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GOLD MEDAL - eLit Book Awards, Christian Fiction Category

SILVER MEDAL - Enduring Light Christian-Themed Book Awards, Christian Fiction Category


  • [A] truly beautiful book, unlike any I’ve read so far in this genre. – Aerin, MM Good Book Reviews, 5 Stars
  • The message in this book is one of love and understanding. . . . [R]ead this book, let the story envelope you, let the message seep into your soul. . . . Well done Ann Gallagher, you have once again floored me and left me tongue tied. – Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews, 5 Stars
  • This chaste story will appeal to readers looking for true reconciliation between religion and sexuality. – Publishers Weekly


Isaac Morris has devoted his life to preaching against the sin of homosexuality. But when his sister proposes a documentary to demonstrate once and for all that it’s a choice—with Isaac choosing to be gay as proof—he balks. Until he learns his nephew is headed down that perverted path. Isaac will do anything to convince the teenager he can choose to be straight . . . including his sister’s film.

When Isaac’s first foray into the gay lifestyle ends with a homophobic beating, he’s saved and cared for by Colton Roberts, a gentle, compassionate bartender with a cross around his neck. Colton challenges every one of Isaac’s deeply held beliefs about gay men. He was kicked out by homophobic parents, saved from the streets by a kind pastor, and is now a devout Christian. Colton’s sexuality has cost him dearly, but it also brought him to God.

As the two grow closer, everything Isaac knows about homosexuality, his faith, and himself is called into question. And if he’s been wrong all along, what does that mean for his ministry, his soul, his struggling nephew—and the man he never meant to love?

TITLE: Lead Me Not
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing

COVER ARTIST: L.C. Chase

LENGTH: 111,000 words
PAIRING: Gay
GENRE(S): Christian, Contemporary, Coming out, Religious Themes, Sweet Romance

BUY LINKS:


EXCERPT:

Chapter 1

Six Months Ago

The Sodomites had bullhorns this year. It was already a challenge for Isaac’s voice to be heard — an even greater one for his words to be heard — without half a dozen rainbow-festooned bullhorns amplifying people’s shouts and chants.

Isaac had only been out here in the blazing sun for an hour, but his throat was raw from trying to speak over the crowd at Summer Bluff’s Gay Pride Festival. He wiped a hand across his forehead. Sweat soaked his hair and his crisp white shirt, trickling down the sides of his face and the back of his neck.

William, Isaac’s second eldest brother, gave him a cold bottle of water. He downed most of it in two gulps and handed the remainder back.

“Thanks.” He cleared his throat, adjusted the hands-free microphone beside his mouth, and clicked his headset back on. To the crowd, he bellowed, “Be not proud of your sins!” His voice was getting hoarse already — he doubted he’d be able to speak by day’s end. “The Lord forgives those who are humble and ask for grace, but — ”

“Divorce is a sin too, jackass!” A woman covered in rainbows waved an enlarged, laminated copy of a news story with a headline Isaac knew by heart: INFAMOUS CHURCH DYNASTY ROCKED BY DIVORCE SCANDAL — Outspoken Traditionalist Up-and-Comer, Son of Famed Homophobe Reverend Morris, Said to Be “Stunned, Devastated, by Wife’s Departure.”

He set his jaw and tried not to look at the photo beneath the text. Even after almost a year, it still hurt to see that image of himself and Candace, which someone had manipulated to look like it was being ripped in half. And someone always brought that article or one like it. As if the fact that he’d fallen and his marriage had come apart — something for which he’d begged God’s and his father’s forgiveness a million times — somehow negated the graveness of the sins being flaunted here today.

“Every one of us is a sinner!” he shouted over the chanting. “We have all sinned! We are all sinners in the eyes of the Lord!” He held up his Bible. “But we can be forgiven! God’s grace is for all of us, unless you have made the choice to turn away from the Lord! You can choose to come back! Cast away your — ”

“Do you think we chose this?” someone screamed back. “To be discriminated — ”

“Cast away your sinful lifestyle!” Isaac waved the ragged Bible over his head, gripping the worn leather cover with sweaty fingers. “The word of God is clear, and it is final, and — ”

“I’ve got a question for you, Reverend.” The single voice was calm and low, and somehow cut through the noise of the throng.

Isaac turned and found a middle-aged gentleman with a gray beard and faded tattoos, wearing a rainbow tank top with BORN THIS WAY printed across the front. His arms were at his sides, his expression taut but not hostile.

Isaac lowered his Bible and turned off his headset. “Yes?” Behind him, William took over shouting to the crowd, but Isaac could feel people watching him and this quiet man who’d grabbed his attention.

The man took a step forward. Isaac’s eldest brother, John, tensed, ready to lunge at the man if he came too close, but Isaac waved him back. All around them people stilled, and Isaac sensed more heads turning their way.

“I’ve heard you preach, Reverend,” the man said. “You say we’ve chosen this life.”

“Yes.” Isaac held up the Bible. “You’ve chosen to stray from — ”

“I’ve heard it.” The comment was terse, as was his dismissive wave, but his tone remained calm and even. “I’m not here to argue about that.”

Isaac was guarded but curious. Constructive dialogues were difficult to come by at these events, and if there was even the smallest opportunity to turn someone to Christ, he wasn’t going to pass it up. “All right?”

“I guess I have less of a question and more of a challenge.” The man folded his powerful, inked arms across his chest and the BORN THIS WAY slogan. “Prove — and I don’t mean using your book” — he jerked his chin toward Isaac’s Bible — “that it’s a choice.”

“Of course it’s a choice. Any defiance of the Lord is — ”

“Make the choice, Reverend.” The man raised his chin, narrowing his eyes slightly. “You’ve told us all that the people we love and the lives we live come down to choice. So . . . prove it. Choose to be gay. Show us all that it’s a choice.”

Isaac blinked. “Are you suggesting I should become a gay man? And how exactly does one go about that?”

“You tell us, Pastor.” A slightly younger man wrapped his arm around the bearded one’s waist. “If this is a choice, prove it by choosing to do whatever it is you think we choose to do.”

Isaac snorted in disgust. “Never.”

The first man laughed smugly. “That’s what I thought.” He kissed his partner’s cheek. “We’re done here.”

And with that, they slipped back into the crowd, blending into the sea of rainbows and vanishing like a mirage.

For a moment, Isaac stared at the space they’d occupied, trying to wrap his head around their absurd challenge. Then he realized everyone else was still staring at him.

He clicked his headset back on and raised his Bible again. “Turn away from this abomination! Repent your sins to the Lord!”

***

The church’s permit to protest expired at three in the afternoon, an hour before the event officially ended. Isaac’s father had loudly objected to that over the years, stating it muzzled Summer Bluff Christian’s free speech while allowing the Sodomites to continue with theirs. Isaac understood both the city’s stance and his father’s, and had helped mediate the debate over the years — but today he was thankful that the city council had, thus far, won.

Isaac’s throat was raw; though after a couple of eucalyptus cough drops, it wasn’t so bad. Mostly, the heat had taken its toll. Everyone in the group was sunburned. Half the protesters had bowed out around noon. By one thirty, only the Morris family remained — Isaac, his two brothers, and his twin sister, Ruth. Even John and William had been flagging by two o’clock, and they could usually preach until the sun went down.

So at just before three, they gathered their signs, sound equipment, cameras — his sister was always filming for some documentary or another — and the cooler. They’d had to park several blocks away, so William and Isaac guarded the pile of equipment while Ruth and John went to get the vehicles.

Mercifully, the place they’d found to wait was in the shade beside an office building. The sweltering heat was still intense, but after several hours in direct sunlight, Isaac wasn’t going to complain. And thank the Lord his sister’s truck had air conditioning that could ice over the Sahara.

While he and William waited, some of the Pride attendees walked by. One carried the signs displaying the news article about Isaac’s divorce. He set his jaw, refusing to flinch or turn away, but he also refused to look directly at the torn photo of him and his wife. Ex-wife.

The one with the torn-photo sign sneered at him. The others just kept walking, chatting about an upcoming bar crawl as if they didn’t even see William or Isaac.

As the group walked on, William turned to him. “They’re not going to forget about that, you know.” His brother had a way of making thinly veiled accusations out of observations. Not that it was all that thinly veiled this time — William had never hidden his contempt for the failure of Isaac’s marriage.

“I suspect they’ll forget it before I do.”

His brother sighed heavily. “Have the two of you even — ”

“Not now.” Isaac immediately regretted his sharp tone. “I’m sorry. But . . . please. Not now. I’m too hot and too exhausted to even think about that.”

William’s lips tightened, but God bless him, he didn’t push the issue this time.

Isaac wiped sweat from his brow. “Must they always have these events on the hottest days of the year?”

William laughed dryly. “Guess they want to get used to being hot and miserable.”

Isaac didn’t laugh. He didn’t find nearly as much amusement in these people’s damnation. William saw them as perverts who’d gladly dance with Satan himself. Isaac wanted to believe they were simply misguided, that they’d see the light if enough people showed it to them. He was always demoralized and sad after these events. He couldn’t just let the Sodomites celebrate their sin without someone being here to voice God’s disapproval and offer of salvation . . . but what good did it do if no one heard him?

Across the street a couple of vans drove away, revealing a park bench beneath a huge oak. Two men — boys, really — sat on the bench, and they were oblivious to him. Oblivious to anything, Isaac thought. Even the heat — they were cuddled close in the shade, one lying across the bench with his head on the other’s lap, both playing on their cell phones. The one sitting upright had his arm draped across the other’s chest, and their fingers were loosely laced together. The second rested his phone against the first’s arm.

“Disgusting faggots,” William said.

One of the two must’ve heard, because he lifted his head and looked right at Isaac and William. Rolling his eyes, he kissed his partner’s wrist and returned to playing on his phone as if nothing was the matter. Too tired for a fight, Isaac hoped.

Whatever William muttered next, Isaac didn’t hear. His brother had been known to shout at “couples” like this, but he was probably as parched and raw as Isaac was right then.

Moments later, John and Ruth pulled up and parked on the curb. While John and William piled the signs and such into the car, Isaac helped Ruth load her audiovisual equipment into the back of the truck.

She hoisted the camera onto the tailgate and slid it into place between some of the other crates and boxes. “You look exhausted. Maybe get some water out of the cooler?” She slammed the tailgate. “I think there was still a bottle or two left.”

“Oh good.” Isaac fished around in the red plastic Coleman and pulled out a bottle of cold water.

“You two need any help?” William asked.

Ruth spun her key ring on her finger. “Nope, we’re ready. How about you?”

“We’re done.” John shut the trunk. “See you back at church.”

“See you there.” Ruth swung herself into the driver’s seat.

Isaac climbed up into the cab, legs and back aching, and settled into the passenger seat. He downed the water in one go.

She shot him a pointed look. “Sweetie, what have I told you about staying hydrated?”

“I did, I promise.” He set the empty bottle in the cup holder. “I think the heat index is almost a hundred and fifteen today. Water’s only going to do so much.”

“Ugh. No kidding.” She wrinkled her nose as she put the truck in gear. “My equipment was actually getting so hot, I almost burned myself.”

“I know the feeling.” He’d taken off his headset when they’d left the event, and nearly scorched his fingertips on the metal part. “Hopefully next weekend’s march will be cooler.”

They drove in silence for a little while, but Isaac had a feeling something was on his sister’s mind. She was tapping her thumbs on the wheel, but not keeping time with the song playing softly on the radio.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

She chewed her lip. “Well, I was thinking . . .”

“I saw that.”

She glared playfully at him, but then turned serious. “So I was thinking about that bearded guy. The one who came up and talked to you.”

“Which one?” he croaked, his throat still parched.

“The one who challenged you to prove being gay is a choice.”

“Oh. Him.” Isaac rolled his eyes. “What about him?”

“What if you took him up on his challenge?”

Isaac’s head snapped toward her. “If I what?”

“Hear me out.”

“Okay . . .”

She squared her shoulders and fixed her gaze on the road. “You and I leave town — too many people know our faces here — and rent a place together. I’ll film you over the course of several months. When it’s all over, we’ll have a documentary about what it’s like to make the choice to be gay, and how you were able to choose to live that life and then to abandon it.”

“Film me doing . . . what exactly?” Isaac squirmed in his seat.

“Mostly talking to the camera about your thoughts and feelings.” She glanced at him. “The rest of it, we’ll film later with actors. You know, dramatizations and reenactments. Like they do on TV all the time.”

Well, that was more palatable than the alternative, but still, his stomach lurched at the thought of what he might have to do that would be dramatized and reenacted later. Isaac shook his head. “No. No way.”

Ruth reached across the seat and took his hand. “Isaac, think about it. Yes, you’ll be living a life of terrible sin for that time, but you’re doing it to prove a point and bring people to the Lord. I absolutely believe He will forgive you, especially if you’re going into it with pure intentions.”

“How could I have pure intentions about engaging in . . . that?”

“Because you’re doing it for the sake of the thousands and thousands of people your story could inspire to come to Christ.” She squeezed his hand. “Imagine how many people would have listened to you today if you’d told them you made a conscious choice to join them, and then a conscious choice to walk away.”

Goose bumps rose on his arms. He tapped his fingers on the armrest. The idea of getting into that lifestyle made his stomach turn, but what if Ruth was right? What if he could prove to people that it was a choice?

Still, the idea she’d proposed was insane. They’d be better off . . .

Their ministry would be more effective if . . .

They . . .

He blew out a breath. He didn’t have any better ideas.

So, what? Give in to the temptations he’d resisted all his life? It wouldn’t be difficult, he supposed. Not pleasant or palatable, but all he had to do was act on those urges long enough to make a point, and then walk away and try to scrub his memory clean. The thought nearly made him ill, but he still didn’t have any better ideas. Staring out the passenger side window, Isaac asked, “If, hypothetically, we did this, how far would I take it? Being gay, I mean?”

“As far as you need to, sweetheart.”

He turned to her. She glanced at him.

Isaac swallowed hard. “Dad won’t be happy about this.”

Ruth whistled. “I don’t think many people will be. Not until we’re done.”

“But you’d be there?”

“Absolutely.” She squeezed his hand again. “I’d be there every step of the way.”

Isaac looked out the window again and just stared at the scenery for a few miles as he mulled over her idea. The thought of living that lifestyle appalled him. The thought of letting countless people burn in hell when he could have, with some sacrifice on his part, helped them see the truth?

He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, then turned to his sister again. “I’m . . . I don’t know.”

“Will you at least come with me to talk to Dad about it?”

Isaac shuddered. Their father would be furious, but he’d be easier to deal with as a united front than letting Ruth face him on her own. Then again, he might shoot down the idea and forbid anyone from speaking about it again, which would mean Isaac was off the hook. The project would go away.

But . . . souls. Misguided people. Opportunity to witness.

They needed to do this. And they needed their father’s support, which meant if he shot it down, they’d have to fight for it. Isaac would have to fight for it.

“All right.” Isaac moistened his lips. “We’ll talk to him.”

***

In the back office of their family’s church, Ruth and Isaac stood like repentant children as their father’s eyes darted back and forth between them. “You’re serious.”

“Yes.” Ruth cleared her throat. “We’d — ”

“This is madness. Utter madness!”

“Dad, listen,” Ruth pleaded. “The Sodomites refuse to hear our message because they don’t believe we understand them.”

“They won’t hear it because — ”

“She has a point, Dad,” Isaac broke in quietly.

Their father glared at him, but let him speak.

“I’m still not convinced, but . . . she does have a point.” Isaac took a breath. “The man who challenged me today, he seemed interested in a conversation, and we had the attention of everyone within earshot. Everyone.”

His dad leaned against the desk. “And yet you couldn’t witness to them?”

“Once they realized I wasn’t interested in their challenge, they walked away. And those who stayed, well, it was the same as always. Shouting back at us and chanting over the top of us.” He glanced at his twin, who offered a reassuring nod. “I don’t like Ruth’s idea at all, but I’m struggling to figure out what else we could do that might have the same effect. We need to connect with these people and lead them to Christ. Ruth might . . .” Isaac gulped, forcing back the acid rising in his throat. “She might be on to something.”

Part of him wanted his father to send them fleeing from his office like he would’ve when they were kids, shouting after them that they were to go to their rooms and pray until he let them out, which would usually be many hours later. And truthfully, Isaac wanted to go and pray. He wanted to ask the Lord for guidance, because even though he desperately wanted to connect with and witness to these people who stubbornly refused to listen, the means Ruth had in mind were . . . not the least bit appealing.

But their father hadn’t blown up at them. He wasn’t happy by any means. The crevices between his eyebrows were deep and severe, his jaw set and lips tight the way they always had been when his children had pushed him too far.

And yet, his temper was still in check when he asked through clenched teeth, “What would this entail? How exactly does one go about pretending to be one of . . . one of them?”

Isaac swallowed. “I’d need to engage completely in the homosexual lifestyle.” Please tell me there’s another way.

“But why you?”

Ruth folded her arms. “If not him, then who?”

Their father glared at her. “You’d ask your brother to sacrifice that much of himself for the degenerates?”

“Isaac’s faith is stronger than anyone else’s I know.” She set her jaw and tightened her arms across her chest. “If anyone can go into that life and come back out unscathed, it’s him.”

Their father grimaced. “I’ve already lost two children to this godless world. I’m not about to condone my son fornicating with Sodomites.”

“Dad.” Ruth’s voice was soft and even. “Isaac isn’t leaving the church or the family like they did. What he’s going to do won’t be pretty, but it’ll be a way of ministering that — ”

“This isn’t ministering,” he spat. “This is insanity!”

“And what about the end result?” Ruth asked. “What will happen if he can show that he, a devoted Christian and heterosexual man, can turn toward that lifestyle and then turn away from it? He’d prove that people can and do make that choice. Their argument that it’s not a choice would be dead in the water.”

Their father was about to respond when the office door opened. William stepped in, but froze so suddenly John nearly collided with him. “Oh. We didn’t realize you were in here.” They started to back out into the hall.

“No, stay.” Their father looked right at Isaac. “I think this is a discussion for the entire family.”

Isaac’s blood turned cold. Convincing his father — not to mention himself — that this was a good idea would be nearly impossible. Convincing William, who was even more passionate about the sinfulness of the Sodomites, would be akin to putting the proverbial camel through the needle’s eye. John too, though he was the calmer, more reasonable one, preaching love, grace, and logic over fire and brimstone. Especially since both were fiercely protective of their youngest siblings after watching their middle brother and sister abandon Christ and the family.

Thank the Lord their mother wasn’t here. By now, she’d be crying softly in the corner at the prospect of losing her youngest son, regardless of why, and that would’ve destroyed any resolve Isaac possessed.

William and John exchanged glances, and cautiously came into the room. John toed the door shut with a quiet click and stood against it.

William eyed Ruth and Isaac. “What’s going on?”

Their father gestured at them.

Ruth started to speak, but an icy look passed between her and William, and she turned to Isaac. You tell them, her eyes seemed to say. They’ll never listen to me.

He forced his nerves beneath the surface and explained everything, from the man at the rally to the conversation he’d had with Ruth in the truck.

William’s eyes were huge, even more redness creeping into his sunburned cheeks. “You can’t be serious.”

“We are.” Isaac moistened his lips. “I am.”

“So you’re planning to dive headlong into that lifestyle. That disgusting lifestyle.”

“Possibly, yes. And I don’t like it either,” Isaac said. “But Jesus came out of the desert after — ”

“And you’re not Jesus,” William snapped. “What makes you think you can behave like one of those abominations, and come out of it unscathed?”

“My faith,” Isaac said without hesitation. “God knows my heart. If I go through with this, He’ll know what I’m doing and why, and I have total faith He’d see me through to the end of it.”

“You’re insane!” William shook his head. “Isaac, you’d be corrupting your own soul, not to mention your body. You’d be doing irreparable harm to yourself!”

“William,” their father said, his tone flat. “There is no harm the Lord can’t undo. Not even the sins of a Sodomite are unforgivable.”

“I know. I know.” William exhaled hard. “But Isaac, you’d knowingly and willfully turn your back on God. What if something happened to you while you were . . .” He shuddered. “What if you got sick? Or someone hurt you? Or . . .” He threw up his hands. “What if by the time this is over, you were too corrupted to find your way back to Christ?”

Isaac gritted his teeth and looked his brother in the eye. Though he still wasn’t convinced of this plan, there were some things he was sure about. “If I can’t walk into that community, take part in it, and then walk back out with a soul cleansed by the blood of Christ, then why do we bother ministering to these people? They need to see that it’s a choice, and they need to see that it’s a choice they can turn their backs on and receive the Grace of God.”

William rolled his eyes. “You can save a man from drowning without jumping in and half drowning yourself.”

“And if he’s too far gone to swim himself to safety, wouldn’t you jump in and save him?”

“Of course I would. And . . .” His brother sighed heavily. “Look, I want to bring these people out of sin and into Christ’s family as much as you do, but I don’t want their lifestyle corrupting you and taking you from Christ.”

“Nothing is going to take me from Christ,” Isaac said through his teeth. “God knows me, and He knows my heart. If I do this, He’ll understand why.”

Lord, please, show us a better way . . .

William scowled. “Regardless of why, you’d still be doing what is specifically described as an abomination. You’d be turning your back on God and His Word.” Eyes narrow, he added, “Don’t expect to find Him where you’re going.”

In the background, John squirmed but still didn’t say anything. Which was bizarre — though he was mellower than William, he was as passionate about the ministry and the family’s collective calling to put homosexuals back on the righteous path.

Their father fidgeted too. “How long would this whole operation take?”

“It’s hard to say.” Ruth paused. “Maybe a few months?”

Isaac’s skin crawled. One night within that lifestyle was enough to make his stomach turn. Months? Lord help me . . .

“If you and Ruth pray on it, and this is truly what God is calling you to do, then I’ll allow it,” their father said flatly. “But there’s one condition.”

Isaac waited.

His father glanced at his sons, his daughter, and then looked straight at Isaac. “Do whatever you must to be involved with these people. I don’t want to know the details, or what you have to . . .” He paused, and then waved his hand as if he could manually chase away that thought. “But you and your sister will be there alone. The church will help financially if need be because I believe this project is important, but I won’t have this perversion within the walls of my church.” A mixture of anger, stubbornness, and sadness tightened his features. “Not even if it’s my own son.”

Isaac swallowed. Though they both knew what this was and why he was considering doing it, the preemptive dismissal from his family and church cut deep. The reality was sinking in fast — what he would be doing, what could happen to his body and his soul if he failed.

Isaac moistened his lips. “Understood.”

His father hugged him tight. “I’ll still pray for God to watch over you.”

“Thank you.”

This is a mistake. There’s too much at risk. We can’t. I can’t.

William scoffed. “Dad, are you endorsing this? Are you going to let — ”

“I endorse nothing of that perverse lifestyle,” their father growled. “But if this has the potential to bring people to Christ, and Isaac truly feels it’s his calling to go about it this way, then — ”

“God would never call people through — ”

“You don’t know the mind of the Lord!” Their father glared at William. “Watch yourself.”

William shut his mouth, but his eyes were narrow and his shoulders were tight. Isaac’s chest ached. Just the idea of this was already pushing the family apart. There had to be another way.

“If you go forward with this,” their father said to him, “when will it start?”

Isaac looked at Ruth.

“It’ll take some time to work out logistics.” She shrugged. “Between finding a place for us to live, financial planning, and getting our hands on some equipment, I’d say we’d be ready to relocate and start filming shortly after Christmas.”

He shuddered. That was months from now. He was sure he’d need years to convince himself he was ready for this, assuming he ever would be. “That gives us time to think about it, then. Make sure it’s, you know, something we really should do.” No. No. Definitely not.

John lifted his gaze and looked Isaac right in the eye. Still, he didn’t speak.

“Give it plenty of thought and prayer,” their father said. “I don’t want either of you going into something like this lightly.”

“We won’t.” Isaac could barely convince himself to even consider going into this at all. Doing so lightly wasn’t an issue.

Their father dismissed them, and William immediately stormed out. Ruth followed, and Isaac could hear them sniping at each other all the way down the hall. He waited until they were gone before he headed out himself.

His mind was reeling and his stomach was turning. There had to be an alternative. Something else they could do that would get through to the Sodomites without putting him at risk like that. Without making him indulge in exactly what he preached —

“Isaac, wait.”

He turned around to see John hurrying after him. “Yeah?”

John stopped and glanced back toward their father’s office. “You need to make this film.”

“What?”

“Please.” John chewed his lip. “I need you to do it.” He met Isaac’s eyes, and there was an extra shine in his as he whispered, “For my son.”

“For — ” Isaac’s heart stopped. “Griffin?”

“He’s . . .” John winced. “Jessica and I are afraid he’s going down . . . that path.”

“You think he might be a homosexual?”

The pain in his brother’s eyes answered the question clearly enough, and John’s voice was shaky. “We’ve been trying to steer him right ever since we caught on. But I’m worried we’re not doing enough.”

“Since you caught on?” Isaac stared at him. “He’s fifteen!”

“I know. And we’ve suspected it since he was in kindergarten.”

Acid churned in his stomach.

John put a hand on his shoulder. “He admires you. He looks up to you. If he sees you choose to go there, and choose to come back, then maybe . . .” He swallowed. “Nothing has helped. I don’t know what else to do, but — ” His voice faltered a bit, and he cleared his throat. “Please, Isaac, I can’t lose my son to this.”

Isaac gulped, imagining his nephew among the Sodomites, hell bound and separated from God by lust and sin. “Keep praying for him. Ruth says we’ll need time to get this thing going.”

“I know. And if there’s any way I can help, just ask. I want this film made. Even if you don’t get through to anyone else in the world, I know you’ll get through to Griffin.”

That shook Isaac straight to the core. The weight of a thousand strangers’ salvation was one he felt keenly, but his beloved nephew’s? There wasn’t a fire he wouldn’t walk through for that boy.

“I’ll talk to Ruth.” He squared his shoulders. “Maybe she can get the logistics moving faster so we can get started.”

John smiled, and his eyes welled up a little more. “Thank you.”

They hugged tightly.

“I’ll be praying for both of you,” Isaac said.

“We’ll all be praying for you and Ruth.”

“I know.”

John let him go, and Isaac continued toward the parking lot, his heart in his throat and his stomach in knots. He still wasn’t completely certain how he’d do this. What exactly would he need to do? How would it affect his body, heart, and spirit? Was he insane?

But . . . his nephew.

Whatever it took to keep Griffin on the right path, God would show Isaac the way. Facing the gay lifestyle was no more palatable than it had been when Ruth had broached the subject, and he had no illusions that it would ever be an easy thing to face. With Griffin’s life and soul on the line, though, a temporary foray into the gay lifestyle seemed as inevitable as one day facing the Lord’s Judgment.

Walking out of the church was . . . weird. Apprehension coiled at the base of Isaac’s spine, and it only wrapped itself tighter as he descended the marble steps toward the sun-scorched parking lot.

On the bottom step, he turned around and looked back. The towering glass doors and the steeple were, and always would be, breathtaking, but they were more than that. This place had always been home. The church sat up high in the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains, and that steeple was visible for miles across the farmland below. It had always been a beacon to draw Isaac back to the place where he felt God’s presence more acutely than anywhere else.

But you and your sister will be there alone.

His heart sped up, and a sick feeling grew beneath his ribs.

I won’t have this perversion within the walls of my church.

He would be as close to alone as he’d ever been.

Not even if it’s my own son.

He’d have the Lord and he’d have his sister, but the tight-knit community within these windows and walls had been there as long as he could remember. All his friends from childhood. Everyone who’d been part of the homeschooling co-op from preschool all the way through graduation. Relatives. Neighbors. Elders. Mentors. The people whose weddings and funerals he attended, and who’d attended his wedding and would one day attend his funeral — they were all part of this church, and the thought of leaving them behind, even if it was for the sake of bringing more people to Jesus, was terrifying.

Queasy and uncertain, Isaac turned away from the church and continued into the parking lot. When he reached his car, he climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine, letting the air-conditioning blast to cool off the oven the interior had become.

Even as the air cooled, he didn’t leave.

The engine idled, and he rested his elbows on the hot steering wheel and pressed his folded hands against his forehead. “Forgive me, Lord, for what I’m about to embark on. Please know my heart, and know my intentions are to bring people away from sin and into Your house. And please, please, Lord, once my sister and I have finished this documentary, please guide me back to You.” Fear and shame vied for dominance in his chest. “In Your Son’s name, amen.”

He lowered his hands and opened his eyes, squinting against the late-afternoon sun.

Isaac, I can’t lose my son to this.

John’s words echoed in his ears, and he shivered. Yes, he was doing the right thing. Wasn’t he?

“I have become all things to all men,” said Paul in the Book of Corinthians, “so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Perhaps this wasn’t what the apostle had had in mind, but it seemed oddly fitting now. Because Isaac could think of nothing else to bridge the gap between those tempted by the sin of homosexuality, and God’s forgiveness.

To help save those people — to help save his nephew — he had to become the thing he condemned the most.