Read God's Not Dead 2 Online

Authors: Travis Thrasher

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God's Not Dead 2

BOOK: God's Not Dead 2
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’s Not Dead 2
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God’s Not Dead 2

Copyright © 2016 by Pure Flix Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

Published in association with the literary agency Working Title Agency, WTA Services, LLC, Franklin, TN.

Scripture quotations in chapters 42, 55, and 57 are taken from the
Holy Bible
, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations in chapter 44 are taken from the New American Standard Bible,® copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotation in chapter 58 is taken from the
Holy Bible
, King James Version.

God’s Not Dead 2
is a work of fiction. Where real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales appear, they are used fictitiously. All other elements of the novel are drawn from the author’s imagination.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Thrasher, Travis, date, - author

Title: God’s not dead 2 : a novelization by / Travis Thrasher.

Other titles: God is not dead two

Description: Carol Stream, Illinois : Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., [2016]

Identifiers: LCCN 2015041090 | ISBN 9781496413611 (sc)

Subjects : | GSAFD: Christian fiction.

Classifications: LCC PS3570.H6925 G63 2016 | DDC 813/.54
 
—dc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015041090

Build: 2016-01-12 15:06:06

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us: we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

 
—C. S. LEWIS IN A LETTER TO REVEREND PETER BIDE, APRIL 29, 1959

Today you are the law. You are the law. Not some book. Not the lawyers. Not a marble statue or the trappings of the court. See, those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are . . . they are, in fact, a prayer. A fervent and a frightened prayer.

 
—FRANK GALVIN IN
THE VERDICT

I’m alone and outgunned, scared and inexperienced, but I’m
right
.

 
—RUDY BAYLOR IN
THE RAINMAKER

1

FOR A MOMENT AMY RYAN CAN’T MOVE.

She looks down at her phone, which she made the mistake of checking a moment before backing out of the parking lot. The short post by a Facebook friend penetrates her heart and forces her to pause, though the air-conditioning hasn’t even begun to cool down her Prius.

The post brings her back to last year, to everything that happened, to places of pain and peace.

Why in the world would anyone post this
today
of all days?

The three words no longer bring comfort. For Amy, they bring questions and curiosity
 
—the very things she’s built her life and career around. Being inquisitive is a necessary trait for a journalist and a blogger. But these questions come from another place, a place very few ever see.

She sighs and puts her phone down, then stares at the glint of the sun reflecting off the hood of her car. There’s that nagging feeling again, like a note left on the counter reminding her of things to do. She just can’t seem to be able to read it.

Instead a voice rings in her head, a mental recording from a conversation she had a year ago when she was trying to get a quote she could make fun of online. Instead, these words have stayed with her.

“All this stuff is temporary
 
—money, success, even life is temporary. Jesus
 
—that’s eternal.”

It had been a silly sentiment spoken from someone equally ridiculous. So she thought back then. But the truth behind this statement would reveal itself that day and in the days that followed.

God’s Not Dead.

So many had uttered those words, making them their mantra, texting and e-mailing them to everybody they knew. Posting them on social media like Amy’s Facebook friend just did.

But that was last year. And a lot has changed since then.

Does God change?

Amy doesn’t know. She’s afraid to wonder . . . . because she’s started to think he can.

Or, even worse, maybe sometimes he simply decides to move on.

2

LIFE HAS THIS FUNNY WAY
of humbling you. Making you feel like you’re part of some elaborate joke yet never delivering the punch line.

I’m standing outside the door, holding my briefcase that still looks like it did when I got it as a gift ten years ago. The Captain is about three feet away from me, sitting in his wheelchair, just watching me. Nobody has ever told me how this elderly, shrunken man got the name The Captain, and frankly, I’ve never pursued finding out. The first time I saw those sour eyes look me over like that, I greeted him with a lighthearted remark. He tossed a paperback book at my head. That was the last time I ever tried talking to him.

There’s a shuffling at the door, and Nurse Kate appears. “She’s ready for you, Mr. Endler.”

I nod and smile at the formality in Kate’s voice, then give The Captain one more glance. He looks ready to go any minute with a rugged, Willie Nelson sort of grit that says,
I’ll take you down even if I’m stuck in this chair.
And to be honest, I bet he probably would. I decide to head inside the room.

The moment I step in I hear Pat Sajak saying, “One
R
.” I remember not too long ago, during the bad time, when I watched a lot of
Wheel of Fortune
and openly mocked the man who did this for a living. I suppose I was angry that Pat had a job. I was angry a lot back then. Now I look at the screen and think Pat might be the luckiest man on this earth. Paid well to do this very ordinary thing while meeting new people every day and watching the beautiful Vanna White “open” letters.

“Hello, Ms. Archer,” I say as I approach the woman sitting up on her bed.

She’s eighty-five years old, and she’s holding two stuffed animals in her arms. A black-and-white panda and a pink kitten. Her eyes are wide open and don’t blink as I take the chair next to her bed.

“I’m Tom Endler,” I say. “Your attorney.”

Evelyn Archer gives me a look about as hospitable as The Captain’s. I’m used to it and know it’ll soften the longer I’m here.

“So you have your panda
and
your kitten this time,” I say in the tone I might use with a four-year-old. “What are their names?”

Her eyes move back to the television. I look at the screen and see a very dramatic moment coming. Someone lost their turn. Very high stakes. Absolutely compelling.

“I think I like that panda the best,” I tell her in the calmest tone I can muster.

Her hands clutch the animals, and as they do, I notice her
arms are draped in pajamas that no longer fit her. It seems like she shrivels up a little more each time I see her.

“Don’t worry; I won’t take them,” I say.

She leans back, and as she does, her frail body seems to sink into her tilted bed and its endless layers of sheets. I jump up and grab a pillow from a nearby dresser, then show it to her before gently positioning it to prop Evelyn back up.

“There
 
—that’s better, huh?”

“What do you do?” the voice barks out.

“I’m a lawyer,” I tell her.

“I hate lawyers.”

“I’m one of the good ones.”

“Then I already know you’re lying. There are no good lawyers.”

I laugh at the attitude. I love it. I’m never quite sure if she’s trying to be funny or not, but it doesn’t matter.
You’re right, sweet little lady. There are indeed no-good lawyers. Lots of them.

It takes her a little while to warm up. But it always does. The last time I was here, I stayed an extra half hour to listen to her talk about the good old days. Her memory about her senior year of high school is incredible. She gave details about the smell of things, the way someone’s hair looked, how high her cheerleading skirt used to be, how good her legs were. I wish I’d recorded the stories. They sounded too good to actually be true.

“Is this about Bob? What did he do this time?”

“It’s not about Bob,” I tell her. “You do not have to worry about him.”

I see her hand moving and shaking. It’s a shame someone so strong can eventually become little more than nervous bones covered with discolored skin. Her dark-brown eyes look at me again, still in disbelief, so I reassure her.

“He’s still staying with Stanley.”

The very mention of the name softens everything about her. She’s safe again. And she can trust me because few know about Stanley. This is Bob’s brother, the one he used to stay with sometimes.

We’ve gone through this before, so I’m not surprised or curious. “I thought I could sit here and document a few details for the files.”

I put the briefcase on my lap and then open it. Well, I
try
to open it, but it takes me a few seconds. She doesn’t pay attention as I finally crack it open and produce a stack of folders with lots of pages in them. I wait for her to notice the files.

“What’s all that?”

I give her a nod, holding the folders in both hands. “This is your will.”

“I don’t have a will.”

“Well, that’s what we’re working on for you.”

“What’s the will for? Did Bob put you up to this?”

“No. He’s no longer in your life.”

“I don’t have any kids. None that’ll get anything. You hear me? They both left me. My son moved away for work. My daughter just moved away. I think she’s with someone. A man.
Living
with a man.”

“This is just to cover the bases. It’s only a formality.”

“Are you taking me away from here?” her fragile but stubborn voice asks.

“No, ma’am,” I say. “You’re safe right here in Lake Village.”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s this place.”

Lake Village is an assisted-living facility. Evelyn has been here
for the last two years. I watch her fixate that stern and steady gaze back on the lovely mug belonging to Pat Sajak. I know she’s always had a crush on him. She’s simply never admitted it in public.

With the stack of papers on my lap, I begin to ask questions, and with each query, she starts to open up like one of those letters Vanna White reveals. In a short amount of time, I’m able to see the word with all of its letters.

I’d like to solve the puzzle, Pat. Is the word
grandma
?

Of course it is.

It’s not a long word, and I didn’t need to try to guess it in the first place. I simply have to play this lawyerly charade in order for her to feel safe and finally come around. At least in some small way.

There are still some parts of my grandmother that are there. The dementia has taken most of her recollection of me and the rest of her family away, but there are moments that come back like gusts of wind on a lake. Occasionally she’ll talk about childhood memories. Other times she’ll talk about her abusive husband or her two children. The best times are when she shares glimpses into my mother’s life. I can see and hear Mom sometimes as Evelyn remembers her. Yet all the while, I’m simply some lawyer she’s talking to.

That’s not a lie, of course. I am indeed a lawyer, and I do know how much Grandma and Mom loathed them. But that’s one of the many reasons I decided to turn into one.

Sometimes you follow in your father’s footsteps in order to paint a better picture than the one he left behind.

That’s my easy answer to why I chose this profession, one I’ve probably used a bit too much whenever talking about my story. But for now, sitting in this chair with meaningless papers in my
lap and an otherwise-unused briefcase on the floor next to me, I’m listening to my grandmother tell a few of her stories. Every time I come to Lake Village, she surprises me with new ones.

There’s a weird sort of sanctuary I feel on afternoon visits like this.

When I leave an hour later, I don’t kiss or hug or do anything unusual to Grandma. I simply smile at her, hoping and wishing that somewhere deep down inside that complicated universe known as a brain, there might be a glimmer of memory. I’m waiting for that recollection to come and for her face to warm up and for her to say, “Tommy.” Today isn’t that day.

I head back out and see The Captain watching me like some kind of hallway monitor. This time I do smile at him since it was a good visit. He remains somber and intractable.

When I’m back outside in the unusually hot April afternoon, I check my phone. It buzzed a couple of times when I was in the room. I’ve gotten accustomed to 800 numbers that call around the same time of day. Banks and credit-card companies. I swear Banana Republic calls me about a credit card that I haven’t used in ten years. The card can get cut up but the debt still hangs around. And companies don’t like it when you miss a payment.

It turns out the two numbers have names attached to them. One makes me curious; the other makes me anxious.

I listen to the first voice mail. “Hey, Tom, this is Len. Give me a call. Got a possible case for you. A nice thorny one. A separation-of-church-and-state thing. A teacher was suspended after talking about Jesus. I know you’re a religious man, so that’s why I called you.”

I hear laughter for a few seconds before the message cuts off.

Len Haegger is a regional director for UniServ, a division of
the Arkansas Education Association that focuses on teachers’ legal rights and representation. His zone includes most of western Arkansas, including our wonderful little town of Hope Springs. When issues at a school go above and beyond the jurisdiction of the teachers’ union, the AEA gets involved and UniServ comes into play. Most of the cases I end up taking for the union come from Len. Many are simply assigned cases since I’m on retainer, but this one sounds like it might be a little different.

Before I can fully process everything Len said, the next message plays and I hear my father’s voice. “Hear the news? Frederick just became a partner for Merrick & Roach. I doubt you’re keeping in touch with your old classmates, so I just wanted to let you know.”

That’s all he says. No hello or good-bye or anything like that. Just a fork in the back of my head.

Will it be Merrick, Roach & Carlson? Or will Frederick’s name be in the middle?

It should be Merrick, Roach & Rat.

I still remember the first time I saw Frederick Carlson III at Stanford University. He was the poster child of an entitled, shady, all-about-the-money lawyer.

I sometimes wish I had my grandma’s foggy memory. I know this is one of those not-so-good moments you have in your life. Wishing you were old and suffering from dementia. Now
there’s
a proud feeling. But right now I feel like it’s either that or become insanely angry.

I can’t deny the irony here
 
—it’s like a diet book sitting on the counter at a donut shop. This whole church-state issue with the teacher talking about Jesus. A teacher I’m now supposed to represent. I know all about Jesus. I’ve been taught lots, mostly by a man I can barely stand to be with for more than five minutes.

It’s sad to say I hate someone; even more sad to say he’s my father. But my mother’s gone, and I sometimes truly believe he put her in that grave. My lessons on Jesus and God and hell and sin and all that good stuff come from George Endler. My father. Also my biggest critic since everything happened. Since my career . . . changed.

Dad would just love to hear about this case.

I look at my phone. There’s no question I’m going to respond to the first call I got and ignore the second. That doesn’t mean both won’t equally haunt me later tonight when I’m trying to get to sleep.

There are no good lawyers.

Maybe Grandma’s right. George Endler sure isn’t one. Neither is Frederick Carlson the very third.

How about you, Thomas? Do you consider yourself a good lawyer?

The older I get, the less I seem to know.

This is what I think wisdom means.

It isn’t knowing what the punch line to your life’s joke is going to be.

No.

Wisdom is being patient, knowing the punch line’s never going to come.

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