The fourth book in the Covenant of Trust series is officially under contract, and while that may seem like a "non-announcement" – we knew the book was coming, after all – it feels good. Signing the papers means that draft on my computer will soon be an ink and paper reality.
When? Next year some time. There's a young man you're getting to meet in the Foundations series named Matthew Bolling. He plays a major part in Sanction. The events in Refined are helping Matt become the man he needs to be for Shannon in Sanction.
What's it about? As much as I love the story of the Prodigal Son, I've always wondered what life was like the day after the party. How hard was it to settle back into the old routine life he'd left? How hard was it to live in grace and not guilt? With Shannon, we'll get to explore some of those questions. It opens in the courtroom for Dylan Snider's assault trial. Chuck is the one in crisis this time around as he learns the true nature of the encounter between Dylan and Shannon. Vengeance and justice, grace and forgiveness, faith and surrender all play a major role.
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:9
Precedent was a difficult book to write. Bobbi spends most of the book in a very dark place emotionally and it drained me to be there with her. So why write a book that pours so much on my characters after they've been through such difficulties in the first two books?
The idea of exploring a "curse" on Chuck was too good to pass up. Questions like– Do our sins, and the judgment for them follow us? The consequences certainly do, but don't forgiveness and judgment have to be mutually exclusive? Are the sins of the fathers visited on the children in this age of grace?
I know people who seem to have disaster after disaster befall them. Plus, Bobbi and Chuck have to draw on some of the same lessons they've already learned, (and learned the hard way). Bobbi struggles to trust God again. Chuck has to grasp that he's been forgiven.
Things come in threes. Bobbi and Chuck go through three seasons of successively more intense testing and refinement. Jesus went through three major temptations during His time in the wilderness. If you've been around long enough, I'd guess you can point to three seasons of refinement in your own life.
Watch for some of the same themes from Contingency and Indemnity to weave themselves through Precedent, especially the ideas of trust and betrayal. (No, Chuck does NOT cheat again. EVER.)
Don't worry– there's a happy ending, maybe not neat and tidy, but close enough to a happily ever after.
This was the opening of the book. It gives a little more background and you get to see some family interactions but it lacks tension.
Thursday, June 12
Bobbi Molinsky pulled a pan of hot rolls from the oven and set them on the hot pad on the counter. Everything was going to finish right on time. Now if only Brad were here on time. Her oldest son had turned thirty-five last week, and she had finally pinned him down, got him to commit to a birthday dinner tonight. She had spent the day in the kitchen, making everything from scratch, including rolls, and peach pie. The chicken was fried, the potatoes mashed, the corn buttered. All that was lacking was her perpetually late son.
It was a rare thing to pull Brad away from work. Most days he put in sixteen hours at Gateway Mission. As soon as he had finished seminary, he returned home and opened the mission to reach out to the people in downtown
Bobbi stepped into the doorway of the family room. “
“Is Brad here?”
“Late as usual,” Bobbi replied.
“Oh, I need you and Dad to pick a day when we can go to Mizzou,”
“Whenever your dad wants to go. I’m free all summer. After this year, I’ll be free forever.” Bobbi had taught school for twenty-one years, and had decided that the upcoming year would be her last. She would turn sixty next spring, and in her mind that was a good enough reason to retire. Sixty was plenty young enough to enjoy retirement, and with Chuck already grooming Chad Mitchell to take over the law firm, they were both looking forward to next year.
This fall, Shannon would join her brother Jack at the
Six years later, their marriage was tested again when the woman with whom Chuck had had the affair, Tracy
Soon afterward, Bobbi had Chuck file formal adoption papers for Jack, and they changed his last name to Molinsky. Bobbi never wanted the Jack to wonder if he was on equal footing with Brad, Joel and Shannon. Jack had been in awe of Brad since the first day he met him. At first it was because Brad had played football, but then a deep bond was forged between them the night Brad led Jack to Christ. Since then, Jack had patterned his life after Brad’s, playing baseball and football just like his brother. Jack was crushed to find out that since he was shorter and stockier, like Joel, he wasn’t built to be a wide receiver like Brad had been. Brad assured him that defensive end was a great position, and Jack went on to set a school record for sacks by a defensive end. Jack also depended on Brad’s advice. He helped at the mission as much as he could between work and school and planned to follow his brother to seminary after he got his degree.
“Mom!” Brad called from the entry hall. “I’m here! And I’m only ten minutes late!”
Bobbi smiled and went to meet him. She hugged him, and Brad leaned over so she could kiss his cheek. “It’s so good to see you! Happy birthday!”
“Thanks. Everything smells great. Joel’s not coming, is he?”
“No. He traded on call weeks so he could be here when Danny was home, and, naturally, he got called.” Joel Molinsky was in his first year of private practice in pediatrics. His hours were much more flexible than during his residency, but he couldn’t escape being on call.
“Yes! The pie is mine!” Brad said. Bobbi shook her head and walked back toward the kitchen. “So has Danny left yet?” Brad asked, following his mother. “I haven’t talked to him since last week.”
“Rita said they were supposed to leave
“Dad’s home, isn’t he?”
“He’s here somewhere. Maybe the garage. He and Jack were going to rotate tires or something.” Bobbi began transferring the mashed potatoes to a serving bowl. “You know, he barely gets his forty hours in anymore.” She smiled broadly. “How different is that from when you and Joel were growing up?”
“Dad’s come a long way,” Brad admitted.
“I hardly think thirty-five is middle-aged.”
“Sure, whatever you say,”
Even so, she felt closer to Joel since he had been around all through her preschool years. Shannon and Jack had a love-hate relationship that was a natural result of their mere thirteen-month age difference. Inseparable as children, their teenage years were marked by an uneasy balance of cooperation and competition. That was destined to continue through college.
Just then, Chuck and Jack came in from the garage. “Honey, why didn’t you tell me Brad was here already,” Chuck said as he kissed his wife lightly on the cheek. “We were just goofing around, killing time.” Chuck crossed the room and shook his son’s hand. “Brad, how are things?”
“Great. You remember the board meeting next week, don’t you?”
“Sure. I’ll be there.” Chuck served on the board of directors for Gateway Mission, and not surprisingly, his law firm was one of the mission’s biggest benefactors.
“You going back to work tonight?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, I’ve got some paperwork to do.”
“Can I go with you?”
“Jack, I really don’t feel good about you driving home from there that late,” Bobbi said. “Sorry Brad, but your mission is a very bad neighborhood.”
“I know, but not too many poor folks live out here,” Brad winked. “Jack can stay with me tonight and come home in the morning.”
“Fair enough,” Bobbi conceded. “I think we’re ready to eat.” The Molinskys settled in the dining room and after Brad asked a quick blessing, they their filled plates and enjoyed nonstop conversation over dinner. As Bobbi listened to them, she couldn’t help but think, “This is what it’s supposed to be like. If only Joel’s were here, it would be perfect.”
After dinner and dessert, Brad finally said, “I’ve got to get going or I’ll be up all night. Mom, that was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. Thank you.” He hugged her and kissed her cheek. “Is everybody gonna be at Rita’s Saturday?”
“As far as I know,” Bobbi answered. “I’ll get you the particulars as soon as she tells me.”
“Jack? You ready?”
“Can you bring me back tomorrow? Or you want me to drive?”
“I’ll drop you at Dad’s office. That way I don’t have to drive all the way out here.”
Jack picked up the gym bag he had packed, and kissed his mother. “See you tomorrow, Mom.”
“Be careful,” Bobbi admonished. “Both of you.”
(Cut from Chapter 23)
“Mommy, what’s wrong?”
“Come and sit,” Bobbi said inviting
“But I want to go.”
“I know you do, but the emergency room is a big, scary place, and I would rather that you didn’t have to see all of that. This is going to be very hard for Jack, and I need you to help Daddy and me take care of him.”
“Is Jack’s mom going to die?”
“I don’t know, Baby.”
“I am, too. He’s going to need us to love him a lot.”
“You can go love him. I’ll love him here.”
“Thanks for understanding.” Bobbi kissed
“Aunt Rita likes me,”
“She should.” Bobbi smiled and lifted
“I’ll wait for Daddy and Jack. It won’t be the same.”
(This discussion between Bobbi and Joel in Chapter 18 didn't really advance the plot, so it's here and not in the book.)
Friday, September 28
Later that evening, Chuck took
“Yeah, it’s been almost two hours,” Joel answered. He took out a large bowl and filled it with cereal.
“You want some coffee with that?” Bobbi asked when the coffeemaker finished.
“Sure,” Joel mumbled through a mouthful of corn flakes.
“Who raised you?” Bobbi teased. “They should have taught you some manners.”
“Oh, she taught me,” Joel answered. “I’m just rude.”
“She is not reassured.” Bobbi set a cup on the counter beside him, and sat down at the kitchen table. “So how’s Abby?”
“Fine. She was glad to meet everybody finally.”
“She’s very sweet, Joel. You chose well.”
“Told ya,” he answered, taking a long drink from his coffee.
Bobbi slid her coffee cup closer. “You never told her that I had reservations.”
“You had vehement opposition, Mom, not just reservations.”
“Even so, you never told her.”
“No,” Joel said. He put his bowl in the sink and joined his mother at the table. “You apologized. It’s gone. Besides, the last thing Abby needed was somebody else standing in judgment of her.”
“Joel, I’m sorry,” Bobbi said quietly.
“It’s okay. I know I hit you at a bad time, which was extremely inconsiderate, and selfish. I get that way sometimes. I think it’s a guy thing.” Joel smiled. “Abby didn’t get exactly the same reception that Dad did when he went before the church. Her family was kind of left twisting in the wind. Nobody really came alongside them.”
“How have her parents handled things?”
“Less than perfect. Her dad especially.” He took a drink from his coffee. “You know, I’ve seen pictures of her from before it all happened. She looks like a different girl. It’s like she’s been extinguished. Her eyes don’t light up the way they used to, and her smile is gone. Of course, that doesn’t mean she never smiles. It’s just not the same.”
“We went through that, too, honey. It just didn’t last as long.”
“Well, I’m ready for her to be free of all that. She never allows herself to relax and enjoy where she is now, because of what she did in the past. It still controls her.”
“Isn’t counseling helping?”
“She’s a hard woman, Mom,” Joel said with a smile. “You know the type.” He leaned back in his chair. “She thinks the world of you, though. Maybe you’re the key.”
Bobbi sipped her coffee. I can’t be everybody’s key. Jack,
“When does Dad have Jack again?”
“Tomorrow, Wednesday and next weekend.”
“Tomorrow? Why just Saturday?”
“Jack didn’t get to see Grandma, so he’s coming over tomorrow for a while.”
“It was her idea.”
“I’d rather not,” Bobbi said, finishing her coffee.
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