Reverend Joshua Baines pulled into the driveway. Stopping the engine he sat there with his hands on the steering wheel. The hot Texas breeze blew through the open windows. Like every other Sunday afternoon he had brought Mother home and went on visitation, calling on the sick and those who missed church to make sure no one was ill or needed prayer.
Well this is a Sunday for this old man to remember, He exited the car slowly. Think I’ll just sit on the porch a spell. No sense scaring Mother any sooner than we have to.
“Merciful heavens! Papa, what happened? Who did this to you? Talk to me.”
So much for waiting to tell Mother. He put his hand up trying to get her to slow down so he could get a word in. “I’m fine Mother, I’m okay. I’m just a little banged up but I’ll mend just fine.” He eased into his rocking chair.
“Joshua Baines, you’re not fine! You’re bleeding, your eye is swollen shut, and heaven only knows what else.”
“Please just get me a glass of iced tea. I’ll explain everything to you when you get back.”
Quickly she returned with the tea, sitting in the chair beside him. “Now Papa, what happened?”
“Young Billy Horton has been coming to church almost every Sunday. And I admit he can be a handful.”
“Billy Horton? What on earth does he have to do with this?”
“Now Mother, do want to hear what I have to say or not?”
Her lips tightened and she remained silent.
“Billy’s parents never come to church. And I have been meaning to go visit the Hortons. A few of the elders told me to stay clear of John Horton cause he don’t take kindly to strange folk coming around, especially preachers. And if he gets to drinking he can really get nasty, which is quite often I understand. I must admit, after seeing that mountain of a man in town one day, I haven’t been real keen about calling on him, until today.”
“You went to John Horton’s? Papa, why on earth would you do such a thing?”
“Billy Horton.” A tear trickled down his cheek and fell onto the dust covered Bible he held to his chest. “I saw a deacon pull Billy out of the service this morning as we were taking up the offering. He’s usually a little restless but this time he was bothering many of the congregation. When the service was over I found Billy on the side of the church outside. I asked the deacon what had happened and he said that Billy was asking everyone for money.
“I wanted to know what little Billy wanted with the money and sat down with him. When I questioned him, he asked the strangest thing. ‘How much does faith cost?’
“When I asked him what he meant, he said, ‘I’ve been listening to you preach. You said that if we ask God something He would hear us and answer our prayer if we have faith. Well, I have been asking God for him to make my papa not be so mean to me and my momma; cause he hits my momma sometimes. But he’s still mean. I thought maybe God don’t hear kid’s prayers, only grown ups. Then I heard Sally Martin say that she prayed for her Grandpa to get better and he did. So I wondered what was different and I saw her and her Momma putting a lot of money in the offering. So I figured God wasn’t hearing me because I wasn’t buying enough faith. But I gave all the money I had.’
“So I went to visit John Horton. And like everyone said, he doesn’t like preachers at all. He told me to leave or else. Then I heard myself say, ‘I’m not leaving until you hear what I’ve come to say.’
“That’s when the or else started. Each time he knocked me down; I couldn’t believe that I stood back up and asked him if he was ready to listen yet. As luck would have it, he was pretty stubborn.”
“Papa, did he accept the Lord?”
“Not yet. But I am invited to their home next Sunday afternoon for dinner. It seems old John Horton was pretty impressed with how much whoopin’ an old hard headed preacher could take. Said I was different, and he wanted to hear more of what I had to say.”
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