Deliverance Part 3: Life Of Abiding

I am quickly learning that walking forward in my newfound freedom does not come without a price.  I think the verses that speak of dying to self apply most poignantly when a person who understands their freedom in Christ lives in close quarters with one who knows and loves Christ, but does not fully grasp their freedom yet

While my freedom is rooted soundly in the power of what Jesus did on the cross and cannot be taken from me, I am learning more intimately just how our enemy works patiently and skillfully at manipulating it away from us.  I have been listening to the audio book by Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, and as I absorb all she is sharing, her Scriptural insights are hitting me squarely between the eyes.  Being free from strongholds the enemy once held in my life means I have stepped right into the line of fire coming in the form of those fiery darts the enemy keeps ready for those who rock his boat.

Those fiery darts are aimed at all my former triggers and weaknesses, and his most deadly are shot from behind the shield of those I love most in this world.  If there is one thing I see far more clearly now, it is exactly how much of a coward our enemy really is.  I also recognize one of his main tactics, which is to patiently work at distracting us from one major truth; the battle is already won and victory is already secured in our favor.

Now that I am free and far more aware of him, the enemy would love nothing more then for me to focus on battling him. (I say “battling him” because I am fully aware that his desire is to divide me from those I love by battling with them instead of being aware of him).  If I am continually focused on how he is attacking and where he is aiming, I leave little time or room in my thoughts to focus on what truly matters.  The God who has given me my freedom.  And, focusing on Him is the sole purpose of the freedom He paid such a high price for me to have.  It is the very thing our enemy would like to rob us all of.  

As I continue in this journey of freedom, I am discovering that the only way I will ever keep my freedom is if I keep my focus trained on the One who freed me. This happens when I pursue the renewing of my mind, my will, my emotions, my habits.  The reason I invited the Holy Spirit into my soul, being baptized by His fire, is for this purpose.  But, He works at my invitation and with my complete cooperation.  Being holy, He is perfect at respecting what I am and am not comfortable with and what I desire.  He does not move in and simply start redecorating.  He moves in and waits for me to ask Him to get involved – and then He only involves Himself in the things I invite Him into.

How the enemy works, at least in my life presently, is by shooting off those fiery darts from behind the shield of those I love most, and often now days in rapid succession, aimed directly at my weakest and most vulnerable triggers.  My guess is that his goal is to so bombard me that I forget, or decide not, to invite the Holy Spirit into my responses.  That my pain and reflex will still be so great in my memory that I will fall back into the habits I have yet to completely renew.  And, that he will do this patiently over long enough a time that I will grow weary, frustrated or forget my new freedom altogether.

This is where I am learning to move into living a life of abiding.  Because I do not yet have new habits and because I do not yet even truly understand how to invite the Holy Spirit into my responses timely enough to behave according to the new freedom I walk in, I have to submerge myself in Scripture, in sermons online, in worship music, in audio books on this topic, in repeating the words, “I am sorry” and “I forgive,” and by renouncing every unclean spirit that comes to mind when it comes to mind or stirs within my spirit.  As my friend, who introduced me to deliverance, said, “I would rather be casting away spirits that are not there, in the name of Jesus, than living with something that might destroy me in the long run.”

When I first walked through deliverance the freedom I encountered was so real and alive and amazing that everything seemed to be vividly colorful.  I couldn’t stop smiling, and I felt like a child discovering simply things all over again.  I found forgiving offenses easy – I was so in love with life!  Though it hasn’t been very long that I have been walking in freedom, I find that the vibrance has started to dim.  When the patient persistence of the enemy’s barrage of cowardly insults and attacks start to take a toll, and me in my child-sized freedom so newly gained, begins to wonder if I have what it takes to survive it all – this is when I understand the vital importance of living a life abiding in Christ.   That standing firmly against the attacks of my enemy until he flees from me means to sink deeper into a routine of audio books, sermons online, worship music, group prayer and speaking out all that I am learning in hopes of encouraging and build up others in their faith.  To allow the Holy Spirit deeper access within my thought life, my emotions, my will and my habits – to allow Him to request changes and to be willing to make those changes as He enables me.

I looked up the word “abide” and this is what I found. I inserted my own applications of the word as well, and this is what I came up with.  This will go on a 3×5 card and kept with me where I can see it.

Abide:( abide by) accept or act in accordance with (a rule, decision, or recommendation [Of the Holy Spirit]) ; ([In a renewed] feeling or memory) continue without fading or being lost;  [The place for my mind to] live, dwell;  to comply with, obey, observe, follow, keep to, hold to, conform to, adhere to, stick to, stand by, act in accordance with, uphold, heed, accept, go along with, acknowledge, respect, defer to [the work and presence of the Holy Spirit within me]; continue[in], remain[in], survive[on], last[through], persist[in], stay[true to], live on[continued learning, hearing, receiving and doing all that the Holy Spirit brings to light]; Tolerate, bear, stand, put up with, endure, take,[the fiery darts of the enemy shot from behind the shield of those I love most, in the love the Holy Spirit pours through my constantly renewed] countenance;

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Deliverance Part 2: Understanding Spirit

Something that has helped me walk forward in my freedom is having invited the Holy Spirit to take up residence in my thoughts, my will and my emotions.

I don’t know what your background is.  Mine is Conservative Baptist.  I was not raised to believe in “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and I was raised to believe that when you ask Jesus into your heart you are given the Holy Spirt, and that is enough.  That the rest is up to you to make good choices because you read and memorize Scripture.  Oddly enough, it has been reading and memorizing Scripture that opened my eyes to how much more power and authority we have when we do receive a baptism of the Holy Spirit – a baptism of fire.  (Acts)

My friend, the one who introduced me to deliverance, put it this way:  When you buy a house it has a yard.  Front, back and sides, surrounding the house.  When you go to live in this house, you set up your living space inside, in the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, living and dining rooms.  

The yard represents the spirit of us.  Where we connect with the outside.  The house represents where we spend most of our time, our soul.  Where our thoughts, our will and our emotions dwell.

When you ask Jesus to come into your heart, you are inviting Him into your yard.  You are sealed for eternity with His Spirit in your spirit, fully surrounded. I have learned that most people stop here.  At least, I did.  Having been told that this was enough.  Assurance of eternal life and sins forgiven.  However, living constantly in my spirit is as practical as living constantly outside in my yard.  Because I only spend a portion of my time in my spirit, or out in my yard, I only gain that much understanding of God, Who He is and how He functions.

Most of us live in our houses.  Metaphorically, this is within our thoughts, our will (power of decision) and our emotions.   But until we invite the Holy Spirit in, He remains respectfully out.  He is always completely respectful of our free will.  Inviting Him in is what the Bible, in Acts and in a few of the gospels, speaks of as the baptism of the Spirit, or of fire.

When the Holy Spirit is sitting at your kitchen table, or helping you clean up your bedroom and scrub your toilet you get first hand experience of Who He is and how He works.  I’ve heard it said that it is like the difference between dating and marriage.  Or the difference between carrying around a cup of coffee and drinking the coffee (or Spark, for you Advocare buffs) so that the caffeine is in your system, rather than in your cup. 

For me, inviting the Holy Spirit deeper into my life, inviting Him to dwell in my thoughts, my will and my emotions, has made the difference between life in black and white and life in full color.   It has been the difference in striving to practice the fruits of the Spirit, and relaxing into the fruits of the Spirit simply flowing from my life.  Scripture has come to life.  I get why it is so exciting to be saved, set free, forgiven – and I finally understand what the peace that passes understanding is, and the joy that flows from it.

It is the difference between working in your yard, playing, gardening, waving at the neighbors, grilling, etc., and living daily life within your home.  Inviting the Holy Spirit inside, accepting the gift of His baptism (which is different and secondary to water baptism, Matt. 3:11, Acts 11:15-17, Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, 2:1-6, 8:14-19, 9:17-19, 10:44-48 and Acts 19:1-6), is the best decision I have ever made

And it is something that is hard to describe until you experience it for yourself. It takes the work out of producing the fruit of the Spirit – I recall verse as I need them, without even having necessarily memorized them and there isn’t anymore striving to be patient or kind – I find that my love for those around me is deepened and increased with my more full awareness of God’s love for me, and patience simply flows from this.

That is another thing, I experience the love God has for me at a much deeper level.  He literally feels closer.  I don’t have to set aside time to meet with Him to gain perspective or insight or understanding – He is working in and through me constantly – with my knowledge!  I set aside time now because I long to just sit in His presence alone, the intimacy is real and amazing.  And, I don’t have to work at attaining it.  I understand what it means to be accepted exactly as I am.  No rules, hoops, theories, scheduling, or theology to wade through.  Just me and my God, who loves me.   It is life off the hook, organic and mysterious yet remarkably simple.  

Accepting the gift of baptism of the Spirit is accepting complete freedom in Christ.  Not just the knowledge of freedom, but full submersion in that freedom!  It is power and authority and simply doing what I hear and see the Spirit doing.  All striving gone.

It is the ability to discern what name to call the enemy when he attacks me or my family, to bind him and send him away in the name of Jesus.  It is the ability to discern the lightening of the air around us, and to feel the difference.  It is the ability to know what needs to be bound, and what needs to be loosed to help others attain their freedom in christ.  It is being given new eyes, ears and senses.

And this gift is what has made walking in my new found freedom so wonderfully possible to maintain and enjoy.  Not just the assurance of my salvation, but the experience of the power of being set free.

Movement

When God moves into action, we can be sure of one thing: we will see our enemy’s reaction.

When you find yourself in the midst of chaos, frustration, turmoil or downright opposition from every angle, take a minute to step back and look at areas where you may be getting closer to breakthrough.  Chances are you have come to a point of realizing some promise or blessing and our enemy is aching to manipulate, lie & distract you from recognizing it.

The enemy comes to steal and destroy, however, we have a God who has already stripped him of all power.  The only power he has is what he convinces us to hand over.  Through fear, weariness, unbelief, impatience and lack of gratitude.

If you feel under attack, or down on your luck, take some time to speak some gratefulness, to remember what God has already done on your behalf, and to keep your eyes open to what is just ahead – When God goes into action, there is revelation!  

Deliverance Part 1: Amazing Grace

I walked through something called deliverance.  The first time I heard about it was through a friend, who asked me if I knew what it was.  My only experience with anything of that nature up to this point was a story I was told by missionaries who spent 5 hours casting demons out of a woman who collapsed in exhaustion afterwards.  My friend assured me that the deliverance she was speaking of was nothing like that.  She recommended a book called 2 Hours To Freedom, by Charles H. Kraft.  After reading the book, I knew this was something I needed.  Up until this point, I was living in a hole of fear.  Fear and control, manipulation and fog.  I was afraid of people, of dark places, of new experiences, of being left alone with my kids when my husband traveled.  I was afraid of disappointing others, of what people thought of me.  I was too afraid to speak to some people and I went out of my way to control situations so that I could keep fear at bay.  I was controlling within my marriage and over my children. I was afraid of my husband leaving us.    Walking through deliverance was one of the most amazing, incredible and odd experiences I have ever gone through.  It was nothing like I expected or was afraid it would be.  There was so much acceptance, openness and partnership, I felt safe.  I felt loved.  I cried a whole lot, coughed some, and was thoroughly prayed over.  I felt validated and understood.  I felt affirmed and I felt set free for the first time in my life.  I walked out of the room lighter, peaceful and with a deep calm joy.  For a few days I couldn’t stop smiling.

 It was explained to me that unforgiveness gives the Enemy a stronghold in my life to hang out and bully me, specifically for me in the way of fear. Forgiveness is something that I have spent a long time learning and working through.  For years it has been a major theme of my life.  But sitting down and going a bit deeper, writing down on paper things from my past that came to mind, I discovered that the biggest area of unforgiveness I was still struggling with, was with myself.

What follows the act of becoming delivered is what is most important.  I was encouraged to be vigilant and stand firm in my newly gained freedom.  I had a list of things to pray, to stand against when the attacks came.  And come they did.  When you remove strongholds from within you, you basically step on a bee hive and have a bunch of homeless bees on the defense.  The old frustration, irritation, temptation to jump in and control, the habit of fear – it all came back.  But the differences was that now, with strongholds gone, these things didn’t overwhelm me or control me from within.  They just buzzed around my head and shoulders.

At times it got so intense that I remember stopping in the middle of putting shoes on my screaming toddler, getting down on my kitchen floor and simply repeating the name of Jesus over and over, until I could literally feel the air around me open up again.  Sometimes the most intense attacks came in the form of old habits, and bickering children.  But now, all I do is simply call the “attacker” by name (annoyance, irritation, fear, strife, etc) and tell it to leave us alone, in Jesus name.  I am still in awe of how the air literally clears when we practice this. 

There was a day, while walking on the beach, when I remembered something we had been struggling through with my oldest son.  We had recently learned of some traumatic experiences that he’d had  gone through several years back, things that had I known at the time I would have taken swift care of.  But he’d been bullied into not telling, tormented with threats of harm.  Before any of this was revealed to me, I had flared up in frustration over his behavior.  I had yelled, and there had been door slamming.  We’d all been reduced to tears.  When He was finally able to speak out the things that were haunting him, with the encouragement of a word of knowledge the Lord gave me, things changed dramatically in our home.  But there are still moments of tense frustration.  It was one of these moments I was encountering in memory.  At that moment I remembered how crushingly harsh I had responded and guilt flew to the cracking of my heart like a swarm of vultures ready for an easy meal.  Fresh guilt for not having known what he’d had to endure years ago, for not having known and rescued him. New flocks of guilt descended on top of the first flock, for not being more loving now, more patient now.  

I was in tears.  I was torn apart inside and sobbing openly right there in public.  As if that wasn’t enough, memories flew in, memories of other moments where I failed horribly as a mom to all three of my children.  When I had cut them down in sarcasm or snapped at them in rushed frustration.  I was begging God’s forgiveness out loud, waves crashing and rushing toward my feet, seagulls calling above my head.  

A familiar sound rose up from within my core,  “As you have forgiven all who have hurt you, I have forgiven you.  In the same way you have let them off the hook, decided to no longer hold them accountable for their offenses against you, I have let you off the hook with your children.  

When I look at them I do not see your mistakes.  I do not see wounds you have given them.  When I look at them I see in each of them the beauty I placed within you to impart to them.  As I have dealt with you, I will deal with them.  As I have healed you, I will heal them.  I will care for them as I have cared for you, and I will supply them with all that they need to overcome all that they have faced and will face in their futures.  

My only requirement of you is to continue living out the example of forgiveness, and to love them continually with the love I pour into you.”  

I wish I could say that the whole swarm of guilt lifted off and all is well.  It did lift.  It did soar a respectable distance above my head and leave me be for a while.   As I forgive myself, as I soak in the words spoken over me from within, as I sit and listen to others share their experiences of freedom and lessons of joy, of throwing off the shackles of religion, I see the flock of guilt hovering above me grow thinner.    As I practice speaking out, “I forgive myself” I see the flock growing thinner still.

A continued theme as I walk forward in this new found freedom has been that God has let me off the hook.  He no longer holds me accountable for the things I have done, or the ways in which I have failed.  He sees me as radiantly beautiful, a luminescent reflection of Himself, mirrored in three incredible children who are healthy, healing, growing and loving.  If God is not holding me accountable for failing, then who am I to keep myself dangling from the clutches of guilt? 

Boys: abandoned in the park…

“Is your name Maria?” A very tall and very built police officer asked, after sauntering up to my parked (on the wrong side of the road)  mini-van. Thoroughly confused I just looked at him.  My mind raced through all the … Continue reading

Motherhood: a ministry of the willing woman

Motherhood is not defined by children in her care, by those she carried within herself till birth.  Motherhood is not defined by those who’ve adopted, or fostered or inherited by circumstance.  Motherhood is not withheld from those who have lost, or never had. Motherhood is not waiting for those who are longing to become.

Motherhood is the formal title for the ministry entered into by the woman who is willing to receive those who are in need of her, whatever form or method in which they arrive into her life.

The ministry of motherhood is a gentle art forged in the fires of sleepless nights and interrupted life.  It is a ministry that keeps long hours; a ministry of sacrifice, service, and of selfless offerings. It is a ministry of coming to the end of herself, of being ministered to, being filled with that which is beyond her so that she can continue to pour into the endless depths of another human life.

The ministry of motherhood is a timeless garment, a veil of transparency worn best when cinched with a belt of humility.  It is a display of beauty when accompanied by grace.  For, as each eye seeking material to reproduce will at some point place on display her every flaw and imperfection, repeat her words both wise and foolishly spoken, and will do so completely beyond her realm of control.  The ministry of motherhood is embroidered with the delicate art of laughing at herself when seen through the eyes of those who look to her for imitation.

The ministry of motherhood is at the heart of every woman, from the time of Eve.  It has touched us all.  The ministry of motherhood is not always one of blood and birth, but is always of heart and soul.  A mother is one who is familiar with sacrifice, her own self tearing and ripping with the tearing and ripping of another.  She brings life into this world, whether by body or spirit overflow.  It is a pouring of herself into the living self of another, tirelessly, relentlessly, forgivingly and patiently, with endless empathy.  She is one who teaches what love is, nurtures understanding, coaxes up the learning.  The ministry of motherhood weaves up that forgiving place for those she loves to retreat within, finding safety and grace. It is a ministry of understanding what lies beneath, of speaking truth in loving tones, of harboring the helpless through storms and lifting high the matured to catch wind and take flight

The ministry of motherhood is freely given, to the deserving and undeserving alike. It does not wait for her to gain an understanding; she learns her skill through the hours of setting aside herself for another. The ministry of motherhood is not merely a calling. It is the very heart of life.  It catches her all by surprise, whisks away her breath and calls her into unknown waters in the blink of an eye. It is she who rises up, it is she who will claim her place, whether or not she is ready and whether or not she understands the package it comes to her in, it is she who will leave us with legacy after legacy of wonder loving grace

It is her life laid down for another that shows us the meaning of living, this ministry of motherhood.  It is here that each woman finds her captivating beauty, her exquisite elegance, her ageless allure.  For at whatever age a girl becomes a mother, and through whatever the circumstances her ministry is birthed, her touch, her voice, her love and her life will last, reaching down through generation after generation, and long beyond her final breath.

To my mother who gave birth to me and raised me well, to those mothers who have and continue to nurture me in spirit and to all these mothers who accept and invest selflessly into the lives of my children.

Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you, this world would not be the same without your love!

My Best Birthday Gift

The best gift my husband has ever given me, and our kids for that matter, is time away all by myself.  He and I both run into a lot of people who think this is crazy.  He has even had to sort out the feelings of rejection that my need for time alone has implied to him.  But, every single time I have taken space from daily life I have come back a better, new and a more fun, life-giving person.  Every time he has been grateful for the “new me.”

Do you ever find yourself hanging onto an item and after several interruptions, requests, mediations, demands, you look down at your hand and realize you have no idea why you are hanging onto it?

For me, getting away alone gives me the space and silence I need to recognize things I picked up somewhere and forgot to put down.  Unforgiveness is one I seem to gravitate toward, and usually over silly things I’d quickly forgotten about.  Responsibility that isn’t mine is another.  Anxiety and worry.  Unmet expectations – expectations that really shouldn’t be held up in the first place.  Disappointments, usually related to expectations, but also in myself, my children, my husband, friendships… disappointment is a pretty aggressive weed in my life. There seems to be so much I can be disappointed about!  Failure – even imagined failures!  Fear and self-consciousness tend to get clumped together in one fist pretty often too.

Getting away, settling into a space of complete silence and empty of people, highlights these things for me.  It opens doors for release, where I can let go and get rid of these things I somehow picked up and forgot to set down.  Being alone, a few days uninterrupted, gives me the time to remember what I’m holding.

And then, THEN, once these things are gone and my hands are free again I find the capacity to truly worship, to lift up emptiness for being filled with what inspires life.  Being emptied of myself, of all the trash I keep gravitating toward, even unintentionally at times, opens up room within me to receive all the good things God intends.  In the emptiness I recognize there is no condemnation, no rejection, no refusal.  In the emptiness I regain vision of what is truly amazing, and I have the room to ask for and receive it.

Getting away alone means I empty out all the trash and fill up with all the joy, hope, peace, refreshment, life, beauty, wonder, compassion, mercy, hope, empathy, respect, awe, availability and fun I can hold.

Getting away alone means I come back a different person.  Clean and free and full of good things to dole out to my husband, children and into friendships.  If we can only give from what we have, then getting away alone is absolutely the best possible gift I could receive.