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Faith as the Child

By E. Avery Cale

“Oooooh thank ya Jesus, oooh thank ya Lord! Thank you Lord! Ooooo,” rises the voice of the preacher seamlessly into the music, volumes converging as the band fades beneath a professional hand in the sound booth.

“Thank ya Jesus!” And with this final exclamation, a pale hand shoots finger-out from his dark seersucker suit sleeve, pointing the straight-line to heaven. Out over the heads of his audience, past the catwalks, the spotlights, and the hanging speakers, through the roof to a sky where storm clouds gather, that pointing finger carrying their whoops, hollers, and amens on to the Lord Himself.

“Alright. You all can be seated now, okay.” The pale hand lowers, sets them to their seats. They are not five thousand, but one would never know it from looking at the projector screens. Grandma folds down her chair and takes the highlighted red letter Bible from her church purse, smoothing her skirt against her legs as she sits. Baby May is struggling noisily beside her, her hand stuck in the puffy pink sleeve of her coat. Throughout the crowd, stragglers let out final words of praise that simply cannot be contained as the preacher steps eyes-closed to the front of a stage without podium or note stand, for he requires freedom of movement when he gets up and going hot, and he needs no notes to hear the Word of God.

“Now,” his eyes pop alive, “lotta you aren’t gonna want to hear this, but I’m gonna say it anyway.”

He flashes that smile.

“Said I’m gonna say it anyway.”

Baby May starts to whimper, her little hand still stuck.

“‘Cause the Lord He put it on m’heart to say it— and how many’a you know that like the Book says, when the Lord knocks, booooy you had better answer, you had better answer and you had better answer quick.”

Grandma rolls her eyes and grabs that hot pink coat at the shoulder and yanks it off pop! and Baby May tries to whispers a thank you but it comes out too loud. “Shush.”

“You had better run to get that door.”

She had told them not to let her wear that coat, it is too warm out already and not turning any colder. A coat like that is just too big for wearing this late in the year no matter how well she liked the color of it, goodness gracious.

“Because I can tell you one thing I know— and many’a you know this— one thing I know is that the Lord He does not like waitin’ out on the porch. Hm? You all hear me?”


“I said are y’all with me, Saints?”

Grandma is not with them. Were she listening she would be but she is not listening.

“You take too long decidin’, wonderin’— ‘Ooooo is my hair nice enough?’ ‘Ooooo I ain’t sure that’s the Lord out there, you know I wadn’t really expecting Him by this mornin’—Well then, He might just move on down the street.’”

It is Baby May’s fault she is distracted, really. What with that whining and that wiggling and that coat and now Grandma is thinking about this morning, and why would her son let her wear so heavy a thing in the springtime? When had there been a cold day, a real cold day like the kind where she would need any kind of coat at all much less so big a puffy thing as that so late as this? All because she whined and carried on so.

“He might go on up to the next door. And might be that person will answer when their Lord He comes to call upon them.”

Not in any living memory she ever had.


And the way they let a girl her age come to Big Church all because she threw her hissy fit. God put it on her heart to be here at Big Church, what child says a thing like that? Ridiculous. Letting her go on that way.

“Then where will you be?”

She was in the car this morning, Grandma is thinking about it now. She was in the car this morning, with Baby May in the car too and throwing her hissy fit telling them all how she ought to go to Big Church and how God would make it snow for her just one time before the spring came, and Grandma had all but given up arguing with the child, and why her son didn’t do the same she’ll never know, letting his daughter throw a fit so. And on a Sunday morning too.

“Well you’ll be sittin’ at home.”

And then she realized they were at Mr. Bailey’s corner.

“Same as you was before the Lord He came by for you.”

Only Mr. Bailey, he wasn’t there.

“‘Cept now you’ll be wonderin’ what it was the Lord He wanted you for.”

For about some three seconds after she had given up on May and her son too and noticed where they were and where Mr. Bailey was not, she thought surely something just horrible had happened to him.

“You’ll be seein’ your neighbor there, reapin’ the blessing of the Lord, walkin’ in his presence, livin’ in joy.”

But then she saw the man, he was running across the road, wearing that orange backpack and that hoodie.

“And you’ll be sayin’ to yourself ‘Why cain’t I have that?’

So she rolled down her window fast as she could and right as he passed the car she took that twenty set aside every week just especially for him and she thrust it into his hands hard enough he had to grab it.

“Well brother. Well sister. I can tell you why.”

Then the light turned to green and she was turning back to Baby May and her rambling on and she, Grandma, was frowning because she had not even got to hear Mister Bailey say Thankyou Godbless.

“It’s because He knocked and you didn’t answer.”

But well now, was that even really Mr. Bailey this morning after all?

“Simple as that.”

She cannot rightly remember now. Not of a certainty.

“And the Lord He don’t wait. The Lord He’s got things needs to be done. And He wants us to be a part of those things, you an’ me, but if we take too long. . . Well, then He moves on to somebody who won’t piddle around.”

Every Sunday morning they pulled off the highway and they stopped at that light on Fairpark and she would ask her son to roll down her back window and Mr. Bailey would start his pitch: Hey folks how you doin’ hey m’name’s George George Bailey I’s jus tryin’ get back home see my family get back home Seattle jus need you pray fo’ me don’ need nothin’ else jus yo prayers. And she would tell her son not to drive off yet and she would give Mr. Bailey that rolled twenty set aside just especially for him.

“And really it’s our loss. The Lord He gets done what it is He wants done. And He wants us to be a part of that.”

But did he ever have on a backpack like that before?

“But if we don’t listen when He calls, well.” He shrugs.

Didn’t he just always have that cardboard sign?


And didn’t he have curly white hair and a white beard?


But whoever it was who was crossing this morning, whoever it was who took her money, he was wearing a hoodie with that hood up so nobody could even see his face and so she cannot recall what color his hair was or if he even had a beard.

“I’m getting off topic here, aren’t I?” chuckles the preacher, red-faced, the crowd with him, shouting out their Nolords Amens Preachits and Grandma is not so distant as to forget to smile. “Well I guess if the Lord He wanted me to preach that then I cain’t complain now can I?”


Well so maybe he was not Mr. Bailey. Why should she care?


Giving is giving, isn’t that what she always said? You just give to those who ask and don’t you worry too much about what happens after, you did your part for the Lord.

“Preach it!”

“I guess He wouldn’t put it on my heart if I wadn’t s’posed to preach it, now would He?”

Yes, but does that mean we should just be throwing out everything we got to everyone who asks?


Of course not.

“Well okay then. Okay then. Now I’ve said it, and I know you who’s s’posed to hear it’s heard it.”

The Lord He says to give but He also gives us discernment does He not?

“Now. Like I was sayin’. Like I was tryin’ to say.”

Of course she never says this to her son, he is back in the church and that is blessing enough for now.

“All right then here it is— lot of you aren’t gonna want to hear this— but here it is.” The preacher whirls on them with a stare that pierces every watching eye and penetrates even unto the hidden places of the soul, places hidden since the foundation of the world, hooks them right there that his next words may reel them in tight. “A whole lot of you say ‘Ooooo I don’t ask the Lord for much.’

He lets that hang a moment, as a spider over a fire.

“Shame on you! Because that. Implies. Self-sufficiency.”

The measure of each syllable he takes with his pale hand, chops each from the next with a swing. Every mouth is silent now, no Amens Yeslords Nolords Preachits as every heart seeks within itself memories which until now were not recognized as shameful, those times when they— even they!— had been guilty of this sin, this self-sufficiency. Grandma catches enough to look serious but still she’s wondering about that twenty-dollar bill. Baby May is fidgeting again, her boots this time.

“You know why that is?” His question returns them to the present, cups them in his palm. “You want to know the truth of why that is? It is because religion!”

So maybe it was not Mr. Bailey.

“And tradition!”

So maybe it wasn’t.

“And those crooked ways of Old Deluder Satan, that Great Deceiver. See, he worms his way in, see, gets into our churches, up into our pulpits. And you know what he does?”

She doesn’t really know Mr. Bailey either though, now does she? Any more than the man—man?—who was crossing the road this morning.

“The same thing he always does.”

She had seen him down at the V.A. once. There is that.

“He lies! He attacks! He destroys!”

So she knows he is a veteran. That she knows. She knows he is a veteran and no veteran should have to ask twice for your help.

“He says, ‘Your God ain’t big enough’—well my friends, my God is big enough!”

He may be a bum and probably a smoker too but first and foremost he will always be a veteran.

“He’s bigger than you and He’s bigger than me and He’s bigger than your problems and my problems and you want to know something else? He is bigger than Satan.”

Lord knows what that boy was this morning.

“Hm? Y’all with me?”




“I said He is bigger,” the preacher points stage left, “than,” points stage right, “the Devil!” points to heaven, that pale finger out like a pistol, parallel to that faultless hairline, white against his red and glistening cheek.

But didn’t she always tell people, ‘Do as the Lord says and don’t you worry yourself about the next, you did your part’?

“So when Satan sneeeeaks—that’s what he does, you know, sneaks around. Don’t let anybody see him, tries to hide.”

Isn’t that just what she always said?

“I would too if I’s so ugly.”

Didn’t she always say just that to her son and his wife when they started on about favor and blessin’ and sowin’ that Whopper Chunk Seed?

The preacher, his face red and glistening, wheezes a laugh, and his audience hoots along without missing a beat, clapping hands, here and there shedding a gleeful tear at the expense of the Devil himself.

And in front of her granddaughter too, so young and impressionable.

“Ain’t that just the truth though?”

Giving is giving.

“Ain’t it?”

Here the preacher mimes a frightened Satan on tiptoes and chancing nervous glances to heaven. “He sneeeaks up a’hind the pulpit, and then when God’s children come up in faith and say ‘Lord, care for me;’ ‘Lord, ease my pain;’ ‘Lord, help my kid into that school;’ ‘Lord Lord Lord.’ Well. You had better get ready.”

Well yes but the Lord He says not to throw out pearls before swine now does He not?

“Because the Lord He wants to do just that, am I right? Am I right? He loves to hear us say it so He can go on and do what we was askin’ for now, don’t He? Now I remember one time, I remember one time this sweet little old lady came up to me after the sermon, and she said to me, ‘Preacher, I don’t mean to start a stir or anything’—which is what people always say when they’re about to try to start a stir or something am I right? Ain’t that just the truth?—‘I don’t mean to start a fuss, but that what you were just preaching sounds a lot to me like that Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings stuff, all them power words and all that sounds like magic to me, and the Bible sure as you and me’s standin’ here says not to suffer a witch or a sorcerer to live.’ And brothers and sisters I thought about that a long time. It disturbed me. I didn’t want to be leading my flock astray. I wasn’t no witch or no sorcerer. At least I didn’t think I was. Be kinda strange, bein’ a witch but never knowin’ it. So I said, ‘Yes ma’am, I hear you, I hear your concern. But that don’t sit right with me, what you’re sayin’, that don’t sit right with what I know about my God. So give me one week and I’ll pray and I’ll dwell on this in the Spirit and I’ll see what the Lord tells me.’ And I came back to her that next week with this message from the Lord that He had given me when I was dwelling in His Spirit and He said to me: ‘I AM the Lord Your God. No devilment that this world can get up to is too much for me. Satan may have laid out traps in the culture, devil’s snares like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, but what he meant as traps I turn to illuminations, and what he laid out to lead people astray I can always turn to point them back in the right direction. And so when you say that speakin’ things in My Name sounds like some Harry Potter witchcraft, you’re right. But only because that old devil and his ways perverted my right ways to confuse you.’ And friends, all we gotta do is un-pervert it. All we gotta do is straighten it out a bit. Put it back on the right track. Because my friends there is not a thing in this world more un-perverse than calling out to Your Lord, God Almighty, and the Lord of Hosts He loves to hear us. He loves it!”

So does the Lord mean that we should throw away everything we have to the tweakers?


To the degenerates, living in sin?


Does the Lord He mean that we should impoverish our own selves even for them what take no pleasure but in meanness?


Well. The Word of God is perfectly clear on the matter.

“I said He loves to hear it. But not Satan. Not the Devil. He hates it! ‘Cause he knows we got him beat. We got him licked. He knows that when he sends out sickness. And disease. And money problems. And school problems. And kiiiiid problems. He knows all we gotta do is run to the Lord, is run to our Daddy’n say, ‘Hey Dad, I’ve got this problem, see, but I know you’re bigger. I know you can take care of it for me. In fact, I believe you already have. I just have to wait In Faith and see it.’ When we say that and believe it In Faith, Looord that old Devil cain’t do nothin’ to us. And how many’a you know the Lord He loves to hear that, am I right? But the Devil don’t. Not Satan. There is not a thing is this world to make Satan angrier than when we call out to Our Lord.”

Did He not, He the Lord Himself, order us to be good stewards of all the world?

“Listen to me, friends, listen to me.” The crowd is riled now, their fervor aroused, but they quiet down just enough for him to continue. “Some people are out there thinkin’ that this is no more than testing the Lord, that it is this very testing that the Devil tried to use to tempt our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the wilderness. To those of you out there thinking so I want to point you to the Bible—there’s no better place to go is there, for the correcting of errors?—I want to point you to the Bible where God says to test Him and see what He will do. That my friends would be Malachi 3:10. Let’s go ahead and put that up on the screen there. Do you see what He says there, brothers and sisters? Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts. Go ahead and take us to the NLT translation now. I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try me! Put me to the test! ‘Cause He will do things, things we cain’t even think of. If we are willing to test Him. Beyond what we can imagine! And He knows me. He knows I got a big, big, big imagination. And He ain’t ever failed yet to not only meet those expectations of the imagination but to exceed them and to exceed them a hundred-fold!”

So she is right to worry.


Suppose he goes out and uses that twenty dollars to buy drugs?

“And when you cried, and you hollered, and in your selfish old nature could only think ‘Me me me, gimme gimme gimme,’ could you reach out and grab what you really wanted?”

Or buy himself a gun?

“Oooo no.”

“Hmm? Could you stick yo hand out there an’ jus’ grab aholt’ a that big’ol glass a that Water of Life, and drink it down?”

She should have never let May distract her like that, but she just kept going on and on about the snow and Big Church and God’s will and all kinds of things, what child talks like that? And her parents not saying a word against her. Someone had to.


“That’s right, friends. That’s right. You couldn’t. You couldn’t. No more’n you can throw a lasso around the moon and pull it down.”

If her son and that wife of his had just done what they was supposed to do she never would have been distracted.

“You cain’t do it yourself.”

She would just hate to think though that he, whoever he was, might go to funding his sins with her money.

“But you know who can?”

“The Lord!” The reply comes before he even finishes the question.

She would hate to be funding the Devil’s work.

“That’s right. That’s the Truth. The Lord!”

That is almost as bad as sinning herself.

“And so when you’ve got problems, when you’ve got aches and pains and bad joints and bad grades and no job and no money and no car, who can take care of you?”

“The Lord!”

“Ooo yes He can, yes He can.” The preacher flashes that other smile, the one meaning service is at an end. “I want ever’body to close their eyes an’ bow their heads with me now, and if any one’a you out there don’t know the Lord I want to change that. I want you to raise your hand and our ushers will bring you down and we’re gonna bring you on back behind the stage here, just a few minutes of your time is all it takes, just a minute to say, ‘Yes Lord, I feel your spirit. I know it’s true what the Bible says, that I was born in sin and death, and only your Son Jesus can save me.’ Jus’ a few minutes of your time, but it will change your life, change your eternity.”

The eyes of the saved clinch shut, or if open stare solemnly at their own feet, politely oblivious to the shuffling, the disturbances in other rows where repenters rise, are led down the aisles to hidden backrooms where awaits the path to salvation. The preacher allows enough time to pass for the willing to present their souls, then bids the others open their eyes, lifts again that long pale hand to heaven to deliver his blessing.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His Face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Y’all are dismissed.”

Mom and Dad are talking lunch now, but Grandma can’t get close enough to hear well or to join in because they’re still in the row of seats, standing now, waiting for the aisles to clear, and Baby May just sitting there on the floor there between her and them trying to get her boots back on which she should have never taken off in the first place. Chi’s, that is what they’re thinking, she thinks. Chi’s. Why they have to go to that place she doesn’t know, they never ate that stuff before, and oh! does that Chinese food just smell so strong. But don’t they have that white rice and some of that grilled chicken, that teriyaki chicken, that’ll do if it has to. They start to move out into the aisle, mixing into the crowd and flowing out with it to the lobby. Anyway it would probably take too long to decide on something else. And well, now would be when to say something if she wants to say something before the thought of eating Chinese gets into May’s head—but should she even try, that teriyaki chicken really is not bad, pretty much just normal grilled chicken—and now they are at the sliding glass doors, through the foyer, and there!


The sky white and the ground too, the white growing, spreading in patches here and there already about the parking lot and between them, the white sky and the white ground the flecks of white seeming not to fall at all but to form out of the white air itself, trying to stick to everything that could hold them, the windshields and the stairs and the crape myrtles.

One last cold front.

“Looks like babygirl got her snow after all,” Dad smiles. Baby May, she looks at the snow piling on the ground, the snowflakes swirling in the air. Sees herself in the yard later that day, just as she had wished for believed for and knew would come, standing out in the yard in her favorite coat. She was ready, already wearing it, and she will turn her face up to the sky and catch the snowflakes on her tongue and then flop back on her back and make snow angels. Then just she and Grandma, they would make snow ice cream with their secret ingredient that only they knew, that only Grandma knew, like vanilla but warm, oh so warm, tingling so as it warms her throat down to her stomach. She smiles.

Well Grandma hopes that that Mr. Bailey is warm under a bridge somewhere or something Grandma really does hope so as she descends the steps to the parking lot, despite that boy this morning taking his money. A coat next week, instead of a bill. One of Hershell’s old coats, nobody was using those anymore and well, he can’t get up to any trouble or fund the way to his damnation with just a coat, a coat was never the root of any kind of evil, that’s what she’ll bring next week instead of a twenty, then she won’t have to worry sick about what she is paying for and get distracted in church and her sandal slips on the new ice on the steps and she throws out a hand to grasp the rail but it is far, too far, her fingers snatching empty air, and when the back of her head comes down on the step with all that unifying force of gravity there is a flash behind her eyes so bright it cuts to the quickening of a soul that can, for the first time, see the difference between those things within our power and those without.


E. Avery Cale has yet done little of public note but is happy in their private affairs, and hopes you enjoyed this story as of all the words they have yet written they consider this the best. No knock against the story at as it was, in the opinion of the author, nothing to be ashamed of.


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