Excesses

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The man was about the size and shape of a refrigerator, except with extra padding in front—padding that pushed him away from the table and his food. Like the man, his food was considerable: a full Scottish breakfast (bacon, sausage, black pudding, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, an egg, and toast); a bacon and egg filled bun; two bottles of Pepsi; two cappuccinos; two desserts.

It was the man’s business. It was the man’s body. It was his money. His bill for one meal was as much as ours for two. Moving seemed to be a problem for him, even though he looked like he was in his early forties. He grabbed and pushed everything he could get his hands on to haul himself out of his chair and get to his feet. When he moved forward, he limped on both legs as if his knees hurt. Some folks have medical conditions that contribute to obesity. The man was probably hungry and with a body that big, it must take food fuel to move it. Still, I thought part of his overweight problem might be the excesses; a filled bacon and egg roll on top of the full breakfast, the two desserts, two bottles of pop and two cappuccinos.

When do our excesses become someone else’s business? When do we not have a right to our own bodies and to treat them however we want?

The Biblical answer is that we do not own our bodies. God does. God created us. Then He purchased life for eternity for us through the death of His Son Jesus. We are twice owned by God. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple are you.” 1 Corinthians 3:17.

Because sin entered the world through Adam and Eve and sin brought death into the world, we all begin the journey toward death at our births. God didn’t want this or intend this—His plan was always eternal life. That’s why our bodies have great capacity for healing. But old age and death approach as steadily as a fish being reeled in on a rod until the net slaps under it and catches it. None of us can halt the day of our death, but we can fight against the excesses that destroy our bodies, the temples of God; gluttony, alcoholism, drug use, smoking. We can’t stop the reel and escape the net—but neither should we willingly leap into it.

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Bye Butterflies Bye

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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.

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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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Misconceptions

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Many people believe it—but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Adam and Eve ate an apple. They ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Many people believe it—but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. It says the Lord prepared a big fish to swallow him. Scientists out to shoot holes in the Bible have conducted studies to prove that a person could not be swallowed by a whale and survive. And yet—surely the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth is well able to prepare “a big fish” to swallow Jonah.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere.

Christmas cards portray bright fields of snow and evergreen trees decked with white—yet in many parts of the world—it never snows.

I got a bad review on one of my books from a reviewer who said, “We don’t have street vendors in the UK.” I based the character on a street vendor in Inverness, Scotland. The reviewer lived in England.

I got a bad review on another book from a person who said if I wrote about Texas, I should learn about it first. I was born in Texas.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere.

We all look at the world through the eyes of our experiences. If one has never read the Bible and relies on things other people have said—fruit becomes an apple and prepared fish becomes a whale. If one lives in northern climates, one will expect the whole world to have snow on Christmas. If one lives in England instead of Scotland, one may believe the UK has no street vendors. If one lives in tornado alley in north Texas, that person would not know about the plethora of wildlife in the Texas Hill Country.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere. We can do our part by focusing on bigger issues than fruit, fish, or real or imagined mistakes in books.

Kindness is a good starting place. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Kindness is love in action and leaves no room for misconceptions.

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Dog Sickness

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From the time we brought her home when she was eight weeks old our rough collie puppy has won the hearts of strangers. Now she expects everyone she meets to say, “You’re gorgeous.” “What a beautiful dog.” “I love your dog.”

Savannah looked gorgeous on the outside. She still does. But she was sick on the inside and no one knew—not even the first vet who examined her and said, “What you have here is a beautiful, healthy collie puppy who is a perfect weight. Don’t worry.”

She might have been a perfect weight when he saw her, but she was not healthy and there was cause for worry. She had quit eating. Everything. He saw her before she started losing weight.

The second vet investigated more closely. Blood samples, x-ray. Irritable Bowel Syndrome and three medications. After six days of starving herself, Savannah finally started eating. Everything.

Each day we meet folks who look fine on the outside, but who have mental or physical illnesses on the inside. Some suffer extreme pain. We can’t see their pain, so when they are unkind  we blame them, not their disease.

 “Do not look at his appearance, or at his physical stature…For 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

When someone is unkind to us, we need to look deeper.

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School Daze

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Four years old and burning with envy—although I couldn’t name the emotion at the time—to see the older kids walking to school every day while I had to stay home. So I followed them.

Clueless, I ended up in a line in a hallway with a teacher walking along the line asking each child for milk money. Until she came to me. She stopped in confusion and asked me who I was and what I was doing there. I thought that was a rather silly question from a teacher at what was obviously a school. “I’m going to school.” I got sent home for another year.

We had moved by the next year. I was excited to catch the big yellow bus outside my house and ride to school on the first day. On the second day—I hid from the bus. If I had known about math—I’d still be hiding.

Much of what I “learned” in school was misinformation. My first grade teacher criticized my coloring. “Tree trunks are brown,” she said, “the sky is blue.” She had never been to the Texas Hill Country where tree trunks are grey. She had never been to Scotland where the sky is seldom blue.

We were taught that North is straight ahead, East is right and West is left. We marked it on maps. So when someone gives directions and says, “turn North on the next street,” it’s confusing. If North is straight ahead, why turn?

Then math. We were taught counting: “one-two-three-four-five.” I once had to pay back my employer for the extra hour I had marked on my timecard. My hours were from nine to noon. Count yourself: 9-10-11-12. I was getting paid for four hours. Everyone else was getting paid for three.

What to learn out of all the “facts” the world presents is confusing. Separating “truth” is like holding a raw egg in your hand to keep the yoke while the white runs through your fingers.

Thankfully, there is one infallible Book, one Everlasting Teacher—and we all have access. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:3.

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When to Clap

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Recently bestselling author Val Poore (https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Poore/e/B008LSV6CE?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1564318680&sr=1-1) wrote a brilliant blog on the differences between UK and US language. As a new to the UK dog owner, I decided to highlight some interesting canine differences.

Folks here don’t ask to pet your dog, they ask to “clap” it. The first time I heard that I was horrified. What loving pet owner wants a stranger to hit his or her hands together against your poor terrified puppy?

One doesn’t walk a dog on a leash here. It’s a lead. You don’t bathe your dog, you bath it. You don’t feed it supper, you give it tea. You don’t tell your dog “no” when it picks up unsavory morsels, you tell it “leave.”

I’m sure there are many other differences, because after all—babies in the UK suck on dummies, not pacifiers. They don’t wear diapers, they wear nappies. All drinks that aren’t tea or coffee are lemonade. I don’t know what lemonade is called. Bangs are “fringes” and in polite company you don’t say “poof.” But I’ll leave that one for readers to figure out.

The love for furry family members is the same in both countries. So is kindness. And God’s unfailing capacity for miracles. We took our six-month-old rough collie Savannah to North Berwick for dental surgery. We had to walk back to our B&B, a distance of about a mile. We didn’t realize when we left the clinic that Savannah hadn’t fully recovered from surgery. She suddenly plopped down on the grass, stretched out on her side and could go no further. I had already been carrying the 40-pound dog on a knee that requires surgical repair.

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Enter human angel. God sent him. He appeared out of nowhere and told us that the clinic had released Savannah too soon and she would never be able to walk as far as our B&B. He called the vet clinic and told them Savannah was coming back for a couple of hours. He even offered to carry her. My Texas stubbornness kicked in and I assured him that I could carry the 40-pound pup back uphill to the station. I’m on crutches now.

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It’s the Little Things

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People celebrate big events in life; the acquisition of a new car or a new home, a pay raise, a vacation. But it’s the small things in life that count.

Feeling your nose starting to run and reaching into your pocket—and yes! You have a tissue.

Taking a photo of something unique or important that you will never see again—and the picture turns out.

Dropping a lid on the floor and it lands the right way up.

Getting an unexpected extra hour of sleep in the morning and not being late for anything.

Having a flurry of soap bubbles rush up from the sink when you wash dishes.

Finding the keys in the first coat pocket you search.

Discovering a beautiful flower blooming in a rock wall and knowing that—with God’s help—you can overcome your problems.

New homes age, new vehicles get dents, pay raises are spent, vacations end. But I always smile when the lid lands the right way on the floor, or when brightly colored soap bubbles burst into the air when I’m washing dishes.

Little things. It’s the little things in life that count.

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God Returns

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I was at a “hole-in-the-wall” bank getting money out when I spotted a homeless person. I thought to myself, “I have a little bit of change I can give him.” The Lord said, “Give him a ten.”

So instead of getting out the 40 I had planned, I got out 50, and walked over and gave him the 10, then went into the store. Let me explain that I never, absolutely never put loose money in my pockets because I carry so many other things in them: camera, doggie bags, tissues, keys, billfold, glasses case. So I never stick money in my pockets in case I accidentally pull it out and lose it when I’m getting something else.

I got into the store and couldn’t find my customer card, so I reached my hand into my pocket and pulled out a 10.

When I was in Texas at a book signing the Lord told me to bless two different people at two different times by giving each of them $100, so I did. Just before I boarded the plane for my flight back to Scotland I was handed two separate cards which I opened on the plane. Each one contained $100. It’s impossible to out give God.

“Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

I am no one and nothing special. God has no favorites. He put laws into the universe and His laws are unchanging. People attempt to amend morals and convictions for society and some believe in their power to accomplish that.

But God never moves.

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Stubbornness

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God has blessed us with a lovely, intelligent rough collie puppy. She has only one flaw—stubbornness. When she doesn’t want to go the way we are going it evolves into a tugging match and ends up with me dragging her.

It seems cruel to drag a puppy across the street or down the sidewalk—but when the light changes and cars are coming from both directions, or when there are workers ahead with dangerous equipment—dragging is a kindness that saves her life.

Stubbornness is an admirable trait in a writer. With 150 rejection slips from publishing companies in the U.S. and U.K.—I kept writing. With 40 years of disappointments and agony, I kept hitting the keys. My new Christian Cozy Mystery “Croft Murders,” featuring Mike the Headless rooster, Fiona the pouting rooster, and croft owner Nora whom someone wants to kill would not have been published without stubbornness.

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Nor would I be working on another book after the first review on “Croft Murders” was a three-star from a reader who said I didn’t know enough about Texas. I was born there and moved from Texas to Scotland eight years ago. Texas is indeed “a whole ‘nother country” with every climate and eco system imaginable. The tornado stricken, flat, snowy panhandle; the lovely Texas Hill Country with its plethora of wildlife; the nearly desert environs along the Mexico border; the east Texas piney woods and oil wells, and the west Texas mountains and Big Bend State Park. The reviewer apparently didn’t know much about home of my heart, the Texas Hill Country, because everything I mentioned about Texas in “Croft Murders” reflected a true experience.

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Savannah and I have worked out a compromise. As long as she’s in no physical danger, and as long as it’s not extremely important to go to any one particular place—I put the leash on her and follow her. Now before anyone reaches the conclusion that I’m a coward, or have never trained a dog before, I would just like to justify that compromise by pointing to…writing. Yup, all of y’all, writing.

The characters in my books come alive and take over the plot and action. Without dropping a spoiler about “Croft Murders,” before the characters took over, I planned a completely different outcome for Nora. Therefore, I can justify my decision to “go with the flow” where Savannah is concerned. I’m used to being dragged around.

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It’s Not the Bombs

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When I was a kid, a siren would sound and we would scramble under our desks to protect ourselves from bombs. I did what I was told. I had no idea what a bomb was or what destruction it would cause. I know about destruction now – and it’s not from bombs.

When I was a kid, our parents would send us out into the yard to dig bomb shelters in the Georgia red clay banks surrounding our house. They weren’t really worried about bombs – they just wanted to keep us occupied. But I know about destruction now – and it’s not from bombs.

Addiction costs the US an estimated $559 billion a year, with $193 billion of that being from alcohol. It costs the UK an estimated 21 billion pounds a year, with 100 billion of that being from alcohol.

But the real cost of addiction is hidden: shattered families, abused and neglected children, abused and dumped pets, vehicle crashes, murder. An alcoholic with a long string of previous arrests shot my brother Greg to death when Greg was 21. (Greg with our pet lion, Eb.)

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 An alcoholic who already had two DUIs crashed into our truck, totaled it, and caused permanent spinal damage to my cancer-suffering husband. A drug addict ran up so much debt against my property that I lost it. All these incidents dropped off the string of statistic-takers’ figures: hidden costs of addiction that cause lifelong hurt and torment for overlooked victims.

The solution is simple. Learn and accept these truths from the Bible and teach them to our children: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians)

Would you stick a cigarette into Jesus’ mouth? Would you hand him a beer or pills to pop? If you are wise enough to realize that God would be offended by these things – keep garbage out of your own mouth and set that example for your children. It’s not the bombs that destroy our lives. It’s the addictions.

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