Good Medicine

A joyful heart is good medicine,But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

 

Sometimes I go through life so distracted that I hardly notice the world around me. Sometimes my mind is so far from my body, it’s a wonder I stay in one piece. I am not consistently that way though. Sometimes I notice such small details that they serve to bog me down and overwhelm me. I find myself perseverating about those details and become so distracted and weary I feel like I am moving through molasses in December.

This recently happened on a trip to the doctor. It was pouring down rain outside, I had been running late, the parking was terrible, the waiting room filled. I appeared to be the youngest patient that afternoon. I was weary to my bones and found myself sluggish and overwhelmed.

maxresdefaultA bright pink scrub clad young lady was steadily opening the door that led to the back, calling names and waiting patiently for her elderly patients to rise and make their way toward her. I noticed that many of them had names popular for infants. Names like Eleanor, Everett, Henry, Sylvia. It tickled me as I recalled the King’s Word that says there is nothing new under the sun.

As the waiting room emptied I found myself alone. Seated amongst tattered magazines, a clearly outdated one boasted a new Baby Princess, per my recollection that Princess is now somewhere around 3 years old. There was a tool magazine “where good tools come first.” “Versus what?” I wondered, “where Bad tools come first? Or maybe last?”

As I reached for the outdated Princess magazine my hand felt something wobble beneath it. I hadn’t even noticed. I took a second glance to see what I had touched, and noticed an ant farm. I shook my head. Was this my overactive imagination again? Had I just imagined next to the tattered magazines, pages softened by mindless flipping in an effort to pass the time… had I just imagined an Ant farm? Surely not. What would an Ant farm be doing in a doctor’s office?

I looked again, ant farm presence confirmed. I had a mental image and thought predictively, “This is not going to end well.”

ant.farm.14Taped to the top of the Ant farm was a small piece of paper, it read , “Press the lid down firmly all the way to avoid ants escaping.”

Suspicion confirmed. That sign was there for a reason, it hadn’t ended well. Ants had indeed escaped previously, someone or someones needed a written reminder to keep said ants contained.

I started to laugh. The kind of laugh that used to occur whilst I was in church, the kind of laugh that one absolutely can not control and will result in a pinch on the right shoulder from one’s disapproving Mama. The kind of laughter that occurs when one’s 14-year-old cousin has just stuffed the nostrils of Mrs. So-and-So’s “for real fox stole” with paper balls. Every week that foxes nostrils would be cleared of the white occlusions, just so said 14 year old cousin could send one into hysterics yet again. It was a vicious cycle that yielded unrelenting laughter. The kind of laughter where a whole body shakes and tears come to one’s eyes, the kind of laughter that can not be stopped no matter how much one desires to do so. That kind of laughter simply has to run its course and will often give way to side pains and a stomach ache.

Proverbs 17:22 says “A joyful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

I can say honestly as I went to the doctor that day I went in search of feeling better, good medicine as it were, but in His goodness the King allowed me to see the very thing that would lead me to the medicine to my soul. Laughter. After that hearty giggle I felt better already and I hadn’t even actually seen the doctor yet, but the Great Physician had seen me and brought joy to my heart and laughter to my weary soul.

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Hold Fast to the Work for Which You Have Been Created

PHOTO: By Bob Key – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=757094

 

“Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin’?”

Scott Martin and I often speak in a language of movie one liners. This here is one of our frequent and favorites. It was the first thing I thought of when I was looking at the television at 3:00am for the 6th day in a row.

I am not unaccustomed to seeing the middle of the night. My older and less flexible body these days doesn’t choose to see 3:00 am if it can help it. Back in the olden days I was likely to hit the wall at 4am way back when the night shift was the work requirement. Work that would yield naps in the back of a minivan while kids were at a mom’s day out, naps in a bedroom sleeping in front of a door so no one escaped. Hours of sleep in increments more than a few hours were more valuable than the gold backed dollars that said sleep deprivation was yielding.

Anxiety Sickness and a persistent cough had gifted me with my old 3am foe. As I sat wide-eyed and hacking on the sofa I was clearly perturbed. I thought about the last time I had been this sick, when Shelton and I were marooned on a sofa island amidst quilts and pillows. In between his feverish episodes he would declare frequently how much he loved me. As difficult as they were, those days were some of my most treasured.

This time I found myself alone on the couch, the lone sick one. The other Martins had yet to succumb to the infirmary that I’d met first. As I sat on the couch I’d made my way to a random PBS channel. In the middle of the night a woodworking show was on featured a blacksmith. I was vaguely familiar with the show as I have caught Scott Martin watching – not because he’s skilled or fond of woodworking but because he likes the music featured on the show, a throwback to old-time sound likely played by misfit bands. Instruments made of strings and harmonies carried over from home countries. It is highly probable the music accompanied a coming together of neighbors for a barn raising or work day, women scurrying about with food preparation, a variety of kitchen delicacies meant to be shared. A buffet of foods all homemade, for the Publix deli was years from invention, kids playing with sticks and dirt, cellphones and electronic entertainment centuries away… Perhaps not. Perhaps my overactive imagination combined with sleep deprivation and a longing for simplicity and fellowship yield such assumptions. I digress…again…

hf7-1356The smithy was crafting a “hold fast,” an L shaped tool meant to hold a wood working project in place, a tool of old when smiths and metallurgic arts were part of the everyday. My mind wandered to a verse with a keyword of the same name,

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 English Standard Version (ESV)

Hold fast, to hold firm. I watched as intently as my sleep deprived eyes would allow. I noticed the difference in the shape and size of the French and English hold fasts. The English hold fast not as curvy and weighty as the French inspired holdfast.

The host would occasionally comment to the Smithy as he would “strike while the iron is hot.” I had heard that phrase many times, maybe even said it. I googled the origin of the phrase and was informed via the internet,

“This old proverb clearly alludes to the imagery of the blacksmith or farrier at his forge. If he delays in shaping the iron when it is hot and pliable, the metal soon cools and hardens and the opportunity is lost.

The expression is recorded in Richard Edwards’, “The excellent comedie of two the moste faithfullest freendes, Damon and Pithias, circa 1566.” (Phrases.org.UK)

The expression becoming appreciated more and more as the metal piece was more malleable, able to be shaped into the desired shape, while it was the once straight pieces of steel taking shape into L shaped pieces of useable metal that were designed for a specific purpose.

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If those fired pieces could speak and feel I reckoned they would say the shaping was painful, but once fired and made, the soft metal could be shaped so much more easily than the cold metal would have been. In essence that suffering led to shaping those pieces into an object that could be used for its intended purpose.

When used, the holdfast was so strong the entire workbench could be lifted, the holdfast acting as a handle. The holdfast was essential in the art of woodworking, planing, and all other manner of terms used to which I am not even vaguely familiar.

I wondered if in the Kingdom, I and those I know, weren’t holdfasts of sorts. Those who have endured sufferings that shaped who they were, those who feel that they aren’t all that important in the Kingdom, they aren’t famous, or clergy, missionaries or those on the front lines of ministry. Those have had moments of thinking they aren’t all that important in the kingdom, those thoughts followed up with “I’m not all that important, I just (insert seemingly unimportant title here).” In the case of the holdfast, “I just hold down a piece of wood.” Maybe in the Kingdom you (and admittedly I) feel just like that.

The reality is that a holdfast is crucial in shaping those pieces of wood into grooves and curves, beautiful trims and flooring, the things homes are made of. The pieces of architecture we take classes in college to appreciate. The “craftsmanship” the Antique Roadshow folks get giddy over. The items that cause experts to do their dead level best to remain composed, but when pointing out such “details” and “workmanship” their voices go an octave higher and they interject adjectives like “phenomenal” or “amazing” statements like “simply incredible” or “I have never seen another one like it.”

I’ve watched that show a time or two and they have never said, “This woodworking master must have had an incredible holdfast, for without it this beautiful piece would not have been possible for the craftsman to create. Your prized piece is worth a gazillion dollars because the holdfast was in fine working order.” Nope they NEVER say that. They, to my knowledge have not acknowledged that crucial tool. That L shaped piece of steel whose job it was to hold-fast. Yet so seemingly unimportant but when confronted with the bigger picture, the value of hindsight one can see clearly how important that seemingly unimportant item was.

The smitty in the show had a replica of a third type of holdfast, an American model. He made a statement that it was thought to have been from the 18th century, discarded in the early days of our country. It had been unearthed somewhere in what was one of original 13 colonies. The American model looked different from the English and French models but the overall shape was the same, purpose the same.

Some of us, some of you are the holdfasts of the Kingdom. The Master Craftsman, the Creator having used our sufferings to shape us into useable pieces, those who do the unseen jobs that without, the frontliners, those fine seemingly more important pieces or workmanship, would not be possible.

The Kingdom needs holdfasts, those willing to do the unseen, the not so glorious, those created for just that purpose. On the days when I am tempted to believe what I am doing doesn’t matter, that if I weren’t doing that (insert seemingly unimportant or menial task here) it really wouldn’t matter, I am going to think of those holdfasts and remember that I am the King’s workmanship and that as long as I am doing what He has called me to do, created me to do, there is no unimportant or meaningless task in Kingdom work.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

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Lesson from the Lunch Bunch

Every Wednesday during the school year I find myself hanging out with some women and children who hunger for the King and His word. It’s a unique kind of Bible Study and it has stretched me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. My friends and I dive in deep, firmly plant ourselves and invest into eternity for the majority of the Day. I have several roles there but one of my favorites it to be the facilitator for the Sheep Lunch Bunch Opening Ceremony.

The open ceremony is when the Sheep friends (Preschoolers to Kindergartners) open their lunches. I instituted the Opening Ceremony some years ago when the chaos of 18 preschoolers all opening their packed-at-home lunches at the same time was too much for me to handle. In those early days there was much confusion over whose Lunchable that was or whose Mama didn’t pack a surprise snack, there are always cheers for the Mama who did. The kid whose Mama packs him raisins every single week, who has yet to tell her he doesn’t like raisins, I sometimes wonder if he does like them every other day of the week. The opening of lunchables has repeatedly proven to be a challenge for pudgy preschool digits with limited dexterity. If one is not careful one can in a single motion sling every item from its individual compartment thus resulting in airborn cookies, cheese, all manner of meats and preschool sized snacks across the room. This never ends well. Tears are inevitable, confusion unavoidable and the day ruined. I had to find a way to bring order to the opening of the lunch boxes so I developed and instituted the Opening Ceremony. Now the eager Sheep have a method and organization to their lunch consumption. A laid out plan to adhere to.

First: Bottoms must be in chairs and Hands in the air.

Second: Everyone gets a dollop of hand sanitizer we “Rub, Rub, Rub tops and sides and Let it dry” The let it dry portion is usually accompanied by jazzy hands.

Third: We give a shout out to Jesus and give our prayer requests.

Prayer-Activities-for-Kids-504328300-585419773df78ce2c3b05c3cI never grow tired of this part. We’ve prayed for the Daddies, all the Daddies represented in the room, for dogs and cats, and Mommies. Hurt fingers and toes and loved ones whom I’ve never met. We have prayed for jobs and work and cars and all manner of things that make up the world we live in. We have celebrated birthdays and accomplishments, new baby brothers or sisters (there has been a repeated request that we pray for Mama because she says she’s gonna have a girl but it’s really gonna be a boy so a baby brudder can have a brudder too). We have thanked God for lunches and Bible study days, and most of all for Jesus Himself who loves us all dearly and without whom none of it would be possible or worth it.

Then there is the countdown, then carefully each one opens his or her lunch at the same time. Some of my adult friends and myself methodically work our way around the room opening packages and food bearing parcels. It is a fabulous good time, one that whets my own appetite for my own packed at home lunch not packed by my Mama but my own hand.

Typically by the time I eat my lunch I am ravenous, having spent the morning zooming too and fro, loving on kids and talking with ladies. Counting and sorting and crafting. Listening and talking, laughing and walking. Praying and studying. It is the makings of an exhausting but good day.

Recently during Opening Ceremony I had made my way to the lunch box of a Sheep friend when after I had opened the prepackaged food items I straightened and headed toward his neighbor to begin the opening process all over again. I felt a tug on my dinosaur tee shirt. My Sweet friend C. loves a dinosaur and has often been extremely impressed that I, a grown up, have worn a dino-tee-shirt “just for him.” I felt another pull on my shirt and looked down, inches from my face was an Uncrustable sandwich.
“Here.” he held the sandwich firm insisting I had forgotten something.

“I opened it Buddy”

“No-o-o You didn’t take off da crust!”

“It’s an UN-CRUST-able.”

“Yeah but you didn’t take off the crust!” Clearly frustrated with my lack of understanding he pointed to the crimped edge of the sandwich.

hqdefaultAs I stood there and tore the non-existing crust off of the sandwich, I mused that this must be how I am with the King. He has a plan, an excellent plan He moves about making sure I have all that I need. He had outlined repeatedly what I am supposed to do, yet somehow I find myself thrusting my proverbial sandwich his way, the one named for not having crust requesting He “Do something like take off the crust.”

I wonder if He looks at me quizzically, liked I looked at my 4 year old friend C. and thinks the obvious, “I’ve got this. I’ve got you. I am doing something. More than you know” yet at my insistence He takes the that Uncrustable of a situation and pulls that crimped edge off because he loves me, because He knows I am anxious about it and because He is kind.

My friend C. recently gave me a prized dino toy. It is a blue squishy T-rex. His Mama told me he sorted through eighteen other dinos to find the one he knew I would love. He was right, I do love it. I keep it in a bag and can readily access it. C. suggested I “squeeze it lots ‘cause it’s squishy.” I do as he suggested and I am reminded that the One who loves the Whole Wide World also loves me and that He was willing to go to extraordinary lengths because of that love. He did not shrink away from death, He intercedes on my behalf, and regularly peels the crust off my Uncrustable Sandwich.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Cease striving and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

Stand Firm

I have said before that we have a little wiener dog in our house. She is a mini-dachshund but I rarely spell dachshund correctly. Her name is Pepperoni Sausage Dog. We call her Pepper for short. She may weigh 5 pounds on a heavy day. She is a dog food snob, she only likes the cheap stuff from the General Dollar Store, she is playful and we have taught her to say “I Love You” and “Mama”. She is rotten to the core and loved like crazy by the Martin 3. I am her favorite for reasons I have yet to figure out. Maybe it is because I am the Alpha of this pack or the fact that I am the provider of that cheap dog food, or maybe it is that when I take a nap she likes to cuddle up close to me. She has taught me much since she became a Martin. I once wrote an entire blog about a lesson she taught me pertaining to the daddy in our house.

girl-2518950_1920She is stubborn and in some ways predictable. Often she seeks refuge with me, she climbs onto my chest and will back her hind end close to my face. I push her down, correct her. I would like to say she immediately obeys never to return to that behavior again; if I did say that it would be a complete lie. She gets down, turns her long reddish-brown sausage body back and proceeds to climb back atop my person.

Recently Shelton was playing with her, he was pretending to “get Mama” she tends to be very possessive of me and gave him a short bark to warn him I was not his, but instead I was hers. Shelton laughed (so did I) he outweighs her by forty times yet she barked as if they were the same size. She backed herself up and her 5 pound self honestly felt heavier to me. I noticed that she had so firmly planted her scrawny paws into my chest that she was giving the impression that she was heavier, bigger, she had anchored herself and had no intention of giving up her ground despite her gigantic opponent. In her little wiener dog brain she must’ve reasoned that I was hers and she wasn’t about to back down because she had the backing of the Alpha Mama. Her little paws were so firmly planted that they dug into me and I recoiled, as the moments progressed and her opponent teased attack, she got heavier. I commanded her perceived threat to “leave her alone” and he yielded. She became lighter but I was thinking back to the pressure she had exerted just moments before that.

The pressure that her 5 pound max body was exerting was becoming painful. Yet the more threatened she felt the firmer she stood. I soon put her down to begin my to-do list for the day, but that mini-wiener put me to pondering.

She looked at me as if to say, “I wasn’t planning on going anywhere. Why’d you put me down?” She was standing her ground. She knows if push comes to shove I’ve got her back, well in her world anyway. If the kids won’t give her a tasty scrap, I likely will, even if by accident on my part, by way of kitchen messiness and clumsiness. She knows that I will make sure she is snug in a bed when it is cold and that she has lots of time in the backyard to chase lizards, chipmunks and other wiener foe. She knows and is secure in that. She knew if she firmly planted her feet that as long as she was in my lap, that annoying teenage boy would not be able to get her.

dachshund-2794944_1920Her physical demeanor and presence changed as she firmly planted those little paws, she stood firm, her bark insisted she meant business. She behaved as if knowing I would intercede on her behalf, shoo that boy away, and give her the reprieve she sought.

In that moment the King spoke. He reminded me that my Sausage Dog was more obedient than I tend to be when in a battle against an insurmountable foe. When he commands us regarding our adversary the devil, the one that desires to steal, kill, and destroy, He commands us to “Stand Firm,” to hold our ground and trust that HE will fight the battle and intercede on our behalf.

2 Chronicles 20:17 says “ You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” Too many times I spend so much time barking loudly and looking around at the circumstances that I do not Stand Firm and I do not keep my eyes on my King.

My little wiener knew and stood firm in the truth that, she is mine and that I would move on her behalf. She did not have to fight the battle as long as she stood her ground, those little paws digging into my skin. She stood firm knowing her Master was behind her and ready to take action. My Master, my King too, stands behind me, ready to move and take action on my behalf.

Our little Pepper is as much obedient as she is ferocious, not very, but she is most definitely thought-provoking. May I stand as firmly against the enemy as that mini-wiener did against hers.

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Wash, Dry, Pray

About 3 months ago I was doing laundry. I had pulled out a load of whites, bleached and ready to be dried. As I pulled those chlorine laden clothes, towels, and sheets out of my washer, I inhaled deeply. Bleach always reminds me of my Grandmother, I called her Mam-maw. She lived in a time when in her words,

“We might didn’ta had nothin’ but we were clean. Bein’ poor ain’t no excuse for bein’ filthy.”

I had heard her say those words countless times as I grew up.

When I was a little girl she would “warsh my hands and face” with the hottest bleach and dish soap water. Just thinking about it now makes me wince. My four-year-old digits would involuntarily recoil as she wiped away any residue my lunch may have left behind. “Hold still Mamie!” I can see myself sitting on that homemade bench next to her kitchen table, my feet dangling, face and hands tingling more from the heat than the bleach. Her hands always smelled like bleach. Even long after her mind went away and her body was still strong, her hands smelled of bleach.

laundry-2000256_640.jpgShe was a hang out to dry king of gal. She shared a clothesline with her sister-in-law and also neighbor. Facing the road My Mam-maw’s side was the one on the left. There was something magical and intoxicating about fresh sheets whipping in the wind. My sister and I would run and play through those linens with a delight and carefree nature I have not known in my adult life. Inevitably Mam-maw would yell out from the kitchen window,

“You youngins better get back from my warshin’!”

She had to have known that we were there, that we had been weaving in and out of those linen walls made of clean cotton for a while. In hindsight I see now that she likely didn’t start fussing until we had wandered to the right side of the line and risked inadvertently pulling down her brother, Big John’s overalls.

As I pulled my own laundry out I spent a moment in my childhood, meandering down Memory Lane. It was the he rust colored spots that yanked me back to reality. My bare feet weren’t on a grassy hill in the clothesline of the past, they were standing on the concrete floor of my basement. As I pulled my recently re-spun load of whites from the washer I noted that my rickety old washing machine had deteriorated even more than the last time, spraying rust colored stains all over my fresh laundry. I sighed, I’d already reckoned that two spin cycles were necessary to drain the clothes. I had long ago noted how the “spin” hadn’t been as effective as it once had and how I had to manually switch the knob to request the spin cycle several times. I had reduced the size of the load all in an effort to reduce the workload of the already taxed and band-aid covered dryer. They were a pitiful pair those two, my washer and dryer.

As I sorted and divided the load into portions to accommodate the dryer, I calculated what a new washer and dryer might cost, coming to the realization that there was no way our budget would accommodate such a purchase. I said a quick prayer. Something along the lines of

“Lord, you know how sketchy this washer and dryer are, you reckon you could provide me with some new ones.”

As I continued on with the laundry task, I pulled from the dryer a fully assembled and intact Lego dude with a cape. I smiled and put him aside. Someone would be looking for him soon enough. I smiled thinking how for years my dryer has chinked with the sound of stray Lego parts, all manner of bricks, and such. The stuff great structures of imagination are made of. I transferred the wets into the dryer, threw in a dryer sheet, and turned to head back upstairs. I had not even made it the ten feet to the steps when I received a text from my husband.

wahser dryerIt said, “Hey do you want a new washer and dryer?”

My stunned response. “Are you kidding me?’

“Nope. They’re used but they’ll be new to us.”

Some friends were upgrading and were getting rid of their old ones; we were the recipients of their good fortune. I marveled at how, not even moments before I had asked, well sort of asked for a new washer and dryer and here in the form of a text message was an answer to that very prayer. The new, used washer and dryer have blessed us tremendously. The dryer still chinks with Lego pieces, and when the washer spins I still look around for a helicopter landing. The new ones are sort of high-tech-like with literal buttons and bells on them, but I am becoming accustomed to them. The old pair made a trip to the recycle plant, which in itself is an adventuresome outing for the Martins.

1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast your anxieties on Him (God) because he care for you.” That day the King demonstrated the very essence of that to me. He alone knew I had prayed that. I hadn’t told anyone. I was too busy meandering down Memory Lane. He knew I needed a faith builder, and he chose to use a second-hand washer and dryer to do it. 2 Timothy 2:13 says that even when we are faithless, he remains faithful. That day as I said that quick prayer I was lacking the faith that the King would move on my behalf. I will admit that even as said it I did not quite believe that I would be the recipient of a new washer and dryer. Despite that though, His goodness was not, it is not, contingent on my belief. He is faithful, even when I am not. Since then, I have yet to do the laundry without the reminder of the goodness and faithfulness of God, and the tangible evidence that He hears our prayers and is our provider.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13

It’s Not Fair

“It’s not fair!!!”

“It’s NOT fair!”

Those three words have peppered the tantrums that have played out in our home over the years. I’ll admit I’ve even said them myself. It isn’t fair. Many things are not fair. Much of life is not fair.

The one who says those words most often is my youngest; she still bears the scars of difficult obstacles she was forced to face even before her remembrance. She struggles with the everyday and the basics on a day-to-day basis. She is the youngest of the Martins and she waves high the banner of unfairness of youngest siblings everywhere.

A few weeks ago I was studying the King’s Book, specifically that of Matthew, and I happened upon the parable in Matthew 20, the one about the laborers in the vineyard. I haven’t always liked it because it seems so not fair. It made me a tad uncomfortable and I tend to avoid things that make me uncomfortable. For this reason I hadn’t really studied it. You can find in Matthew 20: 1-16.

I’ll summarize it.

There was a Master. He had a vineyard. About 6 in the morning he found some workers and agreed to pay them a denarius for a day’s work. About 9am the Master went out again and hired some more workers. He agreed to pay them a fair pay for their day’s work. A little while later, about lunchtime, he went out and did the same thing. At 3pm He did the same and at 5pm the same. At the end of the work day he paid all the workers a denarius. In essence some of the workers worked 12 hours and some worked just an hour, but at then end of the day they made the same wage.

money-euro-coins-currency-332304When recently questioned about what I thought about the parable, I admitted I’ve been in the same camp as the all day workers. “It’s not fair!” The Master should’ve paid the one hour workers a twelfth of what he paid the all day workers. I am not a mathematical expert but the lunch time workers should have gotten half a denari and the 3pm worker a fourth. That would have been the FAIR thing to do. Wouldn’t it?

Yet when one reads on, the King Himself says in verses 15 and 16, “ ‘Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

The first will be last? The last will be first…that is so not fair….or so it would seem, but the King’s economy is not the same as my economy and thankfully God is in charge and I am not. It took a change in perspective for me to surrender my “It’s not fair” banner. Because He is Kind and compassionate, abounding in love, He was gentle in revealing this one to me.

If I am completely honest I’ve long held on to the “it’s not fair” because I know that I am an early morning laborer. I came to know Jesus early in my life. I got the same Grace and Salvation He freely gives to someone who comes to know Him in the Eleventh hour of his or her life.

With the all day workers, what I failed to realize was, that they had enjoyed the presence of the Master longer. They had been with the Master all day. They had been able to work and serve the Master for a full day. They had been able to see that Master at work himself, managing and such, doing whatever it is Vineyard Masters do.

Perhaps the Eleventh hour workers were envious of the all day workers. They had just met the Master and had not had the benefit of gleaning from Him, watching Him lead, spending time in His presence. I am thankful that in the Kingdom I am an all day worker, that I have had the privilege of working alongside the Master for the majority of my life, that I have been under His protection and grace for many years. I am grateful that He takes the time to show me a new perspective to an old story that my heart hadn’t always been receptive to and how He reveals Himself continually in His Word. He is a good Master, one who is not fair, because He is better than fair.

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A Mary is A Mary

One of my Nearest and Dearest visited the U.K. this past summer. She brought home souvenirs that I truly treasure, they were English tea leaves housed in a tiny Big Ben tin. Once used, I cut the box that it had come in apart and made bookmarks. Currently, these memorial snap shots of London’s major landmarks can be found in the book of Jeremiah Chapter 29. The tiny Big Ben tin is in my pantry, a reminder of our friendship and her trip.

Much to my surprise and delight for my fortieth Birthday she gave me one of the most treasured gifts I have ever received. A gift so unique I’d’ve not even known to ask for it. Wrapped in a simple blue box with the words “Historic Royal Palaces” lettered in gold was something I’d always wanted I just didn’t know it until I received it. I squealed when I opened the box. As I unfolded the bubble wrap I uncovered a for real English porcelain pexels-photo-810050.jpegtea cup and saucer. I do not possess the vocabulary to describe how enchanting that cup and saucer are. Beautiful and dainty, they evoke a feeling of elegance when I look at them; I even hold my pinky out when I pick up that cup and sip my imaginary tea. I have yet to use it, for I am waiting for as unique and special an occasion as it is. I have placed it in a place of prominence and I admire it daily.

I enjoy television from across the pond, British entertainment is some of my favorite. In fact, it would seem much of the British world brings me delight. I particularly like how the Brits do documentaries. Recently I was watching one such documentary and found myself pondering the Marys the King knew when He walked this earth.

There is one presenter I especially enjoy, he’s a jolly fellow with a grand sense of dry British humor and is entertaining as well as educational. He says things like “flabby bits” and will draw the eye to the unusual and often overlooked details of art. After watching a special on Impressionists, he changed how I pronounce Van Gogh.

the-tardis-263153_640(I once watched a Dr. Who episode centered around the Impressionist Vincent Van Gough and I will not even lie, it made me so distressed I shed actual tears. My children still find it funny that I cried while watching Dr. Who. They refer to that particular episode as “The one that makes Mama cry.” They are right, it does. Every. Single. Time.)

I digress, the aforementioned Jolly Presenter was explaining his point of view regarding the Renaissance art, he introduced the audience to the various Marys of the Bible depicted in classical art. He spoke of the Mother Mary, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene. He explained that many times the Marys overlap in Renaissance art. To drive his point home he would say “A Mary is a Mary” his British accent stretching out the name Mary in the statement. It sound more like “A Maaawrie is a Maaawrie.” I mused at that thought and what I actually knew from the King’s Word about those Marys. Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Salome and James. I thought about Matthew 28, when Jesus had been raised from the dead. I imagined how dark and overwhelmed those Marys must have felt as their Precious Jesus was beaten and crucified, how he hung on that cursed tree amongst common criminals. How deeply sad they must have felt as they lay His lifeless body in that tomb. The pain would have been overwhelming. How so early on that Sunday morning those Marys went to finish the job of preparing his body for burial. I thought about that “Mary is a Mary” mentality and how very inaccurate that it actually is.

When Mary Magdalene cried and mourned, believing that Jesus’ body had been stolen (John 19:13-15), she wept with grief there before her Lord. She did not recognize Him. But then He did what He so often does for the ones He loves. He spoke her name. Verse 16 says he said only her name “Mary” for her to know who He was. He knew her all along.

The reality is, in the eyes of the King, a Mary is not just a Mary. The truth is we are all uniquely created. Jesus knew each Mary then individually just as He does now. He is in the business of making relationships. The purpose of His death was to restore relationship with God.

As I’ve pondered on the British Presenter, how his statement prompted me to ponder, I am in awe of the King and how He loves each of us individually and uniquely. How the world may scream something different, yet that will never negate the truth that Jesus loves me and He loves you too.

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You are a precious treasure! The King loves you indidvidually and uniquely!

Lottie

Best Elisabeth Elliot Quotes | Doorkeeper

I didn’t grow up knowing much about missionaries. They were a far off lot, the things of bedtime stories and fairytales, and it was difficult for me to wrap my childlike brain around a person who would give up all they had to tell the rest of the world of the King. I knew the King and loved Him but this missionary life boggled my mind. As I grew up and lottiemoonmy faith became my own, missionaries became a part of that faith. It wasn’t until my adult years a Lottie Moon Christmas offering resonated with me; I began to have an appreciation for missionaries and for their work across the globe.

I have one that declares she will be a missionary one day, I will admit that in the beginning I tucked that away and just observed her. She isn’t vocal, pushy, or even very outdoorsy, all requirements I once thought were necessary for such a life. When I first learned the story of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Ed Mccully via a low-budget movie with Ricky Schroder, I wept. For the first time the realization hit me that in fact the missionary life was the hard life.

One of the wisest women I know, a woman steeped in Christ who has mentored and encouraged me for over a decade once said to me that the most difficult call from the Lord to a person is to be a preacher or a missionary. Over time I’ve come to realize she was spot on. After I learned the story of the aforementioned heroes, a story from the mouths of their families and the ones present when their earthly lives met their demise at the end of a spear. I learned that they could have used the weapons they carried, defended themselves against their attackers, an act they chose not to do but would be considered totally reasonable, and ultimately those who killed them did so because of a lie.

I came to realize once more that those who are sold out to the King, their lives, our lives do not make a lot of sense to some people. It blew my mind that Elizabeth Elliot would even consider taking her small children back to the very place where her husband was killed and live amongst his murderers. It was in fact, until I realized that when one walks with the King it can be mind-blowing.

My little Lottie, the one who is called to be a missionary was named Charlotte, Lottie for short, before she was mine. A fact that I know is not an accident. She exercises daily the very things she will need to be a missionary. Unlimited generosity, tremendous faith, unquestionable forgiveness. She is quiet and walks in humility and is bold all at the same time. She loves different cultures and is the most adventurous eater I’ve ever known. I will admit that I am fearful for her and would be content for her to decide to be something a little less global, but the truth is I want her to be what the Lord intends for her to be and if that is a missionary then so be it. I will have to trust that the One who calls is faithful and He will do as He promises for me and my foolish, fearful heart. I reckon Jim Elliot said it best when he says, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

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The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Love Has a Name

Scott Martin is notorious for scoring things no one else in our family has. Once he won some bleacher seats from the television station that had previously resided at Talladega Superspeedway. He brought them home, perched them on our patio and would sit in them regularly. They were very ugly and I winced every time I had to look at them. He eventually sold them and they reside now at a friend’s tire store, I still wince when I see them, they are still ugly, but at least they aren’t on my patio.

tickets-672414_640He has won countless tickets to events, we have never paid for tickets to the Monster Truck Jam, but he and my children have been multiple times. He usually wins a “family four pack” and since there are five of us, I always forfeit my ticket option. I have come to appreciate that I am the real winner, a quiet evening at home. He is forever receiving “swag” in the mail from folks: autographs and goods from names I am not even vaguely familiar with, trinkets that bear some logo or advertising on it, original art, and all manner of music paraphernalia.

We never bought a ticket to a comedy event the entire time we dated. Then there was that prize money from Wheel of Fortune that we used to adopt our youngest child. He has a knack for things like that. If I truly believed in luck I’d say he got a hefty helping of it. I on the other hand do not recollect when I have ever won a thing. I am accustomed to his winnings, so when he mentioned he had received some tickets to the upcoming Ice Show I was not at all surprised.

We decided to make a night of it, we took our teenage children and one of their friends to watch the costume clad Disney characters skate about on a sheet of frozen ice. As the show began the characters announced that we were going to discover the “World’s Greatest Treasure” I turned to my left and said to Scott Martin, “It’s love.”

“Huh?”

“The greatest treasure is love.”

“How do you know? We haven’t seen this before.”

“I just know. It is love.”

Throughout the performance the filled arena would be shown items pulled from a treasure chest that would segue into the next act. All treasures, but none the greatest treasure. At one point I literally laughed out loud because, Scott Martin had been repeatedly assaulted by the various extremities of the approximate six-year-old Woody-hat-wearing boy seated to his left. Scott would adjust, lean over to me and matter-of-factly say, “This kid has hit me like fifteen times.” At the exact moment I looked, said Woody-Hat-Wearer was upside down in his foldable arena seat. We remember those days, when our six year-old was upside down in his chair kicking the seat occupant next to him. For years we would “bookend” our kids so as to avoid a cowboy boot to a stranger’s eye.

At one point in the performance Scott leaned over and said, “That looks like aquarium line dancing.” If I had’ve been drinking one of those fifty dollar Cokes you can only get at such events, I’d’ve for sure spit it onto the seat occupant in front of me. I am not entirely sure the limited gravity of water would even give way to line dancing, but I didn’t argue, I just laughed.

We watched the parade of stars, found ourselves talking amongst ourselves about the costumes and at times focused on the people around us more than the ice skaters below. Our nose-bIeed-section seats afforded us little in the way of seeing details below. As I was people watching, I noticed a couple of Daddies who had nodded off, a few other teenagers, who like my own knew every word to every song sung, despite informing me prior to the beginning of the show that they might be “too old for this.” I noticed Mamas with phones, kids with cotton candies and cell phone selfies galore.

ice-snow.jpgA few rows ahead I spotted a curly headed little girl. She was fun just to watch. It was clear to me that her favorite princess was on the ice as she began to jump up and down. She pulled her Mama’s shirt and pointed wildly at the princess-dress clad woman skating below. As her favorite princess would randomly wave to her adoring fans the curly headed girl began to shout with adoration. She waved wildly screaming, “Look here! See me!” When the Princess skater whizzed by without a personal acknowledgement the curly headed girl picked up her petitions. She held the dollar store glow sticks her mama had given her. She waved it so fast the pink and orange neon sticks looked like a blur.

I feel certain that the Princess never saw her Number One Most Adoring Fan, way up high in those seats, waving that literal Neon sign. In that moment, The King spoke. He reminded me that He is never far away from us. We don’t have to yell, “Look here! See Me!” to get His attention. We don’t have to wildly wave cheap glow sticks for him to focus on us. He is near and we need only say His Name.

As the show came to a close the “Greatest Treasure” was revealed, and it was indeed love. As we made our way out of our seats Scott Martin said over the hum of the people, “Love has a Name, and it’s Jesus.” He may not have been exactly right about the line dancing in an aquarium observation, but he got that one right for sure.

Love does have a Name and it is Jesus.

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“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

 

Springtime Buttercups

Aunt Sis, she has another name that sounds nothing like Sis but for reasons long lost to family lore she became Sissy some sixty plus years ago and the name stuck. I grew up knowing her as Aunt Sis.

People in my family tend to earn new names from their given ones. I am Mamie, Mame for short. Only the closest to me call me by that name. My niece Ellie Grace (She is called Eggie) calls me Mamie and while it is intended to be a two syllable word, she says it with such a Southern twang and drawl that it has more like eight syllables.

My Aunt Sis can spin a yarn like nobody I’ve ever known, I used to beg her to tell me stories when I was little. She could transport me to a time when the adults I knew were children. They were wild and free, romping about thickets of pine trees. Those conifers were so densely packed they left a carpet of pine straw on the ground year round, beneath the carpet was the richest and darkest dirt. One day the conifer carpet would compost down into more beautiful black dirt, thick with nutrients and soft as biscuit dough and excellent for mud pie makin’. Shoes were rarely worn, and storm weathered saplings would serve as pretend horses for pint size riders to gallop upon. There is a legend that as a baby my Mama was “thrown” from one of those hoses. In a rodeo type fashion Mama was placed atop just such a tree by her older sister, my Mama wasn’t a very good rodeo Bronco Buster because she promptly fell straight to the ground. Sis told me that story. I’d venture to say she told me that story multiple times to halt my incessant story requests.

She told me the story of Ol’ Mrs. H and her buttercups too. There is not a spring that goes by that I do not recollect that story and the adventure that followed it.

Mrs. H was an older woman in our small church growing up, in fact I hardly remember her, by the time I made any connection to her at all she had long since moved away from her sprawling estate. Her house was ginormous, or so it seemed, filled with mystique and legend it seemed to be bursting with old stories. It sat on the left of the Highway to Home but come the first of spring it wasn’t the house you noticed but the Buttercups that engulfed the grand old home. The rest of the world refers to them as daffodils but Sis called them Buttercups and so do I. I can still smell the sweet spring air, their aroma overpowering. As far as the eye could see all around that long abandoned antebellum home with its huge columns. A sea of yellow. Hundreds, maybe thousands of Buttercups lined up in perfectly straight and neat rows after row, as far as the eye could see. Bulbs planted decades before when the old house was alive and well.

Sis told about the old lady’s brother, having been born a little different, he struggled with the day-to-day, but he liked to plant and plant he did. Perfectly straight rows of chevrolet-362870_640buttercups, acres and acres of them. One spring Sis got permission from the Old Lady to have some of those buttercups. We set out on an Adventure of a lifetime. We got in “MIckey’s Bus.” Her husband drove a suburban before Suburbans were cool and she had aptly named it “Mickey’s Bus.” Its seats were covered in fabric that vaguely resembled those rag rugs that used to be popular. We drove the few miles over to the Highway and dug up several clusters of those Buttercups. We howled with laughter and giggled with glee as we went about the task of procuring those plants. Sis would tell us stories of the house and legends long since dead. We traversed the rows of Buttercups and unbeknownst to me at the time memories were born that day.

Memories that still make me smile, long after that grand ol’ house was replaced by huge metal warehouses in the name of progress, I’ve often wondered if the warehouse worker people know that they are standing on what was once that magnificent sea of yellow. There have been a few survivors from those original buttercups, I know where they reside. The Highway to Home split the estate and at the time a small section became a parcel or private property. Sis pointed them out me once some thirty years ago and and told me who the Planter would of been. I point them out to my children now, as the only reminder of that Sea of yellow planted a century or so ago, a remnant that remains unassumingly on the other side of the Highway to Home.

In the moments they are being made those memories rarely seem significant. I suspect that lovely cool day as we meandered down the road in an old white suburban, laden with sweet smelling flowers, shovels and picks, if you had told me that particular day would be one of my favorites and stand out in my memory and as a precious one at that, I likely would not have recognized it as such. Memories and stories that marked me and help to shape me into who I am.

I love to tell a story myself. I find myself on the other end of the incessant pleas for a story. I often tell my very own niece Eggie the stories of Rabboni. I told her the first Rabboni story as we sat on the beach many summers ago. I wrapped her in a towel and spoke just loud enough for her to hear. I waved my hand toward the water and its particularly rough waves that day and told her of His friends afraid on the sea. As the waves rolled in and the shadows grew long I told her how Rabboni walked on the rough and tumultuous sea, one very much like the one we were sitting beside. I told her how He enjoyed the company of fisherman; we giggled when we thought of how fishy his friends probably smelled. Most of all I tell her how He loves people. She loves to hear the stories of Rabboni and I love to tell stories of Him. Hebrews 12: 2 says that He is the author and perfecter of our faith. I am so thankful that He is writing my story beautifully and included sweet smelling Buttercups to serve as reminders of His faithfulness and Creativity.

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