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.
Again, more talking from Chuck. Gavin gives him some good counsel and it set up the rest of his day, but … the action came to stop.
Gavin Heatley glanced at his watch and checked the door of the diner once more. Chuck was rarely late and with the urgency in his voice last night, Gavin was surprised when he had arrived first. Chuck had promised that there were no new developments or crises, but Gavin couldn’t help but be concerned. His brother-in-law didn’t ask for help unless and until he was completely beaten down. Now he wasn’t showing. It didn’t make sense. Gavin hoped the chest pains weren’t an issue again. Surely, Bobbi would have called him if some thing like that had come up.
At last, Chuck came in the small restaurant and quickly found Gavin. “Thanks for meeting me,” Chuck said extending his hand. “Sorry I’m late.”
“I was beginning to wonder,” Gavin admitted.
“My car,” Chuck said, as he motioned toward a waitress. “All the years I’ve owned a car, and this morning, of all mornings, I got to experience having a dead battery.”
“What’d you do?” Gavin asked, but before Chuck could answer, the waitress stepped up to their table. She warmed Gavin’s coffee, and poured a cup for Chuck. She wrote down their orders and slipped away. “I didn’t think you were supposed to eat bacon anymore,” Gavin teased.
“I’m not,” Chuck confessed. “Anyway, I had to get Bobbi up, and jumpstart the car.”
“How is Bobbi?”
“She’s good. Better every day.” Chuck emptied a packet of sweetener into his coffee and stirred it. “I think she’ll get everything resolved soon.”
“If it’s not Bobbi,” Gavin said, “it must be
“Yeah,” Chuck said, glancing away. “I found out… I know why she’s not coming home.” He gave Gavin the details of
“Chuck, I’m sorry. I’ve got girls, granddaughters, I can’t imagine what that must have been like… seeing those pictures.”
“Gavin, what if she’s still with him? He’s a psychopath. He has no remorse, no shame…” He stared out across the diner. “I sat up last night for hours thinking about this. He punched Jack… how long before he gets violent with a girl who won’t give in to him? What if he already has? What if he hurt
“Don’t do this to yourself,” Gavin said gently. “You can’t dwell on these things.”
“How can I not? This is my baby girl.” Tears began to form in Chuck’s eyes.
“But if you get caught in a loop of ‘what-ifs’, you will go insane.”
“I think that’s what’s killing me. There’s so much I don’t know, that I can’t do anything about.” Chuck sighed, and asked, “Am I a control freak?”
Gavin smiled. “You have to ask?”
“I’m serious, Gavin. Glen tells me I need to quit trying to bring
“I don’t think he expects you to sit around.”
“No, but do you think I’m trusting in myself more that I’m trusting in God?”
“I can’t answer that, Chuck. You’re the only one who can say where your trust lies.” Chuck frowned slightly. “However, I think you’re asking me because you know the answer and you hope you’re wrong.”
“I, uh… I read these verses in Jeremiah last night. ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man,’ it said. I always took that to mean trusting in others, but I’m cursed if I trust in myself, too, right?”
“Without reading the verses for myself, yes. If you are depending on yourself to do whatever it takes to bring
“Great,” Chuck said sarcastically. “How do I let go? Those verses talked about trusting God and being like a tree in the heat and drought. I think we’re in those hard times…”
“That’s an understatement,” Gavin interrupted.
“How do I change, Gavin? If I thought God was holding
“Don’t go there,” Gavin said, shaking his head. “You can’t say what God is doing or why, exactly. Ultimately, His goal is to use all this to make you more Christ-like. Right now, this is a faith issue for you.”
“You’re not sure God is going to work this all out to your liking, or on your timetable, so you’d rather do it yourself.”
“This was too big for me to trust Him with it,” Chuck admitted, and Gavin nodded slowly. “And God let me go… until I had completely failed.”
“You haven’t completely failed,” Gavin said. “You’re finally ready to listen. Now He can work.”
“So what do I do in the meantime?”
“Stop ‘doing’ for once. God’s working on this, I promise. Do you think it’s an accident that you had a dead battery this morning, of all mornings?”
“You don’t think it was just one of those things?”
“Everything happens for a reason, for a purpose. I think your car battery was dead so God could let you know He has even the smallest details of your life in His hand. Now, do you want to let Him be God for a change?”
“Chuck, do you know where
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be here.”
“God does know where she is, and He has a plan to bring her home in His time.”
“You know this is real easy for you to say. It’s not your daughter.”
“No, but she is my niece,” Gavin said gently. “I pray for her every single day, and I wish I could tell you why God seems to be letting this drag on, but I don’t know.” He took a long drink from his coffee cup, then said with a slight smile. “You know, all these years, it’s always Bobbi that had to do these impossible faith-stretching things. It’s about time you got your turn.”
“If do half as well with it as she’s done with hers, I’ll be set.”
“Chuck, I’m going to be praying that God will show you, somehow, that He hasn’t forgotten about you, and that He’s working even though you’re not seeing a lot of evidence of it.”
Chuck did a lot of talking in those early drafts. (He's a lawyer, after all.) Most of it got cut.
Chuck hadn’t avoided Glen Dillard necessarily, but he was anxious to get home to give Rita some relief. He should be the one staying with Bobbi, taking care of her. Rita had been so eager to stay, though. He hoped that meant she had an idea of what she could say to jolt his wife, and bring her back to herself.
“Chuck!” Glen called just as Chuck reached the side door. “Got a minute?”
“Sure,” Chuck answered, suddenly feeling guilty.
Glen closed the distance between them before he spoke. “How’s Bobbi?”
“That is a complicated question. We drove out to
“A good thing,” Glen said.
“That’s what I thought, too. She told me she’s not treating her cancer. She wants to let it kill her.”
Glen’s shoulders dropped and he couldn’t hide the shock on his face. “Chuck… what did you do? What did you say to her?”
“Nothing that made any difference. I talked to Rita, Gavin and Joel last night. We’re staying with her round the clock, and trying to get God’s word in front of her as much as we can. She won’t read on her own, and I haven’t been able to get her to come with me.”
“Chuck, we’ve been friends for years now…”
“Go ahead and say it, what ever it is.”
“I think this is more than you can fix.”
“I know that,” Chuck protested.
“Then stop,” Glen said. “
Chuck looked away as tears formed. “I have to do something, Glen.”
“I’m not saying you should go home and sit around.” He snapped his fingers. “Remember what you told me about when things started turning around while you and Bobbi were separated?”
Chuck sighed deeply. “It was when my mom told me to go to Psalm 37, and I quit trying to force the reconciliation. I just waited for God to bring it all together.”
“Yes,” Chuck rolled his eyes, then he said softly, “I need to read that psalm some more.”
“It might help.” He reached in his coat pocket and took out a business card. Pulling a pen from his shirt pocket, he wrote “Jeremiah 17:5-8” and handed the card to Chuck. “Try those with Psalm 37.” Chuck put the card in his Bible. “Do you think Bobbi would talk to me if Laurie and I came over?”
“No, and she’ll be furious with me for having you stop by.”
“Can I try it anyway?”
“You’re welcome to try.”
“Thank you. We’ll set up a time after you talk to her.” He shook Chuck’s hand and started to walk away.
“Glen, thank you. I mean that.”
“My pleasure. I wish I could do more than just talk.”
“You and me both.”
In order to keep things moving, we cut this scene and summarized it a single sentence.
Sunday, July 27
Chuck and Jack Molinsky sat together in the morning worship service, but their hearts and minds could not have been further apart. Jack was anxious to hear from God, to get confirmation of his calling. He sang all the songs with passion, and Chuck had to smile when he saw Jack pull a notebook out during Glen’s sermon. Brad took notes, so naturally Jack had to, too.
Chuck couldn’t get Bobbi off his mind. He had tried once again to get her to come with him, but she had turned him down. He offered to come in late and leave early, or just come for the sermon if the music was too much, but once more, she said she wasn’t up to it. He never realized what a special blessing it was to be in church with his wife. Now he wondered if he would ever get to enjoy that again.
“You’re wallowing again,” he thought to himself. “God gave you that little boost Friday night. He is listening. Hang onto that.” He wished he could find the same kind of boost for Bobbi. “Sermon, Chuck. Focus.” He glanced down at his Bible. He wasn’t even in the right book.
When the service ended, Jack asked, “Do you care if I talk to Glen for a minute? I want to tell him about law school.”
“Sure,” Chuck said. “Take your time.”
“Aren’t you coming? It’s not a big secret or anything?”
“I’ll be right there,” Chuck said. He made his way to the front pew and sat for several minutes, trying to clear his mind. Then he took a deep breath and began to pray, “Lord God in heaven, she can’t handle this. And she won’t ask for help. Is there anything I can do?” Chuck felt a hand on his shoulder, and raised his to see Glen Dillard.
“Can I pray with you, Chuck?”
“Always. Bobbi had a biopsy Friday. The doctor is almost certain it’s breast cancer.”
“Oh no,” Glen whispered. “How is she?”
“About the same. I’m not sure it’s really sunk in with her.” Chuck glanced around behind them. “She didn’t want us to tell anyone outside the family.”
“I won’t say anything,” Glen assured him.
“I’m not worried about that. I’ve already told my secretary. Bobbi needs people praying for her more than she realizes, but she would die before she would ask for help.”
“Have you heard from
“No. That’s wearing on her, too.”
“No doubt. You know Laurie and I will do anything we can. We’re available day or night.”
“Thank you Glen, but I honestly don’t know what you can do.”
“Bobbi may not even know what she needs right now.”
“That’s a real possibility. Hey, Jack wanted to talk to you.”
“Well, he told me I should come up here and talk to you first.”
“He’s a good kid,” Chuck said.
“He’s something special. Keep an eye on him.”
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