Riven
not going to recommend you for any other job. But I will do this: as long as you bring me at least forty dollars a week, every Sunday night, same time, right here, until your debt’s paid, I won’t report you.”
    “Thanks, man. I appreciate it. I really do.”
    “I want you to learn from this, Brady. You don’t get away with stuff in life. You can make something of yourself. I’ll never forgive myself if going easy on you makes you think you can pull something else like this.”
    “Believe me, it’ll never happen again.”
    Brady left, seething. Oh, it would happen again all right. He just wouldn’t allow himself to be found out next time.
    Oldenburg Rural Chapel
    Silence hung in the tiny classroom before Paul Pierce suddenly became parental, his voice low and calm. “Pastor Tom, I know you’re a man of the Word, that you care about the Scriptures and doctrine. I’ve noticed from day one your well-worn Bible and that you can quote from it by memory. I wonder if, as we get into the matter at hand, you would favor us by reading aloud 1 Timothy 3:1-5.”
    Oh no . . .
    “First Timothy happens to be one of the books I have memorized. The passage says, ‘This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?’”
    Paul cleared his throat. “Now, Tom, would you agree that if a man is not qualified to be an elder, he’s sure not qualified to be a pastor?”
    “I would agree.”
    “And that if a pastor kept it a secret that he was not qualified, that should cost him his job?”
    Grace gasped, and Thomas put a hand on her knee.
    “Of course,” Thomas said. “But I’d appreciate it if you would just get to your point, Paul.”
    “Oh, I figure you know where this is going. As I told the leaders of the five congregations, Patricia and I truly wanted to welcome you and your lovely wife and throw an installation service that would honor you.”
    “It did, and we appreciate it.”
    “But we had hoped to surprise you. You see, we wanted to do more than just read a couple of letters from old friends and have the denomination chief make an appearance. So we—or I should say Patricia, because she’s thoughtful this way—thought it would be nice if your daughter could be here too. Patricia took what little she had learned of Ravinia—” he pronounced it with a long first I, and Thomas corrected him—“Fine. My apologies. Patricia took the trouble of tracking her down at the law school there at Emory and was ready to pay for her to come and surprise you tonight. You know what she found?”
    Thomas fought to hide that his whole body was quaking. “You’re aware, Paul, that my daughter is no child. She’s twenty-four years ol—”
    “Do you know what Patricia found, Tom? Your daughter, the daughter of an elder and the pastor of this church, is living with a man who is not her husband!”
    “And you lay that at my feet?”
    “You’re her father! How does having a daughter like that fit with the last verse you just quoted?”
    Grace put a hand firmly over Thomas’s, and he set his jaw.
    “No answer?”
    Grace pressed Thomas’s hand harder. She spoke just above a whisper. “If you are men of God, we would ask that you pray for our daughter.”
    “Oh, we have and we will. You may rest assured of that. And we will pray for you, too. But until your husband can ‘manage his own household,’ as he just quoted, he will not be taking care of our church.”
    “God’s

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