Chapter 30

I pulled Caitlin’s pink leggings up over her knees as she asked, “But Mommy, it’s not Easter yet. Why are we going to church?”

“Well, Caity-Cat, I think it’s important for us to start going to church more regularly like grandma and grandpa.”

Caitlin smoothed down the front of her dress and followed me into the living room. “How come we’re not going to their church?”

“I’ve been going to a Bible study at the church up the road. I like that church. It’s nice and close and there are a lot of friendly people there.”

Buckling her shoes, Caitlin asked, “Is Tessa gonna be there?”

“Yeah, I think so. Her mom and dad usually go every Sunday.”

Once outside, I glanced up at the sky. Not a cloud in sight. The sky was a brilliant blue. Sea blue. The air carried the scent of wood smoke. We walked hand-in-hand to the doors of the church. The sign outside read:

Prayer –
Wireless access to God with no roaming charges.

“Good morning, Heather.” Susan opened the door wide for us to enter. She wore a dress the color of orange marmalade.

“Morning, Susan. I’d like you to meet my daughter, Caitlin.”

“Hello, Caitlin. Gee, what a pretty dress you have on.” She gave a toothy grin.

“Thank you,” Caitlin said shyly. We crossed the room and hung our coats on the rack before entering the sanctuary.

Across the foyer, I waved hello to Pat and her husband. Diane approached and greeted me with a big hug. I took in her clinging scent of BenGay and jasmine. She leaned over, placing her hands on her thighs. “And this little darling must be Caitlin.”

Caitlin slid one foot behind the other and squeezed my hand as she said, “Hello.”

From behind us we heard a friendly squeal of delight, “Caitlin!” Tessa skipped over to us followed by Sarah and Steve. Tessa took Caitlin’s hand and swung it wildly. Sarah approached and gave me a hug. “Glad to see you again.” Steve leaned in and shook my hand.

The music started and we found a bench to sit all of us together.

After the praise and worship music, Pastor James started his sermon. “Good morning, everyone.”

“Good morning, Pastor James,” a thousand voices responded.

“The Sinner’s Prayer – I never liked the title of this prayer.”

I saw a man shift in his seat and a woman wearing cat-eye glasses murmur to her neighbor.

He continued, “It was hard to admit that I’d done wrong, let alone that I was a sinner. I was nice to my neighbors, friendly to my co-workers. I didn’t murder. I led an upstanding life. Yeah, sure I might have told a little white lie or thought something nasty about a person I didn’t like, but that doesn’t make me a sinner. Or does it?” He flashed a 150-watt grin.

I liked how Pastor James left the security of the podium and moved around on the raised platform. Caitlin wriggled like an eel.

“God doesn’t use a scale to measure one sin against another. He doesn’t consider one sin any worse than the next. In His eyes, the fact that I might be envious of a rich person’s mansion is as bad as when I stole some change out of my dad’s pant pockets as a child. The fact that I might have lustful thoughts for a movie star is as bad as when I lied to my mom about smoking in her car. All of these sins are considered equal.”

I toyed with my necklace. I’d never thought of sinning in this way. The links felt cool as they brushed up against my skin.

“This is similar to a law in the health field that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. It doesn’t matter whether the calorie came from a protein or a fat or a carbohydrate. 3500 calories equals one pound, no matter how we consume the calories. Whether you eat an egg, smear butter on your toast, or eat a bowl of iceberg lettuce, each calorie is created equal. It’s a law in nature.”
I remembered hearing this at the nutrition seminar. I looked over to Sarah to see if was getting the message like I was and she nodded in agreement.

Pastor James said, “So is the law of sin. A murder is no worse in God’s eyes than stealing. In our society, we measure sin on a scale and we strive to find a punishment to fit the crime. This is our legal system. However, we are not talking about human law but rather the way in which God views sin.”

Caitlin gave a kitten-sized yawn. I playfully nudged her in the ribs.

“This realization that a sin is a sin is a sin can seem harsh, however, God doesn’t leave us here. He realizes that it’s our nature to sin and, therefore, we can’t enter heaven. God gave us His only son to die on the cross in our place for our past sins and our future sins. This gives us reason to rejoice. Although we are sinners in God’s eyes, He has made a way for us to be clean and to enter into heaven. All we need to do is say and believe the Sinner’s Prayer.”

I heard a few “Amens” called out around the room.

Then Pastor James invited those who had never given their lives to Christ to come forward. In the deepest part of my spirit, I again heard the words, “Come.” I wanted to go forward. I felt a hot flush rise up from my neck. The thought “come” was so distinct. I felt a hand at my elbow and I looked up to see Sarah’s searching look.

“Would you like me to go with you?” she whispered.

I gave her a watery smile. “Come” resonated in my thoughts. I nodded slowly and stepped out into the aisle. Sarah followed and linked her arm through mine as we walked down the aisle to the front of the sanctuary.

I’m not sure how many other people came forward. I kept my eyes closed and repeated the prayer Pastor James said. “Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know is wrong. Thank You that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank You that You offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your Spirit. I now receive that gift. Please come into my life by Your Holy Spirit to be with me forever. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

I wiped my cheeks with the back of my hand and opened my eyes to see Sarah crying with me, her eyes glowing with warmth.

Pastor James said, “If you say and believe this prayer you can rest on the hope of salvation and God’s promise of redemption. In John 3 verse 16 it says, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’”

When we finished giving our hearts to Jesus the congregation broke out in loud clapping. I felt a joy like never before. Sarah hugged me and I pulled her close to say, “Thank you.”