Category Archives: Christian faith

The Visitor Misses a Visit

 

 

Seven mystery/suspense authors (I’m one of them!) and seven mystery/suspense novellas, each centered around the attractive and vivacious Miss Connie B. Wright, a kind of Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote, and maybe a little bit of Nancy Drew. Each story is unique in setting, situation, and interesting new characters. And within the pages of each novella, you’ll read how the ever-persistent sleuthing by Miss Connie helps solve riddles and bring the criminals to justice.

And to help you get acquainted with Miss Connie and her work as the head of a charity foundation, I’ll be posting a chapter a day of the Prequel, The Visitor Misses a Visit.

Then, in February, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase— or maybe win a free copy— of Julie B. Cosgrove’s The Visitor Makes a Retreat.

I hope you enjoy reading this first chapter of The Visitor Misses a Visit:

 

CHAPTER ONE – Wariness From the Warehouse

Chicago 2008

“What’s going on there?” Connie Beatrice Wright set her computer case on the chair near her father’s desk.

He rounded the desk and gave her a brief kiss on her temple. “They finally sold that tire graveyard next door. Summer isn’t ever going to smell the same, thank the Lord.”

“But the police?” What would they want with a tire dump?

His chin sagged as he moved back to his desk. “Are they still there?”

“Like ants.”

“As best I’ve learned, they uncovered something when the bulldozer started clearing out that huge pile of tires behind our warehouse.” He sat in his chair and propped his elbows on his desk. “Had a coroner car over there a bit ago.”

A coroner car? “Someone was dead?”

“I know that look, Connie. This is not a lark or a game.”

She ran her finger over the marble nameplate on the edge of his desk that read Mackenzie Wright. “A death is not a game, Daddy.” She knew what he was thinking by the grim set of his mouth. “I’m not doing a Nancy Drew thing.”

“It has nothing to do with us.”

Someone tapepd at Dad’s almost-closed door. “Mr. Wright?” The warbly voice belonged to Mrs. Hodges, the long-time volunteer who worked as their receptionist most weekdays. “A policeman here to see you.” She nudged the door open a little wider.

“Come in, Officer.” Dad got up and met the man at the door.

But he wasn’t a simple police officer. that was clear. He wore a sport coat and khaki pants instead of a uniform.

“Detective Rainey, Mr. Wright.” The man opened a wallet with a card and shield inside. “You own this property and the warehouse behind it?”

“The foundation owns it. The warehouse is used to store the supplies we donate to the local shelters in the area.”

Dad had left out mentioning the many shelves that housed their various displays, decorations, and activities that they used to put on all of the fundraising events. Those shelves were cloaked with her mother’s dreams, brainstorming, and sheer imagination.

But that wouldn’t interest Detective Rainey.

“I’m afraid we’ll need to limit access to your warehouse until further notice.”

“Why in the world—” Connie took one look at her dad’s stern face and halted her comment.

“I understand, Detective.” Her dad reached out his hand. “We’ll certainly be praying that you can quickly figure out what happened to whoever you found.”

The man took Dad’s hand. “As to that, have your heard of any strangers lurking around here? A man, maybe a few months ago?”

The man had been dead that long? Not that they would have noticed with the strong stink that already filled that side of the property from the tires. Connie’s left eyebrow arched on its own before she caught herself and forced it even with the other.

“Not that I remember, but I’ll ask around. Especially to the volunteers who help us in the warehouse.”

The detective nodded and left without glancing at Connie.

“Has anyone been lurking?” She leaned over with her hands flat on the desk when Dad took his seat again.

“You heard me tell the detective that I hadn’t seen anyone.”

“Uh-huh.” Her father wouldn’t lie about a thing like that. or about anything else for that matter, but Connie could smell a mystery in the making—or already made as the case may be..

“I think you should forget about all of that and go on to Mama’s office. Your office.” He gave a sad sort of smile, then stood and took one of her hands. “Your very first day as an employee of the Wright Foundation. We are so glad you agreed to come on board so quickly after finishing your business degree. Your mother’s arthritis is advancing to the point that it is very difficult for her to type, or write, or even craft the decorations. I know handing the reins to you will relieve her mind a great deal.”

Connie chuckled. “Well, after all, it is what I was raised to do, and I will love every minute!” She kissed Dad’s cheek and then stepped down the hall toward the reception center.

“Well, a proper good morning to you, Miss Connie, and congratulations on your graduation.” Though trim, almost petite, Anna Hodges’ vibrant and confident carriage made a formative statement. It was why she had been chosen to be the first face and voice that prospective donors encountered. Wearing her signature red blouse and purple scarf, she set down her skinny latte and reached out as Connie crossed the main lobby.

“Thank you, Mrs. Hodges.” She ga ve the frail woman a side-arm hug, then helped herself to a cup of coffee.. “Have your seen my mom around?”

“In her office, my dear.”  She snapped her fingers and pointed up with a tilt of her head. “I mean, your office.” She gave Connie a wink.

“You have blessed day, now.” Mrs. Hodges waved to her as she turned to greet an entering volunteer. The woman glowed pure joy.

Connie had always wanted to be just like her. She straightened the gray jacket over her short navy dress and slipped back down the executive hallway until she came into what had always been her mom’s office. The name plaque on the door still read Eleanor Wright.

“Well, there you are, sweetie.” Mama’s lively voice cracked a bit. “I was afraid you got lost.”

Connie smiled and shrugged. “Redirected by the police out there.”
“I heard about that from Mrs. Hodges. Seems they found a body.” Mama tsked and put a lid on  top of a box. She eyed Connie. “Did you talk to your father?”

Connie stiffened and met her mom’s stare. “About?” Had they changed their minds about letting Connie take her mom’s place with the fundraising? “You’re not having second thoughts?”

Mama shrugged. “I am, but then it doesn’t matter, really.” She held up her crooked fingers. “I can’t even tie shoelaces anymore. How am I supposed to decorate for banquets?” She flattened her mouth as tears filled her eyes.

“Mama, you know your own limitations, but that doesn’t keep you from the brainstorming  you’ve always done to set up perfect events. You have a gift for matching the exact activity to the charity and the donors who will be interested in supporting it.” It was uncanny.

Mama glanced at the carpet.

“Just because you can’t hang drapery or organize all the details anymore doesn’t mean you can’t contribute, and in a big way.” And Connie was counting on Mama’s input.

Mama laid a blue-veined hand on Connie’s. “Thank you, sweetie. That’s more credit than some of your siblings would give me.” She reopened the box and added a photo of their large family to it.

Connie didn’t want to think about family right now. Of her seven siblings, only Paul and his wife, Maggie, with their toddler, Teagan, had attended her graduation on Saturday. Of course, Paul lived the closest and was the nearest in age to her. Though, since she had been an oops baby, ten years separated their births.

“I did talk to Dad, but not about anything in particular.

Her mom paused for a moment. All right, then.”

“Shall I help you pack up your books?” She eyed the tall shelves filled with Mama’s Bible studies, cookbooks, decorating manuals, and photo albums. Lots of photo albums full of every fundraising event the Wright Foundation had ever sponsored.

“Oh, no. I think you’ll need all of those more than I will. I’m only moving over the bare minimum.

Hmm. Connie had hoped to move some of her own things in, but it looked like the office would still be Mama’s even if the person behind the desk had changed.

Mama toted the small box to the open door and called out over her shoulder, “Oh, and Clint should be here soon.” She poked her head back around the corner with a cryptic smile. “Make sure you meet him.” She gave Connie a nod.

Connie pasted on a benign smile. “Okay.”

Clint Rutherford. The golden boy, by all accounts if Mama and Dad were to be believed. He’d only been around for a couple of months, yet they hung on the man’s every word.

 

We hope you enjoyed the first installment of

THE VISITOR MISSES A VISIT

Come back tomorrow to catch the second part, and be sure to join my newsletter in order to get the entire story later this month!

 

 

Rocky Mountain Fall Splendor

 

 

Bruce and I got away for a couple of days to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Having lived in Estes Park (gateway to the national park) we knew to expect crowds in town and on the trails. But, due to Covid, the park has instituted a policy where visitors have to register beforehand in order to get into the park. So, hiking the trails above Sprague Lake was a wonderfully private experience for us. I love fall in the Rockies. Just look at those colors.

 

What a joy to walk these trails, to feel the hint of the bracing winds that will soon descend on the mountain valleys and cloak it in deep snows. We surprised a deer grazing just off the trail. And a squirrel examined  us cautiously, scurrying amid the rocks and tree roots to get a better look at us giant humans.

At our campground, we sat by the river and listened to the bull elk bugle nearby.

We enjoyed an early dinner at the Stanley hotel.

Little excursions like this are such a gift from a loving God. He seems to say, “Stop working. Get outside and play for awhile. Breathe the mountain air, savor the fall colors, sniff the aroma of pine and spruce, delight in watching the elk, stretch out your legs and travel my terrain. I made all of this for you to enjoy.”

 

Covid and Workouts and The Grand Tetons

 

Oh my gosh, it’s been months since I’ve posted on my website. It’s not that I’ve been completely silent. I’m still out there on other forums.

I have no excuse. I’m guilty. But I do have sort of an explanation.

First, don’t let anyone tell you Long Covid does not exist. It absolutely does because I’m one of those unfortunates who was struck by this frustrating syndrome.

I had a very mild case of Covid way back in April of 2020. About the time I felt that I’d recovered from the body aches and mild nausea, an annoying cough started. Then my heart rate climbed to the level that leaves one breathless, weak and tired.

I toughed it out for six months. But then the symptoms increased in severity. Just walking from one room to another in my house felt like a marathon.

Finally, in February of 2021, I ended up in the ER, so breathless I feared my heart was failing.

The docs did all the usual things. Turns out my heart’s perfect. The pulmonologist said I had 20 percent greater lung capacity than the average woman—probably from all those years singing.

They send me to a cardiologist for meds to slow my heart rate, but with the admission that they couldn’t determine a cause for my complaints.

As the months passed, I started to see more and more articles about long Covid. The shoe fit.

Still, the condition is so new and bewildering that no one could tell me how to find relief.

So I charted my own course. I resumed singing even though I felt like I was drowning. (If you’ve listened to my scripture songs, that’s me in really bad vocal shape in the midst of long Covid.)  I did tons of breathing exercises. Got on the treadmill and worked up to seven miles a day. This took a few months. I added strength training.

I gotta say, I’ve never felt better. I used to roll my eyes when athletes would tell me how great it felt to push themselves hard during exercise. But I’ve experienced it now.

I wouldn’t advise everyone to do what I’ve done. I don’t have any knee,  hip, foot or joint problems. My sister is trying to get back in shape after shoulder surgery by swimming at her health club.

So, when Bruce and I drove to the Tetons a couple of weeks ago, my goal was to do as many of the trails at the foot of those mountains as we could—if we could find a place to park among all the skads of other visitors to the park!

We did about seven or eight miles a day–nothing huge, but the nice dry mountain air, the sunshine, the scent of pine all felt amazing.

Friends, if you haven’t visited the Grand Tetons, please put this on your bucket list. God didn’t skimp when he pushed those magnificent mountains into the air and chiseled its peaks.

 

You Don’t Need To Survive

Fifteen years ago, in Paradise, CA —yes, that ill-fated town that later suffered a catastrophic fire— I heard a sermon that shocked and challenged me.

It was entitled: “You Don’t Need to Survive.”

The pastor spoke of our need to let everything go in the knowledge that Christ has given all for us, and we have been bought with a price. Christ, having purchased our souls, we should ready ourselves to do the same.

He spoke about missionaries in hostile countries, of lay people and pastors in countries where Christ is the enemy of the government, of businessmen and women working in companies that celebrate the acquisition of wealth even to the extent of disregarding powerless people.

Our pastor said that in the light of all that we have gained through faith in Christ, the loss of our physical lives is virtually nothing in comparison.

“You don’t need to survive” is antithetical to our instinctual drive to survive. Yet, the pastor repeated this phrase over and over within the body of his sermon.

But the survival  instinct, in faith-filled believers, and in extraordinary times, must be subjugated in order to fulfill a higher purpose than mere physical survival.

And when I say that I was shocked at the pastor’s message, it’s not because I had never considered the reality of Christians dying for their faith. It was the phrase: “you don’t need…”

“You don’t need.”

What? Of course I need to survive. I mean, isn’t it the most basic need? It shows itself from the beginning, at a newborn’s first cry, at the sucking of its fist, the startle reflex, the toddler’s first attempt at deceiving its parents to avoid discipline, clinging to Mama at seeing a strange, new face.

Our Creator God put that instinct inside each of us.

But the apostle Paul said: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18 NIV)

And the apostle Peter said: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (1 Pet. 4:12)

According to these great apostles, being willing to suffer for identifying with Christ and His Word—even to the point of death— is the mark of the true believer.

Many Christians are aware of how our nation is becoming increasingly hostile toward people of faith. If this trend continues (and I believe it will) how will we as believers navigate this strange new world? Will we simply melt into the new fabric, or will we hold to our integrity and our orthodoxy?

The price may be great. Already, some teachers, professors, and others have lost their jobs for daring to disagree with the present correct stance.

We will all have to determine what is a hill to choose to die on. Will we keep silent when our HR departments instruct us to agree with bad and harmful beliefs?

Will we teachers teach new but false histories, sciences, philosophies, sociologies? Or will it be a personal hill on which to choose our own professional  death?

Will we leave a church that harps on and on about social issues but ignores preaching the soul-saving gospel? Are we willing to leave old friends and fun fellowship for the sake of clinging to right doctrine?

The other day I read an article about the church in China, how the communist government is very concerned by its rapid growth. What to do? I wanted to write a letter to the Chinese government and tell them how to make the church die: “Leave the church alone, give them tax benefits, approve their message, their work. Then watch them, in their newfound freedom, begin to tear each other apart, argue about doctrine, watch churches split, watch its members grow lukewarm and ineffectual in the face of all this luxurious freedom. Sirs, the way to destroy the church is by leaving them alone!”

I predict that, in the coming years, we western believers will face the same kind of snuffing out, disappearing, persecution that our Chinese brothers and sisters face. Are we willing to “not survive?”

Something to think about.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9: 24 NIV)