Risks and Rewards

Bandera, Texas rancher Maudeen Marks took risks. She was a single, never married cattle rancher. No, correct that quickly because Maudeen did not ranch cattle—she ranched Texas Longhorns.

TX longhorn

“I never married,” she told me, “because World War II started and all the strong men left to fight the war and never came home. It would take a strong man to handle being married to me.”

Strong man, because she was a risk taker. She continued her father’s legacy of raising pure longhorn cattle after her daddy died. She bought a ranch in the Texas Hill Country and turned it into a dude ranch. Guests were welcome—but they had to mingle with Maudeen’s iconic Texas Longhorn Cattle. Maudeen’s longhorns were recognized as the standard for breed purity. They were also her pets. It was amazing to see the petite rancher wander into a sea of imposing horns and disappear behind them as she hand fed treats to her cattle and scratched their heads.

Maudeen led trail rides well into her eighties. Her risk-taking garnered her rewards: being honored as Woman of the Year, being selected as parade marshal, being inducted into the Bandera County Museum as the woman who put the mark in remarkable.

A may come before R in the dictionary, but risk comes before award in life.

My new Christian cozy mystery-romance-suspense was inspired by Maudeen who would have loved to buy the State of Texas, fill it with longhorns and Texas Rangers, and hold nightly dances from windmill to windmill. She never experienced the joy of marriage and having children in this life, but she is dancing with Jesus in Heaven now and celebrating her eternal reward.

Painting Anger

The man got into the car next to mine and shouted at his wife, “News flash! The car won’t star without the keys.” It wasn’t the words—it was the anger and hate in his voice that stunned me.

The car started, the windows rolled up, and I heard two angry voices above the engine noise. Sometimes having impaired hearing is a blessing—I couldn’t catch the words, but there was no mistaking the strident note of anger. Fear shot through me. I was afraid they were going to attack one another with deadly intent.

The car, engine revved and angry voices assaulting sound waves, nearly hit me as I walked through the grocery store parking lot. I didn’t get the license plate number. I was too busy jumping out of the way as the car ate the side of the curb and squealed around the corner.

That made me wonder; what does anger look like? How could I paint anger? I would paint this.

TX author

Yup. Me. I’ve guilty of the sin of anger. I have yelled in anger. I have even yelled at my husband in anger. My husband, author Alan T McKean, is probably the one person in the whole world who is least deserving of anger or of being yelled at. In all the years we’ve been married he has never raised his voice to me; never criticized me; never treated me spitefully or with less than respect. Before I had my spinal surgery, Alan helped me get up from the toilet, get in and out of the shower, get dressed. Yet, I have yelled at him.

Why? Why would I yell at such a priceless gift from God? As with all life’s questions, the answer is in the Bible. “No man can take the tongue. It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison…The tongue is a fire.” James 3:6&8.

I’m going into firefighting mode before the landscape of my life and marriage looks like this…

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Thistles, Statues & Vikings

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According to legend, the Scots won the last battle against invading Vikings on October 2, 1263 in Largs when invaders sneaking on shore to slaughter the sleeping Scottish army stepped on thistles and yowled in pain, alerting their victims.

True or false, thistles have been a symbol of Scotland for more than 500 years. And Largs is home to the Pencil, a 65-foot rounded stone tower constructed in 1912, as a memorial to the battle of Largs.

Largs is also home to 16-feet-tall “Magnus,” a statue presented to Largs in 2013 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs.

Visiting the tourist-driven seafront village reminded me that life is full of thistles that prick us, memories that overpower us, and giants that threaten us.

Thistles in our lives can be good—no matter how sharp their prick. Thistles remind us of Romans 8:28 in the Bible, “All things work together to good to those who love the Lord.” Walking on thistles is sometimes the road to victory.

butterfly thistle

Like “Magnus,” giants come into our lives in the form of major illnesses, job loss, death of loved ones, or broken families. It is natural to cower before giants. They are huge. They are crushing. But we have the same promise today that David gave his son Solomon in 1015 BC, “Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Memories, like giants, can be crushing. But we have God’s promise in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”

We have victory in treading over thistles when we put on the whole armor of God including the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace. We have victory over giants when we call in reinforcement in the person and presence of God. We have victory over memories when we control them instead of allowing them to control us.

Victory or defeat. The choice is ours.

5 Viking

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Change vs Same

I hate change. I’m one of these strange individuals who will buy a new purse because the old one has worn out—and continue using the old one that’s falling apart for weeks. Or perhaps I’m just lazy.

An anonymous statement I read recently softened me toward change: without change, a caterpillar would never become a butterfly.

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I am incredibly thankful for the change in weather recently in Dunoon, Scotland. Scotland usually doesn’t get summers—just a few days that are a bit warmer. But for the past few days the sky has been blue instead of grey, the rain has quit falling, and the sun is out. It’s actually hit 80F, the warmest temperature I’ve experienced in Scotland for the past seven years. People are walking around with big smiles and sunburns.

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Change is always good when a person’s life changes for the better. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17. What could be better than a person’s life changing as the chains of addiction, anger, bitterness, and hopelessness fall off and shatter?

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To celebrate having a real summer here in Scotland, I’m going to embrace change. But I’m hanging on to my old purse.

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Iron and Clay

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“Iron does not mix with clay,” the Bible warns in Daniel 2:43, a statement that really convicted me yesterday when I heard someone I love adopt my sarcastic attitude and tone of voice about a person in my past who behaved appallingly. Just as iron does not mix with clay, neither do yesterday’s hurts and insults mix with the joy of today.

Christians simply cannot afford to nurse bitterness. It rubs off on those around them and is a terrible witness. The world hates, accuses, mocks, and ridicules those with whom it disagrees. The world doesn’t know better. The Christian does. We have a Guidebook, written by God.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21.

Personally, I need to guard my mouth and make sure that I am speaking life, because its fruit is sweet. Besides; clay and iron do not mix.

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Anthony Bourdain

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

For those who don’t know, Anthony Bourdain was an author and a TV host who dealt with food as cultural harmony, food as empathy and unity. He traveled about the world introducing us to different cultures, different ways of life, and presented our commonality as humans. We all eat, right?

I enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s work and often saw the connection, the relationship, the profound concept behind the Lord’s invitation to His table, communion, our spiritual connection that takes place when we sit down as saints together. Anthony really helped me to value and appreciate the gift Jesus gave us in the last supper, the ritual, the significance, the way He knew that even thousands of years later His people would be partaking in a meal together in remembrance of Him. Communion is so much more than “a meal,”  and bread is not just “bread,” but I do so love how those common symbols…

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At the Drop of a Shell

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Imagine a crab safely hidden amid seaweed and rocks. Abruptly a seagull swoops down, plucks it out of its secure place, carries it skyward, and drops it on a hard surface.  The crab’s shell shatters and the gull eats the hapless victim.

Life is like that. Events pluck us out of our safety zones and drop us into hard times, hard circumstances. Enemies may even dive into our lives and pick at us while we are at our lowest ebb.

I appreciate the wisdom and intelligence of a seagull. People who believe animals don’t think have never been around animals. A crab has a hard shell designed to protect it from predators. Hungry seagulls figure out how to circumvent this obstacle.

But while I can respect the abilities of animals—like gulls—to think, I personally rebel against hard times and hard circumstances. I don’t like them. Yes, they stretch us and make us grow—but I’d rather stay the comfortable size and shape I am. Still, God is in control. He is too wise to make mistakes and too kind to be cruel.

So as the hard times and circumstances come—for they will, I will hide my heart hurts in Psalm 144 & 145: “Blessed be the LORD my Rock, my high tower and my deliverer…The LORD is near to all who call upon Him.”

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Tweets

 

Alan goose friendsEven if they don’t have a Twitter account, most folks know what tweets are. I love Twitter. Even though I’ve never met them, I feel as if I have some awesome friends on Twitter. I love retweeting and retweets and I’ve found some great new authors from Twitter tweets—and thankfully, some folks have found my books.

I’m very particular about my Twitter account. There are books I won’t retweet regardless of how many times those authors retweet me. I don’t want vampires, werewolves, witches, porn, same sex romance, or profanity on my Twitter page. I give preference to Christian authors, wildlife and nature photos, Bible quotes, and people whose books I have read and enjoyed—although there are so many other wonderful books out there that I haven’t had time to read yet. Most of the new authors I’ve discovered have been through Twitter. I won’t name them here, because I don’t want to forget anyone and hurt their feelings. Actually, I believe that every new book I’ve read for the past two years—I found through Twitter.

Sometimes I wish life were like my Twitter page and I could have control of what goes on and what stays off. This is one of those times. My sweet husband, author Alan McKean, has kidney cancer and is facing the removal of is left kidney. I wish I could just leave that tweet out of our lives. Fortunately, he and I both believe that God is in control, that all things happen for a reason, and that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord—so we will get through this with God’s help, comfort and healing. But if it were a Twitter Page and I were in charge—I’d leave this one off.

Alan has just had his next book accepted by Reagan Rothe and Black Rose Writing. I’m so proud of him. He spent a year researching WWII and writing the book. So in honor of him, I’m putting a special tweet out for him, my husband and hero. The link to his books is below. (The WWII book, What the Ocean Divides, has not been released yet.)

alan and waterfall

https://www.amazon.com/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1526276595&sr=1-2-ent

Holding off Death

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We all do it: save that last bit of string in case we need it in the future; buy a new gadget and keep the old one for emergencies; store up extra provisions “in case,” and cram our cupboards, houses, and garages full of things that we may never use. We’re not good at letting go.

This “hanging on” tendency applies to life. We hang on to this life fiercely and protectively even though the Bible tells us that we are pilgrims passing through and this earth is not our home. “While we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6

I love praying for other people, but I wish I had the courage to be truthful. When I get prayer requests like: “Pray for healing for my mother who is 92 and has cancer, needs a heart transplant, and now her kidneys are failing;” “Pray for my son who has bone cancer. He’s already lost a lung and been through chemo twice. This time it’s not working and he’s in a coma”—I wish I could be honest. I wish I could explain that true healing will never be possible on this earth. We don’t belong here. It’s not our home. We’re merely passing through. “We are strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13. We are all in the process of dying.

We don’t belong here. We need to be willing to let go. Heaven is our final destination and home, a place too wonderful and marvelous for human description. “And God will wipe away every tear; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.” Revelation 21:4. “They shall neither hunger anymore; the sun shall not strike them…for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

We don’t belong here. We need to be willing to let go. But I’m a coward. So the next time I get a message: “Pray for my sister who has had a liver transplant and now both her kidneys are failing from radiation therapy,” I will pray.

I will pray because God is a God of miracles. He holds our lives in His hands and He knows the number of days it will take us to pass through this land on the way home. I don’t know…so I must pray.

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Girls, Take it From the Birds

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When God created birds, He gave male birds bright, colorful feathers to attract females. Girl birds don’t work to attract boy birds; boy birds work to attract girl birds.

We’ve got it all wrong today. Females wear skimpy to non-existent clothing, color their hair, pierce their bodies, and paint their faces to attract males. Listen up, women: we should learn from the birds.

I saw a young girl yesterday wearing such exaggerated makeup that she looked like a cat. Her eye shadow was so thick and dark that it hid her eyebrows. She wore a short skirt that barely covered her underwear, a top cut so low that her boobs almost popped out, and the expression of a lost puppy on the side of the road.

Women need to reverse the media hype about attracting men and make men work for it. Take it from the birds. Today’s expectations about how women should look, and the pressure for women to hunt down men as if they were prey and capture them is a recipe for mental illness. It makes women feel unattractive, unloved, and unappreciated because they can never live up to the unrealistic expectations. We should learn from the birds.

In Jesus’ time, when a man asked a woman to marry her, he went out and built her a house, then collected his bride. He worked for it and she felt respected, loved and protected. When Abraham wanted a wife for his son Isaac, he sent camels loaded with treasure to the young woman and her family. Isaac loved his wife Rebekah and she felt loved, cherished and appreciated. Isaac worked for it.

The Bible upholds the best image for a woman to have of herself: Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30) Time cannot ruin beauty that is on the inside, nor does it require plucking, painting, pricking, or pruning to perfect.

We should learn from the birds.

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