Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gluten Tolerant

Have you read my previous posts, "Prayer and Fasting" and "Signing Out (For a bit)"? Because they lead directly into this one. I'm far too lazy to rewrite back story, so if you find yourself lost or confused, you can refer back to those for explanation.

There's no better way to start this post but by saying thanks.

Thanks to my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. He has been exceedingly patient with me.

Thanks to my Graber family, church family, and friends for praying on my behalf.

Thanks to many dear souls in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that helped guide me to the Court Room in Heaven.

How did I end up there?

Well. I'm glad you asked.

Our group of 13 men and 16 women spent the first full day (Sunday) getting to know each other and spending some time worshiping. A large Tupperware bowl was placed on the table and we all deposited our cellphones into it. I'm not sure what we ended up calling that bowl, but there was a vague reference between it and the Super Bowl. We did some exploring of the surrounding area, spending most of our free time on the beach, which was located 100 yards from our building.

This photo was taken from the balcony attached to my bedroom. Each night I was lulled to sleep by the metronome of waves ebbing and flowing. I'm intentionally building up an enviable picture of this place, when in reality most days were too cold to do much but venture out for a quick walk or play some frisbee.

A group of us went charging into the Atlantic because my neighbor Shane challenged Doyle and I to go in every day. We convinced others to join in on the madness the first day. We raced each other toward the pounding waves and were quickly soaked in frigid water. The cold was shocking, but even more shocking was the spectacle of two dolphins joining us. They swam playfully twenty yards away. Some young women glanced at the dolphins' sleek backs and dorsal fins and shrieked nonsensical words about man-eating sharks.

Through the week, Doyle, Jacob, and I kept faithful to Shane's challenge ("It'll be easy, because you just jump in the hot tub when you get out of the ocean!" -Shane) despite the fact that the hot tub only worked for two of the seven days. Several others ventured in the waves throughout the week but the majority of them quickly became wise and refrained from joining us each day.

Because we arrived in Myrtle Beach early, Doyle and I went shopping and found matching shorts. We try our best to dispel "girl-only" activities.

Sunday evening we were informed that we were no longer allowed to speak at all to anyone except during the teaching sessions, where we were allowed to worship, pray, ask questions, and discuss topic points. Steve made a single exception; we were allowed to say "Please pass the salt."

We then proceeded to use that phrase any and every opportunity we could. Coughing out a mouthful of briny ocean water...*blech* *retch* *snort* "Pass the salt!"  More often than not, we used the phrase completely out of context. There were several occasions we would be running down the beach and greet a stranger by cheerily shouting, "Pass the salt!"

When is the last time you've undergone a period of silence? Even more, when is the last time you were with a group of amazing like-minded believers and you underwent a period of silence? We quickly became proficient at hand-gestures and facial expressions. We drew closer to each other in our silent world, quietly bonding and waiting for the next teaching session where we could all shout and yell and speak for a few hours. As the period of silence progressed, we would gather in the teaching room earlier and earlier, starting our praise and worship sooner and sooner. By Tuesday we were all worshiping an hour before the lesson was scheduled to begin.

Steve would reiterate key phrases to help us remember them. If you've ever been to a Door of Hope seminar, you've heard them.

"People do what people do because of what they feel. If you don't understand why a person does something, then you don't understand what they're feeling."

"You are a spirit. You possess a soul. You live in a body."

Steve gave us assignments after each session, and paired us up to complete the assignments in teams of two. For the most part, we were paired with our roommates. My original roommate never showed up to the retreat, so after some rearranging, I was set up with the finest roommate a guy could ask for, a young man named Jared. One of our assignments was to walk down the beach for a minimum of 30 minutes with our assignment partners in complete silence and listen to their spirit. I was nervous about the assignment. Wait, I'm supposed to listen to the other person's spirit without them saying any words out loud?! But the walk was amazing. We ambled down the beach with the sullen Atlantic frothing nearby, seagulls fighting over scraps of food. During our walk, I heard a few vague words in my spirit. I found a pen in one of my pockets and quickly scribbled the words down on my hand. Later, when we were allowed to discuss, I was able to tell Jared about the words I had "heard". He confirmed that they were connected to issues he was dealing with HOW COOL IS THAT?

Our period of silence lasted until Tuesday evening, when we all dressed up and ate a fancy banquet together.

Andrew Weaver, an amazing pastor that brought his fine family 
(his son is in the background) to fellowship with us for the week. 

There was enough romance in the air to cause mustaches to grow spontaneously.

By Wednesday, we felt we knew one another like we had just spent months together. Strange how quietly observing people within close proximity for two days can really bind a group together! It also helped that we began each morning by "Turning to Jesus". At 6:30 every morning, the men and women would gather in their separate activity rooms and lay on the floor in silence, listening to God. After 20 minutes or so, we'd gather together in the shared dining area and partake in Communion with each other. Every morning. It was incredible.

There were a lot of intense training sessions, many of which covered the importance of spiritual warfare through intercessory prayer. We began to pray for each other Wednesday evening. People were given the opportunity to sit in the "hot seat" and get prayed for. Baring your soul and all its dirty secrets to people you didn't know existed 4 days prior would sound ridiculous under normal circumstances, but like I said, we had fast become a close-knit bunch. We'd pray for guidance, wisdom, forgiveness, and the tearing down of strongholds. We prayed against various spirits, including (but most certainly not limited to) Lust, Self-Accusation, Murder, Self-Rejection, Matriarchal spirits, Doubt, Fear, and Anger. We broke off soul ties, we prayed for God's light, we battled against occult influences introduced through ancestors. Witchcraft was a giant one, it has the ridiculous ability to seriously affect multiple generations, even if the succeeding generations don't practice witchcraft. 

I imagine this is starting to sound bizarre. This training week is essentially a next-level class meant to be taken after a person attends a Door of Hope seminar, either the Take Back Your Life seminar or the Land of Promise seminar. Those events lay critical foundations to the training week.

So we were battling these spirits by taking them to the Courtroom.  How amazing is it that God, who loves us, is the Judge? And Jesus, who also loves us, is the Defendant?  We chuckled when we realized that the Prosecuting Attorney is Satan, whom both the Judge and the Defendant despise and actively strive to publicly humiliate. Talk about stacking a courtroom in our favor! So we would pray for each other, interceding like this, "Lord, as we come into your courtroom, we bring Shawn's stronghold of "_________" to your throne. Jesus, You have the paperwork for this stronghold. We ask that You nail it to the cross, and Jesus' blood washes it clean. We also take Satan's copy of those papers, and we destroy them. We command the spirits to leave Shawn. They are banished to a dry place, where they can no longer hurt Shawn. We ask that you bring healing to this area that the Enemy has desolated for so long."

It's really difficult to write out a sample prayer, because each prayer was a living thing, unique to each person, quickened by the Spirit. We spent hours breaking spiritual bondage. See, you can ask forgiveness for a sin, and the Lord will forgive you. This extra exercise doesn't affect salvation. But if we do not completely destroy Satan's paperwork (binding agreements we have made spiritually, knowingly or not) we are allowing Satan to bother us in that area, over and over. So a person may be saved, but completely miserable for years because of the legal footholds that Satan has in his or her life.

Earlier in the week, I had asked Steve if it was alright to hope for physical healing. He said of course it was fine, but it was up to the Lord to heal. Was it His plan to heal me this week, or wait until I'm stranded in the mountains of Tibet without any source of medication within 4,000 miles? Steve pondered. But he encouraged me to keep praying. As I went though the week, God shattered a few of my plans and replaced them with His. It was an awful, wonderful period of breaking. Soon, I realized my desperate need for spiritual healing far more than physical healing.

On Thursday, I was prayed for. During the prayer session, Linda mentioned that she saw a vision of a nasty green lizard with claws that looked like teeth. I was asked if I had anything like that in my home. I was baffled. I wasn't in the habit of collecting horrible demonic trinkets, after all. I couldn't think of anything.

Until about an hour later, when I realized I had a poster hanging in my bedroom of the Star Wars character, Boba Fett, riding victoriously on a giant, green dragon. WITH STANK-NASTY CLAWS. Linda did not know me before the training week, and she certainly hadn't ever seen my home, but the Holy Spirit revealed that there was something wrong with that poster. As soon as we returned home, I took that poster (which I got for free from a Wal-Mart a few years ago) and with the help of Doyle, completely destroyed it with fire.

Others prayed for the wounds I received as a child through rejection, the wounds I administered to my siblings through anger and malice, and the wounds I inflicted on myself as I blundered through life making poor decisions. They prayed for regeneration in my spirit, for God's mercy in my life, for healing in my relationships with my siblings. Then they began to pray for physical healing.

Steve illustrated his opinion that God is not necessarily excited about miracles. "A miracle is when God breaks a law that He made. We humans get all worked up about miracles, when God is far more interested in getting His laws to work the way they were meant to. The angels are like, 'oh look, God broke a law and created a miracle again.' But when God's laws work, the angels just go nuts. God receives greater glory when His creation follows the laws He set for it! So we work through these spiritual issues so that we can align our spirit with God's, and therefore allow His laws to work."

And that's precisely what happened.

As immaterial burdens lifted off my shoulders, as the faithful believers gathered in that room prayed for physical healing, I could sense a single word.


We cried and shouted and praised God all at once. I knew my spirit had been healed of large, gaping wounds, and I was more thrilled about that than any physical healing. But I was going to step out in faith and eat some wheat anyway. That night at snack time, I grabbed the first item that contained gluten: a box of White Cheddar Cheez-Its. I devoured handfuls of them, willfully eating more gluten in one sitting than I've eaten in the past 15 years. I went to my room and checked my blood sugar, which trumpeted back "468 mg/dl".

For those of you unfamiliar with proper blood sugar levels, that's really high. Your body is constantly kept between 80 mg/dl and 130 mg/dl at all times, and I strive to be in that same vicinity. I administered the appropriate dose of insulin to bring my blood sugars back down, and took a little time to pray. "Lord, I know You've healed me where I needed it most, my spirit. You've mended wounds, destroyed strongholds, and lifted burdens. That healing is more than enough, and I'm grateful." I knew that if I wasn't healed from Celiac, I was in for a rough night.

6 hours passed, 10 hours passed, 12 hours passed, and I was still doing alright. There was no "Turn to Jesus" period on Friday. We partook in Communion together, and I ate a normal cracker instead of a piece of gluten-free bread. It was the first time in my life that I participated in Communion with the same "body of Christ" as everyone else.

Still loaded with Cheez-Its, chips, and Tootsie-Rolls from the night before, I skipped breakfast after Communion and went back to bed.

I got up and attended the morning class, still feeling fairly good. Christopher walked in with a donut, an item I had a serious craving for. I ran over to grab a donut but they had all been eaten. (I found out later that my roommate and another friend started walking to go fetch me some Krispy Kreme's but only made it a mile before returning.) So I waited until lunch, where I ate crackers and dip and wings and other items that I would have never dared touch the day before. For supper, I ate regular lasagna and garlic bread. I ate various desserts that would have caused me to vomit for two hours, had I eaten them the week before.

Imagine eating something tasty, refraining from eating it for 15 years, and then eating it again. Each gluten-filled food was like a "first", with some of them being actual firsts. I had never tried a Krispy Kreme donut before. Woah nelly, were they worth the wait!

I could not stop chuckling as I ate this Whopper with a bun.

Pancakes smothered in peaches and whipped cream 
were just what the doctor told me not to order.

Things I have determined from the past four days:

-Gluten is a very heavy carbohydrate and it sits very ponderously in my stomach. I'm not used to that yet. Gluten-free food is very light carb-wise.

-Eating gluten no longer makes me sick, but instead turns me into a greasy hobo, as evidenced by the last three photos.

-I loved when people made me gluten-free food, (and considered it a special blessing from the Lord) but sharing a slice of Casey's pizza with my friends was one of the best experiences I've had in months.

-My mom still makes the best coffee cake in the universe, and my reunion with it this morning was phenomenal.

-Physical healing is cool and stuff, but the spiritual healing is a hundredfold better.

As I reflect on the lessons, discussions, prayers, and experiences of the past week, I come away with similar questions to the ones being asked of me.

"Why were you healed of Celiac and not Diabetes?"
I'm not sure, but I'm okay with that.

"Is there a specific spirit involved with the Celiac disease, that once you remove it, you're cured?" 
I'm not sure, but I'd love to talk with you about spiritual matters.

"What will you eat next?"
I'm not sure, but I've got a list and it's growing.

The only thing I'm sure of is that God has been so good to me this past week, and I'm excited to see what He has in store for our band of warriors.


P.S. I will most likely be editing/amending this monstrosity at a later date, but I'm far too tired to do it now. If you have additional questions or comments, leave them below!