Arise and Shine: Beloved, You are Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Lord,   

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

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

In Jesus’ Mighty Name, 

Amen.

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

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

A Dwelling Place in Praise

Colossians 3:15 KJV 
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.


Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.




Thank You, LORD
For grace
That covers me
For innocence
You've paid
In scourge
And pain so cruel
I'll never know.

Thank You, LORD
For giving me
What's undeserved
Of cruel and harsh
This heart here turned
To selfish tides
And prideful dams
To anger's chains
And holding reigns.

Thank You, LORD
For love so great
It reaches deeper still
Than cruel and harsh
Than selfish pride
And anger's reigns
To all accuser's claims
Would rather hide
From sight unseen
In shame to chain.

Thank You, LORD
For fencing tight
In holy linen white
For Spirit drawing in
And holding tight
The dust of desert's strife
From hardened heart
To strip and me
Righteous wrap
In dazzling white
Of undeserved bright.

Thank You, LORD
That washing
Dazzling white
You speak
Each hidden sight
The pain, the fears and doubts
I know not bleed
Beneath
My heart
You cast and pour
My cup
Not just outward
Cleanse
But inward
Search to know
In Spirit raise
From death to Life.

Thank You, LORD
For grace
That covers me
For innocence
You've paid
In scourge
And pain so cruel
I'll never know.



Dear Holy Father,

We are amazed that You would choose to come to us, to make Your dwelling here in our heart. We have nothing to offer you except these shards and pieces that are the bones and bodies holding our vulnerable hearts. But we thank You that Your Word declares these very bodies Your holy Temples.

We thank You that where we, and others who look at us, see nothing but brokenness, You see Your chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for Your own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of You who called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light.

We believe You, Father, but help our unbelief. Give us an undivided heart that we might fear Your Name above all else. Help us to shed the lies of the world and to clothe ourselves in the light of Your love and grace. Help us to keep boasting in our weakness, that You may perfect Your power in us here, as we proclaim the finished work of the Cross.

We thank You that even as our bodies, minds and hearts fail us, Your Son, in whom all Promises are yes and Amen, remains so strong in us. Thank You that You have placed the seal of Your Holy Spirit upon us, securing our eternal inheritance in You, and that nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus.

Help us to lift our frail selves up to You in His Name, again and again. Help us to trust You when You tell us that the light momentary affliction we are walking through here on earth is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Help us look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For we know that the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Help us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but to lay up for ourself treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Set our hearts on You, as we walk through the fire and are met by storms, that we may find hidden treasure in the darkness.

Thank You that You dwell here within us, in this secret place, created to be Your home: Your heart in us. Thank You that You have hidden us in the clefts of the rock to protect us from every scheme of the enemy. Thank You for the love of Jesus that has been shed abroad in our broken hearts to make us whole. Root us deeper in that love that we might live and move and have our being in You alone.

Thank You for Your great and wonderful promises. Help us to cleanse ourselves in the light of these Promises from everything that contaminates body and spirit. Help us to live our lives set apart for Your purpose in holy awe of You alone. Fulfill the prayer of Your Son in us and make us One in You.

As we come to Jesus, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by You and precious to You— build us like living stones into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to You through Jesus Christ, just as You have promised us in Your Word.

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



This is a poem written by Anna Smit and a prayer co-written by Bettie Gilbert and Anna Smit a long time ago, but a Scripture-infused poem and prayer that still express the praises and prayers rising up in our hearts today. For:

"We've no less days 
To sing God's grace
Than when we first
Began" 

Hands of Mercy

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 learn that I'm free.

Free to depart and choose You
To lay every accusation
Into Your hands
To arise afresh in Your mercy.

To go and bear fruit that abides
Dying to the old of my knowing
You teach me to rest in Your palm
To feel the holes deep in Your hands.

Now, Father, teach me to give
No longer judgment, but mercy
Break my chains of religion fully and
Wholly in Your Spirit abundance to flow.

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

The Womb of Compassion

In what ways have you experienced a breaking? How has this breaking opened your eyes to more of who Jesus truly is? What story do your scars now tell?

My breath prayer this week has been a breathing in of “Remember” and breathing out of “Me”. 

Luke 22:14 ESV ‘And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”’

As I went running in the forest, my heart was heavy with shame, shame from an anger I couldn’t shake. So, I cried out, asking God to unravel my heart. To search and know me. The wisdom He gave me came in two steps. First, penning a letter of apology to myself, on behalf of the church. Then, writing a letter of thanks to Him for every point in my apology. 

As I wrote the apology, I was forced to name all the accusations of condemnation I had swallowed as truth, because I trusted men and women in positions of authority, above my holy God. Accusations that had made me feel unseen, unworthy, rejected, damaged goods and unwelcome in the Presence of God. 

As I wept profusely, feeling the pain of each wounding, the shame and pent up anger dissolved. I could now feel Jesus holding me in each and every situation I had once believed He had forsaken me. 

Then, as I sat to write the letter of thanks to God, I remembered what I had read that very morning. Moses refusing to continue the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness without the Presence of God going before him. It’s then I saw how Jesus was setting Himself before me with each thank You I penned. 

I saw how every step I had taken toward a breaking of His Body, became a breaking of my idols. Every time He commanded me to break friendships with fellow believers I idolized or physically leave their midst, God unveiled more of Himself to me.

Each breaking became an opportunity for God to write who He truly is on my heart. He was taking the Living Word I had ingested since I was a little girl and now returning it to me in a beautifully permanent inscription on my heart.

As I came to the end of my letter of thanks, I heard the Words: “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me”. It’s then the tears flowed relentlessly down my cheeks. I knew exactly what He was saying. Every lie spoken over me and my loved ones in His Name, every Scripture wielded to wound me and the children I had immediately recognized as His, had broken His heart too. Because it was done unto Him also.

All those years I had wandered in my wilderness believing God had rejected me and those I loved, that all He wanted to do was hurt and kill me, He was walking before me, preparing the Way for my heart’s deepest desires to be fulfilled: to know who He truly is in the breaking of the bread. To have my eyes opened, just like the disciples on the way to Emmaus. To recognize that His fire had never ever stopped burning in me. That He had never ever stopped holding me, and those I recognized as His, in the palm of His nail-scarred hands.

May you be blessed by this beautiful worship song today that illustrates the power of Christ’s nail-pierced hands and feet. Christ carried the holes in His feet and hands, even after the resurrection, forever reminding us of His mercy poured out at the Cross.

I believe as Jesus exchanges our idols for Himself, through the breaking of His Body, He bows our knees at the Cross. As we enter into His suffering there, we taste and pour out His mercy. Then, the wounds that we once hid in shame, in the light of Jesus, become healed scars of mercy. They become a testimony to His blood shed at the Cross for us.

For, in our surrender, we receive the Body – with Christ at its Head, as One. Fully healed, whole and complete, according to the faith our God has given us. For, He opens our eyes to see what He sees.

It’s then our stories powerfully declare His compassion to a yearning world, through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Beautifully the word for mercy and compassion in Hebrew comes from the word “womb” and so when we speak of God’s compassion we literally speak of the love a mother has for her unborn child in the womb. Isn’t that beautiful?!

In what ways have you experienced a breaking? How has this breaking opened your eyes to more of who Jesus truly is? What story do your scars now tell?

Isaiah 12 (ESV) You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

With thanks to Reverend Summer at The Presence Project, who invited me to contribute as a Table Host a couple of years ago, and for whose Facebook group I originally wrote this post that now appears in its newly edited form.

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

Beautifully Resurrecting

Taken out of their midst
God asked him: "return"
And he full of fear cried:
"But what shall I tell them."

I AM WHO I AM

Drawn out of water
In a basket
Wonderfully and fearfully woven
God's people out of Egypt to lead.

Not his own merit
But the Voice
Of I AM WHO I AM
Slavery's heavy yoke would lift.

Not just his people's
But his very own heart
Breaking in mercy.

Into a desert
The Living Word led them
Rejected, spurned and maligned
The Spirit ever interceding.

The Promised land
Moses saw from afar
And trusted by faith
Would one day be his.

Through all the pain
Of the desert
Overshadowed in mercy
By day.

Through every failing
His heart aflame
In the jealous fire of God
By night.

And yet
In Moses' rebellion
His Promise was buried
On a mountain.

But to the mountain
Moses one day returned
With his I AM WHO I AM
Standing, before a Cross.

For, Christ walked
To the Cross
The joy set before Him
His children set free.

Sin and pain
In grace He exchanged
The Promise once buried
In Holy breath resurrected.

And now the seed of life
In all of God's children
Once buried
Shall yet rise to life.

For the Promise buried
Is not dead
But in Holy breath
Beautifully resurrecting.


Hebrews 11:23-29, 39-40 (ESV) By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned . . . And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Matthew 17: 1 – 3 (ESV) And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

Deuteronomy 33:18 – 19 (ESV) And of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,
    and Issachar, in your tents.
 They shall call peoples to their mountain;
    there they offer right sacrifices;
for they draw from the abundance of the seas
    and the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Isaiah 9:1 (ESV) Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

Into the Light

I still remember the excitement, the tears, the shouts for joy. A wall falling. A people reunited. A dictator executed. A people freed. I was nine years old and sitting in a West German classroom, the daughter of New Zealand missionaries in a time God’s miraculous power swept across the world and into my presence. 

Weeks later I’d be accompanying my family into Romania and meeting believers who welcomed us with such warmth and love. The joy of the LORD was palpable in our midst, as we sung in that enormous church, men one side, women with their heads covered on another. In incredible heartache and persecution the Romanian church had exploded in number, as a suffering and dying people were drawn like a magnet to the Living Hope that is Christ Jesus.

As I prayed through Isaiah 53:3-12, my eyes rested on verse 3:


“He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

and I wept. Because I saw how we, God’s children, have been walking in our Savior’s footsteps. But also because I was convicted that unlike my Savior and my Romanian brothers and sisters, I had chosen to clothe myself in lies, believing myself:

“stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.”

I had carried my mental illness born in the wake of trauma, as a punishment, as something that defines my standing before God. But as I rested on:

“Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows”

I remembered the visions God gifted me in therapy. Visions of His presence in my most traumatic memories. Visions of His loving face, of His Words of truth piercing my hardened heart that had been locked tight in shame, unable to process, to grieve what was taken from me.

Of Him encouraging me to kick, scream, flail and cry for all that I had walked through. Of Him telling me He too is angry. And I then saw how walking to His Cross, He carried what was done to me. He carried my loss, my grief and my sorrow. And He also carried my sinful turning away, those moments I chose to clothe myself in lies.

He never ever left me, not even for a moment. Not even as I turned my back on Him for more than twenty long years. Yes:

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.”

At His Cross He wept and cried: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” He forgave me.

“yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

And by His grace, He is now empowering me also, just as He did my brothers and sisters in Romania, to arise and shine in the truth. To esteem Him, by wrapping myself in the truth and grace of the Cross.

“by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,”

No, mental and physical affliction do not define us. The Cross alone defines us. In the power of the Cross at work in us, we are dead to sin and alive to Christ. For “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”, in the hand of the One who lives and breathes in us. The One who has wrought justice at the Cross. The One who is now restoring all that the enemy thought he had stolen, killed and destroyed. 

The One who is now bringing redemption to Romania and her countless, abandoned by man and yet chosen of God children, like my little brother, who are now scattered around the world.

He is flaming His Word alive in us – His Body. From every nation, our lips shall give Him praise!

We, the esteemed and chosen men, women and children of God, filled with joy, ones toward whom God has turned His face are invited to let our incense – the prayers of our Savior in us – arise. For our Father longs to draw many more children unto glory through the power of His Son’s blood and His living testimony at work in us.

May we, who have known the horror of abuse, just like our Savior, stand with tears in our eyes. Not for our own pain, which our Messiah has redeemed at the Cross. But like Jesus, for the very ones who have wounded and afflicted us.

May we rise in the strength of our Savior’s heart and blood in us, to cry: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And may we walk forgiven and free of all fear and shame into the light.

Oh what an indescribable gift flows from the Cross. A place of deep suffering for our loving Savior. For us. For every single fibre of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.

Oh may He make us those who do not hide the light of His love and grace toward us, but shine it brightly for all to see. For, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1 John 1:5, ESV). Praise Him!

With You

I told You

I would go anywhere 

Do anything 

For You

But I didn’t see

Where You would take me

I didn’t see

All You’d do.

I didn’t see 

All the cutting off

And pruning 

That every step forward

I’d meet 

Another ending.

But now I know

Each door 

You close so firmly

Is not Your withholding

But Your bestowing.

For when all I can see 

Is pain and labor 

Birthing nothing but air  

You see 

The Living Word

Crowning in me.

You see each dying

A resurrection birthing  

Mercy meeting truth 

Righteousness kissing 

Peace.

Blessings and prayers

Pouring from my lips

For in each trial and temptation

You are paving my path straight

Uniting my body, mind and soul

In You.

Bought with a price

Each surrender You are working

A sacrifice holy

And pleasing 

In Your blood

Becoming.

Your Spirit in me

A sweet scent wafting

From Your dwelling place 

I AM 

Awakening.

For each closing door

Is but Your purpose for me

To be still and know

You alone are God

That You will be exalted

Among the nations.

Each closing door

Is but Your knocking

That I might hearken 

To Your heart beating in me

And open the door

To dine  

With You.

Isaiah 66: 8 – 14 (ESV)

8 Who has heard such a thing?

    Who has seen such things?

Shall a land be born in one day?

    Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?

For as soon as Zion was in labor

    she brought forth her children.

Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?”

    says the Lord;

“shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?”

    says your God.

10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,

    all you who love her;

rejoice with her in joy,

    all you who mourn over her;

11 that you may nurse and be satisfied

    from her consoling breast;

that you may drink deeply with delight

    from her glorious abundance.”

12 For thus says the Lord:

“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,

    and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

and 

you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,

    and bounced upon her knees.

13 As one whom his mother comforts,

    so I will comfort you;

    you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;

    your bones shall flourish like the grass;

and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,

    and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.

Revelation 3:20 (ESV)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Psalm 46 (ESV)

God Is Our Fortress

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,

    a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

    God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

    he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,

    how he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

    he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Hope is Alive

Romans 15:1 3 (NIV)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This verse captures one of my greatest desires for both myself and others. Paul records this as a prayer (note the use of “May”) and as we read it we too can pray it both into our own and others’ lives. It is a powerful verse that reminds us of both the origin and source of Peace, as well as our remedy for disquiet, anxiety, fear and worry in this broken world.

The word “peace” in this context has been translated from the Greek “eirene”, which stems, according to a sermon on Biblical peace, “Text Sermons : Greek Word Studies : Peace (1515) eirene”:


“from the verb EIRO which means to join or bind together that which has been broken, divided or separated! Eirene is the root of our English word “serene” (free of storms or disturbance, marked by utter calm). EIRENE literally pictures the binding or joining together again of that which has been separated, the result being that the separated parts are set at one again.”


This beautifully captures what Christ has achieved for us through His death on the Cross, namely: “the binding or joining together again” of our brokenness, the severance of our union with Him, birthed in the Garden of Eden, at the Fall of humankind.

And yet because we still live in a fallen world, the remaining brokenness keeps trying to pull us back into a lack of peace. And therefore Paul’s prayer speaks of our need to “trust” in the “God of hope”, so that He might “fill” us. The word “trust” in this Scripture was translated from the Greek word “pisteuo”, which according to the sermon, “Text Sermons : Greek Word Studies : Believe (4100) pisteuo”:


“means to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust. To accept as true, genuine, or real. To have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something or someone. To consider to be true. To accept the word or evidence of.”

And that’s why we can pray and read God’s Word with anxiety, fear and worry only growing, where we fail to “accept” what He tells and promises us. The peace that passes all understanding can only flourish in a trusting, accepting heart.

This is something I’ve been reflecting a lot on because I’ve noticed that I have periods where peace and joy flow freely and times where they don’t. And if I look at the times where darkness clouds me, I see a lack of trust at the core. I’ll read His Word and pray, but my mind is not stayed on His promises and truths, but on my current struggles and discontents. I’m choosing to live as if the here and now is the be and end-all, rather than the birthing ground of freedom in Christ, a freedom that is founded on the hope of eternity with God and His Beautiful Bride, The Church.

Lately, my discontent, my lack of peace, has been festered by what is no more: the love and presence of my Mum in my life. And yet, if I really truly accepted God’s Word this discontent can be exchanged with an overflowing abundance of joy, peace and hope, through the power of the One in me. His Word tells me that all that has been taken has already been restored. All that I need is His Eyes to see it – the unseen (Hebrews 11: 1, NIV):


Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Which is why Jesus calls us to “live wide-eyed in wonder and belief,” so that our “body fills up with light” (Luke 11: 34, The Message). If we let His Eyes direct us, then we will see eternity before us, we will see a world already “overcome” by His Glory, Majesty, Power and Wonder (John 16: 33). And where broken peace attempts to stifle us, His Perfect Peace will secure and hold us.

Seeing with His Eyes, means leaning into His Truth. The following story, to be found in the sermon “Text Sermons : Greek Word Studies : Believe (4100) pisteuo” illustrates this powerfully:


“When missionary John Paton was translating the Scripture for the South Sea islanders, he was unable to find a word in their vocabulary for the concept of believing, trusting, or having faith. He had no idea how he would convey that to them. One day while he was in his hut translating, a native came running up the stairs into Paton’s study and flopped in a chair, exhausted. He said to Paton,

It’s so good to rest my whole weight in this chair.

John Paton had his word: Faith is resting your whole weight on God. That word went into the translation of their New Testament and helped bring that civilization of natives to Christ. Believing is putting your whole weight on God. If God said it, then it’s true, and we’re to believe it.

To me this encapsulates the Hebrew meaning of trust, as used in the Old Testament, whose root bittachon means to “lean on, feel safe or secure, to be confident of” (John J. Parsons, “Bittachon…Putting your trust in the Lord”. http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Meditations/Bittachon/bittachon1.html. Accessed 11 April 2016.)

And so, in those moments I feel His Peace being stolen from me, He has the power to restore it to me. All He asks is that I lean into Him, that I believe Him at His Word. And even then, He tells me that where I struggle to trust, He will not abandon me, yet patiently teach me because “saving” me is all His idea and He will bring it to completion (John 6: 35-40). And in teaching me He is, ever so patiently, yet also firmly, reminding me of the hope I have in Him that can never be shaken. A hope overflowing into an abundant peace.

“It will not save me to know that Christ is a Savior; but it will save me to trust him to be my Savior. I shall not be delivered from the wrath to come by believing that his atonement is sufficient; but I shall be saved by making that atonement my trust, my refuge, and my all. The pith, the essence of faith lies in this—a casting oneself on the promise.” 

Charles Spurgeon (Rev. C.H. Spurgeon, “Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 3: 1857 — Charles Haddon Spurgeon”.http://biblehub.com/library/spurgeon/spurgeons_sermons_volume_3_1857/faith.htm.  Accessed 11 April 2016.)

This is an excerpt from my in May 2016 self-published book, Love Embraced: A Journey in and through Suffering. Seven years ago today (it is the 8th of April in New Zealand already) my Mum entered heaven’s gates to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To celebrate the life and love of Jesus that continues to flow through my Mum’s very much living testimony to Jesus and her Spirit-led prayers, I would love to send you a free copy of my book that is no longer available on Amazon (message me at: AnnaSmit@shalomaleh.com).

Answered Prayers

Today, my thoughts have turned to answered prayers. As I reflected on Easter, I thought about Jesus being the answer to generation upon generation of prayers. And how that answer to all those prayers came in such an unexpected way that many missed the answer. They missed our Savior’s coming, misunderstood or even helped bring about His death and couldn’t believe in His resurrection.

But what a gift Jesus was and is to those of us who, through the touch of the Holy Spirit, have recognized His coming, His death for us and His resurrection to give us new life. As we walk toward Easter weekend and remember Christ’s death on the Cross and His resurrection, may He open our eyes, ears and hearts to recognize the many answers to prayers He has brought. May we also become His answer to the prayers of others as we obey His calling. And may our ears continue to hearken to His promptings to pray in the Spirit for the return of His children and the coming of His Kingdom.

May the beautiful answers He brings us, through His Presence with us, also become answers for others also. May we share the hope and comfort He has given us with those He places before us. 

Happy Easter! As you celebrate Jesus this week, may this poem and song encourage and uplift you:

HOPE

Beckoning Hope

Where it was once want

Leading to Light we now see.

Always so near

He never abandons

Ever so patient, remains.

Sending 

His palm branch 

Blessed of grace that we are.

Coming in splendor

Sun streaming glory

Bathing us here in His Light.

No longer weighted 

Our burden Lifter

Always He’s breathing to Life.

Promise in bruisèd

And smoldering wick

He will not break or snuff out.

Justice He brings 

In captives He frees

Hope’s strong Voice in us lifts.

Thankful we raise

Our anthem of praise

Casting abandoned our cares.

Raising His children 

Hand lifting faces

Shining, His radiance us glows.

Broken, victorious

Guilty, forgiven

No longer shame, here our name.

Called and He’s chosen

Redeemed and belovèd

Nothing His love can destroy.

All dark and hopeless

Purposed for Living 

Christ in us be raised.

Our eyes He gives us

“It’s finished” gifts us

Whole and His Perfect to see.

Cocooning safely

Releasing gently

Wings in His timing unfold.

His thoughts above ours

Master’s own brushstrokes

Poema loved, we are His.

Let us not draw back

Hide or strive fearful 

But come as children restored.

He will not shun us

Remove or shame us

But only break open to Life.

Give thanks for the bread broken 

His Body saved us

Living, His blood in us streams.

Every tear 

And every ache

Sin and our weakness, He’s borne.

Search here and know us, Lord

Let Your holiness draw us

Your will in grace, Christ fulfill.

Send us and teach us

Cross here to carry

Your Kingdom come to proclaim.

Comforted, comfort 

Loved first, we love

All You have given, we shall release.

Sharpened by iron

Hands clasped together 

One in Your Spirit: we each belong.

Let us not shirk 

Or fear filled withdraw now

But in Love’s own perfecting grow.

Our battle He’s won 

Our hearts now are His

Nothing shall stand in His way.

Heaven rejoices

Cheering us on

Hope beckoning us homeward.

https://youtu.be/F8iveLWYkZE

A Heart of Gold

1 Peter 1: 23 – 25 (ESV)

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

When the suffering we walk through just doesn’t make sense we can be tempted to respond religiously, rather than wholeheartedly. We can begin to suppress the deep longing inside our heart to truly experientially know the hope we profess. We can begin to believe we are meant to grin and bear life. 

But right there, as our flesh presses us to turn away from God, our merciful God answers our deepest heart’s cry to know Him. Christ in us – our hope of glory- causes us, through new trials sent our way, to cast the Promises of His Word at His feet. He compels us, like David, Jeremiah and Elijah before us, to cry out to Him to give us faith, to reveal Himself to us and our loved ones through His sure and steadfast Word.

Psalm 12:6 (NIV)

And the words of the Lord are flawless,
    like silver purified in a crucible,
    like gold refined seven times.

The gold the Israelites once brought forward for Solomon’s Temple was used to overlay the clasps, fillets and capitals.

Exodus 35: 5 ESV

Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze;

These items strengthened the weakest parts of the Temple’s frame and joined the many curtains into one whole curtain. Today, Christ now literally strengthens and makes us whole, perfect and complete in Himself. He literally overlays and joins us to Himself.

In my walk through the mental illness of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I am beginning to experience the truth of this gold coating and joining. As the memories, doubts, hurt and anger I have repressed for so long are now crashing like waves within me, my God is breaking open my heart to come before Him as I am.

It is in these moments of overwhelm I, through His living Word at work in me, cry out for Jesus to reveal Himself in my weakness. He is answering my heart’s cry. He is removing the scales from my eyes. He is breaking the bread before me. He is revealing the truth of His powerful Presence in all I and my loved ones have walked through and are walking through.

No, the horrific storms we walk through that overwhelm us, freeze our hearts in fear and shock and shake us to the core do not define us as unfaithful. Rather, they are sent to unveil the faithfulness of our mighty God. For, as we stumble and fall, His great mercy catches and awakens us to new life. 

Our Savior reminds us: it’s not our righteousness, but His alone that saves us. Through each and every storm Christ is only calling us all ever deeper into communion with Him because He so longs for us- for each and every part of us. Through our honest and raw desperation Jesus draws us unto the Father. Into His merciful arms, to see Him right there WITH US in the pain. Holding us tight. Soothing us as we shake, kick and scream. Stroking our face and reassuring us: “You can’t see this now, but I am making all things new. All things. Even this. All of it has purpose. Every single piece.”

It’s when He speaks the Living Word over us, that He opens our eyes to see by faith. To see His gold coating and joining of our weakness to His perfecting power. It’s then we see Him covering us, strengthening us and holding us and our loved ones together as One complete and perfected whole. It’s then we behold heaven come through His gift of faith.

Psalm 138:8 (NKJV)
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

He helps us, like doubtful Thomas, to bring Him our true broken heart, so that He may reveal the presence of His whole heart there. He invites us to touch the holes in His hands and feet, to remind us this pain is not ours to bear. For, we were written on the palms of His hand for a reason: for these very moments we just can’t go on. For when we just can’t bear one second anymore.  So, lifted by His Spirit, we would find ourselves borne up on eagle’s wings, in our waiting on the only One we can go to. The only One who truly understands. The only One who carried not just our every sin, but our every ounce of pain to that Cross, so we would never ever have to carry it alone. So, that our heavy yoke would be broken to become a light yoke of healing and wholeness in His heart for us and for others.

It’s when He lays our weakness and imperfection bare, His power can be perfected right there for all to see. It is then, Christ, our door of salvation, begins to raise up a worship in us in Spirit and truth. It’s then we begin not just to profess, but intimately know our Heavenly Father’s presence with us, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior.

Father God, forgive us for the moments we have believed the enemy’s taunts. Forgive us for believing that we have to be strong for You. That we have to be perfect for You. That we have to hide our doubts, our fears, our hurt and our longings. Forgive us for forgetting that You wept for us as You walked to Your cross, crying out: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

Thank You that You call us to come just as we are. Draw us into Your presence and lay bare our wounded and deceitful hearts. Break open and unravel our hearts, LORD. Pour out our hearts before You. Cast out all fear of punishment by the power ofYour perfect love. Search and know us and if there be any wickedness in us, cleanse us by the power of Your blood and the living water of Your Word.

Thank You that we and our loved ones are overlaid and joined to the gold of Your powerful Promises. For though our flesh and our hearts may fail, we thank You that You are the strength and gold of our hearts.

Now, awaken us to live in this truth. To walk by Your Spirit, to hear and obey You in fear and trembling, trusting that in our weakness Your power will be put on display. Declare Your Name through us today, declare Your praises through the mouths of babes and the hearts of men. In Your Name alone. Amen.