Archive for February, 2010

THE LEGEND OF BUZZARD ROOST HOLLOW

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

They were circling overhead like the vultures they are. Must have been a hundred or more of them. Buzzards and hawks and even a few hawk-wannabe crows.  I thought about pulling off to the side of the road and watching to see what kind of prey they were eyeing.

There’s just something foreboding about seein’ a bunch of hungry vultures circling overhead. Unlike the nice warm, Kodak-moment feeling of watching a perfect formation of geese headin’ south for the winter. Or a mother duck taking her little biddies for a paddle across the pond on a sunny afternoon.

Now, back home at Route 4, we saw an occasional hawk sittin’ forlornly way up high in the top of a dead tree. That alone should tell us something about their nature. I’ve never seen a hawk or a buzzard sittin’ on a limb among the  beautiful green leaves of a majestic oak tree. Or a red or yellow maple or a bloomin’ dogwood, for that matter.

And have you ever seen a smile on the beak of a hawk or buzzard? Just that “I’m here and I’m gonna getcha look.” Way up there in the top of that dead tree!

Growin’ up on the farm, we tested our aim many times with slingshots and bb guns. They never flinched an eyelid! Probably knew we couldn’t hit the side of the barn with a base fiddle.        

No, the feeling I get from watchin’ buzzards and hawks in a holdin’ pattern is akin to seein’ a pickup truck stalled on the railroad tracks and hearin’ a train whistle in the distance. You just know somethin’ bad is about to happen. And it makes the short hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention and salute.

Like I said, I wanted to pull off the road, hit the automatic door lock button and watch what the swarmin’ bad guys went after. But, just in time, I remembered The Legend of Buzzard Roost Hollow.

I don’t know if it was true or not. I never had enough intestinal fortitude to try to find out. But we were always told that down there in Buzzard Roost Hollow there were buzzards and hawks big enough to swoop down and use their razor-sharp claws to pick up a skinny farm boy in short britches. And take him away to be the main course at a buzzard feast up there in the top of that dead tree!

That’s why you never, ever, let the sun set on you in Buzzard Roost Hollow. Shoot, I never even wanted to be there in the daytime with a couple of brothers, much less after dark by myself. I can count on the fingers of one hand the times that I found myself in the ‘Hollow’ along about that time of day between sundown and real dark. The time when there’s a monster in every shadow, especially in the mind of an 8-year-old farm boy.

I remember one time in particular. It was a windy, blustery day. That made the shadows jump out and grab you, no matter where you turned. But in the twilight of that day, a limb off one of those buzzard-roost trees cracked and fell right at my feet. I would probably be six-foot-eight today if it had not been for that moment. I think it scared me out of ten years of growth!

Not stopping to consider that the wind had blown that rotten limb off that dead tree, my little brain could see only one possible scenario. The Legend was true! Any minute I would feel those claws sinking into my back. I just knew that I was about to be airlifted up toward Heaven.

And thinkin’ about Heaven made me close my eyes and start prayin’. Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Farm boys learn how to pray at an early age. Maybe it’s because we got into so many predicaments, the Lord was our only hope. By the way, He was, is, and always will be.

But when I didn’t feel those claws right away, I summoned enough courage to open one eye and look up. Not seein’ a buzzard anywhere in sight, I just knew that the Lord had answered my prayer. In my mind’s eye I could see that ol’ buzzard tryin’ to get his claws off that tree limb. But the Lord had wrapped ‘em so tight, he was like a buzzard statue.

I felt like shoutin’ and having a spell! But then fear set in again and I decided to run. And run. And run. I ran so fast toward the house that I could have gotten a college scholarship if somebody had timed me. It took about thirty minutes for my heart rate to calm back down.

And when I could breathe without gasping for air, I heard Daddy say, “You got caught in Buzzard Roost Hollow again, didn’t you? When will you ever learn to trust me and do what I say?” Since nothing but unintelligible grunts would come out of my throat, I just nodded my head about a hundred times!

Now days, I don’t think about The Legend of Buzzard Roost Hollow every day. Only when I see a bunch of vultures in a holdin’ pattern up there in the sky. And in the spotlight of hindsight, I think maybe the woodshed schoolhouse might have moved to Buzzard Roost Hollow that day. And the lesson was all about obedience.

In all walks of life, there are vultures just waitin’ to swoop down and pick you apart. No matter where you go or what you do. You might not be able to physically see them. But, make no mistake, they’re there. But in the valley of the shadow, as the psalmist David put it, we have no reason to be afraid.

Because it’s in those dark times down in the Buzzard Roost Hollows of life when fear makes us quiver and tremble like turkeys at Thanksgiving, God has a way of turning turkeys into eagles.

If I had to pick my favorite verse in all the Bible, I’d have a tough time. Hard to beat Genesis 1:1. God made even the beginning. Or John 3:16. He loves us so much, all we have to do is run to the farmhouse of His arms of love when the vultures are circlin’ overhead.

But right up there pretty close to whatever verse I would pick as number one, would be Isaiah 40:31. It’s on a little plaque that sits on my desk. With a little eagle-in-flight statue standing in front of it. ‘Cause it’s here I’ve learned that God can take a turkey like me and turn him into an eagle.

And I only have to do three things. L-O-T. And, pardon the pun, but do these three things a lot. In fact, every day of our lives. If we do these three things, He’ll hold us in the hollow of His hand, even when, and especially when we find ourselves in a ‘Buzzard Roost Hollow.’

All that He asks is that we Love, Obey, and Trust. Those are verbs. Words of action. All wrapped up in one little four-letter verb, ‘hope,’ that Isaiah wrote in verse 31. But to fully understand how hope is a verb, back up to Isaiah, chapter 40, verses 26-30, and let the prophet’s words sink deep into our soul.

Just open your eyes and look at the stars in the sky. Who do you think created all of them, put them in their own individual place in the sky where He wanted them, and knows the name of each and every one of them. So what makes you think that the Lord doesn’t know where you’re going or that He’s forgotten about you?

Don’t you know or have you not heard? He is our forever God, from Genesis to Revelation. And He never gets tired. And there’s not a person on the planet who can understand God’s great power.

And all we have to do is plug into that power by loving Him, obeying His commandments, and trusting His word. Isaiah didn’t say that, but right there would have been a good place to put it in, just before he wrote verses 29-30.

And He gives His great power to the weak and weary. Even youths (i.e., young skinny farm boys!) will get tired and weary. And young men will stumble and fall, but (here it comes!) those who hope (not who have hope, but who put it into action by loving, obeying, and trusting), will find new strength and will fly like they have eagles’ wings; they’ll run and not get tired, and they’ll walk and not be faint(hearted).   

Hallelujah, turkeys can become eagles!

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PASS THE PEAS, PLEASE!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I don’t remember a time back home on the farm that we didn’t plant several rows of peas when it came time to plant the garden. Mother loved those purple hull Crowder peas. I can still see several rows of quart Mason jars in the smokehouse full of peas that Mother had canned over the hot wood-burning cook stove in the summer heat.

Those purple hull crowers were something to behold. And pea shellin’ time on the front porch was fun. I enjoyed gettin’ those long, ‘bumpy’ peas to shell because you could get the pod open at one end and just run you finger all the way to the end with peas shootin’ out all over the porch!

But growin’ those long purple hulls full of peas just didn’t happen by chance. In fact, like most everything else in the garden, to get the good stuff, you had to follow a process and a plan. And that plan had several steps. Here then are the 7 P’s of growin’ peas.

1.  Plow – the ground.

2.  Plant – the seed.

3. Provide – water and fertilizer.

4. Protect – chop down the weeds and Bermuda grass.

5. Prepare – have faith in the crop; get lots of Mason jars ready.

6. Patience – mushrooms pop up overnight; peas take time to grow.

7. Pick – you’d be surprised at how many peas are left on the vine and don’t get picked after you’ve had your first mess of peas and cornbread.

Friendship farming, or growin’ relationships, is a lot like growin’ peas. And we all know that to have a friend, we must first be a friend. We have to get under the surface of the hard outer crust, or plow the ground, so to speak. And you don’t get any plowin’ done sittin’ on the front porch. What does that mean? Thank you for askin’. Somebody has to hitch up the mule to the plow and take it to the field. That’s where the good stuff grows. Out there every day. Holdin’ on and helpin’ each other make it through the storms and the heat that most certainly come to every garden in life.

Plowin’ the ground is necessary, but nothing grows until we plant a seed. And plantin’ means you put the seed in the ground, not on it. To tell someone to have a nice day and then going merrily on your way while they continue to hurt would be like throwin’ the seed up in the air during a whirlwind.

Once the new seed is in the ground and covered with love, handshakes, smiles, and hugs, then a friend will provide. Tote some water from the well and work in some fertilizer to feed and nourish the seed on its journey into a living, vibrant plant.

Before the peas bloom and produce something tasty, we must protect them from the weeds and crab grass that will choke the life out of young tender plant. I remember Daddy using a file to sharpen the blades of our hoes. And how we’d earn a trip to the woodshed for carelessly dulling the blades on the rocks in the garden.

And Mother always boiled water and sterilized her empty fruit jars. At least the ones that we didn’t use for BB gun practice. Hindsight has taught me that she always believed that we’d have a good crop even when the seed was still in the ground. Her faith, indeed, was much bigger than a mustard seed. A faith strong enough to believe that there would be enough peas to feed her family in the cold, dark days of winter. So she got her jars and caps and rings ready. She was prepared for pea-shellin’ time!

But then comes the hardest part of all, having the patience to wait for the peas to fill out their pods. That doesn’t happen over night. Somebody has said that patience is another word for faith. I remember hearing a story a long time ago about a man who painted a sign and put it out by the road for the whole world to see. Nobody understood it what it meant. Its message was this – PBPGINFWMY. A year later he painted the meaning of the message – Please Be Patient; God Is Not Finished With Me Yet! As Mother used to say, ‘Now ain’t that the gospel truth!’

And, finally, purple hull Crowders don’t grow up to be tall trees. Just little bushes down low on the ground. And if you get down there with them and start picking, your basket will be full in no time at all. My brothers and I always wanted to quit after we got the first basketful! What a terrible waste that would have been.

I think about those purple hull Crowder peas, and how good they tasted in the winter time, every time I read the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:1-15). One day when we came home from VBS at Return Baptist Church, Daddy asked us what we had heard. I think it was Ollie who said, ‘just some story about some good topsoil!’

In his mind, at least, Jesus’ story was about four kinds of dirt. Now, we had all four kinds of dirt back there at Route 4 that Jesus talked about in His Parable of the Sower. The well-worn, packed down dirt in the path where nothing grew.

Also, the rocky dirt where nothing but maypops and morning glories grew. And without a good root system, they wilted and died in the hot sun. The third kind of dirt was where nothing but thorns and briars grew. You could cut ‘em down with a sharp hoe, but they’d still come back to scratch your legs and arms.

But it was the fourth kind of dirt that always gave us a bumper crop of purple hull Crowder peas. Good, rich topsoil (v.15) that accepts the seed and gives you something good in return, but only IF we persevere, endure, and hang in there with it.

Know anybody that needs a dump-truck load of dirt #4 dumped in their trampled-down, rocky, or thorny garden? In God’s Garden, you’ll find all the topsoil you’ll ever need. He even supplies the miracle grow!

Would somebody please pass the “p’s!“

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NEW STREET SIGNS

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I’ve been noticing some new street signs around town. They have names of nearby streets, and arrows to give directions to anyone who might be unfamiliar with the area. And they glow in the dark. I guess that’s helpful to anyone who doesn’t live here. But most of us know our way around. We don’t have to stop and ask for directions. Or do we?

As you might know by now, we grew up on a farm at Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina. Some of my best boyhood buddies also lived on Route 4, or Route 3, or maybe Route 5. My friend Jim Russell, who now lives about a thousand miles away in Florida, grew up at Route 3, Westminster. I’ll bet Jim could still find his way back there without having to stop and ask for directions.

I guess that’s why I thought this commercial that I saw on television the other day was a waste of air time. This guy gets into his car and he has one of those GPS do-flatchies on the dash. You know, a box with a little tv screen and a female voice that tells him where to turn. I’ve always thought those things were sorta useless unless you’re lost and don’t know where you’re going.

But anyway, this guy in the commercial has been shopping for his Valentine. Probably at Andrews Jewelers in Lavonia, Georgia. Everybody in the world knows Andrews has been right there on the corner at the first red light for about a hundred years or so. See, if you know where you’re going, you don’t have to ask for directions.

But in a few days Tiny is retiring and closing up shop. And it won’t be long before people will say ‘remember when Calvin and Tiny had that nice jewelry store on the corner at the first red light?’ But for people whose lives have been blessed by Calvin’s and Tiny’s smiles and their warm, friendly, caring greetings, not to mention the “watches and rings and other pretty things,” nobody will ever have to give us directions.

But back to the guy in the commercial. He has a little box from the jewelry store all wrapped up pretty that he sits on the seat beside him. Get this now, the female voice in the box on his dash won’t give him directions until she sees what he’s bought! And then, as the commercial ends, you see him driving down the road with a pretty necklace hanging from his GPS. Like we used to hang a locket with our girlfriend’s picture in it around our rear view mirror!

Sometimes I wonder about the folks who make commercials today. Do they think that we came to town on the back of a turnip truck? Everybody knows that if you don’t know where you’re going, you stop and ask the guy at the service station. Or you flag down a policeman walking his beat and ask him for directions. But that’s only for tourists who don’t know the way to where they want to go. If you’ve been there before, you know the way.

For example, back in the B.M. days (before Mapquest), there was a singer named Dionne Warwick who wanted to go to some place in California, but she didn’t know the way. So she sold about a million of those little round pieces of plastic called 45 rpm records asking people if they knew the way to San Jose. I sure hope somebody has told her how to get there by now!

There was also a song-writer by the name of David who was looking for directions (Psalm 15). So he asked the Lord a question, ‘Who is going to live with you in your Holy Home?’ And David wrote down God’s answer. Oh, he didn’t paint it on one of these new street signs that glow in the dark. But it’s right there in God’s Book of Directions for the whole world to see (Psalm 15:2-5). He told David, and you and me, who his neighbors would be in those mansions lining both sides of the Streets of Gold.

Anyone who does what is right; tells the truth; treats his neighbors right; hates evil; keeps his word even when it hurts; who gives his time, talent, and treasure without asking or expecting anything in return; and who protects the innocent little ones.

Pretty simple directions, don’t you think? Then why do so many people act like the road signs have been torn down? Could it be that they never really knew The Way to begin with? That’s why it’s so important, in fact, our duty as people who do know The Way, to put up some signs giving directions to those who have forgotten or never knew The Way.

Remember, every day in every way, in everything we do and say, we’re giving people directions to some place. Is it God’s Holy Hill that David asked about? Let’s all hit the rewind button on our GPS of life and be sure that the signals we’re sending will take folks to the right address. Or better still, instead of depending on a voice in a box on the dash, let’s listen to the voice inside our hearts. And use it to put up this street sign for the whole world to see. And don’t be surprise if it glows in the dark!

Need directions to Heaven? Just turn right and go straight!

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WHAT’S IN YOUR BUCKET?

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Whenever I hear the rain coming down by the bucketful like it is now, I take a trip back home down that muddy road to our old farmhouse at Route 4. Growing up on a farm in the 50’s without running water in the house, we loved to hear the rain pouring down like it is right now. That could only mean one thing. Well, actually a couple of things. First of all, Mother would be using every pot and wide mouth jar she had in the house to catch the rain inside the house as it poured in through our ‘holy’ roof.

And secondly, when we woke up to a gully-washing, tadpole-drowning rain like today, country boys could smile and catch a few extra winks knowing that one of our chores would be much easier for several days after the rain stopped. Let me see if I can ‘splainify’ this.

Back then we didn’t have these nice straight, well-hung gutters and downspouts and black plastic pipe to carry the water away from the house. Like the kind that Jack and Kathy Gallamore installed for us last year during our renovation.

In fact, back home on the farm, we didn’t even have any old sagging and leaking gutters, no gutters at all. So Daddy designed an elaborate rainwater collection system. It consisted of several 55-gallon drums strategically placed all around the house and the barn. And whatever rain didn’t go through our ‘holy’ tin roof ran off the roof into those drums.

See, it takes a lot of water to grow a garden. ‘Specially a garden big enough to feed a dozen or so people, give or take a few here and there. And with fresh corn and butterbeans and squash, some of us farm boys would eat enough for 2 or 3 people. You’ll notice that the name of that green, slicky-slimy pod veggie has been purposely omitted!

But it was those mater plants that drank so much water. Hence, the rain barrels. When they were full, we knew we wouldn’t have to draw a million buckets full of water to tote to the garden. For young skinny farm boys with biceps the size of a number 2 pencil, totin’ a bucketful of water from the well house to the garden without spillin’ any was back-breakin’ tough work.

One time, I prayed out loud, “Lord, why didn’t you let Coneross Creek run through our garden?” I didn’t hear anything from the Lord, but I did hear Daddy say something about using my head for something besides a hat rack!

And if you think totin’ one bucket full was tough, what with switchin’ back and forth from one tired arm to the other, let me say that totin’ a bucket full in each hand was nigh on impossible. And besides that, without a free hand, we’d get eaten alive by the gnats, bumble bees, and yellow jackets. I used to think they flew around our heads checking to see who had a bucket of water in each hand! And when they saw us totin’ a double-bucket load, it was air raid time for them!

And, Heaven help us if Daddy saw us drop our buckets to take a swing or two at those pesky insects! Or if we showed up at the mater patch with about nine-tenths of the water splashed out. That’s when we learned another piece of his sage advice – “Boys, you can’t grow big red maters with an empty bucket.”

But could I say right here that I believe God’s lookin’ for folks with empty buckets. Could it be that we need to pour out all the ‘stuff’ that the world dumps into our bucket? What good does it do anyone to carry around a bucket full of pride, arrogance, envy, jealousy, greed, hatred, and unforgiveness. Those things will make your bucket heavy and hard to carry.

Why not pour all that stuff out and let God fill up our buckets with some sweet-tastin’ fruit? Like the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. His bucket is never empty. But He can’t pour those things into our bucket if our bucket is already full of that other stuff!

Take the apostle Paul, for example. His bucket was full of pride and arrogance. He was puffed up with worldly power like a box of Rice Krispies. And he used it to mistreat, abuse, and beat up a lot of God’s people. In Route 4 language, we’d say that Paul (Saul) got too big for his britches and needed to be taken down a notch or two. So God had to empty Paul’s bucket for him out there one day on that Damascus dirt road (Acts 9:1-9).

 God decided it was time for Saul to see the light. So He sent one so bright that it knocked ol’ Saul right off his high-horse. And the donkey he was ridin’ on, too! And for three days he was blind as a bat, and couldn’t eat or drink!

After that bucket-emptying experience, God was able to fill up Paul’s bucket with the power of the Holy Spirit. And he became a great warrior for Christ. With the power to water tender young mater plants wherever he went for the rest of his life.

So the question facing each of us today as the rain pours down – what’s in your bucket? Do we need to pour out the stagnant, stinkin’, bitter-tastin’ stuff that the world has dumped into our bucket? Wouldn’t want to spill any of that stuff on anybody or anything, would we!

And then breathe this little prayer. ‘Help me empty my bucket, Lord, so that you can fill me up with your Sweetness that I can spill and splash all over somebody who needs your touch today. And don’t worry about me, Lord. I’m a big boy now.

I think I can carry a bucket full in each hand.’

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GUESS WHO MOVED

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

What is it about old cars that make some of us guys just drool all over ourselves? My buddy Larry (not the cable guy!) sent me an email the other day that showed a collection of old cars that some rich guy had restored. There must have been over a hundred of ‘em. All shiny and new and housed in a big heated and cooled garage that covered about five acres. The rich man was quoted as saying that after he made his fortune, he made up his mind to invest it in something that would last. So he started buying and restoring old cars. How sad and misguided to think that he had stored up his treasure in old cars that would some day be a garage full of ‘rust buckets!’

But it took me back home to Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina. It was the late 50’s, and the skinny kid on the farm had become a teenager. With a driver’s license. And a hankerin’ for a car. After all, what nice, self-respecting girl would want to ride with me in Daddy’s pulpwood truck? It had severely tested my salesmanship ability already just to get her to let me take her home to meet my folks who lived in a house where the bathroom was about a hundred yards from the house down behind the smokehouse!

Given that situation, you don’t seriously think that I could have persuaded her to climb up on that wooden box to get in that pulpwood truck, do you? Not only did it not have carpet on the floor, it didn’t even have a floor. Or what was there had holes in it so big, you could see the white lines whizzing by below when you rode down the tar and gravel road.

No heat and no air conditioning, either. Unless you counted the natural air that poured in through where the windows used to be. The last one to go was on the driver’s side door. Daddy busted it out with his elbow one day when he decided to turn left at the last minute. Naturally, he had to give that familiar left turn signal with his arm sticking out the window. But he forgot that he had replaced the handle on the manual window (perish the thought!) with a pair of vise-grip pliers. Something had to go, and, unfortunately, it was the door glass.

And forget about music. That ol’ truck was so loud, you couldn’t have heard the radio. Or the eight-track tape player. Even if it had one! And of course, who’d ever heard of a cassette tape player or a CD player in a pulpwood truck! Nope, I decided that if I was going to get her to ‘go ridin’ around’ with me, I’d have to have a car with four windows.

Didn’t really matter if the heater worked or not. Farm boys learned quickly how to use their “Arm-strong” heater, if you catch my drift! But it had to have an AM radio. So she could sing along with Elvis as he belted out Big Hunk of Love. Or she could swoon and faint as Frankie Avalon crooned Venus. And I even liked to hear ol’ Dave “Baby” Cortez cut loose on The Happy Organ!

So with all that in mind, you can understand my joy and happiness when Daddy took me to Mr. Landy Moore’s used car lot. No emporium or show room or ten acres of junk heaps driven by little old ladies on Sunday afternoon. But there it was! I started droolin’ as soon as I laid my eyes on it! The car of my dreams was a dark green 1947 Chevy Fleetline. It had a hump back that looked like a turtle shell. But it had three-on-the-column straight drive and an AM radio that introduced me to The Grand Ol’ Opry on WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee, sponsored of course by Randy’s Record Mart in Gallatin, Tennessee.

I seriously wanted this car! And Daddy seriously wanted me to pay for it. That’s why I was willing to pull out the first five-dollar bill I ever made baggin’ groceries at the A & P to make the down payment. And signed a note promisin’ to pay another five spot every month for 24 months till I had paid off the remaining $120.  

But the most important feature of my cream-puff ‘country Cadillac’ was that huge front seat. It was as wide as a pool table! And it needed to be, because it took two people to drive the ol’ green turtle! You know, when you’re driving with your left arm, and operatin’ that afore-mentioned Armstrong heater with your right arm, then ‘Little Miss Pretty Thing’ had to snuggle up close and change the gears! So let us old guys drool and dream over the old cars. We’re both rapidly becoming dinosaurs.

Time marches on. New stuff is invented. And somebody came up with the romance-killing idea of bucket seats. And arm rests. And cup holders. And automatic gear shifts in the floor. Unbelievable! My jar still drops open when I see the daddy driving and the mom sittin’ in the back with little Susie watchin’ a miniature television hanging down from the ceiling of their minivan. Heaven help us!

It’s all led to a society where nobody sits close to each other anymore. It’s like the old joke where a guy and his wife were ridin’ around one day in a car where each one of ‘em had their own power windows and individual temperature controls. The wife complained to her husband that they never sit close together anymore. He looks over and sanctimoniously says, “Guess who moved!”

I think that’s the question God might have wanted to ask David when he was feelin’ like God had deserted him. David had hit a rough patch in his life and thought that God had more important things to do than ‘sittin’ close to David. Read about in Psalm 22:1-22. Especially if you’re havin’ a rough spell and have the feelin’ that God might have put you on hold and went on vacation when you called Him.

In verses 1-18, David is so low that the grub worms and the red wigglers not only know his name, they also know his date of birth and the last four of his social! Ever been there? If you haven’t, buckle your seat belt real tight. It’s on the way. So David decides to have a little pity party. He complains to God that trouble is on every side of him. People despise him and make fun of him. Then he talks about bulls, and dogs, and roaring lions that want to eat him alive. And wild oxen that want to gore him to death with their horns.

He felt like his bones were out of joint; he was faint-hearted and so weak that his tongue was sticking to the roof of his mouth. His strength had left him lying in the dust like a dried-up cow patty. But for the rest of David’s story and the end of poutin’, don’t miss verses 19-22. That’s where he woke up when God said, “David, guess who moved.” Not in so many words. But David got the message. He realized that God would, indeed, rescue him and save him from the wild animals that threatened to eat him alive. All David had to do was stay close to God and call on Him for His power and help in times of trouble. And thank Him and praise His name to all his brothers and wherever people congregated (verse 22).

Maybe David’s experience with trouble can help you and me when we hit some ‘black ice’ and our life seems like it’s about to spin out of control. Before he hit the ditch, to his credit, David decided to ‘junk the bucket seats’ in his relationship to God. And get close to Him again. We would do well to follow David’s lead.

Remember, it still takes two to drive this car.

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LOLLY-GAGGIN’

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

The gentle sloping pasture behind our barn back home at Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina, ran down to Johnson’s Branch. And it was one of our daily evening chores to go down to the branch and get the cows and bring ‘em back to the barn at milking time. They never seemed to want to leave the shade trees and the cool tricklin’ waters of the branch. That chore always took much longer than Daddy thought it should. “Too much lolly-gaggin,” he’d say.

Personally, I didn’t think it was ever possible to have too much lolly-gaggin’. It was by far the easiest thing we ever did on the farm. We knew what caused it, but could never stop it. Let’s face it. You’re 8 or 9, maybe 10 years old. The combination of the warm sunshine, the blue sky, the green grass, chewing on a broom straw and skipping barefooted through the pasture just seemed to disconnect a young farm boy from the outside world.  

And I still go lolly-gaggin’ through the pastures of my mind every time I read Psalm 23, some of my favorite verses in the whole Bible. By the way (or BTW if you’re texting), did you know that if you read 5 Psalms a day for 30 days, you will have read the whole book. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been blessed since I read that Billy Graham did that. But I can tell you this. I’ve never done it without getting a sense of lolly-gaggin’ along about Psalm 23:2.

David’s quiet waters and green pastures jumped up in my mind again the other day. An email from a friend in the mountains said that their recent 4-6 inch snowfall was so beautiful it was like a ‘postcard from God.’ That, my friends, is a PhD in lolly-gaggin’! And whether it’s a fresh mountain snowfall or a green pasture on a sunny day, the result is still the same. And, through the 20-20 vision of hindsight, I’ve come to believe that lolly-gaggin’ is quite simply, a quiet time. And, boy, do we ever need a regular quiet time in this world today!

We are so connected these days that we’ve become accessible 24/7 times 365. And it’s produced an illness that’s infected and affected millions of people all over the world. Someone has named this illness TMI. Wouldn’t you know it? It’s abbreviated. ‘Cause we don’t want to take time to say it and spell it out. Too Much Information!

Tell me something. Do you ever go anywhere without your cell phone? Some of us for goodness sakes, have two cell phones. And it’s not just cell phones. You can throw in I-pods and computers, portable televisions and laptops, pagers and palm pilots, too. I’ll never forget thinkin’ that it must have a tiny airplane if the pilot can fit in the palm of your hand!

But it’s easy to see why some learned doctors are saying that the same technology that’s made our world so connected is now causing some people to be addicted. Even so, I’ve heard that more and more folks are seeing the benefit of becoming a “tech-no” to avoid TMI. Or finding a few minutes each day to turn off the technology and be alone with God.

As followers of Jesus Christ, it’s imperative that we find a time and place every day for Bible Study and prayer. As the old country church sign said, ‘To walk in faith, you have to sit down once in a while.’ Or, as we would say in this modern age, limit the flow of info!  So, actually, to stay connected to God, we need to get dis-connected from the world. And that’s called a quiet time. If you don’t have one, could I suggest Billy Graham’s Psalm-reading routine as a good place to start?

Green pastures and quiet waters (and fresh snowfalls, too!) are more than just beautiful scenery. David said that in those places and times his soul is restored and healed. And that helps to keep him on the right path (Psalm 23:3).

It’s like the Lord is saying, “Come lolly-gag for awhile in my Pasture.”

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A REAL BASKET CASE!

Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I wasn’t really eavesdropping. But I couldn’t help but hear the lady in the grocery store telling her friend that her in-laws were coming for a weekend visit for the first time and she was nervous. In fact, her exact words were, ‘I’m a real basket case.’

And that got me to wondering. How did worry, fret, nervousness, and anxiety come to be associated with a basket? Normally, when you think of a basket, you think of good stuff. Like a fruit basket. Or a picnic basket. Or a basket of flowers and balloons for special occasions. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes the baskets are used for decorations even after they are emptied of their contents.

Back home on the farm, baskets were associated with only one thing – work! And it was usually shuckin’ and shellin’. From the time we were old enough to eat cornbread without getting’ strangled, we’d tote good stuff from the garden to the house in those bushel baskets. Squash and cucumbers that needed to be washed. Ears of corn that had to be shucked. Butterbeans that needed to be shelled. And you always had an extra basket to put the shucks and shells in. That was fodder for the mules and cows.

I’ve heard that the game of basketball began when a guy nailed a basket to the side of his barn. Let me tell you something. If we had nailed a perfectly good bushel basket to the side of the barn when we were growin’ up, there would have been something else nailed to the barn right there beside the basket – our hide!

This is just me, but I believe that lady in the grocery store might have described herself as a “real basket case’ because of all the shuckin’ and shellin’ going on in our world today. We allow ourselves to get all wrapped up and tied up in a bundle of nerves about something that most times doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

The third grade teacher asked her students to describe what their daddies did. One little boy said his daddy makes mountains. When the teacher asked how he did that, little Johnny said, “I don’t know, but Mom’s always telling him, there you go again making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Some folks will become basket cases today. Simply because it’s a brand new month.  One whole month is already gone in the New Year. And nothing accomplished. Now we have to hurry, hurry, hurry if we’re going to get anything done. Patience goes out the window. As a general rule, humans are so impatient. We think we know exactly what we want and when we want it. Like right now!

But sometimes, in fact, most times, God’s plan is a little different than ours. It’s His world. He created it. And His plan unfolds according to His timetable, not ours. Somebody said, Yeah, but He’s using a sundial, and we’re using watches with second hands. And maybe that’s the reason we become basket bases, the lack of patience.

To prove my point, next time you’re going to the picture show, get there fifteen minutes before show time. And watch what people do while they’re waiting for the show to start. Fiddle, fidget, call home, check their email, play games on their phones, or go back to the concession stand for more popcorn. Anything to occupy their time until the house lights go down. Could it be that God has a plan for all our lives? And He’s waitin’ for us to be patient enough to slow down and wait for Him to start the show?

If you find yourself becoming a basket case today, I have some good news! Moses was the original ‘basket case,’ and look what the Lord did through him. God’s people were living down in Egypt and being mistreated and abused by a mean ol’ king. It was so bad, the mean ol’ king had decided to kill all the baby boys. But God had a different idea. His plan was for one particular baby boy named Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land.

And even when his mother put her three-month-old baby boy in a basket and let him float down the Nile, it was all according to God’s plan. He could see that baby boy as a man of God coming down off Mount Sinai with those two stone tablets. That’s when He got Moses’ sister involved in the plan. She watched from a distance (Exodus 2:4) to see what would happen. And when the ‘basket case’ was discovered, it was Moses’ sister again (Exodus 2:7) that went to get the baby’s mother to raise him.

What’s that old saying – the plan will work if we’ll work the plan? But sometimes we have to work and wait. And therein lies the rub. The waitin’ part. Because we’re such impatient people. But God knows that. And He loves us anyway.

Life is not a Polaroid picture that develops in 60 seconds. It just takes time. Morning glories blossom overnight, but they’re gone before sundown. On the other hand, it might take a hundred years to grow a tall oak tree. What was that verse that Joyce Kilmer wrote – ‘poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.’

So when all the world’s shuckin’ and shellin’ makes a basket case out of our life, we’ll do well to remember that God had a plan for Moses to get out of his basket and do something pretty special.

Take all the time you need, Lord. You’re drivin’ the truck. I’m just waitin’ for the show to start.

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