Part 3: Chapter 1 – Day 7: Sunrise in Vietnam

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 3‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing our final free will offering of incense that she penned in 2016. It is a powerful story of Christ’s intercession at work in her, taking us all on a journey into the heart of God for the beautiful people living in Vietnam.

We pray that your hearts are being so encouraged to continue pressing into Jesus, to see His incense rise in intercession in and through you. Our own hearts are being so encouraged also in sharing old and new testimonies. May praise and worship rise in each one of our hearts and be on our lips as we bow in awe of our mighty God who always lives to make intercession for each one of His children, who never leave His safe hand. May we recognize His face and Presence waiting to be uncovered in those He sets before us and moves us to intercede for.

How did I get to be in that incredible place?  And why am I telling this story now, in the middle of this RA/Fibromyalgia Season of re-learning my place?

Another word-sharing-session with my counselor brought me to the place of remembering.  I told her that I still wanted to be up and doing and walking away my anxieties. I am not finding the PEACE here that I thought I should have attained by now.  So my Counselor asked if I could take a walk through the memory hall of my mind.  The same emotions that were triggered during the actual pleasant times can be triggered again, proven by studies, simply when we remember those times.

Shortly after she proposed a time of remembering, a new Blog-Friend of mine found out that I had taken a God-Planned-Adventure to Vietnam, and she stirred up these very memories when she shared her own Adventures.  Thank you Valerie, at gracewithsilk  for asking to hear about my story!  So today I am walking over the land that a healthier and stronger me was allowed to witness.

I was probably 17 or 18 years old when I had a vision while I was praying. I saw myself in an Asian Village, being so thankful to share in a love that was God-given.  I assumed I would be a Missionary. But my life took a different turn, and decades later, as a stay-at-home Mom, I found myself wrapped up in the story of my Pastor and his Wife, trying to adopt a baby from Cambodia. 

I prayed and agonized with them through a very long and difficult adoption process.  When they returned with their beautiful baby boy, I sat amazed by the pictures in their slideshow.  It looked like the Asian Village in my vision from so long ago.  Tears rolled down my face, as I felt the Lord say that I had been in that village with them through my praying.  Ahh beautiful, I thought.  Now I know why I had that vision. End of Story.

But God’s endings are not the same as ours.  Another decade later, and this time our oldest son took a trip to Vietnam with his new friend.  We didn’t know that a possible marriage with his friend’s sister was in the itinerary.  But again, Jesus finds ways to let a Mama know how to pray.  On the very night of the marriage, half-way around the world, my heart was burdened to pray for my children’s spouses, with an urgency like never before.  So when our son came home and asked us to pray with him so that his new wife could get a VISA to come to America, my heart had already been prepared.

Sunrise over a small village in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

Years of praying, and crying, and waiting were finally answered in the spring of 2011, when her VISA was approved.  When we finally met our new daughter-in-law, loving her was easy because my heart had been captivated before she ever set foot in America.

So when she asked me to go with her back to Vietnam for a Family Reunion Party later that fall, I thought my heart would burst.

Breakfast time in Vietnam means noodle soup (not cereal) and tea (not coffee.)
A trip to the market across the street from the family’s house happened daily. Even when I thought I would lose my way, my daughter-in-law held my hand and treated me with honor, so that I knew I was in the safest place I could be.
This Grandma, (51 at the time,) managed to stumble into the flat-bottomed boat for a ride down the river. When God calls out the Adventure, we never know where He will lead us.  As a 17 year old, looking for a future of purpose, I thought I knew what LOVE looked like.  I thought I would be the one teaching those around me what God’s Love looks like.  But HE is the teacher, and HE knows how to plan the future that will bring about HIS Beauty in every place HE leads us.
Sometimes Beauty looks like a small table, child-sized by American standards, set with simple fruit, prepared by the hands of a family that speak a language you cannot understand, opening their hearts for LOVE to be shared.

My journeys now feel large when I can take a day-trip involving a 3 or 4 hour car ride.  But my times for Adventure are not finished.  When I let Jesus plan my journey, whether through chronic illness or healthy travels, HE will set my feet in the good place of HIS choosing: Finding BEAUTY and LOVE each step of the way.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus”

Ephesians 3:20-21

First published at: https://bettiegsraseasons.com/2016/05/18/sunrise-in-vietnam/

Part 3: Chapter 1 – Day 6: All For Love

Welcome to Day 6 of Part 3‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a free will offering of incense in a testimony of God’s sufficiency in our intercession in Him, Scriptures and a poem of praise and worship.

May you be blessed in the encouragement and comfort Bettie brings us all in Christ Jesus. Come join us tomorrow for another post from Bettie: a powerful story of answered prayers, taking us all on a journey to the beautiful country and people of Vietnam.

If you feel so led, will you join me in lifting Bettie and her family up in prayer this weekend as she and her husband move in with their daughter and her family. They are saying goodbye to their home of many years to welcome God’s sufficiency for them in this new phase of ongoing surrender, as her husband’s health and hers continues to deteriorate. May God fill us with His precious Word to pray over Bettie and all those He calls us to intercede for in His Name.

The day started out slowly, like most of my days, but I felt Jesus with me. As He had been speaking more words about surrender, I felt that I was listening this time and preparing for what He would take me through. This waiting time to find a medication that would bring the RA back down from an inflamed state felt like it was taking too long for my own time-table. So, I continued to ask Him to uncover more of my own desires for self-sufficiency that still lingered within. As I had been asking my friends for prayer, I thought that I was on the road to acceptance.

Until another small set-back pushed me over the edge, and the tears spilled out.

Many years ago, the Lord took me through a long season of intercession for several friends and family members.  It was a time of deep stretching.  And it became my first lesson in learning that only God’s Grace is sufficient.  The burdens became too heavy for me to carry on my own. I knew that the prayers themselves were being birthed in the Spirit, as words and Scriptures would flood my mind.

Then many years after that, the Lord opened a way for this small town Midwestern girl to travel with my new Vietnamese daughter-in-law by ourselves to Vietnam for a 3 week visit with her family. She had only been in the US for 7 months herself, and I had never been out of the country.  I knew I was in over my head.  I knew that God’s Grace would have to be my sufficiency.

In those seasons, the night-times were places where Jesus often called prayers up from the deepest places of my heart.  Pages and pages of old journals document the hard and the sweet words He spoke through my prayers.  Prophetic and surprising, so many of those prayers were answered in just the way God had asked me to pray.

So when I cried at the self-sufficiency being taken away in this season of Chronic Illness, the Holy Whisper of God surprised me:

This is not a foreign place for you, my daughter. I have prepared you for these days already. You have learned that my Grace is sufficient in every place of prayer. Am I not sufficient for you here?

And suddenly I was whisked back in time, remembering those days . . .

“All For Love”


The words gushed out of my heart

But

The groans and the tears

Fell

On the floor at my feet.



Intercession swirled over my head

And

The pain that another felt

Hurt

My heart like my own



God brought the questions

And

Then God sent His Word

To

Pray the answers



How could I explain the prayers

That

Poured from my belly

And

The longing for which I waited



They are The Apple of Your Eye

Lord

They are The Dearly Loved Ones

For

Whom You spilled Your blood



Months passed and years plodded

On

The prayers kept pouring forth

From

My soul where I carried grief



Bitter turned to sweet!

Prayers found fullness!

Intercession fulfilled!



Even as my singing heart rejoiced

And

Even as the weight was lifted

Yet

A pin had pricked my soul



A bleeding kept pouring forth

From

A hidden chamber in my heart

As

A question lodged still remained



You saw it all my Lord Jesus Christ

And

You carried all those weights

When

I thought I would die underneath



Yours is the only heart fully able

To

Be the true intercessor for us all

Who

Carries the hardest-hearted-sinner



But You ask us to join you there

To

Crawl up into Your lap of love

While

We speak the same words You speak



You want to show us the beauty

That

Only Love Eyes can look upon

And

Only Love spilled out can win



They are the ones

We are the ones

Oh!

I am the one

The apple of Your eye



“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,” Deuteronomy 32:10 NIV

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 NIV

When we see the cross set before us, we look upon the One who shed His own dear blood, and we wonder how. We wonder why.  When all the answers are filled up in only one word: His love led Him there. He took JOY to redeem us back to the heart of His Father.

Have you let Him show you the love He carries for you?

Do you know that you are the apple of His eye?

Dear Lord Jesus,

We do come before you, falling to our knees. How could you have loved us so? We know that we are so hard-hearted, and we must admit that we are filled with our own self-sufficiency. Some days we are so proud of that sufficiency.

Oh, Lord, forgive us for all these ways that we turn away from You. And yet You still love us and call us back to Yourself.

Will you give us glimpses of the depth of Your love? Will you wash away more of our places of pride? And will You fill us with the immeasurable love that only You can bring?

We need You so much. We long to be with you Jesus. We praise You for Your beauty and Glory.

In Your precious name we pray, Amen.

First published at: https://bettiegsraseasons.com/2018/03/26/all-for-love/

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Day 3 The Joy and Peace in the Gold

Welcome to Day 3 of Part 2‘s Chapter 3. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of gold – a poem, testimony and prayer – praising Jesus for the joy and peace He births in us through His perfect living Word.

I had a dream several months ago of this large ruler and I was petrified of him, until I got smaller and smaller and entered underneath him. It was almost like I disappeared into him and that then I was no longer afraid of him.

At the time, God was asking me to humble myself and go lower and lower. I did so, following His call, but not understanding what He was up. At every turn the writing education project I had felt His call to begin kept getting smaller and smaller, until what I still had sitting there He asked me to delete.

Now, I realize it was never about the actual project. Jesus was after my obedience and had designed every step along the way to grow me in my trust of Him and to refine me to look more like Him. Through it all He was teaching me to delight in His Voice, to look to the unseen and to rejoice in His fatherly desire to see me learn and grow in His perfecting Word.

It was about allowing Him to shape my character. He taught me so much about laying down my own expectations for His. He shut the doors I thought He would open, only to open doors that required me to stoop lower and lower to serve others in their need, but also to allow Him to refresh and replenish me.

For, as I listened for His Word to me, He taught me so much about setting and keeping boundaries that preserved His rest in my life. He enabled me to come away with Him between all the tasks and to continue loving my children and husband well. And where I disobeyed His gentle call to rest, He was quick to rebuke me and lead me to repentance, showing me why His safe boundaries are always best. Through it all, He showed me parts of my character He desires to continue refining to make me more like Him. I learnt so much.


At the time, I saw the ruler as those I had to set my project before to find financial support. Now, I realize that ruler is Jesus and that He worked through everyone on my path, continually inviting me to become smaller and smaller. As I humbled myself, again and again beneath God’s mighty hand, I became less and less fearful. I grew in my confidence of His Word to me.

Suddenly, the opinions of those around me mattered little. Not just because I was bathing myself in God’s Word to me, but because God was opening my eyes to the beauty of His freeing truth. The path He set for me lifted off burdens at every turn that I could never have lifted off myself.

I began to obey my Jesus, no longer to do the “right” thing, but because I loved and trusted Him above all else. I witnessed and rejoiced in His loving protection, direction and refining of me and others, every step I took.

It was such an amazing experience. So sheltered in His love, after all His recent pruning, I found the lies I once clung to, gliding off me. The truth of God’s Word surrounded me at every turn, uplifting me and carrying me forward.

Now, I can also look back at my past with new eyes. For the past seven years, since God brought this little lost sheep home, He continually asked me to surrender one thing and one person after another into His hands: some physically and some spiritually and some both. It has been an incredibly painful and gruelling process, but one that I now see is reaping such fruit. Our God’s Word is truly gold – true and trustworthy:

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Hebrews 12:11 KJV

A few weeks ago, I penned a poem to express this journey God has taken me on. As you read it, I pray you too recognize the fruit of peace the LORD is reaping in your own life and heart through all the painful surrenders He has walked you through also:

Peace

Caught
Between two w/Words
The religion
I know

And the Son
Of God
I hear
Beckoning.

I wrestle
With the Alpha
And Omega
Who asks me
To surrender

The letter of the Law
I know
For the Living Word's
Searching
And knowing.

But what can I do
But open the door
To my Lord's knocking
To sup with Him?

Where can I go
But to the only One
Who has the Word
Of life?

So I surrender
My known
To be known
Fully and wholly

By the only
True God
Who stills
My heart
To know

The world
And all who dwell
Therein are
His.

I yield
The cup of suffering
To my lips now take
And drink

In communion
The Living Word
To my Father
In thanksgiving lifting

I break
The bread
And take
Eat.

I fill my heart
With the
Law fulfilled
Who calls for me

To join Him
In each and every
Death that's
Dying.

To take the hand
Of the sovereign God
Who walks me
To the tomb
To show me what
He already sees:

"Unwrap him now
And let him loose"
I hear my Savior
Calling.

His work
Of surrender
Just invites me
Into

More.

More JOY
Before me laid
Than I could ever
Think of, ask for
Or imagine.

For, Christ's blood
Was shed
For this:

To reconcile
All things to Him
Whether on earth
Or heaven

To make

Peace.

Now, rather than seeing these surrenders as my shame to carry and as proof that I failed, I see them as God’s gift to me and proof of His Word – His gold – growing and flourishing in me. For, all along, God was lifting one burden after another off of my shoulders to shower me in His life-giving grace.

What He has gifted me through it all reminds me so much of John the Baptist’s Words in John 3:29-30, ESV:

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Now, I see that all that decreasing Christ brings through each surrender is in fact what brings us such peace. For through each dying to self, we come to know how deeply our Abba Father knows us and loves us.

Every trauma trigger shaking my body has only invited me into a deeper and deeper resting in my God’s golden Word to me. I now see how my precious Jesus has been ever increasing in me, through my every decreasing. And oh the joy that brings me now, as I look back with cleansed eyes. Praise Him!

Will you join me as I end today’s free will offering of gold in prayer?

Precious Father, oh how we thank and praise You for the gold of Your Word. We thank You for choosing imperfect and weak vessels like us to display Your glory and grace to this yearning world.

We thank You that You are laboring in such love and devotion through Your Son to refine us to make us look more and more like You. Thank You that even when the path You set for us doesn’t make any sense, we can trust Your perfect will and Your desire to grow us and bless us.

Forgive us, where we have looked to the seen and bemoaned our lack or the closing doors. Forgive us, where we have based our identity on anything other than You. Father, thank You for loving us enough to withhold things, people and communities from us that You know will destroy the beauty of Your Son in us.

Thank You that You withhold no good thing from those who are upright, who walk in You. Father, open our eyes to see what You see: the beauty and perfection of Your Word to us and the healing it is bringing to our hearts. Oh LORD how we long to decrease that YOU may increase in and through us. Have Your Way in us!

Thank You for inviting us to commune with You through each setting apart. Thank You for silencing the enemy’s accusations through each closing door, so that we can hear Your Voice more clearly than ever before. Thank You for changing both our minds and our direction, for blotting out all our sins that we may now bathe in the refreshing and healing waters of Your living Word and Presence with us.

In Jesus’ Precious Name, Amen.

Come let us glorify our God:

Part 1: The Bread of Life

Welcome to Part 1 of Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine. In the coming weeks, we will be resting in The Bread of Life (Jesus). In each chapter of this part, we will invite Jesus to feed and sustain us through His fresh, warm, living and active Word. Today, you will find the introduction to part 1 and next week, we will publish chapter 1 (which includes an opening prayer, poems and devotionals: material to sit with each day of the week).

Have you also noticed how our God longs for us to receive His fresh warm bread – Scriptures filled with His Spirit breath? How He longs for us to lay down those cold stones (Scriptures wielded in part by the enemy as accusations against us) that we have clung to as God’s condemnation of us?

When we walk through trauma or chronic illness, we are all too aware of our weakness and failings, and our accuser loves to turn that against us. And this sneaky accuser uses God’s precious Word to do so. Let’s take a look at how he did so with the disciple Peter.

But before we do so, let’s put ourselves in Peter’s shoes. He tries to stop his Savior from being captured, as he cuts the soldier’s ear off. And yet Jesus rebukes Satan in him, as he does so. Peter judges the situation from his present understanding, rather than from God’s eternal understanding.

Peter doesn’t fathom God’s plans, as many of us struggle to do when things “go wrong”, when we lean into our limited human and fleshly perspective. For, though God has put eternity into our hearts, not one of us can “find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesisstes 3:11, ESV).

Then, as Peter tries to draw near to Jesus, in his weakness of fear and pride, after deeply traumatic events, he bows to his idols and denies his very own Savior. And then that Savior of his is hung on a Cross.

Now, let’s look at what the enemy does with Jesus’ own words. Just after Peter denies Jesus for the third time, the cock crows three times, and Peter remembers only part of the prophecy Jesus had spoken over him (that he would deny Him three times before the cock crows), as Jesus looks him in the eyes. In response, Peter cries “bitter tears”, rooted in self, condemnation and shame. The Word used for “bitter” is described by Strong’s Concordance as having a usage of: “bitter, acrid, malignant” (see: Strong’s Greek 4089).

But now watch what Jesus does with the accusations of the enemy, that have led to these bitter tears. Just watch how Jesus takes cold stones – the words of Jesus devoid of the person of Jesus and devoid of the Holy Spirit’s breath – and turns them into fresh, warm bread.

First, He invites Peter to breakfast, together with the other disciples. He includes Peter, showing him that he belongs to Him. Then, He gives Peter fresh bread rolls and cooks the fish Peter has just caught over a charcoal fire. He lovingly feeds Peter, reminding Peter that every good gift comes from above and he takes one of the places Peter denied Jesus- the fire – and redeems it. Then, three times He asks Peter if Peter loves Him. He invites Peter to affirm that in Peter’s every single denial, and failing, the love of God remained so strongly present in him.

We also see how when Jesus asks him if he loves Him the first time and phrases it as: “Do you love me more than these?”, Peter is no longer able to place himself above the other disciples, as one who loves Jesus more than others. Jesus appears to be lifting off the heavy weight Peter had taken upon himself to prove his worthiness for the great calling of God on his life, by phrasing the question this way.

Peter, this time doesn’t respond with bitter tears of shame, but with deep grief, after Jesus’ third question. The Word (lypéō) used to describe his grief is, according to HELPS Word-studies the same Word that is used in Genesis 3:16 for the pain of child birth (see: https://biblehub.com/greek/3076.htm). This emotion, unlike shame, is no longer rooted in pride and self, but in relationship.

Peter is grieved that Jesus would even have to ask Peter if he loves Him. Of course, Jesus knows Peter does and that he has never stopped loving Jesus, but asking him this question turns Peter away from sitting in pride and shame, to affirming that the ever present love of Christ at work in us always remains. It reminds us all that nothing can ever separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the Word for Peter’s grief is connected to the pain of child birth either. For, we can see how in this very moment Peter begins to birth the Promise Jesus spoke over him, at the very beginning of their friendship (Matthew 16:18 ESV):

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus appears to be, at Peter’s invitation, lifting the weight of this great calling off of Peter’s shoulders and placing it on His own. Simon is becoming Peter: the little rock, bowing to his true Rock and Redeemer, Christ, upon which the church is still being built today.

Bitterness – an emotion rooted in pride, fear and self – is replaced by grief -an emotion rooted in love and the other. Peter no longer thinks he should have been able to stand in his own strength (a thought rooted in self and pride). He realizes that he couldn’t and it grieves his heart that he has hurt his Savior. Jesus of course always knew this, but wanted Peter to experience it for himself, to understand that he needed his Savior to deliver him from sin and death.

This labor pain is something we all experience. For, we all experience the pain of giving birth to our Promise – Christ – the hope of glory in us. EVERY time we realize we can’t do the will of Christ in our weakness is a new opportunity to shed self and pride and to enter into the work of the Cross.

Each painful conviction is a moment for new life to be born in us, God’s invitation to be perfected in His power right in the midst of our weakness, as this song so beautifully puts it. No, Jesus is not ashamed of us in our need. It’s why He came:

As Isaiah 66:9 (ERV) puts it: In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” The Lord says this: “I promise that if I cause you the pain of birth, I will not stop you from having your new nation.” Your God said this.

Christ invites us to renew our minds in His mind, by feeding on the Bread of Life – the living Word that He speaks to us, from moment to moment. He continually invites us to shed our fleshly and worldly perspective, to listen to and obey the law of love – Jesus.

Just as He did the disciples, Jesus constantly invites us to let go of established religious laws and traditions, in the name of love and mercy. The adulteress should have been stoned to death, according to man’s interpretation of the Word of God. But, Jesus speaks a better Word: for mercy triumphs over judgment.

When Jesus lets her go free and invites her to sin no more, He also invites her to put her faith in Him, rather than herself, just as Jesus invited Peter to do. By entrusting themself to Jesus, they were no longer under the law, just as we aren’t, when we give our hearts to Jesus. For, we are then in a relationship with our Messiah, who has fulfilled the law for us and is ever at work in us, by His Spirit, moving us to repentance. Or as Romans 7: 6 & 17 (ESV) puts it:

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code […] So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

And when we give our hearts to Jesus, as Peter did, we also no longer desire to sin because we don’t want to break our Savior’s heart. But where sin does show itself in us, when we do what we do not want to do, Jesus moves to convict us of our sin and of His righteousness, and we quickly put the sin present in us to death. Godly sorrow leads us to a repentance (a change of our minds) without regret.

This growing relationship of trust and faith is evidenced in how quickly Peter is convicted and led to repentance by Paul’s rebuke. He no longer sits in shame, as he did after his denials, but convicted of his hypocrisy and Christ’s righteousness in him, Peter quickly leaves the religious leaders he had been sitting with, who were keeping people caged in the law.

He allows God to set him apart as a follower of Jesus, facing persecution and death on a cross in doing so. The relationship of love and trust that Jesus has built up with him, breaks Peter’s fear of man and idol worship, piece by piece, as Peter renews his mind in the Bread of Life. Peter doesn’t hear Paul’s voice in that rebuke, he hears and recognizes the Voice of Jesus in Paul.

Peter chose to follow the Son of God whose saving power he had now intimately experienced. Now, he knew he could trust Jesus, no matter the earthly consequences or the religious rules Jesus asked him to break in the name of love and mercy. He knew that: “He who calls [us] is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV). Peter knew that in his weakness (the fear of man and pride), Christ would continue to empower him to follow Him and sanctify him in doing so.

In the three affirmations of Christ’s ever present love, I believe Jesus shows Peter that the prophecy He spoke was never meant to condemn him. Rather, it was Christ’s invitation to Peter to clasp His outstretched hand of mercy and to see the birth of the Promise spoken over him.

For, with each command to feed His lambs and sheep, Christ reminds Peter that, as Romans 11:29 (ESV) declares “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable”. All we have to do is take God’s hand of mercy in our weakness and trust Him at His Word. For, when our God promises something, HE is faithful to complete it (Luke 22:32, ESV):

“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

You see the sifting by the enemy was only ever allowed to bring Peter to his knees in his weakness, so that Christ’s power might take over and empower him to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for his life. A plan and purpose he could never ever have carried out in his own strength.

Just watch Peter, after he has been through even more humbling, through Paul’s mouth. See how it is no longer Peter laboring here. No! It is Christ interceding in and through Peter, as Jesus speaks His Word through Peter to heal, restore and redeem His beloved children:

Acts 3:6-9 (KJV) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Jesus already knew Peter’s weakness intimately, long before He chose and called Peter for His purposes. Jesus knew that it is in this weakness that He could humble and empower Peter. Just as Jesus also knows each of our weaknesses intimately. Even before we were born He already planned out exactly how He would use the enemy’s sifting to humble us also and yield us to His beautiful will in and through our weakness.

No, not one of us is exempt from this humbling, as it is God’s beautiful way of lifting the weight of our calling off of our shoulders, so that we might rest in His labor of love and mercy. This is how we are born again in Spirit breath.

Jesus took upon Himself all our weakness, sin and failure, so He could nail it to the Cross. So that He could restore us to Himself and grow our trust in Him through an intimate experience of His love and mercy. As Paul puts it:

Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Through the life of Peter, Jesus reminds us that (Isaiah 55:11, ESV):

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

You see, it’s never been about us and what we could do for Jesus. It’s always been about the mercy of our LORD Jesus Christ and HIS labor of love in and through us.

As more and more is stripped away from us, Jesus uncovers our secret weapon – the fresh, warm Bread of Life – He has already put in our mouths for such a time as this. For, He – Jesus – is that Bread of Life.

In the coming weeks, may God uncover the warm, fresh bread He has already placed in our mouths. May every Bible passage the enemy has ever wielded against us to steal, kill and destroy, now be returned to us in Spirit breath, in the fullness of who Christ is, to heal, restore and redeem. May mercy triumph over judgment.

May God use what the enemy meant to harm us and others to bring more and more life in and through us. May God persuade us through intimate experiences of His goodness and mercy, in relationship with Him, to humble ourselves in our weakness, again and again, that we may rest in His beautiful labor of intercession in and through us.

May Jesus arise and shine in and through us, as we bow the knee to hear our Abba Father declare: “Beloved, You are Mine.”

Chapter 1: A Dwelling Place

Chapter 2: Clothed in Fine White Linen

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.