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.”

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Remembering and Forgetting

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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

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(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.

Direct Vision

 

savannah over fence deserted street

None of us has direct vision. We all see through a filter of past events and experiences.

When I was four, my mother took me to an optometrist because she thought I couldn’t see clearly. She explained to the doctor, “She doesn’t color between the lines.” I thought to myself, “Oh, that’s what those lines are for.” It wasn’t that I couldn’t see them—it was that I was in love with color and spread my favorites thickly across the pages of coloring books in my own patterns and designs. After I knew about the lines—I used them.

When I was four and boarded a bus with my mother for the first time, I saw black people getting on and exclaimed, “Mom, look at all those poor sunburned people.” My embarrassed mom shushed me for my rudeness, but she didn’t understand. It wasn’t rudeness, it was compassion. I had never seen a person with black skin before. I hurt for them because I thought they were badly burned.

What we see depends on what we’ve seen before. None of us has direct vision.

Recently our collie returned to our local vet time and again dehydrated because she would not eat. Time and again, she was hooked her to a drip and we were assured that she was not too thin, and that perhaps—because she’s a smart dog—she played us, refusing to eat until she got something she liked.

None of the vets understood that Savannah…Would. Not. Eat. They had never seen her walk to her food, sniff it, make a face of human disgust, and walk away.

We finally got an appointment for Savannah at a vet hospital that had the equipment to examine her, and the first thing I heard from the vet was the inevitable, “She’s not a bad weight. Maybe we just need to adjust her food.” Her food has been adjusted so many times that we’ve given away cases and bags of various brands and kinds and still have cases more.

Again the questions. Again the subtle suggestion that I might be the problem because I worried too much. Again, the failure to comprehend the fact that Savannah… Would. Not. Eat.

Then the phone call that made me cry for two reasons. One reason, we have a sick little girl whose condition is chronic with few treatment options. And I am not an obsessed doggy mom who worries to distraction. There are physical reasons for Savannah’s lack of appetite: pancreatitis and an inflamed bowel. A vet finally saw the lines.

I was reminded of a Bible story. When Samuel was ordered by God to ordain a king from Jesse’s family, Jesse brought his sons to Samuel one at a time and God rejected all of them. Samuel asked if Jesse had any more sons. He had one more. David, a young boy who was out in the field with his father’s sheep. David, who later killed a giant with a rock and a slingshot. David who wrote most of the Psalms in the Bible. David, who became King David. David whose earthly lineage leads to Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.

When God chose David out of Jesse’s sons, he told Samuel, “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)

God sees the lines. Sometimes…we don’t.

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The Devil is a Sociopath

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Years ago I sold my property in Texas, but never got paid for it. When I received a threatening letter about overdue property taxes, I was forced to return to the property and become something I had never desired to become—a rental agent.

Because there were tenants already living in the two nice houses on the property with running water, bathrooms, working kitchens, and air conditioning—I was forced to live in an open-end garden center with no bathroom, no kitchen, and minimal electricity. Living in that building and collecting rent from tenants living in the comfortable houses I had helped build was my only hope of getting enough money to pay the overdue property taxes before I lost the property. I slept on a lawn chair mattress on top of wide wooden planks. My clothes hung from the rafters. I took cold showers with the garden hose. I learned to survive the 100-plus degree summer temperatures without air conditioning. When winter arrived, I stacked up hay bales and covered them with plastic to protect myself from the cold. I had two small heaters, but because of such low voltage electricity—they wouldn’t work at the same time.

There were positives. Peace. God’s peace lived with me as a constant companion. The birds who had nests in the hanging baskets overhead became so friendly that they warned me of approaching hawks. When their fledglings left the nest, the babies hopped to me and scrambled up into my lap. The two toads that lived in my dog’s water bowl scolded me when I got home from work late. It was almost like having two very short parents.

There were negatives. Not the third-world living conditions. The sociopath next door. I didn’t realize he was a sociopath at the time. I just figured it out recently when watching a rerun of “Judge Judy.” She commiserated with a mother on the show and told her that her son was a sociopath. Wanting to learn more than I thought I knew about “sociopaths,” I started reading more about them. That’s when I realized I already knew. I had rented a house to one. Upon further reflection, I concluded that God’s enemy, satan, is a sociopath.

According to Power of Positivity, sociopaths don’t feel badly when they hurt other people’s feelings. They have no feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Check. Both for my renter and for the devil. The Bible says satan came to this earth to kill, steal, and destroy.

They have intense mood swings and may become violent. Check. In a fit of rage, my renter attempted to shove me out of my own house. The Bible says the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and that he is angry because he knows his time on earth is short. His time on earth is short because Jesus is coming again.

Sociopaths have to be in control. Check. Satan uses tools like drug and alcohol addiction to keep people in control. I don’t know whether my renter was a sociopath because he was born one—or because drug use had robbed him of his soul and conscience.

Sociopaths are impulsive. Satan decided to one-up God by attacking the righteous man Job and making him curse God. When his first attack on Job didn’t work, he impulsively cranked up the pressure. My human sociopath renter spent recklessly and his desires changed frequently—so he overspent and was always in debt. Meaning I didn’t get paid either.

Sociopaths are charming in the beginning. The Bible warns that satan masquerades as “an angel of light.” His charm and beauty give sin its allure, and he uses sin to trap people. Human sociopaths shower folks with compliments in order to gain control over relationships. People who met my renter and didn’t know him thought he was enchanting. They said, “He could sell igloos to Eskimos. True. But he wouldn’t have paid his bills—including rent.

Sociopaths are manipulative and must be in control. My renter told so many lies that he could never keep them straight. They will lie to get their way. Satan is the father of lies. They gaslight folks making them question their own sanity. Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden by saying, “Surely God didn’t say that…Surely eating the fruit of that tree won’t kill you.”

Sociopaths feel they are above the law and their actions are often illegal. They disobey laws and social norms. My renter had a huge file at the courthouse—but I didn’t see it until after I rented the house to him. Satan refused to obey God and declared, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars…I will be like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:12)

Sociopaths make extreme promises and statements without backing them up and alternate between positives and negatives to manipulate and keep control. They make and break promises. Check. Both for my renter and for God’s enemy the devil. Satan attempted to tempt Jesus by making promises he had no authority to deliver.

They smile, smirk, or laugh at the pain and misfortune of others. Check for the devil. He came to steal, kill, and destroy whether the subject of his attack is a child or an adult. Their pain is his pleasure. Check for my renter. He thought pain was funny—as long as it wasn’t his pain.

I usually eschew labels. I try to take people and situations at face value and judge independently without referring to labels.

But my renter should have come with a label.

 

HER

dunoon castle front sunny day

When I first became a Christian I bubbled over with love, joy, peace, and goodwill toward everyone. I thought everyone else was the same. Then I met…HER.

HER lives in Scotland. She hated me for being an American. She was still fighting against July 4, 1776 and American Independence. I was on the wrong side.

HER left me with lasting memories that I’ve forgiven, but haven’t forgotten. It’s a good thing. Every book needs a really nasty baddie to haunt the protagonist. To hold the reader’s interest, the author must hurl rocks at the protagonist and knock him or her down every time they get up again. HER taught me to lob rocks.

Before I met HER, I lived in a bubble. Truthfully, I sort of still do. I float through life glowing and joyful inside my bubble of protection and few things penetrate it. HER found a way to puncture it. So did HIM. But that’s another story.

The point is that as a writer, two of the most valuable people I’ve ever met are people who are antagonist, critical—walking negativity and poison. I love them both. I love them as a Christian because Jesus commanded His followers to love others—especially enemies because it’s easy to love friends who accept us, but dadgum hard to love those who hate us. And I love HER and HIM as a writer. I needed some jostling and pricking into the oblivion of my happy little bubble.

The Bible tells us “in everything give thanks,” and “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.”

Give thanks for the HERS and HIMS in your life and for the rocks they lob at you. Each rock is an opportunity for growth. Pile them up and climb over a fence. Or just stick them into a book like I do.

simple living skye

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Long Life

sunflowers and butterfly laredo december

Recent research proves that people in the U.S. who go to church live longer than those who don’t. No surprise. Psalm 119:50 says, “Your word has given me life.”

Worry, anxiety, and anger shorten lives. Jesus said, “Do not be anxious.” “Do not worry.” “Forgive others.”

Peace is a great life-extender. Philippians 4:7 promises, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Long life is not the reason to love God. The fact that God loves us is the reason to love Him. Every petal on every flower is a reason to praise God. Every day of sunrise and sunset is reason to serve God.

Church isn’t essential to love God—but it is essential to love God.

butterfly thistle

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Weight Loss Plan

me pccs rope best

Yeah, I’m a sucker for those commercials, too. “Lose weight by drinking this.” “Ten Secrets to weight loss.” “How I lost four stone (don’t ask me how much that is—I don’t do math) in one month.”

Most folks want or need to lose weight. It’s one of life’s mysteries, surely, that weight can accumulate and hide until suddenly one day a person takes a sideways look in a full-length mirror and says, “I’m fat.”

Fortunately, when an orthopedic surgeon figured out my body-weight index, I qualify for a knee replacement. I’m not too fat for surgery. But I need to lose weight…again.

The only weight loss plan that has ever worked for me physically is the unpopular and uncomfortable eat less, exercise more. It works—but it is never easy or enjoyable, especially the eating less part.

My Aunt Edris died young of an illness that doctors never diagnosed until her death. Cancer. After that, I obsessed over every lump, bulge, or pain I had, convinced that it was cancer. I even obsessed over other people who experienced unexplained pain. When my son was four and suffered from a mystery illness I was so convinced it was cancer that I quit my job and took him out to the desert so he could experience country living before he died. But when Luke died at age 37, it wasn’t cancer. It was an airplane crash.

I’m still working on the physical need to lose weight, but not the spiritual weight of fear, worry, or anxiety. The Bible addresses those. It’s easy to lose weight spiritually—just read and pray it away.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7.

Cast all your care upon God, for God cares for you. 1 Peter 5:8

Jesus said in Luke 12:29, “Do not have an anxious mind.”

Spiritual weight? No problem. Just read and pray it away. Physical weight? Eat less. Exercise more.

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Expletives and Superlatives

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There’s a Texas expression that I’ve never uttered before in my life, nor have I ever used it in one of my books, nor did I ever expect to ever use it: He’s talking out of his butthole.

Because I write clean-reading Christian books, I disdain profanity. Nothing will make me abandon a book more quickly than excessive profanity. Writers should be creative. Instead of repeating the “F” word endlessly, what’s wrong with: profanity dropped from his lips like cigarette ash; he used words that would have shocked his mother; his foul language was so excessive that it fatigued his listeners; her anger made her abandon her last shred of Christian training as she launched into a tirade against her coworker, the air splintered from the impact of cursing…etc.

Few things anger me. This did. An “academic” professor attacked the root of the Christmas story. He said Mary had been raped because she never consented to her pregnancy. This highly esteemed professor has a platform for attempting to destroy the foundational faith of students entrusted to him and is too lazy to research and get it right.

God gives us freedom of choice. Not everyone is a Christian. There are many other religions in the world. Everyone, even an atheist, has the right to choose what he or she believes. But it’s shameful and unforgivable that an “academic professor” who supposedly is better educated and more brilliant than the average gets away with spewing unfounded derisive words as truth.

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” I don’t draw the salary that the university pays that lazy professor, but that sounds like consent to me. (Luke 1:38)

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…For He who is mighty has done great things for me.” Luke 1:49.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be called the Son of the Highest…and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke 1:31

The truth, the simple truth behind Christmas, the greatest love story ever written.

I’m trying. I’m really trying. But that professor’s words grate against my spirit and I can’t word it any better than my Texas friends: “he’s speaking out of his butthole.”

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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.

blog coidence

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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