The Reasonby William Sirls
When facing the impossible, will you believe?
Storm clouds gather over a small Michigan town. As thunder shakes the sky, the lights inside St. Thomas Church flicker . . . and then go out.
All is black until a thick bolt of lightning slices the sky, striking the church’s large wooden cross—leaving it ablaze and splintered in/strong>
When facing the impossible, will you believe?
Storm clouds gather over a small Michigan town. As thunder shakes the sky, the lights inside St. Thomas Church flicker . . . and then go out.
All is black until a thick bolt of lightning slices the sky, striking the church’s large wooden cross—leaving it ablaze and splintered in two.
When the storm ends—the search for answers begins.
James Lindy, the church’s blind minister, wonders how his small congregation can repair the cross and keep their faith in the midst of adversity. And he hears the words “only believe.”
Macey Lewis, the town’s brilliant young oncologist, is drawn to Alex, a young boy who’s recently been diagnosed with an aggressive leukemia. She puts her hope in modern medicine—yet is challenged to “only believe.”
And Alex’s single mom, who has given everything she can to her boy, is pleading with God to know the reason this is happening . . . to save her son. But she only hears silence and wonders how she can possibly “only believe.”
The Reason is a milestone debut novel, opening with a thunderbolt and never letting up as it introduces us to everyday characters who are wrestling with the questions: Where is God when bad things happen? And does God ignore the prayers of the faithful? The answer each character receives will astound readers while offering an unforgettable call to hope, to change, to . . . only believe.
“This is a skillfully written first novel with the narrative voice, knack for dialogue, and plot movement of a veteran author.” —Publishers Weekly
“From the first page of The Reason, my heart was captured. It is truly a rare and precious gift that could change the way people believe and live out their faith.”
— Kelly Riether, review specialist for major book retailer
"Sirls's debut novel centers around a small Michigan church congregation, a storm-ravaged fifteen-foot cross, and a quartet of characters: a blind minister, a young boy stricken with leukemia, his mother, and a mysterious stranger. Heller's compelling delivery of miraculous healings--from addiction, relationships, and illness--is authentic and believable. He especially shines in his portrayal of Alex, capturing his fears and boyish innocence with a sweet vocal pitch and tone. His depiction of Alex's bone marrow aspiration spurs empathy and tears while scenes with Mr. Brave the puppet, a distraction for Alex, give listeners welcome relief from his painful experience. Authentic sound effects combine with Heller's deliberate pacing to keep listeners immersed in the story until the surprise ending."
G.D.W. © AudioFile Portland, Maine
- Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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- 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Read an Excerpt
By William Sirls
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Complete Curriculum, LLC
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was the second time in a little under fifteen minutes that the power had gone out at the church, and it was noticeably darker this time. Almost too dark, for the hour.
Brooke paused—waiting for the lights to come back on as they had before—and stared at the three strange shadows that hovered against the fellowship hall's vaulted ceiling. Something about them seemed alive.
She glanced over at her five-year-old son, Alexander, and lowered her earbuds, noticing the howling wind had stopped. "You okay, buddy?"
"I'm not even scared," Alex said bravely. He gave her a reassuring smile and waved the small rag he liked to use when he helped his mother dust.
Brooke turned off her iPod and then pressed the vacuum's power button a few times. Nothing happened. She shook her head and looked back up at the ceiling. The shadows had somehow become one.
The weatherman on the morning news had said they may be getting some storms, but when she, Alex, and Charlie had come up from the house to clean, only plump, white clouds and a relatively bright sun filled the southeast Michigan sky. But it had been windy. Really windy.
And now the wind was gone.
"It's too dark," Alex whispered. "Charlie is gonna be scared."
"He'll be okay, baby," she said. "The lights will come back on soon."
"But the sky just did some big thunder," Alex said. "You couldn't hear it with your music on your head."
That changes things.
"Charlie!" she yelled, taking Alex's hand and heading quickly across the room toward the tall double doors that separated them from the sanctuary.
Even though Charlie was thirty-eight years old and big as a tree, thunder absolutely terrified him. Even with his familiarity with the church, all his safe places had surely been erased by the darkness and terror flooding his small mind.
She opened the doors and walked into the sanctuary. It was dark, but not nearly as dark as the fellowship hall. It was perfectly quiet.
"Charlie?" Brooke said, glancing up toward the front of the church. She heard nothing but could feel Alex pulling on her pant leg.
"Look, Mom," he said.
She turned, and her eyes followed his little index finger, pointing at the two paned glass doors that served as the main entrance. Brooke squinted and cocked her head to the side. She had never seen the sky that color before.
She took his hand again, walked to the doors, then leaned against one to push it open.
It was deadly still outside. The air was thick and had a strange smell to it. The clouds were now a dark gray and the sky behind them an eerie crayon green, casting down a steady shadow of the same color over everything she could see.
"We better take cover," Brooke whispered, holding the door. She gazed out at the fifteen-foot wooden cross, centered on the church's front lawn. Beyond the woods, she could hear spirited rolls of thunder approaching off the shore of Lake Erie. There was no way in the world Charlie would have ever come out here, let alone try to make it over to the house.
"I want to go back inside," Alex said, letting go of his mother's hand and wrapping his arms around her leg.
Brooke took a deep breath and tilted her head up again to stare at the sky, wondering how much time they had. She looked down the hill at the house, which now seemed so far away. More thunder sounded in the distance. Louder this time.
"Charlie!" Alex shouted. There was panic in his small voice.
Brooke looked back over her shoulder into the church. She leaned her head against the door and waited for Charlie to jump up from between two pews, as he'd done hundreds of times before during hide-and-seek.
"He won't come out, Mom," Alex said. "You know how he is when he's scared."
"He has to be around here somewhere," Brooke said, taking one more look outside. She picked her son up and stepped back into the church, letting the door close behind them. "We have to find him fast, Alex."
She walked along the length of the back pew and stopped when they hit the center aisle. Brooke could see the push sweeper lying on the floor up near the pulpit. Charlie had obviously abandoned it when he heard the first hint of thunder.
Brooke put Alex back on his feet and tried to listen for Charlie.
She looked back at the main entrance. It had clearly gotten darker, and beyond the door's plated glass, lightning flickered gently, as if God were flashing the porch light for someone who had just missed his driveway.
"Charlie!" Brooke yelled again.
"Charlie!" Alex echoed.
They turned and slowly made their way up the main aisle, taking turns calling Charlie's name and looking for him in the darkness between the pews.
"Maybe he did make it down to the house," Brooke said, glancing back at the front doors. The sky had gone from green to black.
They both flinched at the thick volley of thunder that coincided with a flash of lightning, like an X-ray of the church's front lawn.
"I don't like this," Alex said, sounding on the verge of tears.
"It's okay," she said, still staring at the front doors. She held her hand out behind her for Alex to take. He didn't.
"I'm over here," Alex whispered.
Brooke turned around and could barely see him. He was nothing more than a small shadow kneeling in the pew. "What are you doing?"
"Praying we find Charlie."
Brooke kneeled next to him and struggled to slow her breathing. Please, Lord, keep us safe. She put her arm around Alex and pulled him closer. She could feel his little heart pounding against her palm.
Alex squeezed her arm and closed his eyes as she pulled him closer still. She kissed the top of his head as a violent peal of thunder boomed directly over the church.
"No!" Alex cried.
"Let's go," Brooke said, taking Alex's hand. As they rose, she thought she heard something over the rain. It was dark, but she could vaguely make out some of the shadows around them. The pews. The dim outlines of windows. A stack of rarely used folding chairs against the wall. They stepped into the aisle, and Brooke proceeded to look mechanically to her left, then to her right, her head's slowly shifting movements reminding her of a low-end security camera.
She saw little, but she definitely heard something. Charlie. He was crying. But the sound of him was drowned out by thunder so loud it reverberated in her chest, and by the wind that had finally returned with a vengeance.
"Make it stop!" Alex begged, grabbing hold of her leg again.
She turned to comfort him and looked outside. Another finger of lightning darted across the grounds, and Brooke flinched as the entire front lawn disappeared into a brilliant flash of reddish-orange light. It was gone before she could shield her eyes, and the deafening blast that followed shook the building, sending them both instinctively to the floor. She draped her arms around Alex. He was trembling, and she didn't blame him. Whatever had just happened outside was unlike anything she had ever seen or heard. They needed better cover—to get out of this big space.
"Charlie!" she yelled, quickly standing and then picking up Alex. "Where are you?"
There was no response.
"What if he's hurt?" Alex cried.
"What in the world?" she said.
"Do you see him, Mom?"
Brooke squinted at the glass of the front doors.
Something was burning outside. Flames seemed to float in the dark about ten feet in the air, then rapidly weakened under the assault of the constant rain.
"What's that?" Alex asked. As he spoke, the last of the fire went out.
"I think it was the cross," she answered.
"Oh no," Alex said, like a concerned old man. He leaned his head on her shoulder. "Please, let's hurry. Let's find him."
She raised her finger to her lips, gently requesting that he be quiet. As they waited and listened for Charlie, all Brooke could hear was the continuous tapping of the rain on the windows.
"A car's coming," Alex said. Headlights made their way up into the parking lot of the small church.
"It has to be Shirley and Pastor Jim," she whispered. A peculiar clicking sound came from the other side of the building, restoring the power.
Only two of seven lights were on in the sanctuary, offering them no real improvement in their ability to see Charlie, but they both breathed a little easier.
"I like that better," Alex said.
"Me too, little man."
"Can you turn the rest on, Mom?"
"Sure," she said. They heard a humming sound coming from somewhere in the building and looked at each other.
"What's that noise?" Alex asked.
"I think it's the vacuum cleaner over in the fellowship hall. I must've left it on when we lost power."
Alex smiled and she kissed the top of his head again. There was more thunder, but it seemed to be fading. The storm was easing away, and now Brooke was sure she could hear Charlie.
"I hope the dumb lights stay on this time," Alex said. "I wish they—"
"Shh," Brooke said, moving slowly toward the front of the church. One dome light cast a peacefully soothing glow over the altar, an old Wurlitzer piano, and a hand-carved pulpit.
She tilted her head and lifted her hand. She definitely heard someone sniffle.
"We need to find Charlie," Alex said, as if she'd forgotten.
"We just did," Brooke said, running her hand through Alex's bright-red hair. Charlie was up in the nave, lying down between the last two pews, where the choir sat. All she could see of him was the white, size twenty-one tennis shoes on the carpet, sticking out past the end of the bench.
Brooke carried Alex up to the choir stalls and stepped into the row in front of Charlie's hiding spot. She lowered Alex to stand on the seat cushion above Charlie, and they both leaned over and looked down.
Charlie Lindy was perfectly still, flat on his back, with his eyes closed and his hands over his ears.
"There you are, big guy," Brooke said. "It's okay, Charlie."
Alex started giggling. "You big fraidy cat, Charlie!"
"It's okay, Charlie," Brooke repeated softly. "The storm is about over."
Charlie opened his eyes and looked up at them. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and he immediately shut them again.
"It's all right," she said assuredly. "It's going away."
Charlie reluctantly opened his eyes again, and they shifted quickly from side to side. He slowly sat up and lowered his hands from his ears. He smiled at Brooke and pointed at the light switch behind her.
"You got it, big guy," she said.
"You're a big fraidy cat!" Alex laughed, jumping up and down while holding out his arms for Charlie to take him.
"I think we were all afraid," Brooke said soothingly as she turned to switch on more lights.
"No!" Alex yelled, his voice echoing off the church's painted white brick walls.
Brooke spun around and found herself staring straight into Charlie's barrel-like chest. His right arm extended firmly out to his side like a thick branch. At the end of that limb, two feet above her head, Alex dangled helplessly facedown as Charlie's mammoth hand held him by the backside of his tiny Levi's. She smiled and put her hands on her hips.
"Okay!" Alex shouted again, followed by a playful giggle. "Okay, Charlie! You're not a fraidy cat!"
Charlie grinned and effortlessly flipped Alex upright to sit on his enormous shoulders. Alex balanced himself by hanging on to one handful of the giant man's cropped blond hair and another handful of his left ear. Charlie's oversized fingers wrapped carefully around the boy's thigh to hold on to him. His other hand slowly lifted, opened, and then revealed a single Tic Tac, which Alex gratefully snatched up.
Brooke was giving Charlie a thumbs-up when Shirley Lindy came through the door. Shirley wore a plastic blue poncho and pulled out tissue to wipe away the small beads of water on her wire-rimmed glasses.
"Hello there, Alexander," Shirley said, looking up at him.
"Hi, Mrs. Lindy," he said. "We couldn't find Charlie and he scared me!"
"Me too," Brooke said. "Where is Pastor Jim?"
"I left him out front," the older woman replied.
"What's he doing out there in the rain?" Brooke asked.
"We have a little problem," Shirley answered, holding up her hand and reeling in her right index finger, silently inviting them to come and see.
Brooke was the first outside as Shirley held the door for a ducking Charlie, who still had Alex saddled comfortably on his shoulders.
A gentle fog had rolled onto the property, and the storm had been reduced to a misty drizzle. Brooke's breath clouded before her mouth and nose. But her eyes were on Pastor Jim.
"Oh no," she sighed. "I saw this happen."
Brooke slid her arms sympathetically around Shirley's shoulders as Alex lowered his chin to the top of Charlie's head.
Pastor Jim knelt in a shallow puddle with his head down and hands resting on the top half of the large wooden cross that lay on the ground before him.
Lightning had struck.
Chapter TwoTwenty-seven-year-old Carla Miller sat quietly on a corner bar stool at The Pilot Inn. She was halfway into her first Bacardi and Coke and wished she could smoke a cigarette. She took a deep breath and ran her finger slowly down the side of her glass. She hadn't had a smoke in over a year and knew the craving wouldn't last long. It felt kind of good to be in control of something, at least.
Despite being one of the area's most popular watering holes, the storm had made it a slow night at The Pilot. The sticky smells of stale beer that usually haunted the hundred-year-old bar and diner were minimized by both a light crowd and a splintered mop handle that propped the back door partially open, allowing rain-fresh air to waft through. Only one of the televisions was on, making it a little darker than usual, and the Guess Who's "No Time Left for You" was playing a little too loudly from the corner jukebox. Carla wasn't sure why she only liked listening to old songs. She guessed that they made her think of her father and the short amount of time she had with him.
She shook it off. This wasn't going to be another one of those nights where the promises she had made to herself once again ended up in small pieces scattered all over the floor of the bar. The song ended to the sarcastic applause of an overweight man in his midfifties. A trucker? A construction worker? His fat, sausage-like fingers held a bottle of Bud Light as he slammed four quarters down on the edge of the pool table, securing his right to play the current game's winner. He glanced back at Carla with eyes as gray and worn as his face, giving her the once-over. It didn't bother Carla. Men had always liked her. Though the cigarettes and booze hadn't been kind to her looks, she took a fair amount of consolation in her ability to turn heads.
She rested her chin on the palm of her hand and then looked up. In the long mirror that ran the length of the wall behind the bar, she could see her best friend—her only real friend—Brooke Thomas, walking through the saloon doors that separated the two halves of the bar and diner. It was good to see Brooke, but if she was venturing into the bar, it must have been a really rough day for her. They had known each other for over ten years now, and Brooke had spent the last two doing a pretty solid job of not meeting Carla anywhere that sold alcohol. Enable was the word Brooke liked to use, even though it bugged Carla.
"I hoped I'd find you here," Brooke said, taking off her coat before sitting on the stool next to her. "Busy day at drama central. Went to the free clinic to have Alex checked, then we cleaned the church all afternoon. That was some kind of crazy storm, huh?"
"It was somethin'," Carla responded, hugging Brooke while giving a peace sign to the bartender. "Kathy, let's have two more rum and Cokes. Hold the rum on one." She turned back to Brooke. "What'd you find out about Alex?"
"They want us to come back tomorrow so they can run some tests on him."
"What kind of tests?"
"Blood tests and a couple of other things. Can you go with me?"
"Sure. What time?"
"Have to be there at seven forty-five."
"I'll pick you guys up at quarter after. What are they testing for?"
"Routine stuff," Brooke said, closing her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose. "You think it's something bad?"
Carla lowered her cheek to Brooke's shoulder and put her arm around her for another quick hug. "I'm sure it's not. Alex is gonna be just fine."
"I know," Brooke said, smiling in a way that seemed a little forced. Her light green eyes begged for more assurance. "But the cross outside St. Thomas won't be fine. Lightning struck it."
"No. Wait until you see it."
"Don't worry about the cross," Carla said. "It can be replaced."
Excerpted from THE REASON by William Sirls Copyright © 2012 by Complete Curriculum, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Once a senior vice president in a large investment firm, William Sirls was incarcerated in 2007 for wire fraud and money laundering. Life lessons involving faith, grace, and forgiveness are evident in his writing. The Sinners’ Garden is his second novel. His first novel, The Reason, was published in 2012. William makes his home in southern Michigan and you can reach him at williamsirls.com.
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