Friday, June 30, 2017


"Through Him then,
let us continually offer up
a sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of lips that give
thanks to His name."

Nothing gets by God,
not even praise to His name:
it must pass through Him or by Him.
In other words, anything, praise even, is
God breathed.
God created.
God inspired.

It's in the mystery of the holy, holy, holy, the angels sing in Isaiah 6.
In other words, to be in the presence of God, praise springs forth. 
It cannot be helped.  It is like breathing God in, and exhaling praise.

But we are not in heaven yet, so in our human frailty we must be reminded to praise Him.  In the Old Testament, there would be a blood sacrifice for that.  But now because of Christ's sacrifice, no more blood.  God wants a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of the lips, that gives thanks from a grateful heart.  He desires it to be continually offered up.  Somehow I'm beginning to think that it has to do with "out of the heart, the mouth speaks."  It's a heart thing. 

Rant: You can tell a lot about a person by what comes out of their mouth.  It is sad to see how conversation in public, on fb, on Pinterest even, on television, in entertainment, in schools, foul, filthy, and blasphemous words are considered acceptable.  Has our conversation sunk so low?  Sadly, yes.  I used to tell my kids, and still do, that someone who resorts to that has a very limited vocabulary; if they must resort to such language, pity their smallness since they are unable to express themselves otherwise.  Know what I mean?  Sadly, that kind of coarse language is imprinted down into old age.  Potty mouth adults are disgusting!  Better to have never used it than to have it leap from your lips because it's a frequent flyer taking off from your tongue.

James says, "But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not to be."  (James 3:8-12)  In other words, without  going through Him, we have a forked tongue.  Thanks be to God, He can give us a new heart, so that our lips are cleansed by the burning coal from the altar allowing us to have a fountain fed by the springs of living water  that only sends out fresh, not bitter water. (James 3:11)

Oh how our Lord desires that  the fruit of our lips to be luscious! Delicious.  Ripe with delight!  How much better is it to let fly with offerings of praise and thanks.  Have you ever had that experience in nature where your words attempt to, but cannot begin to describe the beauty surrounding you?  Imperfect as it is, God accepts it and relishes it.

As I've told you before, when Jay was young he came in sighing as he said, "I love you guys, even more than goldfish!"  We'll take whatever we can get, even if we are compared to the swim today- gone tomorrow kind of floaty things on the top of the fishbowl that get flushed down the toilet.  We too might have imperfect praise, but our Father who art in heaven still desires it.

"Take words with you and return to the Lord.
Say to Him, 'Take away all iniquity
and receive us graciously,
That we may present the fruit of our lips.'"
(Hosea 14:2)

Adam Clarke quotes from ancient Rabbi who say, "'In the time of Messiah
 all sacrifice shall cease, except the sacrifice of praise.'  In the version of the Septuagint, which in the Hebrews text is, 'the heifers of our lips' that the calves of their lips were the sacrifices
which they had promised."

Ha!  How are those calves on your lips?  Have you ever seen happy heifers kicking up their heels with joy over dandelions in the green grass?  Yeah, kind of like that.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

HEBREWS 13:13-14

"So, let us go out to Him outside the camp,
bearing His reproach.
For here we do not have a lasting city,
but we are seeking the city
which is to come."

Sigh.  They have been pulled up by the roots.  They will be transplanted, not in a temporary place, but will be held until they can be planted in a garden that will be like Eden, only better.  That's us, in fact.  "This world is not our home.  We're only passing through."  This world is shifting sand.  But in the meanwhile, we will face reproach as a Christian as long as we are in this godless world. 

Andrew Murray writes, "The world has cast Him without the camp, and us with Him: we belong there...The camp was not Rome with its heathenism, but Jerusalem with its religion...There Jesus was rejected of the Jews, because He condemned their self-righteousness and formality.  It is not the irreligious but the religious world from which we must go out--that is, from everything that is not in harmony with His cross and its spirit of self-sacrifice."  Hmm.

And guess what!  About seven or eight years after this was written,  Jerusalem was totally destroyed."  God plucked out His people from Jerusalem to save them.  Some may have looked back like Lot's wife with a sigh, but it was God's design to save them when they chose as the persecuted Christians to go outside the camp bearing His reproach. 

Adam Clarke said, "Here is an elegant and forcible allusion to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem of Jerusalem.  The Jerusalem that was below was about to be burnt with fire, and erased to the ground (as in Jesus prophecy); the Jerusalem that was from above was that alone which could be considered to be permanent.  The words seem to say: 'Arise, and depart; for this is not your rest; it is polluted.' "

Have you ever seen God save you from a situation of which you were unaware until you looked in the rear-view mirror seeing how you were spared?  Yep, me too.  Have you ever gone against the current?  Being a Christian in a worldly world means taking a stand rather than being a worldly Christian who blends in with the  world.

The only district assembly I got up and spoke in was concerning a proposal to loosen the stance against alcohol.  I wasn't nearly as popular afterwards.  But that's okay, I wasn't really popular anyway being the new kid on the block since we had been transplanted from our old denomination to this new denomination. 

But then again, I had taken a stance that was unpopular in our last denomination and was called on the carpet by the district superintendent and some of the big-wigs.  I was in the middle of a stream going against the current.  You see, I was a third generation of pastoral ministry in that denomination from its very beginning, a product of their higher education institution, and we had invested the whole course of our lives with them.  I cried every single day for a year (usually when I was driving alone) mourning the direction of my church before I left the denomination.  Funny thing was that as soon as I left, my tears totally dried up for the next several years when I couldn't squeeze a tear out if I tried.  They are back now, even when I laugh until I cry or when I watch a movie or commercial on T.V. 

Yeah, I've gone outside the camp.  I have born the reproach. But nothing like these Hebrew Christians who gave up everything to follow Christ.  Yeah, we had to change our employment, and my husband had to become bi-vocational as we planted a new church.  But we never looked back unless it was a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

HEBREWS 13:10-13

"We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle
have not right to eat.  For the bodies of those animals
whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest
as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp.
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people
through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
So let us go out to Him outside the camp."

I'm going to take you on a little tour outside the gate.  

Now the term "tabernacle" is one that conjures up for me happy feelings as that is what the big building at the Kansas City camp meeting was called, the place where I attended as a child, the one with huge ceiling fans--not air conditioning so that we kept paper fans busy, the one that we were called to by the huge iron bell ringing us into worship.  Don't you think that some of those displaced Jews might also have the same kind of feeling, stronger even, at the realization that they would never enter the temple again?  They are being told that it is better to worship outside the camp, with a better altar and sacrifice, Jesus Himself.  He did this that He might sanctify the people.

Joseph of Arimathea with the body of Jesus

The Diaspora, the scattering of persecuted Christians, was what it was called when Saul--who later became Paul--began intense persecution of Christians in Jerusalem and in the cities around.  Many fled to Antioch in Syria.  It is ironic then to think that it might even be Paul who is writing to these same Christians who he had once persecuted. 

Cornwall ruins

Want to go on a little detour?

My husband has been reading "24 hours Through the Bible" by Chuck Missler.  It is fascinating that this popular Christian author has some of the same ideas about those who were caught up in the Diaspora, namely Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha and Lazarus, Salome, and Joseph of Arimathea.  I've discussed this a couple of times before on this blog, but I find it very curious, especially when it is agreed with by others.

Mary Magdalene

We know that Jesus on the cross gave the care of Mary, His mother, over to John.  Chuck Missler notes that when John writes in the first verse of II John, it says, "The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth..."  This author suggests that since John had been exiled to Patmos as his punishment, that he is writing in part to Mary.  Who else is the chosen, the elect lady?  It begs the question, what happened to Mary once John was sent away?  She was unsafe in Jerusalem or even in Nazareth.

Let's go on one further detour.  Luke who wrote the book of Luke as well as Act, writes "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught." (Luke 1:1-4)  Then what does he write about first?  The birth of Jesus.  Since the man wasn't there, who did he go to in his investigation about it?  Mary.  Some even have thought, as the physician of Paul, he may have had an opportunity to go to England to investigate the eyewitnesses there.  Many of these were also in the Upper Room as described in Acts which happened before the Diaspora.  Hmm.  Luke was close to Paul and this might have been written as a brief to give to Caesar before Paul's trial in 57AD as was required.

Joseph of Arimathea
related to King Arthur?
(and the missing Holy Grail
thought to be in Cornwall.)

So, as my research has shown, which in part is from ancient English Colique of Arms in the British Museum is that Joseph of Arimathea did indeed take Mary, and the others as shown above to England as they fled persecution.  So, let us look again to why Joseph of Arimathea, who was an influential part of the inner circle in the temple, would be the one to do such a thing.   

Joseph of Arimathea was powerful, and rich.  His father and brother were murdered due to intrigues in the power struggle of the temple.  Their wealth was passed down to him which was mostly from his Cornish mines.  In searching ancestry, this man was Mary's closest kin.  Some say it was her father who was murdered, the brother to Joseph of Arimathea.  It is said that as the closest kinsman, he took over the care of Mary and placed her in the temple where young girls were trained to serve until the age of puberty.  Somehow she became engaged to Joseph of Galilee.  Galilee was a seaport from which Joseph of Arimathea might have sailed from in order to go to his northern mines.  These are all little pieces of a puzzle. 

Thus, Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus' closest of kin (which was passed down in the male line), went to Pilot to ask for the body of Jesus after His crucifixion.  This was not something a nobody could attempt.  He was a V.I.P. who stuck his neck out to ask for this body, the sacrifice outside the gate.  Hmm.  Here was a man high up in the temple worship who went outside the temple.  It was a line he crossed that forever would have severed his links to his place there.  Not only that, but he prepared the body, along with Nicodemus, then put Jesus in his own tomb. 
Let's go further, as I've previously discussed.  Jesus' father Joseph was out of the picture after they fled to Egypt but came back to Nazareth in Galilee, and after that trip to the temple when they lost Jesus for a few days and found him with--yes, probably Joseph of Arimathea--and among the other leaders.  Thus, it is no stretch to say that Joseph of Arimathea became the closest kinsman to oversee the care of young Jesus, as well as his mother Mary according to their ancestry line.

Let's tie this with the biblical concept of what the kinsman redeemer is.  Think of Boaz, who was Ruth's kinsman redeemer.   Whereas Joseph of Arimathea became the kinsman redeemer of Jesus' body, Jesus is described in Scripture as our Kinsman Redeemer of the whole world!  Joseph of Arimathea, as I said earlier, had to go outside the gate to redeem His body, the sacrifice which our passage in Hebrews 13:10-13 speaks of. 

"We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle
have no right to eat.  For the bodies (before Christ) of the animals
whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin,
are burned outside the camp.  Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people
through His own blood, suffered outside the gate."

Have you followed me here?  Sometimes we forget that these one dimensional characters in the Bible are really flesh and blood with whole lives and breathe with more than could be ever spoken of.  Sometimes they jump right off the pages!  If you remember from my posts much earlier, Jesus Himself, under the care of Joseph of Arimathea, is said to have visited Cornish England with this man as he would go to oversee his mining investments.  It is written much about in that area as well depicted in stained glass and stone crosses showing a young Jesus.  It is even said that Jesus built with his own  hands a mud and wattle shelter that was later used by his mother herself when she fled with Joseph of Arimathea and their closest friends from Jerusalem and beyond to England.  Then a larger was built which became their place of worship and it lasted until after 1,000 approximately.  Remember that Augustine when he came as a missionary in the 565 A.D. found an early church established there which the church at Rome knew nothing. 

Okay, I did find this going back through the Vance line of our heritage to Joseph of Arimathea's  (my 71st great grandfather) through his daughter Anna who married into what became the English line, all this through  I'm not saying any of this is infallible, however, it connects a lot of dots.  Thus, it is fascinating to hold this picture up to the Scripture passage we look at today when we insert Joseph of Arimathea into it, a picture representing one from the temple who crossed over to worship and follow with the Christian Jews who was willing to go outside the gate. 

Was Joseph of Arimathea in the Upper Room?  Was he one of the Christian Jews listening to this letter to the Hebrews?  In my research, Joseph and the others fled in 37AD.   This group of Christians Hebrews also sacrificed everything as they were forced outside the gate themselves when they fled for their lives.  Hmm.

I hope I didn't lose you as we wandered outside the gate.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


"Be not carried about with
divers and strange doctrines.
For it is a good thing that
the heart be established with grace,
not meats, which have not profited
the that have been occupied therein."

"Do not be carried away
by varied and strange teaching;
for it is good for the heart
to be strengthened by grace,
not by foods, through which those
who were so occupied were not benefited."

Can you imagine if today it was proved that every diet, from the craziest whackos to Dr. Oz to the Surgeon General, is worthless and did not benefit those who were religiously following them.   It would be astounding!  Of course, this verse is not suggesting this.  However, to some of the Jews, to toss out the sacrifice system which is called "meat," is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  There were those who were pulling the Christian Jews back to one form of legalism or other, instead of grace.

Now this is really about grace.  Isn't that the crux of accepting the Gospel?  This concept is hard for many to accept, that they don't have to earn their salvation. What?  Can't I crawl around on my knees a little longer, or give a homeless person a buck here and there, or stuff like that to tilt the balance of scales of Judgement towards my side?  Can't you see, God, that I'm trying to clean up my life here, then I'll come to You? 

Do not be carried away...some translations say, "Be not whirled about..."do not apostatize; permit not yourself to be carried off from Christ and His doctrine. (Adam Clarke)  So what has caused us to say, "Oh, look over there!  That looks interesting!" when doctrine (church) shopping.  Millions have.  So what is the difference between true faith and a cult?  It is Jesus, plus...  Fill in the blank. 
A cult always adds another source of authority besides Scripture.  Do I need to spell this out?  Oh, okay, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science are just a few of them who are followed by thousands all over the world. 

Millions are following a false doctrine which de-emphasizes grace.  If only they wear the right underwear, they can get to a higher level of heaven.  The Book of Mormon was recently relabeled "The Other Gospel."  Hmm.  How about the Koran? 

Can you imagine standing before the judgement seat of God and saying, "Just so you know, I trusted in Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, or faithfully read every issue of the 'Watchtower,' and by the way, do you want to see my underwear?"  It doesn't get you a gold star, but it could erase your name from the Lamb's book of Life because...

"And there is salvation in no one else;
for there is no other name under heaven
that has been given among men
by which we must be saved."
(Acts 4:12)

You can read Matthew 5:24:23ff, "For false Christs and false prophet will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead...Do not believe them."

Adam Clarke wrote, "'Divers and strange doctrines'; those that blended the law and the Gospel, and brought in the Levitical sacrifices and institutions in order to perfect the Christians system.  Remember the old covenant is abolished; the new alone I in force...'Strange doctrines,' foreign doctrines; such as have no apostolical authority to recommend them.  'That the heart be established with grace.'  It is well to have the heart, the mind, and conscience, fully satisfied with the truth and efficacy of the Gospel; 'Which have not profited them'  Because they neither took away guilt, cleansed the heart, nor gave power over sin."

Andrew Murray said, "Among the Hebrew Christians many still clung to the temple and its ritual.  And there were among them teachers ho inculcated obedience to the laws in regard to food and to eating of the sacrifices as necessary.  The writer warns against these strange teachings.  "For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not meats."  No outward observances can sustain the inner life: it is by grace alone, grace that come from the throne of grace that must be established. "

John Wesley says, "'various doctrines'--Which differ from the one faith in our one unchangeable Lord; 'strange'--to the ears and hearts of all that abide in Him; for it is good'--It is both honourable before God, and pleasant, and profitable, that 'the heart be established with grace'--Springing from faith in Christ, 'not with meats'--Jewish ceremonies, which indeed can never establish the heart."

In other words, don't add another source of Truth apart from He who is the Word!

Monday, June 26, 2017


Just for Fun Fiction
by c.j.

"There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Four which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid."
(Proverbs 20:18-19)

"Emily took her sack lunch to the empty cafeteria table in the back and opened her bag, took out her egg salad sandwich, before opening her book and was gone, lost in fiction.  Her routine was the same every lunch period since she'd gone to high school.  Chewing slowly, she was devouring her novel and neglected to notice others who had gathered.  A snicker here and a snorted laugh there sent a chill down her back.  She raised her eyes to find herself surrounded by half of the high school's football team flanked by the elite rank of pretty girls.  The crush-worthy quarterback eased in beside her and smiled catching her with a mouth full of egg salad sandwich.  She gazed around at them, those who looked down on her with barely smothered amusement, the kind which usually had her as a butt of their jokes. 

"Hi, Emily.  Are you going to the dance after our next home game?" he asked.

She shook her head no and tried to swallow the lump of white bread and egg mixture down her throat, but it got stuck.  She knew that her eyes would look ginormous through her thick lenses.  At best the lettuce from her sandwich would be stuck in her braces.  So she was shocked when he took off her glasses, tilted her face up to his and leaned down for a kiss.  It was the kind that left her feeling tingling, but probably left him feeling like he kissed a she-frog with braces.

Afterwards, all those who had swarmed around her broke out in loud barking laughter, hooting and whistling.  It might as well have been set in lights: Emily, the least likely girl to be kissed in high school was just kissed as a dare.  After that she was fair game for anyone to pick on, and they did so unmercifully.  But the kiss was the worst...and the best.

He glanced once more giving her a wink and a pat on the back and left with the rest of the fellas.
The bell rang.  Emily ran into the bathroom and threw up, forgetting all about her book that she had abandoned on the table.

Like a pigeon, she had flown home after years of being away. Now she was meeting with Rev. Ellison interviewing for a job as a counselor on staff at his large church in the suburbs near where she had grown up, just on the other side of the tracks. 

"So what motivated you to go after your MFT, Miss Rogers?" the pastor asked.

It was this question that sent her reeling back to high school as if it had happened just yesterday.  All those scenes flashed through her mind, things she'd suppressed for years.  Emily took another swallow of chilled bottled water and answered slowly, "There are a lot of pitfalls in navigating difficult issues in people's lives.  Fear, abuse, bullying, infidelity, loss are just to name a few.  I desire to see Marriage and Family Therapy interwoven with biblical principals.  That is the balance I seek in my counseling."

"I must say, this would take a tremendous load off my shoulders as a pastor.  To be able to refer people to you for this kind of counseling might save my sanity.  Since the church has grown so much, I must admit that I can't try to do everything, be everything to everybody anymore.  I must learn to delegate.  Some will take an attitude if their pastor isn't the one who responds to their felt need, but so be it.  I'm as weary as Moses when Aaron held up his arms in order to take care of his people."

"Of course.  I admire you, Pastor.  It is amazing to come back after all these years and find how the Lord has blessed your ministry here.  To be a part of it would be an honor," she commented before he went on.

He chuckled, any pastor would consider it a blessing if he has more marriages than funerals.  Dedicating babies is the best," he smiled then frowned to add,  "and watching a marriage fall apart is the worst.  I hope you will be influential in helping couples stay together."

"That's what I hope as well, sir," she agreed.

"Also, having a female counselor on staff will relieve me of those delicate situations which arise in having to meet with women in crisis.  I've always done so with the door open or have gone to a room with a window in order to protect myself of being accused of improper conduct, but that doesn't give a woman as much privacy as she might need.  It's why I had the door to my office changed to one with a window though it gives me much less privacy of my own.  But likewise, if you find yourself needing to counsel a man alone, please leave a door open or choose one of the rooms with a window for your own protection."

"I understand completely, sir, even though I think of myself as one of the least likely to have a man make untoward advances with me," she answered as the high school memories flashed by again.

"You discount yourself, dear.  You are quite lovely indeed.  I remember your younger ugly duckling stages, but you now are a beautiful swan."

"Thank you, Pastor.  That is kind of you to say," she answered totally shocked that he truly did remember her.  His sweet words were like a healing kiss on her bruised heart.  In fact, she realized the hurts of the past had kept her avoiding mirrors for years.  That was a personal defect she needed to recognize in herself. 

"Well, you come highly recommended from your teachers as well as your colleagues in your previous internship.  Just so you know, there are a couple of families already scheduled for counseling with their teenagers, one of whom is struggling with homosexuality.  Then I have a marriage counseling session appointment with a couple whose wedding is scheduled for three months from now.  I refuse to marry anyone unless the couple has had marriage counseling first.  There's nothing as wonderful as a good marriage and nothing as terrible as a bad one."

"I agree.  Rather than try to repair broken marriages, it is better to help them begin on a solid foundation.  It is a part of counseling that I've found rewarding," Emily said.  Even though she was single, there was something hallowed about working with a man and a woman in love as they  worked towards a more perfect union. 

"Alright, then.  Welcome aboard, Miss Rogers.  Do you mind if I occasional forget and call you Emily?

"Not at all, Pastor."

"Good, well you can check with Mrs. Smith.  She'll tell you who is already penciled in."

"Thank you, sir."  Her stomach did a happy dance, a butterfly ball, in fact. 

Since her things were still boxed up in her car, Emily began to move into her new office that afternoon.  She'd be ready for her first appointment Saturday morning.  In order to serve those who couldn't get away during the week, she'd decided to be flexible and offer to be available one Saturday morning a month.

Before the engaged couple arrived on Saturday, Emily asked Mrs. Smith if she had any insights on them.  The woman seemed to speak freely about other parishioners, but drew a blank on this couple, Adam and Reece.  "I don't believe they are regular attenders here. " She scrolled through her computer without finding them.  "No, but I believe they have outreach potential.  Perhaps they will come to find God if they don't know Him already."

Emily just smiled and went back into her office after copying a questionnaire she gave to couples on their first appointment.  The first half was about their personalities, while the second part was about their expectations.  It was always a good way to stimulate conversation in a positive direction.  Most enjoyed talking about themselves with just a little prompting anyway.

"A couple is here to see you about marriage counseling," Mrs. Smith alerted her before leaving the office.  She had come in on her day off in order to update the prayer list before Sunday.  Emily decided to use a personal touch and to greet them at her door.  It was a mistake, a huge ginormous mistake of Biblical proportions.

"Won't you please have a sweet, I mean a seat?"  She felt herself weak-kneed and tied in knots.  She sat behind her desk instead of the less formidable seating she usually used.  Emily clasped her hands in her lap hoping they wouldn't notice how much they were shaking.  She refused to look the man in the eye and addressed the beautiful woman who looked like she'd just left a beauty salon.  "Here's a questionnaire I use," she said standing and handing over the papers on clipboards.  "I will give you several minutes to fill it out before we proceed.  Take as much time as you need."

Emily forced a smile that felt stiff on her face.  As they scribbled away, she stole a few glances while they worked, first at the young woman and then some at the man.   Her stomach was still doing flips.  She broke the lead on two pencils as she waited to take notes. 

The woman looked up first and put on a fake smile.  "I can't see how this will help us.  I just wanted to know about the sanctuary, like how many does it hold, what the amenities are available in the refreshment hall?  But you're the counselor, so let the counseling begin," she heaved a sigh of annoyance.

"You would need to schedule an appointment with our church's wedding coordinator who can answer those kind of questions for you."  Emily was astounded by the woman's ignorance of the purpose of this meeting.

"Here, I think I answered most of it as honestly as I could," The man said smiling as he stood and handed it to her across her desk.

Emily bit her lip, and glanced over the first few answers.  "Let us begin with prayer, and then we can go over some of the points of differences and agreement, strengths and weaknesses you might face."  She bowed her head and prayed a desperate prayer in her heart for herself and a short one from her lips. 

Then she began by saying"The true purpose of marriage counseling is to see how God views marriage in order for you to have the best marriage possible.  In Ephesians 5 we read,

"Husbands love your wives,
just as Christ also loved the church
and gave Himself up for her...
For this reason a man shall leave
his father and mother and
shall be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh,
This mystery is great;
but I am speaking with reference
to Christ and the church.
Nevertheless, each individual among you also
is to love his own wife even as himself,
and the wife must see to it that
she respects her husband."

Emily ignored the whisper Reece made not so under her breath, "Really, Adam, is this necessary?" 

Instead she went on as if she were walking up steam in a heavy current frothing with unmentionable emotions.  She told herself that she could do this, but Emily did not know if she would go under or not.

"I will go over the portion of your personality tests next week, but we can begin with the section about your expectations going into marriage."

"Oh, I expect to invite about three hundred guests, but Adam wanted to limit our wedding to about half of that," the woman snorted.  "Of course, that is totally absurd." Then leaning over she patted his leg and said, "isn't it, baby."  Not a question, but a declaration.

"I see," she broke in.  "Even though that was not on the list, let's look at this a little more.  How do you feel about that Mr. Holt?"

"You can call me Adam." He looked over at his fiancé and raised his eyebrows. "I thought we'd gone over this Reece.  If we each invite seventy-five of our closest friends and family, it would keep the service more intimate."

"No, I never agreed to that.  My mother and I have already slashed my list from four hundred to three hundred.  How many do you need to invite beside those?"

"What?  You want to invite three hundred, not counting my side?  What gives?  Obviously you don't."  His face turned hard.

"What's that supposed to mean?  I'll never have another wedding and want to share it with those I'm closest to, and who give the nicest presents," she added giggling.

"Why don't we come back to this question next week and see how you've addressed this by listening and compromising with each other for the best outcome," Emily managed to say quite perkily.

"Now, what are your expectations about the first few years of your marriage, Adam?"  She found herself sinking in the brown depths of his eyes so she blinked and looked away. 

"In what ways?" he asked puzzled.

"I mean, will you be the main breadwinner or will that be shared between both of you.  What about when and if children come.  What are your expectations of the role your wife will play, and how, if any, will that change?"

"Hmm.  I guess I hadn't thought much past what our life is like now and how it works for us.  But, let's see, my expectations for the role Reece will play...I intend to be the breadwinner, of course."

"What do you mean, 'of course?'"  she said sharply crossing her legs and furiously pumping one expensive glossy black heel up and down.  "I don't expect to have to depend upon your salary.  We'll only reach our goals if we both work hard, especially these first few years as we pay off our college debts, buy a house, and hopefully I can climb a few rungs up the executive ladder."

Emily nibbled on the eraser of her pencil.  "What do you think about her views, Adam?"

He looked dazed.  "Really?  I had hoped since we are settled in our careers, we could slow down a bit and enjoy each other a little more.  I recognize that your MBA was demanding as well as keeping your job, and I admire you for that.  But now?  I'd like a slower pace.  As for a home,  I think it won't be hard to qualify as homeowners as long as we don't expect too much for our first home with potential."

"What does that mean, a home with potential?  Is it a mouse-ridden, bat infested, two bedroom house in a bad neighborhood with leaks in the roof and needing paint?  Are you going to slap on a tool belt and spend every weekend remodeling?"
"That's a little dramatic, even for you, Reece."

She rolled her eyes and seemed ready to lite into him again, so Emily quickly pushed the dialogue ahead.  "So what about children?  At what point, if any, have you expectations of beginning a family?  And as I said before, do you see Reece staying home while the children are young or do you expect her to juggle parenting as well as her career?"

Scripture says,
"Behold, children are  gift of the Lord..."
(Psalm 127:3)

At that Reece threw back her head and laughed.  "That's really funny, truly.  If we ever have children, I won't leave my job in order to be barefoot and pregnant.  I'm not easily domesticated, Ms. Rogers.  Adam knows that."

Adam looked to be in shock.  "Really?  I thought we'd already talked about having a family."

"Well, maybe, but that's way down the road, like ten years or so," she sneered.

"Do realize how old we'll be then if we wait that long before having kids?" He asked aghast.

"Plenty of my girlfriends wait to have kids into their mid-thirties. You know Beth Howard.  She was forty before she had her first rug rat and said positively no more!  I can't see me having more than one anyway."

Adam was silent hanging his head down and with his hands clasped between his knees, elbows resting on his legs.  "Maybe we should table that discussion for next time as well.  Sorry, Ms. Rogers."

"That's okay.  It's important to have these discussions before you are married rather than try to address different expectations afterwards. Let's see, how will you choose to handle the finances, in a joint account or in separate accounts."

They said, "joint," and "separate" at the same time.

"That's another one perhaps you should discuss before next week's appointment.  This might be a little easier.  "What about holidays?  Will you be sharing them with one or the other of the in-laws or celebrating just the two of you?"

"We always go to my parents, right dear?"  She switched legs and began pumping the other shoe.  At some point, she'd found a piece of gum and began popping it noisily.

"I think a better solution would be to alternate spending it with both our families:  Thanksgiving at mine, Christmas at yours; then Thanksgiving at yours with Christmas at mine."

She made an unpleasant noise as she crossed her arms and continued to pop her gum, it was obvious that she was not pleased.

Emily forged ahead saying, "Here's a very important expectation.  Where will you attend church?  How often will you go and how involved are you wanting to become?

"I'm Catholic, but just nominally.  I agreed to his insistence that we get married in his old church but I didn't realize how much trouble this would be," she glared at him while he clinched his jaw.  "Of course, we'll plan to attend at Christmas and Easter if it's convenient, if nothing else gets in the way with our families' holiday plans."

Tom sighed.  "We'll discuss this more later as well." 

Emily saw that her clients had come to the end of their session whether their time had run out or not.

"Alright, then, we'll discuss these differences of expectation next time.  I hope you will find time between now and then to discuss these on your own.  We will also hopefully begin to look at what your personality tests reveal and the ramifications that has on how you relate to one another."

Reece scoffed, "If you say so.  Let's go, sugar.  I need a latte from Star Bucks before I run by and check on my wedding dress to see how come it is taking so long to be ready."

"I thought we'd agreed to go out to eat after this.  I'm hungry."

"You have your own car.  Go on.  I'm not hungry."  She kissed his cheek and was gone.

"Tom rose from the chair and said uneasily, "That didn't go as well as I thought it would."  Then he looked at her, as if for the first time.  "Do I know you?"

"I've been away for years and have recently moved back, so I doubt we've had much chance to cross paths."

"Hmm.  Something about you looks familiar.  I guess I'm wrong.  Thank you for your time, Ms. Rogers. You've certainly given me, I mean, us a lot to think about."

"Certainly.  I'm sure the next session will go more smoothly," she answered weakly.

He nodded, and after one more look at her, he left.  Emily sank down in her office chair rubbing her temples where a headache brewed and said under her breath,  "Lord, help me!  Out of all the people in the planet, how did I end up with him!  And with her, that blood-sucking vampire!  She might not bite, but she could probably throw one of her shoes and impale me with its spiked heel.  Sorry, Lord.  I just pray for patience, oh, and help him never to recognize me!"

By the time she did her bit of weekly grocery shopping, Emily went back to her little apartment and stared at all her boxes.  What she really needed were more bookshelves, but  at least there seemed plenty in her office.  After her nerve-wracking session, she had treated herself with a box of walnut shrimp and white rice to go.  So, after putting her groceries away, she perched herself on a stool by the kitchen counter and tried to enjoy her food.  However, her mind was so filled with the past scenes of high school  blended into scenes of the session today that she couldn't savor one bite.  She finally bit into her fortune cook and read, "You will not be rich in money but in love."  At that she broke out laughing.

The pastor called her up in front of both services Sunday in order to introduce her as the newest staff member.  The elders came and laid hands on her and prayed for her, especially for wisdom.  It was a humbling moment.  Maybe it would help with the next marriage counseling sessions. 

Fortunately, her other counseling appointments went better.  One was with a sullen teenager and they worked through some of his difficulties giving his parents hope.  The other young man who was desperate to be a Christian though he struggled with homosexuality.  He seemed to have a breakthrough when she recognized his suffering and pointed him to some blog sites written by Christians just like him as well as organizations who extended help.  It was illegal to offer counseling to tell a person who has come out to change, but she would address it from a biblical view, no matter what, which always offered hope.  There had been a flood of those trying to schedule appointments with her since she was introduced Sunday, so she was quite busy. 

But she dreaded the next marriage counseling session.  They met on a Thursday evening.  This time Emily was brave enough to come out from behind her desk to sit more informally with her clients.  Reece had changed her fingernail polish from black with fake diamonds embedded to blood red.  The woman drummed her fingers constantly on the end table as she leaned away from her fiancé who sat by her on the sofa. 

"Oh, my feet are killing me!  She kicked off her heels and rubbed her feet before putting them back on.  Her glossy red heels soon were pumping again  

Emily swallowed and said, "Let me again open in prayer.  Oh, Lord, we ask that you would give us wisdom as we seek your ever present help in preparing Adam and Reece as they face their upcoming vows.  May we remember your words

"Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it."
(Psalm 127:1)

"Alright, let's see if you've made more progress on your number of wedding invitations.  What compromise did you come up with?"  Emily tried to look professional but with her ankles crossed she could only wiggle a foot back and forth in her flats.

Reece paused her nail drumming to sit up and say, "I agreed to cut my list down by fifty and he decided to keep his list down to a hundred."

"I'm glad you were able to work that out," Emily said tapping her pencil on her notes but could hardly keep from hearing Adam  when he huffed.  This was not going so well, again.

"Let's see, so how did your discussion go concerning your expectations on the next few years.  Are you agreed that Reece will keep on working, that you will perhaps have one child, and that you won't buy a fixer upper?"

"Yes," Reece said emphatically.  "He came around to reason."

Adam sat with his arms crossed, lips tight, body tense as he stared at the painting in her office, a crude picture of a log cabin tucked into a beautiful country landscape, an oil that her grandmother had done of the property they willed to her. 

"And about your banking, did you agree on joint or separate accounts?"

"Separate.  It's the only thing that makes sense."

"And holidays?"

"We decided we would talk about that closer to Christmas," Reece answered decidedly.

"And what about agreement upon your faith and church attendance?"

For the first time Adam interrupted his fiancé. "I've decided I would like to begin attending this church regularly.  Reece obviously will do what she wants."

"What do you mean by that?  I was baptized as a Christian when I was a baby.  You don't have to act like I'm a heathen or something," she said angrily.

"I would like to make an observation about what has been said so far, if I may," Emily said nervously.

"Go ahead," Adam prompted.

"It seems that nearly everything that was discussed so far has come out with little, if any, compromise to Adam's way of thinking.  If this is indicative of how decisions will be made in the future, you both need to be aware of it now."

Adam turned red in the face while Reece kicked higher with her legs crossed.  She'd found more gum to pop, and her fingernails drummed faster making Emily wonder how long her fake nails could sustain it before popping off.

"Everything you asked us only made sense the way I saw it, obviously," she scoffed.

"Adam do you agree with her statement?" Emily dared to ask knowing it might explode in her face.

"Of course not.  She has been spoiled all her life and is used to getting her way.  I've kinda  played along to keep the peace, but am just now realizing how much this will affect our marriage."

Reece's mouth dropped open.  "How dare you!  Take that back.  It is sheer nonsense.  You are just trying to bully me into a smaller guest list for our marriage."

"That wasn't the first thing I thought of, but it is indicative," he said with his arms crossed. 

"I am a driven, successful woman in a man's world.  Don't try and make it seem like everything has been handed to me on a platter.  I've worked hard to be where I am.  I'll never get anything or go anywhere unless I fight for it, and I resent your comment," she argued glaring at Adam.

"Exactly," He muttered dropping his head to his chest and shaking it back and forth.  "You resent me having my own opinion and immediately dismiss it as unimportant or utter nonsense."

"Well, for the most part..." she countered but he interrupted.

"Don't say it."  He glared back at her.

"I do have some other questions even though you have brought up some difficulties in your communication you will have to deal with."  Emily felt tight in her chest with so much tension in the air.  She'd never experienced wedding counseling on the teetering edge of disaster before.

"I'd like you both to go back and talk about what attracted you to each other."

The room was dead quiet.  Finally, Reece said, "You start first."

He looked at her with eyes slanted.  "No, you go first."

"I told you to...oh forget it."  She looked at him, and said, "He is one of the most handsome men I've met and told my girlfriends that he was the one I'd go after and to watch me do it."  She laughed but no one laughed with her.

Adam raised his eyebrows.  "Of course I thought her attractive, but I also admired her drive.  At one time I thought we shared the same goals."

"What do you mean at one time we shared the same goals.  We still do!"

"Maybe I'm reassessing some of those now that I'm done with my education and am enjoying my job.  The guys I work with seem to keep their profession in perspective and look more forward to spending time with their family.  I think that is becoming more important to me, my motivation for working, you might say."

The next thing was more difficult to address, but it was one of her pastor's requirements which she also agreed with.

"I need to ask you if you are living together because it is the policy of our marriage counseling that couples who do, should live apart until the ceremony.  It is important for not only is it God's command, but it is important that you spend this time individually to realize fully who you are apart from each other."

Adam had the decency to blush, but Reece was dumbfounded.  Then she spat out, "That has to be the most stupid thing I've ever heard!  You can't order people around like that."

Adam sucked in a deep breath and said, "I think it is a good idea.  I am willing to be the one to move out.  I'm sure my buddy will let me take over his couch for the next couple of months."

"You mean you are going to buy whatever this woman says, hook, line and sinker?  She' a nobody!" she seethed.

That comment brought back all the denigration of her earlier years here, but Emily had to let it slide.  But Adam did not.

"That's unfair, Reece.  Don't insult her.  She's a professional who  needs to address the policies of her employer.

"Everyone will think we have had an argument or something.  There will be rumors, you know.  I don't see how some little counselor has the audacity to tell us how to live.   What we do behind closed doors is none of her business."

"Nevertheless, it is the policy of our church," Emily had her ire up and wouldn't wait for Adam to protect her.

"I have already said I will move out, and I will," Adam said determinately.

"I think it's not too late to pick another venue even though I'd have to have new invitations printed out.  I've had enough of this woman and this church!"   Reece stood up slinging her handbag's strap on her shoulder.

"We're not changing," Adam said with force.  "Sit back down."

"Thank you, Adam, for your willingness to comply."  Then she dared to step into another controversial arena, so asked, "I wanted to hear what each of you think about your partner having friendships with the opposite sex.'

Reece said under her breath, "How archaic!"  But she sat up and flipped her hair over her shoulder and declared, "There is nothing wrong with keeping my long time friends who happen to be guys.  Adam is not usually jealous."

"Do you agree, Adam?"

"I have to admit that I do get jealous when she spends more time hanging out with them than with me.  Since I've recognized myself as a problem drinker, I no longer drink at all and stay away from bars where she likes to go hang out.  She doesn't seem to understand my difficulty with that."

"So do you have any friends of the opposite sex, Adam?"  Emily broke another pencil lead.

He rubbed his chin as if thinking hard.  "Not any I'd say I'd hang out with except in a group setting."

"So, Reece, would you have any problem with Adam going out, say to dinner or coffee with another woman?" she probed.  In her experience this gave some couples a point of tension.

Reece scoffed, "Of course I wouldn't.  I trust him and could care less if he wants to meet a friend over coffee or dinner."

Emily had no idea why she opened her mouth and said, "So then, you wouldn't mind, say, if Adam took me out to dinner or had a coffee as one professional to another?"

Reece's jaw slacked and then sputtered, "I don't think it is appropriate for you to go out with your clients, Ms. Rogers."  The woman shot daggers at her, as Emily expected.  She had made her point.

"Oh, I was just saying it hypothetically.  I was not suggesting anything.  It was just to gage your reaction in order for you to see how Adam might feel sometimes when you choose to socialize without him."

"That is ridiculous.  It is totally different." she laughed the laugh that meant she did not see anything funny at all..

"How?"  Adam asked.

"Well, it is one thing to go out with friends than for you to go out with some nobody who is playing Miss Counselor for a church, not even in a real office.  I think she's trying to hit on you.  You, Ms. Rogers, have a lot of nerve.  I might report you to your superior, what do you call the man who wears the robe?"

"A pastor, however, I'm just making a point, one which my training and previous experience has shown to be instructive. But, actually, I've known Adam for a long time, since high school, in fact."  Oh, no! Emily thought wishing she could take those words back.

Adam stared at her shocked, but was trying to figure it out while Reece hissed into his ear,  "You never told me that !"  It was loud enough for Emily to hear.

"We also went to youth group together," Emily added since she'd already let the cat out of the bag.  She did not know if he would ever figure it out or if he would even bother to try.

Adam was rubbing his jaw still staring at her,  Then he asked, "Is that all Ms. Rogers?"

"No actually.  I wanted to give you your papers back."  Emily jumped in before Reece could say anything else.  "I've copied off the results of your personality tests, and am giving you your own as well as copies of each others." 

She handed the papers out and gave them a few minutes to look them over and to compare each other's results.

"As you can see, this is only one way to evaluate personalities.  The personality traits of being straightforward or upbeat or steady or detailed are just some of the ones brought out in these categories, as are things like forceful, lively, modest, tactful, daring, impulsive, kind, or cautious.

"When you look under the first one termed "Anger," I would ask you to look beyond the title to the characteristics.  Do you see yourself as direct, decisive, high ego, one with strength, as a problem solver, a risk taker, a self-starter, innovative, someone who challenges the status quo?" Emily jumped in with both feet because she doubted they'd be back for a third session.  Reece was  such an angry, dominant woman that she would have her way or else.

Sure enough, Reece was beaming, placing her splayed nails over her heart saying, "That is so me!  I can see myself in this category."

"Let's continue.  Another category is "Optimism." This would include enthusiastic, trusting, optimistic, encouraging, persuasive, talkative, impulsive, emotional, one with a sense of humor, a peacemaker."

Adam still sat silently.  Reece already looked bored since she felt she'd already nailed her category.

Emily charged forward hoping the session would hurry up and be over.  "The next category is "Compliant."  It includes such characteristic as lack of emotion, good listener, possessive, steady, predictable, understanding, friendly, reliable, dependable, patient, empathetic.

Her two clients remained quiet.  So she continued saying, The final category is "Fear."  It is describing  the traits of a fear of being taken advantage of, a fear of rejection, loss of security, a fear of criticism."

"So Adam," she asked, "what do you think?  Do you see yourself in any of these categories?"

He was quiet, seriously studying the paper in front of him.  "I think usually I would see myself in the optimistic category.  But I see myself all over the board as well.  Except not so much in the one called Fear."

Of course not.  He was the strong, athletic, popular guy, star of the football team.  What would he have to be afraid of?Emily smiled and met his in exchange.  "That's fair.  This simple test cuts a broad swath through personality types. It is not infallible, but has permeable boarders."

Adam grinned and said, "What category do you see yourself in, Ms. Rogers?

That made her suck in a breath so much so that she hoped he had not noticed.  Of course she fit squarely in the Fearful category but hoped to change that about herself as she gained more confidence and learned to leave her past in the past.  But he sat waiting studying her, so she finally said, "Of course, that is confidential information."  She smiled back.  "Well, next time we'll go over how these personality types interact with each other..."

But Reece huffed loudly standing with her arms crossed tapping her foot and glaring at Emily.  "I think we've stayed long enough, Adam.  Let's go."  She charged out while Adam hung back.

He said with a grin, "I'm going to figure it out, Ms. Rogers, who this mystery personae is.  I'm sure that I would not have forgotten someone as pretty as you."

It made her blush, but he winked and left to go find his fiancé.

She sank in her chair and began upbraiding herself.  If this got back to her pastor what she'd said about going to coffee or even to dinner with Adam...stupid! stupid!! stupid!!!  She would talk to him as soon as he was in back in his office on Tuesday.

When she tentatively knocked on his door, he looked up surprised.  "Come in Emily!  So how is the counseling going?"

"Most of it has been going great, but I have to confess I have done something thing that might have stepped over the line, and was definitely unprofessional."  Then she went back to the beginning, about going to youth group as the odd duck, then the bullying in high school, and then the kiss.  "So I, of course, was shocked when they came in for marriage counseling.  I haven't seen him since those awful high school days."

"Go on," her pastor encouraged her.

"Well, I've never seen a bigger train wreck about to happen than those two.  Anyway, when I was going down the list of the usual discussion points about having friends of the opposite sex, it became clear that it was a point of contention since she didn't see any reason not to continue to go to the bars with the guys she hangs out with while Adam refuses to go because of his past as a problem drinker."

Her pastor whistled.  "I see what you mean.  They could be heading for real trouble.  But go on.  What has you so concerned?"

"I know that Adam has not recognized me.  But I tried to make a point saying that since Adam and I have known each other since high school, would she have a problem with it if we went out to coffee or to dinner.  I was speaking hypothetically, but she took it literally and was  understandably upset.  It was wrong of me to have challenged her in that way, inserting myself while trying to help her see what it was like when the shoe was on the other foot."

"What was Adam's response?  I do remember him hanging out in youth group at one time but lost track of him.  I used to enjoy reading about him in the sports pages."

"He was just perplexed trying to figure out who I am.  I never meant to bring that up."  She hid her face in her hands.  "I'm so embarrassed."

Her pastor said, "Emily, it wasn't the best thing to do and was unprofessional, but what's done is done, and I'm sure it brought about a lively discussion between those two which was your intended purpose, was it not?"  He laughed.  "Oh, to be a mouse in that corner!"

"Adam agreed to move out until they are married, though she was quite upset that I suggested it.  So I think I did achieve something worthwhile today." 

The pastor chuckled.  "Good.  Good.  Well, you've learned something today and have upbraided yourself so that I don't need to.  But I want to ask you one more question.  Do you still have a crush on that boy?"

"Boy?"  Emily blushed.  "I'll admit I had a crush on him in high school, like most of the girls.  But when he pulled that trick, the dare to kiss me, it was so mean that I probably came nearer to hating him for a long time.  I'd thought I'd gotten over all that silliness, so it has been a shock to see him and have it all dredged up again."  Then she grinned, "He's even better looking than he was in high school, but he's engaged, and I refuse to entertain any thoughts that are inappropriate, especially in this client-counselor situation.  I sincerely doubt that they'll be back though since she is pretty mad.  They do nothing but fight anyway.  I'm just throwing oil on their fire.  Perhaps you should meet with them for their last counseling session because I can't in good conscience recommend that you marry them.  You probably need to decide that for yourself."

"Well, I think you are smart enough to know when to hand over problem clients like this.  You are probably right."

"Adam did say that he hoped to start attending here regularly again, so that is at least one good thing that has come out of all this."

Pastor Ellison chuckled, "I bet Adam is scouring his old year books right no to figure out who you are."

"I doubt he really cares, sir.  If he does figure it out however, so be it.  I'm not that person anymore," she sighed.

"Thank you for coming in, Emily.  You've made the right decision to tell me and to know when to hand them over.  Now I will hand them over to the Lord in prayer before I meet with them and let Him guide me on whether I should marry them or not."

"I'll tell Mrs. Smith to schedule them with you instead of me next time. Thank you, Pastor."

She checked in with Mrs. Smith, then went back to her office feeling tremendous relief. It was lunchtime, so she grabbed her purse heading for her favorite coffee, shop. As usual, she had a book to read downloaded on her phone, one she was really looking forward to by a favorite author from the past.  Emily ordered at the counter then went to her usual corner table.

Suddenly she was pulled up out of her novel, like being dragged out of a pleasant swim in the ocean far from shore.  It took her a minute to come back to real life.  When she did, she looked up the slacks, and jacket into a pair of sparkling eyes.

"Hello, Adam." She did not offer him a seat.

"May I sit here?"

"Maybe that's not a good idea," she said trying to stick to her guns. "It might cause more problems than it is worth in your relationship with your fiancé.  She was right. It is not appropriate in our client-counselor relationship to say that."

He sat down anyway.  "I don't think you have to worry about her.  It wasn't until I saw you over here lost in your book, that is a book you are reading on your phone, isn't it?" She nodded.  "Anyway, it wasn't until now that I finally realized who you were.  You are Emily, the Smart!  You do know that's what everybody called you."

She could only shake her head no again.   Emily had no idea.  They always said in the locker room that you would be a looker someday, but I had no idea how right the guys were.  What did you do, have Lasik surgery so you could lose the glasses?"  She nodded affirmatively.  "Those braces worked, and now you have perfect teeth too.  You always wore your hair back in a tight pony tail so I had no idea how beautiful it is.  Emily, you are stunning."

She dropped her phone on the floor.  He picked it up laughing softly.  Adam went on, "You really have no idea, do you, Emily?"

She finally managed to say in a shaky voice, "This is not a good idea, Adam," and started to leave, but he stopped her with a gentle touch on her arm."

"I wanted you to know that Reece and I finally had it out the night after our last counseling session.  She was furious that I was really moving out.  Then she left to go to the bar with the guys she hangs out with.  I told her that if she did that, the engagement was off."  Then he pulled a ring out of his coat pocket. "I just remembered I'd put it in there.  So you see, Emily, I am free, and let me tell you it feels so good, so right, I am so relieved!"

"I hope I didn't do anything that contributed to your breakup," she swallowed hard feeling guilty.

"Nothing beyond bringing to light how our relationship was doomed.  You did us both a huge favor.  I owe you big time!  In fact, let me take you to dinner tonight, Emily."

She gave a weak smile.  "It's too soon, Adam.  We have to think about appearances.  Maybe if you ask me in six months."  Her smile grew a little stronger.

"And maybe I could find you in your favorite lunch place from time to time?  Or sitting in the pew?"

"Maybe," this time she felt herself smiling with as broad a smile as was on his face.

"Do you want to know the other clue to helping me discover who you were, Emily?"

"What?" she acted surprised, then joked, "Do I have lettuce in my teeth or something?"

"No," he leaned over and fingered a lock of her hair.  "I remember how nice you smelled that day in the cafeteria.  It stayed with me for days.  Then when you handed out papers last week and bent down as your hair fell in front of your face, I got a whiff.  You still wear that jasmine perfume, don't you?" She nodded.  "I'll admit I still didn't put it all together though until just now when I saw you so absorbed in your book."

"Did you realize we were in the same youth group?" she asked.

"Not really.  You see my buddies and I used to go to three or four youth groups through the month trying to meet girls.  Sorry I missed you, though.  I'm sure you always tried to hide if you saw me coming, however. 

"I'll admit that I did slink down lower in my seat to hide behind the person sitting in front of me."

Did I ever apologize for such a mean trick, Emily?  Because I am so very sorry. "

She let a smile play with her lips though tears pooled in her eyes.  "Thank you, Adam.  That means a lot."  He gave her a napkin which she unfolded so that she could wipe her her nose.  It was stupid to cry over something so long ago in her past!  "I tried to hate you, but never could, you know."

"I'll bet I can guess your personality type.  It's "Fear," right?

She shook her head yes.  "But it won't determine the rest of my life.  I'm working on it going over to the 'Compliant,' label.  Who knows, pretty soon I might join you in the 'Optimistic' category! But I doubt I'll ever see myself in the 'Angry' description."

"Good!" he said, and they both laughed.  Then he got serious and took her hand saying, "All I know is that I like your personality, a lot.  Not to mention I find you very attractive."

"I'll have you know I confessed to the pastor this morning that I find you even better looking than in high school, and you were mighty fine then, even to a cowering bookish geek girl.  I also admire how you refused to back down on those issues that were most important to you,  some of the same values I hold fast to."

"Well, I am so glad that you were so terrible at marriage counseling that you helped us to break up in less than three sessions."

"Me too, Adam!" Their smiles sparkled off each other.

He got out his phone and found his calendar.  "I'm holding you to that dinner, Emily.  I'm writing it in for exactly six months from now."

"I'll look forward to it every day until then."  That's when it hit her: she suddenly remembered the book she had been reading so long ago after that prank kiss, the one she'd left and lost on the cafeteria table.  It was "Emily of New Moon," by Lucy Maude Montgomery, the same book she was reading downloaded on her iPhone while sitting here just now.  She whispered it with a dreamy look.

Adam heard her but was perplexed.  After she explained he laughed and said, "So that's who you will be to me, 'Emily of New Moon.'  I can't believe your are letting me have a second chance;   And someday, if there's another kiss, it sure won't be a prank."