Getting Under Your “Skin”– a Review

Getting Under Your “Skin”– a Review

Hey, guys!!! Sorry it’s been ages– been partly working, partly laziness and procrastination on my part. I promise to at least try to make it up to you guys in some way, shape, or form, OK? In the meantime, let’s get back down to business.

Recently, I just finished Ted Dekker’s book “Skin,” where the tagline is, “Don’t trust your eyes.” Now, for those who know zip, zilch, nada, about Mr. Dekker’s works, allow me to explain his unique genre of writing. His writing is an intricate blend of thrills, chills, suspense, action, some mystery, some romance, usually climatic battles over something/someone, and a spiritual Humanities lesson (yes, he is a Christian author. One that I would practically to kill to have as my Humanities professor. LOL). Half his books are crime thrillers; “Boneman’s Daughters,” and “The Bride Collector” in particular remind me heavily of the TV series, “Criminal Minds” (no joke, he not only portrays the FBI side accurately, he also delves into the killer’s mind/motive deeply, and sometimes gives a rather… graphic description of the killings. I kinda have to skip that tiny, grisly lil part.). The other half are unique; some are centered in this world, others… in a future world. Where Roush (fluffy white bats) are angels, Shakaiti (ugly, black, vermin-infested bats) are demons, and Teeleh and Elyon are code-words for Satan and God, respectively.

What is unique about “The Circle” series, “The Lost Books of History” series,  the “Paradise” series, “Skin,” and even a slight nod at the notorious, “House,” is that in all the books the characters, actions, etc are somehow related to one another, or affect one another– hence, it coming, “full Circle.”

For instance, in the first three series, a huge component are these large history books, filled with blank paper. You can literally write actual HISTORY into them, which is what young, impulsive Billy from a seclusive monastery does, writing that a man named Thomas Hunter would fall and hit his head. And guess what? In a city, in “Black” (first book of the Circle), sure enough, a man named Thomas Hunter does indeed fall, hits his head… and wakes up in another world. A different world. OUR FUTURE WORLD. Believers are called “forest-dwellers,” dwelling in the safety of Elyon’s forests and bathing daily in special water to keep a certain skin disease away– one that the non-believing, Teeleh-worshiping Horde has.

Now, you might be be wondering, “OK, but how does that all relate to THIS book? The one you’re reviewing?” Patience, grasshopper. I will be getting to that in just a moment…

WARNING: SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!! (Don’t worry, I won’t give away TOO too much)

At first glance, “Skin,” might seem a lot like one of Dekker’s previous crime novels: “Three,” “The Bride Collector,” etc: a vindictive killer is on the loose in a little in Nevada called Summerville, just when a few freak tornadoes touch down (charming, eh?). The fun part was trying to figure out killer Sterling Red’s real I.D., but eventually I did (before all the other characters, too… haha. Spoiler: Innocuous secondary character.). But his motive for the killings, aside from being spiritual, tied directly in with the other books. Turns out Red, as a kid, was adopted from the same monastery as Billy (Project Showdown) by a scientist specifically for the purpose of a special virtual reality video game. A game so real only those with frontal lobe epilepsy could play and respond to certain stimuli, so he was forced to have frontal lobe epilepsy too, something all the other players, the people he was out to kill, already had. The other people didn’t even KNOW they were actually playing a game til the end… and the virtual reality is so real that, if you die in-game, you’re dead in the “real world,” too, as two characters whose ugliness goes deeper than skin (part of Red’s point) discover the hard way.

But wait– I haven’t gotten to the most mind-blowing part yet.

The most mind-blowing part was something even the scientists were completely clueless to.

You see, they weren’t always in a game. That’s right, they were in THE FUTURE world, at least partly. The same world Thomas Hunter went to. Proof, you ask? They admit to fighting the Horde; all while under the impression it was a game; Colt sees Johnis from “The Lost Books” series briefly while they’re in the desert; Colt wakes up wearing a “Forest Guard” tee (the Forest Guard is the guard that protects the Forest Dwellers from attacking Horde); not only that, but Billos (Billy’s alternate-world counterpart),from “Renegade” of “The Lost Books,” unintentionally stumbles upon the the virtual reality device, which is what takes him to the town of Paradise (enter: full Circle). I didn’t see many ties to the “Paradise” books as I did “The Circle” and “The Lost Books,” but the connection to Billos and Paradise, Red being from the monastery, plus the fact that Red directly quotes notoriously sinister, book-created Marsuvees Black when he says, “Wanna trip, baby?” This is all evidence of their connection (reminds me of how Black admitted to creating another killing monstrosity, Barsidious White, the killer in “House,” although Red wasn’t written into existence like the formers were. I’m almost surprised Dekker hasn’t created a killer called, “Green” yet, but perhaps that’s because “Green” is the “purest” book in the “Circle” series?… Man, all these killers with the same names as several “Pokemon Adventures” characters… MY sense of reality is gonna start getting warped!).

Mind blown quite yet? Or at least trying to sort everything out?

Don’t worry if you don’t “get” everything. The best part about the whole Circle is that you can start anywhere in it (save for in the middle of a series, maybe), and you won’t really get lost, as long as you (eventually) read the others, too. Then, everything starts to click. Then, your reaction becomes nearly identical to mine, when I found all that out after reading, “Skin,”: bugged eyes, gaping mouth, squealing noises. Not joking.

Overall, as a book, I would rate this at least 4.5 out of five stars (simply because I don’t like gore and horror. IK, I’m biased…). If you are not a scary book person, Ted Dekker may not be for you, BUT, if you’re like me, and can stomach/skim the scary parts, you’ll find much deeper, richer spiritual meanings to ALL the stories, including “Skin,” that he writes. And that is why I love him so much.

Have you read “Skin” yet? If so, what did you think? Do you like Dekker as an author? Be sure to sound off! =)

 

Quiet Times– Tips, Tricks and Ideas

Quiet Times– Tips, Tricks and Ideas

As we dip our toes into the grand, warm waters of summertime, a mixture of relief and laid-backness kicks in. Weeks either drift by lazily or rush around you like a surging river before cascading down the waterfall into autumn– the last place you may want to go.

As you ponder what to do with some of your new-found freedom, might I make I suggestion?… I think you should spend at least a good chunk of it dedicated to getting to know God better (He is, after all, your Creator!). “Now, wait just a minute,” some of you may be saying.

“I don’t know the first thing about doing devotions or having a quiet time.”

“It’s just too loud at my place– I can barely think, let alone get to a quiet spot with God!”

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t think I’ve the time– job, summer school, family, friends, Church… I’m booked!”

Wait, wait, wait. Hold EVERYTHING. This is important stuff I’m talking about. Remember how I said that God should be number 1 in all that we do? And that we need to seek His guidance in all we do? How are we going to get to get to know Him better if we don’t give Him the time of day– the time which, BTW, HE very graciously gave to US?

A relationship with God is like any other relationship, only more important– like other relationships, it requires communication. Open communication. Effort to getting to know and understand each other on both parties’ ends (since God knows you better than you know yourself– Psalm 139 for ya–it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get to know Him better, too. He’s a pretty cool Maker.). And trust.

Don’t worry, I’m not saying your above concerns aren’t relevant; I’ll be addressing them in this post as well as giving you ideas and tips for how to make your own quiet time with God, and do it consistently.

  1. Don’t think you have time? MAKE time. Turn that alarm clock on a bit earlier so you can spend a few minutes with God each morning, or make it a habit to do a few minutes before bed each night. Not a morning person? Or too exhausted before bed? Cut back–way back– on TV, social media, or Internet surfing to MAKE time for God. He’s more important than your daily media intake! Remember, you were blessed with 24 hours in each day– that’s a LOT of time, and hopefully this can help you to time-budget better. Even if you can only do 15 minutes out of 24 hours a day with God, it’s still appreciated.
  2. Too loud? Maybe you live in a big city, or maybe your family’s loud. I’d recommend a pair of earplugs… just kidding. If it’s really tough for you to find a nice, quiet corner of your room, a shed or backyard, try settling for distant background noise, as long as it’s not obnoxiously interrupting you. Try an open closet (make it comfy first– a beanbag chair, some blankets, and a Bible will do. And maybe a flashlight, if you’d rather close the doors for privacy reasons. ) or even (this may sound a little awkward) having quiet time while you’re bathing (what? You can sing to God in the shower, and you can also picture Him literally washing your sins away as you pray. Foolproof.).

As for the other question, well, I’ll get into that right now.

A quiet time, aka sometimes devotions, is basically spending time with God. It can be kept short, simple, and sweet, or be long, drawn out and intense. Either way, it should be kept very special. Here are things I’d recommend for doing a lil one-on-one with your Creator:

Bible (I use NKJV and NIV, but I’m not picky 🙂 As long as it’s God’s Word, I’m cool with it.)

Devotional (to help you with mini sermons, selected Scripture readings, etc. Some may also have daily Bible reading plans, which I enjoy doing. If you are interested in a daily Bible reading plan I recommend looking into the devo series, “Our Daily Bread”. As a teen, I used to read “DevoZine” a devotional mag for teens and by teens, specifically on all kinds of topics. Right now I’m trekking through “Streams in the Desert: for Graduates”.)

Journal (or as we call them– Prayer Journals! Go to a store like TJMaxx or Marshall’s for one; they’ve some nice ones! You can use this to write out prayers to God; mine are basically letters. You can request things of Him, but be sure to also thank and praise Him for his goodness. The journal is helpful in the sense that you can keep track of your requests and how He’s answered so far… it may also help give you a sense of where He wants you next.)

Pen

Highlighter (Whoa! Did that verse just spring up at me, or what?! Be sure to mark and highlight those key verses, and maybe also record them in your prayer journal.)

Comfy chair (I use a plush butterfly chair, but lounge chairs, beanbags, and recliners are nice, too… just don’t fall asleep in the latter!)

Optional but still important: List of prayer needs and praises. (Or you could get creative, like in the movie, “War Room,” and make a sticky note War Wall/Room of your own!)

Also optional: Candle or another scented thingie. If you like to burn incense outdoors as a part of your worship, go ahead– God fully approves (they did it way back in Old and New Testament times, after all!), and those incense stick thingies are pretty big right now (just be sure you know how to use them first). Me, I keep it simple and use a Rainmate IL, which I unintentionally won at a drawing (a scent diffuser). You don’t even have to use holy scents like frankincense or whatever; I use ones that smell to me of refreshing sanctity (I use mandarin rosewood scent, lavender juniper scent, or tea tree mint scent and leave the Rainmate on, humming faintly with its beautiful scent as I pray and worship.). Again, scent is optional, but I highly recommend it if you can/want to because scent has a powerful, soothing, wonderful, moving effect on people and it’s pleasing to God.

How to Go About Doing Your Quiet Time:

The best part about quiet times is that there’s no particular order that you have to do things in, although I’d recommend starting off by praying and ending also in prayer. You can sing songs of praise, journal your heart out to God and tell Him what’s been eating you lately, read your devotional for the day, look up Scripture. I would also recommend getting a Study or Concordance Bible, so if you’re looking for His will in something particular, you can look up a key word, and it’ll direct to to whatever verses you need (cool, huh?). If you’re at a loss for what to say to God, try using the Lord’s Prayer as a model guide: Start off by praising Him for His Goodness and Holiness, ask for His Will to be done, and also for guidance; repent of any sin, and also ask for courage to forgive those that may have wronged you, as well. Finish the prayer by asking Him to help you overcome temptation or whatever obstacle life’s thrown your way. Don’t forget– when you’re praying, also allow for extended moments of silence so God can respond. Don’t rush; be patient. Don’t get frustrated if He doesn’t respond right away.

This is just a model idea of what you can do during quiet time. You can also worship Him and praise Him by using your talents, such as drawing and painting, or even writing poetry. Don’t be afraid to get creative in praising and worshiping God! The important part is that you’re spending time together with Him, and learning about Him and His Will for your life.

If you have any other ideas for quiet times or suggestions, I’d love to hear them as well; the comments section is always open. 🙂 And for those who’ve tried it out– lemme know how it went!

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt. 6:6, NKJV

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/471611392199681124/

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections from an (Almost) 21-Year-Old

Reflections from an (Almost) 21-Year-Old

Today is my last day of being a double decade. Before I become an OFFICIAL adult. Before I become the legal drinking age (which, trust me, I am definitely NOT gonna take advantage of that).

In 20 years of living, I’ve learned so much about life. About struggles. About friendships and relationships. About faith. Some of these enlightening things weren’t learned from family or from inspirational self-help books, but from inward, personal fighting, tidal waves of tears, and even, at times, “wrestling with God”. Sometimes, the best lessons learned are lessons through trials; I would often, under certain circumstances, have to learn the hard lessons the hard way. Here are the top things I’ve learned throughout my years of living life:

 

5. Do your best… God will handle the rest. This is often my advice when I’m teaching or helping to teach lower belts in taekwondo, but, if you really think on it, it’s advice applicable to all or at least most areas of life. I found this especially true in the academic areas of my life; if you go to class, do the homework and tests to the best of your ability, participate in class, make an all-out effort to learn, and trust that God’s going to help you through this, then honestly, you’ve done all you can do. And this advice is coming from somebody who got nominated for the Fall 2015’s Dean List!

4. Take care of both your physical health, and your spiritual health– it will take care of you in return. When I slacked in either, I would suffer in one area or another. When I didn’t read my Bible or pray as much, my faith would falter. When I didn’t exercise or monitor what I ate (or, in many instances, how much), my weight suffered and I found it harder to climb stairs, etc. The more time you spend reading God’s Word and spending time with Him in general, the more your faith will grow. The more you exercise, cut back, etc, the more your body will thank you.

3. Think of others, and be more considerate of their struggles. OK, it’s NOT just my high-functioning autism, although that may have played a factor in me thinking a lot of myself. Oh, I wouldn’t say I was/am completely selfish, but more like… self-aware than others-aware. But really, we honestly LIVE AND BREATHE IN a self-centered, selfish world that constantly preaches, “It should be all about, ME! ME! ME!” This past year in particular, when I first started an actual college instead of community college for my sophomore year, I made a lot of friends– and was challenged on the self-centered thinking I was used to. I realized I had it pretty good compared to some others, and was ashamed of my griping and whining about how miserable I thought could be, vowing to be there more for people. This is not just others-centered thinking, but is Christ-like selflessness– thinking of and putting the needs of others before your own needs (and wants/desires). This could be as simple as visiting a sick/lonely relative, helping to hold the door for someone who’s too occupied, or comforting a grieving friend. Even a “small” positive difference can make a HUGE positive impact on someone else’s life.

2. Sometimes, what makes you happy isn’t what is good for you– and that means sticking to your guns. No matter what. This was one of those “hard lessons”– one of the hardest I’d ever have to learn. And, unfortunately, I chose to learn it the hard way. Through blood, sweat, and tears. Through nighttime headaches and feeling miserable about what I had done. Through resisting what God really wanted from me, which was at the time the very last wanted.

Confession time. (About something I am horribly ashamed and disgraced to admit… for privacy purposes I will leave all members involved unnamed.)

Remember when I recently posted about ending a toxic friendship? Well, there was a lot more to it than that… You see, I have never, ever, EVER dated before. It was almost, at several points, a toxic relationship. But the idea of dating both excited and unnerved me. I had never had a guy complimenting me before. Never been flirted with. I thought I loved him at the time, but I think what it really was was “puppy love” (immature attraction) and love for all the attention that I had never before gotten. This was very bad reasoning for staying in such a situation. The main issue I had with him, however, was his being unsaved, and that hurt and angered him deeply, even after I tried explaining, on his level, he still didn’t “get” it. He eventually got a girlfriend soon after said fight, and while I tried my best to keep things platonic, he would often flirt with me behind her back (sometimes in very crude ways), saying it was “our little secret” and she wasn’t ever to know, leaving me with a mixture of feeling: the emotional half of me, of course, adored the attention, while the sensible side of me felt like a horrible person, an adultery-causing, trampish boyfriend-stealer, for enjoying the said attention and even encouraging it a little. Eventually, soon enough, all enjoyment died off completely and I wept and repented of my sin on-off for at least a year, I was so grief-stricken. I even befriended his girlfriend and asked her to take care of him for me, since I couldn’t (she knows nothing of all this, and for his sake more than hers I plan to keep it that way.). In between all of this, we would also sometimes have what I call “huge blowouts” in which he would get into an intense, verbally and emotionally abusive argument with me, then would cut me off for a month or so with the silent treatment. Additionally, he would make me sometimes question my faith– another huge red flag– which I initially (and very foolishly) ignored. While he wasn’t as abusive as many other stories I’ve heard, I’ve gotten numerous signs and nudges from God’s Spirit telling me it was time to call it quits on our friendship, before reluctantly agreeing to do so.

So I gained wisdom, but I came out from my unfortunate experience a much sadder girl, and one with a chunk of her heart missing at that. (That is the reason today that I am now extremely reluctant to/terrified to date… I don’t want to unintentionally break any more hearts, and I feel like I’ve caused enough damage already.)

Long story short, as I said in previous post, go down the Path God wants you to take– not necessarily the path you THINK will make you happy.

  1. In ALL things, keep God first. Yes, loving people is one of God’s greatest commands; in fact, it’s the Golden Rule. However, Jesus Himself made it clear in Matthew 22:36-38 that loving God is the first and greatest commandment; it doesn’t matter if the Golden Rule is the second greatest, God should come first. Always first.

 

….  I hope you have enjoyed/learned from this post. It was a struggle to write, especially the two confessions of my sin and of the times I was weak and caved to temptation. After all… no one likes to make their weakness made public. (Which is why this took courage, going out on a limb like this) But I write this in the hope that perhaps, somewhere, out there, someone like me has very much struggled with one or more of these things. And I want to feed them God’s hope and, more importantly, His Love. Hang in there… because God loves you. If you feel your best isn’t good enough, look to Him for strength. If you struggle with poor health habits, remember, your body– YOUR body!– is God’s Spirit’s dwelling place, His Holy Temple– honor it. If you’re struggling in keeping a consistent devotional time, find an accountability partner and MAKE time in your schedule. If you struggle with selfishness, as many of us do, take the time to be there for others and for God… The Ultimate Act of Love is Agape Love, Selfless Love. If you are doing or considering doing something that you want that you know God doesn’t, or that may openly contradict good moral sense, stop and please, please, please reconsider.

And above all… God is #1.

“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” …. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinth. 12:8-9a, 10, NKJV

For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness I was angry and struck him; I hid and was angry, and he went on backsliding in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, and restore comforts to him and to his mourners. “I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,” says the LORD, “And I will heal him.” Isaiah 57: 15-19, NKJV

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