Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Time In Between (Part 2)

I've debated whether to write this second installment to my last post.  A part of me would rather keep it to myself.  Writing about supernatural things is bound to put me in danger of being considered a possible loon, even amongst my dearest Christian friends. However, I will point out [again] that unseen things were not uncommon when Jesus walked on the Earth. Is life really so different now or have the rules of engagement changed? If demonic activity has been eradicated from our daily experience, why does the Bible speak of it so frequently and give us clear instruction on how to address it. I'm pretty sure I've spent the past 40+ years not giving it much thought, but I can tell you it never leaves my mind now. So here it goes...

A few weeks after I got back from Costa Rica, I had this strong desire to pray over our home. I hadn't really pursued an understanding of spiritual warfare yet; however, I was fresh off an experience that led me to believe that it is very real and that evil spirits/demons can inhabit places. I was certain it would lead to nothing, but I did it anyway. I waited for a day when my husband and kids were not around. I prayed in my room first asking for the Holy Spirit's guidance. Then I put on some worship music and went into my daughter's bedroom. I started in this particular room because there were some things going on with her that made me feel like it was the most urgent place to start. I began in the center of her room asking God to bless the space that is hers. Then I went to her bed and prayed over it asking God to give her rest and refreshment. I went to her closet asking God to bless her clothing choices. While in prayer something happened to me. I felt cold and got the chills. The hair on my arms stood up. I had a bad feeling. It was nothing like Costa Rica, but it wasn't good either. I left the closet and went to her desk. I prayed there but nothing happened. I felt warm again. I continued around the room. I headed back to the closet and had the same chilling experience. I decided to leave her room.  After a while I returned. Every time I got into the closet the same thing happened. I started touching things and praying out loud. I wasn't scared, but rather determined. I felt like something unpleasant was in there and I wanted to know what it was. I touched many things but nothing stood out. Then I spotted a shell necklace hanging on the edge of the shelf. I put it in my hands and my body grew cold. "This is it! I don't like you," I yelled forcefully. I opened the garage door and threw it out. I came back to pray in the closet and the cold feeling was gone. Later I asked my daughter where she got the necklace. She said it was a gift from her grandparents when they were on vacation in Mexico. I know we've had the necklace for many years. I'm guessing it wasn't the kind purchased at the airport but rather something handmade by someone. I'm not even sure if it was the necklace itself that had a spirit attached to it or if something came in and was hiding in the necklace. I really couldn't say but several months later I read book after book that warns about bringing trinkets home from foreign countries. And to advance the story further, we ended up repainting my daughter's room from very dark purple to a bright white and added verses to the wall as well as other pleasant decorations. It's now a space that sets a very different tone, and I think it's made a huge difference.

And speaking of prayers in the closet... I did have a strange one in my own closet many months later.  By this time I had researched spiritual warfare more fully and had a much better understanding of what kinds of things satan can use to access people. I was in the middle of an intense prayer about what - I can't remember - and all of the sudden I got this very real image of flies buzzing around in a circle in the top corner of my closet. The image startled me, but it did not deter me from continuing my prayer time. When I was done, I got very curious about when was up there. I had to get a step ladder because it was in such a tucked away spot. When I went through some boxes I discovered I had some miscellaneous things from the past. It's not worth mentioning what they were because it really doesn't matter. The point is that it was stuff I didn't need to hold onto anymore. Out it all went. Another thing I pitched not too long after was a patio decoration that had been hanging in my house for years. It was a metal wall sculpture of a sun with a face on it. My husband never liked it and even poked fun that I was worshiping the "sun god". I thought it was silly because I got it at a home decor store and I knew I was clearly not worshipping it. I just thought it was cute. Then one day I stumbled on a website that listed many things that a Christian home really should not have in it. Among the items were things that had a face on the sun, moon, or stars. I have to admit I thought it wasn't a big deal, but since I've grown more sensitive to things that might offend God I figured I'd get rid of it. I was cleaning the area around it and every time I walked by the sun there was this horrific smell. At first I thought it was the cat litter box, but it wasn't. Then I thought it was a nearby plant, but it wasn't. I cleaned and cleaned but couldn't find the smell. Eventually I smelled the sun decoration itself and it didn't smell either, but every time I left and came back it was there. After several hours when I was done cleaning I got a screwdriver and removed it from the wall.  I threw it in the trash (it was actually getting old anyway) and went back to the patio.  I walked by the exact same place where I first noticed the smell and the odor was gone. Completely gone.  I have no explanation.

My final two experiences were with people. The first one happened in late June when I was on vacation in Chicago with my extended family. All 16 of us took the train to the city for an afternoon of fun. My daughter and I remembered how many homeless people are downtown and wanted to have something to pass out to them. I spotted a CVS and picked up a few boxes of Kind bars which we handed out to people on the streets.  As we were walking the group got separated and I ended up walking alone with my son. The streets were so crowded with people it was hard to get by. I was deep in thought when my eyes glanced over at a sign that advertised tarot card readings. At the same time as my brain was thinking that that wasn't good I saw a lady sitting by herself under a tent. Apparently she had no customers at the moment. I looked at her as I got closer and wondered if maybe she would be able to tell that I was a Christian. She never looked at me. Instead, as I got closer I started to feel a sense of evil, doom, and darkness around her. It wasn't just close to her it was moving out towards the walkway. I got frightened and had to change my path so I could give the demons around her even wider berth. I panicked. I look at my son and said, "She's evil. She's evil." It was so surreal because people were just going about their business walking right through the spirits which I could feel as plain as day. I kept looking around to see if anyone else would notice. No one said anything. I quickly came to my senses and realized it was only me that noticed. We kept walking but they didn't follow. They stayed close to her. I was completely floored. The experience came out of nowhere and was gone shortly after we passed. It was noticeable like a cloud of darkness but it didn't take my breath away or hold me in place. I would like to tell you that the verses I had memorized came in handy, but honestly I was just dumbfounded. Despite all my studying and preparation, the event still blind-sided me.

The next time however, I would stay and fight.  This opportunity arose last month while I was attending Sunday church service. My family and I were standing up with the congregation singing. We were towards the front right side of the building. I glanced over and noticed a couple walking up the aisle and taking a place in the front row. I had seen this woman before and she was hard to forget. She looked like someone who might be comfortable at a punk rock concert or perhaps a goth event. I saw a tattoo on her neck and something about it made me concerned. It reminded me of a story I read in a book about a pastor who regularly had people coming into his church to pray against him. I didn't think that's why the woman was there but something wasn't right. I started to have the sensation that a cloud of darkness was coming off her and moving back a few rows towards me. It was the same evil feeling I recognized from previous experiences. I started to pray for her. I prayed and prayed. The music kept going, but I was intently praying for her. During this time I had the intense realization that I was in the middle of a battle. Whatever it was it was inside our church, and I was not having any of it!  I kept praying until the feeling slowly went away and the warmth came back to me. Again, I have no explanation for it. It's quite possible the woman was just there to worship, but in my humble opinion, something from her past was attached to her and it didn't want to be in church.

So none of these examples are earth-shattering and if you are a skeptic you've already come up with reasonable explanations for everything such as "the air conditioning in the closet was blowing on you" to "the cat passed gas on the patio" to "it is the power of suggestion"... and maybe that's all true. But like someone who has a medical condition that knows the onset of their symptoms, I'm beginning to see patterns develop. I don't have it all figured out but here are two observations I've made thus far. First, any physical perception I have of evil is completely at the direction of the Holy Spirit. I have no special skills or qualifications. And second, the events seem to occur when I have a sincere and deep interest in doing God's will (such as praying over our home, passing out food to homeless, getting rid of icons, worshipping at church, etc.). What I don't know is what is the end purpose. Is it to be personally protected from evil? Is it to warn others of the evil that lurks around us? Or is it in preparation for something in the future? It has definitely changed the way I live and the way I see the world around me.

Here's a final thought. The first microscope was invented around 1590. Prior to that, the smallest thing people could see was something about the thickness of a human hair. Suddenly, with the help of a  microscope people could see bacteria and micro-organisms that live in water, on skin, and on every surface. I'm sure they never considered how something that was invisible to them was actually responsible for sickness and death. The bacteria had been there all along, but with the discovery of the microscope they could now be seen and thus believed. I hope the connection is clear. Just because you can not see an evil spirit with your naked eye does not mean that it doesn't exist and isn't causing problems in your life. There are so many resources that explain this better than I can so I'll let the experts speak on this topic.

My purpose for sharing this entry is merely to continue to answer the question that I have been asked several times which is:  "How did your mission trip to Costa Rica change your life?"

"Well..." I answer. "Let me tell you..."

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