Bye Butterflies Bye

sunflowers and butterfly laredo december

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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Dog Sickness

Savannah at home

From the time we brought her home when she was eight weeks old our rough collie puppy has won the hearts of strangers. Now she expects everyone she meets to say, “You’re gorgeous.” “What a beautiful dog.” “I love your dog.”

Savannah looked gorgeous on the outside. She still does. But she was sick on the inside and no one knew—not even the first vet who examined her and said, “What you have here is a beautiful, healthy collie puppy who is a perfect weight. Don’t worry.”

She might have been a perfect weight when he saw her, but she was not healthy and there was cause for worry. She had quit eating. Everything. He saw her before she started losing weight.

The second vet investigated more closely. Blood samples, x-ray. Irritable Bowel Syndrome and three medications. After six days of starving herself, Savannah finally started eating. Everything.

Each day we meet folks who look fine on the outside, but who have mental or physical illnesses on the inside. Some suffer extreme pain. We can’t see their pain, so when they are unkind  we blame them, not their disease.

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

When someone is unkind to us, we need to look deeper.

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School Daze

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Four years old and burning with envy—although I couldn’t name the emotion at the time—to see the older kids walking to school every day while I had to stay home. So I followed them.

Clueless, I ended up in a line in a hallway with a teacher walking along the line asking each child for milk money. Until she came to me. She stopped in confusion and asked me who I was and what I was doing there. I thought that was a rather silly question from a teacher at what was obviously a school. “I’m going to school.” I got sent home for another year.

We had moved by the next year. I was excited to catch the big yellow bus outside my house and ride to school on the first day. On the second day—I hid from the bus. If I had known about math—I’d still be hiding.

Much of what I “learned” in school was misinformation. My first grade teacher criticized my coloring. “Tree trunks are brown,” she said, “the sky is blue.” She had never been to the Texas Hill Country where tree trunks are grey. She had never been to Scotland where the sky is seldom blue.

We were taught that North is straight ahead, East is right and West is left. We marked it on maps. So when someone gives directions and says, “turn North on the next street,” it’s confusing. If North is straight ahead, why turn?

Then math. We were taught counting: “one-two-three-four-five.” I once had to pay back my employer for the extra hour I had marked on my timecard. My hours were from nine to noon. Count yourself: 9-10-11-12. I was getting paid for four hours. Everyone else was getting paid for three.

What to learn out of all the “facts” the world presents is confusing. Separating “truth” is like holding a raw egg in your hand to keep the yoke while the white runs through your fingers.

Thankfully, there is one infallible Book, one Everlasting Teacher—and we all have access. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:3.

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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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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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It’s Not the Bombs

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When I was a kid, a siren would sound and we would scramble under our desks to protect ourselves from bombs. I did what I was told. I had no idea what a bomb was or what destruction it would cause. I know about destruction now – and it’s not from bombs.

When I was a kid, our parents would send us out into the yard to dig bomb shelters in the Georgia red clay banks surrounding our house. They weren’t really worried about bombs – they just wanted to keep us occupied. But I know about destruction now – and it’s not from bombs.

Addiction costs the US an estimated $559 billion a year, with $193 billion of that being from alcohol. It costs the UK an estimated 21 billion pounds a year, with 100 billion of that being from alcohol.

But the real cost of addiction is hidden: shattered families, abused and neglected children, abused and dumped pets, vehicle crashes, murder. An alcoholic with a long string of previous arrests shot my brother Greg to death when Greg was 21. (Greg with our pet lion, Eb.)

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 An alcoholic who already had two DUIs crashed into our truck, totaled it, and caused permanent spinal damage to my cancer-suffering husband. A drug addict ran up so much debt against my property that I lost it. All these incidents dropped off the string of statistic-takers’ figures: hidden costs of addiction that cause lifelong hurt and torment for overlooked victims.

The solution is simple. Learn and accept these truths from the Bible and teach them to our children: “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 you are. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians)

Would you stick a cigarette into Jesus’ mouth? Would you hand him a beer or pills to pop? If you are wise enough to realize that God would be offended by these things – keep garbage out of your own mouth and set that example for your children. It’s not the bombs that destroy our lives. It’s the addictions.

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Epiphanies

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Epiphanies can happen anywhere, which is why the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines them as “sudden” striking understandings of something. My newest epiphany hit when I noted a towering tree with scared bark as I walked our dog. Irregularities made the tree unique, beautiful and strong.

God did not send storms to shake the roots of that tree and to twist and mar the bark, but He allowed the storms to mold the tree into perfection and beauty. So, too, with our lives. God doesn’t make bad things happen to us. But because this is a sin-sick world, bad things happen.

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Fleeing sexual and physical abuse at home, I ran away and lived under a bridge in the Texas Hill Country, painting signs for meals. I never went hungry. When flash floods came, I had to drive my pickup truck out from under the bridge and live in it on a back street. Those early hardships molded my life as a writer. I will be releasing book number 23, a Christian Cozy Mystery-Romance this week. God’s word never fails, is never wrong. God uses the worst part of our lives to build the best. “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Romans 8:28

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No shakes, twists, mars, or scars are wasted in God’s perfect purpose for our lives.

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Riches in Waiting

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Yesterday was a wild day, mostly spent on two different buses or at the bus station in between buses as we traveled from Dunoon to Glasgow, from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and then made the return journey.

First the purple, a deep vibrant purple more intense than a lavender field. A woman at the bus station was wearing it. She was tall and it reached from her neck down to her purple boots, so there was a lot of it. And her hair was purple—except where dark roots nudged through the head bouquet. The purple woman has absolutely nothing to do with this blog, except that some things once seen can’t be unseen and when I close my eyes, the inside of my eyelids are swathed in purple.

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Then the revolving glass door. I ran into it. Twice. The first time I almost panicked because the people in the other two sections of the glass door had a way out, but I was in the middle of a glass tunnel with no escape route. That just reaffirmed what I already knew: I am not and will never be a “city” person. I belong in the country with birds, wildlife, trees, grass, wildflowers—even purple ones.

Finally, we arrived at our destination, after a short ride scrunched into the backseat of a car so tightly that no one could even fasten their seatbelt. And we met Savannah. We picked up the tiny merle rough collie puppy and told her we would be her new parents soon and that her name was Savannah. When we left, I called, “Savannah,” and out of the mix of swirling, climbing collie puppies, she was the only one who looked up. She looked up at us and watched us until we were out of sight. Some things are worth waiting for, worth an all-day bus ride, worth getting trapped inside revolving glass doors, worth purple on the inside of the eyelids. Savannah is one of those things.

“Those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

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Happy 2019

Slipping in here a few days late to wish everyone a Happy, Joyful, God-Blessed New Year.

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So many people make New Year’s Resolutions, and that’s a good thing. Keeping them is especially good. Yes, I would like to exercise more this year and lose more weight, but that’s always my goal. Now that it’s been a year since my back surgery, I’m cleared to start running again.

As a writer, I can’t ignore that part of my life when planning for a new year. I wrote six books last year and I honestly don’t intend to write that many this year. The new series takes a lot of research which translates into a lot of time. I’m hoping to have the third “Fog Busters, Old Bones Detectives” out sometime in January.

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As a writer and as a person, the most important goals I can set for 2019, or any year, are found in the Bible, specifically in Philippians, Chapter 3: That I may know God and His power; That I may press on; That I may forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead, that I may press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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That about sums up my 2019 goals. As an author, my inspiration comes from God.

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Whoever you are and wherever you are reading this, may God light your new year with beauty, bounty, and joy. Happy New Year!

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