Bucket List

Making “bucket lists” is trendy. I don’t have a bucket list.

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Since I was in the fifth grade my enduring dream has been to write books. I write books. I’m happy.

I would love to make money writing books – enough money that I could keep writing more books. But several of my books have made the Amazon Best Seller’s List (albeit briefly), so I’m happy.

It would be great to visit my hometown of Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World,” and say howdy to my friends. Needless to say, I’d love to visit all my family members. Family is more fulfilling than writing books.

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It would be fantastic to take a Christian cruise to warmer climes. I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than spending days eating food you don’t have to cook, swimming, working out at a gym, and relaxing in the sun – except writing books.

There are fascinating places in the world to visit with strange and exotic landscapes and animals. But I’ve traveled to many of those places already through reading books. I’ve researched and written some of them into my books. I’m happy.

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Our rough collie Angel Joy had a one-item bucket list. She wanted to meet a cat and sniff it to see what it was. Our friendly birds outside let her sniff their feathers, but cats have always run. Finally, a cat not only let her sniff – it followed her across the parking lot and tried to jump into the car with her. She’s happy.

If I had a bucket list, one animal I always wanted to meet was a hedgehog. I got to meet one the other night. It let me crawl around on the ground and take its picture and touch its stiff bristles. I’m happy. I wrote a hedgehog into “Bridge to Brigadoon,” which is set here in Scotland. It was fabulous to meet one in person – so to speak.

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The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Paul lived for Jesus even after being beaten and stoned for his faith, and after having survived shipwrecks. He knew the secret: “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” I don’t think Paul had a bucket list. He lived each day fully engaged – and he was a writer. He was happy.

Bucket lists are cool. They really are.

But, I have my books. I’m happy.

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

CHRISTmas Light

Some associate Santa with Christmas. He rides into town on a fire truck and throws candy for children, or lands in a helicopter, or stations himself in malls and stores for photo opportunities.

The inspiration for these events came from a poem written in 1823, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” and a song written in 1933, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Both poem and song birthed the popular U.S. image of a red-clad, white-bearded present-bearing Santa.

However, far more populous, present, and visible than Santa – are lights. Atheists attempt to steal CHRISTmas by demonizing the friendly “Merry Christmas” greeting and insisting on “winter holidays” or “seasons greetings,” but the joke is on them. For as long as CHRISTmas lights dispel winter darkness with cheery spots of brave color, hearts will be reminded of Jesus, the Light of the world. “For the LORD will be your everlasting light.” Isaiah 60:20. And in Jesus’ own words, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” John 12:46.

The conspiracy to take Christ out of CHRISTmas is not new. Public schools began fazing out nativity scenes for children to color and replacing them with Santa on a rooftop; Santa’s sleigh and reindeer, and Christmas trees nearly 50 years ago. Christmas carols like “Joy to the World” and “Away in a Manger” were replaced with “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The anti-God, anti-Christ movement picked up momentum over the years like a bulldozer headed down a ski slope. Today, the war on CHRISTmas and Christians is real and really vindictive.

Still there are lights. Colored lights and white lights at Christmas lifting hearts and drawing souls closer to worshiping God, in Whom is found no darkness. The atheists and “anti,” “politically correct” crowd may glom on to the fact that lights proclaim the Light of the World, Jesus and outlaw them too. For it is possible to dispel darkness by lighting even one light, but when one light is shining – nothing can bring back total darkness.

And when the atheists and their followers outlaw lights for celebrating CHIRSTmas, the moon and stars will still point to Jesus, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

The Lights have it.

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

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Gateposts

Here in Scotland, a rock mansion was built in 1790, complete with ornate stone gateposts.

After he inherited it, owner James Douglas Fletcher spent an enormous amount of his wealth creating “a mansion to supersede all others.” Rosehaugh premiered as an elaborate four-square, three-story, 60-room showplace of unbelievable opulence, built with the finest construction materials, and filled with valuable furnishings from around the world. The mansion to supersede all others was completed in 1893. A mere 66 years later, the mansion was demolished. Today, 121 years later, all that remains of Rosehaugh are two ornate stone gateposts leading to nowhere.

That’s a good warning to us. We build our lives every day. Are we building something permanent that will remain when we leave this earth, or are we building grand and eloquent gateposts to nothing?

It is not wrong for Christians to have and to spend money. The Bible encourages us to work. It promises that in all labor there is profit. It tells us to work with all our might. It affirms the right of Christians to get paid for working. “He who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope…the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:10-14)

If we work and are rewarded financially with a good income, we should have the freedom to spend what is left after God’s tithe on whatever will benefit us in this life so we can continue to be productive. But how wide is the gap between what we really need and what we build? Are we building to impress others, or building gateposts in Heaven?

Once I lived under a bridge in the back of a pickup truck, painting signs for meals and washing myself and my clothes in the river – even on the coldest days of winter. I had little, but I had everything I needed.

Once I lived in an open-ended garden center. I had no bathroom facilities, no kitchen facilities, no air conditioning in the 100-plus degree summers and very little heat on the 16-degree winter days. I took showers with the cold water in the garden hose and slept on a lawn chair mattress on top of three wooden planks. Toads, birds, a wild cat, and other critters came in and out to visit. I had everything I needed. I had Jesus.

I’ve been without things that most people view as necessities, but I’ve never been poor.

“The blessing of the LORD, it makes rich.” Proverbs 10:22.

Jesus encouraged, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20, 21)

As commanding as it was in its time, Rosehaugh is gone. Two stone gateposts stand as reminders that not even an enormous amount of wealth spent on things in this world can secure them or make them permanent.

Jesus is the only foundation for eternal life. Living for Him is just as possible under a bridge or in a derelict half-shell of a building as it is in a palace or grandiose showplace like Rosehaugh.

Jesus was born in a stable. His first visitors were poor shepherds, hated and despised by the wealthy. We have a God that cannot be bought or sold for money; One Who only accepts the freewill offering of our hearts.

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

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Dare to be a Dog

Dogs win accolades for unconditional love – and they should.

I want to praise dogs for their joyfulness.

Every day we take pretty much the same walk with our dog. Every day, other dog owners take pretty much the same walk with their dogs. Yet, every day, every dog is joyful to be out on a walk – even when passing the same scenery, the same greenery, the same same. Regardless of the sameness and circumstances surrounding them, the dogs are joyful to be alive and to be with the people they love. They exercise an attitude of gratitude.

What a life-changing spiritual lesson we could learn from dogs! Dare to be a dog! Dare to be joyful! People talk about being “stuck in a rut,” but wherever we are in life never starts out as a rut. It becomes a rut when we continuously dig it with complaining and a lack of gratitude. No matter where we live, God has created a beautiful world and has blessed us with another day of life. If you are reading this, you still have your life. With that life come the possibility and responsibility of choosing joy or sorrow; hopelessness or faith. Many other choices surround us in life, but depression destroys health. Joy restores health. “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

Life doesn’t come with a rewind button. None of us can undo hurts and harms from the past. Our only choices are to become better and stronger from the heartbreaks we’ve survived– or bitter and resentful.

God loves an attitude of gratitude. He created us to praise Him. When Jesus was told that his worshiping followers were too loud and joyful, Jesus responded, “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out.”

Psalm 150 exhorts, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”

Many people make many New Year’s Resolutions. One would suffice. Dare to be a dog.

 

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

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Life is never long enough

Today, November 19, 2013, I learned that I must say goodbye to the best son any mother ever had, Marine Corps Major Luke Parker, who was killed in a plane crash Sunday. Life is never long enough when you love someone.

When I look back to my time as Luke’s mother, I know I was blessed by the LORD that He chose me out of all the other women on earth to be Luke’s mom.

Luke was hyperactive before hyper became a buzz word. At the doctor’s office, other children sat in their mother’s laps. Luke jumped off furniture, tore around the room like a wild fox, and shouted with laughter when I tried to catch him. When I finally caught him and attempted to restrain him, he screamed so loudly that we were taken into a waiting room in the back. There wasn’t enough space for him to bounce and run there, and by the time we left the doctor’s office I needed treatment for a raging headache. The Marine Corps was the perfect career for his boundless energy. He began training before he was out of high school, running four to six miles a day in every kind of weather.

Luke was born loving animals and they sensed that and loved him in return. Once when he was walking in New York, a thirsty bird landed on his shoulder. Luke feed the bird drops of water until it recovered and flew away. With Luke’s help, we rescued and saved dogs, cats, ravens opossums, frogs, tadpoles, snakes, lizards. I walked outside one day to find Luke hanging upside down in a tree teaching a baby opossum how to climb.

When Luke was four, the “experts” at a children’s clinic in Reno, Nevada, informed me that Luke had learning and developmental issues and would never do well in school or be particularly successful. My answer was, “As long as he loves Jesus and serves Him, I don’t care.”

The experts were wrong and Luke achieved everything he ever wanted to do. When he decided he wanted to play a trumpet, he learned. When he wanted to learn to play the piano, he took a few lessons and wound up playing in church. He was a skilled artist and poet, and in spite of the fact that he said he hated writing, he was entrusted to write newsletters for his Marine Corps unit. He decided he needed a college diploma and graduated from Stephen F Austin. He decided he wanted to learn to fly and earned not only a pilot’s license, but also his instrument and instructor’s ratings. He fell in love with an old army jeep and bought it and rebuilt and painted it from the ground up, learning as he went. He decided he wanted to buy a plane and found one of the only 19 surviving Focke Wulf planes in the world, which he kept in pristine shape. He and the plane went down on Sunday, Nov. 17. If he could have chosen the way to go – that’s what he would have chosen. From the sky into the arms of Jesus.

I could be proud that Luke made the rank of Major; that he graduated from college; that he and his plane performed in air shows; that he ran marathons. I am proud of all those things, but what I am most proud of him for is for having been a great dad to his daughter and walking with God.

Luke read his Bible nearly every day and prayed constantly. He would want me to use this opportunity to encourage you to consider where you will be when you die and make sure it’s heaven. You’ll get to see him there! Because of Luke, one of my favorite Bible verses is 3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

Proud of you, Son. Thank you for walking in truth. I’ll see you soon!

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