Two Praying Women

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” – Luke 18:14

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She walked into the sanctuary and straight to the front pew where she stood facing the altar.  With her head held high and her eyes closed, she prayed to the Lord thus, “Heavenly Father, I thank You that I’m an upstanding member of society, an active Board of Trustee member of Liberty University and I donate generously to worthy causes such as Education and the Arts.  I’m not a gossip.  I don’t drink or smoke or spend money foolishly.  I am a godly woman with a godly husband and children.  I’m thankful that I’m not like other people who claim they are Christians but their lifestyle says otherwise. 

“I take pride in how I look and how I conduct myself and am an example for the young women in the church.  I’m grateful that I’m not like that woman over there who is making such a spectacle of herself.  I can hardly hear myself think.  Why do people think that they should cry out when they are praying.  Praying quietly and circumspectly is more reverent and acceptable to God.  Lord, I’m very thankful that I’m nothing like her.  The way she is dressed is disgraceful. Anyway, Lord, it’s not for me to criticize others.  You know the heart.  You know mine–that it is devoted to Your service.”

After she finished praying, she walked past the pew and after casting a censorious glance in the other woman’s direction, she left the sanctuary.

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The young African American woman, kneeling with hands clasped tightly and eyes squeezed shut continued to cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  She poured out her heart to Him, asking Him to forgive her of all her sins and to have mercy on her.  The impassioned pleas made through tears lasted for several minutes.  Then, she blessed herself and stood up.

Her demeanor was different.  There was a calm look on her face.  She smiled as she wiped the tears away.  She walked out of the sanctuary in bitter spirits.  She knew that God heard and answered her prayer.  She was forgiven.

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are better than them. Yet, if we were to compare ourselves to God, we would recognize that we are all sinners in need of His mercy.  Like the tax collector, we must acknowledge that we are sinners in need of God’s grace.  It is the repentant sinner who is justified in His eyes not those who trust in their own righteousness.

Source:  Business Insider

Hope in His Mercy

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom – Psalm 90:12

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My son and I used to sing, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”  Every morning, I thank God for waking me up to enjoy another day.  Each day is a gift from Him.  Each day, we see His goodness, love and mercy toward us.  Each day is an opportunity to right wrongs, make positive changes and to grow in wisdom.

Moses, the man of God, wrote Psalm 90, which is actually a prayer, asking God to teach us to number our days.  What does that mean?  It means that life is short and precious.  We live each day mindful that it could our last and we live each moment wisely.  We should not take life for granted.  We don’t know how many days we have left on this earth.  This is why we ought to cherish each moment.

Life is like grass.  It flourishes one moment and then the next it withers.  It is fragile.  It is temporary.  And this is why we ought to understand and appreciate the shortness of our days so that we live our lives wisely with God’s help.   With each new day there is renewed hope in His mercy.

Carmela’s Story

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Carmela sat in the empty church which was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  She was on her way home from the salon where she worked when she decided to stop in and pray for her brother, Guido who died five years ago from a heart attack.  She hoped and prayed that he was no longer in Purgatory because of all the prayers she and the rest of the family had made on his behalf and that he was in Heaven now.  Still, it didn’t hurt to still say prayers for him.

“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.”

After she finished praying, she said this prayer for her deceased parents whom  she knew were in Heaven.  “O God, Who hast commanded us to honor our father and mother, look in the tenderness of Thy mercy upon the souls of my father and mother and forgive them their sins, and grant unto me the joy of seeing them again in the glorious light of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

She hoped that one day soon, Guido would join them. She remained kneeling for a while longer and then she made the sign of the Cross.   She rose to her feet went to the front and lit three candles, said a prayer and then left.  Outside it was a bit nippy and drizzling slightly.  She stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few items and then went to the modest apartment she shared with her teenage daughter, Maria.

The place was quiet when she opened the door and went inside.  Maria was still out with her friends.  She said that they were going to hang out at the mall for a while and she should be home by seven. The clock on the wall in the living-room struck five.  She went straight into the kitchen and set the grocery bags on the counter before she removed her jacket and hung it in the hall closet.  She washed her hands and got busy making her famous Manicotti Italian Casserole.

While the Casserole was in the oven baking, she went and took a quick shower.  By the time she was done, the Casserole was ready.  She removed it from the oven and shared it out.  She waited until the oven cooled a bit before she put the plate with Maria’s food inside the oven to keep it hot.  She sat down at the kitchen table and ate hers.  She hadn’t made it since Giuseppe died.  It was his favorite dish.  He always used to boast, “I got lucky when I married you.  You make the best Manicotti Italian Casserole on the planet.  Even better than Mama’s.”

Carmela smiled.  He was such a good husband and father.  It was hard to believe that ten years had passed since he died.  She visited his grave every week and put fresh flowers on it.  And she prayed for him every night.  She couldn’t imagine marrying again.  Giuseppe was her first and only love.  She wanted to remain his wife for the rest of her life.

After she finished eating, she got up from the table, washed the plate and the dirty things in the sink.  She fixed herself a cup of a cup of coffee and took it into the living-room.  She turned on the television and watched the local news.  When it was over, she turned off the television and went to the kitchen to wash the cup and saucer.  It was Friday so she went to get the dirty laundry.  She went to Maria’s room first and as she was about to pick up the laundry bin to take it to the washer, her eyes fell on a booklet lying on top of the bed.  On the front there was a picture of a man stooping down in front of a grave with a woman dressed in white standing behind him.  Over his head were the words, Are the Dead Really Dead?

Heart pounding, she dropped the laundry basket on the floor and picked up the booklet.  She sat down on the bed and began to read it.  She was half way through when she heard the key turn in the lock.  Maria was home.  Closing the booklet, she hurried into the living-room.  Holding the booklet up for her to see, she asked, “Where did you get this?”

Maria looked at the booklet.  “I got it from Anna who got it from her cousin, Lucy.”

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“Is Lucy the one who is a Seventh-day Adventist?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want you to take this and give it back to Anna.  I don’t want this kind of literature in my home.”

“But, Mama, I read it and it makes so much sense to me.  I never believed that you can talk to and pray to the dead.”

“All my life I have been a Catholic and I believe what the church teaches.  The dead are in Heaven or Purgatory or Hell.  They are not sleeping in their graves as this claims.” She shoved it at Maria, shaking her head.

“They use scriptures to back up what they are saying.  Why is it such a bad thing to believe that the dead are in their graves?  Would Heaven be a happy place for them when they see their loved ones suffering?  Take Amy’s mother for example.  Would she be happy in Heaven if she can see Amy’s brother, Michael getting bullied at school because he has a learning disability?  What about Grandpa and Grandma?  How would they feel if they saw Uncle Guido struggling with alcohol addiction or how painful it was for us when Daddy died?  I thought Heaven was supposed to be a happy place but how could anyone be happy there when they can see so much suffering here on earth or their loves one burning up in Hell?  No, Mama, I can’t believe that God who is love would have people burning in Hell forever or stuck in limbo in Purgatory, hoping that the prayers of their loved ones will get them into Heaven and afraid that they might end up in Hell.  I believe what this Study guide says about death.  It is more in line with God’s loving and compassionate character.  I am going to ask Anna for more these study guides so that I can learn more of what’s in the Bible.”

Carmela stared at her.  “So, you’re going to turn your back on your Catholic faith?”

“Mama, I was never a devout Catholic like you and the rest of our family, except Uncle Guido.  I never felt an emotional connection to the traditions and teachings.  I went to Anna’s church last week Saturday and I felt so connected to the people and was so moved by the sermon that I was sorry when it was over.  I felt this hunger to know more.”

“You went to a Seventh-day Adventist Church?” Carmela demanded, incensed.  “How dare you go there without my permission?”

“Would you have let me go if I asked you?”

“No! And for good reason.  Maria, they teach all sorts of negative things about our church such as the Papacy is the Anti-Christ and that the church is the whore of Babylon mentioned in the book of Revelation.  They claim to be God’s remnant church because they keep the Ten commandments which were nailed to the cross and because of some woman named Ellen G. White whom they say is a prophetess.”

“Mama, I really want to go to Anna’s church this Saturday.  The youth are doing the worship service and afterwards there’s a lunch and–”

Carmela’s mouth tightened.  “Forget it.  You’re not going.”

“But, Mama–”

“You heard me.  Now finish taking up your dirty laundry and put it in the washer.  When you’re finished have your dinner.  It’s in the oven.”  She turned and walked out of the room, livid.  “Ragazza sciocca. Tornando indietro alla sua fede. Beh, non ce l’ho. Non finché vivi qui.”

Maria didn’t go to church on the Sabbath but she watched the service on line the next day while her mother was at Sunday Mass.  She did that every Sunday and when she turned 18, she decided that she wanted to be baptized and be a member of Anna’s church.  When she broke the news to her mother, she yelled, “Se ci riesci, voglio buttarti fuori da questa casa” before she stormed out of the apartment.

After she left, Maria went to her room and knelt beside her bed and prayed.

Carmela took the bus to the cemetery and she hurried towards Guiseppe’s grave, tears of anger streaming down her face.  When she got there, she knelt down.  “Oh, Guiseppe, your daughter will be the death of me.  Do you know what she is planning to do?  She’s going to get baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church, of all the churches.  I warned her that if she goes through with it, I will throw her out on the streets.  I don’t know what else to do.  Guiseppe, what do I do?  How could I let her turn her back on our faith?  No one in our family is a Protestant.  Per favore, caro mio, dimmi cosa devo fare.”

She waited for a reply, her hands clasped tightly in front of her and her eyes squeezed shut.  There was silence and then she heard a male voice ask, “Why do you seek the dead on behalf of the living?”

Her eyes flew up and she looked wildly about her but she was alone.  No one else was there.  Trembling, she asked, “Whose voice did I just hear? Was it the Lord’s or an angel’s?”

“It is I, Jesus.  Maria has chosen a good thing which will not be taken away from her.”

“What should I do, Lord?”

“Do not cast her out.”

Carmela made the sign of the cross and stood up.  She went away, her heart racing and the words of the Lord running through her mind.  When she got home, she called Maria.  “I’m sorry about earlier,” she said.  “If you’re serious about getting baptized and joining Anna’s church, I’m not going to stop you or kick you out but I won’t be there.”  And she walked past her and went to her room, closing the door quietly behind her.

Maria raised her eyes heavenward and gave thanks.  A couple weeks later she was baptized and Anna’s parents invited her to their home to celebrate.  Maria became a member of the church and involved in the Youth Ministry.  She even taught Sabbath School sometimes.  She became a literature evangelist and handed out tracts.  She became a vegetarian much to her mother’s chagrin but there was no opposition.  Maria cooked her own meals.

Carmela saw how happy her daughter was and she stopped lamenting about her leaving the Catholic church.  She continued to attend Sunday Mass.  One Sunday after Mass, she was talking to Father Ricci and she mentioned something about Eve.  One of her regular customers at the salon had lent her the movie, Genesis: The Creation and the Flood which she watched on Saturday.

Father Esposito’s expression changed and he said, “Mrs. Romano, the story of Adam and Eve was not to be taken literally.  It was merely a story in the Bible and should not be taken as fact.”

She stared at him, stunned but didn’t get into any further discussion with him.  “Thank you, Father,” she said.  “Good-day.”  She turned and hurried away, her mind reeling from shock.  She went home and opened her Bible to Chapter Three of the Gospel of Luke where the the Genealogy of Jesus was.  There was Adam’s name and he was called the son of God.  How then, could Father Esposito claim that Adam was not a real person?  And Jesus Himself alluded to both Adam and Eve when He said, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.”

She closed the Bible and sank heavily down on the sofa.  Why would Father Esposito claim that the story of creation was just a story?  What else in the Bible should not be taken as fact?  She went into the den and logged on to the computer.  She did several searches until she came across a site called, Steps to Life and a book called, Is the Virgin Mary Dead or Alive by Danny Vierra.  At first, she didn’t want to read it but she felt strongly impressed to.

She read the first chapter and her heart lurched when she read the part about the priest who taught his religion class telling him the same thing Father Esposito told her about the story of Adam and Eve.  Heart racing, she continued reading.  She read a few chapters that evening and every evening until she was finished reading the entire book.  Afterwards, she did the online Bible Studies by Marshall Grosboll

By the time she was done with the Bible Studies, she knew that she had a choice to make.  She could remain in the church that she had been born and raised in or she could leave.  As she prayed earnestly about it,  the words, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” came to her.  She had discovered God’s truth and she had to embrace it.

She told Maria everything and her daughter was thrilled.  Together they went to Anna’s church and one Saturday, Maria watched with tears in her eyes as her mother gave her life to Christ.  The following month, on Carmela’s 45th birthday, she was baptized.

Carmela thanked Jesus for talking to her that day in the cemetery and her customer for lending her the movie about Genesis.  Those two events changed her life.  And she was proud of Maria for choosing that “good thing”.

The way to God’s truth is always there.  Some find it sooner and some later.  The important thing is to find it.  And when you do, it will set you free.

Sources:  Our Catholic Prayers; Town and Country; Catholic News Herald;

An Invitation

“So, what are your plans this weekend?” Vihaan asked Leona Friday morning when she was at her desk having a cup of hot chocolate.

His question caught her by surprise.  It was the first time since she had been his secretary that he had asked her such a personal question.  She pondered it for a moment and then replied, “I’m going to a friend’s bridal shower tomorrow and on Sunday, I’m going to church.”

His eyebrows rose.  “You’re a Christian?”

“Yes, I am.  Why are you so surprised about that?”

He sat on top of the filing cabinet.  “I’ve met Christians before and they’re nothing like you.  There are three things I have found about Christians which put me off and I’m not alone in this.”

She put her cup down.  He had her full attention.  “What are the three things?”

“Well, first, Christians and preachers always tend to condemn and criticize people for their sexual habits and preferences, life-style choices and even political views.  Second, they are hypocrites.  They oftentimes don’t practice what they preach.  Doesn’t the Bible say something about gossip and yet most of the people who are guilty of gossiping are so people who say that they are Christians.  And they talk about the sins of others but what about theirs?  And third, it’s hard to have friendships or relationships with Christians.  The things I like to do they look down on.  They try to make me feel bad because I don’t go to church or read the Bible.  You, on the other hand are not at all like them.  You’re laid back, not uptight, you socialize with non-Christians and you don’t act like you’re better than the rest of us because you go to church every Sunday.”

Leona had heard this before.  Sometimes, Christians were their own worst enemies.  They were so caught up in not being like the world that they forget that they are supposed to be the lights that would bring non-believers to Christ.  They forget that He they were once like those whom they look down on.  They forget that Jesus died for everyone and that God doesn’t want anyone to perish.  “I know that some Christians are judgmental and critical of those outside of the church and even of other Christians.  With regard to sexual immorality, that is addressed in the Bible but sexual sin isn’t the only thing Christians are warned against.  We are warned about wild living, worshiping false gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people, having envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like this.  And you’re right about gossiping and we are told not to associate with a gossip.  And some Christians are hypocrites.  They are quick to point out someone else’s fault but ignore their own.  Jesus talked about that.  He called the religious people out a lot and even called them hypocrites.”

“Jesus loved everybody, didn’t He?  I mean He didn’t look down on certain people, did He?”

“No.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners, society’s undesirables.  Today, that would be the homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts, drug dealers, prisoners, anyone who need to know about God and His love and mercy.  Jesus likened Himself to a doctor.  Doctors are in the business of healing. They would send a sick person away because of who they are.  It the same with Jesus.  Whoever went to Him, He didn’t reject.  He showed them the same love He would show to anyone.”

“So, He was not particular about who His friends were?”

She got up and went over to the filing cabinet to do some filing.  He shifted so that he was facing her.  “He didn’t turn anyone away because of their lifestyle or situation but He did tell them not to continue sinning.  Jesus showed everyone love and compassion but He still wanted them to turn away from a life of sin.  It’s like our parents. They love us but when we do wrong, they correct us.  They don’t ignore what we are doing because they love us.  Only an unloving and uncaring parent would allow his or her child to continue doing what is wrong even if it ruins that child in the end.”

“This is very interesting.  I would really like to continue this conversation.  How about having lunch with me at one.  We can grab some take out at the bistro around the corner and then go to a quiet spot in the park.” Corporate-Headshots_4812-500x1000

She smiled.  “That sounds good.  And if you’re not doing anything on Sunday, maybe you can stop by my church and meet other Christians like me.”

He slid off the cabinet.  “I just might do that.”

“Good.”  She watched him walk away.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to offer him an invitation to come to my church and see that there are Christians out there who have the heart and mind of Christ.

Sources:  ; Bible Gateway;

Redeemed

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Mark 15:34

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When Jesus was on the cross, He was mocked.  Those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”  The religious leaders joined in the ridicule as well, saying, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  It must have been painful for Jesus to hear them say those things.  These were the same people of whom Jesus asked of God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

They had no idea of what was really at stake.  They were mocking Jesus about not saving Himself not realizing that wasn’t His purpose at all.  As He pointed out at the time of His arrest, if He wanted to spare Himself the agony of the Cross, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?  How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). 

Had Jesus come down from the cross to save Himself, we would all be lost and eternally separated from God.  Love for the Father and us kept Jesus on that cross.  He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He was the Savior of the world.  God sent Him to die in our stead so that we could have everlasting life.  John 3:16 puts it so beautifully, 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.” When God sent Jesus into the world, it wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it through Him (Verse 17, NKJV).  The cross is our salvation and evidence of God’s incredible love for us. 

As much as it pains me to see Jesus hanging from the cross whenever I watch a biblical movie about His life, it reminds me 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” (Verses 14 & 15). 

Sin separates us from God.  When Jesus was on the cross, bearing our sins, He was separated from the Father.  That was why He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Jesus became the Sin-bearer and it was that sin that the Father condemned.  Jesus was forsaken for our sake so that we would be forgiven for our sins once we accept His atoning work on the cross.

How terrible it is to be separated from our heavenly Father.  This sobering thought should motivate us not to live any longer like other people in the world do but to live as Jesus did–in loving obedience to the Father.  He was obedient even on to death.

Jesus laid down His life for us to show His love.  How can we return this love?  We do so by obeying Him and having faith in Him.  Today and everyday, let us live our lives for the One who willingly went to and stayed on that cross so that He could redeem us to God by His blood (Revelation 5:9).  Our redemption came a great cost (1 peter 1:18-19).

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed thro’ His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am – Hymn #338

Recommit to God

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.  I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill.  Selah – Psalm 3:3, 4

When I was going through a tough time because I was pregnant and unmarried, the words of this psalm comforted and sustained me.  I knew that I was not alone.  The Lord was with me.  He didn’t condone what I had done but He didn’t condemn or forsake me.

A story I can relate to is the one of the Samaritan woman.  She was married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband but Jesus reached out to her in love.  He didn’t excuse her lifestyle but he offered her a new one life with him in the center.  He didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but showed her grace while at the same time telling her to stop sinning.  God doesn’t discard us when we sin.  He reaches out to us through His Word or through others. I once heard about a man who was at the lowest point in his life, feeling worthless and one day he heard a sermon about God’s love and forgiveness which turned his life completely around.

When we cry out to God, He doesn’t ignore us but we must come to Him with a contrite heart, ready to forsake whatever separates us from Him and receive His forgiveness.  We have the assurance that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

For those of us who feel we are too sinful to go to Him, we are encouraged to, “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness …” (Joel 2:13)  There isn’t anything you can do that will diminish God’s love for you.  I knew that even while some church members were unforgiving toward me, I knew that I had God’s forgiveness and that His love for me hadn’t changed.  It hadn’t lessened.  In fact, during those times when I felt the heat and the censure from others, God’s love is what sustained me.  If you have wandered away from God, return to Him.  He is like the father of the prodigal son who returned after wasteful living.  The father was waiting for him and he ran to meet him.  God longs for us to return to Him.  He’s waiting with open arms to welcome us back.

I’m thankful that God is “gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 145:8).  Our response to His goodness and mercy is to recommit our lives to Him.  And in doing so, we can be confident “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Source:  Bible Knowledge

Cai

Friday Fictioneers sep 7, 2018

Photo by Gah Learner

Cai stared at the moon as it hung low over the horizon.  Sleep eluded her.  Her husband, Huan was in Myanmar investigating the Rohingya massacre.  Five days had passed since she last heard from him.  She constantly checked her emails and cell for messages but nothing was forthcoming.

A knock on the door jolted her.  Heart racing, she answered it.  It was Kang, Huan’s brother.  “Have you heard from Huan?  Is he all right?”

“He’s in jail.”

“Jail?” 

“Yes.  For seven years.”

“I must do something.”

“Like what?”

“Ask the Myanmar government for mercy.”

Hours later, she was on Television.

100 Words

This post was inspired by the true story of two Myanmar journalists who were sentenced to seven years in prison for investigating violence against Rohingyas.  Their wives were on television asking for mercy.

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  For  more details, visit Here.   To read stories of 100 words based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  DW; CNN