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.”

 

 

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Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

holy-step-chapel-climbing

Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

Pontius

Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus 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).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

Giving

It was one of the highlights in her life.

To organize a donation drive and then

make arrangements for the delivery

of the clothes and other items she

received from the church members

and to see the faces of the staff

when she dropped them off.

 

It was an opportunity to teach

her daughter Kayla about

caring for those who

were less fortunate.  Kayla’s

face lit up every time they

got out the boxes and went

through the toys and clothes

that they were going to give

to the women and children

in the homeless shelter.  Kayla

was more than willing to give

away her toys and books.  “It

will make them and Jesus happy,”

she explained.

 

Once Kayla went with her to the

shelter and on their way home

she asked, “Mommy, why do

people live in shelters?”

 

“Sometimes things are so bad

at home that they have to leave

and find somewhere else–a place

where they feel safe.  The shelter

protects them from harm.”

 

“I’m happy that things are good

at home, Mommy.  I am happy that

I have somewhere to live.  I wouldn’t

want to live in a shelter.”

 

She smiled.  “Yes, Kayla.  We have

so much to thank God for because

He has blessed us so now we are

blessing others.  Those who

are living in the shelters are

thankful too.  They have shelter,

food, clothes and other things

they need.  And when we help

them, it is as if we are helping

Jesus.  It is always good to help

people.  When we help them

by donating what we have,

there is a feeling that we are

doing the right thing and we

are making God proud.  God

is always proud of you when

you help people.”

 

“When I grow up, I want to

help as many children and

their mommies as I can.”

 

She smiled.  Lord, bless

her little heart for wanting

to be a blessing to others.

And thank You for showing

her that it is more blessed

to give than to receive.

 

donate_clothes_uday_foundat

Anchored

She stood on the pier watching the boats come and go.   She was once like an unmoored boat, drifting out into the currents of life because she had no anchor to hold her like the boats fastened to the dock.  It began when her parents were killed in a car accident and she had to live with her aunt and uncle.

Life with her aunt was terrible.  Her uncle was nice–he treated her with kindness but her aunt was a miserable woman.  She kept saying to her, “You are your father’s daughter.  You are just like him.  No good.  He was a good for nothing lout, a drunk and a cheat.  I don’t know why my sister ever married him.”

Day in a day out she said bad things about her Dad and her.  It got to the point where she stayed out late just to avoid going back to that house.  Her aunt thought that she was out drinking and partying with her friends and threatened to kick her out.  “I will not have that sort of behavior in my house,” she fumed.  It was no point telling her aunt that she hadn’t been doing any of those things.  The truth she had spent hours in the library until it closed and then she had gone to the pier to look at the boats and the flickering lights.  It was her favorite place.  She and her Dad used to go there.

She didn’t say anything in her defense but went on the laptop in the study and started searching for an apartment to rent.  Her uncle helped her to find a place and she gladly moved out.  She was relieved to be away from her aunt who was a Christian.  Her uncle wasn’t one.  If Christians were any thing like her aunt, she wanted nothing to do with them.

Of course things didn’t get any better after she moved out.  She struggled to get by.  She had to do a lot of things for herself–such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, etc. Working part-time while studying was a great challenge.  Going out with friends during the week was out of the question now.  She went out with them on Saturday nights but she got tired of going to nightclubs and bars and meeting guys who had only one thing on their minds.

After she graduated, she got a job at a publishing company and life was improving.  She was no longer struggling.  She made new friends.  It was at a barbecue at one of these friends’ home where she met Jim.  Jim was a funny, handsome and easy-going guy.  They hit it off right away.  They spent most of the afternoon and evening together.  He drove her home and they arranged to go out for a bit to eat the following evening.  They started to see each other on a regular basis.

When Jim first told her that he was a Christian, she couldn’t believe it because he was the complete opposite of her aunt.  One evening he invited her to go to church with him on Saturday.  At first she was hesitant but then he persuaded her and she went.  The moment she set foot in the church, she was amazed at how warm and friendly the people were.  Jim’s parents were there too and he introduced her to them.  They invited both of them to have lunch with them after church.  She spent a very pleasant afternoon with the family.  Like her, Jim was an only child.   He and his parents were very close.  As he drove her home, he told her that they liked her very much.

Jim studied the Bible with her and she went to church with him very week.  Then one Saturday morning, she got baptized.  Her uncle went but her aunt didn’t.  When she heard that it was a Seventh-day Adventist church, she refused to go saying, “Adventists aren’t real Christians.  They are a cult.”

She smiled now as walked along the pier.  It was here where Jim proposed to her.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon.  They had just had dinner and had come here afterwards. As they walked slowly along the pier, he suddenly went in front of her and got down on one knee and popped the question. With a happy laugh and tears in her eyes she said, “Yes!”  He sprang to his feet and hugged her.  For the rest of the night she was walking on cloud nine.

She called her uncle and asked him to give her away.  As they drove to the church, he looked at her and said, “I wish your parents were here to see what a beautiful young woman you have become, especially your Dad.  He was a good man, Amanda.  He adored you.  And he was good to your mother.  It’s just that things got rough for him and he coped with it the only way he felt he could.  You are your father’s daughter and don’t let anyone make you ashamed of that.”

She smiled at him through the tears and squeezed his hand.  “Thanks, Uncle Bob.”  Yes, she wished her Dad were there that day to walk her down the aisle.

Now she stood there on the pier, anchored in her faith and in her marriage.  Yes, she was like one of the boats fastened securely to the dock.

woman on pier with sunglasses

Abandoned

In the early hours of

The morning, outside of

A hospital in the city of

Bharatpur in Rajasthan

A newborn baby girl was

Discovered.

 

Her umbilical cord still intact

She had been there

All night as a light rain that fell

Her only cover an old pink shawl.

She was abandoned.

Why?  She is a girl.

 

Sadly, her story is like so many

Others in India where couples want a boy

Because they are impoverished

And raising a girl is too costly.

 

In a society where boys are

Preferred, the lives of girls

Are devalued.  They are either

Aborted or abandoned.

Adoption centres have

Been put in place to rescue

And care for babies like this one.

Their credo is “don’t dump, give them

To us.”

 

A baby girl deserves to live and grow

in a society where she is a blessing and

Not a burden because of her gender.

 

Indian baby (1)

Source:  Aljazeera

 

Women and Mental Health

May 1-7 has been Mental Health awareness week.

One in three Americans struggles with mental illness but the rate is much higher in women.  Research shows that women are 40% more likely to develop depression than men.  It is not clear why mental illness is more common among women but doctors have come up with a number of possibilities.

Discrimination, Trauma and stressful life experiences

Trauma is common among women with half of them experiencing some form of trauma in their lifetime.  One in four women have faced an attempted or a completed sexual assault.  Reportedly, one in three are abused by a domestic partner.  Gender discrimination, violence and mistreatment undermine a woman’s mental health.  Stress is a predictor of mental illness.  Women juggle housework, kids even while working fulltime.  They report that they have to work harder to get the same credit as men and worry about the gender wage gap.  They have to deal with sexual harassment and discrimination in workplaces where these are commonplace.  These challenges can significantly affect a woman’s ability to cope and her self-esteem.

Hormonal Issues

Women produce lower quantities of serotonin than men due to differences in hormone levels and this deficiency can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

41% or women suffer from some form of postpartum depression.  Some of them are overwhelmed by the demands of parenting, especially in the early days.  I remember that there were times when I felt that I was drowning–in over my head.  Once I even cried out while I was holding my toddler.  Thankfully I had God and a very supportive partner.  It helped when he came home and I had an adult to talk to. Not all women are as blessed.  Research shows that women who don’t have supportive partners, experience traumatic births, live in poverty or a highly stressed will most likely develop postpartum depression.  

Gender bias is another problem women face.  Some research suggests that doctors tend to label women’s symptoms as emotional while taking the men’s symptoms more seriously.  So, a woman who reports that she is experiencing chronic pain to her doctor might be labeled as depressed.  This happens because we live in a world where gender discrimination exists and women are seen as more emotional and less rational.  

In many countries, the way health workers spoke to the women made it difficult for them to disclose their psychological and emotional distress.  And when they worked up the courage to disclose their problems, they were either over-treated or under treated by many of the health workers.

I read in an article in The Globe And Mail that women are getting the prescription that is available more often than the treatment they need.  They are getting medication to solve their problems even when science finds that treatments such as psychotherapy is equally or in some cases more effective without the side effects.  Bias in mental health care is a hindrance to women, preventing them from getting the proper help they need.  Not much effort goes into researching how drugs affect female patients.  While drug companies like to bombard women with their pills, most of their clinical trials have been dominated by men.  And the ironic thing is that the disorders most commonly diagnosed in women such as depression, anxiety and insomnia are the ones most likely to respond to therapy.  Most women are likely to prefer therapy over drugs.  

According to Dr. Marina Morrow, a Simon Fraser University psychologist who studies gender and mental health, “Women aren’t getting access to the range of care they need.”  She believes that an effective approach to this would be to include medication when necessary but in also offer therapy, peer support and pinpoint what social circumstances lead to the illness.

It has been argued that therapy is the safer, more effective and cheaper choice.  The authors of a 2015 study by Canadian and U.S. researchers concluded that, “There remains no sound justification to prescribe drugs without first trying therapy.  Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health, believes that “the way we fund therapies in Canada does not make sense right now.”  She wrote a letter to Quebec’s health minister to make the point that even if 20 per cent of seniors with insomnia received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with is used to treat insomnia, the cost-savings to the system could be in the hundreds of millions, based on the potential falls that would be avoided.  Therapy saves on costly and debilitating falls and hip fractures.  

We live in a country where medication is favored over psychotherapy and women are more likely than men to be prescribed antidepressants and sedatives as seniors and as a result they are at a higher risk of suffering from adverse effects.  Hopefully more women and those in the medical profession will speak out against the bias that is prevalent in the mental health care.  Doctors and those in the health care system need to give women more choices when it comes to treatment.  It’s their health so they should have the right to determine how they want to proceed once they have been diagnosed.

depressed woman

Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He has put him to grief.
    If he made himself as an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days,
    and the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand – Isaiah 53:10

Jesus on the cross

Whenever I watch the scenes of Jesus getting beaten, mocked and nailed to the cross, I cry.  It hurts to see the suffering and humiliation He went through.  Yet, it says that it pleased the Father to crush Him and make Him suffer.  Why?  It was the Father’s will that His Son would carry out the plan of salvation.  It pleased God that His Son willingly offered Himself.  Jesus explained why the plan of salvation was so important to the Father.   “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  God bestowed His Son as a Gift.  He didn’t send Him into the world to condemn us but to save us and to give us life.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11).  

When God gave us His Son, He gave us much more than we could even imagine or deserve.  Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Can you imagine, instead of facing death for your sins, you receive the gift of life instead?  Instead of facing God’s wrath, you receive His grace?  This is why it pleased God to offer up His Son.  When Jesus laid down His life, He provided a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  Sin had separated us from Him.  We were God’s enemies yet, He showed His love for us when He sent His Son to die in our place (Romans 5:8).  God wanted to reconcile with us but that could only happen through Jesus’ death.  Without the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness or pardon from sin (Hebrews 9:22).  It pleased God to send His Son, “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).

God’s love for us is so profound that He went to great lengths to save us.  How many of us would have made such a supreme sacrifice?  Yes, the plan of salvation brought great suffering to Jesus but the reward is that those who believe in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.  Yes, it pleased God to set us free from sin and this freedom can only be found in His beloved Son. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your precious Son to suffer and die in our place.  He died so that we could live.  He bore and died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to You.  Thank You for Your grace and unfailing love and mercy.  Thank You for the gift of salvation.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.