wednesday, june 6th, 2007, 10:00 a.m.
Beer in hand, Tree drooped his depressed body over an old depressed lawn chair on his front porch, and stared angrily into the bright June morning, recounting the last play of the last game of his career.
It wasn’t often someone outfoxed Tree, but he was certainly outfoxed by Reuben Tanner. When Roo stepped back in the batters box Tree wanted to protest to the umpire that he stepped outside the box and should be called out. Not that he saw Roo step out, but that mattered little; he could have and that was reason enough to squawk. But everybody’s attention was on the ball floating over the second baseman’s head. Spike should have anticipated the spin on the ball that bounced crazily away from him, Tree determined. The big man looked silly, slipping and sliding, chasing the white ball spinning across the sideline but still in play. Tree was sure a good throw from Spike to home could beat Phil Ferguson running to home plate. The throw wasn’t perfect, but not bad. The back catcher caught the ball just above his head and immediately swept his glove inches in front of home plate as Ferguson was sliding in, feet first. Was he out or safe mattered little to the Grizzlies fans, or to Tree who was where he shouldn’t be, only a few feet from the plate, or the other Grizzlies players, all where they shouldn’t be, outside their dugout; in unison they all screamed “Out!” to influence the plate ump. The umpire had his thumb protruding from his fist ready to jerk it upwards, a signal the runner was out. But then he hesitated, and instead waved his arms across each other to signal the runner was safe, and all the noisy protesting and tantrums of the Grizzlies did not convince him to reverse his call. The Grizzlies lost the game and the championship by one run and a fraction of a second. And Tree was mad at God. Again.
God was chuckling. No, He was having a serious belly laugh, thoroughly enjoying Tree’s letdown, or so Tree convinced himself. God knew how much Tree wanted to take the trophy to his grave with him, but He denied him that small victory. Less than a half a second! Why couldn’t God have given him a tiny instant of time? Losing first place in the league was a confirmation of just how worthless he was. Okay, that’s settled, Tree spoke to himself. I am an entirely useless person. What’s the difference? Soon it will be all over. Four more days.
And then he thought of the plumber who took the game from him. It was Roo who hit a grand slam home run. It was Roo who struck out three batters in a row, himself included, at the top of the ninth. It was Roo who hit in the winning run. But it was hard to hate a guy, try as he did, who had so much grit, even though he was so…… yucky pleasant.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, get to your feet.” Those words wouldn’t go away like other words do. I heard Tanner say it twice, and his kid obeys him, like, “Come for supper,” and the kid runs to the supper table. It just doesn’t make sense. The leg was broken, and then it’s not broken. Kind of spooky. The kid’s on the ground and he’s hurting big time, and then the kid’s standing. No more pain. Go figure. That Tanner’s an unusual dude. Wish I knew what made him tick.
And then, I wonder how Mac’s handling his church problems. This win ought to cheer him up. And the miracle, or whatever it was, should be the equivalent of a cool half-dozen beer on a hot June day.
wednesday, june 6th, 2007, 10:30 a.m.
Vivian was getting groceries so it was up to Mac to answer the phone before the recorder cut in; it could be important.
“Pastor Maclin speaking.”
“Well hello, Superintendent Johnston! This is a surprise!”
“I’m doing fine, sir,” Mac lied. “And yourself?”
“Well, actually, the person who contacted you was speaking the truth. We are going through a time of trouble. I want you to know, however, that the trouble, mostly, arose recently, since the convention. I was not being deceptive when I spoke of the Center.”
“Thank you for saying that, sir. I must say, I needed that encouragement. I haven’t gone through anything like this before.”
“Yes, sir. I realize my mistake, and I take full responsibility.”
“Yes, that is correct. I gave my word that Tanner could speak two successive Sundays. I feel I must keep my word.”
“But, sir, I can’t do that. As I said, I gave my word.”
“I certainly share your concern, sir. I will be speaking to Tanner in a few hours. I intend to fully explain the entire matter, and hopefully he will gracefully rescind.”
“Yes, sir, I received it in this morning’s mail. I was honored. Thank you for considering me. I know there are many qualified men you could choose for this position.”
“I understand, sir.”
“Yes, sir. I understand.”
“Yes, I will keep you informed.”
wednesday, june 6th, 2007, 1:50 p.m.
Mac had been in many evangelical churches over the years, but never had he seen a pulpit so noble as his own, tastefully fashioned, undoubtedly for the purpose of dignifying the word preached. It was just a few days ago he was telling a number of his contemporaries the danger of the pulpit if its power was not properly harnessed. How stupid he had been, he thought, to allow an untrained layman access to this pulpit; how different life would be if he simply refused.
The miserable, cloudy day was a fulfillment of predicted rainy weather to befall Bryden Falls for the next few days, and the atmosphere in the sanctuary was equally gloomy. It was a wounded and disappointment Mac, clad in sweats and T-shirt, two baseball gloves and a ball at his side, who was leaning on his pulpit trying to determine who betrayed him. He knew he ought not try to guess who contacted Superintendent Johnston – his guess could never be more than a speculation, and suspicion could fall on an innocent – but restraint was difficult. And perhaps betrayal was an unfair word. Did his people not have reason to distrust his judgment?
It didn’t seem feasible someone from the congregation would contact the district office; denominational headquarters was a world unfamiliar to most. Perhaps someone from the board where there was some awareness of ecclesiastical complexities. But who? I better stop there!
In a few minutes he would be meeting with Reuben Tanner. Funny, he thought, how his future somehow got placed in the hands of a plumber/back catcher. If Roo did not rescind Mac could say good-bye to the assistant superintendent posting; Martin Johnston was subtle, but his ultimatum clear. It took all Mac’s willpower to put uprightness before expedience, to keep the word he regretted giving. He wanted the new posting. No, he deserved the posting – had he not been exceptionally diligent all these years? – and he ached for advancement. And how could he disappoint Vivian again? He was sorely tested.
A few minutes before two he heard a vehicle in the empty parking lot and knew the plumber had arrived. Baseball stuff in hand, he headed out the door.
“Thought you could help me loosen my arm for Friday’s game,” Mac said as he handed a glove to Roo, thinking it would help him keep his anger, as well as a few other emotions, in check if he activated his body.
Roo liked that. “Certainly, Mac. Good idea! Do you want to walk to the diamond?” But at that moment the clouds decided to unload, and both men scurried inside the sanctuary.
Phil Ferguson was drawn to the sanctuary by the Smack! sound of ball-on-glove, and was amazed to see the senior pastor and the enemy-layman casually throwing the ball down the center aisle of the sanctuary. Concluding some things are best unseen, he returned to his office and to church affairs.
Behind Roo was expensive glass in the foyer swinging doors, as well as breakables in the back of the church. Behind Mac was the lighted pulpit both men put in place a number of years ago. Mac had an accurate pitch, Roo was an excellent catcher, and as long as no one saw them likely no harm would be done.
After some baseball chatter, Mac got down to business. “I guess you’re aware of the dilemma the church is in?” He pitched a ball down the center of the red-carpeted aisle, aiming at an imaginary home plate. Roo answered with an affirmative nod, and returned the ball.
“As you know, I took your appeal to the board. They were surprised someone would appeal my judgment.”
“They had never encountered an appeal before. There was a lengthy discussion, but for the first time they could not come to a consensus. As you know, Tony Borric resigned over the matter.”
“It was a blow to the board and to the congregation.” Mac tried to discern a response from Roo, but he seemed unaffected.
“They returned the matter into my hands, assuring me they would back me up whatever I decided. Frankly, the only reason I gave you permission to speak to the congregation was because I thought less damage would be done than denying you.”
“You are influential at the Center, and I thought you might take advantage of your influence and try to get to the people another way. This would be cause for a major confrontation whereby everyone would be hurt.”
Reuben was silent, methodically returning Mac’s pitches. This guy just isn’t hearing me! Mac was getting agitated.
“It’s ironic I was giving a talk at the conference at the same time you were speaking to my congregation. The title of my message was Pulpit Power. I spoke how dangerous a pulpit can be, both to the speaker and to the listeners.” No response.
“When I got home I found our congregation split. I was amazed at just how quickly a church split can happen, and how devastating it can be. Dozens of people phoned, most were anxious and upset.”
“I was so shocked I couldn’t respond to their anxieties. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.”
The back catcher had nothing to say, so Mac asked him, “Ever get the wind knocked out of you, Roo?”
Finally, a response, “A couple of times. It’s incredibly painful.”
Well, he’s alive! Mac thought. “Since your request to address the congregation the board is split, the congregation divided, the baseball team is not the same, and my own family is at odds with each other. The influence the Center has had on the community is in jeopardy. We risk losing our witness.”
The Smack! of the ball hitting Roo’s glove got increasingly louder with intensified pitches fueled by Mac’s swelling frustration at Roo’s seeming passiveness. “At an emergency meeting the board decided to reverse my decision to allow you to speak this Sunday, such is their concern for the welfare of the congregation.”
“However, I told them I am obligated to keep my word, and they, or at least some, concluded they were likewise obligated to keep their word to me.” Still no reply. Mac felt he was degrading himself, begging for mercy.
Doesn’t this guy have a heart? “I got a letter this morning from the district office offering me the position of assistant superintendent. I have been secretly hoping for this for years. Vivian was very excited.”
Now the pitches were very hard; still Reuben handled them with ease. “This was followed by a phone call from the superintendent. Someone contacted him, and he phoned me to communicate the fact the offer will be canceled if I allow you to speak on Sunday.”
“No, he wasn’t that blunt, but that was his implication. I suppose it would be safe to say such an opportunity will not come again for many years.”
And then Mac had no more to say. It was Roo’s turn to speak, but he didn’t. Mac went into full pitcher’s wind-up. Smack!!!…… Smack!!!…… Smack!!! Mac was losing control, both of his emotions and his pitches. A hard pitch went wild, threatening the sound equipment in the audio booth, and Roo barely managed to block it. Mac wound up to pitch again, harder this time, but instead dropped his glove and ball to the floor. The two men stared at each other in silence. Mac had his answer; Roo would not rescind.
Shoulders drooped, Mac walked to the pulpit, his back to the plumber. The words were inside him, but refused to come out. No! I will not let this happen! I will not allow you to speak to my people again! Enough damage has been done! I gave you the opportunity to back off gracefully, but you refused! Now I must reverse my decision! You give me no choice!
Instead he reached for a book he had placed in the pulpit, Martin Johnston’s Building A Church On Wisdom’s Foundation. “Reuben, I want you to read this book. It will help you to see from another vantage, perhaps one you have never considered before. Will you do that?”
“Of course, Mac”
“And can you do that in the next three days? I know that’s asking a lot, but I want you to read it before Sunday.” Perhaps this will persuade him!
“I will read it within the next three days.”
“Thank you. Well, I guess our meeting is over.”
“Could you walk me to my van? I have something for you. I think it stopped raining.”
At Reuben’s Plumbing van, Roo handed Mac a book entitled The Way It Is, authored by Larry Jones. Roo borrowed Mac’s words, “Mac, I want you to read this book. It will help you to see from another vantage, perhaps one you have never considered before. Will you do that?” Mac looked for mockery in the plumber’s face but, worse, could only find sincerity.
Mac felt trapped. How could he refuse a request from Roo who used his same words to make the same appeal? How could he say no when Roo just said yes? Doesn’t this guy get it? I am the pastor! He is the layman! I am the minister, the leader. He is my ministry. It’s my place to minister to him, not him to me!
Mac, defeated, used Roo’s response, “Of course, Roo.”
“See you Friday evening at the game,” was Mac’s way of saying good-bye. And then, “Was John’s leg really broken?”
“It was broken,” said the man of few words. And Reuben’s Plumbing van made a large circle and exited the parking lot.
thursday, june 7th, 2007, 6:15 a.m.
“Sally, I hope we don’t lose contact with each other after you and the children move east.”
“Yes, that’s right. And it won’t cost any more as long as we continue to phone early in the morning. Not that that’s an issue. Your friendship is what counts.”
“Oh, don’t thank me. I enjoy our morning chats. Tell me, Sally, are you nervous driving a long distance by yourself? I talked it over with Reuben, and I could make the drive with you and fly back.”
“Are you sure? I would be happy to do it.”
“Well okay then. I’ll be praying for you. I assume you have a dependable car?”
“That was good of Trevor to give you the minivan.”
“I know, Sally. It’s unusual for a divorced couple to maintain their love for one another. I feel so bad for your entire family.”
“Are you saying you are afraid for Trevor?”
“But the kids will still maintain contact with their dad. They can write or phone or email.”
“So this is a final good-bye? No birthday cards, no Christmas gifts, no summer visits? Sally, are you sure that’s the way to go?”
“I can understand that. It sounds so final.”
“Just three more days. Did you manage to locate a place to live?”
“I hope you don’t have to spend too much time in a motel. They can be expensive this time of the year. It’s too bad you don’t know anyone at the other end.”
“Yes, I know you want a fresh start, Sally.”
“Yes, I am sure you will find work soon. And hopefully you will find a good school for the kids.”
“Yes, Reuben and I hurt for you and your family, but we will never stop praying. Never.”
“Of course that includes Trevor. Where are you and the kids meeting Trevor Sunday morning?”
thursday, june 7th, 2007, 7:15 a.m.
Katie was careful not to wake her parents. They were on vacation, such as it was, let them sleep. As she opened her bedroom door she noticed the note in the hallway.
Miss Katie Maclin:
The honor of your presence is requested by Pastor Terry Maclin this evening of the seventh day of June in the year two thousand and seven for a delightful dining experience at Mario’s Pizza immediately following band practice.
R.S.V.P. before eight a.m. of the same date.
P.S. Please wear pigtails.
Yes, Daddy, she wrote, I will be in pigtails. And she slipped the note under the bedroom door before quietly leaving for school where another final exam awaited her.
thursday, june 7th, 2007, 7:30 a.m.
Reuben was in his office keeping his word. He thought how nice it must be to be able to write a book, to convey one’s convictions in a comprehensible manner, to tear down opposing arguments, to neatly package one’s passions and certainties between two glossy covers. Building A Church On Wisdom’s Foundation was such a book. Little wonder there were over a hundred thousand in print.
Mac was right. The book exposed Reuben to a church perspective he never before considered. The simple plumber was impressed, overwhelmed, by the flow of logic and reason that made it very plain to him his Sunday morning speech was out of order.
It was no longer a heavy rope that tethered Reuben to his conviction that many at the Center must be converted, again, to the Lord Jesus Christ; the commotion in the church caused by his sermon weakened the rope to a string no longer able to sustain much tension. He was a plumber, a good plumber, but a simple and naive plumber, sheltered from church complications. He felt he had a message for the people of Bryden Falls Community Christian Center; perhaps – apparently? – he was wrong. He could not be prepared for the devastation his word of warning had caused. One time he preached to a sizeable audience, once only, and the church he helped build and cherished was on the brink of permanent schism. The private plumber was now the public enemy. How close he was to caving. A few more Smacks! from Mac’s appeal to relinquish the pulpit would have ended the contest; Mac would have had his pulpit back, and Reuben would have returned to his world of toilets and tubs and sinks, eventually forgiven.
Building A Church On Wisdom’s Foundation was putting tension on the string still binding him to earlier convictions, a tension increased with every turn of the page.
Page 27: A community of Christians, though knitted together by God Himself, is fragile and words spoken from the pulpit must be delicate and communicated with the same care a mother communicates her affections to her young child. Truth alone is not restorative; truth must be robed in gentleness. Truth must not be delivered by the blacksmith’s hammer, but planted by the gardener’s tender hands.
Page 36: Ministers of congregations are a redeemed but fallen people on a journey of restoration with an awkward burden of leading others along the same road. We are the spiritually near-sighted conveying understanding we are not sure we have, the emotionally maimed doctoring the emotionally maimed, the confused giving direction, the guilty judge removing the speck from another’s eye. To lose this perspective, to consider oneself to be more than ordinary, to place one’s confidence in self-attained insights, is indulging in fantasy. And nothing is more destructive to an assemblage than a deluded minister ministering fanciful convictions.
Security is building upon the wisdom of those who have walked our walk before us, those who have learned by costly mistakes, the lineage of humbled ministers of God’s truths who themselves have turned to the wisdom of their forefathers. While there is prideful satisfaction in being the “loose cannon,” there is also accompanying havoc. When dependence upon others is forsaken for independent self-reliance, the fall of many is soon forthcoming.
A minister must school himself in the understandings accumulated by others, an education of which Bible school is but a part. He must learn the art of cooperation, attire himself with the bearing of a submissive servant, earn the endorsement of his peers, for only the humble can learn spiritual values and effectively convey those values to others.
Reuben closed the book to get a respite from the painful, reproving words, and hid his face in his hands. What have I done? Am I the deluded minister ministering fanciful insights? Have I been the loose canon creating havoc? I certainly did not earn the endorsement of my peers. How did I get myself into this mess?
Page 51: Few would argue love is the essence of Christian community life. In a band of diverse persons love is usually best expressed through tolerance. Acceptance of others comes easier after self-examination, after the discovery of the plank in one’s own eye, after probing one’s memory for past failures. How self-gratifying to be the one bringing correction, to be the sign pointing the way, the voice crying in the wilderness of conflicting opinions. How insignificant to be the hearer only, to be the student instead of the teacher. How we each long to express our view, to have an audience, to be recognized.
If each in the community were given equal opportunity to express, the community would soon be a shambles of conflicting thoughts and opinions. While unity is the fruit of time and patience, division comes in a day. A divided people may meet regularly, but the fruit of their togetherness is stunted. “Together we stand; divided we fall” is a truism that must be applied to a congregation ambitious for a substantial harvest.
It became apparent to Reuben why Mac refused to give him the pulpit at his first request. He read again, If each in the community were given equal opportunity to express, the community would soon be in a shambles of conflicting thoughts and opinions. He could not come up with one reason why he should be the lone layman privileged to express his opinions before the others. He was just a plumber; how could he expect to match the competence and understanding of schooled reverends? What have I done? he asked himself again.
thursday, june 7th, 2007, 8:35 a.m.
Mac was still in bed, being deliberately lazy this rainy Thursday morning, keeping his word. So many people writing books nowadays, Mac critically mused as he perused the cover of The Way It Is. He started the book last night and had been reading since six this morning, wanting to get the pesky chore done and behind him. Vivian served breakfast in bed; after all, they were on vacation. He had thought of writing his own book, he was already experienced and successful at writing articles for the denomination’s monthly, maybe some day when demands on his time ease up. Besides, the book inside him, he sensed, was still not completed.
Mac was angry. Here I am on vacation and I am forced – forced! – to read a book I don’t want to read, by a writer who has no qualifications whatsoever! Every time I have dealings with that plumber I come out the loser – this book is at least a quarter thicker than the one I gave Tanner!
Mac’s rope, the one tying him to his convictions – really the adopted convictions of others – and to his denomination, was still strong, though not so strong as before the day the plumber said, “I believe I have a message for the congregation.”
The cord had been weakened by innocent questions at the elders’ meetings to determine the validity of the way the Center operated. Mac was humbled, not having a defense though his role as pastor was being questioned. He grimaced at the remembrance of his own words to the board, “I am a licensed and ordained minister of our denomination, and as such have agreed to abide by denominational bylaws and policies …… I am committed to head office and the standard they have set.” It was a veiled threat, “We stick to the way it has always been or I’m out of here!” Although it worked – the tone and the direction of the board changed soon thereafter – Mac felt like a spiritual wimp. He did not, could not, declare his own persuasions in the matter because he didn’t have any, so he opted to take refuge in the convenient assumption that others were wiser than he.
Tony Borric’s closing of the Bible made a very sharp statement. Before, Mac and the board could hide behind confusion, but now the fuzziness was removed, now it was painfully obvious they had been walking, and chose to continue to walk, in a direction that did not have the endorsement of the Bible.
But the weakened cord still had strength. Tanner’s tape might have weakened it further had he listened with his heart. He had to admit he never gave it fair attention. I won’t do that again. Mac was accustomed to keeping his word. I will read, not skim over, this book. And then I will dismiss it altogether! was his 6:00 a.m. resolution.
But Mac was having his world toppled. The rope was shrinking to a string. The Way It Is challenged perceptions Mac had always deemed sacred, comparing those perceptions to New Testament writings.
Mac’s problem was his honesty – not to suggest his heart was entirely honest, who’s is? But the honest part of his heart outweighed the dishonest part. Yet, like most, he was adept at slipping into denial when confronted with unwanted reality, and would have found solace there this morning except for the second problem. There was no running away; he had given Roo his word as Roo had given him his. His honesty compelled him to read The Way It Is, every sentence, every argument, every perspective.
The writer was like a prosecuting attorney pointing a condemning finger at the evangelical belief system, presenting evidence that many practices, though established and cherished and honored, were detrimental to the circulation of the gospel of Christ and the health of His church, causing most evangelical adherents to adopt a pygmy perspective of their potential and responsibility. And the author was also the defense lawyer, defending the truths of New Testament writings, appealing to the reader to build on the sure foundation of Christ’s words, and warning of the folly of building on the sands of traditionalism.
Titles, salaried professionals, singular spokesmen, denominationalism, tithing – all these customs were brought under the scrutiny of the Word and, in the opinion of the author, were found wanting. Most upsetting to Mac was the writer’s assault on what he called a “two-tiered system,” the dividing of the church into the “ministerial and the laity,” the “special and the not-so-special.” Again and again, and again and again, the author pointed to Jesus Christ as the one and only pastor-shepherd of the sheep, claiming it was an insult to the “good shepherd” who “gives His life for the sheep” to call and consider a mere mortal his pastor. The writer made what Mac considered to be radical statements regarding evangelical churches, suggesting that Jesus Christ had slipped, to a large degree, from the consciousness of the people. Jesus was no longer lord, secondary to men who propagated a substitute set of traditions. But was it true? And then Mac thought of the closed Bible sitting in the middle of the boardroom table.
Mac’s body weakened and sweat coated his forehead at the possibility his ministry had been founded on nothing more than evangelical traditionalism. As a diversion, Mac tried to recall the last time he felt as disturbed as he did at this very moment. It was about three years ago, he remembered, when Vivian handed Mac the phone, sympathy on her face. His dad had died of a stroke. He was aged, he was wanting to be with the Lord, but such reasoning did little to stem Mac’s grief. Part of his foundation and his identity was cruelly removed, and he was a wounded little boy. And now another chunk, an even larger chunk, both of his foundation and his very identity as a person, was being assailed. His life’s contributions now seemed deficient; his purpose questionable.
Vivian came into the bedroom with Katie’s note.
“Good!” Mac said. “I’ve got a date with an angel tonight, an angel in pigtails!”
“A new book?” Vivian asked. “I haven’t seen that one before.”
“Reuben Tanner gave it to me to read.”
“Oh?” The plumber’s name made Vivian shift from cordial to annoyed. “Is he now giving spiritual direction to the pastor?”
“I gave my word. I must read this book.”
“You gave your word?…… again?”
Mac needed a companion at this tender moment, not a critic. “I got him to promise me to read Martin Johnston’s book. I couldn’t turn him down when he asked me to read this one. So I’m compelled to read it.”
“Really? And did you talk to him about Sunday?”
“Yes, Sunday. You did tell him he won’t be speaking.”
“Well, Terry, when are you going to tell him?”
“I’m not. I gave my word he could have the pulpit two successive Sundays. I am bound to my word.”
Vivian’s calm was fast dissipating. “No! You can’t do that! You gave your word before all the damage was done. You simply made a mistake in judgment. Under the circumstances you are not obligated to keep your word.”
“What did the board say?”
“Much the same thing you just said.”
“And I said to them what I said to you. I gave my word!” Mac was loosing it, and matched Vivian’s fire.
“Suppose head office finds out? Have you thought of that?”
“Johnston already knows.”
“You told him?!” Vivian screeched.
“Somebody else did.”
“I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“Did Johnston phone you? What did he say?”
“He insinuated if Tanner speaks I will not get the posting as his assistant.”
Vivian was horrified, the door to an improved life was closing. “And what did you tell him?”
“The same thing I told the board and the same thing I am telling you, I am bound to my word.”
“You’re throwing away our future!”
“I am trying to do what is right! Isn’t that what a Christian is supposed to do?”
“It seems like the board and the superintendent do not agree with your idea of right. Nor do I. And now you have another problem.”
Mac was up and getting dressed, agitated and fueled to fight back. He had been pushed around enough. “Now what is that supposed to mean?”
“It means I won’t be there on Sunday. And how do you think that is going to look?”
“It won’t look nice at all. I’m surprised you would put your own pride before the good of the congregation!”
“And I’m surprised you would put a plumber before your wife.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Think about it, Pastor Mac! I walked out of the church because the plumber was undermining my husband! I stood up for you! Letting him speak again is making a statement! It is telling the entire church you choose him over me! You will publicly insult me! I won’t be there!”
“Did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t have walked out? Don’t you see how it fanned the fire?”
“And don’t you see the loyalty I displayed for you? Have you forgotten what we taught the twins? – a family sticks together. But apparently Pastor Mac has no loyalty left over for his family, having used it all up on the plumber!”
Mac was not going to back down. Their voices resounded through the house; the twins were in school, and he had a lot of stuff to get out of him. “And have you forgotten that I am the pastor?! I am the one who gets paid to run this church, not you! And I am the husband, and head of this family! I am not going to let a controlling woman usurp my authority!”
Spats of this intensity were rare in the Maclin marriage. Vivian was equally determined to win. “You can run your church! It’s yours! Satisfied? It is all yours! But I am no longer in the picture! I will no longer be the decorous pastor’s wife sitting dutifully in the front row!”
“You can’t mean that! Surely your need to control does not surpass the good of the church! The good of your own children!”
“How can you speak about the good of the church and the children?” Composure gone, Vivian was being quite real and quite loud. “You are putting everyone at risk with your twisted sense of righteousness! If you publicly insult me by allowing that man behind the pulpit I will not be in that church again! Not ever! Do you hear me?!”
“Oh yes, you will be there on Sunday morning!”
“Yes, really! As soon as you realize my – our – paycheck is at risk! Think about it! This house, our two cars, the credit cards, and all the etceteras! How can I pay for them when I no longer have a paycheck?” Out the bedroom and down the stairs Mac went, heading for the coffee pot for a refill.
“I won’t be blackmailed! There are other churches, lots of churches!”
“Not any that would pay as well as this one! You see, after the word gets around I have a wife who is likely to stomp out of church, the most I could hope for is an assistant to a pastor who could turn out to be a control freak, like the one I assisted twenty years ago!”
And then they both saw Kyle sitting at the kitchen table, a bowl of cereal in front of him.
“Kyle!” The volume of Mac’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I thought…… we thought …… we heard the car leaving. Why aren’t you in school?”
There was no warmth in Kyle’s response. “A late exam. I don’t have to be there until ten. Besides, my sister and I don’t ride together anymore. It’s got something to do with loyalty to my parents and the denomination they taught me to honor. I take the bus.”
And then, “Is this what you two do when we’re gone?”
“Kyle, no!” Vivian responded.
“Son, I’ll give you a ride,” Mac added. “We can talk about this.”
“I would rather take the bus.” And out into the rain he went.
thursday evening, june 7th, 2007
The MorLord Worship Band practicing in the sanctuary tonight and last night in preparation for Saturday’s performance was as divided as the rest of the church.
Kyle Maclin. The band captain was still smarting from this morning. Never had he seen his parents brawl before, though he suspected their relationship was not near as warm as they portrayed. While his hands were occupied with making his electric guitar produce acceptable sounds, his heart was trying to determine where to place his loyalty. Should it be with the denomination? After all, he was about to deposit his future into its hands. Or should it be with his mom? She has been faithful over the years, always the dutiful mother, competently she served the Center, always the supreme coordinator fitting everybody’s pieces together to make life flow evenly. Or should he set his loyalty on his dad? His dad has always been his mentor and hero; had he reason to stop adulating him now? Yes, he had made a mistake allowing that Tanner access to the pulpit, but he has admitted his poor judgment. Everyone makes mistakes, even heroes.
Listening to his parents fight, Kyle had learned that his dad was offered the posting of assistant superintendent, and he was impressed. But now that was not going to happen. Thank you, Mr. Tanner. Kyle had not spoken to John Tanner for days. No, it wasn’t fair, but to do so might be seen as disloyalty to his parents. Kyle caught the inference when John said to his father in the dugout, “I love you, Dad.” He was letting everyone know he was siding with his father. Until this matter was settled their friendship was on hold.
Kyle was also angry with his sister. A little while ago he arranged getting Katie and John together; now he was determined to keep them apart. Whether she liked it or not, he had become his sister’s guardian. Fraternizing with the enemy would go against the cause.
Todd Anderson. Thanks to Katie Maclin, Todd had made a serious shift in his life. A spirit of bitterness had taken root in his young soul when the band chose whom he considered a less talented, less deserving vocalist to be lead. They all played favoritism at his expense, wanting to please the privileged Maclins. Mr. Tanner’s sermon calling the people back to Christ moved him, convicted him, but not enough to bring him to repentance. But when Katie Maclin grabbed him by the arm, tears streaking her face, and said, “Todd, please forgive me! I am so …… very …… sorry! Will you please forgive me?” the bitterness lost its grip and Todd returned to his Master more sincerely than ever. Katie insisted Todd replace her as lead, much to Kyle’s annoyance, and tonight he had a lot of catching up to do.
Tanya Borric. Tanya, a support vocalist, was one of the few who did not need to hear Mr. Tanner’s exhortation; she was already on track with Christ, mostly because of the influence of her father, Tony Borric. But the words were a comfort indeed, and helped fortify her commitment to Christ. Since Sunday morning her prayers had more depth, more fervency. She felt privileged to be able to sing praises to her Lord before much of the populace of Bryden Falls. Tonight she was pondering the words of Jesus, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him will the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.”
Marie Schierling. Marie, on the keyboard, never had been born of the Holy Spirit; she never really got it; she was one of those on the outside thinking she was on the inside because she did as the insiders did, prayed as they prayed, spoke as they spoke, worked as they worked. But that was before Sunday. Jeni Tanner found the young lady weeping, broken, confused, and gently led her to a decision for Christ. Since then Katie adopted Marie into her heart, and the two have since been knitted together.
Mark Rogers. Mark loved to pound drums, and it mattered little if it was in tune to Christian music or secular. In Mark’s head there was always a rhythm happening that needed his accompaniment. If he didn’t have sticks he used his hands; if he didn’t have drums he used a table or desk or his legs. He bounced from church to church wherever opportunities led him. Mark wasn’t at the Center on Sunday; he was drumming elsewhere. Though a bit spiritually dense he immediately picked up the negative vibes within the band. The news of the split at the Center was rapidly spreading to other churches, and Mark was well aware. Who is on who’s side, which side should he choose? – questions he was trying to sort out as he pounded his drums.
Jenna Morgan. Jenna was sweet on Kyle, and though Kyle never hinted interest in Jenna, Jenna was not without hope. The split in the church was an opportunity to demonstrate her loyalty to the handsome band captain, to inch her way into his favor. Who he ignored, she ignored, his enemy was her enemy, his ally her ally.
No longer was she on friendly terms with Katie and John, and the others instinctively knew that warmth towards either of the two would be at the cost of her friendliness.
Katie Maclin. When Katie was ten, eleven and twelve she had a special, unusually intimate relationship with Christ. Somehow, maybe it was the excessive adulation of parents and friends, her focus changed from Christ to Katie. With self-absorbedness came selfishness. With selfishness came manipulation of others. But all that was changed by the direct words of Mr. Tanner, beckoning her to return to her First Love. And she was determined to never ever remove Christ from the throne of her life again.
She feared John had made a decision to go on in life without her; she looked for, ached for, eye contact, but there was none; the relationship had ended before it began. And could she blame him? Who would want to partner with a control freak? If only they could talk. If only she could express her heart. She no longer wanted her way; she wanted Christ’s way, whatever that be. She would submit to her husband as unto the Lord.
Choosing Christ had the appearance of choosing Mr. Tanner. But Mr. Tanner was only the messenger. Yes, praise God for his courage, but she sided with Christ alone. Her loyalty was thoughtfully placed on Him. Why couldn’t her family see that? Is that why her dad wanted to see her tonight, to draw her loyalty back into the family fold?
No matter what anyone thought – Kyle, John, whoever – Katie Maclin would sing praises to her God with all the talent God had given her. Before the lost and the saved she would offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to her Sin-bearer, the One she called, “Lord,Lord,” the One who lovingly wooed her back to Him.
John Douglas Tanner. John was confused. He had chosen Christ over Katie but the attraction to her was stronger than before. Though he ignored her, he noticed the pigtails. And her movements. And her laughter, a different laughter than before, not the do-you-notice-me? laughter, but a genuine mirth. She seemed real, somehow. What happened?
And why was Todd doing lead?
And why was Jenna cold to him?
And why was Mark so quiet?
John seriously considered quitting, though a quitter he wasn’t. What would be best for the band, for the people they were supposed to be ministering to? Perhaps he should not be so close to Katie. Perhaps the band would have a better chance at coming together if he excused himself. Something to talk over with his dad, he thought.
His dad. What he must be going through. The pressure must be intense. How did all this happen? Why would God choose a plumber to speak to the congregation? Was it really the voice of God his dad heard?
Being eighteen isn’t easy.
thursday, june 7th, 2007, 9:15 p.m.
Mac went over his day as he sat in Mario’s waiting for his daughter. He had a few more regrets to add to his lengthening list. He wished he had never agreed to read Roo’s book. He was ashamed of the angry words he spoke to his wife. He regretted his son seeing Mom and Dad at their very worst. And with a quick glance at the opening front door he had another regret: Katie brought three of her friends.
“Daddy, I invited Marie and Tanya and Todd to join us for a little while.”
Mac genuinely loved these kids but they were his ministry, he was on vacation, he wanted to be alone with his pigtails. “Hi, guys! Glad you could join us! Are you hungry?”
It was Todd who spoke up. “We don’t want to bust your party, Pastor Mac. We each have something to say and then we will be off. Is that okay?”
Mac was curious and a little uptight. He didn’t need more complaints. “Sure. Have a seat.”
“Are you ready to order?” the waitress asked.
“Please give us a few minutes. We’ll call you when we’re ready,” Mac spoke pleasantly to the plump lady.
“Pastor Mac,” said Tanya Borric, “I know our church is, like, going through a lot of problems, and a lot of people are, like, against Mr. Tanner and everything, and a lot of people don’t want him to speak on Sunday, but I feel it’s only right to, like, tell you that I really enjoyed his message, you know, his talk about Jesus and everything. I know I’m just a kid but I, like, thought you might want to know that Mr. Tanner, well, he, like, helped me in my walk with Jesus, you know, I feel, like, stronger somehow.”
“Thank you, Tanya. I appreciate your comments.” What else could Mac say?
And then it was Todd’s turn. “I recommitted my life to Christ after being challenged by Mr. Tanner.”
“You did?” Mac was genuinely surprised.
“Well, Katie had something to do with it,” he grinned at Katie.
“And you, Marie?” Mac knew the young lady was nervous.
“I received Jesus Christ as my lord and savior on Sunday morning. I’m different now, you know? I can’t really explain it. I guess it’s what the Bible calls being born again.”
“But Marie, I thought ……”
“I know, Pastor. I guess everybody thought I was a Christian. But I always knew something was missing, you know? Like, I was empty inside.”
“Pastor Mac,” her smile was big, “I feel just great, you know? I just love singing praises to Jesus. Before it was, you know, just words. Now it’s different, you know?”
“I know, Marie.”
The three got up to leave. Mac looked at Katie inquiringly, and Katie nodded an affirmative nod. “No! Katie and I want you to join us! Let’s have pizza! Lots of pizza! Let’s eat and talk and eat some more! Tell me, how did the practice go? Are you ready for Saturday night?”
friday afternoon, june 8th, 2007
Tree was the president of the division’s American Northwestern Men’s Baseball League. Knowing that the ball field at Bryden Falls would be in bad shape, it had been raining steadily a couple of days now, he phoned his bud to check it out.
“Hey, Pastor Mac! Is Canada still where we left it on Tuesday or did it float away?”
“How am I? Bitter. That bad call from the ump at home plate cost us the game and the championship.”
“Yea, I’ll bet you’re sorry.”
“What do you mean we were due for a win? It wasn’t we that beat us, it was him!”
“Him is that back catcher! What’s his name? Roo? He won the game for you guys. First a grand slam home run. Then he strikes three of us out with less than ten pitches, and he isn’t even a pitcher! And then the guy hits a deep inside pitch to bring in the winning run.”
“Sure there were there eight other guys on the field. I noticed them standing around. But enough small talk. What shape is your diamond in? Has it been raining as much there as here?”
“A swimming pool, eh? Yeah, I told the Pirates coach tonight’s game was canceled. Any chance of playing a make-up game with the Pirates tomorrow? We are supposed to get sunshine tomorrow.”
“Well, how about Sunday?”
“Nope. Sunday afternoon is out. The regular season is officially over 1:00 p.m. Sunday, June 10th. Any chance you can cancel your Sunday service and play in the morning?”
“What do you mean you will have to make a phone call? I thought you were the captain of that ship.”
“Used to be, huh. Now listen, pal, I want you to understand something. If you don’t play the Pirates, you’re in by default.”
“That’s what I said, default. I’ve gone over both your total runs scored and runs scored against you, and the Challengers scored better than the Pirates. That means if you can’t play a make-up game the Challengers are in the playoffs, and the Pirates are out. Got it? I checked with the directors and we all agree you are not obligated to cancel your service on such a short notice.”
“That’s right, you got it, bud. You pastors are very keen. If you say no, you won’t cancel your Sunday service, you are automatically in the playoffs – for the first time and probably the last.”
“No, don’t make that phone call yet. Let me get a hold of the Pirates coach, and run it by him. I’m going to tell him that he is at your mercy; the guy is a bit of a jerk and I want to see him suffer in suspense for a while. Before we go any further he’s going to have to assure me he can get his team up there Sunday morning should you decide to cancel your service. I am sure he will twist arms if he has to.”
“That’s right. I’ll let you know if it’s a go tonight. Don’t go to bed early.”
“Yea, later, pal.”
Sipping coffee at the kitchen table Mac tried to assimilate this new development. Is the rain a curse or a blessing? If it were not for giving Reuben his word he wouldn’t hesitate to cancel the Sunday service, but now he had to let Tanner make that decision.
The rain is a curse, Mac concluded. He wanted to get Sunday’s service over with so he could start the patching up process. He already made an appointment with Superintendent Johnston for Tuesday of the following week. The only disagreement between them was Tanner’s preaching on Sunday. But soon Sunday would be history. Mac would explain, again, he felt obligated to keep his word, though a foolish word it was. Surely the man would understand that. Surely he wouldn’t dismiss a long record of faithful service because of one disagreement, because he was standing on principle. He will invite the superintendent to be guest speaker at a series of meetings Mac planned to hold for the purpose of diluting the negative effects of Tanner’s message. But if this thing dragged out for another week it would keep everyone on edge, including the superintendent.
And then he thought, Perhaps the rain is a blessing. Had he not agreed to let Tanner speak two successive Sundays? If Tanner canceled the service it would mean no preaching by the plumber. Ever. Everyone, well, mostly everyone, would be happy – Martin Johnston, the board of elders, Vivian, Kyle, most of the congregation. If Roo didn’t cancel the Challengers were sure to be in the playoffs, and plan A would still be in effect.
And then Mac thought, But suppose Roo asks if he can preach the following Sunday? That’s easy, I’ll just say no. “No! No! No!” he practiced out loud. “No! No! No!” he said again. Sorry, pal, I kept my word. I said two successive Sundays. I am not obligated to let you have the pulpit next Sunday. For the good of the congregation I will have to refuse you.
Mac already asked Phil to contact the Challengers regarding the cancel of tonight’s game. There was nothing for Mac to do but wait for Tree’s call.
friday, june 8th, 2007, 10:15 p.m.
It was late when the phone finally rang, Vivian had gone to bed, Mac was trying to finish The Way It Is so he could put it behind him.
“About time,” Mac answered the phone in a not unfriendly voice, knowing who it was.
“Good. I thought they would. It should be a good game – if there is one. Too bad you couldn’t be here to see it.”
“Yes, I know, bud. I feel bad for you and Sally and the kids. I wish I could be there for you.”
“Are you sure that’s best, I mean, no communication whatsoever? You are still their father. And I know Sally has strong feelings for you.”
“I won’t argue with you, Tree. I just feel bad, that’s all. Will you be okay when they’re gone?”
“Tell you what. Let’s set a definite time to get together, say, every two weeks. We could meet for lunch somewhere between your place and mine. What do you think?”
“I know you don’t need a babysitter, and I know you can look after yourself. But that’s what friends do, isn’t it? Visit and chat and get on each other’s nerves.”
“Yea, think about it.”
“Okay, back to baseball. The next step is to see if our Sunday service can be canceled. Can I put you on hold while I make a phone call?”
“Reuben, you’re still up. Pastor Mac here.”
“I was up reading your book.”
“You too? Are you nearly finished?”
“I hope you’re getting something out of it. But that’s not why I phoned. I’ve got the president of the men’s baseball league on hold. The only time we can play the Pirates is Sunday morning. That means canceling the service. He also said we are not expected to cancel Sunday’s service on such short notice, and if we don’t play the Pirates we are automatically in the playoffs by default. So it’s your call, pal. I gave you my word you can preach two successive services, and I will keep my word. Just say no and you can preach as agreed, and the Challengers are in the playoffs. Do you want some time to think about it?”
“Really? Are you sure? You don’t want time to think about it?”
“Okay, Roo, whatever you say. Can I put you on hold for a minute?”
“Tree? Still there?”
“It looks like there will be a ball game Sunday morning. Let’s make it 10:00 a.m. That will give us time to deal with the wet diamond.”
“I know. If we lose we are out of the playoffs. The person I was talking to thought it wouldn’t be right to win by default.”
“Okay, Tree, hope to see you in the playoffs.”
“Oh …… yes …… love you too, Tree.”
Strange, Mac thought. Tree never said I love you before. Sunday will be a rough day for him and his family. Why couldn’t I be there for him?
“Roo? Still there?”
“It’s settled. I’ll get Pastor Phil to cancel the service and tell everyone there will be a game at ten. Do you think you can come a bit early to help with the diamond?”
“Thanks. I must say that was big of you. I know you wanted to preach the last half of your message. I think, however, this is best for the church. I guess the Lord wanted it this way.”
“And a good night to you, Roo.”
Yes!! Praise the Lord! It’s over! It’s really over! I can’t believe it! Thank God for rain! I’ll never complain about rainy days again!
saturday night, june 9th, 2007
The stars were a welcome sight to everyone at Foundation Fathers Festival. The forecasted rain had passed and fair summer weather was promised, though heavy rain was on its way again. Friday night festivities had been canceled, and Saturday night’s turnout was larger than anyone expected. The MorLord Worship Band would be the highlight, following a comedian act and a gymnastics exhibit. The band would perform until 10:30, and the festival would end with a fireworks display.
The opportunity to give witness to Christ and His awesome salvation through song and music was more favorable than any other time in the history of the band. Never before had the worship band performed before such a huge audience. Hearts are more open to the message of Christ during a time of celebration, a time when hope can penetrate normally closed hearts; spiritually, it was a unique opportunity.
The young band members tuning up on the stage had the appearance of being prepared and confident. In fact, they were neither. They were not together, and because they were so fractured they had not come together to pray. Nor did they have much prayer support from the distracted congregation. Todd had not yet conquered lead, and Kyle’s visible impatience was reducing what confidence he had. Every band member was the victim of stage fright, intensifying as the crowd swelled.
Musical harmony refused to come. The sounds that came out of Todd’s voice were not at all indicative of the young man’s talent. John’s mellow violin, meant to accentuate pleasant music, was an annoyance. The audience chattered and fidgeted. The Center people, out in large numbers, were embarrassed for their band. Midway through the program Kyle presented the gospel message, and though his presentation was flawless, the gospel emitted from a heart bitter and confused loses much of its power.
Reuben and Jeni were standing behind the seated audience holding hands. Reuben felt responsible for the poor performance on stage. He was now certain he had made a mistake; he should never have asked permission to preach. Had he stuck to his pipe wrenches and coveralls, the locals and tourists would now be getting a proper presentation of the gospel. The rain had broken what was left of his resolve, for the rain was not of man but from God. God had spoken His will through the rain, obviously to rescue Bryden Falls Community Christian Center from further injury. And there was nothing Reuben could do to repair the rift he had caused. He couldn’t even publicly apologize to the congregation; he would never be allowed access to the pulpit again.
On the other side of the audience Mac and Vivian were standing together, not holding hands. Mac, too, felt responsible for the lackluster concert, and he ached for his twins and the other band members, feeling their tension and embarrassment. Mac was certain the city councilors would never invite the MorLord band to perform again. If only I had said no! And again and again, If only I had said no!
Tomorrow will be a better day. Mac was optimistic the Challengers would give the Center a boost, and recover some of its lost esteem.
sunday, june 10th, 2007, 8:15 a.m.
Henry reached retirement age a few years ago, but refused to let go of the job he loved. He never tired of the regard the public gave him whenever he asked, “Do you have anything to declare?” or, “In what country were you born, Madam,” or, “How long will you be in Canada?” When he asked questions he searched their eyes for fear, an indicator they had something to hide. He was good at what he did, forty years as border security guard gave him a nose for mischief. The moment he retired he would stop being a somebody; he had no reason to call it quits.
The Pirates came through his station in two’s and three’s, and sometimes with their families, starting at 8:00 a.m.
“Good morning, guys,” he said to one familiar carload. “A big game this morning?”
“Well, I can’t wish you luck. I know the Challengers need this game as much as you guys.”
“Well, maybe. But I hear they’re playing fine ball, lately. They beat the Grizzlies a few days ago.”
“Drive safe now.”
Henry was all baseball. He watched the Challengers-Grizzlies game and enjoyed seeing the rowdy Grizzlies get their dues. His night shift would be over in an hour; maybe he would take in the last half of this morning’s game. Should be a good one.
Henry was surprised to see Reuben’s Plumbing van heading towards the States, approaching the American customs station. Close enough to see Reuben Tanner in his Challengers uniform, he could only conclude, That boy’s going the wrong way! The fool thinks the game is across the border! And then, less than a minute later, he recognized the Tanner mini van, the Tanner woman doing the driving. Strange they aren’t traveling together. They both seem to be in a hurry. Boy, are they in for a surprise when they find out the game is being played in their own baseball diamond!
sunday, june 10th, 2007, 8:35 a.m.
John interrupted Mac making up the batting order. “Mr. Maclin, my dad asked me to tell you he has a pressing matter to attend to today.”
“No, John! You mean he will miss the entire game?!”
“But this is a crucial game! We need him!”
No! No! No! Mac wailed an inward wail. Tanner, how could you do this to me? To your team? To the church? And then, Well, marine, you better get tough. Don’t let your team down. This game is ours, with or without Tanner!
Yet the marine knew he was in for the fight of his baseball career. A win with Tanner was never simple; a win without Tanner would be a real challenge. Pitching to Phil Ferguson just wasn’t the same as pitching to Roo. Phil was nervous back there, never kept his glove a still target like Roo did, didn’t know the signals, and he wouldn’t know what signals to give if he did. Until this game Mac never realized how dependent he was on Roo’s calm expertise. And they really needed Roo’s batting. He was dependable, the equalizer that made up for the weakness of most others on the team. He usually managed to get on base – if he didn’t get a hit it was because he got a walk; he got walked because they were nervous to throw him anything he could hit. Because he got on base so often, he scored much more than anyone on the team.
Mister Maclin? Why did John call me Mister Maclin? I wonder who he got that from? Of course, Mac knew John was influenced by his father, the only one in the congregation who didn’t call him Pastor.
Those two words, Mister Maclin, said much to Mac, none of which was pleasant. John was declaring himself to be with his dad. Worse, John was turning his back on his denomination and a future as a pastor. And still worse, John would never be his son-in-law.
And John’s siblings? Will I be Mister to them, or Pastor? And Jeni? She undoubtedly will follow her husband. Mac was certain the rebellion that had spread from Reuben to his family would certainly extend to other families. Mac knew a confrontation with Reuben Tanner was just around the corner, after the baseball season of course. Tanner was a must if they hoped to win the playoffs.
sunday, june 10th, 2007, 8:35 a.m.
“Jeni, I think this is where we part company,” Reuben said to his wife on the cell as they came to a T intersection, twenty minutes south of the border. You turn left and head east, and I’ll go west to River’s Bend.”
“I hope you do, too, honey. I would say they have an hour’s start on you, maybe more. We may fade in and out on our cells, but the Lord never fades out. I’ll be praying for you.”
It was a mistake that Shep, offspring of their first Shep, was at his side in the front of the van. Roo was in such a rush he never thought of the old shepherd collie asleep in the back on an old pair of coveralls.
The morning started with the Tanner family getting prepared for the big game, Reuben was in uniform when Jeni came into the bedroom.
“Reuben, something’s wrong! With Trevor Kenny, I mean! The Lord spoke to me. I think you have to find him!”
“But Jeni, I can’t! The game. They need me!”
“Trevor needs you, Reuben.”
“But I don’t know where he is. I think he lives in River’s Bend, but that’s a big place. How will I find him? And if I find him, then what?”
“You must find him or it will be too late! And I must find Sally and her two children. I was praying for them, knowing this was the time they were saying their final good-byes. The Lord wants me to find them and bring them back here!”
“Yes! To live with us…… for one year! They’re deeply wounded, and they’re headed for a huge city of strangers. They need stability. Sally needs our family to bring strength and healing to her family.”
“John!” Roo called downstairs to his oldest, also in his Challengers uniform.
“John, we can’t explain, but Mom and I have something important to do. We have to put some heavy responsibility on your shoulders. Are you willing?”
“Take the kids in the crew-cab pickup to the ball game. Instruct them to sit together in the bleachers during the game in a place where you can easily see them. Tell them not to respond to any negative comments they might hear about me. As soon as the game is over bring them all straight home again. We may be the entire day.”
“Tell Mr. Maclin I have a pressing matter to attend to.”
“He won’t like it.”
“You’re right, he won’t like it. This game means a lot to him.”
“And the whole team.”
“Yes, and the entire church. But you have a good chance of winning without me.”