Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

Life is hard, so very hard. Oh yes, we know the truths of God’s beautiful Word, don’t we? But there are days the darkness presses in. Days our hearts, our minds, our souls struggle to breathe, to believe.

Where do we go on those days? When waves of crashing grief pull us under? When triggers of our past rip open deep wounds and leave us gasping for air? When it feels as if someone has strapped us into a frightening rollercoaster and our screams cannot escape?

Is there a place for us, for us wounded and broken, for us who have been told if we’d “just trust God at His Word” our storms would subside? For us, who run to hide behind closed doors, ashamed, weeping and fearful?

These are questions Bettie Gilbert, Anna Smit and their friends have wrestled through, lashed by the winds and waves of physical, mental and emotional turmoil. In Arise and Shine: Beloved, You Are Mine, a series of poetry, prayers and devotionals, we share how God has been meeting us right there. Not just once, but again and again. How He has been revealing hidden treasures in our struggles to breathe and believe.

These are treasures shrouded in the materials God’s people brought forward for the building of a Holy Temple centuries ago. Treasures now ready for the unveiling.

There is a place for us. Right here, right now. For the wind and waves, they define us as HIS. As fiercely loved, eternally chosen children of God, divinely called to “Arise and Shine!” 

Song of Songs 2: 8 - 17, ESV
The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”
My beloved is mine, and I am his;
he grazes among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
or a young stag on cleft mountains.

As the Lord calls us to Arise and Shine, He has let us know that we, His people, have now become His own dwelling place: the Temple of the Lord.  

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ 2 Corinthians 6:16 (NIV)

Is there a parallel then, between the setting up and arranging of the early Tabernacle and the building up of our souls, God’s Holy Temple, in Jesus Christ, today? We have experienced and still are experiencing it to be so. 

Come, let’s invite Jesus, through His living Word and testimony in us, to uncover our Abba Father’s desires within us. Come, let’s listen for the free-will offerings of His grace that He is calling us to bring forward to Him today, so that we may obey Him and see the unveiling of His new Temple in our own physical bodies and in His unified Body, His Bride, as a whole.

We invite you, through the poems, prayers and devotionals of Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine to take ahold of Jesus’ hand and our own. Come, let’s together discover and rediscover the power of:

  1. The Bread of Life to feed and sustain us.
  2. The Blood of Christ to move us to repentance and freedom.
  3. The Living Water of God to wash us in the truth and grace of God.
  4. The Fire and Salt applied by the Holy Spirit to purify us.
  5. The Breath of God to fill and empower us in our weakness.
  6. The Oil of God to anoint us in the presence of our enemy to taste and see the goodness of God in the salving of our wounds.
  7. The Sword of God wielded in and through us to cut through the lies of the enemy and see the deliverance of the Body of Christ.

Dear Lord,   

Take these simple offerings that you ask of us, and transform them into a sweet-smelling aroma where Your Truth will be clearly heard.  We pray for each child of yours You have led to read these words. May each one hear the calling of Your Spirit to join in with the offering of herself. 

Thank You for shining Your light on the dark places that You want to transform and redeem in our hearts.  May Your Spirit bring a beauty to Your people, and join us together as Your own Temple. May we hear Your call to us, as You ask us to show You our hearts, and come when You call.

In Jesus’ Mighty Name, 

Amen.

May you arise and shine in the light of Christ, for Beloved, you are the Lord’s!

Bettie Gilbert and Anna Smit have been compiling Arise and Shine to publish in a book (since 2017). But we both sensed God’s call to instead release the book He has been writing through us and on our hearts, these past few years, here at ShalomAleh.com. We will publish the poems, prayers and devotionals, piece by piece, as He directs us. You will be able to find these posts under the category Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine.

Triggers into Freedom

Months ago I read about Joni Eareckson Tada visiting the pools of Bethesda. Just after she was paralysed the story of Jesus healing the lame man of 38 years old at these pools, caused her to cry out to Jesus to not pass her by, but to heal her also.

But now, so many years later, she saw that even though she was still paralysed, God had in fact healed her, just as she had asked. She realized what she had seen as His withholding all those years ago was in fact His miraculous giving. He had given her Himself in her suffering – peace, joy, faith, hope – the One in whom all the Promises of God are yes and Amen.

Before God called me to shut down my blog and my social media once again in 2019 (a repeated call I have followed since coming home to Jesus in 2014), that same story was part of my own scheduled Bible reading. It’s then I too saw it with new eyes. I saw how I in fact deep down know that I and my loved ones are healed, whole and belong to Christ and yet I have been waiting for others to affirm what I know, by faith, to be true.

I realized that I’d sat still waiting on others to bring us to the water.
But all along, Jesus had been calling me to arise by faith: to get up, pick up my mat and walk out of my shame and disgrace into His calling upon my life.

A calling not dependent on my physical circumstances or the approval of man, but on Christ alone: on the God who has chosen and appointed me to, again and again, go and bear fruit that abides.

He beautifully gave me an answer to my prayer about what to do after hearing about the widespread spiritual abuse in this country and many others, that I too have experienced, repeatedly. To get up, pick up my mat and go, surrendering all else into His hands. And so I followed Him into the quiet and hidden once again, until He once again asked me to return, but this time, without any social media platforms.

Each surrender has meant trusting in God’s powerful breath to bring what He has promised, as I act on the faith He continues to birth in me, step by step. It has meant continually laying down my old life – my desire to be seen and loved by fellow believers, my desire to fight in the flesh and my desire to lie down in the accusations being spoken over me – to find my true life and freedom in Christ alone.

Now, as I share of all God is doing in my life, I no longer feel tethered to that same push or pull to be seen, to fight for my place at the table, or to lie down in the accusations. Seven years after He brought me back home to Him, lifting me up out of the thorn bush I was caught in, I can tell you that my God has taught me how to rest in Him. And I know He is only taking me deeper into that rest, now day by day, as I seek His face.

God has given me the same gift He gave Joni. For, I have come to recognize that what I once saw as God’s withholding of healing (from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), has in fact been His miraculous healing of my heart, trigger by trigger.

For, God has been using each trigger of trauma to call me into a repeated death and resurrection, to give me more and more of Himself. More and more peace, joy, faith and hope. Through each trigger, He has been teaching me how to surrender myself and others into His hands, to awaken me to new life in Him alone. He has been freeing me to celebrate and sing aloud each Promise of His precious Word that is yes and Amen in Him. Praise Him!

Oh precious Father. Thank You! Thank You for each one who has gathered here. Thank You that we are all SO precious in Your sight. Thank You that You are the God who withholds no good thing from us, as we choose to follow You.

Father, I ask You to encourage each one of us through Your holy Word and breath, as the triggers shake us awake. Open our hearts and eyes to Your Presence with us there and help us to surrender all into Your hands that we may walk into the new You have for us. Fill us with a hunger and thirst for You, that nothing else will be able to push or pull us away from the beauty that You have set before us: more and more of You.

Thank You for each trigger of trauma. Thank You for not allowing us to stay asleep, but for waking us up to Your glory. Open our mouths and fill them with Your Word that we may daily sing of Your goodness to us. That we may daily declare Your Promises over ourselves and others by faith and see them come to fulfillment in You. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

This is the seventh installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

Love Conquers All

A phantom pain
Still pierces
Gnawing my resolve
Though dead to sin
My past still calls me 
Lie down in shame
To mocking tongues 
Telling me I'm captive
To what's no more.

I shift and fidget 
Nervously
I use my tongue
To defend myself
And those I love
Yes, I subdue 
The phantom's pain
But only now behold   
Not freedom's portion
But fear and shame
My lot becoming.

I've wrapped myself 
In changing
Worth of man
Mocking
Never-changing 
Perfect Love
In me.

But then
I see
The One
Who silent stood
So safe, secure 
In His Father's love
He walked toward
The Cross
For me.

The One who
For the joy
Set before Him
Bore my sin
On a Cross
Esteeming not
Its shame
But declaring
In His surrender
The weight of glory:
That love
Conquers all.

Stripped naked 
And there pierced  
He chose to die 
That I might not
Stay chained
To fear and shame
But tethered to
His love and mercy:
Go free.

So, I take up
My Cross
Dying to the old
To rise anew
To life everlasting
Joining Christ
In His death
And resurrection.

I look upon this King
All our sins
See covered pure
In grace's veil
He's borne our sin
And all our pain
Perfecting us
In weakness
That I might now 
Walk free.

Yes! I am free
To clothe myself
In the Good News
Of the Cross
To run, unashamed
And unafraid
To boast in the grace
That sets us free
To die to sin
And live unto Christ.

So, I yield to love
In silent witness strong 
The Word in me
Securing
My righteous path
Yielding me
To join Christ
In His death and
Resurrection
Set free.

To no longer walk
Away from this world
In seeking the living
Among the dead
But to follow Christ
Into the world
To be sanctified daily
In my Living Word
To recognize
Each one He's sent me
As not of this world
But His.

May I now become
Who Christ
Always created me
To be
His Anna, His grace
Sent from the womb
Into this aching world
To go
To immediately recognize
Him - our Messiah -
In the least of these.

May I now ever declare
In my weakness boasting
Christ's Perfect Love
Conquers

All.
The final birthday card my mother penned, less than two months before she went to be with Jesus.

“This kinship-of-calling was sufficiently strong that—as in the incident at the temple at age twelve—Jesus risked giving offense to his natural family by affirming the priority of his heavenly family. Nothing took primacy for Jesus over surrender to the loving will of the Father.”

“Our self-in-Christ is a self that fits perfectly because it is completely us. It is a self that allows us to be free of all anxiety regarding how we should be and who we are. And it allows us to be absolutely our self—unique not by virtue of our strivings for individuality but profoundly original simply because that is who and what we are.”

David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery, p.91 and p. 95

“The Lord may very well keep you on the outside of a person or group as a way of guarding your own heart. As hard as it is to believe this in the moment, sometimes we must accept, as my friend Salena says, that rejection is God’s protection from what isn’t in our best interest. As we struggle to hang on to hope for finding where we belong, we can absolutely believe that God hasn’t saved his worst for us. We can be for ourselves by trusting him to place us with those who will feed, honor, love, and serve us best as we reciprocate those actions to those folks too. If you are on the outside somewhere, God is simultaneously calling you on the inside somewhere else. You are on the inside somewhere else. Remember, there’s always room at the table God picks out for you.”

Kirsten Strong, Back Roads to Belonging: Unexpected Paths to Finding Your Place and Your People, P.141

Hands of Mercy

Your hands hold
Me close
Your hands wrap
Around my coming

And going out again
Your hands know me
Each day of my life
Written in Your book.

Your hands let me go
But tethering me in grace
To the path You walked
Before me and behind me stay.

Your hands wrap around
My heart that is aching
To break
In Your mercy.

Laboring in kindness
Your hands teach me to trust
Again and again to let go
Into Your hands every part yielding.

Led by Your hands
You walk me into Your death and
Resurrection, again and again
To learn that I'm free.

Free to depart and choose You
To lay every accusation
Into Your hands
To arise afresh in Your mercy.

To go and bear fruit that abides
Dying to the old of my knowing
You teach me to rest in Your palm
To feel the holes deep in Your hands.

Now, Father, teach me to give
No longer judgment, but mercy
Break my chains of religion fully and
Wholly in Your Spirit abundance to flow.

My life and breath
Let them speak evermore
Of Your hands that were pierced
To hold us all together in mercy.

The Womb of Compassion

In what ways have you experienced a breaking? How has this breaking opened your eyes to more of who Jesus truly is? What story do your scars now tell?

My breath prayer this week has been a breathing in of “Remember” and breathing out of “Me”. 

Luke 22:14 ESV ‘And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”’

As I went running in the forest, my heart was heavy with shame, shame from an anger I couldn’t shake. So, I cried out, asking God to unravel my heart. To search and know me. The wisdom He gave me came in two steps. First, penning a letter of apology to myself, on behalf of the church. Then, writing a letter of thanks to Him for every point in my apology. 

As I wrote the apology, I was forced to name all the accusations of condemnation I had swallowed as truth, because I trusted men and women in positions of authority, above my holy God. Accusations that had made me feel unseen, unworthy, rejected, damaged goods and unwelcome in the Presence of God. 

As I wept profusely, feeling the pain of each wounding, the shame and pent up anger dissolved. I could now feel Jesus holding me in each and every situation I had once believed He had forsaken me. 

Then, as I sat to write the letter of thanks to God, I remembered what I had read that very morning. Moses refusing to continue the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness without the Presence of God going before him. It’s then I saw how Jesus was setting Himself before me with each thank You I penned. 

I saw how every step I had taken toward a breaking of His Body, became a breaking of my idols. Every time He commanded me to break friendships with fellow believers I idolized or physically leave their midst, God unveiled more of Himself to me.

Each breaking became an opportunity for God to write who He truly is on my heart. He was taking the Living Word I had ingested since I was a little girl and now returning it to me in a beautifully permanent inscription on my heart.

As I came to the end of my letter of thanks, I heard the Words: “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me”. It’s then the tears flowed relentlessly down my cheeks. I knew exactly what He was saying. Every lie spoken over me and my loved ones in His Name, every Scripture wielded to wound me and the children I had immediately recognized as His, had broken His heart too. Because it was done unto Him also.

All those years I had wandered in my wilderness believing God had rejected me and those I loved, that all He wanted to do was hurt and kill me, He was walking before me, preparing the Way for my heart’s deepest desires to be fulfilled: to know who He truly is in the breaking of the bread. To have my eyes opened, just like the disciples on the way to Emmaus. To recognize that His fire had never ever stopped burning in me. That He had never ever stopped holding me, and those I recognized as His, in the palm of His nail-scarred hands.

May you be blessed by this beautiful worship song today that illustrates the power of Christ’s nail-pierced hands and feet. Christ carried the holes in His feet and hands, even after the resurrection, forever reminding us of His mercy poured out at the Cross.

I believe as Jesus exchanges our idols for Himself, through the breaking of His Body, He bows our knees at the Cross. As we enter into His suffering there, we taste and pour out His mercy. Then, the wounds that we once hid in shame, in the light of Jesus, become healed scars of mercy. They become a testimony to His blood shed at the Cross for us.

For, in our surrender, we receive the Body – with Christ at its Head, as One. Fully healed, whole and complete, according to the faith our God has given us. For, He opens our eyes to see what He sees.

It’s then our stories powerfully declare His compassion to a yearning world, through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Beautifully the word for mercy and compassion in Hebrew comes from the word “womb” and so when we speak of God’s compassion we literally speak of the love a mother has for her unborn child in the womb. Isn’t that beautiful?!

In what ways have you experienced a breaking? How has this breaking opened your eyes to more of who Jesus truly is? What story do your scars now tell?

Isaiah 12 (ESV) You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

With thanks to Reverend Summer at The Presence Project, who invited me to contribute as a Table Host a couple of years ago, and for whose Facebook group I originally wrote this post that now appears in its newly edited form.

This is the sixth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These installments of her testimony are God’s answer to all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives. For the first installment see: Love Never Ends

Trust

You tell me
Trust is a muscle
You tell me
Growing
Is feeling
And stretching
The heart
Of flesh
You have
Given.

You tell me
This contracting
Is Your labor
Trust in me
Sowing
Bringing the peace
Of Your pacing
Your holy awakening
In my inhale
And exhale.

You remind me
It's in the releasing
In the yielding
To Your will
I can experience the fruit
And taste
The ravenous joy
Of living secure
Overshadowed
By mercy.

You remind me
You're not withholding
The good
But only awakening
The best
An abundance
Of longing and hunger
You've planted deep
To know
Love everlasting.

You remind me
To not cower in shame
But in boldness
To move
To believe
My each and every
Change of mind
Departing the old
For the new
Is beautiful to You.

For, it's You
Who's moved my feet
Out of the mire
And onto the Rock
To shake off the dust
And behold
Your face
You're lifting the veil
That's been hiding
You.

Yes, each living Word
Engraved on this heart
Has fully released
The pain of my past
No need to turn back
Pleading for mercy
Fighting for truth
Or grieving the lost
For Your blood
Covers it all.

Now, I willingly
Bow the knee
And drink the cup
Eagerly awaiting
Your sovereign revealing
For, in the breaking
Of bread and this cup
I now recognize You
My Portion, Deliverer
The Resurrection and Life.


Psalm 71:8
My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.

Psalm 150:6
Let everything that has breath praise
the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Romans 8:14-19 (ESV)
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.




Into the Light

I still remember the excitement, the tears, the shouts for joy. A wall falling. A people reunited. A dictator executed. A people freed. I was nine years old and sitting in a West German classroom, the daughter of New Zealand missionaries in a time God’s miraculous power swept across the world and into my presence. 

Weeks later I’d be accompanying my family into Romania and meeting believers who welcomed us with such warmth and love. The joy of the LORD was palpable in our midst, as we sung in that enormous church, men one side, women with their heads covered on another. In incredible heartache and persecution the Romanian church had exploded in number, as a suffering and dying people were drawn like a magnet to the Living Hope that is Christ Jesus.

As I prayed through Isaiah 53:3-12, my eyes rested on verse 3:


“He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

and I wept. Because I saw how we, God’s children, have been walking in our Savior’s footsteps. But also because I was convicted that unlike my Savior and my Romanian brothers and sisters, I had chosen to clothe myself in lies, believing myself:

“stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.”

I had carried my mental illness born in the wake of trauma, as a punishment, as something that defines my standing before God. But as I rested on:

“Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows”

I remembered the visions God gifted me in therapy. Visions of His presence in my most traumatic memories. Visions of His loving face, of His Words of truth piercing my hardened heart that had been locked tight in shame, unable to process, to grieve what was taken from me.

Of Him encouraging me to kick, scream, flail and cry for all that I had walked through. Of Him telling me He too is angry. And I then saw how walking to His Cross, He carried what was done to me. He carried my loss, my grief and my sorrow. And He also carried my sinful turning away, those moments I chose to clothe myself in lies.

He never ever left me, not even for a moment. Not even as I turned my back on Him for more than twenty long years. Yes:

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.”

At His Cross He wept and cried: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” He forgave me.

“yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

And by His grace, He is now empowering me also, just as He did my brothers and sisters in Romania, to arise and shine in the truth. To esteem Him, by wrapping myself in the truth and grace of the Cross.

“by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,”

No, mental and physical affliction do not define us. The Cross alone defines us. In the power of the Cross at work in us, we are dead to sin and alive to Christ. For “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”, in the hand of the One who lives and breathes in us. The One who has wrought justice at the Cross. The One who is now restoring all that the enemy thought he had stolen, killed and destroyed. 

The One who is now bringing redemption to Romania and her countless, abandoned by man and yet chosen of God children, like my little brother, who are now scattered around the world.

He is flaming His Word alive in us – His Body. From every nation, our lips shall give Him praise!

We, the esteemed and chosen men, women and children of God, filled with joy, ones toward whom God has turned His face are invited to let our incense – the prayers of our Savior in us – arise. For our Father longs to draw many more children unto glory through the power of His Son’s blood and His living testimony at work in us.

May we, who have known the horror of abuse, just like our Savior, stand with tears in our eyes. Not for our own pain, which our Messiah has redeemed at the Cross. But like Jesus, for the very ones who have wounded and afflicted us.

May we rise in the strength of our Savior’s heart and blood in us, to cry: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And may we walk forgiven and free of all fear and shame into the light.

Oh what an indescribable gift flows from the Cross. A place of deep suffering for our loving Savior. For us. For every single fibre of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.

Oh may He make us those who do not hide the light of His love and grace toward us, but shine it brightly for all to see. For, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1 John 1:5, ESV). Praise Him!