Defender True

God is asking me to publish this early. So, a week earlier than planned, here is Defender True: may God’s will be done through these words He has asked me to share.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:5

 

Do you hear those voices too?

The ones that tell you

You’re not enough

You’ll never change

All you do is make things worse?

 

Do you hear the voice that follows then

The one that tells you

Defend yourself

Hold on tight

To who you

Wish you were

Lest he rips it from your weary

Tight-clenched hands?

Or the one that pushes you

To lie there in that bed

A bed that covers you in blankets

Grief, despair and loathing cruel

Chaining you to who

You believe you truly are

Lost

Forevermore?

Now, stop

And still

Feel an angel’s hand

Upon your shoulder

Warm bread

And cool water

Set lovingly before you

Hear his call

To rise, to eat, to drink.

 

Follow him out that cave

Feel the ground shake fierce

See the fire blaze hot

Let glorious truth

Shake off the dust

Burn all the dross

To reveal

The gold in you.

Now be still

And listen for

The whisper

For glorious Truth

Kissing

The kind, sweet

Gentle Voice of

Grace.

 

Feel those

Rushing waters pure

Waterfalls of grace

Pouring from your Savior’s mouth

Washing away

All that’s died

Upon the Cross

To now reveal

The lavish gift

Of Christ

In you.

 

Hear His gentle

Tender Voice

Unveiling

The many gifts

Hidden in

His heart

In you.

 

Beloved

Chosen

Holy

Pure

Purposed

True

You are His

Masterpiece.

Created anew

In Christ Jesus

You shall perform

The good works

HE

Has long

Prepared for

You.

 

No accusing tongue

Has power here

For God Himself

Has cast these columns

This Temple

Not of human hands

But with His own

Establishing

And strengthening.

 

For, it’s no longer you

Who lives

But the great

I AM:

Our One and Only

Slayer of all sin

Stiller of all accusations

Defender True.

 

NO sin is too bad, too shameful, too ugly for Christ to forgive. Never let the enemy convince you otherwise. Christ isn’t ashamed of you in your sin. No! His heart breaks for you. His heart longs for you to know the depths of His compassion and mercy. 

Sin is a disease every single human suffers from: yes, even Christians. But that’s why Christ came. Not for the (pretending to be) healthy, but the sick. To heal us from our affliction, piece by piece on earth, until in heaven we are fully healed and whole.

When I came home to Jesus, my dear friend Emily sent me this song:

God connected us on the internet, five years earlier, when I was a Prodigal. Em didn’t know my story, but she unknowingly poured out the love and kindness of Jesus over me from afar, through her open witness to her weakness and Christ’s power to save and heal her heart. Later, she would love and pray me through a time I wanted to take my own life, as the accusations of the enemy, that had me flee Jesus as a child, came back with vengeance. Jesus turned these attacks into a blessing; for through them He was able to uproot the lies and teach me how to resist the enemy’s accusations.

My friend Emily constantly reminded me through her own boasting in her weakness that without Christ (love Himself), no one is enough, no one is going to change and everyone will only make things worse. But, that WITH Christ, our advocate and our atoning sacrifice, who hasn’t left us, we are always more than enough.

Not only do we stand justified by the blood He shed on the Cross, we are also being transformed from glory to glory, moment by moment, to look more and more like Jesus. Through Christ, we in fact only make things more and more beautiful, through the blood of the Lamb and His testimony at work in us.

Our loving Heavenly Father is not ashamed of us or angry at us. He is furious at our enemy holding us captive. Unlike man, He knows exactly what we have been through and are still going through (Hebrews 2: 18, Isaiah 53:4). He also knows just how much our hearts yearn to do His will. And unlike man, He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Instead, He will move to defend us.

He will shake off the old, burn away the dross and cover us in the waterfalls of His love, truth and grace (Psalm 42). He will lead us onward into greater and greater freedom from sin and shame. Let us be encouraged in the truth that “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their face shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34: 5 ESV).

For, Christ has already paid the price for the wages of our sin, cleansing us by His blood from our sin. Washing us in the refreshing truth of His Word, He reminds us that we are not defined by any of the impurity He shakes off us and burns away. For, we are already clean by the Word He has spoken to us (John 15:3). When the Father looks at us, He sees Jesus. No, nothing can separate us from His love for us (Romans 8:35-39).

Every single day, every single moment, we can walk afresh into the new awaiting us because of His blood shed at the Cross for us.

Will you join me in prayer?

Thank You, LORD, that in our imperfection, You offer us Your own perfection. Thank You for Your never-ending loving kindness to us in our weakness and need. LORD, when we get discouraged by the truth of our sinfulness and our frailty, help us to remember the truth of the Cross. Help us to cast our burdens at Your feet. Help us to pour out our heart, allowing You to uncover any wickedness in us, to purify and cleanse us of our sin and to restore us unto Yourself.

When we are afraid and chained to shame, send out Your kindness and perfect love to cast out all fear of punishment in us. Help us to draw near to You with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our heart sprinkled to cleanse us of a guilty conscience and having our body washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).

Help us to remember that: ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ (Proverbs 4:18). Help us to remain ‘confident of this, that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1: 6 NIV).

Forgive us for those moments we have turned away from You to hide our sins or have tried to defend ourself, allowing the enemy to make us believe it is our perfection that will save us, rather than Yours. LORD, we turn to You now, confessing our sins to receive your waterfall of grace, believing and trusting that Your grace is sufficient for us, that Your power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Thank You, LORD, that You are our Defender True and will always shepherd us in love, kindness, truth and grace. Father, I ask You to surround each reader of this post with brothers and sisters in Christ who openly boast in their weakness, confess their sins freely and give glory to Your saving power. And I ask You to pour back into Emily’s lap a pressed together and overflowing abundance of love and kindness – the same love and kindness You poured out upon me through her. Amen.

Be blessed in the knowledge today that His mercy is more. More than all our sins: past, present and future. More than enough to cover us in our nakedness of want and need. More than enough to hold us tight through any suffering that comes our way.

Perspective in Brush Strokes

Today’s post first appeared on my dear friend, Wendy Simpson’s blog, Widow’s Manna , about five years ago. Wendy is not only a creative writer, but an artist, producing beautiful sketches, paintings, intricately woven blankets and prayer shawls, plush toys, digital art and cards. You can find her artwork on her WordPress Wendy’s Vignettes and her Facebook Wendy’s Vignettes

 

Been thinking about perspective…..

 

Take a little time to look up an impressionist’s painting. I love Monet. With that fresh in your mind, think about perspective.  When you walk up close to this painting, you will observe thousands of small brush strokes in an array of colors. Close up there is some beauty but in many ways it looks like a lot of chaos truly makes no sense.  It is pretty hard to get an idea of what the artist it trying to express.  Now take several steps back from this painting.  Something amazing happens. Thousands of tiny brush strokes make way for shapes and structure. The colors blend together to create new colors and something you could not see before, takes shape.  The chaos become beautiful and the artist intended expression makes more sense. 

 

It is like that in life. When we are face to face with trials of life, there is not much room for perspective. We see the chaos of each brush stroke and a mess of color that seem strangely placed. There is no picture and beautiful is the last way we would describe our life.  But God sends people into our lives, who have been standing back observing this “painting” process in our life.  Their perspective is something we couldn’t see, being in the middle  of it all.  They see colors blending together and pictures that have taken shape.  They see that the artist intentions were beauty not chaos.  They see reasons for color choices, that we would never have chosen. So, all this to say, we are thankful for those who have spoken perspective into our lives. And those who have pointed out the order in our chaos.  

 

Both perspectives are necessary to walk through a process like this.  You can stand back and see the picture being painted before you and have, in turn shared what you observe, color blending and something taking shape.  I can share the details I don’t see colors blended, I see instead, what was used to make that color. I see the tears and agony and joys and victories it took to paint one of the thousand brush strokes.  To me every stroke has a meaning. You see it as part of the big picture’s beauty.  But when I cannot understand why a stroke was placed, I need only to remember there is a big picture and the artist, he knows why.  Every stroke is part of the masterpiece.

 

I am thankful for those of you who share perspective. We are just living it, and in living it, we do not see outside the everyday survival at times.  Thank you for your encouragement and love and grace as we walk this journey one day one “brush stroke” at a time.

 

Five months before Chris passed, on the heels of life altering surgery, I was desperate and looking for hope and perspective.  (Above is an excerpt of that.) I’d put aside passions and parts of me that I felt would hinder complete and utter devotion to caring for Chris.  I stored away and stuffed the ache and the sadness, for as long as I could.  Allowing myself moments, trying (not too successfully) to make them brief.  Aw… control… it served me well, ha, or so I thought.  Amidst the journey’s steps I have (on so many occasions) broke down, and completely lost my resolve, to be strong (on my own strength).  Having very little grace in my grief, I’ve fallen into chaotic and messy emotional places, and always get so upset with myself. After a fairly long battle, and after tears have subsided, then …. I’d finally seek God’s face and the wise counsel that came from those candles God had placed along the dark cave walls of this journey.  All I had to do is reach out… and there it was… His divine provision.

 

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  -Colossians 1:13, 17 (ESV)

 

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 (ESV)

 

 Now, my perspective has been narrowed some and I am looking, specifically, at the dark brushstrokes.  Deconstructing them, if you will, for perspective and to find His goodness.  These brushstrokes, left unattended, could make my whole canvas… go dark.  These brushstrokes I speak of, have screamed out for my attention for awhile now, and up to now… I have ignored them and refused to give them audience. In a sea, of over twenty years of living and life with my husband, I now choose not to continue to suppress the pain of His passing and the disappointments, so that I can just mourn….

….My death …the death of a caregiver

 

….Watching death…. stolen years.

 

….Lost and changing relationships.

 

….Not fitting in.

 

….The missing arms and lost affection.

In the coming days and weeks I resolve to explore these dark strokes on my canvas and begin the process of acknowledging their pain to finding their worth.  I believe that God can take all that is, the fallen part of man… and create in us… something good.  The goodness being… Christ in us the hope of glory.

Seeing and Perceiving

Come join us today for a poem, Bible story and prayer by my dear friend, Joy Lenton. Further below, you can find out more about Joy and the beautiful book this piece is excerpted from. My best friend and I will be working through this book during Lent. Maybe you would like to join us?

Seeing and perceiving

blind from birth
Bartimaeus still saw more
than the sighted ones
he was able to perceive
Jesus’ full identity

no hesitation
as he dropped his robe and ran
blindly through the crowd
following the voice of Christ
with his faith-filled heart alive

his seeing soul
rewarded with so much more
than he might know
as a full healing takes place
with vision restored again

the crowd are amazed
to witness the miracle
but will they notice
who this teacher really is
and all he is here to do?

more than that
do we see Jesus clearly
or is he blurred
mixed in our finite minds
in those spots which are blind?
© joylenton

Reading

Mark 10:46-52 ESV

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”  And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Reflection

I wonder how many of us would be bold enough to call out to Jesus like this. Perhaps we would hold back because of a lingering belief that we were unworthy to bother God with our needs, although Jesus has made us worthy by his grace. Or maybe we would shrug our shoulders and say, “You know what? I haven’t been healed yet and probably never will. This isn’t my day for a miracle.”

It is God’s will to make us healed and whole. The timing is up to him and our participation is required. If our vision of Jesus is flawed, or if we do not see ourselves as made worthy by God’s love, then we are likely to hang back and absent ourselves. May we believe that we, too, are promised recipients of God’s goodness and grace.

Prayer

Holy Spirit,

The story of Blind Bartimaeus suggests how our own spiritual sight becomes enlivened by your work in us, so that we are able to see Jesus for who he really is. Would you help us to take off any blinkers we might be wearing, and remove lenses dulled by false assumptions, as you also open our eyes to the wonder of knowing Christ for ourselves?

May we marvel at the miracle of seeing Jesus as he truly is: our faithful Friend, anointed Saviour-King and living Lord. And as you know him to be—an integral part of the triune Godhead. May we experience the joy of being invited into a relationship with the Father because of his sacrificial life on earth, and glorious resurrection after suffering death on the cross.

Amen



This post is excerpted from Joy Lenton’s newly released book, Experiencing Lent: Sensing the Sacred in Our Midst. She is a contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger who has M.E and multiple chronic illness. Joy is also the author of Soul Shots, Embracing Hope, and Seeking Solace. She writes with a heart to encourage others, and to help reveal the life changing hope we have in Jesus. You can find Joy sharing her words of encouragement, hope and faith on her Words of Joy and Poetry Joy blogs.

Love Abides

 

 

Have you ever experienced the sting of rejection? If you are human, then most likely you will have. Perhaps like me, you too have received man’s rejection as God’s rejection. As a little girl, I internalized lies about myself in the sting of human rejection. These were lies that deeply wounded the core of my being. I stopped looking at Jesus. Instead I bowed to my idols and walked in the sin of pride and unbelief, giving birth to the accuser’s fruit of pain and shame.

I defined myself as a failure and as one unworthy of God’s love. I believed myself to be rejected by the very One who died to give me life. And then, as my pain and shame just grew and grew, rather than speak up and cry out to God, I kept silent. I found refuge in hidden sin, numbing the ever-growing pain and shame whose presence I fervently denied. I tried to keep up the appearance of righteousness, parading my self-righteousness, until I finally couldn’t take my double life anymore. I fled the hypocrisy I so loathed. I became a Prodigal, no longer just in my heart, but also in my public actions. I ran because I believed myself too far gone for the grace of God.

Since God brought me home to Him, He has taken me back into similar situations of rejection all over again, not to harm me, but to bless me. Each time, He has gently showed me that I have a choice to arise in Him to new life, freed of the lies in my open confession and repentance, or to slink back and hide in the dark. Sometimes I have trusted Him, at other times, I have not: choosing to tell lies and deny the truth of the living Word to be approved of and remain acceptable to those around me. But through it all He has continued to lovingly and patiently lead me forward, as I have fallen and gotten back up again, in His strength.

Part of God’s training in righteousness, has involved following His uncomfortable prompting to open my mouth. He has compelled me to speak openly of the wounding being inflicted and the truth and grace being denied me and others, rather than staying in the dark to be the “good girl”. In my doing so, He has also invited me to allow Him to unravel my heart and search and know me, seeing if there be any wickedness in me: not to condemn me, but to free me from its hold. 

His gentle, yet firm training has also required me to depart from religious communities and friendships that defined me according to my past or according to the sins and weakness I was openly confessing before them. For, God has wanted me to deep down know that He has created me to flourish in godly community, where I and others are seen and loved in the light of His love, compassion and grace for us.

CHRIST is doing in me what I could never do in and of myself. He is shifting my focus from man’s approval to His approval. He’s uprooting more and more things I have chosen to put my trust in, to reroot my trust in His love and grace for me and His love and grace for others. The very love that abides in me – Jesus Himself- is teaching me to abide in love myself. 

Jesus has lovingly shown me how my fleshly focus is so much on the here and now. For example, if He tells me to do something and it doesn’t produce the result I expect or in my timing, my flesh causes me to think: “See, Anna, God doesn’t love you.” But it’s in that sting of rejection in response to the accuser’s lies, Jesus is teaching me to step back, get real silent before Him and listen for HIS Word to me.

Oh yes, I still struggle with the accusations of the enemy. I hear his lies that tell me God could never love or work through someone like me, who keeps messing up and falling back into fleshly thinking. This always happens just after I have openly confessed my sins and have turned toward the light of Jesus. The enemy then hisses at me to hide myself and retreat in the shame of who I am, but it’s then God reminds me to arise and shine in the light and truth of who HE is inside of me. 

Patiently, with me falling and getting back up again, my loving heavenly Father is teaching me to declare myself covered by the blood of Jesus, to resist the accusations of the enemy, so that he will flee from me. My Abba Father keeps reminding me that the open confession of my sin and weakness is in fact proof that I am His child, His child who hides herself in nothing but His beautiful righteousness.

It is then I place my trust in my Savior, the man of sorrows, who walked toward us, His children – the joy set before Him – to shed His very own blood for me and for you. And though I may look foolish to this world, and to my ego, in God’s strength and prompting, I am learning to take up my Cross, lay down my fleshly life and ego, to arise in Jesus: my Alpha and Omega, the One who was and is and is to come.

Christ longs for me and for you too, to walk forward into His irrevocable purposes. Purposes that compel us to arise from the tomb of our sin into Christ’s resurrection life. Purposes that call us to share what the Good News truly means with those who, just like us, are facing the cruel accusations of the enemy. For it is not that we are strong and mighty, it is that the Word in us is unwrapping strength and might in us:

 

I pray that as you read (listen to) this poem God inspired me to write after I sat with the story of Lazarus, that you too will feel the light of Jesus rising upon your face and see His resurrection life being unwrapped, moment by moment, in and through you.

 

UNWRAP HER HERE

 

Death you know

All you ever thought you were

All you ever dreamed

All you ever loved.

 

But, My child 

This death 

Is death 

To flesh alone.

 

In slumber 

Has he but laid you there.

You, my Lazarus 

Wrapped in sacred linen there.

 

Yes all 

That he has purposed 

To steal, kill, destroy

I have purposed

For Life.

 

Here is where I call

Arise and come

Unwrap her here and 

Let her loose.

 

For I have spoken 

So they 

Might know my Father 

Sent me here.

 

Anyone who walks 

In daylight 

Does not stumble 

Plenty of light from the sun

No glory here to see. 

 

 But you, My child

You walk the night, 

And here’s where eyes will open

Not just your own, 

But many more.

 

 The people who walked in darkness 

Have seen a great light; 

Those who dwelt in a dark land, 

The light has shone upon them.

 

 Death you know

All you ever thought you were

All you ever dreamed

All you ever loved.

 

 But Life has now entered My death 

Gone here the old 

The new has come

Ugly to beautiful 

Broken to whole 

Poor unto rich:

 

Unwrap her here and 

Let her loose

Hallelujah 

Christ has risen

 

He has risen indeed!

 

 

John 11:14-15 ESV

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

John 11:44 ESV

And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

When the Body of our LORD was laid upon that Cross, He didn’t stay there. Wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb, just like Lazarus, Christ’s Body would be raised unto glory three days later. Death could not hold the Body of Christ. And today also, death cannot hold us – the Body of Christ – either.

Oh yes, we may be led into what seems like a tomb and it really is a tomb too. But in that tomb Jesus will open our eyes to see the newness arising, to see His lordship over us and others, to see HIM at the head of HIS chosen, beloved and resurrected Body. 

Can you now see, with me, what Jesus means with 2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV: “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.” It’s in fact when the accuser comes calling that Jesus is inviting us to die to ourselves and to live unto Him. He longs to reveal the power of His abiding love – His living Word in us. 

It’s then we discover that our worth is not in the applause of man, but in the worthiness we find at the foot of the Cross, in the surrender of our all for Christ’s all:

 

John 8:12 ESV 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Will you join me as I come before our Father in prayer, today?

Thank You, Abba Father, that the love and life of Your Son abides in us. Thank You that even though we did not choose You, You chose and appointed us to go and bear fruit that abides (John 15:6). Thank You that even now, Your Spirit is touching our spirit to affirm who we truly are: Your beloved children.

Thank You that it pleases You, through the folly of what we preach, to save those who believe. Thank You that You have made foolish the wisdom of the world to glorify Your Son in us and through us (1 Corinthians 1: 20-21).

For, You have chosen to shed Your love abroad in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), a love that abides and remains in us, even in our own unfaithfulness (2 Timothy 2:13). Thank You that because You have given us Your Son – the Word made flesh – and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we shall come to know You, our Abba Father, more and more. Thank You that we shall see the reward of Your Son’s suffering on the Cross.

We shall watch in awe as You turn our hearts to love, where we first hated. To extend mercy, where we first held tight to pain, unforgiveness, bitterness and shame. We shall watch in awe as Your compassion flows from our hearts and hands and feet, because we have come to know Your compassion for us, at the foot of the Cross.

Thank You that we are Your chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Your special possession, that we may declare the praises of You who called us out of darkness into Your wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Thank You that we are always being given over to death for Your sake, so that Your life also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11). 

Forgive me, Father, for every moment I have denied the abiding love of Your Son in me. Forgive me for agreeing with the accusations of the enemy and birthing the fruit of unrighteousness. Forgive me for clinging to the tomb of my sin and not seeing and taking a hold of Your outstretched hand of kindness and grace. 

Forgive me for counting my weakness and missing of the mark as proof of my eternal damnation and as a reason for others to see me as less-than, rather than as an invitation to grow in Your truth and grace. Forgive me for not stilling to hear and obey Your Word in me and to me. Forgive me for bowing to my pride and to my accuser. Forgive me for not believing in, declaring and living out the truth of Your abiding love in me.

When the enemy tries to silence us and speak of the stench of our grave clothes, help us, oh Father, to arise in the truth of Your mercy and grace, not only for us, but also for those the enemy is accusing us through. Help us not to turn away in shame, or to turn toward others in anger, as the accusations come, but embolden us to let You unwrap our grave clothes, right there, as we confess our sins and our weakness, before You and before others, openly and freely. Unwrap Your Son in us, Shalom Adonai! Our rock, our shield and the lifter of our head.

Thank You that we, the people who walk in darkness have indeed seen a great light; thank You that we who live in a dark land, have seen Your light shine upon us (Matthew 4:16). When You lead us to the Cross, help us to bow our knees in prayer and to clasp Your hand – the hand of Your healed and whole Body. Help us to arise and put on our new clothes of love, faith and hope. Thank You that You say blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Therefore, we shall suffer according to Your will and entrust our souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:19). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Love Bears All Things

 

When my wounds ache and I tell God I can’t bear it, Christ’s love bears all things for me.

1 John 3:1 (ESV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Have you ever stood looking up at a tall tree and seen a circle etched into the trunk or a kind of circular bump, where a branch was once cut off. That is a tree wound.

A photo I took in our local forest

Yes, even trees carry wounds. Next time you are near one, place your hands on the callus: the wound that has healed, but can still be seen and felt.

WHAT DOES A WOUND LOOK LIKE?

As children and as adults, we go through much wounding, just like these trees do. When we have already walked through traumatic (shocking or abusive) experiences in the past, this new wounding can be extra painful.

Have you ever been told you can’t do something because someone only sees your weakness and your struggles and not your abilities or calling in Christ? Have you ever been rejected, called names, treated meanly?

Have you ever not been chosen for a sports team or for a part you wanted to play or a task you wanted to do? Have you ever had the one you love and trust most, not show up for you, or not be fully there for you, when you have needed them the most?
That is a kind of pruning – a deep wounding – too.

GROWING IN GOD’S LOVE WHEN WE ARE HURTING

But how can we grow in God’s strength and love when we are hurting? That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus carried our sin and the wounding of our hearts (our invisible disease) to the Cross, so that we would never have to carry that heavy weight ourselves.

So, every time something hurts us, Jesus is right there beside us. He wants us to come right to Him instead of holding in our pain and anger. He wants us to stop trying so hard not to think, do or say mean things. He wants us to be honest and tell Him everything, even things we feel bad about.

He is not ashamed of us. He hurts with us and invites us to call on Him. Jesus knows we can’t be good by trying harder ourselves, but only by coming to Him. When we do, He comforts us and helps us to love and forgive those who hurt us. And He helps us to confess our sins. Then His pure goodness pours out of us, without us even trying.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLE

But can I tell you a secret? I sometimes forget that God wants to help me too. I start trying to be good all by myself. Then, I wonder why I am feeling so grumpy.

But do you know what God has started doing when I forget? He reminds me of a song I used to sing in Sunday school:
https://youtu.be/Hx3n53d3aH8

When I start singing that song, I remember that God is right there with me. I tell Him all about my pain, the things I am worried about. I begin to confess my sins one by one, asking Him to lift their weight from me. I stop trying so hard and let Him wash me clean and be good and strong for me.

Have a listen to that song today too and let Jesus remind you that He wants to be good and strong for you too.

JESUS IS OUR GOOD GARDENER

Strangely, wounding a tree, by cutting its branches, helps to keep it healthy and strong. A good Gardener will cut away weaker and dying branches, so they don’t snap in a storm and fall on our heads. But He also prunes (cuts away) healthy branches, so the tree becomes stronger, not having to carry so much weight.

Did you know that Jesus also talks of pruning in the Bible? He tells us that He is our good Gardener. So, like the good Gardener, He also cuts away weak, dying, and even healthy branches to make our hearts stronger in Him.

Sometimes this cutting away can feel like a punishment, but actually it is a sign that Jesus cares deeply for us. It may look like He is only cutting good things out of our life. But can you now see how He is actually making room for even more good things to grow in our hearts and our lives.

He is making room for Jesus to grow and flourish in us: the God who is love. A love that is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not arrogant or rude; does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. A love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

JESUS IS ALWAYS SPEAKING, EVEN IN THE SILENCE

But what if we have called out to God, but He seems real silent? When my wounds hurt real bad as a little girl, I remember thinking: “God mustn’t love me, like He does others. He hasn’t answered my deepest cries, nor seen my many tears.” Maybe you know that feeling of abandonment – of feeling all alone in your pain- also.
As a little girl, I thought God was ignoring me, in my crying out. I thought God stayed silent to my many pleas. But now I know, He never ever stopped loving me or speaking to or singing over me: even the twenty plus years I turned my back on Him, as I hardened my heart in sin.

You see, He was speaking to me through the songs I sung, through the stories my Mum read me aloud at night, through the stars in the sky, the sunshine on my face, the butterfly that planted itself on my head, the leaves changing color in the fall, even through the meaning of my name and the meaning of my friends’ names each place we moved to.

And when all I could see was nothing changing in my circumstances in response to my many tear-filled prayers, He was working still. In my heart and in my loved ones’ hearts, until He then began to unveil His beautiful and much bigger answer to us all, twenty years later. An answer filled with a full measure of love, compassion and mercy that only God could give us.

JESUS INVITES US TO COME, JUST AS WE ARE

Will you join me this week in taking time to cry out to God, to tell Him all about your pain, your sins and all that scares or worries you? And will you join me in also taking the time to listen for His answer?

Get out your paintbrush, or pencils. Grab your soccer ball or your journal. Or put on your favorite song. Go for a walk. Or sit in your garden or look out the window at the sky. Or sit with a friend to chat about life. And listen. What could Jesus be wanting you to see, to know, to feel, to share, to do?

Record His answer to you. You can do that in any way you want. Journal it. Paint it. Draw it. Tell your favorite person about it. Dance it. Sing it. Oh how He loves to see you praise Him!

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

Can I pray for us all today?

Father, when we are hurting from all the cutting away, will You please remind us that You are for us and not against us? Will You remind us that You – love Himself – are here to hold us and heal us. Help us to come to You with our pain. Thank You that when we call on You, You always answer us. For, You are the God who is with us and never forsakes us.

Thank You that You are the Lord who comforts Zion and all who belong to her, through Christ Jesus. Thank You that You are He, who comforts all our waste places and our wilderness like Eden, our desert like the garden of the Lord; thank You that joy and gladness will yet be found in each one of us, thanksgiving and the sound of singing (Isaiah 51:3, Galatians 3:29).

Oh Father, thank You that You are not ashamed of us in our weakness or in our sin. We are so tired of all the ways we have tried so hard to be good for You. Will You help us to come to You just as we are?

We invite You to uncover the wounds we have hidden from You and to comfort us in our pain. We invite You to convict us of our sins and wash them away. We invite You to help us love and forgive others freely and without expecting anything in return. Show us the goodness You are growing in us through every wound.

When we forget You are with us and for us, will You bring songs to our mind and heart that remind us of the truth?

Thank You precious Jesus for who You are: always true, always good and always faithful to us. In Your Name we pray this now, Amen.

POSTSCRIPT: apologies for the delay in posting the final recording of this post. I was convicted to edit a portion of the text to rightly divide the Word of God. I have now rightly placed the focus back on honoring Jesus and His work of salvation in us, and not on honoring us for our crying out. Please forgive me for this error in my first version.

About the Steward

This blog is my way of giving back just some of the precious kindness, love, compassion, comfort and mercy my God has shown me. I am only its steward. Its content and direction are ultimately in God’s hands. Below you can find a snippet of my testimony, but a new chapter of my life testimony will also be published every second week of the month on this blog.

My name is Anna Smit. I first gave my life to Jesus as a four-year-old. My Dad recorded the moment in his diary, of how I wept in repentance at my sins and asked Jesus to come into my heart with no prompting from them as parents. I remember my early days in Germany, as the eldest daughter of New Zealand missionaries, filled with love: with the life and presence of Jesus. 

Tragically, as a preteen and teen, walking through trauma back in New Zealand, I hardened my heart in sin. I believed the many lies spoken over me by my accuser. From then on, I went through life believing that God had abandoned me as someone who was inherently mismade. In my early years as a Prodigal, I was even afraid that one day God would strike me with lightning and kill me. 

Yet, now, I can look back and see the hand of God lovingly guiding me, protecting me and keeping me all those years I believed He had abandoned me and was out to hurt me. Every place I moved to, He remained with me, surrounding me with people who loved me, as He loves me: in truth and grace.

When my Mum was diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer in 2013, God’s peace descended in power upon me. At the time, I was a mother of two young children (1 and 3 years old), living in the Netherlands with my Dutch husband and visiting my very ill mother in New Zealand. I wasn’t looking for God, but He came running for me.  

I felt that same palpable peace again upon my Mum, in her final weeks. I was absolutely astounded at the beauty and kindness of this God, I obviously didn’t know. His kindness toward me and the peace He covered me and my Mum in, compelled me to begin to seek Him and His Word afresh, like never before.

Since that moment, He has been opening my eyes to see myself and others through His eyes. He has been moving to slay each lie of the enemy through the power of His Word to me. He has been healing me from the trauma I walked through as a little girl.

He has been doing all this, not by sheltering me from trials and heartache, but taking me through them. He has repeatedly exposed me to triggers of past trauma, not to hurt me, but to uncover the enemy’s schemes against me and to heal me from the inside out. 

But He only began this process after almost a year of sheltering me in His love. He built me up on the solid foundation of Jesus, equipping me to resist the devil, so he would flee from me. He fed me His pure Word, began to root my faith in His character and presence in my midst, and (re)connected me with His Body of believers from around the world, who prayed me and loved me through the many trials to come. 

After building me up on the foundation of Jesus, He repeatedly led me into places of darkness to shine His light on the darkness in my own heart, to separate me from it and define me as His. In each of those places, I watched Him draw others into the light also, through the open repentance and boasting in my weakness He birthed in me. 

Now, through the many breakings, He has opened my eyes to see that I was not created to agree with the enemy’s lies and to lie down in a bed of shame. I now know He has created me, and you too, to arise. To depart under a new authority, yoked to Him alone. 

May you be blessed in this place. May you feel the warmth of His love, the light of His truth and the cloak of His grace wrap around you and rest upon you in this place.

About the Name

Shalom is a Hebrew word that speaks of all parts being joined together to make a whole, of healing, health and peace. We find this peace in the person and presence of Jesus with us. Aleh is a Hebrew word that means leaf, leaves or leafage. I believe that as our Prince of Peace ushers in our own personal healing from trauma, through His hand upon us, He then sends us out with leaves of healing and wholeness to shelter and bless others, who are walking through similar wounding we have known.

As we speak up of the compassion Christ has shown us and the freedom He is bringing us, we silence the accusations of the enemy in the lives of others also. The leaves of healing that God is growing in our hearts, through Christ at work in us, become a covering and shelter for those suffering from trauma around us. For, the word of our testimony and the blood of the lamb carry the power to slay the accuser of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Revelations 12:11).

The name Shalom Aleh has its roots in verse 12 of Ezekiel 47 (ESV):

And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

In 2 Corinthians 3:3 (ESV):

And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

And in the prophecy spoken over Ninevah in Nahum 1:15 (ESV). Ninevah is interestingly the place God sent Jonah to, so that He might save His children through a call to repentance. It is the place Jonah at first refused to go to:

Behold, upon the mountains,

the feet of him

    who brings good news,

    who publishes peace!

Keep your feasts, O Judah;

    fulfill your vows,

for never again shall the worthless pass through you;

    he is utterly cut off.