Category Archives: Blog

Vibiana’s Courage

Somewhere back in the 1800’s a crew was digging under the city of Rome, and deep in the catacombs they discovered a box with the bones of a young woman about whom we know nothing and, perhaps, everything.

Her remains now lie in the new cathedral of Los Angeles, where I went for a visit last week. It’s called the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels and it’s only been open since 2002 but it was built to last five hundred years.   I was struck by so many remarkable things that I saw there. First, although it’s a Catholic Church, everything about it has been designed to make it the city’s cathedral, a place for people of many denominations to come together and worship. It’s architecture has been the center of some controversy; I like it. It’s old and new and simple and grand all at the same time. The sculpture of Mary above the main entrance, by the artist Robert Grahame, says it all. He gave her the eyes of one race, the nose of another, the lips of a third. She stands humbly and yet with great power, a long braid down her back, with her arms open in short sleeves, almost as if they’re rolled up and ready to go to work to bring everyone together in one place if only for a moment.

But it’s the image of another young woman there that I can’t get out of my mind. I didn’t actually see her. But I imagined her as I stood at the tomb of that young woman from the catacombs of Rome. St. Vibiana. When her remains were discovered over a hundred years ago, there was nothing on the box to identify her except a name: Vibiana, and a design, a sign actually, a half sun with rays emanating from it. A sign that those digging there recognized as a message from the early Christians: this person was killed because she believed in Jesus.

Vibiana’s death has been placed somewhere near 300 A.D. and they estimate her age to be around fifteen.   Since then, all sorts of stories about her have been told; hopeful, encouraging stories, but stories nevertheless. All anyone really knows is that she lived and she died for Jesus. And that’s all I need to know about her.

We are so often assaulted these days by people who mock our faith in a loving and forgiving God. And sometimes the things they say, the facts they twist with sarcasm and wit and bullying, can challenge our faith and tempt us to doubt. But whatever the pundits say on TV is nothing, I imagine, to the mockery and abuse Vibiana must have faced in the cruel and brutal times of Roman persecution. How strong would we be if the words that late night critics threw at us were actually knives or bullets? Well, so far, we are still free to worship God as we choose in this country. And may we never take that freedom for granted.

As I said, the Cathedral was designed to last 500 years. And I hope it does. Because who knows who will stand at the tomb of Vibiana someday and draw courage from the life and the death of one, single girl.

A Note from Martha…

5438922_origOne of the best parts of working in television and film, especially in the Internet Age, is the privilege of interacting with fans.  And SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED is graced with a passionate – and talented – fan base.  One such fan is devoting her efforts to Alameda & Downing – A Signed Sealed Delivered Blog.

The name comes from a very brief reference to the location of the DLO in Denver as reported in an article read by Rita in the last scene of the pilot.  What attention to detail someone has!

The funny thing is that AlamedaDowning is actually a very unlikely  location for a major post office.  It’s only two blocks from Washington Park near a residential area about two or three miles from downtown Denver.

I used that intersection as a little nod to God – a reference to the intersection where, when I was walking to my junior high school one snowy morning, I slipped and fell directly in front of a speeding car.  It is an absolute miracle that I wasn’t killed.  But there wasn’t a scratch on me.

I often think of that place as the first time I realized that there really might be angels in the world and that God really DID have a plan for my life.  How different my life would have been without an angel at the corner of Alameda & Downing.

~ Martha

A few thoughts on Easter from Martha

cross on mountain

Good morning, dear friends,

As the sun rose this morning while I was hiding Easter eggs in the yard for my – yes, teen-agers –  I recalled the Easter Sunday when I was twenty and I made a choice between writing a philosophy paper or spending the first gorgeous day of Spring at a brunch and an Easter egg hunt with my friends in my last year of college.  I don’t remember what grade I received for that philosophy paper, but still regret walking down that green Berkshire hill and leaving my friends behind that beautiful morning.

I remember another Easter brunch about twenty years ago.  I was sitting outside beside a lake with a new friend. He looked out at the families arriving at the restaurant after church and said “I’m a Christian, too, you know.  I think Jesus was amazing.”

I looked up.  Was?  Jesus was, or is?

He shrugged.  “Well, I mean, I don’t buy all that resurrection stuff, of course.  That just had to be a lot of propaganda the disciples made up to keep the faith going in the early years.” I smiled and put down my hot cross bun and said quietly, “So, you don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead.”  He laughed and said “Well, come on.  Nobody is dead and buried and then rises from the dead.”   That, I told him, was the point.  Nobody ever had before.  Nobody has since.  But if one Someone did, then that’s the guy I want to know.  “Well,” he said.  “I’m just not a person of faith, I guess.”  “Oh, but you are,” I said. “You have great faith.  You’re putting all your faith in the belief that Jesus died on the cross and never lived again.  You’re betting that a bunch of his friends decided to create a lovely fairy tale and chose to be tortured and crucified or stoned or executed in some other horrible way just to keep that fairy-tale going rather than back off and say, “hey, okay, I wasn’t there. I didn’t see Him.  It was just a bunch of propaganda.”   You’re counting on the possibility that a successful, educated guy like Saul gave it all up to become Paul, a prisoner of Rome, just to perpetuate the myth of his face-to-face meeting with the dead man he reviled.  You’re rejecting the chance that the Unseeable, Unmeasurable Energy that keeps your heart beating and your mind thinking and your love growing will somehow disappear into nothingness at the instant that your body dies.  You are trusting that all you know about life is all there is to know.  That’s a lot of faith, if you ask me.

In my case, my faith is pretty simple.   I just trust God.  I trust the answer I received when I got down on my knees one night and asked “Is it true? Is He risen?”  I trust the peace I have carried with me ever since.  I trust the joy I feel every Easter when I call my sisters and say “He is risen” and hear the words back “He is risen, indeed.”  Maybe my faith is simple, but I don’t believe God would make His love so complicated that only the scholar or philosopher could comprehend it. God’s love must be available to everyone or it means nothing. I think that’s called a categorical imperative. I think I wrote a paper on that once, in fact –   once, on a beautiful Easter Sunday locked away in a dorm room while the sun rose outside.

By the way, the man I had brunch with?  He prayed that prayer.  He got his answer. He was baptized a year or so later.  And then he married me.

Happy Easter,

with love from Martha

The Altar at the Manger

IMG_0017Every Christmas growing up, my family and I would make a little altar on Christmas Eve and hold a short midnight service together before going to bed.  The altar was really just a red tablecloth over the coffee table with some candles, some evergreen boughs, and a Bible.  We’d sing carols and take turns reading the Christmas story from Luke.  After so many years observing this tradition, we could recite our parts by memory. And there were in that region, shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.  And there were with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill to men.”  To which my mother would usually add “and to the rest of us girls, too.”

 

And so, for this Christmas video, I thought about reading some of the old, familiar words that we hear every year at Christmas.  They are comforting and encouraging and remind us that extraordinary things can happen in the most ordinary times.  One minute you’re just sitting there, doing your job on a night like any other, and the next minute, God takes you by surprise and tells you that everything is about to change.  That you have new work to do, that you must stand and leave the hillside and walk to a new place, a humble place, and kneel at an altar of wood and straw and worship something smaller and incomprehensibly greater than yourself. It must have been tremendously humbling, walking down that hill, knowing that the miracle you’ve just experienced is nothing to what you are about to see.  I imagine the shepherds looking at each other, thinking “Me? In the presence of a king?  Look at me!” And making futile efforts to prepare themselves to approach this little manger with no gift but their own adoration.

And that image brought a completely different scripture to mind:

It’s from the book of Mark:  If you are offering your gift on the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

 

What a powerful, uncomfortable, amazing thing to hear.  Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. But what does it mean to seek peace with God if we’re not willing to seek peace with anyone else?  It’s like mixing today’s banquet with last night’s leftovers. I don’t think that those words appear in Scripture to make us uncomfortable.  I think they are there to make us free.  To come to the altar with a heart that has emptied itself of hate or resentment is to come ready to be filled with something new and beautiful.

 

I made a list of relationships in my life that need some degree of reconciliation.  It’s not a long list, but it matters.  The burden of it lingers everytime I come to the altar.  I have asked God too many times to change those situations without asking Him to change ME.  Without being willing to humble myself, see the dirt on my own robes, so to speak, and be the first to seek a loving solution.  This year, before Christmas is over, I want to do what I can – whether by a phone call or a letter or in person – to apologize – or to forgive  – and be ready to approach the Christmas manger with a gift that only I can give – just a little more peace on earth, a lot more goodwill, and more glory than ever to God in the highest.  And if you want to join me there, God bless you.  You will be in my prayers, as always.  Merry Christmas.

Love, Martha

America’s Finest Flash Mob!

Take a moment to stop & enjoy the season and watch America’s finest flash mob at the Smithsonian with the The U.S. Air Force Band!

Starting with a single cellist on the floor of the National Air and Space Museum’s “Milestones of Flight” gallery, and swelling to 120 musicians, The U.S. Air Force Band exhilarated museum visitors with its first-ever flash mob. The four-minute performance featured an original arrangement of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring/Joy to the World,” led by the band’s commander and conductor, Col. Larry H. Lang. Unsuspecting museum visitors including tourists and school groups were astonished as instrumentalists streamed into the gallery from behind airplanes and space capsules, and vocalists burst into song from the Museum’s second floor balcony.

Welcome To My Little Corner of the Internet!

Wherever I go, folks always ask me the same question: “We loved “Touched By An Angel” and its message of love and faith and family.

What are you doing NOW, Martha?

”Well, I’m doing the best I can.I’m trying to be a good mother to my teen-age girls, I’m helping my husband recover from a stroke and learning to be an effective care giver. I’m still trying to process the fact that the AARP is now sending me letters! I’m learning to get healthy and stay healthy, I’m still learning how to be a better wife and sister and neighbor and friend, and, after thirty years in show business, I’m still writing family and inspirational television and films and now I’m expanding my horizons to include speaking to groups and even singing on stages. But most important, I’m still walking the road of faith and praising God every day for the amazing blessings of being alive.

But more important than what I’m doing is what YOU are doing! How is your heart? Where are your dreams taking you? Do they still inspire you or are they hard to hold on to? What do you need to hear that will encourage you to carry on?

That’s what this website is for – to hear from you and to share with you a little daily encouragement, some inspirational storytelling, messages of hope and faith, weekly videos filled with love and laughter and hopefully a little wisdom!

But I can’t do it without you, so please visit often and share your comments and your own messages of encouragement. Remember that none of us is perfect – some days are harder than others, some days we let others down and sometimes we let ourselves down. But EVERY DAY is a God-given chance to begin again. Let’s do it together.

Love, Martha


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