When one trial comes our way after another, so often, we just need a simple glimpse, a simple, tangible reminder of God’s Promise never ever to leave or forsake us. It’s in that place I found myself, as I waited on news from my sister from her biopsy, not long after we had buried my Mum after her five month battle with an incurable brain cancer and on the heels of a breaking God had led me through. A breaking that had left my heart wounded and raw – in need of my Healer’s touch.
As I struggled to be present to my girls and husband, I found myself crying out to my Maker to meet me in this place of deep anguish, angst and tearing. The poem below is the fruit of my lament – God’s gift to me in my weakness and need, as I lifted my head to the sky to see clouds form an arch above me, wrapping me in a peace that passes all understanding.
If you are having one of those days of swirling emotions today, may our God pour out your heart like water to reveal the gift of faith He has placed deep inside of you for this very moment. May He cup your face in His hands and lift it up to see tangible reminders of His Presence with you too. May He make His glorious face shine upon you through the words of this poem, the Scriptures and the worship song in this place. May you drink deeply from His goodness and His peace, no matter what is unfolding before you.
Will you with me stay In my struggle to accept, Heart too heavy laid?
I so long to rest To lean on You blessed, But laden heavy can't.
Cannot seem to find The words beyond my tears, Beyond all broken held.
All I see is dark Hands so empty worn, And no single ray.
I long to hope again To dream, believe again But am captive held.
Captive to my seen Longing here for gift unseen Faith in dark to beam.
No prayer can speak, But You my longing breathe, And my tear drops catch.
To sky me turn, And arch above me fern, Promised hope returns.
All You ask is come With my heavy laden heart And You'll heaven breathe,
Here my weight release In gift of faith I'll feast, In open mouth receive.
Faith not my own, But Savior's faith long sown Grown now as own.
Even when I come so frayed And heavy weighted stayed Your faith in me breaks open Unfurling.
Come listen in with me today to this beautiful, beautiful praise and worship. Oh how deeply it touches my own heart today:
EPHESIANS 1:3-6 (MSG) How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Welcome to Day 5 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our fifth free will offering of goats’ hair (cursed sin offering)in a poem testifying to our Savior’s love for us. Our Savior, who, full of compassion for us in our grief and pain, became our cursed sin offering to lift the weight of sin’s curse upon us. A curse that would have us hide in our need is broken by the offering of Christ’s own body that He might draw us into His holy Presence of wholeness and rest.
Anna also shares a photo she took as she rested in her local forest and a song that was such a comfort to her through the first triggers of trauma she experienced many years ago. Whatever you are facing today, may you experience God’s peace in the midst of the storms of life.
I listen In the stillness Gleaning Cadence of the hooves Songs of morning birds Gleaning love Abandoned in the rush.
I settle in Your seat Remembering The waves The rush and crash And seeing How You Wept.
Tears For every moment I withheld my trust Believing Holding tight Is faith.
Oh precious In Your sight Are those Who die to self Who know they are
Welcome As the waves return Lapping, crashing Thunderous There they come.
Welcome To lean Upon the Rock And not succumb But in Your arms Become.
For in the stillness In the listening So far From striving's tongue You're teaching me Who You Truly are.
A Father So tender A Love Full of mercy Who holds me In His arms As our tears Release.
For faith Is not my own But Your laboring In me.
It's believing Not in my Own strength But in the One Whose love in me Speaks Steadfast, sure.
A sun-drenched warmth Beneath my feet The sun here shimmering In morning's light A testament To Your mercies New every morning That carry me In wave after wave Into love everlasting.
And so I remain here Seeking the quiet And let the waves return My heart now cleaving To Your heart Washing my face With the tears of our longing Awakening life.
I listen In the stillness Gleaning Cadence of the hooves Songs of morning birds Gleaning Your heatbeat Never abandoned My God is always with me.
Isaiah 51:11 (WEB) The ransomed of Yahweh shall return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy shall be on their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Welcome to Day 5 of Part 3‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of incense in Scriptures and a testimonial poem of praise to the power of Christ’s intercession at work in her. Yes! His incense arises in power in our weakness, compelling us to loose His Promises in faith, and to see them bear fruit in our lives and others’.
Loosing the Promises of God
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 (ESV)
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. Revelation 1:17-19 (ESV)
Grief waits upon No one It swells And breaks My placid perfect Life awake.
Now spit And foam The Promises Long hid Come rushing Crashing Back to Life.
The longing From my heart His Promises To know Long hid away In drawers Fastened Shut.
But as the waves Swell And break The drawers Loose His Promises To life.
My body, mind And soul In Spirit breath Awake.
From deep within The Living Word Each Promise Brings In Holy Spirit breath To sing.
For in the Word's Waking My heart Draws near Christ's heart To hear.
This childlike heart In steadfast love is Rootèd secure:
That I might Taste and see The width And breadth And depth Of Christ.
Living water rushes Strong, crashing My heart to search And know In waves of mercy The blood of Christ Still flows.
Each day anew My burdened heart Christ draws near In Spirit song To wake And sing with Him Each Word To life.
Before, behind Beneath, above My Savior sings And calls to me: "Draw near And I'll draw near To you."
But now I know It is not me But Christ Who fulfills The law in me.
He draws me That I may Draw near To Him.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (ESV)
And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:52 (ESV)
Welcome to Day 1 of Part 3‘s Chapter 1 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of incense in a poem inspired by God’s Word to her in the crushing.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 (ESV)
How can I rest How can I open my palms Let go And rest?
How can I receive The Word That says You delight In me?
When Your Word in me Has closed doors on me In confessing My weakness and sin.
How can I receive Delight in that When Your Word calls me Depart, bereft?
Am I not mistaken? Does not each loss Each door closing Only affirm I'm lost?
"Oh my child," I hear You speak "In your pain, be still Know My Son is calling.
"Let the Sword of Life Now circumcise your heart That ears and eyes May open unto Me.
"For, I have come Not to call the righteous But to pour My oil Of mercy upon sinners.
"Receive My living water Feel My waterfall of grace Now splashing on your face Receive My goodness and mercy
"In My Son's crushing Of your pride and self Receive My oil Richly flowing.
"Yes, there's life In the womb Feel the Son of God Now crowning in you.
"Be not afraid, My child This labor pain you're feeling Is but a shedding of the old To birth the new.
"For, Christ wore A crown of thorns To place a crown Of life upon your head.
"In the garden of Gethsemane My Son drunk the cup Upon the Cross Your debt to pay in full.
"Now be Christ's friend Let the counsel Of the Holy Spirit Set you apart.
"Let each loss Become sweet gain For, into every crushing My oil of comfort pours.
"Let now My Holy Spirit pour Upon the soil Of all Christ's crushing.
"For, is it not your honor To bow before Him here To taste of His sacrifice For you?
"Has He not proven In His crushing for your sins His Bride is worth Far more than rubies?
"Yes, the enemy may rage In darkness all around you But hidden in Christ See your lamp glow bright.
"Sow now Into the good soil Of Christ's own Body Broken open for you.
"Let His seed of truth Long hidden in your heart Now reap perfect peace In the dying.
"Bring no longer a Burnt-out sacrifice of self But a free will offering In mercy richly flowing.
"Watch and wait My holy flame shall fall Upon the oil Of Christ's anointing.
"A fragrant incense In My fire shall rise Repentance and Refreshing reaping.
"Now, delight In Me, My child For I delight In you."
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:55-60 (ESV)
‘You will also be [considered] a crown of glory and splendor in the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem [exceedingly beautiful] in the hand of your God.’ It will no longer be said of you [Judah], “Azubah (Abandoned),”Nor will it any longer be said of your land, “Shemamah (Desolate)”; But you will be called, “Hephzibah (My Delight is in Her),”And your land, “i.e. Beulah, pronounced Be-oo-lah.Married”; For the Lord delights in you, And to Him your land will be married [owned and protected by the Lord]. Isaiah 62: 3 – 4 (AMP)
Welcome to Day 7 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a story + poem as a final free will offering of bronze, showing us how the LORD invited her to let Him exchange her judgment with His own, in and through her weakness.
Several years ago, I found my heart turned to bitterness, much like Naomi did, after her husband and sons died and she decided to return to her homeland. But as I layed my bitterness before the LORD in a poem, as I sat with the name Naomi had given herself, God exchanged my bitterness for joy, just as He did for Naomi.
Gather, You tell me Gather, my broken dreams? Gather, my heart broke in two? Gather, all I've poured and emptied out? Gather, here my broken self?
What do I gather? When all I have is broken Shattered? Mara, she said to call her Mara is the word I'd choose A bitter hand dealt.
Gather, You tell me Gather, Your tears here for me wept? Gather, Your heart here broke for me? Gather, all You've poured and emptied? Gather, Word made flesh?
But not till much later, did I see that this place of desolation I found myself in, came about because of God’s jealous love for me and my family. For, He refused to allow my heart to remain divided in its affections, just as He refused to allow Naomi’s heart to remain divided also.
Perhaps, like me, you didn’t realize that Naomi had moved to Moab with her family during a drought. Rather than trust God to provide for them, they had chosen to seek refuge outside of the safe boundaries God had given them to dwell inside of. When things got tough, rather than wait upon the LORD, they took matters into their own hands. And yet, even there, God remained faithful to His covenant of love.
All those years later, as tragedy struck and Naomi was left bereaved, she decided to return to the land of her faith, and Ruth decided to accompany her. What Naomi saw as God dealing her a bitter hand, was in fact God’s plan of redemption at work.
He was leading her to return to her first Love, where this time, in her place of great need, she would listen for the LORD’s Voice and not the enemy’s. There, God directed her to send her daughter-in-law into the hands of Boaz: her kinsman redeemer. A man of God who would provide bountifully for Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.
Boaz foreshadows our own kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ. For, Jesus Christ has redeemed our family line, through His own blood. He has purchased us back from the enemy, freeing us from our bondage to sin and death.
In my place of desolation, I came face to face with my Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, who showed me that my loss was in fact my gain. In that place of great loss my true sinful heart was exposed for all to see, so that my God could reveal His true heart of love and mercy toward us all.
I deserved judgment, not mercy. My idolatrous affections and numbing my pain in sin deserved God’s wrath. But just as in the case of Naomi, God honored the deeper desires of my heart, He had planted there. Desires to love Him from my whole heart.
And so, He took away my idols, one by one, leaving me bereft. But in that place, as I bemoaned His bitter hand, He arose to declare me His and to redeem my Prodigal journey.
Just like Naomi, I had once fled my God’s safe boundaries, choosing to fend for myself, after deciding in a time of drought – when God appeared not to be answering my cries – that my God had abandoned me and those I loved. I descended upon my Prodigal journey that would take me to the other side of the world.
After opening my eyes to a newborn faith (incidentally exactly when my childhood cries to God in prayer were answered, more than twenty years later), God took me back into similar situations of rejection that I had found myself in as a child, as I obeyed my God’s calling to speak up and to confess my weakness and sins openly.
Just as when I was little, I wanted to bow before man to be loved and accepted. Or I wanted to try to “persuade” those before me to “see the truth”, turning to fleshly means of fighting. I see-sawed between the two. But each time, after a period of asking me to stay and persevere in His truth and grace, as He continually cleansed me of all unrighteousness, God commanded me to depart under a new authority: His.
What I didn’t see until after several of these breakings and losses, is that my losses were in fact my gains. For, through each loss I went through, God was restoring more of my heart to Him. He was restoring my first Love for Him and redeeming the years the locusts had eaten.
Now I know that the droughts we walk through, when it appears our prayers are falling on deaf ears, are God’s gift to us. God’s gift sent to uncover our own sinful and divided hearts to cleanse and restore them unto Him. He was never ashamed of me in that place of the enemy’s attack. For, He allowed these attacks to expose my idolatrous and divided heart, so He could invite me to enter into His wholeness: to exchange my faith in my idols of self and man for a faith in Him alone.
Now, I know why He gave me a very specific Scripture-based prayer to pray repeatedly over myself, right after I came home to Him: a prayer I still pray today: “Father, teach me to walk in the light of Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I might fear Your Name above all else.”
Like Paul, I too have now discovered, and am still discovering daily, that all else is rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as my LORD and being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. Now, I too can sing: “It is God for me.”:
Each time Jesus purposely led me into a death and resurrection. He led me to face the sinful nature of my own heart and my inability to save myself and others. And then, in each death, as He asked me to leave and He closed the doors behind me, He gave me His heart of love and mercy. He wrote His Word deeper and deeper upon my heart.
I have become as dead to the people and communities He commanded me to leave, but alive to Him and His Word of love and mercy toward me and toward them. God is turning my bitter into sweet in and through my weakness.
He is answering His tearful intercession for me through my mother, all those years ago. Those answers are coming through my weakness and God’s grace to me: not through anything I have done to deserve it. They are coming through Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as the trauma triggers shaking my body in each place of idolatry have alerted me to the division occurring in my heart. These triggers have led me into stilling to hear and obey the Voice of God, to take steps to heal and guard my heart.
What the enemy sent to steal, kill and destroy me and my family, God is turning into good, to bring deliverance, healing and abundant life in Him. Praise Him!
It's then I see You There beside me strong Hand in mine Walking to the Cross
Your Body broken Shame and mocking On You laid Pierced and bled in pain In the tomb You lay.
Till Your heavens Darkness rent Curtain raised, Now in two I hear You rip.
Christ, You raise My broken life In the breaking Of Your Body From the tomb New life unwrap.
Your songs releasing Now my human soul Awakening Your Living Word Declaring me Whole.
Embraced in love Steeled in truth Sent in Grace's Own true Breath Into Your world That's yearning For You:
I AM mercy's hands And mercy's feet.
Broken, You make whole again Dark, You shine my night to Light Tears, You cup and pour to Joy aflame Fear, You still in Perfect Peace My feet, On righteous path You tread Sure and steadfast Held.
Gather, You tell me. YES I shall gather The tears You wept for me The heart You broke for me All You've poured And emptied into me I shall now receive:
The Word Made flesh.
Garden of My Lord Enclosed and sealed For a time such as this Your spring has broken Your fountains I hear Crashing, pouring.
For, Your love and mercy You've gathered Now to rush and pour Sovereign For Your own delight In me.
For, wondrous Are Your works My soul knows it Very well.
Praise You, Jesus!
“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain” (Song of Songs 4:12).
May we all rest in the love and mercy of our Creator today. May we come to know and taste, more and more, that our smallness and weakness is not our shame to carry, but ordained of God to draw us ever deeper into knowing Him and being known by Him, that we might declare the wonders of His works:
Welcome to Chapter 2‘s Day 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a poem the LORD spoke to her heart, as she felt like she had nothing left to give. She was judging her circumstances with her human understanding. God invited her to see and embrace His judgment of her situation and to celebrate His refining work in her.
May God speak to you through it too, encouraging your heart in those places you feel you have nothing left to give. May God cleanse each one of our eyes to see what Hesees.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:6 (ESV)
A New Offering
Oh my heart So worn, so torn Emptied of all tears No more to give.
Kneeling here At these Your feet What do I have To offer You, My Lord.
"My child" I hear A gentle Voice within "Here at My feet You have given all An offering of poverty But more than Ever before.
"Shed here your clothes Of old And let me clothe you In the new A living Hope An inheritance imperishable Now your crown.
"Behold, the new has come Shed here the old Arise now in the morning sun Shining ever brighter Till the full light of day.
"I have not left you orphaned here My breath to you I give To carry, lead and guide Sending out My Light and Truth ahead.
"Behold then, open here your eyes Do you not perceive it? My way in the wilderness? My rivers in the desert?
"My righteousness within I have forged Behold the jealous fires Of My love The dross of all your Prideful striving I have consumed My rivers of peace To bring.
"Drink of my living water Let your weary heart Now rest On everlasting arms beneath My grapes to harvest No longer just in one, But in each and every season.
"My rivers shall now Stream freely Washing all devouring And destroying tongues Away.
"My chosen and anointed child Watch your delight Now grow, abound For, My Spirit shall now reveal A flood of beauty All your buried desires I am breaking open To fulfill.
"Promises of covenant True and pure You shall now declare No longer in trembling Fear of man But in trembling awe Of your Maker Your Husband and LORD.
"See now my Word of life Not empty return But accomplished In leaves of beauty And abiding fruit In the soil Of My heart for you Now flourish."
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not recorded in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me. Psalm 58:9 (AMP)
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”Luke 24: 1-4 (NKJV)
Welcome to Day 1 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna invites you to join her as she shares the first free will offering of bronze: a poem that sprung up, as God spoke to her in her bitterness, through multiple losses. She also invites you to join her in a time of prayer and praise and worship.
Proverbs 14:10 (ESV) The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.
John 12:24 (ESV) Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
A TREE OF LIFE
Guard thy heart My child Let not one bitter word Or thought or deed Take root and Thistles reap.
Oh yes My dear Pierce it does Just as My crown of thorns But even then Draw near.
Let each thorn Beckon to you "come" Pour all out That not one bitter word Root where tender Heart resides.
Come, I'll soothe And bind and balm For, this wound I have inflicted Is not sent to harm you But to heal you.
Now bury Each and every Blessed seed No longer At the feet of man But in the good soil Of My heart for you.
And in the dying Of each seed of wheat Behold my love and mercy Turn Your every Bitter Into sweet.
See each Promise You have clung to Now no longer Hope deferred remain But in My death And resurrection Bountiful desires Manifest.
Not eye for eye And tooth for tooth But love so strong Each seed Be broken, bled My blood for you
In undeserved mercy Pouring.
Behold now In death's shadow Your idols are no more For taking up your Cross To rest in Me You see by faith And not by sight My broken Body Now made whole.
Behold now In the dying To your old A tree of life In love I'm pruning Now strongly rooting To overflow With fruit for food And leaves For tender healing.
Grace upon grace In the fullness Of My love For My blessed Body Watch Me Every month A bountiful crop Now harvest.
Proverbs 13:12-13 (ESV) Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
Proverbs 11:30 (NASB) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And one who is wise gains souls.
Revelations 22:1-2, 14 (ESV) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
Thank You, Father, for sending Your Son to this earth to carry the judgment our sins deserve. Thank You for refusing to leave our deceitful hearts to their own destructive devices, for sending Your Son to die for us, so that we now have direct access to Your mercy.
Thank You, that You are no stranger to our hearts and that unlike man, You willingly exchange our bitterness for Your abundant joy, as You turn our hope deferred into desires fulfilled, through the power of Your holy Word.
Father, we invite You now to uncover and break open any bitterness that is lurking in our hearts. Forgive us for resting in our fleshly judgment of our earthly circumstances. Perfect Your power in our weakness now. Help us to let go of our idols, of the judgment of man and of our own fleshly judgment. Help us to embrace Your healing and wholeness, so we can see ourselves and others through the light of Your love, truth and grace.
Fill us with fresh faith. Cause us to rest in the fulfillment of Your Promises that a tree of life might spring up in us, bearing healing leaves and fresh fruit for food for not just us but the nations of this world.
Thank You for Your soft and tender heart of love and mercy that is so strongly present in us. Help us to bring forward the free will offering of bronze. Help us to joyously surrender our own judgment and the judgment of others to rest in the finished work of the Cross: in the judgment Your holy Son has already borne for us and those You are asking us to surrender into Your hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Will you join me now in a time of praise and worship?
Welcome to Day 6 of Part 2‘s Chapter 1 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a testimony of God’s redemption in her own life and heart and invites you to join her in prayer at the end. This is an edited version of a blog post she published here on shalomaleh.com at the end of May.
A few years ago, I sat lamenting my past and all the decisions that were made on my behalf as a child that I saw as pushing me down my Prodigal path. In effect, I was blaming my parents for the path my life had taken. But as I began to do so, God began to ask me to look for His thread of redemption weaving through every decision made on my behalf.
I blamed my Dad for choosing to send only me to a non-Christian school and taking me away from my “safe” environment. But God asked me to open my eyes to see what He had gifted me in those years. It’s then I saw the beautiful souls He had had me befriend from multiple nations and multiple faith backgrounds. Jesus taught me so much through these girls, who were so genuine with me and, unlike me, didn’t hide beneath a veneer of self-righteousness.
Through these girls, I now see Jesus showing me my own need for salvation. For, the sins I saw them fall into, I saw reflected in my own heart. The only difference was that no one but God saw that darkness hiding in me. Jesus was showing me that it’s not Christian environments that are our Savior, but Him alone.
I blamed my parents for the trauma of my childhood. I blamed them for making me feel like Jesus had abandoned me and my little adopted brother, as in their pain, frustration and exhaustion, they began to follow the letter of the law and abandoned the Spirit’s leading in their methods of discipline. But God asked me to open my eyes to see my story through the lens of truth and grace.
Now, I know my parents never forced me to worship them. My parents never forced me to put my trust in them above God. I chose to clothe myself in lies and turn to sin to numb my pain. I now know that Jesus has given me the gift of free will – the free will to choose Him, to be set apart unto Him.
I now know that He so longed for me as a little girl to rest in His love and acceptance. He longed for me to persevere through suffering, by abiding in Him and His Word to me, a Word that did not return void, but reaped the fruit for which it was sent, more than twenty years later.
I now know I have been given the honor and free will to rejoice in the hope of glory that will not put me to shame, as I choose to be set apart according to the purposes of God:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5: 1-5 (ESV)
I now know that to honor my mother and father was to honor Jesus in them. It was to allow Jesus to set me apart for His purposes. It was to discover that I have the free will to deny myself, take up my Cross and follow Jesus that He might bless each one of us.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:34-37 (ESV)
Jesus showed me that when my parents dedicated me to Him as a baby and when I gave my heart to Him as a four year old, He bound Himself to me. I became His.
My parents and I invited Jesus to become the author and finisher of my faith, in response to our Heavenly Father’s invitation and Christ has shown Himself faithful and still is, daily. Now, I see how Jesus used my parents’, my little brother’s and my own weakness to perfect His power. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV).
God knew my prideful and adulterous heart needed this experience of being set apart, so the branches that were not bearing any fruit could be cut off and burned. Now, through His patient labor of love and mercy, I am embracing the discipline and pruning work God first began in me as a little girl. And I am seeing the fruit of His labor of redemption: His buying back of my life and heart from sin and death.
For, Jesus is turning my mourning into dancing. Through each new setting apart, He is opening my eyes to see by faith and not by sight. Through my experiences of His faithful and never-forsaking love, my heart is learning to trust and obey Jesus. Now, I know that “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, ESV).
Yes, forever He will be the Lamb upon the throne:
Dear Abba Father, thank You for the thread of redemption running through our families and the beauty You are bringing from the ashesof our past. Help us not to sit in the ashes of our old life, longing for someone to bring us to You and to make us acceptable in Your sight, when Christ has already made us acceptable in Your sight. Remind us that Christ has given us the power and authority to pick up our mats and walk into the new life You have ordained for us.
Father, forgive us for defining ourselves and others through the eyes of the world. Open our eyes to see Your redemption at work in our lives, to see all the ways You have already been transforming our hearts and minds to look more and more like You, through our setting apart. Open our eyes to the beauty of the unseen: the fruit of the Spirit You have been growing in us, as You have cut off and burned all the branches that were not bearing fruit in our lives.
Help us to embrace the Cross, to honor Your Son’s obedience, as He took upon Himself our sin and our suffering at the Cross, by now taking up our own Cross to follow Jesus. Help us to hear and obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings, to put to death the works of the flesh and to heed Your call to be set apart unto You alone. Teach us to trust You that we might pray without ceasing, even when it hurts. Help us to hear Your call and to continually pour our hearts out before You in the loss and pain. Help us to listen for Your Word to us, that we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that by testing we may discern what is Your will and what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Help us not to bow to our idols of pride, self and man, but to recognize the honor You are bestowing on us to fill up in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, the church, as You set us apart that we might be holy, as You are holy.Teach us, moment by moment, to walk in the light of Your truth. Give us undivided hearts that we might fear Your Name above all else.
Open our eyes to the beauty of Your setting apart that You have purposed to destroy our idols and make us truly One in You, just as You, Your Son and the Holy Spirit are One. Thank You that it is You who works in us, both to will and to work for Your good pleasure. Continue to bow our knees in awe of Your majesty and power and glory.In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
The fabrics lie folded and stacked in my closet, next to the threads and the needles, and the unfinished projects. A lifetime of sewing is huddled there together, as a sort of memorial, stories interwoven through the warp and weft of my memories and the God-moments of my life. Some fabrics are rough, easily wrinkled and scratchy, while others drape and flow through my fingers like spun silk.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:16-17
Her name was Kathy, which means “pure and flawless” and in my memory I can see my friend’s flaxen glowing hair, her fair skin. While other girls were chasing boys, and attending dances, she and I were reading books and sitting in the branches of her giant willow tree. We sang at the top of our lungs, practicing harmony, and laughing at the way the old songs differed from our generation’s rock-n-roll.
My Mom was a homemaker, her Mom left the house early each morning for her job. But each of us were given chores to finish before we could spend our summer afternoons together. Some afternoons were filled with swimming lessons, while other days we rode our bikes up and down our small neighborhood streets till our legs ached. But always we ended with long discussions about life. She knew I loved Jesus. She didn’t argue that, but she just couldn’t live the same lifestyle I thought was so important: every Sunday in Church, both morning and evening, and weeknight girls’ club classes as well. I wanted her to ask Jesus “to come into her heart” but she wasn’t sure what that even meant, so we shelved the topic, and instead spent our discussions on every other subject imaginable.
Into the light colored weft, a darker thread was being woven, filling the fabric with the warp of my flesh. I chose the path of the church, and she chose a different path. I had known it would come to this, I who was so set on my church commitments that I could not miss one Sunday to join her at her family’s weekly campground adventures. Not once. I thought I was choosing the better path. It took many years for me to see what I had missed.
In our pulling apart, the bonds of the fabric could easily have torn. We graduated, I was married. She chose a local college, I moved 600 miles away with my new husband. We wrote letters that kept us connected, and even though we were separated by miles, a deep bond was somehow still glimpsed by both of us. On one of my trips back home, she told of how thyroid cancer had struck her, and the months had been filled with harsh treatments and struggles. But her face was glowing as she eagerly told me the glorious news of finally seeing the beauty of surrendering her life to Jesus. We cried and we laughed that night, taking photos together of my pure and flawless friend holding my toddler son.
But the drifting apart wasn’t finished yet, as my life was plunged into testing involving a move to the other side of the country, a move back again, and years of living in other people’s homes. The letters to my golden haired friend slowed to a trickle, as I was at a loss to explain the confusion I felt during those years of breaking and reshaping. By the time we finally moved back close enough to rekindle our friendship, the cancer had returned to my friend, and she slipped into eternity the same fall that we moved back to our Midwestern roots.
And just as the fabrics of home were being re-folded and measured and cut, the dark threads of the fleshly warp were being marked with the colors of regret. Almost daily I thought of the times that I had neglected the friendship of one so dear. It took years for the roughness of that churchy fabric to be washed and softened. But when the fabric had finally worn down enough, I was filled with sorrow over the way I had chosen an ideal instead of the love of one precious heart. “Jesus, will You please tell Kathy how sorry I am for the years I neglected her?” Again and again through the years, I heard myself uttering that prayer to Him.
The fabrics lie folded and stacked in the closet, and my heart remembers each project. The abilities for the old ways are gone. My arthritic hands can no longer follow the precision necessary to measure and cut and sew. The old has gone, and yet, the new is here. I can hear Jesus whispering:
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5
Jesus has taken the regret and filled it with colors so vibrant they cannot even compare to the old ways of seeing. And in the changing, the regret has been woven into a new warp and weft.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1 – 3
That old warp of ugly dark shadows has now become a vivid setting to show forth new colors not seen before. “No apology is necessary any longer” He whispers to me. “I have preserved the threads of your friendship, and it’s woven together into a pure and flawless garment. You both are clothed in me now.”
The earth beneath you Trembling. All you've ever known Shaken. The ground beneath you Quaking. All you've ever known Taken.
You're groping. Choking. Falling. You reach, But no hand to hold.
You hear those voices: “Too little. Too much. Not enough. Your punishment alone to carry.”
And so you fall, Deeper still, Till deep dark mirey cave You feel beneath. And though its darkness weighs as lead, It numbs the pain so deep, The shame too cruel. "Safe here" you breathe at last.
"Object of dread, I am. Forgotten, broken vessel, Is who I am." Terror thickens air, Lying tongues to pour. Lead weighted more.
Strength does fail. Body waste. Tears no longer flow. A loss so deep, No words to find. And still no single hand to hold.
Your breath you feel Anxious grip. All that leaves your trembling lips "LORD, My God." Silence piercing. Weeping, tearing heart.
But then, You hear it. Tender, loving Voice. Still, sweet sound Arise.
"My beloved. My pearl. My precious daughter dear. The work of My own beating heart, Come now. Take this, My outstretched hand.
"The ground may tremble, Earth may shake And all you've ever known, Ripped from beneath your feet. But I, your loving Father, do rest beneath, Even here, even now.
"My hand upon you. My breath within you. My countless thoughts of you So very precious still. Even now, I hem you in Before, behind Even here, no lying tongue Does from My own True gentle mouth depart.
"Be still, and know YOUR one true God I AM. Never have I ever, Never will I ever, Leave you all forsaken lone. For each and every tremble, shake Does purposeth My crop Too bountiful For any human hand To seed, thresh, harvest true.
"Hold fast, My girl, To sword of truth, To promises birthing here, even now, To heaven's coming Here on earth. For, to each and every Prisoner of Hope eternal strong Who turns My way Restoration double I do declare.
"Hold fast, my child, Not to lying tongues But tender loving truth. Hemming in before, behind Grace so precious, pure. Roaring, rushing waters Pour and cover still. For I, Your God I AM. Even here, even now."
In Psalm 31: 18, King David cries: “Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.” (NIV). Those lying tongues often go into overdrive, when our world is shaken by deep loss, grave illness or seemingly hopeless situations.
But what our enemy knows and wants us to forget is that the Great Overcomer resides in us still, even here, even now. For “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV).
In fact, the losses and trials we are walking through have been permitted by God to strip away our reliance upon ourselves and upon all others, so that Christ’s resurrection power may be unveiled in us. Or as 2 Corinthians 4:11 (ESV) puts it:
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
For, our Abba Father wants us to learn to receive from Him. He wants us to learn to rest upon the foundation of His love for us, so that our strivings might cease, as we learn to enter into His Sabbath rest. So that His labor of love may begin to flow out of us, fully and freely, as we drink deeply of His living water.
In that place of resting upon Him, He longs for us, like the Israelites, to discover His provision for us, that has nothing to do with our our own labor or perfecting work, but rather everything to do with Christ’s work of redemption: Him buying us back from sin and death that He might lavish His love out upon us:
Joshua 24:13 (ESV) I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’
1 John 3:1 (ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
No lie can ever separate us from Christ’s eternal love for us. No matter what emotion we feel and what accusations the enemy plagues us with, these do not define who we are: God alone does and always will. And He says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, precious sought-after pearls: His own true and beloved sons and daughters.
And because He has gifted us the pure and righteous heart of Jesus, we are worthy in His sight. All our sins, in thought, word or deed are covered in the cloak of grace. All He asks of us is: “Come now. Take this, My outstretched hand”. And He will guide us until we die (Psalm 48:14) and Christ is unveiled in us, fully and wholly.
Will you join me in prayer today?
Thank You, Lord, that You are the strength of my heart and promise to remain faithful to me to the very end, even when I turn away in fear, shame or despair. Thank You, Lord, that lying tongues can never define who I am.
Lord, just as your humble servant David, I beseech you to silence all lying lips that are plaguing me now. Help me cast down and pour out all the lies I have come to believe that are shackling me and pressing me away from You. Help me to turn toward You to receive Your loving arms and all-covering grace.
Lord, I claim your beautiful promises over my life today. As a prisoner of hope, whose stronghold is in You alone, I now receive double of all that has been torn from me, believing You have granted it to me and I will yet see it with my own eyes.
As a daughter/son of the Most High King, I now receive Your strong hand upon my head, Your protective wings, as You hem me in from before and behind, and Your countless precious thoughts of me.
Lord, I am yours alone. Lead Me on in Your way everlasting, into all the Truth there is that I may dwell in Your beautiful house all the days of my life, to gaze upon Your beauty and seek You in Your temple.