Through a Glass, Darkly

The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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

For Caleb

He was a cute baby with an enormous head.

But he would grow into it, and as he grew and found his words it soon became clear that that big head housed a big brain, full of big ideas.

First cousin once removed, he was my cousin’s little miracle baby. More like a nephew to me than a cousin.

My aunt–his grandma–told me once that he liked talking to me because I spoke to him like an equal. This funny little kid with the big vocabulary who loved to say shocking things and get a rise out of people. I think he liked me because he couldn’t shock me, because I shared his twisted sense of humor and affinity for horror.

I spent time with him when I could. We always tried to make him feel welcome, wanted. I spoiled him with gifts alongside my actual nephews. He liked books, and that made him a kindred spirit. At ten, Matt and I took him out for an afternoon of ski ball and a movie, after talking about doing so for far too long. The movie was the prequel/remake of The Thing. He actually did manage to shock me by telling us he’d read Who Goes There, the short story on which the original movie was based.

At ten. I didn’t read that story until I was in college.

We wanted to take him out more. We planned to. But plans always fell through, and we got busy with life, and he got busy with being a teenager.

Another ten, tumultuous years went by. We’d see him now and then at family gatherings, always shocked at how much older he looked, how much taller he’d grown. He became more withdrawn, not so ready for conversation. He didn’t have it easy. The deck was stacked heavily against him. But he tried. And he grew into a young man who was sweet-natured and kind-hearted, who loved his mama, and his grandma, and the Lord.

Five days ago, he was taken from us. Violently. Senselessly. Unfairly.

It’s tempting to ask why. But the only why that really matters is that evil is real, and it likes to prey on the sweet-natured and kind-hearted.

I wish we’d taken him out more. That we’d made more of an effort to stay in his life. Maybe it would have made a difference. Probably not. But at least we’d have more memories with him.

As it is, I’ll always remember that cute kid with the big brain and the big ideas, and the gleeful little giggle when he managed to get that rise he was looking for.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart.

–2 Corinthians 4:8-16 (emphasis mine)

Love you, Caleb. See you on the other side.


If you would like to contribute to the GoFundMe campaign to help cover Caleb’s funeral costs, please click here. Thank you.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Why I stopped doing yoga

Why I Stopped Doing Yoga

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

First off, I want to head off this whole series with a disclaimer: this is my testimony, sharing my own personal convictions and experiences. I’m not the Holy Spirit, nor am I trying to be. It’s not my aim to push my convictions onto anyone else. If you disagree with them, peace be with you. My only goal is to share where God is leading me and what He’s been doing in my life, in the hopes that it will give my fellow Believers something to think about and inspire them to draw closer to Him.

Now then.

Before I talk about what led me to stop doing yoga, let’s talk about what led me into it in the first place.

I had flirted with yoga off and on over the years. Way back when VCRs were still a thing and I was still struggling with my weight, I purchased a Yoga for Weight Loss VHS tape and actually did the workout regularly for months. It was a pretty benign workout that, other than a little bit of talk here and there about rooting into the earth and the standard Namaste salutation at the end, didn’t have anything overtly new agey enough to raise my hackles. When a church friend of my mom’s criticized me for doing yoga and warned me that I was participating in pagan worship and opening a spiritual doorway, I, like many Christian yoga enthusiasts, rolled my eyes (I mean, not to her face; I was polite about it) and insisted that there’s nothing inherently pagan or dangerous about stretching and that you can’t inadvertently or unwittingly worship demons–a position I continued to hold until a little over a year ago.

Nevertheless, I eventually got a DVD player and some Pilates DVDs, my VCR broke, and yoga fell off my workout radar.

Fast forward to the start of 2019. Not only had yoga become increasingly mainstream and popular, but it was also widely accepted in the Church–not just accepted, but actively promoted, with many churches offering “Holy Yoga” classes and Christian yoga instructors proliferating YouTube. Many of the Christian influencers I followed on Instagram were getting into yoga and loving it. What’s more, as someone with PCOS, I was constantly seeing yoga recommended as a great, healing exercise for PCOS sufferers.

I was at a highly vulnerable point in my life. I’d just survived one of my hardest years, which started with my mom having a stroke and ended with a major move to a new state where the only soul I knew was my husband. In between, my world had imploded as I realized how deeply the dysfunction ran in my family and narratives I’d bought into my entire life were stripped away, and my identity along with them. I’d figured out that I still suffered from childhood trauma and that it was making me sick. I was worn out, depressed, chronically ill, and desperate for healing. Of course, I prayed daily and spent time in the word, but I felt like that wasn’t enough. I needed to heal my trauma, I needed to quiet my mind and ground my body in the present reality, and I needed to move in gentle ways that would alleviate stress and not add to it.

Yoga seemed like the perfect fit. So I pulled up those Christian yoga channels on YouTube and got started. And I loved it. Within a few months I lost that last stubborn 20 pounds that had refused for years to come off, I felt more centered and balanced, I was strong and flexible and had more energy… what’s not to love?

I should add that I also prayed about it before I got started. My beliefs about yoga hadn’t changed, but enough of a seed of doubt had been planted that I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t pleasing to God. But I admit that I didn’t pray long about it. Pretty much, I said one prayer, basically asking for permission, and came away thinking of meat sacrificed to idols, and that yoga falls into that category. In other words, I once again settled in my conscience that the devil doesn’t own breathing and stretching and that there isn’t anything inherently pagan or worshipful about this type of exercise, and it’s a matter of Christian liberty.

So it’s all good, right?

Fast forward again another year, to January 2020, in those innocent days when rumors of a viral outbreak in China still seemed far away and unthreatening and I thought the election would be the most stressful thing going on that year. All those Instagram influencers I followed? They were all signing on for a month-long yoga challenge with an instructor named Adrienne. I’d been slacking on my yoga practice through the holidays and wanted to get back into my health groove, so I signed on as well. I’d done a few of Adrienne’s lessons on YouTube before, so I was familiar with her. I liked her well enough, even though she was a little more New Agey and woo woo than the other instructors I’d followed. I shrugged off all her talk about chakras and simply didn’t participate in the moves that she promised would open my third eye. It was fine.

Or so I told myself.

Now here’s where things get crazy. Around this time, we started having what I would call spooky incidents around the house. Things we could dismiss at first. A strange noise here, a bottle falling over by itself in the shower there, our live Christmas tree propped firmly in the corner waiting to be set up and decorated suddenly pitching forward and falling over… there had to be a rational explanation for all these things. Even as my husband and I sat in the kitchen one night and watched as the lid to our Pyrex baking dish slowly slid forward by itself and then fell on the floor, we found a way to explain it away.

And then something happened that we could neither dismiss nor explain. One night I got woken up by a bang so loud I thought a tree had fallen on the house. It sounded like it was right next to my head. We were sleeping in separate rooms at the time, because I would have to stay up late to give our Chihuahua his heart meds, and Matt was such a light sleeper, so Pete and I just slept on the guest bed in my office.

The bed was against the wall that was shared with the guest bathroom. On the other side of the wall, pretty well aligned with where my head would be, sat the crate that we keep our cat in at night.

Like I said, I thought something must have fallen on the house. The noise I heard sounded like an explosion next to my head, and it also shook me. So I got up to investigate. I looked all over, inside and out, and couldn’t find anything that could have caused that ruckus. Finally, I shrugged it off and decided to use the bathroom before I went back to bed. I’d worry about it in the morning.

So I went in the bathroom–and saw the cat crate pushed away from the wall, skewed catty-corner from its previous position, her food and water dishes on top having skidded to the edge, and our kitty Boudicca looking out at me with a terrified expression on her face.

Y’all. I don’t know what did that, but you better believe I prayed over my house and everyone in it and asked the Lord to rebuke anything that didn’t belong there before I went back to bed.

The next day, I started praying long and hard about what was going on and asked the Lord to show me anything in my life that could be inviting anything into my home that didn’t belong there. Immediately I became strongly convicted about the yoga I’d been doing and felt that I needed to stop. So I did, and I repented for doing it in the first place. And the strange activity stopped.

But the conviction didn’t. That’s when the Lord started opening my eyes to how truly spiritually dangerous yoga was for me to practice. Coincidentally, if you believe in coincidence, which I don’t, right when all of this was happening, Allie Stuckey interviewed a former New Ager turned Christian on her Relatable podcast. In this episode, Doreen Virtue explained how certain yoga poses, particularly those involved in the Sun Salutation, as well as the Warrior poses, act out a battle between Hindu gods, and how these poses are inextricably linked to Hindu worship practices. She warned that these poses can an often do open a door to unsavory spiritual forces to come into your life and oppress you. I’d heard all of this before, and scoffed. But this time, I felt convicted with a sense of certainty that what she was saying was true.

That was the first domino. Once it tipped over, more would fall with it. But I’ll save those for another post.

Coffee Talk: Beating Writer’s Block and an Update on my Mom

Hello there, book and coffee (or tea) loving compatriots. I hope you have your beverage ready, because what a week it’s been.

I really wanted to follow up my last post this week by diving in to my personal experiences, starting with why I quit doing yoga. But I’ve been handed back-to-back(-to-back) articles to write, and those take precedence. So does my novel, which I’m finally working on again! I’m just working in quick sprints here and there, but it’s adding up and I’m making forward progress, which is the goal. The hardest part, as with most things in life, was just to get started. Following Anne Lamott’s advice and giving myself a teeny tiny goal and permission for it to be terrible were the keys to getting over that hurdle and overcoming the block.

Other than all the writing, we’ve been doing our daily training of Dixie, who is still sharp-toothed and a bit rough around the edges, but is beginning to shape up into a very good girl. I think she has the makings of an excellent dog. I hope I’m right, because at three months old she’s already at least thirty pounds, so if I’m wrong we’re all going to be in big trouble.

And we’ve also been racing the rain to keep the huge lawn under control and prepare our garden beds, which are both big jobs in and of themselves. Even as I grab a few quick minutes to write this post, I need to get out there and get some weed-eating done while Mr. B does the mowing.

I’m mainly here today because I wanted to give everyone an update on my mom. She was admitted back to the hospital last night. She’s been battling severe stomach issues since her last hospital stay, and apparently last night her heart rate got up to 180, so they admitted her to the heart hospital for monitoring.

She met with her new cardiologist last week, who told her that she’s not a good candidate for open heart surgery to fix her leaky valve. They want to put her on a waiting list for a trial of a new device, a clamp that can close the enlarged opening and that can be inserted noninvasively, which all sounds good, except that there’s a two-year wait, and a leaky valve can lead to congestive heart failure if it’s not treated. All of that, plus they still want to check her for liver disease.

When I spoke with her the other day, she sounded weak, exhausted, and depressed. Which is all understandable, but it was hard to hear from a woman who has always been joyful and confident no matter what life has thrown at her. I think she’s in shock at realizing just how bad her health is. We all are. She’s always been healthy as a horse, has never smoked or drank alcohol, and was always so independent that we all, herself included, expected her to live into her hundreds and still be active. She turned 78 in December and here she is looking down the barrel at life-threatening health conditions that are draining her energy and making her dependent on my siblings.

Personally, of course I’m having a hard time with all of this, but it’s made even harder by the fact that I live so far away and can’t get to her. It’s just a hard situation all around. I really appreciate your prayers for all of us, and if you do pray, please pray that she won’t have to wait two years to have her heart repaired, and pray for her strength and joy to return as well as for her health to improve. And please pray for wisdom for her doctors and peace and comfort for my whole family.

And now I’ve got to get out there and take out my frustration on the grass before another afternoon of writing about dogs (which is not a bad gig if you can get it). Hopefully, that yoga article is coming soon.

Hope you’re having a relaxing weekend!

It’s Time to Get Real

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to share my faith journey here on my platform. I keep putting it off because there’s so much I want to share and say, and I don’t know where to start. But getting started is always the biggest hurdle. The only way to get over it is just to pick a point and go for it.

So I’m going for it. I feel like this is necessary because in a time when so many Big Name Christians are “deconstructing” their beliefs and falling away from the faith loudly and publicly, obviously wanting to take as many people as they can down with them, it’s important to hear stories from those who, like me, have faced challenges, carefully examined their beliefs, scrutinized scripture, and come out stronger in their faith than ever before.

First, some background. I came to know Christ at a very young age. I’ve been saved as long as I can remember, and there’s not a time in my life that I’m conscious of when I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus or a reliance on God. I’ll spare you the details, but growing up with a narcissist and alcoholic for a father, my faith got me through a lot of chaos and hard times. I’ve been a prayer warrior from the age of four or five. I learned very early on how to effectively pray.

That’s both because and in spite of the fact that my family were believers. My earliest church memories are of a Vineyard-style charismatic church down the road from where we lived. My dad, though he was apathetic about God, didn’t want us going there and so at some point he started taking us to a Methodist church. He soon stopped going, but my mom continued to take us there faithfully for years, until the teaching there started taking an uncomfortably progressive turn. After that, she got us back into a non-denominational charismatic church with a strong Full Gospel flavor. And all the while, every summer a nearby Baptist church bused all the kids in my neighborhood to their Vacation Bible School. I say all of this only to point out that I had a pretty eclectic religious upbringing, and I’ve never had any loyalties to any particular denomination.

But from the time I was about 14 on, we attended the same non-denom charismatic church. Some might label it hyper-charismatic. It was heavily steeped in prosperity and Word of Faith teaching and practiced a lot of things that I wouldn’t realize until much later were unbiblical. A lot of it never sat quite right with me, but I couldn’t articulate why, and I thought the problem was with me.

Fast forward to my early thirties, when I met the man who would become my husband. By this point I had stopped attending church, though I still prayed regularly and cracked my Bible open on occasion. One evening, early in our dating relationship, I sat across from him at a coffee shop and fell more and more in love with him as he spoke animatedly and enthusiastically about the Bible, and simultaneously more and more convicted that I, a life-long Christian, knew so little about what was actually written in the word outside of the passages that prosperity teachers love to return to again and again.

The next day, I opened my Bible and started reading through the Epistles. I kept it up, day after day, and soon it became a habit. I started it mainly so I could keep up with Matt in conversation, but it didn’t take long for my eyes to be opened to the deception I’d been under for so long, and how so much of what I’d been taught was not actually what the Bible said.

That was the beginning of what I call my Great Spiritual Awakening, a process that is still ongoing today. Since then, I’ve gone through so much and learned even more. I’ve grown in ways I’d never imagined, but I’ve also fallen into — and been delivered from — other forms of deception, which I’ll be talking about here in future posts. The point of all of this is to say, the antidote for deception is knowing the truth that’s written in God’s word.

I’ll say that again: the antidote for deception is knowing the truth that’s written in God’s word.

We’re in a time right now where deception is rampant, both in the Church and in the greater world outside. We’re constantly being deceived by the media, by politicians, by doctors, by false teachers and false gospels, by conspiracy theories and people accusing us of being conspiracy theorists if we merely question the narrative, by gaslighting and propaganda… the list goes on. It’s mind-boggling, and it can feel next to impossible to know where to go for actual truth, especially in a culture that denies that objective truth is even a thing that exists.

But God’s word is truth, and it can arm you against deception and equip you to see through the lies.

For a good long while, I’ve been praying about how God wants me to show up in this small space I’ve carved out here online, and how he wants me to use my talents. He’s given me a gift for wrangling words, and I’m sure I’m meant to do more with it than tell stories about ghosts and zombies or write about dogs and cats for a living. I’ve been hesitant to dive in, partly because, like I said earlier, there’s so much to say and it’s overwhelming. And partly because it’s such a huge responsibility. I don’t want to presume to take the place of a teacher, and I certainly don’t want to come off as trying to be anyone’s Holy Spirit substitute, pushing my personal convictions onto others.

But what I know for sure is that I want to use the measure of talent and influence I’ve been given to be a light in the darkness and to combat deception with truth. And more than anything, I want to inspire women to put away fluffy, shallow Instagram Christianity and pick up their actual Bibles, to learn what is actually written in its pages, to arm themselves against deception and armor up against the spiritual onslaught that’s facing our Church, our nation and our world.

The time is past for me to fly under the radar and be timid about sharing my faith and experience.

So from here on out I’m going to be using this space (not exclusively, mind… I’ll still talk about writing, and life, and whatever strikes my fancy) to do just that. If you’re concerned I’m going to be constantly preaching, that’s not my goal. The Bible is actually a really cool and amazing book, and I hope to help you see that. And to say that Jesus himself is amazingly cool is the mother of all understatements.

We’re going to get into some interesting stuff. I”m going to share some personal stories. We’re going to talk about why I quit doing yoga, and the Enneagram, and mindfulness meditation and contemplative prayer. We’re going to talk about the historicity of the Bible and why you can trust it. We’re going to talk about the supernatural and the Powers that are waging war in the unseen realms. We’re going to talk about HOW to study your Bible, as well as WHY. We’re going to be examining false gospels and heresies and why they’re false and heretical. We’re going to look at what truly makes a Christian, Christian. I’m going to be pointing you to good teachers who can explain everything so much better than I can, and reviewing and recommending books and other resources. And more!

These times are scary, but they’re also exciting. And I was scared when I started this post, but now that I’ve laid all of this out I’m excited about this new direction.

What a time to be alive, y’all. Let’s do this.

Photo by Ryan Riggins on Unsplash

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