Monday, April 23, 2018

Breaking The Shackles of Shame

Hey Friend,

The message in church this morning was on "Freedom in Christ".  The scripture the message was based on was Galatians 5:1-12.  For this post, I want to focus on that with which Paul comes out of the blocks:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1)

Being the "word nerd" that I am, a few things stand out about this statement.  

1.  To"free" is a verb - as in: Christ died to set us/me free. Christ freed me.
2.  "Freedom" is a noun - as in: Christ bought my freedom.
3.  "Freedom" is a state of being - as in: Even though Christ died to set me free, I have not lived in freedom.

I have been a Christian since I was thirteen, but there have been periods in my life that I have not lived in the freedom for which my Savior died.  I have lived, instead, bound by the shackles of shame and guilt.

When I was diagnosed with having depression and OCD (an anxiety disorder), I struggled with falling under the category of being "mentally ill".  I felt such shame and guilt.  I believed that I couldn't cope as well as others because of a flaw in my character or perhaps it was because my faith wasn't strong enough, or I wasn't trusting God enough, or praying enough.  

None of which was true, but the shame and guilt that comes with the label of being "mentally ill" can be hard to shake.  We NEED to erase the stigma, but that's another post for another day.

When I took my wedding vows...I meant them.  I KNEW I would be married until death us do part.  I believed that divorce was a sin and that God hated divorce.  When my husband and I separated, I did everything in my power to reconcile because I was not going to be one of "those" whose marriage failed.  

We reconciled for ten years, but then I had to live with a label that I never thought I'd have to live with.  I was divorced.  I cannot explain the shame, humiliation, sense of failure and guilt that came with having to say that I was divorced. 

To make matters worse, the process affected my work performance (and I needed that job as a single parent), and I was let go.  More guilt, more shame, more embarrassment.  I was never the one to be let go.  I was the one who excelled, and did well at most tasks I tackled.  To say this was a low blow would be an understatement!

Guilt and shame come when pride becomes an idol.

Back to church this morning.  My husband and I sat beside a delightful couple we did not know.  Before the service started, we were carrying on the usual introductory banter.  After lobbing some questions back and forth, Diana asked, "Do you have any children?"  "Yes, two," I immediately chimed in, "but we're empty-nesters."  "Oh really," Diana smiled, "How long have you been empty- nesters?"  Without even thinking about my response, I said, "Which time?"  We all started to chuckle and gave each other some knowing looks.

As the Pastor went on in his message, I realized I wasn't really so glib about my response.  We'd had some rough stretches with my children.  We'd watched one go down a very prodigal and destructive path and turn away from the church. Both have had their own share of issues that make potty training look like a walk in the park.  It's hard to launch adult children into the world these days.

I realized as the words entered my ears and traveled to my heart, that I was once again living shackled to shame and guilt.  

I have asked myself too many times to count, "What did I do wrong that my children have had to struggle so? Where did I mess up?  Could I...should I have done something different that would have changed the course they'd traveled?"  

The past shackles of shame that God had enabled me to shed had been put back on.  No one put them on but me.  I have been living in my own self-induced prison cell.  Christ died to set me free, but I have been living in guilt and shame.  I question the job I did in parenting.

Have you ever been driving down the highway when the person slightly ahead of you stops driving in their lane and starts taking up their half of the middle?  And then, the nerve of them, they start encroaching on YOUR lane?  I don't curse, but I will yell (as if they can hear me), "What the heck are you doing?  Stay in your own lane why don't you!!"

I realize that I haven't been driving in my own lane.

I've been trying to drive in my grown children's lanes.  

I've been trying to control, and fix, and give advice, and solve, and somehow make it all easy and better.  

I've forgotten, somewhere along the way, that my identity is not based on them and I don't have to feel shame and guilt if their lives are not picture perfect.  Their lives are just that....their lives. 

My identity is solely based in Christ.    

Their identities are solely based in Christ.  They were God's children before they were mine.  He's got this.  He's got them and He loves them even more than I do.

I am not responsible for the trials they've faced and the decisions they've made.  (Repeat to self ten times)

God will use their trials to build their testimonies, just like He used my trials to build my testimony.

Was I a perfect mother?  No.  Was I a good mother?  I tried my best, and when I screwed up, I asked God to fill in the gaps that I'd left.

For freedom Christ has set me free...not so I still have to wear the shackles of shame for anything.  The price has been paid for sin - intentional and unintentional.  Christ's body has been broken and His blood spilled, not so that I would stay shackled to shame, but so that I could live in the freedom for which Christ paid His life.  

Will you join me in letting go of whatever guilt or shame you've been holding onto?  Will you join me in running, dancing, skipping, rejoicing that we don't have to pay the price with feelings of guilt and shame because the penalty has already been paid?  Don't you and don't let the enemy strap on the shackles that have already been broken off.  

I carry a little picture of a person walking on the beach.  This is the saying that goes with it:

"Christ was perfect for me.  I can walk in freedom."  

Jesus, for FREEDOM You have set me free.  Enable me to stand firm and to walk in that perfect freedom.  Break these shackles of shame as they are not from You.  Amen.

Are you wearing the shackles of shame?  What would Jesus have you do with those?  Do you believe that you are forgiven?  Given that Christ died for you, how would He want you to live?  What shackles of guilt and shame need to go?

Be blessed.....

Sunday, April 15, 2018

One Sacrifice - Once And For All

Hey Friend,

I am reading through the Bible chronologically.  This is my second time through and it reminds me just how alive God's Word is and how it speaks to me vibrantly in different stages of my life.

Right now I am reading through Leviticus.  There's a reason why you don't see a lot of oft quoted scriptures from Leviticus.  Some of the key themes are God's holiness and how, since the Israelites were unholy, there had to be many sacrifices made to atone for their sins.  There is a foreshadowing of the ultimate substitutional sacrifice to come, but for now there are A LOT of rules, regulations, and protocol for making sacrifices so as to atone for the people's unholiness.  

Their were three Voluntary Offerings:  The Burnt Offering, The Grain Offering, and the Fellowship Offering.  These were voluntary acts of worship, atonement, confession and generally for unintentional sin and were a sign of complete commitment to God.  

Then came the two Mandatory Offerings:  The Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering.  These were made for unintentional and intentional sin, for cleansing from defilement, and for forgiveness of sin by God.  (Note God made a way for forgiveness).  

There were often several offerings made in succession and for each type of offering their were specific Elements:  a bull, ram, or male bird with no defect.  Grain, fine flour, olive oil, incense, salt, no yeast, honey along with a drink offering.  A male goat, female goat or lamb, dove or pigeon or flour depending on one's wealth. There were rules as to how the animal was to be killed and prepared.

There were specific processional rules like the priest dipping his finger into the blood and sprinkling it before the Lord seven times and then putting some of the blood on the horns of the altar. 

Certain innards had to be removed and ceremoniously washed and cleaned in water before being placed on the altar.  

Eating fat and blood was forbidden.  

In some rituals, the priest took the breast and right thigh of the animal and waved it in a "wave offering" before the Lord.  

The altar had to be kept burning at all times.

In the Sin Offering, the clay pot in which the meat was cooked must be broken, but if it was cooked in a bronze pot, the pot was to be scoured and rinsed with water. 

The list of prescribed offering preparation and presentation goes on for chapters. It's kind of mind boggling.

Everything had to be done precisely in the prescribed way.  Two of Aaron's sons offered unauthorized fire offerings before the Lord - contrary to His command.  The fire of the Lord came out from Him and consumed them. Wow!  Talk about pressure!!

By the end of several chapters on atonement offerings, my head was spinning.  I tend to be forgetful, so chances are, I would have been one who would have been consumed by fire.  

After reading all this, my most prominent thought was:  I am SO thankful that God made ONE substitutional sacrifice for me ONCE and for all.  He gave His one and only Son and Jesus went knowingly to His death for me/us.

There is no way I could perfectly keep all the laws and take all the prescribed measures to make the holy sacrifices for my sins.  That's why it is such a huge relief to read this scripture:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 1: 28-29)

Jesus is talking to the people who are weak and weary from living burdened under the hard yoke of the law.  He knows they have struggled and failed to live under the Old Covenant of the Law.  He invites them to live under His New Covenant of Grace.

The "yoke" He refers to is the Law.  It is heavy and burdensome.  Jesus says, "Take MY yoke upon you and you will see that MY yoke is easy and my burden is light."  In other words, accept my substitutional sacrifice; accept my grace and forgiveness that comes with it, and you will see that it is gentle and light - unlike the heaviness of the Law.  Come, learn from me....

Accept ME as your sacrifice.  Accept MY grace and forgiveness and you will finally find rest for your souls. 

In other words, gone are all the rules, regulations, and protocol for sacrifices and offerings.  They are completely gone.  One atoning sacrifice has been made, once and for all.  All we have to do is accept it.  Wow....what a gift!

So, what are YOU going to do?  Are you going to keep living under the legalism of the law?  Trying to be perfect on your own?  Making offerings of your own righteousness and striving?  

Or, are you going to take HIS yoke of grace and forgiveness upon you?  Lift off the heavy burden of the yoke of the law and take on His yoke which is easy and light and accept His invitation to follow Him and learn from Him?

I know what my answer will be?  What will yours be?  Do you still struggle with accepting His easy yoke of grace?  Why?  Do you still live under the law - striving and trying to be perfect?  What might Jesus be calling you to? What sacrifice will make you "enough" in God's eyes?

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you and praise you that you foreknew how miserably we'd fail at living under the Law.  Thank you for loving me/us SO much that you were willing to offer the one and only atoning sacrifice that would take care of our sins once and for all.  Thank you Jesus, for going willingly to the slaughter, for taking my sins upon you, so that I could be forever freed from my sin. Help me to take your yoke of grace upon me for it is easy and light and you promise to forever be yoked with me and teach me your ways.  Thank you for this awesome gift.  Let me live forgiven and shed the burden and baggage of my sin.  Let me travel light in the gentleness of your amazing grace.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed.....our sin is great....God's love is greater still!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Whitening The Easy Way - Winner Announced

Hey Friend,

For the past two weeks I have been using the Smile Brilliant Professional Teeth Whitening System and am pleased to share my wonderful results.  Here are my "Before" and "After" photos:

I didn't realize how much my teeth had become stained from my unkickable habit of drinking coffee.  I've tried other whitening systems in the past (with not so great success) including:

1.  Whitening in the dentist's office which was good but very expensive and naturally not covered by insurance.

2.  Teeth whitening strips.  These were so-so. I had trouble keeping them in place.  I couldn't talk while they were in. They weren't really effective in getting the results I wanted.

3.  Over the counter trays.  These were expensive, slipped around, and again, I didn't get the results I was looking for.

The beauty of the Smile Brilliant System is that it is a professional grade product - like what you would get in the dentist's office.  You make custom fitting trays that fit YOUR teeth perfectly.  They were comfortable. You couldn't even tell I had them in.  I could even talk with them in. You only need to whiten once per day for 45 min - 3 hours max. And, it's affordable!!

I used the kit for sensitive teeth, but often didn't find it necessary to use the sensitivity gel.  

When did I find time to whiten??  I'm fortunate that I work from home.  I could just pop them in and do my work.  

If I had a day that required a lot of phone work or being away from home, I would pop them in while I was showering, fixing my hair, and doing my makeup.  My husband and I enjoy sporting events, so often my "get ready" time was my "whitening time".

My favorite way to whiten, was on a cold, dreary, Sunday afternoon, I'd pop in the trays and treat myself to a "Nap-Whitening" combo.  Yes, they are that comfortable :)

Evening t.v. watching time was also an alternative.  Positive benefit here: When I had the trays in, I couldn't eat or drink so it cut down on the after-dinner!

So how do I feel now that my teeth are white?  First, I was shocked at how dingy they had become. Then, I was delighted! People have always told me I have a nice smile and now I feel like I really do.  I did a series on my blog about Self Care. Self Care is not selfish and it's not a sin. It is good to take care of yourself and pamper yourself on a regular basis.  It felt good to do something nice for myself and I loved the results.

Here's the Official Comparison:Comparisons of smile brilliant and other whitening methods

Comparisons of smile brilliant and other whitening methods

Also now that I have the trays, I can order whitening gel and sensitivity gel syringes any time I want to do some touch ups.  Here is the link if you didn't win, but would like a nice discount on any of the Smile Brilliant products - compliments of Walking Well With God.

Giveaway link:
15% off everything code:  walkingwell15
20% off whitening kits code:  walkingwell20

And now....drum roll please...
The winner of the FREE Smile Brilliant teeth whitening kit is:
Barbie Swihart...YAY!!

Thank you to ALL who participated....happy whitening :)
Check out my other post this week:  "Our God Is A Mighty Warrior"

Be blessed....

Our God Is A Mighty Warrior

Hey Friend,

My neighbors must be wondering what on earth is going on since I am out in my backyard several times a day yelling, "No," or "Get out of there!!"  

Over the weekend, my husband and I were outside working in our backyard when all of a sudden we heard an awful "squeak" as our beagle ran off with a baby bunny in his mouth.  I was thankful that my husband was home.  I have pulled dead squirrels out of my dog's mouth, but a baby bunny?  That would have been too heart-wrenching for this sensitive gal.

Now the question was, what do we do with the bunnies remaining in the nest that our beagle (an instinctive hunter) had discovered?  After some quick research on bunny habits, we constructed a pen of sorts to keep Topper out during the day, but then we opened it up in the evening so that momma bunny could come to feed the little ones.  

Did you know that mother rabbits will only come but five minutes or so a day so as not to attract predators to her nest?  

The only problem is that our beagle is not only preoccupied, but is obsessed with this bunny nest.  I tried to plant some flowers in the backyard, but found myself bouncing up continually to chase Topper away from the nest that drew him in like a magnet.  

Ironically, this ongoing routine of ours reminded me of a segment of scripture I read in Exodus.  Stick with me on this one...

It's Chapter 14 in Exodus.  Moses is leading the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt.  After multiple plagues, Pharaoh tells Moses to go, but then his heart is hardened and he goes after them.  Pharaoh's army has pursued the Israelites and has them basically pinned up against the Red Sea.  They are surrounded with no way out.  

The people are terrified and cry out to Moses that they should have never left Egypt.  Then Moses answers the fearful throng:

"Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."  (Exodus 14:13-14)

We all know what God did next....He parted the Red Sea, led His people safely across, and then released the sea walls again so that they swallowed up the Egyptians.
What did the Israelites have to do to save themselves?  Absolutely nothing.  They just had to remain still and KNOW the Lord would fight for them.

So back to my "Backyard Bunny Parable".  If you will give me a little creative license...  The baby bunnies are kind of like the Israelites - kind of like you and me.  The enemy (the beagle) prowls about seeking to destroy and kill (much like Pharaoh and the Egyptians). 

Just as the bunnies are cornered in their nest, the Israelites were hemmed in by the Red Sea.  Like them, we find ourselves in trials and struggles, from which, we have no earthly idea how to escape.  The beagle, Pharaoh, the enemy is in hot pursuit.  He has an arsenal of weapons and lies that he uses to destroy.  

But, God....He doesn't say, "Okay bunnies, Israelites, (fill in your name), fight your way out of this one.  No, He tells us, "Be still," and He fights FOR us!  

I know this is a stretch, but... I swoop in like God.  I chase the beagle away from the bunnies like God took care of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. The only thing I'm armed with, however, is a garden hose.  What did the baby bunnies do?  Yes, they cowered, but they did absolutely nothing because a force greater than themselves was at work over the enemy.   

So after Moses and the Israelites are safe on the other bank, He and the prophetess, Miriam, sing a song in which they praise God:

"The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation...

The Lord is a warrior."
(Exodus 15:2a,3a)

I've thought of God as many things, but not necessarily as a mighty warrior.  I picture Him more as being seated on His throne. But, that my friends, is exactly what He is - a warrior - when the enemy seeks to do you harm.  Even when God suits us up in His armor, He commands us to stand.  

He wants to defend us and so He reminds us time and time again that the battle belongs to Him.  We need only to be still and He will fight for us.  He knows the enemy far better than we do and so He gently tells us, "Be still."  Be still and know that He is God and He is in control.

What battles are you fighting (and perhaps losing) in your own strength?  Have you gotten to the end of yourself yet?  Are you tired and battle weary?

Then KNOW that God loves you more than anything and He wants to be YOUR mighty warrior.  

You can believe Him when He says that He will fight FOR you; you need only be still.  

He's not joking when He says the battle belongs to Him.  He's got this.  Just stand.  Be still.  Give it ALL to Him because He longs to fight FOR you.  He's on your side.  He has your back.  

Yes, He is YOUR mighty Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me when I attempt to fight in my own strength.  Enable me to surrender my self-sufficiency and let YOU go to battle for me.  Help me not to fear - even when things look hopeless.  Nothing is too hard for you, Oh Lord.  I believe; help my unbelief.  When I doubt, remind me that you are on my side.  You are my defender and that my battles are YOUR battles.  Help me to believe with all my heart that You will fight for me; I need only to be still.  Work this truth into my heart so that it casts out fear.  I thank you and I praise you.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

If you prayed this prayer with me, will you turn your battle over to the Lord?  He is, indeed, a mighty warrior who will fight for YOU because He loves you. 

Be blessed....

And the winner is: Tune in Weds. for the "Big Reveal" and Smile Brilliant Winner Announced!!

                                                                 The Studio in September