Psithurism

I do not have now nor have I ever had an exceptionally green thumb. Green is my favorite color and I love to be outside. The appreciation of the smell of grass, trees, and dark dirt runs deep in my veins. I come from a long line of bare feet preferred to shoes.

legs-1149846_1280My Mama’s mama, my Mam-Maw was green before it was even a thing. She composted before it had a name in hoity-toity magazines as a way of enriching one’s soil. She never discarded a non-biodegradable milk jug in the trash. She repurposed them into bird feeders, kitchen scrap collectors, toilet brush holders, and ice water containers. She would fill them with water from her kitchen tap and place them in her ancient non-frost free refrigerator. I can still remember my sister and I scraping the “little ice” from her freezer and eating it – we ate shaved ice before it was even a thing! That milk jug ice water was the coldest and best tasting water. I’ve had all manner of bottled waters since and they all pale in comparison.

She’d take a brown paper grocery sack and reuse it until it was soft and leathery-like and no longer good for hauling stuff to and fro and then she’d cut it up for us “youngins” to play with. I’ve purchased many a pretend item from an imaginary store with tender made from paper bag scraps. She made clothes from old Jim Dandy feed sacks, and she could and did make an entire quilt out of scraps of fabric. I doubt she ever called it “repurposing” or “reusing” or “reducing” she seemed to believe everything, even bits of rubbish deserved a second chance at life, and she aimed to accommodate.

robin-3474979_1280She loved trees, she loved to watch them and smell them. She would go outside, sit, and then she’d grow quiet. She would speak only to point out a squirrel nest or a particular kind of bird home. She used to tell me that each of her grandkids was represented by a particular kind of bird. I wish I’d had the foresight then to remember everyone’s. I only remember mine. A Robin red breast, she’d say “because they are unique and Mamie you are a unique youngin.” She saw something in me I reckon that I didn’t and evidently the Robin red breast had the same qualities.

The trees and outside seemed to give her life and as I’ve gotten older I’ve witnessed my mama head out-of-doors for some life giving and soul filling. As I have gotten older, I to do the same. I have a particular place in the backyard that serves to recharge me when I am depleted mind, body, and soul. I talk to the King there and listen to the breeze whisper through the leaves. It never ceases to amaze me that wind through trees sounds so much like rushing water in a stream. All of my senses are fed as I sit in the quiet of that place. Often I will leave my phone inside so as not to be distracted by the things of this world, half an hour there can fill me up for ten fold that time of pouring out.

birch-bright-countryside-618608.jpgI was spending an afternoon doing the aforementioned, when I thought about life-giving trees. As I exhaled deeply, the thought that my carbon dioxide would be turned into oxygen confirmed that life-giving hypothesis. I pondered on and chatted with the King and I recollected another kind of life-giving tree. The one my precious King was nailed to. The tree that ran red with blood spilled so that I could enter the Holy of Holies and talk freely with the God of the universe. A tree that lent itself to an unimaginable death so that I, we, could be part of a new covenant established and be in relationship with God.

I recently learned that Psithurism is the name given by science to the sound of the wind through the trees. I also learned that spirit in the Greek is pneuma, or breath. Perhaps the Creator purposely designed it so that when that pneuma, or spirit, was breathed into us, a holy CPR of sorts took place. The catalyst for that Life resuscitation began on that tree with the death of Jesus. Death defeated and the King resurrected.

My Mam-maw wasn’t super theological. Her eighth grade education carried her as far as possible given her difficult life and hard economic times. She knew the Bible. She couldn’t really quote the Word verbatim, she would have buckled if she would have had to preach a sermon, but preach she did. A different kind of preaching I suppose, the kind where words are few and actions speak loudly. She loved the Creator and she valued His creation, I strongly suspect that is why she honored it the way she did.

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The Journey: The Road Less Traveled

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How do you want to be remembered? Boil it down to one sentence – what you would like people to say about you?

Why don’t you write that down in a journal or your planner, or put it in the Notes app on your phone.

Make it a goal.

Often we wander through life thinking things will turn out the way we want while living in a way that prevents that. The road you take in life determines your destination, both literally and metaphorically. You won’t get to New York by taking the road to Atlanta. Nor will you live a life of character while taking the path of sin and compromise. So if you really do have an image of what you’d like to have said about you, are you living in a way to make that become a reality?

If a person’s goal was to be on the Fortune 500 list there would be many steps to take to achieve that: education, training, starting your business, making sound decisions for your company, hiring the right people, and keeping up to date in your field. If you set out to accessories-adult-blur-935943become National Teacher of the Year that would require development as well. It would mean getting the proper education and training. It would also require development in specific areas: classroom management and organizational skills, understanding children and learning styles, getting continuing education and National Board certification, and mastering the dynamics of being a highly contributing, highly respected part of a faculty.

Likewise, if your goal is to be a godly mom, a faithful servant of the Father, a shining light for Christ in your company, or whatever, it doesn’t just happen. It starts with a choice: the choice of committing to Christ above all things. That is followed by more intentional choices including studying God’s Word, pursuing mentoring or training, and taking any other particular steps that would lead you to become the woman you hope to be. It would mean choosing a different path in life, one that would lead people to say of you, “She was a worshipper of God and her heart was open to the Lord,” as scripture says of Lydia in Acts 16:14, or “She was always doing good works and acts of charity,” as Luke says of Dorcas in Acts 9:36, or “I commend her to you. She is a servant of the church and a benefactor of many,” as Paul said of Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2.

The following line by Robert Frost may be one of the most well-known lines of poetry of any American author, and it has been interpreted by many.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

As we think today of our life, our goals and wishes, it would serve us well to recall this brief line of poetry and to ask ourselves some questions.

In light of what I wrote down a few minutes ago about how I’d like to be remembered, am I on the path that would lead to that being said about me?

If I want a Godly, noble, upright outcome, then am I choosing the path that leads to that?

Is the path I am currently taking today preparing me for what I want to become?

Am I on the path I am today because it is the well-traveled path and I can’t shake the insecure neediness of being like everyone else?

Am I too fearful to choose the path “less traveled by?”

Am I willing to try a better path starting today?

~~~~~

Frost was correct. The path we are on does make all the difference. God’s word said the same thing hundreds of years before Frost did. It says:

Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15 ESV

          There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.                      Proverbs 14:12 ESV

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NIV

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Today we have a choice. We can choose to follow along with other sheep happily wandering around the pasture with no direction and no leadership. This is a well-worn, wide path. Or we can choose to follow the Shepherd closely, staying right at His side, listening to His every word, obeying His every command, and making choices that lead us to the lofty goal we desire. It won’t happen in a day, a month, or even a year. But we will find ourselves growing toward that goal of godliness, holiness, and wisdom year by year. So here is the choice:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV

What do you choose? What will be said of you when you come to the end of your path of life? Will you take the narrow way, the road less traveled? It will make all the difference.

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Treading Water

She calls it the Lord’s Pool, God’s Pool on occasion. I have no idea why, but if I had to guess I would say that I told her it was His pool because He provided the way to go there.
As long as she’s been alive it has been a staple in the Martin Summer. My niece Ellie Grace, gets to spend a large majority of the summer as a Martin and because we frequent the pool so does she. That particular pool became a part of our everyday many years ago.

It all started one summer some years back, to date one of the most difficult summers for Scott Martin and myself. We were ill-equipped house parents at the local children’s home. We had 3 unique Martins of our own, a home full of diverse and unique children, and some marital trials that we just were not equipped to sort through. The pool became beach-children-enjoyment-870170.jpga welcome and frequent diversion. I remember spending those first of many pool-going times counting. Counting people to make sure all were afloat, no one had drowned on my watch. I also spent a lot of time treading water. Hours in the deep end turned to days it seemed. Teaching children the art of something that is second nature to me, something I could do long before I could walk. Reaching for little hands extended in my direction constantly encouraging and cheering on, “just a little farther, you can do it.” Reassuring time and again that the water was nothing to be really afraid of but to be watchful and on the alert at all times, a healthy fear, is what my Mama calls it.

I spent time squeezing those same wet extremities into puddle jumpers and arm floaties. Applying layer after layer of sunscreen. I applied sunscreen like layers of sealant covering sun exposed bodies. Countless cans, bottles, tubes in all manner of SPF but none less than 30, have sacrificed themselves in the name of UV protection within its enclosure. I’ve secretly often wondered if all that sunscreen has left a hole in the ozone just above this tiny oasis. And I would tread water, sometimes for hours. Trying with everything that is in me to stay afloat. I would cheer from the water as wobbly terrified knees made their way to the end of the diving board, the dull thud typical accompaniment for the inexperienced jumper in contrast to the high-pitched clang of the experienced diver.

I’ve judged multiple cannonball, back buster, belly buster, toothpick, can opener, and amateur diving contests, all the while I would tread water. Unable to take hold of anything but the water itself. I’ve witnessed countless Mamas utter words I’ve uttered myself and seen record numbers of cardboard crust pizza place pizzas make their way there, their boxes discarded in the familiar garbage cans that dot the perimeter. Things have changed, yet somehow they seem to stay the same, and I would tread water. I would return home exhausted and energized all at the same time. My own stringy wet hair, sun-kissed shoulders, and “noodle legs” proof of the day’s adventure. The deep never alarming or scary to me, but exhausting just the same.

I’ve packed thousands of pool snacks in all manner to feed the hungry masses declaring their starvation. Their behavior and famished declarations would lead you to think they’d never seen food. Needless to say, a mere 30 minutes before they had devoured a Popsicle from the snack room freezer purchased with quarters from a ziplock bag that is itself a staple in the pool bag. The plastic ziplock bag of coinage shares space with books that have worn and tattered covers, dog-eared pages made that way from constant trips home and back alongside soggy towels and pool toys. I carry them just in case, not because they’ve actually been read, because they haven’t. To date, I can not think of one book I’ve actually started and finished there.

benches-clouds-daytime-832975.jpgThese trees that surround that place have witnessed much. In the Martin home alone it witnessed, Ellie Grace’s first steps, the emotional caution that always follows a period of uncertainty, countless refereed arguments amongst those named Martin, milestone birthdays, a visiting raccoon that had a hankering for sweets, his craving quickly satisfied by said arguing Martins. Each upcoming school year lesson plans laid out and navigated on the umbrella covered wrought iron table, none exceptionally level, but very functional all the same.

The Martins have always had an uncanny knack for ushering in thunder, requiring a 20 minute hiatus. I don’t mind the hiatus so much yet the snack bag is given a workout.

The items of the lost and found have never stayed lost for very long, the Martins have a way of finding something lost or broken and giving it purpose. Recently a game of “whack-a-mole” was played in the 4 ft by Charlotte and Shelton with an abandoned and faded pink noodle. Imagination, necessity, and discarded rubbish are the makings of invention for the Martins.

As time has passed and much has changed and much has stayed the same, I find that I don’t tread water as much. I’m finding that the investment early on is paying off. I suppose that pool, the summers are an allegory of parenting itself. Invest early, do your dead level best not to drown or let someone else drown, and when they are older they’ll take to the water with a healthy fear, never fully aware of the sacrifice that was made on their behalf. As second nature to them as anything, and they will pass that art on to their very own.

The King’s Word says something to that effect:

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The days of being waterlogged and weary have turned into life lessons and memories that they will carry with them forever. Ellie Grace named it the Lord’s Pool and it is indeed, both metaphorically and literally. I am beginning to understand that all those days of treading water, I was never alone, laughter was never in short supply, and watchful eyes from above were always present.

Featured photo (edited):
Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 
01.29.2015,
CLEMSON, SC, UNITED STATES
108th Training Command- Initial Entry Training

Psalm 29

by Joni Shankles

I admit it.
I am afraid of thunderstorms.

Growing up and living in tornado country, I am an experienced weather watcher.

Let me clarify. I’m not brave enough to go out and actually watch storms. I mean watch in the sense of heightened awareness, of being on guard. I’m better characterized as a weather listener. For me, thunder is an audible signal that danger looms. Where there is thunder, there is lightning. And if the storm is severe, thunder warns me that tornado winds are possible. Better check my weather radar app.

I hide my fear pretty well.
Except that I had bicycle helmets in our tornado closet twenty years before the weather experts began recommending them. Getting trapped in our outside entrance basement with two kids under two years old, watching a tree fall against the door – let’s just say I respect the power of storms.

Psalm 29 is giving me a new perspective.

David issues an invitation for all to ascribe, or give credit, to the LORD his glory and strength, and to worship the LORD “in the splendor of his holiness.” To help worshipers understand God’s power over all creation, David uses the imagery of a storm.

David compares thunder to the “voice of the LORD”, an audible reminder of God’s power and majesty.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic. (v. 3-4)

David compares the “voice of the LORD” to the intensity of lightning, and to the power of winds in a storm to shake, twist, and break trees.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. (v. 5)

The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the LORD shakes the desert…
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple, all cry, “Glory!” (v. 7-9)

David is saying: When you hear thunder, when you see lightning, when you see the power of stormy winds, it is the voice of the LORD inviting you to worship, to cry, “Glory!”

This is a game changer for me.
Thunder as the voice of God, not the voice of doom.
Thunder as an invitation to worship, not as a trigger for fear.

Psalm 29 reminds me that God is more powerful than any storm. It reminds me that God reigns over all creation, even thunder, lightning, and wind.

“The LORD is enthroned as King forever.” (v. 10)

And the psalm closes with a promise I can cling to whenever storms arise.

The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace. (v. 11)

For now, I live in tornado country. Storms will happen.

Psalm 29 reminds me that I can be prepared, but I don’t have to be afraid.
I can hear God’s voice when thunder rolls.
And when I hear it, I can choose to worship.

Father, I give you the glory due your name. You are enthroned as King forever. Your power is greater than any storm. Help me to hear your voice in the thunder. Let worship be my response to storms. When storm winds blow, thank you for the gift of your strength and the blessing of your peace. Amen.

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We the People…

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Preamble to our U.S. Constittution is such an inspiring and noble statement of intent. Our forefathers who had dealt with tyrannical control sought to create a lasting and worthwhile means of government.

Today that new nation they established is probably not exactly what they thought it would be. I guess it just shows that We the good People of America may not be as good as was hoped. We the People of 2018 exemplify the antithesis of the Preamble: injustice, turbulence, self-focus, degradation, and enslavement to sins by our own choice.

As a science minded person, I see our founding father’s work as a giant experiment that we are still observing 200 years later. And what does that experiment reveal?

As noble as We the People would like to think we are, we have succumbed to the slippery slope of sin. We have slipped further than we thought possible, and there is no end in sight. Our greed, selfishness, and immorality have yielded a rotten fruit.

We the People cannot rescue ourselves. For years we’ve hoped to turn the decline around: new Presidents, new political parties in control, new laws, new social programs, protests, marches. All our best intentions have failed because we are flawed people, sinners in need of a savior. We need Gandalf to ride in on his white horse and rescue us.

Suicide rates are at an all time high. Despair permeates our precious United States of America. Looking through human eyes we see a bleak picture.

Where is hope to be found?

Psalm 33:18-22 – “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”

The situation is not bleak when you look at it through the correct lens – the lens of scripture. Scripture tells us we can’t rescue ourselves. It tells us Jesus is our Savior. It tells us God loves us No Matter What. It tells us we are never too far gone, that Father God will forgive anyone who repents and asks for forgiveness. It tells us that we are His Beloved.

When We the People turn our eyes to heaven, seek God’s ways, and live obediently we find hope. We find unconditional love. We find a rescuer. Not as a nation, but as invdividuals created uiquely by God.

The change begins with me not we. Am I willing? Are you? Willing to lay down self and choose God’s ways? To obediently follow, when it goes against the norm of our society?  To become a loving servant and follow in the steps of our Savior?

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

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