Unconventional Passover Practices

At Sundown on Passover if the weather is stable enough for the Patriarch to participate the Martin 5 will be celebrating. I want the Martin 3 to grow into adulthood understanding clearly the foreshadowing of Who was to come. 

It’s always a little weird and a ton of awkward, but it paints a clearer picture. I’m figuring out when you walk closely with the King there is often a little weird and substantial amounts of awkwardness. 

On Passover at sundown we step outside under the big full moon and we will blow the family shofar. Then we partake in an abbreviated sedar meal, we will read through our coffee company complimentary copy of our Haggadah and hang a red ribbon over the door frame of our home.

The Martin 3 will find the hidden afikomen that has the middle matzah that has been broken and hidden away and the finder will win a prize. It’s usually chocolate in nature.

It’s not the typical Jewish way of doing it, nor is it the norm, but it’s our way of connecting that Scarlet Thread that runs throughout the King’s Book. The old and the new. 

A couple of years ago as I made preparations for the meal I had asked Charlotte to remind me of a particular Hebrew word, she had the Google translate at her disposal and I knew she’d be able to correctly interpret. 

As I handed her the object with the Hebrew word, I said, “I think it just says Passover.” The Word Passover always looks to me like GOD written in backward (or frontwards if you’re a legit Hebrew scholar) in English. 

In a matter of moments she confirmed my suspicion and handed it back to me to continue with my preparations. 

The evening meandered on and just before bed, in her typical way she came to see me, tell me goodnight, snuggle a bit, and she handed me a drawing she had been working on since her impromptu interpretation session. It simply said “Passover” in Hebrew and she had added some floral accents.

She smiled as she handed it to me, pleased with her work and with pleasing me. Beauty at its best. A pureness of heart, a gift given with nothing expected in return, a beautiful and accurate depiction of what my King prepared to do this very week so long ago. 

A Chag Pesach Sameach indeed!!!

Easter Emotions

If I’d’ve been one of those gals at the cross with Baby Boy Beloved John I’d’ve been ticked! 

I’m talking so mad you can’t say anything except, “I’m too mad to talk to you right now so you best get outta my face” mad. 

That Mama kind of mad that I doubt Daddies can fully understand, the kind of mad that you’d kill for your kid and lose sight of everything in the periphery kind of mad. The kind of mad that can only come from believing one set of circumstances and expectations only for those to be shot to heck-n-back and the reality is almost unbelievable except there you are smack dab in the middle of them. 

Some of y’all have no idea what that’s like, for that I am grateful.  I do know that kind of mad and I can tell you some days even decades later I still ain’t all the way finished getting mad over some things. It’ll just hit me and all the sudden I’m ready to slash tires or walk on coals or some other nonsense in order to make sense of those unexpected, blinding circumstances and experiences. 

I know that mad and I get why those gals got up so early that Sunday morning, just as the sun was coming over the horizon, chill in the air, ragged from crying for three days. I get why they made their way to that tomb to finish the burial job the men had started before Passover. 

Their beloved Boy was gone. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. How was this the magnificent plan?

I imagine on the way they rehearsed what they would say to the posted guards and if I’d’ve been there I can guarantee you I’d’ve been a little bit ghetto and prolly said something along the lines of, “ I dare those sons-a-bananas to forbid me…” any number of made up angry imaginary arguments. All’s I know is I’d’ve been wagging my tongue and still tryna make sense of what had taken place on that cross outside the hill. I’d’ve been angry that I’d’ve had to observe Passover despite my hurt of losing my Boy.

I said that out loud as I drove home with Shelton and Charlotte last night. I said out loud the part about being so angry. They both looked around trying to discern who actually had ticked me off. I explained and their answers to me  fit their Bethany 3 personalities perfectly. 

Charlotte  said, “Mama it had to be done, it was an act of love.” She’s a Mary.

She is right of course I know that, but did they? Did those gals know? 

Shel said, “That’s a stage of grief. Anger. You’d just be grieving over death.” He is a Lazarus. 

But that Sunday morning those stages of grief would’ve come to a screeching halt for on that Sunday morning the King conquered death by death!

He is no longer dead, He is alive and ain’t no need to be angry anymore.

Borrowed Tools and Tombs

“Why you gonna buy a tomb when you can just borrow one?” 

He, like most Alabamians, pronounced borrow, “bar-ee.” 

He was speaking of the King’s tomb, the beautiful limestone one belonging to Joseph of Aramethia. It was brand new and had never been used. Joseph had prepared his final resting place, but on that dark day Jesus was the dead man in need of it. 

The Preacher Man had acknowledged that the tomb hadn’t been intended for the One who was going to be using it. He communicated that the tomb was to be used by Jesus.  He noted that sometimes it’s better to borrow something than to outright buy it. 

The Preacher Man used to be in the plumbing business and every now and again his old trade makes its way into his sermons. 

“Some-a y’all are that way about tools. You’d rather bar-ee ‘em then buy ‘em.” 

He chuckled  and I got tickled. I knew just what he was implying, some folks borrow things and they don’t return them. Sometimes some folks, well-intentioned or not, borrow things and just fail to give them back.

 Truth is, I am notorious for it. 

I’ll have really good intentions when I borrow stuff but the truth is I’m forgetful and I mislay things or I put it in a place so I won’t forget and I inevitably forget where that place is. Just a week or so ago I borrowed a book from a friend and had she not texted asking for it, it would have likely made its way into my collection. I will often find things months after I’ve intended to return them and by that time I am embarrassed to admit I have had the item for so long. Case in point, I presently have a Dolla-Store storage container awaiting return to its owner. It came to me filled with a half-dozen of the world’s best peanut butter cookies made by my friend Erica. It’s been sitting in the same spot in my laundry room for about six months. 

As the Preacher Man made the statement about the borrowed tools and the borrowed tomb my imagination took me to the place in the garden that dusky evening, His lifeless body removed from the cross needing a final resting place.

I imagined Joseph and Nicodemus making their way to what would be a borrowed tomb. I wondered if Joseph knew that the tomb would only be needed for a couple of days. I imagined Nicodemus carrying the excessive amount of burial spices he’d brought over his shoulder like some men carry animal feed or dog food. 

That night wasn’t Nicodemus’ first night encounter with Jesus. I wonder if he even gave it much thought as they prepared Jesus’ body for burial, or if it was one of those things he thought about with the hindsight of processing such major events. 

Jesus didn’t take much from this life, from the world, instead He gave and He gave. 

He gave love when He was handed hate. He gave forgiveness when faced with the unforgivable. He gave Grace in the face of adversity. He gives forgiveness when it is undeserved, and on that Sunday morning some two thousand years ago He gave back that borrowed tomb as He was raised from the dead and He didn’t need it anymore. 

It Wasn’t That Big of a Deal

“By love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

It’s been 22 years since it happened and to be honest I really have very little recollection of it, yet every single time since that moment, that one act, I am reminded by the recipient. 

“You cleaned my house for me.”

I woke up to the TV news playing, it was that early in the morning news and while it was the beginning of a hot August day, I was still groggy when I heard what I thought was a dream. A loved one had died, I was still in the in between when the news registered in my groggy brain. I clarified. What? How? He was perfectly healthy a week ago wasn’t he? My Mama said she didn’t know details but did suggest we head over to the deceased man’s home. His wife was there, mama had just gotten off the phone with her and while she’d said she didn’t need anything, my Mama knew better.

We arrived and the house was still and quiet. The grass was overgrown, her husband was going to cut it the following weekend, he would’ve done it the previous one but he had chosen to do something else instead. His choice had made for a memory, Good choice! I thought at the time. The house was an old house, the century-old kind with a big broad front porch and two porch swings. The screen door seemed as tall and as wide as the downtown buildings you could see from it. They had no central air conditioning as the house was literally over a hundred years old and hadn’t been retrofitted. All the windows were open and cross-ventilation was the method of cooling, although on a sweltering humid Alabama August day, cross-ventilation is hardly recognizable. A single fan stirred the air and the house was slightly in disarray.

They, like many people, lived in their house, so clothes were strewn about, dishes from the night before piled high, papers and such laying about. It wasn’t a dirty house but given the fact that it would soon be filled with people it could use some attention. My sister and I got right to work. We straightened and cleaned, wiped the visible dust away, swept and cleaned the original hardwood floors that were worn smooth and dipped where hundreds of thousands of feet had trod. We cleaned toilets and changed out towels, washed dishes and stacked up papers neatly and placed them in a basket. We took out trash and my husband mowed the grass. We finished everything is an hour’s time or so and then moved on to whatever task was needed next. Mama directed us, she comforted her friend and would tell us what what was needed, “They’re going to need some paper products, for when people come. Amy, you run down to the store and get those. While you’re out, run by the post office.” I was handed a letter to mail.

The things we did that August morning, before the hustle and bustle that comes when a dearly loved one passes weren’t really a big deal, not to us anyway. I never even gave it a second thought really until later, when the calm began to set in after her husband had been laid to rest and the real grieving began. 

“You cleaned my house for me. Thank you.”

Those were her words to me. What she had remembered, what had mattered. 

It had been no deal to me. I hadn’t over extended myself. It hadn’t cost me a dime. I’d only done what needed doing in the moment, yet that small act had meant so very much to her. 

She still reminds me of that when I see her, she’s long since moved away from the grand old house in the city. She’s moved on in life and in love, yet that 22 year old act of kindness she still remembers. I can hardly recall it, and it certainly doesn’t even cross my mind when I think of her or her late husband but that is what she remembers in those first days of grief.

As I’ve traversed life I’ve come to realize oftentimes it’s the not big things that are most impactful. Those moments when we are unaware of their significance that turn out to be a really big deal. 


The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

Tuba-Twelve

The Preacher Man used to be a Plumber before he entered into ministry. 

He still is a plumber some days, I believe, on an as-needed basis. I have seen him carry a plunger and tote a wrench before. Perhaps it was his lay trade history that makes it so he says things that get me tickled and make me take another look at things that are familiar. 

I have never been in construction but I have on a number of times traversed the aisles of the Home Improvement Store. The smell of lumber draws me in like freshly baked bread does some other folks. It ushers in reminiscing and memories. When I was little, some of my people were into carpentry. My play was sprinkled with wood scraps and sawdust like some kids’ play is peppered with play-doh and glitter.   

Perhaps it is that which has laid a foundation of familiarity when The Plumber-turned-preacher goes back to his roots. This might have been the case when he preached on Matthew Chapter 7, verse 3; it is a verse about the plank in one’s own eye whilst pointing out the splinter in someone else’s eye. The King was speaking metaphorically at the time, and to be honest I have known this story for a lot of years. The thought of a piece of wood in my eye seems uncomfortable, but that is where the lesson mostly ended for me. I had missed the point of the story entirely. Maybe the preacher knew that so he drew from construction days as he began to break it down for his congregants, yours truly included. 

He likened the log in the eye to a piece of lumber, specifically a two-by-twelve, two inches wide and twelve foot long. He is deeply southern and pronounced two-by-twelve all together making it sound like “tuba-twelve.” 

A two-by-twelve is long and thin so it bounces and bends easily as it is ill-supported, and isn’t easily maneuverable. A two-by-twelve is an awkward piece of lumber. The mental picture began to form in my mind. 

Imagine trying to walk around stabilizing that plank of wood, managing to go through life with that tree hanging off your face. The metaphor had become clearer. Imagine that nonsense when you are concerned with a speck in someone else’s eye. As the Preacher man spoke, his description of the “tuba-twelve” made me realize that until that moment I had completely missed the purpose of the parable. As he preached, he challenged us all to be aware of our own plank of wood, and now I remind myself to be ever cognizant of my tuba-twelve while being careful not to point out other folk’s stuff. 

Make ‘Em A Meal

Several weeks ago I took sick. I’d gone to bed normally and woke up in the dark-thirty hours of the morning with an appendix gone bad. The bad appendix earned itself a not so endearing name and it made me sick as could be. I was amazed that something so small and insignificant could take something so strong and big down in a matter of hours. One of the side effects of the sickness was that unbeknownst to me it would lock my words away. They were held captive in some unknown place. My words were few and far between, my verbal communication was grunts mostly, and the written communication was nonexistent. The words had vanished overnight and I found myself distraught for more reasons than just an infected abdomen. A week post-op I found myself still silent, waiting for the words to return, my friends recognized my paralysis pertaining to life as usual and quickly developed a rotating meal schedule. Had it not been for this meal provision the Martins would have had to solely rely on subpar takeout and instant noodles. 

It was on the night of the final “meal night” that I received an unexpected gift.

But first some history. Many years ago prior to Wednesday night service at the church house an optional meal was provided. The gentleman who spearheaded a team of volunteers who cooked and prepared meals for the masses of GFBC was named Freddie. He was a genuinely good man and he loved people through food. The meals were never fancy but they were delicious and for the weary mama I was with three babies under five they were a midweek reprieve. Our weekly routine revolved around those midweek meals. Countless times I crammed tiny frames into high chairs or sat with my foot on an adjacent chrome and plastic chair to inhibit its tipping out of its clumsy occupant. I scrubbed faces and hands prior to Awanas and Veggie Tales, and I fought sleep many a Wednesday night while the preacher man spoke. Eventually the Wednesday night meals would cease, time would march on, and that sweet man would enter Heaven leaving behind his precious widow. 

Present day,  There is not a week now that I do not move those same chairs, long since transported to new classrooms and and silent observers of ministry. But there isn’t a time that I don’t wonder if at what time in my history I possibly encountered them. I often wonder if those chairs were a talking record keeper if they would stop me and say, …

“Do you remember the time you sat in me and ate that Wednesday meal and cried because you were so very tired?” Or “Remember back then how much you stressed over such simple and small things? Things not of eternity and so inconsequential that you don’t even remember them now?” Or “Hey you see that dried bit of ketchup on my underside? That was placed there by your screaming toddler whose inability to effectively communicate rendered him screaming, ketchup covered and frustrated? Yet now, he communicates clearly and while he is still sometimes ketchup covered at meal times, he is a reminder that God is a promise keeper.” 

That sweet widow of Freddie is my friend Neanie and she was the caboose of that meal train, post appendix. 

As we opened our dinner she had sent our way, complete with not one but two desserts because if you know you know! Freddie and Neanie cake is manna from Heaven and Neanie’s banana pudding is absolutely amazing! As I opened and plated that meal I immediately was transported backwards in time as I recollected those Wednesday night meals and I thought to myself, “The spirit of Freddie lives on!” Simply put it was a reminder to love them with food. I ate that dinner and tears filled my eyes because in that remembering and reminiscing a story was born and the words were suddenly unlocked and made their way to the surface and the healing and wholeness began to take shape. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought how a simple act, the provision of dinner did more that day than just provide supper, it was a tangible act of love and mercy and provision in more ways than just the obvious. It was a tool of remembering much like that meal with the King prior to His crucifixion. I felt sure much like He said, “Do this in remembrance of me” the King was glorified by that sacrificial act of love between His people and the reminder to do more things like make ‘em a meal in remembrance of Him and His sacrificial love.

Almost Missed It

I Almost missed it. I was too worried about myself to even be aware of him. Too busy being about my own business. 

I hardly noticed him sitting across from me, elderly, past retirement age, Bible open in his lap, head bowed in thought and prayer. 

I was looking at my phone pouring over a Google search. His Bible was worn and used marked and highlighted. It fit snugly into a Bible cover. He would turn the pages with a gentleness and ease that I watched intently. I am a page flipper, no grace, no careful touch, just a ferocity and clumsiness that tends to be my nature. My Bible reflects such a nature.

This man though took such care with his most treasured possession, a pang of conviction came over me. He wore no expression of shame and he did not dare attempt to hide his Word. I noted as he read he was towards the back. I assumed a letter from Paul and I fought the urge to ask him what he was reading, what nuggets of truth he was finding in those soft pages. Moments before, I was too worried about myself to even be aware of him and as I sat now enamored and intrigued, I realized for the second day in a row, I’d almost missed something, someone rather, because I was consumed with myself and my own circumstances.

The day before I was frustrated, my day began with a broken pipe that led to a broken ceiling and a broken wall. I am no contractor but I knew it meant trouble. Expensive trouble. As I exited the interstate I was grumbling about the cost of such things and how I was heading into work after crying all morning and I didn’t really want to go but no I had no choice and if God could’ve just not let this happen that would’ve been great and also could that car in front of me just GO!!! 

I was angry and I was so consumed with myself that I almost missed it.

A person sitting on the ground, head down, knees pulled in, arms around them one frail hand raised, but just barely, holding one of those foam trays, meat comes on and written in neat all caps black letters, the word “Hungry.” The sign one of desperation, the posture, one of shame. 

As I sat across from the unashamed Bible reader I realized that I had almost missed them both, the ashamed destitute least of these, and the unashamed Bible reader because I was looking down instead of up.

I had been so focused on me and my stuff that I failed to look around and see the world around me. 

Another pang of conviction and I began to pray. A prayer of repentance and petitioning, I asked for eyes to see others as the King does and to see  less of me and my circumstances.

I looked up after my silent amen just as The Bible reader began to doze.

I’ve done it myself many times, my intention to spend time with my Lord but fatigue takes over and my head once bowed in Prayer now is bowed in slumber. I used to feel bad about that, used to be upset that like the King’s friends, couldn’t I just stay awake and pray, until one day a friend of mine told me she felt sure that the Father would much rather me climb up in His lap and fall asleep than to have never met with him at all. 

Born Hope

We have a radio at work that we turn on sometimes. Mostly it is background noise and there are times I hardly notice it playing. It has been present over the years and like myself, over time it has shown its age. It lacks an antenna. Its dual tape deck has long been defunct, and the number of stations that can come in clearly have been reduced dramatically. When I was younger and friskier, firmer and less arthralgic it played the latest hits of the time, top forties and stuff you can dance to, but it’s music selection has never been at my discretion.

I am not the boss of the work radio, or the work thermostat for that matter. I have rarely if ever touched  either. 

At Christmas the dial is always tuned into the Christmas radio station channel – the radio, not the thermostat, although those forever freezing coworkers may disagree with a Christmas themed thermostat setting. 

The station is one that plays Christmas tunes 24/7 in the time leading up to Christmas. Sometimes the songs have a tendency to repeat. 

One year a coworker and I played a game revolving around the aforementioned repetitious songs. Every time a particular song made it into the rotation we would agree to nap. It was a joke, obviously. We were not napping on the job. However, to this day when I hear that one song I always find myself asking whomever is near if they’re up for a nap. 

Recently the radio music has begun to give way to static more than melody. On the busy work days it is less obvious that the ol’ faithful radio looks like an awkward dinosaur sitting on the desktop. I have said before I am not a music person, music does not always speak to me, not like it does some people, but as I have aged I have noticed that perhaps I pay attention just a bit more, the words more valuable than they once were. They mean something to me now. Where they once just occupied space in my mind, now the words inhabit my thoughts. As “Silent Night” was sung from the speakers, between static crackles the words of “Christ the Savior is born” and “Jesus, Lord at thy birth” swirled in my mind, and I began to wander and managed to meander down lanes of history and what I know. 

I like a good backstory and “Silent Night” has one. Silent Night, is the most popular Christmas song in the world. In 1816 Joseph Mohr penned the words in a poem as he nursed a case of tuberculosis and cared for his parishioners in snow laden land. It was a time known as the dark years that were notoriously made cold because of a volcanic eruption.

Two years later His friend Hans Grueber developed the iconic tune for the guitar, because rumor has it the church rats had eaten through the pipe organ rendering it useless to play that Christmas Eve Service when it made its debut. I have often wondered if those trials and difficult circumstances had not played out as they had, would we even know the beauty of “Silent Night.” 

In those days, famine and disease were prevalent, and hopelessness pervaded the mind and assaulted the senses. The two men were nearly lost to history as “Silent Night” made its way to world renowned recognition. Yet because of their perseverance in difficult times “Silent Night” became what it is today, a song of universal recognition, connecting hearts together just as it did the Christmas Day Armistice of World War I ushering in peace in the midst of literal war.

When I hear “Silent Night,” I am reminded of those two patient-in-affliction fellows and what the result of that suffering and hardship became, and I am inspired to press on in times of trouble. And then I reflect on My King, born Lord at birth, born with a destiny to die for all mankind. Born babe, born humble, born Love, born Hope. 

Signage

Do you ever see something and think “There’s a story there.”

I thought just that when I looked up and saw the sign stuck on the ice machine of the hospital waiting area. The permanency of the sign made me do the double take. I was in a bit of a hurry and I tend to go through life sometimes oblivious of my surroundings especially when I don’t think things pertain to me. It was in that second glance I saw the sign and actually read the words.

“Don’t put hot chocolate in the ice machine.” 

Wait. 

What?

I looked around, there seemed no abundance of hot chocolate, not even a little bit of hot chocolate which would have been nice and comforting on the chilly morning in the hospital waiting area. I scanned again, looked the ice machine over and tried to figure out how this scenario had even come to be and more importantly how it had made a mark so indelible it required a sign, a permanent sign stating not to do it. 

In my overactive imagination I imagined a toddler slinging packets of chocolate powder to and fro, a brown haze softening edges, dusting flat surfaces, a world of sepia tones making the toddler look like a mini rock star walking through a fog machine. 

Perhaps someone had pulled a step ladder up to the top of the ice machine climbed upward and dumped hot chocolate into the ice holding area. For months every dosing of ice was chocolate flavored. That particular ice machine makes the “good ice.” Ice connoisseurs know exactly what that means, those tiny flakes or pellets that make for good snacking, how could that be a negative I wondered. I thought a bit more, copious amounts of frozen brown pellets… never mind I get it. 

I was still pondering on it when I decided I wasn’t going to be able to figure this one out, I’d have to ask someone or do some research to determine exactly what the story behind the sign was. 

Sometimes our walk with the King is like that sign. Indelible moments that mark us, mark periods of time and circumstances, markings of permanence, leaving a story in their wake. Sometimes we can try and figure out those things, try and understand why something like this would have happened, how this, the  unexplainable could be. Sometimes we want to make sense of a situation, find a way to justify all the hurt, brokenness, disillusionment and the reality is, we can’t.

There are some things this side of Heaven we are never going to be able to understand, to reconcile or to figure out.

We can however choose to trust that God is good. He is good on the good days and on the bad ones. God is in control and He can be trusted to use all the things, the ones we understand and the ones we do not, for our good, and for  His glory.

We can do so knowing that He is writing a beautiful story of us. Maybe, one day,  others will look at your walk, my walk with Him and the testimony of what He’s done and think, “There’s a story there.”

Welcome Home

Several years ago we took our children to Disney World. It was amazing. We made memories that we still hold dear and close, and we still proudly display family photos from that trip. We met some friends there in a once in a lifetime encounter and circumstance.

Even still as a family we play the “Disney” game I made up at the dinner table. It’s an imagination game. Each member is asked the same question, “If you were at Disney where would you be, what would you ride, and what would you eat?”

Some of our players’ answers change each game; some you can predict, as the answers are all always the same. 

I think of that trip often and apart from a few sour notes those days are full of good times and happy thoughts. 

One such thought comes to mind when I think of our return to our lodging after our long fun filled days. We would ride on a bumpy bus, rocking tired children to sleep on a nearby adult lap. Those rides back were always so much quieter than the excited chatter-filled bus rides in the early morning to the park. As we would pull into the drop off destination the bus driver would flip on the automatic voice which had spoken through speakers all day warning to keep loose extremities inside the vehicles until they came to a complete stop or to stand clear of the closing doors. Throughout the day the voice reminded us to pick up packages or fasten safety devices.

At the end of those fun-filled, memory-making days, the voice would say something about I don’t remember what, and then it would say something about waiting until things came to a complete stop or letting certain individuals disembark, and then it would say, “Welcome home.” 

Some word phrases just resonate with me, “Welcome Home” is one of those.

I recently received a piece of mail inviting me to a church body and it grabbed my attention because on the front it said, “Welcome Home.” I used to think when I entered Heaven I would like to hear what most folks say they want to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But the older I get and the more I long for Heaven, the longer I feel like a stranger in this land, growing evermore and more cognizant that this world is not my home. 

I long to hear the King say to me, 

“Welcome Home.”