Welcome to Day 5 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of bronze. Her poem shows us how the LORD exchanged her human judgment of His Sword’s painful dividing to see the gift of His healing and wholeness coming in each setting apartunto His heart of mercy toward her.
Trust isn't the absence of pain Trust isn't the absence of tears Trust isn't the absence of gaping loss.
No! It's Christ Inviting me into His arms In the Sword's dividing.
It's perfect Love driving out my fears Bottling all my tears It's the everlasting arms beneath me.
It's the sure foundation Of God's Word Catching me as I leap toward Him.
It's Christ yielding my heart To each and every painful wounding That He may humble me to heal me.
It's Christ taking my weary and divided heart To exchange it For His surrendered, trusting heart
It's my Rock and mighty Redeemer Perfecting His power In weakness.
So I resist the enemy In every accusation flung as the pain returns To rest instead on my Promise.
In each and every ache's returning Let me now heed the Spirit's quickening To turn toward and not away.
Let my tears now flow My knees now bow And my heart now open.
For, each boasting in my weakness To God's glory and God's grace Wafts Christ's sweet incense high.
No! Trust is not my holding tight To what my God has rightfully taken To draw me unto Himself.
It's releasing each precious Word No longer in shame But in worship and praise.
It's watching and waiting Expectantly For each and every Promise to unfold.
It's Christ birthing fresh trust in me As a fountain of grace Now gushes and pours down upon me.
It's bringing my broken heart to Jesus To find His whole heart Beating there.
It's finding my salvation In returning and resting Upon the pillow of My Promise: Christ Himself.
So I will lay down Each accusation birthed in pride To now receive my Abba Father's pride in each surrender.
For, the branches Were never meant To support the Vine.
But the Vine Died and rose again To give life to each branch.
So, I shall put down my roots No longer into human soil But ever deeper Into the good soil Of Christ's heart for me.
May He Become my trust Pressing into Jesus May I find the Word Flowing fresh As living water From the throne of grace.
Yes! Those aches Those tears Those gaping holes They're the very Building stones.
The building stones of trust Are the Word of God's Dividing.
For Love Himself Is the only righteous Judge.
The Son of God Who came not to condemn me But to seek and save me.
To declare my weakness, His strength And my brokenness, His wholeness By the power Of His Living Word.
The only Way The only Truth The only Life Is Jesus.
Come Let's take His hand Make Him our trust.
Come Let in the Sword's sweet dividing Eternal peace In the blood of Christ Now flow.
For at the Cross What Christ now joins together No man can separate.
Colossians 2:7 (NLT) Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
Welcome to Day 4 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2. Today, Bettie is sharing a free will offering of bronze. Her story and poem show us how the LORD exchanged her human judgment with His freeing judgmentand her prayer invites us into thanksgiving.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. Luke 15:1-6
As I listened to the verses being read aloud, my heart started pounding more rapidly. I heard the words, but I saw myself in the story. As Jesus put that lost one on his shoulders and began to walk home, something broke loose in me. It was what I had been longing for almost every night within this chronic illness wandering: to be lifted and carried away from the thorns.
Over these past years, since my chronic illness diagnoses, I have met my Savior, my Shepherd, in more intimate ways than I ever could have imagined. He called me beautiful when I found myself so ugly. He called me chosen when I found myself separated and cut-off. He called me by His own royal name when all I could hear was minimizing and neglect. He called me His daughter, and I hid in His embrace.
But when I listened to the story of that one lost sheep, I realized that even after those many precious words He had spoken to me, I have still felt tangled in thorns and separated from where I was supposed to be. I have still rebelled at the thought that this place of weakness could be the very place that He knew I would be in. When I have looked longingly back at the place of my own strength, I have not acknowledged that this place of tangled thorns has been the place designed for precious carrying by Him. For if the thorns had never tangled me, I would never have felt the amazing intimacy of His arms when all of my own physical strength had been utterly depleted.
I see the thorn-bush set in my path And I ponder the way ahead Can I make my way cleanly around Or must I offer my arms to be torn in the passing?
I look for tools to cut away the brambles And I find them waiting for my use Can I gather the branches without snagging Or must I give over my hands to be bloodied in the holding?
I hear a voice calling me to lay down the struggle And I see the Gardener watching me Can I pause long enough to allow for His help Or will I willfully stomp my feet in the tearing of pain?
It is HIS garden after all that offers this path And I find the journey ahead planned by Him Can I see the beauty in the thorn-bush here The eternal weight of glory being given in this suffering?
The eternal weight of glory being given in this suffering?
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17
And then God highlighted another set of Scripture verses, and I pondered them for weeks, leaving the windows open in my search browser so that I would see them every time I opened the internet. But when I thought about my Lord carrying that lone, bleating sheep over the rutted pathways, I suddenly saw such a beautiful picture in these verses where He had me pause:
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:6 NIV
Jesus weeps over each of us lambs. We are the ones for whom He has planted such deep seeds. We are the harvest, we are the sheaves He is singing over as He carries us so close to His heart, right over His shoulders.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5-7 NIV
And when I am finally brought to those places where all my strength is found only in Him, I am part of His seed sowing AND His harvest. I am one of those who are called “they” in these passages, part of the singers flooded with His springs of water, dancing in His pools of strength.
Have you glimpsed those tangled thorns capturing your strength? I would love to pray with you today as we allow our Shepherd to come after us, to pick us up, and to place us over His own shoulders.
Dear Lord Jesus,
We come to You today, admitting that we have been Your lost lamb, so tangled in thorns that we have no strength of our own left. Forgive us for looking back longingly, trying to find our own way out of the piercing. Would You help us to look up to You and find Your arms so sufficient for us?
Thank You for the seeds You have sown in our hearts. Thank You for the harvest that You are reaping even now, as You lift us and place us close to Your heart.
Help us to drink deeply of Your springs of life-giving water. Help us to sing with You through the valleys transformed by YOUR strength.
We praise You for Your deep love that is even now working for us an eternal weight of glory, right here in this place of suffering. We worship You, our Blessed Savior, Good Shepherd, and Loving Lord.
Welcome to Chapter 2‘s Day 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward a free will offering forged in the fires of affliction, as Jesus arose to defend His dwelling place with His judgment in mercy.
My Prodigal wandering began, when I began to believe that my God could indeed not have chosen someone like me: someone too young, too sinful, too needy and too broken. I agreed with the enemy’s twisting of Scripture and began to read God’s precious Word, no longer as an invitation to know my Jesus and His mercy more and more, but as evidence that I was doomed for hell.
So one day, when I had committed a sin I abhorred and was deeply ashamed of, I was certain that this was it. That now all I could do was bide my time till God did away with me completely.
Outwardly not much changed. I still attended church. I still played the good girl. But inside my spirit was crushed and my heart aching to be known by God.
Years later, on the day we buried my Mum, I learnt that she had noticed the change in me all those years earlier. My Mum was heartbroken by how her once exuberant and confident girl had retreated into herself. All those years ago when I felt so abandoned in my sin, my Mum began praying with her best friend for God to give me my confidence back.
Now all these years later, her prayers are being answered. For, my Savior is stripping away my confidence in myself and man that stole, killed and destroyed so much in my life. He is now rebuilding my confidence in Him alone.
What I didn’t know, as I sung this beautiful song as a teenager, with tears streaming:
and with such a deep longing for Jesus to rescue me, is that He was in fact already kneeling down to take me into His arms and carry me home, so close to His heart. He had heard my cry.
And now, I can hear and feel that new heart of His beating inside of me.
All these years later, as I sat singing that same song again, now with tears streaming in deep thankfulness to my God, I noticed something about the lyrics I hadn’t before:
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands … Nothing compares to the Promise I have in you.
I realized that I am the work of my God’s hands and that the very Promise of salvation was beating inside of me even then, all those years ago. For, though my sins of reading pornographic literature and masturbation were grave, my God’s mercy was so much more. While Satan convinced me that my God had now turned away from me for good, I now know my God’s heart was not hardened toward me, as mine was toward Him. No! His heart broke in compassion for His hurting child.
Jesus saw deep into my heart. Just as He did for King David in his sin, He caught my every tear in His bottle – even though those very tears were caused by my sin – and He turned what the enemy meant for evil into good. For, through my Prodigal journey, Jesus answered the deepest longings of my heart that I never realized He had heard me whisper as a little eleven year old.
And what were those longings? Those longings of His heart in me were to truly know His grace, the very meaning of my name Anna, the name my mother was led to give me from the womb:
Yes! In our prodigal wandering our God bottles our every tear. I now know that long before I began to run, He began praying for me. Just as He did for Peter, He interceded for me before His Father that my faith would not fail, and so that when I returned to Him after denying His Name, I could strengthen my brethren with my testimony to His glory and grace.
Just look at the life of Saul turned Paul and you will be reminded of what our God’s mercy is capable of. Oh may that mercy flow richly through us to anoint others to be saved, just as it did through Stephen as he was stoned to death at the direction of the very one whom he poured out God’s mercy upon.
May the persecution and affliction we walk through at the hands of our enemy only testify to the judgment our Savior bore for us that we might now declare not a judgment of condemnation against ourselves or others but a judgment of mercy.
For, God’s judgment toward us is not one of wrath because His wrath has already been satisfied at the Cross:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)
Our God’s judgment toward us is one of mercy because He is a God who keeps His covenant to a thousand generations for those who love Him. Because when we are faithless, He remains faithful because He cannot disown Himself in us. Because our God always finishes what He has begun. And because our God has set eternity in the heart of man to make all things beautiful in His time.
Many years later, I again walked through vicious attacks from the enemy, just as I had as a little girl. But this time, as I stepped out in faith and obedience to my Savior’s call and my own heart failed me, I cried out to Jesus for His heart. And He answered me:
A New Heart
Who you are Is not all that You couldn't ever be It never was And never ever once Will be.
Who you are is written On the palm of My own True hand The hand that shaped And formed you.
Fearfully and wonderfully Have I made your frame To hold the very Heart That bled and died and rose again To beat within your very own.
I ask not that you hold so tight I ask not that you strive I ask not that you try so very hard To be what beats within you even now.
All I ask is that you Come Sit at My feet Pour all out That hides behind That wall of shame.
Cast it out, that it may die Death to all that holds you Captive, even now Not to who you are But to who those lying tongues Would have you be.
Rise and shine instead In all My Light of Grace That beckons from behind That wall No more.
Into My loving arms that wait To each beat of flowing truth That girds you now in who You truly are in Me Forgiven, held and pure That’s who You are in Me And evermore will be.
As I laid each accusation of condemnation before Him, He declared His judgment against me as annulled at the Cross. He asked me to hear and heed the new heart beating inside of me. And that heart declared me:
Forgiven, held and pure That’s who You are in Me And evermore will be.
And so, I clasped His hand to depart the old I once believed to be true to enter the new with Him. Now, my faith is no longer in myself or others. It’s in Christ and Christ alone. I now come boldly before the throne of grace in my time of need. I confess my sins freely before God and man. I now lift up my soul to Jesus because I trust Him to save me, moment by moment.
Now, I know that it is precisely my broken heart and crushed spirit that compells my precious Jesus to draw near to me to save me. And so, I cry out to Him, who hears my every cry and bottles my every tear:
Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued? For thus says the Lord: “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children. Isaiah 49:24-25 (ESV)
He heard my mother’s pleas. He saved her child and He’s still doing so daily, as this child of His heart is now learning to lean all her weight upon Him. Praise Him for HIS gracious Words to us. For, they are indeed like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and healing to the body.
Worthy is HE alone of all honor, glory and praise:
Welcome to Chapter 2‘s Day 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a poem the LORD spoke to her heart, as she felt like she had nothing left to give. She was judging her circumstances with her human understanding. God invited her to see and embrace His judgment of her situation and to celebrate His refining work in her.
May God speak to you through it too, encouraging your heart in those places you feel you have nothing left to give. May God cleanse each one of our eyes to see what Hesees.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:6 (ESV)
A New Offering
Oh my heart So worn, so torn Emptied of all tears No more to give.
Kneeling here At these Your feet What do I have To offer You, My Lord.
"My child" I hear A gentle Voice within "Here at My feet You have given all An offering of poverty But more than Ever before.
"Shed here your clothes Of old And let me clothe you In the new A living Hope An inheritance imperishable Now your crown.
"Behold, the new has come Shed here the old Arise now in the morning sun Shining ever brighter Till the full light of day.
"I have not left you orphaned here My breath to you I give To carry, lead and guide Sending out My Light and Truth ahead.
"Behold then, open here your eyes Do you not perceive it? My way in the wilderness? My rivers in the desert?
"My righteousness within I have forged Behold the jealous fires Of My love The dross of all your Prideful striving I have consumed My rivers of peace To bring.
"Drink of my living water Let your weary heart Now rest On everlasting arms beneath My grapes to harvest No longer just in one, But in each and every season.
"My rivers shall now Stream freely Washing all devouring And destroying tongues Away.
"My chosen and anointed child Watch your delight Now grow, abound For, My Spirit shall now reveal A flood of beauty All your buried desires I am breaking open To fulfill.
"Promises of covenant True and pure You shall now declare No longer in trembling Fear of man But in trembling awe Of your Maker Your Husband and LORD.
"See now my Word of life Not empty return But accomplished In leaves of beauty And abiding fruit In the soil Of My heart for you Now flourish."
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not recorded in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me. Psalm 58:9 (AMP)
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”Luke 24: 1-4 (NKJV)
Welcome to Day 1 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna invites you to join her as she shares the first free will offering of bronze: a poem that sprung up, as God spoke to her in her bitterness, through multiple losses. She also invites you to join her in a time of prayer and praise and worship.
Proverbs 14:10 (ESV) The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.
John 12:24 (ESV) Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
A TREE OF LIFE
Guard thy heart My child Let not one bitter word Or thought or deed Take root and Thistles reap.
Oh yes My dear Pierce it does Just as My crown of thorns But even then Draw near.
Let each thorn Beckon to you "come" Pour all out That not one bitter word Root where tender Heart resides.
Come, I'll soothe And bind and balm For, this wound I have inflicted Is not sent to harm you But to heal you.
Now bury Each and every Blessed seed No longer At the feet of man But in the good soil Of My heart for you.
And in the dying Of each seed of wheat Behold my love and mercy Turn Your every Bitter Into sweet.
See each Promise You have clung to Now no longer Hope deferred remain But in My death And resurrection Bountiful desires Manifest.
Not eye for eye And tooth for tooth But love so strong Each seed Be broken, bled My blood for you
In undeserved mercy Pouring.
Behold now In death's shadow Your idols are no more For taking up your Cross To rest in Me You see by faith And not by sight My broken Body Now made whole.
Behold now In the dying To your old A tree of life In love I'm pruning Now strongly rooting To overflow With fruit for food And leaves For tender healing.
Grace upon grace In the fullness Of My love For My blessed Body Watch Me Every month A bountiful crop Now harvest.
Proverbs 13:12-13 (ESV) Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
Proverbs 11:30 (NASB) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And one who is wise gains souls.
Revelations 22:1-2, 14 (ESV) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
Thank You, Father, for sending Your Son to this earth to carry the judgment our sins deserve. Thank You for refusing to leave our deceitful hearts to their own destructive devices, for sending Your Son to die for us, so that we now have direct access to Your mercy.
Thank You, that You are no stranger to our hearts and that unlike man, You willingly exchange our bitterness for Your abundant joy, as You turn our hope deferred into desires fulfilled, through the power of Your holy Word.
Father, we invite You now to uncover and break open any bitterness that is lurking in our hearts. Forgive us for resting in our fleshly judgment of our earthly circumstances. Perfect Your power in our weakness now. Help us to let go of our idols, of the judgment of man and of our own fleshly judgment. Help us to embrace Your healing and wholeness, so we can see ourselves and others through the light of Your love, truth and grace.
Fill us with fresh faith. Cause us to rest in the fulfillment of Your Promises that a tree of life might spring up in us, bearing healing leaves and fresh fruit for food for not just us but the nations of this world.
Thank You for Your soft and tender heart of love and mercy that is so strongly present in us. Help us to bring forward the free will offering of bronze. Help us to joyously surrender our own judgment and the judgment of others to rest in the finished work of the Cross: in the judgment Your holy Son has already borne for us and those You are asking us to surrender into Your hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Will you join me now in a time of praise and worship?
Welcome to Chapter 2 of Part 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing an introductory post on the free will offering of bronze, including a prayer she penned together with Bettie and a link to a Michael W. Smith song.
Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; Exodus 35:5
The bronze from the wave offering was 70 talents and 2,400 shekels. Exodus 38:29 NIV
The site Bible History tells us:
Interestingly, it was also used for the large brazen reservoir or molten sea, where the water was stored, in which the priests washed their hands and feet. This took over the role of the laver of the tabernacle. “It rested on 12 brazen (bronze) oxen, facing in four groups the four quarters of heaven.” (SEA, THE MOLTEN; SEA, THE BRAZEN, W. Shaw Caldecott).
Bronze is also used in Scripture to refer to what is strong, lasting and enduring:
The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. Deuteronomy 28:23
His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. Daniel 10:6
His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. Revelation 1:15
“Then I will make you to this people
A fortified wall of bronze;
And though they fight against you,
They will not prevail over you;
For I am with you to save you
And deliver you,” declares the Lord.
But it is also used to describe man’s stubbornness, pride, idolatry and corruption:
All of them are stubbornly rebellious,
Going about as a talebearer.
They are bronze and iron;
They, all of them, are corrupt.
“I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, Isaiah 45:2
Interestingly the old temple, with its strong, brazen sea, bronze furniture and bronze-covered altar, was of course destroyed. Through the power of the Cross our human offerings, that have been corrupted by rebelliousness, stubbornness and idolatry are now also being destroyed. For Christ is now purifying us through the trials we face, that we might bring forward new free will offerings of bronze in Him, offerings unpolluted by the world’s judgment.
In Christ bearing the judgment for our sins, we can now endure the refining fires on this earth. Empowered by the Living Word, rather than turning to idolatry, stubbornness and pride, we now learn, through Christ’s loving discipline, to lay down the judgment of the world for Christ’s. We learn to see ourselves and others through His eyes.
Christ then exchanges our false judgment of situations, self and man, with His pure and unadulterated judgment. As Scripture puts it:
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Hebrews 9:14 (KJV)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 (ESV)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55: 8 – 9 (ESV)
And so, contained in the free will offering brought forward by the Israelites was the Promise of the Cross. Now, we can rest in the Promise: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9, ESV). Praise God!
As you gather here with us for the 7 days of chapter 2 of Part 2, Bettie and I invite you to join us in bringing forward your own free will offerings of bronze through Christ Jesus. But before we begin let’s pray:
Dear Abba Father,
We confess that we have allowed our hearts to be crushed beneath the weight of this world’s judgment. We confess that there have been times we have gotten so weary, because our sins are ever before us. Forgive us.
Father, we invite you now, and moment by moment, to wash our conscience clean with the water of Your Holy Word that we might see as You see. Renew us with the Life that only Your Holy Spirit can bring to us.
Father, we praise and thank You that through Your Son You are even now yielding us to the transforming work of Your living Word, so that our minds might be renewed to test and approve what Your will is– Your good, pleasing and perfect will. Thank You that You are empowering us to shed the judgment of this world to receive the pure and unadulterated judgment of Your holy and righteous Son, Jesus. Thank You that You came into this world, not to condemn it, but to seek and save the lost.
We are so hungry for the freedom that only the blood of Your Son Jesus can bring. Thank You that Your Son has borne the judgment that should have been ours, so that we can now live in the overflow of Your cleansing mercy. As we walk through the fiery trials You have sent to purify us, thank You that You are shedding our pride, striving and idolatry, that we might rest ever more in Your pure judgment.
As our hearts ache and we become weary, help us to bring forward the free will offerings of bronze in Christ Jesus. Help us to lay before You the Promises that declare that Your Son has borne the judgment for all our sins in the past, present and future.
Set us free, in Your prompting and empowering, to abide in Your pure and unadulterated Word that we may flourish, and bless others to flourish also, in the abundant life that is ours in Christ Jesus.
In the Precious Name of Jesus we come before you now.
May this song overwhelm you in the love and tender mercy of our God. Come let us arise to declare Him LORD of all.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 (ESV)
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip each one of us with everything good that we may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 12:20-21, ESV
Welcome to Day 7 of Part 2‘s Chapter 1 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a poem as a final free will offering of silver, together with a link to a Scriptural song she sung as a little girl that God continues to bring back to her to encourage her. We, Bettie and Anna, pray that these daily offerings of praise, declaring God’s redemptive power, have been an encouragement to your heart this past week. Even as we have been editing these offerings ourselves, to publish here, God has brought us deeper repentance, freedom and joy also.
The Great I AM
Turn not back in pain But toward the I AM He's watching over every step Before, above, around His everlasting arms beneath.
Turn not back in despair But toward the I AM He's redeeming every piece Broken to whole at the Cross His Word a lamp unto our feet.
Turn not back in fear But toward the I AM He's lifting every accusation In the light of His truth Leading us all to repentance.
Turn not back in shame But toward the I AM He's righting every wrong In thought and deed and word Wrapping His cloak around us.
For the Son of God came Not to condemn but save He's a well of living water Springing up to eternal life Come let us drink from -
Welcome to Day 6 of Part 2‘s Chapter 1 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a testimony of God’s redemption in her own life and heart and invites you to join her in prayer at the end. This is an edited version of a blog post she published here on shalomaleh.com at the end of May.
A few years ago, I sat lamenting my past and all the decisions that were made on my behalf as a child that I saw as pushing me down my Prodigal path. In effect, I was blaming my parents for the path my life had taken. But as I began to do so, God began to ask me to look for His thread of redemption weaving through every decision made on my behalf.
I blamed my Dad for choosing to send only me to a non-Christian school and taking me away from my “safe” environment. But God asked me to open my eyes to see what He had gifted me in those years. It’s then I saw the beautiful souls He had had me befriend from multiple nations and multiple faith backgrounds. Jesus taught me so much through these girls, who were so genuine with me and, unlike me, didn’t hide beneath a veneer of self-righteousness.
Through these girls, I now see Jesus showing me my own need for salvation. For, the sins I saw them fall into, I saw reflected in my own heart. The only difference was that no one but God saw that darkness hiding in me. Jesus was showing me that it’s not Christian environments that are our Savior, but Him alone.
I blamed my parents for the trauma of my childhood. I blamed them for making me feel like Jesus had abandoned me and my little adopted brother, as in their pain, frustration and exhaustion, they began to follow the letter of the law and abandoned the Spirit’s leading in their methods of discipline. But God asked me to open my eyes to see my story through the lens of truth and grace.
Now, I know my parents never forced me to worship them. My parents never forced me to put my trust in them above God. I chose to clothe myself in lies and turn to sin to numb my pain. I now know that Jesus has given me the gift of free will – the free will to choose Him, to be set apart unto Him.
I now know that He so longed for me as a little girl to rest in His love and acceptance. He longed for me to persevere through suffering, by abiding in Him and His Word to me, a Word that did not return void, but reaped the fruit for which it was sent, more than twenty years later.
I now know I have been given the honor and free will to rejoice in the hope of glory that will not put me to shame, as I choose to be set apart according to the purposes of God:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5: 1-5 (ESV)
I now know that to honor my mother and father was to honor Jesus in them. It was to allow Jesus to set me apart for His purposes. It was to discover that I have the free will to deny myself, take up my Cross and follow Jesus that He might bless each one of us.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:34-37 (ESV)
Jesus showed me that when my parents dedicated me to Him as a baby and when I gave my heart to Him as a four year old, He bound Himself to me. I became His.
My parents and I invited Jesus to become the author and finisher of my faith, in response to our Heavenly Father’s invitation and Christ has shown Himself faithful and still is, daily. Now, I see how Jesus used my parents’, my little brother’s and my own weakness to perfect His power. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV).
God knew my prideful and adulterous heart needed this experience of being set apart, so the branches that were not bearing any fruit could be cut off and burned. Now, through His patient labor of love and mercy, I am embracing the discipline and pruning work God first began in me as a little girl. And I am seeing the fruit of His labor of redemption: His buying back of my life and heart from sin and death.
For, Jesus is turning my mourning into dancing. Through each new setting apart, He is opening my eyes to see by faith and not by sight. Through my experiences of His faithful and never-forsaking love, my heart is learning to trust and obey Jesus. Now, I know that “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, ESV).
Yes, forever He will be the Lamb upon the throne:
Dear Abba Father, thank You for the thread of redemption running through our families and the beauty You are bringing from the ashesof our past. Help us not to sit in the ashes of our old life, longing for someone to bring us to You and to make us acceptable in Your sight, when Christ has already made us acceptable in Your sight. Remind us that Christ has given us the power and authority to pick up our mats and walk into the new life You have ordained for us.
Father, forgive us for defining ourselves and others through the eyes of the world. Open our eyes to see Your redemption at work in our lives, to see all the ways You have already been transforming our hearts and minds to look more and more like You, through our setting apart. Open our eyes to the beauty of the unseen: the fruit of the Spirit You have been growing in us, as You have cut off and burned all the branches that were not bearing fruit in our lives.
Help us to embrace the Cross, to honor Your Son’s obedience, as He took upon Himself our sin and our suffering at the Cross, by now taking up our own Cross to follow Jesus. Help us to hear and obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings, to put to death the works of the flesh and to heed Your call to be set apart unto You alone. Teach us to trust You that we might pray without ceasing, even when it hurts. Help us to hear Your call and to continually pour our hearts out before You in the loss and pain. Help us to listen for Your Word to us, that we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that by testing we may discern what is Your will and what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Help us not to bow to our idols of pride, self and man, but to recognize the honor You are bestowing on us to fill up in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, the church, as You set us apart that we might be holy, as You are holy.Teach us, moment by moment, to walk in the light of Your truth. Give us undivided hearts that we might fear Your Name above all else.
Open our eyes to the beauty of Your setting apart that You have purposed to destroy our idols and make us truly One in You, just as You, Your Son and the Holy Spirit are One. Thank You that it is You who works in us, both to will and to work for Your good pleasure. Continue to bow our knees in awe of Your majesty and power and glory.In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
“You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-27 ESV
In the wandering years of my prodigal sons, God led me to hold onto these verses from the book of Joel. He lifted my eyes to look for the promises that He was speaking, and He asked me to hold tightly to Him when nothing I saw looked like restoration. Some days the grieving threatened to swallow me when I lowered my eyes and looked at the present.
As I sat over my sewing machine, I wove my tears and my prayers along with those burdens. Joining fabrics as the machine whirred along, tearing stitches as the seam-ripper found out mistakes, and re-placing those errant pattern pieces only served to remind me of the process of our lives here on this earth.
How could You ask me to love more, to pray more? I have nothing left to give, I’ve given all I could, Lord.
Ah, but He wasn’t asking for my striving. No, He was asking for my hand in His. He was asking for my trust in His promises. He is the only One who could redeem those years that seemed to have been wasted. For in His heart, nothing is wasted. Everything that we have offered to Him, everything burned up on the altar, is making way for His great plan of redemption.
Those years of interceding at my sewing machine were accomplishing something far greater than just a hand-crafted item. He was joining my suffering with the suffering of those for whom I was interceding. Weaving our lives together through the stitches of prayer, an unbreakable bond was being formed. But I could not see it at the time.
It wasn’t until decades later as I found myself sorting and de-cluttering all of those scraps of fabric, left over from each project, that the years suddenly fell into a much larger pattern. Boxes and boxes of fabric, neatly folded and waiting for my next project had lain dormant through my increasing disability of chronic illness. I found myself asking the Lord the same kinds of questions from the vantage point of looking back over the years.
How could You ask me to love more, to pray more, when my hands were stilled from doing anything? I gave all that I could, but I never finished all the projects that I thought You had for me.
Ah, but He had never asked for my striving. He had only asked for my hand in His, joining in HIS heart of loving. What became of those “wasted” years of my sons’ wandering? He remade them, and used them for His new gifts. He took what the enemy had meant for harm, and is using it for good.
And what became of all of those “wasted” years of my fabrics lying in the closet? He remade my prayers into gifts that are eternal. He has been using these later years for new gifts of Holy Spirit intercessions.
And then He said, “Pass it along! Let the next generation of sewers be blessed as you pray one last time over the fabrics from your closet. A prayer closet stitched with love.”
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
Oh Dear Heart are you grieving The years of the locust and the cutter worm? While the storms ravaged the crops Did you sit in the ruins? Was there even a remnant of TRUST That remained?
Listen to the words He is speaking Here in this place of the AFTER. While the rains water the ground Hear the tune of the mist. Can you see the silver in the clouds That linger?
Our Sovereign will not waste one drop From the deluge of the flood. While He waits for the full harvest He sees the seed remaining. Will you trust His redemption That awaits?
He will restore and He will redeem From all the waste places. You will find His Glory there In the places of His testing. Can you taste the sweetness That rises?
The shame and the pain He does lift From the barren heart places. As you look back over the years See the way He has made. Can you live in the Faithfulness That transforms?
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” Job 19:25
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalm 27:13
Dear Holy Father,
Thank You for the love that You have showered over us, and over the ones we love. Thank You that Redemption has always been Your plan. Even when we have covered ourselves in the dust of our running, You have made the way for us to return and to rest in Your cleansing. Lord, help us to hold onto the promises You have spoken to us.
When we have no strength left to believe, would You help our unbelief? And when we return to striving, would You cleanse our hearts once again and show us Your own outstretched hand before us? Would You open a glimpse into Glory’s reign and show us the salvation of many that You intend to bring?
We praise You for Your marvelous grace, even here where all we feel are the wastelands of our pain. Thank You that You have called us back into Your faithful heart, into the fullness of Your redemption.
The fabrics lie folded and stacked in my closet, next to the threads and the needles, and the unfinished projects. A lifetime of sewing is huddled there together, as a sort of memorial, stories interwoven through the warp and weft of my memories and the God-moments of my life. Some fabrics are rough, easily wrinkled and scratchy, while others drape and flow through my fingers like spun silk.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:16-17
Her name was Kathy, which means “pure and flawless” and in my memory I can see my friend’s flaxen glowing hair, her fair skin. While other girls were chasing boys, and attending dances, she and I were reading books and sitting in the branches of her giant willow tree. We sang at the top of our lungs, practicing harmony, and laughing at the way the old songs differed from our generation’s rock-n-roll.
My Mom was a homemaker, her Mom left the house early each morning for her job. But each of us were given chores to finish before we could spend our summer afternoons together. Some afternoons were filled with swimming lessons, while other days we rode our bikes up and down our small neighborhood streets till our legs ached. But always we ended with long discussions about life. She knew I loved Jesus. She didn’t argue that, but she just couldn’t live the same lifestyle I thought was so important: every Sunday in Church, both morning and evening, and weeknight girls’ club classes as well. I wanted her to ask Jesus “to come into her heart” but she wasn’t sure what that even meant, so we shelved the topic, and instead spent our discussions on every other subject imaginable.
Into the light colored weft, a darker thread was being woven, filling the fabric with the warp of my flesh. I chose the path of the church, and she chose a different path. I had known it would come to this, I who was so set on my church commitments that I could not miss one Sunday to join her at her family’s weekly campground adventures. Not once. I thought I was choosing the better path. It took many years for me to see what I had missed.
In our pulling apart, the bonds of the fabric could easily have torn. We graduated, I was married. She chose a local college, I moved 600 miles away with my new husband. We wrote letters that kept us connected, and even though we were separated by miles, a deep bond was somehow still glimpsed by both of us. On one of my trips back home, she told of how thyroid cancer had struck her, and the months had been filled with harsh treatments and struggles. But her face was glowing as she eagerly told me the glorious news of finally seeing the beauty of surrendering her life to Jesus. We cried and we laughed that night, taking photos together of my pure and flawless friend holding my toddler son.
But the drifting apart wasn’t finished yet, as my life was plunged into testing involving a move to the other side of the country, a move back again, and years of living in other people’s homes. The letters to my golden haired friend slowed to a trickle, as I was at a loss to explain the confusion I felt during those years of breaking and reshaping. By the time we finally moved back close enough to rekindle our friendship, the cancer had returned to my friend, and she slipped into eternity the same fall that we moved back to our Midwestern roots.
And just as the fabrics of home were being re-folded and measured and cut, the dark threads of the fleshly warp were being marked with the colors of regret. Almost daily I thought of the times that I had neglected the friendship of one so dear. It took years for the roughness of that churchy fabric to be washed and softened. But when the fabric had finally worn down enough, I was filled with sorrow over the way I had chosen an ideal instead of the love of one precious heart. “Jesus, will You please tell Kathy how sorry I am for the years I neglected her?” Again and again through the years, I heard myself uttering that prayer to Him.
The fabrics lie folded and stacked in the closet, and my heart remembers each project. The abilities for the old ways are gone. My arthritic hands can no longer follow the precision necessary to measure and cut and sew. The old has gone, and yet, the new is here. I can hear Jesus whispering:
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5
Jesus has taken the regret and filled it with colors so vibrant they cannot even compare to the old ways of seeing. And in the changing, the regret has been woven into a new warp and weft.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1 – 3
That old warp of ugly dark shadows has now become a vivid setting to show forth new colors not seen before. “No apology is necessary any longer” He whispers to me. “I have preserved the threads of your friendship, and it’s woven together into a pure and flawless garment. You both are clothed in me now.”