter word, appropriately applied to their lives, would have led them to graduation from boot camp. And into God’s Promised Land.

And that brings up several questions that I have to face every day. Am I just hearing or am I really listening to, and hanging on every word, and trying my best to obey God’s commands. Am I giving it my all every day while I’m in basic training as a soldier in God’s army? You know, it really does last a lifetime. But, at the end of that boot camp, if we’ve been good soldiers, we have the promise of a promotion to full-time, active duty with the one and only Commander-in-Chief. Oh, what a ceremony that will be. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

To do otherwise would risk being assigned to eternal KP duty where the heat never lets up.