Not Perfect

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We live in Dunoon, Scotland, with good neighbors, friendly folks, a great church, a wonderful pastor, wife, and congregation—and plenty of walking places including along the banks of the Firth of Clyde where the wind whips the salty water and air into a fresh smell that thrills the soul. Walking the back streets of Dunoon in the afternoon is like stepping back in time to an Andy Griffith show: neighborhood children playing together and riding bikes on the sidewalks while the aroma of moms’ cooking steals out of open windows and hangs in the air.

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But Dunoon is not perfect. It’s not just the marine climate, cool temperatures, and scarcity of sun that mars the perfection of our retirement home—it’s that age-old spoiler of all good things—sin. If you lift up the outer edges of life here you see that just like in the rest of the world some people struggle with life-stealing addictions. There is a police station in Dunoon because there is crime, just as there has been on the earth since Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the one tree in the entire Garden of Eden that God commanded them not to. Sin never stays small and manageable—it grows and morphs into a monster that kills, steals, and destroys.

Enter Treasury. That’s the world I created from the Bible for my Christian Fantasy, “Voices in the Wind,” which has earned an orange flag as a bestseller and already has one 5-Star review now—mere days after its release. Treasury is such an alluring place to be that I run there at night and hide in its beauty if I have trouble getting to sleep. Treasury is much like Heaven—yet it is not perfect. Rhoda lifts up the curtain of rain and finds herself in Treasury, but must prove her right to stay there by crossing a divide, climbing Verboten Mountain and engaging huge Bullet Train Ants, enormous serpents, armed warriors, and Dino Birds in her bid to stay in Treasury and marry her soul mate. But Rhoda’s cruelest enemy proves to be human.

Treasury is not perfect. Only Heaven, created by God, is perfect. The Bible assures us that once we get to Heaven we will have new bodies and there will be no more sorrow, tears, pain, illness, or parting. Nothing that defiles will be admitted to Heaven. So if you haven’t already joined the throng for Heaven, come on aboard. Believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved. He is driving the train.

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Marine Climate & Common Sense

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Because I’m from Texas and grew up in southern U.S., I’m accustomed to hot temperatures and extended dry periods.

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Getting acclimatized to Dunoon, Scotland, has been a challenge. It doesn’t rain every day—it rains almost every day. It has probably reached 70F during the “summer” a few times, but it hasn’t gone much above that. Mostly, I wear the same number of layers, the same jackets—and at times even the same woolly hat—summer and winter.

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One of my pet peeves is labels because they are misused. Labels that judge, condemn and hurt are wrong and not beneficial. And I hate politically correct labels like calling abortion “choice” instead of murder, and attempting to soften the blow of transgression by calling sin “risky lifestyles.”

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Some labels create a chuckle: “Warning, take child out before washing.” Or on a garden implement: “Not intended for human consumption.” Way to go me; I eat hammers for breakfast and spit out nails for the rest of the day.

Now I’ve found a label that explains why we wash clothes and hang them around the house (rain outside) and it takes them three days to dry. We live in a “Marine Climate.”

Finally! A common sense label.

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

It Won’t Happen to Me

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Positive, optimistic thoughts are fantastic. Except the, “it won’t happen to me,” syndrome that causes risky behavior to flourish.

Alan’s mom reached birthday number 102 in the hospital battling pneumonia. Others in her ward are battling smoking-caused illnesses. Those tempted to smoke should visit a similar hospital ward and hear the choking coughs and gurgling breaths. They should watch smokers throwing up food, coughing up brown yucky stuff, and struggling to stand and walk. They should note the pale complexions, hooded eyes, and collapsed veins that have been used for life saving measures. They should attempt to fathom the confused conversations of smokers whose brains are not receiving enough oxygen to function properly.

Reckless driving, drinking alcohol, consuming unhealthy diets are all avoidable and all powerful enough to kill, or to ruin a life. If the “it can’t happen to me” syndrome held true—tragedy would be eliminated.

God created a perfect world and never intended illness, death, sorrow, and tragedy to be a part of it. Sadly, when sin entered—it brought all its relatives. Folks do grow old, they do become ill. But let’s not make it our fault that our bodies are compromised.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” 1 Corinthians 3:16&17

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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.”

Perception

Being a writer, it amused me when I got up early and walked into the living room to find our two big stuffed bears perched in the chair as if they had just returned from a nighttime frolic. It was easy to understand how authors had been inspired to write children’s stories about toys coming alive at night and frolicking. It’s all a matter of perception.

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Being a Christian, when I see a rainbow bending its bright colors across the sky, I think of God’s promises. Those who put rainbows on flags think of something else. It’s a matter of perception.

The gun issue raging in the U.S. is also a matter of perception. Some think outlawing guns will make it safe. They blame guns for violence. Others know that the problem is not in lifeless weapons that are powerless on their own, but rather in hearts full of hate. It takes a finger on a trigger to make a gun fire.

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Growing up in the country, it was essential to have a gun. My baby brother was saved by a gun when a copperhead snake, head raised in a striking position, locked its gaze on my youngest brother. We took guns to school for shooting classes. But there was never a school shooting, nor a single student injured. Learning to shoot a gun was considered as essential as driving lessons. Cars and guns are both tools, and both can be used beneficially or lethally.

Guns are essential in the Texas Hill Country where it’s not unusual to need a gun to stop the charge of a rabid animal, kill a rattlesnake, or protect livestock from predators.

My son was killed in a violent plane accident while on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. I understand a parent’s grief. I mourn with parents who have lost their children from any horror—including illness.

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Some claim it’s a matter of perception, but I can’t understand how the same people who want to take away guns from non-violent people are okay with killing innocent, defenseless babies in the womb. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution promises life and liberty to all its citizens. I don’t understand the perception of denying the protection of the First Amendment to citizens who need the greatest measure of protection. That’s why I wrote “Love’s Beating Heart.”

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Some things are not perception. Some things are sin. Murder is a sin. Hiding hate in your heart that would lead to violence and murder is a sin. Killing babies and labeling it with socially acceptable labels like “choice” and “abortion” is a sin. Some values are not open to interpretation—they are set in stone by God.

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Seeing is Not Always Guaranteed

Out across houses and trees, a lovely green pasture shelters a herd of sheep. The sheep calmly wander through the grass and into the trees exhibiting no fear, anxiety, or worry – totally unaware that they are being watched.

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We may not realize it, but from near or close – people watch us. They note the words we use, the facial expressions we wear, how we handle stress, tragedy, and even success. We are walking books that other people read. We should make ourselves a good read.

Christians need to realize that our words and walk are the only Bibles that some people will ever read, but Christian or not – we are all being read wherever we go.

I Just released a novella, “Growing Your Monster.” I wrote it a few years ago for the Three Day Novel Writing Contest over Labor Day Weekend. It didn’t win, but I like it enough to unpin its wings, set it free from my desktop, and see if it can fly. Many thanks to my sister and editor Vicky Potter for pulling the pins out of the wings and tossing it into the air along with the outstanding cover she designed.

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Growing Your Monster is unashamedly Christian and NON-politically correct. Kevin, 7, sees and recognizes sin. The rest of his family remain blind to the concept of right and wrong.

Shape-shifting Sinny, a monster, or an ALT (Alternative Life) lives in the new house Kevin’s parents purchase. Sinny grows, entertaining everyone except Kevin, who understands why the monster is growing. But the child is invisible. Will anyone in his family ever notice him long enough to listen or believe him? And while Kevin struggles with what he believes is his invisibility, his family falls apart.

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“Growing Your Monster” is set in the Nevada Desert, an extraordinary scenic and surprising land that few are fortunate enough to experience. I love my memories of the unique landscape, and so did my son, USMC Marine Corps Major Luke Parker. I never think of the desert without thinking about him, another reason I love “Growing Your Monster.”

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075QPPDQY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1505800331&sr=1-1&keywords=growing+your+monster+stephanie+parker+mckean

The Biggest Losers

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Look up loser or biggest loser on the internet and you will find folks who have lost huge amounts of weight—or huge amounts of money. These are not the biggest losers.

The biggest losers are those—no matter how successful, professional, or well known—who find no joy in a child’s smile, a kitten’s soft fur, or the unconditional love looking back at them from the eyes of a dog. The biggest losers are those who have never stopped in awe to enjoy the riotous glory of spring wildflowers, a flaming sunrise, or a full moon playing tag with night-touched clouds.

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The biggest losers are those so seeped in their own self-importance that they have no time to notice the tears on a lonely face, the meager clothing and frail frame of the homeless, the expectant face of an elderly person hoping for a greeting.

The biggest losers are those who have no time to contemplate God and the perfection of creation, no time to sit in church and feed their souls, no time to give any of their time to help another person, a homeless animal, or a needy charitable organization.

Biggest losers of weight are applauded. Biggest losers of money are scorned. God is only interested in one kind of loss—sin.

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14.

Biggest losers, biggest winners.

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Not Offended

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Still find it hard to believe that the British Medical Association told its staff not to use the term ‘expectant mother’ as it could offend transgender people.

We are heading toward a future population who will find cause to be offended at myriad incidents instead of using the opportunity of opposition to grow in strength and character.

Like any other “handicapped” child, Aimee Mullins was mocked. She was born without calf bones and both her legs were amputated when she was a year old. Instead of hiding away “offended” by cruel remarks – she learned to fly. She is a world class runner who broke world records in 100 meters, 200 meters and the long jump – while competing against “able-bodied” athletes.

Shakespeare’s poems and plays are still popular around the world some 400 years after his death. He used more words from the English language than any other writer ever has – and was taunted by some of his contemporaries, including Robert Greene who called him among other things an “upstart crow.”

Vincent Van Gogh painted his inner feelings of depression and was labeled a failure and “mentally ill.” He rose from poverty and mocking to praise and riches. His “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” was one of the world’s most expensive paintings and is now valued at $155 million.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, couldn’t get into law school, borrowed money for a business and went bankrupt, and lost five elections before he became President. Personal tragedies included losing his mother when he was nine; the deaths of a sister, a sweetheart, and three of four sons. He also suffered a broken engagement and was diagnosed with clinical depression, spending six months in bed after a nervous breakdown.

The world was perfect when God created it. But when sin came into the world, that perfection was marred. We now live in a world of “hard knocks.” Being given permission to be offended at every real and imagined slight will never build us into individuals who can grow in grace, character, and strength.

I am so thankful that I never “fit in” as a child. Because I learned at an early age not to seek peer approval, I escaped the rampant drug culture when I went to college. Because I care more what God thinks about me than what other people do, I can write hard books that get flak: pro-life “Heart Shadows;” abused child turned serial killer “Killer Conversations,” and soon-to-be-released Texas Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense #7, “Bridge Home.” The easy to love, bonkers Miz Mike is the same in “Bridge Home,” but there is an added dimension. Should Christians be in favor of, or opposed to same sex marriage? Miz Mike faces that dilemma when her fiancé is falsely arrested for killing one of two women who requested a same-sex marriage ceremony in his church.

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The release of “Bridge Home” should prove interesting. My hope and prayer is that readers will love it and welcome it as another of Miz Mike’s “pickle-making” mysteries. But I’m prepared for flak and one-star reviews because, thankfully, when I was growing up I didn’t have the British Medical Association looking out for me.

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The Cure

The Bible tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…and God looked at his creation and saw that “it was good.”

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Then Adam and Eve sinned and sin entered the world, bringing death and destruction with it. God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground for your sake…both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth.” To me…that explains nettles, fire ants, scorpions—and all the other uglies and nasties. They came into the perfect world God created when sin ruined the perfection.

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My first exposure to Scottish nettles was…rather embarrassing. That expression, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.” The gotta hit me during a long woodland hike soon after I arrived in Scotland from Texas. So I waded into high weeds away from the path to do the necessary. Let me just say…you don’t ever want to expose bare skin on any part of your body to nettles—especially not that part!

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But where sin brought a curse, God placed a cure. Broad-leafed plants called dockens will stop the pain and burning when applied to the affected area.

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Most recently, I accidentally ran the back of my hand across nettles when I was walking the dog. I couldn’t find a docken. We were eating dinner when I mentioned the pain to my husband. Alan looked at the redness and swelling…then…just like Brigadoon, he vanished. He was gone so long that I thought about going to look for him. He returned with docken leaves and they stopped the burning and pain almost immediately.

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Because we are living in a sin-infested, imperfect world—there will always be nettles, either physical or spiritual. But where there is a curse, there is a cure. Jesus died to set the captives free from sin, pain, sorrow, illness, and the finality of death. He is the ultimate cure.

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Taking the Cure

Some of my friends are so allergic to bee stings that they carry an epinephrine autoinjector, more commonly known as an EpiPen, with them at all times. Injections of epinephrine – adrenaline – combat allergic reactions caused by everything from insect bites to food.

When I made the mistake of catching a snake at the pond to see whether it was poisonous or non-poisonous, I wound up at the hospital with my hand frozen in a tub of ice until anti-venom could be shipped in. The snake had been poisonous – a water moccasin.

Each day, people from all around the world flock to physicians, health clinics and hospitals to obtain cures for physical ailments. Searching for cures is nothing new. Mummified human remains prove that thousands of years before Christ came, physicians of their time performed operations on patients – even brain surgery. Prior to floods of settlers pushing Native Americans off their land in the U.S., Indian doctors discovered aspirin, medicinal herbs, and how to set broken bones.

When we are sick, we want to be healed.

Easter, or Resurrection Sunday is about illness and the cure. There are four major religions in the world, each revering their founders. All four founders died. Three of them stayed dead. Jesus arose from the grave victorious. Jesus is alive! He lives and moves and has His life in us, if we seek the cure – because we are all sick.

I can run up to four miles a day, take garlic and cayenne pepper capsules and never go to the doctor, but I am sick. My heart is diseased. It’s sick from sin.

Symptoms of heart sickness include anger, bitterness, hate, selfishness – rotten fruit that molds inside the hidden chambers of the body, making us physically ill as well as building unpleasant, hard to tolerate personalities.

When we invite Jesus into our hearts and let His Holy Spirit live inside us, we produce good fruit from the inside out, fruit that blesses us and others: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The choice to take the cure or leave it is ours. Easter is a good time to make it.

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

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