On Angels and Demons.

Disclaimer: I planned to disclaim this story, but I changed my mind. You are a discerning bunch, blessed with big, juicy brains and curious hearts. Use them and decide for yourself.

 

At the SCRUBS community medical clinic in Chongwe, Zambia last week, an older couple, maybe in their late 50’s, waited in a long line for medical attention. He wore an ill-fitting suit and tie, she wore a bright blue and yellow dress, with a scarf on her head. Her shoulders slumped and her eyes were flat and sad, so I figured she was pretty sick.

Charity and I had taken up our post on the bench outside the clinic, where people who’d just had worms pulled from their ears, abscesses drained, and HIV counseling, waited their turn to receive prayer from the 24 year-old preacher girl and her Muzungu friends.

Prayer Team.

Prayer Team.

SCRUBS director Holly interrupted us and told us the couple in their Sunday best were a special case.

“She has demons,” Holly said. “You guys better get ready.”

The ancient Irish had a name for places where the supernatural grazes the natural world. They called them “thin places.” But I dwell in a post-modern culture that dismisses such nonsense, pooh-poohing angels and demons as superstitious mumbo jumbo, the mark of primitive, uneducated minds.

Although I’m a bible believing Christian and the words angel and demon are used 70 times in the Bible, even by Jesus, I ignored them like a faraway relative.

Then I went to Zambia, home of desperately thin places.

For example, in Zambia and elsewhere, women believe they are used sexually by demons, who then take up residence, wreaking havoc in their marriages and mental and physical health. It’s called having a “spiritual husband.” The woman in the blue and yellow dress, whom we’ll call Sarah, brought hers to us, saying she wanted him gone.

I want to show you pictures of Sarah, but I won't.

I want to show you pictures of Sarah, but I won’t.

So, five of us walked out into the woods and surrounded Sarah and her actual husband. Charity spent a few minutes establishing who Sarah prays to, careful not to assume.

Then we prayed with nothing but the authority Jesus gave us.

Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. – Jesus. Luke 10:19 NLT

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues. – Jesus. Mark 16:17

Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. Eph 6:11 AMP

She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. Acts 16:16-17

Want to start a fight at church? Start acting like you believe these scriptures. Believe they were not just for the 12 apostles and the early church but for skinny, white girls with shaky knees praying in the Zambian bush. Oh, I can hear the hollerin’ already.

Then, Sarah joined Charity in commanding the spirit to flee in the name of Jesus, and her eyes rolled back. She started talking to us in a different voice – deeper, crazier. Holly knelt, holding onto Sarah’s feet and cried into the dirt. Jess stood behind Sarah, Shelby behind me – all of us praying in the name of Jesus.

“Goodbye to you. Goodbye to you. Goodbye to you,” Sarah shouted. Then everybody got quiet. Sarah looked at Charity and said “ok it’s gone.”

“You’re a liar,” Charity shouted and Sarah jumped up and tried to run away. Charity grabbed her arm and dragged her back to the bench.

“It’s the demon, he’s trying to trick us,” Charity said. “In the name of Jesus, and the God of Elijah and Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, I command you to flee….”

More praying. More hollering. Then silence.

“It’s finished,” Charity said. “They’re gone.” Turns out it wasn’t one. It was three.

Sarah looked up with tears streaming down her face and started to laugh. Her husband joined her, clapping, I stared at Jessica, wide-eyed at the palpable energy change in the woods. Holly wiped the tears and dirt off her face and Charity checked her nails.

“Praise God. Praise God,” Sarah said, thanking us as we walked out of the woods. Then she rejoined her friends waiting on the benches outside the clinic. Her husband asked us for a bible, so we gave him one, then we went back to work.

I don’t know about you, but this story helps me make sense of Sandy Hook, Columbine, Ft. Hood, Aurora and Virgina Tech. At those heinous times, even Christians say, “how could somebody do such a thing?”

Really? Is it that big a mystery?

Jesus said, “the enemy comes only to kill, steal and destroy, but I came so you might have life, have it in abundance to the full, until it overflows.” (John 10:10 AMP)

Or have we just gotten too smart for all that? Too post-modern?

Remember what the Apostle Paul said:

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”I Cor 1:19

Teresa's in white.

Teresa’s in white.

Teresa, a SCRUBS Nurse, put it like this, “We can’t look at the person, we’ve got to look who’s standing behind him.” So maybe that’s why, when the school shooter gets the chair, it feels anticlimactic and unsatisfying – like we got the wrong guy.

You can believe what you want to, I’m just telling you what I saw. Now, more than ever, I believe the Apostle Paul when he said, THIS IS WAR:

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.

Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place] Ephesians 6:12-13 AMP

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Is Your Mind a Mess in the Morning?

Ever find yourself launching a mental argument with your boss/customer/spouse/kid two minutes after crawling out of bed? There you are sleepy-eyed, brushing your teeth, practicing how you’re going to set them straight. Adrenaline slips through your veins and you walk out of the bathroom angry, bitter and depressed, cobbling together a defense against grievances real and imagined.

Or is it just me?

In cattle this is called “being on the muscle,” and frankly I don’t want to act like some pissed off cow 16 hours a day. But for a long time I thought I had no choice – I didn’t know I could control my mind.

 Villefranche

My teacher says our minds are the battlefield and whoever wins control of that ground, commands the whole person and ultimately the whole life. That’s why, she says, satan works hard to crank us up first thing in the morning, before we’re even really conscious. If I am mad before I leave the bathroom I spread strife and bitterness like a champ.

Ever considered that?

Nice Lights

Where does your morning depression come from? Were you depressed when you went to bed? What are you so mad about? Are you dreading something? Dread is a relative of fear, you know, so what are you afraid of?

Maybe, just maybe, someone is planting your garden for you.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:12

But why are spiritual forces interested in keeping me bitter and depressed? Well, look around at all the “angry Christians” – an oxymoron if there ever was one –  do you want what they have? Depression, anger and fear hinder the love of God and remember, this is war.

So here’s what to do about it:

1. Notice it. Stop bushing your teeth and watch the angry nonsense. WTF is a rational response.

2. Stop it and replace it with something else – a mantra.

Nice Sea

I use this little book all the time to help me. It lists hundreds of scriptures by topic – anger, depression, fear, worry, money, rejection, patience etc. Each scripture is reworked into the first person and meant to be spoken aloud. The Bible says words are containers for power, so why not fill our space with the word of God rather than the black smoke of our bitter fulminations?

So, try it and tell me what happens. And in case you’re short on time, I’ve pasted a few on my pix of the French Riviera, tailor-made for your bathroom mirror. Feel free to print em up.

What are some of your favorites?

Tips for Successful Fasting.

In the four years I’ve lived in Texas, I can count on one hand how often I’ve heard the word “vegan.” But since I started the 21-day Daniel Fast, everywhere I go people are talking about tofu and spelt and ordering salads without the standard shredded cheese on top.

Giving up all animal products, including dairy and eggs, and seafood, sugar, fake sugar, yeast, additives, tea, coffee and alcohol seems an impossible task, but I’ve done it for two and a half weeks. I feel good. I’ve lost weight and it hasn’t been that hard. Here’s why:

IMG_57161. We don’t eat out that much. If you do, hopefully you live in a city where vegan/vegetarian restaurants exist. I don’t, so any slippage I’ve had (wait, are tortilla chips legal) occurred because I’m hungry and I suspect the vegetable soup I’m eating was made with chicken stock.

2. I planned like a freak. This is an important component to successful fasting. Hungrily, staring at the fridge with no plan, is likely to devolve into a dinner of hot dogs, popcorn and Diet Coke. So, I took the meal planning grid out of The Daniel Fast book, filled each blank with recipes and page numbers and stuck it on my fridge. I made extra portions and froze them. I invented a tofu smoothie in my blender with strawberries, peaches and almond milk. It’s breakfast-protein revelation. I also started a Pinterest Board of vegan recipes.

3. I prayed. I regularly use the Bible like a self-help book, so when it says things like: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Phil 4:6, I do it. I know that sounds simple, but I like simple. I need simple. I prayed for help and I got it.

I wonder how often we zip up emergency prayers, then forget to notice their fulfillment. For two and a half weeks, my spirit has dominated my impetuous nature – even while sitting in Wendy’s with a bunch of kids eating french fries – OMG I love salty french fries. This change was abrupt and startlingly new, so it can’t have come from me.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. I Chronicles 16:29

IMG_5972The Daniel Fast wasn’t about weight loss for me. It was about getting a handle on undisciplined, emotional eating. But in case you’re wondering, I lost 9 lbs in two and a half weeks being a hard core vegan.

I will finish the fast on Monday. On Wednesday I am going to France for a week, a country where no rational person should diet or fast. But since I’ve only begun disciplining my spoiled inner child, who would love to wash down three chocolate croissants with Champagne at breakfast every day, I’m still praying.

What tools do you use for making big changes in your life? Do they last?