My Version of Hell

Most have probably heard the Biblical description of hell: a place where the fire is not quenched and the worm never dies.

My version of hell is a bit different. Cold.

I like to inject humor into the things I write, both my books and my blog. But, honestly, I just don’t find cold or being cold funny.

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Cold was funny when we were kids. My siblings and I would throw lemon drops across the frozen pond and watch our Great Danes slip, slide, and skate across the ice to snatch the candy. We laughed like maniacs as the poor long-legged beasts sprawled time and again on the ice. But now…that seems cruel, not funny. What if the ice had broken and the dogs had drowned? What if they had broken their legs or sustained permanent soft tissue damage? Of course, we were out there slipping, sliding and falling right along with them.

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Seriously, how can one find humor in something like cold that can kill you? I remember the time we walked two miles to a neighbor’s house to get two adorable puppies with the idea that our parents would let us keep them once we had them. Wrong. They were the cutest bundles of fluffy brown and white that we had ever seen. We sneaked them past our house and stashed them temporarily in our neighbor’s barn. That meant walking through ice and snow several times a day to feed them, because it was an unusually cold winter. We all suffered frostbite. To this day, my fingers become numb and burn after only a short time in the cold—even when I’m wearing gloves, and my toes are not far behind. It was humiliating to be forced to return the puppies to their owner and admit that our parents would not let us keep them. We cried the two miles from our house to their house to take the precious pups back home. Yet what I remember being even more painful…was the cold.

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Another cold-induced misery I remember is when, as an adult, I went on a church outing in northern Nevada so Luke could have the joy of picking out his own Christmas tree. He had the proper coat and boots for the occasion, and although he got cold like the rest of us, I don’t remember him suffering. As a single parent, I had only been able to outfit one of us with water-proof boots. So while he tromped around in the snow with the other children, engaging in snow battles and building a snow fort while searching for the perfect tree, I walked around in tennis shoes. I think it was the next day before I could feel my toes again.

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Oh, and not to forget the time I caught a snake at the pond to see if it was poisonous or harmless. It was venomous. The water moccasin took exception to being caught and bit me. So while the hospital waited for the anti-venom to be flown in from Atlanta, they froze my arm in a tub of ice water. Once they administered the shot, they thawed my arm. To this day I’m not sure whether it hurt worse to have my arm freeze or thaw.

Nope. I do not find snow beautiful, nor do I weather cold climates well. I’m amazed that after five years of almost never being warm, I’m still in Scotland. It is a lovely country with scenic views in every direction…but it is COLD.

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So keep your Biblical version of hell as a place of raging fire and worms feeding off flesh. That’s the way Jesus described it and Jesus is always right. But I will keep my personal version of a place where it never warms up, my teeth are clattering like ice cubes hitting a glass, and every muscle in my body is stretched painfully tight until I feel like I’m shriveling up like an abandoned pumpkin after Thanksgiving. Oh, yes…and there would be fire in my version of hell because my fingers and toes would burn.

Thankfully, I won’t ever go to hell to see what it’s like because I have Jesus in my heart and He promised, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

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And, thankfully, readers—you won’t have to go find out for yourselves either. Sometimes the best knowledge and wisdom we possess comes not from sticking our hand in the flame to see if it really burns—but in watching someone else and making the decision not to follow their example.

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

Sailcats, Crucifix Fish & the New Year

Sailcats, Crucifix Fish & the New Year

Kindhearted volunteer Marshall Scott answered the U.S. Marine Corps call to rescue me at the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport on Thanksgiving Day after I attended my son Luke Parker’s memorial service. Marshall took time away from his family Thanksgiving to make sure I made my connecting flight. Additionally he shared the legend of the Crucifix Fish.

Jesus on the cross is outlined on the front of the sailcat’s skeleton, complete with the hilt of the sword that was plunged into Jesus’ side. The back of the skeleton displays the Roman shield. When you shake the cross, you can hear the dice being tossed for the Lord’s clothing.

When I got back to Scotland, my research disclosed that gaftopsail catfish witness God’s love in life, too. For example: Jesus died on the cross and went down for hell for three days to take the keys of death and hell away from satan and secure eternal life for us. The sailcat lives on the soft bottom of the ocean – but unlike other catfish – it doesn’t feed there. Just as Jesus loves and accepts everyone of every color, every country, every social status in life, the sailcat feeds up and down through the entire water column.

Male gaftopsail catfish brood their young in their mouths until they hatch. During this entire period of up to 65 days, males do not eat. What a great parallel of Jesus’ nature; His willingness to sacrifice even His life that we might be born again and grow into His image. Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us when we are weak.

Sailcats are saltwater catfish. As Christians, we are instructed to be salt in the world. We should walk in love, but also in truth. Our truth – salt – has great healing power.

Crucifix Fish skeletons are popular for jewelry, but rare. Imagine my delight when I received a Christmas present from the Scott family, a box containing a Crucifix Fish! It will be freely shared here, going so much further than just our house.

What a great New Year it would be if we all took lessons from Crucifix Fish: witness Jesus openly both in this life and in the memories left behind when graduating to heaven. Love and accept others, no matter how different. Get out of the comfort zone and dare to be salty! Put others first. For 2014, I want to live like a Crucifix Fish.

Texas Eugenia Thornhill, in my new Christian mystery-romance-suspense “Fear of Shadows,” reminds me of the lessons of the Crucifix Fish. She is too self-reliant and self-sufficient to need God until she solves the mystery of her fear of shadows. The truth almost destroys her. There is power in the Cross of Jesus, but to tap into it – Texas would need to get out of her comfort zone and get salty. Can the proud, independent Texan who embraces one rebellion after another do that?

http://www.amazon.com/Fear-Shadows-Stephanie-Parker-McKean-ebook/dp/B00HGLRS7O/ref=la_B00BOX90OO_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387739222&sr=1-6

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