Iron and Clay

IMG_2083

“Iron does not mix with clay,” the Bible warns in Daniel 2:43, a statement that really convicted me yesterday when I heard someone I love adopt my sarcastic attitude and tone of voice about a person in my past who behaved appallingly. Just as iron does not mix with clay, neither do yesterday’s hurts and insults mix with the joy of today.

Christians simply cannot afford to nurse bitterness. It rubs off on those around them and is a terrible witness. The world hates, accuses, mocks, and ridicules those with whom it disagrees. The world doesn’t know better. The Christian does. We have a Guidebook, written by God.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21.

Personally, I need to guard my mouth and make sure that I am speaking life, because its fruit is sweet. Besides; clay and iron do not mix.

DSCF5676

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

Holding off Death

c water best 2

We all do it: save that last bit of string in case we need it in the future; buy a new gadget and keep the old one for emergencies; store up extra provisions “in case,” and cram our cupboards, houses, and garages full of things that we may never use. We’re not good at letting go.

This “hanging on” tendency applies to life. We hang on to this life fiercely and protectively even though the Bible tells us that we are pilgrims passing through and this earth is not our home. “While we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6

I love praying for other people, but I wish I had the courage to be truthful. When I get prayer requests like: “Pray for healing for my mother who is 92 and has cancer, needs a heart transplant, and now her kidneys are failing;” “Pray for my son who has bone cancer. He’s already lost a lung and been through chemo twice. This time it’s not working and he’s in a coma”—I wish I could be honest. I wish I could explain that true healing will never be possible on this earth. We don’t belong here. It’s not our home. We’re merely passing through. “We are strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13. We are all in the process of dying.

We don’t belong here. We need to be willing to let go. Heaven is our final destination and home, a place too wonderful and marvelous for human description. “And God will wipe away every tear; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.” Revelation 21:4. “They shall neither hunger anymore; the sun shall not strike them…for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

We don’t belong here. We need to be willing to let go. But I’m a coward. So the next time I get a message: “Pray for my sister who has had a liver transplant and now both her kidneys are failing from radiation therapy,” I will pray.

I will pray because God is a God of miracles. He holds our lives in His hands and He knows the number of days it will take us to pass through this land on the way home. I don’t know…so I must pray.

c water w sun

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

Girls, Take it From the Birds

male bird 3

When God created birds, He gave male birds bright, colorful feathers to attract females. Girl birds don’t work to attract boy birds; boy birds work to attract girl birds.

We’ve got it all wrong today. Females wear skimpy to non-existent clothing, color their hair, pierce their bodies, and paint their faces to attract males. Listen up, women: we should learn from the birds.

I saw a young girl yesterday wearing such exaggerated makeup that she looked like a cat. Her eye shadow was so thick and dark that it hid her eyebrows. She wore a short skirt that barely covered her underwear, a top cut so low that her boobs almost popped out, and the expression of a lost puppy on the side of the road.

Women need to reverse the media hype about attracting men and make men work for it. Take it from the birds. Today’s expectations about how women should look, and the pressure for women to hunt down men as if they were prey and capture them is a recipe for mental illness. It makes women feel unattractive, unloved, and unappreciated because they can never live up to the unrealistic expectations. We should learn from the birds.

In Jesus’ time, when a man asked a woman to marry her, he went out and built her a house, then collected his bride. He worked for it and she felt respected, loved and protected. When Abraham wanted a wife for his son Isaac, he sent camels loaded with treasure to the young woman and her family. Isaac loved his wife Rebekah and she felt loved, cherished and appreciated. Isaac worked for it.

The Bible upholds the best image for a woman to have of herself: Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30) Time cannot ruin beauty that is on the inside, nor does it require plucking, painting, pricking, or pruning to perfect.

We should learn from the birds.

peacock 2

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

Beautiful Tree

tree after storms

 

This is a beautiful tree. It speaks. Look at it intently and listen to it whisper, “endurance.”

Poets memorialize heart-tugging moments in life. Authors, painters, and artists of all media catch fleeting moments of life and expound on them. One word whispers through all the art forms, through all the ages. The same word the tree whispers into the wind, “endurance.”

“All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:7. Even seaweed blooms, but, oh, so briefly.

It’s God’s job to send the sun and the rain to create blooms. Our job is to endure.

seaweed blooms

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

Things I Love, Things I Hate

I hate cold, I hate winter, I hate snow – I hate Santa. That sounds more like an opening line for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” than my usual upbeat, positive blog, yet all these statements are true.

Grasshopper cover #3

I hate snow because it’s cold and I hate cold and being cold. Probably dates back to childhood, surviving in sub-standard houses, some of which had no heat. Then cutting and gathering firewood in the ice and snow with no gloves or warm outer garments. As for Santa, he gets bashed because if you teach children Santa brings them gifts and then they learn it’s not true, will they believe in God?

Thanks to all of you who read my blogs. I love and am thankful for each one of you. And I’ll forget about stacking icy firewood with raw bleeding hands and take a positive turn.  I’ve just released a new mystery-romance-suspense book, “I’m the Grasshopper.” Releasing a new book always raises my cheerful volume, even in the cold, cold winter.

Newspaper staff writer Stacy Estes has never forgotten the fate of her childhood pet – a grasshopper – when it encountered a spider. Her failed romances make her view herself as the grasshopper and men as spiders. She. Is. Done. With. Romance.

Stacy is a runner and hider. Until she trips over a body at her grandmother’s house and goes from reporting the news to being the news. Stacy fights to keep her secrets intact, including her physical disability, especially from the first love of her life who has moved back to the community. Lost treasure? Gold mining in Texas? Flying saucers on her grandmother’s hill? And what about the men who go into the Comanche Cliff store – but never come out again? Mysteries entangle and endanger Stacy. When a local poacher is jailed for murder, Stay’s life unravels.

Her investigation into the murder victim on her grandmother’s property takes her to the strange world of boanthropy, where people believe they are cows. It sends her into a confrontation with satanic worshiper “Snake.” And she is slated for the next sacrifice.

“I’m the Grasshopper” is a great Christmas read, clean enough that the kids or Grandma can pick it up and read it, yet packed with excitement, adventure, mystery and love. Stacy has a physical disability, but does that make her a “cripple,” as a heartless co-worker labels her?

To give credit where it belongs, the Bible promises in Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Being in extreme pain and on crutches for months gave me the idea for the story and characters. God is always faithful to His word. I’ve since had successful spinal surgery, so it will be a very Merry Christmas for me.

To all of you reading this blog, have a Very Merry Christmas and a Deeply Blessed New Year. Thanks for being there! God bless.

Grasshopper cover #2

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0787RWNSG/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513147845&sr=8-1&keywords=I%27m+the+Grasshopper+stephanie+parker+mckean

I Used To Think…

I used to think I was patient. I taught preschoolers for more than seven years. I parented a hyperactive son before ADHD became a buzz word. People who saw us thought I was a bad parent, unable to discipline my child.

img_8160

I used to think I was kind. I’ve rescued grasshoppers, snakes, lizards, frogs, possums, and tried to befriend people who find themselves a target of unkindness. When I was eleven, I hit an adult three times my size with a metal fence post because he was savagely beating his runaway pony on our property.

Luke_Raven

Now I know I am not patient. Suffering brutal pain for so long from a huge bulging disc in my back that is pressing directly into my spinal cord has robbed me of patience. I feel like limping to the nearest hospital on my crutches and refusing to leave until the problem is fixed – or until I get arrested and forcibly removed. I’m not suicidal – yet – but death doesn’t scare me: it means the pain would stop.

Now I know I am not kind. Pain that takes my breath away and makes me fall down on the floor if I happen to sneeze or cough when I’m standing up has robbed me of kindness. Some days I think I would walk over the back of my grandmother to get to the operating table first.

I am thankful for this pain. It has been an opportunity to learn – really learn. Never judge another person. Never. You don’t know what storm of pain or difficulty they are passing through. Next time, it could be you.

img_2201

I am thankful for this pain because it has humbled me. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, rather soberly as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:5

With the Lord’s inspiration, I’ve written a lot of books. (Without Him I could never have written even one.) Yet, how do my books benefit the world if I am impatient? Or unkind?

I am a broken person inside and out. But with this self-knowledge comes the opportunity to change and get things right.

light on path

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

Falling Into Joy

tall fall foliageMy mother’s favorite season was fall. With seven children, she had little time for her own pursuits, but when she did – she loved to do paint-by-numbers of autumn-stroked trees.

stream & trees

I hate autumn. Some folks say they don’t like this time of year because it reminds them of death. Not me. It reminds me of COLD. I hate cold. I hate being cold. Out of 16 published books, I think only one is set in fall. The rest are set in spring or summer. Winter gets exactly zero.

snow hills

Still, God’s Word says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1. Daniel 2:21 states that it is God Who changes the times and the seasons. I know better than to fight against God. I never win.

open gate

So I will adopt my mother’s example of appreciating the glorious changing colors of fall. Instead of thinking ahead to the cold winter, I will let the warm colors of autumn ignite a fire in my soul to rejoice and celebrate every day God gives, every season He dictates.

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

Signs…and…No Signs

The first time we looked for our rental house in Dunoon, Scotland—we couldn’t find it. Knowing we are directionally challenged, we figured it was our fault. Later we realized…there were no legible street signs.

blog signs 1

We felt vindicated when friends from the Black Isle came to visit and also became lost. Signs are important. Faced with medical or other emergencies, signs attain life or death importance.

blog sign 3

Signs matter. They matter to me especially since I’ve been a sign painter. For one of the first signs I painted, I bought a dictionary to ensure correct spelling. When the 10 signs were delivered, the customer yelled at me for misspelling his signs. When I explained I had looked the word up in a dictionary, he demanded to see the dictionary, so I handed it to him. He was livid as he thumped the cover: Webster’s English Dictionary. Authorize is spelled authorise in the UK.

DSCN0164

We read the rules on a pool sign recently. I don’t know if you’re allowed to bring glass containers into the pool area—but leave the ducks at home.

blog sign 4

Signs of spring, signs of autumn, signs of approaching storms—not all signs are produced by humans.

DSCF5245

My favorite sign is the Bible, God’s Word. Lack of street signs may result in physical misplacement, but lack of spiritual signs result in miserable, misspent years in this life, and risk of eternal separation from God.

Luke's Bible

Jesus promised, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

DSCF6122

No other sign can match that promise.

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

Restrained

Rain is a blessing.

07 swan in rain

Yet Genesis in the Bible tells of a flood that covered the earth, and when the waters were restrained – it was a blessing. “Rain from heaven was restrained…and the surface of the ground was dry.” (Genesis 8:2-14)

Sometimes the rain of blessings in our lives is restrained and our hearts grow weary, dry, and brittle. Everything seems to go wrong. Rain falls into other people’s lives and makes their gardens flourish…dry ground surrounds us.

barn in dry field

Alan retired on March 31, after 35 years of ministry and we moved to a perfect little rental house in Dunoon, Scotland. Shortly after we moved in we discovered water and black mold under the floor. The floor in the hall started to break through and tiles in the kitchen cracked. Then, after running three miles one day, I was unable to walk the next. Our own spell of restrained blessings and dry ground…although perhaps “dry” is a poor choice of words since we were literally flooded under the flooring!

DSCF5639

We returned to Dunoon after a marvelous 8.000-mile round trip to visit family in the U.S. (me on crutches) and found ourselves installed in a hotel for three days. With tired bodies, dirty laundry, and three weeks of having been separated from our computers…we were restrained from returning to normal life. Our collie’s mobility is severely impaired from a deteriorating nerve condition, and she and I had to hobble up a flight-and-a-half of stairs several times a day. The palms of my hands blistered from balancing on the crutches going up and down. A season of restraint.

IMG_1217

We are currently camped in a cabin at a holiday village with only a small amount of our belongings. Within a week, we will move to another house for six months while our house is repaired. No stress in retirement! Alan lost his mobile phone going through security in one airport. He lost his passport at the London airport. He cancelled his bank card and credit card when he thought his billfold was lost. Thankfully, it was lost – in the car – while we made rushed trips back and forth from our house to our temporary camp. And me? Still on crutches.

I can’t explain why the Lord has stretched out His hand and supernaturally healed me in the past, but hasn’t healed me now. I can’t explain why I have laid hands on others and prayed for them and they have been healed – but I’m still on crutches. I can’t explain why we are living out of suitcases on a patch of dry, barren ground while riots of flowers and vegetation flourish in other people’s gardens. Thankfully, God doesn’t expect me to explain. The Creator of the universe and all that is in it doesn’t want my understanding, just my trust.

DSCF5512

The Genesis account of the flood is an example of how God transforms restraint into blessing. So, too, the book of Job. Through no fault of his own, Job loses everything: children, possessions, health. His wife tells him to curse God and die. Two friends who come to comfort him mock him. “Job, admit that you’ve sinned. This has happened to you because of what you’ve done wrong. It’s your fault.” (Everyone needs friends like that, right?)

It wasn’t Job’s fault. Job told his friends, “He knows the way that I take. When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” A true statement. “And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than the beginning.” (Job 42:4&12)

So when dry ground crops up around your feet and God seems to be restraining the rain of blessings in your life, rejoice! Rain returns.

07 rainbow

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

Small & Deadly

Most folks probably fear and flee large critters – but small things can kill.

SCT

One vacationing site on the Scottish Highlands applauded Culicoides Impunctatus, the ferocious Highland Midge. It concluded that if there were fewer midges in the Scottish Highlands there would be more tourists and more tourists would spoil the scenic beauty that tourists come to see. It added cheerfully that no one had ever died from a midge bite. I don’t buy it.

waterfall

Painting signs in the Texas Hill Country, I was attacked by the midge’s American cousin, no see ‘ems. While balancing 20 feet up in the air on the metal rungs of a ladder, I battled to keep the invisible biting, stinging gnats out of my eyes. Keeping them out of paint was impossible. They love paint. Thus my straight, neat lines often wobbled as the brush pulled over the bodies of hundreds of still-struggling no see ‘ems.

The Scottish tourist site posted photos of folks wearing head masks and gloves to protect themselves from Scotland’s “nuisances.” Faces under the masks were totally blocked from sight from the layers of midges. Same with the gloves and outer clothing. One photo was a cupped hand piled high with black soil – no – make that “non-deadly” “nuisances,” midges.

With their sight blocked by midges, what if a hill walker gets too close to the edge of a cliff? What if I had fallen off the ladder? No one has died from a midge bite? Are we sure of that?

There’s a delightful folktale Travellers (gypsies) relate about how midges came to Scotland. I included it in my mystery-romance-suspense “Captive of Fear.”

14-cover

Watching baby ducks with Mom started me thinking about small things. Bites on my face and neck turned me from thinking cute to thinking kill. But how do you dispatch a cloud of insects that are virtually invisible?

IMG_2964

Something else small is deadly. Words. The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Cruel words break hearts, cause fights, and bring about death and suicide. James says, “The tongue is a little member and boasts great things…No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Jesus said that we are not defiled by what we put into our mouths – but by the words that come out of our mouths.

Some small things are cute – like baby ducks. Some small things must be handled with care – like words. Some small things are a nuisance – like midges. Are they deadly? I’d maintain that the jury is still out on that one.

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