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

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Dinner for Two

She was in the children’s section, looking at the different books of Nursery Rhymes when she heard someone call her name.  She looked around and her heart leapt when she saw Tyler.   She hadn’t seen him since last week Saturday.  He walked around the people milling about there and came and stood beside her.  “Hello Stacey,” he said, his eyes dancing over her face as if he were trying to capture every feature.   “I was hoping that I would see you again.”

“I’m here to buy a book for my niece.  She’s going to be three tomorrow.”

“I’ve been thinking about you all week,” he told her.  “I wished I had your number so that I could call you.  Have dinner with me tonight.”

“But what about Amy?” she exclaimed.  “She’s enamored with you.”

“And I’m enamored with you.  I have been since last week Saturday when Darnell and I had dinner with Amy and you at Benares.   I’ll never forget the first time I saw you. When you walked over to the table, you took my breath away.  I could hardly take my eyes off you. I wished that it were just the two of us having dinner but if it hadn’t been for Darnell, I wouldn’t have met you.

“Amy’s my friend.”

“And Darnell’s my friend but I can’t help the way I feel about you.  Have dinner with me tonight.”

She hesitated.  Amy would never forgive her.  Just yesterday when they spoke, her friend was wondering why she hadn’t heard from Tyler as yet.  As far as Darnell was concerned, Stacey had made it clear to him, in a tactful way, of course, that she wasn’t interested in him.  After a few attempts to get her to change her mind, he gave up.  So, the only person left to consider was her friend.  “Amy will be very upset,” she told Tyler.

“I’m sorry about your friend but I never gave her any reason to believe that I would go out with her.   It’s you I want to be with.”

Stacey couldn’t deny that she wanted to be with him too.  He had been on her mind all week and it was such a blessing to see him now.  “All right, I will have dinner with you tonight,” she said.

He looked relieved.  “I will pick you up at six-thirty.”

She opened her handbag and took out the address book.  She wrote her address on a blank page, tore it out and gave it to him.  “See you later,” she said.

His eyes twinkled.  “See you later.”  And he was gone.  She turned to the shelf beside her and after examining a few more books, she chose the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme book.  She grabbed a salad from a deli and headed back to the office.

He picked her up promptly at six-thirty.  He looked amazing in the black jacket, black shirt, black jeans and dressy shoes.  His sleek, auburn hair was combed back, giving him a polished look.   For her part, she was wearing a black dress, with three quarter sleeves and a keyhole neckline.  Her hair was swept back, with several curls framing her face.  “You look absolutely beautiful,” he told her.

“And you look so handsome.”

He took her to a romantic restaurant with a breathtaking view of the city of London. Over dinner he told her about the time in high school when he had to memorize a monologue from Hamlet for his drama class and on the day when he was supposed to do the presentation, he came down with the flu.

She teased him.  “Do you still remember it?”

He smiled.  “I do and I promise I will recite it to you when I am taking you home.”

Dinner was wonderful.  She had a terrific time.  He was so easy to talk to.  They laughed and talked about all sorts of things.  She was sorry when it was time to leave.  On the way home, he recited the monologue as promised and remembered it word for word.  She clapped when he was done.  “Have you ever thought of becoming an actor?” she asked.

“Heavens, no!  I like sitting behind a desk and designing buildings much better.”  That was how she learned that he was an architect.

Twenty minutes later, they stood outside of her flat.  “Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?” she asked.

“I’d better not.  I have an early day tomorrow.  When can I see you again?”

“Tomorrow afternoon.  I will make dinner and we can eat while we watch a movie.”

“That sounds really good.”  He smiled.

Unable to resist, Stacey reached up and brushed the hair back from his forehead.  He caught her hand and brought it to his lips.  He kissed the palm, his eyes darkening on her face.  She felt a bolt of electricity course through her.

He raised his head.  “I’d better go now,” he murmured as he released her hand which was tingling.

“Good night, Tyler” she said breathlessly.

“Good night, Stacey.” He turned reluctantly and walked toward the elevators.

She watched him as he waited for the elevator to arrive.  When it did, he turned and waved before he stepped inside.  She opened her door and went inside.  She couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come.  For now, she had the memories of tonight to occupy her.

 

 

Source:  Benares

 

Resistance is Futile

After a few moments into the movie, she switched off the television.  No use in wasting time watching a film that didn’t synchronize with the sound.  Besides, she was distracted. She couldn’t stop thinking about Jude Beresford.

When they first met, she couldn’t stand him.  He oozed a sensuality that was palpable. While it got her pulse going, it made her blood boil.  She couldn’t stand men who knew that they were gorgeous and flaunted it.  She was determined that she wasn’t going to fall for his charm or his looks.  She had a visceral dislike of men like him.

So, when her friend Brooke brought him and his brother over to meet her, she was considerably cool toward him but very friendly toward Crispin.  She ignored the fact that when they shook hands and his eyes met hers and his lips parted in a disarming smile, her heart skipped a beat.  She wanted to leave him in no doubt that she was not taken in by him.

When she and Brooke were alone, her friend asked her, “What’s up with you ?” she asked.  “You weren’t very friendly to Jude.  He’s a really nice man once you get to know him.”

“He seems conceited to me,” she said, casting a look of disdain in his direction.  “And it’s disgusting to see how women throw themselves at him.”

“You are wrong about him.”

“I don’t think so,” she insisted and her friend dropped it.  It was no use arguing about it.

She couldn’t avoid seeing him.  He was Brooke’s friend and she invited him to every event and social that she invited her to.  She sincerely hoped that Brooke wasn’t trying to set them up.  It was a waste of time. She was not interested in him.  Not wanting to be rude, she would engage in conversations with him, though she always made it clear to him that she was not attracted to him.   What that must do to his ego, she thought each time they were together, especially when she made a point of asking him about Crispin.  She noticed that it nettled him.

Crispin was not at all like his older brother.  He was fairly handsome but more reserved. There was no resemblance between the two men.  Jude was tall, slender with jet black hair and dark brown eyes while Crispin was blond with green eyes and shorter.   He was not as charming as Jude but she liked him.  She felt safe and completely relaxed with him unlike Jude who troubled her more than she cared to admit.

Last night after having the dinner which Brooke had spent all day preparing, Deana went out onto the terrace, gazing at the twinkling lights of the city in the distance. Crispin joined her.  “Deana, forgive me if I am being presumptuous,” he said, apologetically.  “but how long are you and Jude going to pretend that you don’t like each other?”

His question startled her and for a moment, she was at a loss for words.  Then, she said, “I can’t speak for him, but I’m not pretending.”

“I have seen the way you look at each other when you think no one is noticing.  It’s obvious to me that you are attracted to each other.  Don’t you think it’s time to stop playing games and admit how you feel to–?”

Just then, Jude came on to the terrace.  Deana’s heart lurched.  Their eyes met and then she rushed past him.  Shortly after that, she went home.

Stirring herself from her reverie, she got up from the sofa and went to the window.  It was early evening.  She wondered if she should go for a walk.  She could do with some fresh air. It would clear her mind.  She turned away and was about to head to the washroom to freshen up when the doorbell rang.

She went to the door and peered through the keyhole, her eyes widening when she saw Jude standing there.  At once, her heart started to pound.  She was tempted to keep him standing out there but she opened the door, her eyes wary as they met his.  “I didn’t expect to see you,” she said, unable to prevent her eyes from travelling over his tall frame.  He looked incredible in the dark grey suit and the white shirt and tie.  He must have just left his office or perhaps he was on his way out but for some reason, decided to stop by here first.  She told herself that she didn’t care.  She was going to wrap this up as quickly as possible and send him on his way.

“Perhaps you were expecting to see Crispin instead,” he said, his expression darkening.  The glint in his eyes startled her.

“Why would I be expecting Crispin?” she asked, stepping aside so that he could go in. After she closed the door, she turned to face him.  She could see the displeasure in his features.  Then it dawned on her.  “Do you think I am interested in Crispin?”

“Yes.”  The word was like a hiss.  “Every time we see each other you ask me about him.  I get the impression that you would prefer his company over mine.”

“I like Crispin, yes, but—”

“I saw you with him last night on the terrace.  As soon as I came you left.  I asked him what you and he talked about but he didn’t tell me.  He told me to speak to you.  Tell me the truth, Deana, is there something going on between Crispin and you?”

She shook her head.  “No,” she admitted.  “There’s nothing between us.”

He raked his fingers through his hair in agitation.  “Then, why were you always throwing him in my face, making me think that you preferred him to me.”

“I wanted to deflate your ego,” she told him.  “You seemed conceited to me and I wanted to show you that I was not like one of those women who were literally throwing themselves at you.”

“You’re wrong about me, Deana.  I’m not conceited.  And I’m not interested in any woman except you.”

Now her heart was racing and she seemed to have trouble breathing.  He had stepped closer to her, his eyes capturing hers and holding them prisoner.  “You’re wasting your time if you think you can seduce me,” she said, sounding a bit breathless.

“I’m not trying to seduce you.”

She was pressed against the door as the space between them got smaller.  “Then, what are you trying to do?”  She wondered if the feelings that were churning inside her showed in her face.  Did he detect the panic in her voice?

“I’m trying to show you how I feel,” he said softly.  “How I’ve felt since the first time we met.”  Before she could say another word, he lowered his head and kissed her.

Instead of pushing him away or clamping her lips together, she responded.  Her defenses were completely gone.  Resisting now was pointless.  Try as she did, she could no longer deny that in spite of all her best efforts, she was hooked.

 

Valued by God

Devotions for Women header 1

Luke 15:8-10

Just recently I watched the movie, “The Wedding” with Halle Berry.  There was a scene when she went to the beach for a swim.  She took off her engagement ring and put it in her blouse.  When she went back, she couldn’t find it.  Frantic, she felt around in the sand and when her fingers closed over, her face filled with joy and relief.  The ring was precious to her.

In this parable a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  She could have easily have been happy that she still had nine coins but that one coin meant a lot to her.  She went to great lengths to find it.  She lit a lamp, swept the house and searched diligently for it.  She searched and searched until she found it.  When she found it, she was so happy that she had to tell her friends about it.  She wanted them to share in her joy.  She had lost and then found she valued.

It is the same with God.  He doesn’t stop caring for the person who is lost.  It is His will that that the lost person repents and returns to Him.  When this happens, He rejoices.  He welcomes the person joyfully and celebrates.  It should be the same for us.  We should be celebrating, not complaining when the lost is found and returns to the church.  We were once lost too and God sent someone to find us, a friend perhaps as in my case, or a loved one or neighbor or co-worker and there was celebration in heaven that day when we were found.  We are of great value to God.  We are precious in His sight.  Like the woman with the coin, He will not give up on us.  He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Do you know someone who has stopped attending church?  Have you reached out to that person?  Ask God to help you to demonstrate love, acceptance and genuine concern for this former church member.   Remember this person is valued by God.

Harper Lee

I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected. – Harper Lee, quoted in Newquist, 1964

Just found out that Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, died this morning in her sleep at the age of 89.

I never read the book but loved the movie.  Scout’s friend, Dill Harris, was inspired by Harper’s childhood friend and neighbor, Truman Capote.  Capote mentioned that the character Boo Radley was based on a real man who lived down the road from where the two friends lived.  “In my original version of Other Voices, Other Rooms I had that same man living in the house that used to leave things in the trees, and then I took that out. He was a real man, and he lived just down the road from us. We used to go and get those things out of the trees. Everything she wrote about it is absolutely true. But you see, I take the same thing and transfer it into some Gothic dream, done in an entirely different way.”

To Kill A Mockingbird was an immediate success, winning the Pulitzer Prize.  Through the eyes of two children we see racism in Alabama during the Great Depression when a black man goes on trial for the rape of a white woman.  Harper dealt honestly with the issues of tolerance and justice in a divided Southern society.  One of the scenes that I remember was when Atticus and his children faced a vicious lynch mob in the middle of the night.

The novel is renowned for its warmth and humor, despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality. The narrator’s father, Atticus Finch, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. One critic explains the novel’s impact by writing, “In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.” – Wikipedia

Notes to Women salute Harper Lee who was not afraid to address serious issues such as rape and racial inequality.

The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that. 

From childhood on, I did sit in the courtroom watching my father argue cases and talk to juries.  

 

Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quotes; Common Sense Media

Christmas Shopping

It’s that time of the year.  Malls are packed with people as they try to get their Christmas shopping done. Whenever I go into the mall and I go in and out of the stores, I am reminded why I don’t like shopping and can’t understand why people are shopaholics.  I only go to the mall when it is absolutely necessary.

Thankfully, my husband and I have finished our shopping.  I have discovered that it’s easier and less stressful to find out what people want instead of trying to figure it out.  My family and I ask each other what we want, make our lists and then pick one or two things from the lists. Everyone is happy because we get what we asked for as opposed to getting gifts we have no idea what to do with.

Don’t stress yourself out.  Get a list of things the person might want or find out from someone who might know.  For example, I ask my sister what I could get for our mother and she gives me suggestions.  I did the same when she wanted to know what to get for my son.  Doing it this way is a sure way of not spending endless hours in the mall trying to get something you think the person might like.

For kids you can ask their parents.  If you have kids of your own, you should have an idea of what they like.  With the new Star Wars movie out, some parents are probably getting Yoda (my favorite SW character) or R2-D2 or the action figures.  I just visited the Toys R Us site and they already have lots of items from The Force Awakens.  I can imagine how busy the stores are. My husband and I are weaning our son off of toys and the action figures.  He is reading more now so I suggested to my sister that she could get books for him.  I also suggested getting a journal as he likes to write stories or a drawing book because he likes to draw.  However, as a surprise and a treat I think he deserves for doing well at school, I bought the Lego Obi Wan Kanobi for him and was delighted when I got a complimentary gift wrap.  So, I have one less gift to wrap.  Kids are easier to buy for.  They let you know what they like.   And what a joy it is to see their faces when they unwrap those presents and see the things they wished for.

Don’t spend too much.  And it depends on how many people you are buying gifts for.  I was buying for four people so I set a budget for $200.00 but I tried not to spend more than $180.00. This year, I ended up spending around $160.00, this included cards, stamps and gift bags.  I was determined not to spend more than $30.00 for a gift and look for the items that were on sale.  The most I ended up spending on a gift this time around was $33.00 and change.

Don’t wait until the week of Christmas to go shopping.  Too stressful. The parking lots of the shopping malls were full to capacity and the lines to get in and out were ridiculous.  It took my husband about over twenty minutes just to turn the corner so that I could come and pick me up. Almost everything you want is gone.  I went to get long johns for him and there weren’t any in his size.  I promised myself that next year I will shop either during the last week in November or in the first week of December.

When you have done all of your shopping and gift-wrapping, you can breathe a sigh of relief and take a break.  Then, start planning your Christmas dinner menu….

stressed shopper

Keep the Spark Alive

Remember those times when you and he were dating how you used to be on the phone for hours?  You never seemed to run out of conversation.  There were no awkward moments.   The conversation just flowed.  And when you were together, the time just seemed to fly because you were having so much fun? And the only times you were not together was when you were at work.  There were those occasions when you were with your family but more often than not, you were with him.  It was torture being apart and total bliss when you were together.  There were times when you would go out with other couples but for the most part, you and he preferred to be alone, enjoying each other’s company.

Things quickly got serious between the two of you and pretty soon you are planning your wedding.  The big day finally arrives and you walk up the aisle, your eyes sparkling with excitement.  Your heart leaps when you see him standing there, smiling at you.  You gaze at each other as the vows are exchanged and then the minister pronounces that you are husband and wife.   After you kiss, you stroll arm in arm down the aisle in the midst of a sea of smiling faces.  After the reception, you go on your honeymoon where you enjoy a week in paradise, wishing you could stay there for the rest of your lives.

Life is wonderful as you settle into being a wife to your new husband.  Then, you have children…

Suddenly it’s no longer just the two of you.  Now there are four of you.  In my case, there are three of us. When I was on maternity leave, I was so happy when my husband came home.  I needed adult conversation and company after spending all day with a baby/toddler.  I didn’t feel attractive so I didn’t feel romantic.   We didn’t have anyone to babysit and we didn’t feel comfortable getting a stranger to do it so we were stuck.  We couldn’t go out for a romantic dinner.  We had to settle for entertaining ourselves at home while trying not to disturb our son.

Now, it’s a matter of trying to find time for each other.  During the week, it’s a challenge.  By the time we come in from work, we are tired.  Sometimes we have to prepare dinner.  After we eat, we have to spend time with our son before he goes to bed.  Then we have to clean up and have our baths.  By the time we are finished doing these things, there’s not much time for us to relax.  We have gotten into a rut where we end up watching television or a movie instead of spending quality time together.  We don’t talk as much as we used to.  We are not bonding as we used to.  It’s not much different on the weekends.  Our son and other things demand our attention.  And there is hardly any “us” time.

When a couple doesn’t spend quality time together, their relationship suffers.  The spark starts to flicker and if nothing is done about it, it will go out.  Ladies, what can we do to keep the spark alive?  I came across these tips which I plan to put into action.  I hope you will find them helpful too.  Instead of writing the tips word for word, I rephrased them as best as I could.

Date Your Spouse

Go out for a date.  Set up a date night schedule.  This will help you to have quality time together and reconnect after a hectic week.  It gives you the opportunity to appreciate each other and to unwind.

Surprise

It’s nice to surprise your spouse from time to time.  It can be as simple as leaving a note on the fridge or flowers at the office or tickets to a fun event.  Make a special meal for each other.  Dress up sometimes.

Prioritize Each Other

Make time for each other.  It’s not easy when you have children but you must make the effort.  Without your marriage, there would be no foundation for your family.  Besides, you will be setting an example for your children when it comes to good/bad relationships.  Set a good example.  Make sure that your spouse knows how much you value them and that life wouldn’t be the same without them.   Don’t assume that they know this.  Tell them.

Be Affectionate

Show your spouse how much they mean to you not only in words but in actions.  Hug and kiss them.

Be Spontaneous

It’s hard to be spontaneous when you are raising a family and juggling so many things at once but it’s a good idea to change things up a bit.  Instead of your regular dinner plan, how about having a picnic or eating out?  Instead of staying in over the weekend – go out.  Be adventurous and steer away from the norm.  Spontaneity in your life will help to keep the spark alive (Belief Net).

Add Some Playfulness Into Your Marriage

This is a way of breaking out of a routine.  You can sneak in a quickie before making dinner.

Talk to Your Partner

Instead of watching television, talk to each other.  Sit outside and enjoy the weather while the kids are in bed (Canadian Living)

Respect 

Show each other the same respect you did when you were dating.  Let others know that it is an honor for you to be with the one you love.  Speak kindly and listen to one another again.

Gift Giving

You don’t have to give elaborate gifts.  A random card with a note letting them know you are thinking about them would do very nicely.

Studying One Another

Ask each other questions like you are meeting for the first time.  You might find out that the things you thought were true or what may have been true 20 years ago isn’t the case anymore (What Christians Want to Know).

Talk to couples who have been married for 40 years and over.  Find out the secret of their success.

Have fun trying to keep the spark alive in your marriage.  If anyone has any tips they would like to share, I would love to hear from you.

Husband and wife smiling

 

 

 

Sources: Belief Net; What Christians Want to Know; Canadian Living