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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3: Chapter 3: Aaron’s Budding Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1: He Gives Us More Grace

Day 2: Blossoms of Peace in His Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Ephesians 4:25 (ESV) puts it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3: Chapter 2 – Day 2: In the Hollow of His Hands

Welcome to Day 2 of Part 3‘s Chapter 2 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing our second free will offering of goats’ hair in a testimony to God’s faithfulness in our faithlessness.

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?

Twin

Her name was a derivative of Thomas, a name which “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 touch the holes in His hands and feet. For, He wanted me to realize that the moment I had responded to the Father’s call to repentance as a little girl, He had bound Himself to me.

The holes in His hands and feet are evidence that (Isaiah 49:16, ESV): “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” On that Cross, Christ restored the breach in my walls of salvation. He became my cursed sin offering, bearing the penalty I should have borne, to atone for all my sins: past, present and future.

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.

As a preteen, however, I agreed with the enemy’s accusations against me in my sin, and the more I did so, the more I hid and the more I was bathed in feelings of shame and unworthiness. I had faced rejection from those I loved and trusted most in speaking up for someone who couldn’t speak up for himself, and the enemy used this to feed me accusations of God’s abandonment that I, in my fear of man above God, readily agreed to. But into all this, God gave me a new friend. This friend openly shared her weakness 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 the humiliation and sting of rejection I felt, as I saw the response of someone I deeply respected to the Holy Spirit’s anointing upon me and my open confession of sin and weakness.

I remember slowly retreating from God’s desire to draw me near, becoming fearful of the cost of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. I did not recognize the honor He was seeking to bestow on me, in my setting apart, as He called me to bow my knees in humilty, in the confidence of His love for me. Instead I chose to fear man’s rejection of me above my holy God, turning my back on the greatest gift of all. I remember beginning to numb my pain by retreating from those around me, spending hours with my nose behind books.

Then, several years later, I remember the terror that filled me as I committed the sin of masturbation, a sin I was too scared and too ashamed to confess to anyone. It’s then, as I listened to the enemy’s accusations against me more and more, I began to believe I was irredeemable and that God had rejected me for good.

I believe God gifted me that dear friend, who openly boasted in her weakness, to sing His truth over me. When I look back, I see His faithfulness to me in my faithlessness and His desire to uproot my confidence in myself and in the love and approval of man, to reroot me in His love and approval alone.

My new friend 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 to my LORD to save me – again and again- and that He always will. For, He perfects His power in weakness.

What did my new friend’s 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 are the meanings of my best friend’s first and middle names?

Little rock and God is an oath

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

Downey one.

This is a reference to goats’ hair, a material that was once upon a time woven to make 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 goats’ hair to cover and hide me with Christ, on the eve of my departure into the wilderness. For, even through all those years of unbelief, God never ever took His Holy Spirit from me. He became the cursed sin offering on the Cross for me and my faithfulness in my faithlessness. And each friend who welcomed me into her midst is now physical proof to me that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

For, Christ was the hand of sufficient grace in my weakness. He was the hand of compassion, when I turned away in fear and shame. He was the hand of family, my bold kin who claimed me as His no matter where I went. He was the hand of truth, a rock and anchor for my slipping feet, even when I could not see Him. 

And He was the One who gave me eyes of faith to see and behold Him for who He truly is, in His perfect timing, when He had set me exactly where He wanted me, according to His purposes for my life. He has turned and still is turning the enemy’s attacks against me into good.

Now, as I look back, I can remember how He in fact never ever stopped praying through me. For, even as I stopped praying for myself, believing myself irredeemable, I kept praying for others around me – seeing them as worthy of God’s love and grace. 

Now, I know that all who call upon the Name of the LORD are saved, because we are all worthy of God’s love and grace. Not because we deserve it, but because the blood of Jesus does, the blood that was shed to hide us in the righteousness of God. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV) Yes! Our sinless Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) and “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, ESV).

And what was the name my parents gave me?

Anna Louise.

These names mean grace and famous warrior. Now, I know that grace and famous warrior is Jesus. For, it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

Just as Peter, I have discovered that the name Jesus gave me reflects how God desires to build His church. Not by our might, nor by our power, but only ever by the Spirit of the LORD whose power is made perfect in our weakness. 

I believe Peter was called the rock because the moment Peter decided to follow Jesus, Simon (meaning “has heard”) died and Jesus – the Rock – arose in him, in response to him hearing the call of his Heavenly Father. And the gates of hell could never prevail against that. Just as they cannot prevail against any child of God’s.

For in giving our hearts to Jesus, we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). And “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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, ESV).

Shortly after our move to Germany. My mother and I, the year I gave my life to Jesus.

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, all Promises are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2 KJV)

Celebrate Jesus

Come, let’s celebrate the life of Jesus at work in us and our loved ones. 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).

Isaiah 57:15 (ESV) tells us:

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Are there gifts the LORD longs for you to receive in the meaning of place names or the names of people on your and your loved ones’ life journeys thus far? Is He longing to comfort Your heart, as you see His hand in the tiniest of details?

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.

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.

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Day 5: Not by Might, Not by Power

Welcome to Day 5 of Part 2‘s Chapter 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of gold in the form of poetry and a testimony to God’s perfecting power.

Draw Near


Grief waits upon
No one
It swells
And breaks
My placid perfect
Life awake.

Now spit
And foam
The Promises
Long hid
Come rushing
Crashing
Back to Life.

The longing
From my heart
His Promises
To know
Long hid away
In drawers
Fastened
Shut.

But as the waves
Swell
And break
The drawers
Loose
His Promises
To life.

My body, mind
And soul
In Spirit breath
Awake.

From deep within
The Living Word
Each Promise
Brings
In Holy Spirit breath
To sing.

For in grief's
Wake
My heart
Draws near
Christ's heart
To hear.

This childlike heart
In steadfast love is
Rootèd secure:

That I might
Taste and see
The width
And breadth
And depth
Of Christ.

At the end of 2014, the loss of my Mum weighed so heavily on my heart. Those last few weeks with her were precious beyond measure, as God revealed Himself to me in my and my mother’s weakness, bringing me home to Him through the touch of His Holy Spirit. But helping to bathe, feed and care for her in her last days left its toll on me.

I couldn’t shake the exhaustion felling my body daily, and when a friend sent me an email about God calling her to surrender to His rest, it affirmed what had been on my own heart to do: to hand in my resignation to my employer. In the coming weeks and months, that surrender made room for me to feel, what I had suppressed.

As grief rose up within me, so did the memories of the cancer’s ravaging effects on the body of my mother. Overpowering waves rose up and crashed over me: fear and unbelief shouted loudly at me. But as the enemy waged war for my soul, the Spirit of God arose to defend me. He did so through the Word of God.

I had been reading through the whole New Testament, with a small group from my little Anglican church, leading up to the Lent of 2015. As I read the pure pages of God’s Word, with no interruptions from commentaries or others’ interpretations, the Spirit of God spoke to me personally. He invited me to bring Him my grief and the Promises I couldn’t see Him fulfilling in my own life.

As I did so, He answered my deepest cries. Lifting every accusation against me by the power of His Word, He led my heart to repentance. He showed me that He had never abandoned me, or my Mum. He gave me beautiful visions that affirmed the truth of eternal wholeness and healing, and of His Promise to hold each one of us in His hands, that He might complete what He started in us, to set us before the Father, healed and whole.

Recently, as He brought all of this to remembrance again, I noticed that He was taking me through a similar process all over again. There are many things He has had me lay down in surrender recently, for similar reasons. As I have done so, the true desires of my heart have surfaced, as have deep waves of grief, as God has convicted me in my sin.

I have been waiting on God for something for seven years. But God has been waiting on me to draw ever nearer to Him in this, that He might reveal Himself to me there fully and wholly. Don’t get me wrong, I have taken steps in faith toward this Promise and have seen God honor these steps with beautiful glimpses of His coming fulfillment. But God rightly convicted my heart again recently, as He showed me that I have gradually become satisfied with the status quo.

In my horrid unbelief, I have settled for less, just as I have done in the past. I have placed before God lesser desires to fill the hole in my heart. And God has given me what I asked Him for, only to each time show me that it is not what my heart truly desires. In inviting me to lay each lesser desire back down again, He has been calling to me to bring Him my deepest and truest desires.

As He uncovered this all, He reminded me of those final weeks with my Mum and what moved His heart in compassion. It was not our strength, but our weakness: our realization that we could do absolutely nothing to save each other: me – my Mum from dying physically, my Mum – me and others from dying spiritually and being cut off from God forever.

As our lips were silenced, mine in overwhelming grief that no words could ever describe and my Mum’s, as the cancer took away her ability to communicate, the Holy Spirit spoke in power. For, God poured out His salving balm of peace and His heart healing power in our midst. He brought me, His Prodigal daughter, home and He lifted so many burdens from my Mum, bringing her home to heaven, healed and whole.

I now see how Jesus has been waiting for me to cry out to Him in my weakness, just as my Mum did, that He might bring me into alignment with His Word to me. He has not been ashamed of me in my unbelief, but just as the man whose daughter was dead did in the Bible, He wants me to cry out in Spirit and truth – “LORD I believe, but help my unbelief.”

All along, God has been inviting me to come, just as I am, without one plea, to the foot of the Cross. He has been inviting me to be made holy as He is holy – not in my striving, but by allowing His Holy Spirit to pour out upon me in compassion to do in and through me what I could never ever do in and of myself.

Now, thanks to His persevering mercy, I am bowing my knees afresh before Him in my need, crying out for His mercy to flow. It is this deep, deep gutteral cry for His holiness – the desire that breaks our heart the most, as we recognize our absolute inability to fulfill it – that breaks His heart the most when we fail to lay it before Him, asking Him to fulfill it.

For, Jesus is longing for us to become like little children before Him. He longs for us to believe that when we ask Him for bread, He will not give us stones, but He will give us Himself- our bread of life – the free gift of faith to meet us in our unbelief.

If you recognize yourself in my struggles with unbelief, will you join me in kneeling before our Maker today, that in our weakness, His power might be perfected?

Father, thank You for Your Word that promises us the pure of heart shall see You. Thank You that Your Word to us reminds us that the pure of heart are those whose hearts have been washed in the blood of Your Son, Jesus, to uncover His holiness.

Father, forgive us, where we have clung to the enemy’s accusations above Your holy Word. Forgive us for not bringing you the deepest desires of our heart to be holy as you are holy. Forgive us for not acknowledging our unbelief before you. Forgive us for not believing that You are a good Father who will not give us stones when we cry out for bread.

Thank You that Your Word and our experience of your goodness and mercy in our lives, remind us that it is not by might, not by power, but by Your Spirit that Your Word to us comes to pass.

Father, we do not want our lamps to go out. We long to be prepared for the arrival of the Bridegroom – our LORD and Savior, Jesus. But we acknowledge now that we have allowed our oil to dissipate because we have failed to come to You in our weakness, we have failed to ask You to pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us. Forgive us. Today, we seek Your face afresh and beseech You to fill our lamps with the fresh oil of Your Holy Spirit and we ask You to keep turning us toward You that You may continue to fill us, again and again.

Thank You that we shall see the deepest desires of our hearts manifest before us in the unveiling of Jesus in our midst. Thank You that in our weakness, as our knees bow before You to acknowledge our imperfection and our deep desire for Your holy perfection, we shall see Your power pour out upon us.

Thank You that not one Word of Yours shall return void. Thank You that our hearts shall yet rise again, no longer chained to unbelief, but set free in Christ Jesus to arise with fresh faith to see Him- our Promise – come to life before our very eyes.

Thank You for Your tender mercies toward us. Father, today we stretch out our emptied hands and hearts, thanking You for Your pruning hands and inviting You to fill our hands and hearts anew with the fresh, warm manna of Your Word. We believe, Father, but help our unbelief!

In Jesus’ Name, we cry: Amen.

Living water rushes
Strong, crashing
My heart to search
And know
In waves of mercy
The blood of Christ
Still flows.

Before, behind
Beneath, above
My Savior sings
And calls to me:
"Draw near
And I'll draw near
To you."

Each day anew
My burdened heart
Christ draws near
In Word and Spirit
He beckons to me
Come.

It's now I know
In all my waiting
All along it's been
My God
Who's been waiting
On me.

To humble myself
To lay down
Every distraction
To bring Him
Not just a part
But my whole heart
To trust Him
When He says:

I will fight for you
You have only
To be silent
To be still
And know that
I alone am God!
I will be exalted
Among the nations
I will be exalted
In the earth.

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Day 4: The Hands that Were Pierced

Welcome to Day 4 of Part 2s Chapter 3 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a free will offering of gold: a poem and Scriptures of thanksgiving for God’s perfection wrought at the Cross for us. She also invites you to sing two songs of praise and worship with her, declaring the truth of God’s mighty power to save.

No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.

Isaiah 60:18 (ESV)
Your Hands 

Your hands hold
Me close
Your hands wrap
Around my coming

And going out again
Your hands know me
Each day of my life
Written in Your book.

Your hands let me go
But tethering me in grace
To the path You walked
Before me and behind me stay.

Your hands wrap around
My heart that is aching
To break
In Your mercy.

Laboring in kindness
Your hands teach me to trust
Again and again to let go
Into Your hands every part yielding.

Led by Your hands
You walk me into Your death and
Resurrection, again and again
To awaken Your heart of flesh.

You make room for the new
Lifting every accusation
At the power of Your Word
You carry me into the light.

That I may bear fruit that abides
That I may die to the old of my knowing
To rest in Your knowing
Written on the holes in Your hands.

That I may see Your blessed perfection
Reflected in Your Word's consecration
For Your Word to me
Is truth.

My life and breath
Let them now speak evermore
Of Your hands that were pierced
To hold us all together in mercy.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them

    after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

    and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Hebrews 10:14-18 (ESV)

Part 2: Chapter 3 – Day 1: Holy Spirit Power

Welcome to Chapter 3‘s Day 1 of Part 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a testimony of God’s perfecting power in her weakness and a prayer inviting God to pour out His Holy Spirit upon us.

When the LORD began to call me to share the Words and visions I saw with a family I had been praying for, I struggled. What if these were just figments of my imagination? What if they gave them false hope or upset them?

I could hear the enemy breathing down my neck: “God would never call someone like you to intercede for others in prayer. He would never give someone like you these kind of Words and visions.” When I looked at myself, I saw my newness in faith as a recently returned Prodigal, my mental illness diagnosis (CPTSD) and my sinful past and found myself beginning to agree with the enemy.

Then, a leader I deeply respected affirmed the very accusations I was already hearing, when I asked for advice. And so a tug of war ensued. Until finally, I cried out in frustration. I told God enough was enough. Either I was going to zip my lips, or God had better show me that it was indeed He, who had called me to speak His Word into this family’s situation.

Moments later, three separate affirmations arrived. But the most amazing affirmation of all was what unfolded with a stranger, mere minutes after my prayer. I was standing at a train station minding my own business, when a man approached me. He asked to borrow my phone to call his brother to let him know he’d be late. I was frightened by his dishevelled exterior, but didn’t want to be rude, so I offered to call his brother for him and tell him.

After doing so, the man thanked me profusely and suddenly began to share parts of his life story. He started by sharing his full (Hebrew) name and his Christian upbringing. And went on to share of the incredible suffering his parents walked through and their inability to love him as he needed to be loved. He then shared about his struggle to believe and to be freed from his addictions.

I listened intently, praying for God to fill me with the wisdom I lacked. I longed to help this man see how much God still loved him and yearned to comfort and bring healing. It’s then, as we sat together on the train, that the Holy Spirit prompted me to openly share about the trauma I had walked through as a little girl and how God was leading me to a place of healing and forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit also provided a question to ask the man. It is this question that visibly moved the man. He kept repeating it and working through its implications. Suddenly, I saw compassion enter the man’s eyes as he spoke of his parents, rather than the hurt and bitterness that had been there moments earlier. The Lord was so clearly working in his heart.

I sat there beside him on the train, amazed. If it was not for the Lord’s promptings I would never have gone near this man. He stunk of alcohol and his dishevelled appearance both frightened and revolted me. But God was not put off by my fears or judgement. He pressed until I responded in grace and love as He wanted me to.

After this experience I knew. I knew that even in my newly returned Prodigal state, as I struggled through trauma triggers, God was calling me to intercede and speak encouragement into others’ lives. It’s then I knew the Scriptures and visions of Bible stories I was receiving in prayer were gifts from God, not given to hoard, but share.

As I shared what God had given me, it affirmed what this family had already been receiving from the LORD. It brought them such comfort and encouragement through a time of great loss and grief. In the months that followed, as I continued to share with them, God grew me in discernment and wisdom, burning away and shaking off the dross that was not of Him, as He continues to do today, even as I share with you here.

Oh there have still been moments since that day at the train station, that I have turned to hide and dim my light, believing the enemy’s accusations. But my God has been so faithful to return me to Himself and to remind me that His power is perfected in weakness. He has lifted me back out of the mire to set my feet upon the Rock and to shine the light He’s given me, brightly, in the places He has set me apart to make His glory known.

Thank You, Jesus, that You call the foolish of this world to shame the wise. Thank You that You call the weak of this world to confound the strong. Thank You that You call us, Your broken open vessels, to shine Your love brightly into the lives of those around us.

Father God, fill us with Your courage today to shine the light of Your love, where You call us to. Help us to turn away from the lies we hear that condemn us or those You are calling us to love. Help us instead to see Your reflection as we look into the mirror and as we look into the faces of those You have set before us.

Melt away our insecurities and fears in the truth of Your holy love for both us and for those you call us to bless. A love You expressed by pouring out the judgement each one of us deserved upon Your very own Son, so that we could be freed from our sin and shame, to run with joy into Your abundant life. Thank You, Father, for Your incredible sacrificial love, a love like no other.

Forgive us for the moments we have rested in the safe of our insecurities and fears. Help us not to be ashamed of our weakness or fearful in our inadequacies, but to lean into the perfecting power of Your living Word in our weakness instead. Fill us with the faith to believe You at Your Word. To believe that You will perfect Your power in us, precisely in and through our weakness.

As our knees shake and our hearts tremble, thank You that You are the God who presses us forward to do Your holy will. Awaken us in the light of Your loving countenance today. Clothe us in Your holy love, wisdom, strength and grace.

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us in power that we may live and move and have our being in You and Your perfect love. Shine the light of Your love in and through us today that we may be a blessing, where You have planted us and where You are sending us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 7: Sovereign

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 2‘s Chapter 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a story + poem as a final free will offering of bronze, showing us how the LORD invited her to let Him exchange her judgment with His own, in and through her weakness.

Several years ago, I found my heart turned to bitterness, much like Naomi did, after her husband and sons died and she decided to return to her homeland. But as I layed my bitterness before the LORD in a poem, as I sat with the name Naomi had given herself, God exchanged my bitterness for joy, just as He did for Naomi.

Sovereign

Gather, You tell me
Gather, my broken dreams?
Gather, my heart broke in two?
Gather, all I've poured and emptied out?
Gather, here my broken self?

What do I gather?
When all I have is broken
Shattered?
Mara, she said to call her
Mara is the word I'd choose
A bitter hand dealt.

Gather, You tell me
Gather, Your tears here for me wept?
Gather, Your heart here broke for me?
Gather, all You've poured and emptied?
Gather, Word made flesh?



But not till much later, did I see that this place of desolation I found myself in, came about because of God’s jealous love for me and my family. For, He refused to allow my heart to remain divided in its affections, just as He refused to allow Naomi’s heart to remain divided also.

Perhaps, like me, you didn’t realize that Naomi had moved to Moab with her family during a drought. Rather than trust God to provide for them, they had chosen to seek refuge outside of the safe boundaries God had given them to dwell inside of. When things got tough, rather than wait upon the LORD, they took matters into their own hands. And yet, even there, God remained faithful to His covenant of love.

All those years later, as tragedy struck and Naomi was left bereaved, she decided to return to the land of her faith, and Ruth decided to accompany her. What Naomi saw as God dealing her a bitter hand, was in fact God’s plan of redemption at work.

He was leading her to return to her first Love, where this time, in her place of great need, she would listen for the LORD’s Voice and not the enemy’s. There, God directed her to send her daughter-in-law into the hands of Boaz: her kinsman redeemer. A man of God who would provide bountifully for Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.

Boaz foreshadows our own kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ. For, Jesus Christ has redeemed our family line, through His own blood. He has purchased us back from the enemy, freeing us from our bondage to sin and death.

In my place of desolation, I came face to face with my Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, who showed me that my loss was in fact my gain. In that place of great loss my true sinful heart was exposed for all to see, so that my God could reveal His true heart of love and mercy toward us all.

I deserved judgment, not mercy. My idolatrous affections and numbing my pain in sin deserved God’s wrath. But just as in the case of Naomi, God honored the deeper desires of my heart, He had planted there. Desires to love Him from my whole heart.

And so, He took away my idols, one by one, leaving me bereft. But in that place, as I bemoaned His bitter hand, He arose to declare me His and to redeem my Prodigal journey.

Just like Naomi, I had once fled my God’s safe boundaries, choosing to fend for myself, after deciding in a time of drought – when God appeared not to be answering my cries – that my God had abandoned me and those I loved. I descended upon my Prodigal journey that would take me to the other side of the world.

After opening my eyes to a newborn faith (incidentally exactly when my childhood cries to God in prayer were answered, more than twenty years later), God took me back into similar situations of rejection that I had found myself in as a child, as I obeyed my God’s calling to speak up and to confess my weakness and sins openly.

Just as when I was little, I wanted to bow before man to be loved and accepted. Or I wanted to try to “persuade” those before me to “see the truth”, turning to fleshly means of fighting. I see-sawed between the two. But each time, after a period of asking me to stay and persevere in His truth and grace, as He continually cleansed me of all unrighteousness, God commanded me to depart under a new authority: His.

What I didn’t see until after several of these breakings and losses, is that my losses were in fact my gains. For, through each loss I went through, God was restoring more of my heart to Him. He was restoring my first Love for Him and redeeming the years the locusts had eaten.

Now I know that the droughts we walk through, when it appears our prayers are falling on deaf ears, are God’s gift to us. God’s gift sent to uncover our own sinful and divided hearts to cleanse and restore them unto Him. He was never ashamed of me in that place of the enemy’s attack. For, He allowed these attacks to expose my idolatrous and divided heart, so He could invite me to enter into His wholeness: to exchange my faith in my idols of self and man for a faith in Him alone.

Now, I know why He gave me a very specific Scripture-based prayer to pray repeatedly over myself, right after I came home to Him: a prayer I still pray today: “Father, teach me to walk in the light of Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I might fear Your Name above all else.”

Like Paul, I too have now discovered, and am still discovering daily, that all else is rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as my LORD and being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. Now, I too can sing: “It is God for me.”:

Each time Jesus purposely led me into a death and resurrection. He led me to face the sinful nature of my own heart and my inability to save myself and others. And then, in each death, as He asked me to leave and He closed the doors behind me, He gave me His heart of love and mercy. He wrote His Word deeper and deeper upon my heart.

I have become as dead to the people and communities He commanded me to leave, but alive to Him and His Word of love and mercy toward me and toward them. God is turning my bitter into sweet in and through my weakness.

He is answering His tearful intercession for me through my mother, all those years ago. Those answers are coming through my weakness and God’s grace to me: not through anything I have done to deserve it. They are coming through Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as the trauma triggers shaking my body in each place of idolatry have alerted me to the division occurring in my heart. These triggers have led me into stilling to hear and obey the Voice of God, to take steps to heal and guard my heart.

What the enemy sent to steal, kill and destroy me and my family, God is turning into good, to bring deliverance, healing and abundant life in Him. Praise Him!

It's then I see You
There beside me strong
Hand in mine
Walking to the Cross

Your Body broken
Shame and mocking
On You laid
Pierced and bled in pain
In the tomb You lay.

Till Your heavens
Darkness rent
Curtain raised,
Now in two
I hear You rip.

Christ, You raise
My broken life
In the breaking
Of Your Body
From the tomb
New life unwrap.

Your songs releasing
Now my human soul
Awakening
Your Living Word
Declaring me
Whole.

Embraced in love
Steeled in truth
Sent in Grace's
Own true Breath
Into Your world
That's yearning
For You:

I AM mercy's hands
And mercy's feet.


Broken,
You make whole again
Dark,
You shine my night to Light
Tears,
You cup and pour to Joy aflame
Fear,
You still in Perfect Peace
My feet,
On righteous path
You tread
Sure and steadfast
Held.

Gather, You tell me.
YES I shall gather
The tears You wept for me
The heart You broke for me
All You've poured
And emptied into me
I shall now receive:

The Word
Made flesh.

Garden of My Lord
Enclosed and sealed
For a time such as this
Your spring has broken
Your fountains I hear
Crashing, pouring.

For, Your love and mercy
You've gathered
Now to rush and pour
Sovereign
For Your own delight
In me.

For, wondrous
Are Your works
My soul knows it
Very well.

Praise You, Jesus!


“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain” (Song of Songs 4:12).


May we all rest in the love and mercy of our Creator today. May we come to know and taste, more and more, that our smallness and weakness is not our shame to carry, but ordained of God to draw us ever deeper into knowing Him and being known by Him, that we might declare the wonders of His works:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

Part 2: Chapter 2 – Day 3: A New Heart

Welcome to Chapter 2‘s Day 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is bringing forward a free will offering forged in the fires of affliction, as Jesus arose to defend His dwelling place with His judgment in mercy.

My Prodigal wandering began, when I began to believe that my God could indeed not have chosen someone like me: someone too young, too sinful, too needy and too broken. I agreed with the enemy’s twisting of Scripture and began to read God’s precious Word, no longer as an invitation to know my Jesus and His mercy more and more, but as evidence that I was doomed for hell.

So one day, when I had committed a sin I abhorred and was deeply ashamed of, I was certain that this was it. That now all I could do was bide my time till God did away with me completely.

Outwardly not much changed. I still attended church. I still played the good girl. But inside my spirit was crushed and my heart aching to be known by God.

Years later, on the day we buried my Mum, I learnt that she had noticed the change in me all those years earlier. My Mum was heartbroken by how her once exuberant and confident girl had retreated into herself. All those years ago when I felt so abandoned in my sin, my Mum began praying with her best friend for God to give me my confidence back.

Now all these years later, her prayers are being answered. For, my Savior is stripping away my confidence in myself and man that stole, killed and destroyed so much in my life. He is now rebuilding my confidence in Him alone.

What I didn’t know, as I sung this beautiful song as a teenager, with tears streaming:

and with such a deep longing for Jesus to rescue me, is that He was in fact already kneeling down to take me into His arms and carry me home, so close to His heart. He had heard my cry.

And now, I can hear and feel that new heart of His beating inside of me.

All these years later, as I sat singing that same song again, now with tears streaming in deep thankfulness to my God, I noticed something about the lyrics I hadn’t before:

I sing for joy at the work of Your hands … Nothing compares to the Promise I have in you.

I realized that I am the work of my God’s hands and that the very Promise of salvation was beating inside of me even then, all those years ago. For, though my sins of reading pornographic literature and masturbation were grave, my God’s mercy was so much more. While Satan convinced me that my God had now turned away from me for good, I now know my God’s heart was not hardened toward me, as mine was toward Him. No! His heart broke in compassion for His hurting child.

Jesus saw deep into my heart. Just as He did for King David in his sin, He caught my every tear in His bottle – even though those very tears were caused by my sin – and He turned what the enemy meant for evil into good. For, through my Prodigal journey, Jesus answered the deepest longings of my heart that I never realized He had heard me whisper as a little eleven year old.

And what were those longings? Those longings of His heart in me were to truly know His grace, the very meaning of my name Anna, the name my mother was led to give me from the womb:

The final birthday card my Mum penned with her shaking hands, less than two months before she went to be with Jesus, overcoming the evil of brain cancer with the blood of Jesus and her word of testimony.

Yes! In our prodigal wandering our God bottles our every tear. I now know that long before I began to run, He began praying for me. Just as He did for Peter, He interceded for me before His Father that my faith would not fail, and so that when I returned to Him after denying His Name, I could strengthen my brethren with my testimony to His glory and grace.

Just look at the life of Saul turned Paul and you will be reminded of what our God’s mercy is capable of. Oh may that mercy flow richly through us to anoint others to be saved, just as it did through Stephen as he was stoned to death at the direction of the very one whom he poured out God’s mercy upon.

May the persecution and affliction we walk through at the hands of our enemy only testify to the judgment our Savior bore for us that we might now declare not a judgment of condemnation against ourselves or others but a judgment of mercy.

For, God’s judgment toward us is not one of wrath because His wrath has already been satisfied at the Cross:

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

Our God’s judgment toward us is one of mercy because He is a God who keeps His covenant to a thousand generations for those who love Him. Because when we are faithless, He remains faithful because He cannot disown Himself in us. Because our God always finishes what He has begun. And because our God has set eternity in the heart of man to make all things beautiful in His time.

Many years later, I again walked through vicious attacks from the enemy, just as I had as a little girl. But this time, as I stepped out in faith and obedience to my Savior’s call and my own heart failed me, I cried out to Jesus for His heart. And He answered me:

A New Heart

Who you are
Is not all that
You couldn't ever be
It never was
And never ever once
Will be.

Who you are is written
On the palm of My own
True hand
The hand that shaped
And formed you.

Fearfully and wonderfully
Have I made your frame
To hold the very Heart
That bled and died and rose again
To beat within your very own.

I ask not that you hold so tight
I ask not that you strive
I ask not that you try so very hard
To be what beats within you even now.

All I ask is that you
Come
Sit at My feet
Pour all out
That hides behind
That wall of shame.

Cast it out, that it may die
Death to all that holds you
Captive, even now
Not to who you are
But to who those lying tongues
Would have you be.

Rise and shine instead
In all My Light of Grace
That beckons from behind
That wall
No more.

Into My loving arms that wait
To each beat of flowing truth
That girds you now in who
You truly are in Me
Forgiven, held and pure
That’s who You are in Me
And evermore will be.

As I laid each accusation of condemnation before Him, He declared His judgment against me as annulled at the Cross. He asked me to hear and heed the new heart beating inside of me. And that heart declared me:

Forgiven, held and pure
That’s who You are in Me
And evermore will be.

And so, I clasped His hand to depart the old I once believed to be true to enter the new with Him. Now, my faith is no longer in myself or others. It’s in Christ and Christ alone. I now come boldly before the throne of grace in my time of need. I confess my sins freely before God and man. I now lift up my soul to Jesus because I trust Him to save me, moment by moment.

Now, I know that it is precisely my broken heart and crushed spirit that compells my precious Jesus to draw near to me to save me. And so, I cry out to Him, who hears my every cry and bottles my every tear:

Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
    or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
For thus says the Lord:
“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
    and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
    and I will save your children. Isaiah 49:24-25 (ESV)

He heard my mother’s pleas. He saved her child and He’s still doing so daily, as this child of His heart is now learning to lean all her weight upon Him. Praise Him for HIS gracious Words to us. For, they are indeed like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and healing to the body.

Worthy is HE alone of all honor, glory and praise: