Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)
TITLE: Bitter Tracks
By Sharon Laughter
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Brad angled his head toward his friend in the passenger seat and trailed his stare. Unbelievably, it appeared as if Jeff was eyeballing a woman standing in the crosswalk. His hands were curled loosely around the Bible in his lap with notes for the men’s accountability group to which they were headed.
"HUH?!" Brad was dumbstruck. He was imagining things. Jeff had been his Pastor and friend for over fifteen years He had never seen the man so much as dip a toe out of the line of propriety. “That not funny.”
“I'm not trying to be funny.” Jeff settled back in his seat appearing a little too relaxed. “Just looking at God's creation. Nothing wrong with that.”
Brad gaped. He could never have imagined having a conversation like this with his best friend. "Are you serious? What did Jesus say about that kind of 'looking?’ Not only that, a believer is not to have so much as a hint of the appearance of evil. I’m guessing that that especially applies to married PASTORS.” This had to be Jeff’s idea of a bad joke. At any moment he would crack a grin and call, "gotcha." Then Brad could challenge him on his tweaked new sense of humor.
“I’ve been thinking. You know, maybe I've just been too much of a Pharisee. Seems like every time I take a hard line, all I get is criticized. People don’t want to talk about God, just potlucks, our parenting skills, and brand of tissue in the bathrooms. The young women want a real Pastor counseling them, not my wife. If I don’t “heel”, offerings drop. And, I'm tired of explaining my every action to Joylene , too. Swimming upstream, brother. I think it’s time to make some changes before I end up bitter. Jeff plastered on a smirkle, some sort of a cross between smile and smirk.
Brad slammed a palm against the steering wheel and accelerated through the intersection. "Are you serious?!" His asthma was kicking in. His heart felt scrambled and his spiritual Geiger counter crackled.
“Oh, please. Let’s not get so dramatic. It's not like I'm having an affair. Jeff jutted his chin upwards and pulled at his collar.
Brad whipped into the first available parking space on the street and killed the engine. He shifted in his seat to focus full attention on Jeff and whatever devil had sunk his claws into his friend. “Remember the smooth talk of the adulteress is sweet as honeycomb but in the end bitter as gall."
Jeff rolled his eyes and peered out the window. First Joylene, now Brad. He uncurled his hands from his Bible and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not tasting any honeycomb, thank you," he retorted.
However, if Joylene continued to hinder his ministry, he would be forced to take a stand…maybe a permanent one. Pastors getting divorced wasn't a big deal anymore, anyway. That one across town dumped his wife and made his girlfriend the new head of Women’s Ministry! What choice to you have when your wife holds you back? No one got all up in arms in that church, either. True, most of the members of the congregation were from rough backgrounds; but that was probably why there were able to dish out the forgiveness and grace. Besides, the Pastor had made things right by marrying the girlfriend real quick.
“You know, what, buddy?” Brad looked horrified. Your kind of thinking here is not a new train on the tracks! If the engine car has arrived, the caboose can’t be far behind! Brad’s eyes flared.
Jeff continued to strain against the constraints of his purple tiny pin-striped tie. He had never seen Brad so furious. The man’s fists were opening and closing in motion as if preparing to do exploratory surgery on Jeff’s teeth.
“uuuhhhhhh….” Somewhere deep inside Jeff felt a flicker. He cleared his throat and settled his eyes on the floorboard. His defiance was starting to deflate. “Get going,”
“I said get going. I guess this is what our men’s accountability group is for, right? Could be I need help with a little spiritual adjustment.”
“Sweet.” Brad smiled and hit the ignition.
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