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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It Has Happened

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It has happened. Trees shivering their leaves off limbs and me shivering right along with them in empathy, sympathy—or just because I’m cold.

I hate cold. I hate being cold. I hate winter. I have always hated winter. There are very few things in this life I hate: fire ants, scorpions inside the house, winter, being cold.

All three of my winter memories are bad. When I was eleven, I took three cute brown and white puppies home without asking my parents first. I expected my parents to see the puppies, fall in love with them, and agree we could keep them. They didn’t. I had to take the puppies back, walking several miles through snow in canvas shoes with holes in them and wearing no gloves. I suffered severe frostbite on my toes and fingers. To this day my fingers quit working when it drops under 75F, and since it is nearly always cold here in Scotland, I spend part of my working day at the computer sitting on my hands to warm them up.

My second winter memory is worse; cutting, stacking, and carrying ice-crusted logs into the house for the fireplace—without gloves. Our family was too poor to buy gloves. Have I mentioned about my hands? Pain as severe as slowly freezing human limbs is hard to describe—and even harder to forget.

The third winter memory is taking Luke to cut a live Christmas tree when he was four. He had the necessary outfit: snow boots, snowsuit, coat, and gloves. Being a single mom supporting her child—I did not. This was deeper and colder snow—if that’s possible, and we were in it for a long time while Luke searched diligently for the perfect Christmas tree. Me—wearing canvas shoes and blue jeans—by the time Luke found his tree I would have gladly settled for a tin can and a twig.

The good thing about being a writer is that it’s okay to stay inside working—until life intrudes and forces you outside. Then it’s still winter, I’m still cold, I still hate the winter.

Psalm 74:17 says of God, “You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter.”

Since God made winter, He has a purpose for it. That means my job is to be happy for those who enjoy the winter and follow the advice in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks.”

So I am thankful. I am thankful that winter ends.

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It Won’t Happen to Me

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Positive, optimistic thoughts are fantastic. Except the, “it won’t happen to me,” syndrome that causes risky behavior to flourish.

Alan’s mom reached birthday number 102 in the hospital battling pneumonia. Others in her ward are battling smoking-caused illnesses. Those tempted to smoke should visit a similar hospital ward and hear the choking coughs and gurgling breaths. They should watch smokers throwing up food, coughing up brown yucky stuff, and struggling to stand and walk. They should note the pale complexions, hooded eyes, and collapsed veins that have been used for life saving measures. They should attempt to fathom the confused conversations of smokers whose brains are not receiving enough oxygen to function properly.

Reckless driving, drinking alcohol, consuming unhealthy diets are all avoidable and all powerful enough to kill, or to ruin a life. If the “it can’t happen to me” syndrome held true—tragedy would be eliminated.

God created a perfect world and never intended illness, death, sorrow, and tragedy to be a part of it. Sadly, when sin entered—it brought all its relatives. Folks do grow old, they do become ill. But let’s not make it our fault that our bodies are compromised.

“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.” 1 Corinthians 3:16&17

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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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Mysteries

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I love mysteries. When I was a child, I read every Erle Stanley Gardner “Perry Mason,” and “Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine” I could find.

Recently I purchased a kindle book with an intriguing title, only to be disappointed that it wasn’t a mystery. I finished reading it and left a review for the author, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy mysteries.

So much of life is mysterious, especially in our human relationship with God. I’ve often asked God, “How do you do it? How do you give me ideas for books and help me write them?” Some might mistakenly claim that I labor under false humility. I don’t. God writes; I type. I have 19 published books.

My hope is that readers will enjoy “The Fog Busters—Old Bones Detectives.” Alec is nearly blind, John and Peg are nearly deaf, Morag is on a crutch, and the two youngest members of the amateur detective agency—Rory and Susan—are 60. The clean-reading, Christian cozy mystery is intended to entertain older readers, but the gentle humor should entertain readers of any age.

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When the Lord gave me the idea for the new mystery series two years ago, I made excuses for not writing them. I told God that I couldn’t write older Scottish characters because, having grown up in Texas, I wouldn’t understand Scottish-born people well enough to write convincingly. When I quit making excuses and started writing, the Lord took over.

“Black Pudding Murder” will be released soon. It’s been fun to write, but the real mystery isn’t in the book…it’s in how the Lord got involved to make it happen.

Jesus told His disciples, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.”  I guess even God is into mysteries.

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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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At the Drop of a Shell

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Imagine a crab safely hidden amid seaweed and rocks. Abruptly a seagull swoops down, plucks it out of its secure place, carries it skyward, and drops it on a hard surface.  The crab’s shell shatters and the gull eats the hapless victim.

Life is like that. Events pluck us out of our safety zones and drop us into hard times, hard circumstances. Enemies may even dive into our lives and pick at us while we are at our lowest ebb.

I appreciate the wisdom and intelligence of a seagull. People who believe animals don’t think have never been around animals. A crab has a hard shell designed to protect it from predators. Hungry seagulls figure out how to circumvent this obstacle.

But while I can respect the abilities of animals—like gulls—to think, I personally rebel against hard times and hard circumstances. I don’t like them. Yes, they stretch us and make us grow—but I’d rather stay the comfortable size and shape I am. Still, God is in control. He is too wise to make mistakes and too kind to be cruel.

So as the hard times and circumstances come—for they will, I will hide my heart hurts in Psalm 144 & 145: “Blessed be the LORD my Rock, my high tower and my deliverer…The LORD is near to all who call upon Him.”

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Tweets

 

Alan goose friendsEven if they don’t have a Twitter account, most folks know what tweets are. I love Twitter. Even though I’ve never met them, I feel as if I have some awesome friends on Twitter. I love retweeting and retweets and I’ve found some great new authors from Twitter tweets—and thankfully, some folks have found my books.

I’m very particular about my Twitter account. There are books I won’t retweet regardless of how many times those authors retweet me. I don’t want vampires, werewolves, witches, porn, same sex romance, or profanity on my Twitter page. I give preference to Christian authors, wildlife and nature photos, Bible quotes, and people whose books I have read and enjoyed—although there are so many other wonderful books out there that I haven’t had time to read yet. Most of the new authors I’ve discovered have been through Twitter. I won’t name them here, because I don’t want to forget anyone and hurt their feelings. Actually, I believe that every new book I’ve read for the past two years—I found through Twitter.

Sometimes I wish life were like my Twitter page and I could have control of what goes on and what stays off. This is one of those times. My sweet husband, author Alan McKean, has kidney cancer and is facing the removal of is left kidney. I wish I could just leave that tweet out of our lives. Fortunately, he and I both believe that God is in control, that all things happen for a reason, and that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord—so we will get through this with God’s help, comfort and healing. But if it were a Twitter Page and I were in charge—I’d leave this one off.

Alan has just had his next book accepted by Reagan Rothe and Black Rose Writing. I’m so proud of him. He spent a year researching WWII and writing the book. So in honor of him, I’m putting a special tweet out for him, my husband and hero. The link to his books is below. (The WWII book, What the Ocean Divides, has not been released yet.)

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https://www.amazon.com/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1526276595&sr=1-2-ent