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.

Hope in His Mercy

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom – Psalm 90:12

grateful-woman

My son and I used to sing, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”  Every morning, I thank God for waking me up to enjoy another day.  Each day is a gift from Him.  Each day, we see His goodness, love and mercy toward us.  Each day is an opportunity to right wrongs, make positive changes and to grow in wisdom.

Moses, the man of God, wrote Psalm 90, which is actually a prayer, asking God to teach us to number our days.  What does that mean?  It means that life is short and precious.  We live each day mindful that it could our last and we live each moment wisely.  We should not take life for granted.  We don’t know how many days we have left on this earth.  This is why we ought to cherish each moment.

Life is like grass.  It flourishes one moment and then the next it withers.  It is fragile.  It is temporary.  And this is why we ought to understand and appreciate the shortness of our days so that we live our lives wisely with God’s help.   With each new day there is renewed hope in His mercy.

Unequally Yoked

Falling in love with William wasn’t something I expected to happen. Why not? Well, he’s younger than me, he’s not African American and he’s a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. They don’t believe in wearing jewelry and I love jewelry. I love wearing big gold and silver earrings, rings and bangles. They frown on makeup too. I don’t wear any but it’s not because of religious reasons. I’m allergic to it. So, all I wear is a tinted lip balm. Fortunately for me I have naturally long eyelashes so I don’t need Mascara to darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or define them.

Anyway, makeup aside, I was happily single, dating on and off when it suited me. Most of the men I dated were Christians but on a few occasions I dated non-Christians or men of other faiths. Well, that got my Christian friends talking. I was scolded. My friends Shirley shook her head and wagged her finger in my face. “Girl, don’t you know you’re not supposed to be dating any man outside of the church? Do you want to be unequally yoked?”

“And why would you want to date men outside the church when you have so many fine looking brothers in the church?” Rochelle piped in. “Did you see that visitor we had last week Sunday? I first thing I did when I was introduced to him was to check to see if he was wearing a wedding ring.”

Whenever they carried on like that, I would just look at them and smile. They meant well and I loved them dearly but friend or not, they had no business telling me who I should or shouldn’t date. After all, didn’t Moses marry an Ethiopian woman and Joseph the daughter of an Egyptian priest? I didn’t marry any of those men–I just dated them.

Anyway, we were out at a bowling alley one evening and having a blast when I noticed that this really good looking Asian guy kept staring at me. He was with a group of friends. He was well dressed in a crisp white shirt and black jeans. He had a really nice physique. As I waited my turn to bowl, I allowed my eyes to drink in every detail of him. Finally, I walked up to him and holding out my hand, I said, “Hi, my name’s Monique.”

He looked a bit startled. I guess he wasn’t used to being approached. “William,” he replied after a few seconds and shook my hand. His fingers were long and I could see that they were well manicured. This guy took self grooming very seriously. I like that in a man.

“Is this your first time here?” It wasn’t my first time. I had been there numerous times.

“Yes, it is. What about you?”

“No, I come here often with my friends.”

He glanced over my shoulder. “I think your friends are trying to get your attention,” he said, releasing my hand.

I turned to see Shirley and Rochelle waving wildly. I turned back to William, an apologetic expression on my face. “Excuse me.” I turned and walked over to my friends. I could feel him watching me. I knew I looked great in the red shirt and the jeans which hugged me in all of the right places. Being a Christian didn’t mean that I had to dress like a nun. I bowled and got a strike. My third in the game. Pleased, I returned to William who was up. I watched as he too made a strike. “How many have you had so far?” I asked.

“Four.”

“Good for you.”

“After we have finished our games, would you like to grab something to eat?”

“Here or somewhere else?”

“Here is fine.”

“Sure. If your friends won’t mind.”

“They won’t. What about yours?”

“They won’t mind either.” Of course they would but that was their problem. “I’ll go and finish my game and meet you right here.”

He smiled. “Okay.”

I rejoined my friends who were watching me very closely. After we finished our second game which I won, I told them that I had a date. I indicated with whom the date was and I could just hear the lectures. “Sorry, Ladies but I don’t have time right now to listen to why I shouldn’t grab a bite to eat with a guy I just met.”

Rochelle shook her head. “You really need to be careful when it comes to men,” she said. “The guy is a perfect stranger and you’re going out with him?”

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to have something to eat right here. And when we’re done, I’m going home–alone.”

“Well, I should hope so,” Shirley said. “You’re a Christian, remember? You shouldn’t be taking men back to your place and you should never go to theirs.”

I wonder what they would say if they knew that years ago I had slept with one of the brothers in the church. We hadn’t planned to, of course, but it happened. The following week at church we avoided each other like the plague. I just go out with men and have a good time but at the end of the evening, we part company. I try to be celibate but it isn’t always easy. I’m not a robot. I have needs.

“Don’t worry, ladies,” I said to my friends. “I’ll be good. Now, run along. I’ll see you in church on Sunday.” Then, I turned and walked over to William who was alone. I guess his friends had left. “Do you mind if we ate here?”

“No, I don’t mind at all.”

“Good.” We both order burgers–his was a veggie and mine was a cheesy cheeseburger with fries and milkshakes. We sat at a table and as we ate, we talked about all sorts of things. “Do you have a girlfriend?” I asked. He wouldn’t be the first guy to step out on his woman.

“No. What about you? Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No. I’m single. How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

“I’m thirty-six.” I figured that he was younger than me. “Have you ever dated an older woman?”

He shook his head. “No. Have you ever dated a younger man?”

“No, but there’s a first time for everything.” Did I just say that? Was I seriously thinking about dating him? I must be out of my mind. He was younger than me, for Pete’s sake and he wasn’t a brother. Yet, I couldn’t deny that I was extremely attracted to him. I kept having all sorts of thoughts that a Christian woman shouldn’t be having. And it didn’t help that the first button of his shirt was undone. I tried to keep my eyes on his face. He had the most amazing brown eyes. I could drown in them. I realized that I was staring and I turned my attention to my fries.

“So, what else do you like to do besides bowling with your friends on a Friday night?”

“I like to read, go for long walks, shopping and travel. What about you?”

“I enjoy a good game of tennis, cycling, swimming and long walks.”

“What do you do for entertainment?”

“I’m not really into any type of entertainment except maybe a gospel concert or maybe an opera or a ballet or a classical music performance.”

“Really? So, you won’t go to a nightclub or a bar, then?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Those are not the sort of places that a Christian should go to.”

“So, you’re a Christian?”

“Yes.”

“So am I.” I could see the surprise on his face. “I guess it’s hard to believe that because of the jewelry.”

“Well, the women at my church don’t wear jewelry or makeup.”

“Let me guess. You’re a Seventh-day Adventist.”

“Yes. Are you familiar with our beliefs?”

“Yes. You are what I would call legalistic because of all your dos and Sony’s.  You don’t believe in having fun, do you?

“I believe in having fun, yes, as long as it is done responsibly and it doesn’t conflict with my beliefs.”

“What about being with me, a non-Adventist? Wouldn’t the members of your church have a problem with that?”

He smiled.  “Some of them might but I’m not answerable to them but to the Lord who welcomed all who came to Him.”

“I think all churches have the same problem.  They say they are the body of Christ but they have a problem with us associating with people of other faiths.  Adventists don’t seem to like being around non-Christians and non-Adventists.  My grandmother was an Adventist and when I visited her church, I felt uncomfortable.  Some of the members couldn’t hide their disapproval of me because I wore jewelry.  After my grandmother’s funeral, I never went back to that church.”

“I’m sorry you had a bad experience.  Does this mean that you wouldn’t go out with me because I’m an Adventist?”

“Are you asking me out, William?”

“Yes, I am.”

“All right, I’ll go out with you.”

“Have your ever been  to a circus?”

“No.”

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll take you to one on Sunday and then we will go for dinner afterwards.”

“Sounds good to me.” I glanced at my watch.  It was getting late and I had had a long day.  “Well, it’s time for me to head home.”  

He looked disappointed.  “Do you have ride?”

I nodded as I stood up.  “Yes, I drove here.”

He stood up.  “I’ll walk you to your car.”

We walked to my car and before we parted company, I gave him my address and number.  “See you on Sunday,” I said as I got behind the wheel.”

“See you on Sunday.”  He waved as I drove off.

Sunday came and we went to the circus where we had a blast.  Afterwards, we went to a Thai restaurant.  Over mouth watering food, we made plans to see each other again.  Then, we started dating.  It wasn’t long before I realized that I was falling for him.  That scared me.  I have been in love before but this was different.  I was actually thinking of marriage.  Marriage!  Me.  The woman who liked being single.  I wasn’t sure how he felt about me.  I knew he wanted me–the kiss we shared the other night made that crystal clear to me.  If I didn’t break off the kiss, grab my jacket and hightailed it out of his apartment, who knows how things would have progressed.

We are walking in the park now, holding hands.  We draw a few stares but I’m used to it.  We come to a quiet, secluded spot where we stop.  We face each other.  He has a very serious expression on his face.  I swallowed hard, my heart racing.  Is he about to break up with me?  The thought terrifies me.  I’m so crazy about this guy.

“Monique, we have been seeing each other for a while now.  You must know by now how I feel about you.”

“How do you feel about me?”  I wanted him to come right out and tell me.

“I love you.”

Relief washed over me and I smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I know that we come from two different denominations but I can’t give up on you, on us because of that.  I want to marry you, Monique.”

“Marry me?  Are you sure?” I wanted to be sure that was what he really wanted.

“Yes.”  He released my hand and getting down on one knee, he reached into the breast-pocket of his jacket and took out a little red box.  He opened it and removed a beautiful diamond ring.  “Monique Charles, will you marry me?”

Tears sprang to my eyes and for a moment I was too choked up to say anything.  “Yes!” I managed to gasp and he sprang to his feet and pulled me into his arms.  He hugged me tightly about my waist before he leaned down and kissed me.  When we finally broke apart, we went to our favorite place to celebrate–the bowling alley where we met.

Two years have passed.  William and I have moved into a nice, residential area just outside of the city because we have a son and another one is on the way.  I’m no longer a Pentecostal Christian.  My friends, Rochelle and Shirley were upset at first but they decided that it was my life to do what I wished with it and besides, they could see how happy I am.  While we were dating, I began attending William’s church and after a lot of prayer and fasting, I got baptized and became a member.  This means that I’m no longer wearing jewelry and believe it or not, I don’t miss it.  I love my new life with William and I’m thankful to God for bringing us together.  We are equally yoked in every way now.

Source: Pinchasers

While We Still Can…

The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor any who go down into silence – Psalm 115:17

senior woman praying looking up on black backgroundYesterday, while my husband and I were singing hymns before the close of our weekly Sabbath worship, it hit me that when you are dead you can’t praise God anymore.  And I was so thankful that I’m still alive to be able to sing of His love and His goodness.

Perhaps this is why we are encouraged to praise God and give Him thanks.  David declared, “While I live I will praise the LORD;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:2).

While we still have life, we ought to praise our God.

Amos’ Story

People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes – Sheila McKechnie 

My name is Amos.  I became homeless because an untreated bipolar disorder.  I lost my job and ended up on the streets.  I was afraid to go to a shelter because I heard so many stories of how dangerous shelters are.  They’re full of drugs and drug dealers, people steal your shoes and there are bedbugs and body lice.  I preferred to take my chances outside of the shelter.  So, I slept on the streets, abandoned buildings and parks.  I didn’t sleep in parks often because at night they weren’t safe and my sleep was often interrupted by the police asking me to move along.

My life changed when I was arrested for stealing food.  I had begged all day but nobody gave me anything.  Usually, I would get at least five dollars in change and I would buy a hot chocolate and a chicken sandwich from Tim Horton’s.  But that day, I was out of luck.  Maybe it was because it was cold and people were anxious to get home.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I was starving and I had to have something to eat.  I ducked into a supermarket and grabbed a loaf of bread from off one of the shelves but I got caught as I tried to make my escape.  I was arrested.

Fortunately for me, the prosecutor and the defense attorney and the judge said that I wasn’t a criminal but I needed help.  They told me to go to a homeless shelter and to get treatment for my bipolar disorder.  I had to go on medication and see a psychiatrist.  I can see now that getting arrested was the best thing that happened to me.  I got treatment and got better.  Thanks to my psychiatrist, I was placed in transitional housing and received job search assistance.  It was at one of their health and wellness activities that I met Vivica, a Christian woman.

She shared with me that she was a battered woman who was forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and homelessness.  She wound up on the street and stayed there for a few nights until she went into a church to pray.  One night, she fell asleep in one of the pews and the custodian found her.  He referred her here, a safe place where she received the emotional support she needed.

Just recently, she found out that her abusive boyfriend was arrested for aggravated assault.  He would serve 14 years in prison.  I could see the sadness on her face.  “I hope that he will find God in prison,” she said.  “I will pray for him.”

“Do you still love him?” I asked.

She thought about it for a moment.  “To be honest, I don’t think I ever loved him.  I cared for him and stayed with him because I thought that I could help him but I was wrong.”

“I’m sorry that you wound up with a guy like that.”

“Sometimes we meet up with people who hurt and spitefully use us but they need our prayers.  Something happened to them and that’s why they’re that way.  Maybe he was abused too.”

“I wish I could be as forgiving as you.  I’m still sore with my boss for firing me because of my illness.  I guess I should have been taking my medication and gone for treatment but the medication I was taking was making me sick.  I tried to explain that to him but he wouldn’t listen.  He said that he had to let me go because my mood swings were affecting my co-workers.”

2aada538b73f386fc0c3a5cc2396f9be2“I’m sorry you lost your job.  Didn’t you go and get help?  Maybe see a psychiatrist who would prescribe different medication that might be better for you?

I shook my head.  “No, I thought I could manage it but I was wrong.  I didn’t go for treatment.  I took the medication which was making me sick because I wanted to find another job.  Once I got a job, I was going to see a psychiatrist and get new medication but I couldn’t get a job.  As soon as I told them that I was let go from my last job because I had bipolar disorder, the interview was over.  My rent increased and I couldn’t pay it so I had to leave.  I don’t have family here.  They are all back in East Jerusalem.  I’m the only one who moved to Canada because I wanted a better life for myself.  I was tired of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“So, you’re Palestinian?”

“Well, my father is Israeli and my mother is Palestinian.  So, I’m both.”

“That explains why your name is Amos.  It’s the name of a Jewish prophet in the Bible.”

“I was brought up in the Jewish faith.  Before my parents married, my mother converted to Judaism.”

“So, you’ve read the Bible.”

“The Hebrew Bible called the Tanakh.    It contains only the Old Testament.”

“The Bible I read and study contains both the Old and the New Testaments.”

“I know that Christianity is one of the three major monotheistic religions.”

“Did you know that the first Christians were Jews?”

“I don’t know much about the faith except that they believe in the Trinity and that Jesus is the Messiah.”

“We also believe that salvation is by faith and not by works.”

“I’m curious to learn more about your faith and what you believe.”

She smiled.  “I’ll be more than happy to talk to you about these things.”

“How later after dinner?”

“Okay.  We’ll find a quiet place where we can talk.”

“Vivica, would you go out with me even though I’m not a Christian and am mentally ill?”

She sat down beside me and put her hand on mine.  It felt nice and warm.  “Amos, of course, I would go out with you.  There are so many examples of interfaith couples and your mental illness isn’t something you should apologize for or feel ashamed of.  It doesn’t define you.  You and I have known each other for a while now and I have never treated you differently from anyone else because of your illness.”

“That’s true and I’m really grateful for that.”

“I really like you, Amos and to be honest, if you didn’t ask me to go out with you, I would have asked you.  It’s the twenty-first century.  Women are not waiting to be asked anymore.”

I laughed.  “Good for them.”

“Do you think your parents would object to you dating a Christian woman?”

“They might but I can always remind them that when they were from two different faiths when they met and fell in love but then again , they might be happy for me.”

“Happy for you? Why?”

“Happy because something good came out of all of the bad stuff I have been going through lately,” I replied as I reached for her other hand.  “I got to meet you.”

She was so moved by what I said that she couldn’t say anything.  She just smiled and reaching out, she touched my face.

Out of bad situations, God could bring good into our lives.

Sources:  National Public Radio; Daniel Pitino Shelter; Salvation Army; Solutions Center; Treatment Advocacy Center; York RegionDare2Share; Psycom

Let His Light Shine in Your Life

I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not remain in darkness – John 12:46, MEV

person-in-darkness-focus-on-eyes-to-represent-night-blindness

I don’t like darkness.  When I turn off the light, the place is in pitch darkness and I have to wait until my eyes adjust before I carefully find my way through the darkness to the staircase.  There is something oppressive and unsettling about darkness.  And when you turn on the light, that darkness is gone.  The light chases away the darkness.  The room is flooded with light and you can see what is there.  That’s another thing about darkness, you can’t see what’s there.  You have to be careful you don’t bump into things.

The world was a large dark room and Jesus was the Light which came into it.  He came to shine in our hearts and in our lives.  Once we put our faith and trust in Him, we will leave the darkness behind.  It will no longer have power over us.  We won’t have to feel our way around in life, trying not to bump into trouble or temptations or stumble or even fall anymore.  We look to Jesus, our Light and allow Him to guide us in every area of our lives.

Today, make the decision to come to Jesus.  Let His light shine in your life.  Don’t remain in the dark any longer.