Mysteries

fog from ferry

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.

fog from ferry 2

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.

BlackPuddingMurder_CVR_XSML

https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

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.

blog monday 2

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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.

TX author

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…

Blog anger photo

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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.

butterfly thistle

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.

5 Viking

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At the Drop of a Shell

seagull-eating-crab

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.”

gulls 3

https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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.)

alan and waterfall

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

Girls, Take it From the Birds

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When God created birds, He gave male birds bright, colorful feathers to attract females. Girl birds don’t work to attract boy birds; boy birds work to attract girl birds.

We’ve got it all wrong today. Females wear skimpy to non-existent clothing, color their hair, pierce their bodies, and paint their faces to attract males. Listen up, women: we should learn from the birds.

I saw a young girl yesterday wearing such exaggerated makeup that she looked like a cat. Her eye shadow was so thick and dark that it hid her eyebrows. She wore a short skirt that barely covered her underwear, a top cut so low that her boobs almost popped out, and the expression of a lost puppy on the side of the road.

Women need to reverse the media hype about attracting men and make men work for it. Take it from the birds. Today’s expectations about how women should look, and the pressure for women to hunt down men as if they were prey and capture them is a recipe for mental illness. It makes women feel unattractive, unloved, and unappreciated because they can never live up to the unrealistic expectations. We should learn from the birds.

In Jesus’ time, when a man asked a woman to marry her, he went out and built her a house, then collected his bride. He worked for it and she felt respected, loved and protected. When Abraham wanted a wife for his son Isaac, he sent camels loaded with treasure to the young woman and her family. Isaac loved his wife Rebekah and she felt loved, cherished and appreciated. Isaac worked for it.

The Bible upholds the best image for a woman to have of herself: Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30) Time cannot ruin beauty that is on the inside, nor does it require plucking, painting, pricking, or pruning to perfect.

We should learn from the birds.

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https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Beautiful Tree

tree after storms

 

This is a beautiful tree. It speaks. Look at it intently and listen to it whisper, “endurance.”

Poets memorialize heart-tugging moments in life. Authors, painters, and artists of all media catch fleeting moments of life and expound on them. One word whispers through all the art forms, through all the ages. The same word the tree whispers into the wind, “endurance.”

“All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:7. Even seaweed blooms, but, oh, so briefly.

It’s God’s job to send the sun and the rain to create blooms. Our job is to endure.

seaweed blooms

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Adventure Outside Books

FB back Dunoon

Most of my books are mystery-romance-suspense and revolve around adventure, but sometimes adventure is overrated. Most of my adventures outside books revolve around getting lost—or similar calamities.

God has a sense of humor. Both my husband and I are directionally challenged, yet God put us together. Sometimes getting lost is a positive experience. Getting lost led us to Scotland’s historic Ballachulish, a slate quarry which opened in 1692 and employed up to 300 men for more than 250 years. Roofing slates were shipped to Scottish cities, with a record 26 million Ballachuish slates produced in 1845. It is now a tourist attraction of walking trails and poignant memories carved in rock.

blog ballachulish signvert        blog arch Ballachulish

We just returned from two days of travel, six hours of driving both days. We only got temporarily lost on the way up to the Black Isle, and twice on the way back, so it was good other than the eight road work delays. Due to time constraints, we couldn’t stop to take pictures on the way up. We planned to stop on the way back. Never count on the next day for good weather in Scotland—we should know that.

When we finally reached the hotel booked for any time after 2 p.m., it was closed. Every door in the front was locked and no one answered our incessant doorbell ringing—incessant because I was desperate to get to a toilet. It was after 5 p.m., and there was not even a light inside. We stood there in the rain and cold wind (me with my legs squeezed together) considering our options. I walked around to the back and found an open door to what was apparently a linen closet and workshop. First I shouted, then getting no reply – I walked in, still shouting. No answer, but I found an unlocked door that led into the motel. I could see a bathroom in the gloom. Steps led up into the bowels of the historic hotel, which was built in 1892, a listed two-story square rubble stone building with dormer windows, a Tudor hood mold at the main entrance, and spacious rooms with elaborate trim around the high ceilings inside.

My husband was appalled (or perhaps frightened) by my bold adventuring, so he was back in front of the building waiting in the rain. The entrance along the main road opened into a bar and I got a chuckle thinking that people passing by and seeing Alan waiting might wonder if he had retired from the ministry to indulge in drink. Eventually two other people showed up—and unlike us—they had cell phones and called someone.

We finally made it to our room, which was grand and beautiful—but as cold as the outside stones. The restaurant was closed, so it was back out into the rain to walk across the street and get take-away Indian curry, which we ate in the closed restaurant.

The shower was good once I finally snapped to the fact that it was not a power shower and the reason I couldn’t find a button to push to turn it on was because there were no buttons. The bathroom heater didn’t work, so we were nearly as cold the next morning as we had been the previous night.

Then the trip home, driving through a rain/snow mix over mountains and behind slow moving vehicles and watching with pounding hearts as impatient drivers put their lives at risk attempting to pass big trucks in limited visibility.

Sadly, when we were almost to Dunoon, I looked in the rear mirror to see a car zooming along a line of seven vehicles attempting to pass all of them and realized with horror that an oncoming car was about to smash into it. We went around a hairpin turn and I couldn’t see what happened. A few minutes later, police cars with flashing lights rushed past us, and when I looked back in the rear view mirror, only two vehicles of the seven remained behind us…and there was no sign of the car with the impatient driver. So we started praying for everyone involved in the accident and thanked the Lord for our own safe travels.

Some adventures are better missed.

FB back Dunoon 2

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

Conversation Stopper

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus some 740 years before Jesus was born. Isaiah may have been martyred—sawn in two—during the reign of Manasseh for speaking truth. He condemned the wealthy for oppressing the poor; he condemned women who neglected their families in the quest of carnal pleasure; he condemned priests and prophets who became drunken men-pleasers instead of teaching and keeping God’s law.

Isaiah declared God’s displeasure with sin and endeavored to turn his generation away from disobedience to God. He paved a foundation of hope and promise for those who remained true to God by telling them about the birth of Jesus, Savior and Redeemer.

Speaking out against sin and injustice, Isaiah said, “Woe unto…” Yet after he had a vision of the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah said of himself, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5) Faced with God’s holiness, Isaiah realized that the same sinfulness he had prophesied against in others was found within himself.

That’s why I wrote gritty, real “Killer Conversations.” I’ve been criticized because the narrative of child abuse creating a serial killer is not a fairy tale—it’s painful and haunting. It’s the only book I’ve ever written that has received a one-star review. As Christians, we sometimes use what we perceive as our goodness as an excuse to criticize others. We use the fact that we don’t smoke, drink, curse, etc. as a battering ram against other believers. It’s a temptation to set ourselves up and put others down. We forget: “There by the grace of God go I.”