Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

It’s a discussion I’ve heard several times already, mostly from kids who go to the grocery store with their parents. They’re too young to drive and too bored to stay home, so they tag along with their pads or pods glued to their ears. Somebody on the other end of this electronic conversation will ask, “What did you get for Christmas this year?” You know, age is a funny thing. Back home at Route 4, a pad was what the bull frogs sat on down at the fish pond. And a pod was what we shelled on the front porch to get the peas that made supper complete when combined with hot-buttered cornbread.

Oh, my goodness, I’m about half a mile down a side road, but have you heard about some of the toys that kids got for Christmas this year? One cute little thing with pigtails and holes in her blue jeans was just gushing with joy about her LeapFrog LeapPad 2. If I live to be as old as Moses, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the images that ran through my dirt-road mind. In my mind’s eye, I saw frogs jumping back and forth from one lily pad to another. I could not have been further from the truth. Little Susie, who could have used some new blue jeans, told her friend on the other end of her pad or pod that her new frog pad had cameras in the front and the back of it.

Now, I’ve heard of cameras in the back of something. Brothers Wade and Ollie both have spent time in the woodshed back home when Mother heard them say that she had eyes in the back of her head. But cameras in the front and back of a toy tablet? Surely, this must have been from outer space. We all know that a tablet had Blue Horse on the front of it, but no cameras anywhere, front or back. And the wide lines helped us learn how to write in long hand in the third grade. But, wait, there’s more. This new leaping-frog-on-a-pad also has a VCR, 4 gigs of memory, 325 cartridges, downloadable apps and e-Books. And if that’s not enough, you can watch videos and listen to the latest head-banging songs.

Before they got to the checkout, Little Miss Freckles and Pigtails had also described in detail her new Radio-Controlled Hot Wheels Terrain Twister with pontoons sporting corkscrew-shaped treads instead of wheels that could go through snow, water, dirt, sand, or grass. And before my brain went to overload and smoke started pouring from my ears, I heard her say that she just absolutely adored her new Furby that speaks furbish.

It’s enough to derail a farm boy’s mental train. Speaking of trains, one of the new things this year even had my MHB (mill hill bride) sending me out on a search and rescue mission the other day. She said it was a train that didn’t run on a track. In fact, it just runs all over the house wherever it wants to go. Is that weird or what? Turns out, the only thing that was weird was what I felt when I asked the clerk for a train without a track. “Oh, yes sir,” she giggled through the metal in her mouth that looked like a train track, and made some orthodontist’s kids very happy this Christmas. “You’re talking about the Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train.” “Well, Hallelujah,” I thought to myself, “where can I find it?” “Oh,” she said, “it’s been on tv, but we don’t have them in stock yet.”

No joy in Mudville tonight if you’re looking for a Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train. But let me tell you, friends, there was something at our house this year that ran a close second to that weird train. It might have even been tied for first. Watching my MHB unwrap her new Daisy PINK bb rifle was something I won’t soon forget. Of course, my ol’ brain ran back down the dirt road to that Christmas when I was the proud owner of a new Red Ryder bb gun. For one day, that is. Before sundown on that Christmas Day, I had not put my eye out like Ralphie in that movie, but I had shot Brother Wade in the seat of his britches.

But back to my MHB and her new PINK bb gun. Of course, it just had to be pink with a couple of little pink tassels hanging from the barrel. But the sight that struck fear in my heart was when I saw her out on the back porch with our Number One son, Jeff, trying to teach her the fundamentals of shootin’ a bb gun so she could scare away those screechin’ crows that squawk at her every time she goes out the door. Whereupon, our Number One daughter Kim was heard to exclaim, “Daddy, please tell her to shoot towards the woods.” With that soon accomplished, I just had to grin a little when I heard my MHB holler loud enough for half the county to hear, “I just shot a tree.” The next thing I heard was the ping of bb’s hittin’ the side of my little red metal utility trailer. Somebody please get me some cotton balls to stop up my ears.

But you know what? The older I get, the more joy I get just watching my loved ones open their Christmas gifts. There’s even joy when all the gifts have been opened and there’s nothing but the tree skirt under the Christmas tree. What do you mean, Freeman? Thank you for asking. My MHB and I were just overjoyed on Christmas night when all the children and grandchildren and daughter-in-law and girlfriend (all those names that spell ‘family’) pitched in to clean up the mountain of wrapping paper, boxes, ribbons and bows, etc. And, of course, it must be sorted into separate piles of ‘save-for-next-Christmas’ and ‘it’s-been-used-too-many-times-to-be-recycled-again. And I can’t fail to mention the cleaning of the table and dishes from Christmas dinner.

Let me tell you, that’s a real gift that only aging parents with assorted aches and pains can appreciate. In fact, this ol’ country boy believes that you can’t spell Christmas without l-o-v-e or without g-i-v-i-n-g. If you want more proof, check out the most memorized verse in the history of Vacation Bible School.

John 3:16
New International Version (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

He loved. He gave. Case closed. So, instead of what did you get for Christmas, maybe we could ask ourselves, ‘what did I give for Christmas this year? What can I give Him to let Him know how much I love Him for what He’s done for me? It’s not leaping frog pads, kindles, clothes, cash, cookie makers, or even bb guns that He wants. We don’t even have to clean up a big mess. He’s already done the cleansing with His blood on the old rugged cross called Calvary.

There’s only one gift that He really wants and it will give Him great joy.

He just wants our hearts.