*Today’s blog post is an extra scene from my novel. I may end up using, or parts of it later in the editing process. But, right now, it’s on the cutting floor. I just thought it would be nice to have some fiction on here, and a preview of what the novel is, and the sorts of things it covers.
Phil Brenton is a Christian businessman in his mid-forties. His teenage daughter, Keely, is an indie-pop singer headed for CCM stardom. The whole family is on a six week tour to promote her album. Phil is her business manager, but her high school music teacher, Ethan Grey is along as the music manager. In his late twenties, Ethan is a failed rock musician turned music teacher. He finds himself a fish out of water as an atheist in the Christian music scene.
In this scene, the two managers have an early morning encounter at the hotel.
The early morning light poured through the hotel terrace. Phil Brenton eased into a chair at the wrought iron table. He carried a full travel mug of coffee and an Ipad. Even at dawn, his world didn’t stop.
Tour e-mails had to be sent and answered and phone calls noted for later. He also liked these quiet morning hours to set the day’s itinerary.
Managing the schedules of ten people had to be done efficiently and with grace, certainly not done on the fly. If he had learned anything from his YWAM days, it was that disorganized schedules were straight from How to Create Drama and Mutiny Against Leadership 101.
He opened his e-mail to find messages piling in from the office. Sure, he owned his own company, and he had been confident his staff could handle things for six weeks.
But right before he left, he had confirmed a sale on a waterfront office complex. It was a great deal, and the commission would cover the losses he was taking on this tour. But, now, his sales team was starting to close the deal and the seller was getting cold feet without Phil around. Now Phil needed to give him a little nudging that selling was the right thing.
He was drafting an e-mail letting the buyer know that he was still involved, and would stay involved in the entire renovation process, when he noticed Ethan.
Ethan stumbled out of his hotel door, bleary eyed, with a cold cigarette in his lips. He leaned against the wall and searched his rumpled, slept-in jeans for a lighter, and spotted Phil.
Ethan nodded toward Phil and lit the cigarette, sending smoke wafting up the terrace. Phil shook his head. He was a vocalist. How did he get away with smoking like a chimney? Phil tried to continue the e-mail, when Ethan’s disturbing comment from yesterday got the better of him. He turned slightly to face Ethan.
“So, since when did you become a Catholic?” Phil asked.
Ethan laughed and then slowly groaned. “Whenever I got tired of apologizing for being an atheist,” his voice was low and gravelly with the wee morning hour.
“You’re so irreverent,” Phil smirked.
Ethan nodded. “I could be. Or I could be doing what half of these people running around here are doing.”
“What is that?”
“Going around saying whatever sounds good. Whatever works for the moment and for the crowd. It’s funny, I had to come to church to turn into a liar.”
“Touche,” Phil said, closing the cover on the iPad. This was much more interesting. “Although, hypocrisy in the church is a cheap shot. Come up with something better, Harvard.”
Ethan sauntered toward the table and eased into another chair. He took a long pensive drag, and stared out into the parking lot.
“I’m not talking about hypocrisy, per se,” he said. “I’m talking about image. Marketing. In showbusiness it’s part of the package. That’s a given. But, when you mix Jesus and publicity, where does the image end and the person begin?”
“Well, I think they should be the same,” Phil answered.
“What do you do, when you wake up one day, and realize they’re not? And by that time, you’ve invested years, decades, into an empire that has become your bread and butter? Do you just quietly walk away? Or do you live a double life?”
Phil played with his coffee mug. “That’s a big question that people, quite frankly, all answer differently. I think probably the ‘should’ in this scenario is to not let it get that far. Heart change like that doesn’t happen over night. And in an organizational/professional ministry sense, what you’re talking about is usually is the long-term result of more political issues, like burnout, loss of vision, or too much or too little responsibility. And at that level, it’s more of a management problem, rather than a faith crisis…the business of ministry,” he mused.
Phil shook his head. “And it is a business, like anything else. But, the product is unique. The product is changed hearts and lives. And, like many businesses, employees are sometimes the best customers. So, running a ministry becomes a curious mix between managing people and genuinely loving them.”
“I don’t know that I’m necessarily just talking professional ministry or public figures,” Ethan said. “It seems everyone’s a public figure. Whether you’re a pastor, a Bible study leader, or just the guy that sits in row 5 seat 12. It’s all about projecting a public image. And it seems people are obsessed with keeping up their image.”
“As opposed to you? A lifestyle defined by moral relativity?”
“That’s unfair,” Ethan responded. “I have ethics and I have absolutes. I have plenty of them. They are not always the same as yours. But I can and do follow them.”
“Uhhh…Well, like I’d never sleep with a married woman.”
“Good.” Phil said with a sardonic smirk. “Then you’ll stay away from my wife.”
Ethan laughed. “You don’t have to worry about that.”
Phil sipped his coffee and snickered. “Good to hear.”
They sipped coffee and let the cool morning breeze flow the through the terrace. It would be the only respite they would get from the sweltering July heat they were sure to get by mid-day.
“But your absolutes are fluid,” Phil continued.
“Of course. Life is fluid. Society and time are fluid. Ethics should be no different.”
“Hmmm…”Phil stroked his chin. “That’s where I disagree with you. There are absolutes, they just must re purposed and reinterpreted for changing times and situations. And times don’t really change as much as we think. Technology changes. The way people interact and communicate may change. The people and events that define attitudes and beliefs may change. But, I think as its core, humanity remains the same.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Ethan said.
“People are always going to act like people,” Phil expounded. “They are going to love and hate. Have lust, desire, pride, fear, and they are going to pursue the quest to know and be known—it’s the driving force behind humanity. History shows us this. So, beyond that, you can add in computers, and cars, and cell phones, and hoverboards and colonies on the moon. Whatever. But basic humanity is still going to be the same. And when you look at it that way, then the Bible should still hold true. It just has to be reinterpreted.”
“What about gay rights?” Ethan blurted and his eyes narrowed.
Phil shook his head. “Uhhhh…I know your mother was a lesbian and I’m sure you have very definite ideas about that. I’m not going to go there with you.”
Phil cleared his throat and rose to go.
“Chicken,” Ethan countered.
“No. ‘All things are permissible, but not all things are wise,’” he quoted with a smile.
Ethan laughed as Phil headed inside.