Press In and Press On

I have a tendency not to remember.

I write to remember.

I write to empty myself.

I write because over the span of my lifetime I’ve learned writing is a good medium with which to express myself. In all honesty I do not feel that alone I am any good at it. I have come to realize and understand the words are a gift from the King. He gives the words, I just pen them, or type them actually. I am not even a good typist, but with time and practice I have become a better typist. I would say I am a 60 WPM gal, but I don’t peck at the keyboard like I once did.

For my birthday Scott Martin gave me a large print, extra-space-to-write-in-the-margins Bible.

I needed the large print so that I could make out the words even before my eyes were fully awake and functioning. She is a hefty thing. Larger print begets larger words which beget more pages filled. Despite her size I have grown accustomed to her clumsy nature. At present she is held together with a rubber band, her cover came off weeks ago. She is crammed full of stray papers, hand written notes, and an occasional candy wrapper turned bookmark. I tote her back and forth, she gets tossed around more than her fair share but she is truly a treasured possession. Despite all of her unique characteristics, it was her extra space to write in the margin which made her a perfect candidate to become mine. Scott Martin recognized in her something I needed, substantial note taking space. He knew I would appreciate that more-than-adequate note taking space to serve as a tool of remembrance, a place to jot down the things I did not want to forget.

Recently as I sat down to have my quiet time, I was seated at the kitchen table, Scott Martin was talking in the background and everyone else was still sleeping. (The early morning sun streams through my kitchen window and hits the table in such a way that I especially enjoy my quiet time when it is sunny out.)

That particular day, I was directed to read Psalm 5:1-3 and then I was supposed to answer a question about hopefulness and expectation in prayer.

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

As I looked in the space I noticed an imprint of my own handwriting, as I turned the pages I noticed it was present next to Psalm 8 and by the time I had gotten to Psalm 10 it timelapse-photography-of-falls-near-trees-707915was just beginning to be less noticeable. I flipped left until I found the original text next to Psalm 1. I had dated it, and written a note to myself about the home of William Faulkner. A friend of mine had been there for a visit recently and was telling me about the red cedars planted all about the grounds. Legend has it those cedars were thought to “cleanse the air and were planted to ward off a typhoid outbreak long ago.”

She read Psalm 1, with a focus on verse 3,

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.

I made note. I wanted to be like a tree, a cedar tall and straight, not withering beneath the foreboding conditions of this world. I wrote to remember.

The force with which I had written the original text and had pressed down so firmly, made its way onto the pages of the next 10 Psalms.
I laughed at what I had done.

My mantra these days is to “Press In and Press On!”

Press tight into the hem of King and Press On to the next thing.

The fact that I had pressed in so hard I’d marred the next 10 Psalms pages is not lost on me. I’d pressed down so hard with my pen, writing furiously in a time of desperation that the lasting impression was made and would not soon be forgotten.

bible-book-business-christian-272337.jpg

Candy Quarter

He came out of the door marked “Kitchen” wearing an apron and a t-shirt with some BBQ something like WGPM (world’s greatest pit master) or something about Smokin’ something.

The t-shirts always crack me up. I appreciate a funny t-shirt.

america-1293768_1280He made his was around to tables handing quarters to his youngest patrons. He would pause at the tables and ask how lunch was and if everything was alright. My eyes followed him around the room. He would pause at tables making small talk with the adults and passing out quarters to his youngest patrons. There were rambunctious little cowboy boot wearing girls and sneaker wearing boys. When he would hold up the quarters in their direction, their faces would shine with excitement as they gazed upon that silver circle held between his thumb and forefinger.

I mused on his small business owner cohort at the end of the road in the opposite direction. He does the same thing, hands out quarters to the children who frequent his establishment, and despite the obvious differences in that one is a restaurant and one is a tire store, the proprietors, at least in that regard are similar.

close-up-view-colorful-candy-chocolate-65547.jpgThe tire store quarters will yield a gum-ball. I learned that afternoon the restaurant quarter will yield a handful of slightly squashed m&ms or a handful of rainbow colored candies.

I watched as those children raced to the machine and were elated over a handful of candy. Their mamas attempting to coax them back to the table to finish their lunches. I noticed that many of them literally had nutrition on their plates, yet they readily abandoned it for the handful of crushed candies. A momentary sugar exchanged for real Sustenance.

I was reminded of the quote by C.S. Lewis.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I too, am like those tiny patrons, ignorant of what truly awaits me, satisfied with the temporary and non-beneficial ways of this world in exchange for the beautifully beneficial things of God.

candy-1124375_1280

Never Alone

monochrome-photo-of-man-sitting-on-ladder-3375230-e1576563104942.jpg

He sat alone.

I noticed him facing my direction. I am a bit of a people watcher, I take mental inventories and notice things. My eyes are constantly darting back and forth. I typically notice my fellow shifty-eyed, people-watching, cohorts.

I took notice of him as he was looking in my direction yet, he was not looking directly at me. He was alone and I felt a pang of sympathy and sorrow for him.

I wondered if it were just his lunch break at work or if he had met with some tragedy that had afforded him his lunch alone. For a brief moment the thought crossed my mind, given the choice, would I choose to enter a busy restaurant and dine alone. I decided I would have opted for my meal to be shoved into a paper bag and would have eaten it in my parked car.

I surveyed the crowded dining-area of the bustling fast-food restaurant that day. I made a mental note. In the following weeks of the Christmas shopping season places like this would be filled to capacity on any given day of the week, but today, there he sat all alone.

I made note. His food was delivered to him and he folded his hands in his lap, closed his eyes and bowed his head. I watched, occasionally his mouth moved and formed word fragments, all silent. I recognized immediately that he was praying. I felt intrusive and averted my gaze. I instinctively made an attempt at conversation with those with whom I was sharing my table. I made small talk, yet I could not keep myself from
glancing back and his head remained bowed. I don’t know for how long, but I made note he had a salad and was glad at least that portion of his meal wouldn’t be cold.

I have no idea what he was asking or saying. No idea what expressions of gratitude or reverence he expressed, but it mattered not. I was struck as I watched him eat his meal how wrong I’d been about him being alone. He wasn’t alone. Jesus Christ sat opposite him and in his quiet petitions I have never been more aware of the presence of my King for another as I was in that moment.

Tears welled up in my eyes, so much so that the Modern Day Bethany 3 thought I was having a moment with my sandwich.

The King’s Word promises he will never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) It also promises that where two or more are gathered, He is there. (Matthew 18:20) I then pondered His name Immanuel, literally God with us (Matthew 1:23) and I realized that fall afternoon that one of those two can be THE ONE, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, despite what appears to be one in the physical, when we have Christ we are never alone.

man-sitting-on-broken-vehicle-2131980-e1576562971800.jpg

All the Things For All the Reasons

I hadn’t seen my friend in a long while. Whenever we see each other she hugs me big. I am not a big “Hugger.” Some people are. Some people will throw their arms around another and squeeze. I’ve known some Huggers to even make a um-um sound as they give the Huggee the Hugger’s most valuable form of affection. Most people find it surprising that I am not a hugger. The conversation usually goes a bit like this:

Me: “ I am not really much of a hugger person.”
Hugger: “What? No! I’ve hugged you lots of times. I wouldn’t have guessed you weren’t a hugger.’
Me: “Usually I stiffen up, brace myself because I know you are a hugger. Have you never noticed that?”
Hugger: “Hmm, now that I think of it I have.”
Me: “The stiffening is usually a good indicator of a non-hugger.”

As my friend saw me coming down the work hallway, maybe she heard me talking because before I knew it she was coming at me full throttle. Her arms were in the ready position before I had time to lock my knees in preparation for the inevitable impact. She squeezed and even twisted a tad. She told me she sure was glad to see me and I told her I was sure glad to see her. She then explained she couldn’t visit long because the one for whom she had been caring “Has all the things.”

All the things. A quick survey and I saw that she was correct.

All the things, for all the reasons.

A this to manage a that. A one of those for some of it. A little thing for a small amount. A large one for substantial volumes. One of those objects for that particular purpose. That implement for that impetus.

All the things, for all the reasons.

I have pondered much on that as of late. All the things that is. I have found myself saying it often.

“I am going to the Big Box Store because I need all the things and they have all the things.”

“I am not able to do that because right now I have all of the things to take care of.”

“She isn’t feeling well. She has all of the things.”

I have found that I casually say “all the things” all the time.

market-259991_1280

I was pondering all the things when the King whispered, “But there is but One thing.”

I was transported back to one of my favorite stories. The one of Mary and Martha from Bethany. I have said many times I am the Mother of the Modern Day Bethany Three perhaps it is that kinship that keeps the Bethany Three in my mind in such a way I knew exactly to whom the King was referring.

The story goes a bit like this. Jesus and his dudes were welcomed into the home of Martha. Martha had a sister named Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him teach. Martha was distracted by all the things and said to Jesus, “Don’t you care that I am doing all the things for all the reasons and Mary is just sitting there doing none of the things?” To which Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42

The One Thing. Not all the things. Mary chose the One Thing. The One Thing, unlike the numerous unnamed all the things, has a name and it’s Jesus.

When we chose the One Thing, all the things are no longer as overwhelming. When we chose the One Thing, the King himself said, we are choosing the good portion that can not be taken away from us.

faith-2208916_1280

Tambourine

I like a weird store. The kind of store where you gotta fish around and you might find yourself a hair bonnet, half melted gourmet chocolate, a hundred number 2 pencils, and any number of random stationary items for a dollar or two.

I don’t mind to dig around to find the aforementioned items and my Modern Day Bethany Three are the same way. They love a bargain and they love a hunt. They love to bring home their found treasures and show them off to their Daddy. He shares in their excitement as they display each of the items and in detail explain how the item was found.

“Mama said I could look in that blue box and everybody else must’ve thought it was a pop-socket but I saw it wasn’t it was a Jewish thing…you know Mama loves a menorah and I got it for her and come to find out it’s a real live gold coin!”

happy-hanukkah-3791393_1280.pngIt was a Hanukkah gelt she had found. And it did have a resemblance to one of those stand-up sockets that go on cellphones. (Hanukkah gelt refers to money as well as chocolate coins given to Jewish children on the festival of Hanukkah.)

Recently we were at just such a store when Maggie picked up a bent and broken tambourine. She instinctively shook it and did so with a matching rhythm of the background music playing in the random and weird store. I gave her a sharp sideways glance. She laughed and said,

“I know Mama, no tambourines in our home.”

I laughed and said, “You got it Maggie.”

She laid the tambourine where she’d pick if from and we moved on in our hunt for bargains. A short time later as the background music changed in tempo and in genre I heard the tambourine once more in time with the music.

I instinctively looked for Maggie who was within feet of me. I turned in the direction of the tambourine and saw a petit framed woman holding it, tapping it on her leg. Her long skirt danced as her legs beneath it must have been. She had a smile on her face and joy in her heart for the brief moment as she played. I laughed again, and was reminded of a verse in the King’s book,

Psalm 149:3
Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

For a brief moment in the randomness of a random store with the help of a complete stranger the King’s Word came to life and illustrated a beautiful picture of what heavenly worship will look like all because of a bent, broken, haphazardly placed tambourine.

russia-1070160_1280.jpg

Rest Time

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1

“Well all’s I know is Mama’s gonna take some naps.”

I had asked what her day out of school plans were. We were on our way to meet her Mama and Daddy who had spent the weekend in Boston and were flying in. She’d talked to her Mama and knew she was “just exhausted.” Her mama is my sister and when my niece explained the next day’s plans would include a nap or two my response seemed perfectly reasonable.

“I love a nap.”

She said she sure did know that. I’m famous in our family for my ability to nap. Her Daddy once pointed to a ledge of a bookshelf, no more than 6 inches wide and said to whomever he was describing my napping skills prowess,

“You see that ledge right there? Amy Martin can climb up on that ledge and nap for 3 hours solid.”

It was an exaggeration of course, my sizable derrière would not have been supported by the shelf, but not that much of an exaggeration. I could indeed sleep a solid 3 hours.

I do love a nap and it is true, it takes very little in the way of accommodations for me to nap well.

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12

When I was in kindergarten decades and decades ago, I got 2 naps per day, the first in the morning under the teacher’s desk, and the second in the afternoon alongside my 5-year-old peers.

Naps serve to rejuvenate me and help me feel refreshed. Occasionally I’ll have the “wake up and have no idea what time, much less what day it is” nap, but that’s not an everyday occurrence. I also rarely nap in my bed. I don’t usually nap on the ledge of a shelf, but my best nap work is done on a sofa, in a recliner, or a hammock.

I rest well when I nap and once I am no longer post nap groggy I am more productive and can think so much more clearly.

adult-bank-bench-274845.jpgI know there are those who are in the anti-nap camp. Those who are unable to sleep the following night after a nap, or those who reserve naps for special occasions like Thanksgiving or limited only to Sunday afternoons.

My sister is not as good at napping as I am, despite our genetic makeup being the same. So I knew it was serious business when my niece declared her Mama would spend a good part of the next day napping.

I thought as we drove on to the meeting destination about how the King desires us to rest well. To bring our heavy burdens to him and there we will find rest. For myself, the act of rest must be intentional, just as intentional as my quiet time, or serving the King. Rest doesn’t necessarily mean a nap, and despite being skilled in the art of napping, I have to make myself rest. Rest doesn’t always equate nap but sometimes it does.

When I am depleted, I am ineffective and the enemy of my soul knows that. I must make concerted efforts to find rest, allow myself to be filled with the good things and to allow myself to find rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

relaxing-1979674_1280.jpg

 

Living Logos

Occasionally words will dart through my brain and I may not necessarily know the definition but it may seem to fit the occasion. This happens frequently and on one occasion I distinctly remember getting it wrong. The word was lucid. By definition I thought the word lucid meant unclear, confused, not quite coherent. By definition that is the precise antithesis (or opposite) of lucid.

alphabet-close-up-game-695571I have long had a love of words. Written ones, spoken ones, even my thoughts and imaginations are verbose. For most of my life words have meant something to me. I can distinctly remember being no more than 4 or 5 years old, sitting on the floor of the public library; I sat with my legs folded and a book larger than my lap opened in front of me. I sounded out words and read that book all by myself, cover to faded cover. I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment and the new world that opened before my very eyes. In those moments I had been transported to Paris, France, and the adventures of a tiny little girl. Those words had come alive and transported me to a different place.

When I was in the 4th grade I remember teacher would read aloud to us everyday after lunch. I loved those times everyday, I can still picture her seated in front of the chalkboard, her perfectly scripted cursive writing as her backdrop, chapter book in hand, and her soothing voice like a Mother’s lullaby singing over a newborn would read tales of adventure and fourth grade fun.

Words, they mean much to me and have served as a medium in which to express myself on the regular. Recently I encountered several words I had questions about that caused me to give pause, write them down, find their origins, and define them.

Words like accoutrements, antiquated, assiduously, bedlam, bon vivant, catchword, ruminate, and serendipitous.

The Greek word for “word” is Logos.

John 1 (ESV) says,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

And then verse 14…

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And the Logos, the Word was made flesh. Talk about words coming alive. The very same Word, or Logos that became flesh is the very same Word that is alive today. That very same Word possesses a greater power and is not just a dead text on a page. He is alive and active and He loves you and me without limits and deliberately.

The book of John begins with the Word and ends with word. The last Chapter of John is 21 and these verses speak volumes (pun completely intended.)

“This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:24-25)

love-699480_1280

 

Candy Basket

My Boss carried a basket of candy toward me. “You get one for doing a good deed.” She wanted me to know that I had earned a piece of candy. She encouraged me to take a piece of my choosing.

Meanwhile my coworkers wandered up and a few asked for a piece of candy too. She grinned, nodded, and said something about me taking two pieces then. I turned around to continue with my work and another coworker wandered up the hallway.

My Boss held out the candy basket toward her.

“Do you want a piece of candy?”

The coworker paused at the basket and moved her fingers over the candies.

“How much?” She said. My boss looked a tad puzzled and responded, “One.”

My coworker clearly meant something else, “No How much? Like how much does it cost?”

My Boss laughed, “Ooh nothing!! They’re free!”

Immediately I thought about that basket of candy was a representation of salvation. My coworker fully expected a dollar amount in relation to that candy but the candy wasn’t for sale. She couldn’t earn it, she couldn’t purchase it, she could only receive it and receive it she did.

Ephesians 2:8  (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

chocolates-3193666_1280

A Box of Faith

For we live by believing and not by seeing. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NLT

The irony of the conversation escaped me at the time. I made note of it; then later when I sat down to actually write it out, the irony was no longer lost to me. I giggled to myself when I thought back to the day the conversation had taken place. I had been at work and was taking any spare empty boxes and reserving them for myself. I had written a note and placed it on them in a corner.

“Please save for Amy Martin.”

My friend Faith with her thick Nigerian accent and last name that frequently befuddles the television announcer when he announces it during ball games, walked over to me and placed her hand on my shoulder. She was an Olympian, she married an Olympian, their offspring play sports with Olympic-like prowess. I adore her and I have often said she has taught me more in my adult life about Jesus than near anybody else. She is also the sole reason I have even a slight interest in SEC football.

“Amy Martin, why do you have all of these boxes?” She says my name in such a way that it sounds like “Am-Me Maw-tin.”

“I might be moving. I mean if nothing goes wrong, I might be moving.” She looked puzzled.

I clarified. “Faith, I sort of expect something bad to happen or something to go wrong. I know I should have more faith but…but well…I need a lotta faith.”

mustard-seeds

“I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.”

“Jesus say you only need a little. Like a mustard seed little.” She gently said back.

I had half braced myself for a Spiritual spanking on the hand, but Faith just patted my shoulder and said, “You’ve got the boxes and that’s a little bit of faith. You’ve got the boxes.”

With faith a paradox is created: not seeing is believing. I couldn’t see myself moving, couldn’t see myself in a new home, but I had just enough faith to gather the boxes. And then I had just enough to pack them. Those baby steps of faith turned into larger steps.

Sometimes I think I need to have it all, I felt that way about that move. I thought I needed all the faith from start to finish. But what I learned was that I just needed enough to take the next baby step. In trusting in the small, the King would help me to trust in the big.

Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen….By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.… Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:1, 3, 6 NASB

beautiful-beauty-blond-761999.jpg

Dance Undignified

When I walked outside to haul the trash to the dumpster the air itself felt a little strange. Normally there was never a shortage of humidity but this particular day the air was hot and dry.

“Arid.”

“Huh?” My Colaborer in the garbage taking out was next to me and asked me what I had evidently said out loud. I do that sometimes, I think something and say it out loud without even realizing it.

“Oh sorry, I was just thinking this must be what arid climates feel like. Hot, dry and with a little breeze.”

“Oh okay.” We carried on with our task, making our way to the dumpster and disposing of the day’s garbage. I didn’t give our conversation a second thought until I made it back outside sometime later when all was cleaned up and the day was drawing to a close. As we walked out of the door, the weather had changed and hot dry air and sunshine had given way to humidity and rain. It was sprinkling, not yet a downpour but the other Mamas and myself knew today’s good-bye would have to be short and sweet. As I thanked my friend for a gift she had given me and we hugged, I heard her shout, “Elijah David!” I turned just in time to see the 7 year old boy freeze at his mother’s use of his first and middle name. He had been running head long into a parking lot, albeit an black-and-white-black-and-white-dark-1530423.jpgempty one, still a parking lot. The rain too much a temptation for him to pass up. He began to twirl about, his arms wide, his Dinosaur lunch box flying through the air. He was laughing and saying, “I love the rain!”

He continued to spin, and literally broke out into song,

“Rain is the heart of my life!”

I laughed and his Mama headed in his direction. She gently redirected his wayward parking lot wander, and long after I had turned to walk in the other direction, I could still hear him singing

“Rain is the heart of my life!”

Looking back I could see him spinning around with that dinosaur lunch box.

I laughed, a big hearty belly laugh. Immediately I thought of another David; one who declared in his state of worship that he would be undignified for the Lord. Much like little Elijah David, who was so passionate about the rain, King David was so passionately enthralled with the Lord that he found himself caring less and less what others thought and only of his audience of One.

bonding-child-cute-2701585.jpg