Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

The lines were about 30 deep at every checkout. People were pushing and shoving each other. Shopping carts in the aisles looked like a demolition derby. It was noisier than a fox in a hen house. The shelves looked like a war zone. Actually, I think that’s putting it very mildly. And it was all created by a sign at the door that read “All Christmas Merchandise 50% Off.”

One woman hollered loud enough to be heard across the county line, “Where’s the manager? I want to give him a piece of my mind.” It was obvious to everyone who wasn’t wearing a hearing aid that she had already given away several pieces ‘cause there didn’t seem to be much left.

Out of respect to Charles Dickens, I started not to use his famous phrase from ‘The Tale of Two Cities,’ but it really was the best of times and the worst of times. Excuse me while I chase a rabbit down a side road. You see, after parking in another area code, I found myself in the middle of this madhouse at the direction of my MHB (mill hill bride). On my hike to the front door, I had recalled her words “don’t forget to pick up some of those beautiful boxed Christmas cards that are half price.”

Back to the war zone – it should have been an omen when I saw a guy with a slightly twisted green Christmas wreath with a red bow firmly planted around his neck. I think he belonged to that lady who was giving away pieces of her mind. But I just lowered my head and plowed right on through while dodging the flying rolls of wrapping paper.

The next time I made eye contact with anyone, it was with one of the blue-coated ladies trying their best to act like a traffic cop. With a warm smile on my face, I asked her, “Where would I find your beautiful boxed Christmas cards that are half price?” Now, I’ve known the power of words since Miss Barron’s Senior English class at dear ol’ Seneca High School. And considering myself a fledgling wordsmith, I was still taken aback by the stream of tears that cascaded down the cheeks of the sweet lady in the blue jacket. The next words out of her mouth brought similar tears to my own eyes. “You see that cloud of smoke over the lawn and garden department? That’s where you need to go.”

Right about then I had to do a quick search of the ol’ mental hard drive to bring up the slogan that I have to say to myself when my MHB sends me on perilous missions. I live my life to please my wife. This time I had to repeat it to myself several times before myself would pick up my feet and make my legs move toward that frightening place where babies in shopping carts were covered with gift bags, blinking tree lights, ornaments, and holiday tissue paper.

Let’s think about this situation for a minute. Back home on the farm at Route 4, my sweet Mother had a favorite person whose name she would invoke whenever one of her little darlings did something absolutely silly and/or foolish. She would say, ‘Now, young man, why in the name of Sam Hill would you do something like that?” I’ve never been privileged to meet Mother’s friend, Mr. Hill, but I find myself thinking about him occasionally. And this is one of those occasions.

Why in the name of Sam Hill would you buy something now, pack it up, put it in a storage bin on a shelf somewhere in the attic or basement, and pray that next year you can remember where you put it? Is it just because everything is half price? Do you reckon they might have a Pre-Christmas Sale next year and the same stuff will be half price again? Case in point. My MHB found some gifts the other day that she bought at an After-Christmas Sale in 2010 that she intended to give at Christmas in 2011. Well, guess what? They finally made it to our Christmas Tree 2012 celebration. Don’t tell her, but I’m nominating my MHB for the Sam Hill Hall of Fame.

I would crawl on my hands and knees through broken mayonnaise jars if that’s what it took to show my love for that gal that was raised on the Utica mill hill. But I hope I never, can I say that again, never have to experience another After-Christmas Sale. If I do, I’ll go prepared the next time with full body armor.

This is just me, but I believe our ol’ Damascus-road friend, the Apostle Paul, had some mighty important advice about puttin’ on full body armor in his letter to the saints at Ephesus. Now, I have no idea if there were any big After-Christmas Sales at the Ephesus Department Stores, or even if there were any stores like that in Ephesus. It’s true that Paul writes about belts, shoes, hats and swords, but I think Paul was telling them (and us) what kind of armor we should be wearing every day of our lives so that we can stand our ground in this dark world against the schemes of the devil, the master of darkness himself.

Ephesians 6:13-18

New International Version (NIV)

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

If Jesus comes again in 2013, and nobody, I mean nobody, knows if He will or if He won’t, but I have a feeling that, if He does, we’re not going to need a strand of 300 blinking white lights, or a dozen rolls of Santa Claus wrapping paper for a dollar and 49 cents.

Can somebody say “Hallelujah!”