Built on Rock

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(Photo credit Wikipedia)

Happened upon a fascinating TV documentary about the Cape Romano Dome House along the Florida coast. What fascinated me was the aesthetic architecture with its dome shape and wide windows on all sides. I wanted to live there. Until I heard the rest of the story.

Sitting out in the water 300 feet from shore, the six self-sustaining white dome structures on stilts were constructed from sand and island shells in 1979 by retired oil producer Bob Lee. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house was solar powered and gutters collected rainwater, which was filtered and stored in a cistern. The dome construction resisted hurricane damage—until Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Even Category 5 Hurricane Andrew with 175-mile-an-hour winds did not destroy Cape Romano Dome House. But erosion did. The house stood on the beach before Hurricane Andrew. Now it sits in the water, with only four of the six modules remaining. It was built on sand.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them, will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was the ruin.”

Bob Lee’s vision of his dream home was brilliant. Viewing it makes the spirit soar. But the house was built on sand.

We face decisions each day about building our lives. We can build on sand—then something like Covid-19 comes along and strips away all pretense and lets us know that nothing on this earth is eternal—except God.

Or we can build on the Rock of Jesus where not even Covid-19 can steal from us. This life is not the end—it’s just the beginning. If we have God, we have everything we need.

Bending, Breaking, Shaping 2020

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Many people don’t like change. I’m one of them.

I don’t like change because I’m mentally lazy. It’s not as easy for me to learn as it is for other folks, thus once I have learned something – I don’t want to have to discard it and learn something new. Take math. No, forget math. I’ve never learned math to start with, and thus any changes to it won’t distress me. I don’t do math.

Quit math when letters came

Today I woke up to find that Windows had commandeered my computer overnight and changed everything. I couldn’t even get to my email. I hate change.

Then I got to our grocery store and diligently followed the one-way arrows around the store—and thus—there was no way to avoid the soap aisle. Some scent on that aisle commandeered my sinuses and I desperately needed to cough. I held back the cough for fear folks in the store would think I had The Virus. I nearly passed out in the checkout line from holding back the cough that was demanding release.

I hate change.

However, as an author, I do embrace language changes that make for more powerful descriptions. I thought of a few today. “Alec, you’re making me angry. Quit going all 2020 on me.”

The box dropped off the shelf behind me and hit the concrete floor scaring the 2020 out of me.

“Let me tell you something, sugar. You know I ain’t one for gossip and talking bad about other folks—but I gotta tell you—that gal is as messed up as 2020.”

By the time she finished settling her mother at the nursing home, picking up the kids from school, and cleaning up after the sick dog—she felt as if she had lived through 2020 again.

The divorce hit her like 2020.

His life shattered around him like 2020, leaving him to trip over emotional obstacles like sleeping dogs in a dark room.

God never causes evil, but He commandeers evil and transforms it into something good. So since we can’t escape 2020, we can bend it, break it, and shape it into a new pattern. All it takes is…accepting change.

But I still hate the new Windows on my computer and I still don’t do math.

bird hooded crow tree

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Unique is Beautiful

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What is the difference between a weed and a flower? Actually, it doesn’t matter. God made them both. They are both beautiful. God is the author of unique.

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“But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body…There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.” 1 Corinthians 15:41.

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Do you know what really killed George Floyd?

The real cause of death for George Floyd

See, there's this thing called biology...

Do you know what killed George Floyd? Meth and fentanyl. Sometimes it’s cocaine and heroin.  He probably used them all. The poor man had a criminal record, including breaking in and robbing and terrorizing a pregnant woman, and also high blood pressure and SEVERE heart disease, and he was high at the time of his death. He was an addict! Active addiction always ends at the hospital, prison, or the morgue.

Every. Single. Time. Addiction does not discriminate and it has no mercy.

George Floyd was made in the image of God, he had tremendous worth and value to Jesus and it’s really sad that his life ended the way it did, but to martyr George Floyd as an upstanding member of the black community, as a complete innocent is, well, really racist. The guy was an addict and an ex con who darn near blew his own heart out…

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Direct Vision

 

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None of us has direct vision. We all see through a filter of past events and experiences.

When I was four, my mother took me to an optometrist because she thought I couldn’t see clearly. She explained to the doctor, “She doesn’t color between the lines.” I thought to myself, “Oh, that’s what those lines are for.” It wasn’t that I couldn’t see them—it was that I was in love with color and spread my favorites thickly across the pages of coloring books in my own patterns and designs. After I knew about the lines—I used them.

When I was four and boarded a bus with my mother for the first time, I saw black people getting on and exclaimed, “Mom, look at all those poor sunburned people.” My embarrassed mom shushed me for my rudeness, but she didn’t understand. It wasn’t rudeness, it was compassion. I had never seen a person with black skin before. I hurt for them because I thought they were badly burned.

What we see depends on what we’ve seen before. None of us has direct vision.

Recently our collie returned to our local vet time and again dehydrated because she would not eat. Time and again, she was hooked her to a drip and we were assured that she was not too thin, and that perhaps—because she’s a smart dog—she played us, refusing to eat until she got something she liked.

None of the vets understood that Savannah…Would. Not. Eat. They had never seen her walk to her food, sniff it, make a face of human disgust, and walk away.

We finally got an appointment for Savannah at a vet hospital that had the equipment to examine her, and the first thing I heard from the vet was the inevitable, “She’s not a bad weight. Maybe we just need to adjust her food.” Her food has been adjusted so many times that we’ve given away cases and bags of various brands and kinds and still have cases more.

Again the questions. Again the subtle suggestion that I might be the problem because I worried too much. Again, the failure to comprehend the fact that Savannah… Would. Not. Eat.

Then the phone call that made me cry for two reasons. One reason, we have a sick little girl whose condition is chronic with few treatment options. And I am not an obsessed doggy mom who worries to distraction. There are physical reasons for Savannah’s lack of appetite: pancreatitis and an inflamed bowel. A vet finally saw the lines.

I was reminded of a Bible story. When Samuel was ordered by God to ordain a king from Jesse’s family, Jesse brought his sons to Samuel one at a time and God rejected all of them. Samuel asked if Jesse had any more sons. He had one more. David, a young boy who was out in the field with his father’s sheep. David, who later killed a giant with a rock and a slingshot. David who wrote most of the Psalms in the Bible. David, who became King David. David whose earthly lineage leads to Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.

When God chose David out of Jesse’s sons, he told Samuel, “The LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

God sees the lines. Sometimes…we don’t.

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Flat, but Lasting

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No criticism against them, but two U.S. states that are vital to the U.S. economy and lifestyle are Kansas and Iowa—both flat and uninspiring scenically.

Driving through those states one might wonder, “What could a writer find here for the setting in a book?” And yet, 23 books have been set in Kansas, the iconic “Wizard of Oz” by Frank Baum, and “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote being two of them. The movie “Wizard of Oz” was released in 1939, and two quotes from the movie are still common: “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” and “There’s no place like home.”

The Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers musical “State Fair” was set in Iowa, and 21 books have been set there including “The Bridges of Madison County,” by James Walter.

Just on Goodreads, there are 564 books set in Texas. So my most recent cozy mysteries are up against steep competition when it comes to being noticed among all the other contenders. Hmm…perhaps I should have set them in Iowa!

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The point I’m attempting to make, however, is that excuses are easy to make. I’ve heard so many writers say, “I live in a boring state,” or “I need inspiration. Nothing ever happens here.” Things happen everywhere—even in Kansas, even in Iowa, even wherever you live. The important element in any book doesn’t come from where the author lives or where the book is set—it’s what happens in the author’s mind, and inspiration from God.

Mason, Texas, population around 4,000 is the setting for my last two books. It’s a small town. Not a lot happens there. I’ve been through Mason, I’ve stopped in Mason for gas and snacks—even reported on a water board meeting there when I was working on a newspaper—but I’ve never lived there. But because my characters live there—so much has happened in Mason that I’m working on my third book set there. It’s a happening place—even if much of what happens is in my head.

People are pretty much alike everywhere, although I like to think of Texas, where we bless everyone’s heart, of having folks as unique as the changing landscape.

God is also the same everywhere. And wherever you live, He loves you. And wherever you live, He can give you inspiration if you’re a writer. Boring is not an option with God.

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Government Tracking

 

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Many people don’t realize the REAL danger of Covid-19—government tracking.

2,000 years ago the Bible predicted it in Revelation 13 & 14. “(Satan, or the Beast) causes all, both small and great, rich or poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads (or through their cell phones) that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark…the number of a man (man’s attempt to stop Covid-19 without prayer and God’s intervention)…his number is 666…If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God.

Do not let yourselves be tracked through your cell phones. Already over here in the UK they are running an ad about signing up for it saying, “do your part.” What they consider our part is against God.

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The Devil is a Sociopath

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Years ago I sold my property in Texas, but never got paid for it. When I received a threatening letter about overdue property taxes, I was forced to return to the property and become something I had never desired to become—a rental agent.

Because there were tenants already living in the two nice houses on the property with running water, bathrooms, working kitchens, and air conditioning—I was forced to live in an open-end garden center with no bathroom, no kitchen, and minimal electricity. Living in that building and collecting rent from tenants living in the comfortable houses I had helped build was my only hope of getting enough money to pay the overdue property taxes before I lost the property. I slept on a lawn chair mattress on top of wide wooden planks. My clothes hung from the rafters. I took cold showers with the garden hose. I learned to survive the 100-plus degree summer temperatures without air conditioning. When winter arrived, I stacked up hay bales and covered them with plastic to protect myself from the cold. I had two small heaters, but because of such low voltage electricity—they wouldn’t work at the same time.

There were positives. Peace. God’s peace lived with me as a constant companion. The birds who had nests in the hanging baskets overhead became so friendly that they warned me of approaching hawks. When their fledglings left the nest, the babies hopped to me and scrambled up into my lap. The two toads that lived in my dog’s water bowl scolded me when I got home from work late. It was almost like having two very short parents.

There were negatives. Not the third-world living conditions. The sociopath next door. I didn’t realize he was a sociopath at the time. I just figured it out recently when watching a rerun of “Judge Judy.” She commiserated with a mother on the show and told her that her son was a sociopath. Wanting to learn more than I thought I knew about “sociopaths,” I started reading more about them. That’s when I realized I already knew. I had rented a house to one. Upon further reflection, I concluded that God’s enemy, satan, is a sociopath.

According to Power of Positivity, sociopaths don’t feel badly when they hurt other people’s feelings. They have no feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Check. Both for my renter and for the devil. The Bible says satan came to this earth to kill, steal, and destroy.

They have intense mood swings and may become violent. Check. In a fit of rage, my renter attempted to shove me out of my own house. The Bible says the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and that he is angry because he knows his time on earth is short. His time on earth is short because Jesus is coming again.

Sociopaths have to be in control. Check. Satan uses tools like drug and alcohol addiction to keep people in control. I don’t know whether my renter was a sociopath because he was born one—or because drug use had robbed him of his soul and conscience.

Sociopaths are impulsive. Satan decided to one-up God by attacking the righteous man Job and making him curse God. When his first attack on Job didn’t work, he impulsively cranked up the pressure. My human sociopath renter spent recklessly and his desires changed frequently—so he overspent and was always in debt. Meaning I didn’t get paid either.

Sociopaths are charming in the beginning. The Bible warns that satan masquerades as “an angel of light.” His charm and beauty give sin its allure, and he uses sin to trap people. Human sociopaths shower folks with compliments in order to gain control over relationships. People who met my renter and didn’t know him thought he was enchanting. They said, “He could sell igloos to Eskimos. True. But he wouldn’t have paid his bills—including rent.

Sociopaths are manipulative and must be in control. My renter told so many lies that he could never keep them straight. They will lie to get their way. Satan is the father of lies. They gaslight folks making them question their own sanity. Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden by saying, “Surely God didn’t say that…Surely eating the fruit of that tree won’t kill you.”

Sociopaths feel they are above the law and their actions are often illegal. They disobey laws and social norms. My renter had a huge file at the courthouse—but I didn’t see it until after I rented the house to him. Satan refused to obey God and declared, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars…I will be like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:12)

Sociopaths make extreme promises and statements without backing them up and alternate between positives and negatives to manipulate and keep control. They make and break promises. Check. Both for my renter and for God’s enemy the devil. Satan attempted to tempt Jesus by making promises he had no authority to deliver.

They smile, smirk, or laugh at the pain and misfortune of others. Check for the devil. He came to steal, kill, and destroy whether the subject of his attack is a child or an adult. Their pain is his pleasure. Check for my renter. He thought pain was funny—as long as it wasn’t his pain.

I usually eschew labels. I try to take people and situations at face value and judge independently without referring to labels.

But my renter should have come with a label.

 

Black Hole

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For more than a year I’ve been living with a black hole in my memory. I only just discovered it.

We brought home our rough collie pup Savannah about a year ago. One of her first friends was named—or so I thought—Cleveland. Easy name to remember. Grover Cleveland—the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, and the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms. Easy to remember because I love the Walt Disney movie “The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band,” and one of the catchy songs is about Grover Cleveland.

But that’s not his name.

Five times I have been told this young man’s name, and five times I’ve forgotten. Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States. Savannah’s friend’s name is Calvin. If I knew a catchy song about Calvin, perhaps I would remember.

I met Calvin last week and Savannah and I walked him home since we were going the same way. Mere minutes later when I got home—I had forgotten his name…again. All I could think of was Cleveland. I looked up a list of U.S. Presidents and reminded myself his name was Calvin. By the next day—I had forgotten again.

That’s when I realized my memory had a black hole. I looked up the Presidents again and found Calvin. This time I pinned it to the cartoon “Calvin and Hobbs,” and have thus remembered it more than a few minutes at a time.

No matter our ages, we are all prone to black holes in our memory. So be gentle with other people when they forget things—even repeatedly.

I am so thankful that God never forgets us. The black holes He created are in space, not in His memory of us.

Psalm 136 says that the Lord remembers us and that His mercy endures forever.

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Seeing God

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For years people have asked, “How can you believe in God when you can’t see Him?

And yet, God can be seen. He created heaven and earth and everything in them. God can be seen in the sky. He can be seen in the sea. He can be seen in the petal of a flower. God can be seen in a person’s eye and the wing of a dove. He can be seen in every mountain and every valley; all creation is His and exists because of Him. There is nothing made on this earth that does not carry the signature of God—even human inventions. God created man and woman in His image. He gave them intelligence, wisdom and creativity. Every label sewn into a human-made creation bears the mark of God under it.

With recent events in the world, all eyes and hearts should turn to God. Every excuse of, “I don’t believe in God because I can’t see Him,” should be wiped clean. An invisible virus that causes sickness, death, and destruction brought the world to a standstill. Here in Scotland, we have been under a lockdown since the last week of March. It is now May 11.

People believe in Covid-19. They can’t see it. They should believe in God. They can see Him. The invisible virus brings destruction. The visible God brings life.

As always, the choice is ours.

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