Through a Glass, Darkly

The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

Coffee Talk: Baby Chicks Doo Doo Do Doo! Also, Revolution Progress and Writer Self-Discovery

Coffee Talks are where I chat with you as though we were sitting down together over coffee, updating you on my life, my work, and what’s been on my mind lately. I’d love to hear what’s been going on with you, as well, so keep the conversation going in the comments!

Note: I wrote this post on Friday, but lost connection to my web host right as I was ready to post it. So that’s why you’re getting a rare Saturday post, following a lot of back and forth with tech support to fix the issue.

Happy September! So it’s basically fall now and also already Halloween. Yes, yes, the equinox is still weeks away and temps are still in the high 80s and 90s, but that’s a minor detail. Bring on them pumpkins and candy!

(Also, just so you know, Christmas this year begins on November 1st, so you should probably prepare.)

And now for our big news: THE CHICKS ARE HERE YOU GUYS!!!

And I’m going to be spamming all my feeds with unsolicited chick pics from here on out, so be warned.

Thankfully, they only had to travel from Missouri, and the weather stayed nice and mild for their trip, and they all arrived safe and sound. We’ve got three Speckled Sussex and six each of Buff Orpingtons and Easter Eggers (aka Americaunas — they lay blue and green eggs). We actually ordered five of each, but they were short on Sussex and substituted one each of the other breeds, which is fine.

We also ordered all hens, but I’m hoping a rooster made it into the mix. With fifteen birds, we figured there was a good chance that might happen, so we didn’t order a roo. But I’ve read that it can be hard to get an established flock to accept a new rooster, and we would really like to breed them and have a sustainable flock, so I’m a little apprehensive about that decision, and crossing my fingers that at least one of our new babies is a boy.

For now we’ve set up a brooder for them in our master bathtub, one of those extra-wide and deep garden tubs that come standard in double-wides that we never use. It’s working great. When they outgrow that we’ll move them out to a transitional brooder in the warehouse until they’re big enough for the coop–which we’ve now got a definite deadline to finish building.

Oh! I got so excited about the chicks that I forgot to mention that Mr. B. and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this week. The chicks were something of an anniversary present for us both. I shared on my personal Instagram about what I’ve learned in all these years about keeping a marriage strong — you can read that here.

Moving on to writing news, I’ve found my groove again, and the last half of Revolution is chugging along. This week was the first week in I can’t even remember how long that I’ve written every day. I switched things up by going to pen and paper and also shifting things around so I can write first thing in the morning, and those two simple changes have made all the difference. This morning I brainstormed and plotted out the remaining scenes, which are four in number. The end is so very nigh, y’all!

I’d love to finish it next week, but even if I don’t, I’m on track to finish it this month. I would also love to release it in time for Halloween, and since I’ve been editing as I go, I think that might actually be a realistic goal. I’ve already got the cover ready so all I’ll have to do is format it, which is mostly a matter of pasting it into a template, and then proofread, and then it’s done! Yay!

Speaking of figuring out what works for me, this week I discovered The Quitcast by Becca Syme. Well, “discovered” isn’t really the right word, because Becca’s been on my radar for over a year now. But I finally got around to checking out her podcast, and now I’m kicking myself for not doing so a year ago. She’s a writing and self-publishing coach who centers everything around the Clifton Strengthsfinder, which is less of a personality test and more of a strength and aptitude test that’s based on actual science, and can tell you a lot about how your brain is wired.

I’ve taken the test before, some time ago when it was free, which is no longer the case. Out of curiosity, I took this free knockoff earlier this week, and my top five matched my Strengthsfinder results, which are Strategy, Empathy, Ideation, Intellection and Belief (Communication, Relator, Futuristic, Context and Consistency round out my top 10). Becca helps put all that information into the context of what it means for you as a writer, how you function, why writing advice does or doesn’t work for you, how to figure out what actually does work for the way you’re wired, etc.

While I’m sure her coaching delves a lot deeper into figuring these things out on an individual basis, her podcast has been giving me a lot of insights into my own writing habits, successes and failings. And while it hasn’t exactly taught me anything about myself I wasn’t already aware of, it has helped me come to terms with and accept that there are things about the way I operate as a writer that are never going to change. I’m never going to be the kind of writer that churns out several novels a year, and I’m only going to burn myself out if I try to work at that pace. I need LOTS of time and space to think and process, and I need a lot of time between big projects to recover my energy.

It’s also helped me understand that, as someone who has a high degree of empathy and is also future-focused and doesn’t cope well with uncertainty, these crazy times we’re living in are extremely draining for me. I’m spending tons of energy just coping with the way the world is right now, and that’s why I’ve been so ridiculously tired lately and why it’s been such a struggle to find the mental energy and the will to write. So that’s helpful. I think that’s why moving my writing to first thing in the morning, before I get on social media or get exposed to any news, has made such a big difference. And I’m going to spend the weekend thinking about ways to protect my energy from all the insanity and stress without entirely sticking my head in the sand.

Another thing it’s helped me realize is that I’m prone to magical thinking about the future–thinking things like, “Okay, that didn’t work, but next time will be different”–and that I need to learn from the past and adapt my behavior accordingly. For starters, I’m going to accept the fact that I never get any novel writing done from about mid-November until January 2nd. And instead of making plans to start a new novel during that time and then beating myself up over neglecting it, this year I’m going to be intentional about taking a break from writing during those weeks, and instead focus on other tasks that I’m more likely to actually do. For one thing, I’ll focus on ways I can repackage my Dominion trilogy, since it will be done by then — like finally getting the paperbacks done and putting together an electronic boxed set. And I’m thinking that would also be a good chance to finally migrate my mailing list from Mailchimp to MailerLite and create a new series of autoresponders. I’ll probably take part in some giveaways, too. And already, just thinking about not having to worry about writing during the holidays and getting to focus on these things I’ve been putting off for so long is getting me jazzed about the season.

That might be too much of a look at how the sausage is made for your taste. But even so, I highly, highly recommend checking out Becca’s work and her YouTube channel. She’s got a series of books for writers, too that are going on my wishlist (that’s an affiliate link, btw — if you use that link to make an Amazon purchase I’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you, which I have to tell you because the FTC is extremely concerned that you don’t know how affiliate links work).

Before I sign off, I want to say one thing regarding current events. I think everyone who leans toward being apolitical or moderate or who prefers to stay out of the political debate has a threshold where they feel compelled to get off the fence and choose a side. While I haven’t exactly been moderate for a long time, I did generally avoid voicing my political opinions online for far too long. My threshold was crossed last year, and I found my voice and my courage to start using it to speak out against evil and stand up for righteousness and liberty.

I don’t know where your threshold is, friend. But if the recent actions of the current administration haven’t been enough to push you past your limit and compel you to choose a side, then I don’t know what it will take, and by the time you reach your limit, at this point, it might well be too late for it to make a difference. I’m not saying everybody’s got to start going to rallies or become keyboard activists. But if you haven’t already, now is a real good time to look around at what’s happening, at who is doing what, and make up your mind about where you stand, and what you stand for. Because in the immortal words of somebody famous and probably dead, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”

And that’s all I’ll say about that in this space, although I’ve got plenty more to say in my personal Instagram stories if you’re interested.

And now, I’m going to sign off and start my weekend. I’m going to take a break from writing and let these last four scenes percolate in my head while I spend time with our new baby chicks and watch a scary movie or two.

Have you taken the Strengthsfinder (or something like it)? If so, what are your Top 5?

Oh, and PS – I’m still working on that conspiracy theory post, which is seeming more relevant by the day. Watch for that sometime next week!

Goat demons in the Bible

Goat Demons? Azazel? Are We in the Days of Noah? I Have Questions About Leviticus.

This was not the post I was planning (that one’s still in draft mode, about halfway done), but in the vein of exploring spiritual beings of the Bible, a new one caught my attention this morning as I was reading through Leviticus: goat demons.

What now?

Here is Leviticus 17:7, which is in the context of forbidding the Israelites to kill animals outside the camp unless they then bring the animal to the Tabernacle and present it to the Lord as a peace offering. Emphasis mine:

So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

So apparently there was a problem with people sneaking off to sacrifice animals to goat demons?

What’s really interesting is that this passage immediately follows the instructions for the Day of Atonement, in which the Jews were instructed to bring two goats before the Lord. One was to be sacrificed for a sin offering. As for the other, the priest would symbolically place upon its head all the sins of the people, and then they would take it outside the camp and release it into the wilderness, “to Azazel.”

Nobody really knows for sure what, or who, Azazel is. Some say it’s a name for Satan. Some say it’s the name of a demon. Others say it’s just a word that means scapegoat. Now I’m wondering — could it be the name of a goat demon? Perhaps the one the Israelites were making sacrifices to?

The phrase “goat demon” also puts me in mind of Pan, a half-goat, half-man pagan deity and nature spirit, as well as Baphomet, the goat-headed hermaphrodite who is a symbol for Satan in all kinds of devil worship.

So goat demons definitely seem to be a thing that exists. My question is, where did they come from?

If demons are the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim, the offspring of humans and fallen angels, then how on earth did we get goat demons?

Jesus said the last days would be as it was in the days of Noah — the days when fallen angels were mixing their DNA with humans and, according to Enoch, also instructing us in effective and creative ways to defile and destroy ourselves. It’s the DNA tampering that springs to my mind. In our own time, as I write this there are labs both here in the US and around the world that are combining human and animal DNA. In Arizona they’ve created humanized mice. In China they’ve been experimenting with humanizing the brains of monkeys, because they either haven’t seen Planet of the Apes, or it struck them as a brilliant idea.

It makes sense, in light of both the moral and genetic corruption wrought by the Watchers, why God had to wipe out humanity in the flood and start over. But why the animals? Could it be that the fallen Sons of God also played around with animal DNA? Could some of the Nephilim also have been part animal?

And could that be how we got goat demons?

And could this explain certain cryptid sightings?

Or maybe these all fall under the category of elemental spirits and have nothing to do with the Nephilim?

These are just some thoughts and observations from this morning’s Bible study, and I thought I’d submit it to you for discussion. So what do you think? Am I onto something? Am I overthinking this and taking it all way too literally? What’s your theory? Let’s hash this weirdness out together in the comments.

Coffee Talk: New Facebook, New Instagram, Novel & Coop Progress, and the Dangers of Making Plans

Photo by Mindspace Studio on Unsplash

Coffee Talks are where I chat with you as though we were sitting down together over coffee, updating you on my life, my work, and what’s been on my mind lately. I’d love to hear what’s been going on with you, as well, so keep the conversation going in the comments!

Let’s see. In my last Coffee Talk, I said I had a break from freelancing and made all kinds of personal writing and novel writing plans, didn’t I?

Reader, none of that happened.

Instead, the big client I signed on with last spring finally sent some work my way, which kept me busy for a solid two weeks. I’m not complaining and am in fact very grateful. But not a lot else got done in that time.

Well, not a lot… but not nothing, either. I launched a new Facebook Author Page, so please follow me there. I also revived my author Instagram account, partly because my personal account has gotten so heavy and serious and I need a space that’s just for fun. And I finished another chapter of Revelation Part 2. I think I’ve only got two chapters left to go. I wasn’t able to work on it at all last week, but later today I’m going to edit the new chapter and hopefully get a start on the next. I’m probably not going to finish it this month like I hoped, but I’m going to come very close.

Soon, y’all. Soon.

On the home front, we got the foundation of our chicken coop built. Or rather, Mr. B. did all the measuring and sawing and drilling while I held stuff. But it was a team effort. And now it just needs walls and a roof. And nesting boxes. And a place to roost. At any rate, it’s coming along. We put in an order for tiny baby chickies (eeee!), which are due to arrive mid September, so we’ve got some time yet.

Also, after being too busy for housework for two weeks, on Friday I sucked up five(!) Dyson canisters full of Dixie hair, and that’ll teach me to go that long without vacuuming again. Hashtag writinglife hashtag germanshepherdlife.

Speaking of Dixie, she’s not really growing like a weed anymore. At seven months I still expect her to grow a little more, but I think she’s getting close to her adult size. Here she is, sitting pretty (I had to bribe her with treats to get her to sit still for a few seconds):

As for what’s coming up, I hesitate to state any plans. A few weeks ago we watched the film Parasite, in which a character, rather cynically, warned his children against making plans. To loosely paraphrase, he said that plans always fail, so you’re better off never having a plan. I don’t know that I’d go that far, but he does have a point. I tend to do best when I take life one day at a time and hold my plans loosely, because rarely do things go according to plan.

I hope I’m going to finish my novel in the next few weeks, and get another long blog post up here later this week. But between the coop build, still needing to get our fall garden planted, it still being mowing season, and the unpredictability of my freelance work schedule, that’s about as ambitious as I’m ready to get right now on the writing front. In my ideal world, my books would take off and sell like hotcakes, I’d be able to retire from freelancing, and I’d blog here practically every day and probably have a podcast, too. But if wishes were horses, yada yada yada. Maybe someday. Until then, I novel 15 minutes at a time and blog when I can. Do what you can do, and leave the rest up to God.

Book talk: I gave up on Hero With a Thousand Faces. I probably would have appreciated it more when I was younger and more impressionable, but as much as the Hero’s Journey is a useful paradigm for storytelling, I mostly found the book to be a lot of secular-humanist pretension, especially in light of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview, and I was too irritated to continue. I’ll take Tolkien over Campbell any day. Ol’ J.R.R. knows what’s up.

I’m still reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes. I’d forgotten just how long those Outlander books are. Thank goodness for airplane mode on my Kindle that keeps the library from yanking it away after two weeks. I’m also wanting to re-read The Unseen Realm at some point, but that may wait until my novel’s finished.

Welp, I think we’re all caught up for now. Watch for a post here soon about conspiracy theories, if I don’t get led to write something else instead. Got a favorite conspiracy theory you’d like me to cover? Leave a request in the comments. Otherwise, how are things for you lately?

Is the World Under a Spell?

Somebody must really not want this post to be seen. Twice now it has completely disappeared from my site without a trace, which is the weirdest thing. Hopefully, this third time posting it will be the charm that makes it stick. If you’re a subscriber and you’re getting this in your mailbox AGAIN, I’m so sorry. Say a prayer that this will be the last time.

Image by ksyfffka07 from Pixabay

It’s interesting to me that New Agers and astrologers believe we either are entering or have just entered the Age of Aquarius, which is supposed to be this era of spiritual awakening for humanity. It’s interesting because that actually seems to be happening to a degree. More and more people are coming to a heightened awareness of spiritual forces at work in the world and of something greater than themselves. In this post-postmodern era, following a long post-enlightenment period during which even the Church-at-large mostly abandoned belief in the supernatural in favor of a materialist and naturalistic worldview, people both within and without Christianity are waking up to the fact that there’s too much that is left unexplained by such a worldview. And as things get darker and darker, both Christians and non-Christians are gaining a stronger sense of the reality of spiritual warfare.

The enlightenment was a real mixed bag, wasn’t it? It led to some great things, like a better understanding of science and physics and nature, and it led to the advancement of Judeo-Christian values and beliefs in human dignity and liberty and God-given rights that led to the founding of our nation. But it also led to humanism and secularism and atheism and the abandonment of belief in the supernatural, even in the Church.

I find it highly ironic that among his worshipers, Lucifer is heralded as the Light-bringer, the one who bestowed the gift of knowledge on humanity — yet he used, or perhaps even instituted this Age of Enlightenment, which brought us an increase in knowledge, to convince the world that he doesn’t exist, which may have been an even more effective trick than managing to convince so many that God doesn’t exist.

But after a couple hundred years or so of that being the dominant viewpoint, people are coming back around to belief in the supernatural, if not necessarily to belief in God. I don’t hold with the beliefs of astrologers and New Agers, but I absolutely believe that they are in touch with beings beyond this realm, demons and/or fallen Elohim, who are giving them factual information, albeit twisted facts that suit their agenda to keep humans as far from God as possible. Some of those beings may even be some of the Powers and Principalities who are allowed to direct, to an extent, the culture and the affairs of those who don’t belong to Christ.

And make no mistake: if you don’t belong to Him, you belong to them.

Sadly, because so much of the Church embraced materialism, local church bodies who know and understand what we’re dealing with and are equipped to instruct their congregations in how to deal with this increasingly more aggressive spiritual activity and deception are few and far between. Most churches also aren’t equipped to handle, say, an unbeliever who has a sensitivity to these things and who tries turning to the church for answers.

For something like 1800 years, the Church was able to provide a Biblical basis for understanding and dealing with the supernatural and paranormal and placing it in its proper context. But for the last 200 years or so, and especially the last hundred, a pastor’s response to someone dealing with demonic oppression or who has encountered something they can’t explain is more likely to be along the lines of, “You should probably see a counselor and maybe get on some medication.”

Of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum–hyper-charismatic and NAR-type churches who embrace the supernatural to an unhealthy degree, going way off the Biblical script in order to have experiences that prove how spiritual they are, emphasizing the Holy Spirit over Jesus, teaching unbiblical doctrine and dangerous spiritual practices that open them up to the same ungodly forces that New Age and occult practitioners flirt with on the regular. A close cousin to this is Richard Rohr’s brand of Progressive Christianity, with its meditative practices and spiritual disciplines meant to achieve enlightenment, and its gnostic and New Age panentheistic views of the Universal Christ Consciousness rather than faith in the person and finished work of Christ Jesus.

And then there are all of the non-Christians who are growing in spiritual awareness, who are turning to things like New Age and the occult, paganism and witchcraft in their attempt to grapple with, understand and dominate this new reality.

I think the Church’s failure to provide sound, Biblical answers to all of this, answers that don’t dismiss or redirect, but equip believers and affirm their experiences, is largely responsible for why we’re seeing such a rise in all of the things mentioned above.

I’ve taken in a couple of things lately, one a Christian podcast and the other a decidedly unchristian documentary, that discussed this idea that we’re going through a sort of re-enchantment. That the Enlightenment that was supposedly this great awakening to knowledge actually put us to sleep to the fact that the world is an enchanted place, full of magic and shared with otherworldly beings — the stuff of both fairytales and nightmares (and if you’ve read the Brother’s Grimm and the older versions of those stories, then you know that fairytales pretty much are nightmares). And now as things are getting darker, many are waking up to that sense of that which is other, and they’re hungry for it. They want answers. And they want to feel safe and in control.

I believe this is why we’re seeing such an increase, not only in attendance at the kinds of churches that emphasize spiritual experience over doctrine or that teach inner divinity and paths to enlightenment, but also growing interest in witchcraft and the occult. It’s why these things are going mainstream. It’s why satanists, who used to stick to the shadows and fringes of society, now feel comfortable taking out billboards to advertise their sick rituals as services.

And I think it’s why so many celebrities are coming out as witches and occult practitioners, and why, more and more, we’re seeing televised concerts and performances that look like pagan and occult rituals. And now we have former child Disney stars turned pop superstars singing about meeting the devil and inviting him to spend the night.

Which brings me to a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now, which I think in some way is related to all of this: is the world literally under a spell?

The Bible warned us that there would be strong delusion in the last days. Of course, the hardening of hearts of those who love the world and the culture more than Jesus has a lot to do with that. And we also know from certain passages that God has been known to send lying spirits to deceive the disobedient.

But is there something darker and more sinister at work, taking and holding so much of the world captive? Are these ritualistic performances that engage millions of viewers part of that?

Maybe. Or maybe those are just a symptom.

But one thing I’m sure about: social distancing, separation and isolation, masking and the dehumanization that comes with it, forced and coerced submission and compliance — these are all hallmarks of cult initiation rituals. And the true believers who have drunk the Kool-aid behave like nothing less than members of a cult.

I feel in my gut that there is something very, very strange and sinister about this whole virus and how the world has responded to it. That there is something happening on a metaphysical level that is fundamentally transforming not just society, but humanity, and not for the better or the good. And that somehow all of this ties together.

Of course, I know that all of this is God-ordained, that it’s setting the stage for the end times and the Tribulation, the rise of the Antichrist and the one-world government, religion and currency that he’ll control.

So how do we, as Christians, respond to all of this?

My sincere wish is that the Church at large would wake up, stop mythologizing and allegorizing everything the Bible tells us about the supernatural, and start equipping the saints with this knowledge and with the proper context and perspective to prevent us from falling prey to these beings and their deceptive practices. Equipping us for spiritual warfare. I know there are some small churches here and there who are doing this, but they are woefully few and far between. The Church has fallen down in their duty in this regard, and they need to step up and lead the charge.

But unless and until that happens–and I won’t hold my breath for it to happen–those of us who are aware need to connect however we can and support each other. We, the believing Church remnant, and the Holy Spirit who indwells us, are the Restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2. We hold back these spiritual forces of darkness through prayer and through worship. We can do these things individually, but I believe they’re more effective when done corporately, as a body. Jesus said where two or more are gathered together, there He is in our midst. And I think that’s why churches have become such a target, why the Powers that Be are so dead set against the saints assembling together.

But we need to gather where we can, when we can, to worship together, and to pray. And we need to be willing to be true lights in the world, shining the light of Christ and of Biblical truth into this darkness, proclaiming Christ, proclaiming truth, refusing to kowtow to lies and deception. And we need to be willing to teach, to patiently, graciously and lovingly reach out to those who are curious and hungry for a world full of enchantment and magic and explain the source and powers behind these things and what the Bible has to say about it all.

We’re here to hold back the darkness, Christians, not to cower before it. We’re at war against an already defeated foe. Our greatest weapon is the Word of God. And we step onto the battlefield by getting on our knees.

Coffee Talk: a Blog Makeover, an Instagram Break and Upcoming Writing Projects. Plus Books!

Photo by Tarang Dave on Unsplash

Coffee Talks are where I chat with you as though we were sitting down together over coffee, updating you on my life, my work, and what’s been on my mind lately. I’d love to hear what’s been going on with you, as well, so keep the conversation going in the comments!

This week I’m taking a break from Instagram. And as usual whenever I take a social media break, I’m amazed to discover how much extra time I’ve got on my hands, despite the fact that I thought I had set healthy boundaries around how much time I spend on there. One thing I found myself with time to do was to finally make some tweaks to this here blog. I decided that a static website focused on my books wasn’t really doing much for me, so I made the blog the main focus, and gave the blog an official title: Through a Glass, Darkly. I also dusted off my rusty CSS skills and made some minor customization tweaks to the theme. This is all a better fit for the direction I want to take this blog in, and it also feels a lot more like me.

Why “Through a Glass, Darkly”? It’s a quote from scripture, specifically 1 Corinthians 13:12 in the King James version:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

The Apostle Paul is talking about how our understanding is darkened while we live in this fallen world. Only when Jesus returns will everything be made perfectly clear. It’s a good reminder to self to exercise humility as I discuss my own understanding of scripture and Biblical and theological concepts. But it also brings to mind Through the Looking Glass, which feels appropriate given how it feels like we’ve all collectively fallen through some crack into a bizarro, upside down world where we’re expected to comply with and see as reasonable things that are completely unreasonable and make no amount of sense whatsoever.

Anyway.

As for the new direction of the blog, I’m hoping to do more long-form content along the lines of last week’s post on the Biblical view of the supernatural, and to explore more of the implications of all of that on the Church, our modern world, and all the strange goings-on of these apparent last days. But I also want to post more frequently and intersperse the think pieces with shorter stuff along the lines of reviews, recommendations, quick takes on current happenings, and the like. Basically, I want to get back to my beginning-of-the-year goal of turning this blog into my main online hub and trying to grow a community, which got derailed by having to take a couple of months to round up some new writing clients, and then getting a puppy.

Speaking of freelance writing, I had a big batch of assignments on my plate, but I’m all caught up as of this afternoon (mostly; I’ve got my last two assignments written and ready, but a technical issue is preventing me from turning them in). There’s no telling how long it will be until more work comes in, but I’m hoping to use the down time to write some content for this blog, and also to revive my pet blog and start taking advantage of affiliate links to generate some extra income. Oh, and also to start posting on Medium again. I may actually set up a version of this blog over there and re-post my longer, thinkier articles–all of which is in the interest of helping to finance our hopeful future sheep farm.

So why the Instagram break? Despite all my reservations around everything to do with Facebook, which owns IG, that’s the only social media platform I’ve remained active on, and it’s become my main source for news and keeping my ear to the ground. It’s also where I’ve been feeling compelled to evangelize my heart out and do my part to combat false teaching. But lately there’s been so much doom and gloom, and I was spending way too much time scrolling for news and watching commentary about everything that’s wrong with the world. I just needed to step back and take a break from all that stuff to reorient myself to the good that’s still to be found in the world, and in this country. I also realized that a lot of that time I was spending scrolling through my feeds was time I could be using to pray.

So I’ve been praying more. And working on my blog, and also setting aside the heavy theology books for a while to read a couple of books just for fun. One of those books is Hero with a Thousand Faces, and if you’ve known me long you might be shocked to learn I’ve never read it, nor anything else by Joseph Campbell. So far, I’m feeling like I wasn’t missing much. When I’m finished with it I’d like to do a compare/contrast with Tolkein’s view of mythology and truth, that the reason there’s so much commonality in the ancient myths and stories throughout the ages is because the stories in Genesis are all true and those memories got handed down through the generations as humans multiplied and filled the earth, and also because God encoded the truth about himself and his moral code into our DNA (spoiler alert: I side with Tolkein on this). Nevertheless, the Campbell book is giving me some things to think about, and I’d like to read about the Hero’s Journey from the actual source.

The other book is A Breath of Snow and Ashes, picking up where I left off in the Outlander series after more than a year of not having library access. I put it on hold as soon as I finally got my Libby login straightened out, and it just became available this week. So that was good timing.

All in all, the ‘gram break is serving me well. I hate to admit it, though, but I’ve been a little antsy about it this time around. Usually when I get off social media for a while, it ends up feeling like a huge relief. But this time I’m feeling kind of anxious about it, like I might be missing important developments, and I have to keep talking myself out of jumping back on there. I figure I should probably stay off until this feeling goes away.

I’ve also been making headway on Revolution revisions (I’ve been talking about the book of Revelation so much that I keep wanting to call my novel that instead), and I’m almost caught up, which means I’ll have to start writing again soon and stop putting it off. I’m actually looking forward to getting back into it, though, and more importantly, to finishing it, which I’m really going to push myself to do by the end of next month.

I’ve realized that a big part of my lack of motivation to write is just feeling like this book is a big stopper in a bottleneck that’s keeping me from the things I’m truly excited to write. But I’m starting to love this story again, and I’m looking forward to finally wrapping up this trilogy and getting it off my plate for good. Then I can return to the Mae Bishop series I started last year, a dark urban fantasy that is going to heavily feature the Deuteronomy 32 worldview I talked about here last week (scroll back up for links to that post), and the sweet romance I also started last year, both of which I’m actually really excited to return to. I’ve also got another horror novella that I wrote last year right before the pandemic broke that I need to edit.

August is usually the point where I get a second wind and a burst of creative energy, so I’m gearing up to take advantage of it. I don’t know whether this is a holdover from its being the back-to-school month, or if it’s because we’re getting so close to fall that I get energized just by the anticipation (speaking of which, I’m thinking August is fall-adjacent so it’s close enough and I’m just going to go ahead and put out our fall decor. I might not even wait for August to get here, truth be told). It also helps that usually the rain slows down and so we don’t have to mow all that acreage as often, and it’s too hot for outdoor chores anyway. We’ve still got a few more days of July to get through, but I’m already feeling that August energy, and I’m ready to write my butt off.

Your turn! Are you as jazzed that we’re creeping up on fall as I am? What’ve you got in the pipeline? Any project bottlenecks that you just need to grit your teeth and muscle through? How do you feel about August? Oh, and how do you like my blog makeover (be sure to check out the homepage)? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!

We’re Not Alone: Deuteronomy 32 and a Unified Theory of the Paranormal

Note: This post is a little different from what you’re used to, but it’s a taste of things to come. This has been on my mind a lot lately and I wanted to lay it all out and fully articulate it in my own words. This is all background for things I’ll be talking about here in the future. It’s an extra-long post, so if you’re on a computer, you might want to bookmark it and then come back and get comfortable and read it on your phone. If you enjoy this sort of thing, whether or not you agree with it, I’d really love it if you’d drop a note in the comments to let me know.

Also, this post contains affiliate links to Amazon. Using those links to purchase the items mentioned, or any other items you could use, will also help support this site and make more content like this possible. Thanks and happy reading!


Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

If you’re new around here, you probably don’t know this about me: that I’m a weirdo who’s into weird stuff. By that I mean that I’m the odd Christian who enjoys horror and tales of the paranormal, folklore, Big Foot and Mothman, urban legends, conspiracy theories, and just generally weird and unexplained phenomena.

Except that this stuff does have an explanation. The Bible gives us a solid one. A lot of people realize this, but they don’t really know the full extent of it–that the supernatural worldview presented to us in the Bible goes beyond simply angels and demons.

In his book The Unseen Realm, Bible scholar and ancient Hebrew expert Dr. Michael Heiser lays the foundation of understanding this worldview. He points out that the First Century Jews and Christians would tell you that there was not one great Fall that corrupted humanity, but three. The first is, of course, THE Fall, when the Serpent tempted Adam and Eve to rebel against God’s only commandment in the Garden of Eden and sin first entered the world as a result.

The second is one that a lot of people really struggle to wrap their heads around and accept as reality — the events described in Genesis 6, when the Sons of God–i.e., angelic beings–left their heavenly abode to take human wives and father children with them, producing the Nephilim–a half-breed race of giants.

This one was a doozy. This story is expanded upon in the Book of Enoch. Although that book is not viewed as inspired scripture, Dr. Heiser points out that it records a lot of Jewish tradition and that it was a popular work in the first century that helped to shape the worldview of the New Testament writers. Some validity is lent to Enoch by its being quoted as fact in the epistle of Jude, and Peter also refers to it in his epistle. The Enochian writers tell us that the great sin of the “angels who kept not their first estate” is that they wanted to be like God by creating a race of their own, and that they also taught humanity a range of self-destructive knowledge, such as the art of warfare, seduction, sorcery and drug use, in the hopes that we would wipe ourselves out.

As punishment, God imprisoned these rebellious Sons of God under the earth and sentenced their offspring to die in the Great Flood, along with corrupted humanity. He preserved for himself a small remnant, Noah and his family, who kept themselves righteous by not mixing with the angels or participating in their dark arts (apparently, however, one or two of Noah’s daughters-in-law must have had Nephilim DNA, because a remnant of them managed to somehow survive the flood [there’s also the possibility that it was a local flood, but I’m not here for that debate right now]; these were subsequently wiped out during the Canaanite conquest and, later, by David and his armies).

Again, a lot of people just can’t accept the idea that angels produced offspring with humans, and they explain this away by insisting that “Sons of God” refers to the godly line of Adam’s third son, Seth, despite the fact that the term is used throughout the old testament exclusively to refer to heavenly beings. According to this theory, the “Daughters of Men” are in the line of Cain, and the Nephilim are simply warriors and influential people, and have nothing to do with giants (this theory and the people who hold to it can’t explain where the giants, like Goliath, came from — I guess they just think he was an abnormally tall guy).

Before I get to the third fall, we need to spend a little time on the Sons of God. For the full background on this, I highly recommend that you read The Unseen Realm (or read Dr. Heiser’s alternative book, Supernatural, which is a less scholarly version for people who don’t like footnotes). You can also get the gist of it by watching his Supernatural seminar on YouTube. The quick and dirty version is that these Sons of God are depicted in places like Psalm 82 and Daniel 10, among others, and they are members of God’s Divine Council. Passages in Job and 1 Kings show God involving these entities in decisions and in carrying out assignments on the earth. Lest you have palpitations over the thought of our sovereign God needing angelic beings to help him make decisions, relax — he doesn’t, any more than you need your kids to help make household decisions. But you still involve them, because they’re your kids, and they can learn and grow from it. Anyway.

Psalm 82 pulls something shocking by not just referring to these beings as Sons of Gods, but as gods themselves. This is because the Hebrew word for these beings is elohim, a term that’s often used to refer to God Himself. But elohim is actually a generic categorical term encompassing all supernatural beings. God is an elohim, but he is the only elohim who is God. He’s unique among the elohim and there are none like him or beside him. He created them, and he’s sovereign over them, just as he is over us. Got it? Good, because this is important.

This brings us to the third and final Fall — the Tower of Babel. Genesis 11 tells us how, when humans once again multiplied after the flood, they did not disperse and fill the earth as God commanded, but instead rebelled and decided to band together in the area that would eventually be known as Babylon (modern day Iraq), where they built a tower, a ziggurat that would allow them access to the heavens to reach God. Again, this is where ancient Jewish tradition can fill in some gaps. According to such, humanity was led in this effort by Nimrod, who we meet in Genesis 10, which tells us he was “a mighty hunter before the Lord” who founded and built many cities, including Babylon. Tradition also holds that he was himself a Nephilim (he also appears to pre-figure the Antichrist, but that’s a topic for another post). And their intention in building the tower was not simply to reach God and be close to Him, but to overthrow Him and set themselves up as their own gods.

How did God respond? Genesis 11 goes on to tell us that he struck them and confused their languages, removing their ability to communicate and organize and forcing them to disperse and fill the earth as He had originally commanded. This, according to scripture, is how we got different nations.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Deuteronomy 32 sheds more light on this strange episode. Again, you can get all of the details from Dr. Heiser’s material, but in short, this passage informs us that when God divided the nations at Babel, he also disinherited them and turned them over to the Sons of God. Apparently, these Divine Council members were supposed to benignly steward the nations while God created a new nation for himself–Israel. But some, possibly all, of these lesser elohim grew jealous and rebelled, threw their lot in with the original rebel, the Serpent, aka Satan, and convinced the humans entrusted to their care to worship them instead of God. Psalm 82 further tells us how they abused their delegated authority, and how they have been judged by God and sentenced to die like men.

The implications of all of this is that there are real, intelligent spiritual entities behind idols and other so-called gods, going by different names throughout history, who are hostile to God and who oppose Him. And that they hate our guts and want to subjugate and/or destroy us. Not only that, but they wield a certain amount of power, authority and influence over our culture, governments and world affairs. These are the powers and principalities Paul talks about in Ephesians 6. This is where you get the Prince of Greece and the Prince of Persia spoken of in Daniel. These are the beings who God’s loyal angels, like Michael and Gabriel, stand in opposition to. These are primarily who and what our spiritual warfare is directed against.

And whether you worship them or not, whether you believe in them or not, if you don’t belong to Christ, you belong to them.

Angels and Demons

Notice that I’ve mostly avoided referring to these beings as angels. That’s because our English word “angel” comes from the Greek word “angelos,” which simply means “messenger.” So angel is more of a job description than it is the name of a race or species. That word really doesn’t tell us much about them, other than how God has used some of them to interact with humanity. The Bible tells us that there is a variety of beings within this classification, including cherubim, seraphim, and archangels (or perhaps just one of those — Michael is the only one with that designation in the canon of scripture). There are angelic armies that include chariot drivers and soldiers. It also tells us that there are rankings among them. It tells us that they can take on human appearance and even become corporeal.

What about demons and fallen angels? The traditional Christian belief is that demons are fallen angels. But–and this is a huge but–while Revelation 12 describes a celestial battle in which Satan and a third of the angels who followed him were cast out of Heaven and banished to the earth, it doesn’t describe that event as taking place until sometime after the birth, death and resurrection of Christ–and it might not have even happened yet. Depending on how you read that passage, this event might not take place until the Tribulation.

So then, what are demons, and where do they come from?

We don’t see a lot of references to demons until Jesus begins his ministry and starts casting them out of people left and right. The Gospels often refer to them as “unclean spirits.” In the Old Testament, what makes something unclean? There are a few things: coming into contact with a dead or diseased body, coming into contact with blood and other bodily fluids… and mixing things that don’t belong together.

Let’s look at Isaiah 14:9 (ESV):

Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations.

The Hebrew word for “shades” — rendered in other translations as either “the dead” or “departed spirits” — is Rephaim. The Rephaim appear elsewhere in the Old Testament as a race of giants, descendents of the Nephilim, who were indeed leaders of the earth before they were destroyed. That’s not exactly conclusive, but it’s highly suggestive. Besides, Jewish tradition at the time of Christ held that demons were, in fact, the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim, which actually makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. It certainly explains why they’re so hell-bent (no pun intended) on possessing human bodies. Again, Dr. Heiser’s materials go a lot more in-depth into all of this.

Elemental Spirits

So we have Elohim, consisting of various types and ranks of angelic and spiritual beings, many of whom are in rebellion and led by Satan, who have power and influence over the world and have their own agenda that’s antithetical to God’s. We have the fallen angels who fathered the Nephilim, but they’re bound in chains and off the playing board. We have the Nephilim, who were wiped out long ago but are apparently still active and generally menacing people and wreaking havoc as disembodied spirits, known as demons.

But wait, there’s more!

In both Galatians 4 and Colossians 2, Paul talks about the “elementary principles” of the world. In some translations, however, this Greek word, stoicheion, is translated as “elemental spirits.” Naturally, most modern scholars who are heavily influenced by modernity and materialism–often the same people who reject the supernatural reading of Genesis Six, Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 82– say that the first translation is correct, because Paul is talking about philosophical principles.

Looking up that word in the concordances and lexicons (which you can do on Biblehub) seems to support that… at first. Stoicheion means something along the lines of rudimentary knowledge, or basic, fundamental principles. But it’s also used in Greek writings outside of scripture to refer to heavenly bodies. And then there’s this note in HELPS Word-studies:

The RSV however renders stoixeia as “elemental spirits,” i.e. spiritual powers or “cosmic spirits.” This views stoixeion (“elements”) as ancient astral beings associated with the very beginning (make-up) of the earth.

Honestly, it seems to me that Paul could be using this word both ways. For example, in Galatians 4:3, the first meaning seems to make more sense. But a little further down in verse 9, the second meaning better fits the context. And in Colossians, it seems like it could go either way (FWIW, the ESV translates it as “elementary principles” both times in Galatians, and as “elemental spirits” in Colossians).

At any rate, it seems highly suggestive that this is yet another class of supernatural beings, which would explain a lot. It would handily explain things like faeries, goblins, sightings of mysterious little people and the like, as well as ghost lights and at least some UFOs. It might even explain cryptids like Big Foot and Mothman. Things that many Christians are quick to either chalk up to demons or to hallucinations, fakery or some other material or scientific explanation.

What About Ghosts?

The Bible does mention ghosts, but only vaguely and in passing. For example, Jesus’ disciples first thought they were seeing a ghost when they spotted him walking on the Sea of Galilee, and after his resurrection he had them touch him and give him food to prove to them that he wasn’t a ghost.

The best argument for ghosts is found in 1 Samuel 28, when King Saul has the Witch of Endor, a known medium, summon the spirit of the recently deceased prophet Samuel to ask him for advice. Samuel’s spirit does indeed appear, not to advise Saul, but to proclaim judgment upon him. But the reaction of the Witch of Endor when Samuel appears is very telling. She’s completely freaked out, which suggests that successfully summoning a human spirit was a brand new and frightening experience for her. The implication is that either she was a con woman, or she was used to having another type of spiritual entity appear to her.

At any rate, while the oft-misquoted 2 Corinthians 5:8 doesn’t actually say “absent from the body, present with the Lord,” it does imply the principle, at least for Believers. More convincingly, the many OT passages about Sheol make it clear that it’s not a place where the dead even have consciousness, let alone are able to leave (the departed Rephaim, on the other hand, appear to be an exception to both those rules). Based on all of this, I believe the most likely explanation for ghosts is that they’re demons impersonating human spirits. As for poltergeists, apparitions and other types of hauntings, this could be either demons or elemental spirits.

A Unified Theory of the Paranormal

As you can see, the Bible offers us an unambiguously supernatural worldview with a wide range of supernatural beings operating both in the spirit realm and in the world. Apparently famed paranormal researcher John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies, was putting together a sort of “Unified Theory of the Paranormal,” in which he postulated that everything from ghosts to UFOs and alien abductions to cryptids had a common source, some kind of interdimensional race of intelligent beings operating in our world. He was very close to the truth. The Bible fills in the gaps and provides a way to explain all kinds of paranormal phenomena.

More importantly, it also warns us that these things are not out for our good and that we should refrain from attempting to contact them or have anything to do with them. It warns us that these entities are capable of appearing as benevolent angels and beings of light, and of speaking very convincing half-truths, even quoting scripture out of context in order to deceive us. But their end is our destruction, and to lead us away from the truth of the Gospel that has the power to deliver us from their domain and reconcile us permanently to God through his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

I think this worldview can also explain a lot of conspiracy theories and a lot of what’s happening in the world right now. I’ll be exploring all of this more in future posts, as well as philosophical implications and what all of this should mean for the Church at large. In the meantime, in addition to Dr. Heiser’s work, I also recommend checking out the Sword and Staff podcast, especially everything from June 24, 2021 onward, which covers a lot of this same ground.

Thanks for sticking around to the end of this ridiculously long post. I hope you enjoyed it, and I would LOVE for you to share your thoughts in the comments. And don’t forget to like and share!

 

Coffee Talk: Life is Very Full and Very Mundane

Image by Tracia from Pixabay

I’ve been trying to write this post, or one like it, for two or three weeks now. Life has been so full and this is the first time in a while that my energy and focus are aligned with me actually having time to sit down and write an update. But even with everything going on, it’s all so mundane and ordinary that it hardly seems worth mentioning. Freelance work is continuing to come in, there’s lots and lots of mowing and weed-eating to be done, always, Dixie is still a lot of work, and I’m still trying to spend a good portion of my free time on focused Bible reading and study, or taking in good Bible teaching.

Last weekend we had our friends / pastor and his wife / landlady out and we all pitched in and got a lot of stuff done around the property, clearing a lot of limbs and cutting down the big pile we had set aside for our eventual hugelkultur garden. That right there was a huge help and a lot more progress in a much shorter amount of time than we could’ve made on our own. It was also nice to have some visitors and a chance to be social. It had been a good long while.

In other news on the homefront, we’re still trying to figure out our chicken situation. Our next-door neighbors got a small flock a month or two ago that they were allowing to free-range, a lot of which they were doing on our property, but then they shut them up after we found an egg in our barn and returned it to them. Now I miss seeing chickens everywhere. Hopefully we’ll get our coop built soon and get some chickens of our own.

Speaking of Dixie, she’ll turn six months old on Tuesday. She’s still a handful, but not as much as she used to be. We haven’t weighed her in a while, but I’m sure she’s over 50 pounds — small for a full-grown German shepherd, but awfully big for a puppy. I still have moments every day where I’m just like, I can’t believe this is our dog now. She’s got all her adult teeth in, which means instead of slicing and dicing our hands up, she now just bruises them with her bone-crushing jaws. Apparently GSDs don’t need to be trained to go for the arms and hands; it’s just a natural-born instinct. At any rate, she’s calmed down some, though she still seems to be dialed up to 11 most of the time, and she’s becoming more affectionate and obedient and growing up into a good dog. She’s still got a long way to go, but she’s already come a long way. There’s a lot about this age that’s fun, and we’re trying to enjoy it, but at the same time we can’t wait until she’s a couple of years old and calms the heck down.

She’s very difficult to photograph. But she sure is purdy.

Apart from all of that, not much has been going on. I’ve talked here before about how I struggle to have any desire to work on my fiction or continue to be an author, and the struggle is real. I’ve started praying about that, and I’m trying to get my head back in that space. This morning I transferred everything I had written on Revolution Part 2 from my AlphaSmart into Scrivener so I can just start editing. That’s my plan for now — to just spend a little bit of time each day editing what I’ve got so far and get my head back into that story. And then I can finally write the last few scenes (seriously, I’m so close to the end it’s ridiculous that any of this is hard for me) without so much editing work hanging over my head and making me feel overwhelmed and avoidy.

As inactive as I’ve been here, I’ve actually been a lot more active on my Instagram, especially in my stories, where I’m more apt to get a bit political and salty with my opinions. I’ve also been preaching a lot in that space. I’m still planning to do a big post here about how I’ve evolved spiritually over the past year or so, and I’m also still kicking around a couple of podcast ideas. It’s all a matter of finding time that coincides with having energy and focus. Really, though, I need to be a better steward of both my time and my energy, and maybe not spend so much time on Instagram, and definitely stop perusing headlines and going down conspiracy theory rabbit holes. Although that’s what one of my podcast ideas is about, so I’m not sure how that will work.

If you follow my Facebook page, you should know that it’s been hacked, and both Mr. B and I were booted from having administrative access. Facebook is no help at all — they literally said there’s nothing they can do. So if you follow me there, you should go ahead and unlike and unfollow that page. I’ll be getting a new page up and running at some point, but in the meantime you can follow my personal profile for updates. I try not to get on Facebook too often, though, so don’t expect me to suddenly become active there. I’m not too upset about it, because most of that page’s followers are people who know me IRL and just wanted to support me, which is appreciated but is actually no help at all when trying to figure out the demographics of my actual readership. So it’s good that I’ve got a reason to start over with a fresh page.

Oh! I’ve also been wanting to tell y’all about our latest escape. We generally try to avoid anything that’s coming out of Hollywood these days, so lately we’ve been watching a lot of anime. I know we’re woefully behind on this and if any of you reading this are anime fans you’re probably way ahead of us, but we’ve fallen completely in love with One Punch Man. At first glance I thought it was basically a Japanese version of The Tick, straight-up superhero satire, but it only took a few episodes to realize there’s a lot more going on. This show has a lot of heart and a lot to say about themes of heroism and character, and it does it all with humor and charm.

My reading lately has all been theological stuff, and I’m hoping to post some reviews at some point. I’m thinking I need to make some space for fiction to help get my head back in that space. I tried to get through an audiobook of Brave New World, but it was too disturbing and hit too close to home. I finally got my login issues with Libby and Overdrive straightened out, so maybe I can find something fun to read.

That’s about it for now, but keep the conversation going! Share your thoughts and tell me what you’re up to, and what you’re reading and/or watching in the comments.

And have a great weekend!

On Hearing from God and the Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Prayer

So far I’ve talked about how God led me out of practicing yoga and the Enneagram (and how I got led into those things in the first place).

I saved this post for last because it’s the hardest to write. This was the last domino to fall in my awakening from spiritual deception, but it was also the thing that led me down that path to begin with.

I’m talking about spiritual formation.

Several years ago, we went through a really hard season that included two miscarriages followed by the sudden passing of both my in-laws (and their cat) in rapid succession, my PCOS and thrombophilia diagnoses, losing one of our kitties to cancer, and major financial hardship. I was tired and depressed and desperate for encouragement. I found it in the form of some popular online women’s ministries and daily devotionals.

One of the devotional writers really stood out to me. She wrote a post on my favorite devotional blog that spoke directly to my soul. I sought out her blog and subsequently read some of her books, which at the time I loved. They really ministered to me and helped me through my depression and grief. They helped me believe that God still loved me and wanted what’s best for me.

However.

As part of a promotional campaign for an upcoming book, she posted videos to her website in which she encouraged a spiritual practice of sitting quietly for five minutes and just opening yourself up to God and inviting him to speak to you. She taught me to get quiet and listen. I didn’t know it at the time, but what she was teaching me was the spiritual formation practice of contemplative prayer. Eventually, this led to the practice of keeping a journal and writing down what I thought I heard the “Holy Spirit” speaking to me.

So what’s the matter with that?

The problem is that this form of contemplative prayer is a form of meditation that’s rooted in New Age and Eastern mysticism. It was introduced into the Church and popularized by Richard Rohr (remember him from my Enneagram post?) and his followers–several of whom are often quoted by this author I was so enamored with. And it also opened the door for me to try other things like mindfulness meditation, believing that it was harmless. Of course, this was also the slippery slope (and the same influencer) that led me to yoga and the Enneagram.

All of these things are New Age, and also completely unbiblical.

Here’s the thing: God prescribes how to pray and meditate in his word. The Hebrew word that gets translated “meditate” in our English Bibles actually means to utter or to muse. Biblical meditation is not emptying or quieting your mind, but instead filling it with God’s word. This can look like thinking about the meaning and interpretation of a passage of scripture and how it applies to our lives. It can also look like memorizing scripture and repeating it back to ourselves. It doesn’t look like getting quiet and opening ourselves up to receive some personal spiritual revelation.

The Bible also gives us countless examples of how to pray–we have three examples from the Lord Jesus himself. Biblical prayer involves a combination of praise, thanksgiving, and asking for what we need. It involves pouring out our hearts and telling God what’s on our minds and what’s making us anxious. It involves repeating scripture back to him and reminding him of his promises. Sometimes it involves repentance. When we’re really struggling, prayer can sometimes look like crying or groaning deep in our spirit. But Biblical prayer, again, never involves us being silent, quieting our minds and waiting for God to speak to us.

The danger here is that when we go outside of God’s prescribed ways to contact and hear from him, we open ourselves up to who knows what. Biblical prayer and meditation are protected from interference from outside forces. But non-Biblical methods are not — which is why so many of those methods are expressly forbidden in scripture. If you quiet your mind and open up yourself to receive a message, you may well get one — but it may very well not be from God.

Case in point: remember how I said I got into the practice of writing down the things I thought I heard from the Holy Spirit? I’ve got pages in my old journals of messages I heard telling me how much I was loved and affirming that I was on the right track and I was exactly where God wanted me. Well that sounds good, doesn’t it? The problem is, I wasn’t on the right track — I was engaged in the New Age practices that God would eventually convict me about and get me to stop doing. Whatever I was hearing — whether it was just my own subconscious thoughts or a deceiving spirit whispering comforting lies — it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. Whatever it was seemed bent on keeping me complacent and deceived.

Now, I’m not saying that God never speaks to us. Despite leaving the charismatic movement, I’m not completely persuaded by cessationist arguments, and one reason is because there have been times in my life — that I can count on one hand — when I have with absolute, 100 percent certainty heard God speak. And those times were nothing like the wordy, self-affirming messages I was getting when I practiced contemplative prayer.

One of those times, the first time it happened, as a matter of fact, I was in my early 20s. I was living at home and my dad and I weren’t getting along (I’ll spare you the details). Driving home from work one night, dreading having to go home and face him and praying for help with the situation, I heard a voice — not an external voice, but different from my own head voice — say three times, “I am the Father to the fatherless.”

When I got home, I looked that up and found Psalm 68:5: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” I felt extremely comforted. My dad had never been much of a father, and I took that to mean that God saw my situation and was letting me know that he was working in it.

A week later, my dad was killed in a car accident. I suddenly found myself literally fatherless.

I’ve had a few similar encounters since then, and there are a few characteristics that they’ve all had in common:

  1. I wasn’t trying to initiate hearing from God. I was either praying or thinking about an issue and He interrupted me.
  2. It was direct and to the point. God doesn’t waste words.
  3. It affirmed an aspect or a promise of GOD — it didn’t affirm ME.
  4. It got my eyes off of myself and my circumstances and onto God and his word.

What I’ve learned from these instances is that God doesn’t need us to get quiet and invite him to speak to us. If he’s got something to say to us, he’ll stop us short and say it, and there won’t be any doubt that it’s him speaking.

The people pushing this practice of getting quiet and listening will tell you that you can be sure it’s from God if it doesn’t contradict scripture. The problem with that is, Satan knows scripture. He quoted it to Jesus in the wilderness. The Bible tells us that he can appear as an angel of light. He’s a pro at using scripture to deceive.

But what about listening for God’s “still, small voice?” Let’s take a minute and examine this passage from 1 Kings 19 where that concept is supposedly found.

9And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
11Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [e]a still small voice.
13So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

First of all, God is the one who initiates contact with Elijah. Elijah was being hunted by Jezebel after his victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, and he was depressed to the point of being suicidal. He wasn’t seeking God in prayer. God spoke to him and told him to get up and get out of the cave, and then he proceeded to announce himself with a strong wind and an earthquake and a fire before using a “still, small voice” to let Elijah know it was safe to come outside, where God then spoke to him in a normal voice.

In other words, God made a BIG RUCKUS to announce his presence before speaking in hushed tones to call Elijah out of the cave, leaving no room for doubt that Elijah was hearing the voice of God. And, again, Elijah didn’t seek out that voice or do anything to invite it or initiate contact. It was all God’s doing, on God’s schedule, to accomplish God’s purpose.

Nowhere in scripture are we ever instructed to get quiet and listen for that “still, small voice.”

This whole practice of contemplative prayer is part of the growing Spiritual Formation movement in the modern church. What could possibly be wrong with spiritual formation? Here’s how GotQuestions.org describes it:

“This idea of spiritual formation is based on the premise that if we do certain practices, we can be more like Jesus. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within themselves.
Too often, adherents of the current spiritual formation movement believe the spiritual disciplines transform the seeker by his or her entering an altered realm of consciousness. The spiritual formation movement is characterized by such things as contemplative prayer, contemplative spirituality, and Christian mysticism.”


Spiritual formation is one of those sneaky ways that the New Age is worming its way into the Church in the guise of something that sounds on the surface like something Christians ought to be in favor of. But it’s actually a mystical replacement for actual discipleship.

What’s the difference between spiritual formation and discipleship? The short answer is that discipleship is about becoming more like Jesus, whereas spiritual formation is about becoming Christ.

Discipleship is the process of taking up our cross and following after Jesus. It’s growing in faith and sanctification and knowledge of the truth, being transformed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit and the word and having our character refined to be more like Jesus.

Spiritual formation is a works-based process of practicing external “spiritual disciplines” in an attempt to discipline our minds and become part of the universal Christ consciousness.

It wasn’t until I got convicted about the Enneagram and was made aware of its origins that I also became aware of the New Age aspect of spiritual formation and finally got convicted about my contemplative prayer practice. Again, I ceased immediately and repented. I also unfollowed the author who started me down this path in the first place, along with her entire circle of friends and associates, and stopped having anything to do with them.

Even so, I hesitate to call her out by name or to label her a false teacher. Partly because she’s not off-base about everything — she seems to sincerely love Jesus, and her books really did minister to me. But at the same time, there are things that really bother me about her, like her habit of calling Jesus her friend instead of her Lord, her tendency to quote Richard Rohr acolytes like Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard, her evangelizing of the Enneagram, and her (and the rest of her crowd’s) affiliations with blatantly false teachers like Jen Hatmaker and Sarah Bessey. I’ve probably provided enough clues that if you know her, then you know who I’m talking about. Still, I don’t feel convicted to reveal her name. Let these clues serve as red flags that should tell you to proceed with caution regarding any Bible teacher or Christian author or influencer.

All of this is why it’s so, SO important to pray for and exercise discernment. The New Age and occult (same thing) are finding several ways to infiltrate the Church and they’re all sneaky and deceptive and difficult to recognize if you’re not paying close attention. We have to be Bereans and test everything against scripture, and we have to safeguard our hearts and minds by being extremely careful about the influences we allow into our lives.

I’m so incredibly grateful to the Lord for waking me up to these things and showing me the truth. And that was only the beginning of my journey. In another post soon I’ll share about the work He’s been doing in me over the past year. This post is long enough already, but I can tell you that taking all that time and energy I was spending on those false Christian New Age practices and putting it into diligent Bible study has been one of the most transformational experiences of my life.

Get in the word, y’all. Our time here is getting short.

Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

Coffee Talk: Why I’m Not Shutting Up Anytime Soon

Happy June, friends. Hope everyone had a nice Memorial weekend. Ours was the chilliest I can remember, but it was also the first real break in the rain we’ve had, so we got out and worked our butts off all weekend to get on top of the yard work.

This is more of a tea talk than a coffee talk because I’m trying to cut back on coffee. Actually, I had a nice big mug of English breakfast when I started this, but I didn’t get past the first sentence before I had to stop and take Dixie out of her crate to stretch her legs and do her business, and now it’s more than an hour later and my tea’s long gone and now I’m sipping water while I tap this out on my phone.

I’m figuring that this is how it’ll have to go if I want to blog here more often. ICYMI, I finally posted about why I quit yoga and the Enneagram. Those posts were both a real challenge just to find the time to sit down and write, and they’re only the tip of the iceberg of stuff I want to talk about. I’ve got a rare break in which I’m between freelance assignments and it’s too wet to work outside, so I’m trying to get on top of my other writing. But it’s so hard to get motivated to even open up my laptop when I’m not getting paid to, and with this puppy it’s hard to get even one hour alone with my thoughts. So I’ve decided to get over my aversion to long form writing on my phone and just squeeze it all in whenever I get a few quiet minutes to myself.

I’ve even been kicking around the idea of attempting another podcast, because sometimes I just want to rant and ramble and it would be easier to just spill my thoughts into a microphone. It wouldn’t be anything fancy, just me and my laptop’s built-in mic and no professional production values. I probably wouldn’t even take time to edit out the verbal tics and awkward pauses. I’m not after a big audience or selling books or gaining sponsorships or any of that. It would just be me rambling to you guys about the Bible, conspiracy theories, stuff that’s going on in the world and how to think about it all from a Biblical worldview.

But I hesitate because I think only two or three of you would actually want to listen to that, and because writing is more my wheelhouse, and I feel like I should stay in my lane. Also, all my best thoughts are early in the morning and by the time I have time to do anything with them my mind has gone blank.

But I’m also tired. A big part of me doesn’t want to do any of this. I didn’t want to write those posts because they’re embarrassing. Because I should have known better but I still let myself get led astray. But that’s exactly why I wrote them anyway. Because I DID know better but I still got sucked in. That’s how easy it is–you can be a Bible-believing Christian with rock-solid faith who’s grounded in good theology and sound doctrine and STILL get taken in by the culture and the deceptions and the spiritual traps that are laid at every turn. And there are SO many traps being laid right now. There is such a spirit of deception that has come upon the Church and I honestly think God is allowing it to sift us.

But I’m tired of seeing outspoken Christians I once looked up to falling for these deceptions and falling away from the faith and trying to take as many people as they can with them. I’m tired of watching the devil use women’s ministries to prey on vulnerable women with the same-old prettified half-truths that worked on Eve.

I’m tired of watching the world fall apart. Of watching people I love make important and potentially dangerous health decisions without all the information because most of the information is censored. I’m tired of constantly being gaslighted and propagandized. I’m tired of all the extra work I have to do just to get to some semblance of the truth. I’m tired of waking up every day and looking at headlines and feeling like I’ve been transported into a bad sci-fi horror movie with a plot that’s a mashup of 1984, Brave New World, They Live and every Phillip K. Dick novel.

Some days it makes me want to quit writing altogether, get rid of the internet and put all my time, energy and resources into us becoming sheep and chicken farmers.

But mostly it all just makes me mad enough to want to do something, or at least speak up and say something, even if I just help inspire one person out there to wake up and pay attention, to be on guard, to open their Bible, get in the word and get right with God.

Lately I’ve been reading through Genesis, and yesterday I got to the part where angels try to rescue Lot and his family before God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about that, but one thing that jumped out at me was the reaction of Lot’s sons-in-law. They had actual angels IN THEIR HOUSE warning them that the city was about to be destroyed and whoever didn’t leave was going to die. And they didn’t believe them. They thought the whole thing was a joke. They were completely blinded by their normalcy bias.

And I feel like that’s where we’re at. We’re all on the precipice of destruction and time is running out fast, and warnings are everywhere. Not only do we have prophecy telling us what’s happening and what’s about to happen, we also have the IMF and Davos crowd putting out slick videos and taking out glossy ads and writing books telling us exactly how they plan to depopulate the earth and turn the survivors into cyborg slaves who will own nothing and be happy about it by 2030.

But most people think it’s all a joke. Or a crazy conspiracy theory. Or they just don’t know anything about it at all.

Time is running out, you guys. Let’s not be like Lot’s sons-in-law. Let’s heed the warnings and pay attention to what is absolutely not normal and take this stuff seriously.

Whew. See what I mean about wanting to rant and ramble?

Look, I’m not here to fearmonger. There’s good news. Evil is real and we need to take that seriously, but God is real, too, and he’s sovereign over the plans of men, and over the plans of the devil. He has a plan too, and his plan will prevail. Because I’ve read the back of the book, guys and spoiler alert: Jesus wins.

And so do we, if we’re on his team.

Why I No Longer Have Anything to Do With the Enneagram

The Enneagram — which is ostensibly a personality framework that categorizes humans into nine “types” — has been rising in popularity for a while now, especially in Christian circles, and it exploded in the last two or three years to the point that it’s everywhere now. If you haven’t at least heard of it (and I’m sorry to say that some of you reading this might have heard about it from me), then you’re probably leading an even more low-tech and secluded lifestyle than I am.

I first heard of it several years ago when a certain Christian writer I used to follow and her circle of online friends (the same circle of people, by the way, who led me to sign up to that Yoga with Adrienne challenge) began gushing over how great it is and how much it changed their lives and improved their relationships. I checked into it back then, mainly because I was a Myers-Briggs fan and have always been a sucker for a good personality test, and honestly, at the time I didn’t get it. The website I looked at struck me as incredibly new agey, and the types all seemed so vague that I could see myself in all of them. It really seemed odd to me that these Christian women were so in love with it and actively promoting it, but I shrugged it off and moved on.

But then 2018 happened, a year that started with the rug getting pulled out from under me in a big way. Certain events and revelations shook the foundations on which I’d built my life and my identity. I mean, I knew that ultimately my identity was found in Christ, but I guess that was still head-knowledge more than heart-knowledge. And in everything I researched and studied trying to understand my family, the more I realized I didn’t really even know myself.

In other words, I was vulnerable, and vulnerable people tend to be suggestible. And there’s also the thing — I’m sure there’s probably a word for it, but I can’t think of one — where repeated exposure to something wears down your resistance. The Enneagram explosion was beginning in a big way, and it seemed like everyone, everywhere, including people I respected and trusted, was talking about their type.

I was still skeptical about it, mainly because every time I’d looked into it I had such a hard time pinning down my own type. And then I read a book on personality tests by Anne Bogel, a.k.a The Modern Mrs. Darcy. I found I had a lot in common with her, and she turned out to have the same Myers-Briggs type as me. In the chapter on the Enneagram, she described her own tendencies and how they fit this certain type, and for the first time something clicked.

From there I immediately checked out The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, the book that undoubtedly served as the gateway to this thing for many unsuspecting Christians. It paints a much different picture of the Enneagram than that new-agey website that first introduced me to it. According to Cron and Stabile, the Enneagram was actually invented by the early Catholic church and used in training priests. There’s a whole thing about the types corresponding to the Seven Deadly Sins (plus two more that got added later), and it’s all about identifying your core sin and learning how to overcome it — in Enneagram parlance, progressing from unhealthy to healthy.

By the time I finished the book, I had unquestionably identified myself as a type Nine, and I felt like I understood myself in a way I never had before. So much about my behavior and tendencies made sense. What’s more, I’d also pegged my husband’s type and felt I understood him on a whole new level.

I’m not gonna lie. I got a lot of benefits from this new knowledge. I recognized that I still carried a lot of pent-up rage from my chaotic and dysfunctional childhood, and that I needed to find healthy ways to get that out of my system. I recognized my tendency to “merge” with others — to not always know where I end and they begin, which can make me easily influenced and can also make it hard to know what I actually think or want without getting away and spending time by myself to figure it out. I recognized that my tendency to go along to get along was often laziness, and sometimes passive-aggression, and that not speaking my mind or standing up for myself was only adding to my pent-up rage. I recognized my “core sin” of Sloth and how I’d sleep-walked through so much of my life, avoiding conflict like the plague and always taking the path of least resistance.

And that new level of self-awareness really did help me confront and grow out of these unhealthy tendencies.

I also felt like I understood my husband better, and as a result was able to love him better. That’s actually how this system gets sold in churches, as a tool to become more compassionate and to better understand and love your neighbor.

That all sounds wonderful, right? So then, what’s the problem?

For me, initially, the problem soon became that the Enneagram (and not the Bible) became the lens through which I viewed everything and everyone. Instead of simply seeing other people as fellow humans made in God’s image, I began trying to type everyone I knew. Every time my husband did something that irritated me, I’d shake my head quietly to myself and mutter, “[type] is gonna [type]” — effectively reducing him from a fearfully and wonderfully made man who was given to be my leader and protector to a number on a chart, and telling myself in the process that I was being more understanding and loving by doing so.

Worse, I became overly-focused on myself and my personal growth and development. I also became more confrontational, which sometimes was indeed healthier, but sometimes it was just giving free reign to my flesh under the guise of “personal growth.” On this supposed journey to being a healthier person, I spent more time reading about the Enneagram, scrolling Enneagram accounts on Instagram, listening to Enneagram podcasts, etc. than I spent reading my Bible. I evangelized about the Enneagram and its benefits more than I think I had ever actively evangelized about Jesus.

In short, it became itself an idol, as well as a pathway to making myself an idol.

I began to see this and feel convicted about it around the same time last year that God convicted me for my involvement in yoga. But it didn’t stop there. As I began to repent and step back and take a second look at the Enneagram and whether it truly belonged in my life as a Christian, God revealed some things to me about this supposed Christian personality framework. And once again, he used ex-New Age guru turned Christian Doreen Virtue to do so. Thanks to her, here’s what I learned:

  • That my original impressions about the Enneagram being New Age were correct. There’s nothing Christian or ancient about its origins. Everything in The Road Back to You about its Catholic background is false. The authors may or may not know this. I don’t believe they set out purposefully to deceive, but that they themselves are deceived.
  • G.I. Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian mystic and spiritual guru, first came up with the Enneagram diagram, the weird nine-poined star within a circle, in the late 1800s. He saw it as the eye through which all the secret laws of the universe could be seen. This was later expanded on by his students and disciples, although none of them came up with the nine types that characterize the modern Enneagram.
  • In the middle of the last century, these concepts surrounding this symbol were further developed and expanded by Oscar Ichazo, a Chilean shaman and occultist whose new additions to the Enneagram came through tripping out on psychedelic drugs and contacting a spirit identifying itself as Metatron.
  • It was one of his students, fellow occultist and psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, who invented the nine types and popularized the Enneagram. Here is a video of him freely admitting that he fabricated the ancient origins of the Enneagram for marketing purposes, and also that he received the nine types through automatic writing (if you don’t know what that is, it’s where someone sits down with a pen and paper and then channels a demon to take over their body and write a message):
  • The Enneagram has been introduced into the Church by Richard Rohr. Richard Rohr is an excommunicated priest as well as a heretical false teacher who teaches, among other blatant heresies, universalism (i.e. that all roads lead to God and Heaven) and Christ consciousness (the teaching that Jesus was not God, but he was simply a man who had accessed this new age concept of “the mind of Christ” that is a universal force that we can all connect with if we become enlightened enough, and therefore we can all become Christ).
  • Both Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile are devotees and disciples of Richard Rohr (a long and growing list of prominent progressive and “exvangelical” church leaders that also includes people like Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey and, sadly and most recently, Kevin Max of DC Talk fame).

You can read more about the occult origins of the Enneagram here, as well as watch the full interview with Claudio Naranjo. And here is the Doreen Virtue video that got me to looking into this stuff in the first place.

Once I learned all of this, I repented for my involvement in the Enneagram and immediately ceased having anything to do with it. I quietly unsubbed from all Enneagram-related content and accounts. I shared the above video in my Instagram stories, but my following there is so small and the number of followers who actually look at my stories is a tiny, tiny subset, so that hardly counts as a public denunciation.

So I’m officially denouncing it here, and I am truly, deeply sorry to anyone who was led into this occult, New Age deception by my own enthusiasm about the Enneagram. I can only pray that God will forgive me for leading anyone astray, and I hope that you’ll turn back and forgive me, too.

Sadly, there are a lot of Christians out there who are so hooked on the Enneagram that despite being made aware of this information, they simply don’t care. I’ve heard and seen claims that God can redeem it for good, but that’s not how this works. God tells us to shun the occult and flee from evil. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that he’ll redeem it and use it to bless and minister to his people. Covering it in a Christian veneer is simply wrapping it in sheep’s clothing. It’s a trap. Ultimately it’s going to do far more harm than good.

But what about all the good, all the growth and healing and marital improvement that came from it?

For one thing, the good was far outweighed by the bad. If you read my yoga post, then you saw how much benefit I got out of doing yoga, right up until it opened a door for a poltergeist to invade my home and harass us. As a self-help tool, it can certainly help you identify areas you need to work on, but I promise you you’ll get far, far more inner healing and effective, lasting transformation from taking all that time you spend studying the Enneagram and instead spend it studying and meditating on God’s word.

Recently I saw someone refer to the Enneagram as “Horoscopes for Christians” and I think I agree with that assessment. I believe it’s a Trojan horse that’s getting Christians to focus on themselves and their relationships instead of on growing in sanctification and the knowledge of Jesus and his word. It’s also introducing a lot of vulnerable believers to the teachings of Richard Rohr and leading them down this whole road of “deconstructing” their faith and ultimately falling away from it.

The Enneagram is a trap. Please stay away from it.

Image by Personality Hacker on Flicker | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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