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I saw an exceptionally sad banner recently. Parents wished their son a happy 21st birthday. It was sad because it was filled with images of beer cans, whiskey bottles and tipped champagne glasses as if the only proud thing to celebrate about living for 21 years was being old enough to drink.

Twenty-one years. Some of us still have twenty-one years left to make the world a better place. But achievement is never found in the bottom of a whiskey bottle.

‘Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.’’ Philippians 4:8

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Fear Mongers Seek New Material

My counting is far from quintessential, but I think we’ve had three days of “summer” in this part of Scotland—meaning three days of sunshine where it has gone over the 70-degree mark. Fear mongers’ numbers differ. They say pets and people are calculated to die in the current killer heat wave sweeping across the UK. “Beware! Stay inside. Stay hydrated. Don’t walk your pets in the heat.”

I talked to a few fellow dog walkers who had bought into the ridiculous hype. They were wearing lightweight jackets, yet made the following statements: “I’m just taking him on a short walk because of the heat”; “she didn’t really want to go out because it’s so hot”; “I waited until it cooled down before taking Maxi on her walk”; “I’m thinking about getting some doggie booties for his poor little feet to protect him from the hot pavement”, and—“isn’t your dog (a rough collie) suffering in this heat?”

It was pointless to point out to the loving pet owners—although I did—that it wasn’t that hot and, after all, they themselves were wearing jackets. The fear mongers had shouted on newscasts and in paper headlines that climate change had resulted in a heat wave and folks and pets were going to pay for it by dying. Me, scratching my head, “I thought ‘summer’ was supposed to be hot.

The heat wave hype was expected. Fear mongers needed new material; new focus. Most folks who have had covid a couple of times in spite of flocking to get vaccinated twice and then getting a booster are no longer living in fear of covid. Some aren’t living at all. Some at age 40-something have died abruptly from heart attacks and strokes. Some are living with life-challenging neurological conditions from having followed the fear mongers’ insistence that they had to take the jag for their country, because even if it didn’t stop them from getting covid—it would protect others, and it make covid milder if they did get it.

Between the heat wave and covid, of course, there was the cost of living hype with “heat or eat,” and dire predictions of how no one was coming out of the current financial situation alive. Yeah…it’s tough. We’ve been impacted just like everyone else. But I remember hearing what extraordinary challenges folks faced during the Great Depression—and I feel blessed. And I feel cold. It’s ‘summer here and all the way up to 55.4 degrees with the typical canopy of clouds. And I feel angry because my husband was one of those who followed the lure of the fear mongers and took the jags—and now has Parkinson’s Disease. While the fear mongers try desperately to make the killer heat wave last…I watch my husband stumble through the house and catch the door frames between rooms to keep from falling. I see him struggle, making up to five failed attempts to get out of a chair. I see his inability to get in and out of bed at night; zip his jacket; get out of the shower; fasten his seatbelt, get out of the car.

Meanwhile, I think of all the Bible truths that the fear mongers could shout to the world to help instead of scare. Like the 365 “fear nots” in the Bible. Like trusting God in all circumstances. Like Psalm 91: 9, “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling, for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

No fear here.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

What’s the Message?

I was rather flabbergasted when an extremely attractive woman in her 50s said she was competing on a game show to win enough money for cosmetic surgery. She said parts of her body had “gone south,” and she wanted to win enough money to prop them up again.

Folks are entitled to use their money, or their winnings from a game show, for whatever they choose. What flabbergasted me was that the woman was a gospel singer. It made me wonder if she just memorized the songs and parroted them without hearing the message contained within the words. For example, Lauren Daigle’s, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

This world is not our home. We are here only a short time. If we turn our eyes upon Jesus, our Creator and the Creator and Savior of heaven and earth—our focus is not on us—but on Him. How God sees us is more important than how other people see us and pleasing people fades in the light and brightness of pleasing Jesus.

God doesn’t look at our hair color or style, our makeup, our tattoos, our body or other jewelry, our outward appearance—God looks at our heart. Things like cosmetic surgery and makeovers are temporary—like the petals of a flower falling from the bloom. Our kindness, gentleness, love, joy, peace, self-control, goodness and faithfulness are forever, treasures stored ahead of us in heaven waiting to be reclaimed when we get there.

The LORD said, “Do not look at his appearance, or his physical stature…for the LORD does not see as a man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the hearts.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

Knowing that the Lord is watching our hearts rather than our aging bodies should give us all comfort and peace. And just think of how much money it saves!

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Where Newton Got it Wrong

Most people know how Sir Isaac Newton sat under an apple tree and an apple fell and hit him on the head. Anyone else would have yelled, “Ouch!” But Newton discovered the law of gravity.

Newton was a brilliant scientist and theologian and he can’t be blamed for not discovering the second principle of gravity—because he was only 22 in 1665 when the apple hit him on the head. Gravity’s pull on a person grows stronger as the person grows older and weaker. Even now—I am typing with a broken arm. Gravity. The older a person is the easier they fall because the pull of gravity increases with age. Thus the body parts “gone south” truism.

First it was the left knee. Doctors called it arthritis, but I know it was gravity. The cartilage got tired of supporting the top half and the bottom half of the knee and said, “Vacation time! I’m out of here.” It left and forgot to come back. Bone-to-bone, the two halves of the left leg couldn’t get along. Their lack of cooperation made it impossible to walk pain free and nearly impossible to walk at all. Thus a human adjustment to neutralize the power of gravity so the top and bottom half of the leg would stop bickering. A knee replacement.

And if this isn’t enough proof of gravity’s increasing power on aging bodies, the right hip joined the fray. Again, the orthopedic surgeon called it arthritis, but it’s not his fault that he never heard about the second part of Newton’s law. Newton was brilliant. He advanced to other spectacular achievements like building a reflecting telescope and discovering the theory of color. Plus, he was a professor of mathematics—and that would keep anyone busy.

Then it was the arm. My final proof that the fall of the knee and the fall of the hip were gravity-related. I’m sitting here typing with a cast on my left arm and arthritis is not involved. The culprit was gravity. I fell. As people age, they fall more easily. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. I did not land on my newly installed left knee or my newly twice-installed right hip. I landed on my good right knee—and my arm. While I am ever so thankful to God for His protection, I am still pondering His creation and installation of that natural law of gravity—especially the second part. Suddenly those moon shots look pretty good. And I am wishing that Sir Isaac Newton had carried his theory to completion so we could have learned it in school and expected it in latter life: as the body ages and grows weaker, the pull of gravity magnifies and grows stronger.

God rules. Psalm 59:13

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Proper Support

Nearly two weeks ago I fell in the kitchen and fractured my wrist.

First the x-ray machine at the hospital was broken. I got sent home with a splint and told to take some pain relief and come back the next day when the machine was fixed. As a result of the x-ray, I was instructed to keep the splint on day and night and wait for a referral to the fracture clinic.

The splint helped and within a few days I no longer needed pain relief. I went back to my normal activities, ignoring the frequent aching and bursts of sharp pain when I twisted the wrist wrong or put too much weight on it.

Finally, I got the appointment to the fracture clinic. They put a hard cast on my wrist. Wow! Suddenly the aching pain was gone. I can use my arm without bursts of pain, because now that my wrist has the proper support it doesn’t twist or turn in awkward positions. I can even get to sleep quickly without moving my arm all around the bed in experimental positions.

Proper support.

Everyone needs a good support system in life. Spouses, family members, friends, pets—all valuable members of our support team. All endeavor to keep us from twisting and turning in painful directions when life shatters us. Sadly, our support team members can fail us due to their temporary natures. All of them are subject to leaving holes in our lives when death claims them.

We have one permanent support team member who will never fail us. God is everlasting.  “God will comfort all who mourn. He will give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Isaiah 61:3.

Proper support.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Talking Flowers

Flowers talk. Out loud.

Anyone who doubts that flowers talk out loud has never listened.

Close to our house is a garden that used to sing in the summer. The woman who lived there inhabited the garden caring for the flowers—planting, weeding, watering. She talked to them. She sang to them. She loved them. Most of all—she loved them.

She left.

The person who lives in the singing garden now does not care for the flowers. He does not talk to them. He does not sing to them. He does not love them. He doesn’t even notice them.

The garden has fallen silent. The flowers have lost their songs. They have lost their voices. Love gave them the joy that empowered them to sing.

Love someone—or something—today. Give them the joy that will empower them to sing.

“For love is as strong as death…Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.” Song of Solomon 8:6-7.

Love is the universal language that makes even the mute sing.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Get Me Out of Here

Making the 90-mile one-way drive between my home in Lovelock, Nevada, and my work place in Reno with a young hyperactive son—I often wished I could be plucked off the heavily travelled interstate and deposited safely at my job. And often during the hard times and hard places in life I’ve had that same thought. I’ve wanted to shout at God, “Get me out of here!”

Who wouldn’t like to be gifted with a large amount of money during a financial crisis rather than taking a second job and working through it? Who wouldn’t like a cancer diagnosis reversed rather than going through brutal medical treatment? Who wouldn’t like to glide effortlessly through the hard places in life rather than fighting and slogging through them? How many times do we beg God to remove obstacles rather than making us overcome them?

When my hip replacement became infected, I spent two-and-a-half months in the hospital. I wanted to shout at God, “Get me out of here!” I wanted God to take me back to the initial surgery and do it all over again with a different result. I wanted easy and painless instead of hard and painful.

One of my favorite Bible verses is: “In everything give thanks.” Another of my favorite verses is: “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” I quoted those to myself daily while I was in the hospital—but I still wanted out.

Now that I am out, I am thanking the Lord again for making me go through rather than taking me out. I wrote two books while I was in the hospital. “Utopia House Murder” has already been released and “Mirrored Murder” will be released within the next week. One of the characters in “Mirrored Murder” was inspired by a woman who was in my ward. That character makes the cozy mystery-romance come alive, just as the person who inspired the character made our ward come alive. Additionally, I made two lasting friends. One of them, at 90, has no family and few friends. She lives close enough to us that I can walk over to visit. The other—who is 80—pops over to Dunoon, Scotland, to visit us both.

I wanted out. I didn’t want to go through. Yet God continues to bless me for the through path my life took.

When Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to remove the thorn in his flesh, the Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

I know that. I believe that. But I also know that at some time before my life on this earth is over I am going to shout at God again…“Get me out of here!”

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Seagull Wiggles

When seagulls land on a surface they do a wing shuffle and wiggle their feathers as if they are saying, “Good for me. Another fine landing.”

God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, but He is pleased when we appreciate ourselves and our efforts. He created us. He gave us our talents. When we appreciate ourselves—we are praising the Creator who fashioned us in the womb.

“You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13 & 14.

So give yourself permission to do a little wing shuffle and seagull wiggle today. You are special and specially made. There is no one else on this incredible, diverse earth who is just like you. And that is a good reason for preening and wiggling with joy.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Saving Mouse

Mouse came to us approximately two years ago during the pandemic. That is to say that Mouse showed up on our little back deck and sat quietly eating seed with the birds. Mouse was a polite little friend and never attempted to breach house etiquette by coming inside. Mice outside are cute. Mice inside are not.

Enter Cat. Stalking Mouse. Not our cat—we don’t have one. This large black and white cat claimed our back deck for his convenience when we first moved here four years ago—but he comes and goes and we don’t know who he owns. He’s been mostly gone the past two years and we’ve seen him around the neighborhood crossing the street and sitting on the top of rock fences in different locations. Since he doesn’t seem interested in hurting the birds that feed on our deck we’ve made him feel welcome. I even went out and pet him this morning since I hadn’t seen him in a long time.

Then we realized why the large black and white not-our-cat was back. He was stalking Mouse. The dilemma. We like our little mouse with polite manners—and our deck is a place of sanctuary. We don’t want carnage on our back porch. There’s too much of that in the world already. Cat had to go. First we opened the door and stepped out on the porch a few times knowing that Cat likes privacy—but Cat liked stalking Mouse more than privacy. Next we decided to engage nature by employing Dog. Dog ran out the door barking furiously, took one look at cat and fled back inside the house nearly knocking me down. In her defense, Cat is big—and with his back arched and fur standing up—Cat is really big and Dog was really scared.

Mouse remained in danger because Cat crouched back down next to the planter waiting for Mouse to make an appearance. What to do…we wanted Cat to leave, but we didn’t want to hurt Cat either. Our porch is a sanctuary.

Enter Husband who is being stalked by a couple of physical conditions—which no doubt gives him even more empathy for Mouse. He suggested throwing a glass of water in Cat’s direction. I didn’t want to do this after petting Cat—so he did. Cat vanished over the edge of the porch to find a dry (since it isn’t raining today) fence where he can sit and preside over neighborhood affairs. Mouse is on the deck quietly sharing food with the birds.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak.”

Sometimes to save a mouse—one must throw water.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle