Being a Neighbor

Only Jesus could simplify spiritual matters in a way that anyone can understand.  He summed up the Ten Commandments into two–love God and love your neighbor (Mark 12:30, 31).  When a lawyer asked Jesus the question, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling a parable about the man who was attacked on his way to Jericho by robbers and left for dead on the road.   Two men passed by, first a priest who passed by on the other side and then a Levite who looked and passed by the other side.   It’s interesting that both of these men who were associated with the priesthood did not minister to the injured man but left him there until a kind stranger stopped to help him.

Through this wonderful illustration of love and compassion, we learn that our neighbor is not only the person who lives next door or opposite but any person in need.  To be a neighbor is to care for others–show kindness and to help them in whatever way we can.  After Jesus finished telling the story, He asked the question, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”  The lawyer replied, “He who showed mercy on him.”  Jesus told him to go and do likewise (Luke 10:36, 37).

A neighbor is not necessarily someone of our race, culture, background or religion.  It was a Samaritan, not a Jew who stopped to help the man.  In those times, Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans (John 4:9).  To be a neighbor is not to allow our prejudices to prevent us from helping those who are different from us.

When it comes to loving your neighbor there partiality isn’t a factor.  The Samaritan didn’t see an enemy lying at the side of the road but a person who was badly in need of help.  He felt compassion for him and getting off his donkey, he went over to him and bandaged his wounds before taking him to an inn where he could recuperate.  Being a neighbor means setting aside our differences and demonstrating the love of God to others.

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right – James 2:8

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The Heart Speaks

“I sympathize with your situation but I’m afraid you don’t fit what we are looking for.  You have the qualifications but you just don’t fit what we are looking for.  I’m sorry.  I hope things work out for you.”

These words played over and over in Shannon’s mind as she walked down the sidewalk, tired from job hunting and interviews that ended the same–rejection.  What was wrong with her?  Was it her appearance, her color?  Was it her hair which was very short and natural?  She had the qualifications and when they called her for an interview, they sounded enthusiastic but when they saw her in person, the reception was lukewarm.  And the interview didn’t last long at all.  She was in and out of there in less than half-hour.

What on earth was she going to do now?  If she didn’t get a job soon, she would be evicted from her flat.  That meant she would have to move back in with her parents until she could find a job.  She didn’t relish the idea of moving back with her parents after being on her own for a while.  Sighing heavily, she decided to go to the park and sit there and try to figure out what to do.  First, she would grab a cappuccino.  Maybe she could try an employment agency.  A temporary job was better than nothing.

It was after twelve and the cafe was filling up.  As she joined the line to place her order, she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around.  Her heart skipped a beat when she found herself staring up into the handsome face of Arran Carter, her ex-boyfriend’s uncle.

His hazel eyes were riveted to her face which he thought was exquisitely beautiful. “Hello, Shannon,” he said quietly.  Since the first time they met, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind.

“Hello, Mr. Carter,” she said trying to sound calm when her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  He had this effect on her.  After meeting him, she knew she couldn’t continue to see Hugh.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him continue their relationship when she had fallen for his uncle.

“Please call me Arran.  It’s so good to see you.  How have you been?”

“Well, I haven’t been so good,” she told him.  “I have been out of a job for about a year now and haven’t found anything as yet and time is running out.  I could lose my flat if I don’t find something soon.”

“Have you had lunch?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I just came from an interview and was going to get a cappuccino.”

“Let me buy you lunch and we can talk more.”

She smiled, grateful.  “Thank you.”  He put a hand under her elbow and led her to a table in the corner by the window.  She removed her coat to reveal a navy blue skirt suit and a white shirt.  As she sat down, she couldn’t help thinking about how she used to dress when she first attended university.

During the summer, she wore top with spaghetti straps, bulky and cheap chains and necklaces and too much makeup.  And in the winter, she wore mostly black and leather, torn jeans and impossibly high pointed toe boots.  In her senior year, she underwent a complete make-over.  Her style went from edgy to elegant so that her friends and parents were shocked and pleased at the transformation.  She wondered what Arran would have thought if he had known her then.

She studied him as his six foot two inches frame settled in the seat opposite her.  He was wearing a tan colored jacket which he removed, a black shirt and pants.  His dark hair was thick and spiky, giving him a rugged look which she found very attractive.  She wanted to reach over and ruffle it.  Realizing that she was staring, she turned and looked out of the window.

The waitress brought menus and after they browsed through them and placed their orders, he said, “You mentioned that you had an interview earlier.  I don’t imagine that it went as you’d hoped.”

She shook her head as she played with the folded napkin on the table.  “No.  They said I didn’t fit what they were looking for even I had the qualifications.”

He pursed his lips.  “That was an unethical thing to say,” he remarked tersely.  “If you have  the qualifications, they should have hired you.”

She glanced up at him.  “Perhaps, they had a problem with the way I look.”

“What ‘s wrong with the way you look?” he wondered in surprise.  You look amazing. 

“Nothing as far as I’m concerned.”

“Do you have a copy of your resume with you?”

“Yes, I do.”  She reached for her handbag and produced a copy which she gave to him.  She watched anxiously as he read it.

“May I hold on to this?” he asked.

She nodded.  Just then, the waitress brought their orders.  She toyed with her salad, wondering if he was going to give her resume to someone he knew.

“You have all the qualifications I’m looking for,” he said.  “My assistant Loretta is going on maternity leave in two weeks so I’ll be needing someone to fill her position.  How would you feel about working for me?”

She stared at him for several minutes.  “I would like that very much,” she managed to say.  “Thank you, Arran.”

“You’re welcome.”  He had done it for himself as much as he had done it for her.  Hiring her as his assistant meant that he would get to see her on a regular basis.  “I’d like you to start on Monday.”  He took out his wallet and pulled out a card which he handed to her.  It was a business card.  “When you get there, have the receptionist call me and I will come and get you.”

She put the card in her wallet, grateful to him for his kindness.  Her appetite was back and she tucked into the salad.  “I haven’t asked you how you’ve been,” she said, sounding a bit apologetic.

“I’ve been fine, thanks,” he said, studying her.  Her eyes captivated him.  “Work keeps me busy.”

She wanted to find out if he was seeing anyone but instead she asked, “Do you go out on the weekends?”

“Sometimes.  What about you?”

“Sometimes I go out but most times I stay in.”

“I ran into Hugh the other day.”

“How is he?”  She hadn’t seen him since the break-up.

“He seemed fine.  He mentioned that you broke up with him.”

“That’s true,” she acknowledged.

“Are you seeing anyone now?” he asked.  His expression was inscrutable as he watched her.

“No, I’m not seeing anyone now,” she said, looking at him.  “What about you?”

“I’m not in a relationship,” he said.  Their eyes met and held for several minutes, then he asked, “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”  Nervousness and excitement filled her at the prospect of having dinner with him.  “My address and number are on my resume.”

He smiled.  “I know.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

They spoke about other things and then it was time for him to head back to the office.  “Thank you so much for lunch and the job,” she said putting on her coat while he paid the bill.  “I really appreciate it.”

“It was my pleasure,” he replied.  “May I give you a ride somewhere?”

“You can give me a ride to the tube if it’s not out of your way.”

“It isn’t.”  He pulled on his jacket and they walked out of the cafe.  They walked a short distance to where his BMV was parked.  He held the door open for her and their eyes met briefly before she got in.

As she strapped herself in, she couldn’t help but marvel at how her day was turning out.  She promised herself that she would get down on her knees as soon as she got home and thank God for turning things around for her.  Arran got in beside her and soon the engine purred to life and they pulled into traffic.  It was twenty minute ride to the train station and after she climbed out of the car, she turned to him.  “Thanks again for everything.”  She held out her hand and her senses swam when she felt his fingers wrap around hers.

“Don’t mention it,” he said quietly.  “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow evening.”

“Me too.”  She was sorry when he released her hand.  She waved at him before she turned and quickly walked away.

He stood there and watched her until she disappeared into the underground before he got back into his car and drove off.

It was five minutes to seven and she was ready.  She stood in front of the full length mirror looking at herself.  The V Neck Jersey Long Sleeve Red Mini Dress accentuated her figure and complimented her coloring.  The pearl necklace and tiny pearl earrings added a touch of elegance.  Satisfied, she walked out of the room and was just getting her coat of the closet when the doorbell rang.  She glanced at the clock.  Exactly seven.  Arran was punctual.

She pulled on her coat, quickly buttoned it and grabbed her the nude handbag which perfectly matched her nude pointed toe pumps as she walked to the door.  Her heart pounding with excitement, she eagerly opened and her face broke into a big smile when she saw Arran standing there.  His hair was slicked back, giving him a polished look.  “Good evening,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Good evening,” he replied, taking her hand, his gaze never leaving her face as he raised it to his lips.

The smile faded as she felt all sorts of sensations run through her body at the feel of his warm lips against the back of her hand.  Her chest began to rise and fall quickly and her heart was beating wildly.  She found herself wondering what it would be like to feel those lips on hers.  When he released her hand, she turned and locked the door, her hand trembling slightly.  She almost dropped the key on the floor instead on in her handbag.  Her legs felt a bit wobbly as they walked to the lift.

He took her to a French restaurant where the view of the city was breathtaking and ambience was warm and cozy.  She felt shy when she saw the way he looked at her when she removed her coat.  And he looked gorgeous in the charcoal grey dress suit, matching tie and light blue shirt.

Over white non-alcoholic wine  and amazing dishes, they talked and laughed.  She learned that his father was British and his mother was French.  He had one sibling–an older sister who was Hugh’s mother.  His father died five years ago from a stroke and his mother lived with her widowed sister in Manchester.  Arran told her that he had dated on and off over the years, but nothing serious ever came of those relationships.  He loved his job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  When he wasn’t working, he enjoyed watching sports or for long drives in the countryside.

“Perhaps you would like to come with me for a ride in the countryside tomorrow,” he said.  “We can go to Richmond Park and walk along the trails.  It’s beautiful at this time of the year.  You’ll see the deer that live there and we can have lunch afterwards at the lodge.”

“That sounds great,” she said, her eyes sparkling.  She was going to see him again tomorrow.

They spent a very pleasant evening together and when they got to her flat two hours later, they lingered outside the door, reluctant to part even though they were going to see each other the next day.

“I had a wonderful time this evening,” he said quietly, his eyes restless on her face.

“Me too.”  A pause.  “Would you like to come in and we can talk some more?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I’d like that very much.”

She unlocked the door and held it open for him to go inside and then she locked it.  After sliding of her shoes, she took his coat and went to the closet where she hung it along with hers.  “Would you like something to drink?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No thank you.  You have nice place.”

“Thank you.”  She sat down on the sofa beside him.

“I guess Hugh has been here.”

“Yes.”  There was a long pause and then, she said, “You know he and I never—”

He stared at her.  “You mean you and he never–?”

“We kissed but that was as far as it went.  I told him that I didn’t want to have sex outside of marriage anymore.  I didn’t always feel that way.  When I was in university I was a bit wild and my first and only time was with a senior at the back of his bright yellow pick-up truck when we went on a camping trip.  I was curious and most of my friends were sleeping with their boyfriends.  I was a little tipsy and we were alone.  The others had gone skinny dipping.  I couldn’t swim so I didn’t go and he stayed with me.  We started kissing and one thing led to the other.  I felt awful the next morning and I avoided him.  We never hooked up again after that.  After that night, I promised myself that I will never sleep with a man unless I loved him.  Every time I think of that night I feel ashamed and wish it had never happened.”

Arran reached for her hand.  “We’ve all done things that we regret,” he said.  “When I was sixteen I slept with my best friend’s mother.  I met her when I went over to my friend’s house for a barbecue.  She and his father were separated at the time.  I thought she was hot and she made it clear that she liked me.  One afternoon I dropped by my friend’s house to hang out but he wasn’t there.  He went to the library to return some books.  She was alone at home and she invited me to go in.  She offered me a glass of lemonade because it was hot outside.  We sat on the sofa and talked about all sorts of things and then she leaned over and kissed me.  I was shocked and excited at the same time.  Well, one thing led to another and we ended up doing it right there on the sofa.  Afterwards, I felt awful and I left before my friend got home.  I never went back to his house.  He never found out about his mother and me.  His parents got divorced the year after and he and his mother moved to Liverpool.”

Shannon stared at his long fingers as they played with hers, hardly able to concentrate.  “I have a confession to make,” she said.  “I broke up with Hugh because of you.  When I met you I knew that I couldn’t continue to see him.  It wouldn’t have been right to be with him when you were the one I wanted to be with.”

His eyes darkened.  “This may sound corny but the moment I laid eyes on you, my heart belonged to you.”

“You know the heart speaks,” she said huskily.  “That night at the campsite it spoke to me.  It told me to get away from that campsite before I did something I would regret but I didn’t listen to it.  It told me not to date Hugh but I didn’t listen.  I listened to it when it told me to break up with Hugh because I knew I was in love with you.”

“Is your heart speaking to you now?” He asked.  She nodded. “What is it saying?”

“It’s telling me to let go of the past and all of the regrets and hold on to the love that is right here in front of me.”  She moved closer to him and groaning, he cupped her face between his hands and kissed her.  Her hands were on his thighs, her fingers digging into the material as she kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses and then he was lying on his back and she was stretched out on top of him.  That night marked the beginning of the rest of their lives together.

Nothing speaks louder than your heart.  Listen to what it’s telling you – Georgia Cates

 

Sacred Vows

His strategy for forgetting Justine Samuels was to keep busy with his work as the local parish priest but his efforts failed miserably.  No matter where he was or what he was doing, he couldn’t stop thinking about her and wishing that he could see her again.  He missed her terribly.  Against his better judgment, he had continued to see her even after he realized that he was in love with her.  His excuse was that her grandmother was one of his parishioners and it was his duty to visit her especially since she was unable to attend church.

On several occasions, he visited the elderly woman and prayed for her.  Then he would spend a few minutes in the living-room talking to Justine.  It was during one of those times that she broke down and confessed that she didn’t know how much longer she could continue to care for her grandmother on her own while worrying that she could lose her job because the company might be downsizing.  Her job meant a lot to her because she was able to work from home.  She had moved into her grandmother’s cottage after the elderly woman had fallen ill.

Touched with compassion, he offered to counsel her.  They met once a week in her grandmother’s bright and airy sun room and the sessions lasted for an hour.  Sometimes he would stay afterward and have a cup of tea or he would leave immediately after.

Soon he found himself dropping by even when they didn’t have a counseling session on pretext of checking on her grandmother.  Afterwards, he would feel guilty and go to the chapel and pray for forgiveness.  Try as he did, he couldn’t stay away and during the summer when the weather was pleasant, Justine and he would sit outside in the garden while her grandmother was taking a nap in the living-room.

One afternoon, they were out in the garden, sitting on the bench, talking.  Behind them was a climbing rose bush winding its way up the side of the house to second floor window.  He got up and went over to it.  “Whenever I see a rose, I can’t help but marvel at its beauty and intricacy.  Have you ever heard the quote:  Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.

She shook her head, getting up and going over to him.  “No, I’ve never heard that quote.  Which of the two categories do you fall into?”

“The second.  I praise Him for putting roses among thorns—beauty among the ugliness that exists in this world.”

“For me, the roses represent God’s grace among the thorns which are the trials in life.”

He reached out to pluck a rose from the bush and winced when its thorn pricked him in the palm.  As he reached into his robe for his handkerchief, she took his hand in hers and gently turned it over to examine the wound.  The touch of her fingers stirred feelings in him and mortified, he pulled his hand away.  She looked startled and when she would have reached for his hand again, he stepped back, putting some distance between them.  He pressed his handkerchief into his palm.  It wasn’t bleeding much.  The wound was the size of a needle prick.  “I must be going,” he said tightly.

“But you only got here ten minutes ago,” she protested.

“Yes.  I have matters I need to attend to.”

“Will I see you again tomorrow?”

“No, Justine.  We can’t see each other anymore.”

“But why not?”

“God help me, but I love you.”

Her eyes widened.  “I love you too,” she confessed.  “I’ve wanted to tell you that for such a long time.”

He dragged his fingers through his hair in agitation.  “There’s no future for us.  I’m a Catholic priest and I adhere to the church’s teachings.  I made a vow of celibacy that celibacy so I could identify with Christ who was celibate.   In an act of sacrificial love I vowed to give myself completely to the service of God and His church.”

“But where in the Bible does it say that priests aren’t allowed to fall in love and get married?” she asked, looking confused.  “Aaron and Caiaphas were high priests and they were married.”

“A Catholic priest follows the example of Christ who is our High Priest and He wasn’t married.  His gave His life completely to serving His Father and shepherding His church.  It was Christ who said in Matthew 22:30, ‘In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.’”

“But how do you explain what Paul said about some people forbidding others from marrying, teaching human doctrines and putting traditions above God’s Commandments?”

“Paul made it clear that being single allows a person to give his undivided attention in serving our Lord.  He recommended celibacy because he himself was celibate.”

“But wasn’t it Paul who said ‘let them marry for it is better to marry than to burn with passion’?”

“He was talking about those who can’t exercise self-control.”

“Tell me, Father Montgomery, how do I stop myself from burning with passion?”

“Marry Robert.”  Robert was a member of the church she used to attend before her grandmother became an invalid.  On a few occasions he had stopped by the house to see how she and her grandmother were doing.  “He cares for you.”

“Is that what you want?” she demanded.

His face went pale.  “It’s not a matter of what I want but what must be.”

“So, this is goodbye.  I’m never going to see you again.”  Her voice trembled and he could see the beginning of tears in her eyes.   “This is so wrong.  You and I should be together.”

“What would be wrong is for me to turn my back on my faith, my church and God because I love you,” he muttered between clenched teeth.  He reached out and his hand trembled as he touched her face.  She caught his hand and pressed her lips into the palm where the thorn had pricked him.  Groaning, he wrenched his hand away and bolted from her.  That was the last time he saw her.  He stopped visiting her and sent the Vicar in his place.

Now he was faced with a dilemma.  His love for Justine was affecting his life and his work.    He had to do something about it, but what?  He went into the chapel and spent the next few hours in prayer, pouring his heart out as he sought God’s guidance.

Where is he?  Justine wondered as she sat there in the pew, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.  He wouldn’t be pleased to see her, she knew that, but she had to come, if only to see him once more and to tell him that she had employed a live-in caregiver for her grandmother and that she had left her job for a better one.

As soon as the service was over, she went up to the Vicar.  “Excuse me, Vicar” she said.  “Where’s Father Montgomery?”

“He is no longer with the church.”

Her heart sank.  “Did he transfer to another parish?”

The vicar shook his head.  “No, he left the priesthood.”

She stared at him, in shock.  “He left the church?”

“Yes.  Everyone was shocked except me.  He had started to question the teachings of the church and his heart was no longer in what he was doing.  I suspect this had to do with a woman although he never said anything.  He was unhappy and I told him that whatever he decided to do, make sure it’s a decision he can live with.  After much prayer and fasting, he decided that the best thing for him to do is to leave the priesthood and the Church.  I wished him well.  Perhaps God will lead him in another direction where he can serve Him as faithfully as he has served him all these years.”

Justine thanked him for his time and left.  She walked out of the church in a daze.  Father Montgomery had left the Church.  Where was he?  “Oh, Lord, You know where he is.  Please lead me to him.” As she got into her car, she got a strong impression to go to the park opposite where she lived.   After she parked her car in the garage, she crossed the quiet street and went into the park.  About ten minutes later, she spotted him sitting on the bench facing the duck pond.  Heart thudding she approached him.  “Hello,” she called.

He glanced up.  “Hello,” he replied, quietly, rising to his feet.  His expression was serious as he met her gaze.  “I was coming to see you.  Your grandmother’s nurse told me where you lived.  When I got here, I decided to come to the park first.”

“I heard that you left the Church.  What should I call you now?”

“John.  You can call me John.  How have you been, Justine?  I think about you every waking moment.”

“I’ve been miserable,” she told him.  “I missed you so much.  I went to the parish today just to see you but you weren’t there and the Vicar explained what happened.  Why did you leave, John?”

“I left because I had too many questions about the church’s teachings which contradicted what was in the Bible and—because of you.  I couldn’t hide from my feelings.  It’s funny.  I believed that the robe I wore would protect me from feelings I believed that I shouldn’t be having.  I realized that underneath the robe was a man—a man who desperately loved a woman who was right when she said that it was wrong for us not to be together.  Will you forgive me for running away from a love that no sacred vows could quench?”

She nodded, reaching for his hands.  “There’s nothing to forgive.  I know that it must have been hard for you to leave an institution you have known and served for most of your life but I truly believe that God has a great plan for your life.”

He pulled her closer and bent his head so that his forehead was resting against hers.  “Yes, I believe that He does and you are a big part of that plan.”

She closed her eyes as they stood there in the sunshine, silently thanking God for granting her the desires of her heart.

 

 

 

Sources:  American Magazine; Catholic Answers; Vox; EWTN; Catholic.com; Diocese of Trenton

Jesus’s Birth

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6

Jesus’ birth didn’t happen exactly as one would expect.  Matthew tells us how it came about.  Mary, Jesus’ mother was a virgin.  In fact, Matthew makes a point of showing that in having Jesus, Mary was fulfilling prophecy.  “Now all this occurred to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet, saying,  “A virgin shall be with child, and will bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is interpreted, “God with us.”

Mary was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph.  It was around that time that she was found with child by the Holy Spirit.  Matthew doesn’t go into the details as to how her pregnancy came about but Luke does.  The angel Gabriel visited her to tell her that she was highly favored and blessed among women.  She was told that she would have a Son and call His name Jesus.  He explained how this would happen seeing that she was still a virgin.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

It is not a surprising  thing for the Holy Spirit to create life in Mary.  He was part of the creation of the world where things that didn’t exist came into existence.  Jesus’ birth was to be different from the rest of humanity’s.  He was to be both Divine and Human and this could only be accomplished the way Gabriel explained.

At the risk of ruining her reputation and even her life, Mary agreed to the Lord’s plan for her life.  In those days, if a woman betrothed to another  man was discovered to be pregnant and the child was not the man’s whom she is promised to in marriage, she could be stoned to death for committing adultery.  And this is what was weighing on Joseph’s mind when he found out that Mary was pregnant and knew that it wasn’t his child.

Joseph was a decent man.  He didn’t want to publicly expose Mary but he couldn’t go through with their impending marriage.  He had to break things off quietly.  No doubt his sleep was fitful and it was while he was thinking this predicament, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for He who is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

What a relief that must have been for Joseph.  Mary hadn’t two-timed him and he could go ahead and marry her as he had planned.  When he woke up, he did as the angel told him and he took Mary to be his wife.  And he named her Son, Jesus.

God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus and Joseph to be her husband.  He knew that everything would work out as it should.  Mary trusted God when she accepted His will for her life and as a result she was blessed with Jesus who would her Savior and the world’s.

Sources:  Matthew 1; Luke 1

Jesus’ Family Tree

Knowing where you come from is very important.  Nowadays, there are ways that you can find out about your ancestry.  In some cultures, including Jesus’, genealogies are very important.   Matthew begins Jesus’ genealogy with these words, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Why does Matthew begin the family tree with King David and Abraham?  Well, he wanted show that Israel’s hope had been fulfilled in the coming of Christ.  The promise of Abraham “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3) is fulfilled in Jesus as the Saviour of the world.”  As the Son of David and his direct descendant, Jesus is qualified to be Israel’s King.  The birth of Jesus showed that God had fulfilled His promises to Abraham and David.

It was unusual to include women in genealogies but four are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy.  Tamar who had children with Judah, her father-in-law because he wronged her; Rahab, a Jericho prostitute who helped two Jewish spies; Ruth, a Moabite woman who made God her God because of he mother-in-law, a Jewish widow and Bathsheba, King Solomon’s mother.  Bathsheba is the only one of the four women who is not mentioned by name.  She is called the wife of Uriah, the Hittite.  King David had committed adultery with her while Uriah was away fighting for king and country.

These four women are not type of women you would expect to find in the genealogy of the Son of God.  It just goes to show that these women like all sinners can be redeemed by God and used to accomplish His will.  It is clear that we are precious to God and therefore, despite our sinful nature, are valuable to Him.

Sources:  Matthew 1; Zondervan Handbook to the Bible

The Plane Ride

He sat there on the plane, the open magazine on his lap, his head resting against the back of the seat and his face turned towards the window, watching the clouds and knowing that the distance between Natalie and him was getting wider.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Walking away from her was the most painful and hardest thing he had ever done in his life but things couldn’t continue as they were.  He had to end their relationship.

After a night of torrid lovemaking, he woke up very early the next day and quickly got dressed while she was still sleeping.  He wrote a note for her and left it propped up against the lamp on the bedside table next to her.  He stood for several minutes staring down at her, longing to bend down and kiss her bare shoulder but was afraid that he would wake her.

He tiptoed to the door and slowly opened it.  He stepped into the hall and closed the door behind him.  The place was silent except for the clock ticking and the sound of his heavy breathing as he fought the temptation to turn around and climb back into bed with her.  Once he was outside of the flat, he released a shaky breath and hastily headed for the lift.  In his car, he told himself that he was doing the right thing even though his heart felt heavy.  He went home, packed his bags and booked the next available flight out of Detroit and heading to London.  It was an impromptu vacation.  He couldn’t be in Detroit right then or his resolve would crumble.  He hoped that the distance would somehow ease the pain and that being with his family would help as well.

So, here he was on the plane heading for London.  He wondered if she had read the note and how she was taking the news.  He remembered every word he had written.

Dear Natalie,

I never imagined that I would fall in love again but I have.  I knew that I loved you the first time we met.  I tried to fight it not because I found out that you’re Darnell’s sister.  I forgave Darnell for being responsible for Jody’s death.  It wasn’t easy because it was his reckless driving which resulted in her death but God helped me to get over the bitterness I was feeling toward your brother and to come to the place where I could not only find it in my heart to forgive him but to share His love with him.  

My healing came from talking to Darnell about God and sharing the Bible with him and as I watched him accept God’s love and forgiveness, it brought a peace to my heart which I hadn’t felt in a long time.  Visiting Darnell was a much of a blessing for me as it was for him.  Then, I met you. 

When you walked into the room, my heart stopped.  I couldn’t believe that another woman could have such an effect on me.  I felt as if I was being unfaithful to Jody’s memory.  Jody was my best friend before she became my wife.  We had known each other since college but didn’t start dating until years later when we were in our thirties.  Two years after we started dating, we got married.  We were married for two and a half years when she died.   I had lost my wife and my best friend.  We had planned to have children but that dream died with Jody.

Falling in love again was not something I imagined would happen and when it did, I tried to fight it.  You stirred in me feelings and passions that I have never experienced in my life–not even with Jody and that scared me.  I wanted you so much that it was all I could think about.  And when I realized that you were attracted to me too, it was only a matter of time before we became lovers.  

Loving you has consumed me to the point where I have turned my back on what I know to be right and acceptable in God’s sight.  As a man of faith, I can’t continue to be in a relationship with a woman I am not married to.  It goes against what I believe.  I have to choose between my love for you and my faith.  It pains me to do this but I must choose my faith.  By the time you read this letter, I will be out of the country.  

We cannot attempt to see each other anymore.  Please believe me when I say that I love you and will always love you.   Sometimes doing the right thing hurts but in the end, we have to be able to live with ourselves.

Andrew

“Oh, Natalie,” he moaned under his breath, aching for her.   Life without her was going to be unbearable.

Natalie read the note again, the tears streaming down her face.   She hadn’t seen this coming.  She thought they were happy but when she read the note, she realized that how hard it was for him to go against his religious convictions.  She herself came from a Christian family and had been taught that sex outside of marriage was wrong.  She had drifted from her faith, not going to church as often as she should.  Her makeup and choice in clothes were evidence that she was not as devout when it came to religion as the rest of her family but after meeting Andrew, those things had changed.  She had stopped wearing the makeup and had opted for the more natural look and her wardrobe had changed too.  And she had begun to read her Bible more lately.  She even began going back to church and then this morning she found this note.

Thankfully, it was a Sunday morning and she didn’t have to worry about going to work.  There was no way that she would have been able to function.  Heartbroken and depressed she didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.

When Andrew got to Heathrow, his brother was waiting for him.  He went up to him and after hugging him, said to him, “I know that this is going to sound crazy, but I must return to Detroit.  There’s a woman there whom I am going to ask to marry me.”

Stuart stared at him.  “Are you serious?  You just got here and now you’re going to leave?”

“Yes!  I’m been an utter fool.  I can’t believe that I didn’t think of this before.  I walked out of her life when I could have asked her to marry me.”

“Does she love you?”

“Yes and I love her.”

“Then, go to her.  I’ll explain everything to the folks.  I’m happy that you have found someone after losing Jody.  I wish you all the best, Andy.”

“Thanks, Stuart.”  They hugged again and then Stuart left.

Andrew found his way to the departure terminal where he booked the next available flight to Detroit.

The following evening, Natalie was sitting on the sofa, despondent when the doorbell rang.  She was not in the mood for seeing anyone but she got and went to answer the door.  Her eyes widened when she saw Andrew standing there.  Opening the door at once, she exclaimed, “What are you doing here?”

“Where’s the note I wrote you?” he asked as he stepped inside the foyer.

She closed and locked the door behind him before she reached into the pocket of her dressing-gown and handed the note to him.  He tore it up.  “Why did you do that?” she asked, bewildered.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he told her.  “I was a fool to write it in the first place and I was a bigger fool for walking out of your life.  I love you, Natalie and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Marry me.”

She gaped at him.  “Marry you?” she repeated, her heart thudding.  He looked dead serious.

“Yes.  Let’s get married on Saturday.  We’ll go and get the ring today.”

Her mind was spinning at this turn of events.  Just a few moments ago, she felt as if her world had been pulled out from under her and here, she was on the verge of being blissfully happy.  “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.  Today we get engaged and on Saturday we get married.  In between that time, you and I have to abstain.  We will not make love until we are on our honeymoon.”

Her heart bursting, she put her arms around his neck.  “I love you, Andrew Clarke and I will marry you.”

His arms slipped around her waist and he held her tightly against him, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “I’m sorry it had to take a plane ride to London to make me realize that marrying you is the right and best thing to do.”

She smiled.  “And this is a decision that we can both live with.”

 

 

The Retreat

She stood there admiring the bright yellow mixed in with flaming orange and red leaves on the trees as they dotted the green landscape and stood proudly over the still water of the lake, seeming to admire their reflections.  It reminded her of a giant water color painting.  It was so peaceful there.  Coming to this retreat for a week was a blessing.

It was her friend Maura who suggested it.  She and her husband were there last year and absolutely loved it.  She had watched videos on the website, the acres of land with its natural beauty and the promise of refuge and renewal and peace and presence sold her.  And here she was, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying quiet time with the Lord and nature.

She got up early and came down here just before sunset.  After she finished praying, she glanced up and saw the sun rise.  It was the first time she had ever seen a sunrise.  For several moments, the sun appeared to be sitting on the water before it rose higher in the sky.  What a breathtaking scene and display of God’s power.  She lingered there for a while longer and then headed back to the lodge to have breakfast.

When she was leaving the dining room, a tall and very handsome man walked in.  He was alone.  He was wearing a blue sweater and jeans.  As she approached him, he turned and looked at her.  Their eyes met and held for several moments.  He smiled at her and she smiled back.  This close she saw that he had beautiful brown eyes.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” she replied and then she walked past him and out of the dining-room.  She could feel him watching her.  He really was quite good-looking and seemed very nice.  Then, she chided herself.  You’re here to commune with God. Don’t get distracted.  She went to her room to freshen up and then to the bench facing the stream where she planned to spend the rest of the morning.

This time she took her Bible and a notebook.  The warm sunshine on her face felt good and a sigh of satisfaction, she sat down.    After she finished reading the first two chapters of the Gospel of Mark and taking notes, she set her Bible and notebook aside.  As she sat there, gazing at the lake, her thoughts drifted to the guy she saw in the dining-room.  Who was he?  Was he single?  Was he here alone?

He was the first man she was attracted to since Reuben.  It was strange but when she thought about Reuben, she didn’t feel anything.  He was like a distant memory now.  She could hardly remember what he looked like and when she tried, she saw the other guy’s face instead.  It was five years since Reuben broke up with her.  They had been dating and everyone thought they would have gotten married.  She did too and then, he shocked her by telling her that he was in love with someone else.

It turned out that while they had been dating, he had been giving Bible studies to a woman who lived in his building.  Feelings developed between them and he realized that she was the one he wanted to be with.  She was devastated but with the love and support of her church family, she was able to pick up the pieces and get on with her life.  Reuben transferred to another church and the last she heard of him, he and the woman were married and had two children.  She wished them well.   It was clear to her now that Reuben and she were not right for each other.  He was with the person he was meant to be with and one day, she would be with the person she was meant to be with.

“Do you mind if I join you?” a voice broke into her reverie and she looked around, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was the guy from the dining-room.

She shook her head.  “No, not at all.”  She moved her Bible and notebook closer to her, leaving enough room on the bench for him to sit down.  When he lowered his tall frame on to the seat beside her, she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  She realized then that Reuben never had such an effect on her.  Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap to stop them from trembling.  She could feel him watching her and she turned her head.  Their eyes met and held.  She wondered if she looked as nervous as she felt.

He held out his hand, “Brandon Lee.”

She took his hand and felt his firm clasp.  “Esther Richards.”

“Nice to meet you, Esther.  Is this your first time to the retreat?”

“Yes.  A friend of mine was here last year with her husband and she encouraged me to come.   I’m very happy I did.  It’s a beautiful place and it’s nice to get away from the city.  What about you?” She knew she sounded a little breathless but she couldn’t help it.  His closeness had that effect on her.  She couldn’t decide as yet if he was a Godsend or if he was a distraction.  She truly hoped that it was the former.

“I was here once with a group of people from my church.  It is a great place–so much to see and enjoy.  This is actually my favorite spot.  I could sit here for hours.”

“What church do you go to?” she asked.  He told her and she told him the name of her church.  “Are you involved in any ministries?”

“Yes, I am the leader of our Youth Ministry. ”

“I am involved in the Women’s Ministry and I sometimes lead out in our weekly Bible Study group meetings.  For our next Women’s Ministry retreat, I will recommend that we have it here.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes.  And you?”  Do you have a girlfriend?

“Yes.”  I hope she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  “Do you have family here?”

“Yes, I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins here but my parents live in Florida.  They moved there after I graduated from university.   I usually spend Christmas with them.”  I’m glad I didn’t move to Florida too or I wouldn’t have met you.

“No siblings?”  Thank You, God for keeping her here in London or I wouldn’t have met her.

“No, I’m an only child.  What about your family?”

“My parents live in Yorkshire and I visit them on the weekends.  I live in London and my sister and her family live in Manchester.  We spend the Christmas holidays in Yorkshire.  Speaking of Christmas, have you finished your shopping as yet?”

She laughed.  “I haven’t even started.   I have no clue what I will get everyone.”

“I’m done.  My advice to you is to get gift cards.  Once you know what people, like, you just get gift cards instead of trying to figure out what they would like.  For my nieces and nephew, though, I don’t mind spending hours browsing toy stores.”

“Gift card?  I never thought of that.  Thanks for the suggestion.”

Talking to him had relaxed her to some degree.  He was easy to talk to.  She enjoyed his company.  They sat there, chatting about other things and then it was time to go for lunch.  They sat next each other at a table and continued talking to each other and some of the people around them.  After lunch, he invited her to go for a walk with him.

From that day on, they spent time together, going for walks, praying, worshipping, studying the Bible and joined in fun activities with other singles such as Finish the Sentence, Bible Pictionary, True or False, Bible Telephone, Bible Hangman, Name Game, Who Am I, Bible Bingo, Bible Scavenger Hunt, Name That Hymn and Bible Scene.  Her favorite was Finish the Sentence and when it was her turn to finish the sentence, I am blessed, she said, “I am blessed because God has shown me favor.” and she looked at Brandon when she said this.  I’m blessed because God has brought us together.  His answer was, “I am blessed because God has brought new joy into my life.”  His eyes were on her when he said that.

They spent the evenings alone together–talking or going for walks.  On the last evening before they were to leave the retreat and return to London, Brandon stopped and turned to her as they strolled the grounds.  It was beautiful night.  The full moon cast a ghostly light on them and the still water of the lake.  He reached out and took her hands in his.

“Esther, these past few days with you have been the happiest of my life.  I had planned to come to the retreat next week but I felt a very strong impression to come this week and I am thankful that I did because I met you.  I don’t want to say goodbye to you.  I want to continue to see you.  I’m not in a relationship.  Am I safe to assume that you’re not in one either?”

She shook her head.  “I’m not in a relationship,” she confirmed.

“I want to be in a relationship with you, that is if, it’s what you want too.”

“I-I want to be in a relationship with you too.”

“Good.  Tomorrow, we drive back to London together.”  He raised her hands to his lips and kissed them before they continued their stroll.

She raised her head to the starry sky and silently mouthed a prayer of thanks.  Coming to he retreat had changed both of their lives.

 

Sources: Ashburnham Place; Christian Camp Pro