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).

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.)

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 hope 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 site and poof! Generally understandable, but not perfect.

Just for fun I took paragraphs from one of my kids’ books and pasted them into 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.