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New Release for Spring

The heavens declare the glory of God…Psalm 19:1

 

In Right Ascensions, believers get daily inspiration from God’s masterwork, The Heavens. There, written in starlight on a canvas of infinite depth, is God’s love letter to us. Who but God could have stretched a canvas so fair and placed it in a position so obvious we could not fail to see His divine nature? His mercy is great above the heavens and His truth reaches to the clouds (Psalm 108:4). With the words of this devotional, let God be exalted above the heavens and His glory above the earth.

The Story of Right Ascensions

When David wrote the words, “the heavens declare the glory of God,” he was looking into dark skies, at objects like the Andromeda Galaxy and the Omega Centauri Cluster visible to the unaided eye. He saw these objects because there was no light pollution in the ancient skies. Thus, the night sky constantly reminded the ancient Hebrews of God’s presence above them. Today, as our skies fill with the light of our modern world, have we lost a sense of the sacred? Right Ascensions reminds us of God’s presence above us.

Who but God could have stretched a canvas so fair and placed it in a position so obvious we could not fail to see His divine nature? There, written in starlight on a canvas of infinite depth is God’s love letter to us. Right Ascensions helps believers rediscover the God of Heaven above.

The title, Right Ascensions, has two meanings. Backyard astronomers will recognize right ascension, along with declination, as coordinates on a sky map, the means to pinpoint a celestial object. For believers, a ‘right ascension’ can refer to prayers and praise ascending to the Father’s throne in a true elevation of love. These daily readings inspire praise and joy.

Read an excerpt from Spring Skies

April 11 Einstein’s Cross

 

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you Romans 8:11.

 

Einstein’s Cross. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

      During these April nights, my Messier search focuses on Virgo. All those galaxies up there inspire my imagination. While I wait for the weather to clear, I read up on Virgo, noting there’s a quasar in that constellation that’s visible in amateur telescopes: 3C 273. In Florida skies, however, at magnitude 13.6, I doubt very much I’ll be able to see it. Still, photographs of the quasar intrigue me: a massive jet of ionized gas emanates from its violent core.

       Quasars were discovered in the 1960s when radio astronomers found a class of sources that emitted radio waves like those coming from giant galaxies, but were points like stars, hence ‘quasi-stellar radio sources’ or quasars. There must be massive black holes in the cores of quasars churning out enormous amounts of energy. In fact, according to NASA, “quasars give off more energy than 100 normal galaxies combined.”[1]

One quasar in particular intrigues me: QSO 2237+030. It appears in photographs of a galaxy in Pegasus (ZW 2237+030). The galaxy appears to have four centers rather than one, leading astronomers to believe the “cloverleaf” is due to gravitational lensing of the more distant quasar behind the galaxy. According to NASA, “the quasar must be properly aligned behind the center of a massive galaxy for a mirage like this to be evident. The general effect is known as gravitational lensing, and this specific case is known as the Einstein Cross,”[2] because Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted the effect of gravitational lensing.

     A cross of light. Jets of ionized radiation. An object with the energy of 100 galaxies. Space stirs the imagination. Creation stirs the spirit—All the power of all the quasars of all the universe is insignificant when compared to the Spirit’s life-giving power. The Spirit is able to bring the dead in trespasses and sins to abundant life (Romans 8:11).

     Heavenly Father, when I observe the skies, help me not to be caught up in admiration for the power and beauty of the objects I see, but rather let me see Your power; help me worship You in the beauty of holiness.

 

 

[1]NASA, “Quasars,” NASA.gov.

[2]NASA, Astronomy Picture of the Day, “The Einstein Cross Gravitational Lens,” 17 December 2017. NASA.gov.

Read an excerpt from Spring Skies

April 11 Einstein’s Cross

 

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you Romans 8:11.

 

      During these April nights, my Messier search focuses on Virgo. All those galaxies up there inspire my imagination. While I wait for the weather to clear, I read up on Virgo, noting there’s a quasar in that constellation that’s visible in amateur telescopes: 3C 273. In Florida skies, however, at magnitude 13.6, I doubt very much I’ll be able to see it. Still, photographs of the quasar intrigue me: a massive jet of ionized gas emanates from its violent core.

       Quasars were discovered in the 1960s when radio astronomers found a class of sources that emitted radio waves like those coming from giant galaxies, but were points like stars, hence ‘quasi-stellar radio sources’ or quasars. There must be massive black holes in the cores of quasars churning out enormous amounts of energy. In fact, according to NASA, “quasars give off more energy than 100 normal galaxies combined.”[1]

One quasar in particular intrigues me: QSO 2237+030. It appears in photographs of a galaxy in Pegasus (ZW 2237+030). The galaxy appears to have four centers rather than one, leading astronomers to believe the “cloverleaf” is due to gravitational lensing of the more distant quasar behind the galaxy. According to NASA, “the quasar must be properly aligned behind the center of a massive galaxy for a mirage like this to be evident. The general effect is known as gravitational lensing, and this specific case is known as the Einstein Cross,”[2] because Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted the effect of gravitational lensing.

     A cross of light. Jets of ionized radiation. An object with the energy of 100 galaxies. Space stirs the imagination. Creation stirs the spirit—All the power of all the quasars of all the universe is insignificant when compared to the Spirit’s life-giving power. The Spirit is able to bring the dead in trespasses and sins to abundant life (Romans 8:11).

     Heavenly Father, when I observe the skies, help me not to be caught up in admiration for the power and beauty of the objects I see, but rather let me see Your power; help me worship You in the beauty of holiness.

 

 

[1]NASA, “Quasars,” NASA.gov.

[2]NASA, Astronomy Picture of the Day, “The Einstein Cross Gravitational Lens,” 17 December 2017. NASA.gov.

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City Boy

    Does a kid growing up on the mean streets of Chicago have any future? Curtis asks himself this question every day. In his pursuit of the fine and good, his only companion is an equally street-smart dog.

     When Curtis is caught in the middle of a gang war, he turns for refuge to an inner-city ministry operated by Youth Pastor Don Parker. However, there’s no place for Curtis’s companion, the faithful Bogie. Looking for a place to call home, Curtis ends up staying with a family in Wisconsin, but his past follows him. In this coming-of-age story, Curtis suffers loss and betrayal, yet finds the most important gift of all. 

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Read an excerpt from City Boy

     I pushed through the swinging doors and stood just beyond them, wiping my hands on my apron. I wished my skin hadn’t turned red from hot, soapy water. I wished I could play a varsity sport. I wished . . .
   Taking a big breath, I walked over to the messy tables and started to stack dishes, trying not to make a noise. Maybe Lorelai wouldn’t notice...
   “... I’d like to see Europe,” I heard her saying. “Just think. The Louvre. Venice." Laughter. “The Acropolis. But I’ll probably end up with a scholarship to one of the schools in the East. That’s what my mom wants.”
   “But you want to go to college, don’t you?” one of the football players was asking.
   “Sure I do. But I’d like to take a year off first. Look around.”
   “Well, I had to go to Paris with my folks one year,” the girl nearest the window said. “The food was terrible and you couldn’t understand anyone. Filthy, too. I hate to travel.”
   I had a neat stack of dishes and balanced them against my chest on the way back to the dishwasher. When I came back into the dining room, the couples were leaving the cafe. None of them looked back on their way out. As they climbed into a shiny Firebird with mag wheels, I watched through the curved windows. Lorelei tossed her hair back and slipped gracefully in front with one of the lettermen. Then they drove off. Out of my life. Out of reach. 
They passed the brownstone down the street. And the red Corvette parked outside.
   So. Lorenzo was at work. And someone else. A black stretch limo was parked right behind the Corvette.
   I was studying this new development when Hilda puffed up beside me.
   She clucked her tongue at the sight of the cars. “No good pusher scum. They wreck good
neighborhoods,” she said spitting out the words. “This was a good neighborhood, fifteen, twenty years past. Good place to live. Now no good pusher scum make it no good. No good scum.”
   She looked at me.
   “You hungry?” Then, before I could answer, she said, “what am I thinking? Boys always hungry. Go get something to eat.”
   I went into the kitchen and made a baloney sandwich and a hot dog and a pile of french fries for myself. Carrying all this, I backed through the screen door that led to the alley behind the cafe. When I turned around, I was surprised to see a skinny black dog, forelegs balanced against the sides of a dumpster, digging for scraps. The screen door banged and he whirled around, alert, ready to run.
   For a second, we just looked at each other. I could see the intelligence in his eyes. He sized me up, wondering if he could trust me, waiting to see if I’d chase him off. And I studied him, wondering if he was friendly.
   His eyes flicked to my loaded plate. I saw his nose twitch.
   “Hey. You look pretty hungry,” I said softly. He looked back at my face. I really think he understood what I had said and that made me laugh.
   “Come on. I’ll share my baloney sandwich,” I said, sitting down on the back step. I broke off part of the sandwich and held it out to him. 
   I don’t know if he figured he could trust me or if he was just too hungry to hold out. Anyway, he stretched his head toward the bite of sandwich and wolfed it down. After that, he licked his chops and stared at the pile of french fries on my plate.
   I ended up giving him the rest of the baloney sandwich and half of my fries. After he wolfed that down, he begged for more, coming close to me and watching intently as I lifted each bite to my mouth.
   “Guess that wasn’t enough,” I said, wiping my hands on my apron. “Maybe Hilda will give you some scraps. Would you like some scraps?”
   He perked his ears and barked, as if to answer my question.
   “Think you’re smart, huh? Well, I think so, too. Wait. Stay.”
   He curled his tail and sat down. I grinned and went to find Hilda.
   “Hilda,” I called from the back. “Come here and see what I’ve found. I think you’ll like him.”
   She came puffing to the door, wiping her red hands on her apron. I pushed open the screen door for her and pointed at the black dog. She took one look and clucked her tongue.
   “He see some hard days,” she said.
   “We have any scraps for him?” I asked her. “He ate part of my lunch, but I don’t think it was enough.”
   “I see what I got. You wait.”
   I could hear her in the kitchen banging around.
   “Once you feed him, hard to get rid of him,” she called.
   “I guess so. But he’s smart. And I think he likes me.”
   “Hard to keep a dog in the city,” she said, coming back.
   I looked at the dog. He wore a collar but no tag. I wondered if he had been abandoned. The black dog was watching me, too, and thumped his tail.
   “Still. He looks very polite,” she added. “Here.”
   We put the plate of scraps -- sausages and ham -- down for him. He licked the plate clean in seconds and wagged his tail for more. Hilda shook her head.
   “He needs a good home,” she said. “You think to keep him, Curtis?”
   To be honest, I hadn’t thought of anything like that until that very instant. But I liked the idea.
   “Yeah,” I said. “I think I’ll keep him. If he wants to stay, that is.”
   She clucked her tongue again.
   “You can’t take care of him, Curtis. Think. You. Collecting cans just to eat. How you feed two mouths? I call the welfare office on your pop. No good man.”
   I knew Hilda was right. I couldn’t afford a dog. I barely had enough food for myself. And I knew my old man wouldn’t like it. But then, he didn’t like much of anything. 

New Release in Fiction

Jubilee

     In this work of speculative fiction, Sage Rivers lives among The Families, a group of separatists who have renounced technology because of its dehumanizing effects. Sage, however, is an anomaly. On one hand, she accepts The Families’ denial of the machine world, mostly because she trusts her father’s judgment. On the other hand, Sage is also curious about her father’s past. What happened in the world of the machines he left behind? What secrets lie behind his silence? When Sage visits that other world, she learns secrets about The Families…and about their iconic starburst jubilee. 

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Read an excerpt from Jubilee

     I’m awake early, listening in the dawn. Far away, the wind calls and I remember the Field of Stones out there, imagining the sand working to conceal the labor of many hands, the many lost hands building the memorial pillars. But something about the stones refuses to be erased.

      After showering, I finger-comb my hair into a kind of style.

      Zoë told me once, “With those dark eyes of yours and that fringe of hair…you look like a waif.”

     I’d rather be a goddess like Zoë with silken hair and perfect features. Realizing it’s hopeless, I head for the galley of the True North where my dad is cooking breakfast.

     “Darlin’,” he greets me.

     “Morning.” He smiles at me because he knows I’m slow to wake up. “What are you hungry for? Pancakes? Eggs?”

     Nothing sounds good this early. Chin in hand, I sit down at the breakfast bar to watch my dad at the stove. He likes to think he’s a gourmet in his white chef’s apron. His whole body moves as he whisks some eggs.

Often, when I try to see something of myself in him, I think maybe I got his build because we’re both a little on the lean side. I’m especially proud of my eyes because, like his, mine are hazel. I wish I had inherited some of my mother’s traits, too, because she’s “a dark sprite with bewitching eyes,” my father likes to say. I’ve often wished for eyes of bewitching depths, but mine are simply earnest.

     When dad slides a cup of coffee in front of me, I add the usual breakfast mix of cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It’s good coffee, hot and strong, exactly what I need. With the first sip, I start to wake up, though it’ll take a few more sips before I’ll feel like talking and even more before I’ll feel like eating. When he’s finished at the stove, dad sits across from me, eating a plate of scrambled eggs while I sip my coffee. He reads quietly, waiting for my morning mood to pass.

     I wish, to the ten billionth power I wish, I had gotten not only my dad’s eyes but his mind as well. Then I could understand the scientific journals he finds so interesting, then we could talk about…oh, I don’t know, why the sky is blue.

     He’s reading one of his journals, one of the many sent by friends he knew at Caltech. The journals are full of incomprehensible formulas and schematics, and when I asked him once what all the equations meant, it scared me. I told him it sounded like mad scientist, end of the world stuff, but he’d laughed and said, no one had anything to fear from a bunch of nerds with protractors and when I said I didn’t know what a protractor was he said, “See? Nothing to worry about.”

     He knows how to help The Families when members ask him about machines, about what the machines do and how to fix them. That’s why he’s the leader of The Families, though ‘leader’ is just the ‘unofficial title,’ he says. That’s how he talks, unable to disguise how smart he is. Which is why I’m certain I disappoint him, why I regret I’m not more like him.

     Eventually, I feel hungry. “Any scrambled eggs left?”

     “Thought you’d never ask. Some in the skillet just for you.” Dad dumps the rest of the scrambled eggs on a plate and slides it across to me. While I eat, I watch through the galley windows as the sun rises over the mesa. Another clear day promising hot weather. Most mornings are beautiful here in the desert, wild and windswept in this unforgiving land.

     “Dad,” I ask through a mouthful of toast. “What do you know about the people who lived out on the road?”

     “You mean people like us?”

     “No. Not like us. Well, yeah like us, except they lived under bridges and overpasses and in old cars. They seem to have been everywhere along the road.”

     “I suppose there were people living out there.”

     “You suppose?”

     “When Dallas Rand switched on his Integrated Highway, it put a lot of people out of jobs. A lot of them ended up homeless, so I suppose any number of them might have settled under some bridges.”

     “Dallas Rand.”

     His name comes up a lot around here, especially his TransContinental Integrated Transit System or TransCITS. Just last week in sociology class we had been talking about what Mr. Okata called “societal shifts” that occurred because of TransCITS. I suppose the topic comes up a lot among The Families because Dallas Rand, specifically his transit system, is, in a way, the reason all of us came to Endeavor.

      “Historically,” Mr. Okata said, “this country has experienced mass changes in the way people live and work, in where they live and work. Often these shifts resulted from extraordinary economic and financial changes. One example is…”

     “The Great Depression!” Douvaine Charles had blurted, answering a question Mr. Okata hadn’t asked.

     “Exactly. Good for you.”

     Zoë had rolled her eyes at Douvaine. The two of them hate each other and I had to look away before I started giggling.

     “The Great Depression caused a massive shift in labor when a good percentage of the population was unemployed,” Mr. Okata said. “But let’s look at a more recent societal shift called the Great Automotive Shift Phenomenon, or GASP, for short. We here in Endeavor are part of GASP. It started, of course, after the tragedy of the Daylight Savings Bombing.”

     Even here at the end of the world, we knew about The Daylight Savings Bombers, a group of terrorists who had turned ordinary cars into bombs. But that wasn’t all. They’d timed an attack to within seconds of each other; ten suicide drivers drove their car bombs into nine federal buildings, killing over ten thousand federal workers, women, children, and pets. The carnage would have been worse had not one of the bombers failed to calculate for Daylight Savings Time and so missed his target. Hence, Daylight Savings Bombers. After that, public outrage forced Congress to pass the Safe Car Act. The Act was supposed to implement driverless cars, but Dallas Rand was ready with his Integrated Roadway, so instead of implementing driverless cars, which everyone thought would be the answer to car bombs, Congress approved Rand’s TransCITS highway and construction had begun right away.

Rand’s innovative car-road-highway system, Mr. Okata explained, had transformed the world’s economy from the internal combustion engine to a revolutionary new transit system. “And we are still paying the price of that transformation.”

     “Why do you ask?” dad says, pouring another cup of coffee for me.

     “What?”

     “Why do you ask about the people out on the road?”

     “I’ve seen signs,” I tell him, thinking of the deep fissures Mr. Okata mentioned. “I’ve seen memorial stones but no people.” Troubled about societal shifts, about people living under bridges, I ask, “Are we homeless?”

     “In a manner of speaking.”

     “We’re technically homeless, though, right, because we don’t have an official address.”

     “Right.”

     “And we’re using the road to live on when it’s not really our road, right?”

     “Well, we’re homesteading. Making a point about how the federal government has become too bloated to be of any practical value, so we’re waiting for the inertia of bureaucracy to catch up, to force litigation in a court of law. And how long have we been waiting? How long have we been here?”

     “Almost fourteen years,” I say.

     “Right.”

     “So, we are like those people who lived on the road?”

     Dad drops the science journal to look at me.

     “Maybe. But what we’re doing is different. We’re protesting.”

     “Protesting…what, exactly?”

     “All kinds of things, but primarily…and I do mean primarily…the excesses of technology, of venerating technology at the expense of the human spirit, especially Rand’s integrated road. I know you were too young to remember, but let me tell you, the excesses were appalling.”

     “Like what?”

     “For starters, do you know how much energy is consumed by the TranCITS system’s conduction lattice?”

     “Well…what’s a conduction lattice?”

      “It’s…Sweetheart, look at the time. You’re going to be late.”

      “Dad. We need to talk about the people who lived here, the lost people who might…who could be living out in the rocks. I mean, the rocks out on the western mesa. Where did they all go?”

     “In the rock or on the rocks?”

     “Dad, please. You know you can’t tell a joke.”

     “Ok. I don’t think it’s possible for people to live in the rocks. What would they eat? How could they survive?”

     “That’s what I’d like to know.”

     “Alright. Finish up. No more questions.”

     “Just one more.”
     “Make it short.”

     “Is Rand’s highway really that bad?”

     “Short and sweet: yes. Now go get your stuff.”

     I grab my skateboard and backpack and head for the deck. Before I can cross the galley, though, my father grabs my neck and kisses the top of my head. By now, I’m used to his affectionate displays, even though I pretend to hate it.

“Love you, Sage Cassia Rivers.”

Danger at Sweetwater Reef

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Book One in the Sweetwater Trilogy

      Adventure and mystery await Mitch and Laura on Sweetwater Island. When they see mysterious lights across the bay and run into a stranger who doesn’t seem to mind when his boat is sinking, they begin an investigation into the mystery on Sweetwater Island. Who is the dark stranger? And why is Bruce, Mitch’s older brother, sneaking around outside in a storm? Nothing makes sense. When the cousins investigate the island, they find just how deep the mystery goes.

For Middle School Readers

Snows of Mount Peril

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Book Two in the Sweetwater Trilogy

Cousins Mitch and Laura team up again on the snowy slopes of Mt. Peril. Skiing with them on Mt. Peril is the French alpine skier Jean-Marc who is the champion favored to win the prestigious Gold Cup Downhill Race. But when Jean-Marc is the target of a kidnapping plot, the cousins help him outwit his pursuers. Who would want to harm the charming Jean-Marc? The sleuthing cousins investigate another mystery—this time on hazardous slopes of Mt. Peril.

For Middle School Readers

The Christmas Eve Hacker

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Book Three in the Sweetwater Trilogy

It’s almost Christmas. Cousins Mitch and Laura are ready to celebrate the big day. But something’s not right with the computers around town. Unless Mitch and Laura can find a ruthless hacker, a destructive computer virus will cause havoc in Laura's hometown.  With only a few hours left. . . they need a bright idea. Join Mitch and Laura in their third adventure, The Christmas Eve Hacker.

For Middle School Readers

Riding High Jinx

and other stories

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Riding High Jinx

and other stories

In this collection of short stories, readers will encounter characters who must face challenges of courage and tests of faith. Many of the stories, inspired by true events, depict real-life situations where faith conquers fear.

 

In “Meltdown,” for instance, readers encounter the Hunk of the High School and the Kone Korner queen bee—memorable characters because we know people like them. In each story, characters struggle to do what is right, to walk by faith rather than sight.

For Senior Hi Readers

Riding out the Storm

and other stories

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In this collection of short stories, readers will encounter families who are faced with the same situations we all face—losing a job, losing a son, finding faith to go on—moments when we learn about grace to help in time of need.

 

In one story, “Riding out the Storm,” Paul and Carolyn Prescott find themselves caught in a storm that makes them realize they are in a spiritual storm as well. This story and others help readers see how faith is a real-life encounter with God.

Staging Christmas

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Staging Christmas

Church Drams

 

Meet the Allworths, a typical Christian family. This year, throwing caution to the wind, Shirley and Ernest Allworth agree to direct the annual Christmas play at their church. When it’s clear nothing is going right about the play—or their own part in Christmas, for that matter—the Allworths’ faith falls under a bright spotlight. This is a play for the entire family with parts for all ages.

The Perils of Cal Stevens

and other stories

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The Perils of Cal Stevens

and other stories

Cal Stevens has lots of dreams—to be a film director and a newspaper editor and a spy and a…well, he would love to be a lot of things, but he learns how to be a friend most of all. Meet the lovable characters in these adventures and perils of Cal Stevens.

For Middle School Readers