How To Experience Guilt-Free Living

It’s always exciting to find a new book – that special topic I’ve been looking for – at a bargain price.God is not mad at you - book

Last week, I discovered the book by Joyce Meyer, “God is Not Mad at You.” In her usual fashion, Joyce speaks the truth about perfectionism, legalism, shame and learning how to live guilt-free.

These are topics we deal with regularly at GateWay of Hope. And the root to many of these struggles is the pain of rejection.

We can feel rejected because of various circumstances:

  • Losing our parents at an early age
  • The comments of children and/or teachers at school
  • Struggling through adolescence and the volatile teen years
  • Failing classes or failing at a job
  • Betrayal by a spouse
  • Comparisons to other women or even to our siblings
  • Abuse of any kind

When we feel rejected, we may try to be perfect – to reach that high bar others have set for us. And we may think we need to be perfect for God as well, which can trap us within the lies of legalism.

Then all sorts of damaging emotions can plague us, causing even more mental and spiritual problems which may lead to more rejection. And the cycle continues.

Some of these emotions may include:

  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • A critical and judgmental spirit
  • Constant comparisons to others
  • Feeling defensive at any type of criticism
  • Distrusting anyone in authority
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • A stronghold of fear
  • Feeling hopeless
  • A poor self-image
  • Jealousy
  • Plus many more negative emotions

So how can we get past these issues, dig out the root and prevent the bitterness that leads to false guilt? How can we find freedom to move on?

In our Boundaries classes at GateWay, we teach women this truth, “I am not responsible for how someone else thinks.”

So if another person compares us to someone else or says something ugly to us – we don’t have to believe that or receive it into our spirits.

We can fight against it with the truth. “I’m not responsible for what you think about me.”

We can also learn to love ourselves and appreciate who we really are – separate from all the things we do.

As Joyce writes, “No matter how many other people love you, if you don’t love yourself, you will still feel lonely.”

Through Counseling, the support of relationships in groups and Coaching, we teach women how to be authentic, how to be honest and not afraid to be vulnerable, how to truly love themselves.

When we feel secure in the knowledge and truth of who we really are, when we accept ourselves as we are – then we don’t have to be perfect or meet the standards of someone else.

The most important path to guilt-free living is to realize we don’t have to earn God’s love. He accepts us and loves us. Period.

He won’t love us any more if we do great things. He won’t love us any less if we do nothing.

He has a special place in his heart for his daughters, and he will never abandon us, reject us or leave us alone to struggle through life.

When we truly know how much God loves us, then we can begin to love ourselves even more and stop living in the land of rejection.

And if you struggle with these issues, give us a call at GateWay of Hope. 913.393.GATE (4283). We’d love to help.

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

How Will You Celebrate Easter?

We spend so much time, energy and stress celebrating Christmas when the major Christian holiday is Easter.Easter lily

True, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus and what a momentous event that was! But we also max out our credit cards, deal with the dynamics of family get-togethers and go to office parties we don’t care about.

We worry about buying the best gifts – “Will she really like this?” and try to figure out how to graciously accept the gifts we don’t want. We spend hours in lines either buying or returning gifts, then add to our landfills when we throw away wrappings, ribbons and boxes.

We dutifully attend Christmas programs and take videos of our kids in their cute Christmas outfits, all the while hoping we can somehow manage to eat the Christmas goodies without gaining weight.

Somewhere during the pre-Thanksgiving through post-Christmas season, we remember the squalid manger, a scared teenaged mother and a bunch of smelly animals. So we sing “Silent Night” and say a quickie prayer of thanks for that baby born under the Bethlehem sky.

But Easter is another matter. Sure, we still get caught up in the dyeing of eggs, the filling of baskets and the baking of the ham.

But for the most part, Easter is less stressful and more of a contemplative holiday. Plus, we only have one week to consider what it’s all about.

One week to remember the horrific destruction of a young man’s body – how flogging and crucifixion induced painful inflammation, tetanus and infection.

One week to think about the disciples who fled in fear, then wonder if we wouldn’t have done the same thing.

One week to observe the sacrament of communion and truly remember Jesus.

One week to read each of the Gospel renditions and compare the lyrical version of John’s story to the logic of Matthew’s.

One week to marvel at the miracle of resurrection and how awesome it must have been to see the risen Lord.

One week to remember how important the women were to Jesus – they stayed with him at the cross, they were the first ones to see the risen Lord, they spread the message as Jesus gave them the task, “Go and tell my disciples.”

Only one week. How will you observe Easter this year?

Maybe this Easter week will represent a 360 in our busy schedules.

Maybe we will realize our need for the Savior and truly understand what Jesus did for us on that old rugged cross.

Maybe this Easter, we will decide to fill our Easter baskets with a gratitude that reaches beyond the spring holiday and flows all the way to next December.

Maybe this year, Easter and Christmas will erupt with personal revivals around the globe. Now that would be a reason to celebrate.

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Live From Your Power

Sometimes, it is easy to habitually repeat negative phrases such as, “I can’t do this,” or “I’ll never be able to ….”power in rejoicing

And the “What If” phrases we use often originate from a place of fear. “What if this happens?” “What if I can’t …?”

But as Christian women, we are not called to live from a place of fear or negativity. In fact, we have within us the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear in Romans 8:11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

Think about what that power was able to do:

  • Take a bruised and bloodied physical body and make it whole again
  • Breathe life into stone-cold lungs
  • Make a heart start beating with strong and steady thumps
  • Infuse every cell with the life-giving features needed to pump oxygen, eat food and walk again
  • Allow that physical body to have spiritual qualities so that it could walk through walls and disappear at will
  • Reproduce the voice, behaviors and characteristics of Jesus so that his disciples would recognize him
  • Remove that human body from behind a heavy stone and transport it into the open air

Nowhere in scripture or in history do we find that Jesus stayed dead or that his new resurrected body lived in fear, dread or negativity.

On the contrary, he knew who he was – the resurrected Christ who had conquered death and was literally and completely filled with the Holy Spirit.

We need to also realize who we are:

  • Women infused with the same exact Holy Spirit who lived in Jesus
  • Gifted, talented, able women who can help to change the world
  • Chosen women whom God has pointed to and said, “You are my beloved.”
  • Mothers, grandmothers, single women – all able to mentor the next generation
  • Ezer Warriors (the word “Helpmate” [Ezer in Hebrew] used in Genesis to describe Eve means “Warrior.”) We were created and designed to fight the good fight and thrive.

So instead of wimping into a new year with fear or negative attitudes, let’s live from our power and march forward with strength.

Listen to this song, “The Same Power” by Jeremy Camp and live from your power.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InsifiZxVXU

©2016 GateWay of Hope

Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

2 Brave Women

Many readers don’t study the details of the Old Testament, but in the book of Exodus – we find a story within a story that involves two brave women.Woman celebrating

During this time period, the Pharaoh of Egypt wanted to stamp out the growth of the Children of Israel. Although Egypt needed the Israelites as slave labor, Pharaoh was afraid of how quickly the Israelite population had increased in number.

So he decided to make a rule that all the boy babies should be killed. NOTE: Pharaoh wasn’t afraid of girls. He should have thought longer about that.

Two midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, believed in God and did not obey what Pharaoh had commanded.

Instead, when the Hebrew women delivered babies, Shiphrah and Puah helped them live, no matter what their gender.

When Pharaoh questioned the two midwives about this, they reminded him that the Israelite women were strong and vigorous. They protected the lives of the boy babies and one of those babies happened to be Moses – who would eventually lead the Israelites out of Egypt and away from captivity.

Here in the middle of the story of the Exodus, we find the courage of two midwives. And their names are mentioned.

Names are important to God, and when he places a name in his book, the Bible, there’s a good reason for it.

He pointed out that these women, Shiphrah and Puah, believed in him, obeyed him and helped to save the Israelites by refusing to kill baby boys.

And if you continue to read the story, God blessed these two women by giving them families of their own (Exodus 1: 15-21).

So here’s a few key points:

• God blesses those who believe in him and obey him.
• No matter what the local Pharaoh does, God is greater.
• When we obey God, he remembers our names.
• Life is important to God – no matter what the gender.
• Leaders should remember that females are just as valuable as males.

Any other nuggets of truth that you found in this story? We’d love to hear your viewpoint.

©2015 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Easter vs Christmas Reflections

We spend so much time, energy and stress celebrating Christmas when the major Christian holiday is Easter.Cross at sunset

True, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus and what a momentous event that was! But we also max out our credit cards, deal with the dynamics of family get-togethers and go to office parties that we don’t care about.

We worry about buying the best gifts – “Will she really like this?” and try to figure out how to graciously accept the gifts we don’t want.

We spend hours in lines either buying or returning gifts, then add to our landfills when we throw away wrappings, ribbons and boxes.

We dutifully attend Christmas programs and take videos of our kids in their cute Christmas outfits, all the while hoping we can somehow manage to eat the Christmas goodies without gaining weight.

Somewhere during the pre-Thanksgiving through post-Christmas season, we remember the squalid manger, a scared teenaged mother and a bunch of smelly animals. So we sing “Silent Night” and say a quickie prayer of thanks for that baby born under the Bethlehem sky.

But Easter is another matter. Sure, we still get caught up in the dyeing of eggs, the filling of baskets and the baking of the ham.

But for the most part, Easter is less stressful and more of a contemplative holiday. Plus, we only have one week to consider what it’s all about.

One week to remember the horrific destruction of a young man’s body – how flogging and crucifixion induced painful inflammation, tetanus and infection.

One week to think about the disciples who fled in fear, then wonder if we wouldn’t have done the same thing.

One week to marvel at the miracle of resurrection and how awesome it must have been to see the risen Lord.

One week to take communion and truly remember Jesus.

One week to read each of the Gospel renditions and compare the lyrical version of John’s story to the logic of Matthew’s.

One week. Maybe this Easter week will represent a 360 in our busy schedules.

Maybe we will realize our need for a Savior and truly understand what Jesus did for us on that old rugged cross.

Maybe this Easter, we will decide to fill our Easter baskets with a gratitude that reaches beyond the April holiday and flows all the way to next December.

Maybe this year, Easter and Christmas will erupt with personal revivals around the globe. Now that would be a reason to celebrate.

©2015 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

The Power of a Preposition

Molly TotoroRecently my Bible study group examined Gideon’s story. While this narrative is short – only three chapters within the book of Judges – it is packed with powerful lessons we can apply to our Christian walk.

On one particular week we focused on God’s long-suffering and patience. We unanimously agreed we have all tested His tolerance. We have felt His rolling-eyes, heavy sighs, and mumbling, “Will she ever get this right?!”

But as I participated in this discussion I wondered if perhaps there was another way to interpret the message. Rather than feeling God’s disappointment WITH us … wagging his divine finger and uttering “tsk, tsk, tsk” … Could He in fact be disappointed FOR us?

Rather than tinged with disdain, perhaps there is empathy in His statement. He may not be saying, “Will she ever get this right?” – with my perceived implication that I am either stupid, sinful, or lacking in faith – but instead He may be gently pleading with me to simply Trust Him, and believe that He is truly for me and not against me.

“Molly, if you will just release this to me, you will receive the peace you desperately desire. Let me carry the burden, and you go take a rest.”

Or perhaps the words go something like, “Molly, you are making this too difficult. Stop trying to do it all and just take that one next step. I have this under control.”

Or perhaps He wants me to know that I need to stop viewing Him as the strict disciplinarian, just waiting for me to make a mistake, and instead view Him as the loving parent who wishes to grant immediate blessings for simple obedience.

I no longer think God is disappointed in me. He knows me – all my faults, all my weaknesses, all my baggage, and yet He still loves me. He just wants me to learn to accept that love.

Another scripture verse upon which I have meditated which also demonstrates the power of a preposition is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

For years I thought this scripture stated to give thanks FOR all circumstances, but I could not understand why I should be thankful for unemployment , no health insurance, and no financial savings.

While life is hard and oftentimes unfair, and circumstances can be overwhelming and painful, God completely understands. He is not asking that we give thanks FOR our difficulties, but rather, in the midst of them, remember He is in complete control.

While circumstances may appear impossible, we know that with God all things are possible. Practicing gratitude in the midst of difficulties is a way of expressing faith in his sovereignty and perfect will for our lives.

So in 2015, I am going to focus on the right preposition, and with that, change my outlook on life here on earth…and beyond.

Molly Totoro is a writer and a recently retired English teacher who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share” and is currently establishing a ministry, Milestone Memoirs, where she helps others discover and write their stories to impact future generations. Molly frequently writes about the need to leave a legacy on her Stepping Stones blog.

5 Tips from the Samaritan Woman

We don’t know her name, other than “The Woman at the Well” or “The Samaritan Woman.”praying_hands_bible

But God cared about her and sent Jesus to dialog with her.

Her story is written in John 4:3-34 which includes these 5 tips for us.

1. Jesus wants to spend Time with Us. He went out of his way to find this woman and chat with her. He does the same for us. He hopes we will meet with him and speak honestly with him about our concerns, our happiness and all the details of our lives.

2. Jesus is never too tired to Love Us. In this passage, he had traveled a long way – on foot. Yet he ignored his fatigue and spent time having a theological discussion with this woman. He admitted he was thirsty, and he sent his disciples into town for food. But he didn’t go take a nap somewhere. He cared about this woman.

3. It’s okay to be Honest with Jesus. This woman knew Scripture and she wasn’t afraid to be authentic. She confronted Jesus. “You’re not greater than Jacob, are you?” He accepted her confrontation and answered honestly.

4. Condemnation never mixes with Love. Although the people in the town condemned this woman and even the disciples wondered why Jesus was talking with someone like her, God responds with love. Condemnation does not win for those who believe in Jesus and walk with him.

5. Hearing the Truth leads to Obedience. After Jesus declared that he was the Messiah, this woman ran into town and told everyone. She evangelized the very same people who condemned her. Jesus transformed her life and she reached out to those who had rejected her.

Isn’t it wonderful how the Bible still speaks truth today? We can learn these important tips from a story recorded in John and we can go forward to spend time with the same Jesus who cared about the Samaritan Woman.

©2015 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

The Reason for Christmas

“Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.nativity

And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’

And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’

And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.”

Luke 2:1-16 NASB

Women of Christmas – Elizabeth and Mary

Women of ChristmasIn Hebrew, her name “Elisheva” means God’s oath or God’s promise. In the Greek, “Elizabeth” is further described as God’s abundance.

Cousin to Mary and wife to Zacharias, she played a pivotal role in the pre-Christmas story.

Elizabeth is listed in Luke Chapter One as a righteous and blameless woman, yet she suffered with infertility. In those days, barrenness was considered a curse from God.

But what Elizabeth didn’t know for many years was that God had not denied her request for a child; he just delayed the answer.

Until the perfect time…until Yahweh was ready to send an angel to Zacharias and plant His seed within a virgin.

We aren’t told how old Elizabeth was when she suddenly conceived a boy child who would become John the Baptist. But she and Zacharias were both old enough that it was considered a miracle.

During Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, her young cousin Mary became pregnant through another miracle – a conception through the Holy Spirit, prophesied for centuries and containing the Divine.

Mary traveled to Elizabeth’s house to spend time with her. What conversations they must have had – both of them pregnant, one with a Messenger and the other with the Messiah.

Elizabeth no doubt mentored Mary even while she protected her from the wagging tongues of gossips. Mary no doubt blessed Elizabeth who felt her child leap in the womb when Mary entered the house.

After Elizabeth gave birth, she supported her husband in the choice of their son’s name. “John,” she said. “His name shall be John.”

Perhaps Mary and Elizabeth spent countless hours together watching their sons grow, teaching them proper manners and showing them how to appreciate godly women.

And in the candlelight at day’s end, Elizabeth and Mary probably prayed for their boys who they knew would have a major role in the salvation of mankind.

Each woman bore a son, then gave that son back to God, trusting in Yahweh’s divine purpose.

From the beginning of the Christmas story, God included women and their giftings to pave the way for His Son’s ministry. He designated Elizabeth as a main character and a parallel element in the Greatest Story ever told.

©2014 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Called Forever

sepia-praying-womanAs she sat in the chapel service, she suddenly felt as if she was the only one present. Although surrounded by others, she wondered if she hadn’t experienced some type of out of body vision. Because as clearly as she knew her own name, she also knew God had just called her to serve him in ministry.

After high school, she tried to enroll in a Bible college with the plan of pursuing ministry and earning her Masters of Divinity. But she was told women would not be accepted. So instead, she enrolled in an education degree because she was certain that someone somewhere might need a Christian teacher.

After graduation from college, she served as a missionary. But her method of teaching and her desire to help her students learn how to survive when they returned to the US landed her in trouble with the chairman of her district. He wanted to send her home. Another missionary fought for her to stay. But at the end of her term, she returned to the States, feeling rejected and wondering what had happened to her “call.”

Meanwhile, she also felt God wanted her to write so she filled journals with her stories, then sent them out for publication. After several tries, editors noticed her writing and asked for more. Their needs validated her call.

Then she married and raised a child. She was active in her church and raised her son to love Jesus. She continued to write and served on staff at her church. She felt content in her service to God.

Then she walked through divorce. The “church” no longer accepted her as a minister so she worked in the corporate world, survived and began to find her true self again. Always writing, she filled her journals with her experiences and her desire to teach the Gospel – to find a niche for her words and to serve God with whatever part of her call still existed.

She sometimes felt as if she had failed God, failed to succeed as a missionary, failed to surrender to the call. If the church no longer wanted her, then maybe God didn’t either. Maybe she was another Jonah, cast into the fish of rejection, swimming around in the refuse of undigested leftovers.

Then one day, she read Romans 11:29 and although she had studied Romans and even taught it through the years, this one verse caused her soul to wonder – could God still use her? Could the original call still be alive and well in God’s timeline and would he still allow her to minister?

In the Amplified version, Romans 11:29 states, “For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]”

Although the ministries of the earth that require certain demographics do change, God’s call never changes. Not even divorce can change God’s call. He does not change His mind to whom He sends His call.

God would never, ever withdraw his grace. The call on her life was still intact. She merely needed to trust Him to work it all out.

2014 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women