Newport couple finds Bible in the ashes of burned down home

NEWPORT, Tenn. (WVLT) — A Newport couple that lost almost everything they own in a house fire found a  surprise in the ashes.

 

 

 

Justin and Cynthia Wagner were just about to head to bed on Sunday night at their Trentham Road home when they smelled something burning coming from outside the house. Justin said he looked out his front porch and noticed the garage he converted into a makeshift apartment was engulfed in flames.

Wagner said he ran outside and tried to start the car that was between the garage and the house to move it out of the way, but realized the flames were already coming up underneath it.

“I told my wife, I said the car is gone just get out of here, don’t worry about nothing else, just let the fire department take care of it,” Wagner said.

The fire destroyed the Wagner’s garage, left their Mazda unrecognizable, and did extensive damage to the majority of their two-story home.

“Pretty much everything that we own is gone,” Wagner said.

But then a friend found an unexpected surprise while he was helping the couple clean up on Wednesday morning. In the middle of the ashes was a Bible, opened up to John 3:16. The verse reads, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Wagner took that as a clear sign.

“That tells you right there that God is still here with us, he’s still here for us,” he said.

The majority of the Bible was burned with the edges of the pages blackened and charred, but the words of the passage are nearly untouched and clearly visible. Wagner said he has no doubt in his mind that God saved he and his wife that night because there is still more work for them to do on this earth.

“Maybe God let this happen to us so we could get a new start in life,” he said. “After I had seen the word of God and I seen it on that, I felt like God was reassuring me, I saved your life through all this. I brought you guys through this for a reason.”

The Wagners have been staying in a hotel that a local church paid for, but are asking for any help that can be given to help get them back up on their feet. Friends and family say they are currently in the process of setting up a convenient way for people to make donations to the family. Stick with Local8now.com for an update on how you can help.

 

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Evidence of the workings of God: Arika Stovall, Hunter Hanks and a Facebook photo of love

Facebook Couple Arika Stovall

Arika Stovall and Hunter Hanks have inspired tens of thousands of people with the photo of them in the hospital, looking into one another’s eyes, after a crash Stovall swears would have killed them both if not for the presence of God. The two emerged from the twisted wreckage of Hanks’ truck without major injuries.

Stovall’s Facebook post points to the fact that her boyfriend’s quick actions maneuvered his vehicle so that the truck struck a pillar between the two of them.

She points to the appearance in the aftermath of the accident of an old man, illuminated, with a white beard, telling her that an ambulance was coming, reassuring her that all would be well when all seemed bloody and chaotic.

She admits that the man could have been real, or a hallucination or a glimpse of heaven. But, to her, it was further evidence of the miraculous circumstances surrounding the couple’s survival.

The only item of the couple’s belongings that was left at the scene, Stovall wrote, was “Hunter’s bible open, with a page marked with scripture telling us to not be afraid; Jesus is with us.”

How should we understand these recollections? Surely, there will be those who smile indulgently at them but dismiss them as coincidences to which Stovall wishes to assign divine meaning.

Surely, there will be those who scoff at her observations as data of nothing more than the irrational hold of organized religion on people.

I don’t see it that way. I see much evidence of the workings of God in Stovall’s story. And I am a physician. I am a scientist.

What else but an immeasurable force of Grace that we can only worship, not fully understand, could have made Hanks rise from his own hospital gurney to his girlfriend’s, then gaze at her in a loving and healing way that has allowed thousands and thousands of people to feel the power of that love? Try understanding that level of communication by understanding electricity or data. You never will.

What should we call it, then, if not evidence of God? What else allowed Hanks to stop thinking as his truck spun out of control and start moving his hands and feet and eyes and hands, automatically, to navigate the road so that the pillar that bisected their vehicle missed both driver and passenger? Go looking for that on an MRI or an EEG. You won’t find it. Ever. Not even when science has progressed beyond subatomic particles. Because it cannot be seen or understood fully by our minds, only by our hearts.

Stovall believes she and Hanks survived the crash for a reason. She feels a sense of destiny. She senses that she has good work left to do in this world. Why? Why would a human being do anything other than celebrate her luck with a good meal or a shiny bauble?

I will tell you why: Because human beings are creatures of story, of meaning. And you will never find the power in Stovall’s story or any human being’s by taking apart her word processor or her brain. You won’t find her kind of “heart” by listening to her heart. It exists in the immeasurable space between pixels, between neurons, between beats. It exists because we human beings are connected to God.

We all have a choice, you see. It is the same choice that Stovall has made, for the good, at least to my mind.

We can choose not to believe in something more powerful than we are, something we can wonder about and witness and worship. We can choose to deny that there is anything greater than chance, than choice, than us.

But have a look at the photo of those two, in love, in the hospital, and then tell me there’s nothing beyond them, bonding them together.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team.

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Wrestling meets faith in new movie ‘The Masked Saint’ with Rowdy Roddy Piper

“The Masked Saint” will be bitter sweet for fans of the late wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper. Piper portrayed a “shady” wrestling promoter named Nicky Stone in the action packed, faith based film.

Brett Granstaff, the lead actor and co-writer shared with FOX411 that even on set, Piper made time for his loyal audience.

“There is a lot of down time between shots and set ups and a lot of people go back to their trailers, but he stayed on set the whole time,” Granstaff told FOX411. “He talked with every fan, he signed every autograph, there were a lot of indie guys, indie wrestlers in the film, he met with every single one of them, talked about how to cut a better promo, what life was like on the road — he wanted them to be the best wrestlers they could be because he just loved wrestling and he loved his fans and the fact he was just so gracious with his time, it really hit home, he really cared, it was amazing.”

The film revolves around the life of Chris Samuels (Granstaff), a pro wrestler who decides to step out in faith and become a pastor. After moving his family to a new town, reality sets in as Samuels struggles to pay the bills, and when he sees the locals facing hardships, his God-given talents and former career comes in handy.

“I think a lot of people put their church leaders, their pastors on this pedestal, like up here, like they can’t do any wrong, and I love this pastor, who makes mistakes, you know and he does go before the congregation and says, ‘I’ve made mistakes, please forgive me.’ I like that fact that, you know, it’s not just you know, hey everyone’s up here, it’s like they’re human beings,” said Granstaff.

Watch the video above for more on “The Masked Saint,” in theaters January 8.

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Melissa Joan Hart: I won’t shy away from my faith and values

Child star Melissa Joan Hart has continued to grace screens across the country since her “Clarissa Explains it All” days, most recently starring on the family sitcom “Melissa and Joey.” The mom-of-three told FOX411 how she maintains her impressive 40-pound weight loss while balancing her growing career and family. The 39-year-old also shared how she stays true to her faith in Hollywood.

FOX411: You’ve never been shy about your Christian faith and family values.
Melissa Joan Hart: You know, it can be a little scary sometimes to say anything. These days, it’s a talent to be politically correct. I find that as long as I don’t care what other people think and I stand by my values, it doesn’t matter what other people say. People are going to argue with me no matter if I say something controversial or not. I’m going to ignore them because I have every right to say what I want to say and put out there what I feel. I don’t judge others and I’m definitely not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. As far as my faith, I think it is important to share that those are my values and I’m going to use them to guide me through life and I’m not going to steer away from it, it’s part of who I am.

FOX411: You turn 40 this year, how are you celebrating?
Hart: I should have lied when I was 12 on “Clarissa,” said I was five years younger. I do have some plans but things always change last minute [with my job]. I am going to do a sexy photoshoot.

FOX411: Between your clothing line, acting career and raising three boys, how do you balance everything?
Hart: Well, now that “Melissa and Joey” is over, I have more time to focus on my kids. They’re in school in the morning so that’s when I get to do other stuff like [my clothing line] King of Harts, that’s been a passion project of mine to put cool clothes on kids.

FOX411: You lost 40 lbs on Nutrisystem. How do you maintain your weight loss especially during all of the holidays?
Hart: I’ve had a lot of support from my friends at Nutrisystem. I especially love the shakes and even being able to enjoy some desserts on the program. When you have the holidays coming up and you indulge a little it’s always important to get back on the program. You can have one to two days and then get back on it. I also spin and work out with my husband. You’ll see us training together on my Instagram.

FOX411: What were your New Year’s resolutions?
Hart: I have a blog on my website about it. I usually try to give up electronics, but I didn’t set good rules for myself. I tried in theory to do it but because I didn’t make good rules it didn’t stick. This year, it’s more about just trying not to yell as much in my household.

 

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4-year-old asks mall Santa to pray for ailing baby the boy has never met

Prestyn Barnette, 4, prays for Baby Knox with Santa at South Carolina mall (Rebekah Lauren Sharpe)

Prestyn Barnette, 4, prays for Baby Knox with Santa at South Carolina mall (Rebekah Lauren Sharpe)

A 4-year-old South Carolina boy touched hearts around the world when he told a mall Santa that his Christmas wish list included Santa’s prayers for a baby on life support in Las Vegas.

Prestyn Barnette met Santa at the Dutch Square Mall in Columbia., S.C., a week ago. First, the shy little boy asked for a toy train. Then he asked St. Nick to pray for Baby Knox, a 2-month-old being kept alive on a respirator. Prestyn learned about the infant through his grandmother’s Facebook prayer group.

“Santa said we will pray now and he got down and prayed,” the grandmother Robin Sharpe told WIS-TV. “There were many bystanders there that day. They just stood some of them, just bowed their head and prayed.”

Prestyn’s aunt, Rebekah Lauren Sharpe, snapped a shot of the boy praying with Santa and posted it on Facebook. The photo went viral.

The family of Baby Knox Joseph sent out a request for prayers on Facebook after the newborn was found unresponsive in his crib on Nov. 30, the station reported. Knox had stopped breathing.

The family wrote on their GoFundMe page that doctors advised them to take the baby off life support, but the family decided to keep fighting, ABC’s New York affiliate reported Tuesday.

The family posted Rebekah Sharpe’s phot on its Team Knox Joseph Facebook page. The story has generated more than 1,300 likes and numerous comments.

“I seen this post on a friend’s timeline and I followed the link to your page,” one commenter, Margaret Massey Elmore, wrote. “I am praying for your precious little one Knox.”

Tuesday, according to WIS, Prestyn went to Build-A-Bear Workshop, creating a special gift for Knox.

“We wanted to send him something he can hear, feel and let him know we were there,” Rebekah Sharpe told the station.

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Pope Francis approves miracle required to make Mother Teresa a saint

Pope Francis has approved the second miracle required to elevate Mother Teresa, one the Catholic Church’s most famous figures of the 20th century, to sainthood, the Vatican confirmed Friday.

Mother Teresa’s canonization ceremony is expected to take place sometime late next year. Italian media have speculated that the ceremony will take place in the first week of September — to coincide with the anniversary of her death, and during Francis’ Holy Year of Mercy.

A Vatican statement said the second miracle involved a Brazilian man with a viral brain infection that resulted in multiple abscesses with triventricular hydrocephalus.

In December 2008 the patient was in a coma and dying and various treatments had been ineffective. The patient’s wife is said to have continuously sought the intercession of Mother Teresa for her husband.

On Dec. 9, while the patient was being wheeled into an operating room for emergency surgery, his wife went to church and along with the pastor begged Mother Teresa for the cure.

The Vatican statement added that 30 minutes after the patient arrived in the operating room, the doctor found the patient awake and without pain.

The patient then asked the doctor, “What am I doing here?”

The man, now completely healed, resumed his work as a mechanical engineer without any particular limitation.

This past September, the Vatican’s medical commission voted unanimously that his cure was inexplicable in the light of current medical knowledge. On Tuesday, Pope Francis received the final approval for canonization of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints meeting.

Data curated by FindTheData

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in modern-day Macedonia to a Kosovar-Albanian family.

She left home at 18 and moved to Ireland and then to India in 1929.

Father Jonathan Morris reacts on 'America's Newsroom' to Pope Francis approving second miracle needed for elevation

In Calcutta, she founded the Missionaries of Charity to look after the poorest of the poor. The organisation has more than 4500 religious sisters in 500 institutions operating in some 100 countries.

A Nobel laureate in 1979, she dedicated her life to looking after the destitute and dying in India.

Mother Teresa died Sept. 5, 1997 at the age of 87. At the time, her Calcutta, India-based Missionaries of Charity order had nearly 4,000 nuns and ran roughly 600 orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics around the world.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003, which is the step before sainthood. In that case, the Vatican said an Indian woman’s prayers to the nun rid her of an incurable tumor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from Sky News.

 

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Joey and Rory on Grammy nomination: ‘God is so good’

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    Rory Lee Feek (R) and Joey Martin Feek (L) of country music duo Joey + Rory kiss at the 46th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas April 3, 2011. (Reuters)

In their time of struggle, Joey and Rory Feek are finding moments of hope. On Monday, the 2016 Grammy Awards nominees were announced, and Joey + Rory found themselves up for Best Country Duo/Group Performance category with their song “If I Needed You.”

Rory Feek shared the good news, as well as a sweet note, with fans onFacebook:

…woke my bride up this morning with a baby in my arms and the news that our version of “If I Needed You” was nominated…

Posted by Joey and Rory on  Monday, December 7, 2015

In the music video for “If I Needed You,” Joey is shown preparing for the hours leading up to the birth of their daughter, Indiana Boon Feek, born in February of last year. The Feek’s little girl has Down syndrome, which they weren’t aware of before she entered the world.

The couple have been sharing their brave and emotional journey with the world as Joey deals with Stage 4 cancer through Rory’s blog This Life I Live. As a result, numerous country artists have offered thoughts and prayers with the couple during this very difficult time.

Country Stars Honor Rory Feek’s Prayer Request

 

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Israeli vintners recreate wine Jesus and King David likely drank

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Israeli winemakers are trying to identify the type of wine Jesus drank. (iStock)

What did Jesus drink?

It’s something many an oenophile has contemplated for eons. But now Israeli vintners are trying to answer that age-old question using “Jurassic Park”-style DNA technology. With frequent references to wine in the Bible and many sacred texts, there’s no doubt that the beverage played an important role in ancient times.

Israeli winemaker Recanati Winery has just released the first bottles of a new wine called marawi, and it’s the first vintage to be commercially produced by an Israeli winery from indigenous grapes. The idea started as a project out of the West Bank’s Ariel University that used DNA testing of ancient seeds to recreate the wines that would have been drunk during the time of King David and Jesus Christ.

Marawi, also known as hamdani, and jandali grapes were traced back to A.D. 220 based on reference in the Babylonian Talmud that mentioned “gordali or hardali wine.”

“All our scriptures are full with wine and with grapes — before the French were even thinking about making wine, we were exporting wine,” said Ariel team’s lead researcher and wine producer Eliyashiv Drori told the New York Times. 

“We have a very ancient identity, and for me, reconstructing this identity is very important. For me, it’s a matter of national pride.”

(Eliyashiv Drori and a graduate student, Yaakov Henig, sampling Israel’s first indigenous wine.)

Unlike the red table wine representing the blood of Christ featured in Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”—and served at many Catholic communions—marawi is an easy drinking white wine that “opens slightly in the glass with gentle aromas of apple and peach.”

Drori’s quest to recreate Jesus’ wine began in 2005. The vintner, who has a Ph.D. in agriculture, started his own boutique vineyard, Gvaot, in 2005 in a West Bank settlement. He says he came upon a “neglected vine with small, very sweet white grapes” and decided to try making wine from them. Drori received $750,000 from the Jewish National Fund to continue researching 120 different grape varietals with DNA profiles that are distinct from all imports. Around 20 of those varietals have been classified as suitable for wine production.

Concurrently, researchers have been using DNA identification and a three-dimensional scanner to identify 70 grape varietals from old burned and dried seeds found in archaeological digs. Drori and his team are matching the ancient seed samples to live grapes growing in the region, with the hope that someday they can reengineer ancient fruit entirely using a “Jurassic Park” style extraction process.

But in the West Bank region, the constant conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has made production of indigenous wines somewhat contentious.

Recanati is not the first vineyard from the region to sell wine made from these ancient grapes. Palestinian winery Cremisan—a partnership with Italian monks—has been producing wine from  hamdani, jandali and other local fruit since 2008, reports the New York Times. And some are angry that the Israelis are trying to take credit for releasing “ancient wines.”

“As usual in Israel, they declare that falafel, tehina, tabouleh, hummus and now jandali grapes are an Israeli product,” Amer Kardosh, Cremisan’s export director, told the Times via email. “I would like to inform you that these types of grapes are totally Palestinian grapes grown on Palestinian vineyards.”

The Palestinian vineyards that sell grapes to Recanati wish to remain anonymous, fearing public backlash over doing business with Israelis and perhaps due to the fact that they are helping to make wine, which is usually forbidden in Islamic law. But Recanati’s vintner says that his product is not meant to divide, but rather celebrate the unique cultural heritage of the diverse region.

Ido Lewinsohn  says the wine is “clean and pure of any political influence,” and that the grapes “ are not Israeli; they are not Palestinian. They belong to the region — this is something beautiful.”

Israel has about 350 wineries today that produce 65 million bottles a year. Recanati created just 2,480 bottles of the 2014 marawi– due to the difficulty of getting grapes from Palestinian farmers– and it’s currently only available in 10 Tel Aviv restaurants. The vineyard’s second ancient varietal to be released soon is called dabouki, and Drori says it’s even more likely that this older wine “filled the cup of Jesus” at some point.

But there is hope for wine lovers who want a taste of this new-ancient libation. Recanati has about 4,000 bottles of the 2015 aging and hopes to create a vineyard entirely dedicated to marawi production and expand the brand.

Originally available here

Refugee resettlement process leaves Syrian Christians in the cold

 

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Migrants showing registration papers issued by Serbian authorities, try to get a seat on a bus in the southern Serbian town of Presevo. (AP)

President Obama declared Monday that there should be no religious test for refugees fleeing a bloody Syrian civil war and the expanding reach of ISIS, but critics contend the current refugee placement process is rigged against Christians.

While Christians accounted for about 10 percent of the Syrian population in 2011 and face greater peril as a religious minority in a mostly Muslim region, fewer than 3 percent of the 2,187 refugees relocated to the U.S. since January 2011 are Christians, and the percentage of Christians granted asylum in 2015 has shrunk below even 2 percent. The main reason appears to be that once Christians escape the Assad regime’s barrel bombs and Islamic State’s brutal caliphate, they must navigate a hazardous refugee process fraught with gangs, sex trafficking and bureaucratic bias.

“America was created as a land for religious freedom, and if these individuals are persecuted for their faith, we as a beacon of hope for the world should understand their pain more than anybody else,” Juliana Taimoorazy told FoxNews.com. Taimoorazy is a fellow at the Philos Project and the president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council.

“We should take our history and what we’ve stood for into consideration and accept them,” she said.

The Syrian civil war began in the spring of 2011 and, since that year, the U.S. has accepted more than 2,187 refugees, but only 61 Christians. The majority – 96 percent – are Muslims, mostly Sunni, while the another 25 refugees are a mix of atheist, no religion, other, Bahai, Yazidi or Zoroastrian. In 2015, the U.S. allowed in the bulk of its refugees – 1,829 – but only 30, or 1.6 percent, were Christian.

“We as a beacon of hope for the world should understand their pain more than anybody else”

– Juliana Taimoorazy

The Obama administration has announced plans to take in 10,000 more Syrian refugees during the next year. But reports that some of the Islamists who launched Friday’s deadly attack on Paris may have used refugee status to gain admittance to Europe have provided ammunition for those who disagree with the plan. At least 29 governors have said since the attacks that they oppose bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S.

“We have to look at the conditions of these people,” Taimoorazy said. “Arabs can easily go to Saudi Arabia or to other Islamic places that will take them. But Christians that are persecuted at the hands of these Muslims have been persecuted because of their faith. It’s cultural genocide and it’s religious genocide.”

Part of the reason for the low numbers of resettled Christians in the U.S. may be that most Christians fleeing ISIS in Syria do not make their way into United Nations camps.

“Those camps are infiltrated by ISIS and jihadist groups,” said Nina Shea, the director of the Center for Religious Freedom and an international human rights lawyer. “The women would be vulnerable to rape and sex trafficking and the men would have to swear allegiance to the caliphate, according to aid people who have been in the camps.”

But the camps are the easiest way for migrants to register with the UN as refugees, Shea said. There is a heavy UN High Commission for Refugees presence in the camps, and simply gaining refugee status is the first crucial step in the long process of resettling.

“The UN is basically unloading; it’s emptying out its camps,” Shea told FoxNews.com. “It’s not seeking those who are outside its camps, much less giving affirmative action for those who are facing genocide. It’s just an expedience measure for those who are in their own camps, so non-Muslim minorities are poorly represented among them.”

Both Shea and Taimoorazy said Christians living outside the camps face challenges gaining refugee status, a sentiment echoed by Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy with the Immigration and Refugee Program at Church World Service.

“Sometimes an officer will go out and try to make connections,” Smyers told FoxNews.com. “But I think certainly if you can’t find UNHCR presence you are at a disadvantage.”

The UNHCR identifies refugees “based on vulnerability, which may include belonging to a religious or ethnic minority,” according to a State Department official. Once an applicant gains refugee status, they are referred by the UNHCR to one of the refugee resettlement countries. It’s only at this point the U.S. begins its role in the process, vetting each applicant.

“Our emphasis is on admitting the most vulnerable Syrians – particularly survivors of violence and torture, those with severe medical conditions, and women and children – in a manner that’s consistent with U.S. national security,” State Department spokesperson Julia Mason told FoxNews.com.

But Shea said those most vulnerable Syrians often never make it onto the U.S. radar.

“The people that have suffered the most,” she said, “are being completely dealt out of the deck of the refugee program.”

 

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Pauley Perrette happy to be at church following violent attack

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Pauley Perrette showed up for church Sunday morning, just days after beingassaulted by a “psychotic homeless man.”

An eyewitness at the Hollywood United Methodist Church told ET that the “NCIS” star was in “good spirits” as she attended the service with her police friend Nicole, who was with her following the attack, and her pal James, who helped track down the man police arrested.

EXCLUSIVE: Pauley Perrette Was ‘Crying All Night’ After Attack — I Believed He Was Going to Kill Me

The pastor called attention to Perrette’s traumatic event during his sermon.

“Even though this man was punching her and threatening her life, Pauley prayed for her safety and for him,” the pastor told the congregation. “One, she was able to pull the strings of God’s love for each of us …and was able to ask his name, then connect with him on a human level and say, ‘Your name is William?’ That’s my sweet nephew’s name too. When Pauley was telling her story to the media on Friday, first by proclaiming herself as a person of faith. …Second, she proclaimed her forgiveness for the man who assaulted her. And third, she not only called attention to the critical need for mental health services in our country but especially here in Hollywood.”

The pastor also spoke of the man behind bars, 45-year-old David Merck, whowas arrested on felony assault charges. “He’s now hopefully receiving treatment but he’s definitely in jail,” he said. “And we just wanted to say we are so glad that you (Perrette) are here and we love you very much.”

EXCLUSIVE: First Look at Pauley Perrette’s Sketch of Her Alleged Attacker That Led to an Arrest

Following the sermon, church members applauded the 46-year-old actress, and Perrette gave thanks by putting her hands in the air. The CBS star was greeted by parishioners with hugs and kisses.

“So so so good to be at church today,” she tweeted on Sunday.

WATCH: Pauley Perrette Is ‘Grateful to Be Alive’ After Violent Attack by ‘Psychotic Homeless Man’

On Friday, Perrette shared details of her attack with her Twitter followers and later with ET. “He told me he was going to kill me several times and I absolutely believed him,” she recalled to Kevin Frazier. “I prayed as hard as I’ve ever prayed for anything ever in my life, and I didn’t do anything. I thought, anything I do would escalate the situation — I couldn’t overcome him, he was stronger than me.”

 

Originally available here