Archive for January, 2010

OBEDIENCE SCHOOL

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

According to the story I heard, two fine, uptown ladies were showing off how well-mannered and behaved their poodles were since they had taken them to doggie obedience school. Fine Lady # 1 told how the Doggie School teacher had taught her pooch to sit down, roll over or play dead on command. Sure enough, as she ran through the commands, her little fur ball with legs gave an Oscar-winning performance. And received the expected doggie treat for its efforts.

I need to run down a side road right here, if you don’t mind too much. When dogs go to obedience school, do they have to stay in at recess or stay after school if they’ve misbehaved? And who do they get to help them with their homework? Or if they don’t do their homework, do they tell their doggie teacher that the cat ate it? And if they don’t want Daddy Dog to see their report card, do they get the neighbor’s dog to sign it?

Anyway, back to the main road. Not to be outdone, Fine Lady #2 stood up for applause and took a bow when she gave the command ‘shake,’ and her pooch held out his right paw. And again, the obligatory doggie treat, which little Muffie crunched like a horse eatin’ corn!

Sensing victory in this game of doggie one-upmanship, Fine Lady #1 took the blue ribbon when she proudly proved that her prancing pup had learned to count. On the command, ‘count to three,’ her pride and joy scratched the floor three times with its toe-nail painted paw! And planted a cold-nosed kiss on its master’s cheek!

Whereupon, a casual observer who knew both fine ladies, was heard to remark, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could send their kids to obedience school instead of their dogs?”

Well, if those kids had grown up on a farm, they would have been well acquainted with the school where obedience was taught. Back home at Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina, it had a different name. We called it the woodshed. I don’t know how long it takes to teach a dog to roll over and play dead on command. But uptown puppies must be smarter than country boys ‘cause it took years and years of daily training sessions at the shed before we learned our lessons.

And I can promise you this – Daddy never had a pocketful of Oreo cookies for us to munch on when we were learning to obey his commands! Maybe if he had served refreshments at the woodshed, we might have paid more attention. I know a bunch of country boys that would sit down, sit up, jump up, roll over, or fall down backwards at the mention of corn-on-the-cob, chocklit cake, or cathead biscuits and gravy!  

But I’m told by folks who know about such things that it’s the promise of the treat that trains the dog. The first time they obey a command, they’re rewarded. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a cookie, or a sugar cube, or a doggie bone. They’re wired up to believe that they’ll get a treat every time they obey their master. And their master never fails them.

What an awesome picture of God’s loving kindness for us. As King’s Kids, were promised that if we obey our Master, we’ll always be rewarded. Not only that, but it might even entice other backslidin’ boys to come to the Father’s Table when they see us obey Him and watch Him pour out His blessings on us. And His pockets are full of Oreos, Lorna Doone, Nutter Butter, oatmeal-and-raisin cookies, white chocolate Macadamia nut cookies, vanilla wafers, and every other kind of treat you can imagine. And some we can’t even imagine. No eye has not seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those that love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9).

When Isaac was just a boy, his daddy took him to a woodshed in the mountains one day because God had told Abraham to do it. Isaac learned his lesson well as he watched Abraham’s obedience. That’s how Isaac knew what to do when God gave him the command to ‘stay.’

There was a famine in the land (Genesis 26:1-6). Folks were hungry. Their cupboards were bare. Isaac went to see King Abimelech, and God told Isaac to stay right there where he was, and not to go down to Egypt. He even told Isaac that He would be with him and protect him. And give him lots of children to run around all over the land that God was going to give him.

Just like He did with Isaac’s father Abraham, God also told Isaac that people all over the world would get a blessing if he obeyed God’s commandments and did what God required. And (v.6) Isaac stayed. In verse 12, we learn that when he planted his crops in that land where God told him to stay, he reaped a harvest of a hundredfold blessing.

We’re so far removed from the woodshed at Route 4, but ever-present at God’s woodshed, where He teaches this same lesson with love and compassion – obedience means abundance while dis-obedience spells disaster. He even has a Reward waiting for us if we’ve ‘gone down to Egypt’ where He told us not to go. When we come back to Him in obedience.

It only takes a few weeks for a puppy to graduate from obedience school, but for some of us humans, it takes a lifetime for us to learn to obey God’s commands. So a couple or three things to remember.  

Stay in school. Don’t go to sleep in class. And don’t flunk out.

For Heaven’s sake!

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FROG LEGS

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Here lately I’ve been thinking about my memory. Or, to be more specific, the lack thereof. My soon-to-be-high-school-graduated grandson, Kirby, was tellin’ me the other day about his last semester, senior-year courses. Trigonometry (they just call it ‘trig’ these days), he said, required memorizin’ all those formulas and theories and hypotheses and all that stuff. You know, if this equals that, then that has to equal this ! Or something to that effect.

It brought back some unpleasant memories. Those ‘ometry’ courses, trig and geo, were never my favorites. Just couldn’t keep all that stuff straight. Sorta like puttin’ a ten-gallon load in a five-gallon bucket. Something is bound to slosh out!  But you just gotta memorize it anyway and hope that on test day, you can access the memory bank. How ‘bout that. Maybe I should-a been an IT guy!

What do you remember about those ol’ school days? Or can you not remember back that far? One of the perks of getting’ my age is that my supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size. But I’ve been doin’ a little research. Don’t think I’ll ever be a scientist and put out those ‘according-to-a-scientific-study’ reports. But I’ve analyzed the facts, studied the stats, and drawn my conclusion. Whew! This is gettin’ way too deep. My 5-gallon bucket is just about to run over.

But according to my less-than scientific study, I now have a new theory. And I’d better say it before I forget it. I have short-term memory loss. Yep, it’s true. Nothing wrong with the long-term stuff. But the short-term hard drive has crashed. Can I prove my new theory? Glad you asked. Case in point.

Helen sent me to the store the other night. So I started making my list. If it’s over three things, I don’t go without my list. Learned that the hard way. See what I mean about those brain cells? Anyway, it was raining cats and dogs. I mean a real gully-washin’ frog strangler. My list in one hand and my cell phone in the other. So I laid my cell phone on the table to put on my raincoat. And proceeded to walk right out the door without my phone!

Now I’m ridin’ down the road completely oblivious to the fact that she’s probably thought of somethin’ else to add to my list. But I started rememberin’ those rainy night trips to the store from many years ago. You know, guys, those nights way back when sweet-thang was in the ‘family-way’ and she absolutely would not see the dawn of a new day without some dill pickles and chocolate ice cream to help her make it through the night!

Now the last time that happened to me was almost 35 years ago. Short-term, I couldn’t remember to pick up my phone that was just in my hand thirty seconds before. But long-term, I could remember something that happened before most people had a phone in their house, much less one in their pocket!

Short-term memory and long-term memory. If it’s important that you remember somethin’, say like for a test the next day in class, you had to take drastic measures. You knew it was goin’ to hurt, but you also knew that you’d learn a lesson. Come to think of it, that’s a perfect description of the woodshed!

But back to the schoolhouse. When Miss Anderson announced that you would have a major biology test tomorrow, you better know somethin’ about frogs. I mean, you better spend so much time with ‘em, every tadpole in the creek knows your name, date of birth, and the ‘last four of your social.’ It was called crammin’ or pullin’ an all-nighter. And the only thing it accomplished was bulking up the number of short-term brain cells.

To this day, there are only two things I remember about frogs. One of them I’m convinced is true and the other one is a tall tale. Back home at Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina, Mother taught us that if play with frogs, you’ll get warts. How do I know that’s a true statement? Well, you don’t see any warts on me, so it has to be true. And the other thing about frogs that I know is absolutely false is some ridiculous story about a pretty girl kissin’ one and turnin’ him into a handsome guy! If that happened, every pretty girl in the world would have warts all over her face!

But those all-nighters before a big frog-test helped us remember somethin’ about frogs. Beside how good their legs tasted after they had quit jumpin’ around in the frying pan. To pass the test, you better know how to dissect Kermit’s brain!

And remember how you couldn’t wait to get out of school and be done with all those tests? Hardy-har-har-ha! Little did we know back there in the Camelot Days of the Class of ’61 that we would never ever be through with takin’ tests. Have you faced a test lately? You don’t have to raise you hands, ‘cause I already know the answer.

Now, try to remember what we did when we stayed up all night crammin’ before a big test. Because we hadn’t studied enough all along the way, we had to go without sleep as we tried to think of examples of the problems that might be on the test, right? And what happened way too many times on test day? Head on the desk. Snoozin’ right through the test. And a big fat red ‘F’ to carry home for the folks to sign.

The thing about life’s tests is that they may come at any time. Just when you think you’re cruisin’ and the road is all downhill, get ready. Here comes a pop quiz. Just to see if you’ve been payin’ attention in class! And, as we all know, there are no number grades on those tests. We either pass or fail. But the good thing about the University of Life is that we can get extra credit so we don’t flunk out. We do that by studying examples of tests that others have taken and passed with flying colors.

And one of the best ones I’ve ever seen is found in the best textbook ever written. In Genesis 22:1-18, God gave Abraham a test. Abraham didn’t have to stay up all night crammin’ for it. You see, he was over 100 years old. He had paid close attention to every Word that the Teacher had spoken to him. But this was the big one, the final exam before ‘graduation.’ It was a test of his faith.

God had to find out if Abraham was willing to give up something he loved with all his heart and soul (v.2) to prove that he would obey God without question whenever God called his name. In this case, it was Abraham’s beloved son Isaac. And how did Abraham react to this test of his faith? He didn’t stay up all night worryin’ about it.

How do I know that? ‘Cause the Bible says he got up early the next morning (vv.3-4), saddled his donkey, started cuttin’ firewood and getting’ ready for a three-day trip to the mountains. And even in knowing what the test meant, he also knew that God will provide a way.

As we’ve learned from Abraham’s test, if God gets you to it, He’ll get you through it. IF we are obedient. As my pastor, Bro. David Gallamore, has preached so many times, maybe God just wants to see if we’ve got our ‘big-boy britches’ on. In other words, are we willing to answer God’s call even if it means being willing to give up something that we cherish?

Back in his younger days, Abraham had already proven that he was willing to pack up his family and move to a foreign country when God told him to. But this time it was different. This time he was going to have to prove that he was willing to give up something dear to his heart. Did he ultimately have to kill his son? Of course not. That’s not the God that loves us so much that he did, in fact, give HIS only begotten son to save our lives.

What God wanted to know from Abraham, and from you and me today, is this. What are we willing to give in order to fulfill His purpose for our lives? In the middle of our tests, trials, and tribulations, can we say what Abraham said to Isaac in verse 8? God Himself will provide. Even in the midst of his trial, Abraham still took time to worship (v.5).

Is there anything standing in the way of our worship and the study of God’s word? Even in the worst economic condition many of us have ever known, maybe the worst ever, we are still blessed with so many things. Things that take time and attention. Could it be that God just wants to know if we are willing to give up some of those ‘things’ to come back to Him?

To make Him number One in our lives. As people and as a nation. To give Him first place in all our thoughts and actions. Like Abraham, we may not have to give up everything. The test we’re facing might just be a simple True or False. Yes or No? Is our faith in God and His ability to provide for us strong enough for us to be willing to obey Him without question?

And in our willingness, become an example that others can follow in their own times of testing. I’d love to know how Abraham felt when God told him, “Everybody on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.” (v.18). This is just me, but I believe that Abraham got an A-plus on his big test. Will you and I get the same grade beside our name when the final grades are posted? No reason not to.

It’s an open Book test.

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HERE COMES THE PRIZE PATROL!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Congratulations! You’ve won! How many times have we seen the little scenario? Seems like we used to get a letter like that in the mail at least once or twice a week. You know, it had the late Ed McMahon’s picture on the envelope telling us that the prize patrol and the guy with the big check and flowers will be showing up at our front door any day now. So get ready to scream and holler and yell and jump up and down. Just pitch a fit ‘cause you’re the one that’s been picked!

But I guess they’ve lost our address. Or somebody has accidentally hit the delete button on the Prize Patrol’s computer. Come to think of it, Mr. Bill Hunnicutt, our mail man, never put one of those letters in our mailbox at the end of the dirt road at Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina, either. It’s just as well, though. It would have been my luck that the prize patrol van would have shown up on a rainy day and got stuck in the mud. Then we’d have to hitch up Ol’ Plug, the mule, and go pull his ‘ox out of the ditch.’

Here lately, though, I’ve been gettin’ these same kind of messages on my computer. It’s usually on the right side of my screen in big red flashing letters. “Congratulations! As the one millionth visitor to our website, you been chosen to receive an all-expense  paid, four-day, three-night, trip of a lifetime to Tim-Buck-Three!” Or some other equally exotic tropical isle of MY choice. I have never seen such tom-foolery. I mean, I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t LAST night!

I had to click on that flashing red message three times before it would get off my screen. Now I get about a hundred emails in my inbox every day informing me that I’ve been chosen to receive everything from the latest hair growth miracle pill to a Chia-Pet. I have to spend way too much time clicking on that ‘unsubscribe here’ button!

If they’d just go ahead and send me my new set of Ginseng knives or my Ronco-Matic vegetable chopper, dicer, and slicer, I might begin to put a little faith in their ‘absolutely amazing, unheard of, and unbelievable offers’  that I must reply to within the next 48 hours.

Hello!!! Can I really believe something is true when they’ve just told me it was unbelieveable! And it never fails. I just have to LOL when that guy with the big check knocks on that lady’s front door. And she screams loud enough to wake the dead, “I just can’t believe it’s happening to me!”

But let’s not rough ourselves up too badly. Ten lashes with a wet noodle maybe.  ‘Cause I’ve been readin’ about a guy who was picked for something pretty wonderful. And he couldn’t believe it either. In fact, his wife was eavesdropping and when she heard the news, she LOL, too!

Abraham and Sara were charter members of the Promised Land Silver Sneakers Society. To say that they were over the hill would be like saying I like cornbread and buttermilk! It was sometime after his 99th birthday that ol’ Abraham got the unbelievable news. No, the prize patrol didn’t show up at his tent with the big check. It was God Himself who knocked on the door of Abraham’s heart and gave him the news. “About this time next year,” God said, “I’ll be coming back by here, and you and Sarah will have a little boy.” (Genesis 18:10-12).

All their life they had dreamed and hoped of having children. But their time had passed. Now they were too old. No way. It couldn’t happen now, or so they thought. As Sarah was laughing to herself, she thought with a bit of haughtiness, “Yeah, now He shows up after I’m worn out and my man is too old to cut the mustard anymore.”

Then God, in His loving way, gently chided Abraham by asking him if he thought anything was too hard for the Lord (v. 14). In other words, Abraham, just believe that all things are possible with God if they bring honor and glory to God.

In verse 18, God explained that there was no doubt that He would bless the world through Abraham. And, in verse 19, God did what the prize patrol guy could never do. God chose Abraham to be a world-changer by setting an example for his children and their children and their children, and so on, down through history. He was chosen to be God’s example of a person who does what is right and fair. Not occasionally. Not once in a while, but all the time. In the face of all obstacles. Every day in every way. Don’t miss the last part of this verse. “So that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.”   

So maybe I won’t win the sweepstakes and get the flowers and the big check. But there is an even greater prize. From the beginning of time, and for all the people who would come after him, Abraham was chosen by God to show us that if we just do what is right and fair, good things will happen. Even when we think it’s too late or the contest is over. That’s just the way God handles this thing called life. When we do what’s right, He always shows up with the prize. And He’s never late.

So what are we waitin’ on? Flowers and a big check? A set of steak knives or a veggie chopper? Jesus has already written the big check and given it to us.

All we have to do is cash it. And that, my friends, you can believe!

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ARE WE THERE YET?

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Just about one split nano-second after the traffic light turned green, I heard it. Not one toot on his horn, but beep-beep! The guy behind me was saying with his horn, ‘move on, lets’ go, I’m in a hurry, what are you waiting on, old man, Christmas?’ Well, as soon as I could move over into another lane, he floored it! He went by me so fast, I thought I might need to open my door to see if I had stopped. But when we got to the next red light, there he sat. For all his impatience, we both got there a few seconds apart. What is it about this pedal-to-the-metal world that makes us rush through life at break-neck speeds?

Does waiting in line just step on your last nerve? Yes, I see those hands. You can put ‘em down now. And I’ll be the first to admit. When my to-do list is a couple of pages long, I don’t like waiting in line, either. Everybody has different gifts, and I think the gift of true patience is very rare. Think about it. How many pumps do they have where you buy gas? Just one? No way! Gotta have a least a dozen. And how ‘bout those eight-lane interstate highways? In the slowest lane on the far right, you’ll still get ‘the look’ if you’re doing less that 70 miles an hour. You know, the look that says, ‘Hey, mister, where’d you lose the horse that goes with that buggy?’ 

It seems that nobody likes to wait for anything. And I confess. I’m right there with you. Even back home on the farm, I never quite learned how to handle all the waiting. I mean, if we planted watermelon seeds today, I wanted to taste that sweet, red meat tomorrow! When I threw my hook and worm into the fish pond, I wanted that big ol’ bass to hit it before the cork settled on top of the water. Fishing and farming both take a lot of patience. But the older I get, the more I miss the dirt road way of life. I’m not saying that I want to go back there. But I do think we’d all be better off if we could go to that well and draw up a bucket full of patience and drink a big dipper full of it.

This is just me, but do you think that maybe patience is believin’ in the power of the promise? Our ol’ friend Abraham is a prime example of that. God told him that he and Sarah were goin’ to have a baby. They had waited all their life and, when it seemed like that great reward would no longer be possible, guess what? Paint the nursery and get the bassinet ready! Isaac is on the way! His daddy would be 100 years old and his momma would be 90, but God made ‘em a promise. And when they started believin’ in His power to fulfill that promise, God delivered big-time (Genesis 15:1-6). Look at verse 6 again. “Abraham believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” Now, that’s a line of credit we could all use!

You and I have His promise, too. Maybe not to start a family at a hundred years old. But the Lord has promised that He would never leave us or forsake us, but would be with us till the end of time. And no matter how many detours and potholes we hit on this road of life, He has the power to deliver on His promise. IF we believe. And, maybe, just maybe, those detours and potholes show up to test our belief.

So when the time comes to move into our new mansion that He has prepared for us, it’ll be like that announcement I heard at the check-out the other day.

Register 7 is open, no waiting!

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BOTTLE CAPS AND CHECKERBOARDS

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Whatever happened to checkers? I can’t remember when I’ve had a good game of checkers. Long cold winter nights are just perfect for a good game of checkers. Back home at Route 4, we had checker tournaments. In that ‘old-fashioned’ farm family of nine kids and two parents, sometimes we’d have to play every night for a couple of weeks before crowning a champion. And then you’d strut around like a banty rooster in the barnyard till the next tournament.

But back in the B. T. days (before television), checkers sure helped to pass the time between cleanin’ up the supper dishes and getting’ ready for bed. And the first one to finish his homework got to set up the board and the bottle caps we used long after the original red and black checkers were lost.

And speaking of bottle caps, can’t you just imagine having to play checkers with those little pop-top rings that come on soft drink cans today? But we loved collecting the bottle caps from the drink box at Mr. Jim Stephens’ store.

Helen came home from the store the other day with a ‘sursie’ that brought back memories of the drink box at Mr. Jim’s store. Don’t remember which day it was. Seems like these days everybody goes to the store every day. Back in our day, goin’ to the store was a reward for getting’ your work done. And never more than once a week. But for those who’ve led a sheltered life, a sursie is an unexpected treat that causes a smile and a fist-pumpin’ YES! When I saw her come in the door with two big ol’ ice-cold bottles of orange and grape belly-washers, I almost had a spell!

In the blink of an eye, I was back in Mr. Jim’s store. When he saw us coming, Mr. Jim would always pull the bottle cap holder off the drink box and what a time we’d have! Go outside and pour ‘em all out. Take out our trusty (not rusty) Barlow pocket knife and start pulling the little cork liners out of the bottle caps looking for the prize! Who knows, the next one just might have a million dollars under it. Then we’d clean up our mess and take the bottle caps home for the next checker game.

Let me run down a side road right here if you don’t mind. Have you walked past the toys and games section of your favorite store lately? It will amaze and astound you. Just the other day, I saw a couple of young boys standing in front of a tall case with their hands stuck inside of it. They couldn’t have been over ten years old. And they were hollerin’ and screamin’ like all get out! I thought for a minute they might be hurt. I guess I had a flash-back to the time we got one of those new-fangled washing machines. To squeeze the water of the clothes, Mother would put the clothes into this thing that looked like two rolling pins. When she got her fingers caught in it, she never used it again!

But anyway, these two boys had some kind of remote control boxes in their hands and they were looking up at a monitor. Like a little TV screen. And then it hit me! They were trying out the latest version of the hottest video game of the week. And don’t they come out with a new one every week? And they have to keep ‘em locked up inside this box with the holes in the front. But the kids can reach inside and play ‘em while Mom’s gettin’ a new blackberry or something!

Back to the main road. A body can learn a lot about life playing checkers. Like thinkin’ and plannin’ before you make a move. I heard a guy say the other day that the only exercise his wife got was jumpin’ to conclusions! But the game of checkers is about rewards, too. You make the right moves. Wind your way through all the obstacles and get a crown on the other side. Then the crown gives you the power to move around the board frontwards and backwards.

But sometimes your opposition will set up a trap. What looks like a nice, smooth move will go bad. You’ll walk right into the trap and somebody will put a triple jump on you and there goes three of your bottle caps. And then comes the big argument between brothers. Cause you feel embarrassed and foolish and mad about your bad move.

And we all make bad moves don’t we? Take the wrong road, so to speak. Make the wrong decisions. Mess up big-time. Then we feel like a triple-A, five-star, first class failure. Aren’t you glad we have a loving Heavenly Father who has an M.S. Degree? He’s a Mess Specialist. And no one on earth is better that cleanin’ up the messes we make. You remember the story about Jesus’ disciples arguin’ about who was number one? They were a mess!

And even before that, back in the beginning, in the Book of Genesis, a couple of brothers got into an argument and one of them made a bad choice and a wrong move. Actually, Lot was Abraham’s nephew, not his brother. But Abraham loved him like a brother. And, as we all know, sometimes the Father has to separate arguin’ brothers.

Abraham and Lot were living on the same piece of land and both been blessed (Gen. 13:1-7). But they had so much stuff, some of their people started arguin’. So Abraham told Lot, “Let’s not argue. The time has come to split up. You go your way and I’ll go mine.” (vv. 8-9). Lot had a choice to make. Freedom of choice, just like God gives each one of us. But Lot made a wrong move. He looked at the nice, well-watered land of the plains of Jordan and decided to go pitch his tents near the wicked town of Sodom (vv. 10-13).

I’ll come back to Lot’s mess in just a minute. But after Lot left, Abraham was sad. Had his dobber down just a bit. Feelin’ lower than a snake’s belly. So God gave him a pep talk (vv.14-18). He told ol’ Abraham to wake up, get up, and look up right there where he was. Anything he could see in any direction, God was going give it to him and all his offspring. So he wised up, too, and it made him feel better. He got up and moved his tents to the big shade trees where he built an altar to give thanks to the Lord.

God is God on the mountain and He’s God in the valley, too. If you’re in the doldrums and feelin’ the heat of the devil breathin’ down your neck, God says just get up, get busy, and get goin’. To the shade trees, maybe, like Abraham did.

Now, back to ol’ Lot. He’s in a royal mess (Gen. 14:11-12). A bunch of bad dudes had raided and looted Sodom and Gomorrah and took all their food. They even carried off Lot and all his possessions since he had made his choice to live in Sodom.

When Abraham heard about this, he was ready to go into action since God’s little pep talk. He knew he had to get up, get busy, and get goin’. So he called out the cavalry. Putting together 318 of his best G.I. Joes (v.14-16), he went to rescue Lot and bring him and his people back home.

Two messes that showed God’s Clean Up Power. Abraham was sad and lonely since his split up with Lot. Lot made a bad move and got captured. God picked up Abraham’s dobber and sent him to bring Lot back home. And He’ll do the same thing for you and me. Have you messed up, made a wrong move or a bad choice? Do you feel like the checkerboard of your life has been turned upside down? You can’t make a mess big enough that God can’t clean up.

Got time for a good game of checkers?

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PACK YOUR BAGS!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Moving can be a real headache. Can you remember a time when you and your family moved? So many things to take care of. So many questions and maybe a few doubts, too. Sell the house where you’re living. Get a place to live where you’re going. Call the moving van. Pack up all your belongings. Maybe put some stuff in storage. Take the kids out of school. Find a new school in the new place. Say goodbye to friends and family, familiar faces and places. Like we said at the beginning. Moving is a major migrane!

Before Helen’s pacemaker shorts out, let me quickly point out that we’re not planning a move. But, for the sake of discussion, ladies, let’s play a little game of ‘what if.’ What if your husband came home from work tonight and said, “Pack your bags, honey, we’re movin’.” After you recover from the shock, you have a country girl’s question. Do what? And he assures you that it’s not just another bad day at work.

Now let’s add a few more ingredients to this pie. You’ve lived there most of your life. You and hubby are getting’ on up there, say about seventy-five years old. You’ve done quite well. Or, as the grownups back home at Route 4 used to say, you’ve turned out alright. Now you’re looking forward to your ‘golden years.’ Sleepin’ till ten. Tea at noon. Tennis with the girls in the afternoon.

But the man of your life insists that you’re leavin’ all that behind. Subconsciously, you’re probably thinkin’ that he’s left something behind. Like his sanity maybe. But before you buy into the plan completely, you have just one other question. “Oh, by the way, sweetie pie, honey dumplin’, where are we moving to?” As you would later tell the doctors in the white coats, his answer to your question was the straw that broke the camel’s back. What did he say? Three little words. Not ‘I love you,’ but I don’t know! That’s right, Dr. Cold Stethoscope. He said we’re movin’ but he doesn’t know where. Now, girls, you’re inside the head of Sarah, wife of Abraham, friend of God, father of the faith.

A little background is necessary right here. Abraham and Sarah had already moved one time. When they were young, right after they were married, they packed up and set out for a place called Canaan, along with Abraham’s Daddy and his nephew, Lot. But they got sidetracked along the way and never made to Canaan. Instead they settled down in a place called Haran (Genesis 11:27-32). And there they lived and did alright for themselves. But they never made it to the Promised Land.

And then Abraham got the call that would change their lives. And more importantly, it would change the world. God told Abraham to pack his bags and move out (Genesis 12:1-5). Leave the country where he lived with his Daddy and all his kin folks. But, along with His command, God also made Abraham a promise.  I gotta throw this in right here. If we do what God tells us to do, we’ll turn out alright.

Anyway, back to the Promise. God told ol’ Abraham that He would show him where to go. First He just wanted to see if Abraham had the followin’ faith. God told Abraham that He would make Abraham’s name great and he and Sarah would be blessed with many descendants and everybody on the face of the earth would be blessed because of Abraham. Wow! And double Wow! Not bad for a 75-year-old couple who couldn’t have any children.

But Abraham believed, trusted, and obeyed. He packed up Sarah and Lot and all their belongings and hit the road. Along the way, they lived in tents like strangers in a foreign country. But, don’t miss the last four words in verse 5.  ‘And they arrived there.’ Where was there? Led by God, they arrived in the Promised Land!

For the rest of the story, turn to the ‘by faith’ chapter in Hebrews 11:8-12. By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went. Even though he didn’t know where he was going. And because of his followin’ faith, God gave ‘em a miracle. He made it possible for this one old man, ‘good as dead’, to have more kin folks than he could count. In fact, he would have stood a better chance of counting all the stars in the sky plus all the grains of sand on the seashore (v.12). I repeat, not bad for a couple of senior citizens who couldn’t have children. Or so they thought. Until they decided to follow God.

You and I are standing on the shore of a brand new year. Ready to set sail into the uncharted waters of the unknown. If we let the fear of the unknown control our minds, it will paralyze us and make spiritual cripples out of us. And rob us of the miracle that God has in store. Could He be calling you and me to ‘move out’ in the new year and do something special for His kingdom? Will we have the ‘followin’ faith’ of Abraham and Sarah? Or will we ‘settle in Haran?’ And never make it to the Promised Land.

Faith is not only you holding on to God, but knowing that God is also holding on to you.

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AUTOMATIC DOORS

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I’ll just go ahead and say it. And then we’ll deal with it. And here it is. I find doors absolutely fascinating! I realize in saying that, I run the risk of having you think the ol’ country boy is about half-a-bubble off center. Or a couple of sandwiches shy of a picnic. The light’s on but nobody’s home. Well, you get the picture.

I guess this fascination with doors can be traced back to Route 4. Every stable in the barn had a door. The smokehouse had a door. The woodshed had a door, too, but it saw so much action, the hinges fell off and Daddy never bothered to replace them. Didn’t need ‘em anyhow. I’ll bet he would have liked one of those revolving doors I saw while visiting at the hospital the other day. Talk about fascinating! On second thought, maybe he wouldn’t have liked it. I can just see a bunch of country boys goin’ round and round and never getting’ anywhere.

But back to the farm. Even the ‘outdoor facility’ had a door. And here’s where the rub comes. You absentmindedly leave any of these doors open and you pay serious consequences. And then there was the kitchen door at the ol’ farmhouse. Leaving it open on a cold winter day could earn you an all-expense paid trip to the ‘shed’ where you didn’t have to worry about closing the door.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, ‘Close the door, boy. Were you raised in a barn?’ But it had a latch on the inside. And if you weren’t home by curfew, the latch would be set, and you’d have to wake Daddy up to get in the house. No thanks, I’d rather sleep in the barn!

These days, though, you see all kinds of doors. In addition to the revolving kind, there’s the kind that open and close with the push of a clicker. I even heard the other day that somebody has invented a lock for your front door that you can open with your cell phone. Probably works great if I can find my cell phone. But what if the wires get all crossed up out there in cyberspace? I know some ladies that’ll be opening every door in town!

And how many of you have a car door with keyless entry? Works well till you get old and forget your code. Or how ‘bout that thingamajig on your key chain? When Helen forgets where she parked, all she has to do is hit the ‘panic’ button. Then she and everybody else knows where she’s parked. That button is so appropriately named, don’t you think? On a serious note, ladies, please don’t hit your clicker till you’re standing beside your car.

And how ‘bout those automatic doors? What a marvelous work of science! I’m standing just inside one of them at the store the other day. Just watchin’ ‘em open and close, open and close, over and over again. I guess I stood there too long. Some little lady came in the door and asked me what aisle the cornflakes were on! She probably thought I was a greeter! I just smiled and said Aisle 14. I had been there before.

Noah’s ark had one of those ‘automatic’ doors. But it stayed open all the time. At least until Noah and his family and all the creatures were aboard. And then the One who opens and closes doors for us all the time closed the ark door. Noah didn’t have to worry about closing the door. And he didn’t have to tell one of his three boys to shut the door. Or ask ‘em if they were raised in a barn! God closed it for him. Check it out. The last sentence in Genesis 7:16. ‘Then the Lord shut him in.’ And it stayed shut for over a year! And when He was ready for ‘em to come out, God opened the door again.

If there’s a nugget in there somewhere, here’s where I start looking. Those automatic doors at the store open for me every time. And close behind me every time. But, like we used to say back home, that ain’t the way it is in real life. Have you ever been standing at what you thought was a door of opportunity? But it was shut tight and no amount of hollerin’ ‘Why me, Lord’ would get it open. Sometimes He closes doors for our own protection. Like the sign on the woodshed wall, “This is for your own good and you’ll thank me for it later.” Not easy to see when you’re bangin’ your head on the door, is it?

Think about it like this. The ark door stayed open till every last creature was on board. Because that’s they way God had it planned. He intended for all of ‘em to be on the boat. I can’t prove this, but the cheetahs probably were the first ones up the gang plank. They could run fast. Come to think of it, though, the birds were already there. They just flew in the open door. But here’s where I get a grin from ear to ear. God didn’t shut the door till the two turtles and two snails got there! Didn’t matter who got there first. If you’re supposed to be on the boat, God will hold the door for you.

How long will the door be open? Noah didn’t know. God didn’t give him a time and date that the door would be closed. But, in God’s time, He shut the door. Just like Noah, we don’t know how long the door will be open, either. Right now, Jesus is standing at the door with arms outstretched saying, “Whosoever will may come.” The important thing for you and me to remember is Rule Number One of Life’s Lessons Learned From the Ark.

Don’t miss the boat.

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POT OF GOLD!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Do you remember any games that you played when you were growin’ up?  No, I’m not talking about these new-fangled electronic boxes that test only the strength of a kid’s thumb and forefingers. The only ‘boxes’ we ever played with back home at Route 4 were the banana boxes that the folks brought groceries home in from the A & P on Saturday morning. Forget the ‘paper or plastic’ question. Just give me a good sturdy banana box anytime.

You could haul your tools in it. And you could keep from gettin’ splinters in your arms by totin’ stove wood to the house in your banana box. And you could borrow a plow line from the barn and make a wagon to take little brothers for a ride around the barnyard. For a fee, of course. Fees that were paid, not in monetary terms, but in the exchange of assigned chores.

For one bumpy ride around the barnyard, you promise to fill up the stove wood box (another kind of box that’s now extinct) and draw enough water to fill up the reservoir on Mother’s wood cook stove. Many times, though, someone would renege on his promise. Especially when a tree root caused a pile up like black ice on a freeway.

But you can learn a lot from the games that kids play. Most of them involve a vivid imagination. For instance, we had a game called ‘Pot of Gold.’ It was always played after a shower of rain. The first one to see a rainbow in the sky would get to start the game. The object of the game would be to fill in the blank. It went something like this. ‘If I had a pot of gold, I would (blank).’ And it didn’t matter how far-fetched your dream sounded. Just as long as you didn’t want to buy what another brother had already spent his pot of gold for. That would be cheatin’. And besides that, it would cause an argument and then Daddy would have to break up the game. And there’s nothing golden about a trip to the woodshed!

But whoever came up with the best one, usually the wildest imagination, was declared the winner. Like one that comes to mind right now. One day when I wasn’t the first to see the rainbow, I had to wait my turn. Gave me plenty of time to imagine what I buy with my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Most times the ‘rainbow wish list’ centered on dream cars and trucks, helicopters and jet airplanes, or fancy rods and reels and fishing gear and stuff like that.

But when it came my turn, I won the game. I announced that I would buy a truck load of water pipe with my pot of gold. After a long silence, the questions started coming like the rain falling before the rainbow appeared. Why in the world would I want to spend my pot of gold for a truckload of water pipe? Quite simply, I told ‘em that if we had enough water pipe to go from the well to the kitchen, we would never have to tote water to the house again. And furthermore, if we had enough pipe to go from the well to the garden, we could eliminate that water-totin’ job, too. For once, we all agreed on something. That would be worth a pot of gold!

What do you think about when you see a rainbow? Scientifically, I guess some folks think about all that stuff about the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays through the rain drops. But science was never one of my better subjects in school. So when I see a rainbow, I think about sticky notes. You know, those little scraps of paper that we write things on that we don’t want to forget. Yeah, I’ll bet you’re thinking right now, there he goes again with the wild imagination.

Before you take away my sticky note pad, check out Genesis 9:8-17. God made a promise to Noah and his sons and all their family that would come after them. If I’m right, that includes you and me. Nobody else on the earth that day when they came out of the ark. But God promised that He would never again destroy all life on earth with a flood. I don’t know if Noah and his three sons asked for God to put it in writing or not. But He wrote it in the sky. Check out verse 13 – “I have set MY rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”

And then in vv. 14-16, God made the first sticky note. He said whenever He sees a rainbow (v. 16), it will remind Him of the promise He made after the flood. Now, I know God’s got a lot on His mind these days, and sometimes when He sees how we act, He probably has to remind Himself of that promise. This is just me, but when I see a rainbow, I like to think of it as a ‘Heavenly Sticky Note.’ To remind me of all His promises and that He always keeps His promises! Especially the one about never leaving us or forsaking us. Now that’s something that is  worth a pot of gold!

Number 11 on the List of Life’s Lessons Learned from Noah’s Ark is something well worth remembering. If God is in our boat, it doesn’t matter how big the storm is. There’ll always be a rainbow after the rain. Like He told Noah in Gen. 9:17, “Here’s your sign.”  Need a sticky note to remind you?

They come in all the colors of the rainbow!

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FLOAT LIKE A ROCK!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I’ve never been able to float. Even while growin’ up around the ol’ swimmin’ hole in Coneross Creek back home at Route 4, I’d watch my brothers float down the creek on their backs. It looked so easy. Somethin’ about holdin’ your breath to get started that I just couldn’t get the hang of. And then they’d tease me about ‘floatin’ like a rock.’ Of course, with a bunch of country boys, teasin’ usually led to arguin’ and arguin’ usually led to somebody getting’ thrown in the creek. And I’ll give you three guesses as to who got thrown in. And your first two guesses don’t count. Sure would have helped if I had just learned how to float.

This is just me, but I think there’s a lot of folks today who have never learned how to float. And I’m not talking about the ol’ swimmin’ hole. Even if you think a creek is the sore place you get in your neck from sleepin’ the wrong way, learnin’ how to float is a valuable lesson for life as we know it today.

Take the recent holiday season, for example. I know you didn’t get stressed out from runnin’ all over creation tryin’ to find ‘the perfect Christmas gift,’ but you probably know somebody who did. Experts say that stress levels are higher in December than any other month of the year. We just need to learn how to float.

On the List of Lessons Learned from Noah’s Ark, number nine says, ‘when you’re stressed out, float for a little while.’ Now, let’s think about that for just a minute or three. What in the world would give you an idea that there might have been any stress on the ark? I offer this as evidence.

First, you have a six-hundred-year-old man and his wife and their three grown boys and their wives. The boys were a hundred years old themselves. It says so right there in Genesis. Noah was 500 when Shem, Ham, and Japheth were born (Gen. 5:32). Now jump over to Gen. 7:11. The flood started when Noah was 600 years old. Now they’re all cooped up together in this floatin’ barn 24/7 for over a year! Reckon there might have been a time during that year when somebody stepped on somebody’s last nerve? You think?

Let me hasten to say that there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than spending time with my wife and kids and grandkids. Some guys love to fish and hunt with their buddies. And nothing wrong with that. Some guys are workaholics and become strangers in their own houses.

Me? I just like being around my family. I guess it goes back to being raised on the farm. When dark-thirty comes, this ol’ boy is headin’ for the house. Get the peanut butter ready, Momma, ‘cause Daddy’s on his way. But still….being together every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month for over twelve months? I’d better stop right there! I have a feelin’ I’m about to be thrown in the creek.

How do I know that Noah and his gang were together for over a year? Thank you for asking. Genesis 7:24. The earth was flooded for a hundred and fifty days. After five months, God had stopped the rain and the water started going down. Then after another month and a half (Gen.8:4) the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat on the 17th day of the seventh month. Then it took another two and a half months before you could see the tops of the mountains (v. 5) on the first day of the 10th month. By now, I can just imagine that Momma and the kids were giving Noah fits.

But the ol’ guy waited another month and ten days (v.6) before he would even open the one window in the ark to let a raven fly out. Now we’re up to eleven months and 10 days. But the raven kept flying back and forth with no luck at all. Then Noah sent a dove out the window (v.8-9), but the dove couldn’t find a tree to land in either, so it came back to the ark.

Noah waited another week (v.10) before he sent the dove on his second mission. Are you marking your calendar? We’re up to 11 months and 17 days that this family and all their pets had been together. Without a washer and dryer, too, I might add!

But this time, the dove came back with a green olive branch in its beak! Hallelujah! Noah knew then that the water had gone down. Don’t you know that Momma Noah and the kids were ready to kick the door down and leave? But no, hold the phone. Noah waited another week before he sent the dove on a third mission just to be sure (v.12). Now we’re up to 11 months and 3 weeks.

By the first day of the first month after Noah’s 601st birthday, the water had dried up (v.13). And by the 27th day of the second month after he turned 601 years old, the earth was completely dry (v.14). Then God told Noah (vv.13-17) it was time to get himself, his wife, his sons and their wives, and every kind of living creature they had with them, off the ark.

So, in summary, the rain started on the 17th day of the second month after Noah’s 600th birthday. And everybody and every thing came out of the ark on the 27th day of the second month after Noah had turned 601. That comes to a year and 10 days.

Now you tell me. If you and your family had been put together in a big boat with only one small window for 375 days, with two of every kind of animal, bird, insect, rat, snake, and bug know to mankind, would there have possibly been a cross word or two somewhere along the way? Do you think there would have been just the tiny hint of stress?

Do you think there might have been maybe just one or two times when Noah felt like ‘throwin’ somebody in the creek?’ Just the thought of a hungry woodpecker on a wooden boat would have been enough to cause a Maalox Moment for me and most folks I know. But ol’ Noah just kept on floatin’ and floatin’ and floatin’ till the storm blew over.

I believe the keys to Noah’s wild ride, and possibly the one we find ourselves on these days, is found right there in Gen. 8:18-22. Key number one, “so Noah came out…”. No matter how much he might have wanted to jump overboard or throw somebody else overboard, Noah obeyed God. And came out of the ark ONLY when God told him to come out.

And, key number two. The first thing he did upon leaving the ark was to go to church (v.20). He built an altar, worshipped God, and gave Him thanks for watching over his family and taking care of them. This pleased God so much that it ‘smelled’ like fine perfume. Just a little thought right here. Reckon how our life ‘smells’ to God? But He promised right then and there that, even though we mess us every day and get stressed out over the least little mole hill, He would never ‘throw us in the creek’ again.

And there will always be a time for all things (v.22). Storms and floods. Sickness and death. Raisin’ kids. And watchin’ them leave home. Losing jobs and finding jobs, and just doin’ our jobs. Plantin’ time and pickin’ time would always be around. And both require lots of patience. There’ll always be some hot days and some cold days, some summer days and some winter days, some bright days and dark nights in our lives.

And key number three. When those stressful and stress-filled times crop up in our lives, just pray for a little of Noah’s patience and float for a little while. And by all means, don’t forget to thank the Lord when the storm is gone.

How ‘bout that! Looks like I’m still learning how to float. After all these years!

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FIT FOR THE FIGHT!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

The first week of twenty-ten is behind us now. So how are those New Year’s resolutions working out for you? My good friend, David Austin, said the other day that only eight percent of people who make resolutions keep them. That means that the other 92 percent of us have only 51 more weeks to go till we can make some more resolutions that we don’t keep.

I was a little surprised to hear someone say they only made one resolution at the beginning of last year. And they kept it every day of the year. And they made the same one again this year. That got my attention in a hurry. What was the one promise that they made that they kept all year? Not to make New Year’s resolutions!

Some internet website compiled all the resolutions and came up with the top three. Number one was to lose weight. Getting out of debt came in second. And you know what was in third place? Spending more time with family and friends! So, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see more people in the gym these days. Pumping iron instead of eatin’ it!

I have painful memories of headin’ to the gym for the first time. My resolution was strong as iron and I was pumped! I wish somebody had made a video. It would have won the big prize on that funniest home video television show. If you had looked up Joe Cool in the dictionary, you would have seen my picture.

I mean I had everything I could possibly need. New shoes, new workout clothes, a big towel, a bottle of water, and my new Ipod that Helen and the kids had given me for Christmas. On which I had downloaded all my favorite Bill Gaither songs. Never had an Ipod before, but everybody at the gym had one, so I figured it must have a purpose.

Only one problem. For several days after that first workout, I noticed that I was losing my hearing. That scared me. And gave me good reason not to go back to the gym. Till I made a startling discovery. And regained my hearing.  You know those little foam do-hickeys that cover the ear pieces on your Ipod? One of them popped out of my right ear in the shower! That was even more embarrassing than trying to use the gym’s card key on my car door. 

But, having been advised to take it slow and easy, I did what most people do. I didn’t listen. After about ten tries, I was able to lift that heavy bar about six inches off the floor. I hadn’t picked up anything that heavy since our hay balin’ days back home on the farm. And then somebody told me I was supposed to put some weights on the bar!

Every time I think about workin’ out, I’m reminded of the original strong man. No not Charles Atlas. I’m talkin’ about ol’ Noah, one of my favorite guys from the Bible. I know he must have been in good shape. It says so right there in Genesis 6:9. Noah was righteous and blameless and he walked with God. Like the church sign said, “Exercise your faith, walk with the Lord.” Well, when Noah was about 500 years old, he became the father of three boys. And about a hundred years later, he got a new job because he found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

And Noah is another good example for boys and girls everywhere in the world. He had something that my Daddy preached to us, without much success, every day of our life back home at Route 4. Noah was good at following instructions. God gave him specific instructions (Gen.6:14-16) about how He wanted the ark to be built. And Noah obeyed without question.

Let’s play a little game of ‘what-if.’ Let’s suppose that instead of cypress wood, he had used that stuff called particle board. Can you just hear him saying, ‘God, have you checked the price of cypress wood lately?’ Didn’t happen. He just obeyed. And what if he had built the ark 449 feet long, 74 feet wide, and 44 feet high? Only 12 inches different. Got to cut corners somewhere. Didn’t happen. He obeyed God. The lesson that most of us had to learn at the woodshed is right there in verse 22. And it’s so simple. Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

I once thought I could lay some blame on Noah. Till I read verse 22. It wasn’t Noah’s idea to let two of every kind of creature that moves on the ground get on the ark. God told him to do that. If you grew up on the farm, you can appreciate Noah’s predicament. What if he had said, “God, did you mean snakes, chiggers, gnats, mosquitos, wasps, and hornets, too?”

And it wasn’t Noah’s idea to take every kind of food with him for all his family and all the animals to eat. God told him to do that (v. 21). Here’s where I sorta wish Noah had said, “God, surely you don’t want me to take that slick and slimy boiled okra on the ark with me, do you? Can’t I just take cornbread and chocolate cake, and a jar of peanut butter?” Didn’t happen that way.

And aren’t we glad that this 600 year-old guy obeyed God (Gen. 7:5-6) when it rained for forty days and forty nights. Even if it meant being cooped up with every creature that’s ever been around the barnyard, not to mention his wife and three sons and three daughters-in-law, for five months while water covered the earth?

This is just me, but I think the moral of this story is that Noah lived to be 950 years old because he was fit for the fight.’  Physically, mentally, and spiritually, Noah was so in tune with God’s purpose for his life that he was the one person God used to save all of creation from destruction by the flood. 

Have you seen that cute little story, “Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah’s Ark?” Item number 4 says, ‘Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, Somebody might give you a really big job.’

Ready to go pump some iron?

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