Matt’s Story

large-1531167473-1c546e4b85f6c127d98bd3212423c485A couple of years ago, my world as I knew it was turned upside down.  I was 17 and at my cousin, Rose’s wedding.  At the reception, a relative who had way too much to drink, put his arm around me and said, “I don’t know about the rest of the family but I’m sure glad that your Mama didn’t abort you ’cause you turned out to be a fine lad.  Yes, a fine lad.  You’re not at all like your Daddy.”

I stared at him, shocked and shaken.  What was he talking about?  Why would my mother have considered aborting me and what about my father?  Did he know who my father was?  Was he for real or was it the liquor.

I politely removed his arm from around my shoulders and excused myself.  I went out on the terrace to get a breath of fresh air.  My mind was spinning and my heart was pounding.  A feeling of dread came over me.  My mother died a year ago from pneumonia.  She never told me who my father was and whenever I asked about him, she would say, “the only father you have is God Almighty.  He takes care of you better than any earthly father can.”  After a while, I stopped asking her.   On my birth certificate it said “unknown” where my father’s name should have been.  I hoped that one day I would find out who and where he was.

My mother never married.  She was a single, hardworking mother who raised me as best as she could.  I know she loved me and that she wanted me to have a good life.  At night after she read to me, she got down on her knees and prayed.  She was always praying for me.  I loved my mother very much and I was devastated when she died.  After she died, I moved in with my grandmother.

After what the relative told me I couldn’t enjoy the wedding.  I kept playing his words over and over in my mind.  I couldn’t wait for the morning to come when I would talk to my grandmother about it.  I know that if anyone could give me answers, it would be her.  So, when we were sitting around the table having breakfast, I asked her, “Grandma, did Mama want to abort me?”  I knew I should have broached this in a more delicate way but I was desperate for answers.

Her face went pale and she dropped her fork.  “Where did you hear that?” she asked.

“Some distant relative, I don’t remember his name, said that he was glad that Mama didn’t abort me.”

“Eat your breakfast.”

“Is it true, Grandma?  Was Mama going to abort me?”

“No!  Your Mama was a godly woman.  She would never have agreed to an abortion even though her father and other people were trying to talk her into it.”

“Grandpa wanted her to have an abortion?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I adored my grandfather.  He was like a father to me.  His death five years ago really hit me hard.

“Yes.  He thought it would have been thing for her.”

“But why?”

“Matt, what does it matter?  You’re here, aren’t you?  Why don’t we forget about the past and move on?”

“Grandma, I need to know.  Please!”

My grandmother buried her face in her hands which were trembling slightly.  “Oh, Matt, I wish you didn’t have to know the truth.”

I was getting scared now.  Part of me was afraid to hear the truth and the other part had to.  “Please tell me, Grandma.  Was it to do with my father?”

She dropped her hands and I saw the anger and rage on her face.  “Your father was a monster!” she cried.

“Who was he?  Is he still alive?”

“Yes, he’s still alive and still rotting in prison.”

“Prison!  Why is he in prison?”

“Matt…”

“Grandma, I need to know.”

“He’s serving 30 years in prison for…rape and incest.”

“I–I don’t understand

“Matt, your mother got pregnant when she was raped by her brother.”

The color drained from my face.  I felt sick.  I got up from the table and dashed into the washroom where I threw up.  When I was done, I flushed the toilet, rinsed my mouth and washed my face with cold water.  My hands were shaking.  My grandmother was standing behind me.  I turned to face her and she put her arms around me and hugged me tightly.  We were both crying.

“This is why I didn’t want to tell you,” she said after a while.  “It’s a shameful thing that this family has had to deal with and that is why some of us, excluding me, wanted your mother to have an abortion.  They were thinking about her well-being but once your mother insisted that she was going to have you, we all tried to protect you from the truth.  It was your grandfather’s idea that she put “unknown” for the father’s name.”

“Why did she keep me? Wasn’t I a painful reminder of what happened to her?”

“She kept you because she loved you and she didn’t see a painful reminder of what your father did to her.  She saw a beautiful and precious gift from God.”

The rest of that day was a blur.  I was so overcome with pain and guilt that I became withdrawn and depressed.  My grandmother was very concerned about me and she tried to get me counseling.  It helped–somewhat.  And after I graduated from high-school, she sent me away to South Africa to study and live at the university there.  She would take care of my tuition and anything else I needed.  “It would do you good to get far away from here,” she said.  “You’ll be in a new country and meet new people.  Forget about the ugly past.  Live your life the best you know how for your mother’s sake.  Write me.  Don’t come back here.  When I can, I will come and visit you.”

So, at her insistence, I left Virginia and moved to South Africa.  I asked my grandmother why she choice South Africa of all countries to send me and she told me it was where she met my grandfather.   When I arrived in Cape Town, I knew that I was going to love living there.  Life on campus was a great experience for me.  I met diverse students and forged several life-long friendships.  I enjoyed my studies and had a relatively active social life.  There were lots of pretty girls but I wasn’t interested in dating at that time.  I wanted to focus on my studies.

Then, in my third year at the university, I met Joycelin, a girl from Namibia and a 765full-sydney-nelsonfreshman.   I remember the first time she smiled at me, I felt as if my heart had stopped.  A mutual friend introduced us when a group of us went on a Saturday morning to visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach.  Joycelin and I immediately hit it off and we spent most of the time together, getting to know each other.  By the time we were on our way back to campus, I knew that I wanted to date this girl.  And I did.  Our friends, especially the one who introduced us, were thrilled.

I wrote my grandmother about Joycelin and sent her photos of us.  She was happy for me.  I was relieved that she didn’t have a problem with me dating an African girl.  I know that other members of my family would, however, including the relative who made that careless remark about my mother at my cousin’s wedding.

Things were going well for me and after I graduated from university, I moved into a waterfront apartment which wasn’t far from where I worked.  Joycelin was still living on campus but we phoned each other during the week and saw each other on the weekends.  I was getting pretty serious about her but always at the back of my mind I asked myself how she would feel about me if she were to find out about my father.  I found out one day.

Joycelin and I were in De Waal Park on a Saturday afternoon when the subject of abortion came up.  “How do you feel about abortion?” she asked me.

Her question startled me.  “I don’t know.”

“I’m against it,” she said.

“Even–even in cases of rape and incest?” I asked, my heart pounding.

She nodded.  “Yes.  The life of a child born of rape or incest is just as valuable as a child born under normal circumstances.  Ending the life of the child of a person who has committed rape or incest isn’t the solution. The law should punish the criminal, not kill his child.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do.  And the Bible says that ‘a child won’t bear a parent’s guilt, and a parent won’t bear a child’s guilt.'”  She looked at me closely, frowning and there was concerned expression on her sweet face.  “Matt, are you okay?  You look pale.”

“Joycelin, I have something to tell you.”

She slipped her hand in mind.  “What is it?” she asked.  “You can tell me anything.”

I closed my eyes and told her the awful truth about my birth.  I didn’t realize that I was crying until I felt her fingers brush against my cheeks.  I opened my eyes and found myself staring into her tearful face.  “That’s why I said I didn’t know how I feel about abortion.  There were times when I felt it might have been better if my mother had aborted me because I was a reminder of what happened to her.”

“Matt, you’re not to blame for what happened.  Your mother chose to keep you because she loved you.  She saw you as a beautiful and precious gift not a horrible and painful reminder of what happened to her.  She chose to give you life and the best way to honor that choice, is to live your life to the fullest.”

I held her face between my hands and whispered brokenly, “I love you.”

She smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I wish my mother could have met you,”

“I wish I could have met her.  She sounds like a remarkable woman.  I believe you are the way you are because of her.  She was a godly woman.  God heard her prayers for you and He answered them.  She would be extremely proud of how you’ve turned out.”

“That’s what my grandmother said.  Her, you will get to meet when she visits me in December.  She’s coming for Christmas.”

“That’s great.  Speaking of Christmas, my family are flying over too.  I can’t wait for them to meet you.”

“Good.  It will give me a chance to ask your father permission to marry you.”

She stared at me, her eyes and mouth wide open.  “Are you serious?”

I nodded and replied,  “Yes, I’m very serious”  before I lowered my head and kissed her.

Ten years have passed since I learned the truth about my the circumstances of my birth.  The guilt and shame I felt all these years are gone now.  I have accepted that I have done nothing deserving of death and I will live the life I have been given to its fullest.    Joycelin and I are engaged.  The wedding is next year Spring.  She’s teaching me about God and like my mother, she prays for me regularly.   I’m thankful that God blessed me with three phenomenal women–my mother, Joycelin and my grandmother.  The life He has given me I will live worthily for Him and for them.

A child conceived in violence is himself innocent and created in the image of God. He has done nothing to deserve the death sentence, any more than a child conceived in a loving marriage – Human Life International

The solution to incest is not abortion, but prosecution of the criminal so he does not commit more crimes, and loving care for his victims so that they experience true physical and emotional healing – Human Life International

Matt is a fictional character, but there are real men and women out there who were conceived in rape.  Read their stories.

It takes courage for a woman who chooses to go through with an unplanned pregnancy but it takes far greater courage for the one whose child was conceived by rape or incest.

Sources:   University of Cape TownWikipediaStudent World Online;

Jesse/Imagination #writephoto

art
Photo by Sue Vincent

Every time I walk past the mural on the street where I used to live, I stop and stare at it.  Memories of my friend, Jesse flood my mind.  He was a phenomenal artist.  I honestly think he was born to be one.  It was his passion.  It was what made him a beacon of hope for us.  He rose above his circumstances.  He created beauty in a place where violence, drugs, alcohol and crime were prevalent.  He was a light in a very dark place.  He made other kids and me want to be somebody–to pursue our dreams.

Jesse is gone.  He was taken too soon.  It wasn’t a bullet that got him or some random act of violence or drugs–he never touched the stuff.  It was HIV.  He got it from his girlfriend who got it from a guy she cheated on Jesse with.  She’s still alive but it’s only a matter of time before she dies too.  The guy she got it from died a couple of years ago.  She said that if she had known that he had it, she wouldn’t have slept with him.  Her mistake killed her and my friend, Jesse.  I have long since forgiven her for what she had done.  Hating her wouldn’t bring Jesse back.

This time, I brought a rose with me which I now place on the ground in front of the mural.  It’s for Jesse.  It’s a token of my love of a friend whose light has gone out of the world but it still illuminates my heart.

Our minds are like canvases and our imaginations are the brushstrokes.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – Imagination at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Free/Pillars #writephoto

pillars
Photo by Sue Vincent

“Mr.  Johnson, how does it feel to be a free man after spending twenty-five years in jail?” a reporter asked Leroy Johnson as he stood in front of the courthouse with its massive pillars.  His mother was beside him.

He looked around at the sea of reporters with their mikes shoved in his face and the flashing cameras and smiled.  “It feels great!” he exclaimed.

Leroy was freed after spending twenty-five years of his life behind bars convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.  He was a free man now thanks to a couple of law students who examined the questionable circumstances surrounding his conviction and got his case opened.    Malcolm Holder, the real killer confessed to the killing.

“Do you feel any resentment toward Malcolm Holder?”

Leroy shook his head.  “Why should I feel resentment toward him?  He came forward and confessed to the killing twice.  The first time he did it was a couple of days after the shooting but he wasn’t arrested.  He tried to do the right thing but nobody listened.  They arrested me instead, an innocent man and sentenced me to forty years in jail with no chance of parole before 2029.”

“Is there anything you want to say to him?”

“Nothing except, that he did the right thing coming forward.”

“Mrs.  Johnson, how does it feel to have your son back?”

Mrs. Johnson smiled.  “It feels wonderful,” she replied.  “After twenty-five years, the Lord finally answered my prayers.  My son is a free man now.”

“Mr.  Johnson, what do you plan to do now that you’re free?”

He put his arm around his mother’s shoulders.  “I’m not thinking that far ahead but right now, I’m taking my Mama to lunch.”

I was inspired to write this story after hearing about the New York prisoner, Valentino Dixon whose conviction was overturned because of an investigation Golf Digest’s Max Adler helped to open.  Valentino was accused of shooting a man back in 1991.  He was arrested and convicted even though the real killer, Lamarr Scott admitted to local media just days after the murder that he shot Torriano Jackson but, he was never arrested.  To read the story, visit here.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Pillars at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Sources:  USA Today; Bossip

Sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises – Psalm 98:4

Praising God is something that should be as natural as breathing.  It’s hard to do so, however, when facing trials, problems or challenges, but that is the time when we really need to do it.  I have had an experience when I was feeling down about something and it came to me, no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that instead of focusing on what I was going through, to focus on God instead.  So, I began to praise Him.  I began to sing songs of praise to Him and after a while, I felt so light and upbeat.  The problem which had seemed like a mountain became minuscule until with God’s help, I was able to resolve it.

The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who praised God regardless of what the circumstances were.  Who could forget when Silas and he were in jail and instead of suffering in silence, they began to sing?  Acts 16:25 says But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  God used that moment as an opportunity to reveal Himself.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison and the doors to the jail cells were opened and the chains broken, the prisoners could have escaped but no one moved.  The jailer thought that they had broken out and was about to take his life out of fear of reprisal but Paul assured him that all of the prisoners were there.  And that led the jailer to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30).  God used Paul’s and Silas’ attitude toward their circumstances to bring about the salvation of the jailer and his family.  And who knows if any of the other prisoners didn’t change too as a result of what they heard and witnessed.

How we deal with adversity will not only affect us but those around us.  Instead of looking down or around, we look up and whatever song the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, puts in our hearts, we lift our voices and sing to our God, Who is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  It will lift our burdens up to Him and bring His comfort down to us.

The Betrayal

Althea closed her Bible and placed it back on the coffee table.  She felt like Judas because she had betrayed Tyson.  Guilt racked her but if she were brutally honest with herself she would admit that what happened between Greg and her was something she had wanted for a very long time–even before she started dating Tyson.

Last night when Greg took her home after working together over time on a pending project, she invited him in to have a hot chocolate.  After he went in and she closed the door, she unbuttoned her coat, with her back to him.  She felt him pull it off her shoulders, discard it then, he pulled her back against him, so that she could feel his hard body pressing into hers while he buried his face in her hair.  She closed her eyes as desire raged through her.  Then, she turned to him, her eyes meeting his in a steady stare.  She reached out and unbuttoned his coat.

His coat was soon disposed of, his tie followed and then, with trembling fingers, she loosened the buttons on his shirt, her heart pounding with anticipation.  She could feel his warm breath on her temple and soon he was shirtless.  Eagerly she ran her hands over his chest and before reaching up and pulling his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair as their lips fastened.  His arms went about her waist, pressing her into him as they exchanged passionate kisses.

Several minutes later, Althea drew back, gasping for breath as she dragged off her jacket and everything from the waist up, longing to feel his skin against her.  Greg groaned as she pressed against him, her eyes feverish as they met his smoldering ones and he swept her up into his arms and carried her into the living-room.  They made love on the sofa.  He ended up spending the night and the following morning, they made love again before he left after having breakfast.

Running her hand over the cushion where his head was, she trembled as she recalled how explosive the lovemaking was and it was something she had never experienced with anyone–not even Tyson.  Greg excited her like no man ever did and she wanted to be with him again.  She wasn’t satisfied with having just a working relationship with him.  She wanted more…but what about Tyson?

How could she face Tyson after what she did but how could she stay with him when she wanted Greg?  And what about Greg’s girlfriend, Audrey?  She had completely forgotten about her.  She remembered the first time she met the willowy blonde and her jealous reaction.  It was at one of the company’s picnics.  She was there with Tyson and Greg was there with Audrey.  They were sitting at the table with the director of the company and his wife.  Tyson and she joined them.  She was sitting between Tyson and Greg who introduced them to Audrey.  He and Tyson had met before.

Audrey was what most people would consider to be classically beautiful with her fine features. She was regal and elegant.  When she was introduced to Tyson, she smiled and was very gracious to him but when she was introduced to Althea, she was a bit aloof and the smile on her lips didn’t reach her light blue eyes.  The two women barely said anything to each other and Greg commented on that when they were in the office.  “I couldn’t help but notice that you and Audrey didn’t hit it off.  You’re usually get along with everyone and Audrey too but somehow, you two didn’t warm up to each other.  How come?”

Althea had shrugged and offered him an offhand explanation.  “I guess we can’t always get along with people.”  She couldn’t let him know that she was jealous of Audrey and for some reason Audrey didn’t like her.  Perhaps she sensed that Althea was attracted to her boyfriend.  Women were more intuitive when it came to those things.

“Tyson and I get along even though he’s your boyfriend,” Greg had remarked and she looked at him, quizzically.  His expression was inscrutable.  What does he mean by that? Before she could ask him, his cell rang and he excused himself.  Ever since then, she had been meaning to ask him about the remark but just hadn’t gotten around to it.

The ringing of her phone brought her back to the present and she got up from the sofa to answer it.  It was Tyson.  Heart thudding and hand gripping the phone, she said, “Hello, Tyson.”

“Hi Baby, I tried to get you last night but your machine came on and your cell was turned off.  I thought about coming over but I didn’t want to drop by just like that.”

Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t, she thought.  Or you would have caught me with Greg.  “Tyson, I’m fine.  I was wiped so I must have been sleeping and that’s why I didn’t hear the phone or the cell ring.”  Lying came so easily to her that it startled her.

“Okay.  I called to remind you that we’re going to the Blue Note tonight to see the John Scofield Quartet.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

She had totally forgotten about tonight.  The last thing she wanted was to be at a jazz club but what excuse could she give?  “All right.”

“Great!  Oh, I invited Greg and Audrey to join us.  I hope you don’t mind.”

Her heart was racing now.  She was going to see Greg.  And Audrey was going to be there.  How was she going to be able to hide her feelings or stop the images of Greg and her making love from popping into her head?  “I wish Audrey weren’t coming,” she said.  “The woman doesn’t like me.”

“Maybe she’s jealous of you,” Tyson remarked.

Althea stiffened.  “Why should she be?” she asked warily.

“You are a gorgeous woman, Althea and you work closely with Greg.  I would be jealous too if I didn’t trust you.”

She closed her eyes as the guilt consumed her.  He trusts me.  I feel like a traitor.  What am I going to do?  I never meant to cheat on him but my feelings for Greg got the better of me.  I was a fool to have a relationship with Tyson when I really wanted to be with Greg but at the time Greg was already seeing Audrey.  Oh, what a mess I have gotten myself into…

“Althea?  Are you still there?”

“Yes–yes.  I–I have to go now.”

“All right.  I’ll see you at seven.”

“See you then,” she replied and hung up, her head throbbing.  She went back over to the sofa and sank heavily down, her brow knitted, frantic about how the evening was going to pan out and that she might do or say something to give herself away.  “Dear Lord, please help me to keep it together tonight,” she begged.

Several hours later when Tyson picked her up, she was composed or appeared to be.  The closer they got to the Blue Note Jazz club, the more nervous she became and by the time they walked into the place, her palms were sweaty and her legs felt like jelly.  Thankfully, Greg and Audrey weren’t there as yet.  It gave her time to collect herself.

It was a nice club.  The atmosphere was casual and intimate.  Their table was situated in such a way that all four of them would be able to get to see the band.   The band had already set up and in ten minutes they were going to play.  She looked up just then and her heart somersaulted when she saw Greg and Audrey approaching their table.  Audrey was wearing a red top with a black pants.  Her hair was pulled back in a chignon giving her an elegant look.  She gave Althea a frosty smile and greeting before she sat down opposite her.

Althea’s eyes shifted to Greg as he sat down beside Audrey and opposite Tyson.  He was dressed in a black dress shirt with black jeans.  He looked so sexy that it was hard for her not to stare.  Their eyes met and she smiled nervously as she greeted him, acting as if they hadn’t seen each other since yesterday at the office.

They ordered drinks, appetizers and dinner and settled down to enjoy the band which was starting up.  As the sounds of jazz filled the air, Althea sneaked a peek at Greg whose head was turned toward the stage and her heart skipped a beat when she caught him looking at her.  She quickly turned away and tried to concentrate on the music and enjoy the dinner but she could feel his eyes on her.

After dinner and during a break, Audrey excused herself and went to the washroom while Tyson went to the bar to order a Club Soda.  Althea had passed on having anything else to drink and was nursing her Cranberry Juice.  Alone with Greg, she couldn’t resist looking at him and her mouth went dry when she saw him looking at her intently.  “You look amazing,” he told her.  “I can’t keep my eyes off you.”

She was wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps and her hair was pulled back at the nape.  “Thank you,” she replied, feeling shy and thrilled at the same time.  “You look incredibly sexy.”

“Althea, I can’t stop thinking about last night and this morning.”

“Me neither,” she confessed.  “What are we going to do?  I feel like such a traitor because Tyson trusts me but I can’t help how I feel about you, Greg.  What happened between us last night and this morning happened because I wanted it to.”

“We have to tell them,” he told her.  “We can’t continue hiding our feelings and pretending that we are happy in our relationships when we’re not.  I want to be with you, Althea.  I’ve wanted it ever since we started working together.”

She stared at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me this before I started dating Tyson?” she demanded.  “I only went out with him because you were with Audrey.”

“I thought you loved Tyson and that’s why I didn’t do anything.  You have no idea how hard it is for me to see you with him.  I like him and we get along but I’m jealous of him because he’s your boyfriend.”

“And I’m jealous of Audrey because she’s your girlfriend.”

“I think she suspects that I have feelings for you.  She didn’t want to come tonight because of you but I managed to talk her into it.  I came because I wanted to see you.  Can I come over later?”

“Yes,” she said.  “We’ll talk more later.” Just then, both Tyson and Audrey joined them.

The band came back and played for another hour.  It was time to leave.  The four of them walked out of the club and to the parking lot.  They said their goodnight and parted.  As Althea walked to Tyson’s Land Rover, she watched Greg and Audrey walk to his Jaguar.  Seeing them together made her decide that she was going to end her relationship with Tyson.  She wouldn’t do it tonight, though.  Tomorrow was Sunday.  On her way to church, she would call him and suggest that they meet in the afternoon at Bryant Park.

It was after ten when she got home and she quickly undressed and took a shower.  She changed into floral print Chemise which flattered her figure and complexion.  Her hair was loose about her shoulders and after dabbing a little of her favorite Ralph Lauren perfume behind her ears, she went into the kitchen.  She just finished pouring hot toddies into two glass cups when the doorbell rang.  Her heart racing, she hurried to answer the door, smiling when she saw Greg’s eyes travel over her.

As soon as she closed the door and locked it, he pulled her into his arms.  “I’ve wanted to do this all night,” he murmured, his eyes restless on her upturned face.  He was wearing a navy blue shirt and blue jeans.  His hair was slightly damp and he smelled really good.

She put her arms around his neck.  “I fixed us some hot toddies.  Let’s sit on the sofa and drink them before they get cold and then…”

He smiled and released her.  “You’re right.  If I kiss you now, I wouldn’t be able to stop.”

They walked into the living-room and while he relaxed on the sofa, she went and got the hot toddies.  She handed him his before she settled down next to him.  She reached for the remote for the stereo and turned it on.  Smooth jazz played in the background.  “I am going to break up with Tyson tomorrow,” she announced quietly.  “I’m going to do it in the park.  I read that a lot of couples call it quits in a park because it’s a public place so not much drama there and it’s quiet and relaxing.  I will call him in the morning to arrange a time when we will meet.  I’m not looking forward to it at all.”

Greg sighed.  “I know what you mean,” he said.  “I broke up with Audrey tonight and it was terrible.  She was hurt and angry.  After she screamed at me and slapped me in the face, she stormed out of the car, slamming the door so hard, I thought the window would break.  I felt like a jerk.  I never meant to hurt her but I should never have gotten involved with her when it was you I wanted to be with.  That was unfair to her.”

“Does she know about us?”

He nodded.  “I didn’t have to tell her.  She figured it out and I couldn’t deny it.”

Althea pursed her lips.  “She must really hate me now.”

“I feel really badly about Tyson.  He’s a really nice guy.  Under other circumstances, we could have been good friends.”

“When he asked me to go out with him I should have turned him down.  It would have been the decent thing to do.  And now, what I have to say to him tomorrow will break his heart and completely destroy his trust in me…” Her voice trembled and tears came to her eyes.

Greg took her toddy and put it and his down on the coffee table.  He put his arm around her shoulder and she rested her head against him.  “I know that you feel badly about Tyson.  Breaking up with someone is never easy.  It can be very painful.  All I can say is that Tyson and Audrey deserve to be with people who will love them in return.”

“You’re right,” she said and brushing the tears away she drew back to look at him. “You and I never meant to hurt them but we can’t help the way we feel about each other.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “I love you, Althea,” he murmured huskily.  “I have loved you since the first time we met.  I tried to fight it because of Audrey but it was no use.  And those nights when we worked overtime, were torture.  It was hard not to touch you.  Last night my feelings were too strong to ignore.  I wanted you so much.”

“I love you too, Greg.  I fell in love with you the first time I saw you but I didn’t do anything about it because I found out from Krystal that you had a girlfriend.  Seeing you everyday and working late with you was bittersweet.  It wasn’t easy hiding my feelings for you or coming home to this apartment which felt empty and thinking about you, wishing you were here.  You have no idea how often I have fantasized about you and…” her words were smothered against his lips.

The next afternoon, she met Tyson in the park.  Dread filled her as they walked to a bench in a quiet area and sat down.  Taking a deep breath, she repeated the words she had rehearsed on the drive over.  By the time she was finished, he was livid.  “So, when I called you on Friday night and yesterday morning, Greg was there with you?”

“Yes.”

“So, he spent the night.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  When I asked you why you didn’t answer my calls you lied to me.  You told me that you were sleeping but the truth is you and he were doing it on the sofa.  Oh, hell, Althea, I trusted you and you betrayed me.” He jumped to his feet.

“Tyson, I’m so sorry–” she said, rising from the bench.

“I don’t want to hear you say you’re sorry.  You know I had many opportunities to cheat on you too but I couldn’t because I cared about you and besides, when I’m in a relationship I don’t cheat. Last night when we were at the Blue Note having a good time, not once did I suspect that there was anything going on between Greg and you.  But Audrey knew something and that’s why she didn’t like you.  She saw you for the liar and cheat you are.  I’m going to leave now before I say something I will regret.” He looked her over with an expression of disgust on his face before he turned and walked away.

She watched him go and then sat back down on the bench. She sat there for a long time, feeling awful that she had hurt someone so badly. Tyson was a terrific guy who didn’t deserve what she had done to him. She couldn’t blame him if he never forgave her.

After leaving the park, she went straight to Greg’s place.  As soon as he closed the door behind her and turned to face her, she went straight into his arms and clung to him.  “It’s over between Tyson and me.”

He held her tightly.  “It’s better to end the relationship than to continue cheating,” he said.  “We don’t have to sneak around.  We can love each other in the open.”

She drew back to look up at him.  “You’re right,” she agreed.

He bent his head and kissed her, thinking of Bill Russell’s quote: “To love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something, but to be loved by the one you love is everything”

 

Sources:  Timeout; Pinterest

Paul’s Example

Upon his arrival at Rome, Paul was placed in a gloomy dungeon, there to remain until his course should be finished. Accused of instigating one of the basest and most terrible of crimes against the city and the nation, he was the object of universal execration – Acts of the Apostles, p.490

Day 4 of the Great Controversy Tour.  She had decided to come on it with her friend.

A lover of Christian history and travel, it was an opportunity she could not pass up. Today’s focus was on The Early Christian Persecutions.  After a buffet breakfast, they visited the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, Titus’ Arch, the Roman Forum and Mamertine Prison.  The ancient prison is located at the foot of the Capitoline Hill in Rome.  According to the travel guide, the Mamertine Prison had two gloomy underground cells where Rome’s conquered enemies were imprisoned and died, of starvation or strangulation.  It was where the apostle Paul was confined.  She paused to take some photos before going inside.  She took a photo of the sign which read the “prison of the Saints and Apostles Peter and Paul.”

As she began to descend into the dark coldness, she thought of Paul being a sick, old man, cruelly thrown in there and friendless, except for Luke and Onesiphorus whose frequent visits cheered him up.  Luke was a great comfort to him because he enabled him to communicate with fellow believers and the outside world.

It was indeed a very gloomy place.  She shivered.  It was from there that Paul was taken to Nero’s vast judgment hall where he pleaded not for himself but for all the people who could still be reached by the Gospel.  From there he was taken to his execution.  It is believed that Peter also spent his final hours in the prison before he was taken to his execution.

As she listened to the tour guide, she tried to imagine what it would have been like for her to be in prison for her faith.  Would she languish and lose hope or would she be like Paul who wrote such encouraging letters from the prison here in Rome to the different churches.  In his letter to the Philippians, he was rejoicing as he shared his experience. He wrote, “But I want you to know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have resulted in advancing the gospel,  so that my imprisonments in Christ have become known throughout the entire palace guard and to all the rest.  And a great many of the brothers in the Lord, having become confident because of my incarcerations, have dared to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).   He seeing the positive side to all of this.  His adversity brought more people to Christ and his attitude encouraged others.

Could she be like Paul who, although he was in chains, was not chained to his circumstances?  Would her faith hold up?  Then she remembered his words to Timothy: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but everyone forsook me. May it not be charged against them.  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Timothy 2:16, 17).  Paul was never alone.  God was always present.  

Would God be there for her as He was for Paul?  As if in response to her lingering doubts, Isaiah 43:2 came to her mind, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Peace and comfort filled her heart. She had the assurance that no matter what she will face, God will be there with her just as He was with Paul.

 

Carcere Mamertino-2

Sources:  Sacred Destinations; Bible Hub; Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Roma Today

18 Million Street Children

Imagine that you are discarded, abandoned and abused.  You are forced to beg or turn to drugs.  Imagine being separated from your family.  And if you are a girl, imagine being abandoned by your parents.

These are the sad realities for millions of children in Asia.  They live in the streets where they are vulnerable or fall prey to kidnappers who sell them into bonded labor and the sex trade.  Those who manage to avoid the kidnappers fall into gangs, drugs and alcoholism.  Distrust and pain are their constant companions.  Everyday is a struggle to survive.

I encourage you to watch this video which will help you to better understand the plight of these children and what is being done by Gospel for Asia to change their circumstances and bring them hope.

You can offer these children a safe haven by supporting Gospel for Asia who has a home for runaway and abandoned children.  You can partner with the ministry so it can continue to develop programs to help these children.  You can change their lives forever.  Through your generosity and compassion, you can show them that there is a God who loves them and has not abandoned them.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up – Psalm 27:10

Source:  Gospel for Asia