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The Preacher
by Mary Alice Bowles
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A knock on the door brought me from a troubled sleep back inside the shadows of a dark and stormy night. I ask myself, "Now who could this be"? I lived five miles from my nearest neighbor in the hills of Tennessee. I shook my head, rubbed my eyes, and then turned to look at my big red-lettered clock there beside my bed. It read 5:30 am.

Earlier that Saturday evening I had gone to bed so I couldn’t think about mom anymore. She had been dead now for three whole months and it seemed like only yesterday. That day in May as I stood beside her casket, looking down on her beautiful face, I knew my life would never be the same.

When I kissed her good-by, the lights in my life just totally went dim. No matter where I was at, mom was still there and her face never left my thoughts no matter what I did. Everything about her I could remember in vivid colored details.
It was the worse hurt, my heart was shredded into little pieces and it could never be pieced back together again as long as I lived. We had lost dad five years earlier in a car accident. That left James and I so totally alone. James, my only brother, who had just turned 23, in January 2008 was the oldest living relative in my life.

Both sets of our grandparents had been dead for years and we had no one but us. For three whole months James and I had clung together like glue.

I could not open that door because I remembered James’s last and final words: “Missy, do not answer that door for anybody unless you hear these words, “It is a matter of life or death”!

I unlocked the safety lock, and the other little lock, leaving all three chains in place as I opened the door just a tiny bit and peered out. There was a young man standing there with the rain dripping off his wide brimmed hat and collecting in puddles down around his shoulder length black hair.

He said, “Mam I am so sorry to bother you at such an early hour, or should I say, such a late hour.” He smiled from ear to ear, as the rain made little whimpy trails down his perfectly tanned face. He said, “I swerved to miss a deer and ran off the road about a half a mile from here, and I do need desperately to use a telephone. I tried my cell and it says, “Service unavailable”.

I said, “Sir, would it be ok if I just reached my cell through this little crack”.

His smile turned into a giggle as I heard him say, “That’ll work”!

He made his phone call quickly, and thanked me from the bottom of his heart. He turned and walked softly down the steps of my front porch, disappearing into the woods. As I watched him leave, I noticed that the rain had suddenly stopped and I saw some daylight coming across the mountain of my Sunday morning.

I ignored the sun and all the blue skies as I drove to church that morning. I felt so alone and afraid as I started talking to myself: “Why did I bother to get out of bed”? Why am I here”? “Does God really hear me when I pray”? Anyway, our pastor is out of town on vacation and I should have just stayed home.

The church service started right on time and the singing was beautiful as usual. As Deacon White came to the podium, a door opened to the right of the pulpit and in walked a tall straight figure of a man. His jet black hair hung just to his shoulders, his smile ended in two beautiful dimples, and in his big strong hands he held the Word of God.

Deacon White said, “Randall, would you like to introduce yourself”?

As he started to speak, his stare captured mine and a hint of amusement crinkled at the corners of those beautiful big brown eyes.

“Good morning everyone, my name is Randall Franklin, my friends call me, Randy. I have been sent to preach for you all while Pastor Edwards is on vacation. Please turn in your Bibles to Ecclesiastes three”. Slowly he started turning those pages like he knew exactly where he was going.

I heard a deep peaceful voice as he started slowly to read and my spirit started to soar on eternal wings.

Ecclesiastes 3:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

This visiting preacher was surely sent to bless me and get me back on the right path that leads from earth to heaven as he said:

“You might think that your times are bad, but God is in control of all times, the good and also the bad times. Just remember that God gives us grace to enjoy the good and the bad times. He can turn something bad into something good and use it to his advantage. With God in control the good times always outweigh the bad".

I would like to make you remember that hope is a Christian virtue and despair could become a mortal sin.

He went on to tell us that “we are never alone, God is with us through every season of our life and we have a purpose”. He said, "God hears every prayer we pray, even a tiny whisper. Just remember this, Jesus said, “I will go with you always even unto the end of the world”.

As the service ended, everyone began to line up to shake his hand; I was the last in line. I looked him straight in the eye as he took my hand in his and I said, “That was such a beautiful sermon, it really lifted my spirits and made me want to live again. I haven’t felt that way in such a long time, it feels like it’s been forever".

He said, “thank you so very much, I knew I was hitting a lot of home runs with someone in this congregation”.

I started to leave, getting as far as the door, but suddenly not knowing why, I turned around. My voice was cracking just a little bit as I found myself saying, “Would you like to come to my house for dinner”? I would love for you to meet my brother, James; he should be back from his fishing trip by the time I get home.

Smiling that beautiful smile that I had watched for an hour and a half: I heard him say:
"I would love to have dinner with you,
what time would you like for me to be there"?

He said, "by the way, what is this persons name that I am fixing to have dinner with"?

I could feel my face flushing hot as I said, "oh yeah, that would help a little bit, my name is Melissa".

Taking my hand in his again, he said, "Melissa, I will be there, if it is the Lords Will, and with that little giggle that I heard the first night we met he said, "and it is not like I do not know where you live".

Story by:
Mary Alice Bowles

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