Let me preface this story with a few things. I don't like darkness or conflict or negative stuff. My stomach churns when I bump into anything that smells or feels like the opposite of God's light. But for some reason, the Lord has been walking me into dreams and visions lately where those are the kinds of things He's showing me. I've really prayed through it and asked the Lord why, because I know how so many feel (myself included)...don't give the enemy too much or any credit. Focus on the Lord. And I say a really big yes and yes. But what do you do when the Lord begins to show you what the enemy is up to? His patterns, disguises and ploys. What do you do when you realize you may just have to begin paying attention to the plans of the enemy so you can help others focus on the light. I woke up and knew I was supposed to write this next story, because it's part of my story. And my story isn't all visions and dreams of beautiful flowers, drops of rain and flowing honey. It's mostly that, which I love. But it's also images of snakes, darkness and traps. So I want to share this story, not to focus on the enemy, but to share with you the reality of the games he’s playing every day in our lives. I recently came across a quote by C.S. Lewis, "There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan." By definition to counterclaim is to "rebut a previous claim." The Lord has been showing me just what's on the line and the ways in which Satan is attempting to rebut the truth of the Lord's claim. I believe the Lord has been telling me it’s time to stop playing games...the enemy is taking things very seriously. When will we?
So, for me, I have to pay attention to it, there's just no other option. It's a huge, important part of this journey that God has me on, learning to distinguish the voice and actions of the Lord from that of the enemy's. To do so, I have to know who God is. I have to know what His heartbeat sounds like in my everyday life. But I also have to know who the enemy is and understand what he is willing to do to keep me from all that the Lord has for me.
To catch everyone up to speed on my life, one important fact for this particular story - I'm kind of a chicken. Correction, used to be. Once upon a time, I was a really big chicken and lived a lot of my life paralyzed by fear. God has really been working with me on that, freeing me from so much of my fear. It's been a huge blessing. But every now and then, something will happen that takes me back to the fear I used to live in. The good news is that I can recognize it immediately and go to the Lord to get rid of it - but it doesn't change the fact that it will still randomly show up and has to be dealt with. It's also a weakness that I've realized that the enemy is fully aware of and attempts to use to his advantage. This story is one of those times...
One night recently, while staying at a hotel out of state, I woke to an overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke billowing around my head and my face. Not just a little puff...it was a suffocating amount of smoke. I instantly felt the intense spiritual warfare in the room. How on earth do you feel that? I can say with certainty I knew in that moment what it feels like...a pit in my stomach, a to-the-bone type chill, fear that froze me in place and an actual sensation of demons and dark spirits brushing past my tightly closed eyes. It was one of those nights where I felt like I was fighting off evil all night long. I wanted to know where the smoke was coming from, but I couldn't make myself open my eyes. I just knew if I did, I'd see someone standing over me with a lit cigarette - it was that real. I prayed, I sang worship songs in my head, I prayed some more. In exhaustion, I finally fell back to sleep only to dream of more attack. In my dream, I was in a big house and a girl was constantly showing up in the rooms I was in. She’d show up and I would swat at her like a fly. I'd move to a different room and she'd show up again. I'd swat at her, shooing her away. She knew she was evil and she also knew I wasn't doing anything about it, so she kept showing up. It wasn’t really a scary dream, but it was an exhausting and frustrating dream, constantly trying to escape the enemy and never really taking care of it. The next morning, I woke up physically sick - I was sick to my stomach, weak, had a sore throat and was congested. I had gone to bed feeling perfectly fine, and woke up sick. Something went down that night and it was flipping my insides upside-down. The entire next day felt off. I kept thinking about the night and all it held. The cigarette smoke in my face, the darkness swirling around and the girl who kept following me from room to room and yet I did nothing. And I asked the Lord all day long, why did I experience that?
The next night, when I returned to my parent's house, in an attempt to repack to fly back home in the morning, I dumped all my things on the bed and began the process of cleaning out my purse. Something in the middle of the pile of gum wrappers and receipts caught my eye that I didn't recognize. I picked it up and it took a minute for it to register in my mind exactly what it was. A turquoise lighter. Let me say that again. A lighter. I don't smoke and I don't own a lighter. My purse had been in my possession the entire time I was gone. Wait...except for one time - in the hotel room that night. I immediately thought of the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke in my room that night and suddenly, I'll be honest, I was completely freaked out. It took me all the way back to the days where I lived in the paralyzing fear. I took the lighter to the trash, threw it away and began praying. It took me awhile to work past that incident. It messed with me in a whole new way...almost like the enemy had trespassed and I didn't know what to do about it or how to prevent it from happening again. I couldn't stop my mind from going back to that night in the hotel and imagining that somehow there was actually a cigarette being smoked in the room over my bed. And to make matters worse, the lighter was the same color of the very first vision the Lord gave me, when He woke me in the night to show me the beautiful picture of a turquoise butterfly. I was confused about how and why it would have happened, until a few days later when the Lord suddenly showed me. It was such a clear picture of the how the enemy was trying to intimidate, imitate and bind me up in fear. The set-up was the same, the colors were the same and smoke was involved. As the Lord began to break it down for me, I couldn't believe how obvious the enemy's scheme of imitation was:
• The Lord showed up with my very first vision ever in the middle of the night - a time when I would normally fall into a pattern of fear. Instead, He replaced the dark and the fear with His light and a beautiful vision of a turquoise butterfly representing revival and new beginnings. It was in the night that the Lord whispered my name and began my journey with Him in hearing His voice. Using moments of actual smoke rising up from my body, the Lord has continued to teach, guide and lead my journey through the power of His presence that resides in the "pillar of cloud."
• The enemy showed up in the middle of the night and pulled me back into the fear, offering only darkness and no way back out. He intimidated me and blew fake smoke into my face, lighting up with a lighter in the very same color as my butterfly. Trying to steal what the Lord had given me 12 years earlier by using a color that spoke to my heart and poking at my biggest fears. And he used the smoke, a kind of smoke that made my body physically sick, to stir up old fears in me.
Imitation. Something that I believe is one of the enemy's biggest games he plays. A ploy to falsely copy what the Lord is speaking out, all the while attempting to rebut the truth of that claim.
A few months ago, while I was praying, I had a vision of a dinosaur in our woods, his head was sticking out above the treeline. When I drew it in my journal, I kept wanting to make him look mean because I knew he didn’t represent anything good. But what I saw was actually a friendly looking dinosaur. I then saw the Lord reach down from Heaven with a shield and offer protection from the dinosaur. Again, I was a little confused because he just didn’t look threatening.
The next day I had a vision of a dinosaur puppet in the woods, and every time the hand that controlled the puppet would open, whatever life was nearby was devoured by the puppet. It was the same dinosaur from earlier, just in puppet form and living in, what I wrote at the time, a “false garden.”
Continuing the pattern, the following morning, I had yet another vision of the dinosaur (anyone else see the very obvious theme the Lord was giving me?!) This time I was reaching out my hand to feed him. When I drew it in my journal I realized he was the same friendly looking dinosaur from the other two visions. I wondered why all these visions appeared to be of “friendly dinosaurs” when I knew deep down that they represented the enemy. It wasn’t until later in the morning, when I was thinking about the dinosaurs that the word “dragon” slipped into my thoughts instead. Suddenly, I realized the enemy had intentionally disguised himself as a friendly cartoon version of a dragon to disarm me. By creating a harmless version of himself, I let my guard down and I began to do things that actually fed him. I don't particularly like dinosaurs and I am grateful they aren't walking the streets with us. They seem unpredictable from my limited knowledge of them. On the big screen, one minute someone is hand feeding them as a pet, the next minute, they've eaten the one feeding them. And this is what I believe is a picture of what’s happening in so many of our lives. The enemy has put an imitation in front of us that draws us in...by creating something that looks fun, feels non-threatening and doesn’t force us to do the things that are uncomfortable or hard. It’s the cute little dinosaur that we want to play with. The problem is, in the end, he’s not our friend. He's unpredictable and he devours those that aren’t able to distinguish the difference between the imitation garden of the enemy and the real true garden that God is calling us to.
An interesting thing has begun to happen when I’m praying each morning...I have a sign in my room that says "just pray." So every day I look at it and when I can't think of anything else to do, I just pray. The Lord, however, is asking me now to "just pray longer." And through that longer prayer - He’s showing me the second piece of the puzzle, a vision after the vision that reveals the ways in which the enemy is coming after us. They are the visions that don’t make the cut for Rhema & Logos because they are full of warfare and are heavy and dark. But they are the ones that the Lord gives me to help form my battle plans through prayer. They are the ones that have begun to show the imitation that has slipped into our lives and the ways the enemy continues to blow fake smoke over our faces.
What smoke are we going to get caught up in? The smoke the enemy blows, filled with lies and deception? Or smoke in the form of a pillar of cloud that is the presence of the Lord, set before us to guide us into our promises? We can’t just keep swatting the enemy away. When he knows that we won’t do anything about it, he will keep coming back. He will continue to use our weaknesses against us. When we acknowledge that the enemy can and does go after those who are going after the Lord - we finally begin to strip him of his power and expose the counterclaims.
I think if you had asked me several years ago if I would be willing to be a part of exposing the enemies ploys of imitation, I would have said you've lost your mind. But after a night like I experienced in that hotel and the images the Lord has been showing me in prayer, if you asked me now, my answer would be an absolute yes. I don't want to be caught off guard and I don't want anyone else to be either. So let’s pull our game pieces off the board of the game the enemy started. There isn’t a game if everyone isn't willing to play. It’s time to stop feeding the "friendly smoke-blowing dinosaur" and expose him for what he is. Let's start a new game, one where the Lord sets the rules, hands out the game pieces and directs each move. It's the only game we can play with absolute confidence, because it's a game that's already been won.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - John 10:10
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33
"Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." - 1 John 4:4
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash