Part 3: Chapter 4 – Day 7: A Lamp for our Feet

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 3‘s Chapter 4 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is bringing forward our final free will offering for Chapter 4: The Golden Lampstand- The Lamb of God. She is sharing Chapter 1 of her and her husband Barry’s book “Our Story: A Ministry of Abiding” that she is currently publishing monthly on her blog – bettiegsraseasons.com Each chapter records their journey of transformation, as Christ continually compels them to surrender their thoughts and plans for His.

I so encourage you to follow along and be lovingly comforted and lifted up in the LORD, as you too choose to lay down your thoughts and plans for Christ’s. Come, let’s walk in His holy Way for us and stand in awe of where His lamp leads our feet to tread. He shall bring His purposes to pass for His glory and renown. Praise Him!

You can also listen to Barry and Bettie read this free will offering aloud in the audio version provided below.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

We met at church, where I was viewed as the “Churchy-Girl” type. He was new to this Christian living, and his enthusiasm and love for Jesus swept me off my feet long before I fell in love with his heart.

I had already been teaching young children, ever since my close friend’s mom asked me to help her with the kindergarten age Sunday-School class. When she asked me to start telling the Bible stories, I was forever captivated by the wonder that is in a child’s heart. And when this new-to-Christianity-young-man volunteered to help tell those same children the Bible stories, I was even more attracted to him. How could someone who was so new to all this, who couldn’t even pronounce so many of the Biblical names, stir up such excitement in the children to learn about Jesus? His love for the Lord, and His eagerness to share that love, was contagious.

God stepped in and wrote our love story for us, and we were married only a year and a half after we had met. I was barely 18, and he was not yet 20, when we heard God’s call. Even though it was so hard to say good-bye to our families, we packed up our little U-haul and started our married life by moving from Indiana to Minneapolis. My husband had begun the process to attend Bible College there. 

Dear friends had allowed us to move into the large duplex where their elderly Grandmother lived upstairs. She needed someone to watch over her, even though she was resistant to having help. We realized that we would have to devise ways to clean her home without her becoming upset. When we found out that she loved to listen to the Bible being read to her, my husband would read to her in the front room, and I would creep quietly up the back stairs to clean that portion of her home. 

Her hearing and vision loss proved to be a benefit then, as I could signal to my husband, and he would suggest that they move to the kitchen where the lighting was better. Then I would go around to the front entrance and clean the area they had just left. This dear Norwegian woman was so blessed with my husband’s reading, but we were so blessed to hear her sweet voice of appreciation. We didn’t know that when we thought we were being prepared to enter Bible School for the “official ministry,” God was already teaching us what TRUE Ministry would look like. The smiling wrinkly face of that dear woman is forever etched into my memory.

But when she fell and broke her hip while we were at work, the family agreed with us that she needed more constant care. Just at that time of change, a new opportunity opened up before us. The church where my husband had become the janitor told us they needed a live-in caretaker. We hadn’t even realized that there was a 2-bedroom apartment tucked into the upper level of the education wing of this historic church. So we became the caretakers, janitors, and Children’s Church leaders at this inner-city church within the same month that my husband began his classes at college. Our lives suddenly became a whirlwind of activity.

The Children’s Church was small and gave us plenty of opportunities to put into practice some of the new lessons my husband was being taught in his Christian Education classes. We made wonderful new friends who joined us as we found and created object lessons, puppet shows, and Scripture lessons. 

Our oldest son was born while we lived there, and he was a part of everything we were involved with: nursery during church services, kicking up a storm in his jumper while we cleaned the hallways, and charming all the little girls who came to visit us in our apartment down the hall from their Sunday-School classrooms. But after two years of living at such a heavy pace, we began to feel the strain. Our marriage went through the fire as the new bonds of love were tested. 

As we prayed about what to do, again the Lord led us to Scriptures for our answers:

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:1-2 NIV

When we shared those Scriptures with the church leadership and said that we felt God was preparing us to begin to make a move soon, they returned with a notice to be moved out in one month. When we thought we had found a supportive church who would understand about God’s guiding, they thought they had been betrayed by their loyal workers.

Our first time of breaking left us shaken and unsure of where we would go. Friends had told us we could move into their basement, but on the final week of the month, an apartment opened up on the other side of town, in St. Paul. My life was about to take on a deeper surrender, as I heard God asking me to be willing to support my husband, and to go back to work. I had enjoyed working with him while we were caretakers and janitors, even though the hours were grueling. How could God ask me to leave behind my “church work” to enter back into secretarial jobs, and leave my baby in the care of someone else?

Has your perspective of ministry and surrender been shaken recently? 

Does it seem that God has asked you to do the very thing you thought you could never do? 

Perhaps, He wants to show you where His heart is bigger than yours has been. 

Could you join us in praying today?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for shining Your glorious light, the face of our Lord Jesus, onto the deepest places of our hearts. We confess that sometimes we are shocked at the darkness and striving You uncover in us there. OH, but how grateful we are that Your mercy washes us clean as we lay that very striving before You. 

Gracious Father, will You receive these offerings of surrender that are laid on the altar now? Our humbled hearts long for the light of Your Son to awaken us here.  And as we are awakened by Your light, we are amazed by the freedom You have won for us. Our praises are wafting before You, joining in Holy Spirit breath now bursting forth from our lungs. Hallelujah to our Savior above!

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, we pray,

Amen.

Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 5: Here I Am, Send Me

Welcome to Day 5 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering in a testimony the LORD gifted her through her weakness and need. It testifies to the blossoming staff of Christ’s holiness that leads and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death, shedding the old for the new, as He calls us into His rest and peace.

Have you ever reflected on the end of Moses’ life? Of God taking him home, rather than allowing him to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land? Recently, I have been doing so. A prophetic Word of encouragement I listened to, caused me to pray for God to humble me and show me what part I have played in His decision to call me out of particular places and break friendships with particular people.

After each breaking, He led me to so much repentance and into more and more healing. But as I prayed this time, I invited Him to help me see the full picture and to help me shift my focus from His protection of me to His love for His church. As I did so, He brought to mind various instances, where rather than directly confronting people He asked me to, I chose to do it “my way”. I walked in fear and pride, rather than in faith and love. I skirted around the issue, rather than confronting it directly.

He also reminded me of how I had clung to my pain, blaming my brothers and sisters in Christ for it, rather than inviting Him to heal the wounds the enemy had inflicted upon me. He showed me how He purposely uncovered and exposed these wounds in me through each fresh attack, not to hurt me, but to heal me: to teach me to see with His eyes and to fight in the Spirit and not in my flesh.

He showed me that in taking me out of each place, just as He did with Moses, when he too became frustrated and angry at those God had sent him to shower His grace upon, He was not just protecting me, but He was also protecting my brothers and sisters in Christ from the unthankfulness and evil present in me. He continually led me out to take His grace deeper in my own heart and to invite me to bring Him my pain, piece by piece, that He might lift it from me, by the power of His Word to me.

As God brought the story of Moses to mind, He reminded me of the verses I had sat praying through at 2am for the day to come. In these verses, I discovered that the “unthankful” are those who have not experienced God’s grace and that the “evil” are those who are “pain-ridden”. As I prayed for those who have been openly hostile toward me (the meaning of enemies), I was convicted of my own open hostility toward others. God returned the Word I was praying over others to me, to draw me deeper into His grace and lift away my pain, in transforming my thoughts and my vision.

Only through the last breaking did I realize that the very thing that has frustrated and angered me most, has also been frustrating and angering my brothers and sisters in Christ. As I pointed the finger, God wanted me to see the log in my own eyes: my own unwillingness to acknowledge the grace He has repeatedly poured out upon me and to bring Him my pain that He might heal my festering wounds.

Interestingly, the day before I had wept in thankfulness for God’s grace for me, as joy filled me to overflowing. And what had I prayed through that morning? A verse that included the Word “joy” that I discovered in this instance, according to the Bible lexicon I consulted, literally meant acknowledging and recognizing God’s grace in our lives.

As I reflected on that once more, my heart was so convicted at my lack of thankfulness for God’s grace in each decision I made to become angry and frustrated at my brothers and sisters. Like Moses, I had fled as a young person. I had run into the desert, after taking matters into my own hands to “save” my brother, and failing miserably.

Moses had murdered a man to take revenge for the harm inflicted upon his brothers in the LORD. I had murdered too – for Christ tells us that anyone harboring hatred in his heart toward another is guilty of murder also. I had harbored hatred toward those spreading false teaching, who I saw as responsible for my parents’ decision to discipline in the flesh, rather than in the Spirit of God, a decision that caused considerable harm to my adopted brother.

And I now realize, by not confessing that hatred when He brought me home to Him, I allowed it to grow and fester, rather than allowing God to free me from it and fill me with His love, in remembering His grace to me. Ironically in my own hatred, frustration and anger, I have been lifting myself up above God and I have been striving in pride, rather than abiding in the Vine: exactly what I have accused others of in their decision to support and spread the false teaching.

Like Moses, I too experienced the depths of God’s grace as He met me in my weakness and sin. As He chose to descend in power into my midst to lead me back home and into His purposes for my life. But also like Moses, I became unthankful and evil, as I chose to do things my way and not God’s.

Like Moses, I never wanted to be God’s mouthpiece. Perhaps, Moses, like me, assumed that his people would struggle to receive someone they saw as being undeserving of God’s favor, someone who had been lifted out of captivity and showered in the riches of God’s grace. And perhaps Moses, like me, was resting too much in his own lack of status amongst his people and his inability to persuade them, when he asked another to speak for him, rather than trusting God to speak through him and perfect His power in Moses’ weakness.

Crazily it is precisely the extravagance of God’s grace poured out upon us in our sin that best equips us to become His missionaries. For, as God’s Word reminds us: “he who is forgiven little, loves little.” But we who know the extravagance of God’s love and mercy – woe to us, when we forget our first love and do not recognise how far we have fallen from God’s grace.

Yes, like Moses, despite God extending me such incredible grace, I chose to have others speak for me and to get frustrated and angry at my brothers and sisters, rather than doing exactly what my God had commanded me to do. It broke my heart reflecting upon that today. But my fresh experience of God’s grace in my discouragement yesterday and remembering the mercy God showed to Moses after he was buried, fills me with hope that God can still make something beautiful of the mess I have made.

Do you recognize yourself in any of my fresh convictions? If so, I invite you to join me in prayer.

Father, thank You that You are slow to anger and rich in mercy toward us. Forgive me for not doing exactly what You asked me to do in the past. Forgive me for leaning into fear and pride, rather than into the arms of Your Son and the faith and love He was waiting to fill me with by the power of His Word to me.

Forgive me for pointing the finger, and choosing not to address the log in my own eyes. Forgive me for not confessing my own sins and pain and not trusting You to speak through me and to perfect Your power in my weakness. Thank You for setting me apart to make me holy as You are holy. Thank You for continuing to pursue me and call me into Your purposes for my life. Thank You for perservering in love and mercy toward me.

Father, Your Word tells us:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 KJV)

Father, I confess my unbelief. I confess that I have not believed that You will reward me for diligently seeking You and Your will. Forgive me for fearing my own lack of status, inability and weakness above Your holy Name. Forgive me for resting in myself, rather than in Jesus and His love for me and the Church. Forgive me for becoming weary of doing good.

Father, here I am, just as I am. Weak, needy and without any standing before my brothers and sisters, but ready for You to use me, mould me and shape me, as I do what You ask of me. I invite You to send me out afresh. But as You do so, help me to stay like a little child before You.

Keep me humble, rooted in Your love and affections. Whenever I turn to the left or to the right, thank You that I will hear a Voice from behind saying: “This is the Way, walk in it.” Embolden me to walk in it.

Cause me to be more in awe of Your power and might than in my own lack of status, weakness and inability that I might do exactly what You ask of me, without waivering in unbelief and pride. Do not allow me to get angry or frustrated at my brothers and sisters, nor to condemn myself and spiral into shame, but continually lead me to repentance that I might abide in You and Your love for me and Your Church.

Continually remind me of Your overwhelming grace toward me that I might turn toward You in my need and receive the grace that You long to pour back out of me onto my brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me to be slow to anger and quick to listen to You and Your Word to me.

Cause me to not just listen but do every Word You speak to me. Cause me to release every accusation of the enemy that I might dwell secure and be at ease, without dread of disaster. That I might love others freely and without expectation because You first loved me and will always love me in that way.

In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Isaiah 6:4-8 (ESV)

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Day 4: The Hands that Were Pierced

Welcome to Day 4 of Part 2s Chapter 3 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of gold: a poem and Scriptures of thanksgiving for God’s perfection wrought at the Cross for us. She also invites you to sing two songs of praise and worship with her, declaring the truth of God’s mighty power to save.

No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.

Isaiah 60:18 (ESV)
Your Hands 

Your hands hold
Me close
Your hands wrap
Around my coming

And going out again
Your hands know me
Each day of my life
Written in Your book.

Your hands let me go
But tethering me in grace
To the path You walked
Before me and behind me stay.

Your hands wrap around
My heart that is aching
To break
In Your mercy.

Laboring in kindness
Your hands teach me to trust
Again and again to let go
Into Your hands every part yielding.

Led by Your hands
You walk me into Your death and
Resurrection, again and again
To awaken Your heart of flesh.

You make room for the new
Lifting every accusation
At the power of Your Word
You carry me into the light.

That I may bear fruit that abides
That I may die to the old of my knowing
To rest in Your knowing
Written on the holes in Your hands.

That I may see Your blessed perfection
Reflected in Your Word's consecration
For Your Word to me
Is truth.

My life and breath
Let them now speak evermore
Of Your hands that were pierced
To hold us all together in mercy.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them

    after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

    and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Hebrews 10:14-18 (ESV)

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 4: He Will Carry Us

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 judgment and 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.

The Thornbush

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.

In Your name, we pray,

Amen.

Photo: From Anna Smit’s private collection.

Chapter 2: Day 4 – In Returning and Rest

Welcome to Day 4 of Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a devotional (a poem, story and prayer) centered on Scriptures that the LORD is continuing to take deeper into her own heart.

Since I was little, I have loved to help others. As the oldest daughter in a family of six children, I had ample opportunity to help out. I took great pride in my “mothering responsibilities”, as I took it upon myself to help my Mum out, particularly with looking after my youngest brother and sister, to give my busy Mum, who also carried many responsibilities outside of our home, a break and allow her to get other things done.

There is beauty in the gift of helping and serving others, but what God has opened my eyes to, is that serving can become an idol that begins to gong like a cymbal, where the lines of responsibility become blurry. A few weeks before my Mum died, she looked at me and said something like: “Anna, I was a bad example to you girls. I had no boundaries in place. Don’t follow my example.” Now, don’t get me wrong. My Mum was one of the most loving people I know, but now that God has broken the idol I made of her, I see what my Mum meant. There were indeed times, where she too became like a gonging cymbal and these were times that she took on responsibility that was not hers to shoulder.

When I began to see this idol present in my own life, God encouraged me, not to try to “fix” it myself, but to lay the responsibility for my transformation in His hands. But as I began to do so, He began to fence me in, more and more.

Again and again, He had me build up something, only to ask me to lay it back down soon after. Again and again, He had me invest in people, communities and ministries, only to then ask me to leave and surrender everyone and everything into His hands.

Through these first few breakings and surrenders, it felt like God was punishing me. It felt like He was taking away things and people from me because I wasn’t “good enough” to stay and to serve in these places. But ever so slowly, I am beginning to see this fencing in of God, as His precious gift of rest in pleasant places.

A photo I took on a recent bike ride in response to God’s call to me to come away with Him to rest. A bike ride that had me weeping, as I felt God overwhelm me in His love for me.

It has been His Way of growing me in grace and truth, of teaching me to walk within His safe boundaries. For, after each breaking, I slowly began to see that each surrender was drawing me into a deeper and deeper rest, and a shedding of responsibilities for others that were never mine to carry.

I am now seeing how the Word God spoke over me at the start of all this shedding and burning away, is now reaping so much fruit in my life:

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

    you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Psalm 16: 5 – 6 (NIV)

The funny thing though, is that God has been fulfilling this Word, by showing me that I am incapable of making Him alone my portion and my cup. Maybe, you too recognize your inability in this department. If so, maybe this next verse has also been a painful verse for you too, because like me, you recognize yourself as being the “unwilling” one God speaks of.

Maybe you too recognize your past failures to return and rest and to sit in quietness and trust. But what God has been showing me, is that He knows I cannot set good boundaries for myself and that I cannot rest and be still in and of myself, that I actually do not know how to make Him alone my portion and cup.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,

Isaiah 30:15 (ESV)

He showed me that this is yet another reason why He sent Jesus to die on the Cross for me, so that He could take up residence in me and teach me how to walk within His pleasant boundaries. And what I am noticing, is that when I ask Him to set those boundaries for me, in response to His leading, He is so very faithful to do so and oh the joy and peace and love that flows from a heart that rests in these pleasant places with Jesus.

Just yesterday, I yet again, found myself in a place, where God showed me I had become like a gonging cymbal, because I had chosen to take on responsibility that was not mine to carry. In this case, it was the opinions of others – the fear that I would be blamed for the choices of others, over whom I carried leadership responsibilities. This fear of man was rooted in me not recognizing God’s ultimate sovereignty. In me not recognizing His ultimate responsibility over the gifts He has entrusted me to carry out in His Name.

And this fear drove me to take on a responsibility for the behavior of others and to snap, rather than flow from a position of resting in God’s love. As the fear grew inside of me, so did the assumptions I began to make of others and their behavior and so did my snapping.

But then, God in His kindness, placed me before an elderly women who began to boast in her weakness, who spoke of having forgotten her mask and now having to bike back home to collect it. The gentleness of God shone so brightly from her face and as I shared of having had the same thing happen before also, I felt God slow my heart to the pace of His own.

It’s then I reached out to apologize to someone I had been snapping at moments earlier, someone who I had made incorrect assumptions about, in my haste, driven by fear. I also noticed how that snapping came, after I had felt a gentle nudge from God to take a break, but rather than do so, I had kept going.

And so, as that conviction and repentance flowed from the grace of God, I also recognized I needed God’s help with boundaries in another part of my life. So, I turned to Him and asked Him to be my boundary lines in that space also.

You see, recently I have stepped out in faith with something new and I was reminded that I need God to time the unfolding of this new responsibility, step by step, so that it doesn’t encroach on other responsibilities He has given me. So, I asked Him to time its unfolding, also so I can finish something else well that is in its final weeks.

As I did so, I found myself rejoicing over even the simple conversation this new ministry had brought yesterday. I recognized how refreshing it was to pour into a young woman, without laying any expectations on the outcome of our contact. As I shed the responsibility for this contact’s unfolding, my peace and joy increased, as I recognized how even if it comes to nothing, the conversation alone was such a gift to me.

God has truly been shedding the old and uncovering the true desires of His heart within me, desires that draw me into His heart of surrender, love, gentleness and kindness. He has been lifting the weight of so many responsibilities.

God so patiently grows our hearts to steward well the gifts He has entrusted us, by teaching us how to rest in His authority and guidance, moment by moment. By God’s grace I have definitely come a long way, and yet I also recognize room for so much more growth. I am so excited to see how He enlarges my heart even more in the coming months to run in the path of His commands and I pray you are too. For our LORD is so very faithful.

Father God, I thank You for the gift of Your Son. I thank You that You have shed abroad Your love in our hearts, through the gift of Your Holy Spirit, who is now guiding us into all the truth, for we know that the Holy Spirit does not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to us the things that are to come (John 16:13).

Thank You that You promise us that “so shall [Your] word be that goes out from [Your] mouth; it shall not return to [You] empty, but it shall accomplish that which [You] purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which [You] sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV). Thank You for fencing and hemming us in, even when You knew we would not understand it at first and see it as Your punishment of us. Thank You for Your loving discipline and great patience with us. Father, help us, through each fencing in, through each closing door and breaking, to trust Your heart of love toward us.

Yield our hearts to Your discipline and cause us to bring forward the pure white linen of Your Son that You might clothe us in the garments reserved for those who overcome in Your Name. For, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5, ESV) And so, this very moment we acknowledge that we cannot overcome the world in our own strength, that we cannot make You alone our portion and our cup, without Your teaching, leading and guidance. And so, we let go of our striving and ask You now to clothe us in Your purity. We ask You to fulfill the Promises of Your Word to us.

Today, we like King David, declare by faith that “Lord, you alone are [our] portion and [our] cup; you make [our] lot secure.The boundary lines have fallen for [us] in pleasant places; surely [we] have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16: 5-6, NIV). We declare by faith that we shall see the fulfillment of this Word in our lives. Be our boundary lines, oh LORD and reveal the pleasant places of Your choosing for us, where our hearts can rest in Your heart of love, gentleness and kindness.

Shut the doors that need shutting. Open the doors that need opening and teach us how to yield our will to Yours that we may live from a position of rest, flowing in Your love. LORD be the One who serves and loves through us, by the power of Your Holy Spirit and Word of life. Continue to break our idols of responsibility that shackle us to fear and sin. Cause our hearts to return and rest in You and to dwell in quietness and trust in You.

And as we read through this poem that You gifted me (Anna) so long ago, bring such joy and peace to our hearts in the knowledge that You are so very faithful to teach us how to seek after Your heart above all else and how to rest at Your feet. Help us to let go of any shame we feel because of our past failings and to walk into the newness of life You are holding out to us. Help us also to receive Your patience with us, to see ourselves as Your children who You are so proud of, who You are teaching step by step. Help us to see and celebrate all the ways we have already grown to rest in You. Thank You that we are so blessed in You. In Jesus’s precious Name, Amen.

SEEK MY HEART

Blessed are those
Who listen and heed
Come close,
And sit at My feet.

Blessed are those
Who know how to rest,
To abide and draw
Upon who I AM.

Blessed are those
Who heed not praise
Of men,
But seek My heart for them.
Listen My daughter well
To these words of love -

Be still, and know
Even now, even here,
I sit beside,
And hold your hand.

Do you hear angels sing,
Choirs to My glory?
Rush of waterfall
Pouring down upon you?

See all shackling silt
Coming loose
Purity revealed in
Sea blue deep

Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

Life is hard, so very hard. Oh yes, we know the truths of God’s beautiful Word, don’t we? But there are days the darkness presses in. Days our hearts, our minds, our souls struggle to breathe, to believe.

Where do we go on those days? When waves of crashing grief pull us under? When triggers of our past rip open deep wounds and leave us gasping for air? When it feels as if someone has strapped us into a frightening rollercoaster and our screams cannot escape?

Is there a place for us, for us wounded and broken, for us who have been told if we’d “just trust God at His Word” our storms would subside? For us, who run to hide behind closed doors, ashamed, weeping and fearful?

These are questions Bettie Gilbert, Anna Smit and their friends have wrestled through, lashed by the winds and waves of physical, mental and emotional turmoil. In Arise and Shine: Beloved, You Are Mine, a series of poetry, prayers and devotionals, we share how God has been meeting us right there. Not just once, but again and again. How He has been revealing hidden treasures in our struggles to breathe and believe.

These are treasures shrouded in the materials God’s people brought forward for the building of a Holy Temple centuries ago. Treasures now ready for the unveiling.

There is a place for us. Right here, right now. For the wind and waves, they define us as HIS. As fiercely loved, eternally chosen children of God, divinely called to “Arise and Shine!” 

Song of Songs 2: 8 - 17, ESV
The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”
My beloved is mine, and I am his;
he grazes among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
or a young stag on cleft mountains.

As the Lord calls us to Arise and Shine, He has let us know that we, His people, have now become His own dwelling place: the Temple of the Lord.  

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ 2 Corinthians 6:16 (NIV)

Is there a parallel then, between the setting up and arranging of the early Tabernacle and the building up of our souls, God’s Holy Temple, in Jesus Christ, today? We have experienced it, and still are experiencing it, to be so. 

Come, let’s invite Jesus, through His living Word and testimony in us, to uncover our Abba Father’s desires within us. Come, let’s listen for the free-will offerings of His grace that He is calling us to bring forward to Him today. May we come to know His love for us more and more, loving and obeying Him in return. May we see the unveiling of His new Temple in our own physical bodies and in His unified Body, His Bride, as a whole.

We invite you, through the poems, prayers and devotionals of Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine to take ahold of Jesus’ hand and our own. Come, let’s together discover and rediscover the power of:

Part 1: The Bread of Life

Part 2: The Living Water of God

Part 3: The Oil of Anointing

Part 4: The Fire and Salt of God’s Word

Part 5: The Sword of Life

Part 6: The Breath of God

Part 7: The Blood of Christ

Dear Lord,   

Take these simple offerings that you ask of us, and transform them into a sweet-smelling aroma where Your Truth will be clearly heard.  We pray for each child of yours You have led to read these words. May each one hear the calling of Your Spirit to join in with the offering of herself. 

Thank You for shining Your light on the dark places that You want to transform and redeem in our hearts.  May Your Spirit bring a beauty to Your people, and join us together as Your own Temple. May we hear Your call to us, as You ask us to show You our hearts, and come when You call.

In Jesus’ Mighty Name, 

Amen.

May you arise and shine in the light of Christ, for Beloved, you are the Lord’s!

Bettie Gilbert and Anna Smit have been compiling Arise and Shine to publish in a book (since 2017). But we both sensed God’s call to instead release the book He has been writing on our hearts these past few years, here at ShalomAleh.com. We will publish the poems, prayers and devotionals, piece by piece, as He directs us. You will be able to find these posts under the category Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine.

Living Roots

An allegorical short story by Lisa Enqvist 

First published at: https://lisaenqvistroots.com/allegory-searching-for-my-tree/

A friend recently went through my Facebook background. Even to me, my life looks chaotic, though I have spent years trying to make sense of the various stages, places, and situations of my life. 

 

 

This picture reflects my first eight years. I’ve written one book in English which covers these eight years: MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids. (Available on Amazon and other sources).

 

The following story was born at a writers’ course. As I read it aloud, someone exclaimed, “That is your life!” It is a metaphor for my life. As I continue writing my blog in the weeks and months ahead, I hope to discover and uncover other treasures, just as this Bible verse from Isaiah 33:6 promises:

 

He will be the sure foundation for your times,

    a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;

    the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

 

 

I searched for the grove where someone said I would find my tree, but the road was no longer there. Great excavators had mutilated the landscape. I sat down on a big rock and cried. How could I find my tree? Was it there, or was it destroyed? A little child came and stood by my stone. She looked at me with her big, questioning eyes.

 

“Why are you crying?” She held out her hand.

 

“Come with me. I will show you something.”

 

She led me past the big rocks that the excavator had left. We went past the familiar railroad, the river, and the mountains.

 

Palms swayed in the wind by the ocean. The crabs fled from the foam in an eternal game of hide-and-seek.

 

Was the palm my tree?

 

No. It was too lonely. I didn’t want to be alone.

 

The girl led me on. We came to a road that led to a schoolyard. Around the sports-field flamboyant trees spread their branches. During the hot summer, fiery yellow-red flowers burst out of the twigs. They were beautiful, but the fire that shone from them scorched my heart. The flame tree was not my tree.

 

There were trees with the tastiest fruits. But neither the mango tree with its dark leaves and its juicy fruit nor the guava tree with spiky branches and seed-filled fruit was my tree.

 

The little girl led me on into the middle of a park. When I finally found my tree, I sat down under it. I did not yet understand that this might be my tree. It did not look like any other tree I had passed earlier. All the other trees had a trunk and a crown of branches reaching for the sky. Their roots were not visible. This tree had roots growing down from the branches, as though it needed extra support from every side.

 

 

The wind whispered through the leaves. I heard it say to the tree,

 

“Tell your story so that even the little girl will understand.”

 

The tree began its story.

 

“Long, long ago, I sprouted up out of the ground in a country far away. The air was clear, and the sun shone brightly. The birds flew around me, chirping and singing their songs. Life was good.

 

One day the gardener came from the King’s Palace and began digging the ground around my root. I was terrified.

 

“I’ll die! I’ll die if you move me from here.” I cried.

 

The gardener did not hear my cry. He did not explain anything. Maybe he thought I would not understand. My root broke when the gardener pulled me up. I was sure I would die. There was no way I could survive. My heart was bleeding.

 

The gardener rolled a bunch of damp hay around my root and put me into a sack. I did not know where I was. I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to die.

 

Many days later I saw the light. I was in a strange country. I was still alive. I heard someone digging with a spade. I heard a voice saying:

 

“I plant this tree as a symbol of friendship and justice. May it grow tall and give shelter to many children.”

 

The man who spoke held me very gently. I saw a tear run down his cheek. I did not understand anything. He put me down into the hole in the ground and filled the gap with soil around my roots.

 

I was sure I would never grow big. My roots were still hurting. I did not want to know where I was.

 

I didn’t care about the touch of the wind. Nor the freshness of rain, nor the warmth of the sun.

 

I thought stubbornly: I don’t belong here. I don’t want to be here.

 

One day an older woman came alone into the park. She stopped beside me and looked at my drooping leaves. I felt the warmth of her empathy flow towards me. I wanted to tell her my story.

 

She sat down on the ground and listened to my complaint. She understood. She felt my sorrow and longing. It was enough.

 

After that day, I began to see again. I was in a park designed by a king.

 

I grew tall, taller than the other trees. I stretched my limbs so birds could build their nests in them. I noticed that I had aerial roots growing down from my branches. I thought then I would make a swing of them for children. I want to show all the children who find me that I am here for them.”

 

The tree did not have to say more. I understood. It was my tree.

 

I stood up and looked at the tree again. The aerial roots covered its trunk. Dead brown leaves covered the ground. The tree had died many deaths, yet it lived. It still gave protection to the birds and the children.

 

The little girl began to gather the leaves in big piles. Suddenly she was surrounded by a crowd of children. They were playing and hiding under the dead leaves. I heard them laugh and shout in joy. They rolled around the on the ground, so the leaves rustled.

 

The big boys climbed up in the tree. The younger children clung to the swing.

 

Everyone had a place in my tree. After playing, the children were tired. They returned home to their parents.

 

I realized that I must leave my tree. I have to move on. I have to plant trees for other children in other countries. The wind followed me with its whispering melody.

 

 

 

Author Bio

As a teenager, Lisa Enqvist decided she would never be a missionary, never return to her father’s Gospel ship “Ebeneser,” never marry a missionary, never have kids who might feel as rootless as she was. And, she prayed, “Please, God, don’t ever send me to India.” But God knew Lisa better than she knew herself and gave her what her heart truly desired: all the things she asked Him not to give her, healing her heart more and more through the process.

Lisa is a co-founder of a Children’s Home in Thailand. She grew up in China and Sri Lanka as a missionary kid. She now lives with her husband in a small town on the West Coast of Finland. She and her husband adopted four Amerasian children in Thailand. They have given Lisa and her husband Håkan eleven grandkids.

Today, Lisa writes personal and family stories based on saved letters, documents, and personal memories. Since receiving her mother’s old letters in 1983, she has written four memoir books in Swedish and one in English: MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids. Rheumatoid Arthritis has challenged her since writing her first book.

Lisa is a registered pediatric nurse. Her earlier writing experience consisted of newsletters to sponsors of children at the Bethany Children’s Home and regular letters to family and friends scattered around the world. She has saved numerous family letters.

She attended several Swedish writer’s seminars in Finland. After reverting to English in 2011, she completed a course in writing for children and youth at the Institute for Children’s Literature and a Memoir Writing Course at Creative Writing Now. She also wrote articles for FaithWriters Challenge.

She is a member of Everything Memoir Private Group and West Coast Christian Writers. She has attended two Online conferences with the WCCW.

Her book MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids, is available from:

https://booklocker.com/books/8211.html

https://www.amazon.com/MISSIONARY-MOTHER-Around-World,

and other online bookstores.

Lisa blogs at: https://lisaenqvistroots.com/