The Positive in the Negative

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With all the hype, fear mongering, and panic buying caused by the Coronavirus, one thing is positive. With prime ministers, Hollywood stars, and sports figures getting cases it underlines human sameness and frailty—and the need for God.

World leaders get Coronavirus. Rich people get it. Famous people get it. No amount of power, riches, or fame stops the Coronavirus.

Same with God.

World leaders need God. Rich people need God. Famous people need God. No amount of power, riches, or fame deletes the human need for God. We all need God.

“Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies.” Psalm 108:12

“My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He who keeps you will not slumber. The LORD is your keeper; He shall preserve you from all evil.” Psalm 121

And of course the Psalm so many are quoting now, Psalm 91: “I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver you from perilous pestilence. You shall not be afraid.”

Do not fear. Everyone who is reading this survived Y2K.

God is the positive of every negative.

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Not Worried

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I lived through Spanish Influenza when I was four. My sister Leslie and I were so sick with exodus from both ends that we lived in the bathroom.

My horse kicked me in the face. I spent my birthday and Christmas in the hospital. I’ve been thrown from horses. Once our pony bolted, tossed me over his head, and landed on me. Leslie was happy. I protected Smokey from broken legs.

I’ve survived a poisonous snake bite and an attack by an African lion. I ran across a fallen log over a creek not realizing a black bear was under it. I nearly fell into a rattlesnake den when I was hiking. I escaped from growling Texas feral hogs that threatened to attack.

I survived child abuse, rape, and two forced backwoods abortions before I was fifteen—both of which put me in the hospital after I nearly bled to death.

I spent seven years as a single parent working up to three jobs at a time. I traveled from coast to coast in a pickup truck with all my belongings in the bed. My son Luke and I climbed up on top of the mattress on top of the load to sleep at night when we stopped at rest areas. I couldn’t afford a motel.

More recently I underwent major spinal surgery.

I am not afraid of Coronavirus.

While 125,000 babies are being murdered in abortions daily around the world—I refuse to worry about Coronavirus.

There are 365 “Fear Nots” in the Bible, one for every day of the year.

“Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you.” Psalm 91.

Coronavirus does not scare me.

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Weight Loss Plan

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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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Shadow Distortions

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Where we walk Savannah at night a street light hits a metal railing so strongly that it creates bars across the sidewalk—and they look real. I find myself stopping and looking ahead to make sure the path is not blocked, even though I know the shadows are mere distortions—illusions that lie.

Funny videos show small children and dogs playing with their shadows—attempting unsuccessfully to catch them. When we were kids, we loved shadow displays on the wall. But shadows aren’t real. The shadow of a car can’t run over anyone. The shadow of a wolf can’t bite. The shadow of a snake can’t constrict. The shadow of a knife can’t cut.

When I was a child I loved “The Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson. I still do. I love all his poems in “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

 

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;

I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;

But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

 

Like Robert Louis Stevenson’s shadow that stayed asleep in bed when the sun was up, shadows vanish. They are not real. They cannot hurt.

Psalm 23 in the Bible says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” We need not fear death for two reasons; one, God is with us, and two, death is a shadow and shadows are illusions. They are not real. They cannot hurt us.

Death is like the period at the end of a sentence. It’s a stopping point in our lives before we move on to the next sentence, the next chapter, the next page—our eternal home in Heaven where God has written our name in His Book of Life.

A shadow did hurt me once. My spooky horse jumped over a red clay bank and his shadow hit the road before he did. He threw me and ran home in a fright, leaving me to walk two miles. That horse got spooked by an illusion. We have more sense. Shadows are not real. They cannot hurt us.

The shadow of death is a reflection of the light of Heaven on the other side.

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No Fear…Absolutely

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There are no easy answers for why bad things happen to good people, and why a loving God allows them to happen.

There are a lot of chipper, upbeat standard answers that sometimes make those afflicted with pain and suffering angry. Sure, they may be true – but in the midst of pain who wants to hear: Everything that happens in your life is a consequence of the decisions you’ve made and your actions. True or not, I can’t imagine walking into a hospice ward to visit a person with lung cancer and saying, “Well, this is your fault for smoking.”

True or not, in the center of a storm of pain, hardship, and suffering – telling someone that God created a perfect world, which was ruined by sin, and that God never intended bad to enter His perfect creation is not much comfort. Action to help the person is needed more than all the glib clichés one can deliver.

Please, I welcome your prayers, but the following is Not a plea for sympathy. When my hip pain started a few years ago, I ignored it. I declared stoutly, “I don’t need to go to the doctor. Even if an x-ray shows a problem, I will never let anyone cut me open. So why go?” So I exercised, ran, and prayed the pain away. I was a Texan, after all, and just like my character Texas Miz Mike in my mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge” series, Texans stand up to crisis. They don’t back down even from rattlesnakes.

Prayer works. From the time I was a new Christian and God removed my warts, to the time my son was scheduled to have a metal rod inserted in his spine and God healed him instead, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever – and Jesus heals. Prayer works. But sometimes we don’t get the answer we want or expect. Sometimes God answers “No.” Sometimes He answers “Wait.” For me this time, God’s answer was “NO.” For whatever reason, God did not heal me and I became increasingly worse. By worse, I am on crutches. I can’t open my mouth to take a bite of food without throwing the utensil down and hollering in pain.  Sneezing, yawning, coughing – the pain is so intense that it would knock down an elephant. Fortunately, I’m a Texan.

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The MRI showed a “huge” bulging disc in my spine that presses directly into the nerve. Instead of my right hip, the pain has spread to both hips and makes it impossible for me to drive because I can’t lift my foot and press down on the clutch. Why do I have this pain? Why has God not healed me? I don’t know. I do know that the Bible says to give thanks in everything, because this is the will of God for me in Christ Jesus. So I give thanks. I know that everything works together for good to those who love the Lord. Everything. How is this horrific pain working together for my good? I don’t know exactly, but I have an idea.

No fear. The greatest fear a person faces in life is death. Once that fear is eliminated – there’s nothing to fear. I lost my fear of death when my 37-year-old son died in a plane crash four years ago. He’s in Heaven and I will get to see him again when I get there. Everyone must walk through the valley of the shadow of death to get to Heaven. But shadows aren’t real. They can’t hurt. Shadows are an illusion. No fear.

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However, I love mobility. I want to walk, run, swim, climb mountains – keep moving. Therefore…I was determined that no doctor, no surgeon was ever going to touch my spine. Until…the pain. It took severe pain to grow me past the fear of having surgery. My surgery is scheduled for next week and I would be jumping in joy – if jumping didn’t hurt so much and if I could lift my feet. I am thrilled. I am totally unafraid and totally ready to surrender my life, health, and spine to whatever surgeon God provides. Trusting God totally and totally without fear.

I can’t answer the question of why bad things happen, or why Jesus didn’t heal me this time as He has in the past. Mysteries belong to God, even though I write them in books. But this I know, pain has pushed me to grow beyond fear. Totally.

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Christmas shadows & Lights

For seven years of single parenthood, my son Luke (the late Major Luke Gaines Parker, Aug. 19, 1976-Nov. 17, 2013) and I lived in the Nevada desert. One of our favorite entertainments was holding sagebrush jumping contests – which I hasten to add, he invariably won!

Except the mountains changing colors as clouds pass over them, shadows in the desert are short. Rocks, sagebrush, Russian thistle (tumbleweed), rabbit brush – all cast short shadows and there are virtually no trees. When we moved to the Texas Hill Country, trees along the road threw shadows down and when those shadows hit the road in front of me when I was driving, I got dizzy. It was a silly thing and I couldn’t understand it until Mom’s Christmas present.

Because Mom never had much money to spend on us at Christmas, she came up with unique, affordable gifts like the scrapbook of childhood photos she compiled for each of us one Christmas. It must have taken her weeks of sorting through pictures to get all the photos in the right albums for the right children. Luke loved the pictures of his mom as a child. We were looking at the album one day when I focused in on a small wooden house splattered with shade from trees surrounding it. Suddenly, the picture reached out and grabbed me. I was pulled through the hall to the back door where – partly outside my range of vision – my father was beating something to death. I couldn’t see the victim clearly enough to identify it, and the unexpected image frightened me so badly that I snapped out of the trance. I tried to revisit that picture later when I was alone, but I never could get past the front door again. The image of him pounding something and blood everywhere had terrorized me.

So my newest book, “Fear of Shadows,” was born from that Christmas gift and from the horrendous memory that almost surfaced.

My father was an atheist. He was a cruel wicked man who obeyed no law – God or man-made – except his law: “What’s good for J.L. Potter is good.” As a result, he committed shockingly evil crimes during his lifetime and was one of the first 51 people in the U.S. to die from a newly discovered disease that hadn’t even been named yet. We know it now as AIDS.

“Fear of Shadows” is a Christian mystery-romance-suspense book written from my imagination, not a true story. They say that fact is stranger than fiction. It is a fact that when I was five, my father loaded me, his mother, a Great Dane dog, my grandmother’s dog, and two cats into a wood-paneled station wagon and drove away from California in the middle of the night. He left my sister, my brother, and my pregnant mother behind. We camped out in the then-untamed Florida Everglades swamp along a lagoon with venomous snakes and alligators. We ate bread and peanut butter, and pancakes that my grandmother cooked over an open fire, every day…day after day. All these years later, I still can’t eat pancakes. My father claimed he was looking for work. Perhaps he wanted to herd alligators.

So…who and what was his victim? I don’t know. But I think you’ll enjoy the story that this experience wrote for me. God Bless you and Merry Christmas.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/387341

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Prophet on Fire!

Bible prophet Jeremiah faced constant ridicule, mocking, and cruel physical treatment including imprisonment and incarceration in a muddy dungeon for his faithful witness and warnings about how lifestyle choices earn God’s blessings or God’s wrath. Jeremiah became so fearful, bitter, and hurt by ill treatment that he decided to quit preaching God’s Word – but he couldn’t.

“His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones,” Jeremiah lamented. “I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” (Jeremiah 20:9) So the weeping prophet kept preaching.

I feel somewhat like a prophet on fire! I’ve been holding back on introducing my newest Christian mystery-romance-suspense, Fear of Shadows, until it is actually released. But it should be released sometime this week and I simply can’t hold back. It’s like a burning fire shut up in my bones and it’s begging for release. Also, we will be gone and away from a computer for a week – so here’s a synopsis of Fear of Shadows.

I was about to loose my virginity against my will in a moldy smelling house with plaster falling off the walls, critters crawling up through holes in the floor—on a torn, stained bed with no sheets and rat droppings bouncing around me when I moved. I deserved better than this. I deserved the right of choice. I deserved the right to the joy of making love for the first time with someone I loved. I deserved to give myself to a man for the first time in a clean bed with clean sheets.

Self-sufficient Texas Eugenia Thornhill espouses many rebellions including giving a man—any man—authority over her heart, or her life. She hates the mother who named her “Texas” after her birth state instead of loving her enough to give her a real name. She hates the mother who ran off and left her young child with a cold, emotionless father.

Texas likes to brag that she’s not afraid of anything—not even spiders or snakes. Her boast proves empty when she meets childhood friend West Strom and realizes that she is deathly afraid of shadows, but clueless as to why. Time and again she shatters their nascent romance by mindlessly shrieking and running out of her childhood home, fleeing the shadows that terrify her.

Pranksters also seem intent on sabotaging the relationship. A dead raccoon is hung on the refrigerator, a rock is thrown through the window, furniture is trundled around the room in total disarray, then righted again before West arrives to investigate.

Texas is tricked into holding a séance. West, a strong Christian, is appalled that Texas is involved in witchcraft. That almost ends their friendship.

But the most destructive force entering her life proves to be the seemingly harmless fun of frequenting a Texas dancehall with Thornhill Ranch manager Jason Peace. She finds herself accused of murder and forced into hiding. When she escapes and clears her name, it only adds to the dystopia at the ranch.

Texas exhibits her paintings in a feminist art show in San Antonio and meets her mother. Her mother apologizes, but does not explain her abandonment. When they say goodbye, Texas is saying goodbye to a stranger.

West arrives to rescue her from what Texas has realized is a nefarious art exhibit revolving around hate and discord. But even though West gives Texas a kiss that stuns her with its passion, how many times can her childhood hero rescue her from her foolish choices and paralyzing fear of shadows?

When Texas finally solves the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and learns the truth about her fear of shadows, it is a truth that threatens to destroy every single person she loves.

So, hope Fear of Shadows makes it out this week and hope you’ll buy it and enjoy it! I’ll be sharing the link when we get back. Meantime, you can probably find it surfing the web. And – hey – thanks!

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