Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Living Power of God

The Hubbers and I were tremendously blessed to get away this weekend to a conference in Ann Arbor. Called the Charism School, the weekend allowed us to grow closer to Christ, practice the presence of the Holy Spirit, and deeply recognize how little we tap into the power that God has given us through our baptism and the gift of his Holy Spirit. We realized how easily we are enslaved by the flesh and ways of the world and how little we truly believe the promises God has given to us as believers. 

I'm going to begin with an apology. I am breaking every rule of witness I have ever learned and was definitely given to me this weekend. This is a LOOONG post, so I hope you will stick with me. To play by the rules, I'll give my elevator minute version first. This weekend I gave words of knowledge from God to a stranger and received words of knowledge from a stranger that were accurate and relevant. I saw people miraculously healed of physical ailments. I experienced deliverance from things I had been struggling with for a long time, some of which I didn't even name correctly. I have been convicted in a very real way that Jesus is alive - today and every day. Now for the longer story for more details...

I confess, I read Scripture and while I "believe" that miracles are still possible, I kind of figure God has chosen other people to work them. Priests, pastors, preachers, missionaries, etc etc etc dot dot dot. Not little old me who struggles with her own spiritual darkness and lack of discipline. Well, let's just say that this weekend shook my out of my "not me tree." Now, I'm not claiming to be performing miracles just yet, but I am convicted that each and every one of us who has been baptized into the life of Christ as priest, prophet and king can, in fact, be a conduit for miracles. Let's be clear - we do not perform them. We offer our active faith and allow God to use us to perform supernatural deeds.

The school is taught by Damian Stayne, who founded Cor et Lumen Christi, an international ministry devoted to miracle healings and deliverance. He is clear. As believers, especially in this world, for the glory of God, we must perform signs and wonders - we are commanded to perform greater miracles than Christ. (We are, of course, commanded to do this out of love for God and our neighbor, not vanity in our ability to do wonders in demonstration of our own glory.) "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it." John 14:12 

During the course of the weekend, we focused on placing ourselves in the presence of the Holy Spirit and growing in faith to open our hearts to do His works. First we practiced giving words of knowledge. These are bits of information or insights from God for another person - this weekend specifically people we had never met before and had no way of having prior knowledge about. I was ridiculously nervous. What if I was the only one who didn't have a revelation? What if I didn't have enough faith or wasn't holy enough? What if, what if, what if? Well, the other piece of the puzzle that Damian was clear on was that acting with the power of God requires a willingness to risk - to risk being foolish, to risk our reputations, to risk being wrong (being cautious not to do harm). So there I sat, praying, waiting for God to give me giant revelations. And my heart started beating faster. I could feel every bit of anxiety welling up and springing forth. In faith I took a deep breath and kept praying for something, anything that might be a word of knowledge from God to my partner. You know what? The littlest thing that I thought was nothing and a distraction in my prayer was in fact a word to my prayer partner. I had an image and phrase come into my mind that meant nothing to me and seemed irrelevant. Well, to me it was - but not to her. It wasn't some giant revelation, but it was relevant to something she was struggling with recently. Holy smokes! I know the Hubbers had a similar experience. In fact, almost everyone there was able to give a word that was specific and relevant to their partner (who in all cases was supposed to be a stranger to them). We're not talking in vagueries here, either. No "your fortune will increase" or "you will meet a stranger" nonsense of fortune telling. We are talking about very specific, albeit seemingly small, words from God.

Imagine if we always were able to discern what some random thoughts in our minds during prayer were meant!??

Part of the school included a miracle healing service led by Damian Stayne as well. Though I will admit a certain prejudice to skepticism, I cannot be skeptical of healings that I saw with my own eyes. I will share one - there was a man who came in able to walk only with the aid of a walker. It turns out he had just had surgery earlier in the week. After being prayed over, the man was not only able to walk, but could jog around the church with Damian. Yes, it is the stuff of movies, yet it was very, very real. No plants in the audience - we saw this man on our way in well before the service. Scores of others were healed of less dramatic ailments, and admittedly, some did not receive healing (myself included). It is easy to remain skeptical, but after seeing that man I mentioned before, I cannot be fully so. What power we have if we act in faith and are received in faith! Certainly, it may be God's will that a healing not occur for the greater good of salvation, but what if He wants to heal us and we don't grant him our faith and our will to "make it so" - what then?? How many of us walk around burdened with ailments that God has intended to heal? 

The last part of the school that was a profound experience for me was the deliverance session. I should be clear - first, this has nothing to do with that horrendously, awful, disgusting movie. And two, it is not the stuff of movie exorcisms. Those are conducted only by approved and official exorcists. Somewhat reassuring to me, as the supernatural haunting genre seriously creeps me out, was the reminder that if we earnestly give our will and assent to God (regardless of our human failings in that respect), we are not able to be possessed. So the deliverance here was from oppression and other areas of spiritual warfare. No Exorcism of Emily Rose moments, praise God. I know for me, it was the most powerful prayer I have ever received, at least since my initiation into the Church. I've shared that I had been struggling with frustration and anger, as well as self-doubt, to a point where it was truly weighing down on me. I can explain it no better than this - we first prayed a prayer of renunciation of a multitude of sins - as soon as self-hatred was mentioned, tears were flowing. I never knew THAT was what it was...I just thought of it as low self esteem in certain plaguing areas. When the prayer of deliverance was said over us, all that weight, weight I really hadn't even sensed as physical  completely lifted. I literally felt myself stand up straighter and hold my head up. Immediately. Then the weeping started, because let's face it, I'm a woman and that is my method of release (apparently emotional AND spiritual). We saw and heard many other things during that session which I cannot and will not share, but if I didn't believe that we were in a battle of powers and principalities before, I surely do now. I believe that it is NOT the big things that plague us, either - we can be faithful people and be oppressed by things that we open ourselves to unknowingly and willingly. The little things most definitely matter and can be used for the power of God or by the power of darkness. It's not just for movies or the pages of a Bible or the third world. It is real. It is now.

So what is the moral of this story? I need a stronger prayer life for myself. We as a family need to simplify and make more room for God so that we can be used by him to fulfill his mission and spread his Gospel so all may believe. We need to pray, pray, pray for our children and with our children. Pray for their protection. Pray for their faith. Pray for an intimate knowledge of the unyielding love of God so when other forces tempt them to stray, they know they are forever in the arms of love. We must be wise and in constant discernment of the things that we allow to influence us. Do we live in excess? Do we hold on to pastimes and entertainment that takes our eyes off of Christ? This isn't to say that we can only watch EWTN or listen to Christian music. What is it we are opening ourselves to, though, in what we allow in? Fr. John Riccardo in his preaching says "garbage in, garbage out." The garbage sticks to us, too, though, so we have to be ever mindful without becoming over-scrupulous, of course. Lastly, we reflect what surrounds us - we are in need of a community of believers where we can practice living in the power of the Holy Spirit and exercising the gifts God has given us. There simply are not enough communities around - Christ the King in Ann Arbor is exceptional. We are not in Ann Arbor. We are not in the Diocese of Lansing. We need community here that fits our season of life. We need the Church to be that gift to us so we can grow in our gift to the community. Sadly, we realized that as so much in young adult and young family ministry, if we want it, we may have to build it. At a time when we are so very stretched, that is a sad realization after such a fantastically high weekend. We know, though, if God is calling and it is His will, He will pave the way. Let's see what the months ahead reveal...

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