Last Words for January

I hereby challenge the accusation that this is the generation of laziness, lax work ethic, and being disconnected.

I propose instead that this is the Connection Age. We are the generation of breaking down barriers and taking action in the things that matter.

Every generation says that they’re going to be the one that changes the world. We have just as much of a chance, right here and right now, as everyone who came before us.

It’s the last day of January, a month that shone bright with the promise of a new year. If you haven’t made good on your Resolutions yet, I challenge you to. Let’s make it count, World Changers.

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It’s a Big Deal.

For those of you who don’t know this genius by face alone, this is Eric Whitacre, my favorite choral composer.
6 years, I have waited to meet him.
4 weeks, I’ve been counting down to see him conduct this concert.

17 days, I agonized over this humble 10″x10″ canvas upon which I purposed to portray a sliver of his works in color.
5 hours, we drove from Olympia to Corvallis through torrential rain.
2 blissful hours, we sat through a glorious, magical concert of some of the most brilliant music ever composed.
1 hour, we waited. Long after most of the impatient autograph-hecklers had left empty-handed. Then we crept backstage, where the ever-patient Eric was tirelessly signing flimsy beige programs and wrapping a friendly arm around fan after fan for photos.

Eric’s beautiful (and super nice!) wife, Hila.

“1 minute,” said Eric’s lovely wife Hila as a warning to the swarm of eager fans who were still clustered around him. I sized up the remaining group and held back tears, realizing that there was no way I would be able to get to him in that one minute. But my persistent husband pushed me through to the front of the mass.

And then it happened.

I was face to face with one of my all-time musical heroes and inspirations.

“Can I borrow that?” I asked, directing my question to the red Sharpie he was using for autographs. He offered it generously and I marked the canvas with a flourish. “There,” I said. “You can have MY autograph.”

Introductions were made. We shook hands. I explained that I had indeed painted this myself, and that it was indeed just for him and inspired by his work, and then he asked me to point out which parts of the painting were inspired by which songs, which I eagerly did.

I asked for a photo, and he obliged–giving me two.

Levi introduced himself and as we parted, Eric left us with, “You guys are the coolest couple ever.”

I’d say it was a pretty good day.

The Puke Parable

Picture this: One of your friends gets sick with the stomach flu and is puking into a toilet every time you come over. Chances are, you’re not going to get angry and offended because they’re throwing up around you. You probably wouldn’t approach them and say, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you being so disrespectful to me by throwing up around me? What did I do to you that made you so upset that you had to go and make a mess in our relationship?”

Chances are, you would just support them, realize that what’s happening on the outside is just a manifestation of something not right that’s happening on the inside, trying to evacuate their system. If they threw up on your shoes, you wouldn’t take it as a personal attack and therefore withdraw your friendship, and you probably wouldn’t assume that you’re the only person getting that treatment.

Unfortunately, this isn’t how we respond oftentimes in our relationships when gunk starts coming to the surface. When our friends and family act in a way that is contrary to their nature and the heart that God has put in them, we either get hurt, offended, hostile, or we distance ourselves. Any one of those is too easy to do in response to the negative stimulus of vomit-like behavior.

What we sometimes fail to recognize is that everyone goes through seasons, and God is constantly drawing the dross from our depths as he continues to purify us. And in order for the dross to be slaked off and removed forever, it has to surface. When it surfaces, it’s going to spread over the top of the silver and change the silver’s appearance–but does that mean that the silver is no longer silver just because the dross is the most visible ingredient in the purifying container? Absolutely not.

It’s the same with people. When we are born again, God gives us a new heart and we are called saints, and the purification process begins. So many have dropped out of the Church early on in their walk because of the constant conviction they feel for sin in their lives. “Oh, I’m supposedly holy and perfect now that I’m born again–but now all I see is the sin in my life! I’m so discouraged! This doesn’t feel good. It’s not worth it to feel this way all the time, so I’m leaving.”

This is neither an unrealistic nor an uncommon thought pattern to have, especially if you’re surrounded by people who demand an explanation for your feelings, your behavior and your sins. “Why are you vomiting all over my shoes?” is an accusation that can only be answered with a mumbled apology as you stagger back to try to make it back to the toilet before your body tries again to expel whatever has made it sick in the first place.

When how we relate to people is dependent on their behavior and not their identity, we create relationships of punishment, woundedness and distrust.

I strive to be the kind of leader that relates to people based on their identity and their potential, whether they are curently operating out of that potential or not. My prayer is that God would forge me into a person who can see beyond the puke, beyond the mess, beyond the mistakes, into the heart of the matter. That I would have the same attitude as our Lord who said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do.” That I would be an active solution, a healer to a world of hurting people, not the self-appointed informant diagnosing death sentences for every symptom.

Musings of a Jar

2 Corinthians 4: 7 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

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 I don’t think it’s necessary to belittle ourselves so God can shine through us. We’re clay jars, earthen vessels, of little to no worth compared to the treasure we hold — BUT. BUT BUT BUT.

We hold a treasure that is priceless to the world–the very Presence and Spirit of the Living, Loving God. And God doesn’t invest Himself into anything worthless or of little value. As precious as His gifts are to us, as precious as Jesus is to us, we are to Him.

God is a Father, not a prison ward. When He purchased you with Jesus’s blood, He wasn’t playing Risk with the devil. It’s not about world domination, it’s about you. It’s always been about you. If you were the only one who needed saving, God still would have sent Jesus to earth to die and raise from the dead–for you. For me.

Moreover, because the treasure of God is so otherworldly, you can’t help but stand out once you have it. You become set apart the moment you give Him everything. It would be impossible for you to outshine Him unless you were to do so intentionally, quenching and grieving the Spirit deliberately to regain control of your own life.

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John the Baptist said that the purpose of his ministry was to decrease in himself so that Jesus could increase. Family, we don’t achieve that by slapping a clearance sticker on our backs and declaring our value less than what it actually is. That’s the easy, worldly way to “decrease.” Why worldly? Because at the very least, I would consider criticizing the workmanship–the precious masterpiece of God–worldly, if not even demonic. How dare we tear down and devalue ourselves and each other with our words, when He has made it clear to us how important and valued we are?

It’s not about tearing ourselves down to make Jesus bigger. He can do that all by Himself, even at your greatest. Even at mine.

Paul said that the way people know that the power we display is from God and not of ourselves is the fact that we look like everybody else and still display great power. There’s this awesome aspect to the heart of God where He never starts over with fresh material; He’s going to work with what was already there, and build upon it. He’ll rewrite your history. He’ll rewrite your shame, your mistakes, your flaws, and make them absolutely beautiful.

When you get filled with the Spirit, you don’t spurt up three feet, spout wings and talking in a booming voice all of a sudden. You’re the same old human you, struggling with the same old human mistakes, walking through same old human stuff–only now, you’ve got a great big Father God walking alongside you. That’s the difference.

That’s the treasure that got put in the jar. And that simple, unassuming clay jar? Father God worked hard on that. He was intentional. He made you exactly how He wants you to be. He did not intend for you to be cracked or broken, nor for you to tell yourself that you are cracked or broken when He made you to be whole. 

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I’m deeply grieved because I feel a great deal of us have missed the point. We’ve striven for perfection and works and an outer image of being just fine at worst and having all our ducks in a row at best. We take the favor God gives us as gifts just for being His children, and pervert that into an obligation to perform, to do better, to reach the expectations we set for ourselves.

No wonder the world has called us hypocrites. No wonder they don’t want our clean-cut, sinless Jesus, because they can tell just by looking at us that we heap expectations on ourselves that we think He put on us. We step back into the Law and take “I am Holy, so you be Holy” as a command rather than the invitation it was meant to be. And by the way, holiness is who you are, not what you do. Righteousness means being in right standing with God; I don’t believe it has to do with never messing up or ever having a bad attitude.

Just this morning, one of my heroes in the faith opened a meeting in prayer and expressed that she “knew” God was disappointed in her for everything she had done wrong just in the past day. I fought back tears and thanked Him for the truth He has been teaching me–that He rejoices over me always, that His disappointment in my failures is momentary and he is only ever disappointed because He knows I was created for better and that I can do better, not because I’ve failed Him.

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The point I’m trying to make is this: we let God shine just by living in this world. Just by being who we are. We don’t need to try to get ourselves out of the way, because we’re half of the plan. The plan for the world to meet God is you + Jesus. It’s Jesus in you. We are the model for relationship with Christ.

But don’t let that scare you or steer you toward trying to clean up the outer appearance of your life so people don’t see your messes. People don’t want to see how clean your house is once Jesus comes to live there; they want to see you, with all your quirks and struggles that make you so easy to relate to and connect with. They don’t want to see Jesus coming into your life and dominating it, brainwashing you into a right-wing platitude-spouting zombie.

As a human being, I’m seldom inspired by a finished product. I don’t see a beautiful piece of pottery and think, “I could do that.” But if I sat beside the potter at his wheel to witness the process, from the formless lump of clay gradually and patiently into something more and more beautiful, I would think, “Oh, this could be done.” It’s the same with people. I’m more intimidated by people “in completion” than I am inspired by them. When people are willing to admit that they’re still dizzy from the constant spinning of the Potter’s wheel, that they’re still in process, still grieving a bit over the chunk of clay that got sliced off the top a little while ago.

It’s by living, grieving, rejoicing, struggling, stumbling, hurting, mess-making, and recovering, that God shines through us. It’s also through persevering, enduring, triumphing, winning, making beautiful things, being a wonderful speaker, a great artist, being wonderful at whatever it is He’s called you to do. And one of the greatest ways He shines through you is by you being okay with being amazing. When you realize the immense value of the treasure you carry, and the treasure you are in His eyes, there’s no point in putting yourself down, because when He’s at His highest in your eyes is when you’re at the lowest you could be.

And that’s right where you need to be–spinning on the Potter’s wheel.

Romans 12 Snippet

I love verses 6-8 of Romans 12 : Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 

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There are a couple keys in there that stood out to me, the first one being about prophesying in proportion to our faith. It’s not hard to prophesy something like rain in Washington on a daily basis. It’s also not hard to prophesy people going to hell, or judgment over a nation or person. But how about salvation for our family? What kind of faith and courage does that take to declare that our families belong to the Kingdom of God, that our fathers, mothers, siblings, aunts, uncles, spouses–belong to Papa and are ALREADY in His Kingdom even if we don’t see that heart change immediately in the natural?That takes a TON of faith. And that’s the journey I’m on right now, where Papa is wooing me out and saying, “Hey, you’re extremely prophetic! Grab on to this great faith I’m giving you so you can prophesy proportionately!”

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The other thing that stood out to me in that passage is “He who gives, with liberality.” I heard a quote recently that said, “Generosity isn’t determined by how much you give, but by how much you keep.” It’s a reminder to me to be generous with liberality!! To consistently give as much as I can without being stingy with the leftovers. Plus, it’s tipping me off to pray for people who are liberally generous for Levi’s Kickstarter project. 🙂
That's my husband! :)
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The third thing: “He who leads, with diligence.” There are so many keys in those two little verses, and this one hit me pretty hard. As a leader in my home, my community, my church, and other spheres I’m involved in, it’s easy to get discouraged and want to give up on people, prayer burdens, or projects. This, along with “he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” is like God reminding me that He sees me where I am, for my weaknesses and my struggles as well as my gifts and strengths.

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What really encourages me is that He gives the exhortation and the command to supplement prophecy with faith, generosity with liberality, leadership with diligence, and mercy with cheerfulness. But along with the command comes the equipping. He would never give us a command without giving us the ability to fulfill it. So rather than looking at it as a demand to perform beyond my ability, it’s like He’s giving us new gifts to top off the ones we already have!

“You have prophecy? Here, have some more faith.”

“I see you are generous! Have some liberality to it.”

“You are a great leader–have some perseverance and diligence!”

“You are merciful, after My own heart–here is a gift of CHEERFULNESS!!”

I love it!

Day 2 – Short Circuit (Part 1)

Readers, I would like to take a brief note to thank you for your patience. You have stuck with me through over 60 incredibly verbose blog posts, missed deadlines, and sometimes me dropping off the face of the blogging earth for months at a time–yet hear you are, your beautiful eyes gracing my eager journalism. You bless me big. Thank you.

Read Day 1 here. Want to know what Power Surge is? Click here!

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After sleeping horribly with terrible dreams, I woke up bright and early at 6 and slunk into the kitchen to prepare a pot of coffee (Emily’s family always has the best coffee) and read my Bible before the morning got busy.

Before long, Mark lumbered into the kitchen as well and started moving around to get his breakfast and lunch ready. We talked about how good God is (an endless topic, to be sure). I got the chance to sozo/shabar Mark a bit, and it was absolutely cool because when he pictured a little boy, he saw a porcelain doll of a little Dutch boy. Holy Spirit saw that I was puzzled at this unusual description, so He whispered to me, “It’s like Pinocchio.”

We asked father God what the little boy needed, and His response was, “He needs to be brought to life…like Pinocchio.”

Talk about confirmation! It was so awesome! I got a little bit further in my Sozo tools, but then Mark left for work and I read some Bible.

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Emily and I went to the church a little bit later to drop off sleeping bags and meet the new interim pastor, Stephen. His 18-year-old daughter, Eryca, was there also. Instantly, I fell in love with both of them. They are as loud as I am, always smiling, and can’t seem to go two minutes without talking about how amazing God is.

Emily and I met with Eryca for about an hour where we shared testimonies. I was impressed and inspired by Eryca’s story and how her parents raised her into her identity. She shines so freely! I shared our testimony of God’s faithfulness coming through for our wedding in September, and it was a golden-apple-timely-word of confirmation for Eryca and her family, that I had no idea they even needed! We had a wonderful time, I got to sing over her, and Holy Spirit was ridiculously heavy on all three of us.

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Best. Game. Ever.

After scrambling to get the rest of everything we needed for the retreat, it was go time. 5 o’ clock rolled around and kids started showing up, one by one. I was anxiously waiting for Levi to get off work and drive down to Vancouver, but in the meantime I ate dinner and played games with the kids, getting a chance to get acquainted with them.

I fell fast in love with all of them, particularly Sammy.
Sammy is thirteen years old. He is one of the most optimistic people I have ever met in my life. He’s affectionate, loves games, and absolutely LOVES praying when it’s time to bless a meal.

But if you saw a picture of him, that probably wouldn’t be the first conclusion you’d jump to. Sammy was diagnosed six months ago with bone cancer when a sports physical to clear him for football season revealed a tumor in his knee. Sammy has gone through 40 weeks of chemotherapy, and now that his hair is gone, he prides himself on bearing a close resemblance to Voldemort.

When we were getting in line for dinner, I was just behind him when he asked loudly, “Who wants to pray for me?”

Very seriously, I looked him in the eye and said, “I would love to pray for you. What would you like prayer for?”

Sammy gave me a hard look and said, “What do you think? I’ve got cancer.”

“I know,” I replied, still being absolutely dead serious. “But I don’t want to think of you as just Sammy with cancer. I want to think of you as my friend Sammy, who has cancer for the time being but probably has a lot of other things he’d like prayer for as well.” I told him that I didn’t want to have our relationship revolve around the temporary fact of his disease. I think that really impacted him, because afterward he didn’t say any more, but sat with me at dinner.

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I left early to prepare songs for worship, and Levi showed up just when I was getting super anxious about when he was going to get there. Sweet relief! The youth group filed in for worship and Levi and I began the first song, with me leading on guitar and Levi singing backup while doing some sweet rhythms on a bongo. We were seated on the steps of the stage, at eye level with the group, who sat in a semicircle of chairs around the stage.

The music was great, I was singing my heart out…

Then I stopped. And started talking to the group. My heart was pounding and my mind was screaming WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? because I was going against every performance inclination I’d rehearsed; but I needed to make something very clear.

“Is this what you need?” I asked, taking the time to look each and every one of them in the eye. “Because if this isn’t what you need, we can do something else. We are here for you. It’s not the other way around. And we don’t want to come up here in front of you and go through the motions for the three days that we have together with you, then go home feeling good about ourselves while leaving you with absolutely nothing.”

It was silent in the sanctuary as they realized I was serious, then one or two of them spoke up and said, “This is what we need.”

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So we continued. And we worshiped our little hearts out. I stopped again after the second song to share a word that Holy Spirit put on my heart about a sacrifice of praise in even the worst circumstances and situations, and then Levi and I taught them “One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture. It felt like we sang it forever, yet it felt like we didn’t sing long enough.

We moved into the youth room to transition into “lesson time.” I had no idea what to give a “lesson” on, and I wasn’t feeling any promptings from Holy Spirit, so I just started to tell my testimony. Little did I realize, the majority of my audience were 13-to-15-year-olds with attention spans that short-circuited very easily. Not even fifteen minutes into my story, I was losing them.

If you want to find out what happened next, follow and subscribe to the blog, and don’t forget to Like the Facebook page!  See ya next post!

Sozo and Shabar

Quite frequently in my blog posts, you’ll hear me talking about Sozo ministry. Occasionally, I’ll talk about Shabar as well. Sozo is a Greek word meaning “Healed, Saved, and Delivered.” Shabar is Hebrew for “Brokenhearted.”

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Started in Bethel Church, Sozo is a deliverance ministry based on a lot of forgiveness. The leader of the Sozo session will use learned tools and direction from Holy Spirit to facilitate a conversation between whomever is receiving the Sozo, and God Himself.

One of our teams in Olympia developed a tool we refer to as Sozo Plus, an exercise that isn’t included in a normal sozo. Before, we would jump right into trying to get the sozo-ee to talk to Father God, something that most people find intimidating and even impossible!

Now, we start out the Sozo by telling the Sozo-ee to close his or her eyes and picture an apple; once they see the apple, they are to picture taking a big bite out of it. Then you have them open their eyes and describe the experience. How big was the apple? What color? Was it crisp or mushy, mealy or watery, or juicy? Sweet, sour, bitter or bland?

What they don’t realize is that they’re hearing from Holy Spirit, even then! The apple represents the quality of their life. If the apple is big, shiny, red and crisp and sweet, then they are at a really good season in their life right now where they can enjoy the fruit of their own sweetness and characteristics. Sometimes, the apple will be mealy or watery, which simply means that God wants to either add some doctrine (water) or experiential substance (more ‘meat’ in the apple).

Next, you have your sozo-ee picture a dog. The dog represents Jesus. You have them pay close attention to what the dog’s attitude is, how they feel about the dog, whether he’s excited or calm, and how close they are in relation to him. Typically at the beginning of a Sozo, the dog will be really excited, jumping up and down and wagging his tail. This is Jesus saying, “I want to be close to you! I just want to be your friend! Let me in!” The marvelous thing that typically happens by the end of a Sozo is that when you take them back to the scene with the dog, he is right up close against them, happy and calm—which signifies that the person and Jesus had an encounter, and now Jesus is content with their friendship.

The third thing you have the sozo-ee picture, is a bird—which, of course, represents Holy Spirit. It’s so exciting, what different people see! Some people see robins that turn into eagles, eagles that turn into bluebirds, seagulls, or doves. The most common thing they see is that the bird is far off, flying, not making a sound. This usually means that they don’t really have much of a relationship with Holy Spirit, that He’s just some distant, intangible spirit that we can’t grab ahold of.

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By the time you introduce the sozo-ee to the apple, dog, and bird, they have been fully plugged into Holy Spirit by their imagination. Before this exercise was revealed to a Sozo team by Holy Spirit, Sozo ministers had a difficult time getting past the lie so many people believe of, “I can’t hear God,” or “I can’t see Him,” or even, “I can’t feel Him.” Holy Spirit starts speaking to the person in your session the moment it begins, just because of your intent and the anointing on you.

You begin the Sozo session by having Holy Spirit take the person to a safe place. This is done simply by having them repeat after you, “Holy Spirit, will you take me to a safe place?” This can be a bedroom, a favorite vacation spot, or even someplace imaginary that they have never seen before. From there, you have them invite Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit into their safe place one by one.

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Here’s the funny thing about relationships: Our relationships with the Godhead will always be reflected by our relationships with people in our lives. For example, how we see Father God will either be enhanced or distorted by our relationship with our birth father. How we see Jesus is influenced by our relationships with our siblings, cousins, friends, or spouse. How we see Holy Spirit is a reflection of our relationship with our birth mother.

So when a sozo-ee asks Father God to join them, and Father God makes Himself evident as the sun in the sky in their safe place, it’s usually indicative that their birth father was very distant, lofty-thinking, much smarter than they were, et cetera. So from there, you lead the person into asking, “Father God, is there anything I need to forgive my father for?” Holy Spirit will tell them Yes or No, and if the answer is Yes, you have them ask, “What is it?” He will tell them, show them a memory they need to forgive, and they forgive it, renounce a lie about God that resulted from that incident, and then they get to receive their healing and a special gift from Father God.

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You repeat this process with Jesus and Holy Spirit for as long as there is time (Sozo sessions generally go about 2 hours).

There are several other tools to Sozo that I will likely talk about in a later post, but this is enough background for now. It’s amazing how much healing people get with just that!

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Shabar Ministry is a form of Advanced Sozo. If a person can’t see Father God, Jesus, or Holy Spirit—if you are coming up against what feels like a brick wall, and can’t get any ground—chances are, you need to move into Shabar.

The concept of Shabar is that oftentimes, when we are children, if we experience a trauma that we aren’t meant to handle or understand, a coping mechanism like a spare tire comes out and allows that child to function and keep going. But if the issue of the trauma isn’t addressed and the child doesn’t receive healing, that spare tire will stay out even as the child grows older. How many of you know that a car doesn’t run well on a spare tire for extended periods of time? So often, the people around us are running on a spare tire from a childhood trauma that they don’t know how to get rid of.

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An extreme form of this that is easiest to understand is the concept of schizophrenia, or multiple personality disorder, or various forms of bipolar/mania. I dealt with this with my husband back when we were dating (and this was before I knew any kind of Sozo or Shabar Ministry, so I had no idea how to handle it).

What happened with Levi was that, as a result of the traumas that had occurred in his life (being forcefully separated from his mom at birth, and his parents divorcing two years later), a part of his spirit was literally fractured. Part of him was able to grow and mature and develop at the normal rate a child should, but there was a part of him that stayed at that level of a very small, very frightened child. There would be times that seemed random, where the smallest and most insignificant things (to me) would trigger these enormous breakdowns. The Levi I knew vanished and I had no idea how to get him back. In his place was a terrified little boy who didn’t know how to handle the grown-up world around him in his grown-up body.

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When someone in Sozo is unable to progress in seeing God, or if they start manifesting (like the trigger I mentioned above) during a session, you guide them back to a safe place and you start speaking to the child that’s broken inside them. You have them ask, “Father God, is there a little girl/boy you want to heal?” Holy Spirit will tell them Yes or No, and if it’s Yes, then they ask, “Father God, show me the little girl/boy.” You have the sozo-ee pay special attention to what the little girl or boy is wearing, what they are doing, how they feel, et cetera.

Typically, the first question you have them ask beyond that is, “Father God, what does the little girl/boy need?” Or you could go a roundabout way and say, “Father God, how does the little girl/boy feel about you?” But eventually you get to the point where you have them ask Father God what the child needs, and if the child would be okay with Father God coming near to give them what they need. Tremendous healing happens as a result of this—the testimonies are endless, but no words can describe what happens in these sessions.

So, there you have it. A little (and I do mean little) background on the Sozo and Shabar ministry that I am privileged to be a part of. Hopefully this will give you some good context for what I reference in my posts, and I’m always open to answering questions about it.

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