Monday, April 16, 2012

How Sue's Mother Got Saved (An Old Italian Movie)

Gary had just finished embossing three names on Scofield Bibles for me. He turned off the machine and lightly burnished the leather on a purple cover with a little piece of cloth. The name was in silver.

"We don't get many calls for silver," he said. "But it looks nice against the purple. Must be somebody special," he said as he smiled at me.

"God thinks so," was my only answer, and I knew he understood.

They all looked nice. A red and a brown cover were stamped in gold. "Just another service of the Oak Street Bible Shop," Gary said as he looked for a box to hold them.

Just then, the bell jangled as Sue swept into the room. She was returning from her lunch break with a little bundle held to her chest as if she was embracing it. More fabric, we all thought.

Sue had been to the fabric shop again and was dreaming of her next "creation". Sue made clothes that you never saw anywhere else unless from somebody's attic. She liked little dots and stripes and narrow strips of lace and her one of a kind design were what ladies called "busy". They laughed at her clothes, but Sue didn't care. She lived in her own world and the time was the late 1800's.

"Last night I watched 'The Angel and the Badman' and I want a dress just like she wore!" she gushed.

"She" was Gail Russell as Penelope Worth, the Quaker who fell in love with the 'Badman', John Wayne." Gary, the movie expert, filled us all in.

Sue plopped her package down on top of the Bibles Gary was preparing to pack for me. Gary tensed up and stood even taller, but said nothing.

From her big stool in the doorway, Joy looked pained, but was also silent. She wished people wouldn't bring their personal items in and throw wrapping paper around on the counter. But Sue was often so quiet and sad, it was good to see her happy.

Sue removed the tape from the fabric neatly folded inside. She lifted the cloth to her face with both hands and inhaled. "Don't you love to smell new cloth!" she exclaimed.

Glen in the "prophecy corner" had been holding two books out as if he was weighing them. We all knew he was trying to decide which one to buy and didn't have enough money for both.

He smiled at Sue's enthusiasm. One look at Glen and you knew he didn't care much about clothes or fabric, but he did like Sue and joined in the talk.

"I saw that movie," he said. "It was a nice love story, but I thought it was anti-gun and didn't care for that angle. However it had a good message against violence as a way of life, and I guess if anybody could get the Duke to lay down his revolver it would be Gail Russell. What beautiful eyes!"

Gary wanted to talk movies. He loved the old black and white ones most of all. "You know, every once in a while Hollywood puts in some Gospel, right in the middle of a movie."

"I'll tell you two movies that did," said Glen. "I like Charles Bronson movies. Did you ever see 'Death Wish'? It has the hope of resurrection plain as day at the grave side service of his wife. They weren't afraid to say the name of Jesus in that movie and in a scriptural way."

"'Death Wish 2' has the gospel of salvation," said Joy, much to everyones' surprise.

"I didn't know you Baptists watched such movies," I chided her.

"Well, my husband does and I watch with him," she replied defensively. "I actually liked 'Death Wish 2', and there is a scene where he walk past a storefront church and a lady gives the Gospel from Romans chapter 10:9-10."

Gary was ready with his beloved Bible at the counter: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

Joy continued. "God finds a way to get His Good News out in all kinds of ways."

Sue, still holding her beloved fabric, spoke up. "Did I ever tell you how my mother got saved? My brother visited her one evening and really felt he should try one more time to reach her. She had attended church for a number of years, but if anyone talked about being born again--about salvation--like they say in Star Trek, the shields went up.

"Well, he told me the whole story. It was summer, so he and Mother went out into the back yard and sat on one of those gliders underneath a big maple tree. The moon was coming up. It was a beautiful evening.

They just talked for awhile and then he said, 'You know how I don't like stuck-up churches, where they look down on you and the preacher makes you feel like you still aren't good enough, and you have to keep trying harder and all that stuff. Well, I wish they would just tell people the Good News, that Christ died to save sinners, and stop torturing people about how bad they are.'

"He said Mother started tensing up, so he told her a story about an old Italian movie he had seen. 'I'm telling you, Mom, that is how they should tell the story of salvation. The woman in the movie was a prostitute, who hated her way of life and wanted to get out of it. She had saved her money for years and just wanted to move out of the city to some place where nobody knew her and live a quiet life.'

"He said when he said 'prostitute', Mother looked startled to listen. He didn't know why. He told her the story of the movie.

"The woman was ready to leave her old life, but then somebody stole all her money. She couldn't stand living that way any more, but without her savings she felt she had no hope. She decided to kill herself and started walking to a cliff at the edge of town, a kind of "lovers' leap" that young people visited for the view.

"The movie shows her walking with her head down while bunches of happy young people walk past her. Then she meets a little old priest. He starts to walk with her. He sees how sad she is, broken hearted, really.

"This priest looks up into her face and asks her, 'Are you in the grace of God? If you are you should be happy.'

"The woman says to him, 'In the grace of God! How can I be in the grace of God? I am a prostitute!'

"But the priest says to her, 'That matters to people, but it doesn't matter to God. You need to have his forgiveness and be in his grace.'

"The woman sees he is not mocking her. He is for real. She says, 'But how can I be forgiven?'

"And he says, 'Just ask. Forgiveness is free. That's why it is called grace.'

"My brother looked over at our mother, and she had her hands up pressed over her face. He told me, he thinks she had been involved in something she thought would keep God from forgiving her. She thought she was too bad to be forgiven.

"The next morning, my brother went back to the glider alone. He had to leave soon for work. He heard Mother and Daddy in the kitchen, having breakfast.

"Mother was saying, in an emphatic voice, 'Well I have been going to church for over thirty years, but nobody ever told me what our son said last night. He is better than those preachers we been listening to all these years."

"Daddy just said, 'Well, I don't know about that.' He didn't like anyone down grading his church.

"But that just shows," Sue said turning to Gary, "that movies can do a good job in presenting the Gospel."

Glen was looking at Sue, with respect and affection. "You do a pretty good job yourself, Sue."

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