Dear Samuel, Silas and Liam. This is a story that pays tribute to my parents and about turning lament into hope! This is a letter you guys will likely read as adults if this website still exists or perhaps a paper print is made of this story for the future. This is also written to praise God for the Zen experience that was directed by your uncle Gregg (my only sibling). I have written other stories about adventures in the great outdoors with hims. But, this is a different story about his leadership and friend.
The story began in June of 1985 at Bennett Springs State Park. The park is a beautiful place in Missouri where the Niangua River flows through an old stone bridge. It was on the bridge where I fished and learned to allow my faith to direct my feelings, rather than my feelings to be allowed to misdirect my faith. Many years ago on that early summer day, my soul’s vessel was wrecked, leaking perilously, until in a Zen moment, fishing from a bridge, I saw a bright yellow leaf float out of dark shadows of the bridge tunnel, on sparkling currents of water, into the sunlight and at that moment, I appreciated all the things my father had made possible in my life and some beautiful memories flowed on a current of love in my soul.
From sadness I moved toward illumination of the simple joy of fishing. I remembered a day on the deep sea when brother Gregg was terribly sea sick and Dad comforted younger brother as best he could. I heard his encouragement “You go on and fish”, Dad gave me permission, after he assessed (in his Christ like Psychology Professor’s way) the character of a kind old man with sparkling blues eyes who promised Dad he would take care of me and help me catch a great New England Cod. His promise came true just as my Dad’s promises to me had always done. I also remembered my dad promising that he would meet Mom again, and on the bridge I prayed and believed that promise he made came true too! I wanted to meet up with them too, but part of my problem was expecting things on my time table in my way, not cooperating with God’s great plan. Gregg was was always such a source of spiritual support and that day in nineteen eighty five when I was sick with grief and guilt, he facilitated the recurrent feeling that soothed my soul since I was a boy old enough to fish. Whether it was the great Atlantic Ocean, or Missouri’s Niangua River, I knew peace when I was connected with all creatures here below and I knew enough to praise the heavenly hosts above. I intuitively understood the places where sky meets water and rocks provided my secret of contentment. Fishing made me happy, comforted me in times of despair when hope was deferred. I just needed to fish and believe in His enduring spirit. For years I struggled with my faith, not really knowing how to pray. It seemed I prayed in a vain repetition, believing the more often I pleaded to God, my prayers would manifest. I prayed mostly for loved ones, and then when they left this world too young, I felt as if my prayers had not been heard. I was distanced from God, suffering from a shallow faith because I had not received Grace. I was caught up in guilt of willfully receiving worldly spirits, my sadness seemed too much to bear until I found Him. Brothers fishing. Like Simon and Andrew found Him. I was never interested in being religiously converted, but I did imagine becoming a disciple and encouraging Gregg the way he had always encouraged me. I departed from a memory of 1963 into 1985 to appreciate the brother that was still in my life and another day of fishing! Pristine places of the Father where sky meets water and rocks was the blessing of that day and was to be realized and remembered in my life's work! Before that realization I had suffered from a shallow faith, in a leaking soul vessel. I prayed for strength and God heard my prayer I understand now as I write to you Samuel. But, back then, it was all in my time frame, I believed I knew what made me happy, but my sense of happiness still needed His direction. My sense of how things should be has been focused and when I began to mistrust self and place trust in a greater spirit. I found faith needed to bridge the spiritual realm with the material world! Grace prevailed in my desire to thank God, who had given me so much, I remembered the loved ones in my life and gave thanks for them. Grace flowed into my dry soul through loving memories. The souls departed were close to God, so I too, was drawn nearer to His Holy Spirit. My reconciliation with God grew out of gratitude and in this process the Holy Spirit began to strengthen my soul. A new spirit began to transform my body and soul. Now I hunger only for this charitable spirit. I believe it is the spirit of Jesus Christ that quenches my thirst. Still there are times on the dusty trail when dark shadows shroud my path, but a new light penetrates the night and a canteen of living water is with me. My journey is a quest for a new soul vessel. I imagine that glorious boat, I have departed, but I have not arrived. In a spirit of exploration, I am exhilarated to discover more; about His magnificent places where disciples meet under an incredibly beautiful colorful sky, reflected in water and sit on solid rocks of faith to live forever with Him. This now is my paramount goal, to sit with them on great rocks by the crashing surf! I am writing about secrets of spiritual contentment, still fishing for bluegills cooking them up for brothers and fishing for Christ! I find no comfort in vain repetition of prayer. After an initial prayer is made, praise and thanks echo across the water. I am thankful for the bridge of faith that helped me cross from material darkness to spiritual light. I trust the moorings of my faith bridge, built upon the solid rock values of my family. This book of stories is a work of love, devoted to preservation of values I was taught by my grandparents and parents. I fish because it is a pastime that helps me keep an inner peace and is a way for me to relate to others through my nature illustrations and fishing I can share positive aspects of a special spirit. The next story will be written from the perspective of my student Erica Begley. It will be a narrative of some of her work as an exemplary student and will be about the synergy of spirit that carries over to the work people are called to do!
Terry and Gregg Martin, photo taken by Spence Turner
1984 from the old stone bridge at Bennett Springs, Sate Park, near Lebanon, Missouri.