The tumblers inside a tiny little padlock we use on the hitch of our horse trailer were stuck and it wouldn’t close. I was struggling in the dark trying to get it done and get home before bedtime. My son, my dad and I had returned from a trip later than we expected, had just unloaded the horses and turned them out into the pasture. As Dad took over, fiddling with the lock, I stepped back and busied myself with some of the other details. I wasn’t really aware of what all was happening until I heard him say, “If I had some WD-40 I could fix it.” My son and I glanced at each other, both of us knowing there was a can in the barn, but neither of us wanting to make the trip up the steep hill in the dark. So, rather than ask us to do that, my dad went about looking for the next best solution. I’ve watched him do it my entire life and now my 16-year-old son is witness to what happens when you can’t get the answer on-line.
Once Dad had driven his SUV over and turned on the headlights so he could see the lock and trailer in the dark, he popped open the hood. Then, with a little hand-held flashlight shining on the engine, he reached in and slowly removed the dipstick from the oil container. He carefully let a couple of drops ease into the lock and it snapped shut. As we got into our separate vehicles for the 45 minute drive to our homes, my son, a straight A Honors English and AP History student, looked at me and said, “Gramps is brilliant!” In a laugh that let him know I was in total agreement, I responded, “Yes, he is, but I bet that’s not the first time he has used that little trick to fix something.”
My Dad is one of those people who took a 12th grade education and turned it into an ability to fix, build, design, and create just about anything he wants or needs. He even has the most amazing and precise handwriting. And, anytime he starts talking mathematical equations, measurements, or geometry-type stuff, I slowly slip away, hoping he won’t ask me if I know the answer. My college-educated brain just doesn’t work that way.
Likewise, my husband’s father took his high school education and not only ministered a church for 40 years, without a salary, but also built houses…entire houses. It wasn’t like he hired an architect and a contractor; he did it with sweat equity and his own two hands. All this he did after his regular job as a weigh master at the stockyards. Some of the men he worked with used to tease him about his volunteer labor at the church and nicknamed him “Preach.” But when anyone was in need, sick or dying, he was the one they sought after. Even at his funeral, a child of one of his co-workers credited him with leading his dad to the Lord.
The “Little Flock” he tended still talks of all they learned from him. And the many houses he built are all standing as shelter for families he never met but had a hand in protecting.
Three full-time jobs, one man, one wise and remarkable life.
My Papaw only got to go to the 3rd grade. It’s unheard of these days, but back then, it wasn’t at all unusual for a child to be required to leave their opportunity to learn in order to care for family. He wasn’t very tall, mostly bald and wore bib overalls almost every day. A little like Jesus is described in the book of Isaiah, there was nothing about the way he looked that would necessarily attract anyone to him. Yet, he was a fascinating man. During two weeks every summer, at Christmas and any opportunity in between, I wanted to be his shadow…except, of course, when he got up before dark, in the freezing cold, to draw water from the well and get a fire started. Those times I was content just to lay under a heavy mountain of blankets and quilts listening as he moved about the house preparing it for the rest of us.
He grew the best garden for my mamaw, planted and worked a large tobacco crop; he worked at a lumber mill, for the railroad, and he used mules and slip scrapers to help build a highway. (Don’t ask, I have no idea what a slip scraper is, but he told me about it once.) And while all of this may make him sound somewhat like a common, blue-collar man, it’s totally uncommon in our society today. Would you know how to cut a perfect beam out of an old tree sawed down in the woods? Could you operate a freight train or connect the steel with sharp spikes to form the track? What about hitching up a couple of stubborn old mules, convincing them to move in the same direction and then using them to navigate hills and valleys scraping out the right amount of rock and dirt for a new highway? I have no idea where he acquired the necessary tools to make it in this world, but I know where he got the wisdom.
“If any of you need wisdom, ask God for it. He will give it to you.
God gives freely to everyone. He doesn’t find fault.”
James 1:5 (NIRV)
If I weren’t always so busy telling my husband what “I” think “He” should do, I might be able to learn more from the wisdom God has given him. He is a very wise man. When I’m in over my head, he frequently rescues me. But this is “The Three Wise Men” — not the “Four” — so he’ll have to wait and get on our son’s “wise man list” in the lineage of family storytelling.
As you celebrate this holiday season, look around you and identify three wise men in your life.
You might be surprised by the great gift God has given to them.
Remember, God took a shepherd boy and made him a king.
He took a bunch of fishermen and made them apostles.
And He took a little baby and made Him our Savior!
Merry, Merry Christmas!
Happy New Year!
Hope to see you again soon!
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