Not Perfect

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We live in Dunoon, Scotland, with good neighbors, friendly folks, a great church, a wonderful pastor, wife, and congregation—and plenty of walking places including along the banks of the Firth of Clyde where the wind whips the salty water and air into a fresh smell that thrills the soul. Walking the back streets of Dunoon in the afternoon is like stepping back in time to an Andy Griffith show: neighborhood children playing together and riding bikes on the sidewalks while the aroma of moms’ cooking steals out of open windows and hangs in the air.

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But Dunoon is not perfect. It’s not just the marine climate, cool temperatures, and scarcity of sun that mars the perfection of our retirement home—it’s that age-old spoiler of all good things—sin. If you lift up the outer edges of life here you see that just like in the rest of the world some people struggle with life-stealing addictions. There is a police station in Dunoon because there is crime, just as there has been on the earth since Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the one tree in the entire Garden of Eden that God commanded them not to. Sin never stays small and manageable—it grows and morphs into a monster that kills, steals, and destroys.

Enter Treasury. That’s the world I created from the Bible for my Christian Fantasy, “Voices in the Wind,” which has earned an orange flag as a bestseller and already has one 5-Star review now—mere days after its release. Treasury is such an alluring place to be that I run there at night and hide in its beauty if I have trouble getting to sleep. Treasury is much like Heaven—yet it is not perfect. Rhoda lifts up the curtain of rain and finds herself in Treasury, but must prove her right to stay there by crossing a divide, climbing Verboten Mountain and engaging huge Bullet Train Ants, enormous serpents, armed warriors, and Dino Birds in her bid to stay in Treasury and marry her soul mate. But Rhoda’s cruelest enemy proves to be human.

Treasury is not perfect. Only Heaven, created by God, is perfect. The Bible assures us that once we get to Heaven we will have new bodies and there will be no more sorrow, tears, pain, illness, or parting. Nothing that defiles will be admitted to Heaven. So if you haven’t already joined the throng for Heaven, come on aboard. Believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved. He is driving the train.

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When to Clap

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Recently bestselling author Val Poore (https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Poore/e/B008LSV6CE?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1564318680&sr=1-1) wrote a brilliant blog on the differences between UK and US language. As a new to the UK dog owner, I decided to highlight some interesting canine differences.

Folks here don’t ask to pet your dog, they ask to “clap” it. The first time I heard that I was horrified. What loving pet owner wants a stranger to hit his or her hands together against your poor terrified puppy?

One doesn’t walk a dog on a leash here. It’s a lead. You don’t bathe your dog, you bath it. You don’t feed it supper, you give it tea. You don’t tell your dog “no” when it picks up unsavory morsels, you tell it “leave.”

I’m sure there are many other differences, because after all—babies in the UK suck on dummies, not pacifiers. They don’t wear diapers, they wear nappies. All drinks that aren’t tea or coffee are lemonade. I don’t know what lemonade is called. Bangs are “fringes” and in polite company you don’t say “poof.” But I’ll leave that one for readers to figure out.

The love for furry family members is the same in both countries. So is kindness. And God’s unfailing capacity for miracles. We took our six-month-old rough collie Savannah to North Berwick for dental surgery. We had to walk back to our B&B, a distance of about a mile. We didn’t realize when we left the clinic that Savannah hadn’t fully recovered from surgery. She suddenly plopped down on the grass, stretched out on her side and could go no further. I had already been carrying the 40-pound dog on a knee that requires surgical repair.

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Enter human angel. God sent him. He appeared out of nowhere and told us that the clinic had released Savannah too soon and she would never be able to walk as far as our B&B. He called the vet clinic and told them Savannah was coming back for a couple of hours. He even offered to carry her. My Texas stubbornness kicked in and I assured him that I could carry the 40-pound pup back uphill to the station. I’m on crutches now.

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Languages, Lost, Learning

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We just returned from an Andre Rieu concert in his hometown of Maastricht, the Netherlands. The concert was phenomenal.

We got lost getting in and out of our first hotel—not once, not twice—but every time. It had four corridors on our floor and only one of them led to a tiny, old fashioned two-person elevator. Since an x-ray proved extensive damage to my left knee even if the pain didn’t, taking the lift instead of four flights of stairs seemed prudent. Change the equation to include our unfailing ability to get lost…and I’m not sure the elevator was the best choice.

Blame the train for the next drama. Heading back to Amsterdam there was an announcement over the speakers in Dutch. Only in Dutch. Then the train stopped and everyone got off. Everyone but us. Finally, a kind English-speaking fellow traveler stuck her head into our empty carriage and said, “You have to get off here and take another train.”

So we did. Again an announcement. Again only in Dutch. The train stopped. Everyone got off. Just as we were stepping off the train, a low-flying fighter zoomed over the station with deafening noise. My heart thumped. Were we in the middle of a war and no one told us? How would we know? We couldn’t understand a word of Dutch.

This time, I spotted a train conductor and chased him down…yes…it hurt. He said there would be another train in 38 minutes. Wait where we were. Not even five minutes later, he shouted at us and pointed. Our train was boarding and it was way up the track from where we patiently stood. Again the running on sad knee. We made it…but it was standing-room-only and no one could move, much less sit down. So a two-hour standing train trip with a barrage of Dutch that we couldn’t understand. We still didn’t even know if we were at war.

It gave me new compassion for people who immigrate to another country and don’t know the language. It gave me new compassion for babies who—regardless of their native language—start out in a world of confusing sounds and words that they don’t know. It gave me new compassion for puppies, who like babies, must learn every new word.

We stepped off the train in Amsterdam and quickly got lost at the back of the station when we tried to find a cab. We also nearly got run over by scores of racing bikes. We didn’t know that the red paved paths around the city were bike lanes. Bikes outnumber cars by millions, the taxi driver said—when we finally found him. Amsterdam was built for bikes. We saw one mom with two children and a basket on her bike and another child skating behind holding onto the bike. We saw bikes delivering hot meals, carrying rolls of carpets, carrying huge plants. We saw bike riders holding umbrellas as they rode one-handed. We even saw riders using no hands, just their knees as they raced by at incredible speeds.

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We took a canal tour and saw people living on houseboats and barges. It was a trend hippies started back in the 1960s. It became so popular that now only wealthy people can afford to live on the water in Amsterdam.

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My favorite part of the trip, besides seeing Andre Rieu, was meeting River Girl, Val Poore, an awesome bestselling author who writes about living and remodeling barges with such humor and talent that she makes even plumbing interesting. Being on the canals and watching the bikes race bike reminded me of her unique and beautifully written book, “The Skipper’s Child,” which is now also in Dutch. https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Poore/e/B008LSV6CE?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1563827204&sr=1-1

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And the event on the train reminded me of Jesus. How could we understand God’s Heavenly language without earthly tones had not Jesus come to this earth as a Man and taught us? Now we have the Bible in a language we can understand and it continues to be printed in languages for every nation of the world. God’s Book. A Living Book. A language to share with the entire world.

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Miracle Flea

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My sister, internationally bestselling author Leslie Garcia, has been slowly going blind for more than a year while she worked on organizing her insurance, help at home, and an eye surgeon so she could have cataracts removed from both eyes. She was basically totally blind in her left eye and had such limited sight in her right eye that she had a hard time discerning whether a large object was a horse, a car, or a semi-truck. She gave up driving. Sometimes when she put up groceries, things that should have gone into the refrigerator wound up in the kitchen cupboard with napkins and potato chips.

Finally, she had surgery on her left eye. And saw a flea. It was a miracle. For a person too blind to tell a horse from a truck, being able to see a flea again was a miracle.

That’s how we are with God sometimes. We want the big stuff. We forget flea-sized miracles. Every breath we take is a miracle. Every step we take is a miracle. Waking up to a new day is a miracle. But we get so focused on watching out for horses, semi-trucks, and cars—that we miss the fleas.

“In everything give thanks,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Don’t forget the fleas.

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Butterflies and Changes

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Yeah, I get it. Without changes, there would be no butterflies. But I strongly disagree with Robin Sharma who said, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and glorious at the end.”

My comics are gone and that’s a change and that is not glorious – it’s disappointing.

First thing every morning I add my four favorite comics to my breakfast bar and Diet Coke to get the day off with a smile and a chuckle. Sometimes even a belly laugh. First the comics disappeared off Yahoo. Change. Not good. Then I found another site with my favorites. Now it’s news. Change. Not good. Regardless of whether the news on the site is real or fake, I miss my smiles, chuckles, and belly laughs.

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To get myself in a better frame of mind, I’ve read inspirational quotes about change. Nido Qubein said, “Change brings opportunity.” Good for him. But I wonder if he had to put two pairs of glasses on to read his witticism. Change. Not good.

For a writer, some changes are great. No more hammering out books on typewriters with stiff keys committed to catching fingers between the pads. Instant communication with editors, etc. Being able to change stories and move sentences and characters around without ripping pages out of the carriage and throwing them on the floor.

But vanishing comics? That’s a change too far.

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When Bodies Fall From Planes

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It was a tragedy and a shock when a body fell out of a plane and into a garden as a plane was landing in London. It must have traumatized the homeowner and neighbors, and how tragic for the stowaway and his family.

Life is like that sometimes: pianos fall out of the sky; bodies fall out of planes; joggers get killed by bears; hikers fall off mountains; doctors come back with a cancer diagnosis—the world wakes up to hear that a terrorist attack brought down the Twin Towers in New York City. The unexpected happens.

We laugh at superstitious people refusing to leave their beds on Friday the 13th—but sometimes that seems temping regardless of the day or date. Perhaps that’s because I’m getting older and need two pairs of glasses at the same time to read small print.

Yet…God is in control.

I think I would stay in bed and isolate myself from the world were it not for what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin, and not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.”

God is in control. He knows. He understands.

The unexpected can be joyous. My son Luke finished a marathon in New York. A sparrow flew down to his shoulder panting. Luke shared water from his water bottle with it and after a few minutes the little bird regained its strength and courage to fly again.

When we let go of the unexpected and let God handle it—we can regain our strength and courage.

God is in control.

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It’s the Little Things

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People celebrate big events in life; the acquisition of a new car or a new home, a pay raise, a vacation. But it’s the small things in life that count.

Feeling your nose starting to run and reaching into your pocket—and yes! You have a tissue.

Taking a photo of something unique or important that you will never see again—and the picture turns out.

Dropping a lid on the floor and it lands the right way up.

Getting an unexpected extra hour of sleep in the morning and not being late for anything.

Having a flurry of soap bubbles rush up from the sink when you wash dishes.

Finding the keys in the first coat pocket you search.

Discovering a beautiful flower blooming in a rock wall and knowing that—with God’s help—you can overcome your problems.

New homes age, new vehicles get dents, pay raises are spent, vacations end. But I always smile when the lid lands the right way on the floor, or when brightly colored soap bubbles burst into the air when I’m washing dishes.

Little things. It’s the little things in life that count.

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God Returns

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I was at a “hole-in-the-wall” bank getting money out when I spotted a homeless person. I thought to myself, “I have a little bit of change I can give him.” The Lord said, “Give him a ten.”

So instead of getting out the 40 I had planned, I got out 50, and walked over and gave him the 10, then went into the store. Let me explain that I never, absolutely never put loose money in my pockets because I carry so many other things in them: camera, doggie bags, tissues, keys, billfold, glasses case. So I never stick money in my pockets in case I accidentally pull it out and lose it when I’m getting something else.

I got into the store and couldn’t find my customer card, so I reached my hand into my pocket and pulled out a 10.

When I was in Texas at a book signing the Lord told me to bless two different people at two different times by giving each of them $100, so I did. Just before I boarded the plane for my flight back to Scotland I was handed two separate cards which I opened on the plane. Each one contained $100. It’s impossible to out give God.

“Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

I am no one and nothing special. God has no favorites. He put laws into the universe and His laws are unchanging. People attempt to amend morals and convictions for society and some believe in their power to accomplish that.

But God never moves.

sunflowers and butterfly laredo december

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Punks, Partisan Pastors, and Politics

As always, InsanityBytes gets it right, so I am sharing the blog: “We aren’t here to give glory to the masses, seeking the favor of people, we are here to give glory to God.”

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

For those blessed to be living on the side of a rock in a beautiful lighthouse far, far from people, Sunday Franklin Graham called for a day of prayer for President Trump. Needless to say this set off a bit of a firestorm, a bright orange firestorm with a bad comb over. To stoke the fires and fuel the controversy a bit more, President Trump visited McClean Bible Church, where Pastor David Platt then prayed for the president on stage.

So now Franklin Graham is in big trouble from the masses, as is David Platt. Not sure we really need the “m” on that word “masses,” but whatever.

It’s really a non story, as in we always pray for our leaders. If you don’t like your leaders, you pray twice as hard for them. Like, “Lord, bless this fool with some wisdom.” Bit tongue and cheek there, but it’s true…

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Stubbornness

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God has blessed us with a lovely, intelligent rough collie puppy. She has only one flaw—stubbornness. When she doesn’t want to go the way we are going it evolves into a tugging match and ends up with me dragging her.

It seems cruel to drag a puppy across the street or down the sidewalk—but when the light changes and cars are coming from both directions, or when there are workers ahead with dangerous equipment—dragging is a kindness that saves her life.

Stubbornness is an admirable trait in a writer. With 150 rejection slips from publishing companies in the U.S. and U.K.—I kept writing. With 40 years of disappointments and agony, I kept hitting the keys. My new Christian Cozy Mystery “Croft Murders,” featuring Mike the Headless rooster, Fiona the pouting rooster, and croft owner Nora whom someone wants to kill would not have been published without stubbornness.

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Nor would I be working on another book after the first review on “Croft Murders” was a three-star from a reader who said I didn’t know enough about Texas. I was born there and moved from Texas to Scotland eight years ago. Texas is indeed “a whole ‘nother country” with every climate and eco system imaginable. The tornado stricken, flat, snowy panhandle; the lovely Texas Hill Country with its plethora of wildlife; the nearly desert environs along the Mexico border; the east Texas piney woods and oil wells, and the west Texas mountains and Big Bend State Park. The reviewer apparently didn’t know much about home of my heart, the Texas Hill Country, because everything I mentioned about Texas in “Croft Murders” reflected a true experience.

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Savannah and I have worked out a compromise. As long as she’s in no physical danger, and as long as it’s not extremely important to go to any one particular place—I put the leash on her and follow her. Now before anyone reaches the conclusion that I’m a coward, or have never trained a dog before, I would just like to justify that compromise by pointing to…writing. Yup, all of y’all, writing.

The characters in my books come alive and take over the plot and action. Without dropping a spoiler about “Croft Murders,” before the characters took over, I planned a completely different outcome for Nora. Therefore, I can justify my decision to “go with the flow” where Savannah is concerned. I’m used to being dragged around.

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