Read an Excerpt
On Every Side
By KAREN KINGSBURY
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2001 Karen Kingsbury
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJoshua Nunn shuffled between a closet full of file cabinets and the boxes lining his office floor. He hadn't expected it to be this hard-packing up his dead partner's things and facing whatever was left of his own future. There was a heaviness in the air, a somber silence as though even the walls grieved the loss of the charismatic man whose presence had once consumed the place.
Joshua sighed. He had never felt so alone in all his life.
Bob Moses, senior attorney and Joshua's lifelong friend, opened the Religious Freedom Institute in Bethany, Pennsylvania, for one reason only: To take back ground lost to the enemy. "Join me," Bob had said when he presented the idea to Joshua three years earlier. "The promised land awaits!"
And so it had. They'd won two local Pennsylvania cases in the past six months-one in which a group opposed to religious freedom sued a school district to prevent students from praying before football games. The case threatened to capture national attention-much like the one in Texas a few years back. But this time, when the opposition faced Bob and Joshua, they backed off.
"God has His hand on this office," Bob would say. "I can feel it, Joshua. He's taking us somewhere big."
There were dreams of hiring more attorneys, buying a bigger office building, and findinga place on America's legal center stage where they could join similar organizations in the national fight for religious freedom.
But every one of those dreams seemed to die the day Bob Moses slumped over his office desk, dead of a heart attack at age fifty-seven.
Now there were bills to pay, office expenses to maintain, and not a single viable case on the horizon. With Bob gone, clients apparently assumed the firm was closed, and now, after just three weeks of Joshua working on his own, the phone calls were few and far between.
He grabbed another stack of files, carried them across the office, and dropped them in a box. When he was finished clearing out his partner's things, he would deliver them to Bob's widow. The woman was taking it well, but many nights since Bob's death Joshua had come home to find his partner's wife sitting with his own dear Helen at the dining room table, tears in their eyes.
I know he's in a better place, Lord, but why? He still had so much to do ...
Be strong, Joshua.
Be strong? It was the answer he seemed to be getting from the Lord more and more these days and it seemed an odd bit of advice. He was being strong, wasn't he? He hadn't broken down or refused to get out of bed. No, he'd been at the office every day since the funeral, and still not a call or case had come his way. He'd researched potential lawsuits, made phone calls, written letters -but still nothing.
The facts were simple. If he didn't start bringing in cases soon, he would have to close up shop and face the reality that at fifty-six years he was as desperately in need of a job as he'd been his first month out of college. A shallow laugh made its way to the surface, and Joshua shook his head.
He and Bob had worked as trial lawyers with Jones, Garner, and Schmidt for thirty years before joining forces in this religious freedom venture. In addition to their lofty goals for the Institute, there were other benefits. No more commutes to the big city, extra time for evening card games and barbecues when any of their kids were home, more time in the town they loved. Joshua felt the sting of tears in his eyes and he blinked hard as he remembered how his partner seemed to have a bounce in his step at the idea of spending more time with his wife.
And with Faith.
There was a lump in Joshua's throat and he coughed so it would ease up. Much as he missed his friend and partner, young Faith missed the man more. Especially now, when it was supposed to be-
He couldn't bear to think of Faith, of how difficult her father's death had been on her. Instead he drifted back to the beginning, back to the early 1970s where it had all begun. The year he was hired by the big city firm, he and Helen and their two girls moved to Bethany-the most beautiful place in all the world. Bob, Betty, and their daughters followed suit two years later, and the families had been practically related ever since. Joshua and Bob would tease each other about being surrounded by women.
"Not a son among us, can you believe it?" Bob would throw his hands in the air.
The memories faded. Joshua carried a stack of books across the room and finished filling the box. As he did he glanced at the portraits on the wall. Bob Moses and Joshua Nunn, attorneys at law. We were the luckiest guys in all of Bethany, Bob.
These days everything was different. Bob was gone. Joshua's kids were both married and lived a few hours' drive away, and Bob's oldest daughter lived in Chicago. All that remained was Bob's youngest-Faith-still single at twenty-nine and trying to find her way in a world that offered little assistance, especially when the chips were down. Faith lived in Bethany and commuted fifteen minutes to Philadelphia's WKZN affiliate station where she anchored the nightly news. Joshua pictured her as she had been a few weeks back at her father's funeral: Long, blond hair and far-off, pale blue eyes. Beautiful girl; a celebrity really.
And very close to her father.
Bob hadn't talked about it much, but Joshua knew Faith was part of the reason he wanted to work in Bethany. "I worry about her," Bob would say now and then. "She's had a rough go of it."
The plan to open a law office in Bethany seemed like a winner from every angle. They could leave the high-powered, high-pressured firm and would work from a leased office anchored in the center of the city's quaint downtown district, just minutes from their homes in Maple Heights. They would spend hours building cases and strategizing trial appearances and swapping stories of the good old days-back when they ran cross-country for rival Philadelphia high schools and squared off more than once on opposing debate teams.
Bob was so sure of himself, so full of energy and desire, convinced beyond discussion that God's hand was in this venture. And from the get-go God blessed their intentions in a way that made it look as though Bob had been right.
Joshua knelt down and yanked packing tape across the flaps of the full box.
"Retirement is for old people." Joshua could still hear Bob's voice as it rang loudly through the office. "We could run this law office another twenty years." A smile would fill his face. "Remember, Joshua ... where God guides, God provides."
The memory faded on a wave of doubt. Joshua stopped for a moment, gazing outside at the late summer green in the leaves that lined Main Street. Why would You guide us here ... take us from our steady jobs ... just to leave me all alone? How will I provide stability for Helen now? For Faith?
Joshua, hear me, son. You are not alone ...
The voice was as strong and certain as ever, a constant reminder that Joshua's relationship with a mighty God was intact, the single guiding force in his life. He opened another box and struggled to his feet. Once Bob's things were gone, maybe he could advertise for a partner. Someone who didn't need to make money up-front. Joshua huffed at the thought. How likely was that? The situation was hopeless.
There was something else, too.
With Bob gone, Joshua wondered whether he was actually up to the task of fighting religious freedom cases. Bob was the outgoing one, the lawyer with flair and style and conviction. Joshua? He was merely a simple man who loved God above everything and everyone else; a man whose arguments in court were succinct and heartfelt rather than memorable. Bob had said more profound things at lunch over a cheeseburger and fries than Joshua had ever said in court. Joshua had figured he'd enjoy fighting nearly any cause at Bob Moses' side. But without him?
His doubts were rampant as barn mice.
Joshua pulled himself into a nearby chair and hung his head. What was he supposed to do now? The firm wouldn't hire him back ... His retirement fund was intact, so it wasn't a financial concern. But with Bob gone Joshua felt as though he'd lost his sense of direction, his focus as a man. He looked up and studied the office, taking in the way Helen and Betty had arranged the plants just so, how the windows on three sides allowed the light to fill the room. Joshua closed his eyes. This was Bob's dream, God ... tell me if I'm supposed to let it go. Please ...
As I was with Bob Moses so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua let the silent thought settle on his heart. It was true of course; God would be with him. But what about the law office? What of the dream to fight tyrannical forces bent on destroying religious freedom?
Joshua was suddenly more tired than he'd been in weeks. He rested his head on his desk and closed his eyes. As I was with Bob Moses ... As I was with Bob Moses ... As I was with Bob Moses ... Joshua remembered the two cases he and Bob had battled together, how God had indeed been with them, bringing both victory and visibility, a presence in the Philadelphia area that had caused certain political groups to take notice. But that was then, God ... I'm all alone now. I can't do it on my own.
Be strong and courageous ... you will lead the people of this town to inherit the land ...
Joshua closed his eyes tighter. Are You talking to me, God? Lead the people of the town to inherit what land? He shook his head slightly to clear the strange words. He probably needed more sleep. He might even be coming down with something. That could explain this heavy, tired feeling ...
Inherit the land? He couldn't scrounge up a single case, let alone inherit the land.
Before he could pull himself up from his desk he heard a voice. Not the kind of inner knowing that comes when God whispers ... but an audible voice.
"Be strong and very courageous, Joshua. Be careful to follow all the ways My servant Bob Moses showed you; do not turn from them to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go."
Joshua sat straight up, eyes wide. A clamminess came over his hands and neck, and he glanced about the room. The boxes were no longer scattered over the floor, but stacked neatly by the door. And one of the photos on the wall looked different. In place of Bob's picture hung one of a younger man-a man with angry eyes and a handsome, chiseled face. What in the ...?
"If ... if that's You talking, God ... I want to be strong for You." Joshua's eyes darted about the room, but the windows offered none of the familiar views-only golden light almost too brilliant to take in. His heart began to race. "I ... I can't do it alone ..."
"Have I not commanded you?"
Joshua sat stone still in his chair as the voice rang out again. It was booming, yet it warmed the room the way Joshua's heater warmed his car on winter days.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Remember the command that Bob Moses, servant of the Lord, gave you. The Lord your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land. You will cross My Jordan, and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own."
Joshua banged his head twice against the palm of his hand. Was he having a stroke? No, maybe it was an inner ear infection, something that made sounds form into sentences when he was the only one in the room. There was a flash of light-and then he saw it.
In the corner of the room, there in front of Bob's old bookcase, stood a man wearing the finest armor, a man whose eyes blazed with shining light. A golden man unlike anyone Joshua had ever seen before. His breath caught in his throat and his jaw dropped as the man drew his sword. Joshua's teeth and even the tips of his fingers trembled, but something deep in his gut told him he was not in danger. He could trust this man.
He stood, his knees knocking, and made his way closer to the soldier. "Are you ... are you friend or foe?" Joshua forced his voice to cooperate and then waited stiffly, as though his feet were planted in cement.
"Neither. I have come as commander of the army of the Lord."
Joshua felt his eyes fly open even wider than before. Commander of the army of the Lord? That meant the man was an ... an angel? It was impossible ... but what other explanation was there? Joshua fell facedown to the ground, managing in a muffled voice, "What message does my Lord have for me?"
The strangely peaceful soldier studied Joshua for a moment. "Take off your shoes, Joshua, for you stand on holy ground."
Immediately Joshua fumbled with his laces, loosened their grip on his feet, and slid his shoes off, arranging them neatly so they faced Bob's bookcase. Who was this man and where had he come from? If he was an angel did he know about Bob? Had he spoken with him? Was this God's way of getting Joshua's attention? And what of the strange light outside and the odd picture on the wall?
But before he could ask any of the hundreds of questions pelting the roof of his heart, the phone rang. Joshua groped about, but nothing was where it should have been.
Again and again the phone rang, until Joshua sat bolt upright and opened his eyes, his mouth dry, heart pounding. He was breathing fast and he glanced around the room, stunned at the sight that met him.
The man was gone. In his place were all the boxes and piles of papers and books that had been there minutes earlier. His eyes darted to the photographs on the wall and he exhaled his relief. Bob's picture was back, and there was no sign of the angry young man whose picture had been there a moment ago.
Joshua remembered the voice and what had been said. What land? How could he be crossing the Lord's Jordan when the Holy Land was thousands of miles away?
None of it made sense.
The phone rang once more and the sound of it startled Joshua, jerking him further back to reality. There was wetness at the corner of his mouth, and he wiped it with the back of his hand as everything became utterly clear. He hadn't heard a voice or been visited by a commander in the Lord's army. Of course not.
He had fallen asleep and it had all been a dream.
He reached for the receiver and snapped it to his ear. "Religious Freedom Institute, Joshua Nunn."
"Good. You're in." It was Frank Furlong the town's mayor. Joshua eased back into his chair and willed his heart to slow down. He and Frank had been friends for twenty years.
"Yeah ... sorry, I was busy. What's up, Frank?"
There was a pause. "I got wind of something today. Could be big, could be nothing, but I'd like to talk about it. How about over lunch tomorrow?"
Images of the golden soldier and the sound of a booming voice like none he'd ever heard before still clamored for Joshua's attention. "Tomorrow's Saturday. Can't it wait?" He and Helen had plans to drive to the lake and take in an afternoon of fishing. Joshua figured they'd talk about his work plans-especially now that it seemed clear the law office wasn't going to survive.
Again the mayor hesitated. "This is very big, Joshua. If it happens, it'll come down on Monday, and we'll need your help. In fact, you'll be the primary counsel." There was a beat. "Tomorrow at noon, okay? Alvins on Walnut."
The fog was still clearing from Joshua's head, but he heard the urgency in Frank's voice. He and Helen could fish Sunday after church. "I'll be there."
He hung up the phone, staring at it, pondering. What could possibly be so urgent? Whatever it was, it involved the city of Bethany, and Frank wanted him as primary counsel. A surge of hope wound its way through Joshua's being. Was this the answer he'd been praying for? Was God going to let him keep the office after all? He considered the idea when a draft from the air conditioning sifted between his toes.
Frowning, he glanced down. He had only socks on his feet. What's this about? In the dream there'd been something about taking off his shoes because the place was holy, but that had only been a dream, right? So where were his shoes? He looked around the room and finally spotted them several feet away.
Sitting neatly, side by side, facing Bob's old bookcase.
Excerpted from On Every Side by KAREN KINGSBURY Copyright © 2001 by Karen Kingsbury
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.