One Person CAN Make a Difference

Think one person can’t make a difference? Think you can’t make a difference? Think again.

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More than a thousand years ago, an Irish holy man named Fintan Munnu started one of the first Christian communities in western Scotland. His chapel gave the present historic village of Kilmun its name. Over the centuries, a place of worship has always graced the hillside where Fintan Munnu—one man—walked, prayed, worshiped, and built a life of service to God.

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An American, James Piers Patrick, bought an estate on the Cowal Peninsula of Scotland close to Dunoon and planted an avenue of Giant Sequoia trees in 1863. The enormous awe-inspiring trees—now 148-feet high—continue centuries later to draw visitors to Benmore Botanic Garden. One person who made a difference.

James Duncan—one man—bought the 120-acre estate in 1870, planted more than six million trees and added paths through the forested hillside. One person.

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Henry Younger took over the estate in 1889 and added exotic shrubs and trees before gifting the estate to the nation.

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“Wild Horse Annie” Velma Bronn Johnston successfully campaigned to stop the eradication of wild horses and free roaming burros from U.S. government land. Legislation to protect wild horses and burros was passed in 1971 after Velma engaged school children around the United States to join the campaign to save the animals and stop the rampant cruelty and slaughter that was desecrating herds.

Wild Horse Annie died in 1977, and wild horses need prayers and protectors again. You can, we can make a difference again.

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There are likely thousands of other examples of one person who made a difference…but I just happen to have pictures for these!

Whoever you are and wherever you are…you CAN make a difference.

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Broken Dreams

Before we moved from Fortrose to Dunoon, Scotland, I made a brief foray into the land of Broken Dreams when I discovered a tarp-covered boat growing in a plot of brambles and tall weeds. Someone had dreamed of adventuring aboard that boat. It had once been a prized possession, as evidenced by the green tarp that had been lovingly gathered around the earth-bound boat for so long that one of the seats had broken through its protective covering. What shattered those watery dreams? Illness? Lack of time? Lack of money? New interests? Whatever the reason, the forgotten boat slips into oblivion in the land of Broken Dreams.

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It seems as if we have forgotten Paul’s wise advice in the Bible: “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (I Timothy 6:7)

Moving took us on a journey to the land of Broken Dreams. We had to condense 35 years of my husband’s ministry career from a seven-room house to a three-room house. Before the moving van arrived, we had already gifted furniture, books, clothes, and cool “things” to a Christian charity. When we got to the three-room house, we had to get rid of more so we could fit.

How many things do we need for survival and how much is space-wasting clutter? Folks who live in RVs, barges, boats, and tents (Yes, some folks live in tents, as per Miz Mike #3 mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge to Xanadu.) have a ready answer for what is vital to keep and what to toss. Space constraints point wobbly accusations at space raiders—things that we simply couldn’t live without when we first got them—and then realize we didn’t need after all.

Allow me to vent briefly. I get angry when people here in the UK talk about “wasteful Americans.” I have never lived anywhere in the US that didn’t have “fix-it” shops, that didn’t sell vacuum cleaner parts, or where folks didn’t continue driving their vehicles until long after they passed the 100,000-mile mark. Here, cars are shiny new. It’s hard to find an old one. No fix-it shops. Everything is tossed out when it breaks. It’s impossible to change the belt on a vacuum cleaner. They are solid molded plastic and don’t come apart. Folks are expected to throw them out and buy a new one when the belt breaks. Leftover food? “Health and safety” warns against it.

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Not that my husband is wasteful. We eat everything. And I’ve lost track of what hubby brought with us to the new house and then discarded, including a huge ball of used rubber bands. He still has his set of “Word Studies in the Greek New Testament,” and enough history books from different countries to start his own library.

We found a rubber band outside on the ground yesterday. I picked in up and started to toss it in the garbage. He grabbed it out of my hand and said earnestly, “We should keep this. We might need it.”

I didn’t say a word.

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Moving Chair

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We first spotted it in the woods along a dog-walking path. A strange place to find a wooden chair from someone’s dining set, but the mystery deepened when the chair moved to the beach.

Being a writer, my head spun stories about the moving chair: a thief stole it and abandoned it when spotted. Said thief went back to retrieve the chair, but was caught again. Or perhaps one ex was getting back at the other by cleaning out the house, one chair at a time. Or an angry teen with a lazy parent moved the chair to make the parent question his or her sanity when things vanished. Being lazy, said parent would never go looking for the missing item. Or perhaps some kind person thought older dog walkers would appreciate a comfortable place to rest.

My favorite story is dedicated to the memory of Bandera County, Texas pioneer Edwina Boyle—because it mirrors her real life story.

An old woman lived in the woods near the beach. She couldn’t watch the sea from her house, but each day she walked through the woods to the beach. She threw stranded starfish back into the waves. She rescued baby seals. She carried injured sea birds home with her and nursed them back to health…until…until the day she suffered a stroke.

Usually a mild person, the old woman experienced anger when she heard negative, disparaging words about her condition. “It was a severe stroke,” the doctor said. “She’ll never recover. She’ll never walk again. She needs to go to a nursing home.”

Family members were just as pessimistic. “She can’t walk. She can’t even move her legs. There’s no choice. She will have to go into a home.”

The angry woman mounted a secret campaign against her bleak prognosis. She prayed, asking God over and over to heal her legs. Daring even to demand that God heal her! Every time she was alone, she concentrated all her thoughts and energy into making a toe move, then a foot, then a leg. One day before her scheduled hospital release, she slipped out of bed and teetered around the room.

Once home, the determined woman continued her self-imposed physical therapy. She propped her back door open and carried one of her kitchen chairs out to the porch. The next day, she carried the chair down the steps. Each day, the woman carried the chair further, sat in it to rest, then returned home. Before long, she was sitting in her chair at the beach reading moments of joy and fury from the voice of the waves. Neighbors stopped to ask her to forecast the weather because they knew the water talked to its faithful friend.

Writing is like that moving chair. At times, it’s hard not to listen to the negative, derogatory predictions for success. Rejections, lack of sales, bad reviews—it’s enough disappointment and broken dreams to send authors to retirement homes.

Don’t give up and surrender yourself to a retirement home. Keep moving the chair. Oh—and when it gets too heavy for you to carry, ask God to help.

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Pee on Crabs

Our rough collie is a lady. If she became homeless and had to “dumpster dive” for food—she would starve.

So, too, with her bathroom habits. She simply will not do her business on: a road, a sidewalk (pavement in the UK), the golf course, or manicured lawns. Heck—she will hardly defecate in her own yard!

A dead crab on the beach, however, fails to benefit from her gracious habits. She will pee on it in a heartbeat. It seems unseemly to abuse a corpse, but Angel Joy shows no remorse. A dead crab shell on the beach is a fair target. Most uncouth, but there you have it.

So I looked up information on crabs to find out what’s wrong with them—from a doggy perspective. Nothing. They wear a thick exoskeleton, which they shed and replace as they grow, and range in size from the aptly named tiny “pea crab,” to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span of 13 feet. They are renowned for their sideways walking, but that’s no different from politicians skirting questions. Crabs are aggressive, yet they are also known to work together to provide food and protection to their families.

And there you have it: the secret to writing interesting fiction characters that will nab readers. Complex. Layered. Not all good, not all bad. As a writer, don’t hesitate to pee on the crab.

As to why Angel Joy, who is not a writer, pees on crabs…well, I will probably never know.

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Humpty Dumpty

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Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Be kind. Even if the other person isn’t kind, be kind. We’ve all had falls. But not everyone mends. The world is full of shattered humans who are not kind to others because of their own level of suffering.

My recent experience with agony heightened my compassion for others who are suffering physical or mental hurts that no one sees. Even as a writer, I can’t find words to express how ghastly the pain in my hip was except to say that I wish readers could rate my books at my pain level—10.

When a person tries to sit on a toilet seat and accompanies that attempt with loud enough hollers to bring the cows in from the field…it’s bad. Walking and standing elicited the same response. As for bending over to pick something up—forget it. Since we have a dog that needs walking, not being able to bend over was especially awkward. My poor husband had dog picking up detail for weeks. Additionally, our dog thinks she’s the housekeeper. When anything is on the floor that doesn’t belong there, she puts her nose on it and stares at it until someone picks it up. (Except for her toys. They are exempt.)

Yay! I picked up dog poop today! What a relief to be able to return to that simple chore. Part of the healing involved pushing through the pain to do back exercises and go running. For those who say, “I don’t run. If you see me running, you better run, too, because something is after me,” I will admit that fast walkers can pass me when I’m “running.” It’s not about speed, it’s about exercise to re-build the body. It’s also about a verse from Marjorie Ainsborough Decker’s “Christian Mother Goose” book:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Humpty Dumpty shouted, “Amen!

God can put me together again!

Prayer and praise. As I was “running,” I sang, “You are the God Who is healing me.” And I believed it.

So today I picked up dog poop. The possibilities for tomorrow are endless! God still heals, he still answers prayers…and, yes, He still instructs and expects us to be kind to one another.

Forgive shattered people and give them the gift of kindness. We never know when we will be next one to fall off the wall.

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Great Love

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Texas Miz Mike #7 mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge Home” was released—but, wait! It is not the best love story ever written.

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Great love stories light our inner fires and inspire us. Some of the most famous include William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” Leo Tolstory’s “Anna Karenina,” Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago,” and Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Other great love stories revolve around remarkable people like John Smith and the Indian Princess Pocahontas, Marie and Pierre Curie, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

This is just a fleeting mention of some of the world’s greatest love stories because nearly all life-changing, life-impacting stories contain an element of love. Not surprising since God’s Word proclaims, “Love never fails,” and “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians, Chapter 13).

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My favorite love stories tend to be embedded in musicals. The social commentary and unforgettable music in “Show Boat;” faith victorious in “The Sound of Music,” rollicking fun in “Calamity Jane” and “Annie Get Your Gun,” and the soul-plumbing “South Pacific.” And of course the musical everyone in Scotland hates—but I’ve always loved, “Brigadoon.”

Whether they end in tragedy, or joy and “happy ever after,” love and love stories make life worth living.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t forget to read the greatest love story ever written. It’s written in God’s blood. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Then He proved it by dying for us.

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

God’s love story about us and for us is greater than any love story ever written by humans—even William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” which is still ranked #1 in love stories 400 years after it was written.

As for “Bridge Home,” well, I hope you’ll read it, enjoy it, and leave a review—but trust me…it won’t the list.

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The Biggest Losers

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Look up loser or biggest loser on the internet and you will find folks who have lost huge amounts of weight—or huge amounts of money. These are not the biggest losers.

The biggest losers are those—no matter how successful, professional, or well known—who find no joy in a child’s smile, a kitten’s soft fur, or the unconditional love looking back at them from the eyes of a dog. The biggest losers are those who have never stopped in awe to enjoy the riotous glory of spring wildflowers, a flaming sunrise, or a full moon playing tag with night-touched clouds.

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The biggest losers are those so seeped in their own self-importance that they have no time to notice the tears on a lonely face, the meager clothing and frail frame of the homeless, the expectant face of an elderly person hoping for a greeting.

The biggest losers are those who have no time to contemplate God and the perfection of creation, no time to sit in church and feed their souls, no time to give any of their time to help another person, a homeless animal, or a needy charitable organization.

Biggest losers of weight are applauded. Biggest losers of money are scorned. God is only interested in one kind of loss—sin.

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14.

Biggest losers, biggest winners.

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Not Offended

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Still find it hard to believe that the British Medical Association told its staff not to use the term ‘expectant mother’ as it could offend transgender people.

We are heading toward a future population who will find cause to be offended at myriad incidents instead of using the opportunity of opposition to grow in strength and character.

Like any other “handicapped” child, Aimee Mullins was mocked. She was born without calf bones and both her legs were amputated when she was a year old. Instead of hiding away “offended” by cruel remarks – she learned to fly. She is a world class runner who broke world records in 100 meters, 200 meters and the long jump – while competing against “able-bodied” athletes.

Shakespeare’s poems and plays are still popular around the world some 400 years after his death. He used more words from the English language than any other writer ever has – and was taunted by some of his contemporaries, including Robert Greene who called him among other things an “upstart crow.”

Vincent Van Gogh painted his inner feelings of depression and was labeled a failure and “mentally ill.” He rose from poverty and mocking to praise and riches. His “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” was one of the world’s most expensive paintings and is now valued at $155 million.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, couldn’t get into law school, borrowed money for a business and went bankrupt, and lost five elections before he became President. Personal tragedies included losing his mother when he was nine; the deaths of a sister, a sweetheart, and three of four sons. He also suffered a broken engagement and was diagnosed with clinical depression, spending six months in bed after a nervous breakdown.

The world was perfect when God created it. But when sin came into the world, that perfection was marred. We now live in a world of “hard knocks.” Being given permission to be offended at every real and imagined slight will never build us into individuals who can grow in grace, character, and strength.

I am so thankful that I never “fit in” as a child. Because I learned at an early age not to seek peer approval, I escaped the rampant drug culture when I went to college. Because I care more what God thinks about me than what other people do, I can write hard books that get flak: pro-life “Heart Shadows;” abused child turned serial killer “Killer Conversations,” and soon-to-be-released Texas Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense #7, “Bridge Home.” The easy to love, bonkers Miz Mike is the same in “Bridge Home,” but there is an added dimension. Should Christians be in favor of, or opposed to same sex marriage? Miz Mike faces that dilemma when her fiancé is falsely arrested for killing one of two women who requested a same-sex marriage ceremony in his church.

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The release of “Bridge Home” should prove interesting. My hope and prayer is that readers will love it and welcome it as another of Miz Mike’s “pickle-making” mysteries. But I’m prepared for flak and one-star reviews because, thankfully, when I was growing up I didn’t have the British Medical Association looking out for me.

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“Experts”

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The earliest “expert” I remember was my first grade teacher who chided me for coloring trees and sky such bright “unrealistic” colors. Over and over she intoned, “Trees are green, tree trunks are brown, sky is blue.”

I guess she had never seen a sunset, or autumn foliage, and she was ignorantly unaware that tree trunks are different colors, mostly grey in the Texas Hill Country.

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Education is awesome—but I eschew “experts.”

My son Luke used to get upset when a high school teacher, an expert in science, repeatedly informed the class that dogs could be trained—but they couldn’t think. Luke knew better. We had a half-collie named Esther. Our other dog, Shad, would stretch out in the middle of the couch so that Esther had no room at either end and would have to take the floor. One day Esther trotted over to the front door and barked. Shad launched himself off the couch in a frenzied attack mode. Esther calmly walked back to the couch and took Shad’s place. After that, whenever she wanted the couch, Esther repeated the performance. (Shad never learned.) Trained? I think not.

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One dog training expert claimed dogs only have a seven-second memory. “Never say sit down,” this expert advised. “Just say sit, because by the time you get to down, the dog has forgotten the first word.” Really?

Our dog Angel Joy hasn’t seen Andy the coal man for three years. He’s a nice guy, but scares her to death because he’s so big. If we say Andy, or coal—or heaven forbid, Andy the coal man—our usually quiet, calm Angel Joy goes ballistic.

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There are health experts who are overweight. There are education experts who have never taught a class. There are parenting experts who don’t have children. There are writing experts who give advice on how to write and market books—and their own books aren’t selling.

Wise people, and those knowledgeable in their fields are blessings, but I’ve learned to question “experts.”

Experts in Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ day, the late 1400s and early 1500s, thought the world was flat and ships would fall off if they sailed too far. Columbus read in the Bible in Isaiah 40:22 that God “sits above the circle of the earth.” He reasoned that if God sits above the circle of the earth, the earth must be round. And the rest, as they say, is history.

When I need an expert, I’ll stick with that same God, the One who “made a law for the rain and a path for the thunderbolt.” (Job 28:36)

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Death, the Lasting Adventure

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When I was 12, my spooky horse Allie jumped over a ditch to the road. His shadow hit the red clay dirt and he spooked. He leaped sideways bucking, threw me off, and ran home.

Allie was afraid of shadows. He thought shadows were real. He thought shadows would hurt him.

A lot of people are like Allie. They fear shadows. They think shadows are real. They think shadows will hurt them. We have either forgotten or chosen not to believe Psalm 23 in the Bible, “Yea, though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

Because people know I’m a Christian, I often get prayer requests. I’m thrilled to pray for others and I rejoice when God answers their prayers. But some requests are impossible for God to fulfill because they are not within His plan.

We plant “dead” seeds and marvel when bright, new, healthy plants spring up from the dead-looking kernels. God never wanted death to be a part of the world He created. He designed human bodies to heal and live forever. But when Adam and Eve sinned, death entered the world. Because of that, God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in our place so we could live forever. Jesus didn’t just die—He rose from the dead to prove to us that we also can live again.

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After we “die” to this world, we live forever in Heaven with Jesus in bright, new, healthy spiritual bodies that will never suffer death, illness, pain, suffering, or sorrow. But first—we must pass through the shadow.

It’s alarming to get prayer requests from people who are afraid of the shadow and don’t trust God’s promise about what is on the other side. I don’t know what to say or how to pray when someone grabs my arm and pleads, “Please pray for Momma. She’s 92 and her kidneys have stopped working, and she has heart and lung disease, and now she has cancer.”

 

What I want to say, and should be honest enough to say is, “Sweetie, let go of your poor Momma. Let her go home to God. He will give her a new healthy body.” But I’ve discovered that folks who are afraid of shadows hate truth.

Death is an adventure. An everlasting adventure. Between us and that lasting adventure is a shadow. All of us must pass through that shadow to get to our new life and claim our new body.

Perhaps we should repeat often, “Death is a shadow. Shadows aren’t real. Shadows can’t hurt us.”

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