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

snobbish woman

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.

black-woman-praying

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

The Visitor

327d50c8aed2c9fbb1c46606cee51177It was Sunday and the church was quickly filling up.  He stood there, smiling and watched as Zendaya walked in and found a seat in the third pew.

“Father O’Reilly,” a voice said behind him and he turned around.  A tall, slender and attractive young woman was smiling at him.  “Don’t you recognize me?  It’s Aileen McCarthy.”

A big smile broke out on his face.  “Oh, yes, now I remember who you are.  The last time I saw you you were this high.  How are you?  How is your family?  What are you doing here in Cape Town?”

“I’m fine, thank you.  I recently moved to Dublin because of a new and exciting job opportunity and I love it.  Dad, Mom, Sinead and Liam are all doing very well.  They all send their regards.”

“The service is about to start.  Afterwards, we will go to my office and catch up some more, all right?”

She nodded.  “Yes, Father O’Reilly.”

They parted company.  He went up on the podium while she found a seat.

Zendaya had watched them talking and was filled with jealousy.  They seemed to know each other.  Who was she?  What was she doing here?  After the service, she wanted to go over to her and introduce herself but she left the sanctuary through a side door and went for a walk instead.  When she returned a half-hour later, she went to his office to see him but the door was closed.  She raised her hand to knock when she heard a woman’s laugh.  She froze.  He wasn’t alone.  She was in there with him.  Bristling, she turned and strode away.  She went straight up to her room and slammed the door shut.

“I hope you don’t mind having sandwiches and coffee for lunch.”

“Not at all, Father.”

“Good.  I thought it would be a good idea for us to have lunch while we chatted.”

“I guess it’s safe for me to tell you that I had a major crush on you and that’s why I used to come to church every Sunday.”

He laughed.  “Whatever works, I guess.  So, is there a young man in your life?”

She leaned forward in the chair.  “As a matter of fact, there is.  Do you remember Rory O’Connor?”

“You mean the last High King of Ireland?”

young-professional-corporate-headshot-of-a-business-woman-She laughed.  “I see you haven’t lost your sense of humour, Father.”

He chuckled.  “I believe good, clean humour benefits the soul.  Yes, I remember Rory and as I recall, he was a fine lad.”

“We started dating from university and last week he asked me to marry him.  I said yes.  I was hoping that you would marry us.  The wedding is next year May.”

“Congratulations.  I will make sure that I clear my calendar.”

“Thank you, Father.”

They chatted for another hour and a half and then it was time for her to leave.  He walked with her to the back entrance of the church where the parking lot was.  They shook hands warmly.  “It was really good seeing you, young lady.  And I hope that the next time you’re in Capetown, you will stop by the church again to see me.”

She smiled.  “I will,” she promised.  “And I hope to see you in May.”

“You will hear from me regarding that.  Please give my regards to your parents, your siblings and Rory.  Goodbye, Aileen.”

“Goodbye, Father O’Reilly.”

He watched as she walked to her car and drove away before he went back inside the church and locked the door.  He went to the rectory to change into his regular black cassock before leaving for his usual rounds of visiting the shut in members of the church and the sick.  By the time he returned to the parish, it was time for supper.

Zendaya was in her room, trying to read a book of Devotions which Sister Roberts had lent her but she couldn’t concentrate.  She kept thinking about Father O’Reilly and the young woman.  She wondered how long they were together in his office.  She knew that he wasn’t there right now.  Every Sunday afternoon until evening, he would be out making his rounds, visiting church members at their homes or in the nursing homes.  She would have to wait until later that night to see him.

The way she reacted when she saw him with the pretty stranger made her realize that her feelings for him were more than just physical attraction.  She had never been jealous in her life–not even over Anesu, not that he ever gave her reason to be but she knew that if she were to see him talking and looking very cozy with another woman, it wouldn’t make her react the same way.  She couldn’t remember a word of Father O’Reilly’s sermon.  And when she went up to receive her communion, she avoided looking at him.  And when she saw him give it to the young woman and the smiles they exchanged, she seethed with jealousy.

Frustrated, she closed the book and got up from the chair.  She walked over to the window and looked out at the courtyard below.  The sun was still high in the sky.  She wondered if he and the young woman would see each other again.  She tried not to think about them but it was impossible.  She paced the room.  She thought of going into town for a while but where would she go?  Stellenbosch!  She always wanted to go there and now was as good a time as any.  She called for a taxi, said goodbye to Sister Hughes and left. It wasn’t until she was on her way that she realized that she hadn’t told Sister Hughes where she was going.

It took her 45 minutes to get there.  She walked around like a tourist, drinking in the natural beauty and oak-lined avenues and the Cape Dutch architecture.  She had lunch at the De Warenmarkt before visiting the Village Museum.  By the time she left Stellenbosch, it was nine-thirty.  It felt good to be somewhere she had never been before.  By the time she got back to the parish, it was after ten and dinner was past.  Fortunately, she had grabbed something to eat and had it on the drive over.  

She had just entered her room and was about to change when Father O’Reilly walked in.  He closed the door quietly behind him before he went over to her.  He looked very serious.  “I saw the taxi driving away as I came up the path.  That means you just got back.”

614full-kai-newmanShe leaned against the wall, her heart pounding as her eyes met his in a steady gaze.  “Yes.”

He glanced at his watch.  “It’s after ten.  According to Sister Hughes, you went out since 2 this afternoon.  So, you were gone for almost eight hours.”

“Yes.”

“Where did you go?”

“Didn’t Sister Hughes tell you?”

“She told me that you went out but she didn’t know where because you didn’t tell her.  Where did you go, Zendaya?”

“If you must know, I went to Stellenbosch.”

“Why?”

Her chin lifted just a fraction.  “I wanted to get away from the parish for a while.”

“Why go there?  Why not go for a walk around here?”

“I’m tired of going for walks around here.  Besides, I’ve always wanted to visit Stellenbosch.”

“Were you there alone?” he demanded.  “Or were you there with him?”

“What does it matter if I was there alone or with Anesu?” She moved away from the wall and was about to walk past him.

His expression darkened and he caught her by the shoulders.  Jealousy and anger flashed in his eyes.  “It matters to me,” he muttered between clenched teeth.

She tried to pull away from him but he was too strong.  “I was there ALONE.  And for your information I haven’t seen Anesu since I came to Cape Town.” She struggled against him again and this time he released her.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I acted the way I did just now because I was jealous.”

She walked over to the window and stood looking out with her back to him for several minutes.  Then, turning around she said to him, “This morning before Mass, I saw you talking to a young woman I’ve never seen before.  Who was she?”

“That was Aileen.  She’s visiting from Ireland.”

“How well do you know her?”

“I’ve known her since she was a little girl.”

“Well, she’s not a little girl anymore, is she?  I came by your office to see you but she was in there with you.”

“Yes, we were catching up because we haven’t seen each other for years.”

“She’s very pretty.”

“Yes, she is.”

“So, are you planning to see her again?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I will be seeing her in May.”

“Are you attracted to her?”

He went over to her, his eyes searching her face.  “Is this why you’re acting like this?” he asked.  “You think I’m attracted to Aileen?”

Zendaya didn’t answer and she lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see what was in them.

“Zendaya, there’s nothing between Aileen and me.  She’s just a girl I knew from my village.   She’s here in Cape Town on holiday and came by the parish to see me, that’s all.”

“You said that you’re going to see her in May.”

“Yes, because that’s when she’s getting married.  She wants me to officiate.”

“She’s engaged?” She raised her eyes to look at him then.

“Yes and to a very nice young man.”

“Oh.”

He cupped her face between his hands, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “Zendaya, you have no reason to be jealous of her or anyone else,” he told her huskily.  “I don’t want anyone but you.”  He lowered his head and kissed her fiercely, groaning when she responded.

They exchanged wild kisses for several minutes and then separated long enough to remove their clothes.  Then, they were back in each other’s arms, kissing feverishly until he scooped her up and carried her over to the bed.

 

Next is, Zendaya Leaves.

Sources:  Come to Capetown; Love Capetown; Tripadvisor

Meg’s Story

The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal – Gecko & Fly

thumb_233241_420_630_0_0_portraitI felt guilty.  Guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s gone.  He passed away a month ago from a second stroke.  It happened while I was at the grocery store.  When I got home, there was an ambulance and police cars in front.  Our grand-daughter had called 911.

I feel guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s dead.  Does that make me a heartless person?  It isn’t that I didn’t love him.  The sad thing is that I did.  Even though he didn’t love me, I loved him.  As a teenager, I used to read about unrequited love.  I never thought it would happen to me.  We met in college.  I developed a huge crush on him but he had eyes for my older sister, Elaine but she ended up marrying another boy.  On a rebound, Albert dated me and then married me soon after we discovered that I was pregnant.  We didn’t go on a honeymoon and I had to quit my job as a nurse.

I didn’t know that it was abuse because he didn’t hit me.  If he hit me, I would have left.  No, I didn’t get slapped or punched or shoved or anything like that.  Instead, I got talked down to at home when we were alone or in front of company.  I was embarrassed in public.  I could feel people staring at us and caught the pitying glances of both men and women.  I didn’t want their pity.  I didn’t want them to notice me.  I wanted to be invisible.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.  I wanted to be somewhere else.  More often than not, I wanted to be someone else.  I resented my sister Elaine because she had the marriage I wanted.  Her husband, Larry treated her like a queen.  I resented her because I knew that my husband would have preferred to marry her instead of me.  More than once, he said to me, “I married the wrong sister.”

He treated me with contempt.  I could see the disgust and dislike on his face when he looked at me.  And I often wondered why.  Why did he have such an aversion towards me?  I wasn’t ugly.  I was a good person.  I was a good wife to him and a good mother to our kids yet nothing I did seem to please him.  He disrespected me in front of our kids, embarrassed me in front of friends and family and in public and he became very controlling.  He controlled whom I talked to, where I went, my money and allowance.  He made decisions without consulting me, telling me that he was the breadwinner and the man of the house so he was the one was going to make all of the decisions.  I was Anglican but he wanted our kids to be Catholic.  He chose their schools.  I had no say in the matter.

Whenever he got upset, he called me names or criticized my cooking or the way I kept the house or did the laundry or ironing.  After a while nothing I did was good enough.  As the years went by, our marriage relationship was in a dismal state and I was glad when our kids moved out.  I didn’t want them to be subjected to my abuse anymore.  I should have left Albert after the kids moved out but I didn’t.  You see, he suffered a stroke and after spending a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation.  Afterwards, he moved back home and I took care of him.  In spite of everything, I was still his wife.  I did it out more out of obligation than love.

Things didn’t improve as I had foolishly hoped.  He became even more controlling and demanding.  He demanded that I handed over all bank statements, receipts.  He timed my trips and forbade me from non-essential ones.  He belittled me.  He continued to criticize my cooking, housekeeping and appearance.  He accused me of lying about my whereabouts and of cheating on him.  No matter how much I denied it, he refused to believe me.  And he called me a good for nothing liar and cheat.  He even accused me of getting pregnant on purpose so that he had to marry me.  No, he didn’t hit me but his words were more painful and lasting than physical bruises.

If it weren’t for my faith, I would have given up a long time ago.  I kept telling myself that there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel and that God never gave us more than we could handle.  Things couldn’t continue the way they were going.  There had to be an end to this nightmare.  There had to be.  This wasn’t God’s idea of a marriage.  Marriage was a loving partnership between a man and a woman.  Woman was made from a rib from the man’s side which meant that she was his equal not someone he could treat like a doormat.  She too was created in God’s image.  They were supposed to be one–complimenting each other.  One wasn’t more superior than the other.

There were times when I wished I had never met Albert but then I think about our sons.  They are terrific, godly men and wonderful husbands and fathers.  I thank God for them everyday.  They had urged me to leave their father before he had the stroke and I wish I had.

Anyway, my marriage came to an abrupt end when Albert suffered another stroke and died a day later.  When I got home from the grocery store, I saw the ambulance and police cars out front.  I was numb as I watched the paramedics put him into the back of the ambulance.  There were tears on my face but I don’t know if they were tears of grief and sorrow.  My grand-daughter and I followed in my car.  We went to the hospital.  She stayed with me until the evening when her father picked her up.  I spent the night in the hospital.  Early the next morning, they came and told me that Albert was dead.  I called Andrew, our elder son and asked him to tell the rest of the family.  I went home, showered and changed and returned to the hospital.  I asked my daughter-in-law, Sandy to contact the same funeral home where my father’s service was held.

The weeks following were busy with funeral arrangements and other matters.  I was thankful when it the funeral service was behind me.  I wanted to return to some normalcy in my life.  I decided to sell the house because it was too big for one person and it was filled with a lot of painful memories for me.  I moved into a low-rise condo building in a nice neighborhood with a park nearby.  Weeks after moving there, I decided to join the Foster Grandparent Program so that I could help children who have been abused or neglected.  It feels good to bring love and comfort to someone else.

My life is finally what I always wanted it to be.  I’m a widow.  I don’t plan on ever getting married again.  I tried it once and it didn’t work out.  Now, I will just enjoy being a mother and grandmother and being a mentor.  I believe that I’m where God wants me to be right now.  I have recently written a book with the help of Greta, my daughter-in-law who happens to be a best selling author, called, Abuse By Any Other Name, about my experience as an older woman of domestic abuse and the idea that it isn’t really abuse if there isn’t any physical violence.  I want women to know that abuse happens to older women too and that it isn’t okay to stay in a marriage because he isn’t hitting you.  There are other types of abuse.

One of my favorite quotes is:  Don’t let your loyalty become slavery. If they don’t appreciate what you bring to the table, then let them eat alone.  I let my loyalty to my husband blind me to my reality.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t wait until one of you dies.

Meg’s story is fiction but there are older women like her who are victims of domestic abuse.  According to The Guardian, more than 10% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner are aged 66 or over but they are the group least likely to leave their abuser and seek help.   For older women, domestic abuse often isn’t physical.  There is emotional, verbal and financial abuse.

Jess Stonefield, a contributing writer outlines the following ways in which older women can take back their power and begin to recognize — and fight — signs of domestic abuse in their lives:

Get real. Familiarize yourself with modern definitions of abuse and be honest with yourself about whether there is abuse in your marriage or partnership. Note the ways it has impacted your life. Name it. Acknowledge it. Allow yourself to grieve the parts of your life you have lost to it.

Speak up. Find a counselor or support group where you can share your story and find empowerment from others who have experienced and overcomesimilar challenges.

Define your options. It’s possible that you don’t feel comfortable choosing divorce or living on your own in this season of your life due to physical or financial limitations. You still have options. For instance, an assisted living community could provide the safety and shelter you need to recover your physical or emotional health. Women’s shelters, Adult Protective Services (APS) or friends and family may also offer short-term solutions. Make a list of possibilities and talk to a trusted friend about which might be best for you.

Get your finances in order. One of the main reasons older women choose to stay in abusive relationships is financial dependence. Many spent a large part of their lives in the role of homemaker and may have no financial savings of their own. Check out these tips for preparing financially before leaving your partner.

Be your own advocate. Repeat this sentence: “I deserve better.” Know that your voice matters. If a health care professional, member of law enforcement or even a son or daughter minimizes the abuse happening in your marriage, do not acquiesce. Be your own best advocate and refuse to take any less than you deserve: a safe, happy life and relationship.

Don’t be the forgotten victims of domestic violence.  Take action.  Protect yourself.

Sources:  The Guardian; Next Avenue; National Institute on Aging; Senior Corps; Gecko & Fly Quotes

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.”

Priest3

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

Janco’s Story (Part Two)

kult_model_Geoffrey_Camus_209688Five years have passed since I took Nata to the shelter for street children.  A lot has happened within that time.  I’m still handing out tracts but now I’m a Youth leader in my church.  My Mother is back home and she hasn’t touch a drink since she checked into the Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centre.  She is working part-time at a bookstore.

My brother Jacquan is out of prison, a completely changed person.  After my first visit to him, he read the tract I left and was curious to learn more about God and this Jesus who would die for him.  I took other tracts on my next visit and then I learned that the Prison Ministries department had a programme with the prison where my brother was.  Volunteers visited the prisoners, mentor them and study the Bible with them.

Jacquan accepted Christ as his Savior and when he left the prison he was baptized in our church.  Mama and I were there.  He got a job working in the warehouse of a distribution company while studying to become a pastor, believe it or not.  It goes to show you that with God nothing is impossible.  In his free time, he shares his story and the Gospel with kids living on the streets, prostitutes and drug dealers.  Some of them listen and invite him to go again while others curse and threaten him.  He also visits the prison where he had spent ten years of his life to mentor, pray and study the Bible with the inmates.  I never thought I would ever be proud of my big brother but I am.  He was dealing drugs and now he sharing the Gospel.  He was a prisoner and now he’s going to be a preacher.  All he needed was a second chance and God gave it to him.  Now he could spend the rest of his life doing good.

Nata stayed at the shelter until she graduated from high school.  I was there for the ceremony.  She didn’t return home but went to live with a cousin and her family.  While she was at the shelter, I visited her as promised and was relieved to see that she was happy there.  She is going to Wits University now and studying Computer Science.  Good for her because this has been a male dominated field of study all over the world and Africa needs more women computer scientists.

I am no longer working at the grocery store.  I got a job as a Social Media Coordinator at a Christian organization and love every minute of it.  And my work as Youth Leader keeps me busy.  I look forward to teaching Sabbath School, worship, fellowship, our weekly meetings, outreach and recreational outings.  I am in charge of a terrific group of young people.  I learn as much from them as they learn from me.  Tomorrow, is Youth Ministry Day and I have invited Nata to come.  The youth are in charge of entire day’s programme.  I am nervous and excited.  The only thing I am responsible for is introducing the speaker who is none other than my brother, Jacquan.  My best buddy, Gidea offered to do the special music.  He has an incredible voice.  After the service there will be a fellowship meal which I’m sure everyone is looking forward to.

Right now, I’m meeting with the group participating in the service in my flat.  We are going over the details and making sure that everything is in order.  Lesedi has bravely volunteered to teach Sabbath School.  I have no doubt that she will do an outstanding job.  She has the making of a leader.  I am considering making her my Sabbath School Superintendent.  One of these days, I will discuss it with her.

After the meeting is over, I pray and then they leave.  The flat seems very quiet now that they are gone.  I head back into the living-room and turn on the television.  I was about to watch 3ABN when my doorbell rings.  Did one of the youth forget something?  I hurry to the door and look through the keyhole.  It’s Nata.  I quickly open the door.

She stares up at me.  She’s wearing a black top and denim skirt and a red scarf on her head.  “Hi,” she said.  nata

“Hi,” I reply, wondering what brings her to my neck of the woods.  I lean against the door.  I can’t get over how pretty she is.  “I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow.  Have you come to tell me in person that you can’t come?”

She shook her head.  “No, I will be there.  I just came by to thank you in person for being so kind to me and to ask you if you would study the Bible with me.  We don’t have to do it now or here.”

My face brightened.  “Sure, I would be more than happy to study the Bible with you.  We can do so on Sunday in the park just around the corner from here.  Tomorrow when I see you we can decide when and where we will meet.”

She nodded.  “All right.  Thanks, Janco.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Have you been in touch with your parents at all since you left home?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Nata, at some point you need to face them and deal with the issues you have with them.”

She lowered her eyes.  “I’m not ready to do that yet.”

“Okay,” I said.  I didn’t want to push her.  “It’s best to do it when you’re ready.  It’s getting dark, you’d better head home now.  Do you have far to go?”

“No.  My cousin is a twenty minute bus ride from here.”

“Would you like me to walk you to the bus stop and wait with you until the bus comes?”

She raised her eyes to look at me.  “You don’t have to,” she said quietly.

“Wait here,” I said as I leaned away from the door.  I went inside, turned off the television, grabbed my keys and went back.  I closed and locked the door.  “Let’s go.”

We walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus.  There were a couple of other people waiting there.  “Do you still live alone?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“So, you’re not married then?  I don’t see a wedding ring on your finger but I know that most Seventh-day Adventists don’t wear jewelry.”

“No, I’m not married.”

“What about a girlfriend?”

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend.” I was about to ask her if she had a boyfriend but just then the bus arrived.  Lousy timing.  “See you tomorrow, Nata.”

“Good night, Janco.”  She smiled up at me before she turned and joined the small line to board the bus.

I saw her sat beside the window and look out.  She waved as the bus pulled away.  I watched it until it disappeared before I returned to my place.  I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.

Saturday came and I was up and about early, anxious to get the day started.  I had a light breakfast, showered and put on a new suit.  Yesterday I had gotten a haircut.  I looked sharp.  I smiled at my reflection before I grabbed my Bible, wallet and keys and left the apartment.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  I put the top down on my car and enjoyed the half-hour ride to church.  Already, the parking lot was filling up.

As I made my way from the parking lot to the front entrance of the church, I was greeted by church members and visitors.  I spent some time chatting with people before I went down into the basement and into one of the rooms to meet with the youth and have prayer with them.  At the back of my mind I was hoping that Nata would come.

Everything went exceptionally well.  I was so proud of my youth group and the special music by Gidea was a sermon in itself.  And speaking of sermons, Jacquan’s message, Set Free, brought tears to my eyes and I saw other people dabbing their eyes.  At the end of the service, many people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the program.  I was very pleased and I shared the positive feedback with everyone who participated.  I hugged Jacquan and told him that I was very proud of him.  When we parted, we were both in tears.  My mother came and whisked him away.  As I was about to leave the reception area and head down to the fellowship hall to have something to eat, I saw Nata.  My heart leapt in my chest.  I was so happy to see her.  I went over to her.

“You came,” I said.  She was wearing a yellow jacket over a floral dress with splashes of yellow in it.  For the first time since I knew her, she wasn’t wearing the red shawl on her head.

“I told you I would,” she said.  “And I’m happy I did.  I was truly blessed.”

“I’m thrilled to hear that.  Are you going to stay and have something to eat and meet some of the youth?”

She nodded.  “Sure.  You look very handsome in your suit.”

I smiled.  “Thank you.  And you look very pretty.  Let’s head on down now.”

We went downstairs to the fellowship hall which was buzzing with lively conversation.  It settled down when the pastor announced that he was going to say a prayer.  He offered thanks and a blessing of the meal and then people were helping themselves to the different delicious looking and smelling dishes.  Nata was in front of me in the line.  After we finished helping ourselves to the food, we found a couple of seats and sat down.  For several minutes we were alone.

“In case you’re wondering, I don’t have a boyfriend,” she said suddenly, startling me.

I felt my face get hot.  “That’s good to know,” I managed to say after a while.

She smiled.  “So, there’s no reason why you and I can’t go out with each other.”

“No, there isn’t.  Are you free this evening?”

“Yes.”

“We can go bowling and then have pizza afterwards.”

“That sounds great.”

Just then several youth joined us.  I introduced Nata to them.  We had a great time, socializing.  By the time we were ready to go our separate ways, Nata had been invited to our next outdoor activity and to attend church the following week.  I dropped her home and I told her that I would be back at six-thirty to take her bowling.

Our first date was a blast and it led to other dates.  We have been dating for almost a year and today we are riding in a cable car to the top of Table Mountain where I will propose to Nata.  I’m nervous and excited but I have no doubt that this is God’s will for my life.  The Lord has opened His hand and poured out so many blessings on my life.  I am so thankful to Him for His love and goodness not only to me but to my family and Nata.  True to my promise, I studied the Bible with her.  Two months ago, she answered the altar call and accepted Christ.  Now she is a baptized member of my church.  Yes, God is good.  He has turned so many lives around.

Sources:  Crossroad Prison MinistriesUPMI; SDA Church; The Conversation

His Best Mechanic

wk-119-tinker

“We’ll have your car ready by five,” Mr. Brown promised.  “She’s a beaut.”  His gaze ran admiringly over the sleek Bentley.

“Thanks.  I’ve had her for ten years.  It’s my first time bringing her in for service.”

“She’s in good hands.”

“I’ll be back at five.”

“Wow.  She’s purring like a cat.  Thank you, Sir.”

“Don’t thank me.  Thank my daughter.”

“Your daughter?”

“She loves to tinker with cars.  That’s why she’s my best mechanic.”

75 Words

 

 

This was written for the Weekend Writing Prompt by Sammi Cox. For instructions, click Here.

A New Experience

roger-bultot-synagogue

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

My family and I drive past it every day on our way to drop our son to school. It’s a beautiful old building in a quiet neighborhood. I’ve often wondered what it looks like inside.

I recently learned that the word synagogue comes from the Greek word for gathering together. It can be a house of prayer, of learning or a meeting place.  It’s a place where people of shared faith feel at home.

I have a Jewish friend. I wonder if she wouldn’t mind me tagging along one Saturday. I want to experience what their worship service is like.

100 Words

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

Source:  BBC