The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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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.

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

It’s Time to Get Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ryan Riggins on Unsplash

Coffee Talk: Disappointment, Made Better by Sunshine

Remember those exciting decisions we made a few weeks back that I was looking forward to revealing this week?

Welp, things didn’t go as planned. But when do they ever, really?

Our first decision was to get some chickens. More specifically, we decided to put in an order for 15 buff orpington chicks (14 laying hens and one rooster), which were to arrive this week.  We placed the order and then went out and got everything we needed to raise them, and were all set to receive them this week. Instead, we received a notice that the USPS extended last week’s weather-induced embargo on live animal shipping to the end of this week, in order to let them catch up on undelivered mail.

So now we won’t be getting our chicks until April. Which means no eggs until next fall at the earliest. Le sigh.

On the plus side, this gives us more time to figure out our chicken coop/tractor design and what we’re going to do about predators, and also now we won’t have to house juvenile chickens inside until it’s warm enough to put them outside.

So that’s one disappointment. And that decision had led to our second decision, which was to be our solution to the predator problem: getting a livestock guardian dog. You guys, we had decided to get a puppy. Specifically, we were all set to get an Anatolian shepherd puppy.

But for a variety of reasons, that also ended up falling through. There were just too many obstacles that kept cropping up that ultimately convinced us that it’s not the right time yet, and also that perhaps that’s not the right breed. And while I can see now that it’s for the best that things didn’t work out, I was pretty torn up about it when it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen.

Not that we won’t be getting another dog, or perhaps even a puppy, at some point. We’re keeping an eye on the local shelters for something suitable, and we haven’t completely ruled out an Anatolian when another one becomes available. But it won’t be that sweet girl that we had our eye on and were all ready to bring home, and I’m sad about that.

Also, today marks three months since Pete’s passing, so there are mixed emotions. We still miss the heck out of him and, truth be told, we aren’t quite ready to move on to a new pup just yet. We’re trusting in God’s timing and praying that he’ll lead us to the right dog at the right time. He’s got an excellent track record of bringing us excellent dogs at just the right time, so we just need to be patient and trust that he’ll do it again.

Besides, Boudicca is enjoying the heck out of being an only furbaby for the time being. She’s getting spoiled rotten.

So it’s been a week full of disappointment, but there’s been cause for rejoicing, too. The weather thawed out, the last two days have been spring-like and full of sunshine, we got our well fixed and our water restored yesterday, and today I took my first shower in *mumblety* days.

In lieu of all the animal wrangling we thought we’d be doing this week, we’ve been cleaning and organizing, and I’ve been busy marketing myself and reaching out to potential clients. I’m still waiting for my newest client to start sending me work, and in the mean time I’ve been posting articles from my old freelance writing Substack to my Medium account. I finally signed up to the Medium Partner’s Program, which means my stories earn a little bit of money when paying members read them, so if you’ve got a paid Medium membership, spending some time reading my recent articles is an easy way you could help us out while we wait for new work to start coming in.

So is buying my books, if any of them look good to you. Most of them are also available on Overdrive through your local library (did you know indie authors get paid when you check out their books through the library? The more you know…).

Of course, we’re both also always grateful to be supported through prayer.

Maybe it’s just the weather turning that’s making me optimistic, but I have a feeling things are going to get back on track and start going our way again soon. I hope. At any rate, barring any other unforeseen catastrophes, I can look forward to getting fluffy baby chickens for my birthday, and there still may be a puppy in our near future. And we need to get busy starting seeds and getting our garden beds ready for spring planting. And I’ve still got a novel to finish. So it’s not like there’s not plenty to keep us busy while we wait for things to work out.

How are you faring in the aftermath of Winterpocalypse ’21? Are you recovering, or are you still dealing with yuck? And how can I pray for you?

Coffee Talk: So Winter. Much Brrr.

When I sat down last Sunday with my bullet journal to plan my week, I knew I was going to be dealing with a high degree of unpredictability. Instead of listing out my usual weekly to do list, I instead listed out a few goals that I hoped I’d be able to get around to, along with an overriding goal: “Be Flexible!”

That willingness to be flexible and hold my goals loosely turned out to be a real asset in a week full of misadventures that included (thankfully brief) power outages, learning to use our kerosene heater (which didn’t come with a manual), exploding Pyrex, 2 AM hikes through the snow in sub-zero temperatures, getting lunged at by our new neighbor’s cranky, arthritic old pit bull, not a lot of sleep, and becoming reliant on baby wipes and dry shampoo. But despite all of that, we were a lot better off this week than a lot of people, so I have no complaints.

By the way, I’m praying for you, Texas. ♥

I did manage to get around to a few of my goals this week, including pitching another potential client, updating my pet blog, posting some articles to my Medium account, and applying to write for a publication there. As for the pet blog, I wrote a detailed content marketing and SEO guide for pet businesses, but the advice applies to any type of business (and to writing for the internet in general), so if that’s something you might be able to use, be sure to check it out.

As for making progress on the novel, that didn’t happen this week. A general rule for me and the way I’m wired is that novel writing just doesn’t happen when I’m in survival mode, and this week was primarily about surviving with all of our digits and our sanity intact. There were some touch-and-go times when losing said sanity was a greater danger than frostbite, but we managed to keep it along with all our fingers and toes.

As I write this, it’s a balmy 30 degrees outside, and melting snow is dripping from the roof. We’re in for one more night of single-digit temps, and then it’s supposed to start thawing out tomorrow. To say I’m looking forward to it is an understatement. I’ll just say I’m so, so very glad to live where this sort of cold is an anomaly (and Lord willing it will stay that way) and, when it does happen, it’s usually short-lived. Somebody remind me that I said this when it’s 100 degrees in July and I’m tempted to complain about the southern humidity.

Next week is bound to be another week requiring a high degree of flexibility, for reasons pertaining to one of those decisions I mentioned last week (if not to both of them). Probably not a lot of writing will get done, but I’ll give it a valiant effort. Hopefully, though, you can look forward to a big reveal by this time next week.

How are you coping with this week (or was it business as usual where you live)?

Photo by Alex on Unsplash
Friday Update

Friday Update: Surviving Inauguration Day, Looking for Work, and Novel Progress, Such as it Is

Happy Friday, gang!

Regardless of your feelings about the new administration, can we all just breathe a big sigh of relief now that we’re on the other side of the inauguration and all of the media hysterics about violent protests turned out to be a big nothing burger? To say nothing of all of the Q-conspiracists’ talk about 4D chess and insurrection acts and EMP/cyber attacks and last minute military coups.

While I’d be lying if I said I’m optimistic about things, or that the unity they keep claiming they want is actually possible at this point, I do feel like a load’s been taken off now that we’ve had a peaceful transition.

On a related note, on Wednesday I posted an article about narcissistic projection that nobody seems to have read. Maybe because I gave it a bad title. At any rate, I’m mentioning it again because I think this is important information. So as long as you’re here, take a few minutes to give it a read.

I didn’t get a lot of writing done this week, mostly because I’ve been prioritizing prayer above everything else this week, and also we had a lot to get done around the house. I did finally take a few minutes this morning to add a few hundred words to the epilogue I started on Monday. Or rather, that I ended on Monday. Today I went back and wrote the beginning of it.

I haven’t been very organized with my time lately (if by “lately” you mean since this whole pandemic started ten months ago) and that really needs to change. This may be the last week I can realistically keep up with my daily blog challenge (I didn’t blog here yesterday, but I sent out a newsletter, and that counts). Last night, I learned that my only remaining steady writing client is going to be drastically reducing their assignment volume, so I’m going to have to start hustling to round up some new clients, and that’s going to keep me busy. Marketing and looking for new work is even more of a full-time job than having work. The silver lining in all of this is that it’s the kick in the pants I needed to finally break into business-to-business writing, which pays a lot better than the business-to-consumer content I’ve been writing these past seven or eight years. Say a prayer for me and wish me luck.

But with all that in mind, if I only have time for a little bit of writing on the side each day and it’s a choice between the blog or the novel, I’m going to prioritize the novel. I’m still going to aim for at least two or three updates here a week, though, so it’s not like I’m going away, just scaling back a bit.

So that’s been my week, in a nutshell. My weekend plans include avoiding the news and watching another hour or two of Fellowship (it’s the extended edition, in case you haven’t guessed–last time we left off right as the members of the Fellowship arrived for Elrond’s council meeting) and brushing up on my article pitching knowledge. Oh, and maybe also taking down the Christmas decorations. I was determined to leave it up all winter as a symbol of defiant hope, but we need to clear some space and so we need to pack it all up and put it in storage to make some room for a couple of projects.

It’s going to be sad to take it down, though, not the least of which is because Pete was still with us when we put it all up. Putting it all away is going to make his passing seem all the more final. I really miss my dog, y’all. It’ll be two whole months on Sunday and we’re both still struggling to adjust to his absence.

I hope everyone reading this has a blessed and restful weekend. ♥

Projection 101

Something that those with what are known in the psychology world as cluster B personality disorders, particularly Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is the designation for psychopaths and sociopaths, have in common with people of a particular political persuasion is a tendency towards projection.

What is projection? I’ve touched briefly on it here before, describing it as when someone accuses someone else of what they themselves are guilty of in order to deflect blame and attention away from themselves and onto their opposition.

But it goes beyond that. People of the above mindset are wired in such a way that they are pathologically incapable of even beginning to fathom that other people are different — with different morals, different values, different moral limits, different patterns of thought — than themselves, and so they feel perfectly justified in projecting their own guilt onto others. After all, what they’re accusing you of is exactly what they would do in your situation, and so you must secretly be guilty, too. They’re just exposing what in their minds is true.

This is destructive enough on an individual level when applied to interpersonal relationships. But when a large group of people who think this way get together, combine their resources, and attain power over those who don’t think this way, things get really dangerous. Then you begin to see entire groups of people maligned for evils they would never even think of committing — and not only maligned, but punished for them.

One fortunate thing for us normals is that people with this mindset can’t help but expose themselves and their true nature by the things they accuse others of doing or  being. They tell us exactly what they would do if they were in their opponents’ position, incapable of comprehending that most of those they’re lumping together simply want to live their lives in peace, get along with others, and be free to provide for themselves and their families as they see fit. Violent people see violence all around them and expect violence from others. Disloyal people see disloyalty all around them and expect disloyalty from others. Insert your sociopathic quality here and repeat, ad nauseum.

Conversely, kind and considerate people tend to see kindness and consideration and to expect it from others, and are shocked when they’re met with unkindness and lack of consideration, and with false accusations and unjust maligning of character. It shakes us off our foundation and leaves us floundering as we try to make sense of what just happened — which is why it’s such an effective tactic that the narcopath returns to again and again. See also: gaslighting

Maya Angelou famously said, when people tell you who they are, listen to them. It’s time to listen and pay attention.

It would not be the worst idea in the world, if you have time, to educate yourself about narcissists and psychopaths and the way these people think, as well as the tactics they use to manipulate, control, and get their way. On YouTube, Richard Grannon, Dr. Ramani, and the Surviving Narcissism channel are all good places to start.

***

We’re living in perilous times, friends. I wish I had some encouragement. But one of the best things we can do, besides pray, is arm ourselves with discernment skills and learn to exercise prudence.

Yesterday, during Bible study, this thought occurred to me — that God is going to allow things to get really bad before they get better, because these latter generations, who have lived our lives in relative ease and comfort, need to be exposed first-hand to true evil and see for ourselves what it’s capable of and what happens when sin and lawlessness are allowed to go unchecked. This life is our inoculation against evil, so that we will be immune to it in the afterlife. And we’re all about to get a big dose.

But the righteous will be saved by faith. Habbakuk first said it, and Paul repeated it multiple times. What makes us righteous? Not our works or our morals or our human virtue. Nothing inherent in us. Only faith in Jesus Christ, who covers us with his righteousness.

The Lord knows them that are his, and he is in the boat with us, our rock and our refuge, our shelter in times of trouble. He will see us through the storm.

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