Zendaya Returns

MarisStella_MIt was after the midday mass and the sanctuary was empty.  Father O’Reilly lingered in front of the beautiful wooden bust of the Madonna and Child.  He said a prayer and then blessed himself.  He stood there for several minutes.

He had contacted Aileen to tell her that he couldn’t officiate at her wedding in May and the reason why.  She was shocked but supportive.  She wished him all the best and expressed hope that he would still attend the wedding.  He informed her that he had arranged for Father Murphy to perform the wedding ceremony.   He was the priest who took over from him at the parish when he left Inistioge for Cape Town.

In two weeks he was going to be gone from this Parish and Cape Town.  Returning to Inistioge was bittersweet.  It would be nice to see the folks again and spend time on the hill overlooking River Nore but his heart would always remain in South Africa where Zendaya was.  Zendaya…He closed his eyes in despair.

“Good afternoon, Father O’Reilly.”

At first he thought he was imagining things but then he heard footsteps.  His eyes opened and he swung around.  His heart leaped in his chest, his expression becoming tense as he watched Zendaya slowly approach him.  All sorts of conflicting emotions raged inside him.  He ached to take her in his arms but it would be wrong, irreverent to do so there in the sanctuary.  He wanted to lash out at her for leaving.  His hands tightened into fists at his sides.  “Did you come to take your pound of flesh?” he muttered tightly when she reached him.

She looked up at him, confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Why are you here, Zendaya?”

“I heard that you were leaving.”

“I suppose I ought to be grateful that you came to say goodbye to me in person this time.”

“I didn’t come to say goodbye.”

“Why did you come then?”

“I wanted to see you, Cian.”

His eyes darkened when she called him by his first name and he took a step towards her.  “Zendaya…”  He froze when they heard voices outside.  “We should go somewhere else and talk.”

0a1f7e8df4d7c310e48df547dfda2143“Let’s go to the river,” she suggested.  How she longed to touch his face.

“All right,” he agreed and preceded her out of the sanctuary.  There was no one outside.  The coast was clear.  They left the church through the side entrance and made their way to the river.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.

When they got there, they stopped and faced each other.  Zendaya’s heart was racing as she met his penetrating gaze.  “Did you get my Christmas card?”

“Yes.  I would have sent you one but I didn’t know where you were.  Where did you go after you left the parish?”

“I went to Soweto and stayed with a family I met through Father Botha.  I spent Christmas with them.  How was your Christmas?”

“How do you think it was?  Do you have any idea of what you’ve put me through these past few months?”

“I’m sorry.  I explained in my letter why I had to leave.”

“You did what you thought was best for you.  You didn’t care about me or my feelings.”

“That’s not true,” she protested.  “I was thinking about you when I decided to leave.  You were a priest.  I didn’t want you to get into trouble on account of me.”

“You and I had been lovers for over two years and no one found out about it.  We were careful.”

“I felt guilty about what we were doing and I knew that there wasn’t any future for us so I had to do what I believed was sensible and right.”

“Do you still feel that way?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I went to Johannesburg and saw Father Botha.  It was he who told me that you were leaving the parish and the priesthood and the reason why.”

“I didn’t tell him whom I was in love with.”

“I think he knows that it’s me and that’s why he asked me if my reason for leaving was the same as yours.”

A muscle began to pulsate in Father O’Reilly’s cheek.  “Is it?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I left because I had fallen in love with you.  You were the reason why I couldn’t marry Anesu but since there wasn’t any chance of a future with you,  I resigned myself to becoming a spinster.”

“Oh, Zendaya…” he moaned thickly and reaching for her, he pulled her against him, making her gasp.  And then his lips were on hers feverishly, urgently as all the pent up feelings gushed out.  She put her arms around his neck, her own response fierce.  In between frenzied kisses, he muttered, “I love you.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon up there on the hill just talking and making plans for the future.  That night, he went to  her room and stayed there until the next morning.  Several weeks later, they flew to Ireland.  He took her to his home in Inistioge where they stayed for a month before heading to Dublin.  There they got married.  Father O’Reilly left the Catholic Church to become an Anglican parish minister.  He happily adjusted to his new life.  As wife, homemaker and expectant mother, Zendaya’s life was now complete.

Source:  The Journal

Faith in Action

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead – James 2:15-17

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Five weeks ago, I was in a bad way.  I got laid off and had trouble finding another job.  I was getting worried that I would not be able to pay my rent anymore and get evicted.  I was all alone here in Canada.  My family were all back in Jamaica.  Life was extremely hard there so asking them for money was out of the question.  My Employment Insurance (EI) was running out.  I wasn’t a member of any church so I couldn’t ask a pastor or a minister or a priest to help me.

Time was running out.  I didn’t have any food in the apartment and I was hungry.  I didn’t have any more money.  My EI payments had ended.  I still couldn’t find a job and it didn’t help when I got a bad cold and was laid up in bed for several days.  I looked terrible because I had lost a considerable amount of weight because all I had at my disposal was a half-empty carton of Orange Juice.

Finally, I swallowed my pride and went to my neighbor whom I knew was a Christian.  I always saw her reading a Daily Word or she was always talking to somebody about God.  So, if anyone could help me, it would be her.

I left my apartment and went across the hall.  After taking a deep breath, I knocked on the door.  Hopefully, she was at home.  She was.  She opened the door and looked at me.  “I would invite you in but I have company.”

“It’s all right,” I said.  “I hate to do this but I don’t have any choice.  Could you lend me some money?”

“What do you need it for?”

“I don’t have any food in my apartment.”

“How much do you need?”

“Twenty would be enough.”

“I’m afraid I only have a $100.”

“Oh.  Okay.” Crushed, I said, “Thanks anyway.  Sorry to have troubled you.  Have a good evening.”  I was about to turn away when she caught me by the arm.

“Go and pray to God to help you.  He will.”

I didn’t answer.  I turned and crossed the carpet and let myself into my apartment.  I leaned against the door, feeling very discouraged.  I couldn’t believe that my Christian neighbor didn’t help me.  Couldn’t she have asked her guests for change for the $100 or didn’t she have any food she could have given me?  No, she sent me away empty-handed and with words that couldn’t satisfy my hunger.

I remembered that I had a large bag of potato chips.  I went and took it down from the cupboard and put some in plastic lid.  I sat at the window and munched on them.  I did this again the following day and the next until the bag was finished.  Despair settled in again and then there was a knock on my door.  I opened it and recognized the woman whom I sometimes saw the Christian woman talking to.  She had a shopping cart full of groceries.  “May I come in?” she asked, smiling.

I nodded and held the door open for her to come in.

“I’m afraid I bought too many groceries.  My son moved out last week so I’m all alone.   I bought two of everything.  Do you mind helping me go through these bags?”

“Sure.”  My heart was racing.  This couldn’t be happening.  It felt so surreal.  Was this God helping me?  We went through the bags and when we were done, her groceries were in the bags and in the cart while mine were on the countertop in my kitchen waiting to be packed away.  I thanked her profusely as I held the door open for her.  “Are you a Christian?” I asked her.

She shook her head.  “No, but when I was trying to figure out what to do with the extra groceries, you came to my mind.  I just couldn’t shake the feeling that you needed them.”

I watched her hurry down the hallway to the elevator.  She lived two floors below me.  When I closed my door and went into the kitchen, I put away the groceries, thanking God for His help.  It had to be Him.  Who else could it be?  And what irony.  The person who should have helped me but didn’t was a Christian and the person who wasn’t a Christian did.  That evening I cooked myself a decent meal and enjoyed it in front of the TV.

After that unexpected blessing, I started to go to the church in my neighborhood–not the same one my neighbor went to, though.  The people were warm and welcoming.  I started to go to their prayer meetings.  I asked my prayer partner to pray that I find a job soon or I would be evicted.  A week later, she asked me for my resume.  I gave it to her.  Another week passed by and then I was called in for an interview.  It seems like her sister-in-law was in need of a secretary.  I got the job.  I thanked God and I thanked my prayer partner.

I don’t have any bitterness toward my neighbor.  I am pleasant to her whenever we see each other.  I told her that she was right about God helping me.  And I know that if she ever came to me for help, I would do whatever I can to help her.  Sometimes, I sit in front of the window and have a bowl of potato chips just to remind me of the desperate times and that God will bring us through them–sometimes in ways we don’t expect.

Faith is not just words but actions too.  When a person needs your help, help them.  It’s possible that God sent them to you.   

We Are All Slaves

“We are all slaves,” Todd declared and Marsha stared at him.

black girl in white blouse“What do you mean by that?”  she wondered.

“It’s what my pastor said last week.”

“Where did he get that information from?”

“The Bible, of course.  It’s in chapter six of Romans, verses twenty to twenty-two.  We are either slaves of sin or slaves of God.  We serve one or other other.  We serve sin when we allow it to control our bodies, making us commit immoral acts.”

What sort of immoral acts?”

“Adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and fornication.”

“What’s fornication?”

“It’s sex outside of marriage.  It can be between two people who aren’t married to each other or between two unmarried people.”

“Oh.”  She turned away so that he wouldn’t see the expression on her face.

“But, sin isn’t just about sexual immorality.  There’s spiritual immorality as well.”

“What happens to a person who is a slave to sin?”

“Romans 6:16 says that obeying sin leads to death.  Doesn’t your church teach you these things?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Why don’t you leave that church and come to mine?”

She turned to face him.  “Leave the Catholic Church?” she exclaimed.  “How could I?  I was born and raised a Catholic.  Why should I leave the church just because Father Montgomery hasn’t taught us what’s in Romans 6?  He might one of these days, you know.”

“I used to be a Catholic but I left because I realized that they were teaching what wasn’t in the Bible and the sex scandals–”

Marsha glared at him.  “I’m sick and tired of people attacking the church.”

“Why are you getting so upset?” Todd asked.  “I’m not attacking the church.  All I’m saying is that it needs to address the and rid itself of the sex scandals.  I’m sure that if you or someone you knew were a victim, you would feel differently.  You would want justice.  The church is supposed to be a place where people should feel safe.”

“I have to go,” she muttered.  “I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”  She turned and walked away before he could say anything.

As he headed home, he felt impressed to pray for her.

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Father Montgomery finished saying his prayer in the chapel, blessed himself and rose to his feet.  Next he went to the confessional to listen to three people make confessions.  By the time he left the parish, it was almost six o’clock.  He let himself into the abandoned mansion.   When he first visited it, he ventured down into the secret room, called a “priest hole” where Catholic clergy hid from their Protestant hunters.  Anti-Catholicism was rampant when Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558.  He tried to imagine what it would have been like to spend any amount of time there.  It made him think of the Jews who were hidden by well meaning citizens so that they could escape the concentration camps and ultimately, death.

It was in the Master’s bedroom where Marsha waited for him.  It was still furnished.  The furniture was old but still in good condition, natural light streamed through the large windows and the bed was still functional.  She was sitting at the edge of the bed, hands on lap when he walked in.  He knew right away that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” he asked as he sat down beside her.

“I ran into Todd on my way home from church this morning.”

He frowned.  “Who’s Todd?”

“He’s a boy from school.”

“Tell me what happened when you ran into him this morning.”

“He told me that we are all slaves.  Slaves to sin or slaves to God.  His pastor read this in chapter six of Romans.  I don’t want to be a slave to sin because it leads to death.”

“Marsha, you aren’t a slave of sin.  Such talk is foolishness.”

“But what about us?  Aren’t we sinning against God?”

He put his arm around her shoulders.  “It isn’t sin when two people love each other.  I love you and you love me, don’t you?”

“Yes, but–”

“Then, we aren’t sinning.  We are in a monogamous relationship.  We aren’t unequally yoked.  We share the same faith and believe in the same God.”

“Todd said that the church teaches things that aren’t in the Bible.”

“Do you trust me, Marsha?”

“Yes.”

“I would never mislead you or the rest of the flock.  What I teach is sound doctrine approved by God Himself.  Now, let’s not worry any more about what Todd or anyone else who has misguided views about our Church and its teachings.”  He gently pushed her back on to the bed and began to kiss her passionately.

Even as she surrendered to him, at the back of her mind, a small still voice was telling her that this was wrong but, as usual, she let her heart rule her head.

It was love for Eve which made Adam sin against God.  Don’t let love blind you to God’s truth.  It is by the constant obeying of His Word that we are delivered from sin.  Don’t be a slave to sin which leads to death but a slave to God which leads to eternal life.

Sources:  Atlas Obscura; Flickr

A Powerful Force

Black woman praying in church

He watched her as she knelt in the pew.  Fortunately the church was empty.  If anyone else had been there, they would have disapproved of the way she was dressed.

Personally, he was happy to see her there.  After losing her fiance and son in a horrific boat accident, she had stopped coming to church.  For a long time, she was angry with God and the world.  He visited her but she wanted nothing to do with him or the church.  She reverted back to her old ways, going to bars, getting drunk.

On one occasion, he had to go to a bar and escort her out.  He took her home and made sure that she was all right before he left.  He was certain that his superiors would not have approved but as far as he was concerned, he was doing God’s work.

Despite her resistance and resentment, he didn’t give up on her but continued to visit her.  In the evenings, before retiring to his rooms, he went into the chapel and prayed for her.

He waited until she was finished praying before he went over to her.  She looked up as he approached.  Self-consciously, she pulled the sleeves up on her shoulders, her expression almost apologetic.  “Good evening, Father Martens,” she greeted him as she got off her knees and sat down.

“Good evening,” he replied.  “I’m very happy to see you.”  He tried not to stare but couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing false eyelashes.

“I know it has been a while since I came here.  You know why I haven’t been coming.  After losing and, I wanted nothing more to do with God or His church.  I was angry with Him for taking and away from me.  I thought He did it to punish me for my sins.”

“God doesn’t take away our loved ones to punish us.  He takes them when it’s their time to go.  We are all here for a time.  It just so happened that their time was before yours.  I know you miss them but they are in Heaven with God.  They don’t want you to be sad or angry anymore.”

She brushed away a tear.  “If it weren’t for you, Father Martens, I would still be bitter and angry.  Thank you for visiting and helping me.  I will be eternally grateful to you.”

He smiled.  “I was happy to do it,” he said.  “Does this mean that I will be seeing you on Sunday?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He wanted to tell her that she had to dress modestly whenever she came into the church, especially on Sunday but he trusted that the Lord would impress this upon her heart.  “Good.”

She stood up.  “I’d better be going now.  I’m working nights now.”

He looked surprised.  “Really?  Where?”

“At the Cyclone Bar.”

He didn’t like the idea of her working at a bar.  It seemed indecent, somehow.  “Our parish needs a receptionist.  How would you like to do that instead of working at Cyclone?”

“Are you sure you want me to work at your parish?”

“Yes.  You will work at reasonable hours during the day.”

“How soon would you like me to start?”

“As soon as you can.”

“I can start in three weeks.  I have to give my manager two weeks’ notice.”

“We’ll manage until then.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Father Martens and God bless you.”

“Thank you.  I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.”

She nodded and taking up her handbag, she turned and walked out of the church.

He stood there for several minutes.  Yes, he looked forward to seeing her on Sunday.

Sunday came and she showed up, dressed modestly in a white skirt suit and yellow blouse.  No false eyelashes and the braids were gone.  Her natural hair was chin length.  He greeted her along with the rest of the congregation as they came through the doors, his gaze resting on her a bit longer than was necessary.   Fortunately, no one seemed to notice.

After Mass he wanted to talk to her but it wasn’t possible. He was flanked by church members as they left the church.  So, all he was able to say to her was, “Thank you for coming.”

A couple days later, he stood watching the wide open field and the hills beyond.  It looked like it was going to rain.  Perhaps he should head back now.

“Father Martens.”

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He turned and was pleasantly surprised to see her but very perturbed as well.  He had been thinking about her all week and looking forward to Sunday when he would see her again.  He tried to appear calm now but his heart was racing.  “What brings you here today?” he asked.

“I called the office and the lady told me that you had gone for a walk.  I remembered that you once told me that this is where you usually come for your walk so I knew that I would find you here.  We didn’t get a chance to talk on Sunday.  I just wanted to tell you that I was blessed by the service and that I will be coming again on Sunday.”

“I’m pleased to hear that.”  He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her.  They were fixed on her face which looked beautiful in the dull light.  Just then a raindrop fell on his head, startling him.  He glanced up at the darkening sky.  “It looks like a storm is brewing.  I don’t think we’ll be able to make back to the parish in time.  There’s an abandoned shack over there where we can find shelter until the storm passes.  Follow me.”  He led the way across the field.

They reached the shack just in time.  As soon as they went inside lightning flashed across the sky, followed by a loud clap of thunder and then came the rain.  Fortunately, the windows and the door were still intact.  He closed the door and turned to face her.  Over their heads the rain beat relentlessly against the rooftop.  Hopefully the storm wouldn’t last long.

“It’s really coming down out there,” she said, glancing up at him.

“Yes, it is,” he agreed quietly.  Being here alone with her was a really bad idea.  He wished he hadn’t brought her here.  It might have been a better idea to bring her here and then run back to the parish.  “Hopefully it will pass soon.”

“It’s my fault you’re stuck here.”

“It’s not your fault.  I knew it was going to rain.  I should have stayed at the parish and come for my walk another time.”

“I shouldn’t have come, Father Martens.  It was selfish of me.”

“What do you mean that it was selfish of you.”

“I wanted to see you but I couldn’t wait until Sunday.”

“Why is that being selfish?”

“It’s selfish because I wasn’t considering that you are a priest and that there can’t be anything between us.  All I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you.”

He swallowed hard.  “We shouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I should go.”

“But the storm isn’t over.”

“It’s all right.  I’ll be fine.  It won’t be the first I’ve been caught in one of these.”  She started toward the door when he caught her by the shoulders.

“Please, don’t go.”

She stared up at him.  They were standing very close.  He was still holding her arm.  Her flesh felt soft against his fingers.  His eyes were restless on her face.  His chest rose and fell swiftly as all sorts of emotions ran rampantly through him.  He knew that he was treading on very thin ice but he couldn’t seem to resist what was about to happen.  Instead of releasing her, he drew her towards him.  His smoldering gaze dropped to her parted lips before his lowered his head and devoured them.  He moaned and trembled when he felt her eager response.  For several minutes they stood there, kissing wildly as the storm raged on outside.

This wild exchange of kisses lasted for several minutes and then he pulled away, breathing heavily, his face flushed.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m sorry.”  He stumbled away from her and dropped to his knees.  With his back turned to her, he bowed his head and clasped his hands.  He remained like that for a long time.  When he turned around, she was gone.  He staggered to the door and leaned heavily against the frame for a few moments before he sprinted through the torrential rain back to the rectory.

The following Sunday, he looked for her but she didn’t show up.  Several Sundays passed and still no sign of her.  She didn’t show up for the job as the parish secretary either so he had to hire someone else in a hurry.  He tried to put her out of his mind and busy himself with his duties and community service but it was no use.  He had fallen helplessly in love with her and was desperate to see her again.  Finally, one night, he went to the Cyclone Bar.

As he walked in and made his way over to the bar, he attracted quite a lot of attention.  The bartender looked a bit taken aback to see him.  “Hello, Father,” he said.  “We don’t usually get priests in here.  What can I do for you?”

“Hello.  I’m here to see one of your waitresses who also happens to be one of my parishioners.”

“Oh, you mean Zahra.”  He glanced at his watch.  “It’s almost quitting time for her.  She’s over there.”  He pointed behind him.

Father Martens turned and when he saw her, his heart skipped a beat.  He turned back to the bartender.  “Do you mind if I wait here?” he asked.

“Not at all, Father.  Have a seat.  Can I get you anything?”

“No, thanks.”  It felt strange being inside a bar but he thought of Jesus who went to the homes of tax collectors and had dinner with sinners.  He looked around.  Jesus died for these people too.

“Father Martens?”

He swung around, his face flooding with color as he looked into her face.  “Hello, Zahra.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.  The bartender told me that your shift will be ending soon.  I’ll wait until you’re done.  It’s rather urgent that I speak to you.”

“All right.  I will be finished in about ten minutes.”  She turned and walked away.

Twenty minutes later, they were leaving the bar and walking down the sidewalk.  “You haven’t been to church for several weeks now,” he said quietly.  His hands were shoved deep in the pockets of his cassock but they ached to hold her.

“I couldn’t come,” she replied.  “I thought it would be best if I stayed away.”

“I miss you, Zahra.”

“After what happened between us the last time we saw each other I didn’t think you’d ever want to see me again.”

He stopped and turned to face her.  “I tried to forget you and what happened but I couldn’t.  I can’t stop thinking about you and missing you.  That’s why I had to come to see you tonight.”

She sighed.  “So, where do we go from here?” she asked.  “You’re a priest.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.  “I won’t be for much longer.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think we should continue this conversation in a more private place.  We’re drawing attention.”

“All right.  We’re five minutes away from my apartment.  We can talk there.”

Five minutes later, she was letting them into her apartment.  “Do you live here alone?” he asked.

“Yes.  I moved in here a couple of months after I lost my fiance and our son.” She turned on one of the lamps.

“Do you still miss them?”  What he really wanted to know was if she still missed her fiance.

“I miss our son.  Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you.”

“You said that you won’t be a priest for much longer.  What did you mean?”

They were facing each other now.  His eyes were restless on her upturned face.  How he longed to reach out and touch her cheek.  “I’m thinking of leaving the priesthood because of you.”

Her eyes widened in shock.  “Me?  But in the shack you said…”

“I know.  It felt wrong.  I was a priest and I had no right to be feeling the way I did.”

“When I saw how broken up you were about what happened between us and you kneeling there, I realized that the best thing for me to do was to leave.”

“Perhaps it was the best thing at the time but when you stopped coming to church, I was distressed.  It’s true what they say you know about absence making the heart grow fonder.  Your absences from church made me realize that I loved you.”

Zahra swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “You love me?”

“Yes,” he admitted, moving closer.  “I think I have always known it but was afraid to admit it to myself.”

“I didn’t want to fall in love with you because you were a priest but I couldn’t help myself.”

He reached out and cupped her face between his hands.  “Love is a very powerful force,” he murmured huskily.  “It’s best not to fight it.” His eyes darkened as he gazed down into her upturned face.  Then, he lowered his head.  She closed her eyes when she felt his lips on hers.  They kissed passionately for several minutes and then, he released her.

“You have to go,” she said.

He nodded.  “Yes.  If I don’t leave right now…”

She smiled.  “I understand.”  She followed him to the door.  “When will I see you again?”

“Come to church on Sunday.  It will be my last service.”

“I’ll be there.”  She reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  When she drew back, she asked, “So, what do I call you when you’re no longer a priest?”

He smiled.  “Call me, Guus.”

“Good night, Guus.”

“Good night, Zahra.”

Guus Martens left the priesthood and returned to Amsterdam where Zahra and he got married.  Although he missed saying Mass, preaching and administering sacraments, he knew he had made the right decision.  He couldn’t continue to deny his love for Zahra nor hide his frustration over the sex scandals plaguing the Catholic Church and its social positions on issues such as divorce, remarriage and mandatory celibacy.  He got a job teaching in a parochial school while Zahra worked at a cafe where one of the regular customers was a member of  Amsterdam Black Women Meetup, a group she was more than happy to join.

She thanked God for blessing her with another good man and she had come to peace with the death of her son.  God took him for a reason but she knew that she would see him again and that gave her comfort.  She remembered her fiance with fondness.  She had loved him very much but she knew that if he had survived the accident, she wouldn’t have married him.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him if she had because she had fallen in love with the priest who had helped her through her grief.  God had blessed her with Guus and now they were happily married and expecting their first child.  Her favorite scripture verse became, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.  

Love is a very powerful force and even priests are not immune to it.  

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Amsterdam Black Women MeetupDutch ReviewNorthwest50Plus

Unequally Yoked

Falling in love with William wasn’t something I expected to happen. Why not? Well, he’s younger than me, he’s not African American and he’s a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. They don’t believe in wearing jewelry and I love jewelry. I love wearing big gold and silver earrings, rings and bangles. They frown on makeup too. I don’t wear any but it’s not because of religious reasons. I’m allergic to it. So, all I wear is a tinted lip balm. Fortunately for me I have naturally long eyelashes so I don’t need Mascara to darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or define them.

Anyway, makeup aside, I was happily single, dating on and off when it suited me. Most of the men I dated were Christians but on a few occasions I dated non-Christians or men of other faiths. Well, that got my Christian friends talking. I was scolded. My friends Shirley shook her head and wagged her finger in my face. “Girl, don’t you know you’re not supposed to be dating any man outside of the church? Do you want to be unequally yoked?”

“And why would you want to date men outside the church when you have so many fine looking brothers in the church?” Rochelle piped in. “Did you see that visitor we had last week Sunday? I first thing I did when I was introduced to him was to check to see if he was wearing a wedding ring.”

Whenever they carried on like that, I would just look at them and smile. They meant well and I loved them dearly but friend or not, they had no business telling me who I should or shouldn’t date. After all, didn’t Moses marry an Ethiopian woman and Joseph the daughter of an Egyptian priest? I didn’t marry any of those men–I just dated them.

Anyway, we were out at a bowling alley one evening and having a blast when I noticed that this really good looking Asian guy kept staring at me. He was with a group of friends. He was well dressed in a crisp white shirt and black jeans. He had a really nice physique. As I waited my turn to bowl, I allowed my eyes to drink in every detail of him. Finally, I walked up to him and holding out my hand, I said, “Hi, my name’s Monique.”

He looked a bit startled. I guess he wasn’t used to being approached. “William,” he replied after a few seconds and shook my hand. His fingers were long and I could see that they were well manicured. This guy took self grooming very seriously. I like that in a man.

“Is this your first time here?” It wasn’t my first time. I had been there numerous times.

“Yes, it is. What about you?”

“No, I come here often with my friends.”

He glanced over my shoulder. “I think your friends are trying to get your attention,” he said, releasing my hand.

I turned to see Shirley and Rochelle waving wildly. I turned back to William, an apologetic expression on my face. “Excuse me.” I turned and walked over to my friends. I could feel him watching me. I knew I looked great in the red shirt and the jeans which hugged me in all of the right places. Being a Christian didn’t mean that I had to dress like a nun. I bowled and got a strike. My third in the game. Pleased, I returned to William who was up. I watched as he too made a strike. “How many have you had so far?” I asked.

“Four.”

“Good for you.”

“After we have finished our games, would you like to grab something to eat?”

“Here or somewhere else?”

“Here is fine.”

“Sure. If your friends won’t mind.”

“They won’t. What about yours?”

“They won’t mind either.” Of course they would but that was their problem. “I’ll go and finish my game and meet you right here.”

He smiled. “Okay.”

I rejoined my friends who were watching me very closely. After we finished our second game which I won, I told them that I had a date. I indicated with whom the date was and I could just hear the lectures. “Sorry, Ladies but I don’t have time right now to listen to why I shouldn’t grab a bite to eat with a guy I just met.”

Rochelle shook her head. “You really need to be careful when it comes to men,” she said. “The guy is a perfect stranger and you’re going out with him?”

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to have something to eat right here. And when we’re done, I’m going home–alone.”

“Well, I should hope so,” Shirley said. “You’re a Christian, remember? You shouldn’t be taking men back to your place and you should never go to theirs.”

I wonder what they would say if they knew that years ago I had slept with one of the brothers in the church. We hadn’t planned to, of course, but it happened. The following week at church we avoided each other like the plague. I just go out with men and have a good time but at the end of the evening, we part company. I try to be celibate but it isn’t always easy. I’m not a robot. I have needs.

“Don’t worry, ladies,” I said to my friends. “I’ll be good. Now, run along. I’ll see you in church on Sunday.” Then, I turned and walked over to William who was alone. I guess his friends had left. “Do you mind if we ate here?”

“No, I don’t mind at all.”

“Good.” We both order burgers–his was a veggie and mine was a cheesy cheeseburger with fries and milkshakes. We sat at a table and as we ate, we talked about all sorts of things. “Do you have a girlfriend?” I asked. He wouldn’t be the first guy to step out on his woman.

“No. What about you? Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No. I’m single. How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

“I’m thirty-six.” I figured that he was younger than me. “Have you ever dated an older woman?”

He shook his head. “No. Have you ever dated a younger man?”

“No, but there’s a first time for everything.” Did I just say that? Was I seriously thinking about dating him? I must be out of my mind. He was younger than me, for Pete’s sake and he wasn’t a brother. Yet, I couldn’t deny that I was extremely attracted to him. I kept having all sorts of thoughts that a Christian woman shouldn’t be having. And it didn’t help that the first button of his shirt was undone. I tried to keep my eyes on his face. He had the most amazing brown eyes. I could drown in them. I realized that I was staring and I turned my attention to my fries.

“So, what else do you like to do besides bowling with your friends on a Friday night?”

“I like to read, go for long walks, shopping and travel. What about you?”

“I enjoy a good game of tennis, cycling, swimming and long walks.”

“What do you do for entertainment?”

“I’m not really into any type of entertainment except maybe a gospel concert or maybe an opera or a ballet or a classical music performance.”

“Really? So, you won’t go to a nightclub or a bar, then?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Those are not the sort of places that a Christian should go to.”

“So, you’re a Christian?”

“Yes.”

“So am I.” I could see the surprise on his face. “I guess it’s hard to believe that because of the jewelry.”

“Well, the women at my church don’t wear jewelry or makeup.”

“Let me guess. You’re a Seventh-day Adventist.”

“Yes. Are you familiar with our beliefs?”

“Yes. You are what I would call legalistic because of all your dos and Sony’s.  You don’t believe in having fun, do you?

“I believe in having fun, yes, as long as it is done responsibly and it doesn’t conflict with my beliefs.”

“What about being with me, a non-Adventist? Wouldn’t the members of your church have a problem with that?”

He smiled.  “Some of them might but I’m not answerable to them but to the Lord who welcomed all who came to Him.”

“I think all churches have the same problem.  They say they are the body of Christ but they have a problem with us associating with people of other faiths.  Adventists don’t seem to like being around non-Christians and non-Adventists.  My grandmother was an Adventist and when I visited her church, I felt uncomfortable.  Some of the members couldn’t hide their disapproval of me because I wore jewelry.  After my grandmother’s funeral, I never went back to that church.”

“I’m sorry you had a bad experience.  Does this mean that you wouldn’t go out with me because I’m an Adventist?”

“Are you asking me out, William?”

“Yes, I am.”

“All right, I’ll go out with you.”

“Have your ever been  to a circus?”

“No.”

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll take you to one on Sunday and then we will go for dinner afterwards.”

“Sounds good to me.” I glanced at my watch.  It was getting late and I had had a long day.  “Well, it’s time for me to head home.”  

He looked disappointed.  “Do you have ride?”

I nodded as I stood up.  “Yes, I drove here.”

He stood up.  “I’ll walk you to your car.”

We walked to my car and before we parted company, I gave him my address and number.  “See you on Sunday,” I said as I got behind the wheel.”

“See you on Sunday.”  He waved as I drove off.

Sunday came and we went to the circus where we had a blast.  Afterwards, we went to a Thai restaurant.  Over mouth watering food, we made plans to see each other again.  Then, we started dating.  It wasn’t long before I realized that I was falling for him.  That scared me.  I have been in love before but this was different.  I was actually thinking of marriage.  Marriage!  Me.  The woman who liked being single.  I wasn’t sure how he felt about me.  I knew he wanted me–the kiss we shared the other night made that crystal clear to me.  If I didn’t break off the kiss, grab my jacket and hightailed it out of his apartment, who knows how things would have progressed.

We are walking in the park now, holding hands.  We draw a few stares but I’m used to it.  We come to a quiet, secluded spot where we stop.  We face each other.  He has a very serious expression on his face.  I swallowed hard, my heart racing.  Is he about to break up with me?  The thought terrifies me.  I’m so crazy about this guy.

“Monique, we have been seeing each other for a while now.  You must know by now how I feel about you.”

“How do you feel about me?”  I wanted him to come right out and tell me.

“I love you.”

Relief washed over me and I smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I know that we come from two different denominations but I can’t give up on you, on us because of that.  I want to marry you, Monique.”

“Marry me?  Are you sure?” I wanted to be sure that was what he really wanted.

“Yes.”  He released my hand and getting down on one knee, he reached into the breast-pocket of his jacket and took out a little red box.  He opened it and removed a beautiful diamond ring.  “Monique Charles, will you marry me?”

Tears sprang to my eyes and for a moment I was too choked up to say anything.  “Yes!” I managed to gasp and he sprang to his feet and pulled me into his arms.  He hugged me tightly about my waist before he leaned down and kissed me.  When we finally broke apart, we went to our favorite place to celebrate–the bowling alley where we met.

Two years have passed.  William and I have moved into a nice, residential area just outside of the city because we have a son and another one is on the way.  I’m no longer a Pentecostal Christian.  My friends, Rochelle and Shirley were upset at first but they decided that it was my life to do what I wished with it and besides, they could see how happy I am.  While we were dating, I began attending William’s church and after a lot of prayer and fasting, I got baptized and became a member.  This means that I’m no longer wearing jewelry and believe it or not, I don’t miss it.  I love my new life with William and I’m thankful to God for bringing us together.  We are equally yoked in every way now.

Source: Pinchasers

Francis Finds Love and Faith

“Why haven’t you been by the house?  Are they working you too hard?  When is the last time you went to confession?  When are you going to settle down and get married?”  Mrs. De Vries demanded as her son, Francis walked out of the courthouse and into the late afternoon sunshine.  It had been a hectic day and all he wanted to do was to go home and crash.

“Mother, I’m perfectly happy with my life,” he told her wearily.  “I haven’t been by the house because I have been very busy on a case which was wrapped up a short while ago.  I haven’t been to confession for over a year and I’m not ready to get married as yet.”

He didn’t tell her that he hadn’t been to confession or the church because he was seriously considering leaving the faith.  And the allegations of sex abuse at the hands of the clergy didn’t help.  He knew of one girl he used to go to school with who was a victim but was afraid to say anything because she was afraid that her parents would kick her out of the house.  The last he heard of her, she had left the church and married a Protestant.

He grew up in a strict Catholic home where he was taught never to question the church because to do so was a grave sin.  So, he kept quiet, went to Mass every Sunday with his family, had his First Communion and Confirmation.  He still remembered what happened to his girlfriend, Sophia when she was 16 and preparing Confirmation.  She was in the Children’s Room and she had to write down the sins she had committed against God.  When she told the priest that he had made out with her boyfriend, the man looked at her and told her that she was going to hell.  Distraught and terrified at the thought of burning for eternity, she ran out of the room in tears. Francis never saw her again.  He just went to church to please his mother.  But he could feel himself becoming more and more disconnected to the faith.

“Francis?  Are you still there?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing, Mother.”

“Marian is having her First Communion next week Sunday.  You are going to come for that, aren’t you?  Everyone will expect to see you.”  Marian was his 7 year old niece.

He didn’t really want to go but he knew he would never hear the end of it if he didn’t show up.  Besides, he didn’t want to disappoint Marian.  “All right, Mother.  I’ll be there.”

“Good.” She sounded very pleased.  “Afterwards, we’ll go over to the house and have a big meal to celebrate.”

“Sounds good.  I have to go now, Mother.”

“All right, Francis.  I will call you again during the week to remind you.”

“I will write it down in my calendar so that I won’t forget.”

“Just the same, I will call and remind you,” she insisted.

He sighed.  “All right, Mother.”

“Have a good weekend.”

“Thanks.  You too.”

“Make sure you go to church on Sunday.  I pray for you everyday, you know.”

“That’s sweet of you, Mother.  I really have to go now.  Goodbye.”

“All right.  Goodbye, Francis. Ik hou van je.”

Ik hou ook van jou.” He ended the call and got into his car.  The sun was setting as he pulled out of the parking lot.  He couldn’t wait to get home and take a long, hot shower before ordering Take Out Thai.  He didn’t have any plans for the weekend.  He was going to be a couch potato for once.

About forty minutes later, he was riding up the elevator.  The doors opened and he headed down the long hallway to his unit.  As he was about to insert the key in the lock, the door opposite his opened and his neighbor, Briana came out of her unit.  Her gaze traveled over his tall frame.   “Hi,” she said.  2451262bc76a34995bfa6c2e7db55843

“Hi.” She had her jacket draped over her arm and her knapsack was on her shoulder.  “Going on a date?” he asked.  He always wanted to find out if she had a boyfriend but never quite knew how to broach the subject without coming across nosy.

She shook her head.  “No.  I’m going to the Living With Hope Evangelistic meetings.  Tonight’s the first meeting.  It ends next week Sunday.”  She showed him the flyer.

He took it from her and studied it.  It looked very interesting.  It started at 7 which was a hour away.  “Do you mind if I come with you?” he asked.

She shook her head again.  “No, not at all.  Have you eaten?”

“No.”

“Neither have I.  I got in a short time ago and didn’t have time to eat anything.  We can grab something on the way.”  They took her car.

As they sped down the high-way, they talked about all sorts of things.  She asked him about his job and he told her about the case he won earlier that day.  His client was found not guilty because of reasonable doubt.  “Do you think he was innocent?” she asked.

“Yes.  And I established that the foreman at the firm as a very possible suspect.  He had motive and opportunity.”

“Well, congratulations.”

“Thanks.  You’re a Physical Therapy Assistant, right?”

“Yes.”  He remembered.  “I love it.  I love helping people.  That’s something you and I have in common.”

He smiled.  “That’s true.”

“So….do you have a girlfriend?”  She knew he wasn’t married.

The question took him by surprise and it took him a moment to reply.  “No, I don’t have a girlfriend.  What about you?  Do you have a boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I’ve gone out with a couple of guys but nothing panned out.  We’re approaching Carroll Ave where the church is,” she added. “There are several food places in the area.  What do you feel in the mood for?”

“Is there a Middle Eastern place?”

“Yes.  It’s right up here.”  She pulled into the parking lot and found a parking space in front of the restaurant.  They walked in and over to the Take Out area.  “I’m going to have the Chicken Shawarma.  What about you?”

“I think I will have the Lamb burger.”  His mouth watered as he thought having it with fries.

They ordered and then they went to the car and she drove to the church.  They sat in the car and ate.  He encouraged her to try the fries.  “Next time I think I will try the Lamb Burger.  It looks really good.”

“If you don’t have other plans, I was thinking that tomorrow night after we leave here, we could go a really nice family run Lebanese restaurant in Washington.”

She smiled.  “I would love to.”

They finished eating and then it was time to head inside.  They were hooked the first night and looked forward to going the following night.  Night after night they went to the series together and had dinner afterwards.  By the end of the series, they both decided to regularly attend the church hosting the series.  They each received the Discover Bible Guides from the pastor of the church which they eagerly went through. Then, in the Spring the following year, they were baptized.

At first, Francis’ mother was bitterly disappointed that he had left the Catholic faith but when she saw how happy he was, she relented.  And she was relieved to see that he had a girlfriend.  She became very fond of Briana and even taught her how to make some traditional Dutch dishes.

Two years later, Francis and Briana tied the knot in a simple but elegant ceremony.

 

Sources:  Huff Post; Corpus Christi; Tahoma Park Church

Gifts From the East

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” – Matthew 2:2

Wise Men from the East traveled all the way to Jerusalem to see the King of the Jews.  They didn’t know where exactly to find Him.  They had see His star and followed it.  It led them there in Jerusalem.  They visited King Herod, believing that he would know where the Christ was but the king didn’t.  He was greatly troubled by this and called the chief priests and scribes together to inquire where the Christ was to be born.  They told him what the prophecy said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:  ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

King Herod met alone with the Wise Men and told them that the Child was in Bethlehem, tell them to, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  The visitors left and the star which they had seen in the East went before them and led them to where the Child was.  Seeing the star filled them with great joy and they rejoiced.

They went into the house and saw the young Child with His mother, Mary.  They fell down and worshipped Him.  They presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. What was the significance of each of these gifts?  Were they simply customary gifts from the regions or were they chosen specifically?  Gold is a precious and valuable metal.   It is rare and it doesn’t tarnish.  Precious things and ornaments are made of gold.  In this instance, gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a perfume or incense.  It was used in religious and spiritual rituals all over the world..  It represents Jesus’ priesthood.  Myrrh is a bitter gum and costly perfume which comes from a certain tree or shrub in Arabia and Ethiopia.  It is also an antiseptic used for embalming.  The myrrh prefigures Jesus’ death and embalming.

These gifts were not arbitrary.  They were carefully chosen for the One whom they traveled far to behold and worship.  They brought their gifts to Him because they believed that He was the Messiah, the King of the Jews.  What a beautiful story of faith and the love of God who sent His Son to die for everyone.  It is a testimony that Jesus is Savior of Jews and Gentiles.  He came to save the world.

This Christmas season, reflect on the roles of Jesus–King, Priest and Savior.  Think of someone who needs to know that God loves them and offer them His most precious Gift to mankind–His Son.

wise-mens-gifts

Source: Natural Living Family