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Bourbon-Flavored Baptist

Everyone at Connor Street Baptist loved Billy. He was a short, round man with a forgettable, round face framed by large round glasses. His sparse hair looked to be Vaselined to his head, creating the effect of long, thin, gray-black rows. He smiled. All the time.

“What do ya know good?” He’d say as a form of greeting. His big, meaty hands gripped firm in a handshake. When asked how he was, he’d smile and say “better than I deserve.”

Billy still worked at Crouch’s, the local, independent grocery store. He’d been there since high school. Part-time now, just two or three days a week. Never on the Lord’s Day. Before he’d retired, he managed the Produce Department. And did anything else Mr. Crouch needed done.

Billy’s wife died just a week before their 40th wedding anniversary. They’d been high school sweethearts. For the last seven years, he’s been dating Sandra. She heads up the Prayer Warriors at church. She knows everything about everyone. Perhaps too outgoing for Billy’s taste. But, she was someone to share a meal with. Plus, she helped him pick out ties. Oh, and her little daschund, Max. Billy loved to tease Max.

Dan Smedley/Unsplash

Billy loved supper club Saturdays. Sandra always made something interesting, and Billy got to listen to Ronald talk football and admire Dean’s spiritual devotion. Plus, he got to eat. Billy loved to eat. Sharing a meal made life worth living, Billy thought.

Frankly, Billy never understood what the big deal was about salvation. He’d hear people pipe up to testify during Sunday service and wonder what all the tears were about. Of course, Wanda always said a lot. Most people, though, just cried their way through saying, “I’d like to thank the Lord for saving my soul.” Billy didn’t know why all the crying.

Sure, he’d been saved. Of course, he had. That one Sunday when he was thirteen. His mom had been telling him all about the fiery grave of hell that waited for him if he refused God’s gift of salvation.

This didn’t make any sense to Billy. But he knew if he got saved, he’d get baptized. Then, the whole extended family would descend on Connor Street and after service, there’d be dinner on the grounds.

So, he walked down the aisle to the altar on that Sunday.

Just as I am, without one plea/but that thy blood was shed for me.

He told the church. All of them watching, many crying as they watched. He said the words. He told about how after talking with his mom, he got all worried about his soul. How he’d prayed by his bed for what must’ve been an hour. After all that asking God for forgiveness, he felt better. The Lord spoke peace to his soul. He was saved.

It was just like every other time someone went down to tell the pastor about getting saved. Everyone talking about being worried, being lost. Then the peace. The comfort that came after praying and crying and wailing for an hour or two.

Just as I am and waiting not/to rid my soul of one dark blot

Just about the whole congregation shook Billy’s hand that day. His mom was crying and shouting, “praise God.” His dad smiled proudly, arms embracing the whole family. The next week, Billy was baptized. There was fried chicken after church, and it tasted so good Billy wished someone would tell about getting saved every Sunday.

These days, Connor Street has dinner on the grounds every first Sunday to celebrate the baptisms of those saved in the previous month. Pastor Gregg was breathing God-inspired words through his sermons and the church was adding members and seeing new souls join the Kingdom. While no earthly disciple should receive personal glory from the work they accomplished for the Lord, almost everyone attributed the rapid growth to the humble servant leadership of Deacon Dean. It was tough to deny that he and Pastor Gregg were building something special.

Just as I am Thy love unknown/has broken every barrier down

Billy watched TV as Sandra made her green bean casserole and a pretzel salad. No matter what she was doing, she was always talking on the phone or responding to emails sent to the Prayer Warriors. Billy admired her for her ability to keep up with all the happenings of so many troubled lives. He just liked to smile because it made him feel good to see someone smile back. Sandra, she really dug deep. Got to know people. Found out what was broken inside.

Though they weren’t married, Billy and Sandra spent many nights together. He kept his house, but he spent most of his time with her. Yes, they knew each other in the Biblical sense, too. Billy supposed this was some sort of sin. Still, he didn’t see what the big deal was. Both their spouses were dead and they both had been saved. Plus, who better to love than the top Prayer Warrior in the church. He felt she loved him, too.

Yea, all I need, in Thee to find/O Lamb of God I come!

As Billy headed to the bathroom to take a shower before supper club, he heard Sandra’s voice trailing off. Something about Sarah and pills and a clinic. Billy just smiled. Sandra was always so ready to bring the power of God to tackle any problem. He was also thinking about the dessert he knew Martha was bringing. Something bourbon-flavored, he hoped. 

Keighla Exum/Unsplash

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