When one trial comes our way after another, so often, we just need a simple glimpse, a simple, tangible reminder of God’s Promise never ever to leave or forsake us. It’s in that place I found myself, as I waited on news from my sister from her biopsy, not long after we had buried my Mum after her five month battle with an incurable brain cancer and on the heels of a breaking God had led me through. A breaking that had left my heart wounded and raw – in need of my Healer’s touch.
As I struggled to be present to my girls and husband, I found myself crying out to my Maker to meet me in this place of deep anguish, angst and tearing. The poem below is the fruit of my lament – God’s gift to me in my weakness and need, as I lifted my head to the sky to see clouds form an arch above me, wrapping me in a peace that passes all understanding.
If you are having one of those days of swirling emotions today, may our God pour out your heart like water to reveal the gift of faith He has placed deep inside of you for this very moment. May He cup your face in His hands and lift it up to see tangible reminders of His Presence with you too. May He make His glorious face shine upon you through the words of this poem, the Scriptures and the worship song in this place. May you drink deeply from His goodness and His peace, no matter what is unfolding before you.
Will you with me stay In my struggle to accept, Heart too heavy laid?
I so long to rest To lean on You blessed, But laden heavy can't.
Cannot seem to find The words beyond my tears, Beyond all broken held.
All I see is dark Hands so empty worn, And no single ray.
I long to hope again To dream, believe again But am captive held.
Captive to my seen Longing here for gift unseen Faith in dark to beam.
No prayer can speak, But You my longing breathe, And my tear drops catch.
To sky me turn, And arch above me fern, Promised hope returns.
All You ask is come With my heavy laden heart And You'll heaven breathe,
Here my weight release In gift of faith I'll feast, In open mouth receive.
Faith not my own, But Savior's faith long sown Grown now as own.
Even when I come so frayed And heavy weighted stayed Your faith in me breaks open Unfurling.
Come listen in with me today to this beautiful, beautiful praise and worship. Oh how deeply it touches my own heart today:
EPHESIANS 1:3-6 (MSG) How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Welcome to Day 5 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our fifth free will offering of goats’ hair (cursed sin offering)in a poem testifying to our Savior’s love for us. Our Savior, who, full of compassion for us in our grief and pain, became our cursed sin offering to lift the weight of sin’s curse upon us. A curse that would have us hide in our need is broken by the offering of Christ’s own body that He might draw us into His holy Presence of wholeness and rest.
Anna also shares a photo she took as she rested in her local forest and a song that was such a comfort to her through the first triggers of trauma she experienced many years ago. Whatever you are facing today, may you experience God’s peace in the midst of the storms of life.
I listen In the stillness Gleaning Cadence of the hooves Songs of morning birds Gleaning love Abandoned in the rush.
I settle in Your seat Remembering The waves The rush and crash And seeing How You Wept.
Tears For every moment I withheld my trust Believing Holding tight Is faith.
Oh precious In Your sight Are those Who die to self Who know they are
Welcome As the waves return Lapping, crashing Thunderous There they come.
Welcome To lean Upon the Rock And not succumb But in Your arms Become.
For in the stillness In the listening So far From striving's tongue You're teaching me Who You Truly are.
A Father So tender A Love Full of mercy Who holds me In His arms As our tears Release.
For faith Is not my own But Your laboring In me.
It's believing Not in my Own strength But in the One Whose love in me Speaks Steadfast, sure.
A sun-drenched warmth Beneath my feet The sun here shimmering In morning's light A testament To Your mercies New every morning That carry me In wave after wave Into love everlasting.
And so I remain here Seeking the quiet And let the waves return My heart now cleaving To Your heart Washing my face With the tears of our longing Awakening life.
I listen In the stillness Gleaning Cadence of the hooves Songs of morning birds Gleaning Your heatbeat Never abandoned My God is always with me.
Isaiah 51:11 (WEB) The ransomed of Yahweh shall return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy shall be on their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Welcome to Day 5 of Part 3‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of incense in Scriptures and a testimonial poem of praise to the power of Christ’s intercession at work in her. Yes! His incense arises in power in our weakness, compelling us to loose His Promises in faith, and to see them bear fruit in our lives and others’.
Loosing the Promises of God
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 (ESV)
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. Revelation 1:17-19 (ESV)
Grief waits upon No one It swells And breaks My placid perfect Life awake.
Now spit And foam The Promises Long hid Come rushing Crashing Back to Life.
The longing From my heart His Promises To know Long hid away In drawers Fastened Shut.
But as the waves Swell And break The drawers Loose His Promises To life.
My body, mind And soul In Spirit breath Awake.
From deep within The Living Word Each Promise Brings In Holy Spirit breath To sing.
For in the Word's Waking My heart Draws near Christ's heart To hear.
This childlike heart In steadfast love is Rootèd secure:
That I might Taste and see The width And breadth And depth Of Christ.
Living water rushes Strong, crashing My heart to search And know In waves of mercy The blood of Christ Still flows.
Each day anew My burdened heart Christ draws near In Spirit song To wake And sing with Him Each Word To life.
Before, behind Beneath, above My Savior sings And calls to me: "Draw near And I'll draw near To you."
But now I know It is not me But Christ Who fulfills The law in me.
He draws me That I may Draw near To Him.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (ESV)
And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:52 (ESV)
Welcome to Chapter 2‘s Day 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a poem the LORD spoke to her heart, as she felt like she had nothing left to give. She was judging her circumstances with her human understanding. God invited her to see and embrace His judgment of her situation and to celebrate His refining work in her.
May God speak to you through it too, encouraging your heart in those places you feel you have nothing left to give. May God cleanse each one of our eyes to see what Hesees.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:6 (ESV)
A New Offering
Oh my heart So worn, so torn Emptied of all tears No more to give.
Kneeling here At these Your feet What do I have To offer You, My Lord.
"My child" I hear A gentle Voice within "Here at My feet You have given all An offering of poverty But more than Ever before.
"Shed here your clothes Of old And let me clothe you In the new A living Hope An inheritance imperishable Now your crown.
"Behold, the new has come Shed here the old Arise now in the morning sun Shining ever brighter Till the full light of day.
"I have not left you orphaned here My breath to you I give To carry, lead and guide Sending out My Light and Truth ahead.
"Behold then, open here your eyes Do you not perceive it? My way in the wilderness? My rivers in the desert?
"My righteousness within I have forged Behold the jealous fires Of My love The dross of all your Prideful striving I have consumed My rivers of peace To bring.
"Drink of my living water Let your weary heart Now rest On everlasting arms beneath My grapes to harvest No longer just in one, But in each and every season.
"My rivers shall now Stream freely Washing all devouring And destroying tongues Away.
"My chosen and anointed child Watch your delight Now grow, abound For, My Spirit shall now reveal A flood of beauty All your buried desires I am breaking open To fulfill.
"Promises of covenant True and pure You shall now declare No longer in trembling Fear of man But in trembling awe Of your Maker Your Husband and LORD.
"See now my Word of life Not empty return But accomplished In leaves of beauty And abiding fruit In the soil Of My heart for you Now flourish."
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not recorded in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me. Psalm 58:9 (AMP)
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”Luke 24: 1-4 (NKJV)
The fabrics lie folded and stacked in my closet, next to the threads and the needles, and the unfinished projects. A lifetime of sewing is huddled there together, as a sort of memorial, stories interwoven through the warp and weft of my memories and the God-moments of my life. Some fabrics are rough, easily wrinkled and scratchy, while others drape and flow through my fingers like spun silk.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:16-17
Her name was Kathy, which means “pure and flawless” and in my memory I can see my friend’s flaxen glowing hair, her fair skin. While other girls were chasing boys, and attending dances, she and I were reading books and sitting in the branches of her giant willow tree. We sang at the top of our lungs, practicing harmony, and laughing at the way the old songs differed from our generation’s rock-n-roll.
My Mom was a homemaker, her Mom left the house early each morning for her job. But each of us were given chores to finish before we could spend our summer afternoons together. Some afternoons were filled with swimming lessons, while other days we rode our bikes up and down our small neighborhood streets till our legs ached. But always we ended with long discussions about life. She knew I loved Jesus. She didn’t argue that, but she just couldn’t live the same lifestyle I thought was so important: every Sunday in Church, both morning and evening, and weeknight girls’ club classes as well. I wanted her to ask Jesus “to come into her heart” but she wasn’t sure what that even meant, so we shelved the topic, and instead spent our discussions on every other subject imaginable.
Into the light colored weft, a darker thread was being woven, filling the fabric with the warp of my flesh. I chose the path of the church, and she chose a different path. I had known it would come to this, I who was so set on my church commitments that I could not miss one Sunday to join her at her family’s weekly campground adventures. Not once. I thought I was choosing the better path. It took many years for me to see what I had missed.
In our pulling apart, the bonds of the fabric could easily have torn. We graduated, I was married. She chose a local college, I moved 600 miles away with my new husband. We wrote letters that kept us connected, and even though we were separated by miles, a deep bond was somehow still glimpsed by both of us. On one of my trips back home, she told of how thyroid cancer had struck her, and the months had been filled with harsh treatments and struggles. But her face was glowing as she eagerly told me the glorious news of finally seeing the beauty of surrendering her life to Jesus. We cried and we laughed that night, taking photos together of my pure and flawless friend holding my toddler son.
But the drifting apart wasn’t finished yet, as my life was plunged into testing involving a move to the other side of the country, a move back again, and years of living in other people’s homes. The letters to my golden haired friend slowed to a trickle, as I was at a loss to explain the confusion I felt during those years of breaking and reshaping. By the time we finally moved back close enough to rekindle our friendship, the cancer had returned to my friend, and she slipped into eternity the same fall that we moved back to our Midwestern roots.
And just as the fabrics of home were being re-folded and measured and cut, the dark threads of the fleshly warp were being marked with the colors of regret. Almost daily I thought of the times that I had neglected the friendship of one so dear. It took years for the roughness of that churchy fabric to be washed and softened. But when the fabric had finally worn down enough, I was filled with sorrow over the way I had chosen an ideal instead of the love of one precious heart. “Jesus, will You please tell Kathy how sorry I am for the years I neglected her?” Again and again through the years, I heard myself uttering that prayer to Him.
The fabrics lie folded and stacked in the closet, and my heart remembers each project. The abilities for the old ways are gone. My arthritic hands can no longer follow the precision necessary to measure and cut and sew. The old has gone, and yet, the new is here. I can hear Jesus whispering:
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5
Jesus has taken the regret and filled it with colors so vibrant they cannot even compare to the old ways of seeing. And in the changing, the regret has been woven into a new warp and weft.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1 – 3
That old warp of ugly dark shadows has now become a vivid setting to show forth new colors not seen before. “No apology is necessary any longer” He whispers to me. “I have preserved the threads of your friendship, and it’s woven together into a pure and flawless garment. You both are clothed in me now.”
The earth beneath you Trembling. All you've ever known Shaken. The ground beneath you Quaking. All you've ever known Taken.
You're groping. Choking. Falling. You reach, But no hand to hold.
You hear those voices: “Too little. Too much. Not enough. Your punishment alone to carry.”
And so you fall, Deeper still, Till deep dark mirey cave You feel beneath. And though its darkness weighs as lead, It numbs the pain so deep, The shame too cruel. "Safe here" you breathe at last.
"Object of dread, I am. Forgotten, broken vessel, Is who I am." Terror thickens air, Lying tongues to pour. Lead weighted more.
Strength does fail. Body waste. Tears no longer flow. A loss so deep, No words to find. And still no single hand to hold.
Your breath you feel Anxious grip. All that leaves your trembling lips "LORD, My God." Silence piercing. Weeping, tearing heart.
But then, You hear it. Tender, loving Voice. Still, sweet sound Arise.
"My beloved. My pearl. My precious daughter dear. The work of My own beating heart, Come now. Take this, My outstretched hand.
"The ground may tremble, Earth may shake And all you've ever known, Ripped from beneath your feet. But I, your loving Father, do rest beneath, Even here, even now.
"My hand upon you. My breath within you. My countless thoughts of you So very precious still. Even now, I hem you in Before, behind Even here, no lying tongue Does from My own True gentle mouth depart.
"Be still, and know YOUR one true God I AM. Never have I ever, Never will I ever, Leave you all forsaken lone. For each and every tremble, shake Does purposeth My crop Too bountiful For any human hand To seed, thresh, harvest true.
"Hold fast, My girl, To sword of truth, To promises birthing here, even now, To heaven's coming Here on earth. For, to each and every Prisoner of Hope eternal strong Who turns My way Restoration double I do declare.
"Hold fast, my child, Not to lying tongues But tender loving truth. Hemming in before, behind Grace so precious, pure. Roaring, rushing waters Pour and cover still. For I, Your God I AM. Even here, even now."
In Psalm 31: 18, King David cries: “Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.” (NIV). Those lying tongues often go into overdrive, when our world is shaken by deep loss, grave illness or seemingly hopeless situations.
But what our enemy knows and wants us to forget is that the Great Overcomer resides in us still, even here, even now. For “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV).
In fact, the losses and trials we are walking through have been permitted by God to strip away our reliance upon ourselves and upon all others, so that Christ’s resurrection power may be unveiled in us. Or as 2 Corinthians 4:11 (ESV) puts it:
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
For, our Abba Father wants us to learn to receive from Him. He wants us to learn to rest upon the foundation of His love for us, so that our strivings might cease, as we learn to enter into His Sabbath rest. So that His labor of love may begin to flow out of us, fully and freely, as we drink deeply of His living water.
In that place of resting upon Him, He longs for us, like the Israelites, to discover His provision for us, that has nothing to do with our our own labor or perfecting work, but rather everything to do with Christ’s work of redemption: Him buying us back from sin and death that He might lavish His love out upon us:
Joshua 24:13 (ESV) I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’
1 John 3:1 (ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
No lie can ever separate us from Christ’s eternal love for us. No matter what emotion we feel and what accusations the enemy plagues us with, these do not define who we are: God alone does and always will. And He says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, precious sought-after pearls: His own true and beloved sons and daughters.
And because He has gifted us the pure and righteous heart of Jesus, we are worthy in His sight. All our sins, in thought, word or deed are covered in the cloak of grace. All He asks of us is: “Come now. Take this, My outstretched hand”. And He will guide us until we die (Psalm 48:14) and Christ is unveiled in us, fully and wholly.
Will you join me in prayer today?
Thank You, Lord, that You are the strength of my heart and promise to remain faithful to me to the very end, even when I turn away in fear, shame or despair. Thank You, Lord, that lying tongues can never define who I am.
Lord, just as your humble servant David, I beseech you to silence all lying lips that are plaguing me now. Help me cast down and pour out all the lies I have come to believe that are shackling me and pressing me away from You. Help me to turn toward You to receive Your loving arms and all-covering grace.
Lord, I claim your beautiful promises over my life today. As a prisoner of hope, whose stronghold is in You alone, I now receive double of all that has been torn from me, believing You have granted it to me and I will yet see it with my own eyes.
As a daughter/son of the Most High King, I now receive Your strong hand upon my head, Your protective wings, as You hem me in from before and behind, and Your countless precious thoughts of me.
Lord, I am yours alone. Lead Me on in Your way everlasting, into all the Truth there is that I may dwell in Your beautiful house all the days of my life, to gaze upon Your beauty and seek You in Your temple.
Reading this, I so longed to share. If you have known the deep pain of infertility, may God so encourage your heart by this post from Velvet Ashes that He sees you and loves you so very much. Here, a quote and the link to read further:
“…but loss and longing have bred connection. I would have never thought that infertility could have brought blessings. As I reflect on the relationships that have grown from my barrenness, I am amazed by how the Lord has worked to bring goodness into my life and answer my prayers for community…”
Sometimes God’s fencing in comes through the experience of loss. Losing loved ones, losing the abilities and jobs we once had due to deteriorating health, losing friendships, losing our homes. Perhaps you too have tasted multiple loss and are feeling the pain of these losses deeply today.
May this poem the LORD gifted Anna, in the pain of multiple losses, bless you also. May the Holy Spirit move through it to bring His comfort to your heart also.
I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU ORPHANED
I will not leave you orphaned You know what it is to lose To lose such precious life But I tell you, I have come To give you life Abundant life.
On those days your heart begins to ache On those days you feel forsaken All alone Lean into Me Tell Me all your pain, be not ashamed But share your yearning deep.
I will not leave you orphaned Cry those tears and share those fears Pour every doubt into My waiting bowl And I'll reflect My Truth there back to you I'll place My hand upon your shoulder Not turn away, but turn toward.
Your friend for life Not just for here, but into all eternity I'm in you now and I'll never leave Even when you tell Me You can't take that one more step.
You see, I know you can't And that's why I'm here To lead You here on Me to rest To lay your head between My shoulders To sleep secure, knowing I won't leave.
I will not leave you orphaned When your body, mind and soul here give away I'll hold you tight My water to your lips so parched I'll raise My bread to famished body gift.
I've chosen you. I've always wanted you. This path I've set before you Is the path I have entrusted you. It's yours to walk, but not alone.
The God of glory, He'll secure your passage My righteousness will pave your way. When you pray, I'll answer you. When you call for help, then I'll say "Here I am." (Isaiah 58: 6 - 12 MSG)
I will not leave you orphaned Even when all you see Is no way through. Don't grab the reigns or blame another, But turn to Me.
And know that as you give And as you share Your empty, nothing My full and plenty here becomes. I'm all you'll ever need.
No, I will not leave you orphaned, For I've adopted you for life To live and move and have your being In Me. For My yoke of love is easy And my burden, light.
Father God, thank You for Your tender heart of compassion toward us in our earthly losses. Thank You for carrying the pain of each of our losses on Your Cross, so that You can now draw near to us through Your Spirit and lift the weight of our burdens.
Thank You for showing us through the story of Lazarus that even though You too knew he would rise again, You wept with Mary in her loss. Thank you for mourning with us, as we grieve. Thank You for opening Your arms to us in every loss.
Father, help us to trust You with our pain. Help us to unburden our hearts and receive Your comfort in this place. Remind us, again and again, that You will never ever leave or forsake us. We know this truth in our minds, but we ask You to root this truth deeper and deeper into our hearts, through Your fencing in.
Show us the power of Your living and active Word. Set us free in You, for You are the Truth, the Way and the Life. Show us the freedom of Your light yoke of grace. Teach us to walk in the light of Your truth. Give us an undivided heart that we might fear Your Name above all else.
Thank You that You take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it good. Show us how You are doing that in this place of loss. Thank You for all the ways You are drawing us unto Yourself in this fencing in.
Open our eyes to see and embrace each gift of grace. Help us to bring forward Your free will offering of purity in this fencing in, that You may clothe us in Your fresh white linen that declares us overcomers in Your Name. Thank You for perfecting Your power in our every weakness.
We love You. We thank You and we honor You for who You are. Praise You! In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.
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 it, 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. May we come to know His love for us more and more, loving and obeying Him in return. May we 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 Mineto take ahold of Jesus’ hand and our own. Come, let’s together discover and rediscover the power of:
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,
May you arise and shine in the light of Christ, for Beloved, you are theLord’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 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.
In honor of Mother’s Day and God’s gift of life, Anna asked her friend, Debbie, to (re)share her story of adoption, the earthly loss of her precious son and of finding life in death. This interview, for Wendy Simpson’s and Anna Smit’s joint blogging series Breaking Light, took place five years ago, but has been updated by Debbie recently. It ends with a prayer, written by the steward of this blog, Anna Smit.
In these five years, Debbie and her husband, Bruce, have since moved from suburban Maryland to West Virginia. They see their three remaining children and ten grandchildren as often as they can. A sequel to her first book, But the Greatest of These Is Love, has begun in serial form with installments added each week. Follow her at her blog at Consider It All Joy for updates.
1. Of all the characters in the Bible, who do you most relate to and why?
I think Moses’ protest sounds familiar. “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13) I’ve said that too.
But lately I feel like Paul. Before his ministry, he thought he knew God. As a Pharisee, Paul arrogantly thought he was doing the work of God, getting rid of those pesky Christians. Then, in a sudden revelation, he KNEW Jesus. My journey into deeper faith felt that sudden. That could only have been achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t go looking for it. My “Damascus Road” experience changed forever my intimacy with God. It was like the scales fell off my eyes.
And for all the efforts Paul made for the Kingdom, writing letters to encourage the new Church, trying to make God known to others, his confessions sound a lot like mine.
“[…] I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out, I don’t do the good I want, but the evil I hate is what I keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19
Paul mourns of a “thorn” in his flesh that he cannot be free of. God’s response? His Grace is sufficient. There will always be thorns, and God keeps reminding Paul, and me, how very much we need a Savior.
2. What is one of your favorite Scriptures and why does it mean so much to you?
Matthew 16:24-25 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their lifewill lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.'” NIV (bold and italics, mine.)
This is language we do not like to use.
Sixteen years ago, I half-heartedly participated in a small group study, Experiencing God. One morning while doing my homework, that verse jumped off the page at me. And it terrified me, because I instinctively knew God was going to demand something hard of me, something akin to “death” of my altar of Self.
God loves us too much to leave us where we are. The world tells us to celebrate ourselves, and to love who we are, that we deserve the best. Jesus’ words, however, demand radical change. God doesn’t want to compete with anything; He wants ALL of us, especially the parts we cling to. For me, it was (and often still is) my god of Comfort. My easy life was put on the scales with my relationship with God.
This theme of surrender is Jesus most repeated theme in the Gospels. To name a few more with this mandate of dying to Self: Matthew 10:39, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Luke 17:33, John 12:24. There are others. It must be very important.
One of my favorite writers is C.S. Lewis. I love how he shares his journey from intellectual disbelief to finally knowing the Truth of Christ. In Mere Christianity, Lewis has captured this concept of surrender, this “dying to Self” beautifully, from Jesus’ point of view.
3. What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys? 4. In what ways have you experienced God’s nearness in these valleys? I’ve combined these two questions, because of continuity of my telling the story.
My journey to deeper faith began in 2000, with a sudden, surprising invitation, a whisper from God which shattered my comfortable life. As I write this, I recognize this was a “death” so I could be born again. How could I say no to God and stay connected to Him? That lonely valley of trying to say no to God lasted a year and a half.
During that valley God revealed Himself to me in shocking and unmistakable ways. He came with that theme of dying to self I had recently read in Matthew. When presented with God’s plan, I was not so sure I wanted to be a disciple at all! God came making an seemingly impossible demand of me and I wanted Him to chose someone else. I endured a hard season of offering God suggestions of what I was willing to sacrifice in place of what He was asking me. But God would have none of my puny offers. He wanted all of me. He wanted my complete surrender. His command was that I must deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. But where He wanted to lead, I did not want to follow.
What invitation did God whisper to my unreceptive heart? Adoption.
It was a horrifying idea to me, as a happy wife and proud mother of three with a comfortable life. My life was perfect, too perfect to disrupt.
As the shocking theme of “adoption” morphed into an even more terrifying theme of “adoption of an older Russian boy,” I wrestled with God over His unlikely and unwelcomed proposal. This valley became a season of preparation, when God revealed Himself to me in ways that strengthened my faith, and set me on a path toward Him, one tiny, hesitant step at a time.
In 2002, armed with a mustard-seed of faith, God led us to Russia to bring home beautiful, lively, seven-year-old Roma. It soon became apparent that this little boy, this gift I tried to reject, was an extravagant reward for my meager obedience. We congratulated ourselves for saving this precious little boy. We couldn’t know how God would transform our faith using Roma.
In the next season of my life, my joy was complete. My family and friends had embraced little Roma from the beginning and watched him grow into a confident, charming young man. My faith was deep. And all was well in my world.
In 2013, I sensed God dramatically moving in my life again. This time God’s movement came with a premonition of suffering. Dread and a hyper awareness of God was my paradoxical response. I knew whatever was in my future, I must cling to God. I thanked Him that this time I trusted Him without reservation.
In 2014, my sweet, lovable Roma headed down a dark road of alcohol and marijuana abuse. But even in that valley, God was always close, and I experienced God’s grace in hair raising ways. And right before the challenges went into high gear, I was told in a dream to “write it all down.” (Read theHound of Heaven Winks to begin that miraculous series of posts.)
Every challenge we faced, I thanked God for the premonitions He had given me, because I was not caught off guard by surprise. Each time I was thankful, because the consequences of Roma’s rebellion weren’t too terrible. I kept telling myself, “This could be so much worse.” I thanked God for protecting Roma and revealing Himself to many of us, including Roma, who were watching the God Stories unfold.
But the foreboding continued. Roma wandered away from our family again in the middle months of 2015. I was powerless to change him. I had to turn him over to God. My friends worried that I wasn’t worried. But if I truly believed what I claimed to believe, I wasn’t supposed to worry. I had put Roma in the loving and capable Hands of our Father God. “God loves Roma more than I do,” I would remind myself and others. But oh how I loved that boy! My peace was real, and those who doubted began to trust too.
Then, finally, in October of 2015, the Prodigal Son returned. He was repentant, he sought God and mercy. We spent time talking honestly about God. Roma had a hunger for Him that was brand new. He was a joy to be around again.
After seven joy filled weeks with our transformed son, on December 7, Roma died from a work accident, a fall from a ladder while working on a roof. When the heartbreaking news came, I was hardly surprised. God had so lovingly and thoroughly warned me to be prepared. If God had warned me, He had known ahead of time. I had to believe Roma’s death was part of God’s Divine timing.
5. In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valleys?
In that protective fog of the first days, I was showered with Divine Love. And miracles. The veil has been thin between Heaven and earth at times. As devastated as I was, and still am, I trust God. Heartsick friends and neighbors witnessed the peace we had. And the miracles. In the middle of our collective pain, we were in awe of God’s great love.
Although I think social media is Satan’s tool, God can use it for good. On my sites, I tried to continue pointing people to God in our circumstances, because He was so real to me in that dark valley. Soon friends were listening intently or reading with eagerness, the stories I share of God’s Nearness in the midst of our pain.
When our concerned friends rallied around us after Roma died, they saw that God had given us strength and sincere faith. I had faced the hard question, “Did I believe that God is really who He said He is? And did I believe Heaven was a real place?” If so, I would miss Roma earthly presence, but not despair over his absence. I would also have to celebrate that Roma was indeed free and with God in Heaven. I learned those first few days that God can be trusted. And, at least some were comforted, as I could confidently point to God with gratitude.
6. How have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys? Oh yes! Our loss was everyone’s loss. God sent Roma to not only my family but to the whole community, and beyond. God knew this honor of raising Roma was way too big for the Michael family alone. We would need helpers. LOTS of helpers! To aid in the recruitment of many helpers, God had armed young Roma with a BIG hearted personality, a sweet deposition, disarming smile, and fabled charisma. And oh, those sparkly green eyes.
Yes, the helpers came over the years. Neighbors, teachers, coaches, teammates, friends, mothers and fathers of friends. All assisted us in the joyful task of raising Roma. They loved this boy sent from God. Now they hearts were broken too. Roma had touched more lives in his brief twenty-one years than most people encounter in a lifetime!
Since Roma took up residence in Heaven, I have experienced true miracles. And I tell everyone who will listen or read. At first, I feared people would think I was crazy. But to not shine the Light that God had given me through Roma and his stories, would be failing to give Glory to God. God is not silent or still.
I have wondered lately, is God becoming bolder in His actions, or am I suddenly hyper aware of Him? Whatever the case, I am thankful that something so redeeming has transpired after the excruciating loss of Roma. People are hungry for God Stories. I have had a huge jump in my readership. Even people who never knew my dear boy tell me they feel like they know him and have cried for our loss. And I guess that was the purpose of the book. Now he is a friend to all, and they are eager to read about him. God has not wasted my pain. He has redeemed it all.
7 and 8. What obstacles have stood in the way of the ministry God has called you to through the hard? And how have you responded to these obstacles?
Lies of the enemy. At the beginning I was reluctant to continue to write my blog. “Who cares about Roma and your little stories now?” was a concern I had. But I had more stories to tell, I still do. God has been giving me many stories to tell, and I will keep writing them down. More than a few readers have said that there will be a second book. We’ll see. As long as God keeps giving me nudges and stories to tell, I will continue to write them down.
I remind myself that God is still good. He sees the BIG picture. I do not. In the past six months since I said a temporary, earthly goodbye to Roma, I have never felt God closer.
9. What one piece of advice or kernel of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers from your journey through your hard thus far?
Seek and you will find is another often repeated instruction in Scripture. I like to meditate on Jeremiah 29:12-14.
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listento you.You will seekme and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”
God is trying to transform us into marvelous creatures like His son. He cannot accomplish this until we surrender ourselves to Him. We will not know Him better until we diligently seek after Him. Pray with expectation that He will be found.
Father, oh how we thank You for the gift of life. Oh how we thank You that You are a God of compassion, mercy and justice. Thank You for Roma and my own little adopted brother, for all the children the world over who You see in their great need and who You love to set in families and shower in love and affection.
Thank You for Roma’s and his birth and adoptive families’ story that is continuing to be written in You. LORD I ask You to unleash the words You long to be shared through Debbie and to draw those the world over whose hearts and souls You cannot wait to awaken to Your love, truth, compassion and mercy through her.Surprise and awe us with what you have in store for Debbie and those You are weaving and have woven into her life. Continue to sustain and encourage her as she seeks to honor and obey You.
Thank You for remaining so faithful to all birth families, to all adoptive families and to all adopted children . Thank You for bringing more and more healing to Your whole Body through the gift of adoption that teaches us so much about Your faithful love andmercy toward us all.
Father, today I pray for the many birth parents and birth brothers and sisters the world over whose hearts are aching today. I ask You to send them proof of Your unending love for them and the children and brothers/sisters they have surrendered. Unveil Your redemption and Your restoration in ways that surprise and awe them.
Father, I also ask You to strengthen, comfort and pour out Your compassion upon adopted children and their families the world over. When trauma triggers shake these adopted children, fill their new families with Your moment-by-moment discernment to love these precious children of Yours as You love them.
Surround these adopted children and their families with men and women who uplift them and bless them in Your Word and who step in with practical help. Give adoptive parents the courage to forsake the opinion of those around them, where You are calling them to a different path. And where hurt has been caused in a lack of understanding, Father move in Your kindness to restore, heal and redeem. Take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it into good – more and more life in death.
LORD, I ask You to comfort all parents who have had to say goodbye to their child. Who have had to surrender them fully into Your eternal hands. Bring them a special Word of comfort and encouragement today. Surround them with Your Body and Your miracles that remind them that You are with them and have not forsaken them. Surprise them. Awe them. Shower them in blessings.
And lastly, I ask You to make Yourself known in and through every story of adoption, loss and trauma. Reveal Your life in every death and surrender we, Your children, walk through. We love You. We praise You. We honor You. In Your precious Name, Amen.