Part 3: Chapter 3: Aaron’s Budding Staff

Welcome to Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is introducing us to Aaron’s budding staff. In the days to come, Anna and Bettie will be adding free will offerings of praise, testifying to the blossoming Word of Life in their hearts and midst, to the bottom of this post.

We read in Numbers 17:10 (ESV): And the Lord said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.” The budding and blossoming rod was thus placed in the Tabernacle’s tent of meeting – the same tent we shared about in Chapter 2 that was made of goats’ hair, a durable fabric that helped protect the Tabernacle through the long years in the wilderness.

Numbers 17:5 (ESV) speaks of why God made Aaron’s staff to sprout: And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.” Some of the Israelites had grumbled about Aaron’s privileged position as a priest and had challenged Moses’ God-given authority.

Anna invites you to join her, as she shares of how God opened her own eyes to see life blossoming, where she least expected it, as the Holy Spirit prompted her to stop pleading in unbelief and to instead start praising Him in the fresh faith He filled her with, as she turned her face toward Him.

When I, the returned Prodigal, first began praying for my own loved ones to come to faith, I prayed in the flesh. I prayed from a place of unbelief, rooted in pride and self. And yet, even in that place, God saw my true desire to know Him in His death and resurrection. 

He honored the tiny mustard seeds of faith – the Word He had fed me since I was a little girl- that lay buried and dormant in my heart. He took them and broke them open unto life. 

Each seed began to unfurl and flourish and bloom, by the power of the Holy Spirit that He poured out upon me, as I sat at His feet. Physically, at first, nothing changed, but spiritually: everything. For, my heart awakened, quickening to the touch of the Holy Spirit. 

As I began to pray, rather than compelling me to plead for my loved ones’ rescue, the Holy Spirit compelled me to arise in thanksgiving and praise. He placed one Promise from God’s Holy Word after another before my eyes and invited me to take His hand and walk into the truth of my loved ones’ salvation in Christ Jesus. And then, He commanded me to look for proof of His Presence at work in them. 

I was astounded to find Him so very present, where I had deemed Him absent. He led me to so much repentance, as I gloried in His power and grace. 

Psalm 105:3 (ESV) Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

Through it all, it was as if He was asking me afresh, what He had asked me, right at the start of my walk with Him: “Who do you say that I am, Anna?”

And as He did this, I continually found myself weeping before Him. Why? Because as I lifted up those Promises before Him, I was not just affirming my loved ones’ salvation, I was affirming my own salvation and redemption in the LORD. 

I was shedding my own unbelief, rooted in pride and idolatry. I was taking off the accusations of condemnation I had allowed the enemy to clothe me in, to instead put on my breastplate of righteousness and belonging in Christ. 

I was deflecting the darts of the enemy, as I picked up the shield of faith to declare every human rejection for doing the will of my Heavenly Father, as Christ’s choosing of me to be conformed unto His likeness and to pour out the love and comfort He was pouring into me, out upon others.

I was shaking off the dust of every place that did not receive Jesus in me and putting on the shoes of peace to walk into the knowledge of God’s completion of the good work He had begun in them and in me in that place. 

I was laying down the works of the flesh and picking up the sword of truth to speak the Word of completion and wholeness into situations of incompletion and brokenness.

I was putting on my helmet of salvation, as I woke up daily to study and listen to the Word of God, to find God returning the Word to me, when prideful or selfish thoughts threatened to consume me. Instead, I found Christ consuming the dross in me, as each testing I faced proved the gold of His Presence and love in me. Not me, but He tied His belt of faithfulness and truth around my waist, declaring me His.

I found myself recognizing and laying down the thoughts the enemy was feeding me, to instead exercise the mind of Christ. I began praising God for His good and perfect judgments in my life, even where these judgments were causing me deep pain, as the Holy Spirit lifted me up above the frey. The eyes of my heart began to open to receive the beautiful and salty grains of truth Christ was gifting me through my loved ones.

And now, I know that Christ has been interceding in me, not just for others, but for me too. For, through it all, God has been purifying and cleansing my own heart, as I have prayed for and spoken the Word of God over others. He has been busy making His home in my own heart, humbling me to receive the Word I have prayed over others in my own heart.

What I saw as God’s withholding as a child, I am now beginning to receive as His gift to me. When everything looks like it is falling apart, as we pray –  trust me: it is. But only ever so that it can all fall back into alignment, according to the will of the Father in Christ Jesus, in whom every Promise is Yes and Amen

Yes, through prayer, Christ is inviting us to let go of our worldly peace to receive His peace that passes all understanding. He is inviting us to let Him take off our masks of self-righteousness, that He might reveal the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in His face.

He is inviting us to let Him break open our hearts hardened by sin and rebellion to restore our faith in Him. He is holding out His new heart of flesh to us that we might hear, see and receive Him in those He has set before us: including our Prodigal loved ones.

Truly, truly, when I was young, I used to dress myself and walk wherever I wanted, but now that I am older, I am stretching out my hands, and Jesus is dressing me and carrying me where I do not want to go. And yet as I am ending up where I would never have chosen to go of my own accord, I am tasting a love, joy and peace beyond measure in the arms of Jesus.

He truly is giving me a double portion, as I, His prisoner of hope, am returning to Him: my only true stronghold and mighty deliverer.

I believe, when Aaron’s staff budded, it did so, not to declare Aaron’s superiority above those who were jealous of his setting apart. No, it did so to silence the accusations of the enemy against the elect of God and to remind Aaron’s brothers and sisters that no one comes to the Father, except through Christ – the living and breathing Word of God who sets each one of us apart according to His purposes. For, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33, ESV).

Aaron’s and Moses’ holiness became visible, not just in the budding staff, but also in the incense Moses called Aaron to burn before the LORD amongst his dying people. As he burnt that incense, it brought a halt to the plague killing his rebellious brothers and sisters in the LORD. Faith was rewarded in their obedience to the LORD’s direction, as His rod and staff comforted them in the valley of the shadow of death.

But it was never Aaron’s and Moses’ own perfecting work that halted that plague. As Moses said in Numbers 16:28 (ESV) “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will.  It was the Holy Word sprouting in them, as the Word accomplished what He was sent to do. For, whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Corinthians 3:16, ESV) to reveal Jesus and His holiness in our midst.

Jeremiah 1:11-12 (ESV) And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

Isaiah 11:1-5 (ESV) There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

Day 1: He Gives Us More Grace

Day 2: Blossoms of Peace in His Time

Part 3: Chapter 1 – Incense

Welcome to Part 3‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is introducing us to the free will offering of incense – spices brought forward by the people and a grinding and perfuming process completed by the High Priest.

Offering surrendered:

-Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord:

spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;  Exodus 35:5,8

-And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. Exodus 30:7-8

Promise Given:    

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8

The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Revelation 8:4

The aroma has become so familiar to me that even one whiff will set my mind in the direction of evening time, and resting. In fact, my husband has become acquainted with that aroma, even though he himself does not use the fragrance.  It is the fragrance of the oil that I massage into my diseased joints, night after night: the pure oil of Frankincense.  Recommended by many who are familiar with the healing properties of essential oils, Frankincense has many benefits, both by documented sources and oral traditions.

But did you know that Frankincense has another kind of history? Why did the Magi bring that specific gift to the infant Christ? And how were the Ancient Hebrews so familiar with that fragrance?

We first hear of Frankincense and its appointment in the 30th chapter of Exodus, as the building of the Tabernacle and its appointments are being directed by the Lord.  A special altar set aside for offering incense to the Lord was described, as well as the special ingredients for the making of the incense offered there.  Frankincense, with its Hebrew meaning closely associated with the Hebrew word for the color white, was an aromatic resin to be combined with other highly fragrant plants and resins, for a special combination of odors to be offered continually before the Lord.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Ark of the Covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD.’” Exodus 30:34-37

Holy, set apart, consecrated for the Lord’s service only, this combination was recognized as something not to be taken lightly, something that signified the Presence of the LORD in their midst.  And, yet, when a small baby was born in the tiny village of Bethlehem, ancient scholars, traveling to witness a prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes, gave three very special gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They were acknowledging the presence of Royalty, and the presence of the Most High God in their midst.  Jesus, the Son of God, dwelling here in the world of men.

Fast forward a few decades, and Jesus’ disciple, the one who was called “The Beloved of the Lord” gave us another picture of the sweet fragrance of the incense. This time, in his vision of the actual Heavenly Temple and the Lamb of God upon His throne, John was told how we, the people of God have a place before our Lord’s throne:

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” Revelation 5:8

The color white

Pure and sweet

A fragrant offering lifted up

As the smoke of the Incense

Rose before my LORD.


The Frankincense

Of the Lord’s Incense

Set apart as Holy, consecrated

Expression of Worship

Rose before my LORD.


The Christ Child

Sent to dwell below

With the people of this world

Expression of Royalty

Rising before the LORD.


The Christ Gift

Given so pure

For the sins of us so dark

A Sweet Smelling Sacrifice

Rising before the LORD


Beautiful Jesus!

Deep calls unto Deep


My wounded Life

Broken, Despised

He now covers with His own

Pure Fragrance

Rising before the LORD


Worship so pure

Prayers set free

He is calling from my heart

As a new Incense

Rising before HIS Throne.

Will you join Anna and I in prayer today?

Dear Father,

Thank You that Your Holy Spirit carries every prayer of Your Son in us – our Great High Priest, who was crushed for our iniquities – before Your holy throne.  Thank You that Your Son holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Thank You that, he is therefore able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to You through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

We bow before You now, as we acknowledge that there is none like You, the Only God who listens and hears His people when they cry.  May our voices be sweet to Your ears, and may our praises be glorious before You now. In the name of Your precious Son Jesus we pray. Amen.

And we welcome you to join us in the coming days for our daily free will offerings of incense in Christ Jesus that we pray encourage you to bring forward your own free will offerings of incense in Christ Jesus.

Day 1: Delight in Christ

Day 2: The Jealous Flames of Love

Day 3: My King, My LORD In Me

Day 4: A Pleasing Offering

Day 5: Loosing the Promises of God

Day 6: All for Love

Part 2: Chapter 1 – Day 4: Garments of Praise

Welcome to Day 4 of Chapter 2 of Part 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a story about the threads of redemption woven by God in our friendships.

The fabrics lie folded and stacked in my closet, next to the threads and the needles, and the unfinished projects. A lifetime of sewing is huddled there together, as a sort of memorial, stories interwoven through the warp and weft of my memories and the God-moments of my life. Some fabrics are rough, easily wrinkled and scratchy, while others drape and flow through my fingers like spun silk. 

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:16-17

Her name was Kathy, which means “pure and flawless” and in my memory I can see my friend’s flaxen glowing hair, her fair skin. While other girls were chasing boys, and attending dances, she and I were reading books and sitting in the branches of her giant willow tree. We sang at the top of our lungs, practicing harmony, and laughing at the way the old songs differed from our generation’s rock-n-roll. 

My Mom was a homemaker, her Mom left the house early each morning for her job. But each of us were given chores to finish before we could spend our summer afternoons together. Some afternoons were filled with swimming lessons, while other days we rode our bikes up and down our small neighborhood streets till our legs ached. But always we ended with long discussions about life. She knew I loved Jesus. She didn’t argue that, but she just couldn’t live the same lifestyle I thought was so important: every Sunday in Church, both morning and evening, and weeknight girls’ club classes as well.  I wanted her to ask Jesus “to come into her heart” but she wasn’t sure what that even meant, so we shelved the topic, and instead spent our discussions on every other subject imaginable. 

Into the light colored weft, a darker thread was being woven, filling the fabric with the warp of my flesh. I chose the path of the church, and she chose a different path. I had known it would come to this, I who was so set on my church commitments that I could not miss one Sunday to join her at her family’s weekly campground adventures. Not once. I thought I was choosing the better path.  It took many years for me to see what I had missed. 

In our pulling apart, the bonds of the fabric could easily have torn. We graduated, I was married. She chose a local college, I moved 600 miles away with my new husband. We wrote letters that kept us connected, and even though we were separated by miles, a deep bond was somehow still glimpsed by both of us. On one of my trips back home, she told of how thyroid cancer had struck her, and the months had been filled with harsh treatments and struggles. But her face was glowing as she eagerly told me the glorious news of finally seeing the beauty of surrendering her life to Jesus. We cried and we laughed that night, taking photos together of my pure and flawless friend holding my toddler son.

But the drifting apart wasn’t finished yet, as my life was plunged into testing involving a move to the other side of the country, a move back again, and years of living in other people’s homes. The letters to my golden haired friend slowed to a trickle, as I was at a loss to explain the confusion I felt during those years of breaking and reshaping. By the time we finally moved back close enough to rekindle our friendship, the cancer had returned to my friend, and she slipped into eternity the same fall that we moved back to our Midwestern roots.

And just as the fabrics of home were being re-folded and measured and cut, the dark threads of the fleshly warp were being marked with the colors of regret. Almost daily I thought of the times that I had neglected the friendship of one so dear.  It took years for the roughness of that churchy fabric to be washed and softened. But when the fabric had finally worn down enough, I was filled with sorrow over the way I had chosen an ideal instead of the love of one precious heart. “Jesus, will You please tell Kathy how sorry I am for the years I neglected her?” Again and again through the years, I heard myself uttering that prayer to Him.

The fabrics lie folded and stacked in the closet, and my heart remembers each project. The abilities for the old ways are gone. My arthritic hands can no longer follow the precision necessary to measure and cut and sew. The old has gone, and yet, the new is here. I can hear Jesus whispering:

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

Jesus has taken the regret and filled it with colors so vibrant they cannot even compare to the old ways of seeing. And in the changing, the regret has been woven into a new warp and weft.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1 – 3

That old warp of ugly dark shadows has now become a vivid setting to show forth new colors not seen before. “No apology is necessary any longer” He whispers to me. “I have preserved the threads of your friendship, and it’s woven together into a pure and flawless garment. You both are clothed in me now.”

I delight greatly in the Lord;

    my soul rejoices in my God.

For he has clothed me with garments of salvation

    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,

as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,

    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:10

Thanks to Alexander McFeron @alexmcferon for making the profile photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/-dC8jIuwwDY

Chapter 2: Clothed in Fine White Linen

Welcome to Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine. This week we invite you to join us, daily, in bringing forward the free will offering of pure white linen: the white garments Jesus has promised to clothe us in, as we overcome in His Name. 

Today, Bettie Gilbert introduces us to chapter 2 and the free will offering of white linen, as she looks at its function in the Old Temple. Through a personal story, she shares how Jesus showed her that this now mirrors Christ’s hemming in, as He lovingly invites us to be set apart unto Him to be clothed in His purity in our surrender to His beautiful purposes.

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

Rev 15:6  And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. 

Rev 3:5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 

Rev 19:14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 

I woke with a start, my heart pounding wildly. The dream had been so vivid, that I felt I was still there, traveling along the roadway. Or rather next to the highway, as I had found myself stumbling along in a ditch while the cars whizzed past above me on the super highway.  From within the whirring, I heard a voice beckoning me to come, to follow Him along the way.  But my heart cried out: “How can I God?  I can’t keep up with all of the traffic! You know how slowly I have been forced to stumble through this ditch!”  

From within the noise I heard His still, small voice and recognized His loving, caring heart. “My daughter, I have only asked that you follow ME. You are not hindered from coming along with me. I have not asked you to keep up with anyone else, only follow Me.”

More than a year later, the dream is still so vivid that I can feel the whirring of the cars above me. The feeling of being left behind is just as vivid also, perhaps even more so, as I have almost exhausted the possible course of treatments available for this chronic disease my body carries.  Night after night, the cries for mercy have been lifted to Heaven. 

Why are these side effects so unbearable? Why is my body unable to tolerate the medications that would bring me wholeness?

I felt my heart’s longing to be able to keep up with the rest of the world that I saw around me. I recognized that old longing from the dream being uncovered here in this season of waiting. But as I saw my true heart being uncovered, there was a deeper longing that Jesus now was meeting. A longing that could not have been met unless I was slowed down, called into the place of His holiness.

What if this fence before me now
The one that feels like a prison around my soul
And surrounds my day with a blinding of eyes
What if this fence before me now
Is not here to keep me in
But is meant to keep away the evil one?

What if this fence before me now
The one that seems to close up fellowship
And cuts me off from knowing where I fit in
What if this fence before me now
Is not here to cut me off
But is a gate to invite others in?

What if that fence before them there
The one God’s people carried on their journey
And set up tall with curtained rooms
What if that fence before them there
Was not a room to cut off God
But a sanctuary to see His face?

The CLOUD by day
The PILLAR by night
And the FACE of Moses
RADIANT before them.

What if the fence before you now
The one that stops your feet from running
And cordons off the highway zones
What if the fence before you now
Is not a sentence of death
But the doorway to life eternal?

Exodus 26:31-33 “You shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. “You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks also being of gold, on four sockets of silver. “You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies.”

Hebrews 10:19-20 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh”

Revelation 3:20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Is there a fence around you now? Can you allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the longings that are within that very fence? What is the word He is giving to you there, in that place of HIS holiness?

I pray that we might rest with this song, and let the praises of our Holy God fill our hearts as we wait on Him:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Oh, Lord our Lord how majestic is your Name, and how pure are your ways! Thank You for showing us Your purity through the gift of Your spotless Lamb, Your own dear Son.  How can we comprehend the gift that You bring to us, when You tell us that You will clothe us with that same purity?

We come before You today and lay our disappointments before You. We confess that we are tired of feeling cut off and left out. Thank You that You understand every feeling we lift before You. Thank You that there is no condemnation here, but only a calling to be drawn closer into Your heart. You alone carry every longing, and You alone are the One who knows how to fulfill our heart’s cry.

Jesus will You reveal to us the truth of where You have placed us? We want to be wrapped up in Your holiness. We want to realize that You have set us apart unto YOURSELF, and have made us spotless before You. We open our hearts in this very place. Flood us with the beauty of Your radiance. 

In Jesus Name we pray,

Amen.

Join us here daily this week for new posts centered on the free will offering of pure white linen.

Day 1: Turn Toward (a devotional, poem & prayer by Anna Smit)

Day 2: Will You Take My Hand? (a poem by Bettie Gilbert)

Day 3: I Will Not Leave You Orphaned (a poem & prayer by Anna Smit)

Day 4: In Returning and Rest (a devotional and poem by Anna Smit)

Day 5: Christ’s Inward Searching & Knowing (a prayer and poem by Anna Smit)

Day 6: Eternity Glowing (a poem by Anna Smit)

Day 7: Gates of Praise (a poem by Anna Smit)

Thanks to Kerri Shaver @kaerieann for making the profile photo for this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/xepikEyPgmI

Part 1: The Bread of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1: A Dwelling Place

Chapter 2: Clothed in Fine White Linen

Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Lord,   

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

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

In Jesus’ Mighty Name, 

Amen.

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

Part 1: The Bread of Life

Part 2: The Living Water of God

Part 3: The Oil of Anointing

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

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.

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.

About the Steward

My name is Anna Smit. I am a dual New Zealand – Dutch citizen, who was born and partly raised in Aotearoa / New Zealand, but has been living in the Netherlands since 2003. I left the Land of the Long White Cloud in 2000 to become an au pair in Germany, but never came “home”. Falling in love, I followed my Dutchie to make a new home for myself in the land of the clogs, where we still live, with our two dual citizen girls.

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. 

My Mum and I, just after we moved to Germany, when I was four years old and gave my heart to Jesus

Tragically, as a preteen and teen, I began to believe the enemy’s accusations that God had abandoned me and someone I loved, as I saw no physical evidence that He had heard my repeated cries, as I thumbed the pages of His Word with tears streaming. I began to turn away from Him, piece by piece. I stopped reading His Word and turned to sinful distractions to numb my pain, rather than persevering in the truth.

Even so, God’s Spirit poured out upon me at various times, leading me to repentance. I remember crying and crying, confessing one sin after another before God and others. But then, one day, I committed the sin of masturbation that I was too ashamed to confess to anyone. Blinded by pride, I didn’t see that every other time it was the Holy Spirit and not me who had made it possible for me to confess my sins so openly, as I had sought God’s face. All God wanted was for me to finally realize that I could never clean myself up, but He could.

From then on, I went through life believing that I was too far gone for God to save. In my early years as a Prodigal, I was even afraid that one day God would strike me with lightning and kill me. I was biding my time until He would get rid of me completely.

And yet, strangely, deep down there was also always this deep, deep yearning for someone to just reach out to me – to uncover my secret sin and bring me home. I even plucked up the courage to visit churches overseas, but each time walked away believing I didn’t matter enough to God for someone to reach out to me. Then, one day, someone plucked up the courage to give me a book about Jesus. But at that point, all those years later, when I had given up on Christians, rather than it exciting me, it angered me. It made me feel unseen and like I was their little project.

What I now know looking back is that God wanted me to realize that the only One who truly sees me, loves me, knows me and has the power to save me is – HIM. Now, I can look back and see that God never ever left me. His hands lovingly guided me, protected me and kept 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 in whom I now recognize His love for me: including the young woman who gave me that book.

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, because I inherently believed He didn’t want me, but He came running for me.  Like the little lost lamb caught in the thorn bush, He came to rescue me and bring me home.

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, that I now recall from my younger years, before I let sin chain me to unbelief. God’s 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.

I will never forget those last few weeks with my Mum and watching God humble her and lead her to repentance and such rest and peace in Him. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that during that time God answered the tear-filled prayers I had lifted up to Him as a little girl, more than twenty years later. I didn’t see that at the time, but I now know He wanted me to take notice and to deep down know that no prayer we lift up in Him goes unanswered.

My Savior is now giving me a hunger and thirst to know Him, as I seek His face. I wake up hearing Him call to me and He continually interrupts my plans to lead me into His. He is teaching me to slow, recognize and savor His Presence with me.

He is patiently leading me, piece by piece, to shed my pride, my striving and my worship of man for an intimate relationship with Him. Much repentance is flowing, as my heart aches to walk in His holy Way. I am slowly (re)awakening to the childlike awe and wonder of Him I had growing up as a little girl, before I let sin blind me to God’s love for me and others.

May God bless us here, as we gather to read and share the stories, poems and heart stirrings He awakens in us. May we see His face in each other, in our past and present and future that He may make firm the paths beneath our feet, as He lifts away every accusation of the enemy in the light of His love and grace. And may the word of our testimony to His love and grace in our lives and His blood shed for us all at the Cross overcome the accuser of our brethren, just as He has promised us in His Word.

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. Aleh is a Hebrew word that means leaf, leaves or leafage.

I believe, as we speak up of the healing and peace Christ is bringing us, we silence accusations of condemnation that keep us tethered to fear and shame. The trauma that was sent to destroy us becomes a gift, awakening us to recognize the face of Jesus in ourselves and others, in our past, present and future. 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):

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.