Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Some jokester had changed a couple of letters on the church sign advertising the Father’s Day message. Originally it was an invitation that read, “Join us this Sunday to honor your father.” With the wit’s (or maybe half-wit) change, it read, “Join us this Sunday to humor your father.”

That thought was hanging on a mental nail in the back of my mind during worship service Sunday morning when our pastor, Bro. David, said, “OK, all you fathers stand up.” And, all over the sanctuary we stood to our feet to a smattering of applause from the congregation. This is just me, but I conjured (is that a word?) up in my mind a picture of a gob of daddies all over Heaven standing to their feet, clapping, and cheering. Some of ‘em might have been just a little pleasantly surprised, some shocked, and others overjoyed at seeing their boys and girls in church on the day set aside to honor (not humor) our fathers.

I saw a headline the other day about religious freedom that made me hop aboard the dirt-road shuttle bus back home to the farm at Route 4, Seneca, SC. The headline said, “Judge allows girl to wear nose ring to school.” My hand on the Bible. The story said that a young girl, just a freshman in high school, was given the okay by a judge to wear her nose ring to school as long as she belonged to, get this, ‘The Church of Body Modification,’ as she claimed in her defense.

Quicker than a gnat can blink his eyes, questions started popping up in my mind like popcorn over a hot fire. How did this become a court case? What about that judge’s daddy? What about the little girl’s daddy? Why did the judge even allow that to be called a church? Listen, there aren’t many guarantees in this world. But here’s one. If one of my Daddy and Mother’s ‘divine nine’ showed up in their presence wearing a ring in his or her nose, or any other part of their anatomy for which a ring was not suited, there would have been some serious ‘body modifications’ taking place.

Religious freedom, you say? Not where I came from. For instance, there was never a question on any Sunday as to whether or not we were going to Sunday School and preachin’ at Return Baptist Church. And even though we could have out-voted Daddy if he had put it to a vote, his vote was the only one that counted. Just like the Ten Commandments, life at Route 4 had a lot more don’ts than do’s. But the one ‘do’ that got us into more trouble for trying to avoid it, than all the don’ts put together, was trying to lay out of church.

And even that sounded like a don’t to a bunch of farm boys. The first words that I can consciously remember every Sunday morning were, “Get up, boy, don’t lay there asleep and make us late for church if you know what’s good for you.” For a long time, I thought it was one of the Original Ten that Moses brought back down from Mount Sinai.

On second thought, maybe we did have religious freedom. We were free to do what Daddy said. Or we could miss Mother’s fried chicken Sunday dinner while we were ‘freely’ attending preachin’ at the woodshed. Right about here I need to make a confession. Maybe the church sign was right. In all likelihood, there were many times that we kept our mouths shut and went to church just to humor Daddy.

I have this on pretty good authority (Romans 3:23), there are no perfect daddies. Not 60 years ago and not now, either. Mine wasn’t, and there’s a pretty good chance that yours wasn’t either. But if he made sure you were more than an occasional holiday visitor to the House of the Perfect Father, you ought to stop right here and breathe a prayer of thanksgiving.

Likewise, my second ‘Daddy,’ the father of my mill-hill bride, knew that Utica Baptist Church was (and still is) a filling station for people runnin’ on empty. He made sure that she and her brother would never have to raise their hands when the ushers passed out the visitor’s cards. And the fact that both of them today are very active and involved in their respective churches is right in line with one of the do’s that God wrote on Moses’ tablets that involved daddies and mommas, too (Exodus 20:12). In fulfillment of that commandment, both sister and brother honor their parents with the red-letter words of Jesus found in Acts 20:35. They will literally give you their shirt if you need it. Because that’s how their Daddy and Momma lived.

I can clearly remember walking to their house and being given the keys to her Daddy’s ’57 Desoto to go see their daughter who was away at college, and with whom this skinny farm boy was smitten. Being accustomed to my Daddy’s pulpwood truck and its ‘stick in the floor,’ I was in awe of this Desoto’s push-button-on-the-dash gear shift. That car was big enough to have its own area code. And it had fins that would make any shark proud.

But I was always proud to drive it, ‘cause I just didn’t think my mill-hill sweetheart would have climbed up in that ol’ pulpwood truck looking all beautiful in her madras blouse, white slacks, and Bass Weejun penny loafers. But after returning that ‘limousine’ to her Daddy’s driveway and walking back to our house, my Daddy would ask me if I put a dollar’s worth of gas in that Desoto’s tank to show my appreciation to her Daddy.

Honor thy Father and Mother. Just one of many lessons a boy can learn when he doesn’t have religious freedom.

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