WELCOME TO MY

JOURN+AL JOTS BLOG ...

A weekly journal where you can learn what I'm up to on my books, giveaways, fun things I'm doing or even my own personal devotional for the day. It's a broad mix of what's on my mind, allowing me to feel a little bit closer to some of the most important people in my life -- YOU! So please stop by from time to time, and if you have questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you via the "Contact Julie" tab or via my Facebook page.  Hugs, Julie

 

10:44PM

Friday, April 29, 2016

"The ladder of success

is best climbed by stepping on

the rungs of opportunity."

-- Ayn Rand

Have I ever mentioned that I'm afraid of heights? Well, I am. A veritable baby when it comes to anything off the ground. 

Like the summer my 12-year-old daughter talked me into an innocent chairlift ride at the Lake of the Ozarks, billed as a "relaxing scenic adventure" over a pretty ravine of trees and wildflowers. Yeah, right. Pretty? Maybe, if I had kept my eyes open. Relaxing? Not even close for either my daughter or me, the poor, scarred child whose mother had a death grip on her, forcing her to sing Amazing Grace while I hyperventilated and muttered “In Jesus’ name” over and over under my breath. I wanted to throw up once my feet hit solid ground, and I vowed I would NEVER go there again.

So when I became an author, I knew I wanted to climb the ladder of success, but I wasn't prepared for the nausea and dizziness that sometimes goes along with scaling the heights. Unfortunately, the ladder I was trying to climb was the world's ladder -- wobbly, rickety, and prone to crashing to the floor, taking me along with it.

That's when I took a sabbatical in 2014, laying aside all those "rungs of opportunity" -- be they pitching proposals to my publisher, entering contests, or living on the Internet to promote my books -- to climb a different "ladder of success": God's.

And boy, oh boy, let me tell you, what a perspective shift!

I remember once when I became an on-fire Christian at the age of 23, I was struggling with a problem or decision that I don't even remember now, but I do remember what God whispered in my thoughts one day when I was fretting about it. I was at a stoplight, probably crying, knowing me, not sure what I was going to do. "God, You gotta help me here, please -- what should I do?"

The light turned green, and I made a left onto a pretty steep upramp to the highway, when all of a sudden I had this odd sensation that my car was lifting, lifting, lifting into the sky like it was going to fly. I can't explain it, but this overwhelming sense of excitement, peace and joy filled my soul. That's when I heard this Still Small Voice in my mind that said, "Look up, Julie, and raise your perspective to Mine. Don't look at the problem. Look to Me, for My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).

That's the day I got my first glimpse at God's "ladder of succes," where climbing higher means raising our perspective to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2) instead of focusing on our problems, decisions, or even dreams and desires. Because that's the ladder to true success, and a perspective shift I have never forgotten. To this day, I think of that object lesson and God's faithfulness every single time I go up that particular upramp, which became to me -- in a sense -- a stairway to heaven.

So, what are the "rungs of opportunity" on God's ladder to success? Nothing so shallow as a new job, new book contract, new boyfriend, new car or anything else the world deems as success. Nope, God's rungs include every problem, every heartache, every disappointment or failure we ever encounter, each designed by the father of lies to rip us to shreds. Only God views them way differently -- each and every one as an opportunity to bless the socks off of those He loves. You ... and me.

How? By PRAISING Him in the midst of our trials, shifting our focus and perspective from them unto Him because "He inhabits the praises of His people” (Psalm. 22:3) and praise looses His power in a situation.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened”  (Acts 16:25-26).

Did you see that? "Everyone's bonds were unfastened." Just like praising God in the midst of our problems will do for us.

AND by THANKING Him so He can "guard our hearts and minds."

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -- Philippians 4:4-7

So next time a problem hits -- be it trials and tribulations or just fiery darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16) such as jealousy, envy, bitterness, unforgiveness, carnaltiy, etc. -- shift your perspective to Gods to see them as a "golden opportunity" to climb His ladder of success. Just like Mrs. Gerson taught Faith in A Passion Most Pure in the clip below, showing her how to scale heights like never before. And trust me from personal experience -- these are one type of heights that will not make you dizzy.

Hugs and Happy Climbing!

Julie

A PASSION MOST PURE by Julie Lessman

“Do you know what I see, Faith?” Mrs. Gerson asked, leaning forward in her chair.

“No,” Faith responded curtly, “what do you see?”

Mrs. Gerson smiled a broad smile. “I see a golden opportunity, my dear.”

Faith stared at the old woman, and for the first time in her life, a hint of irritation rankled. “And what would that be, Mrs. Gerson?” Faith asked, tone clipped.

The old woman’s smile remained unwavering. “Why, an opportunity to put God’s Word to the test, of course! A golden opportunity, my dear.” Mrs. Gerson hovered on the edge of her seat, her face aglow with the same excitement Faith had once known herself. “You’ve always encountered problems with your sister Charity as long as I’ve known you, and you were always faithful to return love for the pain she inflicted. But this …” she said, stretching her hands out in front of her, “this, my dear, is the answer to your prayers. It’s the way home, the resolution! You have an opportunity here to take the narrow path Jesus spoke about, and I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, that you, Faith O’Connor, will choose life!”

Faith bristled, wondering if Mrs. Gerson had always spoken in riddles like this. What on earth was she rambling on about? “I’m afraid I don’t understand your point.”

Mrs. Gerson ignored her terse tone and smiled, picking up the Bible next to her chair. She held it aloft. Reluctantly, Faith reached for the book, surprised that her heart jumped as she touched its leather binding. 

“Open it to Deuteronomy 30:15, please,” Mrs. Gerson instructed.

Faith sat back in the chair and flipped through the pages of the book she’d read so often, up until a week ago. She found the passage and read it aloud.

         “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;

in that I command thee this day to love Jehovah thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, that thou mayest live and multiply, and that Jehovah thy God may bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it.  But if thy heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days in the land …

 Faith’s voice trailed off, and Mrs. Gerson lifted her face, her eyes glowing. “Read on, Faith, the next paragraph, please.” 

Faith rolled her eyes and puffed out of sigh.

         “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed …”

Faith couldn’t go on. Her tone balked as she slapped the book closed. “These are just words, Mrs. Gerson. I don’t even know what they mean.”

The old woman bent forward, teetering on the edge of her chair, her eyes shimmering with joy. “It means, my dear, that every moment of our lives we have the opportunity to reap blessings from the hand of Almighty God. It means you have a choice in your future, Faith, that every decision you make shapes the course of your life, whether there will be joy or sorrow, blessing or curse. He’s begging you, Faith––He begs each of us––to choose life! Choose His way, the way of forgiveness and prayer. In the face of pain such as you’ve encountered, my dear, the choice is clear. You can choose to hate your sister and Mitch and hold on to your bitterness, or you can choose to forgive and be set free. If you choose hate, your heart will grow hard and cold as I suspect you’ve already seen, and you will be destroyed. God is very clear about that. But, if you choose life––His way and His precepts––you choose blessing, not only for your own life, but for the life of your children after you.”

Faith shook her head. “I can’t forgive them; it’s too hard.”

Mrs. Gerson chuckled. “Skip up to verse ll, my dear.”

         Faith scowled as her fingers slapped through the pages once again. When she found the verse, she cleared her throat. “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”

Mrs. Gerson’s face was rapt with excitement, and Faith’s eyes blinked wide. She slumped in the chair and pushed the hair from her face, the Bible splayed in her lap. Could it really be that easy to reap the blessings of God? With all of the hurt and hate within her, was it really within her reach to forgive? It was not an impossible thing to do––He was saying it right there in His Word. It was not too difficult or beyond her reach. No, His Word, which commanded her to forgive and love, could be in her mouth if she spoke it, and then in her heart to perform it. It was simply a decision, a choice, one that God himself begged her to make. And all because He wanted to bless her. 

 

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The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity. Ayn Rand
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand163085.html?src=t_ladder
The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity. Ayn Rand
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand163085.html?src=t_ladder
The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity. Ayn Rand
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand163085.html?src=t_ladder
The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity. Ayn Rand
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand163085.html?src=t_ladder
11:39AM

Saturday, April 23, 2016

 "Grandchildren are the dots

that connect the lines from generation to generation."

-- Lois Wyse

Whoops ... I missed a week of Journal Jots posts, but I have a good excuse, I promise!

You see I spent last week in Spokane with my grandbabies, and would you believe I actually thought I would have time to write or respond to emails or post a JJ?

YEAH, RIGHT!!

But I'm not complaining, trust me. Last week was one of the best weeks I have ever spent, and I have lots of pix and great memories to show for it.

My little granddaughter Rory was my shadow day and night, breaking my heart the last night we were then when she broke down and cried, clutching my legs for dear life. "I don't want you to go; I want you to live with us," she said with a wobble in her voice, and is it wrong to say I was both crying and smiling???

A few nights later, my daughter-in-law texted that Micah, my 2-1/2-year-old grandson asked his mom where "Juju-Papa" were. I think it's so cute how they run the two names together like Keith and I are one. Well, I guess we are in God's eyes, so the kids have it right! Anyway, my DIL told him that Juju-Papa had to fly on an airplane to go home. "They need to come on airplane back to our house," he said, and my heart took flight just like that airplane that whisked us away!

I always worried that I would never be a very good grandmother, because babies were never my thing. Remember how Katie O'Connor complained to her sisters that and she Charity didn't get the "mother gene"? Yeah, that's how I felt, too. Until I had my own grandkids. Now I'm the only grandmother (or mother for that matter) that I saw playing troll on the swinging bridge at the playgrounds, getting stuck on the slides, and climbing the monkey bars, making a real monkey out of myself. I always knew I was a juvenile delinquent inside because I LOVE to act crazy on the playgrounds!! So suffice it to say that Juju had a blast with her girl while Papa spent most of his time playing trains with his boy. From chalk pictures, hopscotch, movies, and books, to walks, coloring, playgrounds, Play-Doh, and getting ready with Juju's makeup -- I felt like a kid again and SO grateful to God for my family!

It was especially great to see my own "kid" and "kid-in-law," sharing a number of deep conversations that brought us closer than ever before. So in every way, it was a magical week for which I thank God!

So if you will forgive me, I am a wee bit behind on deadlines and such, but I am happy to tell you that not only will I have a Christmas novella coming out this year in an anthology called Frontier Christmas Anthology with Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, and Anna Schmidt with Gilead Publishing, BUT Gilead is also interested in my Western series, Silver Lining Ranch, so look for a western trilogy from me on that as well down the road. Meanwhile, I'm cranking like crazy to get book 2 of the Isle of Hope, Love Everlasting, out by September, so prayers appreciated because I'm not known to be a fast writer. :(

Okay, that's all I have for you today, but I will leave you with some pix from my trip to Spokane, so happy viewing and HAPPY WEEKEND!

HUGS,

Julie

Rory referred to Papa as "Papa-Bridge."

My "angels" with glow-stick halos. :)

Whoops ... Papa caught us playing hopscotch without our knowledge.

At least it was BEFORE I toppled over! ;)

Micah is crazy over trains and bemoaned Papa's departure desperately!

Rory loves riding Papa's shoulders & trying to cover his eyes with her skirt, the stinker!

Juju-Papa taking a breather ...

The only negative was I got sick (fever and sore throat) the 2nd last day, and I felt horrible. Keith took a pic and said I looked like a bag lady, coining the phrase. "Yes, officer, she's all mine."

Such a handsome family, if I must say so myself! ;)

Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation. Lois Wyse
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/grandchildren.html
Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation. Lois Wyse
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/grandchildren.html
Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation. Lois Wyse
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/grandchildren.html
6:55AM

Friday, April 8, 2016

“Books can truly change our lives:

the lives of those who read them,

the lives of those who write them."

-- Lloyd Alexander

 Okay, I'm pretty sure I don't have to convince anybody about our quote today. Because the truth is, books DO change lives. Fiction, in particular, because it emotionally engages a reader in order to entertain, inspire, teach, convict, or provide an escape. 

To me, reading a book is like going from a one-dimensional existence to two because not only am I living my own life, but for those few exhilarating moments of every day, I'm living someone else's life too. In fact, I have my nose in a book so often (in the car, at appts., in the powder room, in bed at night, and in the store while Keith checks out) that he jokes my life must be so wretched, I have to escape into somebody else's. But I just laugh because it's SO not true. I LOVE my life! But I will admit that for me, reading a book is that little bit extra -- like whipped cream on top of a hot fudge sundae. And YUM, how I LOVE whipped cream!!

I've read a ton of books in my day and some of them have been powerful (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird) and some even life-changing (Gone With the Wind). But you know what? All books are not created equal. Take the romance genre, for instance (I know, I know, what a surprise!). As far as positive, encouraging, uplifting, and inspirational books, I gotta tell you, Christian fiction is where it's at, "changing the lives" of both those who read it and those that write it.

But do you know how Christian Fiction changes my life more than anything? It's getting to know, love, and admire the people who read it. Reader friends like you who send me sweet notes, commenting about how something I've written touches your soul. When that happens, you touch my soul, and there's a connection. A friendship. A bonding of sisters in Christ. So if anyone ever asked me what's the best thing about Christian Fiction, I would have to say YOU!! And if I could, I'd take every single one of you to lunch. To talk, laugh, and get to know you better. Because I already know we like the same books ... ;)

Sadly, I can't do that, but I CAN meet some of you in person, hug you, tell you how much I appreciate you. Wanna know how?

C. F. R. R.

What is it? It's the Christian Fiction Reader's Retreat, and I am one of the speakers, along with Mary Connealy, Laura Frantz, and Ruth Logan Herne. It's going to be small, cozy, and just like going to lunch together except with prizes and personal prayer, so if you want to know more about it, check it out HERE. That's the Christian Fiction Reader's Retreat in Nashville, Tennesse, the day before the Amercian Christian Fiction Writers Conference -- August 24th.

I invite you to join me on Seekerville this Wednesday, April 13 to hear more about it in my blog entitled "Over the Rainbow: An Author's True Pot of Gold" and to meet the incredible women who are putting it together. Not only will there be a giveaway of three e-copies, winner's choice of Isle of Hope, A Glimmer of Hope, or A Light in the Window, BUT ... those who register for CFRR early at the reduced price will also be entered for additional prizes including a box of books!

So ... think about it. Pray about it. And ask God to make a way for you to go. Because I would really like to hug you in person!

Hugs and Happy Weekend!

Julie

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2:58AM

Friday, April 1, 2016

"We are all fools in love."

-- Jane Austen

HAPPY APRIL FOOL'S DAY!!

And trust me -- if ever there was a "fool" for love, it would be yours truly. From the moment I could read, I was a fool for romance, devouring the maximum ten books per bookmobile visit every two weeks. I used to laugh because my ten books were always romance, and my best friend's ten books (she ended up being a doctor) were always science and mysteries.

And then I read Gone With the Wind at the tender age of 12, and BOOM! This "fool's" romance-writing career began with a 150-single-spaced manuscript called When Tomorrow Comes, which eventually became my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. Would you believe I still have that manuscript that I typed on a Remington Electric Typewriter? Yep, and it's pretty sad looking, I'll tell you, typed on thin paper that is now in tatters along the edges.

Obviously When Tomorrow Comes was about the O'Connors of Boston, and most of the characters' names and love triangle were still the same (Faith, Patrick, Marcy; but Charity was Delatha, Mitch was Reed, and Collin was ... wince ... Bart, since I was a fan of the TV show Maverick back then!). The locales were the same as well, with the story playing out in both Boston and Dublin, Ireland. But ... there was one VERY big difference between that initial manuscript and the final for A Passion Most Pure, and the first lines of each tell it all. Now please keep in mine that the first line for When Tomorrow Comes was written by a 12-year-old, so a little grace, please! ;)


When Tomorrow Comes:

Patrick O'Connor was dead.

Yet the sky hadn't altered it's azure hue

nor had the birds retired their chant 

 so familiar to the city in the spring. 


A Passion Most Pure:

Sisters are overrated, she decided.

Not all of them, of course,

only the beautiful ones who never let you forget it.


I don't know about you, but I am SURE glad I didn't kill Patrick off on the first page, but that first line DID inspire his demise mid-book, so that helped give me the extra twist I was looking for. :)

So since this is April Fool's Day, I guess I would have to agree with old Jane in some ways -- "we are all fools in love." Because real love makes us give of ourselves in ways we wouldn't normally do, like I wrote about in my Seeker blog entitled "Stupid in Love" where I asked hubby one day why he puts up with me. "I don’t know,” he said with a quick kiss, “I guess I’m just stupid in love.”

But ... I would disagree with Jane in one regard, and that is that true love is never foolish or stupid. It is giving of yourself until it hurts, like Jesus did for us. Loving us enough to die for us and teach us the true meaning of love -- GOD! And let's face it -- love is the thing that every person on this planet is looking for, right?  And if they aren't?  Who's the fool?

Hugs and HAPPY FOOL'S DAY!

Julie





 

10:46PM

Friday, March 25, 2016

As far as the east is from the west,

so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

-- Psalm 103:12

I know this may surprise some people, but to me, Easter is my favorite day of the year. Yes, Christmas is nice with all the magic of Christ’s birth, Christmas carols and cookies, the scent of pine and cinnamon, family and snow. But there is just something SO holy and SO special about Easter, you know? I guess because it helps me to remember all that Christ did for me—a sinner who never did and does not now—deserve either His grace or His shed Blood.

And yet I have both—a miracle that never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Why? Because I flat-out don’t deserve it. Yes, I’m a nice person who loves to encourage and love on people and seeks after God with all of my heart, but I am also flesh. And in my mind that flesh—be it impatience over someone driving too slow or butting heads with a restaurant owner (don't ask!)negates any goodness I may think I have.

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23.

Yes, “fallen short” … and continue to do so every day of my life.

Which is EXACTLY why Easter is so important to me. To remember that despite a mountain of sins that seem to grow taller everyday, I am forgiven, washed clean by the Blood of Christ, prostrate and sobbing in the rain at the foot of the cross. No matter the wounds I inflicted on Christ’s broken body this very week alone, Easter looms—a beacon of hope that God loves me no matter what I do, say or am because the truth is I am His and with the mere utterance of my sorrow from a truly repentant heart, I am free. Free!! From myself and the guilt that constrains, free to be all He’s called me to be—a child of the King, cloaked in the holy warmth of God’s forgiveness, mercy and love. OH, what a joyous day!!

And so I remember. Remember not just what He did for me, but what He continues to do in the life of this staunch Christian who just can’t seem to get it right. I remember—with painful gratitude—that because He died, I live.

Remembering.

It’s what it’s all about for me at Easter. Rememberingreally remembering—how He took me from the darkness into His glorious light. Remembering that without Him, I would be lost. But on Easter—oh, precious Easter—I am miraculously found!!!

One of my favorite spiritual scenes in all of my books depicts this miraculous essence of Easter, so I wanted to share the clip with you. It's a scene from book 3 in The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Denied. You see, in this book, the hero, John Brady, is a Billy Graham-type Christian on fire for God, to whom everyone goes for spiritual advice. Everybody thinks Brady has arrived at that Mother Teresa state where he lives and breathes for God alone and never fails.

Wrong.

We all fail. And that, my friends, is the beauty of Easter—every failure, every transgressionare all forgiven at the foot of the cross, where Jesus' precious Blood has "removed" them "as far as the east is from the west." This is a concept John Brady was familiar with and preached to everyone who came to him for advice. But ironically, it was this wonderful aspect of Eastertotal redemption and forgiveness—that even John Brady failed to "remember."

And so, may each and every one of us take the time to remember this Easter and be found anew, resting in the arms of a gracious Savior and a truly glorious God.

Hugs,

Julie

A Scene From A Passion Denied

The bathroom door creaked open, and their heads jerked up. They stared, still as stone as Brady walked into the kitchen, coffee cup limp in his hand. His hygiene was considerably improved, clean-shaven and hair slicked back, but his eyes were still red and glassy. Dead and lifeless, Collin thought, and his stomach twisted. He jumped to his feet. “I have eggs and toast in the oven. More coffee?”

“No,” Brady muttered and dropped into a chair. His eyes trained on the empty cup in his hand.

Collin ignored him and filled his cup before topping both his and Father Mac’s. He plunked a plate of eggs and toast onto the table, along with plates and utensils. “Eat,” he said.

Brady continued to stare, his bleary gaze lost in a sea of bitter coffee. “I’m not hungry.”

“Yeah, well you need a little something other than vodka to sustain that thick head of yours.”

That woke him up. His head shot up, and the red in his eyes singed like fire. “Go to the devil, Collin. As if I didn’t pull your head out of the latrine more times than I can count.”

Collin eased back into his chair, all humor depleted. “That’s right, John, you did. Which makes this all the more upsetting. What’s going on?”

Brady closed his eyes and ran a shaky hand over his face. “I can’t tell you.”

“Why? From the very beginning, you’ve known everything about me—my past, my present, what I think, what I feel. The best of friends, closer than brothers. Don’t you think I deserve the same?”

Brady lowered his head. “You do, but I can’t tell you.”

Collin’s jaw tightened. “Why?”

“Because I’m not ready.”

Collin slammed his fist on the table. “Not ready for what? To be a friend?”

Brady’s head lunged up, his eyes swimming with pain. “No, Collin, not ready to lose one.”

Collin blinked. He swallowed the emotion lumped in his throat and nodded. “If I leave, will you promise to talk to Father Mac?”

Brady nodded slowly, his eyes dull.

Collin stood. He glanced at Father Mac. “Can you try to get him to eat? I want him healthy at work tomorrow.” Collin gave Brady’s shoulder a quick squeeze. “I’m tired of carrying him.” He started for the door.

“Collin?”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll have half of day’s work done before you even shadow the door.”

Collin turned, hand poised on the knob. His throat tightened. “I want you to know, John, whatever you did, no matter how bad you think it may be, I will stand by you. I’m proud to call you my friend, because I know who you are—a man of integrity, honor and passion for God. And nothing—nothing—you can say will ever change that for me. I love you like a brother, John, and always will. See you tomorrow.” The door clicked softly behind him. 

Brady drew in a deep breath and avoided Matt’s gaze. Tears filled his eyes. “Like a brother,” he whispered. “That doesn’t sound so good right about now.”

Father Mac leveled beefy arms on the table and leaned in. His tone was quiet. “Worse than you thought?”

Brady’s laughter held no mirth. “Yeah. Not only was I a child drunk, but apparently I was depraved enough to sleep with my father’s wife.”

He heard Father Mac flinch, the faint intake of breath piercing Brady’s consciousness anew. He was an infidel. A lost soul. A man who committed incest and adultery to gratify his own flesh.

He staggered to his feet, suddenly craving the numbing effect of the bottles he’d stolen from Michael’s stash. “I’d rather you leave, Matt. I feel sick and need to lie down.”

A firm grip fisted his arm. “No, John, we need to deal with this now. Once and for all.”

Brady jerked away, his eyes itching with tension. “And how do you propose to do that, Matt? What exactly do you have? A potion or magic formula that will make it all go away?”

Father Mac stared. The brown of his eyes deepened with intensity in a face that radiated pure peace and calm. “No potion, John, and no formula. Just the saving blood of Jesus Christ.”

The impact of Matt’s words pierced his heart. He looked away. “Maybe that’s not enough this time.”

“It’s always enough, John.” Father Mac pulled out a chair. “Sit. Please?”

Brady hesitated, then did as he asked, slowly sinking into the chair. He leaned his elbows on the table and put his face in his hands. “How can God forgive something like this? Adultery, incest?”

Father Mac exhaled and sat down beside him. He placed a hand on his shoulder. “He does it all the time. I know a man who committed adultery and then murdered his lover’s husband, but God forgave him.”

Brady looked up with shock in his eyes.

A faint smile shadowed Matt’s lips. “In fact, he called him a man after his own heart.”

“King David?”

Father Mac nodded. He removed his hand from Brady’s shoulder and took a drink of his coffee. He wrinkled his nose. “Cold. Want me to warm it up?”

Father Mac didn’t wait for his answer, but dumped both cups and replaced them with hot. He set them on the table and sat back down. “King David was an unusual character. Loved God with all of his heart, but had this unfortunate flaw.” Father Mac paused to taste his coffee, then quirked his lips. “He was human. For instance, one day he’s dancing before the Lord in a linen ephod, not giving a whit that his wife thinks he’s making a fool of himself. Then down the road a bit, he’s lusting after a married woman he sees taking a bath on the roof of her house. And what does he do, this man who loves God with all of his heart? He takes her to his bed, then has her husband sent to the battlefront to be killed.”

Father Mac leaned in, his gaze intent. “He committed adultery and murder, yet he’s still the only man in the Bible God refers to as ‘a man after His own heart.’ Now why is that, I wonder? I’ll tell you why. Because David was a man who had a love affair with God. Imagine that—emotionally involved with the God of the Universe. Trusted Him, worshiped him, sought after him—and all without restraint. Did he mess up? You bet. Did he repent? With all of his heart, aching inside whenever he offended his God. Why? Because he had a Father-son relationship with him, loved him and wanted to please him.” Father Mac hesitated, slowly tracing his finger along the rim of his cup. He finally raised his eyes to capture Brady with a fixed stare. “Just like you, John.”

Brady looked away, swallowing the emotion trapped in his throat. “Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife. Deuteronomy 27:20.” His voice was flat. “How do you respond to that?”

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us … and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9.”

Brady peered through slitted lids. “And you believe that? For something as vile as this?”

“God is not a man, that he should lie. Numbers 23:19.”

A ghost of a smile flickered on Brady’s lips. “Since when do you have scripture down cold?”

Father Mac leaned back in the chair and pushed up the sleeves of his cassock. A hint of a smile appeared. “Since I began butting heads with you.”

“I know the scriptures, Matt. It’s just that when it comes to me, I have trouble believing they could apply.” He expelled a slow, jagged breath. “But you’re saying that if I confess right now … my sins with Lucille … they’re over with? Gone?”

“Cast into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19.”

Brady closed his eyes, feeling the first glimmer of hope he’d felt in a long, long while. Over with. Gone. Miles away from guilty. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

He looked up at the touch of Father Mac’s hand on his arm. “You ready?” Father Mac asked, the hope in his friend’s eyes enough to stir his own.

Brady nodded, exhaling softly. He gripped Father Mac’s hand like a lifeline, a man desperate for absolution. “More than ready,” he whispered. He drew in a deep breath and made the sign of the cross, then bowed his head. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned …”