The Reems family was going through some difficult times. Martha Reems had be a clerk in the Ladies' Intimates Department at Barrgon Department Store, for ten years. Two years ago, she was promoted o manager. Three months, she received a notice that she, and others were being laid off because the store was closing. Steward Reems, Martha's husband fared no better. The housing market wasn't doing well at all. People were losing their jobs, followed by their homes, at a high rate of speed. Eventually, the realty company that Steward worked for filed bankruptcy, and closed. After three weeks of unemployment, Martha managed to ge a few odd jobs. She and their children delivered newspapers and phone books. She also worked part time as a bagger at a grocery store. There was not enough money for the family to live the way they had in the past, but whenever Martha's (and the children's) spirits were low, they reminded each other that God has a plan.
Martha usually dressed quickly so that she could make her deliveries without waking anyone. Hearing a noise in the kitchen, one morning, she was surprised to see twelve year old Marta, dressed and cooking breakfast, a big toothy grin spread across her coffee colored face. Fifteen year old Stan stood at the kitchen door, combing his short afro, grinning as he said,
"We decided to give you a break, Mom."
Martha laughed and hugged both of them.
Steward, on the other hand, was very depressed. How would they live? How would they pay the bills? Martha tried to help.
"Stewie," she said, "Why don't you get a paper route, or do odd jobs? You and Stan could work together."
"Yeah, Dad," Stan smiled at the idea of he and his father working together. "We could deliver papers and pass out tracts for the church."
Stan loved spreading the word of God and he had plenty of tracts to spread. Steward was barely paying attention.
"I prayed, and fasted, and did what God told me to do," he lamented, "I'm too old to deliver papers and I've got too much education to be a grocery bagger."
Marta remembered what her father once said about faith.
"Remember, Dad, Matthew 17:20...With faith, you can move mountains. We know everything will be alright."
Steward's response was to go out for a walk. He knew God would cause him to find another job, one paying a lot of money, but when? Surely, God didn't want him to take a menial job like delivering papers or phone books. Those jobs were beneath him.
The week before Easter, the neighborhood church started revival services. Martha and the children were excited; Steward just didnt feel up to going. Martha tried reading to him from thje Bible (Jas 2:14-18 which says, in short),
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?" (NIV)
But Steward angrily slapped the book from her hand, and yelled.
"Stop preaching at me! I'll go to church, if it will make you be quiet!"
That Sunday morning, the sun spread warm rays everywhere. The birds were singing in the trees, and even the butterflies fluttered greetings to one another as they went from flower to flower. There was peace and joy among the whole congregation accept for Steward. The choir sang two songs about faith, even the minister's sermon began with, "You must not lose faith in God. Remember, when one door closes, another one opens leading to a better place. Don't let ride cause you to miss out."
There was more, but Steward had heard enough.
"I'll be waiting by the cared," he told Martha. Stan stood up, too.
"I'll wait with you, Dad," he said.
His father held his hand,
"No, I'm gonna' have a smoke."
Stan nodded and sat back down, disappointment shown on his face. Once he was outside, Steward could hear the choir singing, calling for people to come to the altar and give their hearts to Jesus. The family car was parked half a block away, yet Steward could still hear the music.
"Come to Jesus," the choir sang, sounding as though they were singing directly to Steward.
"Come to work is what they should be singing," said a deep voice.
A tall, thin, angry man with thin gray hair, stormed past Reems, muttering,
"If the lazy fools would work the way they go to church, the economy would be better and I'd have more money."
Except for his dark red dress shirt, his whole outfit including the tie was black.
As the man marched out of sight, Reems saw another man, fat, drunk, wearing dirty overalls, and no shirt. He sat on the curb, drinking out of a small bottle, and scratching himself. He grinned at Steward, showing that he had four missing front teeth and the few that were left were yellow and rotten. His speech was slurred as he said,
"All some folks think about is money, urrrp, 'scuse me."
He laughed and coughed. After taking another swallow from his bottle, he was just about to ask Reems for a dollar, when Steward turned and quickly made his way back toward the church.
Meanwhile, Marta and Stan were trying to convince their mother to accompany them to the altar.
"C'mon, Ma," pleaded Marta, "let the minister pray for you."
"Yeah, Ma," joined in Stan, "I have a feeling you should come, now!"
Marta stood still, "I'm waiting for your father," she said, "I want us to go together."
What she didn't say was that the sight of people crying, jumping around, and hugging each other was making her feel a little afraid, even though the children would be with her. Steward was sensible. He could stand at the altar and boldly give himself to God without all the screaming and jumping around. All that stuff was beneath them.
Meanwhile, as Steward approached the doors of the church, there was a stranger holding the door open for him. At first glance, Steward was sure he'd seen the man before, but couldn't remember where. The stranger had piercing dark brown eyes that showed reassurance, and a warm smile. As he gave Steward a powerful yet friendly hug, Steward noticed that the man had a wonderful smell of fresh air after a spring rain. This was unusual, since most of the men smelled like cheap after-shave lotion, even Steward (although he didn't know it). There was something so comforting about that hug that it brought tears to Steward's eyes. Hurrying toward the altar, he almost didn't hear the squeals and laughter coming from his children as they joined him. It was while standing with his children and others, that Steward, looking up at the picture hanging over the altar, recognized the man who greeted him at the door. He was the same person on the picture, with open arms, piercing brown eyes, and dark olive skin. Under the picture were these words from Matthew 11:28,
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," (NIV).
Crying and sinking to his knees, Steward realized that it was Jesus himself at the door of the church.
Still standing at her place in the pew, was Martha. She couldn't believe her eyes; there was her steadfastly reserved husband, crying and blubbering at the altar like a baby. All that just wasn't necessary. She said to herself that one of them would have to be calm and sensible, and it looked like she would have to be the one.
Looking around, she saw a few of the other church members at their seats, shaking their heads (some were even laughing as people danced and jumped around while the minister and deacons lay hands on them. Once again the minister called out in his loud booming voice,
"Come now, before it's too late. I want all heads bowed and eyes closed for prayer!"
Martha chose this as a good time to go to the ladies room. Although the air conditioner blew cool air all over the sanctuary, she was hot. She felt over-crowded and needed breathing room. Even in the ladies' room, she could hear the sounds of prayer and people speaking in tongues. Seating herself on the comfortable couch, Martha closed her eyes.
"I'll just chill out in here for a few minutes," she thought.
Soon she was asleep, but not for long. From the sanctuary came long, loud terror filled screams. Jumping straight up from the couch, Martha tripped and fell over her black pointed-toe heels, and fell flat on her rump (splat). Grabbing her shoes, she hurried toward the sanctuary to find five or six hysterical people shuffling about the church. Strewn around the pews and floors were clothes, shoes, coats, etc.
"Where's everyone, Stewie, Marta, Stan," she called, "where are you? Where did you go?"
One of the ladies, Judy, shook her head nervously:
Her husband George said, "We bowed our heads and closed our eyes during prayer then everything went quiet. When we opened our eyes, this was what we saw. Even the minister disappeared."
There was another scream at the church door as a woman ran up to George.
"Look outside," she screamed.
Running toward the door, they saw cars stopped in the middle of the street, clothes all over the sidewalks, even bicycles, tricycles, and skates on the street, riderless. Martha felt a scream well up and escape her lips just before everything went dark and she fainted.
She opened her eyes and saw a matronly woman standing over her, a pleasant smile spread across her face.
"It's alright, my dear," she said soothingly to Martha, "No one has left you; we're all waiting for you."
Martha smiled and whispered, "Thank you," before closing her eyes.
Suddenly, she heard someone far away call her name,
"Martha, Martha, don't leave us, Martha."
The voice was closer now. She opened her eyes, and saw Judy standing over her as she lay on the pew.
"No wonder you fainted," she was saying, "with these people screaming and jumping around."
Martha slowly stood up. Looking toward the altar, she saw her husband and children beckon her to join them. Then she noticed one of the pictures of Jesus, standing with his mother Mary. Was she dreaming or did Mary suddenly look at her and smile? The face was that of the woman who stood over her and smiled in her dream. Deciding that joy in Christ was worth more than being alone and sensible, Martha joined her family at the altar, giving her heart and soul to Christ.