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Abridged, p.1

Abridged, page 1



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  Table of Contents

  Abridged (A Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel, #7)










































  Request your free novels when you join the Alana Terry Readers’ Club!


  When the fight for your rights becomes a fight to simply survive.

  Kennedy's pastor and mentor has always been outspoken. Maybe too outspoken.

  Carl's no stranger to political controversy, but when his church comes under fire for hosting the Truth Warrior's men's retreat, women's rights activists and feminist leaders aren't the only ones worried that the conference will unduly restrict women's roles in the church and at home.

  On a college campus where safe spaces threaten free speech and academic freedom only exists as long as other students aren't offended, Kennedy dares to defend her friend in Harvard's student newspaper. She unwillingly becomes the face of a controversy that not only jeopardizes her academic career but lands Pastor Carl in the hospital, struggling for his very survival.

  Praise for Abridged

  by Alana Terry

  “Alana Terry has again addressed important issues facing Christians today in a way that made me really stop and think about my own beliefs.” ~ Jaime Hampton, Award-winning author of Malnourished


  a novel by Alana Terry

  Note: The views of the characters in this novel do not necessarily reflect the views of the author, nor is their behavior necessarily being condoned.

  The characters in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to real persons is coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form (electronic, audio, print, film, etc.) without the author’s written consent.


  Copyright © 2016 Alana Terry

  August 2017

  Cover design by Damonza.

  Scriptures quoted from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


  “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  Galatians 3:28

  “Hey, sorry I’m late.” Kennedy gave her roommate a quick hug and glanced around the foyer of the church. “How’s everything been going here?”

  Willow ran her hand through her bleached hair. “Aside from the constant fighting, you mean?”

  “Who’s fighting? The kids from youth group?” Kennedy glanced around at a few of the teens who were helping set up for the upcoming Truth Warriors conference.

  Willow fingered the neon-green tips of her hair. “Pastor Carl’s bringing in nearly a thousand men to talk about the definition of biblical masculinity. You get one more guess to tell me who’s making the loudest fuss about it around here.”


  Willow smiled. “I swear if I weren’t so in love with that man, I’d have duct taped his mouth shut by now.”

  “What’s he saying? Or do I really want to know?”

  “Oh, it’s nothing that would surprise you. The typical. How chauvinistic it is to have a conference like this when it’s the patriarchal society that’s kept women oppressed as sex toys and domestic slaves for millennia.” She rolled her eyes, accentuating the green eyeliner that perfectly matched her hair. “The funny thing is I agree with just about everything he’s saying. At least on principle. But he’s taking it all out on Carl, who might be a little old-school, but everybody knows he’s the most kind-hearted, warm, fuzzy, teddy bear of a Christian you’ll ever meet. There’s not a mean-spirited bone in that man’s body.” She shook her head again. “Well, you know how worked up Nick gets.”

  “Yeah. Where is he now?” Kennedy asked.

  Willow glanced down the hall. “Just keep your ears open. I’m sure you’ll hear him soon enough.”

  As if on cue, Nick and Carl emerged from the sound room behind the sanctuary.

  “And that’s something else,” Nick was saying. “You’ve got to open your eyes and see what this is doing to the community. You’ve got protestors threatening to march, maybe even block the entrances. You’ve got the police telling the church to tighten security and expecting St. Margaret’s to foot the bill. You’ve even got the college kids around Cambridge so worked up they’re writing their op-eds. I mean, even if you did feel strongly that this conference would be a benefit to the men who come, aren’t you concerned about the way it’s putting the church in such a negative light in the public eye?”

  Kennedy and Willow exchanged smiles. Listening to Nick argue theology or politics with Pastor Carl was so common it was hardly more than background noise.

  Kennedy glanced around, trying to figure out where she and her roommate might be needed. The girls were juniors now, back on campus after a wonderfully relaxing summer off. Kennedy’s course load was the lightest it had ever been, only eighteen credits. In addition to her science classes, Kennedy was taking two English courses, including one in dystopian literature. Her schedule opened up time for her to get more involved in church, like helping with the after-school Good News Club and volunteering at St. Margaret’s for special events like this conference.

  Her roommate Willow was at the church now even more than Kennedy was, but of course her flourishing romance with the youth pastor had more to do with that than anything else. Still, it was amazing to watch how fast Willow’s faith had matured. Kennedy didn’t like to admit it, even to herself, but she often had to combat unexpected feelings of envy. Not just because Willow had found Nick. Anybody who spent more than two minutes with them knew they were a perfect match. In spite of the pain Kennedy had experienced in her own love life, it was difficult to begrudge her friend that happiness.

  What made her jealous was how real Willow’s relationship with Christ had become in just a few short months. Before her conversion, Willow’s idea of fun on a Friday night involved multiple parties, multiple partners, and multiple illicit substances, but now she would invite Nick over to their dorm room where he’d sit in Willow’s oversized beanbag chair strumming his guitar, and the two would sing worship songs before playing one of Willow’s shooter games on her PC and ending the night in prayer.

  Kennedy had never seen anyone change so dramatically. Willow was still just as outlandishly dressed, just as free-spirited with her hair and jewelry. She was just as committed to her veganism and yoga and classic rock music as she’d been before her salvation, but there was something else now, too. A depth, a maturity that made her seem at times like an entirely different person. Willow had developed a deep love of the Bible, especially the poetry books of the Old Testament.
She spent as much time in Isaiah and Psalms as Kennedy had all semester with her reading list for her lit courses. Kennedy wouldn’t be surprised if by Christmas break, she’d be the one asking Willow questions about prayer or worship or witnessing instead of the other way around.

  “... not trying to pick a fight here.” Carl’s booming voice interrupted Kennedy’s thoughts. She hadn’t followed all of his argument with Nick, but apparently the two were far from any type of resolution. “But you have to realize that what I mean when I say biblical masculinity has nothing to do with what feminists talk about when they say misogyny or patriarchy. Is it true that some men and some entire church movements over the centuries have twisted certain passages of Scripture to keep women subdued? Unfortunately, yes. Does that mean that we throw out the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture and cut and paste the verses in the Bible that are acceptable to us in the twenty-first century? Absolutely not.”

  Nick followed Carl toward the hall, his blond dreadlocks streaking behind him like a bed of undulating snakes. “You’re not listening to me. I’m not saying we throw out certain parts of Scripture. I’m just saying that there were undeniable biases in Paul’s day that may have colored what he wrote.”

  “Oh, yeah?” Carl turned around. He’d lost about fifteen pounds since he was diagnosed with diabetes. His wife told Kennedy in confidence that he was “as prone to mood swings as a fourteen-year-old girl” now that he was forced to such a strict diet. When Kennedy noted the annoyance in Carl’s generally good-natured tone, she wondered if Sandy was right. “So tell me, Mr. Theologian. Tell me just how it is that you know with so much certainty which verses are God-breathed and inspired and which are simply guidelines meant to be followed in Paul’s day but thrown out in ours. Because I’m sure itching to know how the Holy Spirit’s revealed all this to you without breathing a hint of it to the rest of us who’ve spent our lives studying it.” Carl brushed past Kennedy and Willow without looking at either of them.

  Nick was nearly jogging to keep up his pace. “If the Bible’s true for all people and at all times, then why don’t you make every single woman who steps foot into St. Margaret’s wear a shawl or handkerchief or other kind of head covering?”

  “I don’t have time for this.” Carl waved his hand in the air. “I’ve got the press hounding me about this stupid protest, and I’ve got to get the church ready to receive a thousand men this weekend. To top it all off, my sugar levels are all over the map. I took my insulin but haven’t had time to eat lunch yet thanks to all your incessant ...” He turned around in the hallway. His shoulders drooped, and Kennedy noticed a hit of gray around his temples she’d never seen before. “Could we just finish this debate another time? I’m asking you as a friend in the Lord. Please?”

  Nick sighed. “Ok. I’m sorry. I get so worked up over this kind of stuff.”

  Carl put his hand on Nick’s shoulder. “I know, son. I know. And that’s the way God wired you. I can appreciate that. It’s just like Ecclesiastes says though, there’s a time and place for everything. Understand?”

  Nick nodded.

  Carl extended his hand. “Brothers?”

  “Yeah. Brothers.”

  Carl excused himself, and Nick turned around and offered Willow a sheepish smile. He walked up to her and pecked her on the cheek. “How’s my girl?”

  “First of all, I’m nobody’s girl.” Willow grinned and swept one of his unruly dreadlocks out of his face. “Other than that, I’m fine. But are you sure you want to get Carl so worked up? I mean, he’s on blood-sugar medication and heaven knows what else. You need to be careful, or you’ll give the poor man a heart attack.”

  Nick didn’t quite meet Willow’s gaze. “Who, Carl? He’s strong. He can take it. He’s been handling me for years.”

  Willow kissed him on the cheek. “Just remember your manners, all right?”

  He took her hand and squeezed it. “Will do.” He nodded to Kennedy. “How’s it going?”

  “Pretty good.” Kennedy didn’t know why she felt uneasy. Carl and Nick fought all the time. It was one of the great mysteries of St. Margaret’s Church how the two of them got along well enough to work together in the first place, although according to Sandy there was a long, complicated back story that allowed each of them to overlook so many of their inherent differences.

  “You ready to get to work?” Nick asked.

  Kennedy nodded. “That’s what we’re here for. How’s it going so far?”

  Nick looked around. “Great. At the current rate, we should be ready for the conference in about six months.” He let out a laugh that nobody else shared then cleared his throat. “Ok, how do you both feel about stacking chairs in the sanctuary?”

  Kennedy glanced down at her tennis shoes, which were in perfect working condition. “Sounds good.”

  “All right.” Nick gave Willow one more light kiss. “I’m gonna go talk to Carl.”

  Willow wrapped her arms around him to lock him in place. “Give him some time. He’s under a lot of stress, and you can’t blame him for that. The media’s treating this whole conference like it’s some convention for wife beaters or Klan members. And on top of that he’s got you to deal with. Let him cool down a little.”

  Nick nuzzled his face into her hair. “I’m not going over there to argue. I’m going to apologize.” He laughed at Willow’s incredulous expression. “What? You don’t think I’m capable of saying I’m sorry?”

  “Oh, sure you are.” She laughed. “I can hear it right now. Carl, I’m sorry that I chose such a bad time to bring up the fact that this conference you’ve spent the past half year planning is actually nothing more than a bunch of misogynists getting together to come up with new ways to keep women subjugated like they’ve been throughout human history.”

  Nick let out a chuckle that didn’t sound as convincing as he probably hoped it would be. “No, it’ll be a real apology. Promise.”

  Willow rolled her eyes. “If you say so. Don’t let me stand in your way.”

  After a few more kisses and endearing exchanges, Nick made his way down the hall toward Carl’s office.

  “Come on.” Willow took Kennedy by the elbow and adjusted her long-feathered earrings. “Those chairs aren’t going to stack themselves.”


  “Is this about as high as you think we should go?” Cocking her head to the side, Willow stared at a column of chairs the girls had pushed against the wall. “Dude, I really shouldn’t have worn these shoes.”

  Kennedy glanced down at Willow’s open-toed platform sandals. “Think you’d be more comfortable if you just took them off?”

  Willow shrugged. “It’s all right. My own fault, really, my punishment for being vain.” She smiled to show Kennedy she wasn’t serious. “Ok, should we start the ones on the other side now?”

  Kennedy didn’t want to admit how tired she was. Apparently, reading books all day and working in science labs didn’t require that much muscle. She wasn’t built for pushing, stacking, and moving hundreds of chairs in a single afternoon. Although she appreciated Nick’s commitment to gender equality, she wouldn’t have complained if he handed this job over to a bunch of the teen boys from his youth group.

  She sat in one of the chairs. “I just need a short break.”

  Willow plopped down beside her even though Kennedy was sure her roommate could keep up this kind of manual work for hours. Who would have thought yoga built up such impressive endurance? Of course, Willow labored all summer around her parents’ farm in rural Alaska. Kennedy had spent the first several weeks of her vacation at the Winters’, learning how to milk goats, catch unruly piglets, and muck out chicken stalls. It was no wonder Willow was so fit and toned.

  Kennedy leaned back in the chair she was sitting in, panting slightly. In a way, it actually felt good to be breathless for a reason other than an imminent panic attack. After her month in Alaska with Willow, Kennedy had flown back to the East Coast where her parents rented a little cottage
so they could spend the rest of the summer in Cape Cod. Her mom and dad needed a break from their missionary work and overseas printing business, and Kennedy was thrilled for some time off her grueling academic schedule. While at the Cape, her parents found a psychiatrist who decided to write Kennedy a prescription for her anxiety. The medicine could take quite a while to fully incorporate into her system, and they’d already had to adjust the dose a couple times, but so far Kennedy was hopeful the worst of her PTSD was behind her. What really convinced her parents to take her to the psychiatrist wasn’t the panic though, but the depression she’d fallen into after what happened last spring. Kennedy was glad that the medicine allowed her to get out of bed each day. She was thankful the drugs helped her progress past the stage where walking from one room to another was enough to sap all the energy out of her system, but in a way, she wondered if she shouldn’t rely on her pills so much. Ironically, Dominic was the only Christian she’d been close to who was against prescription meds for things like anxiety or depression, and it was losing him that dragged her to the point where she had to accept a little psychiatric help.

  “Should we go find Nick?” Willow asked.

  “Hmm?” Kennedy had been busy brooding and wasn’t paying attention.

  “I said should we find Nick? See if he has another job for us to tackle for a little while? My feet are killing me. I could use a change of pace, and it looks like you could, too.”

  Kennedy grinned. “How about I give you my shoes and cheer for you while you finish?”

  Willow stood. “Come on. Let’s go see what he’s up to. If I find out he’s goaded Carl into another one of his arguments ...”

  “I think Carl’s just as guilty as Nick when it comes to that.”

  Willow shrugged. “I guess you’re probably right. Well, let’s make sure neither one is misbehaving, then.”

  They walked down the hallway, and Kennedy noticed Willow limping slightly in her platform sandals. They slowed their pace when they got closer to Carl’s office and heard Nick’s angry voice on the other side of the closed door.

  “... bunch of wife-abusing, fundamentalist pigs.”

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