Tag Archives: Christianity

Running into Battle Half Naked

armorEvery few months, I hit a week (or two) where every bad thing you can think of happens. Example: not too long ago I had to say good-bye to my dog and put her down for health reasons, got stuck in a foot of mud on a deserted Kansas road at night with no way out, had two kids sick with the stomach bug, and one kid end up in the ER (all within one week).

Normally when this kind of storm hits my life, I do great for about a day or two, then I crash. I fall on my knees and cry. I usually feel guilty because I’m a long-time Christian and a pastor’s wife so I should I be able to handle this kind of craziness, right? Wrong.

After a while, I get back up and get going again until the next storm hits me. Then I crash and the cycle starts again.

It wasn’t until a month ago that I realized something: All these years I have been running into battle half naked.

Say what?

God brought it to my attention that I was trying to coast through life. The problem is, you can’t coast through battles. When you only have half of your armor on, the enemy can pin you down then chop you off at the knee. That’s exactly how I felt after each storm.

I had forgotten that it takes the full armor of God to stand. I was trying to plunge through life with just a belt and breastplate on, and failing miserably.

So I went back to Ephesians 6 and here is what I discovered:

1) Before you put any spiritual armor on, you need to be standing firm in God’s strength. Ouch. I was definitely trying to shoulder my way through the hard things instead of being strong in God first.

2) Put on all of God’s armor. Not just the belt of truth. Not just the breastplate of righteousness. All of it. Half of it will only protect half of you.

3) All of the pieces of armor are important. There was a point a couple months ago where things were so bad I was actually questioning my own salvation because I was so sinful inside. As I was reading Ephesians 6, the helmet of salvation suddenly made sense. I really never understood that piece. Yeah, yeah, I’m saved, who cares. But after coming through that time of doubt, I realized that I had not been protecting my head. Without my helmet in place, my mind was susceptible. But with my helmet on, I know who I am and who I belong to and there is nothing that take that away. That knowledge gave me my confidence back.

4) Our battle is not with flesh and blood. Although sometimes it feels like it, especially when there is a person in your life who seems intent on cutting you down.

5) Pray at all times. All right, let’s be honest here, who prays all the time? Come on, raise your hand. Anyone? Yeah, I don’t either. Instead, I try and coast along and only bring the big items to God. But Paul says we need to pray all the time and for each other. I am not the only one in this battle. You are too. And so is my husband. And my children. And my fellow believers. We all need prayer.

Everyday for the last month I have been reading Ephesians 6 and putting my armor on. When this last storm hit, I was ready. I had my shield of faith ready when the doubts came. I had my helmet on. I used God’s word to counter the attacks. And I prayed, not only for myself, but for my brothers and sisters everywhere.

I’ve read Ephesians 6 countless times over the last twenty years, but only recently do I feel I’ve come to understand the importance of this passage.

How about you? Have you been running into the battles of life half naked? Did you leave your shield at home? Are you trying to stand on your own strength? What are you missing?


Book Review: The Emotionally Healthy Church

I began reading The Emotionally Healthy Church a couple months ago when Dan asked me to read it with him. Then life happened. The book found its way to the bottom of a pile of books on my nightstand. I noticed it again a couple weeks later. After I finished it I knew I wanted to share this book with all of you.

Despite the title, this book is for everyone (not just pastors or church leadership). As I said last week, we as Christians tend to focus on the spiritual, physical, and intellectual sides of our being, but rarely take a look at the emotional part of our being. This is not healthy. We are not like Data from Star Trek who, with a tweak of his neck, can shut off his emotions at will (as much as I wish otherwise ;p).

Instead of recognizing and learning to deal with our emotions, we bury them. I believe in the Christian community we view emotions with suspicion or worse, as sinful. Peter Scazzero addresses this issue. In The Emotionally Healthy Church, he talks about his own journey as a pastor; how he learned that the emotional baggage he carried from his past, his family, and trying to please everyone almost shipwrecked his marriage and his ministry.

This book has been insightful and helpful on the emotional roller coaster I have been on recently. It covers topics such as grieving and loss, boundaries in ministry, learning to forgive, etc… in a biblical and healthy way.  I am learning to be honest with how I feel, both with God and myself instead of burying the hurt and anger. In turn God is healing my heart, expanding my capability to love, and showing me how I can comfort others who are hurting.

I definitely recommend The Emotionally Healthy Church.

CSFF Blog Tour- The God Hater, Day 3

Yesterday I said that it was the Spiritual Factor, more than the Cool Factor, which drew me into The God Hater. Looking back, I think that’s a first when reading Speculative novels (although now that I think about that, A Star Curiously Singing is a close second, see what I had to say about that here).

But before I dive in, it amazed me the diverse responses to this book by the participants of this tour. Some loved it (like I did), while others found it lacking in different areas. Goes to show you how different people are and how varied our tastes are :). Check out the links I gave on the first day to see what others are saying about The God Hater.

Now, onto the Spiritual Factor.

Yesterday I stated that The God Hater is an allegory. It is a story used to illustrate abstract ideas or principles. Or in my own terms, an allegory gives handles to the basket so we can carry away the idea. For example, try explaining grace. God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense (a nice little acronym there). But can you picture that in you mind? All I come up with is a fuzzy grey picture. But when you add a story or illustration (i.e. Jesus hanging on the cross in our place), suddenly I have a picture. I can see Jesus in my mind, bloody and beaten for my sin. See how powerful a story or illustration can be? It helps us see the idea or principle.

As a teacher, this is what I strive to do. Take God’s Word and break it down into pictures that people can see and understand (probably why I write stories). I believe this is why I resonated so strongly with The God Hater. Bill Myers did a fantastic job of presenting the concepts of free will, grace, sin, and even God. And he did it through a means that we would not normally think: through a computer program.

Here are some parts I loved in The God Hater: (Warning, big spoilers)








Free will: As the programmers (and Dr. Mackenzie) try to save the digital world, one thing cannot be touched: the digital people’s free will. They cannot be programmed to make good choices; they have to choose to make good choices.

The Law: The Law is introduced when Dr. Mackenzie grudgingly realizes that these people need instruction from an outside source, specifically, from their creators (those who made the program). You can see why he is reluctant; it’s too close to the idea of introducing a god. However, these people need to know there is a greater reality than the one that they are experiencing inside the computer program and that those outside the program can help them. So Dr. Mackenzie gives them one command: “Treat one another as though you are sacred. Treat one another as you would treat me.” That’s all. Just love one another

Unfortunately, the people inside the computer program devise rules to make sure everyone is following this command. And if you don’t, you are taken to the Grid, which sucks some of your life out (how much life is dependent on the crime).

Grace: The digital people are better at following the letter of The Law (as they call the command to love now), rather than the heart of it. Once again, Dr. Mackenzie realizes that in order to show these people what meant, he will need to meet them personally. Through nanobots, an exact replica of him is made and put into the computer program.

As the virtual Dr. Mackenzie interacts with the people, he grows to love them. He is hurt by how they hurt each other and the pain of their own poor choices. He also sees there is no hope for the Lawbreakers because if they were to be taken to the Grid, their entire life would be taken because of how much lawbreaking they did. Near the end of the book, the only way the virtual Dr. Mackenzie sees the Lawbreakers being allowed back into civilization is to go onto the Grid for them and have his own life units taken as payment.

God: God is more complex, more superior, with thoughts so vastly outweighing our own that to compare him to a virtual Dr. Mackenzie is like a raindrop compared to the ocean. That said we get a glimpse of God’s love for us through the virtual Dr. Mackenzie’s love for the virtual people and his willingness to go to the Grid for them.

I could go on for a couple more pages about all the allegories in The God Hater, but instead I’ll say this: Go read the book. I highly recommend it :).


CSFF Blog Tour- The God Hater, Day 2

Today I want to take a look at the Writing Factor of The God Hater. Bill Myers begins his book with this disclaimer:

“The following is fiction. I’ve tried to make the science and theology reasonably accurate. But, just as I’m sure I’ve made scientific blunders in the writing, I’m equally positive I’ve stepped on theological land mines. Then there’s that whole pesky issue of allegories… if something doesn’t sound right… don’t waste your time reading this. Go to the original Source and see what it says.” (The God Hater, IX)

I think this disclaimer should go in every book, whether fiction or nonfiction. If something doesn’t resonate with you, go to the original Source, especially in areas of spirituality or theology. As a writer, I try to stick with an accurate portrayal of God and Christian worldview in my writing. But my writing is fallible. And so is everyone else. Only God’s Word is perfect. He is the ultimate source. Go to him for answers, not me or anyone else :).

I found The God Hater an intriguing, thought provoking read. It is not bogged down by scientific details nor did it come across preachy. Instead, it did exactly what an allegory (in my opinion) should do: use a story to illustrate abstract ideas or principles. And Bill does this well in The God Hater. He illustrates the ideas of the Law, of grace, and free will. He puts handles on the baskets of these ideas so we can carry them away.

Characters: I liked the character Dr. Mackenzie a lot, perhaps because I personally know old men like him :). I also found my heart connected with the people inside the computer program: people like Alpha and Nyrah. Even though they aren’t “real”, they become real because they have real desires, fears, and hurts. They are three-dimensional human beings.

I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to dive into the Spiritual Factor tomorrow. This book is probably the first one that the Spiritual Factor drew me in more than the Cool Factor. So come back tomorrow and see what I have to say :).

CSFF Blog Tour- The God Hater, Day 1

Hey everyone! Welcome again to the CSFF Blog Tour. This month we are reviewing the book The God Hater by Bill Myers (you can find his facebook link here).

First let’s talk about Bill Myers. When I was a kid, I watched a video series called McGee and Me. For those unfamiliar with the series, imagine Lizzy McGuire only it’s about a boy and his cartoon counterpart with morale themes. I loved them! So imagine my surprise when I found out Bill also wrote books, specifically speculative books for adult audiences. Awesome! (Also, on a side note, I met Bill last year at a writing conference. He asked what college I was attending… Thanks Bill, you made my day :P)

Now for The God Hater.

I was blown away by everything! It has a cool plotline, a great main character (I loved Dr. Mackenzie the moment I met him), and the spiritual factor… wow! This is a three-day review you won’t want to miss!

So let’s start with the Cool Factor. This book revolves around the idea of a mega computer program built to simulate the growth and evolution of civilization. The only problem is the pseudo civilization always ends with the annihilation of every person. So the makers of this program bring in Dr. Mackenzie, leading philosopher and atheist, to figure out why this computerized civilization always dies out.

Dr. Mackenzie tries out every philosophical model out there, from Darwinism to Existentialism, but it the program ends the same every time: the wipe out of the computerized civilization. Dr. Mackenzie knows that this computer civilization is actually a model of the real world. And if he can’t find a way to keep the computer world from dying out, then what hope is there for his own world?

Stop in tomorrow for the Writing Factor and you definitely do not want to miss the Spiritual Factor on Wednesday. Click on the links below to see what other CSFF Bloggers are saying about The God Hater:

Noah Arsenault

Red Bissell

Thomas Clayton Booher

Keanan Brand

Rachel Briard

Beckie Burnham

Carol Bruce Collett

Valerie Comer

Karri Compton

CSFF Blog Tour

April Erwin

Amber French

Andrea Graham

Tori Greene

Katie Hart

Ryan Heart

Joleen Howell

Bruce Hennigan

Becky Jesse

Cris Jesse

Becca Johnson

Jason Joyner

Carol Keen

Emily LaVigne

Shannon McDermott

Matt Mikalatos

Rebecca LuElla Miller



John W. Otte

Sarah Sawyer

Chawna Schroeder

Andrea Schultz

Tammy Shelnut

Kathleen Smith

James Somers

Donna Swanson

Jessica Thomas

Steve Trower

Fred Warren

Dona Watson

Nicole White

Dave Wilson

Kathy Brasby

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.