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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 5: Chapter 2 – Day 3: I Give You My All

Welcome to Day 3 of Part 5‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the third free will offering of purple thread (royal compassion)

When we walk through the aftermath of loss and trauma, we often feel the weight of our broken humanity so much more. Rather than listen to God’s still, sweet voice, it can feel safer to hold onto the accusations we hear inside of us.

When the LORD began to call me to share the Words and visions I saw with a family I had been praying for, I struggled. What if these were just figments of my imagination? What if they gave them false hope or upset them? I could hear the enemy breathing down my neck: “God would never call someone like you to intercede for others in prayer. He would never give someone like you these kind of Words and visions.”

Then, a leader I deeply respected, most likely trying to protect me in my fears, affirmed the very accusations I was already hearing, when I asked for advice. And so a tug of war ensued. Until finally, I cried out in frustrated anger.

I told God enough was enough. Either I was going to zip my lips, or God had better show me that it was indeed He, who had called me to speak His Word into this family’s situation.

Moments later, three separate affirmations arrived. But the most amazing affirmation of all was what unfolded with a stranger, mere minutes after my prayer. I was standing at a train station minding my own business, when a man approached me. He asked to borrow my phone to call his brother to let him know he’d be late. I was frightened by his dishevelled exterior, but didn’t want to be rude, so I offered to call his brother for him and tell him.

After doing so, the man thanked me profusely and suddenly began to share parts of his life story. He started by sharing his full (Hebrew) name and his Christian upbringing. And went on to share of the incredible suffering his parents walked through and their inability to love him as he needed to be loved. He then shared about his struggle to believe and to be freed from his addictions.

I listened intently, praying for God to fill me with the wisdom I lacked. I longed to help this man see how much God still loved him and yearned to comfort him and bring him healing. It’s then, as we sat together on the train, that the Holy Spirit prompted me to openly share about the trauma I had walked through as a little girl and how God was leading me to a place of healing and forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit also provided a question to ask the man. It is this question that visibly moved the man. He kept repeating it and working through its implications. Suddenly, I saw compassion enter the man’s eyes as he spoke of his parents, rather than the hurt and bitterness that had been there moments earlier. The Lord was so clearly working in his heart.

I sat there beside him on the train, amazed. If it was not for the Lord’s promptings I would never have gone near this man. He stunk of alcohol and his dishevelled appearance both frightened and revolted me. But God was not put off by my fears or my fleshly judgement. He pressed until I responded in grace and love as He wanted me to.

After this experience I knew. I knew that even in my broken, newly returned Prodigal state, God was calling me to intercede and speak encouragement into others’ lives. It’s then I knew the Scriptures and visions of Bible stories I was receiving in prayer were gifts from God, not given to hoard, but share.

Oh there have still been moments since then, that I have turned to hide and dim my light. But my God has been so faithful to return me to Himself and to remind me that His power is perfected in weakness. He has lifted me back out of the mire to set my feet upon the Rock and to shine the light He’s given me, brightly, in the places He has set me apart to make His glory known. He has bowed my knees before Him – my King of Kings and LORD of Lords, as my lips have cried out: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

A Sea of Mercy

I look behind me
And see the train
Of Your robe
Billowing royal.

Every surface covering
A flowing
Sea of purple
Mine.

And I weep
Broken
In Your mercy.

Broken
By a King
Who bore the Cross
For me.

Broken
By the Son of Man
Who would call
A woman weak and frail
His own.

Who am I
But dust?
Who am I
But caged
To fear, pain
And shame?

And yet
I hear Your Voice
Resound before me
Calling
Come!

It's then I find
I AM stepping
Where even angels
Fear to tread.

It's then
In my weakness
I watch You
In power rise.

I watch You
Snap my fear
And shame
In two.

The accusations
Of condemnation
No more claim
Can lay.

For, clothed
In royal thread
I see my King's face
Reflected in my own.

For, it's no longer
I who live
But Christ who lives
In me.

I bow
Before my
King of Kings.

And with my heart
And tongue
Confess Him now
As Lord of all.

Holy, holy, holy
Is the LORD God
Almighty!

Before, behind
Above, below
All around
His Temple

I see the train
Of my King's robe
Billowing purple.

Every surface covering
A flowing
Sea of mercy ours

Christ alone.

As I learn to sow unto the Spirit and not the flesh, my God is using my very weakness to glorify Himself. Precisely because my prefrontal cortex is not functioning as it should, in the wake of trauma, I am being compelled to immediately respond to the impulses coursing through my body. And the more Jesus – the living and abiding Word of God – is growing in me, the more those impulses are becoming Holy Spirit-led, awakening a holy and royal courage and compassion in me.

As my God cries: “I Give You My All”, I hear my own heart crying: “I give You my all too.” as I watch Him exchange my weakness and need for His perfect love and provision.

Thank You, Jesus, that You call the foolish of this world to shame the wise. Thank You that You call the weak of this world to confound the strong. Thank You that You call us, Your broken open vessels, to shine Your love brightly into the lives of those around us.

Father God, thank You that You are filling us with Your holy courage to shine the light of Your love, where You call us to. Thank You that You are lifting the accusations of the enemy against us and those You are calling us to love. Thank You that as we look into the mirror, we can see Jesus there and that as we look into the eyes of those You set before us, we can see Jesus there too.

Thank You that You are melting away our insecurities and fears in the truth of Your holy love for both us and for those you are calling us to bless. A love You expressed by pouring out the judgement each one of us deserved upon Your very own Son, so that we could be freed from our sin and shame, to run with joy into Your abundant life. Thank You, Father, for Your incredible sacrificial love, a royal compassion like no other.

Forgive us for the moments we have followed after the impulses of the enemy. Thank You that You are not ashamed of us in our weakness and need, but that You are growing us up in Your Word to follow after Your Voice alone. Thank You that You are persuading us to put our faith in Your Name above all else.

Thank You that when our hearts condemn us, You, our God are greater than our heart and know all things. Thank You that we can believe in the name of Jesus Christ and that in Him our hearts cannot condemn us because in Him we have confidence before You. And in Him whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because in Him, we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

Thank You that You are causing us to tremble in awe of who You are and no longer in fear of the enemy. Thank You that You are awakening us in the light of Your loving countenance. Thank You that You are clothing us in Your royal and holy compassion. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Part 5: Chapter 2 – Day 1: I Remember You

Welcome to Day 1 of Part 5‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the first free will offering of purple thread (royal compassion). 

Isaiah 49: 14 – 16

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.

Dear Traumatized Child,

When you come home to Your Abba Father, you will be so excited. Like the woman at the well, you will run to tell others in your church about the depths of His love for us all. You will see women weeping and you will know they too have just experienced what it is to be seen and known in the depth of their wounding. You will rejoice as they too see that their faces are not covered in the shame of their sin, but radiant in the redeeming love of Christ.

But then, as you step out in faith and go where your Father asks you to, the thorns given you as a gift will at first pierce your resolve. You will share of the piercing with leaders you trust. You will share of the waves of fear and shame that are pursuing your body unto death, but instead of arms reaching out to hold you and truth arising to defend your soul, the thorns will be pressed even deeper still. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

In the thorns piercing 

Again and again and again

I remember

My shame.

But it’s then, God’s healing will truly begin to flow. As you join Christ in His suffering, His compassion will overwhelm you, as you see your past through His eyes of mercy for you. This time, you will turn toward your God in trust: you will cry out from your own heart that is failing you and listen for His Voice and His new heart rising from the depths. 

Then, ever so slowly, through His patient teaching, you will learn to stop seeking sanctuary in a building, in religious leaders and in your own perfection and strength. You will learn instead to seek the sanctuary of Jesus Christ: the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

When you cannot stand through the attacks that come, He will hold you and you will watch as He tethers your feet to the ground, as you long to die. Your feet will not be moved, as you watch your very weakness testify to His power, the hope of glory, Christ in you. 

Each day, when the waves return, you will pour out your heart in Laments. You will be overwhelmed by His precious Word to you. Joy and peace will rise from deep within you, thanksgiving and the sound of singing, as He lifts you above the waves, even as you feel them crash and pound your flesh. You will arise in Him to glory in each and every Promise fulfilled. 

But You 

You remember

A covenant new.

You remember

My sin 

No more.

You remember 

Your Son’s blood 

Covering me.

You remember

Grace 

You remember

Your daughter

Adopted, Yours.

Then, as He draws you out and sets you apart for His purposes, you will watch Him lift every accusation against you. He will use every weapon forged against you to perfect and complete you in Himself. He will persuade you to put Your trust in Him alone. For, He will teach You to walk in the light of His truth – His living and abiding Word. A Word that will reveal His undivided heart in you, a heart that fears Him above all else, answering the prayer He gave you to pray so long before.

He will open your mouth to celebrate His authority, His character and His warmth growing within you. Clothing you in His reputation, He will fix your gaze on His face, melting your frozen heart to reveal His heart of compassion there, giving you a Crown of beauty for the ashes of your dross.

You will rediscover the joy of praise and thanksgiving springing up out of your anguish. You will experience the healing power of the Spirit of God arising in you, slaying the accuser of your brethren and freeing you from your sin and pain to love others as Christ first loved you. Held in His nail-scarred hands, you will die to pride and self, becoming as nothing to the world to gain your eternal inheritance, your portion in Christ alone: your All.

It’s then you will begin to taste the freedom of humbling yourself beneath the mighty hand of God. You will daily learn to embrace His grace in your weakness, turning from your sin, as you grow in discretion and discernment, watching Him raise you as His own beloved daughter.

Your knees will bow in awe, as He strengthen your relationships in His holy Word and begins reaping fruit in and through you that you have so longed and prayed for, but all but given up on. And oh how you will experience the peace of being still and knowing that He alone is God.

It’s then as the thorns continue to pierce, you will weep in thanksgiving for a God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. A God who clothed Himself in wrath: who took upon Him the thorns of all our sin and pain. Why? For the joy set before Him: a healed and whole Body of Christ.

So that you and all His beloved, traumatized children would never ever have to bear the weight of these awful thorns. So that these very thorns piercing you would become a gift of healing and redemption through the resurrection life of Christ at work in you, through the living Word of God ever calling you to remember HIM, the joy set before you: a healed and whole Body of Christ. The God who chose you to become His compassion and gift of mercy to an aching world.

One day, you will weep for this one and only God who chose you, even knowing you would harden your heart in sin. Knowing that you would turn away from the very piercing sent to heal you, sent to smash your idols and free you of your chains. 

You will come to see that this God chose you to give you a future and a hope – putting plans into motion not to harm you, but to bless you and His Body. For, through His piercing, He is rewriting your and His Body’s story of sin and death into a story of grace and resurrection life, ever unfolding. 

One day, instead of believing He turned away from His little girl, you will finally see how He turned toward her. You will see how He held you in the nail-scarred palm of His hand all those years that you thought He had abandoned you. 

You will see that He placed you exactly where He wanted you, right where the thorns being sent to hurt you would in His beautiful timing, in His sacrificial blood, redeem you and His Body, as you bow at the foot of the Cross. 

And now 

You’re teaching me 

To remember too

To remember 

You.

To remember 

A crown of thorns piercing

Again and again and again 

To remember 

Love pouring forth

From a Cross.

To remember  

Rejoicing

To remember  

A cloak. 

To remember 

A ring 

To remember 

A table set

In the presence of my enemies 

To remember 

Oil 

Pouring on my head.

To remember

In each and every thorn 

I find more of

You.

My crown of thorns

You wore

You bled and died

To exchange my sin and death

For a crown of life

Beauty

Everlasting.

Beloved traumatized child, rejoice! The pain of those thorns has been lifted. Because of the joy set before Him, His Body healed and whole, Christ died on that Cross to take your crown of thorns upon Himself and to exchange that crown of thorns for a crown of life everlasting!

Much love,

Your Future Self, redeemed, restored and being transformed from glory to glory, by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of your testimony in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 73: 21 – 26 ESV

21 When my heart was grieved

    and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant;

    I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;

    you hold me by my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel,

    and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?

    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,

    but God is the strength of my heart

    and my portion forever.

Colossians 1:24 (ESV)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotions, L.B. Cowman, p.388

It is not until a beautiful kernel of corn is buried and broken in the earth by DEATH that its inner heart sprouts, producing hundreds of other seeds or kernels. And so it has always been, down through the history of plants, people, and all of spiritual life—God uses BROKEN THINGS.

Part 5: Chapter 2: Purple Thread – Royal Compassion

Welcome to Part 5‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is introducing us to the freewill offering of purple thread: royal compassion. Join us in the coming days for our personal free will offerings in Christ Jesus, praising Him for His compassion to us.

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

Exodus 35:5-6

Is it possible to be poured out and yet be more full than before?

Is there a fire that quenches thirsting?

These are questions that have haunted me. The first one was a longing that rested deep in my heart throughout so many years of serving. After giving and giving and serving and serving, I would find myself lying depleted at the feet of Jesus. I let Him pour His heart more deeply into mine, and then I would return to serving.  Inevitably, the cycle would begin again. Fill up, serve, deplete. Fill up, serve, deplete … Something was missing.

And then the fires began. In my joints, in my aching bones, and in my searing soul, the fires brought a thirsting I did not know I was capable of feeling. How long until this dry season would be changed to life giving rain?

Instead of being filled, I was emptied.

Instead of being relieved, the heat became hotter.

And in the middle of the weak and weary days, God spoke a word that felt impossible for me:

20170810_174442-picsay-02

The point was not lost on me. Of course I was and am INsufficient. There is only ONE who can meet that title, and in the listening He  began to uncover more of His all-sufficient grace than I ever dreamed possible.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

He carried me when I thought I could not stand. He kept me resting when I thought the weary rest-less-ness would consume me. And in it all, He brought me to His feet, just to enjoy HIM there. There were no pressures to fill up just so that serving could deplete the storehouse once again.

As my Rheumatoid Disease progressed, and it became apparent that the medications were not bringing remission, and it became apparent that my weaknesses could not be hidden any longer, I heard those questions being asked of me again. HE was asking me,

Is it possible to be poured out and yet be more full than before?

Is there a fire that quenches thirsting?

Along with the questions, He began to stir a prompting for the word Compassion. The Scripture accompanying that word was filled with its own set of questions–questions that the Lord had asked Himself:

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused. Hosea 11:8 NIV

At a time in history when God’s own people had turned away from Him, when He had every right to reject and leave them, His compassions were stirred within Him. I turned to the Commentaries on BibleHub’s site for more thoughts on these verses in Hosea. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary expresses it this way:

Man’s compassions are nothing in comparison with the tender mercies of our God, whose thoughts and ways, in receiving returning sinners, are as much above ours as heaven is above the earth.

and further,

Holy trembling at the word of Christ will draw us to him, not drive us from him, the children tremble, and flee to him. And all that come at the gospel call, shall have a place and a name in the gospel church.

And just what does that compassion of Christ look like? He was rejected and had every right to leave us to ourselves. Yet He looked on us, and His compassions–those same compassions of His Father–were stirred within Him:

He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

Matthew 9:36 NIV

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

Mark 15:17-18

The Oxford Dictionary says the origin of the word compassion is derived from two words: “suffer with.”  And I began to see a connection between those two words, “sufficient” and “compassion.”  Over these last few years, while feeling the depth of my own weaknesses, Jesus has asked me to be willing to join with Him in the fellowship of His suffering. He began to show me the depth of HIS sufficiency for me last year. He began to work in me the longing to “boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ might rest upon me all the stronger.”

In the midst of that longing I heard a whisper, “Are you willing to be broken for Me, as I was broken for you?”

Can I do that? Can I begin walking down this road of compassion, rejoicing from within my own brokenness? Can I say that I want to taste compassion, knowing that it means to suffer alongside?

Mercy River


Oh Lord Jesus,

In my weakness returned

In my weary o’rwhelmed

I hear my heart crying, NO MORE!

Please can’t I stay here, on the shore?



Oh Jesus You cried,

In this sorrowful cup rejoined

In this painful drink o’rwhelmed

I heard Your lips crying, Take from Me!

Yet Not Your will, bore Father’s freely.



So Come My Lord,

In Your calling returned

In Your way o’rwhelmed

I fall in Your river, MERCY plunging!

In Your arms of Love, Compassion holding.

While I was looking for the answers to those two original questions, He asked me to praise Him with ALL of my inmost being, EVERY cell, even the broken and weak cells.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,  Psalm 103:1-5

The ONE who asks the questions is forever faithful. I can trust Him in these places of mystery, because the ONE who came down from Heaven’s Royalty to suffer alongside of us, is the fire burning within my soul now. 

He is the flame of the Holy Spirit lighting up our night sky, declaring to His broken and weary Body: come and taste of Christ’s compassions, of His tender mercies, of His comfort like no other.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

John 14:16-20 (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)

I can praise His name with everything within me because it is HIS compassion gifted to me–in me–through the Royal blood of Jesus now pulsing through my veins. It is HIS compassion now freely pouring out of me upon other thirsty hearts and souls through Christ, the hope of glory in me.

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

1 John 1:4-5 

Would you pray with me today?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for showering us with compassion. Before we even understood that we needed it, You met us and prepared the way for us to return to You. 

Forgive us for trying to manage the serving and the giving on our own. Forgive us for looking for relief from the heat of pain in our own ways. 

We come trembling before You now, and acknowledge that we are too weak to find it in ourselves to say “yes” to join You in Your suffering. Oh but thank You for being the all-sufficient One who would carry us into Your own heart of compassion. 

Thank You that Your Royal life-blood covers us, and now flows within our veins. We lift up our praises to You now. Our every cell, even the weak and diseased, cries out to worship Your greatness here. There is NO ONE like You, our great King and Savior.

As we worship You here in our brokenness, let Your light be seen in us. Declare Your compassion in and through us, LORD. Clothe us, Your children, in the royal thread of Jesus. Make us One.

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

Amen.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 

1 Peter 2:19 – 23 (ESV)

Day 1: I Remember You

Day 2: I Know You

Day 3: I Give You My All

Day 4: We Receive You

Day 5: I See You

Day 6: I Lift Up My Whole Heart

Day 7: I Join You in Your Suffering

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 3: Chapter 2: Day 5: Rest

Welcome to Day 5 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our fifth free will offering of goats’ hair (cursed sin offering) in a poem testifying to our Savior’s love for us. Our Savior, who, full of compassion for us in our grief and pain, became our cursed sin offering to lift the weight of sin’s curse upon us. A curse that would have us hide in our need is broken by the offering of Christ’s own body that He might draw us into His holy Presence of wholeness and rest.

Anna also shares a photo she took as she rested in her local forest and a song that was such a comfort to her through the first triggers of trauma she experienced many years ago. Whatever you are facing today, may you experience God’s peace in the midst of the storms of life.

I listen
In the stillness
Gleaning
Cadence of the hooves
Songs of morning birds
Gleaning love
Abandoned in the rush.

I settle in Your seat
Remembering
The waves
The rush and crash
And seeing
How You
Wept.

Tears
For every moment
I withheld my trust
Believing
Holding tight
Is faith.

Oh precious
In Your sight
Are those
Who die to self
Who know they are

Welcome here.

Welcome
As the waves return
Lapping, crashing
Thunderous
There they come.

Welcome
To lean
Upon the Rock
And not succumb
But in Your arms
Become.

For in the stillness
In the listening
So far
From striving's tongue
You're teaching me
Who You
Truly are.

A Father
So tender
A Love
Full of mercy
Who holds me
In His arms
As our tears
Release.

For faith
Is not my own
But Your laboring
In me.

It's believing
Not in my
Own strength
But in the One
Whose love in me
Speaks
Steadfast, sure.

A sun-drenched warmth
Beneath my feet
The sun here shimmering
In morning's light
A testament
To Your mercies
New every morning
That carry me
In wave after wave
Into love everlasting.

And so I remain here
Seeking the quiet
And let the waves return
My heart now cleaving
To Your heart
Washing my face
With the tears of our longing
Awakening life.

I listen
In the stillness
Gleaning
Cadence of the hooves
Songs of morning birds
Gleaning Your heatbeat
Never abandoned
My God is always with me.


Isaiah 51:11 (WEB)
The ransomed of Yahweh shall return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy shall be on their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Part 3: Chapter 2 – Day 2: In the Hollow of His Hands

Welcome to Day 2 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our second free will offering of goats’ hair in a testimony to God’s faithfulness in our faithlessness.

When my parents decided to return to New Zealand, after almost six years as missionaries and church planters in Germany, it meant saying goodbye to the only place I could remember as home. On the eve of our departure, my elementary teacher gave me a goodbye present. A heart-shaped book, composed of threaded pages full of poems, messages, photos and drawings. 

Each classmate had created one page, but the page that is now engraved upon my memory, is my teacher’s. On her page there was a sketch of huge hands, palms wide open, holding a little sparrow.

That first year in New Zealand, I felt so out of place, with my strange accent and different way of speaking and doing things. Seeing my parents struggling with so much too, I shared very little with them, trying hard not to become an added burden to them. But God saw my need and gave me a new friend, who loved the LORD with childlike fervor.

What did her name mean?

Twin

Her name was a derivative of Thomas, a name which “appears to be related to the Greek noun τομη (tome), meaning a cutting or cleaving, which in turn comes from the verb τεμνω (temno), meaning to cut or cleave.” (Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Thomas.html#.X7x7Hjm0s0M).

It’s only now I see how, just as with the disciple Thomas, God was inviting me to touch the holes in His hands and feet. For, He wanted me to realize that the moment I had responded to the Father’s call to repentance as a little girl, He had bound Himself to me.

The holes in His hands and feet are evidence that (Isaiah 49:16, ESV): “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” On that Cross, Christ restored the breach in my walls of salvation. He became my cursed sin offering, bearing the penalty I should have borne, to atone for all my sins: past, present and future.

Although she only stayed for a year, God invited me through this friend to touch His nail-pierced hands and wounded side, to remember that His power is perfected in our weakness. Now, looking back, I can do so.

As a preteen, however, I agreed with the enemy’s doctrines and his accusations against me, and the more I did so, the more I hid in my sin and the more I was bathed in feelings of shame and unworthiness. I had faced rejection from those I loved and trusted most in speaking up for someone who couldn’t speak up for himself, and the enemy used this to feed me accusations of God’s abandonment. In my fear of man above God, I readily agreed to my accuser’s lies. But into all this, God gave me a new friend.

This friend openly shared her weakness with me and God’s nearness to her in it all, inviting me into a deeper walk with God. I remember my hunger and thirst for God growing. I remember moments of worship, where the Spirit of God descended powerfully, overwhelming me in kindness, gentle conviction and stunning grace. I remember the joy of my baptism at 12 years old.

But I also remember the humiliation and sting of rejection I felt, as I saw the response of someone I deeply respected to the Holy Spirit’s anointing upon me and my open confession of sin and weakness. I remember slowly retreating from God’s desire to draw me near, becoming fearful of the cost of the Holy Spirit’s anointing.

I did not recognize the honor God was seeking to bestow on me, in my setting apart, as He called me to bow my knees in humilty, in the confidence of His love and acceptance of me. Instead I chose to fear man’s rejection above my holy God, turning my back on the greatest gift of all.

I remember beginning to numb my pain by retreating from those around me, spending hours with my nose behind books. Then, several years later, I remember the terror that filled me as I committed the sin of masturbation, a sin I was too scared and too ashamed to confess to anyone. It’s then, as I listened to the enemy’s accusations against me more and more, I began to believe I was irredeemable and that God had rejected me for good.

I believe God gifted me that dear friend, who openly boasted in her weakness, to sing His truth over me. When I look back, I see His faithfulness to me in my faithlessness and His desire to uproot my confidence in myself and in the love and approval of man, to reroot me in His love and approval alone.

My new friend is now proof of God’s compassion and mercy to me. Her presence in my life reminds me that God’s mercies are new every morning. Now, I know that in my struggle to come to Jesus, I can cry out to my LORD to save me – again and again- and that He always will. For, He perfects His power in our weakness.

What did my new friend’s name mean?

God is an oath.

In my second year of high school, we moved towns and my father decided to send me to a non-Christian high school. Arriving in that second year at a huge city school, after four years at a little country Christian school, then still accompanied by my brothers and sisters, and now alone, had me feeling insecure and out of place. But even there God continued to sing His truth over me. A classmate welcomed me into her little group of friends.

What was the meaning of her name?

Bold kin or family.

God was reminding me that He is our Abba Father who boldly welcomes outsiders into His outstretched arms.

Months before this major transition and move, God also gave me another friend who would become my very best friend, and still is one of my two best friends today. Amazingly, our new home ended up being only a 5 minute bike-ride away from hers. She became one of our family and I became one of hers.

When I look back, I see God’s love and faithfulness to me in her friendship so much. She (and later her husband and children) never stopped loving me, welcoming me (and my family) into their life and praying for me (and my family) through my long Prodigal journey home. 

Oh don’t get me wrong, she grieved behind closed doors and her heart struggled to understand the path I was on, but she stood by me, being God’s faithfulness to me in my unfaithfulness.

What are the meanings of my best friend’s first and middle names?

Little rock and God is an oath

And what was the meaning of my elementary teacher’s name all those years earlier?

Downey one.

This is a reference to goats’ hair, a material that was once upon a time woven to make the curtains of the tabernacle furnishings. A durable fabric, designed to sustain the frequent moves of the tabernacle through the wilderness. And here again, God’s hand is so beautifully present through my teacher.

In Exodus 35:26 we hear that: “all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit had stirred my teacher’s heart up to draw those hands with the sparrow all those years before. 

For, it’s almost as if she was spinning goats’ hair to cover and hide me with Christ, on the eve of my departure into the wilderness. For, even through all those years of unbelief, God never ever took His Holy Spirit from me. He became the cursed sin offering on the Cross for me and my faithfulness in my faithlessness. And each friend who welcomed me into her midst is now physical proof to me that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

For, Christ was the hand of sufficient grace in my weakness. He was the hand of compassion, when I turned away in fear and shame. He was the hand of family, my bold kin who claimed me as His no matter where I went. He was the hand of truth, a rock and anchor for my slipping feet, even when I could not see Him. 

And He was the One who gave me eyes of faith to see and behold Him for who He truly is, in His perfect timing, when He had set me exactly where He wanted me, according to His purposes for my life. He has turned and still is turning the enemy’s attacks against me into good.

Now, as I look back, I can remember how He in fact never ever stopped praying through me. For, even as I stopped praying for myself, believing myself irredeemable, I kept praying for others around me – seeing them as worthy of God’s love and grace. 

Now, I know that all who call upon the Name of the LORD are saved, because we are all worthy of God’s love and grace. Not because we deserve it, but because the blood of Jesus does, the blood that was shed to hide us in the righteousness of God. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV) Yes! Our sinless Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) and “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, ESV).

And what was the name my parents gave me?

Anna Louise.

These names mean grace and famous warrior. Now, I know that grace and famous warrior is Jesus. For, it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

Just as Peter, I have discovered that the name Jesus gave me reflects how God desires to build His church. Not by our might, nor by our power, but only ever by the Spirit of the LORD whose power is made perfect in our weakness. 

I believe Peter was called the rock because the moment Peter decided to follow Jesus, Simon (meaning “has heard”) died and Jesus – the Rock – arose in him, in response to him hearing the call of his Heavenly Father. And the gates of hell could never prevail against that. Just as they cannot prevail against any child of God’s.

For in giving our hearts to Jesus, we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). And “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, ESV).

I now see how God never stops singing the truth over us in every little detail of our life. Through every heartache, loss and trial He reminds us that, just as His eye is upon the tiniest of sparrows, His eye remains on us too. He never leaves or forsakes us. For, all Promises are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2 KJV) As my Mum – who I had turned into my idol as a child – lay dying, God poured out His Holy Spirit upon me afresh. Then, this Comforter began to bring to remembrance all that Jesus had spoken to me throughout my life. Now, I am arising in the Word of God: no longer acknowledging man, but Christ and His sweet never-forsaking Presence (also in my Mum), and His saving grace for us all.

Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil

Come, let’s celebrate the life of Jesus at work in us and our loved ones. Those huge hands, palms wide open, holding that tiny sparrow are His promise to each one of us.

That He sees us and knows us. That He hems us in, from behind and before. That He lays His hand upon us (Psalm 139:5). That wherever we go, His hand guides us and His right hand holds us fast (Psalm 139:9-10). That no one can ever snatch us out of His mighty hand (John 10:29, Isaiah 43:13).

Isaiah 57:15 (ESV) tells us: “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Are there gifts the LORD longs for you to receive in the meaning of place names or the names of people on your and your loved ones’ life journeys thus far? Is He longing to comfort Your heart, as you see His hand in the tiniest of details?

As you read the Scripture below aloud, what word or phrase lingers? 

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to reveal why it lingers and what God our Father wants us to see, know or do in response to His Word to us.

Isaiah 45:5-6 “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

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.

Sharing the Compassion of our God

Reading this, I so longed to share. If you have known the deep pain of infertility, may God so encourage your heart by this post from Velvet Ashes that He sees you and loves you so very much. Here, a quote and the link to read further:

“…but loss and longing have bred connection. I would have never thought that infertility could have brought blessings. As I reflect on the relationships that have grown from my barrenness, I am amazed by how the Lord has worked to bring goodness into my life and answer my prayers for community…”

https://velvetashes.com/the-scarlet-letter-that-led-to-community-infertility-as-an-expat/?mc_cid=8fc63370c1&mc_eid=a815ad9da7