Acres of Diamonds

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Acres of diamonds at my feet in the winter as each blade of crystallized grass releases myriad sparkles into the night. Dome of diamonds stretching across the summer sky at night.

Gold sun blitzing the sky during the day and gold traversing the sky at night.

Acres of diamonds, rivers of gold.

And yet…people lock diamonds in jewel boxes, hide gold in safes, and gather material goods to hoard in their houses. Instead of realizing that each day is a gift from God and holding it close…they hold gifts close and let God go.

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Importance of One

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I admire bestselling author and blog writer Valerie Poore for many reasons, one of which is her fascinating and enduring books, which can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Poore/e/B008LSV6CE?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1574431296&sr=1-1 Another reason I admire her is the frequency and dependency of her blogs. Fulltime teaching, writing, historic barge repairs and retrofits, terrible, depressing weather—nothing stops her from gifting her followers with a blog each week. She announced this week in her blog that she’s taking some well-deserved time off, but will be back.

Me? I sit back and wait for a blog to fall on top of me before I hit the keyboard. Sometimes it happens once a week. Often it happens once in a while. What fell on me this week was the importance of one person. One person can make a difference.

While I was researching facts about Quartzsite, Arizona, for a book that will be released in January, I was astonished to run into Hi Jolly again. I first met him at the Frontier Times Museum when I was doing research for an article in a local Bandera, Texas, newspaper. He was a camel driver brought to the U.S. from Syria in the 1860s to head up the government’s failed experimental Camel Corps during the Civil War. Camels’ hooves proved too tender to traverse the rocky ground of the west, especially the Texas Hill Country—and they spooked horses. It was considered excellent when they spooked Indian horses—but less excellent when they spooked Army horses. Hi Jolly died in Quartzsite in 1902. A rock pyramid topped with an etched metal camel marks Hi Jolly’s grave. One person.

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So, too, with J Marvin Hunter, a hero of mine. I met him again this week when I was researching Mason, Texas, for a future book. I fell in love with J Marvin Hunter when I researched the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera, Texas, and ran my hands over the rock walls he built himself using unique and unusual rocks that he found and those that admirers brought him. Hunter published Bandera’s newspaper for many years while also publishing the Frontier Times Magazine, and writing and publishing books about infamous western outlaws. He wanted to build a museum to safeguard and share the many unique items in his collection—including a shrunken head from Ecuador, a shrunken dog from Ecuador, a two-headed goat, 400 bells from around the world, some worn by elephants, a battle to the death between a rattlesnake and a roadrunner, and the head mounts of two deer with interlocking horns that died battling one another—but money was scare during the depression, so he wrote and published books to finance the building of the museum, which today boats of more than 40,000 exhibits. One person.

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Then there is Jesus. Jesus who gave up His home in heaven to live here on earth and touch us with His saving mercy and grace. Jesus. One Person.

We can’t all write books, drive camels, build museums—and none of us can be God—but we can all make a difference.

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Criticizing Criticisms

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There are a few comics that I read every morning for a light, funny, uplifting start to the day. Usually.

Today I made the mistake of glancing at the comments. Every comment under every comic was a criticism. On one comic, someone had ridiculed the way the ant was drawn. On another comic, someone had said that babies kicking inside their mothers would not make the noises the cartoonist had drawn as a way to illustrate how lively the baby was. Really, folks? Did those derogatory comments make you laugh and give you a happy start to your day?

Not everyone is a Christian, so not everyone makes Jesus Christ their example. All who heard Jesus wondered at the “gracious words” that He spoke, words filled with power, spirit, and life. Not criticism.

The book of Proverbs is full of advice about how we should use our tongues: A man shall eat well by the fruit of the mouth; A wholesome tongue is a tree of life; He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast; A word spoken in due season, how good it is; Death and life are in the power of the tongue; A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Why is it easier to criticize than to praise? It shouldn’t be. It really shouldn’t be.

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Misplaced Planet

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The headline first thing in the morning made me want to go back to bed, cover up my head, and let the rest of the world go by. Being claustrophobic and unwilling to cover up my head at any time—I stayed up to vent in this blog.

“Our Planet is in the Wrong Place.” Really? The Lord God Who created heaven and earth, who hung the earth on nothing, and who put everything into orbit made a mistake? I don’t think so.

Atheists and scientists endeavor to explain the creation of the world through various theories that deny “in the beginning God,” but they come up empty. A watch is made with a pattern, skill, and purposeful action. Put the parts into a box and they simply won’t assemble themselves no matter how much pressure, time, or exertion goes into waiting for them to evolve. Blow a watch up with a big bang and good luck finding the pieces.

Our collie puppy is ten months old. She’s a beautiful dog and has all the right parts—except one. Her pancreas is too small. She has Epi, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and because she has that she must take enzymes every time she eats for the rest of her life. Just one malfunctioning body part and our collie pup’s life hangs in the balance. If just one part of the anatomy is vital to the survival of a life, how can anyone imagine that life just happened with no intelligent design or Designer. “In the beginning God created” explains how we got here on this beautiful planet that has a perfect orbit and is the perfect distance from the sun for life to exist.

Our planet is in the wrong place? No, but some people’s heads are in the wrong place.

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Rock-Eating Dogs

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Politics aside (we were just kids), my sister and I were appalled by something President Lyndon Johnson used to do; he picked his beagles up by their ears. I use that memory in my newest cozy Christian mystery, “Herding Bats.” Also the frustration of dealing with dementia. But back to President Johnson’s dogs.

If he were still alive today, I would have to apologize to President Johnson for my harsh judgment of him for allowing his beagles to eat rocks. As a kid, I couldn’t imagine anyone letting their dogs eat rocks. Now we have a rock-eating dog.

Our blue merle rough collie puppy started eating rocks, a symptom we have since learned of Epi, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Savannah will have to take enzymes with her food for the rest of her life. Her rock eating spate thankfully stopped after the enzymes started.

I don’t know why the Prez’s beagles ate rocks. But I do know that I was stupid and judgmental, a habit just as ugly, dangerous and damaging as eating rocks. “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” James 4:12 warns . I hadn’t read it when I was a kid – and sadly – I tend to forget it now as an adult. But having a rock-eating dog has humbled, taught, and reminded me. God has a right to judge. I don’t.

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Loving Where You Live

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We live in Dunoon, Scotland. I love it. It’s beautiful and interesting—but the people make the difference. They are great.

Our rough collie Savannah just turned nine months old. For the past two months, she has battled constant diarrhea and wouldn’t eat. When her diarrhea started occurring every fifteen minutes, I called our local vet practice, Bute & Cowal Vets. Dr. Catriona MacIntyre got up out of bed and met us there at 3:00 a.m., sweeping aside apologies for interrupting her sleep. Savannah was no better on Saturday, so Catriona performed surgery, removing tissue for biopsies. When Savannah was worse on Monday, Catriona sent her to Glasgow to an emergency animal hospital. When Savannah started discharging blood and quickly fouled three diapers in a row, Catriona ran back and forth from her surgery to the taxi cab bringing towels, wet wipes, a huge roll of paper towels. By the time we arrived in Glasgow with Savannah, Catriona was already on the phone to them asking if Savannah had arrived yet and how she was doing.

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For the next three days, Savannah was in the hospital and Catriona called the hospital regularly to check on her. Moreover, when I called Clyde Taxi to schedule a trip home—the dispatcher and the driver who had taken us immediately asked how Savannah was doing.

We got back home to find FB messages and posts asking about Savannah, many from our New Life Christian Fellowship friends, many from FB friends, and some from complete strangers who had seen Savannah’s pictures on FB and who had been praying for her.

Dunoon is a great place to live. Wherever you live is a great place to live. In spite of negative and false news – so is this world. Love it, treasure it, be thankful for it. Neither this world – nor any of us – will last forever. But isn’t it good to know that wherever you live is a great place to be?

“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:17

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Excesses

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The man was about the size and shape of a refrigerator, except with extra padding in front—padding that pushed him away from the table and his food. Like the man, his food was considerable: a full Scottish breakfast (bacon, sausage, black pudding, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, an egg, and toast); a bacon and egg filled bun; two bottles of Pepsi; two cappuccinos; two desserts.

It was the man’s business. It was the man’s body. It was his money. His bill for one meal was as much as ours for two. Moving seemed to be a problem for him, even though he looked like he was in his early forties. He grabbed and pushed everything he could get his hands on to haul himself out of his chair and get to his feet. When he moved forward, he limped on both legs as if his knees hurt. Some folks have medical conditions that contribute to obesity. The man was probably hungry and with a body that big, it must take food fuel to move it. Still, I thought part of his overweight problem might be the excesses; a filled bacon and egg roll on top of the full breakfast, the two desserts, two bottles of pop and two cappuccinos.

When do our excesses become someone else’s business? When do we not have a right to our own bodies and to treat them however we want?

The Biblical answer is that we do not own our bodies. God does. God created us. Then He purchased life for eternity for us through the death of His Son Jesus. We are twice owned by God. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple are you.” 1 Corinthians 3:17.

Because sin entered the world through Adam and Eve and sin brought death into the world, we all begin the journey toward death at our births. God didn’t want this or intend this—His plan was always eternal life. That’s why our bodies have great capacity for healing. But old age and death approach as steadily as a fish being reeled in on a rod until the net slaps under it and catches it. None of us can halt the day of our death, but we can fight against the excesses that destroy our bodies, the temples of God; gluttony, alcoholism, drug use, smoking. We can’t stop the reel and escape the net—but neither should we willingly leap into it.

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Bye Butterflies Bye

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The butterflies are gone.

The bees are gone.

The sun is gone.

Heat is gone.

The land languishes

Waiting for the ambush

Of cold and snow

And the melting

That will send spring again.

This is the time of year I feel morose. I hate winter. I hate cold. Snow has no appeal for me. This is the time of year I embrace suffering rather than hope; find negativity more natural than optimism.

I have no right to feel that way. God made both summer and winter and had reasons for creating both. Some people love winter and cold and tramping around in the snow, or hooking up with skis and winter sports equipment. And some folks hate summer and hot temperatures as much as I hate winter.

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I haven’t found a cure for my winter dread, but reading Ecclesiastes helps. King Solomon was the richest, wisest man in the world. He wrote, To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted.

Winter is a time of plucking up. A time of dying. Butterflies are gone. Bees are gone. Sadness would stay, except I’ve read the next book in the Bible, Song of Solomon. The winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Spring will come again.

The Bible promises: While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease. Genesis 8:22.

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Misconceptions

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Many people believe it—but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Adam and Eve ate an apple. They ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Many people believe it—but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. It says the Lord prepared a big fish to swallow him. Scientists out to shoot holes in the Bible have conducted studies to prove that a person could not be swallowed by a whale and survive. And yet—surely the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth is well able to prepare “a big fish” to swallow Jonah.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere.

Christmas cards portray bright fields of snow and evergreen trees decked with white—yet in many parts of the world—it never snows.

I got a bad review on one of my books from a reviewer who said, “We don’t have street vendors in the UK.” I based the character on a street vendor in Inverness, Scotland. The reviewer lived in England.

I got a bad review on another book from a person who said if I wrote about Texas, I should learn about it first. I was born in Texas.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere.

We all look at the world through the eyes of our experiences. If one has never read the Bible and relies on things other people have said—fruit becomes an apple and prepared fish becomes a whale. If one lives in northern climates, one will expect the whole world to have snow on Christmas. If one lives in England instead of Scotland, one may believe the UK has no street vendors. If one lives in tornado alley in north Texas, that person would not know about the plethora of wildlife in the Texas Hill Country.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere. We can do our part by focusing on bigger issues than fruit, fish, or real or imagined mistakes in books.

Kindness is a good starting place. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Kindness is love in action and leaves no room for misconceptions.

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Alligators Climb Fences

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You are sitting on your porch steps watching your toddler play with your dog and thinking all is right in your world when an alligator climbs the fence and plops into the yard. It happens.

Alligators crash into our everyday lives stealing our joy and smashing our peace. Hurricane Dorian just trashed the Bahamas. Evelyn Cartwright discovered she had an inoperable brain tumor. Alligators. They are everywhere.

As I write this blog, an alligator crashed into our lives and sent our seven-month-old rough collie to the vet to be on a drip today. And my knee hurts. No appointment with the orthopedic surgeon yet—nearly two months overdue. Alligators. They belong in swamps. They are destructive and deadly when they climb fences and drop into folks’ lives.

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No matter how much time, energy, and money we put into fence-building, and no matter how strong and high we build the fences—we can’t stop alligators. The biggest gator to climb the fence and crash into my life was on November 17, 2013, when my son USMC Major Luke Parker flew a plane from earth to heaven.

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We can’t stop tragedy, but God and His Word give us help, hope, and strength. “Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter:12, 13. Even the Apostle Paul got bitten by gators.

My two favorite verses in the entire Bible: “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and “ALL things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28)

When gators climb your fence and snap at you—rebuke them in the name of Jesus. Evelyn Cartwright did. She’s healed.

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