Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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




Wrapped in Royal Thread

“Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord:
6 blue, purple, and scarlet thread; Exodus 35:5-6

The color purple, woven into the curtains of the Temple, represents royalty: the perfect kingdom that is promised for us in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.  But what if we could see the gift of royalty that our Jesus won for us, here and now, as we embrace Him as our Savior?

They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, King of the Jews. Mark 15:17-18 ESV

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 10:20 NLT

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. 1 John 1:4-5 ESV

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Peter 2:9 ESV

So often in this life we find ourselves walking a broken path. We face wounding from those in the world, and even from those within the Church. Maybe your own loved ones have faced the effects of those woundings?

When Bettie’s family walked through painful hurts at the hands of those who were in Church leadership, her sons later suffered a deep brokenness as the pain increased their wanderings.  It felt like there was an attack being directed by those very ones who were supposed to be family within Christ’s Church. 

Similar pain also formed a part of Anna’s wanderings as a Prodigal. Even after her return to the LORD, Anna’s heart still heaved with the pain of the past, exacerbated by the loss of her mother, who had served the LORD with such devotion, to brain cancer. 

But then, one day, as she returned to the memories of her childhood, the LORD gave her a beautiful vision. In it she saw, felt and heard Jesus, as He picked her up and held her frail little body tight. He asked her to kick, scream and flail as a toddler and He promised to hold her tight through it all.

As she saw herself do so, she literally felt the tension that she hadn’t realized had held her body captive for so very long, depart her body, as she rested in her Savior’s safe and loving arms. And then, she heard Jesus speak such beautiful, beautiful Words of truth: “You can’t see it yet, Anna, but trust me, I am working all of this, all of it, together for good.” 

Even now, this Promise from God’s Word brings tears to Anna’s eyes as she waits for it to be fulfilled in so many of her loved ones’ lives. She is already witnessing the LORD work such good into her own life and heart through the pain she has walked through in both the past and more recently. If anything this hurt and pain has shown her that she cannot walk a life holy and pleasing unto the Lord without the empowering work of His grace. 

For:

“our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 ESV

So, let us:

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; Ephesians 6: 16 ESV

Oh how much of this painful world doesn’t yet make sense, but we have a Savior who understands. A Savior who lived and walked a life of rejection and persecution on this earth at the hands of His own, and who is not aloof to our pain and our hurt. This loving Friend invites us into His arms that He may release us from our burdens and whisper the truth into our weary hearts. 

A Friend who does not withhold His mercy from us, but wields it powerfully through us to bring abundant life. 

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45: 5 – 8 ESV

So, what if we began to see that color of royalty woven into the hearts of those in our fellowship? And what if we could see that those hurtful attacks have not come from our brothers and sisters, but from the forces of evil that the enemy of our souls wields over this world? Forces of evil that have been overcome by the blood of the Lamb. 

Where would our forgiveness lie if we would embrace each other as daughters and sons of the Most High God and see the truth of our incredible inheritance? What would happen if we lifted up our hurting hearts to our Savior and invited Him to wrap the Promise of HEAVEN (blue thread) and ROYAL PRIESTHOOD (purple thread) around us all?

The Lord has given Anna a beautiful poem to share with you. We pray that the Lord will speak to you of the beautiful inheritance that you and your loved ones have been promised:

NO POWER HERE WILL STAND

You sit upon the throne
All in Your hands You hold
All things to You they bow
No power too great for You to fell.

And in this cloak
Your Mighty Spirit
We, your children stand
We’ll stand and not be shaken.


All diseases
All afflictions
To You they bow
For Your compassion faileth not.

No child
Unwelcome here
Us in Your loving hands You hold
No hate too great for You to break.

You sit upon the throne
All in Your hands You hold
All things to You they bow
No power too great for You to fell.

LORD send Your many laborers,
Send out Your Love
So bright, so great, so deep
Into this, Your harvest ready, ripe.

All diseases
All afflictions
To You they’ll bow
For Your compassion faileth not.

No child
Unwelcome here
Us in Your loving hands You hold
No hate too great for You to break.

For You, You sit upon the throne
Our Father, us in Your hands You hold
All darkness to You, it bows
No power here will stand, but Yours.

Is there a wound, inflicted by someone within the Church, which has been festering in your soul? Can you let the Lord of Heaven uncover it today? Will you let Him show you the beauty and royalty that dwells within His Body of Believers, and then bring to you His own sweet gift of forgiveness?

Perhaps the wound has been carried over into the lives of your loved ones who are running from the LORD.  Can you pray for God’s Grace to begin a sweet work of uncovering and healing in their lives also?

As we bow our knees in prayer right now, let’s sit a moment with a Promise from our God’s Word that He spoke through Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. Speak, O LORD, through this, Your precious Word, for Your servants are listening:

    He lifts the poor from the dust
    and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
    placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
    and he has set the world in order.

“He will protect his faithful ones,
    but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone. 

Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
    the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
    he increases the strength of his anointed one.”

1 Samuel 2: 8 – 10 NLT

May we pray for you today?

Dear Lord Jesus, We come to You today and confess that we are a broken people. We have been wounded, and we ourselves have inflicted wounds. And, yet You still call us precious, royal members of Your own household of faith.  Will you please forgive us where we have brought pain into the lives of our brothers and sisters? And will you bring to our own hearts a willingness to face forgiveness for those who have wounded us?  

Strengthen and invigorate us, LORD, with all power, according to Your glorious might, to attain every kind of endurance and patience with joy; that we may give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Light (Colossians 1: 11-12)

Thank you for washing us clean, and inviting us into Your family. We stand in awe of Your great gift, and worship You, our true King.  In Your precious name we pray, Amen.

This post was first published as a newsletter, sent to subscribers of the now closed down belovedprodigal.com. It was co-written by Bettie Gilbert and the steward of shalomaleh.com, Anna Smit.

Bettie, blogs at BettieGsRASeasons, writes Scriptural based prayer prompts and shepherds the Prayer Pond at the Chronic Joy ministry. The Prayer Pond is a safe harbor, where the chronically ill and their friends and family are encouraged to share prayer requests, updates and shouts of praise. 

Thanks to James Coleman @jhc for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/6n44KH_lEoE

Resurrection Life in the Dying

Happy Resurrection Sunday! He is risen! He is risen indeed!!!

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

As I was running through the red-golden forest, a few years ago, I reflected on the grief that had been building within me. It was coming up to the month, in which my world turned upside down and my heart was torn between two continents, as I traveled to the other side of the world with my one-year-old daughter to be with my mother before she entered a life-threatening operation. 

I had to leave my three-year-old daughter, who had only ever spent two nights apart from me, and my husband, behind. My already tearing heart was yanked further apart, as we heard the diagnosis a few short days later: a terminal brain cancer with no hope of survival, with a life-expectancy of two to three months.

And yet, in journeying back to that time in my heart, I am reminded of God’s deep abiding presence and the many gifts He showered upon me during one of the hardest times of my life. There are three places and moments in particular His peace descended so powerfully upon me, that it shattered my understanding of who He was, is and is to come:

1. In the mountains

I surveyed the spectacular wonder of the mountains and lake, the way the sky broke open and I felt a love envelop me. In that moment I was completely and utterly broken. I felt torn between my own immediate family and my Mum. A heaviness rested upon me as the death sentence of two to three months Mum was given weighed upon me. 

I was hushing my little girl into sleep, a wee girl who often refused to sleep and kept getting sick. But in that one moment, my hardened heart broke and tears flowed. A God who I had for years envisioned shaking His finger at me, covering me in guilt and shame, was holding me. And I couldn’t stop crying. Me the sinner, the one who kept failing, kept losing the control she fought so hard to hold onto.

2. In the dunes

When I ran alongside my husband, coming to a clearing where all I could see was dunes upon dunes, and a startlingly, beautiful sky. This was in the five weeks, when I found myself on one continent, but my heart was on the other, with my dying Mum. 

My heart was torn in two, a grief I will never be able to fully explain in words. But in that moment God’s beauty poured out over me like a balm and all the tension and fear and ripping came to a halt and poured out into tears that kept flowing.

Psalm 23:6 (The Message)
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.


3. With my dying Mum. 

Our last Christmas together, a little more than four months before Mum entered heaven’s gates

The more she surrendered the greater the peace that settled upon her. I was anything but peaceful during that time, as I kept myself frantically busy doing everything I could for Mum and her home. So, the contrast was startling. The less she did, the more she surrendered to her Lord and Saviour, the more peace settled upon her. The more I did, the greater the fear, tension, unsettled feeling grew.

Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.


And so, when I returned home, I vowed to seek after this peace that passes all understanding. And it brought me to the table of grace, to His broken body and flowing blood that covered all my guilt, all my shame, all that I’d sought to run and hide from, in my utter brokenness.

John 3: 16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.


Now, when I look back, my Mum’s greatest gift to me is not the years of beautiful service to me as her child. Not the hugs, the kisses, the way she looked at my girls, the giving of her heart till no more could be given. No, her absolute greatest gift to me is her testimony to the abiding life and peace of Jesus in her.

My Mum was not the same woman I grew up with. I saw the grace of Jesus change her, more and more, especially at the end. It’s not that she wasn’t a warm, loving and kind Mum, when I was little. Because she was. 

But, Jesus kept plunging her deeper into His grace, stripping more and more sin and extending more and more of His love through her. I saw Christ’s patience, kindness, selflessness, a listening ear, forgiveness, such gentleness, but also blunt, much-needed truth-telling, grow in my Mum.

You see, Mum didn’t hide her light. She went to heaven declaring God’s peace to this world. At the end especially, she spoke freely of her own need for His grace and of His kindness and gentleness toward the least of these. 

And she uncovered the truth. Thanks in part to the brain cancer taking away her social filter, she preferred to be genuine at the end, rather than hide behind a mask of self-righteousness to remain religiously palatable. Beautifully Jesus perfected His power right there in her weakness, using the cancer to bless her and others.

https://youtu.be/TxuhmnNUsUI

In bringing things into the open, God helped my Mum surrender her innate desire for earthly harmony and understanding. And through that painful, but freeing surrender, she was able to fully embrace the eternal wholeness and completion Christ set before her. Ultimately the jealous all-consuming love of our Jesus won.

Song of Songs 8:6 (NIV)

Place me like a seal over your heart,

    like a seal on your arm;

for love is as strong as death,

    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

It burns like blazing fire,

    like a mighty flame.


And so now, slowly, very slowly, I am learning to follow my Mum’s lead. I am learning to obey Christ’s call to come as I am to receive His grace. I am learning to release guilt, fear and shame in exchange for His arms.

I am learning to confess my sins and weakness openly, to shine the light of Christ’s love and grace into the world. And like my Mum, I am learning to be genuine, by bringing things into the open. I am learning to let go of my innate desire for earthly harmony and understanding to embrace instead the eternal wholeness and completion set before me.

And most importantly I am learning that what matters most, above all else, is not this world’s love and approval, but that my LORD and Savior is with me and will never leave or forsake me.

https://youtu.be/hzKjR66rMPA

For, even when all else fades away, as it did for my Mum, I know without a shadow of a doubt that that’s when my Jesus, my Savior, will be unveiled fully in me. And what a day that will be!

Isaiah 40: 8 (ESV)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

https://youtu.be/wfIWlDRHcd4

Will you join me today, as I sit afresh in Hebrews 12 today?

Hebrews 12: 1- 4 (The Message)
Do you see what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.


Father God, thank You that You know just what I need. Thank You that You set me apart to draw me near. Thank You that when all else fades away, You remain. Thank You that You have promised to never leave or forsake me.

Forgive me for clinging to fear and shame, for believing that You have abandoned me in this time of waiting. Help me to resist the devil, to stop listening to the accuser’s claims and to lean ever deeper into Your open arms of grace.

Father God, thank You for giving me a front row seat to the transformation You worked in my Mum. Help me too to trust You now with this path You have set before me, that just like my Mum experienced, is not what I expected or what I thought I needed or wanted. 

Help me to see what You see. Uncover the true desires of my heart and make me a blessing to all those You put before me. Shine Your light of love and grace brightly in and through me.

Thank You for the Cross. Thank You that it is finished. Thank You, Jesus, for dying to make us, Your Body whole and complete, with YOU at our Head. Thank You that You have the final say. Thank You that we will all yet see Your full recompense: Your eternal wholeness and completion come.

Help me to keep stripping the sin that hinders me from being who You have made me to be. Empower and embolden me to run the race You have set before me with expectant joy, to complete it and to make You proud in doing so. Amen.

https://youtu.be/Z8OPuaFbWTs

Here, I AM

Behold, 

I am making all things new

Christ speaks, deep unto deep

My eyes they turn
There below.

Reeds are swaying
Rustling wind
Waters green, there below
Basket woven, her hands 

Release.

My heart it grips
I see my own
Precious gift
From my hands, 

Taken.

No, not in trust
But in tight clenched hands
Lies, they ripped
Precious life, 

Stolen.

Behold, 

I am making all things new

Christ speaks, deep unto deep

And my heart it rips
Opens wide.

And pours
Longing deep
Yearning cries: 

His precious gift
Returning.

Reeds are swaying
Rustling wind
Waters green, there below
Basket woven, my hands 

Receive.

Weeping heart now flows
I see my own
Precious gift
Into my hands, 

Returned.

Behold, 

I am making all things new

Christ speaks deep unto deep

My eyes turn to waters green
Resting now in all things: 

Christ REDEEMED! 

Almost seven years ago I came back Home to my Heavenly Father. Since then, Christ has been opening my palms to release one basket after another, trusting in their return, just like I watched my Mum do, upon her death bed, as she arose into the arms of Jesus, surrendering us all into His loving hands. 

Oh how it hurts. Oh how my heart is ripped open in the process. But oh how precious the touch of Jesus is in those deep places of hurt within my heart. In the ripping open He is entering my heart to open my eyes to His eternal restoration and redemption. To His hands wrapped around those He has asked me to surrender; and that includes myself.

Oh yes, the enemy knows how to steal, kill and destroy. But our mighty God knows how to restore, resurrect and redeem. And He is faithful till the end. Even when we have clenched those hands tight in distrust and not released what was never ours to hold tight to in control, His mercy runs deep. His heart of compassion and justice have gone ahead. Walking toward His Cross He wept, saying: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

Oh there are many days I still struggle. As a little girl God gave me the spiritual gift of mercy. It is this that has broken my heart so very much. As a Prodigal I cursed this gift that only seemed to steal, kill and destroy from me. And even now there are days I retreat with my pain and ask: “Why, oh why, my Lord?” But slowly God is teaching me how to receive this gift, by unclenching my hands and releasing my heart and others’ hearts into His heart, to be made new in His love for us: His Body. A Body that was broken to make us whole.

As I walked through the pastures this afternoon, He showed me how every time I have said: “Here, I am, send me.” It has been the great I AM who has awakened me to His call and it is also the great I AM who has enabled me to walk out that call in the world, no matter how much it hurt and how impossible it seemed. 

As I prayed, walking further, through a forest, a song sprung up within me. It bubbled over, moments after His kindness had walked itself out in me. HE put a person I knew on my path, enabling me to extend a kindness I had wanted to extend from my heart, but couldn’t. But right there, in that moment He had destined, right there in my lack, His heart of love flowed out of me effortlessly, in such tenderness, and covered us both in His love and mercy. 

This is His song of mercy that keeps on singing in me through every surrender. A surrender not worked by me, but by the One who lives and moves and has His being in me. For, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me:

Yes, His favor keeps on pouring, because we find favor in His sight, through His Son at work in us:

Living Whole

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


And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:15 ESV)

Memories are funny things. Sweet memories linger. Scents of summer’s breath, Grandma’s perfume, Granddad’s soapy bristle as he leans in to give you a tender “peck” on the cheek. But then there are the memories seared into the brain. Locked away, too painful to linger. Hidden deep.

And yet Jesus came to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For me, this gift came in the return of a piercing silence, in the lingering pain He began to draw to the surface, that I had known so well as a little girl.

Silence 

More than anything 

It cuts and maims

And holds me bound.

To then be met 

By slicing silence 

Is too much for 

This one heart to bare.

Teach me Your wisdom 

LORD, to keep on giving

Even then

Even with heart torn and bled.

Even when lying tongues

Speak shame and press me far away

Where I begin to question

Who I am.

Help me even then to return

And rest in who You are

Inside of me

Strong, where I am weak.

Hold me, each and every broken piece 

Safe, in Your whole hands

And place me where You 

Would have me be.

Be my strength, when I have none

My courage, where lies speak loud

My thoughts, my words and deeds

That I may once again:

Turn toward You, my Rock

My fortress and deliverer

That Your heart may gush

As living water from this:

Your holy Temple

And dwelling place

A living stone among many

Being built upon the Rock.

Upon the cornerstone

Rejected by man

But chosen by God

And precious to Him.

As that little girl, God first called me to partake in His suffering. He set me apart from those I loved most, calling me to stand with Him to intercede for the healing of His Body. But, as that child, I allowed the enemy to convince me that this setting apart, that caused such deep pain in my heart was proof of my evil and my disobedience, rather than proof of God honoring my heart’s desire to know the depths of His grace.

Yet, even in that unbelieving and distrusting child, His grace gushed forth, breaking open my hardened by sin heart that I was too afraid and too ashamed to bring into the open. Sadly, though, as I saw the responses of those around me to the Holy Spirit’s touch upon me and my open confession of my weakness and sin, I reeled in shame.

Yet, rather than condemn me as I bowed before my idols, God led me out and away from the environment, where the enemy prowled and bound me in perpetual fear and shame. Then, many years later, His Holy Spirit once again poured out upon me. This time, I was surrounded only by mountains, walking my baby girl to sleep, as I grieved my mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

Through my life story, God is showing me that His call upon our lives is irrevocable. When we keep silent in the breaking, as His longing for us individually, and for His Bride corporately, pierces our fearful and prideful hearts, we let our bones waste away through our groaning all day long (Psalm 32:3). And yet, amazingly, even then, in our silence to our Father’s call, our Savior continues speaking tenderly to us through the desert. Piece by piece, He breaks open the wilderness of our hearts to gush forth His grace, proclaiming through the breaking that our hard service has been completed, that our sin has been paid for, that we have received from the Lord’s hand double for all our sins (Isaiah 40:2). 

Now, unlike when I was little, I can see that as our hearts harden to the seed of His sowing in our pain and unbelief, God’s power takes over. For, it is precisely in our weakness that Christ shines forth His power to save and redeem. 

We needn’t be embarrassed by His power that openly displays the changing of our minds and lives. We needn’t be ashamed of the pure, white dress of repentance He is clothing us in to prove His love for us and His Body. We needn’t be ashamed of the growing fruit of His love for us and others being revealed in and through our open confession of sin and weakness. And we needn’t be ashamed of the healing leaves of His grace covering us. For, precisely these healing leaves are what God uses to silence the accuser of our brethren also, as He strips the condemnation and shame covering those around us, as we boast in our weakness to His glory.

Yes, through our every breaking and setting apart, God causes us to die to the law that has been arousing “sinful passions” in us (Romans 7:5) and to arise anew in the strength of His Spirit at work in us (Romans 8:9). He transforms our thinking so that instead of dwelling inside our lack, we begin to dwell inside the fullness and the perfect wholeness already dwelling inside of us: Jesus. It’s the heart and mind of Christ at work in us that stops us fighting to defend ourselves and stops us fleeing to protect ourselves. It’s Jesus that compels us to come into His Presence unguarded to be covered by His healing wings of grace. 

As He draws us ever nearer, He uncovers our pain and unbelief. It’s then we come, as little children, whose Savior has split the veil of separation in two. We come with our anger, with our tears, with our fears and our agonizing doubts, pouring our hearts out freely at His feet.

It’s there Christ teaches us to glory in our weakness. His power unveils a new heart of faith, hope and love, beating so strongly in us: His very own heart of flesh that has already replaced our heart of stone. It is not we who must muster up the faith to believe Him at His Word. NO! He gives us this faith as a free gift. The faith to truly believe Him when He reminds us that it is no longer we and our sinful hearts that live, but Christ and His heart of flesh that lives in us, When He reminds us that the life we now live in the earthly tent that is fading by the day, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20), knowing that as our outward selves are decaying, our inward selves are being renewed by the day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

He stills the accuser’s voice, that we might hear His heart of flesh declare in and through us: “My beloved is mine and I am his.” (Song of Songs 2:16). He reminds us that we have never and will never ever be alone. Yes, our God is with us in each and every breaking. He is with us in each and every silence. And clothed in that knowledge and experience of His precious Presence with us, joy, peace and glorious hope begin to flow out of us with great force. Living water – the life of Jesus – begins to gush out of the rock – Jesus – living inside of us to bless and heal others also.

Now, I know that when all I could hear and feel was that piercing silence as a little girl, the Holy Spirit was in fact speaking with and in me (cf John 14:17). Precisely by setting me apart through my own and my loved ones’ weakness, He was preparing the Way to shed abroad His love, not just in my own heart and my loved ones, but many more.

Now, I know that all along, He was preparing me to live out His irrevocable calling on my life: to be a broken open vessel to His glory. Now, thanks to His perseverance, I can testify, with great joy and thankfulness, of His life at work in me. I can speak of His unbelievable mercy toward me in my sin and His deep compassion toward me, through every trigger of trauma. Triggers that He is using for good: to transform my mind and to reveal His heart of flesh in and through me.

Now, I know that nothing can stop me from speaking of Christ’s love and grace for me. Not what man may say to me. Nor any breaking Christ walks me toward. Because now, I know that the bread (the Body of Christ) is lifted up to our Father in heaven in thanks, so that He may be broken and multiplied to feed a waiting and hungry people. And I know that as we take eat of the bread of life, in our breaking apart, and drink of Christ´s cup of suffering, we declare the finished work of the Cross and His imminent coming. We declare His Body healed, whole and made complete in Christ Jesus, our LORD and Savior.

Yes, every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain (Isaiah 40:4). For, all Promises are Yes and Amen in Jesus. The mouth of the Lord has spoken it. So, it shall not return to Him empty, but it shall accomplish that which He has purposed, and shall succeed in the thing for which He sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV).

Come let us taste and see that our God is so, so good to us:

Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 57:8-11, NIV


YES! Jesus came to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For His calling upon our lives is irrevocable! Praise HIM!!!

A Heart of Gold

1 Peter 1: 23 – 25 (ESV)

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

When the suffering we walk through just doesn’t make sense we can be tempted to respond religiously, rather than wholeheartedly. We can begin to suppress the deep longing inside our heart to truly experientially know the hope we profess. We can begin to believe we are meant to grin and bear life. 

But right there, as our flesh presses us to turn away from God, our merciful God answers our deepest heart’s cry to know Him. Christ in us – our hope of glory- causes us, through new trials sent our way, to cast the Promises of His Word at His feet. He compels us, like David, Jeremiah and Elijah before us, to cry out to Him to give us faith, to reveal Himself to us and our loved ones through His sure and steadfast Word.

Psalm 12:6 (NIV)

And the words of the Lord are flawless,
    like silver purified in a crucible,
    like gold refined seven times.

The gold the Israelites once brought forward for Solomon’s Temple was used to overlay the clasps, fillets and capitals.

Exodus 35: 5 ESV

Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze;

These items strengthened the weakest parts of the Temple’s frame and joined the many curtains into one whole curtain. Today, Christ now literally strengthens and makes us whole, perfect and complete in Himself. He literally overlays and joins us to Himself.

In my walk through the mental illness of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I am beginning to experience the truth of this gold coating and joining. As the memories, doubts, hurt and anger I have repressed for so long are now crashing like waves within me, my God is breaking open my heart to come before Him as I am.

It is in these moments of overwhelm I, through His living Word at work in me, cry out for Jesus to reveal Himself in my weakness. He is answering my heart’s cry. He is removing the scales from my eyes. He is breaking the bread before me. He is revealing the truth of His powerful Presence in all I and my loved ones have walked through and are walking through.

No, the horrific storms we walk through that overwhelm us, freeze our hearts in fear and shock and shake us to the core do not define us as unfaithful. Rather, they are sent to unveil the faithfulness of our mighty God. For, as we stumble and fall, His great mercy catches and awakens us to new life. 

Our Savior reminds us: it’s not our righteousness, but His alone that saves us. Through each and every storm Christ is only calling us all ever deeper into communion with Him because He so longs for us- for each and every part of us. Through our honest and raw desperation Jesus draws us unto the Father. Into His merciful arms, to see Him right there WITH US in the pain. Holding us tight. Soothing us as we shake, kick and scream. Stroking our face and reassuring us: “You can’t see this now, but I am making all things new. All things. Even this. All of it has purpose. Every single piece.”

It’s when He speaks the Living Word over us, that He opens our eyes to see by faith. To see His gold coating and joining of our weakness to His perfecting power. It’s then we see Him covering us, strengthening us and holding us and our loved ones together as One complete and perfected whole. It’s then we behold heaven come through His gift of faith.

Psalm 138:8 (NKJV)
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

He helps us, like doubtful Thomas, to bring Him our true broken heart, so that He may reveal the presence of His whole heart there. He invites us to touch the holes in His hands and feet, to remind us this pain is not ours to bear. For, we were written on the palms of His hand for a reason: for these very moments we just can’t go on. For when we just can’t bear one second anymore.  So, lifted by His Spirit, we would find ourselves borne up on eagle’s wings, in our waiting on the only One we can go to. The only One who truly understands. The only One who carried not just our every sin, but our every ounce of pain to that Cross, so we would never ever have to carry it alone. So, that our heavy yoke would be broken to become a light yoke of healing and wholeness in His heart for us and for others.

It’s when He lays our weakness and imperfection bare, His power can be perfected right there for all to see. It is then, Christ, our door of salvation, begins to raise up a worship in us in Spirit and truth. It’s then we begin not just to profess, but intimately know our Heavenly Father’s presence with us, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior.

Father God, forgive us for the moments we have believed the enemy’s taunts. Forgive us for believing that we have to be strong for You. That we have to be perfect for You. That we have to hide our doubts, our fears, our hurt and our longings. Forgive us for forgetting that You wept for us as You walked to Your cross, crying out: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

Thank You that You call us to come just as we are. Draw us into Your presence and lay bare our wounded and deceitful hearts. Break open and unravel our hearts, LORD. Pour out our hearts before You. Cast out all fear of punishment by the power ofYour perfect love. Search and know us and if there be any wickedness in us, cleanse us by the power of Your blood and the living water of Your Word.

Thank You that we and our loved ones are overlaid and joined to the gold of Your powerful Promises. For though our flesh and our hearts may fail, we thank You that You are the strength and gold of our hearts.

Now, awaken us to live in this truth. To walk by Your Spirit, to hear and obey You in fear and trembling, trusting that in our weakness Your power will be put on display. Declare Your Name through us today, declare Your praises through the mouths of babes and the hearts of men. In Your Name alone. Amen.

 

Thread of Glory

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

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

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

“Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: 6 blue, purple, and scarlet thread;”  Exodus 35:5-6

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

Brown-Driver-Briggs

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

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

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

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

    that the mountains would tremble before you!

2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze

    and causes water to boil,

come down to make your name known to your enemies

    and cause the nations to quake before you!

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

    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

4 Since ancient times no one has heard,

    no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

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

 

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

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

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

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

INDIGO

By Bettie Gilbert

 

Dear Heart aching in the storm

Lift up your eyes

The grey will soon part

And rescue will fall

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Ancient Priests knew the sight

Their garments awash

The curtains the walls

All touched and woven

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Hebrew children settled in

Their lands and their towns

But daily remembered

Tassles lifting their gaze

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Shepherds on that Holy Night

With their sheep standing near

Saw the darkness fall in

Heard the Angels bright song

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The bowed down woman pressed in

To reach for HIS robe

The only One able

To reach through her pain

As Indigo from the sky.

 

And I in this season of dark

Wait for the flash

Of a bird so brilliant

It sparkles like sapphire

As Indigo from the sky.

 

But my heart is still longing

In a pain of my own

For a flash of dear Hope

From Heaven so pure

As Indigo from the sky.

 

Dear Heart aching in the storm

Lift up your eyes

The grey will soon part

And rescue will fall

As Indigo from the sky.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 To whom then will you compare me,

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

26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:

    who created these?

He who brings out their host by number,

    calling them all by name;

by the greatness of his might

    and because he is strong in power,

    not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,

    and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

    and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

    his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,

    and to him who has no might he increases strength.

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,

    and young men shall fall exhausted;

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

    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

    they shall walk and not faint.

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

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

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

Let’s pray.

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

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

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

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

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.