I must confess that I haven’t always paid much attention to the Psalms. I looked at it more like a book of geography. Psalms is right in the middle of The Book. In a sword drill, you would hold your Bible just so and, at the command, find the Bible verse in question. I learned early on that if you open your Bible right in the middle you just have to have a pretty good idea whether the book in question, Job for instance, is on the right side or the left. All the New Testament books are on the right side. Job is on the left, but there is also a whole slew of prophets and poets and lawgivers on the left. Still, that is not so much to learn. Psalms is like a river, with all the books like cities and towns just waiting for your visit.
But I didn’t read the Psalms. I am not good at poetry. However, now that I am older, I have found that there are all sorts of road signs that have guided me without me even knowing it. Here are a few examples:
“Once I was young and now I am old,” (Psa. 37:25). “The Lord directs the steps of the godly… Though They stumble they will not fall, the Lord holds them by the hand” (Psa. 37:23-24).
Mom and Dad, with their three kids, left Daddy’s Texas home and traveled to Clyde, Ark., and settled near Mom’s family. They didn’t have much money and no house. There was an empty chicken house available, and Daddy was a carpenter, so he made it possible for them to live there. (This was before I was born. My sister, Mary told me about it.)
Mom and Dad were hard workers and wasted very little. Eventually, enough money was saved to buy a farm west of Cane Hill — 80 acres in two parcels and a drafty farmhouse was their treasure. Oh yes, there was also a big barn and two good wells.
“Those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land” (Psa. 37:22 ESV)
“Once I was young but now, I am old, yet I have never seen the Godly forsaken” (Psa. 37:25).
Daddy loved the farm. It had good fertile soil and a good well that gave us cold sweet water in the summer and necessary water to heat in the winter. There were actually two good wells — one was at the house the other in the barnyard — and both had wonderful, clear water. Daddy used the barnyard well to water the cows and to drench his watermelon patch.
Again, Daddy put his carpenter skills to work. I know the house probably wouldn’t have attracted many people, but Mom and Dad loved it and made it home.
Daddy’s farm was split by Hal Jones apple orchard. He told Momma to help herself to apples as they got ripe. “…the Godly are generous givers” (Psa. 37:21 NLT).
In the Spring, while it was still cold (at least that is how I remembered it) the Transparents, a little green-colored apple with a paper skin was the first to ripen. Mom would treat us to applesauce. It was delicious, sweet, tangy and fresh. The farm had plums, cherry trees and also grapevines. Mom kept her family fed with the best of the harvest. There was also a big old pear tree with the sweetest fruit you can imagine. Mike and I would climb that tree, lay on the branches and, as the pears got ripe, fight the wasps. Those varmints loved the pears as much as we did. Mom would pick a bucketful to go in the house and, we had our fill of luscious pear preserves at supper. Of course, we had all we could eat of the fresh fruit. No, we didn’t beg for our bread.
Mom would put her dough on to rise early in the morning and that evening, when Daddy came home, she would bake it and serve it with freshly churned butter and one of her fruit jellies or preserves. We would sit under the trees in the backyard and, when we had eaten our fill, Daddy would cut the watermelon he had set out to cool that morning. No, we never begged for bread.
“The children (of the godly) are a blessing” (Psa. 37:26). Mom and Daddy loved us kids and gave us the best they had.
“It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and be rich” (Psa. 37:6).
Mom and Dad didn’t think a lot about religion. They tried to do right and live peaceably with their neighbors, and they shared what they had. Daddy would take his watermelons to school for us kids, and Mom would make cottage cheese from her fresh cream. Country schools weren’t so bad.
Mom and Dad used what the Lord gave us and made the best of it, even when it seemed the worst had happened. When a flock of chickens, almost ready to sell, piled up and a bunch of them smothered, Daddy and his brother, Robert with sisters, Mary and Dorothy went to work saving the meat. A whole lot of them (probably 100, maybe more) had to be salvaged quickly. Daddy and Robert drew cold water to cool them. Then all four skinned and dressed the birds. As soon as they were cool, they ran them into Mom who was in the kitchen, washing her jars and getting her pressure cooker ready to can the poultry. (We didn’t have a deep freeze for a long time after that, so in order to keep food for any length of time, it had to be canned.) With a lot of effort and quick thinking, the family saved what they could of that food and had plenty that whole winter.
It was also a loss in income, but at least the food was saved. At that time, a farmer bought and paid for his baby chickens, then paid for the feed and medication. When a flock piled up and smothered, caused by a sudden noise or a thunderstorm, it was a big loss because that was the family income.
“The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles… The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to rescue them” (Psa. 37:17-19).
Again, this was a story from my sister, Mary, but I am sure Mike and I were there. We couldn’t have been much help, but at least we could pull feathers or run the cooled birds in to Momma. I have always believed Mom and Dad were good, but they never paid attention to trying to do the right thing. They just did the right thing.
Maybe Mike and I should have been afraid. We lived in the country with no close neighbors and Mom and Dad worked outside of the home; but we weren’t. Crime and bad stuff happened somewhere else; home was safe.
“For the angel of the Lord is a guard, he surrounds and defends those who fear Him” (Psa. 34:7). The Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who trust Him. Momma’s father was killed in a lightning storm when she was a little girl. You would think she would be afraid in a storm, but at the first lightning strike, she and Daddy would jump out of bed to run to the barnyard to close chicken house windows if a storm came up at night.
“Mom,” I said once, “Since your dad died in a storm, why aren’t you afraid of them?” “Of course I am,” she said, “I just didn’t let on. I didn’t want you young ones to spend your life in fear.”
My girlfriends loved Mom. One of them had some bad troubles and she came to Mom for advice. Mom said go back home, your folks love you and will help you. I didn’t know about this until years later when I was grown.
“The Lord… is a refuge in times of trouble” (Psa. 9:9).
“Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever” (Psa. 37:18).
Mom and Dad were good gardeners. They used that south 40 to grow cash crops — sometimes it was tomatoes, and at least once it was cucumbers. We would take out early in the morning, after milking, and Daddy would drive us down to the field in his pickup truck. Mike and I would pick and play; and when we got tired, we would curl up under the truck and take a nap until time to go home for lunch. After lunch, Mike and I would play some more while Daddy took a nap on the front porch and Momma listened to her radio programs. That afternoon, Daddy would take the produce to the canning factory or to the stores that had agreed to sell them.
Once there was a big abundance of black-eyed peas. Momma would send Mike and me to pick a bushel while she worked in the chicken house. There wasn’t a market for the peas and it was a bumper crop. Mom canned all we would ever want, then Daddy put a sign out at the post office — Free Black-eyed peas, you pick! Mike and I were grateful because we had no more bushel baskets to fill.
I guess some would say our country life was hard, but we didn’t think so. We worked some and played hard.
There is a saying, “If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.” That isn’t exactly the way it goes, but it is how I have interpreted it.
“May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight” (Psa. 19:14 NKJV).