Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 6: Heaven is Singing

Welcome to Day 6 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a story + prayer + poem as a free will offering of bronze, showing us how the LORD invited her to let Him exchange her judgment of herself with His own. She also invites us into a time of prayer and reflection.

They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Exodus 38:8 NIV

The Lord had asked His people to bring many items and offer them to be used for the building of His holy dwelling place among them. When He asked for items of bronze to be given, there were women serving who gave some of their most precious items. For you see, they had used their bronze mirrors during those days of wandering in the wilderness, showing them daily glimpses of how their faces were portrayed. 

This Scripture tells us that the women who served the Lord and His people gave away their only way to view themselves. And how did the priests make use of those precious bits of their daily lives? The molten bronze was fashioned into the basin where the priests cleansed themselves before they offered the sacrifices that would bring God’s holiness to His people.

The way that those women viewed themselves and those around them was transformed as the bronze was melted, poured, and pounded into the vessel made for cleansing. Now the image seen was that of the priests bowing and washing before the holy sacrifices were made. 

Are you seeing the beautiful symbolism yet? 

The surrender of those women was not lost on me, as the Lord asked me to ponder my own way of looking at myself and those around me. I found myself weeping as the Lord brought His true mirror before me, and showed me the difference between what He sees when He looks at me, and how I have viewed myself. 

Has my mirror been melted, poured, and pounded into the Lord’s cleansed and true vessel of seeing yet?

Or have I clung to the wilderness way of seeing, judging my image by my own faulty standards?

Years ago, as a young teenager, God had spoken beautiful words into my heart and over my life as I read the story of the young teen Jeremiah:

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.  Jeremiah 1:4-9 NIV 

I longed to follow after the Lord, and to speak the words that He would give me to share. But not long after God had spoken the words of Jeremiah to me, I heard a phrase uttered, “Oh, that person is just too heavenly minded to be any earthly good!”  And something burrowed itself down into my soul. I heard myself asking God:

“Is that me, God? Is that why my words are not heard?  It MUST be me.”  

I tucked away my own stories of God’s faithfulness, preferring instead to listen to all the other great stories around me. In the very beginning of my journey, I listened to a lie about myself, and let that lie take root. And judgment quickly clouded my vision.

Years later I heard more words uttered, and I let that lie take root even deeper, until the Lord began to shake it loose, and show it for what it truly was. He let the light of His truth shine directly into the darkened corner of my heart.

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Psalm 85:10

He cleansed my eyes with the water of His mercy, and showed me His way of seeing not only myself, but those around me who had also given in to the lie. His mercy washes us clean from our bitterness, and brings us the only way to see clearly: through HIS own righteousness.

If your own eyes have been looking in a bronze mirror, and you have found yourself questioning a lie that has been spoken over you, can you ask the Lord to kindle His flame and shine His light on your heart?  What does HE see when He looks at you?  Jesus refines and He washes with a holiness that brings us His Truth and Life. Can you let Him wash away the judgments and lies that have rooted in your own heart?

Dear Father,

We come before you now, humbled by the awesome strength and glory that You dwell in. And Father, we are awed that You would love us so much, that You would open the way for us to dwell with You through Your precious Son’s sacrifice.

Will You forgive us for the pride that we have fought so hard to hold onto? And will You continue to lift the blinders off of our eyes, to show us the true cleansing that You have for us? 

What a blessed fellowship You have granted to us: to be carried by You through every day, to be in sweet communion with You, through Your own Blessed Holy Spirit.  We praise You for the true way of seeing that You have granted to us through Your merciful love gifted to us. Thank you for the song that You are singing as You declare us beautiful in Your holiness.

In the Precious Name of Your son, Jesus, we pray, Amen.”

As we now sit with the poem Bettie penned, as the LORD cleansed and opened her eyes, may the LORD now also cleanse and open our own eyes. May we too hear heaven singing:

lie slithered along the floor where
my heart
followed along
questioning
hsss
sound of darkness
i let it stay
did not
bid it go
hardly knew when
it came to live
but always
hsss
sound of darkness
questioning who i
thought
i
was
then hidden words
found utterance
not
by
me
another had let the darkness
settle
on
his
heart too
hsss
now lies swirled over
head
joined entwined in darkness
bitter root
twisting weed grew
around my
shady corners
soul barren
deeps
YAWEH!
a flame kindled
where
slithering scattered
hissing tried to
cling
LORD of light shining
lies fled when
truth sounded song
fluttered
love won secret heart
drew in beautiful
intimacy restoring
true heart no
bitter root
HEAVEN IS SINGING

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT

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.