A STABLE INFLUENCE

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

A story came across my e-news the other day that sent my feet shuffling back down that dirt road toward the ol’ farmhouse. Can I just say something right here? Just saying the word ‘e-news’ outloud (I have to correct my spell check because at Route 4, outloud IS one word) is like a cold wet towel in the face on a winter morning. The fact that e-news means something means this ol’ country boy is a long way from home without a roadmap.
Anyway, the story in my inbox the other day was about a baby that had been born in the bathroom at a filling station. Yeah, I know. They call ‘em restrooms and convenience stores in our world today. But, like a lot of other things, those are not good names. You can’t rest in those rooms and there’s certainly nothing very convenient about them.
But back to the main road in this story. The manager called 9-1-1 and told the person on the other end of the phone that she wanted to report a woman having a baby. The dispatcher said, “Did you say a woman was having a baby?” And the manager said, “No, I said a woman just HAD a baby. It’s all over.”

That got the dispatcher’s attention. That brought out a hundred or so other questions. Where did she have it? Is she ok? Is the baby ok? Is anybody with her, etc., etc. Long story short – when the ambulance arrived, the woman was sitting there as calm as a mother hen waiting on chickens to hatch, holding her newborn baby boy. No mid-wife, no baby- delivering doctor, no birthing room in a fancy hospital with a daily rate in four figures. Just a new mother and her new baby in the middle of a miracle.
As I read this e-news story, the mental pages of my mind starting doing a fast back flip through the years. My sweet Mother experienced that same miracle nine times. And I don’t remember any birth announcements, save-the-date cards, or baby showers. Side road, please. Just think, girls, if you had known when you married that Prince Charming that you would spend almost seven years of your life in childbirth, would you still have walked down that aisle?
Speaking of save-the-date birth announcements, there was once a man named Isaiah who sent out a birth announcement in plenty of time for people to get ready. In fact, Isaiah’s baby announcement was seven hundred years before the Baby Boy was born in that Bethlehem stable.

Isaiah 9:6
New King James Version (NKJV)
6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And you know what? Isaiah had no internet, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, text, Icloud or any other form of e-news to help him spread the news of the Miracle in the Manger. But when the big day came, Angels from Heaven told the lowly shepherds about the new Arrival and, according to a doctor named Luke, who, by the way, had nothing to do with the birth, the shepherds made a bee-line for the stable. And when they saw the Bethlehem Baby Boy, they told everybody they knew what they had seen and heard. And everybody was amazed.

Luke 2:16-20
New King James Version (NKJV)
16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
On that Silent Night thousands of years ago, Mary had no epidural or anesthesia. The Stable Influence that night was the Presence of the Savior. And after she delivered Him, He delivered her and the rest of the world.
Have you spent any time at the Manger this Christmas? Thanks to Isaac Watts who penned the words we love so much.

Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
From our woodshed to yours on this Christmas Day when we’re 2,013 years removed from that night in Bethlehem, we pray you have that Stable Influence in your heart.

After all, what better place for the Lamb of God to be born?

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The GIFT giving season

Know anyone who needs a gift for parents or grand-parents? Book signing this Sat, Dec. 21st, 11am – 2pm, at Skin’s Hot Dogs, Dogwood Plaza, in Seneca. Please recommend to your friends.

Woodshed Wisdom, Vol. 1 contains stories of wit and wisdom of a dirt-road country boy growing up on a Southern Farm in the 50’s. To order autographed copies today, send $18 ($15 for local delivery) to:

Freeman Martin, 310 Andrew Pickens Dr., Seneca, SC 29678
h) 864-882-5522; c) 864-247-4721
freemart61@hotmail.com

To God be the Glory, great things He has done! (Psalm 98:1).

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COLLARDS AND HOG JOWLS, PART V

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Ed. Note: Four years ago today, Jan. 1, 2010, we went to the Woodshed with a childhood memory entitled “Collards and Hog Jowls.” Then and now, it remains one of the most commented upon of all our remembrances of growing up on Route 4. Each succeeding January 1st, in 2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2014 (or as I’ve already seen it written twenty14), we’ve changed the dates a bit, but basically repeated the story. Today is no different. For the fifth consecutive year, that love ‘em or hate ‘em relationship with something that you have to hold your nose to get ‘em in your mouth is the subject of our visit to the ‘shed’ on this first day of 2014.

Confirmation that we should stay the course on this ‘smelly’ subject came recently in the form of an email from our good friends, Cathy and Randy Williams. Searching through the mental database, it’s easy to remember Cathy as that cute little first-or-second-grader who rode the Bus #8 that I drove in my senior year of high school. And, I might add, she was one of what seemed like an endless stream of children that had to be accompanied by ye ol’ bus driver to a nearby house the day that we were stuck in the ditch for about half a day. A good bus driver never leaves his passengers, even when Mother Nature calls. Cathy is at the keyboard now and, with her permission; I’d like to share some of her comments as a preface to our original entry.

“Well here we are again. New Year’s Day and guess what we have cooking?” (I really don’t have to guess, since that smell will burn the paint off houses as far away as 50 miles!) Cathy continues, “Randy got a late start today washing and preparing our greens for the wonderful meal we will partake of later this evening and they just now got up to speed and the instant I smelled that wonderful smell that has suddenly filled our home, you, Freeman, were the first thing I thought about because I remember how bad you dislike good old collard greens. Hope they bring us some good luck this year.”

Well, Cathy, I hate to bust your bubble, but there’s one thing that this ol’ dirt-road country boy has learned in too-many trips to the Woodshed, and almost three-score and ten years that God has allowed me. If you have to put a clothes pin on your nose to get something past your lips, that’s bad luck already. And there’s another superstition that’s as hard to digest as the collards/hog jowls prediction. It goes something like this – whatever you do on the first day of the year, you’ll be doing all year long. Can you just imagine the scene at hospital emergency rooms across the South as thousands of people are brought in every day of the year for stomach-pumping treatment?

But I’m sure that most of us, at one time or another back in those Camelot days of youth, that had something put on the table in front of us that we turned our noses up at. But, like the Williams boys, we were taught to eat ‘whatever Mother put on the table’ or go hungry. And without a lot of griping or belly-aching. By the way, that commandment was what led to my teaching our cocker spaniel to eat that slimy green stuff that was coming to him through the knot hole in the floor under our kitchen table.

Whatever you do or don’t get out of this, don’t miss the message that I’m afraid is sorely missing in this year of twenty14 that we’re plunging into today. There probably wasn’t a lot of griping and belly-aching from the Williams clan or the Martin clan or the Nix family or the Morgan’s or the Brown girls, or the McKee’s or any other Route 4 country boys about whatever their Mother put in front of them. It’s all about respecting our elders, especially our parents. And that, my friends, is a lesson taught at Return Baptist Church and reinforced at the Woodshed on more than one occasion. You see, Woodshed Wisdom was an effective teacher, no matter if you lived at Route 4, Route 2, Route 5, or even on an avenue where my MHB (mill hill bride) came from.

So, Randy and Cathy and all you others who feel it’s necessary to ‘eat what stinks’, enjoy your collards and hog jowls today. Personally, I hope you finish ‘em off today. I’ve run out of Lysol and my neighbors are beginning to wonder what’s going on down here in our neck of the woods.

On a personal note, please allow my MHB and I to express our undying gratitude for your support of Woodshed Wisdom, Vol.1. Many of you have bought books for yourselves and given them as gifts since our national release date on Jan. 15, twenty13. With much gratitude, we are awed, overwhelmed and humbled by your many acts of love and encouragement as God is opening doors to opportunities for speaking at Senior Adult groups and sharing our testimony about what He has done. Some of you have told me that you’re using the book as a daily devotion. Others have said you started reading and couldn’t stop till you finished it in one sitting. And because of your Barnabas encouragement, we’re excited about the publication of Woodshed Wisdom, Vol. 2 sometime in twenty14. And while we wait, please spread the word – there are several more copies of Volume 1 stacked up like stove wood in the woodshed. To that end, I say with gusto, “May God alone be honored and glorified.”

Now, with a few date changes, herewith is COLLARD GREENS AND HOG JOWLS, PART V.

It was just a little wooden sign about two feet high by the side of the road. But it might as well have been one of those double-decker lighted billboards. It was in the shape of an arrow pointing down a dirt road. And painted in red on the sign was one word. Collards. Funny thing about words. You see or hear the right word at the right time, and before you can say ‘hog jowls and black-eyed peas,” you’re in another time and another place.

Every New Year’s Day since I was old enough to eat cornbread without gettin’ strangled, that’s what we had for dinner (the noon meal) back home at Route 4. Black-eyed peas, hog jowls, and collards. And if we turned up our noses at this ‘finger-lickin’ feast, we’d get Daddy’s standard speech. Something about coins and greenbacks and good luck. But a farm boy can only take so much ‘yuck.’ So, one New Year’s Day, I got brave. Or just plumb dumb. On hindsight, it might well have been the latter.

I think it was Jan. 1, 1955. There probably were a lot of problems in the world back then. But the only problem this country boy could think about was how he was goin’ to be able to digest this stuff that you could smell down at the barnyard when Mother started cookin’ it in the kitchen.

The problem was that we didn’t just have it on January first. Daddy could grow collards on that red dirt farm where kudzu wouldn’t even grow. And if he thought that two rows would be enough, he’d plant half an acre. “Just to be on the safe side,” he’d say. And I’d pray, “Lord, please let the worms and rabbits eat every bit of that stuff.” But it didn’t work. Wrong kind of prayer!

So, collards and hog jowls made regular appearances at our table. Maybe that’s why on that particular New Year’s Day, I should have been eatin’ instead of thinkin’. As Daddy looked down both benches at the kitchen table and saw nothing but facial expressions that resembled pretzels, he goes into that speech for the umpteenth time about how we needed all the good luck and coins and folding money we could get. And he emphasized every single word by pointing his fork at each and every one of those pretzel faces!

When he stopped long enough to get another mouthful of collards, I should have done likewise. But I just couldn’t help myself. “Daddy,” I said, “if that good luck story was true, we’d be rich by now.” You could have heard a pin drop in that kitchen. Except for Mother choking on her collards. And Daddy gettin’ up out of his chair like he had been shot out of a rocket.

On the way to the woodshed I was privileged to hear his other speech about how we should be thankful for having a roof over our head and food on the table. I didn’t interrupt this speech, but I’m thinkin’ that I really was thankful. So very thankful, in fact, that we didn’t have any boiled okra on the table.

So, today is Jan. 1, 2014. Don’t know how long it will take me to get used to saying ‘twenty-fourteen.’ Hey, I just thought of something. Six years from today, the Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll be saying ‘twenty-twenty.’ That’ll be neat. Easy for us senior citizens to remember.

But it’ll probably be sometime in February or March before I stop writing 2013 on everything. But there’s one thing I do know. There won’t be anything green cookin’ in our kitchen today that the neighbors can smell out on the main highway. Heartburn and indigestion I can do without as we begin a fresh new year.

But before we get too deep into twenty-fourteen, let’s take a quick look at how we did in twenty-13. We chewed on a bunch of problems, didn’t we? This world is in a mess. And I’m not talking about a ‘mess of collard greens,’ either. Seems like everybody you run into these days is in a ‘stew’ over something or the other. Like Mother used to say when we’d complain about something, “If it’s not one thing, it’s half-a-dozen.” But the current heartaches, hurts, and hunger are very real and seem to be reaching epidemic proportions.

What’s the answer? I don’t know what it is. But I do know where we can look. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask Him to give us our ‘daily bread.’ And we readily accept the bread that feeds our physical needs. But what about the Bread of Life? This just me, but I believe that way too many folks in the world today, some of ‘em in high places, have twisted their faces and turned up their noses at the Bread of Life – God’s Holy Word.

We get choked by chewing on problems instead of potential. While we could be getting daily nourishment for the soul by ingesting and digesting daily doses of His Word. Everybody I know would love to get rid of bad memories and tough circumstances that the world has seen in 2013. Don’t raise your hand, but I wonder how many people in the free world will actually read the Bible every single day of the New Year beginning today. Talk about a New Year’s resolution! There’s one that could change the world if we’d just stick to it. Call it a r-e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n, not a resolution were the instructions from my pastor Rev. David Gallamore in a recent sermon.

In the first chapter of Proverbs this morning, I found some bad news and some good news that I had not seen and/or heard before. First the bad news. Just when we think we’ve heard and seen all the evil that the devil can produce, something else happens to further convince us of the depravity of mankind.

Proverbs 1:29-33

New International Version (NIV)

29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD.
30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

Some preachers in some churches don’t use the word ‘revival’ much anymore. Back home at Return Baptist Church, you could always count on at least two Revivals a year – one in the Spring and another one in the Fall. And they lasted for seven days, I might add.

God is a gentleman. He won’t stay where He’s not wanted. And in this great nation founded on His principles, we used to want Him in our family, in our schools, and at work and play. And if there’s ever to be any hope for a return to the America we once knew, that hope goes by the name of R-E-V-I-V-A-L. And that’s the promise we find in the last verse of Proverbs, chapter 1:

33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Life doesn’t come all wrapped up in pretty paper with bows and ribbons, but every day is still a gift from God. How we choose to use it for His honor, glory and pleasure will determine whether or not we leave a stench in His nostrils like three-day-old collards and hog jowls. God, please bless America in twenty-fourteen! Give us enough good ol’ horse sense to be revived and not continue to be mule-headed stubborn.

Now, butter the cornbread and pass me the black-eyed peas. But send your collards and hog jowls to Randy and Cathy Williams.

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AFTER-CHRISTMAS SALE

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 6:13-18

New International Version (NIV)

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

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

Can somebody say “Hallelujah!”

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DON’T PUT YOUR EYE OUT!

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 3:16
New International Version (NIV)

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

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

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

He just wants our hearts.

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FAMILY TREE

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

I was just standing there minding my own business when it happened. That’s what you say when you have more Christmases behind you than in front of you, and the ol’ dirt-road mind goes wandering off by itself. I was in the framed art department of the big box store. Love to stand there and gaze at all the beautiful plaques and pictures with motivational and inspirational sayings and verses.

This one particular picture caught my eye. It was turned sideways from Sunday down on the bottom shelf and looked like one of those things that you see at an art gallery that you can never really figure out what it’s supposed to be. The frame was coming apart at the corners and the glass was in about a dozen pieces. I stared at it for a few seconds, probably several minutes, trying to give my brain enough time to convince my ol’ sore back that here was something worth bending over to take a closer look at.

And, sure as shootin,’ when the brain won that battle, I picked it up and turned it right side up for a closer examination. And that’s when it happened. The very split second that the 40-watt bulb came on in my head, somebody standing beside me said, “Are you into genealogy?” I looked at him and then back at the work of art.

It looked like an apple tree that we used to have back home at Route. 4. It had a gob of limbs running off in every direction possible. And at the end of each limb, instead of a juicy red apple, or a golden delicious, there was a space for you to use Elmer’s glue and paste a picture of your parents, grandparents, great-grands, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on and so on till you run out of blank spaces on the family tree.

I guess it was the look on my face like a blank sheet of paper that made him decide to investigate further. After my polite, ‘excuse me,’ he said, ‘you know, genealogy, shake the ol’ family tree and see what falls out.’ Well, now he had my undivided attention. When you’ve been a skinny, scaredy-cat kid climbing up further than you should and crawling out on a limb further than you should to get the best apple on the tree, and had your brothers shake you out of the tree and take your hard-earned apple away from you, well that’s just something that you don’t forget in a lifetime.

And that’s where my Rte. 4 mind had wandered off to as my new friend without a name began to explain to me how he had searched his family tree back through eight or ten generations. At least he was honest enough to admit that some of his forefathers had been hung for stealing gold. And some others had been shot for being cattle rustlers. I guess if we go back far enough, we could all find some ‘squirrels’ jumping from limb to limb in our family tree.

Long after my friend had moved on to the hardware and power tools, I was still standing there. And, as I held the broken apple tree picture, I remembered another family tree that I have been studying about for a while in the Bible. It starts in the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament. Matthew tells us that he’s fixin’ (Rte. 4 translation, gettin’ ready) to tell us about the most important family tree the world has ever known or will ever know.
The Genealogy of Jesus:
1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
I’ll tell you right here that in the past I’ve skipped right over the first seventeen verses of Matthew’s gospel. Quite simply, there’s a bunch of names that I can’t pronounce. But there are some folks in Jesus’ family tree that I’ve come to know. And others I’m still learning about. If course, we all know about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, fathers of our faith. Then there was Jesse’s boy, David, a country boy who killed a giant, became king, and wrote a lot of poetry. And David’s boy, Solomon, was the smartest man that ever lived. Sounds like a Who’s Who of the Scriptures, right?
But you know what? Even some of these folks were real ‘characters,’ as my Mother used to say. At one time or another in their lives, they all spent some time in God’s woodshed. There was even a lady, again quoting Mother, ‘with a bad reputation.’ You would never have seen Rahab’s picture of the front cover of the Jerusalem Times. But there she is. Right there in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.
At one point in time, they all had to be sent to Babylon till they could learn to behave themselves.
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[a] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
But then, if you chase all the limbs of the tree, you come to the best, brightest, most delicious apple that anybody has ever tasted. In fact, after two thousand years, this One is still so sweet it is changing lives wherever and whenever will choose to ‘just taste and see how good it is.’
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
There it is! The Reason for the Season. God shook that family tree for 42 generations, ( verse 17) some good, some not so good, until He found a man named Joseph and a young girl named Mary, who decided to just trust and obey God, even though they didn’t understand what in the world was going on. If you think it’s hard for you and me to understand the Miracle of the Virgin Birth, imagine how hard it might have been for that little teenage girl. Through all those years God was developing His plan and purpose. And when the time was right, He chose the most unlikely two people you could have ever expected to accomplish something spectacular.
Today, life may have you up a tree, or out on a shaky limb. But take a look at your Christmas tree with all its limbs, lights, and lovely ornaments. And even if it’s just a ‘Charley Brown’ tree with crooked limbs and one little ornament, remember that little girl named Mary, “of whom was born Jesus.”
He has something for all of us to do, and He might just be waiting for you to paste your picture on His family tree.

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TWO NICKELS

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

There was a story on the evening news the other night about some gazillionnaire who had donated a hundred million dollars to some cause or the other that he was passionate about. It was probably pocket change to him, but my MBH (mill hill bride) said to no one in particular (that’s me), “I wonder what it would be like to be rich enough to give away that much money.”

Now get this picture. Here’s a girl from the Utica mill hill talking to her dirt-road, raised-on-cornbread, farm-boy husband. And neither of them seldom ever had two nickels to rub together. If, by chance, I managed to sell a dozen eggs for thirty cents, Daddy would say, “Boy, don’t let that quarter rub a hole in your pocket.” See, the nickel was OK by itself in one pocket of my over-all britches, but that quarter was ‘heavy’ money in the other pocket.

So, not wanting to have a hole in my pocket, I’d hitch a ride on Daddy’s pulpwood truck to Mr. Jim Stephens’ country store. That’s where I’d proudly plop that ‘heavy’ piece of money down on Mr. Jim’s counter, saunter over to the drink box, climb up on a milk crate and plunge my hand down into that icy cold water and come up with a small bottle of Coke. For you city kids, that’s a soft drink, not the brain-blowin’ stuff in today’s world.

Anyway, when the feeling returned to my right hand, I’d pop the cap off the bottle and hold my left hand to catch it from dropping into the bottle-cap holder. I had always heard that there might be a prize under the cork liner in the bottle cap, although I never saw one. Then I’d head back over to the counter, grab a pack of salted peanuts off the Tom’s peanut rack, and hold out my other hand to Mr. Jim for my nickel change. Now I really did have two nickels to rub together, one in each of the front pockets of my over-all britches so as not to rub a hole. Once I was back on the pulpwood truck, waitin’ for Daddy, I might add, to get through talking to Mr. Jim and all the other men who always seemed to be at the store, I’d bust open that pack of salted peanuts and pour ‘em down the neck of that small Coke bottle.

To this day, I remember thinking, ‘THIS is what I call living!” And usually, by the time Daddy turned off the tar-and-gravel and headed down the dirt road through Mr. Press Gibson’s yard toward our ol’ farmhouse, that little Coke bottle would be empty and my treasure would be gone. And I also still remember wondering to myself if those starvin’ kids in India who would go to bed hungry tonight if I didn’t clean my plate at the supper table, ever would be rich enough to know the joy of a pack of salted peanuts poured into a small Coke bottle. Maybe somebody someday will give them a quarter.

What is it about a rich man giving away a truckload of money that we find so interesting on the evening news? I hope and pray that it’s because he knows that the cash won’t last anyway, especially in this world’s current disastrous economy where many fortunes have gone down the drain. In fact, the Apostle Paul talked about uncertain economic conditions one day when he was holding a training session for young Timothy.

1 Timothy 6:17-19
New International Version (NIV)

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

In Rte. 4 language, Paul told Timothy to make sure that people who are rich in this world understand two things. Number one, how important it was that they shouldn’t strut around like a banty rooster in the barnyard. Also, how important it is not to put our hope in the uncertain riches of this world, but instead put our hope in the richest Man in the world – the One who made and owns everything, anyway.

Then, secondly, Paul gave Timothy (and us) a how-to manual for being REALLY rich. Stack up good deeds like stove wood; don’t be stingy with what you have; and, to prove what Mother always told us farm boys, Paul said, “Always share with your brothers.” Then you’ll be really rich with a treasure that’s worth far more than peanuts in a Coke bottle. In fact, it’s the foundation we can stand on in the bright future that’s waitin’ for us, a time when all God’s children will stop and say, “THIS is what I call living.”

Like Mother always said when we didn’t have two nickels to rub together – it’s not the change in our pockets that counts; it’s the change in our hearts.

**********************

Editor’s note: Freeman Martin’s first book, Woodshed Wisdom, Vol.1, is now available. For an autographed copy, send $15.00, plus $3.00 shipping and handling to: Freeman Martin, 310 Andrew Pickens Dr, Seneca, SC 29678. Or you may be order online at: www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore.

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PARDON ME

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

My MHB (mill hill bride) was watching a news story on tv the other night while she was whipping up some sweet potato soufflé and cornbread dressing and chocolate éclair for our Thanksgiving Day feast. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about my pone of sweet cornbread being ground into smithereens for dressing. Anyway, the story on tv was about the White House turkey. Now, hold on just a cotton-pickin’ minute. I know what you’re already thinking. Just back the pulpwood truck up and put it in neutral. This is not about politics. It’s about the turkey on the Thanksgiving table.

The reporter on the news said that it was one of three turkeys that were sent to the White House for approval. One was unlucky. He was chosen to give his life for the cause. The other two were given a pardon and sent to live out the rest of their days in some comfy chicken coop somewhere in Virginia.

Hearing the story of these three turkeys flipped the country boy toggle switch in my mind and, before you could say ‘Gobble, Gobble,’ I was back home at Route 4. On the Martin farm, and please don’t let me hear you humming E, I, E, I, O – heard that all my life – we had six turkeys (boys) and three turkey-ettes (girls). And most days, Thanksgiving or not, one or more of us had ‘our head on the chopping block’ at the woodshed because of some misdeed, usually well-deserved, I might add. And you could just erase the word pardon from the hard drive when you got to the woodshed, if you catch my drift.

Now, see what you’ve done. I’m already chasing rabbits down a side road. Where was I? Oh, yeah, back to the Thanksgiving table. I’ve hit the search button on my ol’ dirt road data bank several times for Thanksgiving Dinner and I just keep getting the message, ‘no entries found.’ I cannot remember any Saturday in the Novembers of my childhood when Mother and Daddy came home from the A & P with a big ol’ Butterball turkey for dinner on Thursday. And that’s the noon meal. Nighttime meal is supper. The name of the picture in my office is “Last Supper,” not Last Dinner. Call me crazy, but if it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

We did, however, occasionally have an ol’ rooster fried up for Sunday dinner. Especially if we were having company, like Rev. Dickson and the visiting preacher during revivals, or if we were having dinner on the grounds at Return Baptist Church. And catching that rooster on Saturday night was always a two-man adventure. He’d be hidin’ in a tree which meant that Ollie and me, or Wade and me would have to climb that tree together. One of us would blind him with Daddy’s flashlight while the other one grabbed our Sunday dinner and headed for the chopping block.

I remember one Saturday evening in particular when that rooster got away and we wound up in the woodshed, which meant we ate Sunday dinner standing up. Without Mother’s buttermilk-and-flour crusted, skillet-fried chicken. Get this picture. I was holding the aforementioned flashlight, shining it right in that ol’ buzzard’s eyes. He didn’t flinch a feather till Ollie grabbed him. Then you’d have thought that World War Three had broken out. That rascal started squawking like a bunch of hens when a fox sneaks into the chicken house.

Ollie got scared, threw him toward me, jumped out of the tree, and ran toward the house. I tried to hold the rooster and the flashlight, but after several cuts from his spurs, I dropped him and the flashlight. Long story short, I climbed down out of the tree, fell to my bleeding hands and knees trying to round up all the pieces of Daddy’s favorite flashlight. Out of nowhere it seemed like that pair of number twelve work boots just magically appeared right in front of my eyes. I don’t think I have to tell you who the only person was on our farm who wore number twelve work boots. Or whose goose got cooked that day. And that’s how I learned that fried chicken can be dangerous to your health.

But my MHB and me and the young’uns had a Thanksgiving feast that was fit for a king. It almost reminded me of family reunions of old at Uncle Tack and Aunt Lallie Vee’s house. After I had deep-fried a bird, our daughter Kim cooked for three solid hours. And when she was through, we had a gob of mouth-waterin’ stuff that I had never seen or heard about around Route 4. There was squash casserole, Georgia cornbread, onion casserole, cornbread salad, and green beans, too, to go with MHB’s dressing and gravy and sweet taters and cranberry sauce.

Then Jeff and Sarah-Parker and some special friends showed up with more good stuff like punkin’ and sweet tater pies, and more dressing, and more corn, and more this, and more that. My mind was in a caloric fog. I was so glad to see the teenagers-in-love, Casey and Hope, show up to help us be thankful for this bounty. Thank the Lord nobody showed up with okra. Raised them kids right. No okra in this house. I’m thankful for that. And you know what else I’m thankful for? We had something that tasted sweeter than all the tater pies and cakes and casseroles in the whole world. It’s called FAMILY! Thank you, Jesus, for family.

As wonderful as it was with all that around our house this Thanksgiving Day, it can’t hold a candle to the bountiful feast that’s being prepared for the family of God. And it’s all possible because God chose to pardon me and you by sending His only Begotten Son to die for us on an old rugged cross. Jesus chose to give His life for the cause that day on Calvary. And He endured all that punishment, shame and pain as a free pardon for all our mess ups, goof ups, and various and sundry other sins and shortcomings.

Jesus is still standing there at the door of our heart with our ticket in His hand. Today, while you have time, call on him while He’s near (Isaiah 55:6-7). His gift of salvation comes with a free ticket to that great banquet table in Heaven where there’s a feast every day. So pardon me if I feel like the writer of Psalm 95:1-2. Come on, folks, it’s time to sing and shout and come before Him with thanksgiving. All you have to do is open the door and invite Him to come in to stay.

And, believe you me, that’s a lot easier than climbing a tree to catch a rooster.

******
Editor’s note: Freeman Martin’s first book, Woodshed Wisdom, Vol.1, is now available. For an autographed copy, send $15.00, plus $3.00 shipping and handling to: Freeman Martin, 310 Andrew Pickens Dr, Seneca, SC 29678.

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A THANKSGIVING DAY THANK YOU NOTE

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Editor’s note: Freeman Martin’s first book, Woodshed Wisdom, Vol.1, is now available. For an autographed copy, send $15.00, plus $3.00 shipping and handling to: Freeman Martin, 310 Andrew Pickens Dr, Seneca, SC 29678.

Dear Grandma,

In my lifetime, I’ve been negligent in writing thank you notes to people who have blessed me with special gifts. But, as you used to say, this one ‘takes the cake.’ As you no doubt know by now, God has seen fit to orchestrate the release of my first book during this Thanksgiving season. And, since you gave your life on earth to the teaching profession, I must beg you to please excuse my English, but ain’t it wonderful how He works His plan in our lives to bring Him honor and glory.

But before I start chasing rabbits, back to my confession. This thank you note is about sixty years overdue. Boy howdy, my MHB’s (mill hill bride) blood pressure would be off the chart if I did that today! By the way, Grandma, one of my most treasured possessions is a picture of you wearing white gloves at the wedding of this country boy and his mill hill girl back there in ‘64.

Speaking of pictures, there are two of you in Woodshed Wisdom, Vol. 1. In one of them, you’re young and beautiful at age 21. In the other, which I also treasure, you’re even more graceful and beautiful at age 84. I believe the writer of Proverbs might have had you in mind when he wrote about the splendor of gray hair (Prov. 20:29). So, even though I never thanked you as a cotton-haired country boy, this rapidly balding ol’ man sends this heart-felt thank you note.

The memory of you in your rocking chair and me, sittin’ up straight, I might add, in a high back wooden chair on the front porch of your little House on the Hill, is as fresh today as the maters and taters we grew and ate back there on the farm at Route 4. And even though I would much rather have been scarin’ some squirrels and rabbits and birds with my slingshot, I knew better than to argue when you said, ‘Go in the house and get The Good Book.’

Grandma, I know in my heart that had it not been for your insistence that I read to you from The Good Book, there quite possibly might not be a book today with my name on it. You always said you wanted me to read to you from your favorite Book because of your failing eyesight. But, oh, how I realize now that you knew and believed the truth that God’s Word would be a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105) to help me see the road ahead long after I no longer walked down that dirt road at Route 4.

Because of your vision, I know that the Bible is the greatest book ever written. I’ve also come to realize that you not only loved His Book, but you lived His Book. And that brought Thanks-living to every day of your life, holiday or not. Even though you were a pauper in the eyes of the world, you were rich in God’s eyes beyond human imagination. And to think that you chose a life of pouring that wealth all over a bunch of unruly farm boys and girls, just humbles my heart and soul today.

In fact, I woke up in the pre-dawn hours of this Thanksgiving morning with a song in my heart. I can’t carry a tune in a water bucket, but one of the memory verses you made me memorize was Psalm 98:1, ‘Sing to the Lord a new song for He has done great and marvelous things.’ You also taught us that the devil likes to make us think about what we don’t have, and there was a lot that we didn’t have back there at Route 4. But what we did have was a grandmother who loved the Lord and lived that ‘attitude of gratitude’ way of life, thankful for the air we breathed, the water we drank, and, even those maters and taters we ate.

Your thanks-living way of life became your witness, always telling others how good God had been to you throughout your life. Grandma, that’s a lesson that’s taken me many, many years to learn, but one that I promise to remember in whatever books God allows me to write. Like you always taught us, ‘Whatever you love, you’ll tell others about.’ Yes, even cornbread and milk, but especially the Lord who provides it!

So, as I close this long overdue thank you note on this Thanksgiving Day, so many decades removed from your front porch, I’m so thankful that I can still see you leaning back in your rocking chair with your eyes closed and a mega-watt smile lighting up the place as I read to you one of your favorite passages from the Greatest Book ever written:
Psalm 100
King James Version (KJV)
1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Thank you, Lord, for my Grandma.
Emily Henrietta Compton Martin
1884 – 1970

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LICENSE & REGISTRATION, PLEASE, PART II

Editor’s Note:

The following Woodshed Wisdom was originally posted on Mar. 10, 2011 to honor the memory of the late Jake Robinson, South Carolina Highway Patrolman extraordinaire. It details the first contact Jake had with a trio of red-dirt, Rte. 4 country boys – James McKee, Ralph Nix and yours truly. The three of us were practically inseparable throughout boyhood. When you saw one of us, the other two were not far behind.

But while the memory is fuzzy about why Ralph wasn’t with us when we met Jake that Sunday afternoon over 50 years ago (he might have been in a hot game of Cow Pasture Baseball), the details of the meeting are crystal clear as posted in the original account. The purpose of this re-post is not to re-tell that story, but to report the second meeting of Jake Robinson and our boyhood buddy, James McKee. This meeting occurred as James grabbed the hand of our Lord Jesus yesterday and took the Hallelujah Exit off this ol’ road we’re all traveling on.

But when James and Jake met again yesterday, it wasn’t on a two-lane, tar-and-gravel country road. And Jake didn’t give James a ticket this time for walking on the wrong side of the road. Instead, I believe Jake probably met James with one of his patented strong-as-steel handshakes and walked with him down Gloryland Boulevard, the street that’s paved with pure gold and where the air they’re breathing is equally pure and healthy. Neither Jake nor James will ever be sick again. And to me, that’s a ticket worth writing about.

James Olin McKee
1944-2012
____________________

To all our Woodshed friends: Please pray for James’ wife Nadine, and son Anthony, along with Elizabeth, Michael and Cindy, and the rest of the family. And, if you think about it, please include the other two Boyhood Buddies in your prayers. God Bless.

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

As I rounded a curve in the Georgia two-lane blacktop, my thoughts of supper time at home were jarred by a multitude of flashing blue lights. I slowed down to about forty thinking that there might be a bad wreck just ahead. But then, I realized that I didn’t see any red emergency lights. Just a bunch of those flashing blue light strobes that must have sent the squirrels to the very top of the nearest tree.

The next thought that popped into my noggin was to ask one of the officers if Jesse James and his gang had been spotted somewhere out here on Highway 63. Why else would there be so much commotion? The interstate was ten miles in my rear view mirror. And it was another good eight miles or so into Homer. There’s nothing out here but pastures and pine trees.

But then another thought sent that first one about the James gang right out the window. I might not be the brightest light bulb in the pack, but I had no intention of paying a visit to the Banks County ‘woodshed’ with cornbread and milk and pinto beans waitin’ on me at home.

Of course, this was a license check! And that realization sent my heart rate up about forty beats a minute. Had I let my tag run out? Can I find my registration card? Are both head lights working? Has my license expired? Since we only renew every hundred years or so, I can never remember when it’s supposed to be done. Does this ever happen to anybody except me?

I waited nervously for about thirty minutes (in reality, it was only a couple of minutes) while the officer checked everything out. Then he said what my up-tempo pulse needed to hear, “Thank you, sir, and have a good evening.” Another confirmation of my decision to take the two-lane when I have a choice of two roads to take on the way home.

I never go through a license check without thinking about the first ticket I ever received from a highway patrolman. I can’t say I was pulled over because I wasn’t. Wasn’t even old enough to have a driver’s license. See, back home at Route 4, Seneca, SC, there was a stretch of the main road that everybody called Red Hollow. Probably goes back to when it was a red dirt road.

Anyway, my buddy, James McKee, and I were out walking on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t remember that it was Sunday, but it had to be. Otherwise, we would’ve been chopping and totin’ firewood and stove wood or drawing water, or some other chore around the ol’ farmhouse. And I don’t even remember why Ralph Nix, the third member of our little countrified version of The Three Amigos, wasn’t with us on this particular caper.

Anyway, there we were, strolling along through Red Hollow, talking about whatever 11-or-12-year-old boys talk about. Probably lamenting how long it would be before we could get our license and start driving. Then, from out of nowhere it seemed, a South Carolina Highway Patrol car pulled up beside of us and stopped. Our hearts jumped up in our throats and our mouths went as dry as a bale of hay.

Out of that patrol car stepped a man who blocked the sun when he stepped over to where James and I were standing on the side of the road with our knees knocking like sledge hammers! He was about 7-feet tall, broad at the shoulders and narrow at the hips. And that gun! It looked like a shotgun hanging down one side. And what appeared to be a 10-foot nightstick on the other leg. Many times since that day, I’ve always thought that guy should have played the part of Buford Pusser in ‘Walking Tall.’ Or Broderick Crawford in the TV show, ‘The Highway Patrol.’

When he said, “Boys, come over here and get in my car,” James and I fell on top of each other in the back seat. This highway man could have picked each of us up with one hand and flung us out in the briar patch if he had wanted to. So when he said, “Get in the car,” he didn’t have to repeat himself. While I was praying (we learned to pray back then at any early age!) that Daddy wouldn’t come by and spot us in the back seat of a highway patrol car, I heard the Highway Man say, “You boys know why I stopped you?”

I tried to speak first but no intelligible sound would come out of my throat – just a stutterin’ nnnnnoooo, sir. Before James could test his voice box, the Highway Man answered his own question. “You boys were walking on the wrong side of the road.” By this time I was beginning to get some oxygen back in my brain. And I thought, “Well, it’s not exactly the five o’clock rush hour here in Red Hollow, so what’s the big deal?” Notice I said thought, not said.

Did I mention he was also a mind-reader? As he was writing our warning tickets for “improper walking,” Highway Man explained. “You are always supposed to walk on the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic.” I started to say, “So the right side of the road is not really the right side of the road.” But as James clamped his hand over my mouth, Highway Man said, “If a driver loses control, you’ll see it in time to jump out of the way and not be hurt.”

Years later, I was privileged to get to know and become friends with the Highway Man. And many times during our friendship, I’ve asked Jake Robinson why he gave two country boys tickets for walking on the wrong side of the road. And he’d always smile and say, “Have you ever been hit by a car that was out of control?” We’d both have a good laugh and he’d shake (more like crush) my hand. And I’d have to say, “No, Jake, I haven’t.”

When I learned last week that Jake had passed away, I could almost feel that powerful vise-grip of his strong right hand and hear him say, “That’s because you learned what the real right side of the road was.”

And now I just wonder how many other youngsters (walkers & drivers) he might have shown the right side of the road during his 40 years as a South Carolina Highway Patrolman. Truth be told, at that age, we all probably needed to be shown not only the right side of the road to walk on, but also the right road to walk on, period.

I guess that’s why I choose those two-lane black tops even now, more than fifty years removed from that ‘improper walking’ ticket, when I have a choice of two roads to take on the way home. Because of Jake Robinson, I feel more secure on the narrow road versus the wide interstates.

There’s another man who’s been teaching us for over two thousand years the difference in the two roads of life. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus reminds us once again that the road to trouble is wide, and many people go there. But the road that leads to joy, peace, and happiness is narrow, and only a few find it.

The wide road is fast and almost anything and anybody can go there. And there might be some potholes in the narrow road. But then again, I’ve never seen a 15-car pileup on a two-lane blacktop. The life lesson here is as plain as the nose on my face – as we’re all walking down the road of life, on our way Home, walking on the left side of the right road, is a good travel plan. Like the sign at the old country church said – Get Right or Get Left!

This is just me, but I believe that when the Highway Man made it home last week, Jesus told him, “Good job, Jake Robinson. You not only showed ‘em the right side of the road, but you also showed ‘em the right road.” And Jake probably just smiled and gave Him one of those knuckle-crushin’ handshakes.

Jake Robinson
The Highway Man
1925-2011

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