Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory:
more and more grace and more and more people,
more and more praise.
— 2nd Cor.4:15, Message Bible
Oh, honey, ain’t it the truth!
More and more grace and more and more people = more and more praise.
And, boy oh boy, do I have some praise to share with you!!
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all of your prayers, because our baby Genevieve has jumped major hurdles this week, and all the praise and glory goes to the God we all serve!!
I literally broke and down and cried when my son called this week to say that they are 99% sure that sweet Genevieve — and yes, I can tell you now that Genevieve is my granddaughter in utero — does NOT have the fatal chromosone, so we are dancing in the streets (and on the dock) in Osage Beach, let me tell you!!
And we have more good news as well! The “best-case scenario” of multiple complicated, dangerous surgeries in the first year of life, producing an 80% chance of survival to age 15 has now been downgraded to one complicated surgery after birth … with a full life expectancy!!
OH. MY. GOODNESS!! Or God’s ‘goodness,’ I should say, because that’s what it is when “more and more people” pray to unleash “more and more grace,” which equals “more and more praise” to the Alpha and the Omega.
This may sound silly to some of you, but that’s why the scene I’ve posted below from Isle of Hope is SO very personal to me. I actually think it and I pray it often during my devotion time because it’s straight from my heart and one of the greatest truths I’ve ever learned as a Christian. And that is: God is EVERYTHING!
Whether we’re happy or sad, experiencing joy or trials, HE is the Bottom Line. The Aplha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. And when it’s all said and done, HE is the only Source of Hope that we have, and the only One Who can carry us through a life of tribulation into an eternity of peace and joy.
So I want to thank you ALL sooooo very much for your prayers for Genevieve, and also for me over the years, because prayer is so critical to our lives. Which is why I pray God’s richest blessings on each and every one of you!
Hugs and more hugs,
COME CHAT WITH ME ON MONDAY, JUNE 13 AT THE CHRISTIAN FICTION READER’S RETREAT FACE BOOK PARTY!! Join me, Myra Johnson, Susan Anne Mason, Dani Petry, Shelley Shepherd Gray, Carrie Turansky, Becky Wade and a host of other authors this coming Monday, June 13th from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. eastern time. Giveaways included with each author’s 15-minute segment, so don’t miss out! I’m up first on the segment at 6:30 PM, so here’s the link: CFRR FB JUNE 13 PARTY
Scene from Isle of Hope
by Julie Lessman
Jack’s jaw felt like rock as he stared, blinking rapidly to fight the sting of emotion. “Why’d you do it then?” His voice cracked. “Why’d you destroy our family?”
A slow, reedy breath escaped his father’s lips that underscored the fatigue Jack saw in his face. “Because I’m a weak man, Jack, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a weak man who thinks he’s strong.” His chest expanded as his gaze trailed out to the water, voice lagging into a low drone laden with pain. “A charming go-getter from the slums who rose to the top of his class in seminary. You know, the pastor most likely to succeed? And I did.”
Head bowed, he kneaded the bridge of his nose, lashes spiked with moisture as he closed his eyes. “Wasn’t long before I climbed the ranks, snagging head pastor at Isle of Hope Assembly after your grandpa died and we moved in here with Tess’s mom. So there I was—a cocky poor kid on high-brow Bluff Drive with a beautiful wife, a smart son, two brand-new baby girls, and one of the most enviable pulpits on the East Coast. Speaking engagements rolled in as fast as pledges and tithes, and Mercer University even courted me for a professorship at McAffe School of Theology.” He sighed, the sound fractured by shame. “It seemed I could do no wrong.” His eyes slowly rose to meet Jack’s. “Until I did.”
He hunched on the edge of his chair, elbows draped over his knees and gaze glued to the weathered boards beneath his feet. “You wouldn’t know this because you were mostly away at college, but your mom and I started having problems. Little things at first—arguments over the amount of time I gave to the church for travel, counseling, you name it, basically leaving the burden of home life to her. My answer was for her to quit her job, so the little I was home, I badgered her nonstop, which only deepened the divide. In my mind, I was right and she was wrong, and I made no bones about it.”
He looked up again, but this time his stare wandered over the water as if he were locked in the past. “I don’t think I fully realized it at the time, but looking back, I can see I was slowly losing your mom’s respect as a pastor …” A muscle twitched in his cheek. “And as a man.” He chafed the back of head. “And because I could do no wrong in my own mind, it was just easier to blame it all on her, to tell myself she was the problem, not me.”
He lowered his head, as if he couldn’t bear to face Jack’s disdain, a shaky hand obscuring his eyes. “So when Karen approached me about counseling … I didn’t see any harm. As a high-profile pastor, I’d had plenty of women tempt me in the past, but I was wise to seduction, at least the sexual kind, so I’d never had any problem saying no. An inflated state of mind that only fed my pride, apparently, setting me up for the fall. I told myself Karen wasn’t a seductress, but a good friend and neighbor that I cared about, a troubled woman who needed my help.”
He grunted, the sound laced with disgust. “The invincible Pastor O’Bryen, straining at a gnat, but swallowing a camel. Adept at reading ‘come-hither’ looks in women, but totally unprepared for the seduction of respect and admiration in Karen’s eyes—the exact opposite I saw in your mother’s. Hero worship in the most sinister form, luring me like a lamb to slaughter …”
His body quivered with a depleting sigh before he rose and walked to the far edge of the dock, hands buried in his pockets while he stared at the river. “Once it happened,” he whispered, “I swore it would never happen again, but of course it did, brick-walling my pride more and more just to keep out the guilt. Until everything came crashing down …” He turned toward Jack with a slump of shoulders and a glimmer of pain. “I lost my wife, my family, my friends, and my church. The only way my pride could cope, Jack, was to cling to the lie that Karen and I belonged together, to believe that I was the one to deliver her from her troubled marriage and she from mine.” He inhaled sharply, releasing it again in a slow, tenuous breath. “So we left.”
“You mean ran away with your tail between your legs.” Jack’s words hissed in the air.
“Yes,” his father said calmly, “I ran away like the coward I was.” The aura of peace and calm Jack had sensed before settled over his father’s shoulders again like the mantle of moonlight that broke through the clouds. “It took losing everything, Son, including my life, to finally understand what I was too blind to see. Everything to liberate me from the same pride that lost Lucifer his soul. And that is—God alone is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beat of my pulse. He is the strength in my bones. He is my beginning and my end, and there is no hope in anything—” His father took a step forward, an almost ethereal glow of faith in his eyes like nothing Jack had ever seen, “anything … except Him.”
Unable to speak, Jack couldn’t move a muscle, eyes locked on the father he’d considered shallow and weak. The same man who now radiated a strength and peace that seemed to envelop Jack as well. His father gave an awkward shrug as he approached, hands deep in his pockets and smile sheepish. “Sorry—I get a little carried away at the magnitude of Who He is, Jack, and just how much He loves us. Enough to allow us the freedom to choose. And enough to allow those choices to strip us of everything that stands in the way of our ultimate happiness—Him.”
His smile faded into sobriety while his gaze bonded to Jack’s. “I don’t deserve your forgiveness, Son,” he said quietly, “anymore than I deserve God’s, but I’m asking for it all the same.” He peered up at the sky, as if drawing strength from the shaft of light that split the billow of dark clouds overhead. “I don’t deserve it, Son, but you do. I don’t want to see you make the mistake I made, choosing pride over God. I learned the hard way that pride is man’s greatest weakness. It felled Lucifer at the beginning of time and it will do the same for anyone who relies on his or her own strength rather than God’s. It will rob them of God’s blessings and steal their hope and their future.” He studied Jack’s face in a silent plea. “And it will rob us of the ability to forgive if we let it, so I’m asking you, Jack, please—” He paused, grasping Jack’s shoulder in a firm hold. “Don’t. For your sake as well as your mother’s.”
Eons passed, it seemed, as Jack stared, feeling the battle within to forgive or to turn him away. This was the man he’d loved and revered most of his life. The man of God who’d inspired him. The father who’d taught him to fish and swing a bat. The parent who’d nurtured and encouraged him. His eyelids lumbered closed. And the hero who’d disappointed him, falling from his sky like Lucifer, flinging his family into the abyss.
And yet, here he stood, a man on the precipice of eternity, giving the greatest gift of all.
Moisture stung beneath his lids like a flash flood. Mind in a freefall, he struggled to breathe against the anger and bitterness that choked the air from his throat. And then with a violent heave, he gripped his father as if he were a lifeline, clinging as fiercely as the summer his dad had saved his life, a small boy determined to brave the currents of a flooded river. Then, like now, he’d been drowning in the deep, struggling with the swirling emotions that longed to take him down. His father’s hold tightened, and with a shuddering heave, Jack wept against his neck, clutching so hard, his fingers dug into his back. Like a thundercloud heavy with rain, years of grief streamed from his eyes, washing the pain away to nourish a new beginning.
“I love you, Son,” his father rasped, “and if there were anything in the world I could do to make it up to you, I would.”
Eyes burning, Jack pulled away, hands braced to his father’s arms as he searched his face, finally seeing a glimmer of the hero he’d lost through a haze of healing that he knew—in time—would restore what his bitterness had stolen away. He swallowed hard, dislodging the last of his hurt. “There is,” he said, throat thick with emotion. “Will you marry Lacey and me?”
His father stared, his startled look containing a flicker of hope despite the spike of his brows. “I thought Tess said your pastor friend Chase was going to marry you.”
“He was,” Jack said, “but he’ll understand.”
Jaw twitching, his father blinked several times before he gave a short nod. “It would be one of the greatest honors of my life, Jack,” he said, his words gruff and low. He sucked in a deep breath before grinning outright. “Although given my past, I’m not sure I’m the best one to sanction your marriage.” He sifted a trembling hand through his hair, his embarrassment evident in a flustered shrug. “As a man of God, I don’t exactly have the best track record, you know.”
Flashing a gleam of teeth that matched his dad’s, Jack draped an arm over his shoulder. “That’s okay, Dad—neither do I.”