What’s the source of your understanding?

When Joseph was in prison God gave him an opportunity to know something he didn’t know in order to help others. The dreams two prisoners had caused them to become sorrowful because they didn’t know the meanings. Joseph told them that interpreting dreams was something only God could do. And so, because he knew God, he was confident that God would give him the interpretation to tell them. Joseph’s relationship with God enabled him to know something he didn’t know. He passed this understanding on to the two prisoners, and this understanding from God ultimately raised him out of his prison..

Today, we who have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, also have the ability to know things that we don’t know through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples…

“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14:26,17

Besides exposing my shame and unraveling the lie I believed, that I was no good, the Holy Spirit gave me more understanding of shame and how it stole from my life during a very dark season.

To put some things into perspective I need to go back to where I came from. I grew up in a rural farming town in Pennsylvania. We were members of a small Mennonite Church which stayed separate from much of the culture around us. Our separateness came from convictions based on scripture that we followed as part of our obedience to God and as a demonstration of our faith in God. Such as the conviction I spoke up about not listening to “rock” music. The heart of those convictions were godly, intended to be the outflow of a heart that loved God and desired to please Him. Many of them were concerned with the outward appearance and along with the word curse I heard spoken a lot in our home, “What will people think?” it was a perfect set up for the enemy to take those “rules” and twist them and use them for my harm.

So moving along, this young, Mennonite girl married and moved to Bergen County, New Jersey. Needless to say, there are no Mennonite Churches in Bergen County, no farms, no cows…

I was excited, but clueless!

The country was still in me. The convictions were still in me. And so were the lies…”Don’t speak up for your convictions or you won’t fit in.” Oh, and don’t forget what you have heard, “What will people think?” But, I was no longer in my sheltered little community.

That culture change stirred up an insecurity within me. All of a sudden the convictions and rules I had grown up with were no longer adhered to by those around me. My convictions were still in me, but those around me didn’t live by them. Who was I? How did I fit in?

Insecurity seeks a way to fit in…

I had lost some weight and I received many compliments. These compliments fell on a very insecure and vulnerable heart. Those compliments proved I fit in, that others thought I was good! It was those compliments the enemy meant for my harm. Those compliments were seed for an eating disorder and a downward spiral to much more devastation in my life.

Fear keeps the soul striving…

Being thin got me accepted! Being thin was good! That became my truth; this is good, fat is bad. Thin was the way to appear good, if I was fat others would see that I was really no good.

Shame fears exposure, Shame hides in the dark. Shame does all it can to remain a secret.

From the outside I was living a normal, happy, life. Mark and I had a great marriage. We regularly attended church and I attended a woman’s Bible study each week. Our family was growing, God blessed us with three wonderful sons. Mark was in business with his father, we owned our house, I was able to be home to raise the boys…

I had everything I ever dreamed of…and more,

But, the enemy comes to steal, kill, and to destroy…

So, now I was “The thinnest woman in church.” But now what?

There is no satisfying shame; it’s insatiable. 

It was like an addiction… I needed others to constantly approve of me. 

It was that need of approval that led me down an even darker path. The fear of not fitting in became so strong I completely compromised my convictions. The fear of what others would think of me caused me to conform to what others wanted of me.

Those were the things the Holy Spirit was showing me and I wept as He brought clarity to so much of what happened during that dark season. Though it was a long time ago, and I had already confessed and repented of my sin, I was amazed how clear I could see the ways shame had affected me. With the understanding of how shame worked, how it was connected to the lies I believed, brought an insight that I am so thankful for. Not that I now had an excuse, or I could say that the enemy made me do it.

But seeing the power of the fear from the lies of Satan.

Realizing the deception and secrecy of shame.

Becoming aware of how the strategies of the enemy are meant for my harm, to steal, kill, and to destroy me,brought an understanding that I never had before. 

Understanding based on the loving truth of God is powerful…

If you find yourself in a prison of self please be encouraged that God has something you need to know. He has an understanding that He wants to tell you. Get alone with God, completely alone, with no interruptions, and ask the Holy Spirit to speak. And then listen. And you will be amazed!

God is for you and He has a destiny for you to fulfill.

The prison of self is meant for your harm. It is meant to be a  place where your hopes and dreams are stolen, killed, and destroyed. But God intends good for you and He has understanding He wants to give you so that He can raise you up out of your prison of self and carry out the hopes, dreams, and destiny He has placed within you!

 

 

 

My Shame is Undone!

 

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Yes, the day I asked God why my heart hurt so much when I became offended by a ministry decision, He showed me what was at the root.

And what He showed me changed me forever!

Desperate to hear what God wanted to teach me from this offense my eyes fell on a book from the ministry of Ancient Paths. The Lord led me to a page about shame. As I read the ways shame shows itself in a person’s life my eyes were opened to so much I needed to see.

I found myself checking off many of the evidences of shame I saw working in my own life…

“Fear of emotion” yes, that was definitely true about me. I asked the Lord, “Where did my fear of emotion come from?” I knew growing up my family never shared our feelings or showed our emotions. I realized that expressing feelings and emotions exposed who I really was deep inside. Then I began to see that I had a fear of exposing myself to others. The Lord reminded me that my parents often spoke these words in our home, “What will people think?” This “word curse,” as I have called it, kept me fearful of being seen as anything but good to others. Feelings and emotions require vulnerability, honesty, authenticity. To share my feelings and emotions opened me up to the judgment of others. What would others think of me if I admitted “that feeling”? What would they think of me if I expressed “that emotion”? Because I needed others to only see me as good I wouldn’t risk sharing my feelings, I wouldn’t risk expressing my emotions. I held them in and didn’t allow myself to feel, to express myself. I would stick with facts, superficial things that I knew well so others would only think good of me.

“Inability to be seen in public unless one’s physical appearance is perfect.” Yup, this one got my attention too. Though I had gotten less obsessed, this was often a huge concern of mine. Again, “What will people think?” if I’m less than perfect. If I wasn’t well put together I wouldn’t appear as good. I always felt vulnerable to the judgment of others, fearful they would see me in a negative way, as bad, wrong.

“Fear of trying new things.” This one received a check mark as well. “What if I don’t do well?” “What if I make a mistake?” “What if I fail?” “What will people think of me?” It was amazing how the Holy Spirit was connecting the dots and bringing revelation! I began to realize that this word curse had affected my entire life. Yes, this was the root fear of why I wouldn’t try new things. It was safe to just stick with the things I could do well. Why risk something that I may not do well? Why put myself in a position that others would see what I already knew about myself, that I wasn’t good, that I was incapable, that I was a failure.

“Jealousy and comparison”  Oh my goodness, this one I was well aware of and I had been asking God to set me free from these for so long. My prayers were finally answered as God opened my eyes to understand what the root was. It was all coming together, the Holy Spirit showed me that shame was at the root of my insecurity, and insecurity was what kept me striving to prove my value, my worth. Because I believed I was no good, I needed to prove to others that I was good. The typical scenario went like this…I would get dressed in the morning and feel pretty good about myself. My outfit looked good, my hair was properly fluffed. (Yes, I love big hair!) I left the house feeling good and confident. The confidence continued as I walked into church on Sunday morning, into the mall, or anywhere there were other women. But as I began to check out other women, their outfits, their hair, their body types…insecurity began to set in. All of a sudden my outfit wasn’t right for the occasion. My hair wasn’t fluffed as well as it should be. My figure didn’t measure up…before I knew it I felt wrong, bad, ugly! How did I go from feeling so good about myself that morning to feeling so bad about myself?

It had a name, it was called, Shame!

Shame was the root, deep down inside I believed I was no good. No matter how good I looked, how stylish the outfit, how amazing the hair, how thin the body…no matter how I measured up to those around me, it was what I believed about myself that kept me insecure, striving, and in a prison of self. And quite frankly it was very stressful and tiring!!!

But now, it had a name!

Now I could finally see the lie that held me captive in a prison of self!

My shame was exposed!

I knew what I needed to do, and I was so ready!

I confessed my sin of believing the lie that “I was no good.”

I asked God to forgive me for all the jealousy, comparing, and striving I had done to prove that I was good, to prove my worth.

I asked God to forgive me for allowing the word curse, “What will people think?” to keep me in fear of man, for making people as idols, looking to them to determine my value.

Jesus took off my cloak of shame and He wrapped me in His Robe of Righteousness!

In her song, “Holy Spirit,” Kari Jobe, says that it is in God’s presence “Where my heart becomes free, and my shame is undone.”

This is the very thing that happened to me that day I became desperate for the Lord to show me about the hurt in my heart. It is in the presence of the Lord where lies and deception, those strategies of the enemy meant for harm, are exposed by the light of God’s truth.

When the Holy Spirit reveals your sin, it is without shame. It is without condemnation. It comes with pure love meant to draw you to repentance.

It is His lovingkindness that enables you to confess your sin, to let go of your shame, and to be set free from your prison of self!

It is by the shed blood of Jesus you are forgiven, you are cleansed, and your cloak of shame is exchanged for Christ’s Robe of Righteousness!my-shame-is-undone

Nothing can Separate you from the Love of God!

 

nothing-can-separate-1Back to Joseph who I left in prison several blogs ago…Though Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and thrown into prison by Potiphar who was furious with him for something he didn’t do, the Lord was with Joseph and continued to show him His love and faithfulness. The Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden so that he was put in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no worries because Joseph took care of everything. Once again, Joseph was successful in everything he did.

This is why I am so drawn to the story of Joseph. While I don’t know the purpose of the prison, the ways Joseph’s faith was tested, how his character was developed, how his heart was refined, I do know that Joseph thrived. Joseph’s story gives hope that no matter what man did to Joseph, God remained with him.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

How often do the fears for today or the worries about tomorrow seem to separate you from the love of God?

How often does the enemy accuse you of those things in your past that have already been forgiven?

How often do you think, “If God really loved me…”?

It is only when you are fully convinced that nothing can separate you from the love of God that you will be able to thrive in any situation you face.

Are you convinced that God’s love for you will dispel all your fear?

Are you convinced that God loves you so much that you can trust Him and give Him all your worries?

Are you convinced that God loved you so much He gave His Son, Jesus, to completely forgive you of all your sin?

Are you convinced that God loves you so much that nothing you have faced, are facing, or will ever face, will take away His love from you?

When you are convinced of God’s love for you, you will thrive, no matter what!

When Joseph saw how worried and upset two of the inmates assigned to him looked he had compassion for them and asked them why.

They told Joseph that they each had a dream, but that no one could tell them what they meant. Joseph told them that interpreting dreams was God’s business, and then told them to tell him their dreams.

The chief cup-bearer told Joseph his dream. He saw a grapevine with three branches that bloomed and produced clusters of grapes. He was holding Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, and then placed it into Pharaoh’s hand.

God’s favor was on Joseph and enabled him to tell what the dream meant. The three branches represented three days. Within three days he would be restored back into service as chief cup-bearer to Pharaoh.

Joseph told the cup-bearer that when he was restored to tell Pharaoh to set him free for he did nothing deserving of prison.

Freedom!! Joseph could taste it! Surely when Pharaoh was told of the wisdom of Joseph; that his God gave him the ability to interpret the cup-bearer’s dream, and when Pharaoh heard that Joseph was in prison for no reason, he was sure to find favor in Pharaoh’s eyes and he would be set free!

When the chief baker heard the interpretation Joseph gave the cup-bearer he told Joseph his dream. He saw in his dream three baskets of white pastries stacked on his head. The top basket contained all kinds of pastries for Pharaoh, but birds came and ate from the basket.

Joseph told the chief baker what his dream meant. The three baskets were also three days. At that time Pharaoh would lift him from prison, but impale him on a pole. The birds would come and peck at his flesh.

Three days later the chief cup-bearer was indeed restored to his position, and Pharaoh did impale the chief baker just as Joseph had spoken.

But the chief cup-bearer forgot all about Joseph.

Forgotten instead of freedom!!

Nothing could separate Joseph from the love of God. Not even the forgetfulness of the cup-bearer. As each day went by it seemed to be another day he was forgotten, but in the big picture it was another day closer to his promotion.

Faith is tested.

Character is developed.

The heart is refined…

It began with a conversation that caused me to become very upset. I took offense to a decision a ministry leader made. A ministry that I was involved in was going to be changed and I no longer would be involved in the leadership. I understood some of the concerns, but felt very strongly the changes were based on wrong motives. And of course I was hurt and felt rejected because I believed I was being obedient to the Lord’s was leading.

“This leader is listening to what people want, not to what God wants.”

“I’ve been doing what God has been showing me, this is what He wants.”

“How could this leader do this? I’m not trusted.”

The intensity of the hurt in my heart convinced me there was something in this that the Lord wanted to show me, some work He wanted to do in my heart. Years ago I had read a book, “The Bait of Satan,” written by John Bevere. It was about this very thing, how the enemy uses offense to divide and conquer ministry. I knew I didn’t want the enemy to win. I knew I needed to come under the authority over me. I was convinced God loved me, that He was for me…

So, one morning I got alone with God and had an intense time of ministry as the Holy Spirit began to lift me out of a prison of shame!

 

 

 

Perfect Love Expels All Fear!

You may ask, “How can you know that you were restored that day when the lie was revealed and exchanged with the truth?”

Though I’m not like my car, Zeb, that had obvious repairs done to him, there were some obvious changes I could see in myself that I knew I was changed from the inside out.

One example happened several months later when I was asked to share my testimony on video to promote the ministry of Ancient Paths. You need to remember the lie the enemy planted years ago, “If I speak up for my convictions I won’t fit in” and how it had brought fear of speaking and of making mistakes… Now, I was asked to share on video for everyone to see what I believed about the ministry I had experienced.

I admit there was a battle between the old lie and the new truth.

“I can’t do this! Talk in front of a video camera? I’ve never done that before.”

“What will I say? How will I remember what to say?”

“My voice will shake, I’ll be so nervous, what will people think?”

But then new thoughts started to come to mind…

“I know what happened during the ministry time was real. I know the Lord showed me myself as a little girl and revealed the lie I believed, and I know He replaced it with a truth that I can believe in.”

“If God did that for me, I want others to know so they too will find the freedom I have found.”

“God has set me apart, and He has plans for me, I can trust Him to make me brave!”

So, I said “Yes.”

I began to write out a script. If I was going to do this I wanted to have my lines well memorized so I could speak as freely as possible. With my script well memorized I went to the taping of my testimony. I was amazed how well I shared, feeling very thankful and confident when I was finished.

Until I heard, “That was great, except that it took three minutes and you only have a minute and a half. You need to cut it down.”

Once again thoughts came crashing into my mind…

“What?! That was what I want to share! I can’t cut it down!”

“I don’t have time to rewrite. You can’t expect me to cut it down without a rewrite.”

“I can’t get my thoughts together just here on the spot.”

“What am I going to do?!”

None of these thoughts came out of my mouth. Instead, I found myself saying,

“Okay, I’ll give it a try.”

I opened my mouth and out came words. Words I had said before, but put together differently. I was speaking, but I wasn’t figuring it all out. I don’t know that I ever experienced that before. All I know was that all of a sudden I was finished. When the time was checked it was exactly one and a half minutes!

“God, that was truly amazing! You helped me to do the impossible!”

I was asked if I would like to see it.

See it?! Of course! I needed to see the miraculous thing that just took place! When I saw myself talking on the video I couldn’t believe it. Now, I know that sounds really proud, but you have to believe me when I say it was a huge miracle in so many ways! The quiet little girl that feared speaking up for her convictions, the insecure woman that lived in fear of making a mistake, whose voice literally shook when speaking in front of people, she was on a screen in front of me sharing her personal testimony of how she was set free! I knew then and there that I was changed, forever changed. I was no longer a slave to fear. My voice was restored, and I knew I had stepped into a what God had set me apart for, the destiny He had created me for.

To be a speaker of truth…

To share the ways fear brought harm to my life,

and to prove how the amazing grace and love of God expels all fear, restores, and sets free!

This lie of the enemy isn’t unique to me. Yes, it came to me in a unique way during music class, but the enemy plants lies that steal people’s voices all the time in many various ways. Individually we have been lied to and our voices have been stolen.

I believe much apathy and compromise in the church, among the people of God, is rooted in fear.

Fear is the enemy’s number one strategy to keep God’s people quiet and from living the lives God intended for us. When we are born again we often say this verse to describe who we are now that we belong to Christ.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

It is a great verse, but I believe it is a verse that we know in our heads, but our hearts don’t fully embrace its truth. The lies of the enemy are often planted when we are very young. We develop habits because of the lies we believe. They become our truth. When we are born again we often continue to believe our “truth” and live from the habits and patterns we have developed.

We can be a child of God, yet living as a slave to fear.

As a child of God we will experience God’s blessing and favor, but as long as we are slaves to fear we remain in bondage to compromise and striving.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” 1 John 4:18  

“Lord, show me any lie the enemy planted in my heart that has caused me to fear. Show me what has become my “truth” and the sin I have committed because of believing it.”

“Father, I confess my sin of believing the lie that__________________. Lord, please forgive me for the sin I committed because I believed that lie. Thank You for Your forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus. Thank You for revealing the lie and the ways believing it has caused me to sin against You.”

“Now Father, I ask You to show me Your truth. What did You have to say to me during that time when the enemy lied to me? What was Your truth of that situation I experienced?”

“Thank You for showing me Your truth. I choose to exchange the lie I believed with Your truth. Please help me to live in Your truth. When I begin to respond in my old ways by striving or in compromise because of fear, remind me of Your truth.”

“Thank You, Father, for Your perfect love for me. As Your child I can walk in love and freedom, no longer a slave to fear!”

 

Restored!

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Zebulun Restored! One month after the accident my car has been restored back to its original condition! And, Yes, I named my car Zebulun because I love that name and my children have let me know that I will never have a grandson by that name!

This accident experience has reminded me about the ways in which the Lord has restored me throughout my life.

Something that was once good, became broken, and then was made new.

I have been bumped into.

Had some pit experiences.

Been a slave to fear.

Taken captive in a prison of self.

I was raised in a Christian home where my parents loved God and lived according to the Bible. We attended church regularly and I learned the truth of  God’s word since birth. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit draw me into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus when I was twelve years old. I know at that moment I prayed “the sinner’s prayer” the Holy Spirit came into my spirit and sealed me for the rich and satisfying life God intended for me.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

But, as you can see from this verse, there is an enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. This enemy takes advantage of your weaknesses and the vulnerable times of your life.

When I was in elementary school my music teacher played a song during class one day and in my young heart and mind I realized it was a song that I wasn’t allowed to listen to. I went up to the teacher’s desk and told her that I wasn’t allowed to listen to that type of music. I’m not sure what I expected her to do, but her solution was to put a chair out in the hall and have me sit there until the song was over. This may not seem to be a pit experience or a reason for fear, but the Lord has shown me since that this very experience was when the enemy planted a lie in my heart. “If you speak up for your convictions you won’t fit in.”

This lie became my truth. I felt different, isolated from others. I feared speaking up for myself, for what I believed. I feared what people would think of me.

I became very conscientious. I tried to blend in with those around me. Always striving to do the right thing, to always say the right thing. Never wanting to make a mistake. I answered people with, “I don’t care,” “Maybe,” never wanting to commit myself in fear my answer wouldn’t “fit in.”

I was bumped into that day. I was broken, but I didn’t even know it.

The enemy planted a lie that was meant for my harm. A lie that caused me to fear. A lie that caused me to strive. A lie that kept me focused on self.

After the car accident the officer said that Zeb was drivable, but with the exhaust pipe damaged as it was, it wouldn’t be a good idea to drive the two hours home.

That little girl in the hallway was damaged, but she kept on driving without being restored. The damage that was done stole from my life. The fear of not fitting in stole my voice, my convictions, my identity of who I was as God’s child.

While I can’t blame the enemy for my behavior and responses in life, I have a greater understanding of why I responded to life situations in the ways that I did.

I have learned the strategy of Satan is to plant lies into the hearts of the young and innocent. These lies are meant to bring harm through fear and shame. It is fear and shame that keep you in a prison of self. And in this prison of self you will never know your identity and destiny that God has for you. This is how Satan steals, kills, and destroys.

But Jesus has come to give you a rich and satisfying life!

Throughout the many years of striving as a slave to fear, God never left me. He was for me! There is more I want to share about those years; the tests I failed, the amazing grace of God, and the testimonies that have come from them. I’m sure they will show up in future blogs.

But for now, I will tell how God restored me from the damage the enemy did that day in the hall.

About six years ago I was at a seminar called Ancient Paths. There was a video teaching and small group times to allow the Holy Spirit to personally minister His truth. During the teaching the Lord put these three words in my mind, “Lack of affirmation.” When I went to the small group I told the facilitator these words and he said to ask the Lord about them. We went to prayer and right away the Lord showed me in my mind’s eye a little girl sitting in the hallway. I knew right away it was me back in elementary school. I remembered the situation like it was yesterday. The Lord spoke to me and told me the enemy planted a lie that day, the lie that, “If you speak up for your convictions you won’t fit in.” The Holy Spirit then connected the dots for me…I realized that my striving to fit in, not wanting to make a mistake, afraid of what others thought of me, afraid to speak…these came from that lie. It all made so much sense! It was so clear to me!

That’s what I love about God, when He shows you the truth it’s without shame or condemnation, but with love and kindness. I told the facilitator what the Lord showed me. He told me to confess believing the lie and the sin that I committed by believing it. I was ready and willing to do that. I knew this was what I needed, this is what I wanted. After I confessed my sin I asked God to show me the truth He wanted me to know that day. As I allowed the Holy Spirit to speak He showed me the little girl again and said, “My truth to you that day was, I have set you apart! It wasn’t to keep you from fitting in, but to protect you because I have a greater purpose and plan for your life.” Then, when I saw myself as that little girl in the hall I had a new truth; God’s truth, and that truth set me free. Today I am free and restored from the damage (lie) of the enemy. Free from the pit of isolation. Free from fear of not fitting in. And I am free to speak of what I believe.

Praise God, I was restored!