Sacrifice of Love

Luke's Bible

Love this Christian song, “We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.” Believe me—reading the words are far more enjoyable than listening to me sing them.

Having a puppy in the house again after so many years reminds me of having a baby: the same lack of sleep, the same getting up incredibly early, potty training, picking up after, vigilant for potential dangers inside and out. It’s exhausting.

It’s also fun. While our rough collie puppy Savannah has brought an increased workload into the house, she has also brought increased joy and laughter. Love is worth the sacrifice—and love always demands sacrifice.

Media in the physical world likes to portray love free from danger, sacrifice, and commitment.  “Free” love doesn’t exist.

The greatest love story of all time epitomizes the foundation of love, a foundation that never shifts regardless of how society shoves and beats against it in an effort to bully it into their agenda.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for friends.” Jesus. (John 15:13)

Love is beautiful. Everyone needs love. Everyone wants love. Not everyone is willing to sacrifice for love.

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https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Big Dogs, Small Dogs

scot-puppyFirst the disclaimer. I am not a dog expert, “dog whisperer,” or dog trainer. The dogs in my books like the lovely rough collie Shiloh in “Bridge to Brigadoon,” plus the equally lovely collie in “Bridge to Desert Desire” and “Bridge Back” are based on dogs that have owned me and buried their memories in my heart. That said, I had an epiphany this morning about big dogs versus small dogs.

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Small dogs are often fearless. They launch themselves at an “enemy” so much bigger than they are that it makes us laugh. Often, while they are tilting at canine windmills, bigger dogs are scrunching up to hide behind something too small when they perceive human displeasure directed at them.

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I believe small dogs are courageous because their human owners constantly lavish them with love and attention. A small dog can be held on a lap and cuddled. They realize they are the center of their human’s universe and that builds them up on the inside resulting in self-confidence.

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Bigger dogs don’t fit on laps after they outgrow the puppy stage. They get pushed off, ordered off furniture, stuck outside in the yard – and are often, perhaps, in trouble for being able to reach and destroy human belongings that small dogs can’t reach. Unlike small dogs, their self-confidence never gets bolstered.

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If this surmise is true, it should be a reminder to parents to love their children and lavish attention on them. Children can never be “spoiled” by too much love. Lack of discipline will “spoil” a child, but lack of love cripples them for life. We should love our children at every age, every stage.

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Now what does this have to do with Christmas? It’s just a reminder to love our family at Christmas and on every day of the year. Our days on this earth are limited. Our love shouldn’t be.

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

Texas-Tall Valentine

A Texas Hill Country rancher erected a 101-foot tall metal cross on the highest hill on his ranch in 2008, near Pipe Creek Texas.

The rancher called it his Valentine Card to God. He explained that Jesus had done so much for him that he wanted to do something big for Jesus.

The rancher won accolades from some for the impressive structure which can be seen for miles. He was also slammed with criticism. Some complained that the rancher should have used the money spent erecting the cross to feed the poor. Some said they resented being subjected to the symbol of his faith on their drive through the hill country.

Jesus faced the same sort of hostility and criticism. When Jesus ordered the demons out of a naked man who lived at the tombs, townspeople ordered Jesus out of town. When Jesus told the woman at the well how she could receive Living Water, people complained that Jesus did not know about the woman’s depleted moral standards. When Jesus visited with the lowest echelon of people, He was accused of eating and drinking with sinners. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, it sealed His death warrant.

The Song of Solomon says that “Jealousy is as cruel as the grave.” (8:6) Even so, it was love, not jealousy and hatred that sent Jesus to the cross.

“For God, the greatest being, So Loved, the greatest love, The World, the greatest creation, That He Gave, the greatest act, His One and Only Son, the greatest gift, That Whosoever, the greatest invitation, Believes In Him, the greatest promise, Should Not Perish, the greatest salvation, But Have Everlasting Life, the greatest assurance.” John 3:16.

I love Valentine’s Day. I love giving cards and eating chocolate. I love celebrating love. Being a writer of romantic suspense books, celebrating the gift of love motivates me. I’ve written a young adult pro-life adventure book, “Love’s Beating Heart.” I’ve written “Killer Conversations” about a serial killer, a book that probes our tendency to pass judgment on others and questions, “Do serial killers go to Heaven?” I’ve written five quirky Texas Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense books in the “Bridge” series. But I can never write any love story as strong, noble and true as Jesus wrote when He died on the cross because of love.

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

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Your Everlasting Love Card

Saturday is Valentines Day. Poor Charlie Brown is already sitting against his mailbox waiting for cards that never come.

A host of folks never get Valentines cards. I know. I used to be one. Fortunately for the card-less of this world, God has already written a Love Card for every single person, and it’s redeemable every day of the week and not just on special occasions.

Some U.S. stores carry huge Valentines cards. Big or small, no card could ever contain the world’s greatest love story. There have been great movies and television shows celebrating the power of love. They fall short of recording the world’s greatest love story. Authors write romances and sprinkle romance into books – but the language of love is never complete in these books no matter how peerless the writing.

The world’s greatest love story is found in only one Book, the Christian Bible. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this; that a person lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends.” Then Jesus proved it by dying on the cross in our place and purchasing Heaven for us. Unequaled love that cannot be matched in any card, movie, television program, or book. The greatest love story the world has ever known.

God created us. He has always loved us. Before Jesus was born, Jeremiah 31:3 carried this promise from God: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; with loving kindness have I drawn you.”

God’s Love card is not new.

Probably one of the most famous verses in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

God’s Love Card is for everyone. No matter how many or few Valentine cards you get – even if they add up to zero – do not despair. You are so loved that Jesus stretched out His arms and died for you. And that much love would never fit into a card.

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

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Old Hat

Besides precious memories, too few pictures, and a much-read and much-used Bible, all I had left of son USMC Major Luke Gaines Parker was the old hat. Now the hat is gone.

It was ironic to still have Luke’s hat after he departed for Heaven at age 37. A hat should not last longer than the person wearing it – especially an old hat.

I bought the bright blue wooly hat for Luke in the Great Basin Desert of Northern Nevada when he was eleven. He left it behind when he reported to the Marine Corps for basic training.

Because it had been Luke’s hat, I kept it and wore it on cold, windy days – even though since it was a child’s hat, it was too small for me and kept popping off my head. Over the years, the hat became tolerant of me and relaxed enough to remain on my head. After I moved to Scotland, I wore the old hat nearly every day of the year – spring, “summer,” fall, and winter. Even in the height of “summer” it is still cool – often with a strong wind. The hat kept my hair from blowing across my face and getting tangled.

Now the hat is gone. It vanished. I wish I could believe that Luke reached down from Heaven and reclaimed the hat as a sort of sign. He didn’t. Heaven is a perfect place with a perfect climate. Luke would have no need for his old blue hat. When a person dies, their spirit goes immediately to be with Jesus in Heaven – if they belong to Him. Jesus is alive, Luke is alive – but he didn’t come for the hat.

I spent several days retracing walks and runs to look for the missing hat. Folks here in the Black Isle are honest and thoughtful. When they find someone’s property, they hang it on a fence post for the owner to find: shoes, socks, keys, dog whistles, shirts, hats, dog leashes. No bright blue wooly hat.

Perhaps the hat fell out of my pocket on the rocks and washed into the sea. Perhaps it blew out of my pocket when I was running and someone who needed a winter hat took it. Actually, I’m glad that it vanished because it taught me to look into my heart for what’s left that’s really important.

Everywhere I go, I see Luke’s smile. I remember the times he called me to sing a song he had just written. I still have cards and poems he sent me. When I look at his daughter’s face, I see his eyes and the bridge of his nose. He lives on in precious memories, and in the life of his daughter. These things are important. The old blue hat? Well, it was just a hat.

Every physical possession we have on this earth, no matter how valuable, will eventually wear out, get stolen, get lost, or disappear. Even the ones that we keep until we “die” will get left behind, just like Luke’s old hat when he went into basic training. No one leaves this earth for Heaven with a suitcase.

Value your children, friends, family members, pets – everyone and everything that you love – now. Spend all the time with them you can and lavish all the love on them that you have to give. You can’t spoil anyone with too much love – but you can break their hearts with too little love.

Build memories and hang on to them. Let old hats go.

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

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The Real Christmas Tree

(Christmas memory, Major Luke Gaines Parker, Aug. 19, 1976 – Nov. 17, 2013)

From the time he was two until he was 11, I was a single parent to my son Luke. We spent seven years in the Great Basin Desert of northern Nevada, exploring deserted caves, ghost towns, and mountain trails. I had told Luke how my siblings and I would go out into the Georgia woods on our property and find the perfect pine tree to cut down and take home for Christmas each year. One year, Luke decided we should go out into the desert and bring home a Christmas tree.

We headed up rough mountain tracks – hardly roads – in search of a real Christmas tree. Trees of any kind are rare in the desert. But we finally found a scraggly, twisted mountain juniper. Luke was delighted. He cut it down himself and we took it home and decorated it, largely with decorations that he made himself.

My seven-year-old son had a real Christmas tree that he had chosen himself. We thought it was beautiful. Enter well-meaning adult visitor. Said visitor looked at the tree in disdain and said, “The least you could do is buy your kid a real tree for Christmas. That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Imagine Luke’s heartbreak at being told that his tree was ugly and his mom didn’t love him enough to buy a real tree. Truthfully, I didn’t have sufficient funds to spend on a Christmas tree. We had eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Thanksgiving while the rest of the country ate turkey and watched football games on TV. We didn’t even have a TV.

Off goes officious visitor and returns with a real Christmas tree, professionally decorated and presented to us in a condescending manner that tempted my southern upbringing to “slap the tar out of him.” For the sake of Luke, who now had a real, bright, beautiful, glowing Christmas tree, I bit back both retorts and violent retributions.

Happily convinced that he had improved a single parent and child’s Christmas cheer, the visitor left. Before the engine noise of his vehicle faded into the desert, Luke said, “Mom, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but now that’s he’s gone – can I get my real Christmas tree back. It’s prettier than this one.”

We retrieved scraggly mountain juniper and displayed it with honor in the living room. We added some new decorations from the professionally decorated tree, which we put outside the back door to entertain coyotes and ravens. “Luke,” I asked, “I agree that your tree is beautiful, but why do you like it better than the big one?”

“Cause, Mom. It’s like Jesus. It’s real.”

“What makes it more real than the one outside?”

“Jesus made it and planted it. I loved it the first time I saw it, just like Jesus loved me before I got to know Him. Love is what makes things real, Mom. I thought you knew that.”

The real Christmas tree stayed with us until its memory was a whisper of dry needles scattered across the carpet.

Links to books by Stephanie Parker McKean: 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/387341

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

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Love Stinks

It takes courage to love – because love stinks.

Okay, so I write Christian mystery-romance-suspense books. I should march through life expounding a giddy procession of clichés about love’s virtues. But honestly – love stinks.

Love stinks because only those we love possess the power to hurt us. We can be callous and indifferent when taunted by enemies, but when someone we love criticizes us, we shatter.

Love stinks because it ends. I met a fellow dog walker today. We fell into each others arms and cried – me because my son had graduated from earth to heaven, she because her loyal doggie companion had done the same. No matter what the object of one’s love, the pain of loss is devastating.

Husband, wife, friend, lover, companion, child, pet, wildlife, flower, tree – every object that we find the courage to love will be lost to us someday. I can write romance novels. I can write happy endings. But I can’t take the hurt out of love. I can’t make it smell good.

Yet, without love, life would be a desert wasteland. Love splashes life and color into every drab corner of human existence. Love fires the souls of writers, poets, dreamers, achievers. Love is the only heart condition that makes living worth the pain and effort. The Bible promises that love never fails.

Love stunk for Jesus, too. Because He loved us, Jesus allowed Himself to be mocked, whipped, have His beard plucked out and thorns pounded into His head. Love nailed Jesus to the cross. Love kept Him there. He could have called angels to rescue Him, but Jesus chose to stay on the cross and die for our sins. Love stinks.

Jesus spent three days in hell – because I’m bad, not because He was bad. Then Jesus snatched the keys of death away from satan, and rose victorious. Jesus broke the power of sin and death and handed us the victory.

Without the stinking love of Jesus, Heaven would be out of reach for us.

Love won’t stink in Heaven. Love will be a fragrant perfume that never dissipates and that lasts for all eternity.

So perhaps love doesn’t stink. Perhaps I can keep writing romance novels, some with happy endings. When sorrow finds a resting place inside my heart, a rose will bloom in its shadow.

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

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Feather in the Wind

The old cliché birds of a feather flock together proves itself daily here in Fortrose, Scotland. Crows congregate in the stand of evergreen trees along Rosemarkie Beach and seagulls monopolize the rock-strewn mouth of the stream that gladdens the glen. Being sociable critters, they do mix and mingle – but at the end of the day – they are totally segregated.

Jesus named God’s greatest commandments as loving Him first, then loving other people as much as we love ourselves. First John explains: “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and truth…let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…God is love.”

Jesus’ Holy Spirit draws Christians together. Like birds, we gravitate toward other Christians in joyous fellowship. Unlike birds, however, we should never segregate ourselves from non-Christians. The way we conduct our lives may be the only Bible that some people ever read. We need to be close enough they can see the print!

The famous passage in Ecclesiastes states, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” There is a time and a reason for segregation. It’s called sin. Christians are commanded by the Bible to come away from sin and be separate.

Just as the ground at the cross is level and everyone born into this world has an equal opportunity to reach out to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness, so too are sins level. Viewing actions from our human perspective we condemn murder as the ultimate crime. Yet God hates all sin. The same God who said, “Thou shalt not murder,” also called profanity, gossip, evil speaking, pride, and anger sins and forbid them. Under God’s law, the penalty for sin is death. Any sin. Anger as well as murder.

Thankfully, Jesus died for us so that we can be forgiven and have eternal life. We don’t have to die for our sins. Jesus already did that. Even so, to know something is wrong and do it anyway is rather like nailing Jesus to the cross again. That’s why things like clean conversation and lifestyle, both in my life and in my books, is important to me.

Want to live a victorious life with such deep peace and joy that no circumstance can uproot it? Release sin, cling fast to God. Dare to be a feather in the wind, dependent on God for the journey.

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

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Be Abused

Love shouldn’t hurt. If you’re in a relationship with someone who mentally and/or physically abuses you – get out. You are worth more than that. You are so valuable that Jesus died for you. He doesn’t expect you to suffer hurt and abuse at the hands of someone who has been entrusted with your love. There are shelters and kind people who will help you. If you have children, especially if they are involved in the abuse, get them out immediately. Prisons are overflowing with adults who began life as abused children. The streets are filled with teens who have run away from home to escape abuse. They often wind up as drug addicts prostituting themselves to survive. Then AIDS, then death. Stop it now before it begins. Get your children and get out.

But, if you’re a Christian, allow yourself to be abused for your faith. Non-Christians will often hate, despise and abuse you for your Christian beliefs. Don’t be surprised! Look at what religious leaders did to Jesus: they slapped Him around, spit on Him, mocked Him, hammered a crown of thorns into His head, beat His back until it looked like hamburger meat, then nailed Him to a cross and stuck a sword into His side to make sure He was dead. With the exception of John, Jesus’ disciples all faced horrible, painful deaths because they refused to deny Jesus as LORD, the Son of God. So if you get abused for your faith, take it as a compliment. You’re in good company!

I’ve discovered that sometimes when people mock Christian faith and target a Christian for abuse, they really want to hear more. Remember, if you get abused for your Christian faith, the abuser may be jealous. They may see something in you that they realize is lacking in themselves. They may actually want to hear more, know more. So keep witnessing Jesus to them. It doesn’t always have to be words. Just ask yourself in every situation, “What Would Jesus Do?” and do it. Continue your friendship with that person (if possible) and always remain calm and kind no matter how much abuse they throw at you. It’s impossible for you to suffer more than Jesus, our example, did. And remember, you don’t have to know all the answers. Don’t stop talking about your faith just because they ask you questions you can’t answer. No one can know or answer everything about God. Mysteries belong to Him. Just keep reading your Bible and walking through this life as the only Bible some folks will ever read.

Walk in love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, gentleness, self-control, faith and truth – the fruit of the Spirit. Take the abuse and share the fruit. It can change the world, one hurting person at a time.Image