Welcome to Day 1 of Chapter 6 from Arise & Shine’s Part 7. Today, Bettie is bringing forward our first free will offering of The Mercy Seat.
At the back edge of my daughter’s yard there stood a gnarled, withered old apple tree. It has been gone for several years now. But God’s timing is always set for His purposes in our lives. That tree remained in her yard just long enough for His sweet lesson to be heard by my heart.
And now that my husband and I are actually living with that same daughter because of additional withering to our aging bodies, the lesson strikes a fresh chord for me.
When I spent time with her a few years ago, during heavy trials for both of us, I found myself drawn to this tree each morning. It was the aging of the fruit scattered on the ground and the withering of the leaves that felt familiar to me somehow.
Have you ever looked around at days that feel wasted? Fruit that has gone past its prime?
As I stood staring at the tree, and as I sat on the deck pondering the picture, I heard a whisper calling me to look differently. Where I first was taken with the gnarled branches, the still small voice within me spoke:
“Where you see only waste, I see abundance. Where you see only withering, I see a solid trunk that continues to stretch Heavenward.”
And a small Haiku offering came bubbling to the surface of my heart:
Antique Apple Tree Gnarled trunk stretches Carries on with life even When age withers leaf.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV
Nothing is ever wasted in God’s great Loving Timeline. He alone sets the days and the times for each of us, but as long as we have life there is fruit from the vine to be gained.
As I pondered those thoughts of waste or abundance, the word “mercy” took on new meaning for me. In the past I could only tumble grace and mercy together in one large pot. Granted, they do fit together, but I believe there is a depth of mercy that can only be felt as we acknowledge the utter brokenness of our being.
Looking at my own withering has brought me to my knees. When GRACE (infinite blessings I do not deserve) feels like a gift too far above me, MERCY (God withholding the punishment I deserve) is something that I can cry out for, that His GRACE might then flow freely from there.
I know that I don’t deserve anything, and yet our God’s compassions are stirred when I look up and cry out for mercy from Him:
He meets me in the broken places and pours His mercy there. And it’s there my limbs no longer gnarl inwards, unwilling to open up to Christ’s compassion for me. No, in God’s mercy flowing for me, my limbs stretch up anew towards my holy Father in trust, just like the old apple tree, longing for more.
My daughter and I shared in God’s mercies as we lifted the hard trials that we each bore up to Him. And He met us with the gift of a song that expressed so clearly the words of our hearts:
When I returned home from my daughter’s house, on that very next morning, His mercies were new for me there also:
It was the day after I had begun yet another RA medication, and I heard God call me outside to rest with my coffee. There beside me rose this fresh Morning Glory opening its glowing heart. As it lifted its radiant star next to me, more words burst from within:
Radiant Mercy Radiant life glows New every morning with the Mercies of my Lord.
Are you in a place that feels withered and wasted? Could you join in prayer today?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gift of Your mercies. Thank You that You are not repelled by our brokenness, but that You are drawn by our cries for mercy. And so we do cry out: Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Have mercy on me.
We feel so withered in these aging and suffering bodies. Our weary hearts and souls are thirsty and hungry for your righteousness. We groan along with creation, awaiting our full redemption.
Will You pour over us Your new mercies, here today? Will You raise our drooping arms and turn our faces to look full into Your wonderful face? Will You fill us with Your new life as we wait here with You?
Welcome to Chapter 6 of Part 7 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is introducing us to the free will offering of The Mercy Seat, with Bettie sharing the accompanying graphic and Scripture.
Exodus 25:21:22 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.
Exodus 40:38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.
James 2:12-13 “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment”
Do you remember your heart first opening to the depths of God’s mercy? To His willingness to die in your place and carry the punishment that should have fallen on you? Do you remember the first time you heard Him call you to come boldly to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy and receive His grace in your need, when all you could see was your sin and your weakness marring His beautiful creation?
I was four when my heart first opened to His call and I found myself coming to His throne of grace. But I can’t remember that day myself. I can only remember His fresh call to me as a preteen to lay down my life of sin and shame to rise anew in Him. But I also remember struggling to arise, to wake up to the new growing inside of me. In my weakness and sin, I clung, not to my new name, but to pain and shame as my name.
And so, ever so patiently, my Heavenly Father took me by the hand, leading me deeper into His heart in my blindness. He took me where my heart needed to go so that I might arise and shine in His Son. And when He first opened my eyes to see Him afresh after all those years, the depths of His mercy and grace floored me. I could see He had given me the deepest desires of my heart to know Him in His death and resurrection: a desire He planted in me before I was born.
Like the once blind but now seeing Bartimaeus I wanted everyone to know this Jesus. But as God led me to boast in my weakness to His glory and to confess my sins and His mercy openly, something strange began to unfold. God took me where I didn’t want to go, only to find it was in fact, where my new heart most desired to go.
The weakness (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) I had deemed healed, a healing that had earned the respect and awe of my brothers and sisters in Christ, suddenly became the thorn in my side afresh. A thorn ordained of God to humble me and free me of the idolatry of self and man that had blinded me as that little girl all those years before.
Trauma triggers abounded and had me repeatedly crying out to my God to save me. Oh how faithful He was through it all, lifting me up and sustaining me by His every Word, when all I wanted was to die.
But right there in my weakness and need is where I began to see my Jesus, where I hadn’t noticed Him before. I began to see the face of Christ in those I had pridefully deemed in need of “my” saving. And I began to find Him so very present to me in my own beautiful frailty, weakness and desperate need. My blessed Jesus arose inside of me, and all around me, to declare us His. And He still is today, taking me ever deeper into His suffering and His love for us all. Now, a chronic heart condition, most likely born of trauma, is repeatedly ushering me to the throne of grace, as God is turning what the enemy sent to harm me, into a blessing of life ever awaking in the dying.
I have been hearing my Savior’s Voice speaking more and more clearly, as my God has arisen to separate me from the voices that tethered me to condemnation and shame. As He has led me out of my old thinking (and continues to), and the communities and friendships that reinforced this thinking, He has reminded me that whoever has Christ’s commandments and keeps them, it is he alone who loves Jesus. And He has shown me that he who loves Jesus will be loved by the Father, and Jesus will love him and manifest Himself to him.
And it’s then, with His leading thought arising, I have picked up my Cross to follow Him, not knowing where He is taking me, I have been watching Him making me One – in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And I am still watching Him do that daily. For, God is revealing the power of His precious seed deposited in me and in all those He has placed around me.
I once saw My weakness And Your sword's Dividing As punishment And death.
But now I know it was Eternity sowing Unmerited, timeless Favor.
It was and still is Your mercy Taking me Ever deeper Into love's knowing.
Grace weaving Your joining Each part of the whole A peace beyond All human fathoming.
A divine mystery Woven into Human weakness A holy and sacred Completion endowing.
In the Father's Overshadowing I taste the Son's Heavy burdens A new heart awaking.
Glory's knowing I cannot ever seek To embody but Carried by the Son To the throne of grace.
"Take heart!" I hear my elder Brother's Blood flowing: "Come, take My hand Let's meet our Father."
Psalm 94:19 ESV When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
Psalm 31:24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
It’s here in my weakness and frailty I am learning that each of us only loves because He first loved us. And love begets love. Mercy begets mercy. Compassion begets compassion. Kindness begets kindness. Jesus in us begets more Jesus in us and more Jesus in others, as Christ wakes us up to hear His Voice and to see His face in ourselves and in each other – in and through our weakness. In and through His call to us to join Him in His suffering that we might know His heart of love for us all.
Want to know, with me, if He’s standing there before us right now, calling us to feed Him and to clothe Him and to visit Him in prison and to give Him a drink? Oh let’s seek Him together and we shall find Him! Let’s knock and the door shall be opened to us. For, our holy God has promised us we shall find treasure hidden in the darkness.
In our frailty and weakness, in our missing of the mark, come let’s find our Father shining the light of His mercy and grace – Jesus for us. For, where we – man – see weakness and sin abounding, the Father looks and sees His grace upon grace – Jesus – abounding. He sees His Son – the light – arising to shine upon us all, to lift our every burden. He sees Christ’s blood that was shed for us all and eternity – Jesus – already glowing brightly in the heart of man. For darkness is as light to our mighty God, who only fashioned the destroyer to reveal His power in a holy overshadowing of the mercy seat – of Christ at work in us.
Will you close your eyes with me and get really still. Can you hear Him calling you too?
For remember, we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV
Yes! Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Just wait and see! Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is LORD. For, Love Himself desires that not even one of us should perish, that not one of us should be denied what the Son of God’s blood flowed for, and flows for even still.
Just look and see His suffering: see Him drawing near to us all. Behold Him awakening us to His burden of love for each other, as He leads us to pick up our Cross and follow Him into the Way of love (Isaiah 53, KJV):
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
No, not even one star is missing or gone. For He knows each one by name. The Name above all names, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
Oh how I love You, Jesus! Oh how we love You, Jesus! Our holy overshadowing, our mercy seat, our outstretched hands and the Voice in us ever crying out:
Can you picture a Papa watching His little girl learn to walk. See His hands stretched out before her, beckoning her to “come!”. Can you feel the excitement in the air as she rises, holding onto the edge of the table for support. There’s a tinge of fear and trembling, but her longing to please her Papa and to see His smile of pride wins out. She takes her first step toward Him with a huge smile spreading across her face, as she sees His eyes glowing in pride.
Now imagine that little girl is you – taking your first step in obedience toward something new He has called you to do – and that the Papa is your Abba Father, your Heavenly Father. Imagine yourself awaking and arising to His love and pride in you in a new way.
And now imagine it’s not just you and your Abba Papa there. Imagine you are surrounded by other toddlers, who are longing to take that first step too, but who are chained to the ground in fear. Now watch them, watch you and your Abba Papa. And see them begin to awake and arise to their Papa’s “come!” also. It’s like they’ve just been waiting for you to go first.
In watching you celebrate in your Papa’s arms, as He twirls you around, they begin to long for that too, suddenly realizing it’s a possibility for them too – that this Papa they’ve been much too afraid to trust will not let them fall either, but catch them and lift them up high too. That He will celebrate each one of His beloved children, as they wake up to celebrate Him in every step they take toward Him!
Can you tell what my One Word (or two 😂) is for next year? Yep, you guessed it:
This year God commanded me to CELEBRATE Him. He commanded me to look back on my life and acknowledge His grace to me at every turn. He commanded me to rejoice in His ever present love threaded through my whole life story, and to open my eyes to see how He has been weaving my story into a much bigger tapestry and family.
And oh the JOY this has brought me and continues to bring me daily – to praise Him for His grace to me. Yes, my JOY (Jesus) is daily arising inside of me and surrounding me with His Body to give me fresh strength to face each new day and even my new chronic heart condition (that made its first appearance in February this year, with a definitive diagnosis in September) in hope and trust.
Now, He is inviting me to WAKE UP in this year to come. To listen for and heed His every call to me to “come!” that I might – again and again – run into the new to find His arms ready to catch me and lift me high, with His eyes sparkling in love and pride.
But He’s told me this Word is not just for me – but that He’s about to WAKE UP so many more through me, as I take those steps toward Him in fresh trust and surrender.
So, here’s to a 2022 of WAKING UP to celebrate Jesus more and more. Not just through my and Bettie’s sharing with you here, but in every step I take toward my Abba Papa, into the new with Him – so that He might WAKE UP many more through me.
Oh how I love You, Papa! I am so excited to see all You have planned for this year to come. For Your Word tells me: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Show us Your glory, oh LORD! Reveal Yourself in us, precious Jesus! Wake up! Prove Yourself in our hearts and in our midst. For it’s no longer we who live – it’s You! Arise and shine, Beloved Jesus – You are mine and I am Yours forevermore!
Psalm 35: 27-28 CJB
But may those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad! Let them say always, “How great is Adonai, who delights in the peace of his servant!” Then my tongue will tell of your righteousness and praise you all day long.