Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Lord,   

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

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

In Jesus’ Mighty Name, 

Amen.

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

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

Train Up A Child

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

I grew up in faith. Child of Kiwi missionaries to Germany, whose hearts beat with the love of and for their Lord. They brought me, my two sisters and my three brothers up in Christ. We tangibly experienced the presence of God in and through them – precisely also through my parents literally leaving everything behind to follow their LORD. 

I knew with one hundred percent certainty that my God existed. But despite this certainty I turned my back on Him more and more in my teenage years, as I exchanged God’s understanding for my own. Did my parents then not “train me up in the way [I] should go? And what is exactly “the way [our children] should go”?

When I returned to faith, with a one year old and four year old daughter, I dug deeply into this Proverb of King Solomon’s. It is then I discovered that for the Jewish people this Proverb called them to celebrate their adolescent child’s God-given calling. 

I learnt that it had much more to do with releasing our children into God’s hands than trying to mould our children to fit our way of thinking and doing things. The “way [our children] should go” is thus the path our God has already planned and chosen for them. 

Just as with Peter, Jesus prayed for me so that my faith would not fail, also through my parents’ many tearful prayers, even before Satan had begun to sift me like wheat and I began to turn away. And just like Peter, I have been rooted more deeply in my Lord precisely through the humbling knowledge that it is (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV): “by grace [I,] have been saved through faith. And this is not [my] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Unlike when I was little, I now know that Christ’s power is made perfect in my and others’ weakness. I now know that the fear of man and pride are no match for our sovereign God.

He was never ashamed of my need for Him and still isn’t. For, from the very moment He called me, He knew my every weakness and how He would break it open and harness it for good, for me and for others, through my testimony to His goodness and mercy.

Now, God has given me physical evidence for His Promise to us, that when we give our hearts to Christ, He remains faithful to us in our faithlessness because He cannot disown Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). For, when we give our hearts to Jesus, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV) puts it this way:

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

So, how do we “train up a child in the way he should go”? I believe, by placing them in our God’s hands again, again and again. By living in communion with our Savior and allowing Him to shape our prayers, thoughts and actions through His living moment-by-moment Word to us. 

God invites us to listen for His plan and purpose for our own and our children’s lives. A plan and purpose that will most definitely call us to lay down our own expectations and understanding to arise in Christ’s. Again and again.

My parents kept praying for me all those years. On my 59 year-old mother’s deathbed, as she surrendered absolutely everything to her LORD, I came face-to-face with the One true God. Through the palpable, gentle and loving peace of the Holy Spirit that fell upon my mother and myself, my hardened heart was broken open. 

As my mother experienced the kindness of our God, that led her to so much repentance and freedom in her final months, so I too experienced that same kindness through the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon her, and upon me.

In those final months of my Mum’s life, God gave me palpable evidence that He is never absent to us in our suffering. He showed me how He works in and through it to bless us and draw us ever closer to Him. He began opening my eyes to His Presence. Now, I have come to see and celebrate His fingerprints all over my life and the lives of those I love.

I had forsaken His call to continue interceding through the pain of watching loved ones suffer. I had turned away to numb my pain in sin. And yet, Christ continued interceding for, in and through me: lovingly guiding and shaping me through all those years I wandered in my blindness.

So, you see, my parents did train their daughter up in the way – God’s Way – she should go, from the very moment I was conceived. And therefore I have not departed from it. 

For, my parents chose to put their trust, not in their own “perfect” understanding or their own “perfect” parenting, but in our truly perfect God and His truly perfect love. In our God whose power is made perfect in our every weakness. 

Thanks be to God to whom all glory and honor be, forever and ever, Amen.

Father, thank You for Your precious Promises to us. Thank You that You are the God who loves to awe us with Your sovereign display of power in and through our weakness.

Father, I ask You to send this Word out to parents who are discouraged today. Discouraged, believing that they have failed You and their children. Remind them that their and their children’s weakness is a gift. A gift given to display the wonder of Your perfect love for us and Your unending faithfulness to us.

And for all returning Prodigals, I ask You to open their eyes, just as You have and continue to do my own, to see the fingerprints of glory all over their lives. Show them how You were preparing them for the calling upon their lives. Show them how You were opening their eyes and hearts to receive You in places they never would have otherwise gone. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

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

Breath of Heaven

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

When God’s people set to work to build the Temple of Solomon, they brought forth several gifts. Included in their gifts was blue thread. This was to be woven, together with the scarlet (blood sacrifice) and purple (royalty) thread, into the curtain that would divide the Holy of Holies and the Presence of God from the common people. Later our Savior became this curtain for us by His sacrifice at the Cross. So now, He ushers us, His children, directly into His holy presence.

Even today, God still invites us to bring forward our blue thread, but now for the new Temple. 

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3: 16 (ESV )

Every time we come with our deep yearning and groanings, we give Him the thread of heaven that lies within us. For He has already placed eternity within our human hearts. He just beckons us to enter the Holy of Holies, to pour out our hearts before Him, so that He can unveil the Promise of heaven within our innermost being through His beautiful weaving.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8: 23 (NLT)

The first time I brought forward the blue thread within me was several months after losing my Mum to glioblastoma multiforme. I began to experience complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) for the first time. Interestingly it was writing a Biblical Lament that unearthed memories I’d chosen to repress. 

Moving pictures, sounds, and even smells of my mother’s suffering took hold of me, trapping me in the moment. It felt as if someone had strapped me into a frightening roller coaster and wouldn’t let me out, no matter how loudly I screamed. Yet within minutes, the attacks would subside, and my rational and logical brain would return to its senses. 

I was left feeling ashamed of and embarrassed about the desperation and suicidal thoughts that had just plagued me. I didn’t feel God’s love or presence through the terrifying flashbacks. As the waves of emotions coursed through my body daily all I could do was religiously declare their truth over myself once the gulfs subsided. 

Then, one dark night, I finally pitted the anger, I didn’t realize I had been repressing for months, directly at God. I dared Him to show me that life was worth living in a world where His most loyal servants suffered so incredibly, their bodies so terribly broken, before being taken for good. I finally brought forward my weakness that He might perfect His power in me.

It was then that I opened my Bible to a promise He makes to each and every one of us, His beloved children:

“Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.’” John 6:35–40 (MSG)

This one Scripture powerfully cut through my most terrifying fears and the lies attached to them. It showed me that God saw exactly where I was. But rather than turning me away in impatience at my unbelief, He drew me compassionately near. 

Jesus helped my heart open to His unbelievable promises that He was holding me tight and would not let me go and that both my Mum and I will stand before the Father, upright, whole, and complete. He showed me that cancer, a broken body, death, and despair have no hold on His beloved children, who in both life and death remain safe in His arms. 

A few days later, I visited my family doctor and was referred to a psychologist, who gave me the official diagnosis of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The attacks only intensified, but unlike before, rather than hide away ashamed, I began to challenge God to reveal Himself more fully.

In my journal, I presented Scriptural promises to Him as daring questions that would drastically change my life. I brought forward  blue thread for His weaving:

If You’re a Healer, then why did You not heal?

If You’re a Comforter, then why does my heart still ache so very much?

If You’re my ever-present help in trouble, why do I writhe in helpless anger and messiness on the floor?

If You’re a Redeemer, why aren’t You redeeming me in this mess?

If You promise You’re holding me, then why do I feel so very alone in this all?

If You have a Church, a Body, then where are they? Where are Your arms, where is Your physical presence, a hug, a listening ear, tears streaming for this loss so horrid no words can describe it, or ever make any sense of it?

As I cried out in Spirit and truth, He answered me. Powerfully. In visions of beautiful promise and truth. In the Body of Christ that has embraced me, not through a physical church building, but from near and far as they have reached out to me in Spirit and truth. And in the layers of childhood trauma He has since uncovered, trigger by trigger, to heal and redeem.

If you were to ask me to share about my experience of CPTSD now, I would tell you that it is one of the biggest gifts God has given me. For, through this illness I am learning to bring forward more and more of my thread. As I do so, my Lord and Savior is making His wisdom known to me in my innermost being, through the power of His Word and Holy Spirit.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Psalm 51:6 (NASB)

Now, I no longer see the horror of death and decay before me, I see my Mum, healthy, so very beautiful and intensely happy before me. My Savior swallowed up the sounds, smells and pictures of death in His Life before my very eyes. He gifted me with the most incredible visions I will never ever forget. Praise Him!

Oh yes, I still struggle through new winds and waves, but God always helps me to turn toward Him, to give voice to my yearning to know Him, not from my head, but from my heart. This is where He then moves in to heal and write His truth upon the tablet of my human heart. He compels me to surrender all into His hands in trust and to bring forward the Promises of His Word, just as I shared here in Draw Near.

One day, as I too walk through those pearly gates, I know that He will unveil Himself completely in me. In the meantime, I trust Him to keep opening my eyes more and more by the power of His holy weaving.

Father God, overwhelm us with Your love and grace today. Forgive us for the moments we have hid our deepest groanings. Forgive us for holding tight in distrust, rather than surrendering all into Your hands. Forgive us for not bringing you the very Promises that YOU have planted deep within us to speak to life. Promises You have given us, so that we might come to know You, from the depths of our hearts.

Draw us, each day anew, to surrender in faith all things and all people, including ourselves, into Your hands. As we do so, speak Your Promises to life in and through us, LORD. Empower us to bring You our deepest longing to know You and to make You known. Embolden us to draw near to You, that You may draw ever nearer to us.

We believe, but help our unbelief. Perfect Your power in our weakness, LORD. Thank You that You have promised (Jeremiah 31:34 ESV):

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Thank You that we, and those You have given us to lift back up to You, shall know You.

Amen.

Is there a Promise from God’s Word you have hidden away as not being for you or those laid upon your heart, but God is now asking you to take back out and bring before Him afresh? What treasure is He holding out to you to bring before Him as a free will offering today, so that He may unveil His living Temple in our midst?

John 17:3

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Thread of Glory

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

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

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

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

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

Brown-Driver-Briggs

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

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

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

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

    that the mountains would tremble before you!

2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze

    and causes water to boil,

come down to make your name known to your enemies

    and cause the nations to quake before you!

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

    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

4 Since ancient times no one has heard,

    no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

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

 

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

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

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

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

INDIGO

By Bettie Gilbert

 

Dear Heart aching in the storm

Lift up your eyes

The grey will soon part

And rescue will fall

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Ancient Priests knew the sight

Their garments awash

The curtains the walls

All touched and woven

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Hebrew children settled in

Their lands and their towns

But daily remembered

Tassles lifting their gaze

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The Shepherds on that Holy Night

With their sheep standing near

Saw the darkness fall in

Heard the Angels bright song

As Indigo from the sky.

 

The bowed down woman pressed in

To reach for HIS robe

The only One able

To reach through her pain

As Indigo from the sky.

 

And I in this season of dark

Wait for the flash

Of a bird so brilliant

It sparkles like sapphire

As Indigo from the sky.

 

But my heart is still longing

In a pain of my own

For a flash of dear Hope

From Heaven so pure

As Indigo from the sky.

 

Dear Heart aching in the storm

Lift up your eyes

The grey will soon part

And rescue will fall

As Indigo from the sky.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 To whom then will you compare me,

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

26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:

    who created these?

He who brings out their host by number,

    calling them all by name;

by the greatness of his might

    and because he is strong in power,

    not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,

    and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

    and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

    his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,

    and to him who has no might he increases strength.

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,

    and young men shall fall exhausted;

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

    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

    they shall walk and not faint.

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

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

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

Let’s pray.

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

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

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

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

Seeing With Christ’s Eyes

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

One of the ways God helped me to see His fingerprints over my life, was when He drew my attention to the names given to His people in the Bible and the meaning of these names. He asked me to study the meanings of my friends’ names through the years I had walked through loss and trauma, when the seeds of doubt began to root in my heart and I began to believe my accuser’s lies: that God had deserted me and left me wandering in my pain alone.

As I share what God showed me, may you too be able to look back on your life with new eyes and see His presence with you, where you couldn’t see it before. May the testimony of His faithfulness to me, in my own unfaithfulness, wrap you also in the compassion and unending mercy of our God. May He give each one of us new eyes of faith to see our life through His eyes of love and truth. May He strip away the sin that is keeping us in chains of fear, shame and unbelief, to reveal His new life and eyes of faith in us and through us.
When my parents decided to return to New Zealand, after almost six years as missionaries and church planters in Germany, it meant saying goodbye to the only place I could remember as home. On the eve of our departure, my elementary teacher gave me a goodbye present. A heart-shaped book, composed of threaded pages full of poems, messages, photos and drawings. Each classmate had created one page, but the page that is now engraved upon my memory, is my teacher’s. On her page there was a sketch of huge hands, palms wide open, holding a little sparrow.
That first year in New Zealand, I felt so out of place, with my strange accent and different way of speaking and doing things. Seeing my parents struggling with so much too, I shared very little with them, trying hard not to become an added burden to them. But God saw my need and gave me a new friend, who loved the LORD with childlike fervor.
What did her name mean?

Being a derivative of Thomas, it meant twin and “appears to be related to the Greek noun τομη (tome), meaning a cutting or cleaving, which in turn comes from the verb τεμνω (temno), meaning to cut or cleave.” (Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Thomas.html#.X7x7Hjm0s0M).
It’s only now I see how, just as with the disciple Thomas, God was inviting me to come to Him just as I was. He was inviting me to let Him cleave me unto Himself. To let Him engrave His Word upon my heart, as He beckoned me to enter into His suffering. Or as Peter puts it in 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV): “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s suffering, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
Although she only stayed for a year, God invited me through this friend to touch His nail-pierced hands and wounded side, to remember that His power is perfected in our weakness. Now, looking back, I can do so. I can rejoice that Christ found me worthy to suffer dishonor for His Name as a little girl, as I spoke up for someone who could not speak up for himself, and was turned away. Repentance for the harm that was done in that turning away came more than twenty years later, affirming God’s call all those years ago to me to speak up and to pray. All these years later God is stripping the lies of abandonment, and affirming me as His.

Visiting the birth family of the little boy that I later spoke up for. I was nine years old, when this photo was taken.

As trauma began to infect my mind, I was bathed in feelings of shame and unworthiness in my sinful turning away. Right into all that God gave me a new friend. This friend openly shared her weaknesses with me and God’s nearness to her in it all, inviting me into a deeper walk with God.
I remember my hunger and thirst for God growing. I remember moments of worship, where the Spirit of God descended powerfully, overwhelming me in kindness, gentle conviction and stunning grace. I remember the joy of my baptism at 12 years old.
But I also remember never fully being able to shake the ever returning cloak of shame in my teenage years. Now I know what lay at the root: sin. You see, I failed to pluck up the courage to confess a secret sin I felt terribly embarrassed of, a sin that kept me in chains to pain and shame. This was one of several sins I engaged in to try and numb away the pain of watching someone I loved be repeatedly harmed in the name of God. It was the sin of masturbation.
Rather than continue to bring my pain to God, I believed the lies of the enemy that the God who led me to speak up, had now abandoned me and the one I spoke up for. I couldn’t see anything change with my physical eyes and so, as I thumbed the Psalms with tears streaming, I clung to my pain as proof of God’s absence, rather than His invitation into the compassion and mercy He had for me, for the one I loved and even for those doing the harm, that they believed to be God’s will.
Praise God, as I turned away in my pain, numbing away my fears and my pain with sin, my Mum and her best friend began to pray. Seeing my confidence waning, as I retreated from life to hide behind books, they began to pray for God to restore my confidence. God heard these prayers He birthed in them, when He gifted me that dear friend, who openly boasted in her weakness to sing God’s truth over me.
While I did not continue to take up this repeated invitation into truth at the time, now, when I look back, my confidence is being restored in the faithfulness of our God in our own unfaithfulness, through this very friend. She is now proof of God’s compassion and mercy to me. Her presence in my life, reminds me that God’s mercies are new every morning. Now I know that in my struggle to come to Him, I can cry out and ask for His power to draw me to Him: not just once, but again and again.
What did her name mean?

God is an oath.
Years later, we moved towns and my father decided to send me to a non-Christian high school. Arriving in the second year at a huge city school, after four years at a little country Christian school, then still accompanied by my five brothers and sisters, and now alone, had me feeling insecure and out of place.
But even there God continued to sing His truth over me. A classmate welcomed me into her little group of friends.
What was the meaning of her name?

Bold kin or family.
God was reminding me that He is our Abba Father who boldly welcomes outsiders into His outstretched arms.
Months before this major transition and move, God also gave me another friend who would become my very best friend, and still is one of my two best friends today. Amazingly, our new home ended up being only a 5 minute bike-ride away from hers. She became one of our family and I became one of hers.
When I look back, I see God’s faithfulness to me in her friendship so much. She (and later her husband and children) never stopped loving me, welcoming me into their life and praying for me (and my family) through my long Prodigal journey home. Oh don’t get me wrong, she grieved behind closed doors and her heart struggled to understand the path I was on, but she stood by me, being God’s faithfulness to me in my unfaithfulness.
What is the meaning of my best friend’s name?

Little rock.
And what was the meaning of my elementary teacher’s name all those years earlier?

Downey one.
This is a reference to goat’s hair, a material that was once upon a time woven into the curtains of the tabernacle furnishings. A durable fabric, designed to sustain the frequent moves of the tabernacle through the wilderness. And here again, God’s hand is so beautifully present through my teacher.
In Exodus 35:26 we hear that: “all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit had stirred my teacher’s heart up to draw those hands with the sparrow all those years before. For, it’s almost as if she was spinning goat’s hair to cover and protect me, a living temple of the Holy Spirit, on the eve of my departure into the wilderness.
She was unknowingly preparing the Way for what is now becoming my calling in Christ, the meaning of my first two names, given to me in the womb.
What was the name my parents gave me?

Anna Louise.
These names mean grace and famous warrior. How can we become famous grace warriors? By receiving grace upon grace ourselves. For we love, because He first loved us.
I now see how God never stops singing the truth over us in every little detail of our life. Through every heartache, loss and trial He reminds us that, just as His eye is upon the tiniest of sparrows, His eye remains on us too. He never leaves or forsakes us.
For, He is the hand of power in our weakness. He is the hand of compassion, when we turn away in our fear and shame. He is the hand of family, our bold kin who claims us as His no matter where we go. He is the hand of truth, a rock and anchor for our slipping feet, even when we cannot see Him. And He is the One who can give us the eyes of faith to see and behold who He truly is – the faithful One – through all the trauma, pain and loss we walk through on this earth.

Come, let’s celebrate The Promise, Come, let’s celebrate the life of Jesus at work in us.
Those huge hands, palms wide open, holding that tiny sparrow are His promise to each one of us.
That He sees us and knows us. That He hems us in, from behind and before. That He lays His hand upon us (Psalm 139:5). That wherever we go, His hand guides us and His right hand holds us fast (Psalm 139:9-10). That no one can ever snatch us out of His mighty hand (John 10:29, Isaiah 43:13), out of the hand of the One who declares (Isaiah 45:5-6):
“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
As we reflect on Christ’s all-enfolding hands, His eye upon even the tiniest of sparrows, let’s invite Him to speak to us afresh today. Let’s invite Him to show us what He has in fact been singing over us all this time. Let’s ask Him to give us Christ’s eyes of faith in our need for faith.
What gifts has He been bestowing to you through the meaning of place names or the names of people on your and your loved ones’ life journeys thus far?
Father, today, we invite you to reveal Your character to us in and through our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Remind us of significant people and places in their lives and ours. Show us that no detail is insignificant. Reveal Your fingerprints to us today.
Show us how You are unveiling Your eternal Promises from Your holy and trustworthy Word in our and our loved ones’ lives. Open our mouths and fill them to overflowing with praise for the God whose eyes are ever upon His beloved creation and who never ever leaves or forsakes His own. Give us Your eyes of faith, hope and love. Help us remember that YOU see all things and all people and that when our hearts break, it’s because YOUR heart is breaking inside of us. Help us to come to You, just as we are, trusting in Your mercy, Your love and Your faithfulness to us in our unfaithfulness. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

Love Never Ends

 

I have decided to only publish this week’s blog in audio format. I sensed the importance of us (me also) needing to “hear” the testimony and the Word of our Lord to be transformed by it. This week I invite you to listen to the story of how Jesus came to rescue and carry me, His lost sheep, home, while contemplating His hand upon your own life too. At the end you are invited to listen to a reading of Scripture. Through the reading, I invite our Heavenly Father to soak us all in His Word and to slow our hearts to listen to and obey His fresh and very personal Word to us.

Here a few quotes to encourage you to listen for yourself:

I feel the nearness of a God I do not know. Here is a gentle, compassionate Father stooping down to wrap me in Himself. A God who sees my heaving heart beneath, all the waves of pain and fear and shame I cannot breathe. And He breathes for me: “I see you. I know you. I love you.” . . .

These monthly installments of my testimony are not just God’s answer to this deeper desire He gave me, but His answer to all of us. To all of us who have walked a path of trauma and heartache, believing our God has abandoned us. For He has never ever forsaken us and He wants us to know it, and to see the fingerprints of the Cross – and His unending love for us – all over our lives.

 

May your hearts be blessed!

 

 

My Mum and I in Salzburg, the year I gave my heart to the LORD and also the year my parents moved from New Zealand to Germany, with four little kids in tow, to share the love of Jesus with those the LORD called them to.

 

May these Scriptures and songs encourage your heart today, drawing you into the Presence of the God who is love, never-ending Love:

 

 

2 Samuel 7: 22 – 23 KJV

For thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them.

Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

 

 

 

Love Abides

 

 

Have you ever experienced the sting of rejection? If you are human, then most likely you will have. Perhaps like me, you too have received man’s rejection as God’s rejection. As a little girl, I internalized lies about myself in the sting of human rejection. These were lies that deeply wounded the core of my being. I stopped looking at Jesus. Instead I bowed to my idols and walked in the sin of pride and unbelief, giving birth to the accuser’s fruit of pain and shame.

I defined myself as a failure and as one unworthy of God’s love. I believed myself to be rejected by the very One who died to give me life. And then, as my pain and shame just grew and grew, rather than speak up and cry out to God, I kept silent. I found refuge in hidden sin, numbing the ever-growing pain and shame whose presence I fervently denied. I tried to keep up the appearance of righteousness, parading my self-righteousness, until I finally couldn’t take my double life anymore. I fled the hypocrisy I so loathed. I became a Prodigal, no longer just in my heart, but also in my public actions. I ran because I believed myself too far gone for the grace of God.

Since God brought me home to Him, He has taken me back into similar situations of rejection all over again, not to harm me, but to bless me. Each time, He has gently showed me that I have a choice to arise in Him to new life, freed of the lies in my open confession and repentance, or to slink back and hide in the dark. Sometimes I have trusted Him, at other times, I have not: choosing to tell lies and deny the truth of the living Word to be approved of and remain acceptable to those around me. But through it all He has continued to lovingly and patiently lead me forward, as I have fallen and gotten back up again, in His strength.

Part of God’s training in righteousness, has involved following His uncomfortable prompting to open my mouth. He has compelled me to speak openly of the wounding being inflicted and the truth and grace being denied me and others, rather than staying in the dark to be the “good girl”. In my doing so, He has also invited me to allow Him to unravel my heart and search and know me, seeing if there be any wickedness in me: not to condemn me, but to free me from its hold. 

His gentle, yet firm training has also required me to depart from religious communities and friendships that defined me according to my past or according to the sins and weakness I was openly confessing before them. For, God has wanted me to deep down know that He has created me to flourish in godly community, where I and others are seen and loved in the light of His love, compassion and grace for us.

CHRIST is doing in me what I could never do in and of myself. He is shifting my focus from man’s approval to His approval. He’s uprooting more and more things I have chosen to put my trust in, to reroot my trust in His love and grace for me and His love and grace for others. The very love that abides in me – Jesus Himself- is teaching me to abide in love myself. 

Jesus has lovingly shown me how my fleshly focus is so much on the here and now. For example, if He tells me to do something and it doesn’t produce the result I expect or in my timing, my flesh causes me to think: “See, Anna, God doesn’t love you.” But it’s in that sting of rejection in response to the accuser’s lies, Jesus is teaching me to step back, get real silent before Him and listen for HIS Word to me.

Oh yes, I still struggle with the accusations of the enemy. I hear his lies that tell me God could never love or work through someone like me, who keeps messing up and falling back into fleshly thinking. This always happens just after I have openly confessed my sins and have turned toward the light of Jesus. The enemy then hisses at me to hide myself and retreat in the shame of who I am, but it’s then God reminds me to arise and shine in the light and truth of who HE is inside of me. 

Patiently, with me falling and getting back up again, my loving heavenly Father is teaching me to declare myself covered by the blood of Jesus, to resist the accusations of the enemy, so that he will flee from me. My Abba Father keeps reminding me that the open confession of my sin and weakness is in fact proof that I am His child, His child who hides herself in nothing but His beautiful righteousness.

It is then I place my trust in my Savior, the man of sorrows, who walked toward us, His children – the joy set before Him – to shed His very own blood for me and for you. And though I may look foolish to this world, and to my ego, in God’s strength and prompting, I am learning to take up my Cross, lay down my fleshly life and ego, to arise in Jesus: my Alpha and Omega, the One who was and is and is to come.

Christ longs for me and for you too, to walk forward into His irrevocable purposes. Purposes that compel us to arise from the tomb of our sin into Christ’s resurrection life. Purposes that call us to share what the Good News truly means with those who, just like us, are facing the cruel accusations of the enemy. For it is not that we are strong and mighty, it is that the Word in us is unwrapping strength and might in us:

 

I pray that as you read (listen to) this poem God inspired me to write after I sat with the story of Lazarus, that you too will feel the light of Jesus rising upon your face and see His resurrection life being unwrapped, moment by moment, in and through you.

 

UNWRAP HER HERE

 

Death you know

All you ever thought you were

All you ever dreamed

All you ever loved.

 

But, My child 

This death 

Is death 

To flesh alone.

 

In slumber 

Has he but laid you there.

You, my Lazarus 

Wrapped in sacred linen there.

 

Yes all 

That he has purposed 

To steal, kill, destroy

I have purposed

For Life.

 

Here is where I call

Arise and come

Unwrap her here and 

Let her loose.

 

For I have spoken 

So they 

Might know my Father 

Sent me here.

 

Anyone who walks 

In daylight 

Does not stumble 

Plenty of light from the sun

No glory here to see. 

 

 But you, My child

You walk the night, 

And here’s where eyes will open

Not just your own, 

But many more.

 

 The people who walked in darkness 

Have seen a great light; 

Those who dwelt in a dark land, 

The light has shone upon them.

 

 Death you know

All you ever thought you were

All you ever dreamed

All you ever loved.

 

 But Life has now entered My death 

Gone here the old 

The new has come

Ugly to beautiful 

Broken to whole 

Poor unto rich:

 

Unwrap her here and 

Let her loose

Hallelujah 

Christ has risen

 

He has risen indeed!

 

 

John 11:14-15 ESV

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

John 11:44 ESV

And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

When the Body of our LORD was laid upon that Cross, He didn’t stay there. Wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb, just like Lazarus, Christ’s Body would be raised unto glory three days later. Death could not hold the Body of Christ. And today also, death cannot hold us – the Body of Christ – either.

Oh yes, we may be led into what seems like a tomb and it really is a tomb too. But in that tomb Jesus will open our eyes to see the newness arising, to see His lordship over us and others, to see HIM at the head of HIS chosen, beloved and resurrected Body. 

Can you now see, with me, what Jesus means with 2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV: “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” It’s in fact when the accuser comes calling that Jesus is inviting us to die to ourselves and to live unto Him. He longs to reveal the power of His abiding love – His living Word in us. 

It’s then we discover that our worth is not in the applause of man, but in the worthiness we find at the foot of the Cross, in the surrender of our all for Christ’s all:

 

John 8:12 ESV 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Will you join me as I come before our Father in prayer, today?

Thank You, Abba Father, that the love and life of Your Son abides in us. Thank You that even though we did not choose You, You chose and appointed us to go and bear fruit that abides (John 15:6). Thank You that even now, Your Spirit is touching our spirit to affirm who we truly are: Your beloved children.

Thank You that it pleases You, through the folly of what we preach, to save those who believe. Thank You that You have made foolish the wisdom of the world to glorify Your Son in us and through us (1 Corinthians 1: 20-21).

For, You have chosen to shed Your love abroad in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), a love that abides and remains in us, even in our own unfaithfulness (2 Timothy 2:13). Thank You that because You have given us Your Son – the Word made flesh – and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we shall come to know You, our Abba Father, more and more. Thank You that we shall see the reward of Your Son’s suffering on the Cross.

We shall watch in awe as You turn our hearts to love, where we first hated. To extend mercy, where we first held tight to pain, unforgiveness, bitterness and shame. We shall watch in awe as Your compassion flows from our hearts and hands and feet, because we have come to know Your compassion for us, at the foot of the Cross.

Thank You that we are Your chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Your special possession, that we may declare the praises of You who called us out of darkness into Your wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Thank You that we are always being given over to death for Your sake, so that Your life also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11). 

Forgive me, Father, for every moment I have denied the abiding love of Your Son in me. Forgive me for agreeing with the accusations of the enemy and birthing the fruit of unrighteousness. Forgive me for clinging to the tomb of my sin and not seeing and taking a hold of Your outstretched hand of kindness and grace. 

Forgive me for counting my weakness and missing of the mark as proof of my eternal damnation and as a reason for others to see me as less-than, rather than as an invitation to grow in Your truth and grace. Forgive me for not stilling to hear and obey Your Word in me and to me. Forgive me for bowing to my pride and to my accuser. Forgive me for not believing in, declaring and living out the truth of Your abiding love in me.

When the enemy tries to silence us and speak of the stench of our grave clothes, help us, oh Father, to arise in the truth of Your mercy and grace, not only for us, but also for those the enemy is accusing us through. Help us not to turn away in shame, or to turn toward others in anger, as the accusations come, but embolden us to let You unwrap our grave clothes, right there, as we confess our sins and our weakness, before You and before others, openly and freely. Unwrap Your Son in us, Shalom Adonai! Our rock, our shield and the lifter of our head.

Thank You that we, the people who walk in darkness have indeed seen a great light; thank You that we who live in a dark land, have seen Your light shine upon us (Matthew 4:16). When You lead us to the Cross, help us to bow our knees in prayer and to clasp Your hand – the hand of Your healed and whole Body. Help us to arise and put on our new clothes of love, faith and hope. Thank You that You say blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Therefore, we shall suffer according to Your will and entrust our souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:19). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.