The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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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

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.

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