"Sister Jameson," Chambliss said, "you've stepped out in faith, and we're all witness to that belief you have in the love of Jesus Christ to protect you and keep you safe, whether it's here with us on this sinful earth or at home with him in glory." Whispered "amens" rose up out of the congregation, and people waved their arms over their heads in hallelujah. "I'm going to ask the rest of the deacons to come up here with me and lay their hands on you, Sister, and maybe the good Lord will let us pray you through this." The sound of folding chairs being pushed across the linoleum rang out, and groups of men went up on the stage and kneeled around Molly and laid their hands on her and prayed different prayers, some of them in tongues, some of them calling on God and asking him to save her. Chambliss stayed knelt down beside her and kept his eyes closed, his good hand on her head, the burned one still holding on to the microphone. "God's sent his angels," he whispered. "I can hear their footfalls up on the roof above us; I can hear their wings just a-fluttering, Molly. God's sent his angels to be with you this very morning, and we don't know if they're here to watch over you and keep you with us, or if he's sent them to carry you home to glory, but we feel them here with us, don't we, and we feel Jesus's love washing over us this very minute." He looked up at the congregation.
"And all God's people said, 'Amen.'"
"Amen!" the people hollered back. Chambliss stood up and looked out at us, and then he looked back down at Molly where she was laid out and surrounded by all those men who were still busy praying over her.
"But the world ain't made up of God's people," he said. "The world ain't given to know what we know. The world ain't going to understand this woman's faith; it ain't going to understand her wanting to take up that serpent to conquer the Devil. And I can tell you that the world ain't ever going to understand the will of God in allowing her to come home to him."
"That's right!" someone hollered out. "Hallelujah!"
"But we know," Chambliss said. "We know what's at work here. We know God has a plan for his people.
We know God lets only the righteous into Heaven. We know God brings only the worthy home."
"Amen!" another voice said.
"And I tell you," Chambliss said, "it's a good day when one of us goes home. It's a beautiful Sunday morning when one of us is called back to Jesus. Hallelujah!" He dropped his hands to his sides and shuffled across the front of the church like he was dancing. "It gives me joy to see it! No tears. No sadness. Hallelujah! Just joy. Joy that this woman's going home. We got that good Holy Ghost power up in our church today, praise God!" He looked over to where Mrs. Crowder sat behind the piano, and he nodded toward her and she took up playing and pounding away at the keys. The drums and the guitar picked up after that, and before I knew it the congregation had started in on "Holy Ghost Power" and everyone had took to dancing and singing like nothing had ever happened, like they'd all done forgot that Miss Molly Jameson was dying from a snakebite right there in front of us, the music so loud and pulsing you could feel it in your chest.
A couple of deacons picked Molly up and carried her out of the church, right down the middle aisle, right past everyone there, but not a single one of them people even seemed to notice.
A few days later I was down at the post office in Marshall when I heard a woman at the counter telling the postman about how Molly's sister-in-law came over to the house and found Molly dead in the garden on Wednesday evening. Said she was out there laying facedown in a row of tomatoes, a spade still in her hand. "What took her?" the postman asked. He wet his finger with his tongue and counted out dollar bills for the woman's change, and he laid them out on the counter like a fan.
Excerpted from A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. Copyright © 2012 by Wiley Cash. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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