Part 2: Chapter 1 – Day 4: Garments of Praise

Welcome to Day 4 of Chapter 2 of Part 2 from Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is sharing a story about the threads of redemption woven by God in our friendships.

The fabrics lie folded and stacked in my closet, next to the threads and the needles, and the unfinished projects. A lifetime of sewing is huddled there together, as a sort of memorial, stories interwoven through the warp and weft of my memories and the God-moments of my life. Some fabrics are rough, easily wrinkled and scratchy, while others drape and flow through my fingers like spun silk. 

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:16-17

Her name was Kathy, which means “pure and flawless” and in my memory I can see my friend’s flaxen glowing hair, her fair skin. While other girls were chasing boys, and attending dances, she and I were reading books and sitting in the branches of her giant willow tree. We sang at the top of our lungs, practicing harmony, and laughing at the way the old songs differed from our generation’s rock-n-roll. 

My Mom was a homemaker, her Mom left the house early each morning for her job. But each of us were given chores to finish before we could spend our summer afternoons together. Some afternoons were filled with swimming lessons, while other days we rode our bikes up and down our small neighborhood streets till our legs ached. But always we ended with long discussions about life. She knew I loved Jesus. She didn’t argue that, but she just couldn’t live the same lifestyle I thought was so important: every Sunday in Church, both morning and evening, and weeknight girls’ club classes as well.  I wanted her to ask Jesus “to come into her heart” but she wasn’t sure what that even meant, so we shelved the topic, and instead spent our discussions on every other subject imaginable. 

Into the light colored weft, a darker thread was being woven, filling the fabric with the warp of my flesh. I chose the path of the church, and she chose a different path. I had known it would come to this, I who was so set on my church commitments that I could not miss one Sunday to join her at her family’s weekly campground adventures. Not once. I thought I was choosing the better path.  It took many years for me to see what I had missed. 

In our pulling apart, the bonds of the fabric could easily have torn. We graduated, I was married. She chose a local college, I moved 600 miles away with my new husband. We wrote letters that kept us connected, and even though we were separated by miles, a deep bond was somehow still glimpsed by both of us. On one of my trips back home, she told of how thyroid cancer had struck her, and the months had been filled with harsh treatments and struggles. But her face was glowing as she eagerly told me the glorious news of finally seeing the beauty of surrendering her life to Jesus. We cried and we laughed that night, taking photos together of my pure and flawless friend holding my toddler son.

But the drifting apart wasn’t finished yet, as my life was plunged into testing involving a move to the other side of the country, a move back again, and years of living in other people’s homes. The letters to my golden haired friend slowed to a trickle, as I was at a loss to explain the confusion I felt during those years of breaking and reshaping. By the time we finally moved back close enough to rekindle our friendship, the cancer had returned to my friend, and she slipped into eternity the same fall that we moved back to our Midwestern roots.

And just as the fabrics of home were being re-folded and measured and cut, the dark threads of the fleshly warp were being marked with the colors of regret. Almost daily I thought of the times that I had neglected the friendship of one so dear.  It took years for the roughness of that churchy fabric to be washed and softened. But when the fabric had finally worn down enough, I was filled with sorrow over the way I had chosen an ideal instead of the love of one precious heart. “Jesus, will You please tell Kathy how sorry I am for the years I neglected her?” Again and again through the years, I heard myself uttering that prayer to Him.

The fabrics lie folded and stacked in the closet, and my heart remembers each project. The abilities for the old ways are gone. My arthritic hands can no longer follow the precision necessary to measure and cut and sew. The old has gone, and yet, the new is here. I can hear Jesus whispering:

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

Jesus has taken the regret and filled it with colors so vibrant they cannot even compare to the old ways of seeing. And in the changing, the regret has been woven into a new warp and weft.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1 – 3

That old warp of ugly dark shadows has now become a vivid setting to show forth new colors not seen before. “No apology is necessary any longer” He whispers to me. “I have preserved the threads of your friendship, and it’s woven together into a pure and flawless garment. You both are clothed in me now.”

I delight greatly in the Lord;

    my soul rejoices in my God.

For he has clothed me with garments of salvation

    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,

as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,

    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:10

Thanks to Alexander McFeron @alexmcferon for making the profile photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/-dC8jIuwwDY

Chapter 1: Day 5 – At the King’s Table

Welcome to Day 5 of Chapter 1 for Arise & Shine, a devotional written by Bettie Gilbert.

“’Don’t be afraid,’ David said to him, ‘for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.’ And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.”  2 Samuel 9:7,13

The story of Mephibosheth, the one Scriptures say “was lame in both feet,” always touched a deep chord in my young heart. Here was a boy who was the son of Jonathan, and the grandson of King Saul—the one who tried to have David killed. Yet when his entire family was killed, and his home was destroyed, King David invited him into his own Royal Palace, all for the sake of the covenant made with his father, Jonathan, years before. 

As I first heard that story decades ago, something critical to my way of seeing was planted in my child-like heart. And when God saw that it was time, He reawakened the earlier question by asking a second question.

Is it true that the King of Heaven would really invite me to HIS own table?

And how can that be possible, since I have only grown more disfigured over the years?

As chronic illness stripped away my old way of living, I wondered what would happen as the years progressed. Would I be able to bear up under the pain? Would bitterness finally one day take root? I felt powerless to stop the darkness I felt as I watched my own lameness grow more pronounced.

As the chronic pain and inflammation wore away at the strength of my feet and ankles, another label was placed onto my identity: lame and slow. How could the King, the perfect Royal One, ever look on me as beautiful again? Would I ever be found worthy to come to His table?

And then He opened the pages of a long-forgotten story. He placed my heart in the open air of HIS royal Temple, and He invited me in, showing me the seat next to His own dear Son. Joint-heir with Jesus, He called me: “Come inside with me! The Kingdom of God is within you. I am not offended by your pain, and I am already here, waiting for you to open the door.”

Feasting With The King

Where is my home?
Where is my dwelling place?
Everything I’ve known
What I’ve seen
Has been devastated

What can I do?
Where can I belong?
Everything I’ve done
Where I’ve worked
Has been swept away

How should I feel?
How is life to be lived?
Everything I’ve tasted
What I’ve shared
Has been covered up

I hear a voice
Speaking my name
Ushering an invitation
And setting me on a new path
All for the sake of a choice
Made on my behalf
An eternity ago

How is the table spread
Here before me now?
How is the King’s house
The place of my dwelling?
Why would my name
Be the one He calls?

He sets me at His Home
He calls me His child
He opens the door

All for the sake of Love
All for the sake of Covenant
A kindred heart promised
A kindred heart responded

And suddenly my lameness
Doesn’t matter anymore
The King calls my name
Feasting at HIS table
Eating of His bread
Forever I belong with Him.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20 NIV

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21 KJB

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the voice of Your invitation. We pause and shake ourselves when we first hear Your call. How can it be? We know of our lameness all too well. We don’t belong at the Royal Table, and we aren’t worthy to feast with You.

Oh, but thank You for the gift that You poured over our hearts when YOUR own son entered the covenant of grace on our behalf! Now You call us worthy because of HIM, and You seat us at the table of Your presence to feast with You.

Help us to receive the joy of Your presence today. Help us to rest at Your table with You. And help us to lift our voices in praise of Your son, our Savior Jesus.

In His name we pray,

Amen.

Thanks to Andreas Rønningen @andozo for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/S2YssLw97l4

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/