Keep Growing

It is inspirational, the little tree that has been knocked down into a nearly vertical position – because it keeps growing.

It reminds me of a man who was “born to lose.” He was born with cerebral palsy. He suffered constant physical pain, humiliating public ridicule, bullying, and constant discouragement. Every time he faced a challenge he was told, “You can’t do that. You have cerebral palsy.” But he kept growing.

His father died. His mother was his one and only comforter and cheerleader. To each objection that others raised about his abilities, his mother told him he could do that. He felt that his mother was the only person in the world who loved him and the only woman in the world who would ever love him. Then she died, leaving him an orphan at age 14.

Severely depressed, and passed around from place to place because no one wanted him, he dropped out of school. Over the next two years, he attempted suicide several times. Then he gave his life to Jesus…and suddenly found for the first time in his life – he could do that. With the power of Jesus’ Holy Spirit, the baby who was born to lose transformed into a winner. He kept growing.

David Ring went back to school and graduated. He applied for college and was told, “You can’t do that. You have cerebral palsy.” Ring graduated from college and followed the Lord’s call into ministry. He was told, “You can’t do that. You have cerebral palsy. You can’t preach. Who would listen to you? You can’t talk right. You stutter. You can’t walk right. Your legs drag. No church would call you to preach.” He kept growing.

David Ring became a nationally known motivational speaker in 1973, and addresses some 100,000 people each year. He is also an author. He kept growing.

Ring was told, “You will never get married. You can’t get married. You have cerebral palsy. No woman would want you.” He kept growing.

Ring is a proud husband, and the father of four children. He has two grandchildren. The mantra of his life is: “I have cerebral palsy, but cerebral palsy doesn’t have me.” He keeps growing.

Ring tells audiences, “I serve the Lord with all that is within me. What’s your excuse?”

Good questions. If we have quit growing…what is our excuse?



This is all that remains of Scotland’s Fortrose Cathedral, built in the 1300s as man’s effort to immortalize his relationship with Mighty God, the Creator of the universe. No doubt the person entombed expected to be equally honored and revered throughout the ages – but he is now merely a nameless relic of the past.

Out of all the books ever written, The Bible remains the best seller. A few books that have sold more than 100 million copies include The Tale of Two Cities and The Lord of the Rings. Other books considered best sellers include Don Quixote, Pride and Prejudice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Black Beauty, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Harry Potter books. Has anyone read them all? Some of them used to be considered “classics” and were required reading in school. Not now.

Jesus died more than 2,000 years ago, then rose from the grave victorious and sent His Holy Spirit into the hearts and lives of His believers to empower them to serve Him. As a result, the vast majority of the most popular and trustworthy charity organizations in the world are run by Christians. To name just a few: World Vision, The Salvation Army, Bread for the World, Compassion and Wateraid.

As we build the fabric of our lives it is wise to question whether we are building for ease and comfort now, or building for eternity. Fortrose Cathedral was built with the finest stone available and by the best craftsman of its time. But only what is built on The Rock of Ages – Jesus Christ – will stand forever.

As a writer, I would love for my books to be remembered as life-changers. Yet, no matter how many books I write, none of them will ever rival the unchanging, living Word of God.

1300 tomb

Rocks, Roses & Sea Breezes

It was hard when I first arrived in Scotland from Texas, USA. Even though it was “summer,” it was 25 degrees cooler and I went from wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts to wrapping up in three layers of clothes, a coat and a wooly hat.

Cars drove on the wrong side of the road. There were roundabouts – paved circles with no stop signs or traffic lights. Cars spin in and out of roundabouts without stopping and drivers use right turn signals – even though vehicles turn left entering a roundabout. Many roads are poorly marked or not marked at all. Signs are in both Gaelic and English, with the Gaelic on top. Since the lettering is small, it’s nearly impossible to read it.

Meals are called “tea,” so when you are invited over for tea, you don’t know if you’re joining friends for a cup of hot tea (which I don’t drink anyway), or a meal. Cookies are called biscuits and biscuits are scones. Toilet paper is “loo roll” and dish soap is “washing up liquid.” Sidewalks are called pavement. While waiting for a bus, the driver shouted at me, “Get on the pavement.” I was confused because I was standing on the pavement.

Favorite is spelled favourite, color is colour, program is programme, and long lines are called queues. Oh – and dog owners don’t like to have their dogs called “pups” unless they are actually puppies.

Church services are strictly timed to finish within an hour. Songs are usually accompanied by slow, ponderous organ music. Following human traditions is more important than following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

There are virtually no convenience stores and long trips are miserable because of the lack of public restrooms. Once, out of sheer desperation, I hunkered down in the back of a store that hadn’t opened yet, squatting between wire racks. Existing restrooms usually have thick-walled stalls from the floor to the ceiling with such painted-over metal hardware that I never lock the door because when I do – I either cut my fingers or am afraid I won’t be able to unlock it again.

When you order Italian food like lasagna in the U.S., you get hot bread, a salad, the main course, and refills of iced tea or soft drinks. In Scotland…you get lasagna. No refills on drinks.

Words like schedule, proven, resume and laboratory are pronounced differently. Words like garage and aluminum are pronounced so differently that I didn’t know what they were at first.

God brought me to Scotland. He’s helped me bloom. I still say “y’all,” and haven’t said “aye” yet, but I actually invited someone to have “tea” with us – meaning a meal! The hardness and trials have translated into blessings. We live where everything that is green blooms, and everything is green because of the surplus of rain. In any direction one looks, there is no blight, no ugliness. The people are warm, friendly, generous and independent. They remind me of Texas folks.

And my second Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense is about to be released by Sunpenny Publishing Group, here in the UK. God has transformed hardness and confusion into rose petals and sea breezes.

It is possible to bloom amid rocks and hardness. Trust God to turn the hard circumstances in your life into garden spots.


Dare to be a…Dandelion?

William Wordsworth wrote:

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of golden daffodils…

Why daffodils? Why not dandelions? They are both yellow. They are both cheerful. They both start with the letter D. So what’s wrong with dandelions…except, of course, that in this case – it wouldn’t rhyme.

Even though dandelions have medicinal uses and are harvested for food, they are listed as a noxious weed in many jurisdictions. My neighbors hate them and cast disparaging looks at our yard when the cheerful yellow blooms pop up and wave at them in a friendly manner.

Multiple internet sites offer advice on how to kill or get rid of dandelions. They are considered a nuisance in residential and recreational lawns and in agriculture. They get blamed for economic damage because they infest crops worldwide.

Pilgrims brought dandelions to New England from Europe in the 1600s, and planted them for health benefits which included curing scurvy, a condition caused by a lack of vitamin C. Because dandelions are hardy, they survived. Because they are aggressive, spread easily, grow anywhere, and are highly visible – the once revered flowers are now hated.

Children love dandelions. What magical fun to blow on a dandelion and watch white fluff somersault through the air on wind currents – tiny circus performers catching a moment of freedom and life in celebration. I still love blowing on dandelions. (I don’t do it when the neighbors are watching!)

Fortrose, Scotland, threw off winter gloom and followed a bright parade of golden daffodils this spring. Except the ones captured by cameras and memories, they are gone now. Now, the land has rolled out folds of green and gold tartan as dandelions march staunchly into the battle for continued survival.

Christians need to be like dandelions – not daffodils. We should be aggressive on the side of right. We should spread the Good News about Jesus’ love and eternal life everywhere we go. We should bloom where God plants us. We should be hardy, even when we are met by ridicule. We should catch the breath of the Holy Spirit and celebrate Jesus as freely and joyfully as dandelion fluff in a whirlwind.

Instead of daring to be a Daniel, like the children’s Bible song, we should dare to be a dandelion.

I think I just encouraged myself to go out and blow on some dandelions in front of my neighbors. I may or may not be back…


Word Rocks

The world caught its breath in horror recently when Farzana Parveen, 25, of Pakistan, was stoned to death by family members outside a courthouse because she married the man she loved instead of the man her family had selected for her.

Truthfully, a lot of us use word rocks to murder every day.

Consider parents who tell a child, “You’re a brat!” “I’m so sick and tired of you!” “You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re stupid!” Word rocks that kill. Most incarcerated individuals, including serial killers, were battered by word rocks as children.

Consider a spouse who tells the other, “I hate you!” “I wish I had never married you!” “How did I get stuck with you?” Word rocks. Most marriages that end in divorce started tearing apart from the weight of word rocks that were never forgiven, never forgotten.

School children are guilty of murdering with word rocks at school. Most of them learned the battering techniques they use at school from being battered themselves at home. “You’re ugly!” “I don’t want to be your friend.” “You’re weird.” Word rocks that scar for life and sometimes murder victims by pushing them toward suicide, drug use, or crime.

No wonder the Bible has so many verses commanding us to use words as tools, not weapons. Proverbs 18:21 declares that “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue.” Jesus warned that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. “By your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37. He added, “Not that what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a person.”

While most word rocks are cruel and unkind, not all word rocks are deadly. Jesus hates profanity. As our example, He explained, “The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63). Our words should reflect Jesus’ Holy Spirit and direct listeners toward joy, abundance, and eternal life.

The Bible advises, “Put perverse lips far from you.” It reminds us that, “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life.” It proclaims, “He who restrains his lips is wise.”

Convicted by reading Moody Bible books – The Sugar Creek Gang – as a teen, I quit using profanity, even though my parents were atheists and swore profusely. I wasn’t a Christian and couldn’t even define the term, but I knew there was something different and admirable about the characters in those books. Now that I write Christian mystery-romance-suspense, I challenge myself to write believable characters in exciting settings full of adventure and romance – without using profanity or glorifying risky lifestyle choices like smoking, drugs, alcohol and promiscuous sex. I don’t lob word rocks. They kill.

None of us can undo the tragic death of Farzana Parveen and her child. We can’t bring them back to life. But all of us can protect the ones we love in our life by remembering not to sling word rocks.

God intends us to use words to plant trees of life, not to kill and destroy.


My Running Coach is a Dog

DSCF5476      With Alan in the ministry, we’re a low budget family. Kindhearted folks in our church realized that when poor Little Red got smashed by a Glasgow Taxi and couldn’t be repaired. In an amazing, touching, and heartwarming gesture, they gave us a car. It has half the mileage that Little Red had and it’s simply awesome in every way. We are truly blessed. We call Red’s replacement “The Jesus Car,” because Jesus provided it.

Low budget or not, exercise is vital for good health. So I insist on keeping my running coach. She’s simply awesome and amazing. She doesn’t work for peanuts, but she can be bribed with treats. My running coach is our dog.

I didn’t want to run today. It was one of those rare Scottish days of sunshine and warmer than usual temperatures. Our garden had a surplus of dandelions. I love the cheerful yellow flowers that God plants everywhere. Our neighbors don’t. To keep peace, the dandelions must go. After a day of crawling around on my hands and knees pulling up the nearly impossible to uproot “weeds,” I didn’t want to go running. I’d had enough exercise.

Along came my running coach. “Woof, WOOF,” right into my face. Loosely translated, that meant: “get off your computer and go running. You need the exercise. I’ll supervise.” So we ran. As we ran, I began to feel guilty.

This is the weekend that the United States celebrates Memorial Day. Son Luke Parker is in the U.S. Marine Corps and has given up more than anyone other than God will ever know to serve his country. He and others like him have joined the military and fought for the freedom that allows me to sit at this computer and write. My freedom has been purchased with their blood, tears, heartbreaks, lives. With all the sacrifices they make on a daily basis, how could I possibly think I was “too tired” or had “worked too hard” to run? My sacrifice compares to theirs like dandelion fluff to an oak tree.

Thank you, U.S. Troops. God Bless and Keep You. May your sacrifice be rewarded with the attainment of every dream you cherish and every goal you set. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. May Jesus be your constant Guide, Protector, Healer.

And if any of you need a good running coach, I can recommend one. She’s relentless – and affordable. If you don’t mind four paws and long strands of dog hair sticking to the carpet, she’s perfect!