P Choices: People or Phones

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It’s been wonderful beyond description spending time with people—meaning my family members in Tampa, Florida. This side of heaven, I can’t imagine anything sweeter—and now we are on our way to Laredo, Texas, to visit the rest of the family.

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Therefore, it wounded me watching a family at the table next to us at a local restaurant. Three adults sat on one side of the table playing with their phones. A toddler sat on the other side of the table—screaming. The child was crying so hard that her face was pinched, her cheeks wore white patches, and she was shaking. Not a single one of the adult women even glanced up from their phone screens.

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The child screamed so loudly that two elderly ladies in a booth across from the table motioned the waitress over and demanded to be moved somewhere else. And, still, the three adult women sat zoned out in front of phone screens.

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Psalm 127:3 says that children are a heritage of the Lord. Psalm 107: 41 says, “God sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock.” Those folks at the restaurant chose phone over people—over their own children and family. Tragic. Unbelievably tragic. Family is our only gift in this life that follows us into eternity.

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World’s Worst Shopper

Uvalde Bible Land (I did the cement work, not the figures

Perhaps I’m not the world’s worst shopper—but I must be close.

I hate shopping. Media hype insists that women have a “shopping gene.” I don’t. To me, shopping is a waste of time. I’d rather be writing, painting, walking, doing rockwork, mixing cement, taking photos of dangerous animals.

I already have everything I need. I couldn’t always say this. There were many times as a single parent when I counted out coins, sold my valuable coin collection to have enough money to go to the laundry mat, took additional jobs including climbing ladders to pick apples—did anything that was needed to get what was needed. But I am blessed. I’m not wealthy, I don’t have extra—but I have enough.

Ads are wasted on me. I’m too busy. Be it through the mail, on the computer, or on billboards, ads don’t sway me. I don’t see them. I don’t read them. For me, they might as well not exist.

If being broke transformed a person into a shopper, I should thrive in shopping malls. I lived under a bridge. I washed myself and my clothes in the river—winter and summer. I traveled around the U.S. looking for employment in states that paid more money to workers. I drove to new locations with everything I owned in the back of the pickup truck and slept on top of the load because I didn’t have money for a motel. But I hate shopping.

That being said, I love giving. And sometimes, giving to someone requires a shopping trip.

If my abhorrence of shopping seems weird to some folks, that’s okay. My assurance is in 1 Timothy 6:6, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain,” and in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned whatever state I am, to be content.”

I hate shopping—and I’m content with that.

Uvalde Bible Land (I did the cement work, not the figures

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Rainbows and Tears

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Most people love God’s colorful writing in the sky when rainbows stretch across the horizon touching the earth with ribbons of pigment. But most people sigh, grumble, and fume over clouds and rain—predecessors to vividly tinted sky.

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Just as one really can’t make lemonade without lemons—so, too, one can’t have rainbows without rain.

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Life is like that. Poverty, illness, injury, sorrow, death—life is filled with lemons and storms. No one likes hardship and pain. Yet, hardship and pain grow, strengthen, and develop us for success.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:3&4

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The Change Rose

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Another name for hydrangeas is “change roses.” Hydrangeas are small bushes in the southern U.S. where I grew up. In Scotland with all the rain, they can grow into small trees.

Size is not what earned hydrangeas they nickname “change roses.” They range in color from white, to blue, to light purple, to dark purple, to pink, to red. White hydrangeas lack color pigment and can’t be manipulated to change their colors. The color of other hydrangeas depends on the presence of aluminum ions in the soil and how the plant absorbs them according to the acidity of the soil.

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We are like hydrangeas. What surrounds us that we see, hear, and read changes the focus of our hearts and the direction of our thoughts. Immerse ourselves in negativity, profanity, and impure thoughts and we become soiled like a white garment before flood waters. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

 

IMG_3886The good news about being change roses is that we control the change. We have freedom to decide what we allow to enter through our ears and eyes and what we allow to come out of our mouths. Hydrangeas are static and have no choice but to absorb the soil around their roots and bloom accordingly. We can change our soil by moving: getting up to turn off the TV; refusing to allow negative or toxic people to rent space in our minds; turning a polluted conversation into a clean conversation, going for a walk to remove ourselves from human contamination.

My goal as an author and as a Christian is to keep the soil around my roots pure and bloom for the Lord.

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Hero Plant

After I took a photo of bright, cheerfully beautiful flowers—I met my hero plant. Here in the UK, rosebay willowherb gained the nickname of “bombweed” following World War II because it sent drifts of bright blooms and foliage over the scarred earth of bombed sites.

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Rosebay willowherb is a pioneer plant. It colonizes disturbed ground and even grows over oil spills. Besides establishing new vegetation in deprived, underprivileged ground, rosebay willowherb is utilized to make natural cordage and clothing. Its roots, shoots, leaves, and flowers are edible, used in candies, jellies, and even ice cream. The stems are applied to heal cuts and pull pus out of boils. It also provides nectar and pollen for bees and other insects.

This hero plant has another beneficial use; it spreads scenic beauty across the land. Its generous, flowing waves of bright color brighten the landscape.

Christians need to embrace the characteristics of rosebay willowherb. We need to colonize disturbed spiritual and physical ground and cover ugliness with Christ’s beauty. We need to exude loveliness like our Creator. We need to be a useful part of God’s kingdom. And we need to give freely, just as these beautiful flowers spread their joy generously.

“You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men.” 2 Corinthians 3:2. We need to become Bibles with feet.

God gave us a written example in His Word, and a physical example in a hero plant known as fireweed, bombweed, rosebay willowherb, or to me—hero plant.

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Painting Anger

The man got into the car next to mine and shouted at his wife, “News flash! The car won’t star without the keys.” It wasn’t the words—it was the anger and hate in his voice that stunned me.

The car started, the windows rolled up, and I heard two angry voices above the engine noise. Sometimes having impaired hearing is a blessing—I couldn’t catch the words, but there was no mistaking the strident note of anger. Fear shot through me. I was afraid they were going to attack one another with deadly intent.

The car, engine revved and angry voices assaulting sound waves, nearly hit me as I walked through the grocery store parking lot. I didn’t get the license plate number. I was too busy jumping out of the way as the car ate the side of the curb and squealed around the corner.

That made me wonder; what does anger look like? How could I paint anger? I would paint this.

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Yup. Me. I’ve guilty of the sin of anger. I have yelled in anger. I have even yelled at my husband in anger. My husband, author Alan T McKean, is probably the one person in the whole world who is least deserving of anger or of being yelled at. In all the years we’ve been married he has never raised his voice to me; never criticized me; never treated me spitefully or with less than respect. Before I had my spinal surgery, Alan helped me get up from the toilet, get in and out of the shower, get dressed. Yet, I have yelled at him.

Why? Why would I yell at such a priceless gift from God? As with all life’s questions, the answer is in the Bible. “No man can take the tongue. It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison…The tongue is a fire.” James 3:6&8.

I’m going into firefighting mode before the landscape of my life and marriage looks like this…

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Thistles, Statues & Vikings

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According to legend, the Scots won the last battle against invading Vikings on October 2, 1263 in Largs when invaders sneaking on shore to slaughter the sleeping Scottish army stepped on thistles and yowled in pain, alerting their victims.

True or false, thistles have been a symbol of Scotland for more than 500 years. And Largs is home to the Pencil, a 65-foot rounded stone tower constructed in 1912, as a memorial to the battle of Largs.

Largs is also home to 16-feet-tall “Magnus,” a statue presented to Largs in 2013 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs.

Visiting the tourist-driven seafront village reminded me that life is full of thistles that prick us, memories that overpower us, and giants that threaten us.

Thistles in our lives can be good—no matter how sharp their prick. Thistles remind us of Romans 8:28 in the Bible, “All things work together to good to those who love the Lord.” Walking on thistles is sometimes the road to victory.

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Like “Magnus,” giants come into our lives in the form of major illnesses, job loss, death of loved ones, or broken families. It is natural to cower before giants. They are huge. They are crushing. But we have the same promise today that David gave his son Solomon in 1015 BC, “Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Memories, like giants, can be crushing. But we have God’s promise in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”

We have victory in treading over thistles when we put on the whole armor of God including the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace. We have victory over giants when we call in reinforcement in the person and presence of God. We have victory over memories when we control them instead of allowing them to control us.

Victory or defeat. The choice is ours.

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Iron and Clay

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“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.

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Holding off Death

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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.

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Girls, Take it From the Birds

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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.

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