Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 6: The Song of My Father

Welcome to Day 6 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie 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.

Over 20 years ago I had a dream that is still crystal clear in my mind today. In the dream, I was carrying a baby, and walking through a church parking lot. Standing under the awning at the Church’s entrance was an older man who was singing this song:

I will pour on you

the oil of gladness in the morning,

I will pour on you

the oil of my joy.



I will burn off all the dross

Stir up what remains

And I will pour on you

the oil of my joy.

As the man sang, it was the most beautiful voice that I had ever heard, and somehow I knew it was an angel singing God’s own song over me. However, I barely paused to listen and hurried on my way to complete my task. In the dream I returned to the parking lot, still carrying the baby, and as I walked past, the man was still singing the Father’s song over me. And then I awoke.

~~~~~~~~

All these years later, I recognize the voice of my Father calling me to come with Him, to allow Him to pour out His oil over me. He has stilled my busy caring and serving, and I have been brought to a place of rest at His feet.  Yet, even in the resting, the pain and fatigue have threatened to steal every drop of joy that I have known. In the instinctive reaction to physical pain, there are days that my arms are curled into my side, hunching my shoulders and neck into a place of self-protection.

The spasmed fascia in my neck shows how that hunching and curling has contributed to yet more pain. Last week as the physical therapist gave my neck and spine the gentle prodding and stretching that is part of the Myofascial Technique, suddenly I realized my arms were pulling up to my chest as a flaring of Rheumatoid Arthritis pain in my wrists was triggered.  But in that jerking, the Lord of Love brought a release.

“Offer the pain up to Me now,” He invited.  And He reminded me of the word that He has been speaking to me all summer: Incense.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8 NIV

 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Revelation 8:3-4 NIV

As I thought about the incense and the prayers of the saints, and as I thought about the anointing oil, neither the incense nor the oil was created without pain. The spices for both were ingredients that were scraped, chiseled or gathered from various trees and herbs. They were then crushed, and pounded, and boiled through a distillation process to remove the dross before they were finally pure enough to be used for the proper purposes. (You can read more in Exodus 20 for the Lord’s specific instructions.)

I have become acquainted with crushing and burning and boiling away the dross of my life.

During the time when that dream was first given, I was deeply burdened and interceding for dear ones in a former church. Some of that intercession was never acknowledged, in fact, it was rejected and spurned.  I returned my prayers back to the Father, and found forgiveness for those who had rejected me.  But I never understood that the pain could be offered as a gift also.

I tucked the pain down deep, moved on, and asked God to show me His next steps in my life. But the explanation of the setting for the dream was never fully understood until just this week when these verses came to mind:

 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:22-27 ESV

Truly, those prayers that I carried felt like a kind of labor pain, Holy Spirit birthed praying. And through all those years of serving and praying, I carried those babies–those prayers–close to my heart. It was a natural, instinctive reaction to the pain that I felt.  But the Lord now whispered a gentle invitation to me from within my place of resting here:

Offer that labor pain, that baby, up to Me now, letting My Holy Spirit carry the incense of your prayers to Me fully. Allow My Holy Spirit to carry what you were never meant to hold onto. The pain is too heavy, it will always leave you hunched and curled. But I will pour my oil of joy on you as you release the incense of your prayers and pain.

“Incense”



The prayers of God’s people

rose

The smoke of incense wafted

behind

The Holy of Holies curtained

between



The priest in anointing oil

covered

Entered the curtained room

unveiling

Cloud of incense fragrance

trailing.



And the Father sang His song over His people.



As the fragrance of our Savior

wafted

the offering of His pain

became

the prayer that rescued our souls.



His blood shed for me.

His pain borne for mine.



My pain and prayers lifted as

offering

Fragrance wafting with Savior’s

joining

Gift of rescue now

delighting.



And the Father sings His song over His people.



My heart now covered in oil

anointing

Enters into His Holiest Heart

releasing

Cloud of incense fragrance

trailing



The oil of HIS joy is pouring.

And while the Father has been singing His song over me, He has been pulling the pain up from those hunched over places. His oil of joy has been seeping into every hunched and curled place.

Are you acquainted with crushing and pounding and hunching and curling?

Could you hear the Father asking of you the same thing He has been asking of me?

Sing with Me here.  The pain and prayers have always been woven together, and I long to hear your voice singing with mine.

From within my own place of weakness here, I offer His song back to Him now, and I ask Him to bring to you the blessing of His oil of joy flowing over you:

Dear Father,

We come before You now confessing our weaknesses and seeing the dross that has accumulated. We long to lay down the pain that has been too heavy for us to carry. Will You open our hunched and curled arms to lift this incense up to Your Holy Spirit to carry now? Thank You for allowing us to join You in the prayers we have carried. Oh, but thank You that You see the weight that was never meant to stay on our shoulders. Receive the offering of this pain now. We give to You the prayers and the pain alike. Pour the oil of Your joy upon us now, as we rest within Your singing love.

In the precious name of Jesus, we pray,

Amen.

Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 4: An Irrevocable and Coming Kingdom

Welcome to Day 4 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.

Recently, I was so struck by the childlike faith of Corrie ten Boom in an old interview. She reminded me that God’s peace – a joining of all broken parts into a whole in Jesus- is birthed in the confession of our weakness and sin, as we invite Jesus to meet us in our need and to fill us with Himself. 

As she was put in solitary confinement for four months, she noticed her discouragement growing, so what did she do? She simply confessed her sin of discouragement and asked Jesus to help her. And He did. 

Each time she came afresh in her confessions of sin and weakness, Christ met her and filled her with fresh hope, faith and peace. She explained how until that time in isolation, she hadn’t really gotten to know Jesus, but that during that time He invited her to let Him become her hiding place, a hiding place that sustained her through the many trials still awaiting her in a concentration camp thereafter.

As I listened, my heart was both convicted and blessed. It made me see how recently I have become discouraged, and how in not confessing it, I have stopped coming with my whole heart before God. But as I simply confessed my own sins of discouragement and unbelief, in response to Corrie ten Boom confessing hers, something so precious unfolded. God lifted the accusations of the enemy I didn’t even realize I was believing, as He showered me in His affections.

He did so, by reminding me of one time after another, where He had set me apart in the past to hide me in Himself and to have me walk into His purposes for my life that were so much greater than I had wanted to settle for.

It’s then, I knelt back down to pick up the Promises He had only recently spoken over me, just before He had set me apart once again. Promises I had let go of, as I clung to the enemy’s accusations, even as what He had spoken over me has amazingly begun to unfold before me.

It’s then, I realized that I just could not believe that He would indeed do what He has promised me, because what He has promised me requires a miracle and my complete surrender. I just couldn’t believe that His love for me and my loved ones could go that very deep. But just like our God, what Scripture did He drop into my inbox, as He uncovered my doubts:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” MATTHEW 16:15-17 NIV

If you’ve been following along with us, you will have noted that I had only just published a piece quoting this verse. But what I didn’t tell you is that it is also part of another book – Celebrate Jesus: His Veil Fills the Temple – that God had asked me to write 4 years ago about my Prodigal journey home that I finished, in its first draft, a few days ago.

This is a book I didn’t want to write, but a book He knew would heal me in the writing. Why? Because He showed me that His wounds have paid my ransom. That the cost I wasn’t willing to pay to walk into His purposes for my life, as I denied Him at every turn just like the disciple Peter, He paid for me. So that like Peter, I would come to deep down know I am my Beloved’s and He is mine – and that nothing could ever take away His hand upon my life and upon all those He has called according to His purposes.

From the outset I was called, chosen and destined to walk into the purposes of my God. For, His purposes for us – His children – are irrevocable. Not even our repeated denials of Him can ever undo what God has already finished at the Cross.

Just like Aaron and Moses discovered, when some of their brothers in the LORD became jealous of the undeserved favor God was pouring out upon them, I too discovered, as I wrote this new book, that God does not change His mind about those on whom He has chosen to pour out His favor and those whom He has called according to His purposes. And He will not stand by silent, when the enemy attempts to shut us down with his accusations. Christ will avenge His elect in the budding of a staff. Why? To reveal that that staff that has always been leading and guiding us has in fact never ever been our own, but His.

And this is a staff that leads us – and others through us – into the valley of the shadow of death, not to harm us, but to awaken us unto new life, as we join Christ in His death and resurrection. For, our Savior longs to open our hearts more and more to see by faith and to walk into His irrevocable calling upon our lives – to above all seek first the Kingdom of our God and His righteousness.

Perhaps, like me, you grew up singing this beautiful hymn:

It was one my Dad chose for my Mum’s funeral in 2014. And of the many old hymns, it is this one that came to mind, as I sat writing to you. For, O what peace [I] often forfeit,
O what needless pain [I] bear,
all because [I] do not carry
everything to God in prayer!

And yet, even still, our faithful God has never ever left my side. My whole life. Instead, He has kept extending His hand toward me, calling (Matthew 11:28, KJV):

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

And it’s now, I can see my Dad’s prayerful longing for me as a Prodigal being fulfilled in my life. He penned a letter to me speaking of God’s calling upon our lives requiring two vital ingredients – mercy and the courage to do hard things. He told me He could see I had the first in great measure and that He understood that the second was a difficult one.

But now I know that second one, just as the first, is impossible for man. But, as Jesus reminds us in His Word: “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27, KJV). For, we serve a mighty God who does what He promises. Nothing can undo what He has already finished upon the Cross for us all.

Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 1: He Gives Us More Grace

Welcome to Day 1 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a free will offering in praise of God opening her eyes to see by faith. By God’s grace, her eyes open to the Promise contained in the budding of her almond tree, in the midst of great pain and affliction. She also invites us to join her in a time of thanksgiving and prayer.

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”

Luke 11:34 NIV 

This branch is from my Flowering Almond bush:

It has had its share of suffering and disease. At one point, several years ago, I considered removing the whole bush because it continued to die back and shed more leaves than what it was gaining. But the patient gardener in me decided to give it another chance, and pruned away the dead branches one more time. I would have missed out on these beautiful blooms if I had focused solely on the diseased portion of the plant.

And so it is in my own life. Where are my eyes choosing to focus? Where is the light within them?

This week a friend sent me a song, and because it was a reworking of a hymn that was one of my favorites, I went on a search to find the original. In so doing, as often happens with me, the history of the hymn drew my attention just as much as the song itself. Maybe you have heard of Annie Johnson Flint, poet and hymn writer from the early 1900’s? 

Before this search, I had known she lived a life of suffering, and I had known her beautiful work came from a fountain of grace within her.  What I had not known was that her disease was one with which I am well acquainted:

Rheumatoid Arthritis.

But she suffered in the years when there was no relief for pain, and no medicine to halt the crippling effects. Where I might suffer some pain and weakness, and some residual tendon damage, she suffered the full effects of a horrible disfigurement and pain beyond compare. As the disease progressed, she was forced to type out her poems using only her bent knuckles, because her joints had swollen and twisted to a point of uselessness.

What do I know of that kind of uselessness?

How would I have borne that kind of suffering?

In these days of stillness, as the Lord brings fresh convictions to me daily, I know that my heart has so far yet to travel. For you see, Annie Johnson Flint had let the Lord bring the true Light to her eyes.  When the darkness of a cruel disease could have crippled her heart, she chose to let the Light of Christ permeate her soul and body. She chose to let that Light redeem her suffering, and bring forth encouragement that would bless others who were facing darkness.

She chose 
Acceptance in the 
Pruning from her own 
Master Gardener and embraced 
HIS Light in the very place of her suffering.

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” Philippians 1:29 NIV 

He Giveth More Grace (lyrics)

—Annie Johnson Flint

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength when the labors increase; To added affliction He addeth His mercy; To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace. 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, Our Father’s full giving is only begun. 

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, Our God ever yearns His resources to share; Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure. His pow’r has no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”

Would you join me in pausing to meditate on the suffering that our Lord bore for us, and join me in prayer?

Dear Lord Jesus,  

I thank you for the suffering that you bore for me. I rejoice in the salvation and grace that you won for me there.

And, now I ask that you would purify my eyes to see the light in my days and the Grace within my own suffering.

May I let you bring Joy from Pain and Beauty from Ashes, And may the Love you have granted sink deep into my soul, body, mind and spirit.

Amen.     

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

This post was first published four years ago at: https://bettiegsraseasons.com/2017/03/30/he-gives-us-more-grace/ Since then, Bettie’s health has deteriorated significantly and yet the beauty and life of Christ is flourishing in and through her more and more, as she comforts others with the comfort the LORD is pouring out upon her.

Part 3: Chapter 2 – Day 1: Shepherd of My Soul

Welcome to Day 1 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing our first free will offering of goats’ hair: a poem and two Scriptures that are reflected in her poem.

“The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Hebrews 13:11-12 NIV

Oh my soul, harassed and torn
Tossed about in the storm,
Is there a Shepherd who cares?
Is there a buffer from the winds?

Oh yes there is a Shepherd so true
One who walks in light
Pure and Holy is He
With never a stain on Him.

But what has He done?
Where cometh this help?
He walks into the storm
Himself bears my own pain!

Oh He who knew no sin, no stain
Took on Himself the shame
Bore it outside the camp
Scorned the shame I should have known.

Oh Lovely One who rose victorious
And won for me the battle
You call me now to come and see
A Shepherd’s compassion here.

The storm that comes to toss and sway
It will not win this battle here
For I have ONE who knows my name
My Shepherd paid the cost

Oh Glorious One all lovely
My heart You set at rest
No storm can touch me here
While on Your chest I lay.

Part 3: The Oil of Anointing

Welcome to Part 3 of Arise and Shine: The Oil of Anointing. Today, Bettie is opening part 3 with a devotional, including a poem and Spirit-led song she was gifted, as she shares what God showed her about the process required to make the anointing oil and its connection to Christ’s labor of love and our response to that.

Join us in the coming days and weeks for the chapters and daily free will offerings connected to the Oil of Anointing. We will be posting these as the LORD leads us.

Have you seen the beautiful plant called “Crown of Thorns?” It is a reliable bloomer that keeps me going through the garden-less days of winter. But just because it’s reliable, doesn’t mean it’s boring. I am always moved by the beauty that rests alongside the pain of this plant. Thorns are jagged along the whole stem, with hardly a space left open. But at the tip of each stem there rests such a fragile seeming, tender bloom. Will my own heart find tenderness alongside the pain? 

Crown of Thorns

Gentle thorns, I pray

Please don't blow the joy away

Let the blooms remain

And if you understand the Song of Solomon to be an allegory of the love story between our God and His People, then He sees us as that beautiful bloom:

“Him: Like a lily among thorns, that is what she is;

        my dear is a captivating beauty among the young women.” Song of Solomon 2:2

Oh, what a mystery is the Love of our Lord! Many years ago, during a particularly busy and overwhelming Season in my life, my Lord spoke this Spirit-led song over my heart in a dream:

"I will pour on you
the oil of gladness in the morning,

I will pour on you
the oil of my joy.

I will burn off all the dross,
Stir up what remains,

And I will pour on you
the oil of my joy."

At the time the song was given, I searched the Scriptures, and the historical processes for the Biblical anointing oil that was used by Moses.  And this is what I found in Exodus 30:20-25 (NIV):

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil.  Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil 

Then to understand the process that the “work of a perfumer” would have gone through, I found these words by David Levy, in his book, The Tabernacle: Shadows of the Messiah:

“The anointing oil was made from a specific formula . . . Rabbinical sources state that Moses, having reduced the solid ingredients to powder, steeped them in water until all the aromatic qualities were drawn out. The olive oil was then poured into the ingredients and the water boiled out. The residue thus obtained was preserved in a vessel for use.” 

Where did those specific ingredients come from? Cinnamon, cassia, and calamus were gathered from the bark and leaves of fragrant plants. But myrhh—it’s a thorny plant that only releases its resin after a wounding is made to the bark. So, not only is the process of making the anointing oil a journey through drying, grinding, steeping, and boiling, but there is a wounding involved in the very first step of gathering.  

Dear one, are you facing a wounding in your life? Are you in a season of boiling stress? Or maybe you are facing the drying winds of a desert.  Rest assured, our Lord has already walked through the process that was required to birth the anointing oil that He, himself became for us. But He has called us His lily among the thorns. Are we ready to give our love, our anointing oil, back to Him?

My feet are aching

Here on this thorny road

Where pebbles prick my feet

Diseased and worn

I hobble through my days.


The oil given me

A healing balm I’m told

Will soothe the burning

And restore the movement

Illness took from me.


But I don’t see results

I cry when I am forced

To wait while others walk

And watch the path

Sit silent at my feet.


And yet

I pour the oil.


Another woman poured her oil

She wasted all her treasure

For ONE the world called

Foolish and meek

Anointing Him for burial.


A beautiful gift she gave

Poured from the wounding

In her heart

After the boiling of her pain

Had wrecked her heart for HIM.


God had set the plan

He had made the picture

Worship required Anointing

Anointing required oil

Born from a wounding and a scar.


Jesus dear Redeemer

You were that oil for me

After your own wounding

Pounded, dried and scourged

Blood drops squeezed so pure.


Now here am I at your feet

Broken, wounded, beaten

By diseases from this world

Yet from the thorn-touch here

You birth a lovely gift.


The oil of my wounding

Has become my sacrifice

Of praises never ending

Washing your feet with tears

Drying them with my hair.


You pull me to my feet

Your words for all to hear

From lips so full of love

What she has done so free

Eternity will call, Beautiful.

Chapter 1: Incense

Chapter 2: Goats’ Hair

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Day 2: Heaven’s Glory

Welcome to Chapter 3‘s Day 2 of Part 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a poem, story and prayer as a free will offering of gold, in praise of God’s precious presence with us and His heavenly touch.

How Long, Oh Lord?
The pain wraps around me
And I am felled
Like a tree toppled, thudding
As it drops to the ground.

The questions swirl
Heavenward, in the morning
Dew, light swimming
Around my foggy eyes
As they narrow and shut.

“Open your eyes.”

The order comes at me
Like a voice from
The sky, and I scrunch
The sweat off my face
As I try to gaze out.

While the pain throbs
I see what had lain
Hidden before me:
Sparkles gathered on
Every blade of grass
And each leaf tip.

Colors shimmering
White and bright, twinkle
From the warm sun’s
Beckoning to waken
The early morning life.

“But one drop.”

Voice urges again
To see with new eyes
A Drop of Glory catches
The sun but won’t let go
And reflects a Golden ray.

My pain remains
Underneath a covering
So sweet and exploding with
Glory in my heart
As I have touched Heaven.

How Long, Oh Lord?
While the Glory remains
Your Golden Glory rests
Inside my heart, Heaven
Holds me here.

And I am loved.

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Madgalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’” Mark 16:1-3

The days ahead can seem impossible for those who live in a state of constant pain. But when a sudden flare-up drops the pain to a whole new level, a flood of questions about the future can easily overwhelm even the strongest survivor.  It is in those kinds of moments that I have had to face my own weakness head-on.  I thought I knew how to lean into God’s grace, but when a new level of pain knocked me flat, I realized that I had simply grown accustomed to carrying the pain myself.  “How will I function? How will I survive the days ahead?” 

Crushed to my core, I heard a gentle whisper, calling me to acknowledge that it was never mine to bear alone. This life was meant to be lived only in HIS strength.  Was there a gift then in the trial?  Oh, yes, resoundingly yes! He rolled away the stone that I could not have moved myself. He walked me through a day when I never could have kept the Faith on my own.

Oh, beloved, are you crushed under the weight of questions and pain?  We weren’t ever meant to bear that weight alone.  Look up to His light today, and let Him show you the sparkling gold waiting in the midst of the trail: His presence is His gift for you.

“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. “  Mark 16:4

“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:7

Dear Lord Jesus,

We come crushed and broken to You today. We confess that we don’t know how to carry this pain any longer. Will you lift the weight from off of our shoulders? Thank You that You have already rolled away the stone. Thank You that the glory of Your presence is here for us today. We want to receive the gift of Your glory, the beauty of Your honor and praise today. In Your precious name we pray,

Amen.

 

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.

Part 2: Chapter 1 – Day 2: The Water of Life

Welcome to Day 2 of Part 2, Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a devotional on The Water of Life.

Have you ever been thirsty?
I am speaking about the kind of thirsting
In which you feel so thirsty there is a fainting in your soul.

I have been in that land of thirsting,
And I have watched the shimmering waves
Of heat baking the desert sands
As my parched soul
Looked up to Heaven
Waiting
For even one cloud to form.

Many years ago, my family traveled and shared a drama in which I portrayed The Woman at the Well. Week after week, in many different settings, my lips spoke the cry of a woman so thirsty that she begged for a drink when the well was right before her. You see, Jesus had offered to her a different kind of water: a filling up for her soul’s thirsting.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” John 4:13-14 

As the weeks and the months passed, every time I spoke those woman’s words, a deeper longing was planted in my own heart. I didn’t know it at the time, though. I thought I was being filled, as I gave out the words of Jesus, week after week.  

Ah, how does it happen? How does a cry in our heart become lodged so deep that only another longing can answer in return?

I thought I knew how deep the well in my own heart was. I thought I felt the fullness of my Lord’s Words when I shared His heart with those around me.  But I had only scratched the surface.  I offered my praise, and I offered my worship, and my Lord knew what was required to let me see my own unmet longing.

The desert of pain
And the heat of suffering
Burned away the
Half-met longings
To uncover
The well where
Full-hearted cries
Could finally be heard.

I have some very dear friends who continually pray for my healing. They wait in hope for the day that Jesus will restore movement to me, and a full remission in this place of pain. Where would I be without their sweet prayers of HOPE? And I do see improvement from the awful heat and swelling that began this journey of disease.

But there is a deeper healing 
In my soul
That I would never trade
Even for just a day
Without physical pain.


For how can I tell
Of the wondrous
Filling
For my soul's
Thirsty well?

How can I sing
Of my Savior's dear Presence
Carrying my heart
To His bosom of rest
When the pain
Overwhelms?

And how will I share
These dewdrops of love
Poured down on my heart
When the desert sky
Breaks
With the water
From Heaven?

Is your heart facing a desert sun today? Are you fainting as the heat of the day wastes your soul?  There is a filling that can happen for you too, my friend.  There is a place of stillness close to the heart of God where He calls you to come.

It is His very Word spoken at the end of our drama, week after week. I longed for those words to be mine, years ago, but it took the pain of suffering to bring them home to my heart:

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”  Revelation 22:17 NIV 

Part 2: The Living Water of God

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come tome and drink. John 7:37 (ESV)

Welcome to Part 2 of Arise and Shine: The Living Water of God. Today, Bettie is opening part 2 with a devotional, including a poem and prayer. She shares a personal testimony on the gift of God’s living water that washes us in the truth and grace of our God.

May God bless you richly today, as you sit at His feet with us to listen and drink deeply of His living water in your weakness and need. May God pour out rivers of living water in our midst, out of each of our hearts, as He awakens fresh faith in us, through the power of His living and active Word.

“Oh, Lord, I will never be washed clean enough!” The words escaped from my lips as yet another sore erupted on my body, the result of some type of allergic reaction to a bug bite.  Chronic illness and the weakness that followed it had brought to me another physical reaction out of my control. And yet, I took up the blame I heard the enemy whispering in my ear:  “Surely this is your fault. You should have taken better care of yourself. You should have seen these things coming. Surely you could have done something!”

Why did I take upon myself this endless load of responsibility? Had I become self-sufficient to the point of neglecting my own dependency on God?

“From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness— only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil.” Isaiah 1:6

“The person to be cleansed must wash their clothes, shave off all their hair and bathe with water; then they will be ceremonially clean. After this they may come into the camp, but they must stay outside their tent for seven days. Leviticus 14:8

A year passed, and the strange reactions to the bug bites had become a distant memory.  When more medications were tried, and failed, the Doctor called me in to begin yet another injection. Humiliated, I was forced to show the Doctor the rash that had come back, a huge welt and ugly bruise around each bite.

When I heard his quickly uttered response: “There is no infection here. But you have a bleed under the surface, probably caused by a reaction to the latest medication,” something within me marked those words to ponder later.  

Why had I assumed, once again, that the rash was my fault? Why had I tried to “get by” when a medication was so obviously not reacting well with my own body? 

Those wounds on my flesh caused me to feel like an outcast, covered in shame. I wanted to clean those ugly sores; oh how I wanted to wash them away. I didn’t want them seen! But God had exposed those outer wounds to show me the deeper truth: there is a soul cleansing and a heart healing that I cannot provide for myself. 

I know it all too well, now, here in this Season. He has taken away my own methods of preserving my flesh, and brought me to a place where cleanness of heart is a gift to be granted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Hebrews 13:11-12

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:14

The burning wounds 
They glare
My arms ache
From the scrubbing.

How can I be clean?
Where is my purity?
When did I lose my wholeness?

Seeing here the blemishes I
Bear
Crying out for wholeness
Has become a daily chant

But what if
My wounding is not meant to
Leave
While my weakness is revealing
A deeper sore?

My own pride I lay it
Down
My own strength I
Surrender

There is no good in me
Covered here with sores
From head to foot
I am sinful born

Jesus comes.

He takes the basin and the
Towel
He lifts my feet and plunges
Into water deep

Wash me here whiter
Than snow
You see me pure
You call me clean

Where once I walked in my
Own strength
Self-sufficient
All the way,
Beauty now has come to me
Washed by You alone.

Dear Lord Jesus,

We lay ourselves, wounded, sore, and bandaged, before You now. We cry out for Your mercy in this place, because we know that we cannot cleanse ourselves. Forgive us for trying to take up that responsibility. And forgive us for believing the lie that the shame of those woundings is ours to bear alone.

Oh precious Lord, thank You for taking up the basin and washing clean what had been incurable. Thank You for taking on Yourself what was our responsibility, and freeing us from that load! Oh the depth of Your mercy overwhelms us. May we receive Your Love and Grace today. 

In Your sweet name we pray,

Amen.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5

Join us for each chapter of The Living Water of God, as we add it here below, each week. Each chapter includes daily devotionals, prayers and/or poems.

Part 2: Chapter 1 – Silver Redemption

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Bronze Judgment

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Gold Perfection

Chapter 1: Day 5 – At the King’s Table

Welcome to Day 5 of Chapter 1 for Arise & Shine, a devotional written by Bettie Gilbert.

“’Don’t be afraid,’ David said to him, ‘for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.’ And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.”  2 Samuel 9:7,13

The story of Mephibosheth, the one Scriptures say “was lame in both feet,” always touched a deep chord in my young heart. Here was a boy who was the son of Jonathan, and the grandson of King Saul—the one who tried to have David killed. Yet when his entire family was killed, and his home was destroyed, King David invited him into his own Royal Palace, all for the sake of the covenant made with his father, Jonathan, years before. 

As I first heard that story decades ago, something critical to my way of seeing was planted in my child-like heart. And when God saw that it was time, He reawakened the earlier question by asking a second question.

Is it true that the King of Heaven would really invite me to HIS own table?

And how can that be possible, since I have only grown more disfigured over the years?

As chronic illness stripped away my old way of living, I wondered what would happen as the years progressed. Would I be able to bear up under the pain? Would bitterness finally one day take root? I felt powerless to stop the darkness I felt as I watched my own lameness grow more pronounced.

As the chronic pain and inflammation wore away at the strength of my feet and ankles, another label was placed onto my identity: lame and slow. How could the King, the perfect Royal One, ever look on me as beautiful again? Would I ever be found worthy to come to His table?

And then He opened the pages of a long-forgotten story. He placed my heart in the open air of HIS royal Temple, and He invited me in, showing me the seat next to His own dear Son. Joint-heir with Jesus, He called me: “Come inside with me! The Kingdom of God is within you. I am not offended by your pain, and I am already here, waiting for you to open the door.”

Feasting With The King

Where is my home?
Where is my dwelling place?
Everything I’ve known
What I’ve seen
Has been devastated

What can I do?
Where can I belong?
Everything I’ve done
Where I’ve worked
Has been swept away

How should I feel?
How is life to be lived?
Everything I’ve tasted
What I’ve shared
Has been covered up

I hear a voice
Speaking my name
Ushering an invitation
And setting me on a new path
All for the sake of a choice
Made on my behalf
An eternity ago

How is the table spread
Here before me now?
How is the King’s house
The place of my dwelling?
Why would my name
Be the one He calls?

He sets me at His Home
He calls me His child
He opens the door

All for the sake of Love
All for the sake of Covenant
A kindred heart promised
A kindred heart responded

And suddenly my lameness
Doesn’t matter anymore
The King calls my name
Feasting at HIS table
Eating of His bread
Forever I belong with Him.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20 NIV

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21 KJB

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the voice of Your invitation. We pause and shake ourselves when we first hear Your call. How can it be? We know of our lameness all too well. We don’t belong at the Royal Table, and we aren’t worthy to feast with You.

Oh, but thank You for the gift that You poured over our hearts when YOUR own son entered the covenant of grace on our behalf! Now You call us worthy because of HIM, and You seat us at the table of Your presence to feast with You.

Help us to receive the joy of Your presence today. Help us to rest at Your table with You. And help us to lift our voices in praise of Your son, our Savior Jesus.

In His name we pray,

Amen.

Thanks to Andreas Rønningen @andozo for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/S2YssLw97l4