Authors: Marianne Evans
you feel about God?” she asked gently.
,” he replied. But then he softened, and gave her an apologetic look. “For now, if you don’t mind, can we leave it at that?”
The answer, coupled with accompanying pain she sensed, left her wanting to press. She wanted to comfort and assure, but she didn't. She didn't want to intrude where she didn't belong. After all, they were just getting to know one another.
“OK, I will. For now. Just one question though. Is that why you don't attend church with the rest of your family?”
Again, like something divinely inspired, the words escaped before she could even consider them or hold them in check. All Collin did was nod.
The reactions, his character, intrigued her tremendously because he seemed a genuinely wonderful person. Daveny sensed as much in the way he behaved and the vibration of goodness he gave off.
Yet he seemed lost, too.
Perhaps God had more in store for her than renovating Woodland.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
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White Rose Publishing,
a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC
PO Box 1738 *Aztec, NM * 87410
First White Rose Edition, 2010
Published in the United States of America
Beth—Thank you, thank you for brainstorming this with me! I owe you, honey. Dan & Mary—you both mean the world to me. Having you at my side when I found out about this book's publication is a memory I'll forever treasure.
Collin Edwards stood before the funeral assembly.
Nervous heat crawled up his body and settled in. He clutched the edges of the podium where he stood and softly cleared his throat. The gesture was in vain. His throat constricted so much it hurt. Before the altar, just to the right, rested a flag-draped casket.
Collin looked down at a piece of paper upon which he had crafted the words to a eulogy. The words had refused to pour forth until just after three in the morning, not that he had slept much over the past few days.
He glanced at the cheat sheet. Tears built and stung. The white paper, the black scribblings blurred together into a hideous shade of gray.
“He took the bullet,” Collin began in a voice that felt far removed and tight, yet shockingly calm. “He answered the call to serve and protect, and he took the bullet. He helped a woman in need, a woman threatened by the man she loved, and he took the bullet. He was the oldest of our family, our leader and compass. And he took the bullet. He lived a life meant to enforce the law and the idea that we must do what's right. And he took the bullet. Lance Edwards was my big brother, my benchmark. Our family now bears a tremendous hole. Because he took the bullet.”
Only then did Collin take a conscious breath. Only then did he release his death grip on the podium. He slid the paper into a crumpled clutch and walked quickly to the first pew.
He didn't notice much right away. He didn't search out individual faces. The only image that immediately clung to Collin's consciousness was that of his mother, her head bowed, her shoulders shaking as she wiped her eyes free of the tears that simply kept coming.
He bit the inside of his cheek. Hard.
The service continued. Now, despite an odd form of detachment, images and sensations became a flood, spinning into place like the ever-shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope. Sunlight split into prisms by vibrant stained glass; the aroma of lilies, roses and carnations; the gleaming brass cross suspended above the altar, above them all.
It offered Collin no comfort now. In fact, it felt foreign. Senseless. Pain roiled then overwhelmed him. Pain turned to resentment. Resentment bloomed into fury.
Where are You?
He screamed in silence.
This was Your plan? This was Your purpose for Lance's life? Obviously the answer is yes, so obviously You’re a God of waste and pain.
Don't ever speak to me again about being loving and providential and merciful.
Just like that, a switch in his heart clicked from on to off, in his mind and his soul. Darkness rode in, and he embraced it. To do so was so much easier than dealing with the pain he felt, the guilt, the agony of losing hope and the innocent joy of faith.
Collin looked around, deliberately taking stock of Woodland Church of Christ. He captured everything in a definitive moment of resolution and life change.
Never again will I return to the home of a supposed Lord and Savior who would allow such a thing. It'll be better for me to stay away now, right, God?
Well don't worry. Never again will I darken the door of a church. And You keep as far away from me as possible, too. I want nothing more to do with You.
Five Years Later
“Daveny, don't rush off. I want to talk to you.”
Daveny Montgomery squirmed inwardly but hid the reaction. Ten o'clock services at Woodland Church were freshly concluded. The narthex was filling rapidly with bodies in motion and the chatter of voices as greetings were exchanged and parishioners mixed and mingled for a bit before leaving. Children dodged through the maze of people, happily calling out to one another.
The summons of Pastor Kenneth Lucerne stalled Daveny's retreat to the parking lot. Hoping to make an unobtrusive exit from church, she quickly moved herself into a more welcoming mindset.
Pastor Ken had been part of her faith life for well over five years now, ever since the end of her college years. She adored him.
Crowds gradually thinned to small clusters; then Pastor Ken was able to give Daveny his full attention.
“So how you doing, kiddo?” he greeted.
Daveny stepped into a hug and gave him a smile. “I'm good, thanks.”
He chuckled, tucking her hand into the crook of his arm. They walked outside to the expansive, if barren, entryway of the church building. Sunshine warmed the air even as soft, cool breezes curved inward through budding tree branches, making them chatter.
“Spring is here,” Pastor Ken observed. “Finally. You'll be stepping into high gear over the next few months, huh?”
“I'm happy to say Montgomery Landscaping already has two big assignments lined up—one for a health club in Grosse Pointe and another for a loft development in downtown Detroit.”
“That's my girl.” He complimented her, but cast her a sly grin. “Perhaps that's why I'm not seeing you around quite so often these days?”
Daveny wilted, leaning on him in exaggerated physical apology. “Convicted. Sorry.”
He gave her hand a squeeze as they wandered the perimeter of the church building. “Apology accepted. You haven't been gone
often, but I miss you when you're not at service. Keep up the fight, Daveny. You're needed.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied and meant it.
Daveny loved the Woodland church community, the faith life she had built here. Recently though, she found herself falling flat spiritually. She considered that fact as they continued to stroll. The setting was gorgeous. Towering pines and thick old maples filled a rolling tract of land just starting to wake up following a long, typically brutal, Michigan winter. Like her faith walk at the moment, it did its job, and was pleasantly utilitarian—but the grounds lacked zest. Spark. They needed an uplift.
“Did you hear about Jim Cavanaugh's passing?” Pastor Ken asked.
Sadness trickled downward from her head to her heart. “Yeah, Sarah Miles told me. He was a total sweetheart and a tremendous volunteer.”
“He'll be deeply missed, not just because he was an active member of our church, but because of who he was as a person.” Pastor Ken laughed, the sound warm and tender. “I'll always think of his homemade pasties each year when we have the International Dinner.”
“They were my favorite.”
“A taste of Northern Michigan for the down-staters,” they said in unison, recalling one of Jim's favorite quotes.
“He was the kindest greeter,” Daveny added. “People flocked to him when they entered church every week just to be able to shake his hand and get a smile and that big, boisterous greeting.”
Daveny waited. Judging by the way Pastor Ken let the conversation dangle, it seemed he was about to elaborate. He bent, picking at weeds, dead leaves and a bit of overgrowth that spilled over the small black rubber edging of the narrow flowerbeds. Effective border shaping, but not at all picturesque, Daveny thought. Not at all what this church deserved.