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

The Better Choice

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” – Luke 10:41, 42

Years ago, I had two choices–study my Bible or watch TV.  Unfortunately, I chose to watch TV. This happened after I spoke to my son about making better choices. Before putting him to bed, I read the story of when Jesus visited Martha’s house.

Martha welcomed Jesus before she was back in the kitchen, preparing a big meal for Him and His disciples. Her sister, Mary, however, went into the sitting room where Jesus was and sat at His feet. She listened as He taught the Word. Meanwhile, Martha was busy, distracted and stressed out as she tried to get things ready for her guests. I can just imagine her fuming and fretting because she was doing all the work.

After a while she marched out of the kitchen and approached Jesus, demanding, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Why did she go to Him instead of going to Mary directly? It’s possible that she thought that Jesus would get better results.

The way she spoke to Jesus comes across as rude but Jesus wasn’t offended. Instead, He chastised her gently. She was focusing on what was not important. She was distracted. Mary, on the other hand, had made the better choice. She chose to spend time with Jesus, listening to His Word instead of being in the kitchen. She chose worship over service. She put Jesus first. Jesus commended her for putting fellowship with Him above feeding Him.

Can you imagine Martha’s reaction to what Jesus said to her? How would you have reacted if you were in her place? Walk off in a huff, furious because Jesus was taking Mary’s side? Or admit that He had a point. She was getting herself bent out of shape, trying to get the food ready and Jesus was in no hurry to eat.

What do you think Martha should have done? I think she should have done what Mary did. Go and spend time with Jesus and listen to His Word. And when He was finished, then she and Mary serve the food together.

What things are distracting you? Is it work, blogging, texting, TV, household chores, church ministries? I encouraged my son not to be so distracted with playing that he neglects to spend time with the Lord. Like Mary, choose to sit at Jesus’ feet and don’t allow anything or anyone to distract you. Don’t replace worship with service.

 

Right-Decision-Wrong-Decision

Sacred Vows

His strategy for forgetting Justine Samuels was to keep busy with his work as the local parish priest but his efforts failed miserably.  No matter where he was or what he was doing, he couldn’t stop thinking about her and wishing that he could see her again.  He missed her terribly.  Against his better judgment, he had continued to see her even after he realized that he was in love with her.  His excuse was that her grandmother was one of his parishioners and it was his duty to visit her especially since she was unable to attend church.

On several occasions, he visited the elderly woman and prayed for her.  Then he would spend a few minutes in the living-room talking to Justine.  It was during one of those times that she broke down and confessed that she didn’t know how much longer she could continue to care for her grandmother on her own while worrying that she could lose her job because the company might be downsizing.  Her job meant a lot to her because she was able to work from home.  She had moved into her grandmother’s cottage after the elderly woman had fallen ill.

Touched with compassion, he offered to counsel her.  They met once a week in her grandmother’s bright and airy sun room and the sessions lasted for an hour.  Sometimes he would stay afterward and have a cup of tea or he would leave immediately after.

Soon he found himself dropping by even when they didn’t have a counseling session on pretext of checking on her grandmother.  Afterwards, he would feel guilty and go to the chapel and pray for forgiveness.  Try as he did, he couldn’t stay away and during the summer when the weather was pleasant, Justine and he would sit outside in the garden while her grandmother was taking a nap in the living-room.

One afternoon, they were out in the garden, sitting on the bench, talking.  Behind them was a climbing rose bush winding its way up the side of the house to second floor window.  He got up and went over to it.  “Whenever I see a rose, I can’t help but marvel at its beauty and intricacy.  Have you ever heard the quote:  Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.

She shook her head, getting up and going over to him.  “No, I’ve never heard that quote.  Which of the two categories do you fall into?”

“The second.  I praise Him for putting roses among thorns—beauty among the ugliness that exists in this world.”

“For me, the roses represent God’s grace among the thorns which are the trials in life.”

He reached out to pluck a rose from the bush and winced when its thorn pricked him in the palm.  As he reached into his robe for his handkerchief, she took his hand in hers and gently turned it over to examine the wound.  The touch of her fingers stirred feelings in him and mortified, he pulled his hand away.  She looked startled and when she would have reached for his hand again, he stepped back, putting some distance between them.  He pressed his handkerchief into his palm.  It wasn’t bleeding much.  The wound was the size of a needle prick.  “I must be going,” he said tightly.

“But you only got here ten minutes ago,” she protested.

“Yes.  I have matters I need to attend to.”

“Will I see you again tomorrow?”

“No, Justine.  We can’t see each other anymore.”

“But why not?”

“God help me, but I love you.”

Her eyes widened.  “I love you too,” she confessed.  “I’ve wanted to tell you that for such a long time.”

He dragged his fingers through his hair in agitation.  “There’s no future for us.  I’m a Catholic priest and I adhere to the church’s teachings.  I made a vow of celibacy that celibacy so I could identify with Christ who was celibate.   In an act of sacrificial love I vowed to give myself completely to the service of God and His church.”

“But where in the Bible does it say that priests aren’t allowed to fall in love and get married?” she asked, looking confused.  “Aaron and Caiaphas were high priests and they were married.”

“A Catholic priest follows the example of Christ who is our High Priest and He wasn’t married.  His gave His life completely to serving His Father and shepherding His church.  It was Christ who said in Matthew 22:30, ‘In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.’”

“But how do you explain what Paul said about some people forbidding others from marrying, teaching human doctrines and putting traditions above God’s Commandments?”

“Paul made it clear that being single allows a person to give his undivided attention in serving our Lord.  He recommended celibacy because he himself was celibate.”

“But wasn’t it Paul who said ‘let them marry for it is better to marry than to burn with passion’?”

“He was talking about those who can’t exercise self-control.”

“Tell me, Father Montgomery, how do I stop myself from burning with passion?”

“Marry Robert.”  Robert was a member of the church she used to attend before her grandmother became an invalid.  On a few occasions he had stopped by the house to see how she and her grandmother were doing.  “He cares for you.”

“Is that what you want?” she demanded.

His face went pale.  “It’s not a matter of what I want but what must be.”

“So, this is goodbye.  I’m never going to see you again.”  Her voice trembled and he could see the beginning of tears in her eyes.   “This is so wrong.  You and I should be together.”

“What would be wrong is for me to turn my back on my faith, my church and God because I love you,” he muttered between clenched teeth.  He reached out and his hand trembled as he touched her face.  She caught his hand and pressed her lips into the palm where the thorn had pricked him.  Groaning, he wrenched his hand away and bolted from her.  That was the last time he saw her.  He stopped visiting her and sent the Vicar in his place.

Now he was faced with a dilemma.  His love for Justine was affecting his life and his work.    He had to do something about it, but what?  He went into the chapel and spent the next few hours in prayer, pouring his heart out as he sought God’s guidance.

Where is he?  Justine wondered as she sat there in the pew, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.  He wouldn’t be pleased to see her, she knew that, but she had to come, if only to see him once more and to tell him that she had employed a live-in caregiver for her grandmother and that she had left her job for a better one.

As soon as the service was over, she went up to the Vicar.  “Excuse me, Vicar” she said.  “Where’s Father Montgomery?”

“He is no longer with the church.”

Her heart sank.  “Did he transfer to another parish?”

The vicar shook his head.  “No, he left the priesthood.”

She stared at him, in shock.  “He left the church?”

“Yes.  Everyone was shocked except me.  He had started to question the teachings of the church and his heart was no longer in what he was doing.  I suspect this had to do with a woman although he never said anything.  He was unhappy and I told him that whatever he decided to do, make sure it’s a decision he can live with.  After much prayer and fasting, he decided that the best thing for him to do is to leave the priesthood and the Church.  I wished him well.  Perhaps God will lead him in another direction where he can serve Him as faithfully as he has served him all these years.”

Justine thanked him for his time and left.  She walked out of the church in a daze.  Father Montgomery had left the Church.  Where was he?  “Oh, Lord, You know where he is.  Please lead me to him.” As she got into her car, she got a strong impression to go to the park opposite where she lived.   After she parked her car in the garage, she crossed the quiet street and went into the park.  About ten minutes later, she spotted him sitting on the bench facing the duck pond.  Heart thudding she approached him.  “Hello,” she called.

He glanced up.  “Hello,” he replied, quietly, rising to his feet.  His expression was serious as he met her gaze.  “I was coming to see you.  Your grandmother’s nurse told me where you lived.  When I got here, I decided to come to the park first.”

“I heard that you left the Church.  What should I call you now?”

“John.  You can call me John.  How have you been, Justine?  I think about you every waking moment.”

“I’ve been miserable,” she told him.  “I missed you so much.  I went to the parish today just to see you but you weren’t there and the Vicar explained what happened.  Why did you leave, John?”

“I left because I had too many questions about the church’s teachings which contradicted what was in the Bible and—because of you.  I couldn’t hide from my feelings.  It’s funny.  I believed that the robe I wore would protect me from feelings I believed that I shouldn’t be having.  I realized that underneath the robe was a man—a man who desperately loved a woman who was right when she said that it was wrong for us not to be together.  Will you forgive me for running away from a love that no sacred vows could quench?”

She nodded, reaching for his hands.  “There’s nothing to forgive.  I know that it must have been hard for you to leave an institution you have known and served for most of your life but I truly believe that God has a great plan for your life.”

He pulled her closer and bent his head so that his forehead was resting against hers.  “Yes, I believe that He does and you are a big part of that plan.”

She closed her eyes as they stood there in the sunshine, silently thanking God for granting her the desires of her heart.

 

 

 

Sources:  American Magazine; Catholic Answers; Vox; EWTN; Catholic.com; Diocese of Trenton

The Christmas Present

It was Christmas Day and she was sitting by the tree, going through the presents.  There were several–from family, friends, co-workers and…Kevin.  Kevin.  He was her brother in-law’s youngest brother and eleven years younger than her yet she felt like a lovesick schoolgirl whenever she was around him.  Every year they exchanged Christmas presents.  His were always so creative and unique.  She loved them.  Last year he had given her a box of chocolate soaps which she truly enjoyed.  She couldn’t wait to see what he got for her this year.

She reached for the neatly wrapped present, read the card which said, “Having you in my life has given me a reason to celebrate every day.  Merry Christmas.”  What a lovely sentiment.  Setting the card aside, she eagerly unwrapped the present, anxious to see what was inside.  There was a little box inside and she opened it.  Her eyes widened when she saw the sterling silver heart necklace.  She examined the heart closely.  On it were written the words, “Be Mine”.

Her heart was pounding now.  There was no mistaking what this meant.  She had seen those words on dozens of Valentine’s cards.  It was something a person would say to the one they loved.   Was Kevin telling her that he loved her and wanted to be with her?  She sincerely hoped so because she felt the same way.  Yes, in spite of their age difference, she was in love with Kevin.  She held the heart in her hand and stared at it, thinking it was the most precious present she had ever received.  Putting it carefully back in the box, she got up and went over to the phone to call.  She picked up the receiver and was about to dial his number when the doorbell rang.

Hanging up the phone, she went to answer the door.  It was Kevin.  She opened the door, her heart racing as she met his gaze.  He looked a bit nervous as he stood there in the hallway.  “Good morning,” she greeted him and stood aside for him to go in.  After she closed the door behind him, she turned to face him.  “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” he answered quietly.

She showed him the box and opening it, she took out the necklace.  “Thank you for your beautiful present,” she said.  She handed it to him and turned around, lifting her hair so that her neck was exposed.  “Would you mind putting it on for me?”

She felt him put it around her neck, his knuckles brushing against her skin, making her shiver.  When he was done, she turned to face him.  He was staring at her, his expression no longer tense.  She returned his gaze.  “I’ve been yours since the first time we met,” she told him huskily, reaching up to brush his hair back from his forehead.

His eyes darkened and he caught her hand.  He pressed his lips into the palm, making her tremble.  “I’ve wanted to tell you for such a long time how I feel about you but never worked up the courage until now.  I decided that the necklace would say what I couldn’t say.  I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so nervous.  I wasn’t sure how you felt about me and worried that you might not accept this present. That’s why I came over as soon as I could to find out if you like the necklace.  Then, when you asked me to put it on, it gave me hope.”

“All those times when we were together, I wanted to tell you how I felt but I kept thinking that you should be with someone younger.”

“Do you still think that?” he asked thickly as he pulled her against him.

“No,” she groaned and reaching up she pulled his head down to hers.  They exchanged passionate kisses for a while then, she drew back to look up at him, her breath unsteady.  “There’s a communal service at my church today at eleven.  We can go to that first and then go and celebrate Christmas with the family.  What do you say?”

He nodded, his face flushed.  “I say it’s a good idea.”

“Have you had breakfast?”

He shook his head.  “As soon as I got up, I showered, dressed and came straight over here.  Breakfast was the last thing on my mind.”

She took his hand and led him over to the table.  “Let’s have breakfast and then head over to the church.”  While he sat at the table, she shared out the breakfast and he smiled as she set a plate in front of him.  It was the Egg Croissant Casserole, his favorite.  His mother used to make it at Christmas time too.  His mouth watered just at the sight of it and he was ready to dig into it.  But first, she said a prayer.  Afterwards, she raised her glass of orange juice.  “Here’s to a wonderful Christmas.”

He raised his.  “Here’s to joy, peace and…love.”  They touched their glasses.  “Thank you for making this Christmas the best one ever.”

She reached over and covered his hand with hers.  “And thank you for the Christmas present which has changed my life forever.”  He smiled and gently squeezed her hand before they began to enjoy their first Christmas breakfast together.

Source:  Uncommon Goods

The Attention

Rose could feel the townspeople watching her and Victor Ashdown as they left the local church.  It was raining and Victor was holding the umbrella over her.

The tongues had been wagging since they showed up for the Sunday morning service.   No doubt they were wondering why Victor Ashdown was there with Rose instead of his grandmother, Lady Ashdown.

Rose was the elder woman’s companion.  She had placed to an ad in the newspaper and received a reply.  After providing references which were satisfactory, she was accepted to the post and a week later she was on her way to Langley Hall.  It was the first time she had left the society of London and her friends to come to the countryside.  She fell in love with Langley Hall the moment she saw it.  The stunning, historic home surrounded by lush and idyllic countryside with its romantic interior of wood paneling and ornate chandeliers took her breath away.   Her family cottage seemed dull compared to this splendid home.  And the room she occupied was very charming.

Lady Ashdown was very amiable and Rose soon developed a deep affection for her.  Life at Langley Hall was pleasant.   Then she met Victor whom she found to be very agreeable, engaging and irresistible.  When she was not engaged by his grandmother, they spent time together in the garden where they had stimulating conversations.  It was only a matter of time before they fell in love.  Of course, it was no surprise to Lady Ashdown who raised no objections.  Victor went to London to see her father who gave his consent.  Rose had written several letters, telling her family about him.

“Good morning, Miss Haversham,” the greeting brought her back to the present and she met the curious gaze of Mrs. Lambton.  The older woman’s eyes were sharp with curiosity as she looked first at Rose and then at Victor.

Rose feigned a smile.  Busybody.  She thought.  “Good morning, Mrs. Lambton.”  And she continued walking, giving the woman no opportunity to engage her in any further dialogue.  “Horrible woman,” she muttered under her breath.

Victor seemed amused rather than annoyed at the attention they were getting.  “They will have plenty to talk about when you and I get married,” he said.

“Yes, indeed.  It will be quite the story–Victor Ashdown marries a city girl when he should have married a girl from Darbyshire.”

“I am marrying the girl I love and that’s that.  Let’s not talk about this anymore.  We have more important matters to talk about.”

“Such as?”

“Such as where would you like to go for your honeymoon?”

Rose smiled, her eyes sparkled as she met his gaze.  “You’re right, where we honeymoon is of great importance.”

victorian couple walking in the rain

Source:  Victorian Contexts; Country Living

Changed

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

This was the prayer that changed Lisa’s life.

Before she prayed it one night in her room,

she was a selfish person.  She went about

her busy life, not having time for anyone.

She went to church, yes, but she never

expressed any interest in being involved

in any of the ministries.  She didn’t attend

the afternoon programs or prayer meetings.

She never joined the youth group who

visited the senior homes.  She left church

soon after the service ended.

 

She didn’t visit her family often and

when she did, she found them all very tiresome.

She preferred to be on her own.  She spent

most of her time reading a book, watching TV

or browsing shops in the mall.  Her relationships

didn’t last.  All of her exes got tired of giving and

not getting much back.

 

She managed to convince herself that she was

satisfied with how her life was.  No obligations, no

commitments and no constraints.  She was free to

come and go as she pleased.  In her estimation, she

was doing just fine.

 

But God had other plans for her.  One evening she

watched a story of an older woman named Edith

who was always kind to everyone.  She had to go to

hospital for tests.  It turned out that she was terminally

ill.  Instead of sinking into depression and being angry

at God, she accepted her fate.  She spent the time she

had in the hospital telling everyone who would listen

about Jesus.  She helped a young girl who was pregnant

and unwed.  She didn’t judge her but spoke kindly to her.

She gave her the name and address of a women’s shelter

where she could go and stay until she was able to find a job

and raise her baby.  Edith didn’t think about herself.  She

was always reaching out to those around her, talking to

them, encouraging them and sharing her faith with them.

 

By the time Edith died, many of the people whose lives

she touched accepted Jesus.  Before the movie ended,

Lisa was sobbing uncontrollably.  This woman’s unselfish

character and love for others made her feel ashamed.  She

knew that if she had been in Edith’s shoes, she would have

been lashing out and asking God why.  Not once did this

gentle woman do that.  She was always saying, “That she

was looking forward to going to sleep and then waking up

when the trumpet sounded and her Jesus came to take her

home.

 

Lisa got down on her knees and poured her heart out to

God, begging Him to forgive her and the words of the

Psalm came to her.  God answered her prayer.   Now,

she was a driver for a senior centre.   She took clients for

their appointments, treatment programs, shopping, banking

and other daily chores.  The hours were flexible.  She

loved what she was doing.

 

Like Edith, she shared her faith every opportunity she had.

She attended prayer meetings and participated in church

programs and events.  Her time was better spent now and she

felt a joy and peace she had never experienced before.  Her family

noticed the changes in her and were impressed.

 

And on a more personal note, she was in a new relationship.

He was a volunteer at the senior centre.  So far, so good.  Only

time would tell.  For now, she was happy serving the Lord who

had opened her eyes to her true spiritual condition and had

brought her to the place He had prepared for her.   He had given

her a completely different outlook and a new purpose for her life.

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

 

assisted-living-care3-720

 

Sources:  Bible Gateway;  Lumacare

 

Tired

“Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? – Amos 3:3

“Wendy, you can’t leave now!” Sarah cried. They were standing outside in the church’s parking lot.  The service had just ended and Wendy was heading home.  She was tired and just wanted to be by herself.

“I am leaving,” she said firmly.

Sarah looked confounded.  “But what about the potluck?  Everyone is heading downstairs to the room we set up.”

That’s when Wendy almost lost it.  “We?” she snapped.  “We didn’t set the room up. I set the room up with some help from the deacons.  You were no where around.  I don’t know where you were.  And when you finally showed up, the tables were already set up and the food put out and ready for serving.”

Sarah gaze faltered as Wendy glared at her.  “Well, I was making sure that the singles we invited to our special program today were going to stay for the potluck.”

Wendy shook her head.  “The invitation is there in the bulletin and I reminded them again during Sabbath school.  You should have been downstairs helping me, Sarah.  Not because I am the leader, it means that I am supposed to do everything.  There should be collaboration between you and me.  I’m tired of doing all of the planning, the preparations and the arrangements.  When I signed up to be Singles’ Ministry leader, I was really excited.  I asked you to be my assistant because you shared the same vision I had for reaching the single adults in our church.  I don’t know what has changed but I’m left doing most of the work and I am tired.  I’m going home.  You take care of the visitors and the potluck.  Now you will see how it feels to be left holding the bag.”

She started to walk away and Sarah frantically grabbed her arm.  “Wendy, I’m sorry,” she said.  “You’re right, I haven’t been pulling my weight lately.  It’s just that I have been so busy.  Mom was sick and I’ve had problems at the office.” Wendy stopped, the anger fading away.  “I’m sorry to hear that, Sarah,” she Said.  “How is your Mom?”

“She is better, thanks to God and the prayers of family and friends.”

“I’m happy to hear that.  What about your problems at work?”

“If you give me a lift home after the potluck, I can talk to you about my problems.”

Wendy smiled.  “All right,” she said.  “Let’s go and join the others.”  She reached out and gently squeezed Sarah’s hand as they walked back inside the church.

 

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