Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 7: Beauty for Ashes

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering in a testimony the LORD gifted her through her weakness and need. It testifies to the blossoming staff of Christ’s holiness that leads and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death, shedding the old for the new, as He calls us into His rest and peace.

Through each trigger of trauma, God is compelling my body – the Temple of His Holy Spirit- to groan for what only Christ can give me: Himself. Slowly, by the grace of God, I am learning to let the living law – Christ – fulfill what apart from Him, I just cannot do. 

I am learning to speak the truth in love, to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16). 

Recently, just before God commanded me to depart somewhere He had sent me, an older woman spoke of my sharing sometimes being like fire, meaning it as a rebuke. This came only a few hours before another woman had encouraged me to stop bowing before my idols and to continue to speak what God had been compelling me to speak. So, as the older woman spoke of that fire coming from my mouth as something to be corrected in me, I took it to God. He asked me to humbly thank her for her honesty and then to depart.

What I didn’t tell her, is that as I took her rebuke to the feet of Jesus, He returned it to me as a gift. He showed me that that fire was not evil in me, but His holiness burning in me. He showed me how He desired to burn the dross, not just in her, but the dross of pride and idolatry in me too. For, He knew of all those present, I most respected her word. So, He purposely allowed me to face her open rejection, for being His mouthpiece. He gave me the privilege of loving her as He loves us all: in truth and grace.

Fire departed from her and others’ mouths there also, and by the grace of God I was able to receive that fire as a precious gift from Him. Each child of His in that place changed my mind in one way or another. They filled me with such compassion and understanding for people in my past that I had failed to see and love as Jesus sees and loves each one of us in our weakness and need, whether that weakness and need is visible or not.

And it was because of God’s fire flaming in our midst that I was freed to confess a past sin of mine in public for the very first time, as the shackles of shame and condemnation fell off of me. God gave me the honor of glorying in His embrace in their midst and to thank Him for the gifts He poured out upon me in that place, as I departed.

Now, I see how that fire of His in that place was just like the fire in the burning bush before Moses: the holy fire of God’s Word, setting Moses apart unto Himself and burning away the dross of his sin and shame, turning the ground Moses stood upon, into holy ground. 

No longer did Moses remain a fugitive after taking the law into his own hands to try and save his people. No, because of that burning bush, Moses heard the Voice of His God. He bowed his knees and walked into a new life, set apart unto His Maker. The Word of God, through whom His people would be freed from their slavery and a generation later, upon the death of Moses, be led into the Promised Land.

As John 12:24-25 (ESV) puts it:

“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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Thanks to the gift God gave me as a freshly returned Prodigal to intercede for my pastor in his weakness and need, and many others since, my own weakness and need has been repeatedly exposed. Through each trigger of trauma, in all the intercession and iron sharpening iron, my God has been lifting the enemy’s accusations and causing me to arise in His holiness. 

He has been leading me to throw off the old of pleasing and hiding behind a mask of self-righteousness, to instead speak the truth in love and to confess my sins and weakness freely before my brothers and sisters in Christ. He has been rerooting me in His love: “so that [I] may no longer be [a] [child], tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV).

When I first began praying for my pastor and my church as a freshly returned Prodigal child, God gave me this Word as a Promise, as trauma triggers began to shake me (Ezekiel 3:8, ESV):

I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”

Now, looking back on the past four years, I can see that God has been fulfilling this Promise to me. He has placed the helmet of salvation upon my head, so that when the sparks fly as iron sharpens iron, I no longer take it as proof that God has rejected me. 

I receive it as proof that God is in our midst, leading us all to repentance. I now know that He is giving us beauty for the ashes of our dross that He is consuming by the fire departing from His mouth. I am learning to embrace those flames as His desire to fashion me into His image, by His transforming power. 

He is strengthening me to (Romans 12:2, ESV): “not be conformed to this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewal of [my] mind, that by testing I may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

At first, after every breaking, I have spiraled into shame. I have focused on the sins I committed in each place – sins I have openly confessed before my brothers and sisters – even as God has called me to bow my knees and humbly accept His victory at the Cross and His rescue of me from sin and death. I have even tried, in various ways, to go back and undo what God has worked in me and through me. I have received the enemy’s accusations as God’s, rather than walking into the forgiveness of my sins and the clean slate God has given me.

But praise God that His mercies are new every morning. Each time I have wanted to return to the old He has purposely cut off, or I have wanted to put myself on a pedestal of self-righteousness by slandering those I have left behind, God has opened my ears to receive His Word of truth and grace. He has rebuked the sin in me and called me to walk in His holiness, to declare before Him: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment…O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:4, 15-17 ESV).

He has continually rescued me, softening my hardened heart and teaching me to draw upon His love and affections for me. He has led me to deny myself, to take up my Cross and to follow Him. And, through the precious Spirit-led sharing of Bettie, who He wove into my life right before my first church breaking, He has repeatedly lifted my pain and exchanged my sackcloth of mourning for a garment of praise.

Praise God, Christ’s fire of holiness is flaming me alive. Jesus is compelling me through His living Word to me to throw off all that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me. He is empowering me to run with perseverance the race marked out for me, to fix my eyes on Him, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith. For the joy set before him my Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Oh let us ever consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that we might not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Through each physical departure, my God has been teaching me to depart my own thinking (that has told me to stay and fight in the flesh or to stay and bow to my idols to be loved and accepted) to instead die to myself and live unto Jesus. Interestingly, literally to “go” and bear fruit that abides means to “depart under a new authority”. Isn’t that beautiful?

And, by faith, I also believe God is bringing this same beautiful resurrection life in Him for each person He has led me to intercede for and depart from. For, just as my pastor spoke over me: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in [us all] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 4:6, ESV). And He who is faithful, will do it! For all Promises are Yes and Amen in my Jesus!

Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 6: The Song of My Father

Welcome to Day 6 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a free will offering in a testimony the LORD gifted her through her weakness and need. It testifies to the blossoming staff of Christ’s holiness that leads and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death, shedding the old for the new, as He calls us into His rest and peace.

Over 20 years ago I had a dream that is still crystal clear in my mind today. In the dream, I was carrying a baby, and walking through a church parking lot. Standing under the awning at the Church’s entrance was an older man who was singing this song:

I will pour on you

the oil of gladness in the morning,

I will pour on you

the oil of my joy.



I will burn off all the dross

Stir up what remains

And I will pour on you

the oil of my joy.

As the man sang, it was the most beautiful voice that I had ever heard, and somehow I knew it was an angel singing God’s own song over me. However, I barely paused to listen and hurried on my way to complete my task. In the dream I returned to the parking lot, still carrying the baby, and as I walked past, the man was still singing the Father’s song over me. And then I awoke.

~~~~~~~~

All these years later, I recognize the voice of my Father calling me to come with Him, to allow Him to pour out His oil over me. He has stilled my busy caring and serving, and I have been brought to a place of rest at His feet.  Yet, even in the resting, the pain and fatigue have threatened to steal every drop of joy that I have known. In the instinctive reaction to physical pain, there are days that my arms are curled into my side, hunching my shoulders and neck into a place of self-protection.

The spasmed fascia in my neck shows how that hunching and curling has contributed to yet more pain. Last week as the physical therapist gave my neck and spine the gentle prodding and stretching that is part of the Myofascial Technique, suddenly I realized my arms were pulling up to my chest as a flaring of Rheumatoid Arthritis pain in my wrists was triggered.  But in that jerking, the Lord of Love brought a release.

“Offer the pain up to Me now,” He invited.  And He reminded me of the word that He has been speaking to me all summer: Incense.

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 NIV

 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Revelation 8:3-4 NIV

As I thought about the incense and the prayers of the saints, and as I thought about the anointing oil, neither the incense nor the oil was created without pain. The spices for both were ingredients that were scraped, chiseled or gathered from various trees and herbs. They were then crushed, and pounded, and boiled through a distillation process to remove the dross before they were finally pure enough to be used for the proper purposes. (You can read more in Exodus 20 for the Lord’s specific instructions.)

I have become acquainted with crushing and burning and boiling away the dross of my life.

During the time when that dream was first given, I was deeply burdened and interceding for dear ones in a former church. Some of that intercession was never acknowledged, in fact, it was rejected and spurned.  I returned my prayers back to the Father, and found forgiveness for those who had rejected me.  But I never understood that the pain could be offered as a gift also.

I tucked the pain down deep, moved on, and asked God to show me His next steps in my life. But the explanation of the setting for the dream was never fully understood until just this week when these verses came to mind:

 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:22-27 ESV

Truly, those prayers that I carried felt like a kind of labor pain, Holy Spirit birthed praying. And through all those years of serving and praying, I carried those babies–those prayers–close to my heart. It was a natural, instinctive reaction to the pain that I felt.  But the Lord now whispered a gentle invitation to me from within my place of resting here:

Offer that labor pain, that baby, up to Me now, letting My Holy Spirit carry the incense of your prayers to Me fully. Allow My Holy Spirit to carry what you were never meant to hold onto. The pain is too heavy, it will always leave you hunched and curled. But I will pour my oil of joy on you as you release the incense of your prayers and pain.

“Incense”



The prayers of God’s people

rose

The smoke of incense wafted

behind

The Holy of Holies curtained

between



The priest in anointing oil

covered

Entered the curtained room

unveiling

Cloud of incense fragrance

trailing.



And the Father sang His song over His people.



As the fragrance of our Savior

wafted

the offering of His pain

became

the prayer that rescued our souls.



His blood shed for me.

His pain borne for mine.



My pain and prayers lifted as

offering

Fragrance wafting with Savior’s

joining

Gift of rescue now

delighting.



And the Father sings His song over His people.



My heart now covered in oil

anointing

Enters into His Holiest Heart

releasing

Cloud of incense fragrance

trailing



The oil of HIS joy is pouring.

And while the Father has been singing His song over me, He has been pulling the pain up from those hunched over places. His oil of joy has been seeping into every hunched and curled place.

Are you acquainted with crushing and pounding and hunching and curling?

Could you hear the Father asking of you the same thing He has been asking of me?

Sing with Me here.  The pain and prayers have always been woven together, and I long to hear your voice singing with mine.

From within my own place of weakness here, I offer His song back to Him now, and I ask Him to bring to you the blessing of His oil of joy flowing over you:

Dear Father,

We come before You now confessing our weaknesses and seeing the dross that has accumulated. We long to lay down the pain that has been too heavy for us to carry. Will You open our hunched and curled arms to lift this incense up to Your Holy Spirit to carry now? Thank You for allowing us to join You in the prayers we have carried. Oh, but thank You that You see the weight that was never meant to stay on our shoulders. Receive the offering of this pain now. We give to You the prayers and the pain alike. Pour the oil of Your joy upon us now, as we rest within Your singing love.

In the precious name of Jesus, we pray,

Amen.

Part 3: Chapter 3 – Day 2: Blossoms of Peace in His Time

Welcome to Day 2 of Part 3‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering in a testimony to the blossoming staff of Christ’s holiness that leads and comforts us through the valley of the shadow of death, shedding the old for the new.

Interestingly, sifting seed involves blowing it up into the air to remove the head (also called chaff) and to have it immediately drop to the ground. And this isn’t a one-time process. As I began to look more closely at this process and the prophecy Jesus spoke over Peter of allowing Satan to sift – or winnow – him like wheat, I began to see the hidden blessing Jesus wanted me to uncover in my own experiences of being sifted like wheat.

I now see how the Holy Spirit has lifted me up into positions of authority, when I, by the grace of God at work in me, have followed the law of God. But then the sins of pride and idolatry have been exposed in me, as I have denied, through my words and deeds, that it was always in fact the grace of God that enabled me to fulfill the law and that He had lifted me up and not me and my goodness. 

In my pride and idolatry, I began to see myself as the head and as oh so deserving of all the gifts for “all I have had to suffer through and give up”, turning my back on the greatest gift of all- Jesus and His love for me – compared to whom all else is rubbish. But praise God, He has never allowed me to stay in that position of pride, just as He didn’t allow Peter either.

He has repeatedly humbled me, repeatedly removing the chaff of self, as He has pressed my knees to the ground to die to myself and to sow unto the Spirit. As John 12:24 (ESV) puts it:

Verily, verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Now, I know that the seed in us is JESUS. It is He, who bowed low on the ground for us in Gethsemane, to drink the cup to take upon Him our sin and affliction, and to die on that Cross to save us. The chaff is our old self. But as Christ humbles us, yielding us to the Father’s will through HIS sacrifice, He cracks open our hardened hearts to lift off the old us (the chaff) to reveal Himself in us (the seed).

When I came back to faith, I believed I was called to and could draw others to Christ by my good example. So, God repeatedly invited me into situations that exposed my need for His grace and healing. It’s then, He had me confess my sins before unbelievers, and they responded with such warmth and compassion. As they began to confess their own weakness and sin in response, I began to see that it has been my open confessions of sin and weakness that has been drawing not just me, but them also, closer and closer to Jesus.

Sadly, after my symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder disappeared, I glorified my healing, my church friends and the steps I had taken to get to that place of healing. I even began to believe God had called me to show others “how to heal”. So, in His kindness to me, God brought new trauma triggers to bring me to my knees, to expose my desperately deceitful heart and to remind me who my only Savior, Rock and portion is.

It was like He was asking me: “Anna, are you telling me you can teach people how to heal themselves?! How dare you nullify the very grace I have poured out in abundance upon you again and again. It was never you, your steps or your church friends doing the healing.” Oh how deeply humbling it was for me, as God led me to confess my sins, one after another, and to speak of His love and grace for me in my weakness and need.

But when God called me to leave my church, rescuing me from the spiritual abuse I was experiencing, I spiraled into shame. I returned to clothing myself in the enemy’s accusations and to fighting back in anger, as I reverted back to self-righteousness, so I could “belong” to a local church body that I saw as being a necessary component to “belonging” to God. Or I sought honor and approval in the world – via jobs – to compensate for the humiliation I felt, in having nothing left to “do” and “prove my worth”, as I let go of God’s beautiful Word to me, just as I did as a teenager.

So, God just kept taking me in and out of places I longed to go, never taking away my free will, but rather, restoring it unto me. For, in each place, He compelled me to surrender my idols, one by one and to take back my self-control, so I could now bring free will offerings before Him, rooted in His love for me, rather than religious sacrifices induced by fear, self-condemnation and shame. In giving me what I thought I wanted and needed, He in fact uncovered the true desires of my heart to know Him.

To know that Jesus is patient, that Jesus is kind. That Jesus does not envy, That Jesus does not boast, that Jesus is not proud. That Jesus does not dishonor others, that Jesus is not self-seeking, that Jesus is not easily angered, that Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. That Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. That Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. To know that I can always trust His judgment that is sent to heal and restore me unto Himself.

Yes, Jesus has patiently yielded me to His will, feeding me His pure and unadulterated Word to root me in the truth of His love for me, and to lead me to repentance. And He has showered me in His pride, every time I have humbled myself in obedience beneath His mighty hand.

I remember after God compelled me to leave one employer after only a month, how He woke me up to go downstairs in the middle of the night to pray for my former boss, who had deeply wounded my pride in things he had said to me upon my departure.

As I bowed low on the floor to pray, in response to God’s prompting, God’s love, compassion and mercy just began to pour out of me for this man, and I literally felt oil pour out on my head and the hand of Jesus rest upon my head. It was such an incredible experience. 

And yet even then, as I shared about this all with a church-going friend that I wanted to like me, I boasted in my own strength and goodness. I put myself on a pedestal for praying for my enemy: when it was in fact GOD who had brought that surrender in me.

I wanted her to approve of me, and I wanted to belong to her church community, I had started sporadically attending. But God later showed me, to belong to that place, I would have had to deny His very Presence in me and to hide His beautiful light. I would have had to stop speaking the truth in love, to stop boasting in my weakness and to stop confessing my sins freely. I would have had to wear a mask of self-righteousness to be acceptable.

A few days later I sat bemoaning that employer yet again before unbelieving friends of ours. I was seeking to save face after once again being jobless, when God had only just showered me in such honor to show me that I am no victim, but a vessel of His love and grace, not sent to glorify myself in the world, but Him, in my humility.

I hadn’t learnt the lesson God had wanted to teach me through all of this: Psalm 16:2 “I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” Yet, beautifully, one of those present said something that so deeply convicted my heart in response that God led me to repentance through it.

No, there is NOT one ounce of goodness in me apart from God. But that is the beautiful and freeing thing to realize, isn’t it? I can never, in fact, be holy apart from Christ. Oh I still have moments I forget this beautiful, beautiful truth, as I choose pride above humility. But praise God He always rises to defend me – to compel me to clothe myself in His holiness that is mine in Christ Jesus, as I bow low in repentance. 

Yes, it has always been Jesus yielding me in surrender and yet oh how I have put myself on a pedestal for it and shamed others in doing so. May God forgive me. Now, I know my Heavenly Papa was not ashamed of me, but oh so proud of my open confessions of weakness and sin, even as it turned those I idolized and wanted to like me, against me. 

For, that is in fact what shines the face of Jesus upon others in their own weakness. Upon those whose hearts have been tilled to receive the truth and grace of God. No, those who long to know Jesus won’t ever find Him in my self-righteousness, in my pedestal living, nor in me puffing myself up in my positions in ministry or the workforce, and my “good works”. They and I will see Jesus most in our repentance: in Christ’s holiness transforming each one of us from glory to glory.

All along, I have always been in the hand of God. And yet sadly, I was constantly seeking church leaders, church friends, various self-help programmes (Christian and non-Christian) and worldly or church standing to “rescue me” and lift away the shame I felt at my weakness and sin being “put on display”. All along Christ was inviting me to become less that He might become my all.

I didn’t deep down know in my heart that God has always had me safely in His hand – even all those years I walked as a Prodigal, believing Jesus had abandoned me. Now, I know that all of this humbling was sent to teach me – and others through me – to lean into the righteousness of Christ. This is a righteousness that became mine, the moment I gave my heart to Him as a little four-year old girl. A righteousness that the enemy can never take from me. For, “In him [I] also, when [I] heard the word of truth, the gospel of [my] salvation, and believed in him, [was] sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, ESV).

Praise God, that each place He sent me, He lifted me up to winnow the beautiful golden seeds of His Word in me. Lifting off the chaff of my prideful old self, the heavier seeds of glory dropped to the ground to die and be buried that each one might break open unto new life in God’s beautiful timing. 

I now see the beautiful fruits of repentance He has been growing in me: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I can now see and praise God for the blossoming staff of His leading in my life and heart. 

To the world my life (and my ailing health) looks like a failure, but I now know to God, my “failures” are proof of His workmanship – His love and grace at work in and through me. For, each surrender was wrought by His holiness to yield His harvest of peace in and through me.

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 2 – Day 7: My All in All

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our final free will offering of goats’ hair (cursed sin offering) in a poem testifying to the power of the Cross. Jesus Christ has exchanged sin’s thorny affliction for life everlasting, in His atoning sacrifice for us all. Praise Him! Anna also welcomes you to sing an old hymn of thanksgiving with her, a song Anna sung at her mother’s funeral, who went to be with the LORD in 2014.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 

COLOSSIANS 3:1-2 (NIV)
Beautiful but thorny dune flowers
My All in All



In the thorns piercing

Again and again and again


I remember

My shame.


But You

You remember

A covenant new.


You remember

My sin

No more.


You remember

Your Son's blood

Covering me.


You remember

Grace


You remember

Your daughter

Adopted, Yours.


And now

You're teaching me

To remember too


To remember

Your Word.


To remember

A crown of thorns piercing

Again and again and again.


To remember

Love pouring forth

From a Cross.


To remember

Rejoicing.


To remember

A cloak.



To remember

A ring.


To remember

A table set

In the presence of my enemies.


To remember

Oil

Pouring on my head.


To remember

In each and every thorn

I have always found

And will always find

More of


You.



More

Grace upon grace.



More

Mercies

New every morning.



More

Compassion

That faileth not.



More

Faithfulness

In my faithlessness.


More

Perfect Love

Driving out all my fear.


More

Power

Perfected in my weakness.



For, You're teaching me

To embrace You

As:



My LORD

My Husband

My Maker.


The Lover of my soul

My Best Friend

My Rock and Redeemer.



My Savior

My shield

My refuge and the Lifter of my head.



My sword of truth

My helmet of salvation

My shield of faith

My breastplate of righteousness

And my shoes of peace.



My

All in all.




Thanks to Mark Boss @vork for making the photo used in the graphic available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/dONAV335IGQ

casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV)

Part 3: Chapter 2 – Day 4: Pressed, Shaken, Poured

Welcome to Day 4 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our fourth free will offering of goats’ hair (cursed sin offering) in a poem that testifies to the power of Christ’s intercession through His Body.

As she put the finishing touches to it, her praying sisters affirmed God’s Word afresh in the emails that began pouring in and in the warmth of the Spirit pouring out upon her. May you too feel that warmth of the Holy Spirit pouring out upon you as you read this free will offering today. May God assure you, in whatever you are facing, that you are NEVER alone. May His Spirit continually affirm His Presence with you and His Promise to you that you can never ever be separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

You can also listen to today’s post in the recording below.

Isaiah 61:11 (AMP) For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will [most certainly] cause righteousness and justice and praise
To spring up before all the nations [through the power of His word].

PRESSED, SHAKEN, POURED

Oh how it stings
Reflections
Of Your searching
And knowing
In the mirror
I behold
A hardened heart
Bitterness
And unbelief
Sowing.

A storm begins to rage
Which way to turn
A heart divided
In the fear of man
And yet I still
Crave stillness
Still
In My Prince
Of Peace.

Torn every which way
I finally turn
Toward My Prince
To find
His prayers
As incense lifted
My groanings
In a fellowship
Of faith
A Voice is given.

"Blessed is she
Who is not offended
On account of Me,"
I hear Your Voice crying
"For, blessed are
The peacemakers
Those who mourn
The poor in spirit
The contrite
And pure in heart
For, they shall see
Me.

"Sow no longer
To the wind
Reap no longer
A whirlwind of thistles
But join Me now
In My death
And resurrection
Sowing unto peace
A harvest
Of righteousness
In My Spirit
Reaping."

Miles apart
And yet in Spirit One
I now reap
Not what I have
Sown
But what my sisters
In Christ
Have sown
In prayer.

A tent of goats' hair
In wisdom they have spun
My journey
Through the wilderness of sin
In steadfast mercy
Ever covering.

Christ's cursed sin offering
In their bowing knees
Is lifted high
A Voice
Into my wilderness
Now crying.

In Your searching
And knowing, my God
I now see
No longer my sin and pain
But Your loving face
Reflected
Silver pure.

For, this shaking
And pressing
I now know
Is Your steadfast love
Your mercies
New every morning
Shaking and pressing
To lift my chaff of self
To harvest
The Son of God.

For, as You shake
And as You press
My hardened heart
Is broken open
Your gold
Revealing.

Pressed, shaken and poured
Your righteousness
It runneth over
In abundant oil
On my head
In mercy flowing
My mind transforming
Your Word
A lamp
Unto my feet
In flaming oil
Now glowing.

Hemmed in
By thistles
I have met
Your grace
A wide open
Spacious place
In Your face
I AM
Gracing.

My cup
Now runneth over
In the presence
Of my enemies
Your heavenly
Presence
Has set a table for me
In prayers of mercy
Here rising.

Yes! Your goodness
And mercy
Shall follow me
All the days of my life
I'm back home
In the house of My LORD.

Your headship
My chaff has lifted
My idols
And sin are bowing
In the power
Of Your Love
A love that covers over

A multitude of sins.

Part 3: Chapter 2 – Day 3: The Greatest of these is Love

Welcome to Day 3 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our third free will offering of goats’ hair (cursed sin offering) in a testimony to Christ’s mercy flowing in and through her Mum’s life and legacy of love. You can also listen to today’s post in the recording below.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV)

When we buried my Mum, I glorified her as my idol of perfection and sacrificial living. But in the years since saying goodbye to her, more than anything, I’ve come to treasure her open confessions of sin and weakness in her final weeks on earth. It is the truth of Christ having become my cursed sin offering that I have most needed to deep down know, just as my Mum did in those final weeks especially.

When my Mum was dying, she shared of her failure to set and keep healthy boundaries, and how it damaged her emotional and physical well-being, inevitably also impacting her ability to parent us kids, as she would have liked to. She impressed upon my heart not to follow the “bad example I was to you girls”, to prioritize my own health and well-being as a mother, so I could parent my girls well. This piece of advice has so often encouraged me to listen to the Holy Spirit’s gentle and grace-filled promptings, to surrender my religious striving and to enter the rest of God.

My Mum also shared of having failed my little adopted brother. She spoke of her regrets in punishing him, when in hindsight, what he had needed most in that place of rebellion was someone who stilled to notice what lay beneath: the trauma and heartache of his past. But in her own pain and frustration, as this little boy she longed to bond with and love as her own continually rejected her moves toward him in love, her heart had hardened.

My heart still grieves for my little brother, as he continues to heal, but now, I also see the beauty God brought through the unfulfilled ache my Mum carried for so many years. For, my Mum reached out to love and care for numerous other little children that others couldn’t cope with, in the years thereafter. She was known as the preschool teacher to give the “difficult kids” to. And she was also known for coming alongside the parents of these “difficult” kids. Several of the parents of these kids were going through really hard things themselves, many of them being solo-Moms.

I have no doubt that the ache in her heart from her experiences with my little brother drove her to give love in places she never would have otherwise gone. I believe this ache compelled her to love children and parents the world had turned their back on and to study counseling in her final years on earth. Something that also encouraged me to seek help, when I first began to experience the symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Through that diploma programme, God also opened my Mum’s eyes to see my little brother’s rebellion with new eyes in her final months on earth. She wept and wept in repentance, watching films of children who went through similar trauma to my little brother. My brother had spent his first fifteen months in an orphanage in Romania, being given up mere days after his birth.

She shared how her course exposed her to these videos, the very counseling course she had chosen to do to help others. However, when she received her diploma in her final months on earth, she shared in her graduation speech that she hadn’t realized how much healing her own heart had needed. But I believe God always did.

Beautifully the brain cancer she suffered from in her final months, took away her social filter and in fact helped her to speak up boldly and seek restoration. My little brother’s heart opened wide to receive the grace he had so longed for. And he in turn extended it to my Mum also, in great thankfulness to God.

That lifted social filter also helped my Mum to speak the truth to someone whose actions had placed our family in a very stressful situation, upon our return from the mission field. All those years the betrayal she had felt had deeply hurt her heart, just as many other things had done that she had chosen to sweep under the carpet to “do the right thing”. My Mum showed me the importance of God’s command to us through His Word, not to sweep things under the carpet to be “good Christians”, but to let the sword of truth bring true peace and not a worldly peace, built upon hiding behind masks.

As Ephesians 4:25 (ESV) puts it:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.

Now, I am learning to put her example of true godly peace making into action. It has been an incredibly painful experience at times, even leading to a loss of some friendships. But I am also seeing how it is reaping the fruit of true peace in my heart and in my relationships.

I am seeing what a gift it is, not just to me, but to those who genuinely love me, when I choose to be real, rather than the “good girl”. It has also encouraged others to be honest with me, giving me the opportunity to grow up in the truth and grace of God.

And the friendships I have lost have truly been God’s gift also. They have opened my eyes to God’s protection of my heart, to His safe boundaries for me and my family and they have drawn me closer to God. Through each loss, God has encouraged me to bring my pain and every accusation of the enemy before Him, to allow Him to comfort me, cleanse me of all sin and to root me in the Promises of His Word.

It has been a slow process with this stubborn and slow learner. At times I have allowed the pain to compel me to turn back to “try and fix” things that God has commanded me to surrender fully into His hands. Thankfully, God gave me a husband whose strength is speaking the truth in love.

Slowly, I am learning to trust God’s living Word to me, above my own thinking, as He is transforming my mind to think like Him. The Holy Spirit is revealing the Word to me from moment to moment, helping me to set aside my religious thinking that would have me numb my pain, strive in pride and pretend to “be good”. The Holy Spirit is prompting me instead, through Scripture, to come boldly before the throne of grace in my time of need and to surrender myself and others into His hands.

God worked most powerfully in and through my Mum, when she was at her weakest. As she lay dying, unable to speak, eat or even wink, love poured out of her, through the palpable peace of God covering her. A peace that God used to open my own blinded Prodigal eyes to His love and mercy for me and my family.

As God went about healing my Mum’s heart in quiet and unseen ways, He was also busy healing others through her and He continues to do so today: through her very much living testimony to His love and grace. My Mum’s life shows me that when we give our lives to Jesus, it’s no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in and through us. Through us sinful and broken people who only see but in part on this earth. For, Christ’s life and love continually flows into and out of us, in ways I don’t think we will fully comprehend until heaven. But isn’t this foretaste already so glorious!

On Mum’s tomb stone, my Dad had the following quote inscribed from a dear friend of theirs: “When you were with Margaret, you knew you were loved.” And that love of God that poured out of my Mum, especially in her open confession of sin and weakness and her truth telling, is still wrapping around me as a warm blanket today.

It encourages me in my own weakness and sin, to draw near, to be honest and to choose to feel and process my emotions and experiences at the feet of Jesus. Yes, true love – Jesus and His Presence with us – never ends. Not even death can silence His Voice nor the steadfast assurance we have in Christ Jesus of seeing our loved ones again.

So, now, I do not make as much of my Mum’s sacrificial living as a missionary, pastor’s wife and as someone who poured herself out to help so many others in their need. I see her greatest legacy not being her sacrifice as a missionary or ministry worker, nor even her sacrifice as a Mom of six children (and that was no mean feat!), but rather, Christ’s atoning sacrifice for her and for our family in our weakness and need. For, Christ, our Potter, is still to this day making something beautiful of His jars of clay through His legacy of love in my Mum that shall never end.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Part 3: Chapter 1 – Day 3: My King, My LORD In Me

Welcome to Day 3 of Part 3‘s Chapter 1. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of incense through a Promise from God’s Word, a poem and a photo of flowers her daughter came home with for her on a particularly difficult day. It was truly a gift of God’s kindness, without her realizing it.

My King, My LORD In Me


1 Kings 9:3
I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy- this place you have built, where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it. For it is dear to my heart.



I cannot see
With eyes of flesh
Am blinded
To all so true, so pure.

But then, Your Spirit falls
Like oil my worship to You released
Fragrant incense to You I raise
My heart, it breaks and pours.

My hands, they lift
My lips, they cry
My heart to You returns
Freed in You, I'm now soaring high.

I cannot see
With eyes of flesh
Am blinded
To all so true, so pure.

But in worship led
My eyes, You open
Riches here reveal
Wealth immeasurable: all in You.

And so my heart, it pours
My hands in kindness reach
My lips in love, You speak
Surrendered, free: My King, My Lord in me.

Part 3: The Oil of Anointing

Welcome to Part 3 of Arise and Shine: The Oil of Anointing. Today, Bettie is opening part 3 with a devotional, including a poem and Spirit-led song she was gifted, as she shares what God showed her about the process required to make the anointing oil and its connection to Christ’s labor of love and our response to that.

Join us in the coming days and weeks for the chapters and daily free will offerings connected to the Oil of Anointing. We will be posting these as the LORD leads us.

Have you seen the beautiful plant called “Crown of Thorns?” It is a reliable bloomer that keeps me going through the garden-less days of winter. But just because it’s reliable, doesn’t mean it’s boring. I am always moved by the beauty that rests alongside the pain of this plant. Thorns are jagged along the whole stem, with hardly a space left open. But at the tip of each stem there rests such a fragile seeming, tender bloom. Will my own heart find tenderness alongside the pain? 

Crown of Thorns

Gentle thorns, I pray

Please don't blow the joy away

Let the blooms remain

And if you understand the Song of Solomon to be an allegory of the love story between our God and His People, then He sees us as that beautiful bloom:

“Him: Like a lily among thorns, that is what she is;

        my dear is a captivating beauty among the young women.” Song of Solomon 2:2

Oh, what a mystery is the Love of our Lord! Many years ago, during a particularly busy and overwhelming Season in my life, my Lord spoke this Spirit-led song over my heart in a dream:

"I will pour on you
the oil of gladness in the morning,

I will pour on you
the oil of my joy.

I will burn off all the dross,
Stir up what remains,

And I will pour on you
the oil of my joy."

At the time the song was given, I searched the Scriptures, and the historical processes for the Biblical anointing oil that was used by Moses.  And this is what I found in Exodus 30:20-25 (NIV):

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil.  Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil 

Then to understand the process that the “work of a perfumer” would have gone through, I found these words by David Levy, in his book, The Tabernacle: Shadows of the Messiah:

“The anointing oil was made from a specific formula . . . Rabbinical sources state that Moses, having reduced the solid ingredients to powder, steeped them in water until all the aromatic qualities were drawn out. The olive oil was then poured into the ingredients and the water boiled out. The residue thus obtained was preserved in a vessel for use.” 

Where did those specific ingredients come from? Cinnamon, cassia, and calamus were gathered from the bark and leaves of fragrant plants. But myrhh—it’s a thorny plant that only releases its resin after a wounding is made to the bark. So, not only is the process of making the anointing oil a journey through drying, grinding, steeping, and boiling, but there is a wounding involved in the very first step of gathering.  

Dear one, are you facing a wounding in your life? Are you in a season of boiling stress? Or maybe you are facing the drying winds of a desert.  Rest assured, our Lord has already walked through the process that was required to birth the anointing oil that He, himself became for us. But He has called us His lily among the thorns. Are we ready to give our love, our anointing oil, back to Him?

My feet are aching

Here on this thorny road

Where pebbles prick my feet

Diseased and worn

I hobble through my days.


The oil given me

A healing balm I’m told

Will soothe the burning

And restore the movement

Illness took from me.


But I don’t see results

I cry when I am forced

To wait while others walk

And watch the path

Sit silent at my feet.


And yet

I pour the oil.


Another woman poured her oil

She wasted all her treasure

For ONE the world called

Foolish and meek

Anointing Him for burial.


A beautiful gift she gave

Poured from the wounding

In her heart

After the boiling of her pain

Had wrecked her heart for HIM.


God had set the plan

He had made the picture

Worship required Anointing

Anointing required oil

Born from a wounding and a scar.


Jesus dear Redeemer

You were that oil for me

After your own wounding

Pounded, dried and scourged

Blood drops squeezed so pure.


Now here am I at your feet

Broken, wounded, beaten

By diseases from this world

Yet from the thorn-touch here

You birth a lovely gift.


The oil of my wounding

Has become my sacrifice

Of praises never ending

Washing your feet with tears

Drying them with my hair.


You pull me to my feet

Your words for all to hear

From lips so full of love

What she has done so free

Eternity will call, Beautiful.

Chapter 1: Incense

Chapter 2: Goats’ Hair

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