Book Review: Dark Halo

16124151Dark Halo (An Angel Eyes Novel)

Shannon Dittemore once again wins me over by her love affair with words. I have read the last two books in the Angel Eyes TrilogyAngel Eyes and Broken Wings–and Dark Halo, the last of the trilogy, holds me captive.

Jake in Broken Wings was taken by the demon, Damian. Brielle is crying over the loss in Dark Halo. Meanwhile, the celestial war between the Palatine and Heaven heats up. Damian has new eyes and his attacks are more numerous. The mystery of Brielles’ mothers’ disappearance, the fire at the elementary school, and Olivia’s presence in Stratus keep Marcus, Brielle, Jake, and Brielle’s friend in knots. Through all three books, the mystery draws the reader closer to the novel so you don’t really want to stop reading Dark Halo to even eat dinner.

What creates more tension is how Brielle is finally taken by Damian and she meets Satan in the desert. Reminiscent of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, Brielle’s struggle with the temptation to take the dark halo over the halo the angel gave to her through Jake keeps us tightly wound like a coil as we get closer to the end of the novel. Dark Halo is fantastic, full of wisdom, and worship.

Once again, Shannon Dittemore’s description of worship in her novel makes our expression of worship seem somehow dismal. Her words bring worship alive. It’s sad to come to the end of the trilogy and have to let go of Jake and Brielle. But it is a happy ending. I gave this novel five stars.

*Book given by publisher to review. Click the link at the top of the review to buy it on Amazon.

It’s The Devil’s Fault

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Attacks do happen when evil doesn’t want God’s purpose realized. But sometimes evil gets the blame for the consequences of our own decisions or lack thereof.

  • Like saying yes when I should have said no.
  • Like gaining weight because of eating poorly or exercising too little.
  • Like complaining when things aren’t happening due to my inaction.
  • Like not researching something well when it sounds too good to be true.
  • Like expecting opportunities to come to me and wondering why nothing is happening?

I’ve said yes many times before consulting with God. So it’s not always the devil’s fault when things go wrong in our lives. God gives us the tools to make wise decisions. We don’t always exercise wisdom in our decision-making and blame the devil and his minions when things go wrong.

The GPS That Doesn’t Fail

Are you going to heaven?

Are you going to heaven? (Photo credit: Matthew Bietz)

More often than not, I hear complaints from people who own GPS’s of streets that continue though they dead-end and being taken to questionable destinations due to faulty directions. Recently, a man on Amazon challenged the validity of the Bible when I reviewed Revealing Heaven by John W. Price.

The commenter’s first objection was that the Bible and Science are direct opposites. I gave him this link as an answer. He said he experienced a near-death experience and that I need to take my blinders off. The Bible shouldn’t be taken as fact and he said all religions lead to God. You only have to read about the different religions to understand they are all different. The Hindu religion for instance has 33 million gods and goddesses. The near death experiences mentioned in Revealing Heaven don’t mention the 33 million gods and goddesses. Jesus is most definitely mentioned in some (not all) of the near death experiences. I repeat one part of my review here: If an experience contradicts the Bible, ask lots of questions.

 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. – 2 Corinthians 11:14 NIV

Think of the Bible as an accurate GPS to guide us along our journey Home, a way to get to know Jesus in a relational way, and to make sense of the nonsensical. People who ask the typical questions like, Why do bad things happen?, should read Randy Alcorn’s If God is Good. It’s an exhaustive exploration of that very question. I have a copy you can keep if you are asking genuine questions. I will happily mail it to you if you email me at: nikolehahn@thehahnhuntinglodge.com.

Jesus is my Shepherd and the Bible is my GPS. Unlike the actual GPS, re-calculating when it makes a mistake, God didn’t make a mistake when He gave us His inspired Word. Without the Bible to guide us through our many questions, we are susceptible to create our own god. Besides, if we do not have the Bible, then how do we know of God’s existence, who He is, or if He even cares except by the testimonies of those whose words could be misled or corrupted? How can they correctly interpret their near death experience without the Bible? God does not contradict Himself.

Resources:

Christian Ministries International

Answers in Genesis

Gateway Bible

The Real Meaning I’ve Missed

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The word bless is not be confused with the word, praise. Because the people who need blessing the most are the ones who deserve it the least.” – Cheryl Sacks, Co-Founder of Bridge Builders International

God really is beautiful in that He takes something so simple and adds a third dimension. It’s enough to befuddle Satan. Why I didn’t see it sooner leaves me to wonder if my eyes have been closed?

On Saturday, I attended a prayer seminar at American Lutheran Church. They hosted Bridge Builders International, “…an Arizona-based Christian organization called to mobilize the Church in united fervent prayer and “vertical” worship, engaging God’s presence for spiritual awakening and community transformation.” In it, we experienced a level of prayer that moved me beyond my comfort zone.

I am a fun and serious person uncomfortable with the show of a lot of emotion. Even raising my hands in prayer causes discomfort. Yet, this level of prayer brought each of us—just strangers—to a closer and deeper place of prayer. When Cheryl explained Genesis 27, we heard the story of Jacob and Easu. She explained that a blessing is desirable, but what surprised me was when she said:

…the person receiving it [the blessing] does not need to be worthy of it.”

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a blessing to us and we were not worthy of it. Cheryl explained the definitions of blessing: “…to invoke, divine, favor upon; (being empowered to prosper. Blessings are benefits that add to our lives additional resources from God.)” Likewise, wishing a curse on someone is defined as, “…to appeal to a supernatural power for evil or injury to befall someone or something. That which brings or causes evil; to invoke evil, calamity, or injury upon. (to cause to fail).”

The words blessing and curse remind me of the scripture from Matthew 5:44 (CJB):

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that spitefully use you and persecute you,”

Bless, not curse, which brought us to her end point: To pray a blessing upon everyone, enemy and friend alike, which would have the power from God to encourage success rather than failure. It also, in my opinion, leaves our soul open to God’s will rather than what we want God to do for us,  or in the words of a friend, spouting a grocery list of things we want from God. I learned so much of the power of words today and the power of prayer.

When we prayed a blessing over each other, we used a method that most definitely moved me beyond my comfort zone. To a stranger, I touched her ears and prayed for her to hear; I touched her shoulders, and prayed for the burdens and the tears, and touched her hands and so on, praying in a deeper way. And I prayed when quiet, internal prayer was called for, a blessing over my enemies—for them to prosper, to be happy, to find a close relationship with Christ, to be healthy, to be in love, and I realized the power of that prayer.

For anyone who has been wounded, praying a blessing over your enemies is so contrary to human nature it confounds the world. It opens the door to transformation of your enemy, removes your anger, and frees you. While I held no more anger towards my enemies, I also never prayed a prayer of blessing over enemy, friend, or myself. It is so beautiful. So three-dimensional. Only God could come up with the perfect prayer—one that accomplishes both justice and love in one swoop.

Pray a blessing over your enemy, and they and you change for the good of all.

Write a prayer of blessing in the comments section for your enemy, friend, yourself, or your significant other.

Book Review: The Image of The Invisible – Tales From Eternity Book 1

For that matter, what did the angels think their king was doing when he created the heavens and the earth? Putting together a new kind of being, that’s what. In a unique living exhibit: a three-dimensional universe of time and space. And that’s where the trouble begins. Had the king left well enough alone, as Lucifer was fond of saying, things might have turned out differently. But then, the king of heaven was never one for leaving things alone.”

- The Image of the Invisible; Publisher: AuthorHouse.

Connie J. Cartisano writes an intelligent fantasy book explaining the downfall of Lucifer in Heaven. It’s important to remember that this is a book of fiction from an anthropologist. The Image of the Invisible begins like walking through the head of scientists. All the arch angels are present and the world that Cartisano builds is both fascinating and unromantic.

Cartisano has created Heaven like a city. It has a tavern called the Harp and Halo that sells nectar juice, and a restaurant called “Harvesters.” You can also visit the Museum of Natural History in the fair city of Mishkan. Lucifer is a Satan. Satan is a judicial role, and he resides in a building called Obsidian in the city. In my opinion, Cartisano has done a good job in creating Lucifer. He’s beautiful and he’s not shy about making sure people know about it. The story unfolds around the Museum of Natural History in the living exhibit where King Mehu Pi is creating the human race to Lucifer’s disgust.

My favorite part is where Cartisano begins the book with “Chapter Zero.” Humor laces the beginning of the book with footnotes and commentary as if Cartisano herself sits somewhere watching Lucifer’s fall. We get to meet a variety of angels serving different posts, too.

I’m not sure that I could envision a Heaven as described in “Image of the Invisible.” It’s fascinating, but it lacks emotion. It felt like reading a science paper rather than something as lovely and mysterious as Heaven—something none of us on earth can grasp completely. Also, human beings appearing in every aspect like a science project lessons the emotional impact of Heaven. The book is excellent, and for a self-publish book, the mistakes are few. Towards the end of the book, Cartisano changes the font to indicate the voice of a new monster in Lucifer’s head. That was distracting and took away the polished feel of the book.

While I enjoyed reading it, I felt as if Book One ended incomplete and the reader left hanging in that dark, unfinished space. That’s not a detrimental thing as every author does their series differently, and since this continues in Book Two it makes sense. However, I like reading series books with each book feeling complete even though it continues to another book where our hero faces his obstacles. All in all I enjoyed the book and think it’s worth a second read some day. Therefore, it will stay on my permanent book shelf and I will give it four stars.

*Author gave the book to me to review.

The Chronicles of Church Fellowship: “O God, Show Me Thy Glory.”

If belief gets us into Heaven regardless of behavior, or even despite our actions, then Satan will be in Heaven alongside the pastors and theologians and missionaries and saints. For Satan’s theology must surely be as informed as the most learned Christian scholars, for he knows God very well indeed. And the signposts Christ gave for recognizing his “true followers” seemed to have very little—in fact, next to nothing—to do with people’s beliefs. He seemed strongly concerned about people’s actions. Christians say, “A true disciple of Jesus believes that he is God and that he died for our sins.” But the Christ they claim to follow said that his true disciples take up their crosses and follow him, that they obey his teachings, that they “bear much fruit,” that they love one another, that they give up everything, even family, to follow him in the way he demands.

It seems that Jesus’ own definition is alien to most Christians, who are satisfied that by signing their name on some creed they are somehow mystically associated with Christ. It is why I can say with Mahatma Gandhi, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” Perhaps if they were more like Christ I would like them, too.” - Pgs. 95-96, “Night of the Living Dead Christian” by Matt Mikalatos; Tyndale Publishing. (This book was reviewed yesterday. Leave a comment on yesterday’s post or today’s post to be put in for a drawing to win a certificate to cash in at your local book store for a free copy courtesy of Tyndale. Deadline to enter is Sunday, December 18).

My cross feels heavy and sweat beads on my brow as I carry it daily. Every day I live with fear and self-doubt, confidence, joy, and bear the heart-break of unmet expectations and people I love who don’t know Christ. It is my hope that my life honors Jesus in word and deed.

I became a Christian in 2002 alongside my husband. We dedicated our marriage to Jesus and one might think my belief in Christ alone is enough to make me a smiling, happy Christian zombie who feeds the homeless, prays like a maniac, and never has a cross word to say to anyone. Some expect that I should hide my sins and play the perfect zombie (i.e. perfect Christian).

The reality of Christian life is less than perfect. Yes, I am happy and my life is most definitely transformed. But I do not follow a check list. I do not feed the homeless because that is not my gift. I pray like a maniac, but sometimes I am not on my knees, but driving in my car, in the quiet of a cold morning, or with my forehead touching the black cover of my Bible as tears stream down my face while names of the unsaved float before my mind’s eye. I ache for those whose life merely imitates a Christian life, like pledging allegiance to something or following a hot trend. And when trouble comes their faith wanes, and one has to wonder if it was there in the first place.

When I read the words from A.W. Tozer’s, The Pursuit of God, “Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking,” that yearning burned like embers still white-hot from a fire that ran low after a long burning. It only takes a stirring of those embers to make that fire rage again. Being a Christian is like being married to God.

We are His bride. And how do we treat the love of our life? Do we slide the golden ring on our left hand, sport it proudly because of the size of the diamond to all our friends and relatives, only to slip it off when it’s not convenient to be married? In the dark of night, do we live another life, making decisions we know would displease and dishonor our Groom while rationalizing it away because everyone else is doing it? Is that what we call living the Christian life?

The cross I bear is heavy. It is at times a burden I don’t want to carry and yet more often than not in this journey I have found such fulfillment, love, and joy by following His path that I can’t imagine a life any other way. I gladly carry the burden. Like A.W. Tozer, I, “turn away with tears to hunt some lonely place and pray, ‘O God, show me thy glory.’” I want to, “taste, to touch with (my heart), to see with (my) inner eyes the wonder that is God.”

So, dear Jesus, stir the burning embers of my heart. I love you imperfectly and pray ardently for others to have a heart that burns long for You so that their end may result in conquering death, living life with You, and finding joy in this difficult world where anything good is evil and evil is good. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Are you bearing your cross? Describe it.

Unwrapping God’s Love

Gift: Baking in my bright and warm kitchen

Every Tuesday I am sharing my perspective on a book called, “One Thousand Gifts,” By Ann Voskamp. Today I am on Chapter 3: “Final Flight.”

That is the beginning and I smile. I can’t believe how I smile. I mean, they are just the common things and maybe I don’t even know they are gifts really until I write them down and that is really what they look like. Gifts He bestows. This writing it down—it is sort of like…unwrapping love.” Pg. 45

Outside the window of the coffee shop, the wind pushes against the fabric of the large patio umbrella. It’s like me pushing against this new concept that Ann speaks of in her book. I break occasionally between paragraphs absorbing her words, stepping into her shoes, noticing for the first time the wind, the sunlight warm only on skin, and I am relaxing in the warmth of a cup of coffee.

I may have always known that change takes real intentionality, like a woman bent over her garden beds every day with a spade and the determined will to grow up something good to strengthen the heart. I may even have known that change requires more than merely thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts about a door and a way through and that Greek word, eucharisteo, holding the mystery to the full life and every after. But none of that at all meant that I knew what to do. How in the world, for the sake of my soul, do I learn to practically pick up eucharisteo, the word I had underlined as a firm foundation to lay down under all of my days?” Pgs. 43-44

Can I journal about 1,000 gifts with consistency? Can I keep my ever wandering mind from going down dark paths? Those dark paths have pooled with tears and angry reflections in the past. The coffee shop door opens and bangs shut. Acquaintances sit across from me, laughing, sharing secrets, enjoying life and that friend pats me on the back as she leaves. I internalize my first three gifts, unwrapping God’s love:

  1. My husband.
  2. Sunlight
  3. Friends.

Arizona has ample sunlight. Some friends have ample Eucharisteo, or thanksgiving and grace. I latch onto them wanting some of their light to flood the moments when I feel ingratitude, self-doubting, nervous, un-confident, dis-contentedness or worry. My husband tells me that I have changed (in spite of me). It happened when I wasn’t looking, that steady growth of taking intentional steps away from old ideas. There’s still a lot I need to learn and learning is intentional, too.

I look down at this pen, this pen I keep wielding, one writing her way all the way to one thousand. This pen: this is nothing less than the driving of nails. Nails driving out my habits of discontent and driving my habit of eucharisteo. I’m hammering in nails to pound out nails, ugly nails that Satan has pierced through the world, my heart. It starts to unfold, light in the dark, a door opening up, how all these years it’s been utterly pointless to try to wrench out the spikes of discontent. Because that habit of discontentment can only be driven out by hammering in one iron sharper. The sleep pin of gratitude. I hammer.” Pgs. 49-50

  1. The feel of a real book in my hands; the pages touching skin.
  2. The realness of the words of God.
  3. My church family.

It feels overwhelming to consider keeping a gratitude journal. Ann writes how the list changed her personality and she grew. I don’t ever want to become spiritually mature because that infers I have learned everything. I don’t think one person can learn everything whether they are 20 years-old or 100. Someone will always surprise me. I’ll always gain some new insight on someone I thought I knew and that alone adds something to my soul, answering the hunger that the world is not all dark. Light shines in between the branches of a dark forest leaving spots of light on the needle strewn ground called hope.

Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring the fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of her hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.” Pg. 58

Share today your gifts. List them. Reflect on them.