June 25, 2012

The spirit of fear...In Jesus Name - Be GONE!

I am not sure what I have to say about the spirit of fear, but I am going to start typing and see what happens. This last year much has gone on in my life. I have faced trials that I thought or hoped I would never have to face. But I have made it through to a place that is better than before the trials. God really does use fire to refine us and make us stronger. God was an ever present help in trouble for sure. I had his reassurance that if I would just keep my eyes on Him and press onward to the goal that there would be a blessing on the other side.

In the last month it became apparent that the battle was truly spiritual. Lots of spiritual battles were going on, the two spirits I had been tormented by were fear and control,  but the one I am going to talk about today is fear. I have a sweet and gifted friend and her husband (who is also sweet and gifted), who has prayed with Rob and I over the last couple of weeks. It became apparent to her immediately that the spiritual battle was clear and until we dealt with our struggles on a spiritual level we would be wearing ourselves out trying to keeping the spirits under control. I loved her words, "Jesus talks about these spirits, tormenting spirits, and He says in scripture that they must leave, there is no controlling them, no persuading them, they will not behave with therapy, they just need to be told to leave, in Jesus name." I listened to her words and they clicked with me. I however, didn't know how pervasive the spirits I was dealing with were in my life, until they were gone, in Jesus name. Kicked out, adiosed, don't let the door hit  you on the way out. I did know however, that I wanted to be free of them. I could see how over the many years I would fall into the same pattern of fear, and then trying to control the situation to make it manageable. I can remember being a small child and fear taking hold, for 40 years, I thought it was normal to have sweaty palms, a need to gasp for breath, tormenting words swirling around in my head, "You're not good enough," "They don't like you," "You caused all this trouble," "It's all your fault."

We have all heard that when you have been born again into Christ, saved by His blood, and baptized to follow His example we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit and an evil spirit can not live in the same soul. However, we can be tormented by spirits, and the more we feed them, the more control we give them and the more we can be affected by them in our mind and even in our physical body. Our soul is safe, we just live a broken beaten down life because of the constant torment. We can look at examples in scripture for getting rid of a tormenting spirit is to say, out loud, In the name of Jesus, I renounce you spirit of _______, you must leave. You are not welcome, I belong to Jesus and He is who I worship. He is my King. You must get out in His name. This is my paraphrase.

Then we also know that you must fill the empty space with God, a clean house will fill up with even more evil if you don't fill it with God and His goodness. The evil spirits will hang around even though they have been ousted waiting for an opportune time to strike again. And each time we can use those same words to protect our self through the power of Christ.

I have been searching for God's peace in my life for several years. Programs, classes, books, prayer, quiet time, study of the Word,...all valuable, and all precious in many ways to me. But I still would get a wave of fear over me through out my day, I would pray for God's peace, I would try and fix the situation, my heart would race, I would be jittery, I was fearful. God had given me His peace for the taking, but it was being thwarted by an entity of fear that did it's best to freak me out. I can remember saying specifically when Jack was sick, the words of Christ, "In the name of Jesus 'I say get behind me Satan'," and I know it helped. My nightmares stopped. But I never addressed the spirits directly. I guess I didn't know what spirits I was dealing with. In the book "Walking With God," by John Eldridge he says you have to name the spirit, they are tricky and stubborn, they will not all skidaddle unless named, a general calling out wont work. Belief is an important component of this. If we have no conviction that our words are truth, and we don't even believe, then the spirits wont either.

Rob and I were set to go and pray with our friends the next day, but this first day of prayer with her when I was by myself she had discerned the spirits I was dealing with and told me that I needed to pray and ask God where they were showing up, where they were doing their work, and then I needed to pray for them to be gone. I had to be somewhere shortly after I left her office and I started to get sick to my stomach while in the car, I remember my first thought being that I hoped I wasn't sick because then Rob and I couldn't go back to pray with them the next day. These thoughts went on for about 10 minutes. Then, I believe the Holy Spirit convicted me that the illness was not a stomach virus but an attack by these evil spirits because they didn't want us to meet to pray the next day. They knew what was at stake. So while driving in my car I renounced these spirits, commanded them out in Jesus name and within a minute or two I wasn't sick any more. This was the gurgly stomach, headachey, I'm afraid I am getting the flu kind of sickness. And it was gone after my prayer.

As Paul says in Ephesians 6:10, our battle is not with the flesh, it is in the spiritual realms. I believe this, I believed this before, and now God has increased my faith to believe it even more. Faith and belief is truly a process.

As I hit send on this, I will need to pray that prayer again, because fear would like to mess with me for speaking out about my experiences. But fear is no longer welcome in me, I will speak boldly about the gifts of walking with Christ, there is so much victory in Christ to be had, if only I will take hold. Satan isn't an idiot, he knows where we are weak and that is where he will try and attack over and over again. I am ready to proclaim freedom and God's power to keep them from tormenting me, I might have to do it a hundred times a day, but I will - if that is what it takes. I am free indeed, thanks be to God.

- As a side note, I had prayed all week that my church would address the spiritual realm of evil spirits, darkness and the power of Christ, Light. I was desperate to hear words from my church's pulpit to know that we would be a church that wouldn't be afraid to speak of this battle. I couldn't believe it when this exact topic was preached on this Sunday. I told my preacher this story and he said that it had obviously been my prayers that caused Him to rewrite his sermon 5 times that week. God's timing is amazing.

June 21, 2012

Praying in Color and Lectio Devina, too!

I have found a new wonderful way to pray. I might be coming a bit late to the game on this, but I am just grateful I have found my way. When I was at the Laity Lodge last week Lauren Winner taught on 6 methods of prayer. One of which was "Praying in Color," by Sybil MacBeth, I thought I hadn't heard of this before but quickly remembered that my friend Holly B. gave me a scripture that she had prayed in color for me many weeks before. She had written out a scripture for me that she was praying for me, but it wasn't just written, it was filled with beautiful color and design. As Lauren spoke on this I was SO excited. I just pulled my iPhone right out and ordered it from Amazon so it would greet me at my door shortly after my arrival home. The book is simple, and even comes in a couple other editions, such as "Praying in Color for Kids," and "Praying in Black and White." There are so many good ideas in the book of how you could use praying in color within your study, memorization of scripture and praying. I knew right away that this prayer method would fit right in with my love of artistic expression. I would quickly like to point out that just because I like artistic expression, does not mean that I am good at drawing or designing, but I can still love it. It doesn't matter if you are talented or not in the drawing and coloring dept., this book would be for anyone. The first of many ideas the book gives is praying for other people. Here is an example of one of my prayers earlier this week. I was praying for people who have blessed my marriage in the last several months. There are lots of names that are cut off here, important names, so many people who have loved Rob and I enough to pray for us and spend time with us, along with our sweet children who are the greatest gift of our marriage. We are so grateful to these people, it was such a gift to spend time in prayer for them. Once the prayer is done, then you can refer back to the prayer several times in the day. You can use the same page the next day  and embellish it with more names and designs, or you can start fresh.

Another way the book talks about using praying in color is to utilize this method when practicing Lectio (pronounced Lexio) Devina. This is a method of reading scripture not just for head knowledge and information gathering, but for transformation. One would choose a small amount of scripture, a verse or maybe a little bit more. Read the scripture, then write it out with the words large on the page. Read through the scripture on your page 5 or 6 times, or as many as you want, and allow the Spirit to draw you to the words that will jump out to you. Circle those words, then rewrite them on another page and spend time meditating on these words while doodling or coloring around them. Allow the words to sink in to your heart, then respond to God with questions or statements, positive or negative, and write those statements on the page. Then when you have chewed on the scripture an ample amount of time you can just sit with God in silence as though you have just had an intense conversation and enjoy the quiet of being still with each other, allowing your mind to just rest in God's love and goodness.
The purpose of praying in color is not to make a pretty picture but to keep you with the prayer and thinking on the persons you are interceding for, or thinking on the words of scripture for a lingering time. When we pray, often times we will go through our list and be done in less than a minute or two, but this takes a bit longer and we are covering the persons in prayer even longer, their names are being lifted to the Father in a way you would savor a good meal, not just running through the drive thru for Taco Bell.

I have struggled with the practice of Lectio Devina as it is difficult for me to stay with the same verse for 5-10 minutes for the practice. This method of prayer has given me a door to Lectio Devina that opens the practice up to me in a powerful way. I have these words in my heart and carry them with me through the day and for days after, "chewing on the word," as Eugene Peterson refers to Lectio. It has been a great blessing.

I want to point out that this is not a feminine prayer method, males and females both are blessed by this. Laity Lodge gave us these nice art books to take home for our continued practice of Praying in Color, and while we were there they let us use some colored markers, but anything would work. Regular crayons, colored pencils, markers, I have some art sticks that I am using right now just because I already had them at home. Markers are nice because they don't smudge and are bright, but whatever is in your junk drawer is great to use. You don't need an art book either, the author of the Praying in Color says she buys lined notebooks when they are on sale, you can do this on the back of an envelope, on computer paper, in your daily journal...

I would love to hear from you in the comments if you have anything to add to this practice of prayer, any ideas or your experiences.

Grateful and blessed.

June 20, 2012

Easy Garlic Naan

I made grilled chicken tikka masala last night. We served it over rice with peas mixed in. It was SO yummy! I love that the Natural Food Grocers carries many of the Indian cooking sauces. I bought the Patak's Tikka Masala. So all I had to do was grill the chicken, then let it simmer in the sauce for ten minutes and voila it was done. Rob and I both love Garlic Naan and I didn't get by the store to buy some yesterday to eat with our meal, so I looked up a recipe to make it at home. Unfortunately for me I hadn't planned ahead enough and Naan is a yeasty thick tortilla so I didn't have time to let the yeast do it's trick. However, Rob suggested that I use one of the many packages of tortilla's in the fridge to make a tortilla version. So that is what I did. I made it again today to go with the leftovers and thought I would take some pics of the easy process.

Ingredients: Tortilla's, butter, minced jarred garlic.

 I warmed a skillet, melted a pat of butter, then laid a tortilla over it. I swished the tortilla all around in the pan to make sure it was covered with the butter. While that side was browing I put a teaspoon of the minced garlic on the topside and spread it around. Once the bottom was toasty brown I flipped it to the garlic side and basically just let it warm up and toast the garlic slightly. Garlic burns so easily that I didn't leave it for long. Then I folded it up with a spatula...voila, easy garlic naan. It tasted SO delicious. It was a huge hit.

June 02, 2012

Consolation in Prayer

     I just finished reading a book I bought at the Cenacle during my silent retreat late last year. The book is called When Women Pray by Doucet and Hebert. It is a memoir of sorts, small chapters written by two women. Each woman took every other chapter, each dealing with their own spiritual walk and the connection to their families. The book was intriguing to me, because it is of great interest to be a spectator in other persons walk's toward the Lord. How does one get to where they are, how did the suffer along the way, what did they do with that suffering? Are they a winter or summer Christian? How do they look at the world, and how does their relationship with God translate into how they treat those around them. This is a good book for my inquisitive questions. My questions might be too bold to ask face to face to a stranger, so I love it when a book lays it all out in chapter form for me to follow along. The greatest question for me when I read a book is a question to myself, is there anything I can eek out of this reading that will stay with me, live in my heart, and help me in my journey to be closer to God, to be a greater lover of people, to inspire me to find more rest in my place as God's child?
     The sub-title of the book is "Our Personal Stories of Extraordinary Grace." It was not all flowers and perfume, as I was afraid it could have been. Each chapter started with a quote or two from their favorite personal readings, and then led into a story, and then a discipline to practice. It was an easy book to read, not too deep, just what I needed to lead into my summer readings and a contemplative retreat I will be attending this upcoming weekend. I liked the book, and I am glad I waited to read it, it met me where I am right now and gave me some insight and thought that I will hold onto.
    There is a chapter called "Consolation in Prayer." The lead off quote is by St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises. "I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul, by which it is inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord."
The chapter continues....When the spiritual seeker is in a state of consolation, God seems near and the inner spirit is enlivened with the gifts of peace and compassion for self and others. The person often wants to do more for God because of an increase in faith and to spend more time in her community of believers. Consolation leads us outward.
    Consolation in the spiritual sense is not necessarily happiness as we usually perceive it. I think of my friend Brenda, who received deep consolation on one of the saddest days of her life. As she attended her brother's funeral, she was suddenly aware of being lifted on a blanket of prayer. The many people who had assured her they were praying for her truly were praying. She felt God come close. Her heart experienced a peace that was outside of her circumstances.
    St. Ignatius of Loyola advised those in consolation not to become puffed up, lest they decide that this grace is of their own doing. He always taught that the consolation is a gift of grace and not a reward for our goodness. It is helpful, however, for us to write about our consolation so that we can return to our memories when darkness comes. During desolation, the memories of past graces received can lift us and give us hope.
    Perhaps one of the most helpful things to know is that both consolation and desolation in prayer and in life come to every saint, sinner, and pilgrim on the inner journey as a part of God's somewhat mysterious plan. So, if we rest in God's love, perhaps we can have more humility in consolation and courage during desolate times.