Her New God

wishing-tree

Photo by Sue Vincent

She looked at the tree with the scarves, ties and other colorful things draped on the branches and grimaced.  Waste of time.  She saw the items she had put on the tree months ago, believing that the gods would hear her prayers and answer but it was as if they had turned their backs on her.  Her son was still sick.  Nothing worked.  The hospital was too far away and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.  And he was growing worse.

“You haven’t tried Me”.  She looked around, wondering who had said that.  She was alone.  She continued walking, chalking it up to imagination when she heard it again.  “You haven’t tried Me”.

Frightened, she asked, “Who are You?”

“I am the God who created the heavens and the earth.”

The Christian God, she thought.  She had heard about Him.  “I have heard stories about You how You parted the Red Sea and sent bread from Heaven.”

“Yes, and I can also heal the sick.”

She paused and looked up.  “Can You heal my son?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“All you have to do is to pray and believe that I can do it and I will.”

She thought about it for a moment.  What did she have to lose?  Her son was sick and her gods weren’t answering her desperate cries for help.  At least this God was talking to her and He wanted to heal her son.  She got down on her knees and prostrated herself on the ground, hands clasped above her head, eyes squeezed shut.  She began to pray and as she did, the words just poured from her lips, accompanied by gut wrenching tears as she pleaded for her son’s life.

When she was finished, a peace she had never experienced before in her life came over her.  She got up and wiping her face, she trudged the rest of the way to the village.  When she arrived, her sister ran out to greet her, her face bright with joy.  “Saanvi!  It’s Jayesh,” she cried, unable to speak because she was so excited.

Saanvi frowned,  “What about Jayesh?” she asked.

“He’s recovered,” her sister said, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards thehut.   “The fever left him and he’s awake.  He’s asking for you.”

Overjoyed, Saanvi burst into the hut and when she saw Saanvi sitting up in the bed, she fell to the ground and began to thank the Christian God.  “You are now my God,” she said.  “When the other gods ignored my cries for help, You heard and You spoke to me.  You healed my son.  You’re my God now.”

By the end of the week, all traces of the other gods were gone.  In their place was a Bible which she had gotten from a missionary visiting her village.  And as for the Wishing Tree, she had no more use for it.  She removed the items she had placed on the branches and burned them.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Wishes for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

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God’s Way

As Larissa Scott sat on the beach, watching the tide roll away she thought about how far she had allowed herself to drift from God’s will for her life.  She hadn’t meant for it to happen.  It did when she met and fell in love with Steven.   About a year ago, she moved to Seattle because of a job opportunity which she could not pass up.  It was tough leaving her family, friends and church but she had prayed about it and knew that it was God leading her to a new life in a new city.

Nervous and excited at the same time, she packed up and left. After settling into a new apartment and the new job, she looked for a church to join and found one not far from where she lived. From the moment she walked in, she knew that was the church for her. She felt completely at home among people who loved the Lord and were active in the community and was blessed by the moving and inspiring sermons and uplifting worship music. She attended every week and quickly developed friendships. It wasn’t long before she transferred her membership to the church and got involved in their women’s ministry.

The first time she met Steven was at the weekly prayer meeting.  He was the elder in charge of the meeting that week.  She had noticed him before but they hadn’t actually met.  As he spoke, she studied him.  He looked to be in his late forties and was very attractive.  She wondered if he were married and hoped that he wasn’t.

When it was time to split up into twos to pray, he left the podium and walked over to her.  “Hello,” he said, holding out his hand.  “I’m Elder Steven Johnson.  I have seen you before but just didn’t have the opportunity to meet you until now.  You recently joined our church.  I don’t believe I was here when you were introduced to the congregation.”

She smiled and shook his hand.  “Larissa Scott,” she said.  “Yes, I moved to Seattle and I visited this church the week after I arrived.  It reminded me so much of my old church in New York.  There the people were warm and zealous for the Lord.”

“Well, I’m delighted that you are a member of our church family.  Now, we can pray for each other.”

They knelt down side by side, heads bowed and hands clasped before them.  He prayed first and when he was done, she prayed.  “Thank you,” she said when she was finished and they got up.

He smiled and went back up to the podium to wrap up the meeting.  She sat down in the chair before standing for the closing song and prayer.  While everyone was filing out, she lingered.  He took up the papers and his Bible and left the podium.  “Do you have a ride home?” he asked.  It was dark outside.

“I took the bus.”

“I can give you a ride home, if you like.”

She suddenly felt very shy and a few moments passed before she said, “Thank you.”

They left the back way which led to the parking lot.  He set the alarm and closed the door before taking her to where his car was parked.  He held the door open for her.  After she got in, he closed the door before walking quickly round to the driver’s side.  “It has gotten very cold,” he remarked as he started the engine.  “The temperature must have dropped.”  He turned on the heat before pulling out of the parking lot.  “Do you live far from here?”

She shook her head.  “No, I live about twenty minutes from away.”  She told him where she lived.  She could have easily taken the bus because they ran frequently but she was grateful for the ride because it was cold.

“Where did you live before you moved to Seattle?”

“I lived in Manhattan, New York.”

“What made you decide to move here?”

“The job of a lifetime and the conviction that this was where God wanted me to be.”

“What about your family?  How did they react to your move?”

“They were very supportive.  They said that if it were God’s will, then His will be done.  I’m in touch with them every day.  Have you always been at this church?”

“Yes.  I attended it since I was a child.  It’s my second home.  The members are my extended family.  It is where my parents met and got married.”

“How long have you been a church elder?”

“For about five years.”

“Do you like it?”

“Yes, I do.”

“What do you like best about being an elder?”

“I like visiting members in their homes to pray with them and give them encouragement.  I like to assist in giving Bible studies to prospective members.  I enjoy leading out in worship service and being a spiritual mentor.”

“My father is an elder too and his favorite thing is the visitation.”

They reached her building and he pulled up in front of the entrance.   He got out of the car to hold the door open for her.  “Have a good evening,” he said as she stepped out.  “I’ll see you on Saturday morning.”

“Thank you for the ride home, Elder Johnson,” she said.  “Have a good evening.”  She watched as he got into the car and waved as he drove away.  As she ran up the short flight of steps to the revolving doors, she found herself looking forward to seeing him on Saturday.  She still had no idea if he was married or not.  She had never observed him with a particular woman so, hopefully, that meant that he didn’t have a wife.  He wouldn’t be the first unmarried elder.

For the rest of the week she thought about him and really looked forward to seeing him again.  When Saturday came, she got up bright and early in the morning and got ready for church.  As soon as she entered the sanctuary, her eyes scanned the rows of seats in search of him but he wasn’t there.  Maybe, I will see him after the service, she thought as she went and sat down.  Fifteen minutes later the Sabbath School program began and she immersed herself in it.  When it was over there was the ten minutes before the worship service was to begin, he came out to address family matters which family matters and make the announcements.  She was so happy to see him.  Her heart began to beat fast.

After he left the podium, she took the bulletin from out of her Bible and read it.  It was then that she saw that his name was on it.  He was slated to do the Intercessory prayer and the Benediction which meant that he was going to be on the podium for the entire service.   So, she wouldn’t get to speak to him until after the service.

As usual, the worship service was uplifting and she was blessed.  As the pastor and Elder Johnson came down for the podium, she stared at him, hoping that he would see her when he passed the row where she was.  He did.  He smiled and said “Happy Sabbath,” before continuing down the aisle toward the double doors leading out to the entrance hall.  When they were gone and the music stopped playing everyone got seated again.

She picked up her handbag and Bible and waited for the usher to motion for her and the people in her row to leave.  When he did, she immediately got up and left.  Her eager eyes espied him standing by the door beside the pastor and talking to the members as they filed past him.  First she shook the pastor’s hand and told him how blessed she was by his sermon before she moved toward Elder Johnson who turned to greet her warmly and shake her hand.  “It is good to see you, Miss Scott.  Did you have a good week?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I did, thank you.”

“Will you be coming to prayer meeting on Wednesday?” he asked.

“Yes, I will be there.”

“Good.  I will see you then.  Enjoy the rest of the day and have a good week.”

“Thank you, Elder Johnson.  You too.”  She moved away as another member joined them.  She wished she had more time to talk to him but he was busy at the moment.  She went downstairs to get her coat and after chatting with a few of the women she left and went straight home.  At least she was going to see him during the week but right now, Wednesday seemed like a very long way off.

Wednesday finally arrived and thankfully, the day flew by and as soon as she got home, she had dinner and then showered.  When she got to the church, there were a few people in the sanctuary but he wasn’t one of them.  After she said hello and chatted with them for a while, she found a seat.  A few minutes passed and then he sat down next to her.  Heart racing, she smiled at him and she felt butterflies in her stomach when he smiled back.  “Good evening,” he greeted her.  “I trust you’re having a good week so far.”

“Yes.  I can’t complain.  What about your week?”

“It has been a busy one so far but God has helped me to get through it.  I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to talk more the last time we saw each other.  I wanted to tell you about a spring concert at the Green Lake Church on Saturday at 4:30pm and ask you if you would be interested in going to it with me.”

He wanted to take her to a concert.  This confirmed that he wasn’t married.  “Yes, I would like go,” she told him.  “Thank you for inviting me.”

“Don’t mention it,” he replied.  “Excuse me.  I’ll be right back.”  He got up and went across the aisle to talk to another church member for a few minutes before rejoining her.  This time, it was the pastor’s wife who led the prayer meeting and it was very engaging.  When it was time to split up in twos to pray, Elder Johnson prayed with the member he had been talking to earlier while she prayed with the pastor’s wife.  When it was over Elder Johnson took her home.

The concert was a real treat and she couldn’t stop raving about it as they went to a vegetarian café afterward.  Over Moroccan Tagine and Spring Nettle Pappardell, they talked about the concert, the worship service and other things.  It was a very pleasant evening and she was sorry when it was over.  Outside of her building, she turned to him and said, “Thank you, Elder Johnson for a wonderful evening.”

“Please call me Steven,” he said quietly.  “Are you busy tomorrow?”

She shook her head.

“How would you go on the Harbor Cruise and then have lunch afterwards at the Space Needle?”

“I would like that very much,” she said, her eyes dancing with delight.  He was asking her out on a date.

He smiled.  “Good.  I will pick you tomorrow morning at eleven.  Goodnight, Larissa.”

“Goodnight, Steven.” She watched him drive away before she went inside the building.

After their cruise and lunch at the Space Needle, they began dating exclusively.  They went all over Seattle, giving her a real taste and appreciation for the city.  They visited museums, the zoo, art galleries, parks, the Aquarium and their excursion to Tillicum Village on Blake Island was an experience she would never forget.  They went for scenic drives to Snoqualmie Falls and Seward Park to the Washington Park Arboretum where one was treated to with an incredible view of Mount Rainier in the distance.

At church, they were circumspect around each other not wanting anyone to know that they were seeing each other.  For the time being, they wanted to keep their relationship on the quiet.  They never went to each other’s place but went out instead.  They did not kiss for the first few months they were dating but held hands when in public.

Then one afternoon when he went by her place to pick her up to take her to see the iconic brick wall covered with chewed up gum in an alley under Pike Place Market and the Giant Ferris Wheel, it began to rain cats and dogs.  It was a real bummer because she had been looking forward to going out.  It had been overcast all morning but she had been hoping that it would clear up but now rain was coming down in buckets and it didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon.  She turned away from the window, bitterly disappointed.  “Oh, well,” she said.  “I guess we will have to take a rain check.”

“I’m sorry about the weather,” he said.  “I know how much you were looking forward to going out.”

“It’s okay,” she said, shrugging.  “I’m sure we can find something to occupy ourselves with until the rain ends.”

“Do you have anything in mind?”

“Yes.  I have a few board games we can play.  We have Bibleopoly which is the Biblical alternative to Monopoly, Bible Scrabble and Bible or Not.”

“They all sound very interesting and it has been a while since I played board games.”

“Good.  We’ll on the carpet in front of the sofa.”  She left and brought out the games, setting them on the coffee table.  “Which one do you want to play first?”

He looked at each of them for a moment and then, he took up Bible Scrabble.  “I’ve always enjoyed Scrabble,” he said.  They set things up and sat down, cross legged on the carpet and began playing.  They played all three games.  The time went by very quickly and it was time to have something to eat.  They packed up the games and she put them away before going into the kitchen to get dinner ready.

Dinner was Spicy Kale and Coconut Stir Fry, one of her favorite recipes to make.  For dessert, they had Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake Bites.  Then they relaxed on the sofa and watched The War Room.

It was still raining outside when she checked a couple of hours later, though not heavily as before. Steven joined her at the window.  “It seems to be easing up,” she remarked turning to face him.  “Would you like anything to drink—maybe a hot chocolate?”

He shook his head.  “No, thank you.  I should be leaving now.  I have an early day tomorrow at work.”

“All right.  I have an umbrella. Would you like to borrow it?”

He smiled.  “I’ll be fine,” he said.  Then, taking her hands, he added, “I’m happy that it rained because I really enjoyed the time we spent here together.  And thanks for the delectable dinner and dessert.”

She smiled, feeling very pleased. “I had a wonderful time too and I’m glad you enjoyed my cooking.”

His expression got serious as they stood there in front of the window, holding hands.  Then, without saying anything, he bent his head and kissed her.  It was tentative at first but it deepened when he felt her response.  He let go of her hands to cup her face as he kissed her passionately.  She put her arms around his waist.  For several minutes they kissed and then, he broke off the kiss to unbutton his shirt, his face flushed as his eyes met her wide ones.   Their heavy breathing mingled as she helped him with the buttons.  When his shirt was discarded, she removed her top.

Then, they were kissing again, wildly now.  Her fingers dug into the flesh on his back and groaning, he picked her up and carried her over to the rug in front of the fireplace.  After putting her down, he stood up to remove the rest of his clothes before kneeling down to remove hers.  There in front of the fireplace, they made love while outside the rain continued to fall.

Several hours later, he got dressed and left, after a lengthy goodbye at the door.  That night was the first of many such trysts between them.  They both knew it was wrong to have sexual relations outside of marriage but they allowed their passion for one another to override the instructions God brought to their minds.  This continued for weeks.  They hardly went out.  Instead they stayed in inside either at his place or hers and spent a good chunk of their time in bed, ravaging each other before surfacing to engage in other activities.

Then, one Sabbath, the pastor preached a sermon which Larissa felt was directed to her.  It was Youth Day and the message was about youth abstinence.  The words that struck her like a blow were, “True love waits” which was the title of the sermon.  The challenge was for young people to abstain from having sex until marriage and using the Bible, he shared the benefits of abstinence.

As she listened, Larissa felt convicted.  She recalled how she had always planned to save herself for the husband that God was going to bless her with.  When she met and fell in love with Steven, that vow was broken.  Love and desire took precedence and now she was being reminded of that promise she had made to herself.  Tears came to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back.  She didn’t want to lose it right then in front of everybody, especially Steven.  She sat through the sermon and by the time it was over, she had come to the painful conclusion that she had to stop seeing Steven.

As soon as the service was finished, she hurried out of the sanctuary and left the church through the back entrance.  All the way home on the bus, she thought about how hard it was going to be to break up with Steven but they couldn’t continue sleeping together.  In her mind, she heard the apostle Paul’s admonition, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).  She had given her body to Steven because she loved him but he wasn’t her husband. She wanted to do things God’s way and if it meant ending her relationship with Steven, then she had no choice but to end it.

Tears rolled down her cheeks and she brushed them away.  Lord, I love Steven so much.  I can’t imagine my life without him in it.  It will be hard going to church and seeing him.  My only other option is to transfer to another church but I love this church and the people.  Lord, I want to do things Your way but this is so painful. When she got home, she changed and then headed straight to the beach to think things through.

And here she was now, staring out at the sea and thinking about how far she had drifted from God.   She stood there for a long time, wishing that her life wasn’t in such a turmoil.  It wasn’t so long ago when she was so happy.  Things were going so well for Steven and her until they became sexually involved.  She closed her eyes as images of their intense lovemaking flashed across her mind and she felt her body react strongly.  Her eyes flew open as guilt filled her and she scrambled to her feet.  She ran all the way to the bus stop and got there just as the bus pulled up.  

She was heading toward the entrance of her building when she heard her name.  Her heart skipped a beat when she turned and found herself staring up at Steven.  His eyes were restless on her face and his expression was serious. “You’ve been crying.”

She didn’t answer.

“I need to talk to you,” he said quietly.  “My car is parked over there.”

She didn’t say anything but followed him to his car.  When they were seated, she looked down at her hands clasped in her lap.  “I-I was going to call you later,” she said.

He reached out and covered her hands with his.  “Larissa, I know that the sermon today was difficult to hear because of our relationship.  We crossed a line we shouldn’t have and I’m sorry.  I was the one who made the first move but I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted you so much.”

“I wanted you too,” she admitted, still not looking at him.

“I looked for you after the service but you were gone.  I went home and called you from there but there was not answer.  I decided to come over and see if you were here.  I was just on my way up to your place when I saw you.  I have something I want to say to you.  I was going to wait until your birthday but I realize that now is the best time.”  He released her hands to reach into the breast pocket of his shirt.  “This morning before I came to church, God told me that we had drifted outside of His will for our lives and that in order for us to get His blessing and anointing on our relationship, we have to do it His way.  True love waits.”

She looked at him, wondering what he was talking about when she saw the black box in his hand.  Her heart began to pound and her eyes flew up to his face.

He opened it and took out a beautiful diamond cross engagement ring.  “Larissa, the first time I saw you, my heart stopped.  And every moment I spent with you was heaven on earth.  I love you with an everlasting love and it would make my heart glad with unspeakable joy if you would spend the rest of your life with me.  Larissa, will you marry me?”

By now the tears were just flowing and it took a few moments for her to whisper, “Yes.”

He blinked back his own tears as he slid the ringer on her finger.  “I love you,” he murmured before leaning over to kiss her.

“I love you too,” she murmured against his lips.  Her heart was singing.  God didn’t want her to end her relationship with Steven, He just wanted it to be done His way.  She was going to wait until she and Steven were married to experience sexual intimacy the way God intended.  No, she didn’t mind waiting at all.  Waiting is a sign of true love and patience. Anyone can say ‘I love you,’ but not everyone can wait and prove it’s true.

Sources:  Emerald City Community Church; Cicero SDA Church; First SDA Church; Ministry Magazine; Cafe Flora; Seattle Tours; Argosy Cruises; Christian Cafe; CBS Seattle; Christianity Today; Cookie and Kate; The Food Network; Box Cast; Sermon Central; Apples of Gold; Married and Young; Ask Ideas

Lost and Found

Claudine and Duke were at a diner having lunch. The last time they saw each other was a couple of weeks ago at his younger brother, Alan’s funeral.  Duke had called her last night to ask her to have lunch with him today.  She was happy to see him.

“It’s good to see you, Duke,” she said.  “How have you been?”

“I’m doing all right, I guess.  I’m still trying to deal with Alan’s untimely death.”

She reached out and put her hand on his.  “I know how hard it is when we lose someone we love.  I went to see Doreen yesterday and she’s still having a really tough time coping.  The kids are staying with their grandparents for a while.”

“Since the funeral I haven’t been to see Doreen and the kids.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t face them right now.”  A pause and then, he blurted out, “I can’t face them because I feel guilty.”

She stared at him, concerned now.  “You feel guilty?  Why?” she asked.

Instead of answering her question, he countered with, “God is love, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then, why did He let Alan die and me live?  Not once when we were kids, did I ever see him throw a tantrum.  And he was the most religious guy I knew.   He was always reading His Bible, active in church and involved in community service.  I, on the other hand, am not a practicing Christian.  I don’t go to church often and I hardly read the Bible.  As far as community service is concerned, I give donations when I can.  I don’t pray often.  And to top it all, I had an affair with a married woman.  Why did the God whom we say is love, let a godly man like Alan who served him all of his life and never did anything wrong, die, leaving a wife and two children behind and let me live? I should have been the one to die in that boating accident, not Alan.”

His words cut into her like a knife and she withdrew her hand from his, lowering her eyes so that he couldn’t see the anguish in them. The thought of losing him in that accident was unbearable.  She was overcome with compassion for Alan’s family but she was thankful that Duke had survived.  She was still thanking God for sparing his life. “Is this why you feel guilty?”

“Yes.  I keep asking myself over and over why God didn’t take me instead of Alan.  Why did He let me live?”

“It is because He loves you.”

“He loves me?” he exclaimed. “What about Alan?  Didn’t He love him too?”

“Yes, He did.”

“Then explain to me why He chose to let me live when He could have saved Alan instead?”

“God doesn’t always do what we expect,” she said. “He had His reasons for sparing your life.  Let me give you an illustration.  Let’s say that you have two children.  One is at home with you and the other is lost.  Which child would you be more concerned about–the one who is safe or the one who is lost?”

“The lost child, of course.”

“So, if you are more concerned about the lost child, does this mean that you love that child more than the other?”

He shook his head. “No.  I would do the same thing for the other child if he were lost too.”

“Exactly! It’s the same thing with Alan and you.  God didn’t spare your life because He loved you more than Alan.  Alan was already saved but God spared you in order to save you,”

“But, I’m a sinner.”

“We’re all sinners but the Bible teaches that God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

“How could God still love me after some of the things I’ve done and the way I’ve treated Him?”

“God is not like us. He loves us in spite of how we are.  His love is unconditional.  He doesn’t stop loving us when we do bad things or turn away from Him.  He keeps reaching out to us like the shepherd who went to find the lost sheep, the woman who searched the house until she found the lost coin or the father who ran to meet his lost son when he saw him coming home because he was so overjoyed to see him.  Jesus said that’s how God feels about the lost.  He rejoices when He finds them.”

“So, what should I do now?” he asked.

“First, you need to thank God for sparing your life so that you have the opportunity to get to know him. This act of mercy and grace demonstrate the loving nature towards us.  He doesn’t want you to die without making a conscious decision to know Him.  In realizing that God saved in your life, I hope that you will see now His love for you and that He wants you to spend time with in a Father and son relationship.”

“One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 which says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ God promised that when you call on Him and pray to Him, He will listen to you.”

“Thank you, Claudine,” he said quietly. “I really appreciate you being here and helping me to understand things that don’t make any sense to me.”

She smiled.  “That’s what friends are for.”

They finished eating and after he paid the bill, he asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”

She shook her head.  “No.” I want to be with you.

It would kill me if you were seeing someone.  “Do you need a lift anywhere?”

“A ride to the subway would be great,” she said.  “I’m going to the nursing home to visit my father.”

“How is he doing?”

“He’s doing all right.  His mind is still very active and alert it’s just his body is worn out.  I still haven’t gotten used to seeing him in a wheelchair.”

“Why is he in a wheelchair?”

“He suffers from intense episodes of Asthma.”  She wrapped the scarf around her neck before pulling on her coat.  She got up from the table and followed him out of the diner as he dragged on his jacket.  She squinted as they stepped into the bright sunshine.  It was a lovely day. They walked to where his car was parked and after he held the door open for her to get in, he slid behind the wheel.  He turned on the radio and classical music played.

“I have a cousin who suffered from asthma since she was a child.  I read somewhere that, Once you have asthma, you have it for life. You might not always be symptomatic. You might have it as a kid and grow out of it. But it may revisit at some point, usually when you have a stress in your life.  Have you ever seen your father have one of his attacks?”

“Yes, more than once and each time it was very scary.  It made me realize how we can take something as such as breathing normally for granted.  But, my Dad is a trooper.  He doesn’t let his bout with asthma get him down.  He’s one of the most upbeat people I know and he always says that God is good to him, one breath at a time.”

“Your father is a very wise man.  I like him.”

“He likes you too,” she said.  “Whenever I visit him, he asks about you.”

“Please say hello to him for me.”

“I will.  Maybe the next time I visit him you can come with me.”

“I’d like that.”

They reached the subway and he pulled over to the side of the road.  He got out and walked around to open the door for her.  As she got out, she stumbled and he moved quickly to steady her.  His hands were on her waist and they were standing very close.  She raised her eyes to look at him and he looked down at her.  For several minutes they stood there looking at each other, their bodies inches apart.  She wondered if he could hear how fast her heart was beating and he wondered what she would say if she knew how badly he wanted to kiss her at that moment.  He released her and stepped aside for her to step on to the curb.

“Thanks for the ride,” she said quietly.  “I’ll call you during the week.”

“Thanks again for having lunch with me and your advice.  I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, Duke.”  She hesitated for a split second and then she reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  He closed his eyes as he felt an intense longing surge through his body and it took all of his will power not to turn his head so that their lips touched.  When she drew back, his eyes were dark and smoldering.  She felt her body respond and turning, she quickly walked away.  He watched her go before he got back into the car and drove off.

All the way to the nursing home, Claudine thought about that unguarded moment between Duke and her.  For the first time since they have known each other, she saw clearly that he was attracted to her too.  She saw the desire she felt shining in his eyes.  Since they met, she had known that she loved him and had prayed that they would end up together.  Was God beginning to answer her prayers?

Her father was in his room when she got to the nursing home and he grinned when he saw her.  “Hello, sunshine.”

She smiled and went over to hug and kiss him.  “Hello, Dad.  How are you feeling?”

“I feel great.  What about you.  How are you doing?”

“I’m fine.  I had lunch with Duke.”

“How’s that young man doing?” She told him about their conversation.  “It sounds like he’s suffering from survivor’s guilt.”

“Yes.  I told him that he has nothing to feel guilty about.”

“Where’s he now?  Why didn’t you bring him with you?”

“He has stuff to do, I guess.  However, I invited him to come with me the next time I visit.”

“Good.  Take off your coat and sit down.”

She removed her coat and draped it over a chair and placed her scarf on top before settling down in a chair by the window.  The room looked bright and cheerful with lots of natural light.    “Have you gone for a walk as yet?” she asked.  “It’s beautiful outside.”

He shook his head.  “Not yet.  I’m watching Premier League football.  Manchester United and Arsenal are playing.”

Claudine shook her head, smiling.  Her father was a football fanatic.  He could sit there and watch it all day if it were possible.  “All right, finish watching your game and then, you and I will go for a walk and sit outside in the garden for a while.  A bit of fresh air will do you a lot of good.”

“Claudine, you’re worried about Duke, aren’t you?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Don’t because God is going to sort him out and after He’s through sorting him out, you can tell him that you love him.”

She looked at him in astonishment.  “But, how did you–?”

“Guess that you’re in love with Duke?  It’s written all over your face every time you talk about him.  These eyes don’t miss anything.  I like Duke but he’s not the right man for you yet but he will be when God is through with him.”  Shouting on the television caught his attention and he watched as they showed a replay of Manchester United scoring its second goal.

Claudine sat there, trying to make sense of what her father just told her.  His words gave her hope.  Duke was the man for her and when the time was right, they would be together with God’s blessing.  Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back.  Thank You, God for answering my prayers.  And thank You for taking care of Duke.

For the rest of the afternoon, Duke couldn’t stop thinking about Claudine and what almost happened between them outside the subway station.  And that night before he went to bed, he got down on his knees and prayed.

Lord, today when Claudine kissed me on the cheek, I wanted so much to show her how much I love her.  I’ve loved her for eight years.  I knew from the moment we met that she was the right woman for me although I knew that I wasn’t the right man for her.  I’ve asked you to remove the love I have for her from my heart but it just keeps growing stronger.  I tried to get her out of my system by having an affair with Heather who was separated from John at the time.  I know what I did was wrong but I wasn’t thinking at the time.  I was hurting because I couldn’t be with the woman I loved.  It was sheer torture loving someone I couldn’t have because I was wrong for her. Even now it’s hard to be around her knowing that I could never be more than friends with her.  Lord, please help me.  Please help me to get over her.

He remained there beside the bed on his knees for a while longer, in the quietness of the room, waiting.  Before you could be the right man for Claudine, you need have a right relationship with Me. The words filled him with hope.  He could be with Claudine but first, he had to make things right with God.  He had to put his relationship with God first.

The following morning he got an email from Claudine.  It read, Hi, Duke,

I found two links that I thought may be very helpful to you. The first is about God’s Pursuit of Man and the second is about having a personal relationship with God.  God longs to have a loving relationship with you.  James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  God promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that when you seek Him you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart.  I pray that when you come to know God, you will see how valued you are in His sight and the guilt you feel about surviving the boat accident will be resolved.  I’ll be in touch.  Blessings, Claudine.

He replied to her email and then clicked on the first link.  Eagerly, he read it and by the time he was finished, he was in tears.  After he opened and read the second link, he turned off the laptop and got ready for work.  As he showered and got dressed, he would follow the six simple steps Alan once shared with him on how to build a relationship with God:

  1. Take the time to touch bases with God
  2. Invite Him to come close
  3. Talk
  4. Listen
  5. Make contact throughout your day
  6. Take action when you hear God’s voice

The next several weeks, he spent time reading the Bible, praying and reflecting.  When Claudine invited him to go to church with her one Sunday, he readily accepted her invitation.  From the moment he walked through the doors, he knew that this was the church he wanted to be a part of.  The love and warmth of the parishioners filled his heart with such comfort and joy that it brought tears to his eyes.  It wasn’t long before he got baptized.  Doreen and the children were there.  After the service, she hugged Duke and said, tearfully, “Alan would have been so proud.”

That evening, Claudine and he went out for dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.

“So how does it feel to be part of a church family?” she asked, smiling across the table at him.

He beamed.  “It feels wonderful,” he said.  “Now I understand why Alan loved the church community so much.”

“It was good to see Doreen and the kids.”

“She told me that Alan would have been proud.”

“Yes, he would have been.  His brother was lost and now he’s found.”

He reached over and covered her hand.  “I owe this all to you too,” he said quietly.  “I’m who I am and where I am now because of you.  Thank you for pushing me gently toward God.”

“You’re welcome.  I’m so thankful that things have worked out the way they have.”

“There’s one more thing.”  His expression was tense now.  “I have something to tell you.  It’s something that has been on my mind for a very long time but now is the right time to tell you.”

Frowning, she asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

Taking a deep breath, he said, “I love you, Claudine.  I’ve loved you since the first time we met but I never told you because I didn’t believe that I was the right man for you.”

Heart racing, Claudine looked him straight in the face and replied, “I love you too, Duke.  I’ve loved since the first time I saw you.  My Dad was right.  That day when I visited him after you and I met for lunch, he said that you weren’t the right man for me yet but that when God was through with you, you will be.”

“Wow, that’s profound.”

“That had to be God revealing His plan to him to encourage me because I’d been praying and it seemed like God wasn’t answering or taking a long time to.”

“So, now that we know that we’re right for each other, I don’t want to waste any more time.”  He reached into his pocket and produced a small black box.  Then, he got up from the table and walked around to where she was and got down on one knee.  He opened the box, took out the ring and asked, “Claudine Bradshaw, will you marry me?”

Laughing and conscious of eyes on them, she nodded.  “Yes, I will marry you, Duke Addington.”  Through tears, she saw him slip the exquisite ring with its single heart shaped diamond on her finger before he reached up and kissed her.

Amidst the applause, he rose to his feet and went back to his seat, grinning broadly.  He raised his mock-tail and said, “To us.”

After dabbing her eyes with the napkin, she raised her glass. “To us.  And to God be the glory.”

 

 

Sources:  Our Daily Bread; Karman Healthcare; Yearning Hearts; Wise Old Sayings; Heart Spoken;

Christ’s Suffering

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man – Hebrews 2:9

Today is a very emotional day for me.  The waterworks began this morning soon after I got up.  I mentioned the suffering of Jesus to my husband and he said, “He suffered all the way to the cross and even while He was suffering He thought only about you and me.”  As I made up the bed, his words hit home and the tears flowed as the enormity of the suffering Jesus endured for our salvation dawned on me.

Yes, Jesus suffered that day.  He was beaten.  He was spat on. He was mocked.  He heard the religious leaders and some in the crowd call for Him to be crucified although Pilate wanted to release Him because he saw no reason for Him to be put to death.  He was treated like a common criminal.  He hung on the cross between two thieves and heard the people mock Him.  He witnessed His mother weeping uncontrollably at the foot of the cross and He felt forsaken by His Father.  That morning He was denied three times by Peter.  The night before He was betrayed by Judas and abandoned by the other disciples after they had all sworn that they would never leave Him.

He suffered indignity as He hung on the cross.  The Bible said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Galatians 3:13).  Yet, He remained on the cross, even though passers-by called for Him to come down from the cross if He were the Son of God and the religious leaders told Him to do the same thing so that they would believe in Him (Matthew 27:39-43, Jesus remained where He was for our sake.  He wanted to accomplish what He said to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15). 

Staying on that cross brought salvation into the world and eternal life to all who believe.  There was no other way for us to be saved except for Jesus to die on the cross.  He didn’t go through all that suffering just to abandon us to our fate.  A lot was at stake and hedged on Him.  He was sent into the world to save us and in spite of the agony He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked the Father if it were possible to take the cup away, He determined, nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  He was obedient to the Father even unto death.

Even as He hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus didn’t think about Himself.  He looked down on the people who were mocking Him and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He promised one of the thieves on the cross who asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom, ““Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” He promised this repentant sinner that one day he will enter the kingdom. 

He looked upon His mother as she stood next to the disciple John and He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, He said, “Behold your mother!” He was placing Mary into John’s care.  He was looking out for her.  And it said that from that hour, John disciple took her to his own home.  Even in His suffering, Jesus was more concerned for the well being of others.

What can we learn from all of this?  No matter what we are going through, we must continue to remain faithful and obedient to God and to minister to others.  Jesus suffered but the story doesn’t end there.  He died on the cross, was buried but as He promised, on the third day He rose from the dead.  He ascended to His Father after spending time with his disciples and is now sitting at the right hand of God.  And one day, He will return to take us with Him.  As we go through trials, suffering, pain and difficulties, let us look “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

It’s a Virtue

Patience is a virtue that many of us would like to master but more times than not, it is impossible to do so.  Just this morning, I lost mine when my son wanted me to get up and go and get some bread for him.  I had told him that he could have some after he finished having his cereal.  Not long after I sat down and was having my breakfast when he came to me and said, “You can get the bread now.” In retrospect, I should have reprimanded him for talking to me as if he were talking to one of his friends.

I stared at him and asked myself, couldn’t he wait until I was finished eating first?  I began to fume, thinking how inconsiderate he was being.  “Have you finished your cereal?” I asked, looking past him at the white bowl on the table.  I couldn’t believe that he had finished it so quickly.  Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  He was probably hungry and he’s growing so his appetite has increased.  I dread the teenage years.

Anyway, I got him the bread he asked for and resumed having my breakfast.  Of course, I felt bad shortly afterwards for losing my patience with him.  I realize that it takes so much more out of me when I lose my patience that when I exercise it.  It seems like there are times when it’s easy to remain patient and there are others times when it’s not.  I believe that children are there to test our patience because there have been occasions when I have asked God to give me patience and not long after a situation arises where I need it in order to deal with my son.  If we can exercise patience when dealing with our children on a daily basis, then we are off to a great start.

It’s not surprising that exercising patience seems like an impossible feat sometimes. It is a Fruit of the Spirit.  Anything spiritual is hard to achieve when we try to do it in our own strength.  In order to have patience we need the help of the Holy Spirit.  It’s too easy to get impatient, especially when dealing with our children, difficult situations, people, relationships or waiting for God to answer our prayers.  We get impatient when we have to wait or when we think things are not happening as quickly as they should.  Many things try our patience but the Bible encourages us to be patient anyway.

In Psalm 27:14, David encourages us to, “Wait on the LordBe of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”  It takes courage to wait, especially when what we are waiting for is taking a long time to happen and the temptation to hurry things along is there.  After years of patiently waiting to have a child, Sarah finally decided that she was going to come up with her own plan because God’s was taking too long.  So, she had her handmaid, Hagar be her surrogate and she was going to raise the child as hers.  However, that only caused a lot of problems which are still evident today.  Yes, it takes a lot of patience to wait upon the Lord whose timing is not ours and who doesn’t always give us what we want when we want it or in the way we expect.  But, we have the promise that when we choose to wait, God will strengthen our hearts.

And when it comes to trials, we are encouraged to bear them without grumbling.  The apostle Paul had his share of trials which he mentioned in great detail in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.  He faced death, was persecuted, imprisoned, beaten but Paul saw these trials as nothing because they were the result of his faith in Christ and his service to the One who had called him into ministry.  Paul learned patience from Jesus who had shown him patience when the apostle was persecuting the church.  For him, Jesus was the perfect example of patience. 

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that he received mercy from Jesus although he was a blasphemer, persecutor and an insolent man who acted in ignorance because he was to be an example of Jesus’ patience toward people like Paul for those who will believe on Him for eternal life.  In other words, there’s hope for us because the same Jesus who exercised patience toward Paul and showed him mercy will do the same for us.  Paul testified, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).   

Right now, the Lord is showing great patience toward us in that it seems as if He has delayed His coming but the reality is that He has not.  He will return at the appointed time.   He has promised that He will return and the Lord is not slack when it comes to His promise but in the meantime He wants as many people as possible to be saved.  He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).   Praise the Lord for His enduring patience.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter 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 joining 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