"Full of crazy church politics and a huge cast, Griggs keeps this on-going story alive by addressing the challenges of living by Biblical rules with homespun humor." --Publishers Weekly
As the son of a well-known minister, Clarence Walker knows his decision to leave his father's flock and join Pastor George Landris's mega-church ministry is controversial. But little does he suspect it will ignite a firestorm of revelations that will shake the heart of the congregation--and his very own family. . .
From a long-buried secret that will bring the paternity of not one, but two women, to light, to a parishioner whose long awaited love match may be thwarted by an unexpected source, hidden truths are coming to the surface. But most shocking is that Clarence's own father, Reverend Marshall Walker, may not be the pious figure he claims to be. And since evidence of his transgressions lies in the hands of his arch nemesis, it's only a matter of time before Reverend Walker's life--and his church--falls like a house of cards.
Praise For Vanessa Davis Griggs
"A beautiful, hip, and spiritual retelling of one of the most memorable and redemptive stories in the Bible." --Freshfiction.com on Redeeming Waters
"A smart novel that addresses an issue that many in the church shy away from--divorce--with frank realism." --Library Journal on Practicing What You Preach
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
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The Truth Is the Light
By VANESSA DAVIS GRIGGS
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Vanessa Davis Griggs
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. -Psalm 118:22
"Crown me!" said the ninety-nine-year-old man with dark chocolate skin, who didn't look a day over seventy. He sat back against the flowery-cushioned chair and folded his arms, all while displaying a playful grin.
"Crown you?" said a matched-in-tone thirty-five-year-old, resembling a slimmed-down teddy bear as he shook his head while mirroring the old man's grin. "Crown you?"
"That's what I just said, so quit stalling and get to crowning me."
The younger man first started to chuckle before it turned into a refrained laugh. "Gramps, I've told you twice already: We're playing chess, not checkers. The rules are different. There's no crowning a piece when it reaches the other side, not in chess."
"You say that there is my queen, right?" Gramps touched the game piece that represented his queen.
"Well, if there's a queen, then there's got to be a king with some real power a lot closer and, frankly, better than this joker here." He touched his king. "So quit bumping your gums and crown me so I can get some real help in protecting my queen." Gramps nodded, proudly flaunting his new set of dentures, as he grinned at his favorite grandson.
Clarence Walker couldn't do anything but smile and shake his head in both amusement and adoration. "I've told you. Because there's already a king on the board"-he pointed to the king-"we don't crown in chess. Just admit it. You don't really want to learn how to play chess, do you? That's why you're acting this way."
"I tried to tell you from the git-go that I'm a checkers man and strictly a checkers man. When you get my age, it's hard for an old dog to learn new tricks. I know how to fetch. I know how to roll over and even play dead. But all this fancy stuff like walking on your hind legs and twirling around ... Well, you can take that to some young pup eager to learn. Teach the young pups this stuff. With checkers: I move, I jump, and I get crowned when I reach the other side. Just like Heaven." He pointed his index finger and circled it around the board. "I get enough kings, I set you up, trap you, wipe the board with you, and like normal-game over." Gramps stroked his white, trimmed beard.
Gramps was on a roll now. "All this having to remember pawns, knights, rooks, and bishops, which direction each moves in, how many spaces they can move when they move ... I ain't got time for all of that. Then to have a king that's less powerful than his queen? Check and checkmate? Nope, I can't get with that. You know what your problem is, don't you? You don't like me whuppin' up on you like I normally do. You're trying to find somethin' that'll confuse old Gramps. Now is that check or checkmate?"
"No, Gramps. I'm merely trying to help keep you sharp. That's all. Studies show that when you do something new and different, it exercises your brain. You do know that your brain is a muscle, so it needs working out just like the rest of your body does."
"Humph!" Gramps said. "If I was any sharper, merely passing by me too closely would cut you." Gramps sensed his grandson had something on his mind he wanted to talk about other than chess. Gramps leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table as he put his clasped hands underneath his chin. "Okay, so what's going on with you?"
Clarence sat back and became more serious. "Gramps, I'm getting baptized this coming Sunday night. I gave my life to Christ ... for real this time. It wasn't just going forward to shake a preacher's hand like when I was twelve and my daddy made me do it to get it over with. Do you think you'd care to come and see me be baptized on Sunday?"
A smile crept over the old man's face as he leaned back against his seat. "So you done finally seen the light, huh?"
"Yeah, Gramps. I've finally seen the light. And I'm not running from the Lord anymore. Something happened to me on Sunday. I can't explain everything about it. But I know that the same man that walked into that building is not the same man that walked out. Something changed on the inside of me; it was an inside job. I see a difference."
The old man nodded. "Oh, you preaching to the choir now. I understand exactly how you feel. I ran from the Lord for a long time myself, both physically and figuratively." Gramps readjusted his slender body more comfortably. "I know your mama is happy about all of this. My baby girl has been doing some kind of praying for you, yes, she has. And knowing your daddy like I do, I'm sure he acted like the father of the biblical Prodigal Son who finally returned home after wallowing for a time in a pigsty."
"Mom is too excited. She kept grabbing my face and pressing it in like she used to when I was a little boy. Like she wanted to be certain that I was really real-that it was actually me she was talking to and not some dream or figment of her imagination. Now, Dad, on the other hand, probably would have been happy had I done this at his church."
Gramps leaned in. "Hold up there, whippersnapper. You mean to tell me you were somewhere else when this miraculous conversion occurred? You telling me this didn't take place at your daddy's church?"
"No, Gramps. It didn't happen at my daddy's church."
"Well, look out below! I'm sure that went over like a boulder falling off a tall building in New York City during lunchtime."
"You know my daddy."
"Yeah. Me, of all people, knows your daddy. Not one of my favorite folks in the world, that's for sure. No need in me trying to pretend he and I are bosom buddies, especially not after the way he treated my daughter. But Clarence, your father did give us you and your older brother, Knowledge. So I don't count him being in her life all bad."
Clarence tried to force a smile. "I told him about me being saved and about my scheduled baptism for Sunday. I asked him to come."
Gramps scratched his head. "You don't even have to tell how that conversation went. To him, you getting saved-and in another preacher's house at that-had to be the ultimate openhanded slap to his face. In his super-religious eyes, you are officially and publicly humiliating him. And everybody who's anybody knows your father loves the spotlight and equally detests being disgraced-intentional, accidental, or otherwise."
"That's the part of this that I don't understand. The greater point should be that I've repented of my sins and that I'm changing my ways. What difference does it make where it happened and with whom, as long as it happened? Daddy took it like I was deliberately trying to make him look bad ... like I was purposely trying to embarrass him by getting saved under another pastor's leadership instead of his. But I heard God speak to my heart just as clearly. And in that moment, I knew I had to move right then and there. I realized where I end up spending my eternity depended on my receiving Jesus."
Gramps picked up his bishop off the chessboard and held it up. He began to make air circles with it. "Are you following what God is telling you to do?" he asked.
"Then Clarence Eugene Walker, in the end, that's all that really matters." Gramps set the bishop back in the same spot he'd picked it up from with a deliberate thud. "Marshall Walker ain't got no Heaven nor a Hell to put nobody in. 'Cause the Lord knows, if he had, I'da been in need of an eternal air conditioner ages ago. In fact, on more than a few occasions Marshall has flat out told me which of the two places I could go, and believe me, it wasn't Heaven. But"-Gramps smiled-"as you can clearly see, I ignored both him and his hearty request. That's what you gonna have to do if your father is bothering you about this. Don't let him get you off track, you hear." Gramps struggled somewhat as he made his way to his feet with a slight assistance from his grandson.
"I'm all right," Gramps said, asserting his independence to get up without help. "I've told you I can stand up fine. It just takes me a little longer to get my motor started, that's all. Eventually, I get it going, then watch out." He looked at Clarence, now shaking his head and grinning. Gramps nodded. "You can come pick me up Sunday evening," Gramps said as they left the activity room of the nursing home that he had called home for the past year. "If the Lord be willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be here waiting on you. There's nothing I'd love more than to see you be baptized." Gramps beamed.
They walked to Gramps's room. Inside, Gramps started grinning like a Cheshire cat as he looked down at Clarence's attaché case. "So, did you bring my stuff? I don't want you conveniently leaving here without giving it to me. I might be old, but as I just told you, my mind is still sharp. I ain't forgot, in case you're counting on me forgetting."
"Gramps, you and I both know I shouldn't be doing this."
"Boy, what did I tell you? I'm grown ... past grown, in case you've failed to notice. Now, did you bring my stuff in that fancy case of yours or not?" Gramps gingerly sat in the tan leather recliner with a built-in massager his daughter, Zenobia, had given him Father's Day. He reached over and turned on the blue retro-styled radio, a modern-day replica of a 1950s automobile engine, that sat on his dresser. "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King was playing. Gramps closed his washed-out, brown eyes and began to sway as he softly sang-his voice as strong as when he was twenty and just as smooth and calming as milk chocolate. There was no question where Clarence had inherited his singing voice.
"Now, that's some real singing right there," Gramps said as the song trailed off. "Ben E. King, Nat King Cole, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Frankie, Ella, and Lena. And those are just a fraction of some of the greats of my time." Gramps held out a hand to let Clarence know he was still waiting on his "stuff."
Clarence opened his black case. "Gramps, we have some great singers in our time, too. Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Vickie Winans, Ms. Tramaine Hawkins, goodness! Smokie, Donnie, Kirk, Yolanda, Babyface, Raheem, Whitney, Celine ... don't get me started." Clarence pulled out a blue insulated lunch box. "Then there are groups like Earth, Wind and Fire and En Vogue, who I hear are back." Clarence handed the lunch box to Gramps. "Here. But I want to go on record that I don't feel right about this. I just want you to know."
Gramps unzipped the lunch box, looked inside, and began to grin as he pulled out its content as though the wrong move might cause it to explode. "Ah," he said, placing the still warm, wax-paper-wrapped item up to his nose. He inhaled slowly and deeply, then exhaled with a sound of delight. The smoky aroma escaped into the room. "Just the way I like it, wax paper and all."
Clarence nodded. "Yeah, three rib bones with extra barbecue sauce, the sweet not vinegar kind, between two slices of white bread, wrapped in your favorite BBQ Joint's signature paper." Clarence shook his head. "You know you're not supposed to have that."
"Yeah, well, you just make sure you keep your mouth closed about this. Don't tell your mother and we'll be fine. She's the only one trying to keep me from my barbecue rib sandwiches. Like I got these teeth, which incidentally cost a pretty penny, merely for show. Waste not, want not-I'm putting these bad boys to work." He clacked his teeth together. "You're a good grandson, Clarence. You really are. Now sing that song I love."
"You mean the one by Douglas Miller? 'My Soul Has Been Anchored'?"
"Yeah, that's the one." Gramps placed the sandwich on the dresser and handed the now-empty lunch box back to Clarence.
Clarence put the lunch box back in his attaché case, then began to sing-holding back his full voice so as not to disturb any neighboring or passing residents of the home.
Gramps closed his eyes briefly as he seemed to take in every note and every word with a metronome-like tick-tock of his head. When Clarence sang the final note, Gramps opened his teary eyes and nodded. "Yes," he said, pumping an open hand upward, "my soul's been anchored"-he swung a fisted hand while smiling-"in the Lord!"
Clarence nodded, hugged his grandfather, told him that he loved him, then left.
Chapter TwoIf thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grape gatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes? -Obadiah 5
Monday night, twenty-seven-year-old Gabrielle Mercedes and thirty-year-old Zachary Wayne Morgan were in Gabrielle's kitchen cooking fajitas. They'd gone to a highly acclaimed play Sunday night and had a wonderful time. Few Broadway plays made their way to Birmingham, Alabama, whenever those plays happened to travel outside of New York. Afterward, Zachary surprised Gabrielle with tickets to The Color Purple scheduled for the BJCC Concert Hall in October. Gabrielle couldn't believe that after all these years of wanting to, she was finally going to see this Broadway hit.
The doorbell rang. Gabrielle glanced at the digital clock on the stove. "I wonder who that could be." She cut the heat on the gas burner to simmer and rinsed her hands at the sink, drying them on the large dish towel she kept draped across the oven door handle for just that purpose.
"I got this," Zachary said, turning the heat back to medium as he took over stirring the rectangular strips of marinated steak in the large cast-iron skillet with plans to add fresh sliced red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers and red onions at the very end to maintain the vegetables' firmness. The doorbell rang again, this time repeatedly.
When Gabrielle saw who was standing there pressing the doorbell, she practically yanked her front door open.
"Well, it took you long enough," Aunt Cee-Cee said as she fanned her face with her right hand and stepped inside. "You must have been in the bathroom or something."
Cecelia Murphy was Gabrielle's aunt on her father's side. She'd taken Gabrielle in-raised her since she was three (close to four) years old after her mother was killed and her father convicted of her murder and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.
"No. But I was busy. I have company in case you didn't notice the car parked outside when you pulled up," Gabrielle said, trying hard not to show her frustration.
"You mean that black two-thousand-and-something Lincoln Town Car? I just thought you'd bought yourself another vehicle." Aunt Cee-Cee tilted her head back, nose up. "What's that I smell? Smells like it's coming from the kitchen?" She started walking in the direction of the scent. "It smells like someone's sautéing onions and peppers."
"We're making fajitas," Gabrielle said, still holding the opened door, since she hadn't asked her aunt to come in. She was now hurriedly trying to figure out what she needed to do to lure her aunt back toward her and out of the door.
"Well, it smells to me like I have fantastic timing," Aunt Cee-Cee said as she continued, undeterred, toward the kitchen. Gabrielle closed the front door and hurried to catch up with her uninvited, unwelcome, and undeniably unpredictable guest.
"Seriously, Aunt Cee-Cee, this really isn't a good time right now-"
Aunt Cee-Cee stepped into the kitchen and saw Zachary just as he was turning off the burner and lifting up the large, cast-iron skillet. He raked a little of the steak, onions, and colored peppers mixture onto a flat flour tortilla.
"Well, hello there," Aunt Cee-Cee said as she walked toward Zachary. "Well, well, aren't you something? You must be the Handsome Chef." She let out a slight chuckle. "There's the Iron Chef. So I can only conclude you have to be the Handsome Chef who makes house calls." She scanned him from his head to his chest as she smiled.
Zachary looked at Gabrielle, who now stood next to the frumpy-looking visitor.
Zachary set the skillet back down on the stove. "No, but I thank you for the compliment. I'm Gabrielle's friend, Zachary Morgan."
"I'm Cecelia Murphy"-she extended a hand-"Gabrielle's aunt. But everybody calls me Cee-Cee."
Zachary quickly wiped his hand on the towel and shook Aunt Cee-Cee's outstretched hand. "All right then, Cee-Cee. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Excerpted from The Truth Is the Light by VANESSA DAVIS GRIGGS Copyright © 2010 by Vanessa Davis Griggs. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Excellent book; this author know how to capture her audience with her unique style of writing.