Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Seven Mountain Mantle: Receving the Joseph Anointing to Reform Nations

"We were not designed to react to everything the enemy does in the mountains of society, as is often our pattern, but to be proactive and force the enemy to react to us." - Johnny Enlow, The Seven Mountain Mantle

For the Christian believers out there...have you ever been frustrated by the lack of influence we seem to have in the world?  The lack of control of the culture?  The lack of real, substantial change in people's lives? 

Well, I have.  But after reading this book, I am encouraged and not discouraged, not only about the future, but about how God works and how He is moving among the nations. 

Johnny Enlow is a prophet, teacher, and co-pastor in Atlanta, Georgia.  This book is actually a follow-up to a previous book of his, The Seven Mountain Prophecy.  I have not read that book, but I have seen/heard his multi-hour teaching on the Seven Mountains of Culture.  I have also seen/heard a similar teaching from Lance Wallnau.  Both these men have had a vision of how God takes nations, and both have a radical, life-changing approach to changing the world.

Here's the premise:

There are seven mountains of culture that you can find in just about any culture of the world: government, religion, family, celebration (arts/entertainment), education, media, and economy.  As Christians, we are often consumed with the idea of "getting people saved" - that is, get 'em to pray the prayer, walk 'em through the Roman Road, and move on to the next person.  But Christ told us to take nations.  He told us to go disciple the nations, to capture the nations.  In a nutshell, we are supposed to be leading culture with kingdom values, not just adding numbers to our list of "converts."  When biblical, kingdom values and methods of operation are applied to the mountains of culture, nations are changed, and lives are radically consumed with the power of God.  This does not necessarily refer to the direct, in-your-face, often ineffective stands of modern Christianity - rather, it relies the understanding of God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  This is how we see the world changed.

That barely scrapes the surface of the teaching, but it gives a good idea of where Enlow is coming from in this book, The Seven Mountain MantleThe book is a combination of teaching and prophecy.  Enlow takes the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis and uses it as a prophetic picture of the work God is doing in the world today - of the power and places of influence He is ready to give to those who are willing to be "Josephs" and take the world in God's power.  The first half of the book unpacks the Joseph teaching; the second half is where Enlow sees God taking us in the future. 

This book was incredibly encouraging to me.  Over and over again, he would say something and I would think "A-ha!  THAT'S why that never felt right!  THAT'S why that was never effective!"  He paints a beautiful picture of a world where  God's people lead the culture instead of the other way around.  My favorite chapter is the one on government; it's something I think every believer should read.  If we could get our heads wrapped around the concepts Enlow speaks of here - of seeking righteous people for office instead of those who have the right "Christian credentials," of letting go of empty fights with no purpose, of focusing on changing hearts instead of laws - we would see radical changes in this country like never before.  That kind of encouraging perspective is what I found over and over again in the book.

That being said, there were a few things he said that I questioned.  His view of the end-times and mine differ slightly.  Not so much in his eschatology - like me, he finds no biblical basis for the idea of "the Rapture comes and we're all out of here, so who cares?" - but he does speak of a fantastic, beautiful future, while I believe it is important to acknowledge that we also have some terrible times coming.  It's not all going to be kingdom values and glory...there will be much weeping and chaos as well.  Somewhere we have to find this balance as we study the Scriptures and discuss the days to come.  It will be both the great and the terrible day of the Lord. 

In the meantime, however, we do need to move forward and quit acting like we can have no influence on our culture.  We were meant to lead and disciple, not cower and try to make "Christian" versions of everything.  We have God on our side.  We have the power to change the world.

It's time we started acting like it.

If anyone would like more information on the Seven Mountain teaching from either Enlow or Wallnau, please comment below, I would be more than happy to get you more information.  It is a teaching that has changed my life and the way I approach Christianity, and I believe it to be one of the most important revelations of our time.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
What's up next: The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family that Shaped Britain by Allan Massie
Top Five TBR:
1. Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst 
2. The Anne Boleyn Collection: The Real Truth About the Tudors by Claire Ridgway
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser
5.  Great Tales from British History, Volume 3 by Robert Lacey  

P.S. Watch for my review of Erasing Hell by Francis Chan, coming soon!  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gone With the Wind

I don't like camping.

I don't really like being outside all that much.  I am not a fan of fishing.  Boat rides are ok, but only in small doses.  I am not the Mark Trail kind.

This is odd, because I was born into a family of Mark Trails.  My father is the kind of guy who could survive for months in the woods with three matches and a windbreaker.  Both my brothers are Eagle Scouts.  My mother, although not quite as gung-ho as the others, enjoys a beautiful vacation in the great outdoors.

Me?  I like hotels, air conditioning, and room service.  But to each their own.

So here is me, growing up in this family of outdoorsy people.  Who liked to vacation in campers and get fishing licenses every year.  As a result, I became a big fan of the "vacation book" - that huge book you take with you on vacation and read all the way through.  While my family was out doing whatever it is they would be doing, I'd be sitting under a tree with my nose in a book.  Everybody wins!

This is the background for my love affair with Gone With the Wind. When I was 13, our family took a camping trip to Roaring River.  It was a beautiful, fun family vacation about which I remember very little because I took along this paperback that had been sitting on my shelf for about a year.  I had watched GWTW the year before and, being me, immediately ran out and bought the book.  It sat there waiting for the opportune moment to grab my attention, and that moment came as I was cruising for a good vacation

From that summer on, I have read  GWTW at least once a year.  I have it memorized.  I can pick it up at any point and just start reading because I know what happened immediately before.  It is like an old friend. I have numerous copies and have gone THROUGH numerous copies.  It is, without a doubt, my favorite book.

Why?  Well, for several reasons.  One is the writing - just the beauty of the writing.  I love a well-written book, and this one sweeps me away with the language.  Another is the historical angle.  I love good historical novels.  While it is not England during the Middle Ages, it is still an extraordinary time in history.

But I think the main reason I love it so much is that it is different each time I read it.  When you read GWTW as a suburban, midwestern, Caucasian 13-year old girl, you are all swept up in the romance.  Oh, if only Rhett and Scarlett could just communicate!  Or if only Ashley would just leave Melanie!  Even war is romantic to a 13-year old girl.  You hone in on simplistic viewpoints of what are essentially very complex relationships.  Everything is so black and white when you are 13.  And Scarlett is your hero. 

Later on, as I grew older and experienced more of the world, the racial issues of the book began to become more apparent to me.   I do not deny in the least that it is an incredibly racist book.  It has its faults.  To understand this, you have to understand the context in which it was written.  Margaret Mitchell was a southerner writing in the 1930s about the Civil War.  The fact that she glorified the KKK was most likely a result of what she herself had been taught from a child.  I am not saying it is right.  I am saying it is real.  The older I get, the more apparent these issues become, and the more they bother me.  When I was in my 20s and doing ministry in the inner city of New Orleans, I couldn't gloss over those parts like I could when I was 13.  The reality of the racism was too real around me as well as in the book.  The depictions of African-Americans are deplorable, and the painting of slavery as some well-intentioned program of caring for "the Negroes" like "children" is disgusting, it really is.

The last time around that I read the book, I found myself very frustrated with characters I had once seen as heroic and tragic.  I went from wanting Rhett and Scarlett to reconcile to wanting to knock their heads together.  Good grief, quit whining and talk to each other already!  And Scarlett as a heroine?  I can no longer forgive her horrible parenting.  I want to take Wade home with me.  I want to hug Ella.  I want to teach Bonnie a freaking lesson.  Scarlett and Rhett are really, when you get down to it, horrible friends, terrible lovers, and poor excuses for parents.  They deserve each other.  At least Rhett knows it, but still, he has too much pride to just plain tell the woman he loves that he loves he visits whores instead.  Because THAT always helps.  And Ashley?  Melanie should have left the wishy-washy jerk.  Don't give me that twaddle about being a throwback to a different time.  Get your act together, love your wife and move far, far away from Scarlett. 

In addition, my respect for Melanie has grown over the years.  I can never forgive David O. Selznick for turning her character into a pale, wimpy version of what Margaret Mitchell created.  Melanie is the hero of the book.  She stands the test of time with all her friends.  She fights for what she knows is right.  She is not afraid to do what it takes to save her family.  She recognizes Scarlett for all her weaknesses and loves her anyway.  She may have an idealistic view of the world - but she holds on to the view with both hands and, more importantly, with her heart.  I think she and I would be friends.  I think Scarlett and I could not.  (But then, if you read Margaret Mitchell's interviews about the matter, as I have, she didn't like Scarlett either.  Liking Scarlett was not the point.)

 I guess I have become more cynical in my old age, which I suppose brings me to my final reason for loving this book: it reflects back to me who I am at any given point in my life.  Romantic teenager.  Crusader for justice.  Protective mother.  Self-respecting woman.  The characters have changed with me over time, and I love that about the story.

And if I may return to the topic of the controversial parts - this book generates an important discussion.  It reminds us of where we once were - and that it wasn't that long ago.  We have to remember our past as we look forward to the future.  Is it embarrassing that we owned slaves at one point in our history?  You bet.  Is it ridiculous that the Great American Novel glorifies that time?  Absolutely.  Can we forget these times?  We must not.  It is when we forget that we repeat our previous sins.  So let's talk about it - raw and ugly as it is.  I recognize that someone of a different race may very well feel differently about it than I.  They have every right to.  Let's talk about that as well.  We have to keep the dialogue going if we are going to heal as a nation.  (For another great perspective on the book from a woman who also read it as a teenager, read this article here.)

I am sure as time wears on, GWTW will continue to change for me.  It will continue to be a source of joy and pain for me - as any old and well-loved friend is.  I haven't even scratched the surface in this review with how much and why I enjoy this novel.  But that 13-year girl under the tree and I are still hanging in there with Katie Scarlett O'Hara.  Maybe by the end of my life I will have resolved how I really feel about this dynamic character.

Part of me hopes not.

Rating: 10 out of 5 stars
What's up next: The Seven Mountain Mantle: Receiving the Joseph Anointing to Reform Nations by Johnny Enlow
Top Five TBR:
1. Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst 
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus

“He is the playfulness of creation, scandal and utter goodness, the generosity of the ocean and the ferocity of a thunderstorm; he is cunning as a snake and gentle as a whisper; the gladness of sunshine and the humility of a thirty-mile walk by foot on a dirt road.”  - John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw

I am undone.

Sometimes a book comes along that just undoes you.  Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge is such a book.

Let me start by saying that Eldredge's books almost always do this to me.  The revelation that God gives this man takes religious ideas you didn't even even know you had and turns them inside out. He doesn't just say what every other Christian author is currently saying.  God has given this man - and his wife - great insight into the heart.  Every time I read one of his books, I come away with an entirely new and refreshed idea of who God is.  It's challenging and wonderful all at the same time.

Beautiful Outlaw is a book about Jesus.  Not the Jesus of your Sunday School lessons, but the real live, flesh-and-blood Jesus of the Gospels.  The one that cries.  The one that gets mad.  The guy that hangs with his buddies.  The guy that willingly made himself fully man so he could pay for your sins and at the same time come to you and say "yeah, I know how you feel, I felt that too."  The cunning, loving, crafty, hilarious, playful, fierce Jesus Christ who turned the world upside down with his actions and words.  The Jesus we all long to know and yet so few actually experience.

I have grown up in the church all my life.  I have heard about Jesus from before I was born.  It's a double-edged sword.  Yes, I have the privilege of knowing Him for as long as I can remember.  But familiarity can breed apathy, and without realizing it, I had built myself a very comfortable, religious picture of Jesus, put Him in my pocket, and gone about my life.  This book seeks to undo that paradigm and bring me face to face with Jesus Himself, the real man, the man that was paradoxically fully man and fully God, all at once.  The one and only person in history who had the right to die for the sins of others - and who chose to do so. 

I can't recommend this book enough.  I could quote it, go into detail, try to explain myself, but I think the best thing is to just ask a question: how are you with Jesus?  Really?  Are you bored?  Is He this kinda bland Sunday School character that went around healing people and telling everyone to be nice to each other?  Or are you ready for more?  Are you ready to meet the Jesus that is calling your name right now, longing to relate with you in a person, human way, more than you have ever experienced before?  Do you recognize a longing for something more?  Does the phrase "there must be more than this" make absolute, perfect sense to you?

Then, please, read this book.  God so longs to reach in and pull you closer.  Jesus is calling out to you right now and wants an intimacy with you beyond what you can imagine.  Allow God to break the boxes you put Him in so that you can experience greater thing.  Jesus is so much more than you know. 

I know He was - and is - so much more than I know!

Rating: 7 out of 5 stars
What's up next: Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood by Emily Leider
Top Five TBR:
1. The Confessions of Catherine Medici by C.W. Gortner 
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Monday, January 30, 2012

Red Midnight

As a middle school special education teacher - well, para at the moment, but aspiring and licensed teacher - I sometimes read books I don't really enjoy but want to promote because they are fantastic books for adolescent males.  Earlier this school year, I addressed this issue in my review of The Light in the Forest.  Recently, our class read another that falls into this category:  Red Midnight by Ben Mikaelsen.

Red Midnight is the harrowing tale of Santiago, a 12-year-old Guatemalan survivor of the 1980s civil war and his desperate trip with his 4-year-old sister Angelina across the Gulf of Mexico to try to reach the shore of the United States.  It details how Santiago and Angelina escapes the soldiers to get to his uncle's cayuco and attempt to fight the ocean's terrors for the promise of a safe and better life.  Santiago is forced to grow up literally overnight as he sees things that no child should ever see and takes over responsibility for his little sister, the only other survivor of his family. Through pirates, manure trucks, sharks, tropical storms, starvation, exposure, and the terrors of their war-torn country, Santiago and Angelina play the "game" of staying alive so that one day they can tell the world what has happened to their village and their country.

Personally, I did not enjoy reading the book, but that's just because it's not the kind of book I normally enjoy.  The first few chapters were really hard for me to push through. It is difficult, as a mother of small children, for me to read books or stories about suffering children.  I realize these things are real and these stories should be told - but that doesn't mean it's enjoyable for me.  It's also a journey and adventure book, and those things just don't tend to interest me much. 

Having said that, Red Midnight is still an excellent book.  Mikaelsen is an author I have come to respect tremendously for his books that appeal to a younger male audience.  His stories not only capture his intended audience, but they manage to bring important lessons into the mix without losing the integrity of the story.  Oftentimes young adult books are either purely entertaining with no character-building qualities, or they teach lessons but come off so cheesy that no self-respecting 13-year-old boy would be caught dead reading it.  Mikaelsen is a writer that can do both.  After researching him, I can see that much of this is due to his life experiences; check out his website here for more information. 

What's more, this book opened my eyes to a piece of history about which I knew very little: the Guatemalan Civil War.  Americans should be more educated on this matter, considering our role in the conflict.  Those soldiers that raped Santiago's mother and cut the legs off his best friend were being funded by out own government in the name of "fighting communism" - but the truth is, most of the 200,000 people killed during the war had never heard of communism.  They were just trying to live their lives.  When their lives went up in flames, many of them did what Santiago attempted to do - make their way to the safety of the United States.  I already had some pretty strong (and admittedly liberal, especially for someone as right-wing as I am) opinions about the US immigration problem, but this book only helped to confirm my belief that we are as responsible as the immigrants for the crisis.  Why are these people trying to make their way here in the first place?  Because WE had a hand in making their countries uninhabitable.  Santiago has no ideas about passports and immigration papers.  He is just trying to survive and ensure the survival of his sister.  So is it wrong for him to make for the US, the one place he has been told he will be safe?  It's a question worth asking. 

I would not choose to reread Red Midnight, but I would recommend it - and other Mikaelsen books - for young male readers...or teachers of young male readers looking for a good read. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
What's up next: Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge
Top Five TBR:
1. The Confessions of Catherine Medici by C.W. Gortner 
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Friday, January 27, 2012


Many people have notebooks filled with random doodles and obscure thoughts they have scribbled down during lectures and free time.  The wonder of the Internet is that someone could post these random pieces of whimsy and someday make a living off of them.  Many wish for such a dream.  Randall Monroe of fame made it happen. 

Monroe, a former NASA employee and self-proclaimed math geek, started scanning his journal pages and posting them online in 2005.  His original intent was just to send it to some friend for laughs, but one things led to another, and as can happen on the Net, his site exploded with popularity.  He quit his job at NASA and now lives entirely off the webcomic, which is pretty cool considering the site itself doesn't have advertising.    It does, however, have an online store, which is where I found out there was a book collection.  Even though Monroe tells you straight out in the introduction it's a book full of stuff you can get online for free, it's fun to have on the shelf to randomly flip through. is "a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." It is, admittedly, not always appropriate, and I sometimes don't appreciate the humor.  It is also at times over my head due to the programming, math and science references - but the ones I do get make me feel so much smarter!  Mostly it's a quirky way of looking at the world, and I love the stick figure vehicle.  It clears away rubble to make way for the sake of simple humor.  I love Monroe's sideways view of the world, even if I don't always agree with his point or his morals.   It's a fun comic to check in on throughout the week, and it's fun to have his book on the shelf to flip through when I need a smile.

xkcd is not for everyone, and it should be read with caution and some screening.  But it's still a fun romp through interesting ideas and quirky truths.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
What's up next: Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge
Top Five TBR:
1. The Confessions of Catherine Medici by C.W. Gortner 
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan 

Sunday, January 22, 2012


One day I was walking through my local library, looking for some book I can't even remember now, when I stumbled across a paperback in the "New Arrivals" section called When Christ and His Saints Slept.  Intrigued by the title, I glanced over it and discovered it was about a period of English history about which I knew very little, that being the reign of King Stephen.  It also involved Eleanor of Aquitaine, the subject of another novel I had recently read and about whom I was becoming terribly interested.  (I will not even mention the title of the other book because I have discovered, upon further research and reading, that it's garbage.  It's only redeeming quality is that it led to me to discover real books about this great lady.)  So I nabbed it and took it home...and thus began my great appreciation for the works of Sharon Kay Penman, whom I credit with my odd obsession with Middle Age England and all things involving the history of British royalty. 

Someday I will do more in-depth reviews of her other novels, but I wanted to give that introduction by way of explaining how very excited I was to read Penman's latest novel, Lionheart.  It is the continuation of the story my favorite of all royal families, the Angevins.  Henry II, Eleanor, and their "devil's brood" never cease to fascinate me.  Lionheart is the fourth book in the series that was started by the aforementioned Saints.  It focuses on a man of great legend but not much fact, Richard I.  I did not know much about Richard before starting the book.  I had the Robin Hood version of him in my head, that of the long-lost crusading hero.  I also had Penman's earlier, harsher treatment of him, for he had made a brief appearance at the beginning of her exquisite Welsh trilogy, Here Be Dragons.  (A great joy in the life of a reader is discovering that your new favorite author has multiple series, each volume at least 500 pages long!!)  I knew he was not terribly kind to his poor wife, and I knew he died without children, thus paving the way for that most wretched of English kings, John Lackland.  Other than that, I didn't have much, so I couldn't wait for my student teaching semester to be over so I could read Lionheart with no guilt. 

I was not disappointed.  Penman has taken great pains to lift the man from the mires of the legend surrounding him and give him a flesh-and-blood makeover.  She has created one of the most complex characters I have ever read from one of the most complex, controversial characters of the Middle Ages.  It was as if Richard was standing in front of me, with all his faults and glory.  I could see him taking Cyprus, arriving at Acre, bantering with his friends, leading his troops into battle.  I sat with him in his tent as he struggled to balance crusader and king.  I felt faint when he battled fever and illness.  I lived in Outremer over the past few weeks, and unlike the poor crusaders, I loved every minute of it. 

One of the things I absolutely love about Penman is her attention to research.  She is painfully meticulous about accuracy, and her work has made me a historical fiction snob.  I can't stand it when authors veer off the historical record for no good reason.  The book was no different - and her research showed that there was little about this extraordinary man's life that had to be invented!  Some of the most absurd scenes are lifted directly from contemporary chronicles and eye-witnesses - proving that life is stranger than fiction, and that history is, after all, the best story there is. 

Perhaps one of the greatest things that intrigued me about this story is how little has changed in 800 years or so.  This piece of land is still the most hotly contested area in the world.  The same religious pulls are still there.  Richard's peace talks and treaties with Saladin could have taken place today with many of the same difficulties.  On both sides, there are still those factions that are too busy fighting amongst themselves to ever come to a conclusive peace with the other side.  As was the case eight centuries ago, personal agendas, religious zeal, and strong opinions keep the peace talks in a constant state of both motion and stagnation.  And Jerusalem still stands, after thousands of years, as the point of contention  for three major world religions.  Ain't nuthin' new under the sun.

I was also pleased to see Penman include accounts of the treatment of the Jews during Richard's time.  Everyone knows of things like the Holocaust and the Spanish Inquisition, but some lesser known incidents, such as the attacks that occurred in England during Richard's reign, have been swept into the vast vault of history.  I was glad that someone took these stories out, dusted them off, and displayed them for the world to see.  These are stories that need to be told and understood - and they give yet another piece to the puzzle of the complexity of the fight for the Holy Land.

Truly, Lionheart is a masterpiece.  I was both anxious to finish it and sad to see it end.  Now I have to find other things to occupy my time until the next volume of Richard's life comes forth, A King's Ransom.  Thankfully, there's that huge Amazon box I got over Christmas break to keep me occupied...

Scale of 1-5: 6! 
What's up next: Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge
Top Five TBR:
1. The Confessions of Catherine Medici by C.W. Gortner 
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwich
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I'm Back!

I am back, fearless followers!  (You know, all five of you.)  Whew!  That was a crazy end of a semester.  However, I graduated, I have a new shiny Master's degree, a teaching license in the works, and things have settled down. 

I also got one of my favorite things for Amazon spree.  YEAH!  I have something close to a gazillion new books to read.  Not only that, but I have time to READ THEM.  Double YEAH! 

So - here is my list of reading-and-to-be-read books. 

Reading now:
1. Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
2. The Confessions of Catherine Medici by C.W. Gortner 
3. The Historical Atlas of the Bible by Ian Barnes
4. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert 

And on deck:
1. Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst 
2. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan
3. The King's Grace by Anne Easter Smith books.  How lovely.

I am also interested in getting the book club up and running again.  Instead of me arbitrarily picking a book, I thought I would take some suggestions from you.  Here is what has been suggested to me thus far:

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank 
Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

So let me do this.  Please post a comment - either here or Facebook - with a vote for the next book.  Or weigh in on those two choices.  Have your input here by January 15th.  If there is no consensus, I will post a list and take a vote.  If there is a consensus, I will post the winner.  Alrighty?  Come on, we can't let The Ultra Manly Book Club beat us at the book club game!  We can read as much as a bunch of smelly boys! :) 

Thanks all!  Good to be back!