Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Free Weekend


Pass this on to parents of kids with Kindles. Because hundreds of people took advantage of this last weekend I thought I'd do it again for New Year's. NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE CARTOON TUNNELS will be FREE on Saturday and Sunday. It is book 5 in the Tunnels series for kids ages 8 - 12.

In these chapter books two 12 year olds, Nick and Samantha, slide down mysterious tunnels which link to various real and imagined works of fiction. Their reading experiences come to life as they observe and then interact with famous fictional characters. There is surprise, wonder, adventure, mystery and a lot of humor.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

I gave up making New Year’s Resolutions ages ago. I always made the same one, to lose weight, and I never, ever succeeded. So this year I’m going to resolve to eat more chocolate. This seems like a win-win resolution. I’ve already discovered the best chocolates ever at the Alpine Chocolat Haus in Gaylord, Michigan. I’ve limited myself to three after breakfast, four or five with lunch and unlimited snacking throughout the afternoon.

You see the chocolates don’t have time to stick to my hips or belly. Like other types of addicts I should quickly wither away to skin and bones. Once, years ago, my doctor made me give up chocolate. I cut it out for one month and gained 5 pounds! So if I eat lots of chocolate I should lose weight, right? I’m sure this will work.

After all, don’t we all forget about those resolutions within a week or so?
Do you think I’ll ever forget about chocolate?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiness

Generosity and human goodness are not enough to make us holy.

Boy, that’s a statement to ponder. This is the time of year when we think that we are generous and good. If we put a few coins in the Salvation Army kettle we think we’ve done our part.

We are generous to our families. We pile on the Christmas presents if we can afford it and even if we can’t. We fill Christmas stockings with goodies and think that we are good.

Generosity and human goodness are not enough to make us holy.

Do we need to be holy? Isn’t holiness something reserved for God, for priests and preachers, for missionaries? Yes, but the rest of us need to be holy, too. And, if we belong to God then we are, by default, holy. See? So it’s not the generosity or goodness that we show at Christmastime that sanctifies us, not at all. We are sanctified by our belief in Christ Jesus – the reason for the season. We are made holy by belonging to God.

What are your thoughts on holiness?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Another Freebie

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I thought I'd let you all know that Amazon is making book 5, NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE CARTOON TUNNELS, FREE for one day, December 26. So if you know of a child between the ages of 8 and 12, with access to an e-reader, please let their parents know. The TUNNELS series books can be read out of order so there's no problem in starting with book 5.

ALSO DRAGONFOOT is being promoted for FREE all day today, December 26, and tomorrow, December 27.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #8 The Manger Scene



What is the TRUE meaning of Christmas? THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST!

We have a crèche where the kids can rearrange the figures. They know the story that fulfilled every single prophecy of his birth: his lineage, his virgin birth, where he would be born, even his name.

I recently read an article that took a look at just 13 of the many, many prophecies. The odds that one person could be born at the right place and time and be a descendent of King David were astronomical. Literally. The number was 1 in 10 to the 138th power (that’s a one with 138 zeros following it). Putting it in perspective the author (click here) used the example that it would be more likely for a gasoline engine to refrigerate itself during its combustion cycle.

Here are two more sites that explain more thoroughly the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies by Jesus: mb-soft and simplybible.

Hold a microphone to people in the mall and ask “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” You’ll hear all kinds of sappy answers about Santa, giving, family, helping others and silly answers about partying and decorating with more lights than your neighbor. Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ, our Savior.

The truth is that we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas if it weren’t for Easter. If Jesus hadn’t died for our sins and rose again to conquer death then no one would have even heard of him today. Is your Christmas all about Santa or all about Jesus?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas! A Gift for Kindle Owners.


DRAGONFOOT is regularly $9.99 on Kindle, but it's FREE for 2 days so those of you who received a Kindle for Christmas can download it December 26 and 27.

Seventeen-year-old Jedidiah was born with a gruesome deformity that causes him to drag his foot. He searches for acceptance through drugs and skateboarding. He sets his sights on becoming a champion skateboarder, but amputation, a mission trip and two girls challenge his dream.

As he recovers from surgery, Jedidiah opens his heart to both girls. Can he rescue the one who needs him without losing the one he needs? And, faced with a second amputation, can he open his spirit to supernatural help?

DRAGONFOOT taps on the door of the paranormal while addressing adolescent issues and pushing against the world’s view of right and wrong.

If you take advantage of this free offer, please let me know. Go bookmark the page now because who knows what Santa will bring you.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #7 The Kitchen



I found the perfect place to display my dozens of Christmas music boxes: on top of the kitchen cabinets and out of everyone’s reach. Our first Christmas here at Big Pine Lodge I set up a village of lighted houses on the cabinet tops. Because the ceiling soars to the center peak you could look down on the village from the loft area, but when my youngest daughter moved far away I sent along the village for her to enjoy in her new home.

The green of the cabinets never seems to come out right in photographs. Take my word for it, they are not blue, but rather a woodsy green with antiquing. The Elmira stove is the focal point and I polish it and talk to it like a man with a Corvette.

Having the kitchen open to the sunroom means I always know what’s going on. The kids play video games there or in the loft which looks down onto the kitchen.

I love my kitchen. I had a list of 13 must-haves when I designed it and Brody Smith of North Country Cabinets did a marvelous job of making it all fit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #6 Wreaths



There are wreaths on the front door of the lodge, the guest house and the bunkhouse. We have a large lighted one over the fireplace and in the sunroom a giant wreath spreads across the back wall, the only wall without windows. The ornaments are large lodge-themed decorations such as birdhouses, fishing gear, snowshoes, birds and other woodsy items.

It may sound strange that there is a wall without windows in the sunroom. Originally I had drawn the plans to include large windows on that wall as well. One of the cool things about building a log home is that you cut the windows out last, after it’s erected. We took barrels and barrels of sawdust out at the end of each day after the workers chainsawed through the walls to our specifications. It was obvious that with all the light coming in the east and south windows, and since the sunroom is open to the kitchen, that we could leave the tall (26’) wall as a backdrop. It works better for furniture placement, too.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #5 Family


The picture above is of a teddy bear vignette set in one of the nooks (or crannies, I can't tell the difference) in our log home.

Christmas is close. Closer than you think. This is the weekend that we get together with all of our closest loved ones and celebrate together. Our church choir sings a cantata. We eat turkey and ham and lots of sweets. We open most if not all of the presents under the tree. We get “us” out of the way so on December 24th and 25th we can go to church and concentrate on “Him”.

This year I’m hoping there will be enough snow for sledding down the hill, having a sleigh ride and making snowmen.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #4 Snow



I love living in Michigan with four distinct seasons. It’s just not Christmas without that frosty white blanket over the woods and on the roof.

Here’s a shot of the back of the house from one of the trails. We enjoy snowshoeing and riding in the Argo (a six wheeled ATV) along the trails. The stars at night are unbelievably bright.

I’ll never forget the Christmas before we moved here full time when we arrived at midnight to an impassable driveway. We snowshoed in by the light of a full moon. The sparkles on the snow were like shining diamonds.

The silence of the woods is not marred by traffic, barking dogs or any other civilized sound. We hear an occasional coyote, the hoot of an owl and the whisper of the wind. Sleep is deeper here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #3 The Railing



I do the railing differently each year, sometimes looping the lighted garland and sometimes twisting it round and round the rails. Running it down the stairway is tricky since I don’t want to end with one of those strings of lights that doesn’t have another connector plug. I’ve added tiny presents, sparkly bulbs and gold or red berries.

A thoughtful electrician added special floor plugs on the bridge with the on/off switch on the first floor so I can light up the house with one flick of my finger and shut things off for the night without traipsing upstairs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #2 The Tree



A lodge-themed 9 foot tree claims the corner of the dining end in the great room. We have tiny canoes, fish, Adirondack chairs, moose, bears and other assorted wildlife ornaments.

A log home is made for Christmas, so just one tree isn’t enough. We have a small 3-footer on top of the highest cabinet in the kitchen where the ceiling slopes up to the highest point. A third tree decorated in white lights and red ribbons sits center stage in the bridge that joins the loft and the guest bedroom upstairs. The bridge is ten feet wide and twenty feet long so the tree has plenty of room to reign over the second floor and still be seen from the great room. A small 4th tree sits sits on a ledge by the front entry along with a teddy bear in a child’s rocker.

Red and green go great against log walls, but not so great if your home’s color themes clash. Fortunately I went with shades of green and burgundy throughout. That’s pretty common for log homes probably because most log home owners are thinking ahead to Christmas. I’d venture to guess that we decorate sooner and keep the tree up longer than most folks.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #1 The Mantel



My husband and I picked up every single rock for this 6 and a half ton fireplace. We’re lucky enough to live in a log home. There’s nothing like a fire in the fireplace on a cold wintery night especially if there’s a foot or more of snow on the ground and it’s almost December 25th.

I thought I’d write about the special “loggy” look of Christmas here at Big Pine Lodge for the next several posts. I’m starting with the fireplace because the collection of rocks was started before the basement was even dug. We have 62 acres of woods criss-crossed with trails that we made. It was easy to find field stones, some the size of boulders (we left those), along these trails. Our pile of rocks grew over the course of many months. We amassed about 13 tons and what we didn’t use in the fireplace we used around the base of the foundation outside.

The fireplace is seven feet wide and soars up to a height of about 26 feet. We had to leave a gap of about 8 inches between the top rocks inside and the ceiling because, as a totally full log construction, the whole house settled quite a bit when the logs shrank. We experienced about 5 – 6 inches of settling over the first three years as the logs noisily popped and cracked during the drying process. We left similar gaps above windows and doors to save us from broken windows. Frames slid over skirting boards until the gaps closed.

The fireplace is the center piece of the great room and a fun conversation starter: Can you find the rock that looks like a hockey mask? A russet potato? A tennis ball? A brain?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GEEK GIRL - released today!


I met a wonderful author, Cindy Bennett, this past year and we've become cyber friends through our endeavors in the self-published world. A traditional publisher has found her and today, December 8th, 2011, her first young adult novel, GEEK GIRL, will be released. I'm happy to do an interview with Cindy.
(2014 update: Cindy and best-selling author Sherry Gammon have started a publishing company for clean fiction. Check out Creative Prose Publishing.)

Give us a brief synopsis of each of your titles first.



GEEK GIRL - Sarcastic Goth girl Jen makes a bet with her friends that she can turn the ultra-good geek Trevor into a "bad boy". She doesn't count on develping a genuine liking and respect for him. She also doesn't count on wishing that her current foster family might want to make her a part of their family. Jen bets to win, she just never imagined what the prize would be.

Heart on a Chain - Kate has lived her short seventeen years subject to abusive parents and being bullied by her classmates. Henry has lived what Kate sees as an idyllic life. Moving back after several years away, Henry finds his friend Kate transformed into a shy, beaten girl instead of the funny, happy girl he remembered. His decision to rekindle their friendship sets Kate on edge, believing he is playing a game with the intention of hurting her. Just as he manages to convince her of his good intentions, a tragic accident threatens to undo everything they've built together.

Immortal Mine - Niahm Parker's small town life suits her just fine, even if she spends most of her time on the family farm alone while her parents travel the world. When Sam Coleman moves into town--a rare occurance at best--he completely turns her life upside down. It soon becomes apparent that there is something different about Sam, something that makes him just a little more than . . . human.

Where did you get the ideas for your plots?

Heart on a Chain came first, when a girl who lived near me could be seen always outside on her swing. My first question was why? Why was she always out there, what was she trying to escape? From there the idea grew. Geek Girl began as a short story for a contest. I just couldn't get the funny, sarcastic girl who uses humor as a defense mechanism, and the boy who completely accepted her no matter how strange she seemed, out of my head. So I completed their story. Immortal Mine began as the idea of a girl so completely content with her life that she has no desire to change anything. But what if something came along that changed all that she'd known to be true, all that she thought she'd always wanted. How would she deal with that?

You self-published first. How did that work out for you?

It worked really well, actually. It took several months for me to be able to get word out about my book well enough for people to be willing to read it. I became discouraged, and impatient if I'm being honest, and so decided to try traditional publishing to see if that would work better. Ironically, the month that I signed with them I had the highest sales I've had to date. Had that happened a month prior, I likely wouldn't have signed with them. But I believe everything happens for a reason, and I've had a really positive experience working with the editors at Cedar Fort, so I can't regret at all the way things have happened. I'm very excited to see what happens with Geek Girl in their hands.

How does your traditional publishing experience compare and contrast to self-publishing?

Both are surprisingly similar so far. The face of publishing has changed so much in the past few years for both traditional and self-publishing. Gone are the days of big advances, taking chances on unproved authors, and publishers sending authors on extensive book signing tours. Not that there are still a few authors who are gifted with those things, but it's rare. Now an author can self-publish, make a name for themselves by proving their work, and then be picked up by a publisher who knows there isn't as large of a risk inherent in the author. With my publisher, though I haven't had to format my book or make my own cover, marketing is still up to me. They will help, and help me set signings and such up, but it's up to me to be out there in the virtual world to try to drum up excitement about the book. That's also up to me on my self-published books.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Other than my love of reading (I have a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling library of books I've read - and that doesn't count the ones I've given away), I love spending time with my family. Nothing means more to me than they do. I enjoy riding my Harley Davidson, especially on long road trips. I'm a bit of a movie fanatic, and am a bit obsessed with watching TV on Nat Geo, Military, ID, History, TLC, TBS, AMC, Discovery . . . all right, pretty much any channel. I like to do crafty things, but only if it's something I can complete within an hour or two. I don't have the patience to spend more time than that, and it'll never get finished if I can't complete it in one sitting. I spend too much time on my internet learning completely useless information. For example, say I'm watching a movie. I jump online to read everything that's been written about the movie, then about the actors, then what other movies they've been in, and info about those movies . . . it can get exhausting! And yet, I quite enjoy it. I would never call housework, cooking, or sewing hobbies or interests.

I’ve read GEEK GIRL and HEART ON A CHAIN and loved them so I know they appeal to women and not just teenage girls. How do you make your themes bridge the gap from young adult to adult?

Thank you so much! That's so nice of you to say. I don't know that I ever set out to bridge the gap. I think I just write what appeals to me in the YA genre, and since I'm not a young adult, I suppose it's inevitable that it will appeal to adults as well. I do tend to deal with more mature subjects in my books, so I think women can completely relate either personally, or through someone they know (or know of) and maybe that's why they enjoy the books as well. I'm just grateful that I have both that like the books!

Where can we buy your books?

Geek Girl is available in any book store. If they don't have it, they can certainly get it for you. Heart on a Chain and Immortal Mine are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble Smashwords Smashwordsand Createspace

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

My website it Cindy Bennett.com. You can find me on Facebook at Cindy Bennett and on Twitter at Cinbennett

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Writer's Block



There is a song by England Dan & John Ford Coley called SAD TO BELONG about the hopeless feeling of realizing that you’ve finally met the right person, but it’s too late . . . you already belong to someone else. Using that as a theme in a novel almost requires an historical setting now because the 21st Century attitude would be to immediately break up and move on.

I’m searching for a theme for my next writing project, or rather I’m waiting patiently for a plot idea to land in my lap. Meanwhile I’ve been pondering various dilemmas. I woke up this morning thinking about whether it would be better to be with someone that was crazy in love with you (while you only liked him back) or be with someone that you were obsessed with who only just liked you.

To completely get a feel for the two situations I tried to remember my long ago teenage years of angst, love, and turmoil. Boy “A” pursued me from 5th grade until college. I had no interest in him, but finally accepted a date, had a great time, but just wasn’t feeling that “you know what”. He wasn’t the one for me.

Boy “B” was someone that I fell for in 7th grade and tried unsuccessfully to attract for the next 7 years. Finally, we briefly dated. But in this case I wasn’t the one for him.

From my young heart’s point of view I would have chosen Boy “B” if I could and chained my heart to someone who never would have loved me enough. From my author’s perspective I think I would have my character choose Boy “A” and, with time and love, have her be swept away. Oh, wait, that would be about the millionth variation of a Lifetime movie.

Back to the “sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along” theme, which is, in reality, the situation in each of the above scenarios. Been there, lived that, married boy “C”.

I need some ideas. Some “what ifs”. Any ideas?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Quick Click for This Chick



Special favor if you haven't done this yet. Please go HERE and click the "like" button. I'm trying to win books for an elementary school in an economically depressed area. Contest runs through December 18.
Thanks!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Psalm 126, A Psalm of Ascent, Going up the Steps

Psalms 120 through 134 are the 15 “songs of ascent” that were sung as the priests walked up the 15 steps to the temple, stopping on each step to sing the next psalm. I have previously posted on Psalm 123 and Psalm 133. Today I’m looking at Psalm 126. Here is the passage:

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Every time you see the word LORD in all capital letters it means that the original Hebrew text used the tetragrammaton, God's 4 letter name (you may know it as Yahweh or Jehovah, Jews will say Ha Shem or Adonai to avoid pronouncing it). God’s holy name is used 4 times in this short psalm. This is a wonderful song of praise alluding to the recognition of God’s work given even by the Gentiles/heathens. “The nations” in verse 2 refers to everyone other than the Israelites.

When the Israelites returned from 70 years of exile it must have seemed like a dream. Notice the laughter and the joy (4 times!) and the songs.

At Thanksgiving and Advent (Christmas) many churches include Psalm 126 in the pulpit readings because of its emphasis on rejoicing. The rejoicing comes as a result of the great things God has accomplished on behalf of His people.

I especially like the theme of going from weeping and tears to songs of joy. This is tremendously encouraging. Read it again and then let me know if you hear it in church during this Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Early Christmas Gift - Kindle Fire

At first I didn’t like the Kindle Fire that arrived yesterday simply because of the weighty feel in my hands. But today I’m in love. I think I’ll be doing even more reading than ever before.

I even sent my latest manuscript (in document form) to the kindle and it’s really nice to see how it reads in this format. Now I have a big project: checking all my work this way.

Does anybody want to share their Kindle secrets? One thing I can’t seem to do is delete books on screen. I have to go to my computer and manage the books through my kindle page for some, but not for others.

How about glare? The anti-glare accessory got horrible reviews and I don’t want to waste my money. What about a case? Any suggestions? Someone should invent one with a pocket for reading glasses. Oh, am I showing my age?

At any rate, there are a ton of good books on Amazon for under $5 (like most of mine).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Help a Poor Michigan School with 2 Clicks

Hi All,
Please just CLICK HERE and vote by pressing the "like" button. If my story wins then Inland Lakes Schools, in northern Michigan, will receive an entire library of FREE e-books.
It would be great if you could also hit the tweet button below and the facebook button and the +1 Google button (if you're on those sites).
I am so excited to get a chance to help these kids. There have been a ton of cut-backs and this would be an awesome win.
Thank you!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ready or Not, Here He Comes


Mark 13: 24 – 27
There is so much in these four verses that I will have to edit myself diligently to condense it to a blog post. Here are the verses:

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

Jesus is talking about “those days”: the days at the end of the time of Tribulation. Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives with Peter, James, John and Andrew and they had asked him about the signs of the end of the age. After explaining several warnings signs he quotes from Isaiah 13:10 (the part about the sun and the stars).

I can’t imagine how scary this will be for people. The sun will be darkened. Picture the chaos and panic this will cause. No moon light . . . stars disappearing . . . cold, black terror. (This is visualized in Revelation 6: 12 – 14, too, and in Luke 21: 25 – 26 it says that people’s hearts will fail them.)

But then look. Even without light people will see Jesus returning. He will shine like the sun. In fact, when Jesus was transfigured, we read in Matthew 17:2 that his face shone like the sun, so I guess we won’t need that old star any more. (Read more in Zechariah 14: 6 – 7)

He is coming in clouds with great power and glory and He will send His angels out to gather the “elect”. This is very exciting for those who believe on Jesus, but terrifying for those who have not placed their trust in Him. Revelation 1: 7 says

7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Easy Oreo Truffles

I don’t usually share recipes here, but this was a favorite at Thanksgiving and so easy that you’ll want to add some red or green sprinkles and add it to your Christmas desserts. These truffles are melt-in-your-mouth smooth, chocolatey and addictive.

1 package of Oreos (regular, not double stuffed)
1 package of cream cheese, softened
Baker’s chocolate

Put cookies and cream cheese in food processor and pulse until it forms a ball. Shape spoonfuls into balls and put on waxed paper (on cookie sheet). Stick in freezer for 10 minutes while you melt the chocolate. Dip balls in chocolate and return to waxed paper. Store in frig or freezer . . . but, seriously, they won’t last.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Are There Kids on your Christmas List?



I struck gold. Really. Literally. As I came slamming out of the hot tunnel I swerved to avoid falling on top of Samantha and my right arm struck an outcropping of rock that was solid gold.

“We’re still in a tunnel,” Samantha said. Did she even notice the gold?

“Yeah,” I muttered, rubbing my elbow.

“But maybe we’re going to go somewhere else. We’ll have to walk out of here.”

“Maybe here is where we’re supposed to be,” I said. “Maybe the adventure will all take place below ground.”

I pointed towards a light bulb that was dimly illuminating the length of tunnel.



“Sure glad we have light. I’ll bet we would have had flashlights in the bags, if we had gotten the bags.”

“Yeah,” Sam agreed. Then she screamed really loud. Probably because that’s when the light bulb disappeared and we couldn’t see a thing.

“Ow!” I yelped.

“Sorry,” Sam said. She clutched my arm and said, “I just don’t think we should get separated in the dark.”

Oh, boy. If she would just wait a second I was sure that our eyes would adjust and we’d see some daylight from somewhere.

Of course, maybe it wasn’t daytime here.

It’s a funny thing about these missions we go on. Sometimes it’s like we travel through time and space and planets in a matter of seconds.

So far I, Nick Bazebahl, champion reader, sports hero and middle child, along with Samantha Tennes, girl, have saved a sailor, a witch and a child, and have dealt with aliens, wolves and mountain lions. Not to mention we have been weightless, invisible and magical.

Sam and I became friends first because everyone laughs at our last names. We think it’s cool that they sound like sports. We’re just waiting for the day someone with a name like Polo or Soccer or even Joaquin moves into our school and then we can be like the three Musketeers. Only we’ll be the three Sportsketeers.

Sam’s grip on my arm loosened. “Look!” she said. Sure enough, I could make out a ray or two of daylight coming around the corner of the tunnel ahead.

Then something covered our heads and everything went dark again.

(excerpt from NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE MINING TUNNELS, book 4 in the Tunnels series for kids 8 - 12, now out in paperback and ebook, copyright 2011.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats



The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is found in Matthew 25: 31 – 46. Many preachers use this text to encourage us to be kind to strangers, to help the needy and to visit those in prisons. Great advice – but there is so much more to this parable. In fact rather than call it a parable let’s call it a secret message about the last days. You know I love decoding secret messages . . . here I go:

Vs. 31: Jesus Himself is talking about His 2nd Coming at the end of the 7 years of Tribulation
Vs. 32: “nations” refers to Gentiles
Vs. 33: the sheep are the saved (those who will come to belief in Christ during the Tribulation) and the goats are the unsaved (those who will side with the Anti-Christ)
Vs. 34: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father” implies grace, that is, salvation through faith, not of works. Also note that the Kingdom has been prepared for us since Creation.
Vs. 35-36: All of these kind acts, though definitely things we should do now, are in fact referring to the potentially fatal acts that Tribulation Christians will graciously perform for “Christ’s brethren” (see verse 40).
Vs. 37-39: Christians will be surprised that as they help Christian Jews during the Tribulation they help Christ.
Vs. 40: “One of the least of these who are members of my family” or in some translations: “these brothers of mine" refers to the 144,000 Jews who will proclaim Jesus as Lord during the Tribulation
Vs. 41-45: These verses about what happens to the goats contrast exactly with what happens to the sheep. The goats commit the greatest sin of all: a sin of omission; they fail to put their faith in Christ.
Vs. 46: Jesus is quite clear: it’s either eternal punishment or eternal life.

What do you think? Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Young Adult Imprint



I am more than thrilled to announce that EDGE OF ESCAPE (now SOMMERFALLE) is one of 4 books chosen by the German Publisher, Piper Verlag, to launch their new imprint today. Called IVI Verlag, it is aimed at teens and young adults.

Check out the new cover and the new German title which they tell me means Summer Trap and please visit their fresh, new website BY CLICKING HERE.

Be sure to click on the trailer and let me know what you think.

While the German edition won’t be available until spring you can still get EDGE OF ESCAPE in English RIGHT HERE.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Parable of the Talents



In Matthew 25: 14 – 30 Jesus is still talking to His disciples about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. He says it will be like a man who goes away and leaves his servants with various amounts of his wealth. He gives one servant 5 “talents”, to another he gives two talents and to the third only one. In the Greek what he gives is “talenton” which is a measure of money. A talent of silver in Israel weighed 100 pounds and a talent of gold weighed 200 pounds. It’s pretty obvious therefore that even the servant who received one talent was entrusted with great wealth.

If I try interpreting just the first few verses of this parable I find that Jesus is the master who goes away and leaves his servants, us, with great wealth “each according to his own ability”. The Greek for ability is “dunamis” from which we get the word dynamite, but what is meant here is power, work or strength. Like the three servants we are given “talents” according to our ability. It’s quite fortunate that in English we understand the symbolism of the Greek money word immediately.

Now, what did the servants do with their “talents”? The first two doubled their money and when the master returned he praised them and rewarded them equally. (I really like that equality. Does it mean that if I work to the best of my ability for the Lord that I will be rewarded the same as someone like Billy Graham? I think so.)

The third servant buried his talent. That’s actually not so crazy since it was a common practice in Bible times to bury treasure for safety. But we’re not supposed to bury the treasure the Lord entrusts to us. Whereas the master calls the first two servants “good and faithful”, he calls the third one “evil and lazy”. He takes back that single talent and gives it to the one who had the most and then makes these startling statements: “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

There are a number of people who don’t want to hear the old “fire and brimstone, hell and damnation” sermons, but Jesus mentions this awful darkness and weeping and teeth-gnashing three other times (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, Luke 13:28). You can also find it in Psalm 112:10. What are we supposed to decipher from this? Can you comment, please?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lost (and then scrambled) in Translation



I recently received a letter in German from the German government about paying taxes on foreign royalties for my book EDGE OF ESCAPE. I’m fluent in Spanish but that doesn’t help me decipher German. I plugged the letter into the translate.google site and poof! Generally understandable, but not perfect.

Just for fun I took paragraphs from one of my kids’ books and pasted them into translate.google. The result was pretty good. I was impressed. I decided to go ahead and do my own Spanish version of at least one of my novels. I thought I could let Google do the majority of the work and all I’d have to do is be a Spanish teacher again and correct the mistakes.

Talk about time consuming. All I’m doing is correcting mistakes. Here are some examples of sentences that changed dramatically. The original is first and how it came out in Spanish is second.

Off that way is the owners’ apartment that Mr. Stark lives in but my mom thinks he’s going to let us live there this season. = Not like that is the apartment owners that Mr. Stark is alive but my mom thinks he’s going to let us live this season. Whoa, sounds gruesome.

He jangled the silver key and penlight in front of her face. = He Discordant silver key and a flashlight in front of your face. I kind of like the idea of jangle equaling a discordant sound.

There was no railing and Missy went up only three steps before she started grabbing the next steps with her hands and sort of crab-crawled upwards. = There was no railing and Missy came only three steps before you begin to grasp the next steps with his hands and a kind of crab crawled up. Hmm, I wonder what kind of crab that was . . . snow crab? And how did you and he get involved in this sentence?

And my favorite: He shined the penlight directly into her pupil. = He shined the light on her students.

This experiment made me wonder if the translation of the German letter really said that I’m exempt from Germany’s taxes. Oh, well, Uncle Sam will take a cut regardless.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today, 11/11/11, is Brought to You By the 11th Hebrew Letter


The name of the eleventh letter, kaph, denotes the palm of the hand (or spoon or sole of the foot). It symbolizes the open, giving hand as well as the receiving hand as when we hold our hands open to God to receive His blessings. The tenth letter, yod, also signifies hand, but it is the closed grasping hand. Compare the kaph to the yod – grammatically, yod is attached to nouns to mean “my” and kaph is attached to mean “your”. Picture that in your mind: both letters symbolize an aspect of the hand, the yod closes the hand and grasps and the kaph opens up the hand and gives.

The sound of the letter kaph is like a guttural “ch”, like how the Germans pronounce “Bach”. The letter Kaph is also a word meaning bent, like the shape of the letter and like a spoon, the cupping of the hand, the sole of the foot or palm branches. When kaph appears at the end of a word it takes on a different shape. Like this:


In the alphabetic verses we can see pretty clearly the difference in the yod and the kaph. Proverbs 31: 10 – 31 are the 22 aleph to tav acrostics. Look at verses 19 and 20:

19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.

Did you see the difference in what the hand is doing? Pretty cool, isn’t it? There are several key words that start with kaph such as throne, atone, mercy seat, crown, finished, cherub/ cherubim, and glory.

(Parts of this were taken from CROSSING THE SCRIPTURES)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Psalm 123, A Song of Ascent - Going Up the Steps

Psalms 120 through 134 are the 15 “songs of ascent” that were sung as the priests walked up the 15 steps to the temple, stopping on each step to sing the next psalm. Psalm 123 is an anxious call for divine help (verses 1 and 2), a prayer for mercy (verse 3) and a statement of the circumstances which inspired the psalm (verse 4).

Here it is:

1 I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
3 Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us,
for we have endured no end of contempt.
4 We have endured no end
of ridicule from the arrogant,
of contempt from the proud.


In verse 1 the psalmist says he lifts up his eyes implying that the Lord is above him, exalted. He acknowledges His sovereignty.


In verse 2 there are two comparisons as to how we are to keep our eyes on the Lord. In Bible times they directed their slaves by movements of their hands; hence, the slave had to keep his eyes on his master or he might miss a sign and thus fail to obey it. The second comparison may be used because the women were even more thorough than the men in the training of their servants. It is usually thought that women issued more commands, and were more sensitive to disobedience than men were. A hand could also symbolize protection, giving of gifts and giving of punishment.


Verse 2 also says we’re keeping our eyes on the Lord until He show us mercy (favor in some translations). The Hebrew word (chanan) encompasses mercy, favor, graciousness and pity.


Verse 3 is the prayer. Notice the repetition of the plea. This is an earnest supplication. The situation when this psalm was written was that the Israelites had just returned from 70 years of exile. Their heathen neighbors held them in contempt. In Nehemiah 2: 19 we find that the Horonites, the Ammonites, and the Arabs mocked, scorned and ridiculed them when they were trying to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem after the exile. The word contempt here includes contempt that springs from evil, from prosperity and from judgment. The psalmist complains of the situation in the last verse: they have had no end to the ridicule from the arrogant and the contempt of the proud.


These “arrogant” are translated “those that area at ease” in some versions. The actual Hebrew word here is sha’anan which means both of the above, but also is the word for “oppressor”. The Babylonians, their former oppressors, lived at ease, arrogant, contemptuous and proud.


It always amazes me that there is so much in so few verses.
(I previously blogged on another Psalm of Ascent: Psalm 133
and have since examined other ones so just search the tag psalm)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ten Virgins



At the end of the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13) Jesus says (for about the fifth time in two chapters) that we should keep watch because we do not know when he will return. Who are the ten virgins? We are. All ten have torches or lamps. The torches represent our outward appearance in regards to religion. A lot of people call themselves Christians, but maybe only half of them really are.

Five of the ten virgins are prepared for the bridegroom’s late return by having extra oil for their lamps. The bridegroom is, of course, Jesus, and the oil represents the Holy Spirit. Five don’t have that oil; they don’t really believe in Jesus.

The bridegroom returns at midnight, an unexpected time, just as Jesus warns. The unprepared virgins beg the ones with oil to share. They won’t. Are they selfish? Not at all. You can’t share salvation. You must get it for yourself. The unprepared virgins run to town to buy oil.

The prepared virgins enter the wedding banquet and the door is shut.

The door is shut. There is such finality to that statement. It’s too late for the ones who were unprepared. No second chances.

(more posts on parables: parable of the tenants, parable of the wedding banquet, parable on paying taxes)

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Sanctity of Sex



The 22nd book in the Bible, Song of Songs (in some versions it's called Song of Solomon), was written by King Solomon. In Hebrew this book is called Shir Ha-Shirim; by naming this Song of Songs its superiority to other songs (or psalms) is recognized much like saying “king of kings” or “holy of holies”.

This song is really a poem about love. The main speakers are a man and the woman whom he loves. At the start of the poem the couple is not yet engaged. The woman is not sure about the man. She twice sends him away. She does not seem to want to share his life, but in the end she learns to trust him and they marry.

Well, that’s one interpretation. It was, perhaps, originally written as an ancient musical play. Here’s another way to view it: The dark skinned maiden, the Shulamite, loves a shepherd boy but the king sees her beauty and takes her off to the castle to be one of his wives. The shepherd had cared about her heart and soul, but the king is lustful. She must choose between the riches (lustful sex) of the king and the true love (and sensual caring sex) of the shepherd. She chooses . . . I’m not telling . . . read it for yourself.

If you find this book a bit hard to read because of how the verses switch from friends speaking to the lover speaking to the beloved speaking and so on, then I highly recommend that you visit the following website and read this marvelous version which has the book rewritten as a theatrical style play script: Click here

Jews interpret this lovely story as God’s love for Israel and Christians see it as the expression of pure marital love as ordained by God and pictured here as the bridegroom, Christ, and the bride, the Church. Either way, we are covenanted with God Himself. We may sometimes feel out of touch with Jesus/God, as does the girl in the story, but He has not left us. He is near even when we don’t feel His presence.

One thing I really like about Song of Songs is that the verses clearly affirm the goodness and sanctity of sex in marriage.
(excerpt from CROSSING THE SCRIPTURES, copyright 2011)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TUNNELS series - First 3 books released Today



The TUNNELS series is debuting with the first 3 books in the series available as of today, November 2nd, on AMAZON (CLICK HERE) in paperback and digital.
An odyssey through once banned books such as Treasure Island and Huck Finn starts the adventure off in NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE FORBIDDEN TUNNELS. This series is great fun for kids ages 8 – 12.

Nick slides down a strange tunnel and begins a mission to save classic heroes like Jim, Huck and even Harry Potter (I was surprised to learn of all the books that have made it onto someone’s banned books list).



In book 2, NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE RED TUNNELS, Nick and his friend Samantha race to accomplish overwhelming tasks in scenes from familiar tales like Red Riding Hood and Where the Red Fern Grows.



In book 3, NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE WORMHOLE TUNNELS, Nick and Sam get a chance to create their own science-fiction adventures as they “tunnel” into outer space and face off with aliens.

The paperbacks are $6.99 and the kindles are $2.99.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Psalm 110, Jesus as King, Priest and Judge!

Psalm 110 is seven short verses that really brim over with knowledge, prophecy and even doctrine. In the book of Matthew (22) Jesus quotes the first verse to the Pharisees asking them how David, speaking through the Holy Spirit, could call the Messiah “Adonai” (Lord). You see, the Pharisees probably knew that this was a Messianic psalm, but they hadn’t really understood that it revealed the Messiah would be divine, too.

Vs. 1 says
The LORD (Yahweh) says to my Lord (Adonai): “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Jesus asks the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They quickly answer that he is the son of David. Jesus asks then how the Messiah could be both the son of David and his Lord, quoting the above psalm. That stops the Pharisees in their tracks. They had never thought it out before.

There’s a lot more in that single verse. God gives the Messiah right hand authority, Kingship, and then leaves room for a great expanse of time – “until” his enemies are completely subjugated. Making your enemies a “footstool for your feet” refers to Joshua 10: 24-25 when the captains put their feet on the necks of the kings they conquered. When it was written this first verse of Psalm 110 was prophetical, now it is historical for Jesus now sits at the right hand of God.

There’s a lesson in each succeeding verse, but I’ll summarize: The LORD makes the Messiah the Ruler, his troops (we) are as numerous as the dew, the Messiah acts as a priest (covering our sins once and for all), the second coming is in verse 5, then the Judgment and finally the Triumph.

A couple of cool things I discovered while trying to puzzle out parts of this psalm were in verse 3. The Messiah’s troops will be arrayed in holy majesty, that is, dressed in priestly robes. (See Revelation 19:14 –
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.) The troops will be great in number like the “dew of your youth” which was confusing until I found this in Micah 5: 7: "And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD." When I looked at the original I found that the Hebrew word for dew is just one letter off from the word for lamb. Perhaps God was making a play on words since so often Christians are referred to as Jesus’ flock.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Today is Brought to You by the OT book of Hosea

The major theme of the Old Testament book of Hosea is that Israel is Jehovah’s adulterous wife, apostate, sinful and rejected, but ultimately to be purified and restored. The book is in 3 parts: the dishonored wife, the sinful people and the ultimate blessing and glory of Israel.

Here is a summary of the story of Hosea:

God tells the prophet Hosea to take “an adulterous wife” so he marries a woman named Gomer. Think about how humiliating that must have been for Hosea. (After all, Jesus was judged as “no prophet” when He merely let a prostitute touch His feet.) Gomer has two sons and a daughter. God tells Hosea to name the first son Jezreel, the daughter Lo-Ruhamah and the second son Lo-Ammi. The names are important to the story. They mean “God scatters”, “not loved” and “not my people”. Take a moment and think about how significant those names are.

Gomer is, as expected, an adulterous wife and Hosea rebukes her for the adultery. She leaves to be with her lovers, but we read a poetic declaration of Hosea’s (read God’s) love and promise of mercy. Look at Hosea 2: 14-23:

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
16 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.
19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.
21 “In that day I will respond,” declares the LORD— “I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth;
22 and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, and they will respond to Jezreel.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

Did you notice at the end the wonderful references to the names of Hosea’s children? Do you see the prophetic story of God’s persistent love for His children? Since the beginning of time God’s ungrateful and undeserving creation has been accepting God’s love, grace, and mercy while still unable to abstain from sin and wickedness.

Hosea reconciles with his wife. In fact, he has to buy her back from the sex trade. The last part of Hosea shows how God’s love once again restores His children as He forgets their transgressions when they turn back to Him with a repentant heart.

The prophetic message of Hosea foretells the coming of Israel’s Messiah 700 years in the future. Hosea is quoted often in the New Testament and is one of the most significant books of the Old Testament. No other messenger gives as full a summary of the ways of God with man as this book does. For example, Hosea reveals that God suffers when His people are unfaithful to Him. Hosea shows that God cannot condone sin. Yet through the marvelous analogy of Hosea’s love for Gomer we see that God will never cease to love His people. And most marvelously of all we learn that God seeks us and will not fail to win us back no matter how far we have sunk and abandoned Him.

(this was an excerpt from CROSSING THE SCRIPTURES)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NEW RELEASE


Book 1 in the Tunnels series for adventurous kids ages 8 - 12 is NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK for only $6.99 on AMAZON.

Go to my page on CHAPTER BOOKS FOR KIDS for more information about NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE FORBIDDEN TUNNELS.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Paying Taxes



Have you heard the quote “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”? This comes from the story in Matthew 22. Jesus has been talking in parables to answer many of the accusations that the Pharisees, chief priests and elders make. He catches them up every time, of course, and they get angrier and angrier. They decide to lay plans to trap Jesus in his words.

The Pharisees, who are traditionalists and ritualists, send their lesser known disciples off to team up with the Herodians. The Herodians, who supported the Roman authority in Palestine, were actually the Pharisees’ enemies. The two groups try flattery and praise to begin with: they say, “Teacher, we know that you are a MAN OF INTEGRITY and that YOU TEACH the way of God IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TRUTH. YOU AREN’T SWAYED by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.” Ah, they think they’re so clever. I especially like the last phrase because it’s sort of an underhanded poke at the way Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes.

After the flattery they get to their big question: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? This is like the old “Have you stopped beating your wife” question. If Jesus says it’s right to pay taxes to Rome they will claim that then he cannot be the Messiah. If he says no, then they will report him to Rome as an insurrectionist.

Of course, Jesus knows their evil intent. He calls them hypocrites and asks them to show him a coin that is used for paying taxes. He doesn’t ask for any old coin. There were specific coins used for paying taxes to Rome and different ones for the temple taxes. Clearly they could see Caesar’s image on the Roman coin, the denarius, that he asked for. Jesus says, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Lesson for me: pay my taxes without resentment. Give to God what is God’s. Hmm, would that be everything else?

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

This parable used to scare me because the ending is so violent and final. Jesus is still talking to the Pharisees who haven’t been able to trip him up. He tells them that the kingdom of heaven is like a king (God) who prepared a wedding banquet for his son (Jesus). People (Israel) had already been invited and when the wedding was ready God sent his servants (prophets) to tell them to come, BUT THEY REFUSED.

God sent more prophets, but they paid no attention and either mistreated or killed the prophets. At this point in the parable (verse 7) Jesus inserts a prophecy that from our point of view we can see was fulfilled a few decades later in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem. Verse 7 reads: The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

The parable continues. God told his servants (now the Apostles) to go to the street corners (all the earth) and invite anyone they could find (Gentiles). People come, good people and evil people, and the wedding hall was filled.

Now it gets kind of scary. In the story the king comes in to see the guests and notices a man not wearing wedding clothes. Doing a little cross-referencing I found that in Isaiah 61:10 the wedding clothes are the “garments of salvation”. The man without the wedding clothes is someone who is not saved. What happens to him? He doesn’t just get kicked out of the wedding hall. The king tells his attendants to tie him hand and foot and throw him outside into the darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. This doesn’t scare me personally anymore because I have the wedding clothes – the garments of salvation. The Pharisees that were listening didn’t get it, though. In fact they laid plans to trap Jesus. More about that on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Psalm 99

There are several Psalms that are considered “Royal Psalms” because they proclaim God as King. Several begin with “The Lord reigns” or “The Lord is King”. Psalm 99 does that, too. The mood is reverent and worshipful: “The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble”. The first three verses praise and exalt the Lord’s name and end with the Hebrew word “qadowsh”, holy.

Verses 4 and 5 sing of how just the Lord, our King, is. In fact, that attribute is tripled in one verse: “The King is mighty, he loves JUSTICE – you have established EQUITY; in Jacob you have done what is JUST and right.” Verse 5 says that we are to worship the Lord at his footstool. Where’s the footstool? In Isaiah 66:1 the Lord Himself tells us that the earth is His footstool. Therefore, we can worship Him everywhere. This section ends with one word: He is holy, “qadowsh”.

The last four verses of this Royal Psalm tell of how God answers prayer, how He is just and how He is forgiving. The last word is, of course, “qadowsh”, so this psalm triples this particular characteristic of our Lord, ending each section the same way: the Lord is HOLY. Holiness is the only attribute that is presented in triplicate this way, as in Isaiah 6:3: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty”.

I need to ponder the holiness of the Lord. Like most people in this world, I am often irreverent.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Get Your Hopes Up!

I learned long ago that when someone said to me “but don’t get your hopes up” that I should ignore that advice completely. The excitement, anticipation and daydreaming that comes with getting your hopes up are all part of the best things in life. Go ahead and get your hopes up. Enjoy thinking about the possibility that you might go to Disneyworld when you’re ten, that cute guy might ask you to homecoming in tenth grade, you might get into your first choice of colleges, the next interview might land you your dream job, that finished manuscript might be picked up by a major American publisher. Oh, I really like that last one.

Have you entered a contest or lottery to win a million bucks? The odds are way against you, you know that, and you probably didn’t spend too much time fantasizing. But listen, most things in life are worth getting your hopes up for. The odds are fifty-fifty or better for normal life events (not contests) – so squeeze out a few excited giggles, bounce a bit in expectation and don’t be glum.

Let’s say you don’t get your heart’s desire this time. Oh, well, at least you experienced a part of the joy if you allowed yourself to be hopeful. If you didn’t get your hopes up then you had nothing – lose/lose.

Let those hopes fly and it’s at least win/lose and often win/win – much better options.

To those of you who don’t want to jinx things by getting your hopes up, I say stop being foolish and superstitious. What aren’t you letting yourself hope for? Think about it and GET YOUR HOPES UP.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Link to Logs (Link 'n Logs?)



Lisa at Insignificantatbest has posted a lovely interview that features how we built our log home. If you want to see more pictures and learn what we did, please visit her blog at Insignificantatbest

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nick Bazebahl and the Forbidden Tunnels


Sometimes you have to change directions. I posted several excerpts from a work in progress tentatively called TUNNELS. I swapped out the main character and by changing from the perspective of a 30-something soccer mom to a 12 year old kid I had to rewrite everything I had done so far. But what fun that was! And then the story just flew off the keyboard. I finished it, wrote a sequel and started a third. I intend to write several more sequels because the concept is so fun.

12 year old Nick finds himself stuck in a nightmarish world, but he’s not dreaming. He escapes from a strange reformatory only to come upon an even stranger place where he is teamed up with a partner and given an assignment. They slide down a forbidden tunnel and begin their odd and mysterious mission with the characters and scenes of the classic, and now banned book, Huck Finn.

Sliding through tunnel after tunnel gets him in and out of more trouble. He attempts a mission by himself and finds he can break through barriers including invisibility as he interacts with Jim from Treasure Island, also a banned book.

On his third mission he teams up with Samantha, a friend from school, as they visit the very beginning of a recently banned book: Harry Potter.

NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE FORBIDDEN TUNNELS will be out in paperback soon and the sequels will follow. Right now the Kindle and Barnes & Noble versions are available for $2.99. I hope kids ages 8 – 12 will find them as fun to read as they were to write.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Parable of the Tenants

In the Parable of the Tenants in Matthew 21: 33 – 46 Jesus continues to speak to the chief priests and elders and Pharisees pulling them into another story where they again make a quick judgment and incriminate themselves. These leaders are familiar with the way the parable opens: there is a landowner, a vineyard, a wall, a winepress and a watchtower. If you read Isaiah 5: 1 – 7 you can get into the heads of these men and know what they know. The same landowner, vineyard, wall, winepress and watchtower are presented in the Old Testament.

In Jesus’ parable the vineyard (the kingdom of heaven or Israel) is rented to some farmers (the leaders and people of Israel) and at harvest time the landowner (God) sends his servants (the prophets) to collect the fruit. They are beaten, killed and stoned. He sends his son (Jesus, the Messiah) and they kill him, too.

Jesus asks the Pharisees what the landowner will do to the tenants and they immediately say “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Boy, they got that right. Jesus then directly says that the kingdom of God will be taken away from them (the Jews) and given to a people (the Gentiles) who will produce its fruit. Just before this, in verse 42, Jesus says “Have you never read . . .” and then he quotes Psalm 118, the very psalm that was sung and shouted three days before (Palm Sunday) on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”). I think he is ridiculing or at the least being condescending and disdainful of the priests when he starts that statement with the negative “never”.

“Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” The stone, of course, is Jesus as Peter proclaims quite clearly in Acts 4:11.

Verse 44 is double deadly: “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” The Pharisees and the chief priests have fallen on the stone (Jesus) and they are being broken because they just don’t “get it” and they still look for a way to arrest him. The stone will fall on and utterly crush those who don’t believe – unbelievers will be destroyed – ground to powder. That’s a pretty gruesome picture and it’s one that you can find first in the book of Daniel, chapter 2, where the same crushing stone refers to the Second Advent. Daniel warns that if we do not respond to the ministry of the gospel in the present age, there is coming a time when the enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be utterly destroyed.
(I am fascinated with how the Old and New Testaments inter-weave so divinely.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today is Brought to You by the Letter ZAYIN


Zayin is the 7th Hebrew letter and means weapon or sword. In Modern Hebrew it means to be armed and that is the primary theme of the 7th book of the Bible: Judges.

Zayin sounds like an English “Z” and was drawn like a “Z” in ancient Hebrew. Key Bible words that start with this letter are zayin (weapon, sword), zakar (remember), zamam (think, consider), zuah (tremble), and zanah (to fornicate, to be a whore). Think about these words in relation to the Bible.

Two more zayin key words are zavav which means buzz and zevuv (zebub) which means a fly. I’ll bet you already knew this from the Hebrew for “Lord of the flies”. Remember they’d get off track and worship Baal? Baal means “lord” so Baalzebub means lord of flies.

Exactly 22 books later we come to the next Zayin book: Joel. Joel prophesies that the Lord will do the judging in the valley of Jehoshaphat. (I always liked that name because my father used to say “jumpin’ Jehoshaphat” as an exclamation.) In studying Hebrew I learned that this word is made up of two words: shaphat which means judge and yeho (jeho) which is the beginning of God’s name, Jehovah. So you get Jeho . . . shaphat – God judges. This links divinely back to the first zayin book, Judges, because in Judges (and only in Judges) is God given the title “the Lord the Judge” (Judges 11:27). The name Jehoshaphat appears dozens of times in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, but “the valley of Jehoshaphat” appears ONLY in Joel, the second zayin book.

(taken in part from CROSSING THE SCRIPTURES, copyright 2011)

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Talents - Not Yet Appreciated

It was my third and last try. I focused all of my energy on the metal pan, resting on its side in a plastic dish rack with the sheet of paper behind it. Six eyes watched, more intently narrowing their attention on my face and hands, I supposed, than on the paper that should surely start to burn.

My fingers were stiff, the rigidity flowing up my wrists, my elbows, my arms, stopping at my shoulders. I forced it to continue, tightening my shoulders, chest and stomach. I could feel the veins on my neck popping out and wondered in a brief mental laugh if my eyes were bulging as well.

I knew I could do this. Why wouldn’t they believe? I had made the paper crinkle up in my first attempt. They dismissed it. In the second challenge, their idea, I made the spoon flip out of the cup. They just shook their heads. Disappointed, I guess. What were they looking for?

I willed even more energy to flow outward, through those solid pointing fingers, aimed, ten strong, at that old, black pan six feet away. A spark, a glow, and then the pan itself began to melt, golden flames shooting outward.

“See?” I grunted, still holding firm, afraid to stop. I croaked out another question, “Now do you believe me?”

The tall one shook his head and walked away. The husband and wife smiled together and took my hands. I went limp and gulped air. No one but me watched as the pan puddled, revealing the entire sheet of paper, crinkled still, but not even scorched.

“But, but, give me another chance,” I stuttered. I could not fail to win this competition. I had sold everything to come here. There was nothing for me, nothing at all beyond the door. They pulled me toward it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Good? Bad?

GOOD Things that are BAD and BAD Things that are GOOD

1) The pitter-patter of tiny feet – GOOD when they are attached to two- or three-year-olds, BAD when they are attached to four small, hairy legs and you don’t own any pets.

2) Masculine blue eyes that fixate on your breasts and follow you as you move about the room – BAD when the guy is drunk, angry and unknown to you, GOOD if he’s six months old and sitting in a bouncy seat.

3) The campfire-scent of seasoned wood promising toasted marshmallows – GOOD when you walk outdoors at dusk with hotdogs on long roasting forks, BAD when you wake in the middle of the night to sharp ringing alarms.

4) A strong peppermint flavor that makes your mouth water with one taste – GOOD when you’re celebrating a child’s December birthday with pink frosted cupcakes sprinkled with crushed candy canes, BAD when the peppermint is bottled and comes with a warning label.

5) Those three special, long waited for words of love – BAD when they’re said by the boy that sits next to you in Chemistry, breathing loudly, GOOD when, well, you know when.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Psalm 19, Revealing God

C.S. Lewis called Psalm 19 the greatest of the psalms with the greatest lyrics. As I’ve studied it this week I’ve “decoded” several things. First of all the psalm is divided into three parts: verses 1 – 6 show how God has revealed Himself through “natural revelation”, verses 7 – 11 explain “scriptural revelation” and the last three verses are a prayer.

Part one begins with “the Heavens declare the glory of God” and it goes on to claim how no speech or language needs to be used to prove that there is a God. Just look at the sky, folks, the amazing array of stars and the constant sun. There is abundant evidence of God and His glory, just look up; it is self-evident. Symbolically, the sun is given a couple of God’s attributes in verses 5 and 6: the sun is like a bridegroom; the sun is like a champion. I love these similes. Verse 6 ends with “nothing is hidden from its heat”. When I read that as nothing is hidden from God it reinforces my finite concept of an infinite God.

Part two changes directions in some interesting (puzzle-decoding) ways. First of all, the psalm writer (King David) uses the name of God only once in part one with the Hebrew word “El”, Mighty One. In the second part he uses another of God’s names, “Yahweh (Jehovah)”, six times as he speaks of “the law of Yahweh”, “the statutes of Yahweh”, “the precepts of Yahweh”, “the commands of Yahweh”, “the fear of Yahweh” and “the ordinances of Yahweh”. Law, precepts, statutes, etc., are all in reference to the Holy Scriptures. In other words, part two is talking about “scriptural revelation”.

So, we have two ways to know about God: look at nature, especially the sky, and read the Bible. Natural and scriptural revelations have been attacked by rationalism, relativism, existentialism and liberalism, to name a few.

Part three is a prayer wherein the psalmist asks forgiveness for three types of sins: hidden sins, willful sins and sins of word and thought. That completely covers it, doesn’t it? The last verse is quoted often by countless preachers before they speak: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How I Know that Summer is Over



10. Our chipmunks are knocking on the windows and pointing to the sack of sunflower seeds. (Yes, we’ve been ignoring them since we aren’t sitting outside reading as often. Poor little guys.)
9. We took the boat and the dock out of the lake. (Hooray, it only takes 2 hours to take the dock out compared to 8 hours to get it in.)
8. The hammock disappeared.( How will I nap, I mean read, so comfortably the rest of the year? I loved how the chipmunks would hop up through the ropes and search me for seeds.)
7. I’m almost out of marshmallows, firecrackers and sparklers. (Do you know that you can roast the new giant size marshmallows and get four servings from each one?)
6. We’ve had a fire in the fireplace three nights in a row. (Do you know that the marshmallows taste just as good roasted indoors as outside?)
5. The songbirds have flown south already. (Our wood thrushes go to Mexico – luckies.)
4. My tan is faded. (Oh, well.)
3. I’ve stopped painting my toenails. (Sandals out, boots in.)
2. My craving for caramel apples, donuts and cider surpasses my chocolate cravings. (But only for about 5 minutes.)
1. It was 62 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday and 26 on Friday. Get the flannel sheets out!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Today is Brought to You by the Letter TET


The Hebrew letter TET looks like this and sounds like our letter T. Literally it means twist or serpent. A good representative word that starts with TET is “tov” which means good, as in “mazel tov”. You hear this phrase at Jewish weddings, literally it means “good destiny” but is often translated as “good luck” even though Jews don’t believe in luck.

The alphabetic (or acrostic) verses in the Bible give us lots of clues to important key words that start with each Hebrew letter. Alphabetic verses each start with the next succeeding Hebrew letter in the original scriptures. We lose this poetic form in translation.

Some alphabetic verses that start with the 9th Hebrew letter, TET, are (King James Version):
Psalm 25:8 Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
Psalm 112.5a A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth
Lamentations 3:27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
Lamentations 3.26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
Psalm 119.68 Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
Psalm 119:66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
Psalm 145.9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
Lamentations 3.25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

Amazingly, the word “tov” appears more in 1st Samuel than any other Old Testament history book (Joshua through Esther). Why is that amazing? Because there are 66 books in the Bible and if you match them up consecutively with the 22 Hebrew letters, the ones that match TET are 1st Samuel, Obadiah and 2nd Thessalonians. More amazing connections are made to the letter TET in all three books.

You can learn more in my book CROSSING THE SCRIPTURES or in Richard Amiel McGough’s book, THE BIBLE WHEEL.

Excerpt 7 from TUNNELS


Sneaking past the weapon-laden sailors got my heart beating faster than when I took a wrong turn out of the suburbs and found myself driving past boarded up crack houses at dusk. My fears seemed caught in my mouth, along with that knife, the handle of which I was sure now held a firm impression of half my teeth. The last sailor passed and I duck-walked toward the captain’s quarters. I hunched under some porthole windows and took up my post crammed between a pile of rope and a couple of casks that held a brew stronger than my morning coffee.

“One more thing,” a deep voice, hushed with secrecy, intoned, “There’s been too much blabbing already.”

“Far too much,” a second voice agreed.

“I’ll tell you what I’ve heard myself . . . that you have a map of an island, that there’s crosses on the map to show where treasure is, and that the island lies . . .” I had my recording gear on again, but I was just fast enough pulling out paper and pen as well to copy the longitude and latitude that the captain now divulged. The knife fell from my lips to my lap, so aghast was I at what I heard that my jaws had slacked of their own accord.

The further conversations I heard, the mutinous plans, kept me busily writing in my cramped hidey-hole. The ship set to sea and my customary struggle to keep from tossing my cookies from motion sickness was apparently blocked by my unusual circumstances. I expected to be launched through another tunnel at any point or find myself lurking around giant clothes dryers, once again on the lookout for radicals bent on stopping my quest.

The thought gave me pause. My quest. My hazy memory was sharpening, pointing toward the absurdity of my situation and the bizarre surroundings, and yet everything seemed to make sense. My quest was noble. I had only to think of Jackson’s sturdy hand, her determination, the righteous tone in her voice when she had said to me, “They trust us; we’re doing good here.” I knew my mission was good. Everything was flooding back into my memory banks just as I heard that cursed seaman yell “Land ho” and everything went dark.

(Tunnels is a work in progress. Feedback is appreciated.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Between you and ME – Pronouns are Pesky

I had a dream last night in which I cut off a speaker and corrected her grammar. I guess grammar errors will forever haunt me. Here are the two goofs this figment of my imagination made:

1) She said “between you and I” instead of “between you and me”. Between is a preposition. Prepositions are words that show position (in, on, under, above, beneath) or express a relationship to another word (with, by, at, to, in, for, from, of). Prepositions are followed with an object pronoun. The object pronouns are me, you, him, her, us and them. Most people use the correct form of the pronoun automatically unless they have two pronouns, or a noun and a pronoun, connected by “and” as in the problem above. It’s very easy to check yourself just by mentally adding the preposition in front of the second word.

For example: would you use “me” or “I” in this statement?
She expected to be scolded by John and ______.
By thinking quickly as you speak you can make the little adjustment to your thought process: She expected to be scolded by John and (by) _______. See? You would NOT say “by I”, would you?

2) The second error dreamgirl made was to use a reflexive pronoun incorrectly. I’m hearing this mistake more and more as people use “myself” and “yourself” when they should be using “me” and “you”. For example: “How are you?” “I’m fine, and yourself?” I am so tempted to answer back “Myself am fine” and join the ranks of the language challenged. I’m not being snippy, I’m just tired of noticing these errors that foreigners learning our language would never make. They practice the dialogue “How are you?” “Fine, thanks, and you?”

Reflexive pronouns are myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. You must have the matching subject pronoun in the sentence. You say “I see myself”, “you see yourself” and so on. You do not say “I see herself”.

Many people have started using reflexives when they need a subject or object pronoun. For example: My secretary or Mr. Blanchard or myself will be glad to help you. Think, think, think. You wouldn’t say ‘myself will be glad’, it’s ‘I will be glad’ – so it’s My secretary or Mr. Blanchard or I will be glad to help you. Always check what your sentence would be without the other subjects.

Since dreams seem to tell us things from our subconscious I’m going to go and re-edit yesterday’s project again. I’ll probably find these exact mistakes in my writing.