Tall, with handsomely chiseled features and the bronzed skin of his Cherokee ancestors, Lionel Butler has caused more than one girl’s heart to flutter. But he never takes much notice, because he’s convinced he’s destined to be a bad husband and father. He’s also turned his back on the God his mother served, and since her death, he’s convinced he’ll never be a believer. But when he meets Kana Wallace, a devout Christian, his surprising feelings for her force him to stop and re-evaluate his reasons for a lack of faith.
Kana Wallace never dreamed the day would come when she was faced with the need to choose between a man she loves and her promise to God that she would never commit herself to a relationship with an unbeliever. Will prayer and faith be enough to keep these two troubled people from making the biggest mistake of their lives?
A story of the redemption of two men who had given up hope of ever having a life worth living. A story that will warm your heart and inspire your faith in the amazing power of God’s love. (286 printed pages).
“Hey, Lee! … you guys open yet?” The question came from a sixteen year-old, redheaded boy standing just outside the office door of Butler’s Auto Service & Repair. Not being in possession of much patience, he then began pounding on the window and finally saw the door open wide.
“For Pete’s sake, Jimmy, hold your horses, will ya! We’re trying to get open.” The man speaking was every bit of six and a half feet tall and strongly built. His height and handsomely sculptured features clearly indicated some Cherokee ancestry, as did his bronzed skin. At thirty-six, he already had a few silver streaks in his thick, sandy hair, but that by no means detracted from his looks. In fact, more than one girl’s heart beat a little faster when she was in the company of Lionel Butler, but if he knew it, he didn’t take much notice.
He was a little aggravated at being forced to open up before he and his brother had had their coffee, but as he looked at the boy’s worried face, his own face softened. “What’s up, Jimmy? You must have a serious problem if you’re up and over here before 7:00 in the morning.”
“I sure do, Lee. My battery’s dead as a door nail, and I gotta get Mom up to Knoxville to a doctor’s appointment by 9:00. That thing’s gone dead on me several times this month, and I’m afraid to just put a charger on it, because by the time Mom’s done, and we’re ready to come home, it might be dead again. Can you help me?”
Lionel ‒ whose friends had called him “Lee” since high school ‒ knew exactly what Jimmy meant. Hadn’t he been responsible for getting his own mother to the doctor, and just about every place else she needed to go, when he was just Jimmy’s age? And he knew the boy didn’t have the money for a new battery.
“Sure, Jimmy. You come on in and sit down a few minutes, and I’ll put a new battery in for you and get you on your way.”
“Thanks a lot, Lee. I knew you’d help. And I’ll pay you for it a little at a time if that’s all right. I’m working part-time at Carver’s grocery now, you know.”
Lionel patted the boy on the back and shoved a box of fresh doughnuts toward him as he sat in a chair by the desk. “I know you will, Jimmy. And there’s no rush. What’s one battery more or less between friends?” He smiled his generous, easy grin at the boy. “Besides there’s way too much cholesterol in that box for just Darrin and me, so you can help us out by eating two or three doughnuts while you’re waiting,” he added, as he stepped through another door to locate a battery.
All the time he was installing the battery, Lionel was remembering ‒ remembering all the doctor’s appointments for his own mom, and how sick she’d been at the last when the doctor had told her that her heart just wouldn’t work enough anymore. Dr. Gordon had mentioned a transplant, but, of course, that had been out of the question. There was hardly ever enough money for food, let alone some sophisticated operation.
“Ouch!” He’d been so busy thinking hard thoughts, he hadn’t realized he had his fingers in the wrong place for one split second. That was long enough to pinch two of them hard enough he’d have a blood blister or two out of it. He’d better get his mind on what he was doing. Jimmy needed to get going.
He managed to get the boy off in time to make his trip to Knoxville, and as Lionel watched him drive away, he hung his head, more memories flooding through him.
Jimmy didn’t know where his dad was, but Lionel had known his was there all the time. Of course, he used to wish he’d go away. In fact he’d even prayed that God would make him go away, but after a couple of years of that with no results, Lionel had decided that prayer wasn’t working for him.
But then it hadn’t really worked for his mother either, as far as he could tell. She went to church every week, but her life wasn’t any better as a result – at least as far as he could see. His dad stayed drunk half the time, and never provided enough money for their living expenses. His mom had been forced to work at cleaning houses and offices six days a week just to keep food on the table.
Of course, her church friends had brought stuff by once in a while, but that had only made Lionel feel worse. He hadn’t liked being around them because he felt like a beggar when they came with sacks of groceries or second-hand clothes.
But his mom had almost never missed a service at her church, and she’d always insisted the boys go at least once a month with her, even though their dad didn’t approve. And she’d prayed. … How she’d prayed … for all of them. … He’d often heard her in the wee hours of the morning, and he’d known she’d be on her knees in front of the living room sofa. He’d known because he’d sneaked out of bed and found her there asleep on her knees more than once, after he’d heard her crying and praying for hours.
But what hurt him most ‒ even in his memories ‒ were the times that his dad had hit his mother. He hadn’t done it all the time, and he’d always said he was sorry later, but that didn’t matter to Lionel. More than once, after he was in high school, he would have knocked his dad down and beat the life out of him if his mother hadn’t pleaded with him not to do so.
“Your daddy just needs the Lord, Lionel,” she’d say. “And God will answer my prayers. You’ll see. One of these days, your daddy’s gonna get saved, and things will be different. But in the mean time, you and Darrin are my happiness, and I don’t ever want you to start believing that getting angry and hitting people will solve anything.”
She’d have her arm around him when she said all that, and then she’d pull back and look him straight in the eye. “Now, you promise me you won’t ever let anger or violence take control of your thoughts or actions, Son.”
“All right, Mom,” he’d always answered. “I promise.”
“Good. And I want you to promise me two more things: that you’ll read at least a few verses from your Bible every day, and that every night, before you go to sleep, you’ll pray Jesus will help you to know Him personally.”
“Prayer doesn’t work for me, Mom,” had been his most frequent answer.
“Prayer works for everybody who believes, Lionel.”
“Then I don’t believe.”
The look of sadness in her eyes had always hurt him, but he hadn’t known what else to say and be honest, and she had instilled the need for honesty in him when he was still a toddler.
“You will believe one day, Lionel,” she’d told him, again and again. “You just keep reading your Bible and asking Jesus to make Himself real to you, and you will believe.”
Tears trickled down his cheeks now, as he stood out in the drive of his shop. It hadn’t happened the way his mother had said it would. He had tried for that last year of her life to obey her wishes, but it hadn’t happened. And then when she had slipped from this life just a week after his eighteenth birthday, he knew he’d never believe. He didn’t want to believe in a God who would let his beautiful mother live the way she had been forced to live all those years.
He shook his head now, to clear away those dreadful memories. Darrin had been able to believe … but then Lionel had always done his best to shield his younger brother from the horrible realities of their life. Maybe it was easier for Darrin to believe in this God. But nothing had ever come easy for Lionel, and he’d stopped trying to grasp hold of faith a long time ago. He had friends who were good Christians. He liked them and admired them, and he even went to a service now and then, but he just couldn’t find it in him to go beyond that.
He turned now and walked with heavy steps back into his shop to get started on the repair work he had scheduled for today.
By 5:00 that evening, his brother Darrin was straightening up some paper work in the office while Lionel filled out an itemized statement for the customer who was due to pick up his van any minute.
“You look beat, Lee,” Darrin said, as he stopped and faced his brother. “Do you want me to wait on Mr. Reynolds, and you go on home and get a shower and relax?”
Lionel looked up at his brother, who had worked just as hard the whole day. “I’m sure you’re just as tired,” he said and then grinned at Darrin. “Although I’ll have to say you don’t look it. I guess it’s having a beautiful wife and daughter to go home to that makes the difference.”
“You bet it does!” Darrin said, grinning broadly and slapping his brother on the back. “I keep telling you, Lee, it’s time you got married and had a family of your own.”
Lionel shook his head. “You know my answer to that, Darrin.”
“Yeah, that same nutty rig-a-marole about not being a good husband and father. … You know my answer to that!”
Lionel did know, and it wasn’t something he felt he could deal with right now, so he let it drop. Besides, he knew the real reason he felt so much more exhausted than Darrin, and it had nothing to do with having no wife to go home to. It had everything to do with remembering what he had had to go home to for all those years before. The days he remembered were the days he was too exhausted to move by the time he got back to his apartment.
It would be the same tonight. He’d force himself into the shower and then have a pizza delivered, and sit in front of the TV until he dozed off. Maybe tomorrow he wouldn’t remember so much ‒ or feel that unexplainable emptiness so deeply.
“Why don’t you come and eat with us? You know Eve always fixes enough for two more people, and Delly’s been asking when Uncle Lee is coming to supper again. It has been a week since you were there.”
“Not tonight, Darrin, but thanks.”
They heard a car door slam, and Lionel got up to go out to the drive. “That’s probably Mr. Reynolds. His daughter was going to drop him off for his van. You go on, and be sure and give Delly a kiss for me.”
“Okay. I’m going out the back and pick up some tools to take home and work on the lawnmower. See you in the morning.”
Two hours later, Lionel was finishing off his pizza, his feet propped on his coffee table, and an old Andy Griffith Show on the television. At least that show always made him laugh, and he usually felt more like himself after watching one or two episodes. He got up to throw away the pizza box during a commercial, and laughed a little at himself, talking out loud. “Well, at least I turn to old TV shows and pizza when I’m feeling miserable. I don’t try to go out and drown my sorrows in liquor or drugs.”
The thought stopped him in his tracks. Why didn’t he? … Why hadn’t he ever turned to those things when he felt sad or empty inside? Most people did; why not him? … Another memory flashed into his mind: His mother praying again … praying for the Lord to keep her sons free from all of the unclean habits so tempting to young boys. … He shook his head. … It couldn’t be that those prayers were making the difference. … He shook his head again. He didn’t believe in prayer anymore. … But he had to wonder … he had to wonder.