Hurricanes and treasure…

When my husband and I were considering retirement locations, I immediately ruled out Florida because I never wanted to have to deal with a hurricane threat.

Three weeks ago, we had to deal with a hurricane threat… when Hurricane Harvey charged into the Texas coastline.

Thankfully, by the time Harvey made it to the Hill Country, it was a tropical storm that dropped a mere 6” on us over three days. But the experience of watching a hurricane approach, not knowing where it would leave a trail of destruction, will be one I don’t soon forget.

Everyone in the path of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma won’t forget it, either. My heart (and many donations for relief) go out to all those who are suffering the aftereffects of losing homes and normalcy, and I’m grateful I’m not in that situation. The possibility of losing so much in the blink of a hurricane’s eye, however, does make me consider what I treasure most in life, and it’s not my cellphone or even my family photos. The material stuff is window dressing, and while I would miss my favorite kitchen knife and cutting board or the bowl my daughter made for me in her high school ceramics class, and it would be awful to have to replace a car and a home, it’s all transitory. People themselves, and my relationships with them, are what matter most to me, and as long as they survive, I’m okay.

I don’t know if anyone says it better than Jesus did as quoted in both Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” May we all recognize the true treasures in our lives and thank God for them!

(This devotional appeared first today at https://wichitafalls.faithhappenings.com/soulcare/devotional/61475)

 

 

 

Beyond the fence

Deer often visit our yard.

“You’ve got to come see this,” my husband called to me from around the corner of the house one morning. I followed his voice and found him pointing at our front yard fence. A large section, newly installed, had been pushed in overnight. But before I could express my dismay, my eyes wandered beyond the fence…to see the 200-pound Axis deer that lay dead between the fence and the road. Clearly a victim of a speeding car on a very dark night, the buck had apparently been fatally hit and knocked into our fence, where it had left a large, lasting impression.

Later, as I reflected on my first glance at the scene, it struck me that despite the deer’s size and its proximity to our fence, the big animal was not the first thing I’d noted – instead, I had focused on our damaged fence. Rather than immediately looking at the bigger picture, I’d zoomed in on what I expected to see: our fence. My mind had automatically narrowed onto the familiar.

Look for the big picture

I suspect that is a very human response – to focus on what is known, to see what is expected. Yet Christ repeatedly exhorts us to welcome the unexpected, to look for the big picture, to stretch beyond our fears in a complete trust in God. “But I tell you,” Jesus says in Matthew 5:44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Could any instruction have been more unwelcome than this to the oppressed Jewish community of Jesus’s time? But by obeying this command, “you may be children of your Father in heaven,” Jesus explains in the following verse.

In other words, when we try to see the big picture that God sees, and do as He directs, we become most fully His own people.

Push beyond the familiar

Perhaps the most famous example of someone being pushed beyond the familiar into the bigger picture of life in God is St. Paul. Fanatically focused on persecuting Christians, he was literally knocked off his horse and blinded by the light of Christ. (Read about it in Acts 9.) When he regained his sight after his conversion of heart, mind, and spirit, his vision of his own life and the life of the early Church grew into the big picture of God’s plan for salvation through Christ. His former narrow focus on wiping out Christ’s followers totally transformed into an all-encompassing attention to advancing the Kingdom of God. Now, that’s seeing WAY beyond the fence of the familiar, wouldn’t you say?

Lord, help me to see the bigger picture of your will in my life and learn to welcome the unexpected in faith. Amen.

(This reflection originally appeared at https://wichitafalls.faithhappenings.com/soulcare/devotional/60632. I often contribute devotionals to FaithHappenings.com and if you like what you’ve read here, please check out the site online. It’s a clearinghouse of Christian inspiration, books, speakers, events, concerts that offers you local information across the US, and you can subscribe – it’s FREE – to receive daily reflections.)

 

 

 

 

Is death your greatest fear?

Not to be morbid, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about death. (Yes, it’s very hot and dry right now in central Texas, but I’m not finding skeletal remains in the front yard – yet – so my ruminations about death cannot be connected to the weather.)
I’m reading a book, and it asks the question: “What is your greatest fear?” Not surprisingly, death ranks as the second greatest fear for most people; speaking in public snares the Number One spot on the list, according to the author.
(Not for me – I love speaking in public. From the first time I gave a humorous reading at a ladies’ luncheon when I was in high school, I’ve been addicted to making people laugh; getting chuckles from an audience gives me a rush of power that is second only to successfully parking parallel.)

Fascination with life after death

When I try to pin down my greatest fear, though, it’s not death, either. Call me a fatalist, but I have always believed that when my number is up…well, it’s up. I’ve never doubted that I’m going to heaven to be with God, and I know it’s going to be wonder-full. So why would I fear death?

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, I’m not alone. In their study, 72% of Americans believe in an afterlife, and that number includes ‘non-religious’ respondents, among whom 37% say they believe in the existence of heaven, a place where they are rewarded for living a good life. Interest in an afterlife has also fueled phenomenal sales for books and memoirs about near-death or after-death experiences and led to popular TV series and scientific research projects. My own conversations with my sons about my Christian faith and the intersections of science with the supernatural/spiritual was the seed that eventually resulted in my thriller Heaven’s Gate (which, by the way, has now been nominated for a 2017 Christy Award in the suspense category! Have you read it yet?).

Where are all the do-gooders hiding?

So, here’s my question: Given all the attention that heaven receives in our culture and a wide-spread profession of believing in it, why aren’t more people making a concerted effort to get there? In other words, if you believe heaven is a reward for doing good, why aren’t more people actively seeking to do good?

I think the answer, in part, is because ‘doing good’ doesn’t make sensational headlines. ‘Doing good’ is often a quiet, secret thing. Contributing to a community in positive ways is such a way-of-life for so many people, that they don’t consider it anything special, when in fact, it really is. I know that when I consciously look for good, I see it happening everywhere, so, whether or not the media reports it or our culture celebrates it, I think there are tons of people doing good because they believe in heaven. Like I do. And when I let the reality of heaven influence my daily behavior, I act differently. I work at being more generous, kinder, more grateful.

So why would I fear death? In my mind, in my heart, I believe that death will be the door to the Kingdom made perfect that I will inhabit forever. My audiences will always laugh. My parallel parking will be effortless. What’s not to like?

Do you believe, every day, in heaven?

 

 

 

Welcome to my new website!

Nine years ago, my first Bob White Birder Murder Mystery was published, launching me as an author – a dream I’d had since I was five years old and first stepped into a public library. I was astounded at the sheer volume of books on racks and decided right then I wanted my name on a book’s spine in a library. It took me another 48 years to get there…

Since then, I’ve written six more Birder Murders, an international best-selling memoir, Saved by Gracie, about how our dog helped me overcome anxiety, and the first two books in my supernatural Christian thriller series, titled Archangels. Along the way, I’ve blogged on my own website, guest-blogged for many others, and contributed devotionals to FaithHappenings.com for their subscribers.

In the last two years, I’ve also experienced a major life change: my husband retired from his career in high tech in Minnesota, and we moved to the Hill Country in Texas. Life is different here in many ways, and I find it is changing me, as well, so I decided it was time to revamp my website to better reflect who I am now as an author. It’s pretty simple, really, because what I want to do with my life is:

Laugh.

Live in awe.

Practice gratitude.

Love God.

In the months ahead, I hope to blog on a regular basis about those four topics. Sometimes I’ll tell funny stories, and sometimes I’ll offer more serious reflection. As always, I hope to entertain you, my reader, and share with you the wonder and mystery of life. To that end, I’m even going to throw in photos for laughs, for inspiration, for sheer beauty. If you like what you read and see, please subscribe to the blog by clicking on the RSS feed on the right side of the page. If you really like it, please share and invite others to visit this website. Thanks!