Part 5: Chapter 2 – Day 6: I Lift Up My Whole Heart

Welcome to Day 6 of Part 5‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward the sixth free will offering of purple thread (royal compassion)

This morning, I woke up with this song on my heart:

I had gone to sleep pondering Bettie’s dream and this poem I had originally written in response to the d’Verse prompt.

See not your failing 
See my wind blowing
Each point of collision
A lifting
Divinely appointed
To winnow the seed
In husks beautifully
Hidden, bursting forth
Through the breach
Long opened in my
Body broken to heal
Your every division.

As I pondered the babies of pain Bettie had clasped tightly to her chest, and God has been inviting her to release into His arms, God opened my eyes to see something so beautiful that the above song only affirmed in my heart.

When we pray for those we love and that praying leads to God separating us from each other, it’s so easy to cling to the enemy’s accusations. It’s so easy to see that purposed collision and division as our or the other’s failing. But what if it is in fact God’s victory and deliverance of our hearts and souls?

Pain entered our world when sin did. Sin was born when we humans chose to put our faith and trust in fear (our accuser), rather than in love (our deliverer). It’s then our hearts that were once united became divided.

Our deliverance from sin and death came to earth, when Jesus willingly chose to enter into the pain of our division (sin) to give us His undivided heart of love in exchange. Being the gentleman He is, Jesus doesn’t force us to receive this deliverance. But being our Father, He does allow things to take place to confront us and uncover our need for Him.

As we are forced to concede our lack of control, in His confronting, we are invited into the gift of receiving God’s sovereign plan and purpose for us. And as we choose to receive that gift, He wields His Word in and through us to lift off the burdens that were never ours to carry.

So often we don’t even realize that we are taking on burdens that aren’t ours to carry: that’s where illness can actually be a gift in disguise. I can now see how God has used Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to define His boundaries for me, as He has lifted off so much weight that was never mine to carry. 

He’s used this disorder to force me to confront what in the past I never would have. I would have just kept my mouth shut and kept pleasing and placating, sowing unto the flesh instead of unto the Spirit. But now the triggers stop me from doing so. For, each trigger alerts me to a division in my heart and compels me to seek God’s will for me, as I quiet my soul before Him to listen.

These times of seeking Him – through prayer, reading the Word and/or fasting – have so often led me to open my mouth and speak the truth to those I love. They have led to me choosing love (collision) over fear (hiding). Beautifully this has brought such sweet intimacy with those closest to me, as it has lifted away the husk that was keeping us apart. While with others, it has led me to releasing burdens that were not mine to carry, as God has uncovered idolatry in my heart.

Either I was bowing before others as if they were God to remain acceptable to them. Or I was setting myself up as an idol for others, as I was making them dependent upon me, rather than upon God.

These collisions with others caused me to seek God’s will, as He lifted away the husk to reveal the beauty of His undivided and whole heart in me.

A verse that has kept reverberating in me the past few weeks is:

And suddenly, as I sat to pen this piece I understood why. Jesus physically left those He loved also. Why? Not to cause them grief, but to give them something so much better: the gift of His Holy Spirit to take them by the hand and lead them into the truth, piece by piece by piece.

As I sat with that Promise God gave His disciples, I realized what He was saying to me. Every time He has asked me to separate myself from others, it was because He wanted each of us to ask that same question: where is Jesus going? And to receive the gift of His Holy Spirit’s leading in doing so.

God wanted us to receive something so much better than our idolatrous friendship with each other: the comfort and guidance of His Holy Spirit and an undivided heart of love for each other. A love that does not insist upon its own way, but gives each person free will.

When we make others dependent upon us, we take away their free will. Likewise, when people or even religious communities require us to think as they do to belong in their midst, they are also making us dependent upon their fleshly leading and taking away our free will to come to know Jesus ourselves, through His Holy Spirit.

But God never takes away our free will. For, love never insists upon its own way. Why? Because love – God – wants us to love Him from a whole and undivided heart. He doesn’t want us to love Him because we are terrified of Him. He doesn’t want us to love Him because we want to impress Him. He doesn’t want us to love Him because we are afraid He will reject us if we don’t. He doesn’t want us to love Him out of a sense of duty or to do the “right” thing.

No! That is not love! That is fear at work. That is us listening to the enemy’s accusations against us. God wants us to love Him because we have come to know Him in a personal and intimate way and because He has proven Himself to us, as we have come to realize just how deeply He loves us.

And that relationship of love can only grow, as God lifts away everyone and everything we are enslaving ourselves to and everyone we are enslaving to ourselves. Why? Because only then can we and others see Jesus for who He truly is.

Only then can we receive His pure and unadultered love for us and for others. Only then can we love Him with our whole heart – His undivided heart of love beating inside each one of us. Only then will we begin to join Him in His suffering for His children.

Compassion is giving others the gift of coming to know Jesus, by giving them the free will to choose their own path. Even if that path makes our heart hurt and leads our loved ones into suffering. Can we not warn them? Of course we can – and in fact God commands us to do so. But when they choose not to listen, we are to release them into His hands.

For, ultimately God uses those very moments of surrender not just to uncover His deep love to our loved ones and His steadfast faithfulness to them – but also to us, as He teaches us to see by faith and not sight. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken us to God’s Way of love, truth and grace. And that can only happen as we choose to get out the way, when God commands us to.

And that painful Way His Spirit leads them down might in fact collide with our human and fleshly reasoning. When we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from pain, God wants us to join Him in His suffering to see His Kingdom come: to see His children coming home because they have come to know His deep, deep love for them. Not because they are scared of us, want to please us or because they feel they owe us.

Only Jesus can free us to lift up our whole hearts to Him. Why? Because that whole and undivided heart in us is in fact His. It is the seed of Jesus in us that is beautifully hidden until the wind of His Holy Spirit begins to blow. Until God leads us into purposed collisions. Until He begins to winnow the beauty of Himself hiding in each one of us. A beauty He uncovers, as He invites us to join Him in His suffering for His children. As He invites us to join Him in prayer and watch His power be perfected in our weakness and our surrender to His much better plan and purpose for us and those we love.

If you want a beautiful example of this process of winnowing, I would encourage you to follow my friend Debbie’s blog and read of God’s continual call to her to surrender her adopted son Roma into His hands and to discover His deep deep compassion for her son, and for her: His decision to enter into their suffering and to lift off the heavy burdens they were each carrying. His decision to harvest the seed of Jesus in them.

Oh may Jesus empower us to join Him in His suffering, to surrender our thoughts and plans for His much higher thoughts and purposes for us and our loved ones. And may the Holy Spirit comfort us through the pain of each surrender, continually reminding us that those who sow in tears reap with joy. Much joy!

Part 3: Chapter 4 – Day 7: A Lamp for our Feet

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 3‘s Chapter 4 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is bringing forward our final free will offering for Chapter 4: The Golden Lampstand- The Lamb of God. She is sharing Chapter 1 of her and her husband Barry’s book “Our Story: A Ministry of Abiding” that she is currently publishing monthly on her blog – bettiegsraseasons.com Each chapter records their journey of transformation, as Christ continually compels them to surrender their thoughts and plans for His.

I so encourage you to follow along and be lovingly comforted and lifted up in the LORD, as you too choose to lay down your thoughts and plans for Christ’s. Come, let’s walk in His holy Way for us and stand in awe of where His lamp leads our feet to tread. He shall bring His purposes to pass for His glory and renown. Praise Him!

You can also listen to Barry and Bettie read this free will offering aloud in the audio version provided below.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

We met at church, where I was viewed as the “Churchy-Girl” type. He was new to this Christian living, and his enthusiasm and love for Jesus swept me off my feet long before I fell in love with his heart.

I had already been teaching young children, ever since my close friend’s mom asked me to help her with the kindergarten age Sunday-School class. When she asked me to start telling the Bible stories, I was forever captivated by the wonder that is in a child’s heart. And when this new-to-Christianity-young-man volunteered to help tell those same children the Bible stories, I was even more attracted to him. How could someone who was so new to all this, who couldn’t even pronounce so many of the Biblical names, stir up such excitement in the children to learn about Jesus? His love for the Lord, and His eagerness to share that love, was contagious.

God stepped in and wrote our love story for us, and we were married only a year and a half after we had met. I was barely 18, and he was not yet 20, when we heard God’s call. Even though it was so hard to say good-bye to our families, we packed up our little U-haul and started our married life by moving from Indiana to Minneapolis. My husband had begun the process to attend Bible College there. 

Dear friends had allowed us to move into the large duplex where their elderly Grandmother lived upstairs. She needed someone to watch over her, even though she was resistant to having help. We realized that we would have to devise ways to clean her home without her becoming upset. When we found out that she loved to listen to the Bible being read to her, my husband would read to her in the front room, and I would creep quietly up the back stairs to clean that portion of her home. 

Her hearing and vision loss proved to be a benefit then, as I could signal to my husband, and he would suggest that they move to the kitchen where the lighting was better. Then I would go around to the front entrance and clean the area they had just left. This dear Norwegian woman was so blessed with my husband’s reading, but we were so blessed to hear her sweet voice of appreciation. We didn’t know that when we thought we were being prepared to enter Bible School for the “official ministry,” God was already teaching us what TRUE Ministry would look like. The smiling wrinkly face of that dear woman is forever etched into my memory.

But when she fell and broke her hip while we were at work, the family agreed with us that she needed more constant care. Just at that time of change, a new opportunity opened up before us. The church where my husband had become the janitor told us they needed a live-in caretaker. We hadn’t even realized that there was a 2-bedroom apartment tucked into the upper level of the education wing of this historic church. So we became the caretakers, janitors, and Children’s Church leaders at this inner-city church within the same month that my husband began his classes at college. Our lives suddenly became a whirlwind of activity.

The Children’s Church was small and gave us plenty of opportunities to put into practice some of the new lessons my husband was being taught in his Christian Education classes. We made wonderful new friends who joined us as we found and created object lessons, puppet shows, and Scripture lessons. 

Our oldest son was born while we lived there, and he was a part of everything we were involved with: nursery during church services, kicking up a storm in his jumper while we cleaned the hallways, and charming all the little girls who came to visit us in our apartment down the hall from their Sunday-School classrooms. But after two years of living at such a heavy pace, we began to feel the strain. Our marriage went through the fire as the new bonds of love were tested. 

As we prayed about what to do, again the Lord led us to Scriptures for our answers:

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:1-2 NIV

When we shared those Scriptures with the church leadership and said that we felt God was preparing us to begin to make a move soon, they returned with a notice to be moved out in one month. When we thought we had found a supportive church who would understand about God’s guiding, they thought they had been betrayed by their loyal workers.

Our first time of breaking left us shaken and unsure of where we would go. Friends had told us we could move into their basement, but on the final week of the month, an apartment opened up on the other side of town, in St. Paul. My life was about to take on a deeper surrender, as I heard God asking me to be willing to support my husband, and to go back to work. I had enjoyed working with him while we were caretakers and janitors, even though the hours were grueling. How could God ask me to leave behind my “church work” to enter back into secretarial jobs, and leave my baby in the care of someone else?

Has your perspective of ministry and surrender been shaken recently? 

Does it seem that God has asked you to do the very thing you thought you could never do? 

Perhaps, He wants to show you where His heart is bigger than yours has been. 

Could you join us in praying today?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for shining Your glorious light, the face of our Lord Jesus, onto the deepest places of our hearts. We confess that sometimes we are shocked at the darkness and striving You uncover in us there. OH, but how grateful we are that Your mercy washes us clean as we lay that very striving before You. 

Gracious Father, will You receive these offerings of surrender that are laid on the altar now? Our humbled hearts long for the light of Your Son to awaken us here.  And as we are awakened by Your light, we are amazed by the freedom You have won for us. Our praises are wafting before You, joining in Holy Spirit breath now bursting forth from our lungs. Hallelujah to our Savior above!

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, we pray,

Amen.

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 growing 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 us all in our weakness and need. 

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, 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 clothed me in His justice, that was wrought at the Cross, and led me out to become His cloak and crown of justice to others, in their weakness and need.

He has been leading me to throw off the old of pleasing and hiding behind a mask of self-righteousness. 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.”

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 His living Word and the precious Spirit-led sharing of people like 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 headdress of praise. He has caused me to arise in His wholesome Word of truth and grace with fresh hope, filling me with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of His Holy breath.

Praise God, Christ’s fire of holiness is flaming us each alive. For, it is our Jesus, who compells us through His living Word to throw off all that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us. It is He who empowers us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us, to fix our eyes on Him, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him, our 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.

Through each physical departure, my God has been teaching me to depart my own fleshly 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 means “properly, to lead away under someone’s authority (mission, objective).” Isn’t that beautiful? Jesus is leading us out under His authority to fulfill His mission – the Great Commission.

Interestingly “unwholesome” talk literally means “overripe” and “rotten”. So, when Jesus calls us to leave somewhere, where His Word is not being received, it is so that we can leave behind His ripe and uncorrupted fruit that it may build up those we leave behind in Jesus, in His perfecting. Rather than clinging to the Word He is prompting us to share in fear of man’s rejection and letting our accuser divide our hearts and corrupt the pure and unadultered Word in us.

As we hide ourselves in Him, allowing His Word to hedge us in, we can wait upon God in trust, knowing the battle is not ours, but His.

Psalm 119:114 (KJV) Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

Yes! All Promises are Yes and Amen in our Jesus! The perfect Jesus, who our Heavenly Father sent into our hearts, through His Holy Spirit that we might not dim our light, Jesus – the Word fulfilled – but shine Him brightly into the world that not we, but He may call many Sons unto glory.

Come (Isaiah 40:26):

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
    and because he is strong in power,
    not one is missing.

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 I have become prideful, denying that it was always the grace of God that enabled me to fulfill the law and that He had lifted me up and not me and my goodness. 

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). He leads us to take up our Cross and follow Him.

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, as He had me confess my sins before unbelievers, and they responded with such warmth and compassion, confessing their own weakness and sin also, that I began to see that it is His Spirit in me that is drawing me and others 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 set yourself up as an idol for others to bow before. How dare you glorify yourself and not Me.” 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 and the resulting division in my heart, I spiraled into shame. I clothed myself in the enemy’s accusations and reverted to fighting back in the flesh. 

I began hiding in self-righteousness, so I could again “belong” to a local church body that I saw as being a necessary component to “belonging” to God. And 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 began to let go of God’s beautiful Word to me, just as I did as a teenager.

But, God ever so patiently just kept taking me in and out of these places I longed to go. He never took away my free will, but rather, restored it to me so that through my falling down and His catching of me, I would learn to trust Him and seek His leading. Through each new place He took me, He compelled me to surrender my idols, one by one, and to take back my self-control in Him, so I could bring free will offerings before Him. 

Free-will offerings rooted in His love for me, rather than religious sacrifices induced by fear 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 this Jesus who is patient, who is kind. This Jesus who does not envy, who does not boast, who is not proud. This Son of God who does not dishonor others, who is not self-seeking, who is not easily angered, who keeps no record of wrongs. This God who does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. This Messiah who always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And to know that I can always trust His judgment that is sent to heal me and to reveal His heart of flesh that is beating inside of me even now.

He has patiently yielded me to His good and perfect 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. 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, that in my desire to belong to that place, I was hiding His beautiful light. I was keeping my mouth shut, when He was calling me to open it wide to declare His Name. I was continually retreating behind a mask of self-righteousness to remain acceptable. In denying His Name and the finished work of the Cross, I caused division in my heart, a division that triggered trauma in me, leading me to speak up and to go and bear fruit that abides.

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 honor to show me that I am no victim, but a victor in Christ Jesus, 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 truth, as pride rises in me. 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. 

It has always been Jesus yielding me in surrender to His will. Now, I know my Heavenly Papa was not ashamed of me in each breaking, but oh so proud of me for taking up my Cross to follow Him.

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 striving. They and I will see Jesus most in my repentance: in Christ’s holiness transforming me 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 more and more visible in me.

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 trust Jesus and to deep down know that He has already walked before us and that He will never ever forsake us.

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 into the good soil of His heart for me, to join Christ in His death and resurrection that each one might break open unto new life in God’s beautiful timing. 

I now see the beautiful fruit 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 labor of love in me. For, each surrender was wrought by His holiness in me, to yield a harvest of peace in me. And the suffering I am bearing in my body, as my heart begins to reveal the impact of the trauma triggers, is proof to me that I am filling up in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. So that I may declare the glory of Him who has called me out of darkness into His glorious light.

Jesus has proven to me that He will never leave or forsake us, but remain with us, lifting off our every fear and our every burden of sin, loss and pain, as He leads us to die to ourself and live unto Him. A living and breathing that causes us to flourish, as we become who He has created us to be.

Our Emmanuel is with us, always. He is our portion, our eternal inheritance as sons and daughters of the Most High King. As we delight in Him, may He continue to lift off the chaff of our old self to reveal Himself: the true desires of our heart. May we receive Jesus: the only One worthy of our praise.

Philippians 4:8 KJV Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil

As you read the Scripture below aloud, what word or phrase lingers? 

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to reveal why it lingers and what God our Father wants us to see, know or do in response to His Word to us.

John 12:24 (KJVVerily, 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, will you take a moment with me to ask God to search and know our hearts that He may reveal which Promises from His Word are failing to take root in our hearts because we have been placing our faith in something or someone other than Him – and not allowing Him to sow that seed into His steadfast heart of love inside of us.

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 each of these places. 

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.

I found myself laying down the thoughts the enemy was feeding me to instead exercise the mind of Christ and praise God for His good and perfect judgments in my life, even where these judgments were causing me such deep pain. It’s then my eyes began to open to see the beautiful grains of truth glistening in my hands.

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. 

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 so that it can all fall into alignment, according to the will of the Father in Christ Jesus, in whom every Promise is Yes and Amen. 

For, 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 ourselves and those He has set before us.

Truly, truly, just like Jesus prophesied over Peter in John 21:18, 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. 

Numbers 16:28 (ESV) And Moses said: “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. 

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 my Jesus, through every trial that comes my way. By the grace of God, I am getting to know the One who knows me better than I know myself, the One I now experientially know to be faithful to His every Word. 

In returning to my stronghold of hope, He – Jesus – has given me a double portion. He has opened my eyes by faith to see His face reflected in those He has set before me. He has turned me toward Himself, lifting the veil that once covered my face and heart, that I and others might now behold His unfading glory in our midst, as He transforms me, from glory to glory.

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 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 his people’s 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

Day 3: Break the Night

Day 4: An Irrevocable and Coming Kimgdom

Day 5: Here I Am, Send Me

Day 6: The Song of My Father

Day 7: Beauty for Ashes

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.