Stolen Water

Stolen water is sweet, And bread eaten in secret is pleasant – Proverbs 9:17

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We met at a bar one rainy Saturday evening.  It wasn’t the sort of night or place you would expect to meet someone like her.  I was in Chicago on business.  After having dinner at the hotel, I decided to go for a walk in spite of the rain.  I wanted to check out the Navy Pier but the rain was coming down hard now so I ducked into the first bar I spotted.  The atmosphere was cozy and intimate.  A great place to hang out for a while.  I went over to the bar and sat down.  It felt good to be out of the rain.  I looked around.  This place was ideal for a nightcap or a late night rendezvous.  It reminded me of one of my favorite bars in New York.  I smiled and ordered an El Presidente cocktail.

It was after I took my first sip of the cocktail when she walked in.  I froze.  My heart stopped and everything and everyone in the room faded into nothingness.  All I could see was her.  She was wearing a knee length magenta spandex dress which hugged her in all the right places.  Her thick chestnut hair fell in thick waves down her back.  She closed her umbrella and walked over to where I was.  There was an empty stool right beside me.  She sat there.  The bartender turned around and from the way he acted, I could tell that she had been here before.  After exchanging pleasantries, she ordered a Grasshopper.  When he turned away to fix it, she glanced at me.

Our eyes met and held what seemed like a very long time.  My heart was pounding.  I was nervous and excited at the same time.  It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way.  She smiled at me.  “Hello,” she said.

“Hello.”

“I’ve never noticed you here before.”

“This is my first time here.”

“Are you from out of town?”

I nodded.  “Yes.  I’m from New York.”

Her eyebrows arched.  “The Big Apple.  Hmmm.  What brought you here to the Windy City?”

“Business.”

“What sort of business do you do?”

“I’m a Construction Manager.”

“And what exactly does a Construction Manager do?”

“I oversee the process of new commercial and residential buildings, as well as bridges, tunnels and roads; supervise building deadlines, the progress of workers, and managing the budgets for each project.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“What about you? Are you a model?”

She laughed.  “No, but I’m flattered that you think so.  I work at Bluedog Design.”  The bartender placed her drink in front of her.  He glanced at me and then moved away to serve someone else.

“I’m impressed.”

“So, what do you do for fun?”

“I jog, swim, play Squash and do a lot of reading.”

Her cell rang.  “Excuse me,” she said as she fished it out of her handbag.

I turned my head because I didn’t want to seem as if I were eavesdropping.  I took a couple of sips of my cocktail.

“That was my husband,” she said.  “He’s in Vancouver.”

My head swung around sharply.  “You’re married?”

“Yes.”

I glanced pointedly down at her left hand.  There wasn’t any ring.

She followed my gaze.  “I took it to the jewelry store to have it resized.”

“Oh.”  She’s married.  What a bummer.

“What about you?  Girlfriend? Wife? Both?”

“Neither.”

“What’s your name?”

“Andrew.”

“Tina.” She held out her hand.  I grasped it.  It felt soft and warm.

Her being married put a damper on the evening and I could think of nothing else.  “Doesn’t your husband mind you going to bars alone?”

“This is the first time I’ve been in a bar alone.”

“I know if I were him, I would have a problem with you being here alone in a bar talking to another man.”

“He doesn’t know that I’m here talking to another man.”

“And what if he did, wouldn’t he be upset?”

“Let’s not worry or talk about Sam.  I’d rather talk about you.”

I finished my drink and slid off the stool.  “I have to go.”

Her eyes widened.  “But why?  We were just getting to know each other.”

“You’re married, Tina.”

“I know but you and I click.  The evening is still young.  Still a while longer.”

“I can’t.  We both know where this will lead if I don’t leave right now.  It was a pleasure meeting you, Tina.  My advice to you is that you go home and stop going to bars alone.  Goodnight.”  I turned and walked out of the bar.

It had stopped raining.  I could have gone to the Navy Pier but I decided that I had had enough excitement for one evening.  I headed back to the hotel.

Two years have passed since that night in a Chicago bar and I don’t regret my decision.  I was tempted but I was able to walk away and not look back.  Now, I’m happily married to an amazing woman I met right here in New York.  I believe it that it was my faith that saved me from doing something I would have regretted for the rest of my life.

When faced with temptation, you can either run towards it or away from it.  The more you resist it, however, the more fortified you become.

Sources:  Four Seasons Chicago;Yelp; Sparrow Chicago; Global Business Travel; Bluedog Design

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A Promise Fulfilled

“Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32)

These are the words of a man named Simeon who was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue His people. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He got his wish.

The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple the very same day that Jesus was dedicated to the Lord. How wonderful! God had fulfilled His promise to Simeon.

Simeon was overjoyed when he saw the Infant Savior. How his heart must have leapt with joy as he held Jesus in his arms and gazed down into that tiny face. He blessed Joseph and Mary. He said to Mary, “This Child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others.”

For many of us, Jesus is the greatest joy. He brought us hope, love, peace and the promise of eternal life.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, proclaimed, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited His people and redeemed them.  He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of His servant David, just as He promised through His holy prophets long ago” (Luke 1:68-70).

What a wonderful promise!  During the Christmas season, imagine what it must have been like for Simeon to see the Lord face to face and to realize that the Lord had kept him alive for just that moment.  Simeon had seen salvation.  He had seen the promise of eternal life before he died.  God had promised His people salvation and then He fulfilled that promise through His Son, Jesus.

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Simón’s Temptation

And he took the path to her house  In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night. – Proverbs 7:8, 9

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“Man, you have to be crazy to go over there,” Felipe told Simón.

“Her husband’s out of town.”

“So what?  You shouldn’t be going with her.  She’s trouble.”

“No, she’s not!”

“Amigo, she’s married!  You shouldn’t be getting mixed up with her.”

“You’ve seen her, Felipe.  She’s hot.”

“Yes, and you can get burned.”

“Whatever, Man.  You’re just jealous.”

“I’d rather be a living jealous fool than an dead one.”

Simón looked daggers at him.  “Leave me alone, Man.  It’s my life and I’ll do whatever I want.”

“Suit yourself, Bro.”  Felipe turned and walked away.

After he was done, Simón sat down on the steps, mulling over what his friend had said.  Maybe he was right.  He should know better than to be in this mess because he grew up in the church.  His grandmother would be bitterly disappointed because she raised him to do whatever the Bible taught.  He had been doing pretty well until he met Alisa.

They met at the track opposite his school.  After running a couple of laps, he sat down on the bench to take a breather and to drink some water when she joined him.  She was dressed in a long sleeve tee shirt and spandex leggings.  She looked amazing.  “You looked really good out there,” she said.

He flushed.  “Thank you.”

“Do you run here often?”

“Yes.”

“I run here too but I never noticed you before.  I guess until today, we were running at different times or days.  Do you live nearby?”

“No, but I go to that school,” he said, pointing to it.

“Sophomore?”

“No, senior.  I graduate in June.”

“What’s your name?”

“Simón.”

“Pleased to meet you, Simón.  I’m Alisa.”  She held out her hand.

He grasped it in a firm handshake, his eyes meeting hers.  His face felt very warm and he knew it had nothing to do with his running.

“So, have you decided which college or university you want to go to?”

“I have my mind set on Cornell.”

She smiled.  “Good choice.  I know a few people who go there.  I went to New York University.  Do you have a major?”

“Yes, Electrical Engineering.”

She looked impressed.  “Good for you.”

The sun was beginning to set.  He had to get going before his grandmother started wondering where he was.  “I have to go,” he said, apologetically.  He would have rather stayed and continued talking to her.

“Don’t let me keep you, then,” she said.

He put his water bottle in his knapsack.  He stood up and she did as well.  He towered over her.  “It was nice meeting you, Alisa.” He said, his expression serious as he gazed down into her face.

“It was nice meeting you too, Simón.”

He knew he ought to walk away right then and there without a backward glance.  She was married.  His heart had sank when he saw the ring.  He should have known that a woman with her looks would be taken.  Every instinct told him to leave but he couldn’t seem to move.  “When can I see you again?”

She smiled.  “We can meet here tomorrow at the same time.”

“All right.  See you tomorrow.”  He turned and walked away.

The next day when he showed up to the track, she was there.  They met every afternoon after that until one afternoon she invited him back to her place.  He was hesitant.  Being out there in the open with her was one thing but being alone in her apartment was quite another.  “What about your husband?” he asked.

“He’s out of town.”

“I really shouldn’t…” he protested weakly.  She was wearing a summer dress with spaghetti straps and her hair fell in thick waves over her shoulder.  He wanted her so badly.  It was all he could think about these days.  And here was his opportunity.  It was within his grasp.  All he had to do was take hold of it…

“But you want to, don’t you?” she murmured.  “What we both want to do we can’t do out here.  Let’s go back to my place and enjoy each other.  It’s something we’ve both wanted since the day we met.  It’s no use denying it, Simón.  I can see it in your eyes and I know you can see it in mine.”  She took his hand and led him to her parked car.

She and her husband lived in an upscale low-rise building.  Their condo was on the fifth floor.  It was beautiful and spacious.   It was obvious that both of them had a big income.  He barely got time to admire the place before she took him to the spare bedroom where after closing the door, she started unbuttoning his shirt.  And as she dragged the shirt off, she bent her head and pressed her lips against his bare skin.  He stood there, his heart pounding and his chest heaving as he fought for air.  Soon they were both naked and she pushed him onto the bed.  He reached up and pulled her head down so that he could kiss her.

They made love there in the room and afterwards, he took the subway home.  They had other such trysts.  He hang around the library or somewhere until it got dark and then he would go to her place.  She buzzed him in and he took the elevator up.  Most of the time, hardly anyone was around which suited him fine.  No one knew about their affair, except Felipe who warned him that he was playing with trouble.  He sat there now, pondering whether or not he should end this now.  Then, his cell rang.  It was her.  “Are you on your way?” she asked.

He could say no and tell her right then that it was over.  “Yes, I’m on my way.”  He ended the call and got to his feet.  It was no use.  He was hooked.  He was in over his head and didn’t know how to get out of this.  And he wasn’t sure that he even wanted to although he knew that there was no future here.

He took a shortcut to the subway and had his head down so he didn’t notice the two guys approaching him until it was too late.  The first blow sent him flying on the hard sidewalk, knocking the wind out of him.  Then there were more blows and kicks, he tried to fend them off but he couldn’t and then he passed out…

When he regained consciousness, he was lying in a hospital bed.  He had gotten a severe beating but aside from a cracked rib and cuts and bruises, he was going to live.  He was the victim of a random attack by a couple of lowlifes.  Someone witnessed the attack and called the police.  He was lucky to be alive.  His grandmother and Felipe were there.  After she spoke to him, she went to speak to the doctor about when he could be discharged.

Alone with Felipe, he said, “I was on my way to see Alisa when they jumped me.”

“I’m glad that you’re okay, Man.  Sorry about earlier.”

“You were right, Felipe.  I should have listened to you.  I think that this happened to me for a reason.  It opened my eyes to what could have happened if her husband found out about us.  I could be worse off than lying here in a hospital bed.  Once I get out of here, I will call her and tell her that it’s over between us.”

Felipe grinned.  “Good.  Finally, you got some sense knocked into you.”

Simon smiled weakly.  “Somehow, I knew you’d say that.”

What happened to Simon was done out of evil but God used it open his eyes to the truth which set him free.

 

The Encounter

“Drink from your own well, my son—be faithful and true to your wife” – Proverbs 5:15

In all the years he had been married to Ashley, never once had he looked at another woman until that moment when he saw her leaning against the wall in the subway.  She was stunning and looked like a fashion model.  Other people were staring at her too but she seemed oblivious to them.

Although, his gut was warning him not to, he walked over to where she was and stood there, waiting for the train.  He had his head turned away from her as he looked down the tracks but he could feel her eyes on him.  Unable to resist, he glanced over his shoulder.  Their eyes met.  She smiled at him.  He had two choices, smile back or turn away.  He smiled back.  That was his mistake.  Leaving her position against the wall, she sauntered over to him, her gaze traveling slowly and deliberately over his tall frame.  He felt his body respond and his heart began to pound.  He turned around so that he was fully facing her, his eyes practically undressing her as she stood in front of him.

“Do you have the time?” she asked, her head cocked to one side, her eyes riveted to his face which felt hot.

He glanced at his watch.  “It’s a quarter to six,” he replied.  This close she was even more stunning.  Every instinct urged him to run but he stood there staring at her.

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

“Do you work around here?” he asked.  “I’ve never seen you before today.”

“Yes, I work around here.  I was on my way to the Mall to pick up a few items.  I’ve never seen you before either.  I would have remembered.”  Her eyes slipped over him again.  “You’re a fine looking man.  Too bad you’re married.”

He swallowed hard.  “Does that make a difference?” he asked.

“It might to your wife.”

“She doesn’t have to know.”

“She doesn’t have to know what?”

“That you and I are talking to each other.”

“Is that what we’re doing?”  She laughed.  “What’s your name?”

“Silas.”

“Well, Silas, do you want to buy me a Café Latte?  There’s a really great coffee bar near Bryant Park.  We can go there and figure out if talking is all that we want to do.”

Every nerve was screaming that he should say no and walk away but when the train thundered into the station, they got on together.  She stood in front of him, holding on to the overhead metal bar.  The car was crowded so he was standing really close to her.  He could smell her perfume.  It suited her.  Her body was inches from his and a couple of times, he bumped against her when the train stopped abruptly.  He couldn’t hide his reaction to her even if he wanted to.  By the time they got to the 42nd street subway, he knew that he was in big trouble.

They walked to Culture Espresso.  It was a pleasant afternoon, mild and sunny.  While he went to buy the Café Latte for her and a Mocha for himself, she went to find a table.  She found one by the window and was sitting with her back against the wall.  He sat down opposite her and set the Café Latte down in front of her.  “Thank you,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.  “You haven’t told me your name.”

“Aretha,” she said, holding out her hand.

He clasped it and blinked when heat coursed through his body at the feel of her slender fingers in his.  When he released her hand, he took a sip of his Mocha, his eyes trained on her.  This is madness, he thought.  He should be on his way home, not sitting here in a coffee bar with her.  For all he knew she could be in a relationship.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.  I’m single, unlike you.”

He withdrew his left hand from the table and placed it on his thigh.  “Does my being married bother you?”

“Well, I’ve never been with a married man.  It complicates things.”

“So, after we finish our coffees, we part ways?”

“I didn’t say that.  Married or not, I want to do more than talk to you, if you know what I’m saying.  I live five minutes from here.  When we’re done here, we can go there.  It’s up to you.  You can walk away or you can come back to my place.”

Silas’s mind was reeling.  This was temptation in its purest and potent form.  Now he had an idea of how Joseph felt when he faced Potiphar’s wife or King David when he saw Bathsheba.  His mind was telling him to do what Joseph did and run but his body was telling him to do what David did.  He had a while to decide what he was going to do.

“So, what type of work do you do?” Aretha asked, breaking the silence.  “From the way you’re dressed, you look corporate.  Are you?”

“I’m a Software Engineering Manager.”

“You look a bit young to be a Manager.  How old are you?”

“Thirty-five.”

“Hmmm.  I’m forty.  So, do you like your job?”

“Yes, I like it very much.  And it doesn’t hurt that it pays very well.  What about you, what is your line of work?”

“I’m a Chief Executive.”

“When I first saw you, I thought you were a model.”

She laughed.  “I’m flattered.”

“You’re a very stunning woman, Aretha.”

“Thank you.  And you’re a very handsome man.  I’m not surprised that you’re already taken.”

“It didn’t stop you from approaching me in the subway.”

“I couldn’t resist.”

He slowly removed his cell from his pocket and dialed the number.  He listened to it ring out and then the answering machine kick in.  “Ashley, something has come up so I’ll be late getting home this evening.  See you later.”  He ended the call and slipped the phone back into his pocket.  He looked at Aretha.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked.

He nodded.

Aretha finished her Latte and got up.  “Let’s go, then.”

He drained his glass and rose to his feet.  He followed her out of the coffee bar.  The sun was beginning to set.  They didn’t say much as they walked to her place.  He was trying to ignore the Bible verses that popped into his head.  He was about to cheat on Ashley, something he never once imagined he would ever do but he couldn’t seem to help himself.  He wanted Aretha.  She aroused such a passion in him.  It was raw and powerful.  It gripped him like a vice, leading him down a path he never thought he would end up on.

He still had time to back out.  With every temptation, there was always the way of escape. Yet, he found himself walking right towards it with both eyes open.  He was throwing wisdom and caution to the winds.  His desire for her was luring him straight into a trap.  Maybe it was true that the only way to get rid of temptation was to yield to it.  Maybe all he needed was this one time with Aretha to get this “thing” for her out of his system and afterwards, they would part ways and never see each other again.

As soon as they got to Aretha’s place and she had locked the door behind them, he reached for her.  His mouth found hers and he devoured it like a mad man, driven by a hunger that couldn’t be held in check.  She kissed him back wildly.  In a matter of minutes, they were naked and making love on the rug in front of the hearth.

Unfortunately, their encounter that afternoon wasn’t their last.  It was the beginning of a long and torrid affair.

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” – Matthew 26:41

Sources: CNBC; Culture Expresso; Latte Art Guide; Eater New York; Brainy Quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Plans

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you are rejoicing in your boastings. All such rejoicing is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin – James 4:13-16

How many of us make plans way ahead in the future? And how many of those plans end up going nowhere? Why does the Bible liken making plans to boasting? It could be because we are doing so without consulting God. We act as if we are in control of our destiny when He is the One who is. As Christians, we should make our plans based on what God wants or think is best not what we want. He may have much better plans for us. Take the prophet Jeremiah. What would have happened if he had made plans for a career, travel or marriage? Those plans would have come to nothing because God already had plans for his life.

Remember the Tower of Babel? The people had the bright idea of building a tower so high that it would reach heaven. What were their reasons for building the tower? “…let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). They wanted to stay put instead of going abroad and populating the earth. In other words, they were making their own plans which were outside of God’s will. They were boastful in thinking that they could do things their way instead of God’s way.

Nothing is wrong with having plans but they must never be contrary to God’s will. To them, it seemed reasonable to stay where they were and build up a city instead of going out into the world to start new lives. There are times when we want to stay put but God wants us to step out in faith as He did with Abraham. And there are times when we want to go places but He wants us to stay put like Jeremiah. We have to be attuned to what God wants for us so that our plans will line up nicely with His perfect will for us.

It is always best to say, “if the Lord wills…” when it comes to making plans. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that God approves of your plans and will bless them?

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The Better Choice

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” – Luke 10:41, 42

Years ago, I had two choices–study my Bible or watch TV.  Unfortunately, I chose to watch TV. This happened after I spoke to my son about making better choices. Before putting him to bed, I read the story of when Jesus visited Martha’s house.

Martha welcomed Jesus before she was back in the kitchen, preparing a big meal for Him and His disciples. Her sister, Mary, however, went into the sitting room where Jesus was and sat at His feet. She listened as He taught the Word. Meanwhile, Martha was busy, distracted and stressed out as she tried to get things ready for her guests. I can just imagine her fuming and fretting because she was doing all the work.

After a while she marched out of the kitchen and approached Jesus, demanding, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Why did she go to Him instead of going to Mary directly? It’s possible that she thought that Jesus would get better results.

The way she spoke to Jesus comes across as rude but Jesus wasn’t offended. Instead, He chastised her gently. She was focusing on what was not important. She was distracted. Mary, on the other hand, had made the better choice. She chose to spend time with Jesus, listening to His Word instead of being in the kitchen. She chose worship over service. She put Jesus first. Jesus commended her for putting fellowship with Him above feeding Him.

Can you imagine Martha’s reaction to what Jesus said to her? How would you have reacted if you were in her place? Walk off in a huff, furious because Jesus was taking Mary’s side? Or admit that He had a point. She was getting herself bent out of shape, trying to get the food ready and Jesus was in no hurry to eat.

What do you think Martha should have done? I think she should have done what Mary did. Go and spend time with Jesus and listen to His Word. And when He was finished, then she and Mary serve the food together.

What things are distracting you? Is it work, blogging, texting, TV, household chores, church ministries? I encouraged my son not to be so distracted with playing that he neglects to spend time with the Lord. Like Mary, choose to sit at Jesus’ feet and don’t allow anything or anyone to distract you. Don’t replace worship with service.

 

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Off Course

Let your eyes look straight ahead and your sight be focused in front of you – Proverbs 4:25

Years ago my mother, two sisters and I went to the Bahamas. One day we were in the swimming pool and I decided that I would swim from one end to the other. Mind you, I was not that good of a swimmer.

So, I swam off. Had my head down with my arms at my sides, moving only my feet. The water felt nice and cool. I swam and swam and swam. After a while I started to wonder why was it taking me so long to get to the other end of the pool? Finally, I stopped and pushed my head out of the water to see where I was.

I was in the middle of the pool and instead of going directly across to the opposite end I had been swimming diagonally. No wonder it felt like I had been swimming for what seemed like ages. I didn’t bother to continue. I went to the side of the pool and climbed out, feeling very embarrassed. In retrospect, this incident taught me that it is foolish to expect to get any where when you are not focused. If I had swam with my head above the water, looking straight ahead of me and using my arms to propel me, I would have reached my destination.

Sometimes we end up where we don’t want to be because we were not looking ahead to see where we are going. We veer off course. We wonder why we are not getting to where we want to be in life–why it’s taking so long. Then, we realize that we have lost our focus, our sense of direction. We have wandered from the path God has set before us because we took our eyes off of it.

What do you do when you realize that you are going the wrong way? You stop in your tracks. You take a stock of where you are and where you should be. Then you get on your knees and God to help you to get back there.

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