Part 6: Chapter 1 – Day 5: Call On the LORD

Welcome to Day 5 of Part 6‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is bringing forward the fifth free will offering of The Veil.

A few years ago, I was reading in Lisa Brittain’s wonderful devotional, 31 Days of Gleaning with Ruth, and I came to the portion of Ruth’s story when Naomi’s next of kin gave over his right to redeem the land. (If you aren’t familiar with the story, I highly encourage you to read the book of Ruth in the Old Testament. You will not be disappointed.) While we normally focus on Boaz redeeming the land, someone else had to give over their right to the land first.

And Lisa’s question for that chapter touched something deep in my heart:

“I am reminded of these words of King David in 1 Chronicles 21:24 NLT:

“No, I insist on buying it for the full price.  I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” 

Is there something Holy Spirit is stirring in you, as He is certainly stirring in me with regards to giving up first rights?”

(Brittain, Lisa. 31 Days of Gleaning With Ruth: Questioning My Way Through a Famine Season  Kindle Edition.)

And I knew what the Lord was asking me to give up.  Decades ago I surrendered my heart to the King of the Universe.  He gave up His own dear Son for me. And His Son gave up His life for me so that I could receive His Grace.   But all these years later, there are still things in my life, things that are only mine to give, that I have held tightly to. There is something that I have felt I needed to watch over, to maintain, to try with all my being to make better somehow.

My health–or more correctly, my ill health–is what He has been asking me to give.  It is wholly mine to give, but it is to be HOLY unto the Lord: given over totally to Him. And in that giving He wants to bring me to a place of sweet trust in Him.

And then He asked me to look back yet again. Other decades came and went, and other surrenders followed as my husband and I served the Lord with our physical and creative selves. We were Children’s Pastors and Young People’s leaders for much of our married lives–planting seeds, tending the fields, and watching over the harvests as young lives grew before us. We worked until our strength gave out, and then we worked some more, always on the move.

But when my health gave way, and then my husband’s health collapsed too, the serving ended and new surrenders were brought forth. New Laments and questions were stirred.

The work wasn’t finished, the fields were still ripe, and the corners of the fields were glowing with unharvested grain.

How could it be that He would ask us to rest, to lay the Harvest down, when it all felt so unfinished?

Leviticus 19:9-10 ‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.

The story of Ruth came into view again. The beauty of her heart, gleaning in the fields, is what captured the eye of her suitor. Boaz, a picture of our Kinsman Redeemer, lay on the threshing floor where the corners of his garment were ready to be spread over the humbled feet of the foreign gleaner.

Am I so far removed from the ancient story that I cannot see the truth of our Lord?

He asks for my all, my surrender of who and what and how I thought I should live.

It cost everything for Ruth to travel the miles with Naomi. 

He asks for the humbling to glean in His fields, to wait upon the Redeemer, because the harvest is HIS.

And HE will spread His garment over me, inviting me to see the precious gift behind the veil that awaits us all, His Bride, His love.

The Children Dance


The children danced and the little ones sang

As the older ones looked on in joy

That’s my son up there! That’s my girl!

The Mama hearts beamed, the Papa hearts rang.



And I felt the joy of both, perched in between

A Mama myself, and the teacher too

Those are my babies up there! Those are my kids!

The teacher’s heart glowed, with a golden sheen.



But God called us out, away from that place

My Mama heart gathered, teacher’s heart cried

There go my babies! Here come my kids

A pain lodged deep while beginning the chase



Starting over, beginning again, cycle repeating

The children danced and the little ones sang

There go the babies! Here come my kids

A shift and a wall were so slightly beginning.



Better hold onto my heart, keep it apart

Never know when the leaving might come

Never know how the serving may end

Never know if the hurting might hit my heart.



The children danced, and the little ones sang

But the joining and caring became surrender

The pouring of my heart felt like bleeding

I knew what was coming, the bell always rang.



Over and over my fault or theirs, we never knew

Because God called us out, pulled up the stakes

Sent our hearts reeling, longing for home

Pausing for just a glimpse of sweet dew



Until the song changed and the dancing was stilled.

The aches were brought forward, one by one

When the finger of God lifted the veil

Come up here with me, His song my soul filled.



He touched the wound around my heart’s rim

The places I longed for those souls I still loved

Where I thought I had kept myself held apart

The bleeding had only joined me with HIM.



The children dance, and the little ones sing

And the Father who loves each one as His own

That’s my son up there! There goes my girl!

He waits for the day when the trumpet will ring



All bleeding finished, all aching done

When the Father’s longings are all fulfilled

For all of the praying and searching and serving

Finally captured all love will be won.

–bg

Our true Kinsman Redeemer is nearer than we could ever imagine. And He is calling, calling, calling unto us, His beautiful foreign gleaners. 

Will you join me as we lift our eyes to Him and cry out to see the corners of His garment spread over us? And He will be found by us.

Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near.”

Part 6: Chapter 1 – Day 4: Unfurling

Welcome to Day 4 of Part 6‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the fourth free will offering of The Veil.

When one trial comes our way after another, so often, we just need a simple glimpse, a simple, tangible reminder of God’s Promise never ever to leave or forsake us. It’s in that place I found myself, as I waited on news from my sister from her biopsy, not long after we had buried my Mum after her five month battle with an incurable brain cancer and on the heels of a breaking God had led me through. A breaking that had left my heart wounded and raw – in need of my Healer’s touch.

As I struggled to be present to my girls and husband, I found myself crying out to my Maker to meet me in this place of deep anguish, angst and tearing. The poem below is the fruit of my lament – God’s gift to me in my weakness and need, as I lifted my head to the sky to see clouds form an arch above me, wrapping me in a peace that passes all understanding.

If you are having one of those days of swirling emotions today, may our God pour out your heart like water to reveal the gift of faith He has placed deep inside of you for this very moment. May He cup your face in His hands and lift it up to see tangible reminders of His Presence with you too. May He make His glorious face shine upon you through the words of this poem, the Scriptures and the worship song in this place. May you drink deeply from His goodness and His peace, no matter what is unfolding before you.

Unfurling 


Will you with me stay
In my struggle to accept,
Heart too heavy laid?

I so long to rest
To lean on You blessed,
But laden heavy can't.

Cannot seem to find
The words beyond my tears,
Beyond all broken held.

All I see is dark
Hands so empty worn,
And no single ray.

I long to hope again
To dream, believe again
But am captive held.

Captive to my seen
Longing here for gift unseen
Faith in dark to beam.

No prayer can speak,
But You my longing breathe,
And my tear drops catch.

To sky me turn,
And arch above me fern,
Promised hope returns.

All You ask is come
With my heavy laden heart
And You'll heaven breathe,

Here my weight release
In gift of faith I'll feast,
In open mouth receive.

Faith not my own,
But Savior's faith long sown
Grown now as own.

Even when I come so frayed
And heavy weighted stayed
Your faith in me breaks open
Unfurling.

Come listen in with me today to this beautiful, beautiful praise and worship. Oh how deeply it touches my own heart today:

EPHESIANS 1:3-6 (MSG) How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. 

Part 6: Chapter 1 – Day 3: One

Welcome to Day 3 of Part 6‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the third free will offering of The Veil.

ONE

Prodigals, Elder Sons
We never knew
It was You
Who stood beside us.

In our running
And our striving
Your hands even then
Held us One.

You: our Savior
Ever beckoning
For darkness 
Is as light to You.

Every moment seen
Felt and known 
Our every tear
Fear and care.

Knowing how
We'd turn away
Hiding in our pain 
Striving in fear.

Yet in every Prodigal
And Elder Brother
Eternal rest
Is sown.

For, pierced by Your own 
You carried our weakness
And sin to the Cross
For this.

Seeing what the Elder Son can't
You move toward the Prodigal
In his weakness yielded, not away
You hold out Your hand
And welcome him: Home.

Seeing what the Prodigal can't
You move to lift the Elder Son's
Heavy yoke long borne alone
You hold out Your hand
And welcome him: Home.

Rejected in our weakness
And striving to hide it
You turn us toward You
Truth kissing grace.

Calling us
In the breaking of the bread
To recall our heart's burning
To recognize and remember You.

Yes, the veil is torn
The face and heart
Of Christ no longer hidden
But in us ever awakening.

Our new heart
Of flesh
Now revealing
The face of God.

In the Father
Son and Holy Spirit
A Body and heart
Undivided, now One.





John 17:20-21 (ESV) “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

In thankfulness to a God who united my Mum’s and my heart in His heart in her final weeks on earth. Bringing her home to His eternal rest, through His Holy breath, He awakened me to new life. Oh may He reveal the heart of the Father in each one of us and make us – His children – in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – One.

Part 6: Chapter 1 – Day 2: Resurrection Life in the Dying

Welcome to Day 2 of Part 6‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the second free will offering of The Veil.

As I was running through the red-golden forest, a few years ago, I reflected on the grief that had been building within me. It was coming up to the month, in which my world turned upside down and my heart was torn between two continents, as I traveled to the other side of the world with my one-year-old daughter to be with my mother before she entered a life-threatening operation. 

I had to leave my three-year-old daughter, who had only ever spent two nights apart from me, and my husband, behind. My already tearing heart was yanked further apart, as we heard the diagnosis a few short days later: a terminal brain cancer with no hope of survival, with a life-expectancy of two to three months.

And yet, in journeying back to that time in my heart, I am reminded of God’s deep abiding presence and the many gifts He showered upon me during one of the hardest times of my life. There are three places and moments in particular His peace descended so powerfully upon me, that it shattered my understanding of who He was, is and is to come:

1. In the mountains

I surveyed the spectacular wonder of the mountains and lake, the way the sky broke open and I felt a love envelop me. In that moment I was completely and utterly broken. I felt torn between my own immediate family and my Mum. A heaviness rested upon me as the death sentence of two to three months Mum was given weighed upon me. 

I was hushing my little girl into sleep, a wee girl who often refused to sleep and kept getting sick. But in that one moment, my hardened heart broke and tears flowed. A God who I had for years envisioned shaking His finger at me, condemning me as guilty and covering me in shame, was holding me. And I couldn’t stop crying. Me the sinner, the one who kept failing, kept losing the control she fought so hard to hold onto.

2. In the dunes

When I ran alongside my husband, coming to a clearing where all I could see was dunes upon dunes, and a startlingly, beautiful sky. This was in the five weeks, when I found myself on one continent, but my heart was on the other, with my dying Mum. 

My heart was torn in two, a grief I will never be able to fully explain in words. But in that moment God’s beauty poured out over me like a balm and all the tension and fear and ripping came to a halt and poured out into tears that kept flowing.

Psalm 23:6 (The Message)
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.


3. With my dying Mum. 

Our last Christmas together, a little more than four months before Mum entered heaven’s gates

The more she surrendered the greater the peace that settled upon her. I was anything but peaceful during that time, as I kept myself frantically busy doing everything I could for Mum and her home. So, the contrast was startling. The less she did, the more she surrendered to her Lord and Saviour, the more peace settled upon her. The more I did, the greater the fear, tension, unsettled feeling grew.

Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

And so, when I returned home, I vowed to seek after this peace that passes all understanding. And it brought me to the table of grace, to His broken body and flowing blood that covered all my guilt, all my shame, all that I’d sought to run and hide from, in my utter brokenness.

John 3: 16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Now, when I look back, my Mum’s greatest gift to me is not the years of beautiful service to me as her child. Not the hugs, the kisses, the way she looked at my girls, the giving of her heart till no more could be given. No, her absolute greatest gift to me is her testimony to the abiding life and peace of Jesus in her.

My Mum was not the same woman I grew up with. I saw the grace of Jesus change her, more and more, especially at the end. It’s not that she wasn’t a warm, loving and kind Mum, when I was little. Because she was. 

But, Jesus kept plunging her deeper into His grace, stripping more and more sin and extending more and more of His love through her. I saw Christ’s patience, kindness, selflessness, a listening ear, forgiveness, such gentleness, but also blunt, much-needed truth-telling, grow in my Mum.

You see, Mum didn’t hide her light. She went to heaven declaring God’s peace to this world. At the end especially, she spoke freely of her own need for His grace and of His kindness and gentleness toward the least of these. 

And by the grace of God, thanks in part to the brain cancer taking away her social filter, she preferred to be genuine at the end, rather than hide behind a mask of self-righteousness to remain religiously palatable. Beautifully Jesus perfected His power right there in her weakness, using the cancer to bring us all closer together, as the mercy, discernment and compassion of Jesus flowed richly in our midst.

In bringing things into the open, God helped my Mum surrender her innate desire for earthly harmony and understanding. And through that painful, but freeing surrender, she was, by the grace of God, able to fully embrace the eternal wholeness and completion Christ set before her. Ultimately the jealous all-consuming love of our Jesus won.

Song of Songs 8:6 (NIV)

Place me like a seal over your heart,

    like a seal on your arm;

for love is as strong as death,

    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

It burns like blazing fire,

    like a mighty flame.


And so now, slowly, very slowly, I am learning to follow my Mum’s lead. I am learning to heed Christ’s freeing prompting to come as I am to receive His grace. I am learning to release guilt, fear and shame in exchange for the light of His face shining upon me and His arms wrapping around me.

I am learning to confess my sins and weakness openly, to shine the light of Christ’s love and grace into this yearning world. And like my Mum, I am learning to be genuine, by bringing things into the open that my LORD and Savior might reveal the beauty of His truth in our midst. And I am learning to let go of my innate desire for earthly harmony and understanding to embrace instead the eternal wholeness and completion my Savior is setting before me.

But most importantly I am learning that what matters most, above all else, is not this world’s love and approval, but that my LORD and Savior is with me and will never leave or forsake me. As I learn to lift my every fear to Him, He is revealing His perfect love to me right there, transforming my fear into faith.

Because of the testimony of Jesus shining in my Mum, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that even when all else fades away, that’s when my Jesus, my Savior, will be unveiled fully in me. Yes, I already stand with my face and heart unveiled before Him even now – reflecting His heart and face into the world – but on that day I will know in full, what I now know by faith but in part. And what a day that will be!

Isaiah 40: 8 (ESV) The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Will you join me today, as I sit afresh in Hebrews 12 today?

Hebrews 12: 1- 4 (The Message)
Do you see what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.


Father God, thank You that You know just what each one of us needs. Thank You that You set us apart to draw us near. Thank You that when all else fades away, You remain. Thank You that You have promised to never leave or forsake us.

Forgive us, where we have clung to fear and shame, believing that You have abandoned us in the waiting. Help us to resist the devil, to stop listening to the accuser’s claims and to lean ever deeper into Your open arms of grace. Help us to lift up our fears to You, to cast our burdens onto You, that You might reveal Your perfect love to us in that place.

Father God, thank You for giving us a front row seat to the transformation You worked in our loved ones, who are now with You in paradise. Help us also to trust You now with this path You have set before us, that just like our loved ones experienced, is not what we expected or planned. Thank You for being the One who establishes our steps, the One who is transforming us from glory to glory, through every trial sent our way.

Help us to see what You see. Uncover the true desires of our heart and make us a blessing to all those You put before us. Shine Your light of love and grace brightly in and through us.

Thank You for the Cross. Thank You that it is finished. Thank You, Jesus, for dying to make us, Your Body whole and complete, with YOU at our Head. Thank You that You have the final say. Thank You that we will all yet see with our physical eyes what we already see by faith: Your full recompense, Your eternal wholeness and completion come.

Help us to keep stripping the sin that hinders us from being who You have made us to be. Empower and embolden us to continue to run the race You have set before us with expectant joy, to complete it and to make You proud in doing so. Amen.

Part 6: Chapter 1 – Day 1: Trust

Welcome to Day 1 of Part 6‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the first free will offering of The Veil.

TRUST

You tell me
Trust is a muscle
You tell me
Growing
Is feeling
And stretching
The heart
Of flesh
You have
Given.

You tell me
This contracting
Is Your labor
Trust in me
Sowing
Bringing the peace
Of Your pacing
Your holy awakening
In my inhale
And exhale.

You remind me
It's in the releasing
In the yielding
To Your will
I can experience the fruit
And taste
The ravenous joy
Of living secure
Overshadowed
By mercy.

You remind me
You're not withholding
The good
But only awakening
The best
An abundance
Of hunger and thirst
For righteousness
You've planted deep
To be quenched in
Love everlasting.

You remind me
To not cower in shame
But in boldness
To move
To believe
My each and every
Change of mind
Departing the old
For the new
Is beautiful to You.

For, it's You
Who's moved my feet
Out of the mire
And onto the Rock
To shake off the dust
And behold
Your face
For You've
Ripped the veil
At the Cross
Your face in mine
Now ever revealing.

Yes, I will willingly
Bow my knees
To drink the cup
Eagerly awaiting
Your sovereign completion
For, in the breaking
Of the bread
And this cup of life
I now recognize You
My Portion and Deliverer
The Resurrection and the Life.


Psalm 71:8
My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.

Psalm 150:6
Let everything that has breath praise
the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Romans 8:14-19 (ESV)
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Part 6: Chapter 1 – The Veil

Welcome to Part 6‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is introducing us to the freewill offering of The Veil. As the LORD leads us, we will add daily free-will offerings to the bottom of this post.

Offering surrendered:

-31“You shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. 32“You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks also being of gold, on four sockets of silver. 33“You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies. Exodus 26:31-33

–Promise given:

-“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”  Mark 15:37-38 NIV

-“We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:13-18

– 19”Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” Hebrews 10:19-20

My heart . . .  It’s not the same as it was a few years ago when I began this journey of writing with my dear friend, Anna. And it’s definitely not the same as it was before Chronic Illness joined me several years before that. 

I know the unveiling of my heart and face happened when I first began to live for Jesus all those decades ago as a little child. But what has happened since then? What has happened to change me, to transform me from glory to glory, even as illness has seemed to strip me of so much?

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

There is a process that happens as we look at Jesus.  This new heart that is within us, is soft and open. But it is as we contemplate Jesus that this soft heart of Christ is uncovered in us, as the burden of our old heart of stone is lifted away. New life – God’s sure and steadfast Promise to us – is being revealed in us daily, as we are being transformed from glory to glory.

Oh how I long for that soft heart to become more visible in me.

But this journey into Chronic Illness has opened my eyes to see just how many hard and stony places have remained. Where I thought I was willing to be transformed, I have seen stubbornness and a hard-hearted turning away instead.

Perhaps you can relate? 

What hope is there for us, we who are the children of rocks and gravel?

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 NIV

When I look more closely at my days, I see too often that I try to be the one to manage these days with illness. But then Jesus uncovers yet another stony area, and He shows me the truth: I cannot begin to know how to sort out which medications, which lifestyle changes, which pain relievers, and which attitudes need to be changed.  Only He can lift away my heart of stone to reveal His tender heart of flesh, soft and open to His Love beneath. Only He is sufficient for such a task as this.

All these days recently, when I have felt that I am living a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” kind of existence,  I take my little prednisone pill and find a measure of relief in this Rheumatoid Arthritis roller coaster. But then as the relief wears away, and nighttime approaches, the pain and the swelling cause me to feel “ugly and pitiful” as I realize that the RA medications are doing very little to help this disease. Every night it’s the same, and I hear myself crying out to Him,  “Jesus I need You!”  again & again.

But as I offered up those stones in my heart, I heard Him whisper:

“My daughter, you’ve had it all topsy-turvy. I look at your “nice days” and see your flesh taking over, as you try to get by on your own. But those night-times, when you feel so ugly, those are the moments when you depend fully on me: your true sufficiency. I see no fault in you as you lean on me. You are beautiful to me.”

And the rocks rolled away as the glory of the face of my Jesus shone fully on me. I felt the glory of that lifted veil, I knew He was transforming me yet again to look more like my King.

The very breath of God is breathing inside of my weakened prednisone-medicated systems. 

And I am alive in HIM

In this place of anger, grieving, and lamenting of chronic illness, Jesus is meeting me with HIS own dear Words of comfort, lifting my burdens from me. He is bringing His transformation to me, to conform me to His own likeness, in ways that I cannot even fully comprehend. 

For, my face is ever unveiled before Him–fixing my gaze on HIM. And that true face is not the face that has always felt lacking in some sense, nor the face that feels even more marred now because of these diseases. For, it is His face reflected in my own that lies open and uncovered in His presence.

2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

For, He is laying my weakness bare, not to condemn me, but to lead me into open and honest laments before Him, so that He might lift the weight of my burdens from me by the power of His Word to me. My weakness is a gift to remind me who and whose I truly am. To remind me that I may always draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with my heart sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and my body washed with pure water. 

For, I have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. He is my great priest over the house of God. (Hebrews 10:19-23).

Would you pray along with Anna and I today?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Our hearts are utterly broken before You here, as we praise You for the way You have opened before us. Thank You that You are the WAY, the truth and the life!

Thank You for being such a loving creator, such an amazing potter. We confess that we have been that clay, that cries out on your potter’s wheel, “Why did You make me like this?” 

Oh, but Father, thank You for sending Your own son, Jesus, to bear the weight of all that sin has marred and destroyed in this world. Thank You, Jesus, for taking up all of our diseases and imperfections and nailing them to YOUR cross. Thank You that because of Your death on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn, and we have access to Your most holy place. 

We come under Your cross now, we receive Your authority and Your healing from all guilt and shame. Thank You that by Your blood – the blood of the spotless Lamb – we now stand blameless before You with unveiled faces and hearts, reflecting Your beautiful face and soft heart of flesh into this world, even as you continue to transform us, ever more each day, to look more like You. 

Embolden each one of us to glory in our weakness, in our want of strength, suffering, calamity, frailty and illness, so that the power of Christ – His breath of resurrection life – might rest upon us (2 Corinthians 12:9). Awaken not just us to that new resurrection life in Your Son, but many more through us, as You lead us into open and honest laments

Speak Your precious Word into our open and honest laments, by the poweer of Your holy breath, as we stand before You with unveiled faces in Your glorious Presence. Persuade us to put our faith, our confidence and trust, in You from moment to moment. Perfect Your resurrection power in us. Lean us upon Your sure and steadfast Word to us, in and through our weakness, by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us.

We lift our hearts of praise to You alone now.

In the name of Jesus, we pray,

Amen.

Day 1: Trust

Day 2: Resurrection Life in the Dying

Day 3: One

Day 4: Unfurling

Day 5: Call on the LORD

Day 6: Yes and Amen!

Day 7: Bloom

Part 6: The Breath of God

Welcome to Part 6 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is introducing us to the Breath of God that arises in our open and honest laments. Bettie and Anna also welcome you to join them in prayer at the end of this post. We both look forward to sharing the chapters for this new part with you soon, which we will add to the bottom of this post.

Have you explored Biblical Lament?  I must admit, when I first read this phrase several years ago, I thought it sounded just a bit antiquated, for another era or time.  However, as I was reading Discovering Hope, by Cindee Snider Re, I found a beautiful perspective on the subject of suffering and expressing our hearts to God.

I realized that many of my favorite Psalms are actually Biblical Laments:

Psalm 63:1
“O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.”
Psalm 13:1-2
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me
forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

I grew up in a strict church setting, where GOOD was always emphasized. Consequently, many have attributed a kindness to me personally that may have just been one more way that my church-girl self chose to keep the GOOD-RULE activated.  

My older brothers will never forget my “God-Forgive” Stage. Any time I saw myself (or anyone in my close circle, for that matter) speak or do anything out of line, I was quick to speak, “Better say ‘God forgive!’”  Cute, coming from a 7-year-old, but rather excessive when I’ve realized I still carry the trappings of that 7-year-old thought process in my heart today.

Speaking a dark thought?  “Say God-Forgive!”

Uttering a harsh phrase?  “Say God-Forgive!”

Mulling over doubt-filled questions?  “Say God-Forgive!”

But where does all of that leave a person who is cluttered with questions about the dreary days that chronic illness creates?  . . . 

Drifting in a barren land where the breath is quenched and searching is cut off.  In a culture that idolizes fitness and health, the quenching days easily multiply to become a state of denial.  And “OK” becomes the rote answer for how we are feeling. 

Have we, in the Church, missed something when we have emphasized GOOD-SPEAK, at the expense of Honest-Speak? 

So, as I heard God’s gentle prompting, I began the process of looking at the Lament happening in my heart:

Oh my Lord, I lay
my weary body down
The weight of this pain
has crushed my soul
for too many days

Yet my heart
still seeks and looks
to you
for a hand-hold in the cliff

How high must I climb?
How long is the journey?
How wide is the sea?
How deep is the trial?

In your hand is relief
The only tonic
to quench my thirst
In your embrace
will the comfort be found
far from the world’s taunts

My Jesus have mercy
My Savior sweet Lord.

I know I have much to learn in this place of honest lamenting with God.  It’s not a matter of learning how to complain–strange how being in a state of denial actually increases the ability to complain long and loud.  

No, this is a lesson in exploring the deep crevices of a rocky landscape, and finding God’s Spirit waiting for me there.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life which God has promised for all those who love him.”  James 1:12

I tend to view my progress through these days, ESPECIALLY because I feel so weak, as so many failed efforts at learning what I am supposed to.  But if this Scripture is true, that perseverance itself is a form of obedience, then I need to shift my judgment of myself to a more grace-filled plane.

  God is giving me such grace here: 

Not only is Jesus NOT offended by my weakness, But He is actually pleased with my plodding and stumbling gait proving His persevering heart of flesh in me through the trial.

And now years later, after I wrote that first Lament to the Lord,

How high must I climb?
How long is the journey?
How wide is the sea?
How deep is the trial?

He has uncovered an even deeper cry in my heart. One that answers His breath in me, His life that has been growing in my physical body, His own body, His true temple.

In each breaking and pain-filled place He is uncovering more of His strength in me. His breath is becoming my very breath, as He is revealing the truth that we are indeed Temples of His Holy Spirit. And in every breaking with the larger Body of Christ, each lamenting has in fact only uncovered His deeper, wider, longer and higher love breathing and beating in me for each and every member of His Body. He is revealing His true transformation in me, as I hear myself now crying:

How high is Your love?
How long is Your love?
How wide is Your love?
How deep is Your love for us?

Do you also long to join Anna and I on this lifelong journey of lament? Do you also long to pour out your heart in all honesty before our LORD and Maker and to listen for His response? Then, we invite you to walk with us through this new part – Part 6 The Breath of God – as we recover the delight of living in the breath of our God.

We long to share with you how our very weakness – through chronic illness – has been leading us into honest and open laments before our Heavenly Father that are awakening the breath of our God and the heart of Jesus in us.

Will you join us as we begin this new part of Arise and Shine in prayer?

Father God, thank You that You are a God who sees our pain and the deep surrenders You are calling us to. Remind us that it is You who yield our hearts to Your will, that all You call us to do is to come, just as we are. Thank You that You have never ever left our side. Thank You that our very surrenders shall become a testament to the depth, width, length and height of Your love at work in us. 

Thank You that You stand there with open arms to comfort us, as grief comes calling, and we are reminded of all that we have already released into Your hands. Help us not to bottle up our pain in anger, or numb it away in religious striving, but to entrust our whole heart to You, that You may breathe Your Word of life and hope into us. For we know that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

Inscribe the truth of Isaiah 51:12-16 on our hearts. Help us not to be afraid of man who dies, the son of man who is made like grass that withers. Help us not to forget You, our LORD, our Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. 

Let us not fear continually all day long because of the wrath of our oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy. Remind us that we who are bowed down shall speedily be released; we shall not die and go down to the pit, neither shall our bread be lacking. For You are the Lord our God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is Your name.

You have put Your words in our mouth and covered us in the shadow of Your hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Yes, from the depths of Your Son’s heart in us, we shall yet praise You from the rising to the setting of the sun. We declare that even at night You shall call forth praise in us through Your Holy Spirit’s breath in us and in our brothers and sisters in Christ You have placed around us

Thank You that Your messengers of light encamp around those who fear You, LORD. Thank You for surrounding us with Your Body, from near and far, as we bow our knees before You to pour out our lament before You. Open our hearts to receive You and the breath of heaven You are sending out even now to awaken us in Your love

Break the dams of our unbelief, that Your rivers of justice may roll freely in and through us, and that Your streams of righteousness may refresh us and many more waiting hearts. Make glad Your holy city, oh LORD. Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; for You, our LORD have created it.

Open our mouths wide to declare Your compassion in our weakness and Your kindness and mercy to us in our sin, as we turn toward You, and not away. Wash us as white as snow that others may see the hope and life and joy to which You call each one of us. Breathe mightily in our midst, oh LORD. Let Your glory be revealed in and through us. Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon our garden, let its spices flow. Let our beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.

Awaken a hunger and thirst in us that cannot be satisfied in this world, that we may come to seek You not just with a part of our heart, but our whole heart, laying bare our sorrow, our longing and our pain before You that You might fill us to overflowing with Your Word and breath of life.

Take each one of us through these days of testing and bring Your truth out into the open. Let nothing remain hidden, as You are our Primary Caregiver.  And show us the peace that You have been planting already in us, as we walk into the new with You. Thank You for YOUR change of seasons as we live in Your love for those around us.

Open the words that You pour over us in our lamenting to reach others who are longing to know the depth of Your love also, and to feel Your breath stirring in their own lungs. Show each one of us where You are breathing new life already. And never stop calling us into laments that awaken Your breath and heart in us, until the day You unveil Yourself fully in us.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Chapter 1: The Veil

Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil

You may have noticed it’s been rather quiet here at Shalom Aleh. Bettie and I have been praying about the direction for Arise and Shine, just as we have throughout. The book has not followed the order we had set. Yes, man may make his plans, but it is God who orders our every step. And oh what a gift it’s been to see Him ordering our steps and taking the Word ever deeper into our hearts, as Bettie and I have waited upon Him here with you, at every turn.

Now, He has halted our plans. We know the Part He desires to start soon – Part 6: The Breath of God. But, He has made it clear that for that to happen, Anna must first complete another task He gave her long ago. That task will be her gift to you for the next ten days: a short book of 10 chapters.

If you have been following Bettie and Anna’s book Arise and Shine, you will recognize parts of this new book, but not all. As she shares this book with you, God has also asked her to be prepared for Him to work in her own heart in the editing and sharing. The irony hasn’t escaped Anna, as she prepares to go to hospital for various heart tests on the 22nd and 28th of this month. She would so appreciate your prayers also, as she prays for and with you these next 10 days.

Before Anna publishes the first chapter later today (Sunday), she would love to give you a taster of what is to come: the book proposal for Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil. I will add links to the prologue and chapters of the book at the end of this book proposal, as I publish them.

May God bless us all as He desires to through these next ten days together. May His Sword of Life breathe life into our lungs and awaken our hearts afresh to the beat of His perfect love for us all.

Book Proposal for Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil

Are you burdened in prayer for your adult Prodigal child or grandchild? Be uplifted and moved to celebrate the life of Jesus in your own and your loved ones’ lives, by a true story of a Prodigal returning home after more than twenty years on the run. 

Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil invites God to flame alive His Word in our grieving hearts. It invites Christ to break open fallow ground, that we might arise from our unbelief to see what Jesus sees.

Each chapter testifies to Christ’s saving and redeeming work and calls us into an acknowledgement and celebration of the life of Jesus at work in our loved ones’ lives and our own. For, even now, the train of Christ’s royal robe fills the Temple. It is finished. His work is done.

May God compel us through His living Word and testimony speaking through not just each chapter of this book, but through each chapter of our individual and woven together lives, to enter into His Sabbath rest. May we take ahold of His outstretched hand and run into the joy set before us. May the eyes of our hearts be opened to turn toward Him, to Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil, as He reveals His beautiful face to us.

DESCRIPTION

We live in an age, where more and more of our young adults are turning their backs on the God of their childhood. Anna never thought she would become one of these many Prodigals. Privileged to grow up watching God’s love at work in her missionary parents, she loved her Savior with great passion. Anna even dreamed of one day following in her parents’ footsteps. But slowly, this passionate Jesus follower hardened her heart in sin and descended into more than twenty years of wandering in unbelief.

When God opened her eyes to a newborn faith, Anna began to pray for answers to her wayward turning. She couldn’t understand how she could have ever become so blind. But through Christ’s words to Peter, God turned Anna’s prayerful questioning upside down. 

He led her to stop praying for answers explaining her turning away. He invited her to instead open her eyes to see His sovereign hand upon her life and His perfecting work in her weakness. He asked her to look for His Presence with her, at every point of her journey: to see His face reflected in her own and in those He had set before her.

God showed Anna that, just as with Peter, her sifting like wheat was ordained by Him to humble her and prepare her for His calling upon her life. All along He was leading her into His death and resurrection. God was busily giving Anna concrete evidence for His promise to us all, that He remains faithful in our faithlessness because “he cannot deny himself” in us (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV), a testimony He birthed in her, not to hoard, but share with you.

This devotional walks you through Anna’s voyage of discovery, as God opens her eyes to Celebrate Jesus at work in her, and in her loved ones. At the end of each chapter, Anna invites you to join her in sitting with a short portion of Scripture.

Come lay your burdens at the feet of Jesus, together with Anna, and listen for His personal Word to you, that you might arise refreshed and renewed in Him. May God open our eyes to see and celebrate our Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filling the temple! May God lift the veil hiding Christ’s beautiful face, as we turn toward Him to celebrate the finished work of the Cross.

PRIMARY MARKET –

Parents (40 years old +) and grandparents of adult Prodigals.

MARKET DEMAND AND FELT NEED –

I felt the need to write this book after I watched God fill parents and grandparents of Prodigals with such hope through my testimony. But also in response to my own experiences of interceding for loved ones, together with parents and grandparents God wove into my life and heart, some for a season, others for longer. 

I watched as one mother’s eyes filled with tears of hope, as she began to see her Prodigal son in my story. I marveled at the memories God began to recover in many other parents and grandparents, who began to see the fingerprints of Jesus, where they hadn’t noticed them before. 

I saw Jesus reminding us all, through His hand upon my own life, that “No one comes to the Father except through” Him (John 14:6 ESV). And that “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV). 

My testimony reminded parents and grandparents that Christ honors our drawing near as children in response to His calling. For, like He did for Peter, who recognized Jesus as his Messiah before his three denials, because the Father revealed it to him, our LORD prayed for each one of us, even before the enemy began to sift us like wheat. 

As parents and grandparents shared their own stories with me, and I shared my own story with them, we witnessed the LORD lifting our burdens. As our cries and tears have mingled with the Word of God speaking through each other, they have begun to rise as incense in praise and worship flowing from our hearts and lips. 

This book responds to a very specific call God gave me almost exactly five years ago at the YWAM base in Burtigny, Switzerland at Mary DeMuth’s writer intensive. The writing of this book has been Christ’s long and patient labor of love, as He has interceded in me, through me and for me (also through the grandmothers and mothers I met) to flame alive His Word in my heart. For, He has been faithful to the repeated prayer He has compelled me to pray: “Father let me not just pen the words, but live them.”

I now invite you, wherever you are in the world, to join me to Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil. May praise pour forth from our lips, as we each bow low before the LORD our God in trembling awe of His goodness.

Jesus be glorified in us all! Oh how we love You!

I will add links to the prologue and chapters of the book, as I publish them below:

Prologue: Never Stop Praying

Chapter 1: That We Might Live

Chapter 2: That We Might Hear

Chapter 3: That We Might Become One

Chapter 4: That We Might Acknowledge Christ Before Man

Chapter 5: That We Might Receive Jesus

Chapter 6: That We Might Become His Compassion

Chapter 7: That We Might Present Our Bodies as a Living Sacrifice, Holy and Acceptable unto God

Chapter 8: That We Might Shine Brightly

Chapter 9: That We Might Be Born Again

Chapter 10: That We Might Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil

Part 5: Chapter 2 – Day 7: I Join You in Your Suffering

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 5‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie and Anna are bringing forward the final free will offering of purple thread (royal compassion). 

“Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: blue, purple, and scarlet thread; Exodus 35:5-6

The color purple, woven into the curtains of the Temple, reminds us of the perfect kingdom that is promised for us in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.  But what if we could see the gift of this royalty that our Jesus won for us, here and now, as we heed His call to join Him in His suffering – in His royal compassion for His beloved children .

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Peter 2:9 ESV

When we find ourselves walking a path that breaks our hearts, we can be sure God is weaving His thread of royal compassion right there. But oh how we need Jesus to open our eyes to see His weaving and to join Him in His suffering that His Kingdom may come on earth, as it is in heaven. For, we can only see by faith, as Christ persuades our hearts to trust Him and seek Him in the pain.

We all face wounding from those in the world, and even from those within the church. Maybe your loved ones have also faced the effects of those woundings?

When Bettie’s family walked through painful hurts at the hands of those who were in church leadership, her sons later suffered a deep brokenness as the pain increased their wanderings.  It felt like there was an attack being directed by those very ones who were supposed to be family within Christ’s church. 

Similar wounding also formed a part of Anna’s and her loved ones’ prodigal wanderings and also met her upon her return to Jesus. God walked her through pain that brought back memories from her childhood. The trauma triggered led to a diagnosis of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and more recently, a chronic heart condition.

Oh how this world can hurt and break our hearts and bodies, but praise God, we have a Savior who understands! A Savior who bore our sin and afflictions, so that now, He can tend to our hearts in compassion – joining us through His Holy Spirit – to comfort us and to restore our vision and hope in Him.

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 10:20 NLT

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV

He does not withhold His mercy from us, as our own hearts harden in the wounding and as our own eyes become blinded by sin. Rather, He continually beckons us into His arms that He might open the eyes of our hearts to see what He does.

Just as Jesus did, our Heavenly Father wants us to despise the shame of the enemy’s mocking taunts, as our accuser places that robe of wounding upon us. As our enemy accuses us and mocks our royal heritage, as our weakness is exposed through trauma and other (chronic) illnesses, God wants us to rejoice. He wants us to see how we are walking in His footsteps toward the joy set before us: a fully healed and whole Body of Christ.

They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, King of the Jews. Mark 15:17-18 ESV

Just like Paul before us, the thorns in our flesh give us reason to rejoice for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ. For, we are in fact filling up in our flesh – through that very suffering – what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church.

As Anna reflects on this Promise, she can’t help but think of the example God opened her eyes to recently. Anna’s Mum spent a large part of her life longing to understand Anna’s little adopted brother. In her final months, God allowed the enemy to attack Anna’s Mum with a vicious terminal brain cancer: glioblastoma multiforme. But in the midst of horrific suffering God was in fact weaving His royal thread of compassion.

He was filling Anna’s Mum up in her flesh, what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body. For, through the cancer that ravaged her brain, He gave Anna’s Mum the gift of a malfunctioning prefrontal cortex. The cancer stripped her of the very abilities trauma had stripped her adopted son of, as a baby.

During those final months of Anna’s mother’s life, Anna watched God make her mother and her little brother One in Him. Her mother wept in repentance, as she saw how she had responded to her adopted son’s sinful behavior without understanding or compassion. And Anna’s little brother embraced the compassion and grace extended to him that his heart had so longed for. God answered the desires of both their hearts in and through His suffering on the Cross, as He invited Anna’s mother to take up her Cross and follow Him.

In that place of divine understanding and vision, forgiveness flowed like oil upon Anna’s little brother’s head, as her mother recognized her own need for her son’s forgiveness also. Not only did Anna’s mother taste God’s mercy and compassion for herself, in her own weakness and pain, like never before, but God also beautifully positioned her to become His instrument of peace, to bring healing and wholeness to her heart, her son’s heart and through her living testimony- to His Body.

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. 1 John 1:4-5 ESV

Do you see how as Christ reveals His compassion to us – His decision to join us in our suffering – that we too cannot help but cry: “I Join You in Your suffering.”?

Is there a wound, inflicted by someone within the church or by someone in the world, which has been festering in your soul? Perhaps the wound has even been carried over into the lives of your loved ones who are running from the LORD or (unknowingly) carried over into your own health and well-being now, years later. Will you then join us in prayer, as we too bring our own wounds, pain and chronic illness to the feet of Jesus?

Father, only You know the depth of the woundings we have walked through in our lives and the suffering we are now bearing in our bodies as we carry the impact of sin’s wounding through chronic mental and/or physical illness or even terminal illness, like Anna’s Mum didThank You that You carried not just our sin, but also every wounding and every affliction now present in our bodies to the Cross.

Thank You that You chose to suffer with us and still do today, through Your Holy Spirit who resides in us. We too, now long to join You in Your suffering, to willingly yield our diseased and broken bodies and hearts to You that You might make us Your instruments of peace.

Open the eyes of our hearts to see the miracle wonders hidden in Your Word today – Your Word that lives and breathes within us. Strengthen, fill and nourish us with Your living Word that we might arise with fresh faith, as we begin to see what You see. Shine Your Word as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

Show us how You are using what the enemy meant for evil for good, that we might join You in Your labor of love and Your weaving of royal compassion. Cleanse us of all unrighteousness, let Your forgiveness flow as oil in and through us, oh LORD.

Break up the untilled soil of our own hearts and pull out any weeds that are choking the beauty of Your life and heartbeat in us. Thank you that even as You continue to cleanse us, You already declare us clean by the Word You have spoken to us.

Thank You for inviting us into Your royal family. We recognize that this honor comes with the great privilege of joining You in Your suffering and filling up in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for His Body, that is the church. We stand in awe of Your great gift to us, and worship You, our true King

Oh how we long to become Your vessels of royal compassion, calling others into Your royal family, through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Empower us to join You in Your suffering, to pick up our Cross and follow You.

Empower us to boast in our weakness and to confess our sins freely before others that Your glory might rest upon us and so draw those around us to Yourself. May others palpably feel the peace and nearness of Your Holy Spirit upon us and know that You are a God who is so very present to each and every one of us in our suffering. Make us Your vessels of Your royal compassion and peace.

In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

God bless you today: may grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2, ESV). For we are His fellow workers, God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9) and the very Temple of His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Part 5: Chapter 2 – Day 6: I Lift Up My Whole Heart

Welcome to Day 6 of Part 5‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the sixth free will offering of purple thread (royal compassion)

This morning, I woke up with this song on my heart:

I had gone to sleep pondering Bettie’s dream and this poem I had originally written in response to the d’Verse prompt.

See not your failing 
See my wind blowing
Each point of collision
A lifting
Divinely appointed
To winnow the seed
In husks beautifully
Hidden, bursting forth
Through the breach
Long opened in my
Body broken to heal
Your every division.

As I pondered the babies of pain Bettie had clasped tightly to her chest, and God has been inviting her to release into His arms, God opened my eyes to see something so beautiful that the above song only affirmed in my heart.

When we pray for those we love and that praying leads to God separating us from each other, it’s so easy to cling to the enemy’s accusations. It’s so easy to see that purposed collision and division as our or the other’s failing. But what if it is in fact God’s victory and deliverance of our hearts and souls?

Pain entered our world when sin did. Sin was born when we humans chose to put our faith and trust in fear (our accuser), rather than in love (our deliverer). It’s then our hearts that were once united became divided.

Our deliverance from sin and death came to earth, when Jesus willingly chose to enter into the pain of our division (sin) to give us His undivided heart of love in exchange. Being the gentleman He is, Jesus doesn’t force us to receive this deliverance. But being our Father, He does allow things to take place to confront us and uncover our need for Him.

As we are forced to concede our lack of control, in His confronting, we are invited into the gift of receiving God’s sovereign plan and purpose for us. And as we choose to receive that gift, He wields His Word in and through us to lift off the burdens that were never ours to carry.

So often we don’t even realize that we are taking on burdens that aren’t ours to carry: that’s where illness can actually be a gift in disguise. I can now see how God has used Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to define His boundaries for me, as He has lifted off so much weight that was never mine to carry. 

He’s used this disorder to force me to confront what in the past I never would have. I would have just kept my mouth shut and kept pleasing and placating, sowing unto the flesh instead of unto the Spirit. But now the triggers stop me from doing so. For, each trigger alerts me to a division in my heart and compels me to seek God’s will for me, as I quiet my soul before Him to listen.

These times of seeking Him – through prayer, reading the Word and/or fasting – have so often led me to open my mouth and speak the truth to those I love. They have led to me choosing love (collision) over fear (hiding). Beautifully this has brought such sweet intimacy with those closest to me, as it has lifted away the husk that was keeping us apart. While with others, it has led me to releasing burdens that were not mine to carry, as God has uncovered idolatry in my heart.

Either I was bowing before others as if they were God to remain acceptable to them. Or I was setting myself up as an idol for others, as I was making them dependent upon me, rather than upon God.

These collisions with others caused me to seek God’s will, as He lifted away the husk to reveal the beauty of His undivided and whole heart in me.

A verse that has kept reverberating in me the past few weeks is:

And suddenly, as I sat to pen this piece I understood why. Jesus physically left those He loved also. Why? Not to cause them grief, but to give them something so much better: the gift of His Holy Spirit to take them by the hand and lead them into the truth, piece by piece by piece.

As I sat with that Promise God gave His disciples, I realized what He was saying to me. Every time He has asked me to separate myself from others, it was because He wanted each of us to ask that same question: where is Jesus going? And to receive the gift of His Holy Spirit’s leading in doing so.

God wanted us to receive something so much better than our idolatrous friendship with each other: the comfort and guidance of His Holy Spirit and an undivided heart of love for each other. A love that does not insist upon its own way, but gives each person free will.

When we make others dependent upon us, we take away their free will. Likewise, when people or even religious communities require us to think as they do to belong in their midst, they are also making us dependent upon their fleshly leading and taking away our free will to come to know Jesus ourselves, through His Holy Spirit.

But God never takes away our free will. For, love never insists upon its own way. Why? Because love – God – wants us to love Him from a whole and undivided heart. He doesn’t want us to love Him because we are terrified of Him. He doesn’t want us to love Him because we want to impress Him. He doesn’t want us to love Him because we are afraid He will reject us if we don’t. He doesn’t want us to love Him out of a sense of duty or to do the “right” thing.

No! That is not love! That is fear at work. That is us listening to the enemy’s accusations against us. God wants us to love Him because we have come to know Him in a personal and intimate way and because He has proven Himself to us, as we have come to realize just how deeply He loves us.

And that relationship of love can only grow, as God lifts away everyone and everything we are enslaving ourselves to and everyone we are enslaving to ourselves. Why? Because only then can we and others see Jesus for who He truly is.

Only then can we receive His pure and unadultered love for us and for others. Only then can we love Him with our whole heart – His undivided heart of love beating inside each one of us. Only then will we begin to join Him in His suffering for His children.

Compassion is giving others the gift of coming to know Jesus, by giving them the free will to choose their own path. Even if that path makes our heart hurt and leads our loved ones into suffering. Can we not warn them? Of course we can – and in fact God commands us to do so. But when they choose not to listen, we are to release them into His hands.

For, ultimately God uses those very moments of surrender not just to uncover His deep love to our loved ones and His steadfast faithfulness to them – but also to us, as He teaches us to see by faith and not sight. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken us to God’s Way of love, truth and grace. And that can only happen as we choose to get out the way, when God commands us to.

And that painful Way His Spirit leads them down might in fact collide with our human and fleshly reasoning. When we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from pain, God wants us to join Him in His suffering to see His Kingdom come: to see His children coming home because they have come to know His deep, deep love for them. Not because they are scared of us, want to please us or because they feel they owe us.

Only Jesus can free us to lift up our whole hearts to Him. Why? Because that whole and undivided heart in us is in fact His. It is the seed of Jesus in us that is beautifully hidden until the wind of His Holy Spirit begins to blow. Until God leads us into purposed collisions. Until He begins to winnow the beauty of Himself hiding in each one of us. A beauty He uncovers, as He invites us to join Him in His suffering for His children. As He invites us to join Him in prayer and watch His power be perfected in our weakness and our surrender to His much better plan and purpose for us and those we love.

If you want a beautiful example of this process of winnowing, I would encourage you to follow my friend Debbie’s blog and read of God’s continual call to her to surrender her adopted son Roma into His hands and to discover His deep deep compassion for her son, and for her: His decision to enter into their suffering and to lift off the heavy burdens they were each carrying. His decision to harvest the seed of Jesus in them.

Oh may Jesus empower us to join Him in His suffering, to surrender our thoughts and plans for His much higher thoughts and purposes for us and our loved ones. And may the Holy Spirit comfort us through the pain of each surrender, continually reminding us that those who sow in tears reap with joy. Much joy!