Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 2: Blossoms of Peace in His Time

Welcome to Day 2 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering in a testimony 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.

Interestingly, sifting seed involves blowing it up into the air to remove the head (also called chaff) and to have it immediately drop to the ground. And this isn’t a one-time process. As I began to look more closely at this process and the prophecy Jesus spoke over Peter of allowing Satan to sift – or winnow – him like wheat, I began to see the hidden blessing Jesus wanted me to uncover in my own experiences of being sifted like wheat.

I now see how the Holy Spirit has lifted me up into positions of authority, when I, by the grace of God at work in me, have followed the law of God. But then the sins of pride and idolatry have been exposed in me, as I have denied, through my words and deeds, that it was always in fact the grace of God that enabled me to fulfill the law and that He had lifted me up and not me and my goodness. 

In my pride and idolatry, I began to see myself as the head and as oh so deserving of all the gifts for “all I have had to suffer through and give up”, turning my back on the greatest gift of all- Jesus and His love for me – compared to whom all else is rubbish. But praise God, He has never allowed me to stay in that position of pride, just as He didn’t allow Peter either.

He has repeatedly humbled me, repeatedly removing the chaff of self, as He has pressed my knees to the ground to die to myself and to sow unto the Spirit. As John 12:24 (ESV) puts it:

Verily, verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Now, I know that the seed in us is JESUS. It is He, who bowed low on the ground for us in Gethsemane, to drink the cup to take upon Him our sin and affliction, and to die on that Cross to save us. The chaff is our old self. But as Christ humbles us, yielding us to the Father’s will through HIS sacrifice, He cracks open our hardened hearts to lift off the old us (the chaff) to reveal Himself in us (the seed).

When I came back to faith, I believed I was called to and could draw others to Christ by my good example. So, God repeatedly invited me into situations that exposed my need for His grace and healing. It’s then, He had me confess my sins before unbelievers, and they responded with such warmth and compassion. As they began to confess their own weakness and sin in response, I began to see that it has been my open confessions of sin and weakness that has been drawing not just me, but them also, closer and closer to Jesus.

Sadly, after my symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder disappeared, I glorified my healing, my church friends and the steps I had taken to get to that place of healing. I even began to believe God had called me to show others “how to heal”. So, in His kindness to me, God brought new trauma triggers to bring me to my knees, to expose my desperately deceitful heart and to remind me who my only Savior, Rock and portion is.

It was like He was asking me: “Anna, are you telling me you can teach people how to heal themselves?! How dare you nullify the very grace I have poured out in abundance upon you again and again. It was never you, your steps or your church friends doing the healing.” Oh how deeply humbling it was for me, as God led me to confess my sins, one after another, and to speak of His love and grace for me in my weakness and need.

But when God called me to leave my church, rescuing me from the spiritual abuse I was experiencing, I spiraled into shame. I returned to clothing myself in the enemy’s accusations and to fighting back in anger, as I reverted back to self-righteousness, so I could “belong” to a local church body that I saw as being a necessary component to “belonging” to God. Or I sought honor and approval in the world – via jobs – to compensate for the humiliation I felt, in having nothing left to “do” and “prove my worth”, as I let go of God’s beautiful Word to me, just as I did as a teenager.

So, God just kept taking me in and out of places I longed to go, never taking away my free will, but rather, restoring it unto me. For, in each place, He compelled me to surrender my idols, one by one and to take back my self-control, so I could now bring free will offerings before Him, rooted in His love for me, rather than religious sacrifices induced by fear, self-condemnation and shame. In giving me what I thought I wanted and needed, He in fact uncovered the true desires of my heart to know Him.

To know that Jesus is patient, that Jesus is kind. That Jesus does not envy, That Jesus does not boast, that Jesus is not proud. That Jesus does not dishonor others, that Jesus is not self-seeking, that Jesus is not easily angered, that Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. That Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. That Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. To know that I can always trust His judgment that is sent to heal and restore me unto Himself.

Yes, Jesus has patiently yielded me to His will, feeding me His pure and unadulterated Word to root me in the truth of His love for me, and to lead me to repentance. And He has showered me in His pride, every time I have humbled myself in obedience beneath His mighty hand.

I remember after God compelled me to leave one employer after only a month, how He woke me up to go downstairs in the middle of the night to pray for my former boss, who had deeply wounded my pride in things he had said to me upon my departure.

As I bowed low on the floor to pray, in response to God’s prompting, God’s love, compassion and mercy just began to pour out of me for this man, and I literally felt oil pour out on my head and the hand of Jesus rest upon my head. It was such an incredible experience. 

And yet even then, as I shared about this all with a church-going friend that I wanted to like me, I boasted in my own strength and goodness. I put myself on a pedestal for praying for my enemy: when it was in fact GOD who had brought that surrender in me.

I wanted her to approve of me, and I wanted to belong to her church community, I had started sporadically attending. But God later showed me, to belong to that place, I would have had to deny His very Presence in me and to hide His beautiful light. I would have had to stop speaking the truth in love, to stop boasting in my weakness and to stop confessing my sins freely. I would have had to wear a mask of self-righteousness to be acceptable.

A few days later I sat bemoaning that employer yet again before unbelieving friends of ours. I was seeking to save face after once again being jobless, when God had only just showered me in such honor to show me that I am no victim, but a vessel of His love and grace, not sent to glorify myself in the world, but Him, in my humility.

I hadn’t learnt the lesson God had wanted to teach me through all of this: Psalm 16:2 “I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” Yet, beautifully, one of those present said something that so deeply convicted my heart in response that God led me to repentance through it.

No, there is NOT one ounce of goodness in me apart from God. But that is the beautiful and freeing thing to realize, isn’t it? I can never, in fact, be holy apart from Christ. Oh I still have moments I forget this beautiful, beautiful truth, as I choose pride above humility. But praise God He always rises to defend me – to compel me to clothe myself in His holiness that is mine in Christ Jesus, as I bow low in repentance. 

Yes, it has always been Jesus yielding me in surrender and yet oh how I have put myself on a pedestal for it and shamed others in doing so. May God forgive me. Now, I know my Heavenly Papa was not ashamed of me, but oh so proud of my open confessions of weakness and sin, even as it turned those I idolized and wanted to like me, against me. 

For, that is in fact what shines the face of Jesus upon others in their own weakness. Upon those whose hearts have been tilled to receive the truth and grace of God. No, those who long to know Jesus won’t ever find Him in my self-righteousness, in my pedestal living, nor in me puffing myself up in my positions in ministry or the workforce, and my “good works”. They and I will see Jesus most in our repentance: in Christ’s holiness transforming each one of us from glory to glory.

All along, I have always been in the hand of God. And yet sadly, I was constantly seeking church leaders, church friends, various self-help programmes (Christian and non-Christian) and worldly or church standing to “rescue me” and lift away the shame I felt at my weakness and sin being “put on display”. All along Christ was inviting me to become less that He might become my all.

I didn’t deep down know in my heart that God has always had me safely in His hand – even all those years I walked as a Prodigal, believing Jesus had abandoned me. Now, I know that all of this humbling was sent to teach me – and others through me – to lean into the righteousness of Christ. This is a righteousness that became mine, the moment I gave my heart to Him as a little four-year old girl. A righteousness that the enemy can never take from me. For, “In him [I] also, when [I] heard the word of truth, the gospel of [my] salvation, and believed in him, [was] 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).

Praise God, that each place He sent me, He lifted me up to winnow the beautiful golden seeds of His Word in me. Lifting off the chaff of my prideful old self, the heavier seeds of glory dropped to the ground to die and be buried that each one might break open unto new life in God’s beautiful timing. 

I now see the beautiful fruits of repentance He has been growing in me: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I can now see and praise God for the blossoming staff of His leading in my life and heart. 

To the world my life (and my ailing health) looks like a failure, but I now know to God, my “failures” are proof of His workmanship – His love and grace at work in and through me. For, each surrender was wrought by His holiness to yield His harvest of peace in and through me.

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 accusations against me in my sin, and the more I did so, the more I hid 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 that I, in my fear of man above God, readily agreed to. 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 He 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 for me. Instead I chose to fear man’s rejection of me 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 Him, I can cry out to my LORD to save me – again and again- and that He always will. For, He perfects His power in weakness.

What did my new friend’s name mean?

God is an oath.

Years later, we moved towns and my father decided to send me to a non-Christian high school. Arriving in the second year at a huge city school, after four years at a little country Christian school, then still accompanied by my five 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 faithfulness to me in her friendship so much. She (and later her husband and children) never stopped loving me, welcoming me 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).

Shortly after our move to Germany. My mother and I, the year I gave my life to Jesus.

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)

Celebrate Jesus

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.

Chapter 2: Day 4 – In Returning and Rest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

    you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Psalm 16: 5 – 6 (NIV)

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

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

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

Isaiah 30:15 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEEK MY HEART

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steps of Love

Something broke inside of me and I slipped into a deep depression. I wrote:

Some months ago one judgmental remark from someone put me into a tailspin and brought me face to face with painful memories of past abuse. At first I disassociated from my feelings. I didn’t want to feel at all, because it hurt too much. I continued on in life like a robot. But I became more and more depressed until one day something inside me broke. I sobbed and cried, “I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so sick of being strong for everyone around me…”

It was like I was sinking deeper and deeper into a sea of turmoil, gulping up water. In my mind Jesus was standing above the surface looking down at me and shaking his head. “Hopeless case, that one…” I felt so forsaken of God. His promises seemed bogus, and I could not grasp a single one.

The weight of depression stomped me down, down, down…

Roaring In

Shame-slapping Scowls

Stormy Emotions

Stomping Down

Sinking Me

I couldn’t have made it that dark day without the grace of God. By the end of the day my heart was still heavy, but the care and compassion loved ones gave me lifted me up to see a pinpoint of hope. And the next day, God had a pleasant surprise for  me.

“I will give thanks and praise the Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell aloud all Your wonders and marvelous deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

My husband suggested I take my writing pad and go to the Falls. He knew nature often relaxes and comforts me. It helps me to remember God still has all things in His control. I sat on a rock and watched the water rush over the red rock formations. I let the sound of it sooth my weary soul. I imagined the wind as the breath of God kissing my face and telling me I will make it through this.

When I walked along the paths and around the Art Barn, I stopped in awe. There in front of me written in chalk down the front of the steps was a message that still impacts me today. “I will love you every step of the way. ♥” I knew it was God speaking directly to my despairing heart.

Then I remembered a song – “Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe.

“Wish it could be easy

Why is life so messy?

Why is pain a part of us?

There are days I feel like

Nothing ever goes right

Sometimes it just hurts so much

But You’re here

You’re real

I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts

Even when it’s hard

Even when it all just falls apart

I will run to You

‘Cause I know that You are

Lover of my soul

Healer of my scars

You steady my heart.”

Sometimes God sends the greatest comforts out of the deepest valleys, doesn’t He? My heart still felt wounded, but I knew I could run to Jesus and He would pull me up again out of the pit and set my feet upon the Rock.

“He reached down and drew me from the deep,

dark hole where I was stranded,

mired in the muck and clay.

With a gentle hand, He pulled me out

To set me down safely on a warm rock;

He held me until I was steady enough

to continue the journey again.”

Psalm 40:2 Voice

That toxic shame still often pierces the core of who I am and screams, “You’re worthless. How can someone like you ever make a positive difference? You don’t deserve comfort. You don’t deserve to be accepted. ”

Panic still creeps in and shouts, “Watch out! You’re going to be hurt again. Reinforce that wall.”

Healing is a process though, right? I have learned that many struggle with inadequacy, shame, and fear of trusting. And I know there are others who also do but remain silent onlookers. And that’s ok. 

All of us have a story to tell, and there is not one story that is less important than another. There is not one hurt that is less painful than anyone else’s. Every story counts. Every. Single. One. So don’t let that bug bite you and tell you, “Your burdens are not as bad as someone else’s.” I know by experience that can stifle the grieving process. Every hurt needs grieving in order to start healing.

Remember! You are so special to God! You have been created uniquely for a special purpose only you can fill. Jesus loves you so much that He sacrificed His life for you. His arms are wide open with welcome, longing for you to run into them. Yes, life can be messy. Yes, it can hurt so much and be so hard. But He cares about broken hearts and delights to heal them.

Precious Lord Jesus, sometimes life can hurt so much and be so hard, but You have promised You care about our broken hearts and You delight to heal us. When shame poisons our perspective, please help us to see that in You, we are beautiful and valuable. When we feel like we’re drowning in the storms of life, please help us to reach up and grasp Your hand ever reaching out to us. Your hand of unfailing love and compassion. Please break all the chains that still bind us and keep us from dancing in Your victory for us. Heal us ever more deeply! Thank You for Your unconditional love and powerful grace!

This post is excerpted from Trudy Den Hoed’s blog post: https://freedtofly.me/2016/05/03/depression-and-deliverance/

which was first published in 2016.

Trudy’s passion is to encourage others there is hope in Jesus and His love in the midst of loss, heartache, and trauma. Jesus has become the needed oxygen for her soul as she continues on a lifelong journey of healing from past abuse. She lives in the midwestern United States and is grateful to be blessed with a loving husband and precious children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Thread of Glory

This post is co-written by Anna Smit and Bettie Gilbert. My dear friend and spiritual Mom, Bettie, blogs at BettieGsRASeasons, writes Scriptural based prayer prompts and shepherds the Prayer Pond at the Chronic Joy ministry. The Prayer Pond is a safe harbor for prayer, where the chronically ill and their friends and family are encouraged to share prayer requests, updates and shouts of praise. This post is an edited version (thanks to the new eyes Christ has given us since) of a newsletter we once sent out to families and friends of prodigals that subscribed to the now closed blog Beloved Prodigal. The poem is read by our dear friend Julia Putzke whose blog can be found at Crippled at Your Table.

Do you ever feel that the waiting process is a waste of time, or a time when nothing is being accomplished?  There are times when we, Bettie and Anna, feel that way—when we can do nothing in and of ourselves to bring about any change.  But it is precisely for this waiting time – when we can do nothing in and of ourselves- that our Lord has designed a beautiful promise. A Promise that Christ unveils inside of us, right when we are forced to concede the failure of our own strength.

He has hidden this Promise within the offerings that He asked His children to bring for the building of the very first Tabernacle.  

“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

Interestingly, if we look at the root meaning of the expression “wait for”, we discover God’s gift threaded into our waiting. For we find “wait for” in Isaiah 64:4 means:

Brown-Driver-Briggs

  1. [קָוָה] verb wait for (probably originally twist, stretch, then of tension of enduring, waiting: Assyrian ‡ûû II, I. wait, ‡û, cord; Arabic  be strong,  strength, also strand of rope; Syriac  endure, remain, await,  threads, so ᵑ7 קַוִּיןspider’s threads, web); —

(Source: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/6960.htm)

Now, let´s read Isaiah 64:1-4 together, to see this waiting in its context, to see the strong desire God births in us for His glory and renown to be made known in the waiting:

1 “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,

    that the mountains would tremble before you!

2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze

    and causes water to boil,

come down to make your name known to your enemies

    and cause the nations to quake before you!

3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,

    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

4 Since ancient times no one has heard,

    no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”  

 

Now, let’s recall the blue, or indigo, thread the Spirit of God compelled the people of Israel to give as a free will offering for the Temple curtain. As we “wait for” our God to act, are we not then also prompted through the Spirit of God to bring this thread – our hope of glory – Jesus Christ Himself – who lives in us, forward as our free will offering? For, this blue thread became a part of the curtain in the Temple, and who is that curtain now? Hebrews 10:20 (ESV) tells us that that curtain of access into the holy of holies is Jesus. We have been given unlimited free access to our God “by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh,” the flesh of Jesus Christ that was crucified for us.

As we wait, and our hearts ache at our own lack of control to make things happen, does this Jesus not cause our hearts to yield to Him through this suffering? Does He not compel us to bring forward that blue thread – our hope of glory in Him- so that we may be bound more tightly to His Promises through the tension of His enduring work in us?

For, it is Christ in us who causes us to pour out our hearts, who causes us to “eagerly look for” His presence in our own life and the lives of those we are praying for. It is the Spirit of the living God in us, who causes us to yield to the will of the Father for this time of waiting. No, although it may feel like it, we aren’t just idly waiting for God to act. Christ – our thread of glory – is laboring in us and through us.

Bettie has a poem that she wrote during a time of waiting. As you listen to our dear friend Julia Putzke read it, may God speak to you and encourage you through it in your own place of waiting today and in the time to come:

INDIGO

By Bettie Gilbert

 

Dear Heart aching in the storm

Lift up your eyes

The grey will soon part

And rescue will fall

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Ancient Priests knew the sight

Their garments awash

The curtains the walls

All touched and woven

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Hebrew children settled in

Their lands and their towns

But daily remembered

Tassles lifting their gaze

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Shepherds on that Holy Night

With their sheep standing near

Saw the darkness fall in

Heard the Angels bright song

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The bowed down woman pressed in

To reach for HIS robe

The only One able

To reach through her pain

As Indigo from the sky.

 

And I in this season of dark

Wait for the flash

Of a bird so brilliant

It sparkles like sapphire

As Indigo from the sky.

 

But my heart is still longing

In a pain of my own

For a flash of dear Hope

From Heaven so pure

As Indigo from the sky.

 

Dear Heart aching in the storm

Lift up your eyes

The grey will soon part

And rescue will fall

As Indigo from the sky.

 

Do you see, even in this poem by Bettie, how the Spirit of God is at work in us in our places of waiting? How He causes us to release our burdens of unbelief, doubt, fear and grief. His intercession in and through us is binding us tightly to the hope of glory – to Himself. As He helps us come to Him with all these burdens we cannot carry, He takes over. For, as Paul reminds us, true prayer is done in communion, where the Spirit of God takes over to pray through us. But how can that Spirit even take over, unless our flesh is crucified, unless our own strength and ability is taken from us? Unless our weakness gives glory to God, as He perfects His power in that place?

Oh but we know this process of weaving is not without pain. Bettie has been dealing with a physical kind of pain in her joints that feels like a rubber band or a rope is being twisted tighter and tighter around her painful bones.  It reminded her of this pain that our hearts feel as they wait.  

Sometimes it truly feels like a rope is twisting the pain tighter and tighter around our hearts, and that we will fall from the pain of the waiting, doesn’t it? And this is in fact true. We are being bound so tightly it hurts and we will fall, but only into the waiting thread of our LORD – our hope of glory, as the thread of our own strength is broken.

For that pain and our falling is in fact Jesus turning the waiting around for us. For, He catches us as our own strength fails us, so that He can then bind us to a cord not of our own making, but one of eternal hope. This new thread being woven around us and our loved ones is not dependent upon our strength, but purely and wholly upon the strength of the living Word of God – Christ in us.

In that painful place of waiting, Jesus lifts the weight of our sin and suffering off of us, to  yield us to His enduring strength. And that strength releases joy, hope and faith in us: free gifts of the Spirit. God not only strengthens those we are praying for in Spirit, but also our own faith in Him and His steadfast character of love, compassion and mercy toward us in our own weakness and frailty.

He reminds us that even now, as He labors in us on earth, we are already seated in heavenly places with Him, at the right hand of the Father. He reminds us to live for the joy set before us: a healed, whole and united Body of Christ, the Bride married to her Groom. To live from a place of victory, and not defeat.

That pain we feel is in fact proof of our heavenly inheritance to come. For, our earthly tents are groaning for heaven – it is the birth pains Paul speaks of. For, we are giving birth to an eternal weight of glory that only our heavenly bodies can bear. And for that birthing to happen, there also has to be a shedding of the old thread, for the weaving of the new to occur.

As our own strength fails us here on earth, and our earthly tents fade away more and more, it’s then Christ’s strength takes over more and more. His hands wrap around us to carry us and our loved ones to the throne of grace. He intercedes for us before His Father.

It is then we are revived in Christ’s faith, discovering as Jesus proclaimed: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). It’s then we come to know, more and more, that we have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. And the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Let us end by looking at Isaiah 40: 25 – 31 (ESV):

25 To whom then will you compare me,

    that I should be like him? says the Holy One.

26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:

    who created these?

He who brings out their host by number,

    calling them all by name;

by the greatness of his might

    and because he is strong in power,

    not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,

    and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

    and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

    his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,

    and to him who has no might he increases strength.

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,

    and young men shall fall exhausted;

31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

    they shall walk and not faint.

In the waiting with this Word, can you ask Jesus to lift your eyes up to Heaven? Can you ask Jesus to give you His eyes? Can you ask Him to help you see the thread of glory – Christ- He is weaving in your and your loved ones’ lives?  

Write out your thoughts as a prayer to the Lord. Is there anything He is asking you to let go of?  What is He wanting you to see, think, hear, say or do in His strength and direction?

Never forget: “the LORD is faithful. He will establish [you and your loved ones] and guard [you and them] against the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Let’s pray.

Father God, thank You for bringing us together to honor Your Name. In the pain and suffering of watching our loved ones go through trials and being unable to support them ourselves, we ask that You would bring comfort and hope to our hearts. Soothe our aching bodies and hearts with Your Word. Give us an intimate experience of Your steadfast, merciful and holy love toward us and our loved ones.

We thank You that no matter what we walk through, You have promised to surround us, just as the mountains surround Jerusalem (Psalm 125:2). We thank You that even now Your justice, truth and mercy surround us all, binding us to Yourself.

Lean our full weight upon Jesus. Give us Your eyes, so that we may recognize how You are at work in even the tiniest details of our and our loved ones’ lives. Yield us to Your will, opening our clenched tight fingers to release the weight that is not ours to carry, so that we may receive Your peace.

Father, I ask you to bless each one of us with divine encounters this very week. Encounters that show us Your faithfulness and prove that Your hand upholds us and our loved ones, as our own strength fails us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.