A Second Chance

Natalie stood on the deck watching the Mediterranean Sea. It was a beautiful morning and it was the first day at sea.  She was on her second honeymoon.  For twenty-five years she was married to her first husband, Richard, a truly wonderful man.  They had started out as friends and then their relationship developed into something they hadn’t expected but felt was a blessing.

Together they raised two remarkable kids—Josh and Annie.  Those years with Richard were the happiest for her.  So, it was devastating when he died.  It was so sudden.  He was on his way home from the office when he collided with another vehicle which ran a red light.  The other driver escaped with scrapes and scratches but Richard’s injuries were severe.  He died at  the hospital.  It was her faith and the consolation of family and friends that got Natalie through those horrific years after Richard was gone.

 

In time the pain grew less and she was able to think of Richard without breaking down. She slowly began adjust to life without him.  Her kids now grown encouraged her to go out and enjoy herself.  She attended dinner parties, operas, ballets, concerts and even went on a cruise with a group of single friends.  It was on that cruise where she met Mark.  He was travelling with some friends too.  They shared the same dinner table and while the others went off either to the casino or to watch the live entertainment, she opted to go to the deck where she stood, enjoying the cool night air.  He joined her.  They spoke and she found that she enjoyed his company though she couldn’t get past the fact that he was much younger than her.  Still, he was really nice and she was so relaxed around him.  They spent a lot of time together and when the cruise was over, they exchanged phone numbers, promising to keep in touch.

 

Life returned to its old routine when she returned home but the highlight of her evenings was speaking to Mark on the phone  for hours.  They made plans to see each other over the summer.   She introduced him to her family and they seemed to like him although her mother didn’t seem too pleased.  She didn’t know exactly when it happened but she knew that she had fallen in love with Mark.  One night when they were sitting on the sofa, having tea, Mark confessed that her.  He asked her to marry him and she accepted but after he left, she worried about her family’s reaction.

 

She waited until they were at her mother’s house to make the announcement.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Her news had knocked them all for a loop.  It was some time before someone said something.  Josh spoke up.  “I can’t say that I am happy that you are marrying a man in my age group but I won’t stand in your way.”

 

Annie hugged her and said, “Yes, Mom.  You deserve to be happy again.  And I don’t see why it’s okay for a man to marry a woman much younger than him but a woman can’t marry a younger man.”  She said that for her grand-mother’s benefit.

 

Natalie looked at her mother whose expression was thunderous.  “How could you seriously be thinking of marrying a man half your age?” she demanded.

 

Natalie drew a deep breath.  “I didn’t plan to fall in love with a man younger than me but it happened.  Like you, I had a problem with our age difference in the beginning but I remembered that father was considerably older than you and yet, you were so happy together.  Mother, I am sorry that you don’t approve but God has given me another chance at happiness and I am going to take it.   We haven’t decided on a wedding date as yet but I will let you know as soon as we do.”

 

Her mother pursed her lips.  “Well, don’t expect me to be there,” she said.

 

And true to her word, she didn’t attend the wedding.  Nor did Mark’s parents which came as no surprise to her.  Still, she had hoped they make an appearance for their son’s sake.   She met them once when she was invited to dinner at their home in Long Island but that meeting didn’t go well.  They raised the same objections as her mother.  Mark’s mother had remarked that Natalie was a lot older than she expected.

 

It was a beautiful and simple wedding with some family and friends in attendance.  Her son gave her away and her daughter was the bridesmaid.  It was a day she would always remember.   And here she was now, basking in the joy she didn’t imagine she would experience again.  She had twice been blessed with two great men and she was thankful to God who had been her Anchor during those dark moments.  He had brought Mark into her life.

 

Mark.  He must be awake by now and wondering where she was.  She turned away from the rail and walked back to their cabin with its scenic view of the ocean, her steps quickening in anticipation.

 

woman in hat on deck of ship

Lily

Although Lily was small in stature,

Ordinary and poor, she did radiate

Confidence and faith that she

Was the perfect choice for the

Job of governess.  Like her heroine

Jane Eyre she was not to going to

Be Intimidated by Mr. Thornber.

 

He may be big, boisterous and brusque

But she could match his demeanour

With sense and not sensibility.  She

Could let wisdom be her teacher

And guide in how to deal with an

Imposing man like her employer.

 

She would treat him with the utmost

respect and not do anything to cause

friction or disagreement between them.

She was there to be governess to his niece

Not to be his friend or companion.  It was

Strictly business between them and was

Likely to remain that way.  After all, it was

Foolish to think that he would ever look

Upon her with a romantic interest.

Besides, he was the steady companion

Of the beautiful Kate Renshaw.  Oh yes,

She was beautiful and rich.  She was an

Accomplished piano player and singer.

She was everything Lily was not.

 

Lily sighed and set aside her book.

She got up and walked over to the

Fireplace.   “I should be thankful,”

She mused as she watched the flickering

Flames burn the embers.  “I have a job I

Love, a pupil I adore and I have my faith.

Yet…I feel that I should go mad if I have to

endure one more night without seeing him.”

 

She didn’t know what it was that alerted her

That someone else was in the room.  She

Turned around and her heart leapt to her

Throat when she saw the tall and familiar

Figure of Mr. Thornber.

 

JaneEyre.crop_324x243_0,0.preview

 

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

Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC

Compassion

Shortly after Jesus told the Pharisees that God desired mercy not sacrifice, He went into the synagogue.  There was a man with a withered hand.  Instead of being stirred with pity for him, the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse Him.  Whenever they engaged in dialogue with Him, it was never to learn from His teachings.  It was always to challenge Him and find reasons to accuse Him of being a Sinner.

It must have grieved Jesus to see the lack of compassion among men who considered themselves to be holy and righteous and children of God.  When He looked at them, He saw hypocrites.  And He addressed it.  “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Then how much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

He told the man to stretch out his hand and He restored it whole like the other.   The Pharisees were angry and they left, plotting how they would kill Him.  They failed to see that the Sabbath was not just a day of rest but it was an opportunity for helping people.  They had turned God’s holy day into a day of dos and don’ts.  Jesus showed them that there was a different type of work to be done on the Sabbath.  It was community work–reaching out to the needy and the sick.  He showed them that if it was lawful for one of them to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath, then it should be lawful for a man to be healed.  A human was of greater value in the eyes of God than an animal.

This man was in the synagogue and he had a need.  Jesus saw it and addressed it.  Are there people in our church like this man who has an obvious need but like the Pharisees we see it but will do nothing about it?  Do we resent those who reach out in love and compassion to this person in need?  Do we grumble and complain?  Would God be happy to accept our worship or our offerings when we are not generous toward that person in our midst?  Jesus brought joy to the man.  He brought healing and wholeness and showed him that the God he worshipped cared about him.

Just as Jesus valued this man, we should value those around us.  Sabbath-keeping does not mean that we should ignore the needs of those around us.  The Sabbath is for doing what is good and showing the love of God for His creation.  When we do what is lawful on the Sabbath, we are honoring God.

Single Mothers

Some years ago, I was part of a ministry which reached out to women and children living in shelters. One of my favorite things was collecting donated items and taking them to the shelter.  The staff was just as excited as my assistant and I were.  It was like Christmas every time we went there because mothers and their children were going to get things they really needed.  I remember buying photo albums and cameras for the expectant mothers so that they could capture those precious moments. One staff member mentioned that the women did scrapbooking as a form of therapy so we bought scrapbooks.

 

One of the women I met at the shelter was a young, single mother.  We took items for her and her unborn child.  After she left the shelter we kept in touch at her request.  We dropped off donated items for her and met her family.  When she was in the hospital, she called to give me the good news–she had a son.  Sadly, we lost touch.  I hope that she and her son are doing well.  I think the last I heard, she was working at a drugstore.  She believed in God and found comfort in His Word.

 

I remember that a church member had a problem with our ministry helping this unwed mother.  I believe that sometimes Christians are so particular about what is morally right and wrong that they neglect what is needed–compassion.  When Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman, not once did He make her feel ashamed or embarrassed.  He showed her love and compassion.  He even commended her for being honest about her current living arrangement.  She was living with a man who was not her husband after having gone through more than one failed marriage.  Instead of condemning her or refusing to have anything to do with her or withholding His love, Jesus offered her living water. He offered her salvation.  He showed her grace.  The way He treated her compelled the woman to go and tell others about Him.

 

It’s tough enough for some women to raise children on their own without having to deal with criticism and feeling that they had committed the unpardonable sin.  I met a young woman who worked at the same homeless shelter.  She left her church because of the people.  They treated her shamefully because she had had a child out of wedlock.  The church is not expected to ignore these things or excuse them but at the same time, they are not to be judgmental.  They are to be mindful that people will fall into sin and that they need compassion.  Only God is allowed to judge.  And the Bible assures us that when we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to forgive us.  Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but He told her to stop sinning.

 

Single mothers should not be made to feel bad because they had a child outside of marriage.  Mind you, some choose to raise their children on their own without the help of the fathers.  It’s sad to know that many women stay away from church because they are ashamed and they are afraid of the kind of reception they would get once it was discovered that they are unwed mothers.  People might be friendly until they notice that there is no wedding ring.  In churches where people don’t wear rings such as the Seventh-day Adventist church, it would be harder to tell until they notice that she and her child are never accompanied by a male.  Someone might come right out and ask her about her husband.  She could evade the question or be like the Samaritan woman and admit that she is not married.  It won’t be long before she feels uncomfortable being there and will stop attending.

 

I was reading this post written by a Christian woman who was an unwed teenage mom and she made the point that there was nothing at her church for single mothers. Ashamed, she stopped going to church and for seven years she lived in shame.  She calls for churches to step up and reach out to the single mothers in their midst.  “Whether they are unwed or divorced, many single moms need parenting advice, financial instruction, emotional support via networking, and Spiritual growth opportunities.  Let us find these women in our communities, both the churched and the unchurched.  Let us minister to them at their point of need.  Let’s begin the single moms groups.  Praise God for the cutting-edge churches across the country who have already embraced the concept!  Has yours?”

 

Does your church have a ministry for single mothers?  If you were to suggest this to your pastor do you think that your pastor would be open to it?  We are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. Most single mothers don’t plan to have children out of wedlock.  Many dream of falling in love, getting married and then having children.  I know of women who regret having children before they got married.  Some of them envy other women who got married first.   One woman is currently living with her partner and their child and is hoping that one day they would get married.  Until that happens, she doesn’t feel comfortable going to church.  And she has no plans of returning to the church she had been a member of until they discovered that she was pregnant.  She left the church after she learned that there were members who were out for her blood.  The whole experience had been a traumatic one for her and it took a while for her to reach the point where she could put it behind her and forgive the people who condemned her.

 

As a church, we ought to reach out to unwed mothers inside and outside of the church.  If your church doesn’t have a ministry to help these women, pitch the idea.  Start a ministry.  It can be a part of the Singles’ or Women’s Ministries or Community Service.  Do something.  I was moved to start the ministry because I wanted to follow Jesus’ example and to be a good neighbor like the Samaritan man.  Although I am no longer at the church, the ministry is still going strong.  If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your pastor about starting the ministry, then you can find a single mother who needs help and help her. You can encourage other church members who might be interested to help the other single mothers in the church.  Be a light right where you are.  By helping these mothers, you are fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor.

 

Single Mother

Riches

She was rich and successful

She had everything she

Wanted and more…

Life was exciting

Full of events, parties, charities

Money was never an issue

She could buy whatever she wanted

fly off to any part of the world.

She had been in and out of

Relationships.

This new one seemed promising

He was as rich as she was so

She didn’t have to worry about

Him loving her money more

Than her.

She was young and healthy

Life was great.  Couldn’t be better.

Yet, she knew she lacked something.

It nagged at her.  She knew what it was.

She heard it that Easter Sunday when

She went to church—something she

Did only twice a year.

She could still hear the words of Jesus…

“One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

Her reaction was the same as the rich young man’s.

She had worked hard for what she had

How could she give it all up?

Yet, the minister’s words dogged her

“Jesus gave His life for you.  Will

You give up all that you have for Him?

Sure, in theory it sounded all well and good

but she would be giving up everything

Her life, her wealth, her relationships—everything

What would become of her?

What would her family and friends think?

She shook her head as if to bring herself to

Her senses.

Resolutely, she stood up and slipped on her jacket

She was not ready to change her lifestyle.

There was always tomorrow or the next day or

Next year.  She had more than enough time to

Give her life to Christ.  But, not now…

Sadly, that day never came.  She died without

Christ.  Sixty years old, still rich, widowed and

Mother of three children.  All those years she

Trusted in her riches and not in the One who

became poor so that through His poverty,

She might become rich.

 

Don’t put off your salvation.

Accept Jesus’ invitation today

Don’t let earthly possessions and riches

Prevent you from having what only

He can offer.

 

rich-woman

Sources:  Mark 10:21; 2 Corinthians 8:9