My Shepherd

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Psalm 23:  1-4 (NLT)

The Lord is my shepherd;

    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

 

Jesus is our Good Shepherd who takes care of us and provides for our physical and spiritual needs.  After teaching the people, He gave them bread and fish to eat.  He offers to give us rest.  He encourages us to, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

When we look at a still or calm body of water we are filled with such peace.  And this is the kind of peace we can enjoy with Jesus.  Our fears are abated and our hearts aren’t troubled anymore.  And how sweet it is to take a break from the demands of life and find a quiet place where we can be renewed and strengthened.  Jesus did this many times with the Father and He encourages us to do the same with Him. “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile(Mark 6:31).

As long as we hear Jesus, listen to His voice and follow Him, we will never be lost.  He promises to stick close to us.  With Him at our side, we have nothing to fear because He will protect us when we feel threatened and comfort us when we are hurting.  He’s right there with us in the green pastures and in the dark valleys–during the good times and the bad.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  We are His and He will take care of us.  He has already laid down His life for us. 

Today, won’t you let Jesus be your Shepherd?  You have nothing to lose and eternal life with Him to gain.

Dawn’s Story

Serious mature Woman looking away through a window, note the reflections

I recently found out that my husband of 20 years has been having an affair with one of his students.  I found out when he told me on day that he had been fired from his teaching position at the university where he had taught for 23 years.   The girl, an African exchange student, was expelled and to make matters worse, she was pregnant with his child.

I was so devastated that I almost passed out.  I had to sit down and gather my wits about me.  Shock, rage, jealousy ripped through me.  I wanted to throw things at him, lash out at him and throw him out.  I loved and hated him at the same time.

I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me.  I was a Christian woman married to a man I believed to be Christian only to discover that he has been cheating on me with a girl young enough to be his daughter.  We didn’t have any children.  We tried but nothing worked so it was painful to me that he was going to be a father to someone else’s child.  It was like a punch in the gut.  I felt like Sarah in the Bible when she was despised in Hagar’s eyes because she was able to get pregnant with no problems at all.  I wanted to meet this girl whom my husband had betrayed me with.

My husband said he never meant for the affair to happen but one day when they were alone in his office, one thing led to another and…He said that after that one time, he tried not to let anything happen between them again but the feelings were too strong.  He was too weak to resist the temptation and so he took her to a flat he rented.  They managed to keep their relationship a secret until one day, someone from the university spotted them in the underground garage in a passionate embrace before they hurried to the elevator.

I felt sick.  I kept wishing that this was a nightmare and that I would wake up soon.  It was some time later when I somehow managed to ask the question which had been burning in my mind, “So, what are we going to do now?”

He was pacing about the room, hair tousled from constantly dragging his fingers through it and his features pale and drawn.  He stopped abruptly and faced me.  “Dawn, I don’t quite know how to tell you this.”

“Just go ahead and tell me.”  My voice sounded very shrill.

“I want a divorce.”

I gawked at him.  “You want a divorce?”

“Yes.”

I should be the one asking for a divorce.  You’re the unfaithful one in this marriage.”

“I have been faithful to you all of these years.  Never once did I look at another woman or cheat on you.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” I retorted.  The tears were falling afresh.  My fingers tightened into tight fists.  “Are you anxious for a divorce so that you could be with her?  What’s the matter, John?  Did you get tired of being with me, a woman who is pushing 50 and hasn’t been able to give you children?”

“Dawn, please believe me when I say that the last thing I wanted to do was to hurt you…”

That did it.  I jumped to my feet, my face red with fury and I slapped him hard across the face.  “Hurt me?” I yelled.  “Is that what you call what you’re doing to me right now?”

He looked contrite and tried to reach out to me but I shrank back.  I didn’t want him to touch me.  “I think it would be better if I were to move out.  I’ll go and pack a bag.”  He turned and walked out of the room.  The silence was deafening.

I collapsed on to the sofa again and dissolved into tears.  I heard him come down the stairs and the front door open and close.  Minutes later, I heard his car drive away.  He was gone.   Where would he go?  Probably to the flat where he indulged in his sordid affair.  I don’t know how long I sat there.  The living-room was dark.  The clock told me that it was six o’ clock.  I tried to make sense of what was happening but I couldn’t.  My marriage was over.  My husband wanted a divorce.  He was going to have a baby with someone else.  I wanted to be the mother of his children.  When we found out that I couldn’t have children, we were devastated but years later, we had talked about adopting.  Now, that was out of the question.  He wanted to be with someone else.  I was left out in the cold.

Divorce was something I never once contemplated.  For me, marriage was for keeps.  Besides, I loved John and I wanted to grow old with him.  And I know that he loved me too.  Then, a year and a half ago, I noticed little things.  He wasn’t as attentive or amorous as he used to be.  He went out a lot.  We hardly went anywhere together and most evenings, I had dinner alone.  His excuse when he came in was that he was tired.  He had had a long day.  He taught at the university and he also did ESL evening classes at a community college.  I didn’t know that he had stopped teaching those classes and spent his evenings at the flat with his student.  I had no clue.  All I knew was that my husband’s behavior toward me had changed somewhat but I never once suspected that he was having an affair.

Like God, I hated divorce but I decided that I was going to give John what he wanted.  It was no use holding on to a marriage that was over and to a man who didn’t want to be married to me anymore.  Weeks passed before I spoke to him again and it was over the phone.  I couldn’t bear to see him.  The hurt was still too fresh, too raw.

“I’m sorry I hit you,” I said.

“Don’t be sorry, Dawn.  I had it coming.”

After I told him that I would give him the divorce, I asked him, “Do you love this girl?”

“Yes.  I do.  That’s why I’m leaving you, Dawn.”

I felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach.  “Does she love you?”

“Yes.  Dawn, once the divorce is finalized, I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

It took a few minutes for me to reply.  Tears welled in my eyes and I gripped the receiver tightly.  “You know that the Bible says that a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery?”

“Yes, I’m aware that in God’s eyes and the church’s I’m an adulterer but sometimes, it’s hard to live according to the Bible when one’s heart is involved.  I love this girl and I can’t give her up.”

“Even if it costs you your salvation?  You know the Bible says that people who commit adultery will not have any share in God’s kingdom.”

There was a long pause and then he said, “Don’t worry about me, Dawn.  Just know that I’m sorry for how things turned out for us.  If I hadn’t met and fallen in love with this girl, you and I would still be happily married.  Thank you for the wonderful years we’ve had together.  I hope that one day you will find it in your heart to forgive me for what I have done to you.  Take care of yourself.”

After I hung up, I burst into tears.  My heart was breaking for the loss of my marriage and for the loss of his salvation.   I kept hearing Jesus’ words, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”  John had been following Jesus all of his life but unfortunately, he had allowed his love for the girl to draw him away.  If John had continued to listen to Jesus’ voice, obeyed His teachings of Jesus and resisted temptation, no matter how strong it was, nothing or no one could have removed him from God’s care and protection.

Weeks passed and I still hadn’t been served the divorce papers.  I wondered what the delay was.   I thought of calling John to find out but I didn’t bother.  I figured that I would receive the papers soon enough.  I later found out that he was going to serve me the papers on the day after I got the terrible news that he and his girlfriend were killed in a fatal collision while on they were their way to the hospital.  Their baby daughter was delivered alive at the scene.   The driver of the livery cab which was taking them to the hospital also survived and was in stable condition.

Shocked, I raced down to the hospital and met John’s sister, Abby and her husband, Tim there.  Abby’s eyes were swollen.  We hugged for a long time, crying.  Then, she told me what happened and that the baby was in a serious condition and that everyone was praying for her.   I went into the chapel and prayed too.  We spent all night and until the next morning at the hospital, anxious but hopeful.  Then, at around 5 in the morning, the doctor informed us that the baby was out of danger.  We all breathed a collective sigh of relief and hugged each other.

I went home to shower and change and then I returned to the hospital.   I stayed there for most of the day, talking to the nurses who answered my questions because I told them that I was family.  Technically, I was because I was still married to John.  The divorce hadn’t gone through.  I never got the papers.  I visited the hospital every day and when I got to see the baby who was now in stable condition, my heart melted when I looked down into that tiny face.  The nurse asked me if I wanted to give her the bottle.  I hesitated at first but then something urged me to do it.  I nodded and sat down in the chair.

The nurse placed her in my arms and I held her like she was porcelain and I was afraid to break her.  “She’s tougher than she looks,” the nurse assured me.  She gave me the bottle and then she left us alone.

I stared down into a pair of beautiful eyes as I fed her the formula.  I kept thinking that it seemed strange that I was the one here with her instead of her mother.  Tears came to my eyes when it hit me that John was dead and that he wasn’t going to be a part of his daughter’s life.  He wasn’t going to see her grow and become a young woman.  What would become of this little angel?  Who would take care of her?

That evening I spoke to Abby about it and she told me that she couldn’t take care of her.  She had her hands full with her own kids who needed her.  There wasn’t room for one more.  She was John’s only sibling.  And she had no clue about the baby’s mother or her family.  “I would hate to see my niece end up in an orphanage or a foster home.  I wish I knew a family who could adopt her.”

I could adopt her.”  The words simply flew out of my mouth, startling me.  “Did I just say that?”

“Yes, you did.”  Abby looked pleased.   “And I think it’s a great idea.”

“You don’t think it’s strange that I would want to adopt a child my husband had with another woman?”

“To some people it might be but not to me.  Besides, the baby isn’t responsible for the actions of her parents.  I still think that what John did to you was unforgivable.”

“I have forgiven him, Abby.   I was hurt and angry for a long time but I have moved on.  I had accepted that my marriage was over and that there wasn’t anything I could do about that.  But, now I feel that God has something great in store for me.  I had always wanted to be a mother and now I have a chance to be.”

“Well, what do you say about us going and buy a cradle, pull-ups and diapers so that when you bring her home, you’re all set?”

I smiled.  “I say, that’s a great idea.  Let’s go.”

We bought everything we needed.  Weeks later, I completed the step-parent adoption papers and now I’m officially a mother.  Abby went with me to bring the baby home from the hospital.  I was nervous and excited.  I wanted to do my best to make her happy.   Fast forward to seven years later and Mala (I named her after her mother) is a lovely, bubbly little girl.  She has John’s eyes and his personality.  I told her about him and her mother.  I explained to her that something bad happened to them and that’s why I’m her Mommy now.  I told her that they loved her very much.  I have shown her photos of them together which I took from John’s flat before it was let to someone else.

Mala told me that she was sad that her Daddy left me for her Mommy but she promised that she would never leave me.  That brought tears to my eyes and I hugged her.  I told her that she was the best thing that ever happened to me.  She is a precious child and truly a gift from God.

I’m raising Mala to be an obedient child of God and a god-fearing woman who will never let anything or anyone cost her her salvation.

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Sources:  Babygaga; Mirror; Reliable Adoption; Legal Zoom

Love a Second Time Around

480112I wasn’t married but I was pregnant.  It happened when my boyfriend and I got frisky and ended up in bed.  I felt guilty afterwards because I was supposed to be a Christian.  I was raised in a strict Baptist family and having sex or getting pregnant before marriage was a no no.  So, to say that I wasn’t thrilled when I found out that I was pregnant would be a gross understatement.  Desmond took it a lot more calmly than I expected.  He told me that we could get married before I started to show.  I agreed.  I didn’t want my child to be born out of wedlock.  And, besides, Desmond and I loved each other.  I know that he would have eventually asked me to marry him because we had talked about it several times.

After he bought me an engagement ring, we went to see my parents first.  I told about pregnancy and they were understandably upset.  “Getting married because you’re having a baby isn’t a good reason for getting married,” my father told us.

“Marriage is such a big step,” my mother added.  “You better make sure that this is the best thing for you two.”

Next, we went to see Desmond’s family.  I could just imagine how thrilled they would be, especially, his maternal grandmother.  Right from the beginning, I didn’t feel accepted by them.  I think they all would have preferred if he had married a white woman.  Some of them quoted the Bible where it says “Everything after its own kind.”  I didn’t bother to tell them that God was talking to the birds, fish and animals not to Adam.  He hadn’t even created Adam as yet.  And the same God who made white people made the other races and in His image too.

The only person who was friendly towards me and didn’t seem to have a problem with my color was my father-in-law.  He was such a nice man.  I really liked him and I felt comfortable talking to him.  He didn’t judge me and he didn’t lecture us.  I knew that we had his support.

Fortunately, my father-in-law was with me when a policeman showed up at the apartment to inform me that Desmond had been run over and killed in a crosswalk when he was returning from lunch early that afternoon.  This happened in front of his office.  The policeman said that it was a good thing that I wasn’t alone because of the stress that such tragic news could on my pregnancy.  I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do.  Desmond was gone and I was going to experience the rest of my pregnancy without him.  It was one of the worst moments of my life.

I got support from my father-in-law and my family but it was hard having to explain why Desmond wasn’t with me.  At each appointment, it would be a different midwife, who would remark, “Is your husband not joining us today?” and then I would have to explain he was dead.  And it was hard going to prenatal classes with my brother or my father-in-law.   My pregnancy experience which should have been a really happy one was somber.  I kept thinking Desmond should be here.  When our daughter was born seven months later at 8lbs, it was her grand-father who held her in his arms.  As I watched them together, I tried to picture Desmond holding her in his arms.

Desmond and I had come up with boys’ and girls’ names which we really liked and I named our daughter, Nella after his mother whom he adored.  When I look at Nella, I see her father.  The same hazel eyes and nose.   Her hair was dark brown like his.  She was beautiful.  Desmond would have a very proud father and spoiled her rotten.

My parents fawned over her.  Desmond’s family, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to meet his daughter.  His father was the only one who was there throughout my pregnancy.  He came over to the apartment every other day to see Nella and me.  While I took a nap or relaxed in the sofa, he took care of her.  It was a real treat having him around.  I began to look forward to seeing him.  And I could tell he enjoyed being with us.

I don’t know when it happened.  It must have been gradual but, four years later, on a Sunday morning, I woke up and realized that I was in love with my father-in-law.  As I made breakfast, I wondered what he would do if he knew.  Would he stop coming over?  I couldn’t bear the thought of not having him around anymore.  I had to make sure that he never suspected how I felt about him.  I would act like I always did in the past.  I had to remember that he was Desmond’s father although he was a widower and currently not in any relationship.

It’s late afternoon now and Nella’s taking her nap.  My father-in-law is standing at the window, looking out.  He turned when I entered the living-room.  “Symone, I need to talk to you about something that has been on my mind for a long time now,” he said.

I could tell from his expression that it was something serious.  I sat down on the sofa and patting the cushion beside me, I said, “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

He came over and sat down beside me.  His eyes met mine.  I could tell that he was a bit nervous.  “I don’t know if I have any right to tell you this even now that Desmond’s no longer here.”

“Tell me what it is, Dad,” I urged him.  “I’m a big girl.  I can take it.”

“First, I would like you to call me Patrick instead of Dad.”

“All right, Patrick.”

“Symone, I know I’m more than twice your age but over the last few months my feelings for you have changed.”

My heart was pounding.  “What do you mean your feelings have changed?”

“I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“Oh, Patrick,” I cried and I threw my arms around him.  “You don’t know how happy I am to hear that.”

“You are?” he exclaimed when we parted.

Yes!  You see, I’ve fallen in love with you too.”

He held my hands in his, his eyes riveted on my face.  “I’m relieved to hear that,” he said.  “For the longest time, I have wanted to tell you how I feel but I was afraid of how it would affect our relationship.”

“I have wanted to talk to you about my feelings too but was afraid for the same reason.”

“My newly discovered love for you wasn’t the only thing I have been struggling with.”

I frowned.  “What else have you been struggling with?”  I asked.  “Are you worried about what the rest of the family would say?”

He shook his head at once.  “It doesn’t matter to me what they say.  What concerns me is what the Bible has to say about the relationship between a man and his daughter-in-law.”

“Yes, in the book of Leviticus it says that a man shall not uncover the nakedness of his daughter-in-law because she is his son’s wife—he, the father-in-law, shall not uncover her nakedness.  In fact, if a man had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them were put to death because they committed a perversion.  This doesn’t apply to you and me, though because nothing ever happened between us when Desmond was alive and even after he died.  Besides, I’m a widow now and according to the Bible, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, she is no longer bound to him; the laws of marriage no longer apply to her.  Then she can marry someone else if she wants to. That would be wrong while he was alive, but it is perfectly all right after he dies.”

Patrick released his breath.  “So, if I wanted to marry you, there’s no law to prevent us?”

I shook my head.  “No.  In-laws can now also marry provided they are both over 21 and any former spouses must be deceased.”

He pulled me into his arms then and hugged me tightly.  “I don’t think Rosalind and Desmond would begrudge us finding happiness with each other,” he murmured.

No, I thought, Desmond would want me to be happy.  He would want me to move on219_6910_cannes_apr16_281529 with my life.  And now, that was possible.  I had fallen in love with an incredible man.  Yes, I consider myself to be extremely blessed for having found love a second time around.  A year later, in spring, we got married in a small, intimate ceremony.  Nella was our flower girl.  She looked so adorable in her pale pink satin dress.  Now she has a new Daddy although she calls him, “Grandpa”.

My in-laws and family think it’s wrong for Patrick and me to be together and are concerned that our relationship would be very confusing for Nella.  He’s her grandfather but now he’s also her father because he is married to me.  We have told Nella about Desmond and shown her photos of him.  She knows that he was her Daddy and that he died.  We told her that one of these days she will see him.   And she’s fine with that.  She’s not confused about anything and she’s excited about the new baby brother who is arriving in three months.  That reminds me, I have to ask Mom to babysit Nella because Patrick and I have a prenatal class to attend this afternoon.

Sources:  Metro; Officer.com; Live About; Genetic Genealogy

Defending Joe

gettyimages-348-42-640x640

 

“Mommy, Mommy,” Kevon cried, running to her.  Alarmed, Inez reached down and picked him up.

“What’s the matter, Baby?” she asked.

“Grandma said that Daddy’s in Hell because he killed a man.”

“Go and tell Auntie Hilda goodbye while I speak to Grandma.”  She put him down and he ran off.

Inez turned to face her mother.  “Mama, how could you tell him such a thing?” she demanded.

Her mother pursed her lips.  “Well, it’s true, isn’t it?  Your good for nothing husband was found guilty of homicide and sentenced to jail time, which in my opinion, wasn’t long enough.  And now he’s dead.  He died behind bars because he was a criminal and because he’s a criminal he’s in Hell where people like him belong.”

“Joe was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after he accidentally drew his pistol instead of his stun gun and fatally shot an unarmed man.  He got a two year prison sentence.  While he was in prison, he accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior.  He died in prison from a heart attack before he could be baptized but I believe that like the thief on the cross, he’s saved.”

“You can believe what you want.  It still doesn’t change the fact that your husband killed somebody.”

“He served his time, Mama.”

“He was no good.  You could have married somebody better like Terrence.”

“Mama, I didn’t love Terrence.  I loved Joe.  Why didn’t you ever approve of Joe?  Was it because he was a cop?”

“It was a cop who killed your father.”

“Mama, it was a white cop who shot Dad and you know it.  Joe was a good cop.  It was just unfortunate that he accidentally shot someone.”

“Cops are all alike.  They are trigger happy.  We’re better off without them.”

“Mama, I’m going to take Kevon home now.  If you are going to upset him again I won’t bring him around anymore.”

“You’re going to deprive me of seeing my grandson?”

“Yes, if you’re going to tell him terrible things about his father.”

“That boy is the only good thing that came out of that marriage.”

“Mama, I mean it.  If you want to see Kevon again, you have to lay off Joe.”

“Fine.  I will hold my peace.  I won’t mention that man any more.”

“In spite of what you think about him, Joe was a good husband and father.  And Jesus died for him too.”

Her mother didn’t answer.  Instead, she turned her attention to the television set.

Inez sighed and went to get Kevon.  Soon they were on their way home.  It was a late Sunday afternoon.  Three weeks before the new school term started.  “Are you all right, Baby?” she asked.

He nodded.  “I’m better now.  Auntie Hilda gave me some candy.”

“Make sure you save some for later and tomorrow.”

“I will,” he promised.

“I’m sorry about what Grandma said.”

“Is it true, Mommy?  Is Daddy in Hell because he killed a man?”

“No, Baby.  Daddy didn’t kill the man on purpose.  It was a terrible accident.  Daddy was very sorry about what happened.  He had to go to jail because that’s where people have to go when they do something wrong, even if it’s an accident.  Daddy’s not in Hell.”

“Where is he then?”

“He’s in the grave.  That’s where all dead people are.  They are sleeping in their graves until Jesus comes and raises the ones who believe in Him like He did with Lazarus.   Then, those who are raised from the dead along with the those who are still alive will go with Jesus to Heaven.”

“What about Hell?”

“Hell isn’t a place where bad people go.  It’s something that will happen here on earth.  The Bible teaches us that it is a fire which God will send down from Heaven.  The fire is called Hell fire and it burns for a long time before it goes out.  You don’t have to be afraid of it as long as you love and obey God.  The good news is that one day you, Daddy and I will be together again forever.”

“I can’t wait to see Daddy again.”

“I know, Baby.  Neither can I.”

For the rest of the drive home, they sang songs, thanking and praising God for His goodness and Jesus for His love.

We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t –  Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Source:  Findlaw

A Powerful Force

Black woman praying in church

He watched her as she knelt in the pew.  Fortunately the church was empty.  If anyone else had been there, they would have disapproved of the way she was dressed.

Personally, he was happy to see her there.  After losing her fiance and son in a horrific boat accident, she had stopped coming to church.  For a long time, she was angry with God and the world.  He visited her but she wanted nothing to do with him or the church.  She reverted back to her old ways, going to bars, getting drunk.

On one occasion, he had to go to a bar and escort her out.  He took her home and made sure that she was all right before he left.  He was certain that his superiors would not have approved but as far as he was concerned, he was doing God’s work.

Despite her resistance and resentment, he didn’t give up on her but continued to visit her.  In the evenings, before retiring to his rooms, he went into the chapel and prayed for her.

He waited until she was finished praying before he went over to her.  She looked up as he approached.  Self-consciously, she pulled the sleeves up on her shoulders, her expression almost apologetic.  “Good evening, Father Martens,” she greeted him as she got off her knees and sat down.

“Good evening,” he replied.  “I’m very happy to see you.”  He tried not to stare but couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing false eyelashes.

“I know it has been a while since I came here.  You know why I haven’t been coming.  After losing and, I wanted nothing more to do with God or His church.  I was angry with Him for taking and away from me.  I thought He did it to punish me for my sins.”

“God doesn’t take away our loved ones to punish us.  He takes them when it’s their time to go.  We are all here for a time.  It just so happened that their time was before yours.  I know you miss them but they are in Heaven with God.  They don’t want you to be sad or angry anymore.”

She brushed away a tear.  “If it weren’t for you, Father Martens, I would still be bitter and angry.  Thank you for visiting and helping me.  I will be eternally grateful to you.”

He smiled.  “I was happy to do it,” he said.  “Does this mean that I will be seeing you on Sunday?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He wanted to tell her that she had to dress modestly whenever she came into the church, especially on Sunday but he trusted that the Lord would impress this upon her heart.  “Good.”

She stood up.  “I’d better be going now.  I’m working nights now.”

He looked surprised.  “Really?  Where?”

“At the Cyclone Bar.”

He didn’t like the idea of her working at a bar.  It seemed indecent, somehow.  “Our parish needs a receptionist.  How would you like to do that instead of working at Cyclone?”

“Are you sure you want me to work at your parish?”

“Yes.  You will work at reasonable hours during the day.”

“How soon would you like me to start?”

“As soon as you can.”

“I can start in three weeks.  I have to give my manager two weeks’ notice.”

“We’ll manage until then.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Father Martens and God bless you.”

“Thank you.  I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.”

She nodded and taking up her handbag, she turned and walked out of the church.

He stood there for several minutes.  Yes, he looked forward to seeing her on Sunday.

Sunday came and she showed up, dressed modestly in a white skirt suit and yellow blouse.  No false eyelashes and the braids were gone.  Her natural hair was chin length.  He greeted her along with the rest of the congregation as they came through the doors, his gaze resting on her a bit longer than was necessary.   Fortunately, no one seemed to notice.

After Mass he wanted to talk to her but it wasn’t possible. He was flanked by church members as they left the church.  So, all he was able to say to her was, “Thank you for coming.”

A couple days later, he stood watching the wide open field and the hills beyond.  It looked like it was going to rain.  Perhaps he should head back now.

“Father Martens.”

Priest3

He turned and was pleasantly surprised to see her but very perturbed as well.  He had been thinking about her all week and looking forward to Sunday when he would see her again.  He tried to appear calm now but his heart was racing.  “What brings you here today?” he asked.

“I called the office and the lady told me that you had gone for a walk.  I remembered that you once told me that this is where you usually come for your walk so I knew that I would find you here.  We didn’t get a chance to talk on Sunday.  I just wanted to tell you that I was blessed by the service and that I will be coming again on Sunday.”

“I’m pleased to hear that.”  He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her.  They were fixed on her face which looked beautiful in the dull light.  Just then a raindrop fell on his head, startling him.  He glanced up at the darkening sky.  “It looks like a storm is brewing.  I don’t think we’ll be able to make back to the parish in time.  There’s an abandoned shack over there where we can find shelter until the storm passes.  Follow me.”  He led the way across the field.

They reached the shack just in time.  As soon as they went inside lightning flashed across the sky, followed by a loud clap of thunder and then came the rain.  Fortunately, the windows and the door were still intact.  He closed the door and turned to face her.  Over their heads the rain beat relentlessly against the rooftop.  Hopefully the storm wouldn’t last long.

“It’s really coming down out there,” she said, glancing up at him.

“Yes, it is,” he agreed quietly.  Being here alone with her was a really bad idea.  He wished he hadn’t brought her here.  It might have been a better idea to bring her here and then run back to the parish.  “Hopefully it will pass soon.”

“It’s my fault you’re stuck here.”

“It’s not your fault.  I knew it was going to rain.  I should have stayed at the parish and come for my walk another time.”

“I shouldn’t have come, Father Martens.  It was selfish of me.”

“What do you mean that it was selfish of you.”

“I wanted to see you but I couldn’t wait until Sunday.”

“Why is that being selfish?”

“It’s selfish because I wasn’t considering that you are a priest and that there can’t be anything between us.  All I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you.”

He swallowed hard.  “We shouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I should go.”

“But the storm isn’t over.”

“It’s all right.  I’ll be fine.  It won’t be the first I’ve been caught in one of these.”  She started toward the door when he caught her by the shoulders.

“Please, don’t go.”

She stared up at him.  They were standing very close.  He was still holding her arm.  Her flesh felt soft against his fingers.  His eyes were restless on her face.  His chest rose and fell swiftly as all sorts of emotions ran rampantly through him.  He knew that he was treading on very thin ice but he couldn’t seem to resist what was about to happen.  Instead of releasing her, he drew her towards him.  His smoldering gaze dropped to her parted lips before his lowered his head and devoured them.  He moaned and trembled when he felt her eager response.  For several minutes they stood there, kissing wildly as the storm raged on outside.

This wild exchange of kisses lasted for several minutes and then he pulled away, breathing heavily, his face flushed.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m sorry.”  He stumbled away from her and dropped to his knees.  With his back turned to her, he bowed his head and clasped his hands.  He remained like that for a long time.  When he turned around, she was gone.  He staggered to the door and leaned heavily against the frame for a few moments before he sprinted through the torrential rain back to the rectory.

The following Sunday, he looked for her but she didn’t show up.  Several Sundays passed and still no sign of her.  She didn’t show up for the job as the parish secretary either so he had to hire someone else in a hurry.  He tried to put her out of his mind and busy himself with his duties and community service but it was no use.  He had fallen helplessly in love with her and was desperate to see her again.  Finally, one night, he went to the Cyclone Bar.

As he walked in and made his way over to the bar, he attracted quite a lot of attention.  The bartender looked a bit taken aback to see him.  “Hello, Father,” he said.  “We don’t usually get priests in here.  What can I do for you?”

“Hello.  I’m here to see one of your waitresses who also happens to be one of my parishioners.”

“Oh, you mean Zahra.”  He glanced at his watch.  “It’s almost quitting time for her.  She’s over there.”  He pointed behind him.

Father Martens turned and when he saw her, his heart skipped a beat.  He turned back to the bartender.  “Do you mind if I wait here?” he asked.

“Not at all, Father.  Have a seat.  Can I get you anything?”

“No, thanks.”  It felt strange being inside a bar but he thought of Jesus who went to the homes of tax collectors and had dinner with sinners.  He looked around.  Jesus died for these people too.

“Father Martens?”

He swung around, his face flooding with color as he looked into her face.  “Hello, Zahra.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.  The bartender told me that your shift will be ending soon.  I’ll wait until you’re done.  It’s rather urgent that I speak to you.”

“All right.  I will be finished in about ten minutes.”  She turned and walked away.

Twenty minutes later, they were leaving the bar and walking down the sidewalk.  “You haven’t been to church for several weeks now,” he said quietly.  His hands were shoved deep in the pockets of his cassock but they ached to hold her.

“I couldn’t come,” she replied.  “I thought it would be best if I stayed away.”

“I miss you, Zahra.”

“After what happened between us the last time we saw each other I didn’t think you’d ever want to see me again.”

He stopped and turned to face her.  “I tried to forget you and what happened but I couldn’t.  I can’t stop thinking about you and missing you.  That’s why I had to come to see you tonight.”

She sighed.  “So, where do we go from here?” she asked.  “You’re a priest.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.  “I won’t be for much longer.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think we should continue this conversation in a more private place.  We’re drawing attention.”

“All right.  We’re five minutes away from my apartment.  We can talk there.”

Five minutes later, she was letting them into her apartment.  “Do you live here alone?” he asked.

“Yes.  I moved in here a couple of months after I lost my fiance and our son.” She turned on one of the lamps.

“Do you still miss them?”  What he really wanted to know was if she still missed her fiance.

“I miss our son.  Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you.”

“You said that you won’t be a priest for much longer.  What did you mean?”

They were facing each other now.  His eyes were restless on her upturned face.  How he longed to reach out and touch her cheek.  “I’m thinking of leaving the priesthood because of you.”

Her eyes widened in shock.  “Me?  But in the shack you said…”

“I know.  It felt wrong.  I was a priest and I had no right to be feeling the way I did.”

“When I saw how broken up you were about what happened between us and you kneeling there, I realized that the best thing for me to do was to leave.”

“Perhaps it was the best thing at the time but when you stopped coming to church, I was distressed.  It’s true what they say you know about absence making the heart grow fonder.  Your absences from church made me realize that I loved you.”

Zahra swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “You love me?”

“Yes,” he admitted, moving closer.  “I think I have always known it but was afraid to admit it to myself.”

“I didn’t want to fall in love with you because you were a priest but I couldn’t help myself.”

He reached out and cupped her face between his hands.  “Love is a very powerful force,” he murmured huskily.  “It’s best not to fight it.” His eyes darkened as he gazed down into her upturned face.  Then, he lowered his head.  She closed her eyes when she felt his lips on hers.  They kissed passionately for several minutes and then, he released her.

“You have to go,” she said.

He nodded.  “Yes.  If I don’t leave right now…”

She smiled.  “I understand.”  She followed him to the door.  “When will I see you again?”

“Come to church on Sunday.  It will be my last service.”

“I’ll be there.”  She reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  When she drew back, she asked, “So, what do I call you when you’re no longer a priest?”

He smiled.  “Call me, Guus.”

“Good night, Guus.”

“Good night, Zahra.”

Guus Martens left the priesthood and returned to Amsterdam where Zahra and he got married.  Although he missed saying Mass, preaching and administering sacraments, he knew he had made the right decision.  He couldn’t continue to deny his love for Zahra nor hide his frustration over the sex scandals plaguing the Catholic Church and its social positions on issues such as divorce, remarriage and mandatory celibacy.  He got a job teaching in a parochial school while Zahra worked at a cafe where one of the regular customers was a member of  Amsterdam Black Women Meetup, a group she was more than happy to join.

She thanked God for blessing her with another good man and she had come to peace with the death of her son.  God took him for a reason but she knew that she would see him again and that gave her comfort.  She remembered her fiance with fondness.  She had loved him very much but she knew that if he had survived the accident, she wouldn’t have married him.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him if she had because she had fallen in love with the priest who had helped her through her grief.  God had blessed her with Guus and now they were happily married and expecting their first child.  Her favorite scripture verse became, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.  

Love is a very powerful force and even priests are not immune to it.  

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Amsterdam Black Women MeetupDutch ReviewNorthwest50Plus

The Mighty Sea

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;  These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep – Psalm 107:23, 24

ship and sea waves

(original unknown)

When you see some of the waves, you can’t help but marvel.  Some are as high as skyscrapers.  Imagine seeing what looks like an impenetrable wall of water surging towards you.  Those who are in ships see and experience firsthand God’s majesty and power in those surging and crashing waves. “He stirs up the sea with His power and by His understanding He breaks up the storm. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, Which lifts up the waves of the sea” (Job 26:12; Psalm 107:25).

And the sea is so vast.  Large marine life like the humpback whale and the whale shark look like specks of dust in the sea when you view them from the air.  Yet, God is Master over the sea.  “Do you not fear Me?’ says the Lord. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence,
Who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, Yet they cannot prevail;  Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it” (Jeremiah 5:22).

Yes, the sea can be very intimidating because of its vastness, unfathomable depth and massive waves but the LORD on high is mightier Than the noise of many waters, Than the mighty waves of the sea (Psalm 93:4).  Isn’t it comforting to know that this God is the same One who takes care of us?  He is mightier than any storms or troubles we may face in life.

The Eaton Man

This may sound strange but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  I was dating a guy for two years.  We got engaged but months before the wedding, we decided that we weren’t right for each other.  Now, he’s engaged to one of my friends and I’m one of the bridesmaids.  The wedding is tomorrow.  It’s going to be strange seeing his family again, especially since they would have been my in-laws.  Still, I know that Nathanael and I made the right decision.  I’m happy for him.  His fiancee, Gina is a great person.  She and I have been friends since high-school.

When I think about it, Nathanael and Gina are perfect for each other.  He and I wouldn’t have worked out.  We loved each other but weren’t in love with each other.  When we announced to his family that the engagement was off, everyone was shocked and very disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a wedding.  They had been looking forward to it.  I noticed that Nathanael’s Dad didn’t say much.  He was a very reserved man.  When I first met him, I wasn’t sure if he approved of me.  Nathanael assured me that his Dad liked me.  He told me that he was a very private person.  He wasn’t an extrovert like his son.  It had been ten years since his wife, Nathanael’s mother, died from heart disease.

When I met Nathanael’s father, I knew I was in big trouble.  I was instantly attracted to him and felt really guilty about it.  I mean, I was dating his son.  What kind of woman I was–dating a guy and being attracted to his father?  I was afraid to go to family get-togethers because I knew I was going to see Mr. Eaton and it worried me that I might end up being alone with him.  What would I do then?  Would I be able to hide my attraction for him?

I’m going to see the family and Mr. Eaton tomorrow at the wedding.  I’m debating whether or not to take someone with me as my guest.  I don’t have a boyfriend.  Since Nathanael and I broke our engagement I haven’t dated anyone.  I suspect that it’s because of Mr. Eaton which is very foolish because I don’t stand a chance with him.  He probably just sees me as Nathanael’s ex-fiancee who is young enough to be his daughter.  Besides, he’s such an attractive man, it won’t be long before there’s a love interest who will be closer to his age.  The thought of him with another woman bothered me greatly.  I pushed it out of my mind and picking up my phone, I call my good friend, Troy and ask him to go to the wedding with me.  Fortunately, he was available.  So, I had a date, well, in a manner of speaking.  Nathanael and Troy never met.

It was the day before the wedding and I was on my way home from the grocery store when I spotted Mr. Eaton.  My heart and pulse immediately began to race.  He was standing just a few feet away, looking at me.  As I stood there debating whether or not I should walk over to him he started walking towards me.  I willed myself to act calm.  When he reached me, I smiled nervously.  “Good afternoon, Mr. Eaton,” I said breathlessly.  I shifted the bags to my left hand so that I could shake his.  I know shaking hands with the man who was almost my father-in-law seemed a bit formal but I was afraid to hug him.

He towered over me although I was wearing heels.  His eyes flickered over my face and there was a slight smile tugging at his lips.  “Hello, Adah.”  He clasped my hand in his large one.  His fingers felt so warm.  “It has been a while since I last saw you.  How have you been?” he asked.

“I–I’ve been well, thanks.  Busy at work.  What about you?”

“I’m happy to hear that you’ve been well.  Ever since Nathanael started dating another girl, I have been wondering how you were.”

He had released my hand and I was holding the bag again rather tightly.  If he only knew how seeing him and being this close to him was affecting me.  “I’m doing fine, Mr. Eaton.  I’m happy for Nathanael and Gina.  I think they will be very happy together.”

“So, it really doesn’t bother you that he’s marrying someone else?”

“No, it doesn’t.  He met the woman who is right for him.”

“What about you?  Have you moved on?”

“Yes, I have.  As-as a matter of fact, I’m bringing a date to the wedding tomorrow.”  Now why did I say that?  I saw his expression change.

kult_model_Cameron_Lee_178374

“Well, I have to be going now.  I’m meeting a friend for dinner.  Enjoy the rest of your day.  I’ll see you tomorrow at the wedding.”

“Thanks, you too.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”  I watched him walk away, my heart heavy.  I wanted to run after him and tell him that I hadn’t moved on with someone else and that the person I was bringing to the wedding was just a friend.  Then, I remembered that he said he was having dinner with someone–probably a woman.  Well, that settled it.  He was seeing someone.  I turned and headed in the opposite direction.

I was depressed when I got home.  I didn’t even feel like eating but I forced myself to.  I spent the rest of the afternoon, busying myself with cleaning the apartment because I knew I wouldn’t have time to do so tomorrow.  I went to bed early but it took a long time for me to fall asleep.  I lay awake, staring up at the ceiling and thinking about him.  I was in love with him.  I wondered what Nathanael would say if he knew that I was in love with his father.  Would he be upset, amused or would he feel sorry for me?  I sighed heavily and rolled on to my side. I closed my eyes.  I dreamt that I saw Mr. Eaton having dinner with a beautiful woman at a cozy restaurant.  They were laughing and toasting.  I watched them, feeling miserable but they didn’t notice me.  I dreamt that I told Nathanael that I loved his father but he laughed at me.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt terrible.  I dragged myself out of the bed and fixed myself a light breakfast.  The hours seemed to drag but finally, it was time to get ready for the wedding.  I showered and got dressed.  The car with Gina’s mother and the other bridesmaids drove up just as I came through the doors.

“Thank you, Troy,” I said as I pulled on my coat.  “You look really nice in your suit.”

He thanked me as we left my apartment and walked to the elevator.

It was a 20 minute ride to Gina’s family home where the two limos were to pick us up.  Troy and I arranged to meet at the church after the service and ride over together to the reception.   I rang the doorbell and Gina’s mother let me in.  After we hugged, we went to Gina’s bedroom where she and the other bridesmaids were.  We all hugged each other.  Gina looked lovely.  I gave her a chain which my mother had given me before she passed away.  “Something borrowed,” I said.  I put it around her neck and when she looked at her reflection in the mirror, she was touched.

“Thank you, Adah.  It’s lovely.”

“Now don’t start crying or we’ll all be crying,” I scolded her and she laughed.

We went to the church in separate limos.  I went with Gina’s mother and the other bridesmaids while Gina rode with her paternal uncle who was giving her away.  Her father had passed away when she was seven years old.  It was a beautiful, mild, sunny day.  The guests were still arriving and the parking lot was filling up.  We were ushered to a room where we were to wait until it was time.

And then, the wedding service was on the way.  We walked down the aisle and when the bridesmaids took our seats, my eyes strayed over to where Mr. Eaton was.  He looked really handsome in his three piece suit.  I wondered if the woman he had the dinner with was there.  I forced myself to concentrate on the service.  When it was over, Troy and I headed over to the church.

The reception was held in the Courtyard ballroom at the Vaughn Estate.  The room was elegant and beautifully put together.  I was very impressed.  The bridal party along with their guests sat at one table while the bride and bridegroom sat at another with the groom’s father, the bride’s mother and her uncle.  My eyes kept straying over to where Mr. Eaton was and a couple of times, I caught his eye.  I wondered if we would have a chance to speak to each other before the night was over.  I looked away as Troy and I took our seats.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your young man?” A voice inquired a few minutes later.  Startled, I looked up and saw Mr. Eaton standing there.  As usual, my heart and pulse began to race.  He looked so handsome.  His gaze shifted from me to Troy.

“Oh, yes.  Sorry.  Troy, this is Mr. Eaton, the bridegroom’s father.  Mr. Eaton, this is Troy.”

The two men shook hands.  “I’ve been to weddings before but this one is very classy,” Troy said.

Mr. Eaton smiled.  “Thank you.  I’m delighted that you think so.  I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.”

“Thank you.  I’m sure I will.”

Mr. Eaton’s eyes met mine in a steady stare, making my stomach do crazy things.  “Excuse me,” he said before he turned and walked away.  I watched him go, wishing that he and I could be alone together somewhere.

“Very nice man,” Troy commented.  “He looks extremely good for his age.”

“Yes, he does.”

Troy leaned over and said in a low voice, “I think he likes you.”

I stared at him.  “Really?  What makes you think that?”  Just then, the rest of the party joined us so Troy didn’t get a chance to answer my question.  Bummer.

The food was delicious.  The conversation flowed.  We were all having a great time.  Nathanael and Gina came by our table and stayed for a few minutes before they returned to theirs.  Everyone agreed that it was a fantastic wedding and the banquet hall was perfect.  Soon, dinner was over and it was time to dance.  We watched as the wedded couple danced their first dance.  They looked great together.  I was so thrilled for them.

I didn’t realize that I was alone at my table.  The others were either on the dance floor or had gone off somewhere.  I had no idea where Troy was.  I thought he was going to ask me to dance.  My heart leapt in my chest when I saw Mr. Eaton coming towards me.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” he asked.

“Yes, I am, thank you.  And-and what about you?”

“Yes, I’m happy with how everything has turned out.”

“Yes, things couldn’t have been more perfect.”

“You look so beautiful, Adah.”

I felt so shy and flattered by his compliment.  “Thank you, Mr. Eaton,” I managed to say.

“May I have this dance?” he asked.

Tongue-tied, I nodded and followed him to the dance floor.  Our eyes met briefly before he took me in his arms and we began to move to the music.  I could smell the aftershave.  It felt so good to be so close to him.  He was a terrific dancer and we moved with such ease.  I caught Nathanael’s eye and he smiled and winked at me. Gina looked very pleased too.

After the dance was over, I was expecting him to lead me off the dance floor and back to my table but instead, we ended up outside of the ballroom. “I need to talk to you,” he said urgently.  “We can talk on the walk out patio.  Here, you can put on my jacket.”  He took it off and helped me on with it.  Then, holding my arm, he escorted me out on to the patio.  We were completely alone and where we stood, no one could see us.

We faced each other.  The night was clear and beautiful.  I couldn’t believe that I was wearing his jacket and that we were out here alone together.  My heart was pounding like crazy.  “It has been a wonderful wedding, hasn’t it?  I loved when they read their own vows and they looked so much in love when they danced their first dance and the food was to die for.” I was babbling because I was so nervous.

“Adah, is Troy your boyfriend?”

I shook my head at once.  “No, he’s just a good friend.  He’s more like a brother to me.”

He released his breath.  “You have no idea how relieved I am to hear you say that.”

I stared at him.  “You’re relieved?” I asked.  Why was he relieved that Troy wasn’t my boyfriend?  Could it be…?

“Yes, I’m relieved because it means that you’re not seeing anyone.”

“I’m sorry that I made you think that I was.”

“When my wife, Joan died, I was devastated.  She was my first love and my high-school sweetheart.  Nathanael was our only child.  After Joan died, I withdrew.  I didn’t want to go out and socialize.  I just wanted to be alone to grieve.  I took some bereavement time off and went for grief counseling.  It was hard going to church because Joan was in the church choir.  I missed seeing her with them.  She used to love to sing to the Lord.  She had such a lovely voice.  Family and friends told me that Joan would want me to move on–to be happy again but that seemed very unlikely until I met you.  I was deeply attracted to you the moment I first saw you and it scared me.  It scared me because you were young enough to be my daughter and you were dating my son.  I tried to fight my attraction for you and when Nathanael told me he was going to marry you, I tried to be happy for him but it was so hard because by then I had fallen in love with you.

“I was so torn up over it that I asked God to help me to get over you but for the first time in my life I felt as if my prayers weren’t being answered.  I didn’t know what else to do.  Then, Nathanael and you announced that the wedding was off.  Instead of being sorry, I was relieved.  I wanted to get in touch with you and be there whenever you needed someone to talk to.  And when Nathanael became involved with Gina, I wanted to see you and make sure that you were all right.  I wanted to be your friend–a father figure if you preferred.  I began to hope that in time you would come to care for me but when you told me that you had moved on with someone else and that your were bringing him to the wedding I was heartbroken.”

“Is that why you had to leave?”

“Yes.  It was torture standing there talking to you and knowing that there wasn’t any hope for me.”

“You said that you were meeting a friend for dinner.  Was the friend a woman?”

“No.  It was Jim, an old buddy of mine.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  “I was so afraid that it was a woman.  That’s what stopped me from coming after you.”

“Why did you want to come after me?” he asked.

“I wanted to tell you that I hadn’t moved on with anyone and that my date was just a very good friend.”

“If you had done that I would have told you right there and then how I felt about you.”

“I didn’t think that you had feelings for me because of my age and my past relationship with Nathanael.”

“Adah, is there any hope for me?”

“So, you don’t want to be friends?”

“No.  I want more,” he muttered.  “Much, much more.”

I moved closer.  “Me too.”

He reached up and cupped my face between his hands.  “I love you, Adah,” he murmured huskily.

“I love you too, Mr. Eaton.”

“Call me Robert.”

“I love you, Robert.”  I put my arms around his waist and closed my eyes when I felt his lips on mine.

We got engaged a couple of weeks later and married in May.  It’s funny when I think about it.  Things didn’t work between Nathanael and me for one very good reason–he wasn’t the Eaton man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.

If two people are meant to be together, nothing can keep them apart – Sarah