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

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

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

I now see how the Holy Spirit has lifted me up into positions of authority, when I, by the grace of God at work in me, have followed the law of God. But then I have become prideful, denying that it was always the grace of God that enabled me to fulfill the law and that He had lifted me up and not me and my goodness. 

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

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

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

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

When I came back to faith, I believed I was called to and could draw others to Christ by my good example. So, God repeatedly invited me into situations that exposed my need for His grace and healing. It’s then, as He had me confess my sins before unbelievers, and they responded with such warmth and compassion, confessing their own weakness and sin also, that I began to see that it is His Spirit in me that is drawing me and others closer and closer to Jesus.

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

It was like He was asking me: “Anna, are you telling me you can teach people how to heal themselves?! How dare you set yourself up as an idol for others to bow before. How dare you glorify yourself and not Me.” Oh how deeply humbling it was for me, as God led me to confess my sins, one after another, and to speak of His love and grace for me in my weakness and need.

But when God called me to leave my church, rescuing me from the spiritual abuse I was experiencing and the resulting division in my heart, I spiraled into shame. I clothed myself in the enemy’s accusations and reverted to fighting back in the flesh. 

I began hiding in self-righteousness, so I could again “belong” to a local church body that I saw as being a necessary component to “belonging” to God. And I sought honor and approval in the world – via jobs – to compensate for the humiliation I felt, in having nothing left to “do” and “prove my worth”, as I began to let go of God’s beautiful Word to me, just as I did as a teenager.

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

Free-will offerings rooted in His love for me, rather than religious sacrifices induced by fear and shame. In giving me what I thought I wanted and needed, He in fact uncovered the true desires of my heart to know Him. 

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

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

I remember after God compelled me to leave one employer after only a month, how He woke me up to go downstairs in the middle of the night to pray for my former boss. As I bowed low on the floor to pray, in response to God’s prompting, God’s love, compassion and mercy just began to pour out of me for this man, and I literally felt oil pour out on my head and the hand of Jesus rest upon my head. It was such an incredible experience. 

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

I wanted her to approve of me, and I wanted to belong to her church community, I had started sporadically attending. But God later showed me, that in my desire to belong to that place, I was hiding His beautiful light. I was keeping my mouth shut, when He was calling me to open it wide to declare His Name. I was continually retreating behind a mask of self-righteousness to remain acceptable. In denying His Name and the finished work of the Cross, I caused division in my heart, a division that triggered trauma in me, leading me to speak up and to go and bear fruit that abides.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t deep down know in my heart that God has always had me safely in His hand – even all those years I walked as a Prodigal, believing Jesus had abandoned me. Now, I know that all of this humbling was sent to teach me – and others through me – to trust Jesus and to deep down know that He has already walked before us and that He will never ever forsake us.

Praise God, that each place He sent me, He lifted me up to winnow the beautiful golden seeds of His Word in me. Lifting off the chaff of my prideful old self, the heavier seeds of glory dropped into the good soil of His heart for me, to join Christ in His death and resurrection that each one might break open unto new life in God’s beautiful timing. 

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

To the world my life (and my ailing health) looks like a failure, but I now know to God, my “failures” are proof of His workmanship – His labor of love in me. For, each surrender was wrought by His holiness in me, to yield a harvest of peace in me. And the suffering I am bearing in my body, as my heart begins to reveal the impact of the trauma triggers, is proof to me that I am filling up in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. So that I may declare the glory of Him who has called me out of darkness into His glorious light.

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

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

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

Celebrate Jesus and Lift the Veil

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

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

John 12:24 (KJVVerily, verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

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

Part 3: Chapter 2 – Day 7: My All in All

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

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

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



In the thorns piercing

Again and again and again


I remember

My shame.


But You

You remember

A covenant new.


You remember

My sin

No more.


You remember

Your Son's blood

Covering me.


You remember

Grace


You remember

Your daughter

Adopted, Yours.


And now

You're teaching me

To remember too


To remember

Your Word.


To remember

A crown of thorns piercing

Again and again and again.


To remember

Love pouring forth

From a Cross.


To remember

Rejoicing.


To remember

A cloak.



To remember

A ring.


To remember

A table set

In the presence of my enemies.


To remember

Oil

Pouring on my head.


To remember

In each and every thorn

I have always found

And will always find

More of


You.



More

Grace upon grace.



More

Mercies

New every morning.



More

Compassion

That faileth not.



More

Faithfulness

In my faithlessness.


More

Perfect Love

Driving out all my fear.


More

Power

Perfected in my weakness.



For, You're teaching me

To embrace You

As:



My LORD

My Husband

My Maker.


The Lover of my soul

My Best Friend

My Rock and Redeemer.



My Savior

My shield

My refuge and the Lifter of my head.



My sword of truth

My helmet of salvation

My shield of faith

My breastplate of righteousness

And my shoes of peace.



My

All in all.




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

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

2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV)

Chapter 1: Day 3 – The Unveiling of the Great I AM

Welcome to Day 3 of Chapter 1 from Arise and Shine, a poem and devotional written by Anna Louise Smit (revised & edited version of an old blog post, Defender True).

Do you hear those voices too?
The ones that tell you
You're not enough
You'll never change
All you do is make things worse?

Do you hear the voice that follows then?
The one that tells you
Defend yourself
Hold on tight
To who you wish you were
Lest he rips it from your weary
Tight-clenched hands

Or the one that pushes you
To lie there in that bed
A bed that covers you in blankets
Grief, despair and loathing cruel
Chaining you to who
You believe you truly are
Lost
Forevermore.

Now, stop
And still
Feel Christ's hand
Clasping yours
Earthquake shaking
And flaming fire
Are but shaking off the old
And burning all the dross
To reveal
His gold in you.

Do you hear Him too?
Glorious Truth
Kissing the kind, sweet
Gentle Voice of
Grace.

Feel those
Rushing waters pure
Pouring now
Upon your shoulders hunched
Let them wash away
What's not of you
All that's died
Upon the Cross
To now reveal instead
The lavish gift
Of Christ.

Hear His gentle
Tender Voice
Unveiling
The many gifts
Hidden in
His heart
For you.

Beloved
Chosen
Holy
Pure
Purposed
True
You are His
Masterpiece.

Created anew
In Christ Jesus
You shall perform
The good works
HE
Has long
Prepared for
You.

Unashamed
Confident
Sinking in
His royal cloak
Be strengthened
Your feet firmly planted
Appointed, upon the Rock
Now rise and stand
As new.

Let Christ reveal
His arms stretched high
His unclenched hands
His heart, mind, Body
Worshipping
In Spirit and truth
His love flowing
From you.


No, no lying tongue
Has power there
Where Jesus stills
Our hearts to hear
The Voice of truth
Kissing
Grace.

For God Himself
Has cast these columns
This Temple
Not of human hands
But with His own
He establishes
He strengthens
For, He alone
Is the Great
I AM.

Our One and Only
Slayer of all sin
Stiller of all accusations
Defender True.

Have you ever noticed that as we begin to step out in faith, choosing to trust God in the midst of our great weakness, that the enemy comes out roaring? He will do his best to turn our eyes toward our weakness, telling us we are not enough, we are never going to change and we are only making things worse, by walking in the very path God is taking us down. 

When my accuser has poured in accusations of “not enough”, “never going to change” and “only making things worse”, I have often responded in one of two ways. Either, I have become defensive, pridefully putting on a mask of self-righteousness, so I am not set apart from those around me. Or, I have sunk into despair and become depressed, as I have begun to believe that it is up to me to “be enough”, “always change for the better” and “always make things better”, rather than up to my God to transform me from glory to glory.

But as these accusations have hailed down on me and I have retreated into my cave – either my mask or my bed of suffering – my God hasn’t turned His back on me. No! In His great compassion, He has drawn ever nearer to me. Just like He did with the prophet Elijah, who faced repeated persecution for doing the will of God.

Just like He did for Elijah, He has lovingly sheltered, fed and placed His hand upon me in my cave. And when He has strengthened me to trust Him afresh, He has invited me to join Him outside of my cave. There, comforted by His Presence, He has invited me to listen to and feel the earthquake and fire of His purifying truth. It’s then I have realized that His anger is not directed at me, but at the accuser of my soul who has attempted to steal, kill and destroy.

It’s then I have begun to see how all along He has been moving to defend me – His dwelling place. I realize He has allowed the enemy’s sifting, but only to shake off and burn away all that doesn’t define me.

Then, as this realization has dawned in me, He has stilled my heart to hear the gentle whisper of His restorative and redemptive grace. He has humbled me to see and rest, not in my own strength or perfection, but in the perfect power of His beautiful Word.

And then, clothed in His affirming love, He has called me back to continue the task He first gave me. He has given me the next concrete steps to take and filled me with fresh faith, so that I am no longer striving in fear and shame, but resting in His labor of love through me.

God continually helps me. He helps me to face and process past trauma. He helps me to lay down my idol of responsibility and to bring Him my deep, deep pain. As the triggers come in waves and I see those babies rocking to and fro before me in the orphanages, as an eight and nine year old, God invites me into His arms.

As I watch fellow believers I love and trust, again and again, turn away, punish and condemn children in their weakness and need for Him, He invites me to trust Him. To trust Him that even now, He is working, even as the Scriptures and stories He has had me share appear to fall on deaf ears.

He invites me to remember my own and my family’s story. To remember that in His time He brought those tears of repentance from the Word I spoke as a little girl. He reminds me that as He drew my Mum into His arms in her own weakness and need, through the ravages of cancer, how she turned to embrace the now grown man, she hadn’t understood as a little traumatized boy. How her heart broke in two, as she finally recognized the root of his rebellion. And how the Spirit breath filling her to overflowing poured out upon me also, to draw me into the light of God’s love for me, in my own sin and need, too.

He reminds me that I am no longer that little girl caught in lies. He reminds me that the Word I speak in His Name is not my responsibility to perform and complete, but His alone. He reminds me that when people turn against me and see me as the enemy, I can rest in His love and acceptance and release them into His love and care, rather than clinging to them and embracing the accusations the enemy flings at me.

He helps me see how my own, my Mum’s story and my little adopted brother’s are in fact so similar. How all each one of us truly needed was Him. And He reminds me of all the ways He saw and extended compassion and mercy to my Mum, my little brother and I in our weakness and need, through the many years of our blindness and rebellion. How when no one else saw our need, HE always did. How He cupped our every tear and how nothing was ever wasted. How even now, with my Mum in heaven, He is still turning our ashes into beauty.

He reminds me that I am not without Him – my everpresent help in trouble – who has promised to never leave or forsake me, nor those my heart breaks for. And WITH Christ, my advocate and my atoning sacrifice, I begin to realize I am more than enough.

Not only do we stand justified by the blood Christ shed on the Cross, we are also being transformed from glory to glory, moment by moment, to look more and more like Jesus. So, each of us can lay the accusations at His feet to arise in His mercy for us. We can surrender all and walk into the love of God that sets us free to love Him and each other from His whole heart.

Yes! Christ is in fact only making things more and more beautiful, through the blood He shed for us and His testimony at work in and through each one of usEven, when we can’t see it, He is working still.

Something that I have found helpful through all the accusations that have been flung at me (internally and externally), is to take pen to paper and write down everything I am thinking and feeling, no matter how ugly it is and then, as David did throughout the Psalms. Then, with everything down on paper, I still, just as David also did, to listen for God’s response to me, through His living Word.

I have discovered that in the pouring out, the earthquake and fire of God’s Word move to shake off the old and burn away all impurity in me. It is then, after Christ has lifted these burdens, I am able to hear and receive His gentle and lowly heart moving in kindness toward me to affirm His purity inside of me.

Christ reminds me that He has already paid the price for the wages of my sin, that He has cleansed me by His blood from my sin. Washing me in the refreshing truth of His Word, He reminds me that I am not defined by the impurity He is shaking off me and burning away, and that I can walk into the new awaiting me – through His blood – to sin no more.

Oh how I continually need God to remind me that it His kindness that leads me to repentance (Romans 2:4). That as the earthquake shakes me, it only does so to expose and strip anything that doesn’t belong in me and the fire only rages to burn away the dross in me to reveal the gold of Christ in me. I need God to remind me that the earthquake and fire are uncovering my true identity in Christ, as I sit at the water gate to be refreshed in His living Word. As He washes me in the Word, He reminds me that I am already clean by the Word He has spoken to me.

If you too, recognize yourself in my struggles, will you join me in prayer, today? I would be so blessed to hold your hand and come together boldly before Jesus and His throne of grace in our time of need:

Thank You, LORD, that in my imperfection, You offer me Your own perfection. Thank You for Your never-ending loving kindness to me in my weakness and need.

Thank You that You know exactly what I have been through and are still going through (Hebrews 2: 18, Isaiah 53:4). Thank You that You know just how much my heart yearns to do Your will. Thank You that unlike man, You will never turn Your back on me (Deuteronomy 31:6). Oh Father, thank You for taking man’s rejection of me and using it to grow me in Your love, truth and mercy.

Thank You that “Those who look to [You] are radiant, and their face shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34: 5 ESV). LORD, when I get discouraged by the accusations thrown at me, help me to cast all my burdens at Your feet. Help me to pour out my heart, allowing You to uncover anything wicked that does not belong in me. Purify and cleanse me of my sin and restore me unto yourself, comforting me and quieting me in your love and mercy toward me.

Help me to remember that: ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ (Proverbs 4:18). Help me to remain ‘confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1: 6 NIV). 

Forgive me for hiding my sin and pain from You in fear. Forgive me for trying to defend myself, for allowing the enemy to make me believe it is my perfection and my strength that will save me and others, rather than Yours. Forgive me for my pride, for trusting in my own limited understanding, rather than inviting You to show me what You see.

Thank You for pursuing me into my cave and moving in compassion and kindness toward me, to free me from my sin, pain, unforgiveness and bitternessThank You for continually reminding me who You truly are, for giving me an undivided heart, rooted in Your love and mercy for us all.

LORD, I turn to You now, confessing my idol worship – the worship of my own strength and the worship of others’ opinions – to receive your waterfall of grace, believing and trusting that Your grace is sufficient for me, that Your power is perfected in my weakness here (2 Corinthians 12:9). Forgive me for not coming to You as I am. For not entrusting my whole heart to You.

Forgive me for not believing in Your power to deliver me and others in our need. I come to You now, just as I am. Hold me. Continue to unravel me and wash me in Your love, truth and mercy. Continue to lift away every accusation of the enemy. Continue to convict me of my sin and Your righteousness and lead me to changes of mind and a godly sorrow without regret.

Thank You, LORD, that You are my Defender True and will always shepherd me in love, kindness, truth and grace. In the name of Your precious Son, Jesus, I pray, Amen.

As you now sit at the feet of Jesus with me, may this song bless your heart, just as it is mine too. It was published in October 2013, right before my Mum was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and right before God began to open my Prodigal eyes to His undying love and compassion for me, in my weakness. And now, more than seven years later, as I am even more aware of my weakness, He is continuing to open my eyes to His saving power, as I daily lift up my heart and life afresh to Him. Oh how we need You, Jesus! Come, LORD Jesus, come!

Part 1: The Bread of Life

Welcome to Part 1 of Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine. In the coming weeks, we will be resting in The Bread of Life (Jesus). In each chapter of this part, we will invite Jesus to feed and sustain us through His fresh, warm, living and active Word. Today, you will find the introduction to part 1 and next week, we will publish chapter 1 (which includes an opening prayer, poems and devotionals: material to sit with each day of the week).

Have you also noticed how our God longs for us to receive His fresh warm bread – Scriptures filled with His Spirit breath? How He longs for us to lay down those cold stones (Scriptures wielded in part by the enemy as accusations against us) that we have clung to as God’s condemnation of us?

When we walk through trauma or chronic illness, we are all too aware of our weakness and failings, and our accuser loves to turn that against us. And this sneaky accuser uses God’s precious Word to do so. Let’s take a look at how he did so with the disciple Peter.

But before we do so, let’s put ourselves in Peter’s shoes. He tries to stop his Savior from being captured, as he cuts the soldier’s ear off. And yet Jesus rebukes Satan in him, as he does so. Peter judges the situation from his present understanding, rather than from God’s eternal understanding.

Peter doesn’t fathom God’s plans, as many of us struggle to do when things “go wrong”, when we lean into our limited human and fleshly perspective. For, though God has put eternity into our hearts, not one of us can “find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesisstes 3:11, ESV).

Then, as Peter tries to draw near to Jesus, in his weakness of fear and pride, after deeply traumatic events, he bows to his idols and denies his very own Savior. And then that Savior of his is hung on a Cross.

Now, let’s look at what the enemy does with Jesus’ own words. Just after Peter denies Jesus for the third time, the cock crows three times, and Peter remembers only part of the prophecy Jesus had spoken over him (that he would deny Him three times before the cock crows), as Jesus looks him in the eyes. In response, Peter cries “bitter tears”, rooted in self, condemnation and shame. The Word used for “bitter” is described by Strong’s Concordance as having a usage of: “bitter, acrid, malignant” (see: Strong’s Greek 4089).

But now watch what Jesus does with the accusations of the enemy, that have led to these bitter tears. Just watch how Jesus takes cold stones – the words of Jesus devoid of the person of Jesus and devoid of the Holy Spirit’s breath – and turns them into fresh, warm bread.

First, He invites Peter to breakfast, together with the other disciples. He includes Peter, showing him that he belongs to Him. Then, He gives Peter fresh bread rolls and cooks the fish Peter has just caught over a charcoal fire. He lovingly feeds Peter, reminding Peter that every good gift comes from above and he takes one of the places Peter denied Jesus- the fire – and redeems it. Then, three times He asks Peter if Peter loves Him. He invites Peter to affirm that in Peter’s every single denial, and failing, the love of God remained so strongly present in him.

We also see how when Jesus asks him if he loves Him the first time and phrases it as: “Do you love me more than these?”, Peter is no longer able to place himself above the other disciples, as one who loves Jesus more than others. Jesus appears to be lifting off the heavy weight Peter had taken upon himself to prove his worthiness for the great calling of God on his life, by phrasing the question this way.

Peter, this time doesn’t respond with bitter tears of shame, but with deep grief, after Jesus’ third question. The Word (lypéō) used to describe his grief is, according to HELPS Word-studies the same Word that is used in Genesis 3:16 for the pain of child birth (see: https://biblehub.com/greek/3076.htm). This emotion, unlike shame, is no longer rooted in pride and self, but in relationship.

Peter is grieved that Jesus would even have to ask Peter if he loves Him. Of course, Jesus knows Peter does and that he has never stopped loving Jesus, but asking him this question turns Peter away from sitting in pride and shame, to affirming that the ever present love of Christ at work in us always remains. It reminds us all that nothing can ever separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the Word for Peter’s grief is connected to the pain of child birth either. For, we can see how in this very moment Peter begins to birth the Promise Jesus spoke over him, at the very beginning of their friendship (Matthew 16:18 ESV):

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus appears to be, at Peter’s invitation, lifting the weight of this great calling off of Peter’s shoulders and placing it on His own. Simon is becoming Peter: the little rock, bowing to his true Rock and Redeemer, Christ, upon which the church is still being built today.

Bitterness – an emotion rooted in pride, fear and self – is replaced by grief -an emotion rooted in love and the other. Peter no longer thinks he should have been able to stand in his own strength (a thought rooted in self and pride). He realizes that he couldn’t and it grieves his heart that he has hurt his Savior. Jesus of course always knew this, but wanted Peter to experience it for himself, to understand that he needed his Savior to deliver him from sin and death.

This labor pain is something we all experience. For, we all experience the pain of giving birth to our Promise – Christ – the hope of glory in us. EVERY time we realize we can’t do the will of Christ in our weakness is a new opportunity to shed self and pride and to enter into the work of the Cross.

Each painful conviction is a moment for new life to be born in us, God’s invitation to be perfected in His power right in the midst of our weakness, as this song so beautifully puts it. No, Jesus is not ashamed of us in our need. It’s why He came:

As Isaiah 66:9 (ERV) puts it: In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” The Lord says this: “I promise that if I cause you the pain of birth, I will not stop you from having your new nation.” Your God said this.

Christ invites us to renew our minds in His mind, by feeding on the Bread of Life – the living Word that He speaks to us, from moment to moment. He continually invites us to shed our fleshly and worldly perspective, to listen to and obey the law of love – Jesus.

Just as He did the disciples, Jesus constantly invites us to let go of established religious laws and traditions, in the name of love and mercy. The adulteress should have been stoned to death, according to man’s interpretation of the Word of God. But, Jesus speaks a better Word: for mercy triumphs over judgment.

When Jesus lets her go free and invites her to sin no more, He also invites her to put her faith in Him, rather than herself, just as Jesus invited Peter to do. By entrusting themself to Jesus, they were no longer under the law, just as we aren’t, when we give our hearts to Jesus. For, we are then in a relationship with our Messiah, who has fulfilled the law for us and is ever at work in us, by His Spirit, moving us to repentance. Or as Romans 7: 6 & 17 (ESV) puts it:

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code […] So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

And when we give our hearts to Jesus, as Peter did, we also no longer desire to sin because we don’t want to break our Savior’s heart. But where sin does show itself in us, when we do what we do not want to do, Jesus moves to convict us of our sin and of His righteousness, and we quickly put the sin present in us to death. Godly sorrow leads us to a repentance (a change of our minds) without regret.

This growing relationship of trust and faith is evidenced in how quickly Peter is convicted and led to repentance by Paul’s rebuke. He no longer sits in shame, as he did after his denials, but convicted of his hypocrisy and Christ’s righteousness in him, Peter quickly leaves the religious leaders he had been sitting with, who were keeping people caged in the law.

He allows God to set him apart as a follower of Jesus, facing persecution and death on a cross in doing so. The relationship of love and trust that Jesus has built up with him, breaks Peter’s fear of man and idol worship, piece by piece, as Peter renews his mind in the Bread of Life. Peter doesn’t hear Paul’s voice in that rebuke, he hears and recognizes the Voice of Jesus in Paul.

Peter chose to follow the Son of God whose saving power he had now intimately experienced. Now, he knew he could trust Jesus, no matter the earthly consequences or the religious rules Jesus asked him to break in the name of love and mercy. He knew that: “He who calls [us] is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV). Peter knew that in his weakness (the fear of man and pride), Christ would continue to empower him to follow Him and sanctify him in doing so.

In the three affirmations of Christ’s ever present love, I believe Jesus shows Peter that the prophecy He spoke was never meant to condemn him. Rather, it was Christ’s invitation to Peter to clasp His outstretched hand of mercy and to see the birth of the Promise spoken over him.

For, with each command to feed His lambs and sheep, Christ reminds Peter that, as Romans 11:29 (ESV) declares “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable”. All we have to do is take God’s hand of mercy in our weakness and trust Him at His Word. For, when our God promises something, HE is faithful to complete it (Luke 22:32, ESV):

“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

You see the sifting by the enemy was only ever allowed to bring Peter to his knees in his weakness, so that Christ’s power might take over and empower him to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for his life. A plan and purpose he could never ever have carried out in his own strength.

Just watch Peter, after he has been through even more humbling, through Paul’s mouth. See how it is no longer Peter laboring here. No! It is Christ interceding in and through Peter, as Jesus speaks His Word through Peter to heal, restore and redeem His beloved children:

Acts 3:6-9 (KJV) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Jesus already knew Peter’s weakness intimately, long before He chose and called Peter for His purposes. Jesus knew that it is in this weakness that He could humble and empower Peter. Just as Jesus also knows each of our weaknesses intimately. Even before we were born He already planned out exactly how He would use the enemy’s sifting to humble us also and yield us to His beautiful will in and through our weakness.

No, not one of us is exempt from this humbling, as it is God’s beautiful way of lifting the weight of our calling off of our shoulders, so that we might rest in His labor of love and mercy. This is how we are born again in Spirit breath.

Jesus took upon Himself all our weakness, sin and failure, so He could nail it to the Cross. So that He could restore us to Himself and grow our trust in Him through an intimate experience of His love and mercy. As Paul puts it:

Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV) 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.

Through the life of Peter, Jesus reminds us that (Isaiah 55:11, ESV):

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

You see, it’s never been about us and what we could do for Jesus. It’s always been about the mercy of our LORD Jesus Christ and HIS labor of love in and through us.

As more and more is stripped away from us, Jesus uncovers our secret weapon – the fresh, warm Bread of Life – He has already put in our mouths for such a time as this. For, He – Jesus – is that Bread of Life.

In the coming weeks, may God uncover the warm, fresh bread He has already placed in our mouths. May every Bible passage the enemy has ever wielded against us to steal, kill and destroy, now be returned to us in Spirit breath, in the fullness of who Christ is, to heal, restore and redeem. May mercy triumph over judgment.

May God use what the enemy meant to harm us and others to bring more and more life in and through us. May God persuade us through intimate experiences of His goodness and mercy, in relationship with Him, to humble ourselves in our weakness, again and again, that we may rest in His beautiful labor of intercession in and through us.

May Jesus arise and shine in and through us, as we bow the knee to hear our Abba Father declare: “Beloved, You are Mine.”

Chapter 1: A Dwelling Place

Chapter 2: Clothed in Fine White Linen

Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

This is 
My Word
Flowing
Through you
In truth
Kissing grace
I'm declaring
My children
Mine.

Each word
You pen
My song
Is singing
In Spirit
And truth
My children
A hope
And a future
In every Promise
I AM
Declaring.

Sealed
In My blood
And raised
From the tomb
Feast now
In broken bread
And new wine
Flowing into
New wineskins:
Mine.

For, My goodness
And My mercy
Has been
Chasing you
Beautifully opening you
More and more
To love
From the hands
And feet of
Your servant King
Who loved you
First.

For, I've
Anointed you
Not to boast
In your pride
But in your
Weakness
That My
Perfecting work
May now rise
To sing.

For, in
Christ alone
Your offering
A free-will
Offering
Has Become
For I build
My Temple
In truth
And grace.

Sing of how:

My Body's tears
I gather
Into joy
Transforming.

My Body's fears
I uncover
Into awe
Exchanging.

My Body's doubts
I lay bare
Into faith
Transforming.

My Body's pride
I uncover
For My pride in them
Exchanging.

My Body's hurt
I release
Into My oil of mercy
Transforming.

Don't you see?
I've anointed you
Refined you
In fires pure
Washed you
In living water
You are
My gift of Hope
To the world.

Now go!
Awake
Don't hide the lamp
I've given you
Under a bushel
But shine your light
Brightly
On My hill.

Let Me lift the veil
To reveal
My Beloved Bride
Unto the world
That I may
Come unto her.

For, I am 
Pouring out 
My jealous love 
Upon the altar
Of My Broken Body.

I am laying her 
Before Me open
Freely and wholly
In My living sacrifice 
Holy and pleasing
I AM
Lifting her up
Unto Me
Alone.

See and smell
My sweet incense
Raising Christ
Awaking
My living stones
Building
A spiritual house
Acceptable
In Christ alone.

Arise and shine
Beloved
You are Mine!
Come, hold my dear friend, Bettie’s hand, as she invites Jesus to pray through us, today. Bettie Gilbert kindly accepted my request to pen a prayer to accompany this poem. You can find her prayer in written form below.

Dear Lord Jesus,


Thank You for making us your very own dear children, and calling us by Your name. We are humbled and speechless because we have felt our nameless-ness. We see our weaknesses that rise to the surface here. And in this place you wash us with Your blood freely poured for us. Our foreheads are sealed with the name given by Your Holy Spirit now. We scarce can take it in: we are Your Beloved.


Oh, how our hearts long to sit at Your feet, to wash Your feet with our tears. Those tears that were born in the pain of the refining and the purifying, they are caught here, each one saved in Your bottle of remembrance. For we have joined in Your suffering, eaten of Your bread, and fellowshipped with You, our sweet Savior.


And now we receive, in this place of brokenness, the merciful oil of Your intercession for us. Our prayers become mingled with Yours, and the incense of Your presence wafts over us here. Oh, that others could know the joy that we have tasted with You! Let Your name be known among our loved ones, those ones who have always been Yours first, before You brought them to us. Our prayers rise for them now.

We will rise and run in the path of Your commands–Your Words spoken over us and created within us–as Your Spirit carries us. We praise You, our Holy and Righteous Lover of our Soul.

In Your name, Jesus, we pray, Amen.

Living Roots

An allegorical short story by Lisa Enqvist 

First published at: https://lisaenqvistroots.com/allegory-searching-for-my-tree/

A friend recently went through my Facebook background. Even to me, my life looks chaotic, though I have spent years trying to make sense of the various stages, places, and situations of my life. 

 

 

This picture reflects my first eight years. I’ve written one book in English which covers these eight years: MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids. (Available on Amazon and other sources).

 

The following story was born at a writers’ course. As I read it aloud, someone exclaimed, “That is your life!” It is a metaphor for my life. As I continue writing my blog in the weeks and months ahead, I hope to discover and uncover other treasures, just as this Bible verse from Isaiah 33:6 promises:

 

He will be the sure foundation for your times,

    a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;

    the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

 

 

I searched for the grove where someone said I would find my tree, but the road was no longer there. Great excavators had mutilated the landscape. I sat down on a big rock and cried. How could I find my tree? Was it there, or was it destroyed? A little child came and stood by my stone. She looked at me with her big, questioning eyes.

 

“Why are you crying?” She held out her hand.

 

“Come with me. I will show you something.”

 

She led me past the big rocks that the excavator had left. We went past the familiar railroad, the river, and the mountains.

 

Palms swayed in the wind by the ocean. The crabs fled from the foam in an eternal game of hide-and-seek.

 

Was the palm my tree?

 

No. It was too lonely. I didn’t want to be alone.

 

The girl led me on. We came to a road that led to a schoolyard. Around the sports-field flamboyant trees spread their branches. During the hot summer, fiery yellow-red flowers burst out of the twigs. They were beautiful, but the fire that shone from them scorched my heart. The flame tree was not my tree.

 

There were trees with the tastiest fruits. But neither the mango tree with its dark leaves and its juicy fruit nor the guava tree with spiky branches and seed-filled fruit was my tree.

 

The little girl led me on into the middle of a park. When I finally found my tree, I sat down under it. I did not yet understand that this might be my tree. It did not look like any other tree I had passed earlier. All the other trees had a trunk and a crown of branches reaching for the sky. Their roots were not visible. This tree had roots growing down from the branches, as though it needed extra support from every side.

 

 

The wind whispered through the leaves. I heard it say to the tree,

 

“Tell your story so that even the little girl will understand.”

 

The tree began its story.

 

“Long, long ago, I sprouted up out of the ground in a country far away. The air was clear, and the sun shone brightly. The birds flew around me, chirping and singing their songs. Life was good.

 

One day the gardener came from the King’s Palace and began digging the ground around my root. I was terrified.

 

“I’ll die! I’ll die if you move me from here.” I cried.

 

The gardener did not hear my cry. He did not explain anything. Maybe he thought I would not understand. My root broke when the gardener pulled me up. I was sure I would die. There was no way I could survive. My heart was bleeding.

 

The gardener rolled a bunch of damp hay around my root and put me into a sack. I did not know where I was. I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to die.

 

Many days later I saw the light. I was in a strange country. I was still alive. I heard someone digging with a spade. I heard a voice saying:

 

“I plant this tree as a symbol of friendship and justice. May it grow tall and give shelter to many children.”

 

The man who spoke held me very gently. I saw a tear run down his cheek. I did not understand anything. He put me down into the hole in the ground and filled the gap with soil around my roots.

 

I was sure I would never grow big. My roots were still hurting. I did not want to know where I was.

 

I didn’t care about the touch of the wind. Nor the freshness of rain, nor the warmth of the sun.

 

I thought stubbornly: I don’t belong here. I don’t want to be here.

 

One day an older woman came alone into the park. She stopped beside me and looked at my drooping leaves. I felt the warmth of her empathy flow towards me. I wanted to tell her my story.

 

She sat down on the ground and listened to my complaint. She understood. She felt my sorrow and longing. It was enough.

 

After that day, I began to see again. I was in a park designed by a king.

 

I grew tall, taller than the other trees. I stretched my limbs so birds could build their nests in them. I noticed that I had aerial roots growing down from my branches. I thought then I would make a swing of them for children. I want to show all the children who find me that I am here for them.”

 

The tree did not have to say more. I understood. It was my tree.

 

I stood up and looked at the tree again. The aerial roots covered its trunk. Dead brown leaves covered the ground. The tree had died many deaths, yet it lived. It still gave protection to the birds and the children.

 

The little girl began to gather the leaves in big piles. Suddenly she was surrounded by a crowd of children. They were playing and hiding under the dead leaves. I heard them laugh and shout in joy. They rolled around the on the ground, so the leaves rustled.

 

The big boys climbed up in the tree. The younger children clung to the swing.

 

Everyone had a place in my tree. After playing, the children were tired. They returned home to their parents.

 

I realized that I must leave my tree. I have to move on. I have to plant trees for other children in other countries. The wind followed me with its whispering melody.

 

 

 

Author Bio

As a teenager, Lisa Enqvist decided she would never be a missionary, never return to her father’s Gospel ship “Ebeneser,” never marry a missionary, never have kids who might feel as rootless as she was. And, she prayed, “Please, God, don’t ever send me to India.” But God knew Lisa better than she knew herself and gave her what her heart truly desired: all the things she asked Him not to give her, healing her heart more and more through the process.

Lisa is a co-founder of a Children’s Home in Thailand. She grew up in China and Sri Lanka as a missionary kid. She now lives with her husband in a small town on the West Coast of Finland. She and her husband adopted four Amerasian children in Thailand. They have given Lisa and her husband Håkan eleven grandkids.

Today, Lisa writes personal and family stories based on saved letters, documents, and personal memories. Since receiving her mother’s old letters in 1983, she has written four memoir books in Swedish and one in English: MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids. Rheumatoid Arthritis has challenged her since writing her first book.

Lisa is a registered pediatric nurse. Her earlier writing experience consisted of newsletters to sponsors of children at the Bethany Children’s Home and regular letters to family and friends scattered around the world. She has saved numerous family letters.

She attended several Swedish writer’s seminars in Finland. After reverting to English in 2011, she completed a course in writing for children and youth at the Institute for Children’s Literature and a Memoir Writing Course at Creative Writing Now. She also wrote articles for FaithWriters Challenge.

She is a member of Everything Memoir Private Group and West Coast Christian Writers. She has attended two Online conferences with the WCCW.

Her book MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids, is available from:

https://booklocker.com/books/8211.html

https://www.amazon.com/MISSIONARY-MOTHER-Around-World,

and other online bookstores.

Lisa blogs at: https://lisaenqvistroots.com/

 

Come Back, Daughter

This guest testimony is written by a blogging friend of mine, Lisa Anne Tindal who reminds me to look for God’s presence in the tiniest details of my day. She is a writer and painter inspired by stories of redemption. Her artwork can be viewed on her Etsy page or Instagram. She blogs at https://quietconfidence-artandword.blog. Lisa Anne is the author of a soon to be available children’s book, “Look at the Birds”.

 

With a burst of energy and a desire to clear the clutter, I gathered all of my collected feathers, and along with other found items, I stuffed them into the trash. I saw no need for what had become a little embarrassing, various corners, vases, books, and other spaces became the tucked away place for a feather and what I told myself was a God message. Quite often on my walks, I found a feather, gathered it up, and held it up towards heaven. I’d snap a photo and share it on social media. In my mind, I was sharing hope, I was urging others to be sure of the nearness of God. 

 

Nevertheless, in times of pandemic and cultural upheaval, confusion over my faith, I began to surrender my feathers. I continued to notice them; but, told myself I’ll leave it there for someone else to see,  maybe they need it more. Or could it be my thinking had become, “Maybe they will believe it more than I?” 

 

In a sense, I decided to give it a go on my own. Many plans were coming together. Art in galleries and a children’s book written and illustrated, of all things entitled “Look at The Birds”.  I suppose I believed it was my time to soar. I ran towards opportunities and I looked for more to come. I became less quiet about the talents God had given me and I struck out on my own greedy for more. 

 

My life passage is found in the book of Isaiah. If I’m honest, I chose this passage because of two words that felt comfortable,  so very well described the woman I felt I should aspire towards. I wanted to be quietly confident and although the confidence should have been in God, it had become myself and others on my path. A slippery slope when it comes to dependence, neither dependence on self nor others will keep us aligned with God. Quiet confidence led to sullen despondence. Quiet confidence led to a lack of motivation and bitterness over ideas and hopes not coming together.  Isaiah gives a stern warning against striking out on our own. Innocently enough, going it alone doesn’t always feel like rebellion. I am learning that any steps I take alone are not the steps God has for me. Perhaps in my exhilarant ability to soar, God would clip my wings, cause a difficult landing to humble me.  Naturally, I’d struggle with shame and remorse; but, this time, this daughter of God didn’t linger there nearly as long. 

 

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning[c] and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

 

But you were unwilling, 16 and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
    therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
    therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
    at the threat of five, you shall flee,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill.

The Lord Will Be Gracious

18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.

 

 

“Come back, daughter” is front and center on my bulletin board. A conversation with a trusted friend, my counselor who knows all of my childhood and adult trauma. A wise and strong woman, consistently she lives out her convictions and without mincing words. I sat with her, my Bible in my lap and I told her, “I don’t think I understand Isaiah 30:15 in the way I should.” I asked her what she felt God wanted me to embrace. She answered, “Come back, daughter.”  Her eyes were kind, her reply was confident. Isaiah is warning against me running ahead of God’s plans and he beckons my return, calls me his daughter. The message for us all in this passage is God waits for us even when we act independently of His will. I imagine Him saying, I’m glad you returned, now rest and stay in step with me and let me show you my plans for you that you’ve yet to see. 

 

Victims of trauma have significant learned behaviors. We do not like to ask for help for fear that help will be denied. Often, we don’t acknowledge our need to be helped. Being helped looks like rescue and for many of us rescue came with a price, a fee we were required to pay with our tender physical selves. Women who have been abused by men do not respond well to demands, we fear manipulation or grooming in the guise of promises that won’t ever come true. 

 

But our heavenly Father is good, and He is none of these things. He loves to see us joyously soaring in fearless ways to accomplish glorious things. But he loves us too much to let us fly on our own. He knows we need the strength of His sure navigation and we need most of all the love and mercy we find tucked safely under the shelter of His wings. 

 

Have you tried flying on your own? Are you soaring too dangerously lofty?

 

Come back, daughter. Your father doesn’t want you to go too far alone.

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of words, the understanding of your word, and the pleasant chances to express the unique voices we all own. Bless the reader of my story of wings and feathers. Open our hearts and minds to one another. May we learn and love as we soar. May we never fly alone. In Jesus Name, Amen.

About the Steward

In 2015 I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a year after burying my Mum in the wake of her five month battle with glioblastoma multiforme. Then, this year a chronic heart condition was added into the mix.

But beautifully God is revealing these afflictions as His gifts in disguise. Through each surrender He is working in my heart, I am coming to taste His goodness in the land of the living, as He opens my eyes to that which is unfading and eternal: His love for us all.

May God bless you, as you gather with us and Him here. May we all see His face reflected in each other, in our pasts and present and our future. May He make firm the path beneath our feet. May He lift away every accusation of the enemy in the light of His love and grace for us and all His children. And may the word of our testimony to His love and grace in our lives and His blood shed for us all at the Cross overcome the accuser of our brethren, just as He has promised us in His Word.