The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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Things I’ve been talking to God about lately (state and direction of the book biz, Q2 2022)

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This first quarter of the new year, I did things my way. I set blogging aside, I finished my romance novel (and started a second), I published the horror novella I wrote in pre-pandemic 2020, I gave a lot of books away to grow my mailing list, and I experimented with paid advertising to promote my Dominion trilogy.

And it was pretty much all fail. Fail, fail, fail.

The advertising showed some promise for a while–my Facebook campaigns gained some steam and were actually turning a profit and increasing my Amazon sales rankings and Kindle Unlimited page reads–but then, on expert advice, we switched to BookBub, which was intended to fine tune my “also boughts” on Amazon and increase my visibility there with the right kind of readers, and ended up spending a lot of money with no results, eating up all the Facebook ad profits. So we went back to Facebook, but then just couldn’t gain the same amount of traction. In the end, we pretty much broke even.

And my novella release was a definite whimper and not at all a bang.

Needless to say, I’ve been feeling discouraged, and I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to God about it. And as I’ve struggled to understand why all I ever seem to do is spin my wheels and never gain traction when it comes to trying to build my fiction and publishing career, Psalm 127:1 kept being brought to my attention:

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Boy howdy, have I been laboring in vain. Not just this first quarter of 2022, but all these past eleven years since I started trying to build this thing. And I realize now that I haven’t been allowing God to build it, or even checking to see if He wanted to. Even after the long break I took from writing, during which I question whether I was even supposed to be doing this or if I even wanted to, even after a lot of soul searching and heartfelt prayers led to my desire and drive to write being reignited, even then I pretty much just took off and did my own thing without consulting God. Instead of checking to see what he wanted me to write, how he wanted me to be spending these talents he’s invested with me, I just did what I wanted, what felt right at the time, or what the experts said I should be doing, and then was like, “Please bless it, Lord.” And then spending a lot of time being bewildered and disappointed when he didn’t.

So we’ve been talking a lot about this lately, the Lord and I. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting and surrendering and letting go of my plans and my vision, and a lot of just being still and listening and waiting for clarity and direction. And I’ve been feeling some things shift. Shifting focus, shifting priorities, shifting desires.

One thing I heard very clearly, as I asked the question, “Do you even want to build this house, Lord?” was this: “Why should I build you something new when you don’t care for or appreciate what I’ve already given you?”

Oof. Talk about a convicting gut punch. It’s true, though. Despite last year ending on such a high note, such a place of contentment and gratitude, something shifted during the winter months, and we both became depressed, anxious and discontent. I did more than my fair share of complaining and forgetting to be thankful, coveting stuff I don’t have yet and fixating on our lack, slacking off on responsibilities and letting established priorities slide. And a lot of the latter was so I could move writing and publishing and book marketing tasks higher up on my priority list, in the process neglecting, as well as resenting, clearly established priorities that should have taken precedence.

So as we head into spring, I’m tossing out all those grand plans I had at the start of the year and letting the Lord lead me. For now, here’s where I’m feeling led:

  • Focus on gratitude. Get back to being thankful and content with what we have, with where we are, with our current life, remembering that even some of the hard and annoying parts are the result of things I prayed for.
  • Slow down. Stop being so ambitious by trying to force a publishing schedule that forces me to neglect things that are much higher on God’s priority list. Focus instead on carrying out my clearly established responsibilities, and trust in God’s timing and provision.
  • Start blogging again. Part of why I stopped in the first place was that I felt the Lord pulling me back and nudging me to just be quiet for a while, to refrain from writing about some of the things I wanted to write about. And it’s good that I did, because I needed more time to process some of those things, and my perspective on some of it has changed. But now I’m feeling like it’s time to start speaking up again, and there are some topics that I’m feeling led to write about in this space. I’m not sure how that’s going to fit into everything, but if he wants to build this blog, he’ll provide the time for me to do the work.
  • Shift the focus from my romance series to my urban fantasy series–which is really more like an urban reality series dressed up as fantasy–based on a Biblical perspective on spiritual warfare. I’m still going to finish editing my sweet romance and will still be publishing that in another month or two, but where I had been planning to get the next book in that series under wraps before going back to this other series, I’m really feeling led to make this spiritual warfare series my priority for the time being.

And I’m going to start by sending out the unedited first volume, which is already written, in serial format to my mailing list for free, so be sure you’re signed up to that if you’d like to get the rough cut in your inbox (note: being subscribed to my blog is not the same as being on my mailing list–you have to sign up to that separately).

So that’s what I’m going to be doing until I receive further instruction. We’ll see where the Lord decides to take it from here.

Back and There Again (Happy 2022!)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Happy first Monday of the New Year, friends!

I wrote another version of this post last week. I deleted it because I was in an introspective and melancholy mood that day, and it showed. And also because I went into WAY too much detail recapping 2021, after which it occurred to me that I had already written posts about most of those things, and y’all can just scroll back and read if you actually care.

With all that said, despite everything happening *gestures vaguely* out there, on a personal level 2021 actually turned out to be a pretty good year. It got off to a rocky start, with a brief period of unemployment and the Ice Apocalypse killing our well pump and cancelling our plans to get both an Anatolian shepherd puppy and chicks, but by March everything started coming together. We ended up getting Dixie, work started to roll in from bigger and better clients, we got our garden bed built and actually had our first successful vegetable garden, and then come fall we finally got our chicks and built them a coop from scratch. We made big strides on the homesteading front, and as far as freelance income goes, I had my best year ever. All those setbacks at the start of the year turned out to be prepping us for things to come together and work out just as they were supposed to.

With all the stuff going on, I spent the first half of the year in a bit of an existential crisis that was carried over from 2020, questioning whether I wanted to continue writing fiction and trying to make headway as an author in any way, shape or form, or if I just wanted to scrap it all and become a farmer. After a lot of prayer and soul searching, I realized that yes, I still want to write and publish novels, AND I want to be a farmer. And thanks in large part to Becca Symes and her Quitcast, I figured out what I needed to do both to get motivated to write again and to fit it back into my life. Which resulted in finally finishing my Dominion of the Damned trilogy and getting pretty darn close to finishing the romance novel I’d started in 2020.

(In my original draft of this post it took me more than 1200 words to tell you all of that. Seriously, be glad I deleted it.)

So what did I learn in 2021? A lot, actually. Too much to list here. But here are some highlights:

  • I learned a lot more about the Bible and theology, particularly around the areas of eschatology (end-times prophecy studies) and things pertaining to the Nephilim, the Tower of Babel, Enoch and all of that fun stuff. It didn’t really alter my views, but it all helped to refine and solidify my understanding of the Big Picture.
  • I went through a whole journey regarding conspiracy theories and trutherism and came out the other side feeling that it’s best to keep an eye on things with a healthy balance of open-mindedness and skepticism, testing and verifying everything to the best of your ability, and that overall my time and energy are better spent studying scripture and keeping my eyes on Jesus.
  • I learned a lot about the Thing that Shall Not Be Named, and also learned that when you find out information that’s contrary to the allowable beliefs about said thing, the only people who want to hear about it are those who already have their doubts and suspicions, and everyone else is happy to believe and go along with the sanctioned narrative and won’t appreciate you trying to educate them with facts, even if said facts could save their lives and/or long-term health. People are just gonna believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do. I tried, man. I guess I should just be glad that the officially sanctioned narrative is shifting and some of these facts are starting to be officially acknowledged and publicized–too late to help thousands, if not millions, of people make better-informed choices that could have saved lives, but whatever.
  • Relatedly, I discovered my voice this year and learned how to use it to say what I really think and believe.
  • I learned a lot about how I’m wired as a writer and what I need in order to become and remain consistently productive. And that, for me, showing up consistently to write a little each day is more effective than trying to do marathon writing sessions or cram in high daily word counts.
  • Related to that, I learned that I really am hardwired to need a lot of downtime to just think and process, and that I have to be careful not to cram so much into my schedule that I don’t have time for that. I need to spend at least as much time taking in and processing ideas and information as I do producing stories and content. Fortunately, I can get a lot of thinking done while still being productive at things like household chores and gardening, so it’s not like I have to just sit on my hinder and do nothing. But I do need to remember sometimes not to listen to podcasts while doing those things so I can give myself time to think instead.
  • Speaking of podcasts, and of learning about Nephilim and the pre-flood world, I learned that Blurry Creatures is an amazing podcast.
  • Finally, I learned that I’ve got a good life. I’ve always been plagued with a slight disassociation, a feeling of being somewhat removed from my own life, not feeling at home in my own skin, and feeling like I’m just biding my time and waiting for my real life to begin. But for the last couple of years those feelings have been steadily fading and I’ve been feeling more solidly grounded in my current life, more at peace with myself and at home in my skin, and more present and fully engaged. This last year I feel like I really turned a corner, and really felt for the first time in my almost-49 years how it feels to be truly alive and aware in the moment. There were a lot of moments this year, most of which involved being outdoors, covered in sunshine and surrounded by nature, soaked in sweat and covered in dirt and/or sawdust and/or chicken poop, many of which also involved doing a project with my husband, and just being filled with gratitude and thinking that I really, really love my life.

But all of that was last year. So what about 2022?

I have a feeling things are about to get real interesting. That the last two years were just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to be wrong. I’m not going to make predictions, but with aliens and UFOs and CERN and small pox all making headlines lately, I’m thinking we’d all best buckle up. At any rate, I’ve got all those things on my 2022 bingo card.

But one of my intentions for the new year is to spend less time looking at and thinking about headlines and more time praying, studying the Word and living this pretty great life I’ve been blessed with.

My big goal for the year is to grow my publishing income to a point where it can replace my freelance writing income so I can retire from that. To that end, here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish this year:

  • Publish six new books. I’ve got a head start on this, with my romance novel nearly finished, two novellas I wrote in 2020 waiting in the queue to be edited, and another novella started and waiting to be finished. The first novella is a stand-alone horror story that I’m hoping to release in February. The other two are the start of an urban fantasy series that will live in Kindle Unlimited. And to those I want to add a follow-up to my first romance novel, and a third novella — either a romance novella for Christmas or the third installment of the urban fantasy series. If all goes well I may try to squeeze in both, but that might be getting into magical thinking. At any rate, as long as life remains stable enough to keep writing, I’m going to do my ever-lovin’ best to release a book every other month, starting in February.
  • Repackage existing books. This will include paperback versions of Dominion, and eventually a boxed set, as well as a boxed set and a paperback collection of my shorter works.
  • Substantially grow my mailing list(s), set up lengthy automated campaigns and get back to monthly newsletters for both of my pen names.
  • Learn what I need to learn to become effective at advertising on Facebook and Amazon.

I’m also playing around with my schedule to see if I can fit a second writing session into my mornings and increase my average daily word count from 500 to 1,000. If I can do that, I’ll finish my current WIP in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be able to write a novella in about a month. So far so good — this morning I was able to fit in another half-hour of writing after my morning chores and Bible study. The big question is whether I’ll be able to keep that up once freelance assignments start coming back in (the agencies I work for are still closed for the holidays), but hopefully by then it will be enough of a habit that it won’t be something I have to think about.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend examining my priorities as far as marketing efforts go, trying to determine what will get me the most results for the least amount of effort. Social media and blogging both fell pretty low on the ROI list, so those are going to get less attention this year. Not that I’m not going to do them, but they’re not something I’m going to stress myself out about fitting into my weekly schedule. I may also phase out these coffee talks. I enjoy them, but they haven’t gotten any engagement in a long time, so I may just stick to more thematic, evergreen content when I feel moved to write some, as well as book news updates. If you want to keep up with what’s doing around the ol’ homestead, you can follow my personal Instagram–at least until I get mad at Instagram/Facebook/Meta whatever and decide I’m taking my toys back to my own sandbox, or they cancel me for all my spicy opinions and sharing of unapproved facts.

(Another thing I learned is that my “Strategic” brain is always editing my plans on the fly. It’s not ADHD that makes me flip back and forth so much, it’s just my strategic thinker wiring trying to adapt to life’s twists and turns.)

Other than that, we don’t have any big plans for the year. We’re just going to maintain the status quo, try to keep our current animals alive and healthy, expand our garden and learn some new skills. I started a 30-day diet reset today, but that’s not really a NY resolution, just needing to get things back on track and recover my health after the holidays. It’s not anything major, just avoiding sugar, alcohol and processed junk for the next thirty days to get it all out of my system and lower my chronic inflammation. Today is actually my first day in a while without any sweets. I had a pretty intense chocolate craving earlier, but I got through it. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon are usually my most intense craving times, so I’ve just got one more to get through today. Usually when I do this sort of thing, by day three the cravings start to abate, so I’m pretty confident that I’ll make it.

How’s your 2022 shaping up? Do you have a word for the year? Resolutions? Goals? Intentions? Hopes? Plans? Tell meeeee!

Coffee Talk: It’s the Most Busy-full Time of the Year

Image by Melk Hagelslag from Pixabay

Hello there, Bloglandia. It’s been a little while. I just wanted to pop in and touch base and let everyone know I’m still plugging along. There’s not a lot to report. Freelance writing has been keeping me busy, and when I get breaks between articles I’ve been trying to keep up with behind-the-scenes book marketing tasks and housework, and also rest my tired brain. We both haven’t been sleeping so great, and winter is already zapping our energy, so we’re struggling a little to keep up with everything and oh so ready for the Christmas break.

But for all of that, I’ve still been diligent to get up early every weekday morning and work a little bit on my romance novel, which is about two-thirds of the way done. I may end up having to pare it down when all is said and done. I think it’s going to end up quite a bit longer than the typical fluffy romance read. But it’s turning out to not be all that fluffy. I keep tackling some heavy stuff. Stuff like narcissistic abuse, church hurt, C-PTSD, being upset with God… so much for writing a romantic comedy. At any rate, it’s coming along.

We did manage to put out some Christmas decorations, although we had to Dixie proof everything, and we didn’t even attempt to put up the pretty fake tree we bought last year. Instead we harvested a little juniper from our property and decorated it with our unbreakable ornaments.

Also, I’ve taken up playing the recorder. I’ve tried and tried over the years to make myself into a guitar player, but the truth is that I’m a woodwinds gal. In my heart of hearts, I want to replace my long-lost saxophone, but those are too expensive. I’ve been drawn to playing the Irish tin whistle as a cheap substitute. But I’ve got this recorder that Matt bought me years ago, so I pulled that out in the hopes that by playing it he’d be more inclined to let me get a set of tin whistles. I looked into some recorder lessons on YouTube and discovered that there’s a lot more to it than I thought. I don’t have as much time to practice as I’d like, but I’m having fun with it. I still want those tin whistles, though. And a saxophone. Some day…

Today is shaping up to be pretty and mild, so we’re going to make ourselves get outside and do some neglected chores. The chicken coop and pen are sorely in need of a cleaning. The plan is to muck it all out and transport all the poopy stuff to our garden bed area, where we’ll spread it around and cover it and let it go to work conditioning the soil through the winter. And we’ve still got a million leaves to rake, and we still need to gather and cut old deadwood for our second hugelkulture bed. Probably we won’t get all that done today, but if we can get the coop cleaned out I’ll be happy. Also, if I ever start a homesteading blog, I’m going to call it “Dirt, Sweat, and Chicken Poop,” and never will there have been a more aptly named blog.

Speaking of the chickens, ours will be old enough to switch from grower to layer feed soon, and we’ve been researching cost-effective ways to feed chickens. Because let me tell ya, commercial chicken feed is ‘spensive. If any of you reading this have tackled this problem and have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Aaand it’s just about time to head out and get to work. I’m hoping to be back soon with an end-of-year update, and hopes and plans for the new year. Because it’s already getting to be that time. Can you believe it?

Oh, and ICYMI, Desolation, Book One of my now-complete Dominion trilogy, is only 99 cents!

Until next time, Bloggy friends!

Coffee Talk: Where did October go? Also, upcoming plans, Halloween, and getting your mind blown by the Bible

Image by Irina Kuzmina from Pixabay

October is, theoretically, my favorite month of the year. The milder weather, the turning leaves, the Halloween candy and pumpkin spice, the combo of spooky and cozy vibes… I love it all. And every year I look forward to it like no other month.

And every year, it seems, the month gets crazy, and I barely get to enjoy it, and it’s over and gone before I know it.

I’m in a weird, conflicted place right now of mourning the fact that October is almost over already and lamenting how busy this month was while simultaneously being pleased with how productive it was and being excited that we’re only a few days away from Halloween and the start of holiday season.

And it was certainly productive. We finished building the chicken coop, almost completely from scrap materials that were lying around the property, and got the chicks moved in, where they’re doing great. Our landlords came for a few days and together we knocked down some giant piles of limbs that were waiting for the right conditions to be burned and also cleared a lot of junk out of the warehouse. And we accumulated enough leaves to finally fill our empty hugelkultur garden bed, so those can be composting until next spring (we’ve still got to gather old wood to pile on top of the leaves). That’s a lot of work right there, but if the way our tomatoes have taken off in our first hugelkultur bed are any indication, it’ll be well worth it.

Here’s the finished coop:

And all that’s just on the homestead front. It was also a productive writing month. I FINALLY finished, AND revised, AND published Revolution Part Two! I cannot even begin to convey what a relief it is to finally have that trilogy off my plate (except for the paperbacks I still need to format and create covers for). And that’s not all! I also added a couple of new chapters to my sweet romance WIP. And this week I updated both Eucha Falls and Weather Witch with new titles and covers — all while keeping up  with a steady stream of freelance writing gigs. Here are the new covers:

What I Did Not Get to Do This Month

I had so many plans for this here blog this month. I was going to have so much fun with it being spooky season. I was going to continue my examination of the Biblical supernatural worldview by taking a look at what the Bible says about ghosts, I was going to get into the Satanic Panic of the ’80s and ’90s and whether that was real and still going on (short answer: yes on both counts — do a DuckDuckGo search on the Finders cult if you want to go down that rabbit hole, but cover yourself in prayer first and guard your heart and mind if you do), and I was planning a big post on the true history and CHRISTIAN origins of Halloween to combat all the rampant misinformation that’s either guilting or terrifying so many clueless Christians into shunning their own holiday.

Alas, I didn’t have time for any of that. I’m still planning to tackle the ghosts and Satanic Panic topics at some point (and also revisit the topic of goat demons), if things ever slow down to a point where I can devote time to this blog again, but as for the Halloween origins, I had to settle for throwing together an Instagram story, which you can view by clicking here. Just click and hold your button down (or your finger if you’re on your phone) on each slide to pause and read.

If you don’t want to wait around for me to dig into these topics, then I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking out the Blurry Creatures podcast, which I have been binging like crazy for the last couple of weeks (one of the perks of doing a lot of outdoor work). It started out as a Bigfoot / cryptids podcast but quickly took a sharp turn and became about examining the origins of everything weird and strange in the universe and how it all ties back to Genesis, and the theological and historical implications thereof. Start with the latest episode and work your way back if you don’t care about Bigfoot (although he still comes up in every episode). I’m dubious about some of the claims and theories of some of the guests, but even so, this podcast will blow your mind and rock your worldview.

What’s Coming Up

I’m not going to set a timeline on any of this, because we’ve still got a lot to get done around the homestead before winter hits (that fence around the chicken yard isn’t going to build itself), and I’m promised a steady stream of freelance work between now and the end of the year. But I still need to merge both parts of Revolution into one volume and then set up paperbacks (and maybe hardbacks?) for that whole series. And I’m about to start edits on the sleep paralysis story I wrote last year, which I think I’m going to include in a collection that includes all of my short standalone stories — that will also get released as both a paperback and ebook.

I’ll keep plugging away each morning on the romance novel, which I think is a little more than halfway done, and which I’m hoping to have ready in time for a spring release. And once that’s done I’ll take a break before starting the next book in that series to finally get back to the urban fantasy series I started last year.

I’m really chomping at the bit to get back to that series, but I’m glad I put it off. While it will be marketed as fantasy, the truth is that it will be thoroughly grounded in a Biblical supernatural worldview, which is very real. And while it was always my intention with this series to highlight the angelic conflict that’s happening all around us, I started this back before I’d been exposed to Dr. Michael Heiser’s work, and since then my worldview has vastly expanded to include a wide range of possibilities. Binging Blurry Creatures is also doubling as research for this series. And I’m realizing that there’s so much more I can communicate about this stuff, so much more effectively, through fiction than through a blog or podcast. I can’t wait to get into it, but at the same time, I need more time to process all of it.

So that’s what all is on the horizon. Oh, and I’m also planning (or hoping) to get re-focused on building my mailing lists and participating in some more multi-author book giveaways over the next few months.

But first, I’m going to enjoy a long Halloween weekend, watch some old school scary movies and try not to OD on chocolate. I hope you and yours have a pleasant and safe All Hallow’s E’en/Reformation Day/Fall Harvest Festival/candy day/it’s just Sunday you satanically-inspired heretic.

Peace.

Coffee Talk: More Chick Chat, WIP Progress and a Sneak Peek!

Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

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!

Welp, another week, and still no conspiracy post. I swear, you guys. Maybe Somebody’s trying to tell me I shouldn’t post that thing and get myself in trouble. But between a batch of freelance assignments and the new chicks, there just wasn’t time. I don’t really have time for this post, either, so I’mma try to keep it short.

Sadly, we lost the tiniest of our tiny babies, the rest of whom are getting less tiny by the day. One of our little speckled Sussex (naturally, the breed of which they only sent us three of the five we ordered) struggled from the start, and seemed to be underdeveloped compared to the rest. We isolated her enough to let her get plenty of food and water without any competition, and rest from getting knocked around and run over, and she seemed to be growing stronger, enough so that we were getting our hopes up that she’d make it. But sadly, those hopes were dashed by noon on Tuesday when I found her lying on her side in the brooder, having passed away after a morning of fooling us into thinking she was doing well.

The rest of the chicks are doing great, though–healthy, strong and growing like weeds. They’re already flapping their wings and trying to reach the top of the tub, so we’ll have to transition them to the big brooding box soon. Their individual personalities are starting to come out, too. They’re so much fun. If someone had told us that chicks were this fun and therapeutic, we’d have gotten some a long time ago.

Click here to see them in action.

As I said up top, my freelance writing picked up this week, but that hasn’t interfered with writing my novel, which I dare say is going great. This morning I had to stop midway between the big (spoiler alert) showdown between Hannah and Esme, but there’s not much of that scene left to go, and then I just need to write the denouement, and then it will be finished, save for typing up and revising all these handwritten scenes. Barring some major life circumstance stealing all my energy and focus, I really think I’ll reach the end by next week.

Making myself write first thing in the morning (well, first thing after letting Dixie pee and then making coffee) is really making all the difference. And it’s having a trickle-down effect, too, revving me up for the day and making me more productive in other areas. I really hope I can keep this momentum going.

With that in mind, I’m rethinking my previously stated plans to take an extended writing break starting in November, and just continuing on in the early mornings with my next project (though I may take a week or so to write up some of the longer blog posts I’ve had in mind first) so I don’t lose that momentum and then have to spend a lot of my energy getting started again. I guess I’ll play it by ear, and if I feel like I need a break, or I just end up not writing, I won’t beat myself up about it and I’ll just take a dadgum break.

Although last weekend ended up being more hectic than I’d expected, what with wrangling with tech support over losing access to my website and having to seize the good weather to get out there and work on the chicken coop, I did manage to get some time to strategize the next phase of my writing career and plan out my future projects. Although the Mae Bishop urban fantasy series I started early last year is calling to me, I think first I’m going to turn my focus to my sweet romance series and spend some time building up that pen name — mainly because I think it will be more marketable and stand a better chance of generating some significant income.

But probably what I’ll end up doing is alternating between them, writing and releasing a Mae Bishop novela in between each of my sweet romance books, and keeping both of those series going as long as I can. And then maybe, hopefully, on the side I can work on one of my stand-alone YA passion projects that have been brewing in my brain for a good long time. As grateful as I am for my freelance writing work and the income it brings in, I really, really hope I can finally get a handle on making my books work for me and replace that freelance income with publishing revenue so I’ll have more time freed up to write all the stories in my head. And also to focus more on growing our little starter homestead into a full-fledged dairy and fiber farm.

All of this is quite the one-eighty from a couple of months ago when I was saying I didn’t even want to write or be an author anymore, isn’t it? If you’ll recall, I prayed a lot about that, asking God to restore that desire and drive if that’s what He really wanted me to be doing with my life, and, welp, here we are. I saw this quote the other day, which I posted on my author instagram, and I’ll share it here, because it’s been true of me pretty much my entire life.

Oh, and while I’m sharing things here that I shared on IG, here also is a little sneak peek at Revolution Part Two:

Okie-doke, I’ve still got an article to write, so I’d best get to it. I don’t know how my weekend will shape up, but if it doesn’t rain too much, I’m guessing it will involve more coop building (we’ve got three sides up! We just need to install the nesting box partitions and roosting poles, then we can put the front and roof on).

Talk to me, Goose. How are things with you? (Bonus points if you can name that movie.)

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!

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?

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!

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

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