Freedom Behind Fences

I got a good chuckle when Savannah rushed at hooded crows with all the exuberance of puppyhood. The crows ignored her. They were behind a fence.

Some people fear becoming Christians because they think it will mean losing their freedom. Yet the crows behind the stadium fence are free to visit together, fly, hop, gather food, drink from clear rain puddles, find homes in trees—and participate in other crowly activities. They are also free from attack. Free from fear.

The Bible instructs Christ Followers not to do anything that will destroy their bodies. Not smoking is not a loss of freedom, it frees the non-smoker from a host of smoking-related health issues.

Not drinking alcohol breaks the chains of addiction, violence, spouse abuse, child abuse, drunk driving, car wrecks, and arrests.

Not coveting frees a person from depression and removes the temptation to steal. Not stealing frees a person from the rigors of life behind bars.

Not committing adultery frees a person from contacting sexual diseases, or courting the ire of a wronged spouse.

Not committing idolatry and loving God with all heart, soul, mind, and body frees Christ Followers to live in love, peace, joy, and assurance of everlasting life after this one.

Worldly fences restrict. God’s fences free.

Mysterious Ways

One of our friends frequently declares, “God works in mysterious ways.” He does.

It is a mystery of God that husband Alan McKean and I met. He lived in Scotland. I lived in Texas. If the staff writer who was scheduled to interview him had arrived at work that day—I would not have gone to interview him and we would not have met.

It is a mystery of God that I ever left Texas. Partially due to a bad decision, my house and property was stolen out from under me. I stood beside my packed truck with tears running down my face and prayed, “Lord, if you don’t want me to leave Texas, now would be a good time for one of Your miracles.” The miracle turned out not to be that I stayed in Texas, but rather that after I left—Alan and I re-connected and got married. I moved to Scotland, and since that move I’ve written 24 books, 10 of which are set in Scotland.

As in the Garth Brooks’ song, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

My life is filled with God’s mysteries and miracles. All things really do work together for good to those who love the Lord, just as God promises in His word. Some of the worst days in my life have turned out to be the best.

Jesus told His followers in Mark 4: “To you, it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.”

I’ll never live long enough to understand the mysteries of God, but I know they pen the chapters of my life.

Sheltered

      Until someone has lived in Scotland for a long time they cannot understand Scottish weather. Even after someone has lived in Scotland for a long time they cannot understand Scottish weather.

It was reasonably warm and breezy with a clear sky when I took Savannah on our once-a-day mile-long walk. By the time we rounded the stadium and headed back up the hill toward our house—the sky opened. Rain didn’t fall—it bucketed. So when we reached the one and only clump of trees along that side of the path, we sheltered under them.

Looking up into the leafy green canopy overhead, I felt a lovely sense of peace and joy. It was warm. I was protected. The pounding rain didn’t touch me. I was sheltered.

No wonder birds live in trees. No wonder they sing. No wonder they are joyous and carefree. The same Lord God who created the trees as a habitat for birds protects and feeds them. They shelter in His great goodness.

We can too.

“The LORD will be a shelter for His people.” Joel 3:16.

Baggage Claim Ticket

savannah over fence deserted street

When I was walking Savannah, a woman said, “What a beautiful dog. If you ever want to get rid of her, I’ll take her.”

Would she want to redeem the baggage claim ticket; expensive veterinarian-approved food for irritable bowel disease; the clean up after her vomiting and diarrhea episodes; the $65 a box enzymes to sprinkle on her food every time she eats, the vet bills. Savannah is a beautiful blue mere rough collie—but she comes with baggage.

Recently someone viewed my Amazon Author’s Page and scrolled through the 29 books listed there and said, “I wish I had that many books on my author’s page.” But would she want to redeem the baggage claim ticket; 55 years of time, money and energy spent sending manuscripts out only to have them rejected; 43 years of working two and three jobs to support writing; neither owning nor watching a TV; money spent on a cover illustrator, editor, and special promos, hours spent every single day doing what most writers hate—marketing.

Success, however small, comes with baggage.

Husbands throw away years of marriage and family and children to follow a new face; wives throw away years of marriage and family and children for their dream guy, people move great distances in their searches for a better life.

The new face—sometimes with expensive, demanding tastes—must be fed, clothed, and lavished with attention; the dream guy snores at night and can be selfish, demanding and lazy, the perfect life is acquired through years of hard work, struggle, and delayed gratification.

Life comes with baggage.

When I was married to Luke’s dad, I used to paint billboards and signs with him. He loved the money we made, but deplored my messy hair and the paint on my clothes and under my fingernails. He fell in love with Jackie who didn’t work at all, wore expensive name brand clothes, lavished money on her hair and makeup—and was psychotic about spiders. If she saw a wiggle in a corner of a room and thought it was a spider—she would tear out of the room and nearly take the door off the hinges.

One day Larry and I were painting a sign some twenty feet off the ground. We had very little equipment—and none that would reach the sign which hung out over the street in a perpendicular angle to the building. So…I sat on one end of a plank to hold it down while Larry inched across the other end painting the sign. As he scooted along the board with the paintbrush, Larry extolled the beauty and excellence of Jackie and asked why I couldn’t be more like her.

Abruptly, a huge spider plopped down on my end of the board from the tree overhead. Only God knows how tempted I was to be more like Jackie.

There are no free rides in life. Everything comes with a cost.

Small wonder the Bible warns: “Do not covet.” Small wonder 1Timothy 6:6 instructs us: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Mistaken

bannana in sun

For the past two years I’ve seen a lovely child in our neighborhood, and each time I’ve seen her I’ve thought that she would make a stunning character for a book with her striking cobalt blue eyes framed by a sleek curtain of dark smoke-brown hair. Except…her eyes are not blue.

Had I written her in a book, her eyes would have been blue. Had I described her to the police for some reason, her eyes would have been blue. Had I painted a portrait of her from memory, her eyes would have been blue. But they are not blue.

I was shocked recently when I met her and realized that her eyes are an astonishingly deep, dark brown that I’ve never seen in eye color before—almost like dark chocolate, except deep and shining. I actually asked her mother if her eyes had changed color. They hadn’t. It was me. I had been mistaken.

At one time, I did not believe in God. I was every bit as certain that God did not exist as I was that the little girl in our neighborhood had blue eyes. I was mistaken.

God’s name is shouted throughout creation from the seed that grows into a vibrant flower to the stars in the universe. We can plant flowers. We can study flowers. We can engineer new colors and graft fruit trees—but only God can make a seed.

We can build telescopes. We can study stars and planets and name them. But only God can create them.

We can train doctors, and nurses, and scientists, and treat patients for disease or injuries—but only God walking on earth ever defeated death by rising from the dead.

I used to not believe in God. I was mistaken.

https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

What We Know Now

savanna after surgery

Yesterday when I was walking Savannah, a six-year-old girl ran up to me—pretending to be brave and attempting to hide her fear. She had been playing with two older girls who abruptly ran away and left her alone in a strange neighborhood. She couldn’t find her friends and she couldn’t find her home. Savannah and I walked with the child until she got home.

The scary thing is what could have happened. She could have been kidnapped. She could have been attacked by a dog. She could have been injured in a fall, or from getting hit by a car, or a bike. Her friends never thought of possible dangers when they ran away and left her—they were enjoying a laugh, totally oblivious to the distress of their young friend. Thankfully, God protected the child.

The Bible says that wisdom comes from God. It does. It also comes from experience. What we know now protects us from a certain amount of danger.

When I was a kid, I used to squash pokeberries and paint purple spots on my white horse for the school carnival. I rode the horse to the carnival and charged a quarter for rides on “A Horse of a Different Color.” The money went to the school.

At one carnival, an older boy who had his own horse and considered himself an expert rider asked to hold Ali while I ran into the bathroom. I warned him that Ali did not like strangers, especially boys. Norton promised not to ride Ali while I was gone.

I got back to my booth. It was empty. No Norton. No Ali. Norton had decided that no girl was going to tell him not to ride her horse. Ali took off and galloped the mile home across a busy two-lane highway and down a red dirt road. When the horse stopped sharply at my house, Norton flew off Ali and landed in the yard in front of my grandmother—which Norton later said was the scariest part of the ride. Grandmother was convinced that Norton had stolen the horse.

Norton could have been killed. Ali could have been killed. Drivers on that busy highway could have been killed. God protected them. God even protected Norton from one very angry grandmother!

Some fifteen years ago, I built a garden center out of concrete blocks and hired someone to put the roof on it while I was at work. I knew how to build with rocks, concrete blocks, and cement—but I didn’t know how to build a roof. Neither did he.

Because he didn’t know how to drill into concrete and attach the wooden support beams to the concrete floor, he used Gorilla Glue. It lasted one year. It lasted two years. On the third year, an updraft wind from a good old Texas thunderstorm snatched the roof up off the building and slammed it down again. Fortunately, no one was inside and no one got hurt. God’s protection.

Putting a roof on a building with Gorilla Glue makes a funny story—but the outcome could have been disastrous. What I know now.

What I know now should keep me from making harsh judgments (it doesn’t always) when I see people doing foolish things or hear them making brainless comments. Building wisdom through experience takes time.

Still, the best advice of all is from the Bible. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5.

God gives wisdom without reproach. I shout.

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Bad Attitude Cure

BodyFromSkyMurder_CVR_XSML

Sometimes I’m ashamed of myself for my bad attitude. Last week was one of those times. Instead of thanking God for everything—as the Bible directs—instead of expressing an attitude of gratitude…I became grumpy, ungrateful, and complaining.

“Summer” has fled our part of Scotland. It’s cold. It’s rainy. It’s grey. I love summer, I hate cold, and I’m tired of rain. I’m in a great deal of pain from the knee that was supposed to be replaced a week before the lockdown began and is still on hold. I’ve been walking so funny for so long that the knee is worse and now my hip and knee on the opposite side have joined the screaming match. But the real bummer—no internet for more than a week.

Once upon a time, writers and authors survived with no internet. They thrived. But this is no longer once upon a time, and I didn’t thrive—I barely survived.

With all my whining and complaining, I am ashamed of myself when I realize how God continues to daily load me with all His benefits. Although on crutches, I can still walk. Some can’t. I can see. Some can’t. I can hear. Some can’t. I can eat. Unfortunately. God provides for all my needs. He’s given me a great family, including the furry member. He’s given me every book I’ve ever written.

“Body from the Sky Murder” is funny. It’s surprising. It even surprised me.

Funny, lighthearted, and intense as sixty-something Rik Patience—who has no patience is pressed into solving the mystery of why a body fell out of an ultra light plane and crashed onto her friend’s awning.

When she discovers that the accident victim was the father of the man who helped her solve her last mystery, she is even more resolute in her quest for truth. Comedy tags along behind tragedy as she visits a hot air balloon business to plan her wedding to her fiancé—and returns home engaged to someone else.

That could only happen to Rik who keeps wild animals as roommates and who never wants anyone to get hurt—which means taking the blows herself. This time, some of the injuries she sustains through her kindness could be fatal.

Hope you will read it. Hope you will enjoy it. It was fun to write. But more importantly, remember Psalm 100: “Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Remembering and Forgetting

savannah rainy day blues

There are times I wish I had the memory of our rough collie. No matter how long it’s been since we last visited certain places on walks, she never forgets where she once found a bone; where people throw old bread out for the seagulls; where she once found discarded hotdogs, where she once found a hedgehog, or a cat. She unfailing returns to those places in search of what she thinks she’s lost.

Me? If I move something to a safe place—it’s lost. If I decide to relocate something—I can’t find it. If I go shopping and pride myself on remembering that we are almost out of something and buy it—I get home to discover that I remembered last time I was shopping.

One of the joys of the Bible is that there is something in it for every day, for every circumstance—for everything. Even remembering and forgetting.

“Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD; Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore; Remember His marvelous works which He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:20.

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead…”Surely Philippians 3:13 is the secret pathway of peace.

Only God can make forgetting as good as remembering.

https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Built on Rock

325px-Slipping_into_the_Sea_(25278613801)

(Photo credit Wikipedia)

Happened upon a fascinating TV documentary about the Cape Romano Dome House along the Florida coast. What fascinated me was the aesthetic architecture with its dome shape and wide windows on all sides. I wanted to live there. Until I heard the rest of the story.

Sitting out in the water 300 feet from shore, the six self-sustaining white dome structures on stilts were constructed from sand and island shells in 1979 by retired oil producer Bob Lee. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house was solar powered and gutters collected rainwater, which was filtered and stored in a cistern. The dome construction resisted hurricane damage—until Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Even Category 5 Hurricane Andrew with 175-mile-an-hour winds did not destroy Cape Romano Dome House. But erosion did. The house stood on the beach before Hurricane Andrew. Now it sits in the water, with only four of the six modules remaining. It was built on sand.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them, will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was the ruin.”

Bob Lee’s vision of his dream home was brilliant. Viewing it makes the spirit soar. But the house was built on sand.

We face decisions each day about building our lives. We can build on sand—then something like Covid-19 comes along and strips away all pretense and lets us know that nothing on this earth is eternal—except God.

Or we can build on the Rock of Jesus where not even Covid-19 can steal from us. This life is not the end—it’s just the beginning. If we have God, we have everything we need.

Bending, Breaking, Shaping 2020

flowers curved rock fence

Many people don’t like change. I’m one of them.

I don’t like change because I’m mentally lazy. It’s not as easy for me to learn as it is for other folks, thus once I have learned something – I don’t want to have to discard it and learn something new. Take math. No, forget math. I’ve never learned math to start with, and thus any changes to it won’t distress me. I don’t do math.

Quit math when letters came

Today I woke up to find that Windows had commandeered my computer overnight and changed everything. I couldn’t even get to my email. I hate change.

Then I got to our grocery store and diligently followed the one-way arrows around the store—and thus—there was no way to avoid the soap aisle. Some scent on that aisle commandeered my sinuses and I desperately needed to cough. I held back the cough for fear folks in the store would think I had The Virus. I nearly passed out in the checkout line from holding back the cough that was demanding release.

I hate change.

However, as an author, I do embrace language changes that make for more powerful descriptions. I thought of a few today. “Alec, you’re making me angry. Quit going all 2020 on me.”

The box dropped off the shelf behind me and hit the concrete floor scaring the 2020 out of me.

“Let me tell you something, sugar. You know I ain’t one for gossip and talking bad about other folks—but I gotta tell you—that gal is as messed up as 2020.”

By the time she finished settling her mother at the nursing home, picking up the kids from school, and cleaning up after the sick dog—she felt as if she had lived through 2020 again.

The divorce hit her like 2020.

His life shattered around him like 2020, leaving him to trip over emotional obstacles like sleeping dogs in a dark room.

God never causes evil, but He commandeers evil and transforms it into something good. So since we can’t escape 2020, we can bend it, break it, and shape it into a new pattern. All it takes is…accepting change.

But I still hate the new Windows on my computer and I still don’t do math.

bird hooded crow tree

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