What Kind of Dog for Easter?

We don’t understand a world of suicide bombers and casual murders. Why does God allow it? For the same reason a dog owner gets to choose between a collie and a dachshund, or a Great Dane and a Scottie. God gives us freedom of choice. Murder is a matter of heart. God gives every individual the freedom to choose between good and evil.

It’s easy to rail against God when tragedies stalk our world. It’s easy to shake a fist at God over unanswered prayers; when someone we prayed for remains unhealed, when someone we love dies, when a fierce storm ruins our homes and possessions. It’s natural to blame God when He allows something bad to enter our lives. And, yet…if God intervened to the point of taking away our freedom of choice, how would we feel when we selected a golden retriever from the pet shelter and the manager said, “No, God put you down for a beagle.”

Jesus had unanswered prayers. On the night before He died, Jesus prayed three times and asked God, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me, nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.”

Jesus didn’t want to suffer. He didn’t want to be tortured. He didn’t want to hang on the cross. He didn’t want to die. But His prayer to be spared agony went unanswered because His death on the cross for our sins was the only way the gates of Heaven could be opened wide enough for all of us to enter. Even after allowing His Son to die on the cross for our sins, God did not strip our freedom of choice. We can still get that golden retriever….or walk with evil as a companion and allow cruelty and murder to control our hearts.

When Jesus died on Good Friday it seemed like an unbearable sorrow and tragedy to His followers. The One who had opened blind eyes, healed the lame, cast out demons, turned water into wine, raised the dead, calmed the storm, and walked on water had died just like other people.

Easter Sunday proved what Jesus’ disciples did not know at the time: “All things work together to good to those who love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28) Jesus rose from the dead! Because He lives, we can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because He lives, we can follow Him to Heaven where there is no illness, death, sorrow, tears, or parting. Alive forever in new bodies singing praises because of Jesus’ power to transform the worst day in world history into the best.

Because Jesus lives, I can live forever. The choice is up to me. I’m going for the Man Who paints the seasons with brilliance and draws human hearts toward good. I’m going with God.

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Taking the Cure

Some of my friends are so allergic to bee stings that they carry an epinephrine autoinjector, more commonly known as an EpiPen, with them at all times. Injections of epinephrine – adrenaline – combat allergic reactions caused by everything from insect bites to food.

When I made the mistake of catching a snake at the pond to see whether it was poisonous or non-poisonous, I wound up at the hospital with my hand frozen in a tub of ice until anti-venom could be shipped in. The snake had been poisonous – a water moccasin.

Each day, people from all around the world flock to physicians, health clinics and hospitals to obtain cures for physical ailments. Searching for cures is nothing new. Mummified human remains prove that thousands of years before Christ came, physicians of their time performed operations on patients – even brain surgery. Prior to floods of settlers pushing Native Americans off their land in the U.S., Indian doctors discovered aspirin, medicinal herbs, and how to set broken bones.

When we are sick, we want to be healed.

Easter, or Resurrection Sunday is about illness and the cure. There are four major religions in the world, each revering their founders. All four founders died. Three of them stayed dead. Jesus arose from the grave victorious. Jesus is alive! He lives and moves and has His life in us, if we seek the cure – because we are all sick.

I can run up to four miles a day, take garlic and cayenne pepper capsules and never go to the doctor, but I am sick. My heart is diseased. It’s sick from sin.

Symptoms of heart sickness include anger, bitterness, hate, selfishness – rotten fruit that molds inside the hidden chambers of the body, making us physically ill as well as building unpleasant, hard to tolerate personalities.

When we invite Jesus into our hearts and let His Holy Spirit live inside us, we produce good fruit from the inside out, fruit that blesses us and others: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The choice to take the cure or leave it is ours. Easter is a good time to make it.

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

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If This is all There is to Life, Why was I Born?

With Easter Resurrection Sunday approaching, it seemed a good time to ask the question: if this is all there is to life, why was I born?

I don’t count my life as a total failure. My dream has always been to be an author and I have six Christian mystery-romance-suspense books published and another one featuring sassy Miz Mike – Bridge Beyond Betrayal – being released this summer by Sunpenny Publishing.

Yet, I’ve never had as much money as other people have; I’ve never driven as new a vehicle as most people do; I’ve never lived in as grand a house as many people do; never been able to spend lavishly on Christmas gifts for other people at Christmas, or buy expensive gifts for others during the rest of the year. Because I haven’t been able to afford it, I’ve never been on a cruise; never gone to Disney Land; never taken a vacation to Greece or Rome or some other exotic place. So if this is all there is to life, why was I born?

I’ve had problems, trials, troubles, heartbreaks and sorrow. Having two abortions forced on me to hide the crime of constant childhood sexual abuse inflicted on me; escaping that abuse and living under a bridge; being cold, tired, hungry and despairing; spending years as a single parent and working two to three jobs to make ends meet; caring for a husband who died from cancer, and the most recent tragedy – the loss of my 37-year-old son in a plane crash. So if this is all there is to life, why was I born?

First of all, I don’t have a patent on hardships. My landscape is not the only one darkened by life’s storms. Job 5:17, written in 1520 BC, states, “A man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Job would know. All in one day he lost everything he possessed on earth, including his children. All he had left was his wife. She told him to curse God and die. Job replied, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

I am fortunate to have a loving, supporting husband in fellow author Alan T McKean (time travel series The Scent of Home, The Scent of Time) who stands beside me under the darkest clouds as a bright light and never tempts me to tempt God.

Most encouraging, this is not all there is to life. Jesus, the Son of God, was born to a human in human form so that He could experience everything we do as non-deities and set the example of resisting temptation, loving one another, and obeying God. Jesus came to earth to die. After healing multitudes of people from multitudes of illnesses, diseases, injuries and infirmities, He allowed Himself to be lifted up on a cross to die that we might live. Nails didn’t hold Jesus to the cross, love did.

The story doesn’t end there. After three days – after going to hell and wresting the keys of death and hell away from satan – Jesus rose from the grave victorious! Because He lives, we know that we will live again. Death is an illusion. Death is not an ending – it is the beginning of eternal life with God.

Victory in Jesus!

Bring on the sorrows, trials, problems, temptations, illness and hurts. They are temporary. Jesus is eternal.

I’m glad I was born.

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Dying to Live

The oldest inscription on a gravestone at the Rosemarkyne, Scotland – since changed to Rosemarkie – churchyard dates back to 1644. The present church building was constructed in 1821, on ground claimed for worship since the first century – 6 AD.

One family of pastors shepherded the flock for a combined total of 150 years. The salutary import of this glimpse of history is to demonstrate the truth Jesus taught: we must die to live.

Easter, or Resurrection Sunday is quickly approaching. Jesus said (Matthew 16:24-26) let those who want to follow Me deny themselves and be willing to accept the difficulties that following Me will bring. Whoever is afraid of public criticism and denies Me to win public approval will lose their lives. Whoever refuses to be swayed by fear of public opinion and serves Me will find life in Me and blessings. What profit is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?

Once we are not afraid of dying – either physically or socially – we can live in the fullness of joy, because fear of death is the ultimate fear.

Walking through a land peopled by grave markers illustrates the frailty of our human bodies and the intransigent nature of death. We will die. All of us will die no matter what race, sex, nationality, or religious creed we claim. No one has ever out-maneuvered, out-run, or out-distanced death. Even Jesus died.

With death certain, our only hope and comfort is that Jesus is alive. Death could not keep Him, the grave could not hold Him. Because Jesus lives, we will live. Because Jesus lives, we can die to live, confident that we are not living to die.

One headstone in the Rosemarkie churchyard is a quintessential example of how to die to live instead of living to die: a cross resting on the Rock of the Ages with an open Bible next to it. That’s an earthly reminder of a heavenly citizen who understood that death is just a shadow that can’t hurt us. We must all pass through the false shadow of “death” to enter eternal life where there is no more sorrow, illness, death or dying.

Our earthly journey is short. We own the choice to live it victoriously in Jesus, or in meaningless comfort, seeking the approval of other people who – like us – will die.

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