Draw Near

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

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

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

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

My body, mind
And soul
In Spirit breath
Awake.

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

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

This childlike heart
In steadfast love is
Rootèd secure:

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

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

Each day anew
My burdened heart
Christ draws
In Spirit song
To wake
And sing with Him
Each Word
To life.

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

Thanks to Юлія Дубина @yulia_dubyna for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/6C_XfszlnWw

Wrapped in Royal Thread

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

The color purple, woven into the curtains of the Temple, represents royalty: the perfect kingdom that is promised for us in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.  But what if we could see the gift of royalty that our Jesus won for us, here and now, as we embrace Him as our Savior?

They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, King of the Jews. Mark 15:17-18 ESV

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 10:20 NLT

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. 1 John 1:4-5 ESV

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Peter 2:9 ESV

So often in this life we find ourselves walking a broken path. We face wounding from those in the world, and even from those within the Church. Maybe your own loved ones have faced the effects of those woundings?

When Bettie’s family walked through painful hurts at the hands of those who were in Church leadership, her sons later suffered a deep brokenness as the pain increased their wanderings.  It felt like there was an attack being directed by those very ones who were supposed to be family within Christ’s Church. 

Similar pain also formed a part of Anna’s wanderings as a Prodigal. Even after her return to the LORD, Anna’s heart still heaved with the pain of the past, exacerbated by the loss of her mother, who had served the LORD with such devotion, to brain cancer. 

But then, one day, as she returned to the memories of her childhood, the LORD gave her a beautiful vision. In it she saw, felt and heard Jesus, as He picked her up and held her frail little body tight. He asked her to kick, scream and flail as a toddler and He promised to hold her tight through it all.

As she saw herself do so, she literally felt the tension that she hadn’t realized had held her body captive for so very long, depart her body, as she rested in her Savior’s safe and loving arms. And then, she heard Jesus speak such beautiful, beautiful Words of truth: “You can’t see it yet, Anna, but trust me, I am working all of this, all of it, together for good.” 

Even now, this Promise from God’s Word brings tears to Anna’s eyes as she waits for it to be fulfilled in so many of her loved ones’ lives. She is already witnessing the LORD work such good into her own life and heart through the pain she has walked through in both the past and more recently. If anything this hurt and pain has shown her that she cannot walk a life holy and pleasing unto the Lord without the empowering work of His grace. 

For:

“our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 ESV

So, let us:

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; Ephesians 6: 16 ESV

Oh how much of this painful world doesn’t yet make sense, but we have a Savior who understands. A Savior who lived and walked a life of rejection and persecution on this earth at the hands of His own, and who is not aloof to our pain and our hurt. This loving Friend invites us into His arms that He may release us from our burdens and whisper the truth into our weary hearts. 

A Friend who does not withhold His mercy from us, but wields it powerfully through us to bring abundant life. 

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45: 5 – 8 ESV

So, what if we began to see that color of royalty woven into the hearts of those in our fellowship? And what if we could see that those hurtful attacks have not come from our brothers and sisters, but from the forces of evil that the enemy of our souls wields over this world? Forces of evil that have been overcome by the blood of the Lamb. 

Where would our forgiveness lie if we would embrace each other as daughters and sons of the Most High God and see the truth of our incredible inheritance? What would happen if we lifted up our hurting hearts to our Savior and invited Him to wrap the Promise of HEAVEN (blue thread) and ROYAL PRIESTHOOD (purple thread) around us all?

The Lord has given Anna a beautiful poem to share with you. We pray that the Lord will speak to you of the beautiful inheritance that you and your loved ones have been promised:

NO POWER HERE WILL STAND

You sit upon the throne
All in Your hands You hold
All things to You they bow
No power too great for You to fell.

And in this cloak
Your Mighty Spirit
We, your children stand
We’ll stand and not be shaken.


All diseases
All afflictions
To You they bow
For Your compassion faileth not.

No child
Unwelcome here
Us in Your loving hands You hold
No hate too great for You to break.

You sit upon the throne
All in Your hands You hold
All things to You they bow
No power too great for You to fell.

LORD send Your many laborers,
Send out Your Love
So bright, so great, so deep
Into this, Your harvest ready, ripe.

All diseases
All afflictions
To You they’ll bow
For Your compassion faileth not.

No child
Unwelcome here
Us in Your loving hands You hold
No hate too great for You to break.

For You, You sit upon the throne
Our Father, us in Your hands You hold
All darkness to You, it bows
No power here will stand, but Yours.

Is there a wound, inflicted by someone within the Church, which has been festering in your soul? Can you let the Lord of Heaven uncover it today? Will you let Him show you the beauty and royalty that dwells within His Body of Believers, and then bring to you His own sweet gift of forgiveness?

Perhaps the wound has been carried over into the lives of your loved ones who are running from the LORD.  Can you pray for God’s Grace to begin a sweet work of uncovering and healing in their lives also?

As we bow our knees in prayer right now, let’s sit a moment with a Promise from our God’s Word that He spoke through Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. Speak, O LORD, through this, Your precious Word, for Your servants are listening:

    He lifts the poor from the dust
    and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
    placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
    and he has set the world in order.

“He will protect his faithful ones,
    but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone. 

Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
    the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
    he increases the strength of his anointed one.”

1 Samuel 2: 8 – 10 NLT

May we pray for you today?

Dear Lord Jesus, We come to You today and confess that we are a broken people. We have been wounded, and we ourselves have inflicted wounds. And, yet You still call us precious, royal members of Your own household of faith.  Will you please forgive us where we have brought pain into the lives of our brothers and sisters? And will you bring to our own hearts a willingness to face forgiveness for those who have wounded us?  

Strengthen and invigorate us, LORD, with all power, according to Your glorious might, to attain every kind of endurance and patience with joy; that we may give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Light (Colossians 1: 11-12)

Thank you for washing us clean, and inviting us into Your family. We stand in awe of Your great gift, and worship You, our true King.  In Your precious name we pray, Amen.

This post was first published as a newsletter, sent to subscribers of the now closed down belovedprodigal.com. It was co-written by Bettie Gilbert and the steward of shalomaleh.com, Anna Smit.

Bettie, blogs at BettieGsRASeasons, writes Scriptural based prayer prompts and shepherds the Prayer Pond at the Chronic Joy ministry. The Prayer Pond is a safe harbor, where the chronically ill and their friends and family are encouraged to share prayer requests, updates and shouts of praise. 

Thanks to James Coleman @jhc for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/6n44KH_lEoE

A Garden of Grace

In Psalm 119:71, David talks of learning (exercising) God’s laws through affliction (being bowed down). The word laws comes from a Hebrew Word meaning “to cut, inscribe, decree” (source: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3925.htm). It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 3:3 ESV: “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Beautifully, trials and affliction cause us to drop down to our knees and cry out for God’s perfect understanding and His perfect living and breathing law – Jesus. It is then that any stones of pride, idolatry, doubt, unbelief, bitterness and unforgiveness that have been allowed to hide away in our hearts are exposed, dug out and removed. 

Sometimes we can allow the enemy to accuse us in these moments of exposure and removal. But when we still and listen, we will be able to hear Christ’s heart calling us to come to Him, just as we are. To come boldly before His throne of grace in our time of need. 

To help us distinguish His Voice from the enemy’s, God may also choose to repeatedly lead us in and out of places that trigger trauma in us. In doing so, He teaches us to recognize and release the lies we once embraced (as children). For, He longs for us to know who He truly is: a loving High Priest, who knows our every weakness and kneels down to extend kindness and mercy to us in our time of need.

Only He truly knows what we have been through. His heart breaks for us, and He longs to free us from the trauma and idolatry of our past. He longs to lift away the stones that are stopping the Word from rooting in our hearts, so that we might lean, no longer on our own or others’ understanding, but upon Him: our Rock and Redeemer. 

When those stones are removed and piled up, one upon the other, they become – no longer a hindrance to the Word taking root in our hearts – but proof of Christ’s abiding work in us. They become a living monument to His saving grace, a testimony to His perfecting power in our weakness.

The cold stone tablets of the law prove us guilty of breaking the laws of God and make us deserving of death. But Christ has fulfilled the law for us. He became our sin and died on the Cross to annul the charges that once stood against us. And He rose again that He might take up residence in us to unveil His soft heart in us.

He has overcome the grave, rolling away the stone to rise in victory over sin and death. Now, we can walk in daily repentance, turning to our accuser and the accuser of our brethren to declare:

Romans 8:33-39 (ESV)

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And with each stone lifted away, Christ roots His Word ever deeper in us. Our hearts hearken more readily to His living Word speaking in us, to us and through us. For, rather than interpreting the Word from our own or other’s fleshly understanding, we learn to recognize and obey Christ speaking His living Word to us, from moment to moment.

Yes, through every trial sent our way, Christ shows that we are a letter sent from Him, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Thank You, Father, that like Paul, we can “count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled].” 

Father, bring us to the point, that we, like Paul, may also be able to declare in response to Your patient pruning: “For [Christ’s] sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from [You] on the basis of faith.”

Thank You that through the trials we face, You are helping us to “know [Jesus] [experientially, to become “more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way [to] experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that [we] may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; [a]so that [we] may attain to the resurrection [that will raise [us] ] from the dead.”

Father, we know “that [we] have [not] already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] [n]or have [we] already been made perfect, but [we] actively press on [b]so that [we] may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of [us] and made [us] His own.(A)” 

Thank You that You have promised to complete the good work You have begun in us. Help us not to become discouraged through the repeated trials and losses, but to recognize and bless You for the stones You are removing from our hearts through Your patient gardening. Thank You for making room in our hearts for more of You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen 

(Quotes from: Philippians 3: 8 – 12 (AMP) )

Footnotes

[a] Philippians 3:11 Lit if somehow.

[b] Philippians 3:12 Lit even if I may. Paul knew that he could not really reach perfection in this life, but his goal was to “press on” as if it were attainable.

Cross references

(A) Philippians 3:12 : 1 Cor 9:24; 1 Tim 6:12

Thanks to CDC @cdc for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/_Vq-x0tE38o

Resurrection Life in the Dying

Happy Resurrection Sunday! He is risen! He is risen indeed!!!

This is the fourth installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These monthly 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

As I was running through the red-golden forest, a few years ago, I reflected on the grief that had been building within me. It was coming up to the month, in which my world turned upside down and my heart was torn between two continents, as I traveled to the other side of the world with my one-year-old daughter to be with my mother before she entered a life-threatening operation. 

I had to leave my three-year-old daughter, who had only ever spent two nights apart from me, and my husband, behind. My already tearing heart was yanked further apart, as we heard the diagnosis a few short days later: a terminal brain cancer with no hope of survival, with a life-expectancy of two to three months.

And yet, in journeying back to that time in my heart, I am reminded of God’s deep abiding presence and the many gifts He showered upon me during one of the hardest times of my life. There are three places and moments in particular His peace descended so powerfully upon me, that it shattered my understanding of who He was, is and is to come:

1. In the mountains

I surveyed the spectacular wonder of the mountains and lake, the way the sky broke open and I felt a love envelop me. In that moment I was completely and utterly broken. I felt torn between my own immediate family and my Mum. A heaviness rested upon me as the death sentence of two to three months Mum was given weighed upon me. 

I was hushing my little girl into sleep, a wee girl who often refused to sleep and kept getting sick. But in that one moment, my hardened heart broke and tears flowed. A God who I had for years envisioned shaking His finger at me, covering me in guilt and shame, was holding me. And I couldn’t stop crying. Me the sinner, the one who kept failing, kept losing the control she fought so hard to hold onto.

2. In the dunes

When I ran alongside my husband, coming to a clearing where all I could see was dunes upon dunes, and a startlingly, beautiful sky. This was in the five weeks, when I found myself on one continent, but my heart was on the other, with my dying Mum. 

My heart was torn in two, a grief I will never be able to fully explain in words. But in that moment God’s beauty poured out over me like a balm and all the tension and fear and ripping came to a halt and poured out into tears that kept flowing.

Psalm 23:6 (The Message)
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.


3. With my dying Mum. 

Our last Christmas together, a little more than four months before Mum entered heaven’s gates

The more she surrendered the greater the peace that settled upon her. I was anything but peaceful during that time, as I kept myself frantically busy doing everything I could for Mum and her home. So, the contrast was startling. The less she did, the more she surrendered to her Lord and Saviour, the more peace settled upon her. The more I did, the greater the fear, tension, unsettled feeling grew.

Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.


And so, when I returned home, I vowed to seek after this peace that passes all understanding. And it brought me to the table of grace, to His broken body and flowing blood that covered all my guilt, all my shame, all that I’d sought to run and hide from, in my utter brokenness.

John 3: 16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.


Now, when I look back, my Mum’s greatest gift to me is not the years of beautiful service to me as her child. Not the hugs, the kisses, the way she looked at my girls, the giving of her heart till no more could be given. No, her absolute greatest gift to me is her testimony to the abiding life and peace of Jesus in her.

My Mum was not the same woman I grew up with. I saw the grace of Jesus change her, more and more, especially at the end. It’s not that she wasn’t a warm, loving and kind Mum, when I was little. Because she was. 

But, Jesus kept plunging her deeper into His grace, stripping more and more sin and extending more and more of His love through her. I saw Christ’s patience, kindness, selflessness, a listening ear, forgiveness, such gentleness, but also blunt, much-needed truth-telling, grow in my Mum.

You see, Mum didn’t hide her light. She went to heaven declaring God’s peace to this world. At the end especially, she spoke freely of her own need for His grace and of His kindness and gentleness toward the least of these. 

And she uncovered the truth. Thanks in part to the brain cancer taking away her social filter, she preferred to be genuine at the end, rather than hide behind a mask of self-righteousness to remain religiously palatable. Beautifully Jesus perfected His power right there in her weakness, using the cancer to bless her and others.

https://youtu.be/TxuhmnNUsUI

In bringing things into the open, God helped my Mum surrender her innate desire for earthly harmony and understanding. And through that painful, but freeing surrender, she was able to fully embrace the eternal wholeness and completion Christ set before her. Ultimately the jealous all-consuming love of our Jesus won.

Song of Songs 8:6 (NIV)

Place me like a seal over your heart,

    like a seal on your arm;

for love is as strong as death,

    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

It burns like blazing fire,

    like a mighty flame.


And so now, slowly, very slowly, I am learning to follow my Mum’s lead. I am learning to obey Christ’s call to come as I am to receive His grace. I am learning to release guilt, fear and shame in exchange for His arms.

I am learning to confess my sins and weakness openly, to shine the light of Christ’s love and grace into the world. And like my Mum, I am learning to be genuine, by bringing things into the open. I am learning to let go of my innate desire for earthly harmony and understanding to embrace instead the eternal wholeness and completion set before me.

And most importantly I am learning that what matters most, above all else, is not this world’s love and approval, but that my LORD and Savior is with me and will never leave or forsake me.

https://youtu.be/hzKjR66rMPA

For, even when all else fades away, as it did for my Mum, I know without a shadow of a doubt that that’s when my Jesus, my Savior, will be unveiled fully in me. And what a day that will be!

Isaiah 40: 8 (ESV)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

https://youtu.be/wfIWlDRHcd4

Will you join me today, as I sit afresh in Hebrews 12 today?

Hebrews 12: 1- 4 (The Message)
Do you see what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.


Father God, thank You that You know just what I need. Thank You that You set me apart to draw me near. Thank You that when all else fades away, You remain. Thank You that You have promised to never leave or forsake me.

Forgive me for clinging to fear and shame, for believing that You have abandoned me in this time of waiting. Help me to resist the devil, to stop listening to the accuser’s claims and to lean ever deeper into Your open arms of grace.

Father God, thank You for giving me a front row seat to the transformation You worked in my Mum. Help me too to trust You now with this path You have set before me, that just like my Mum experienced, is not what I expected or what I thought I needed or wanted. 

Help me to see what You see. Uncover the true desires of my heart and make me a blessing to all those You put before me. Shine Your light of love and grace brightly in and through me.

Thank You for the Cross. Thank You that it is finished. Thank You, Jesus, for dying to make us, Your Body whole and complete, with YOU at our Head. Thank You that You have the final say. Thank You that we will all yet see Your full recompense: Your eternal wholeness and completion come.

Help me to keep stripping the sin that hinders me from being who You have made me to be. Empower and embolden me to run the race You have set before me with expectant joy, to complete it and to make You proud in doing so. Amen.

https://youtu.be/Z8OPuaFbWTs

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/

 

Living Whole

This is the third installment of Anna Smit’s personal testimony to the love and mercy of Jesus. These monthly 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


And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:15 ESV)

Memories are funny things. Sweet memories linger. Scents of summer’s breath, Grandma’s perfume, Granddad’s soapy bristle as he leans in to give you a tender “peck” on the cheek. But then there are the memories seared into the brain. Locked away, too painful to linger. Hidden deep.

And yet Jesus came to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For me, this gift came in the return of a piercing silence, in the lingering pain He began to draw to the surface, that I had known so well as a little girl.

Silence 

More than anything 

It cuts and maims

And holds me bound.

To then be met 

By slicing silence 

Is too much for 

This one heart to bare.

Teach me Your wisdom 

LORD, to keep on giving

Even then

Even with heart torn and bled.

Even when lying tongues

Speak shame and press me far away

Where I begin to question

Who I am.

Help me even then to return

And rest in who You are

Inside of me

Strong, where I am weak.

Hold me, each and every broken piece 

Safe, in Your whole hands

And place me where You 

Would have me be.

Be my strength, when I have none

My courage, where lies speak loud

My thoughts, my words and deeds

That I may once again:

Turn toward You, my Rock

My fortress and deliverer

That Your heart may gush

As living water from this:

Your holy Temple

And dwelling place

A living stone among many

Being built upon the Rock.

Upon the cornerstone

Rejected by man

But chosen by God

And precious to Him.

As that little girl, God first called me to partake in His suffering. He set me apart from those I loved most, calling me to stand with Him to intercede for the healing of His Body. But, as that child, I allowed the enemy to convince me that this setting apart, that caused such deep pain in my heart was proof of my evil and my disobedience, rather than proof of God honoring my heart’s desire to know the depths of His grace.

Yet, even in that unbelieving and distrusting child, His grace gushed forth, breaking open my hardened by sin heart that I was too afraid and too ashamed to bring into the open. Sadly, though, as I saw the responses of those around me to the Holy Spirit’s touch upon me and my open confession of my weakness and sin, I reeled in shame.

Yet, rather than condemn me as I bowed before my idols, God led me out and away from the environment, where the enemy prowled and bound me in perpetual fear and shame. Then, many years later, His Holy Spirit once again poured out upon me. This time, I was surrounded only by mountains, walking my baby girl to sleep, as I grieved my mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

Through my life story, God is showing me that His call upon our lives is irrevocable. When we keep silent in the breaking, as His longing for us individually, and for His Bride corporately, pierces our fearful and prideful hearts, we let our bones waste away through our groaning all day long (Psalm 32:3). And yet, amazingly, even then, in our silence to our Father’s call, our Savior continues speaking tenderly to us through the desert. Piece by piece, He breaks open the wilderness of our hearts to gush forth His grace, proclaiming through the breaking that our hard service has been completed, that our sin has been paid for, that we have received from the Lord’s hand double for all our sins (Isaiah 40:2). 

Now, unlike when I was little, I can see that as our hearts harden to the seed of His sowing in our pain and unbelief, God’s power takes over. For, it is precisely in our weakness that Christ shines forth His power to save and redeem. 

We needn’t be embarrassed by His power that openly displays the changing of our minds and lives. We needn’t be ashamed of the pure, white dress of repentance He is clothing us in to prove His love for us and His Body. We needn’t be ashamed of the growing fruit of His love for us and others being revealed in and through our open confession of sin and weakness. And we needn’t be ashamed of the healing leaves of His grace covering us. For, precisely these healing leaves are what God uses to silence the accuser of our brethren also, as He strips the condemnation and shame covering those around us, as we boast in our weakness to His glory.

Yes, through our every breaking and setting apart, God causes us to die to the law that has been arousing “sinful passions” in us (Romans 7:5) and to arise anew in the strength of His Spirit at work in us (Romans 8:9). He transforms our thinking so that instead of dwelling inside our lack, we begin to dwell inside the fullness and the perfect wholeness already dwelling inside of us: Jesus. It’s the heart and mind of Christ at work in us that stops us fighting to defend ourselves and stops us fleeing to protect ourselves. It’s Jesus that compels us to come into His Presence unguarded to be covered by His healing wings of grace. 

As He draws us ever nearer, He uncovers our pain and unbelief. It’s then we come, as little children, whose Savior has split the veil of separation in two. We come with our anger, with our tears, with our fears and our agonizing doubts, pouring our hearts out freely at His feet.

It’s there Christ teaches us to glory in our weakness. His power unveils a new heart of faith, hope and love, beating so strongly in us: His very own heart of flesh that has already replaced our heart of stone. It is not we who must muster up the faith to believe Him at His Word. NO! He gives us this faith as a free gift. The faith to truly believe Him when He reminds us that it is no longer we and our sinful hearts that live, but Christ and His heart of flesh that lives in us, When He reminds us that the life we now live in the earthly tent that is fading by the day, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20), knowing that as our outward selves are decaying, our inward selves are being renewed by the day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

He stills the accuser’s voice, that we might hear His heart of flesh declare in and through us: “My beloved is mine and I am his.” (Song of Songs 2:16). He reminds us that we have never and will never ever be alone. Yes, our God is with us in each and every breaking. He is with us in each and every silence. And clothed in that knowledge and experience of His precious Presence with us, joy, peace and glorious hope begin to flow out of us with great force. Living water – the life of Jesus – begins to gush out of the rock – Jesus – living inside of us to bless and heal others also.

Now, I know that when all I could hear and feel was that piercing silence as a little girl, the Holy Spirit was in fact speaking with and in me (cf John 14:17). Precisely by setting me apart through my own and my loved ones’ weakness, He was preparing the Way to shed abroad His love, not just in my own heart and my loved ones, but many more.

Now, I know that all along, He was preparing me to live out His irrevocable calling on my life: to be a broken open vessel to His glory. Now, thanks to His perseverance, I can testify, with great joy and thankfulness, of His life at work in me. I can speak of His unbelievable mercy toward me in my sin and His deep compassion toward me, through every trigger of trauma. Triggers that He is using for good: to transform my mind and to reveal His heart of flesh in and through me.

Now, I know that nothing can stop me from speaking of Christ’s love and grace for me. Not what man may say to me. Nor any breaking Christ walks me toward. Because now, I know that the bread (the Body of Christ) is lifted up to our Father in heaven in thanks, so that He may be broken and multiplied to feed a waiting and hungry people. And I know that as we take eat of the bread of life, in our breaking apart, and drink of Christ´s cup of suffering, we declare the finished work of the Cross and His imminent coming. We declare His Body healed, whole and made complete in Christ Jesus, our LORD and Savior.

Yes, every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain (Isaiah 40:4). For, all Promises are Yes and Amen in Jesus. The mouth of the Lord has spoken it. So, it shall not return to Him empty, but it shall accomplish that which He has purposed, and shall succeed in the thing for which He sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV).

Come let us taste and see that our God is so, so good to us:

Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 57:8-11, NIV


YES! Jesus came to give [us] hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that [we] may know that [He is] the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons [us] by name (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). For His calling upon our lives is irrevocable! Praise HIM!!!

Remember Me

Isaiah 49: 14 – 16

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.

Dear Traumatized Child,

When you come home to Your Abba Father, you will be so excited. Like the woman at the well, you will run to tell others in your church about the depths of His love for us all. You will see women weeping and you will know they too have just experienced what it is to be seen and known in the depth of their wounding. You will rejoice as they too see that their faces are not covered in the shame of their sin, but radiant in the redeeming love of Christ.

But then, as you step out in faith and go where your Father asks you to, the thorns given you as a gift will at first pierce your resolve. You will share of the piercing with leaders you trust. You will share of the waves of fear and shame that are pursuing your body unto death, but instead of arms reaching out to hold you and truth arising to defend your soul, the thorns will be pressed even deeper still. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

In the thorns piercing 

Again and again and again

I remember

My shame.

But it’s then, God’s healing will truly begin to flow. As you join Christ in His suffering, you will begin to understand why you ran away all those years before. This time, you will turn toward your God in trust: you will cry out from your whole disease-ridden heart and listen for His Voice and new heart beneath. 

Then, ever so slowly, through His patient teaching, you will learn to stop seeking sanctuary in a building, in religious leaders and in your own perfection and strength. You will learn instead to seek the sanctuary of Jesus Christ: our One True Hope.

When you cannot stand through the attacks that come, He will hold you and you will watch as He tethers your feet to the ground as you long to die. Your feet will not be moved, as you watch your very weakness testify to His power. 

Each day, when the waves return, you will pour out your heart in Laments. You will be overwhelmed by His precious Word to you. Joy and peace will rise from deep within you, as He lifts you above the waves, even as you feel them crash and pound your flesh. You will arise in Him to glory in each and every Promise fulfilled. 

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.

Then, as He draws you out and sets you apart for His purposes. He will teach you to stop soaking in shame, to stop apologizing for His obedience at work in you. To stop bemoaning your setting apart in your open confessions of sin and weakness, to stop fighting to be understood, to stop hardening your heart in sin and to instead fix your gaze on the warmth of His face melting your frozen heart to reveal His thread weaving eternity there. 

You will rediscover the joy of praise and thanksgiving in the midst of your anguish. You will experience the healing power of praying for those who have pierced you and misunderstood you. You will come to love them with your Father’s love as you die to pride and self to obediently lay yourself down that you may bless them in becoming as nothing to them. 

It’s then you will begin to taste the freedom of humbling yourself beneath the mighty hand of God. You will forgive and love your enemies, both yourself and others. You will daily learn to fully embrace His love and grace in your weakness and sin. You will watch Him strengthen your relationships and begin reaping fruit you have so longed and prayed for, but all but given up on. And oh how you will experience the peace of being still and knowing that – even in your weakness and sin – He was, is and always will be the One and Only God, the God who seeks and saves.

It’s then as the thorns continue to pierce, you will weep in thanksgiving for a God who loved you enough to be pierced for your transgressions. A God who clothed Himself in wrath: who took upon Him the thorns that pierced you as that little girl, the thorns you pierced into yourself, and the thorns piercing you upon your return. Why? For the joy set before Him: a healed and whole you, a healed and whole Body of Christ.

So that you and all His beloved, traumatized children would never ever have to bear the weight of these awful thorns themselves. So that these very thorns piercing you would become a gift of healing and redemption to you and to so many more through the resurrection life of Christ at work in you, through the living Word of God ever calling you to remember HIM, the joy set before you.

One day, you will weep for a God who chose you, even knowing you would harden your heart in sin. Knowing that you would turn away from the very piercing sent to heal you, sent to smash your idols and free you of your chains. 

But this God chose you to give you a future and a hope – putting plans into motion not to harm you, but to bless you. For, through His piercing, He is rewriting your story of sin and death into a story of grace and resurrection life, ever unfolding. 

One day, instead of believing He turned away from His little girl, you will finally see how He turned toward her. You will see how He held you in the palm of His hand all those years that you thought He had abandoned you. 

You will see that He placed you exactly where He wanted you, right where the thorns being sent to hurt you would in His time, in His blood, redeem not only you, but so many more through His testimony flowing out of you, as you bow at the foot of the Cross. 

And now 

You’re teaching me 

To remember too

To remember 

You.

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 find more of

You.

My crown of thorns

You wore

You bled and died

To exchange my sin and death

For a crown of life

Beauty

Everlasting.

Beloved traumatized child, rejoice! Those thorns are not yours to bear. For the wrath of man shall yet praise Jesus; With a remnant of wrath He will gird Himself (Psalm 76:10 NASB). Because of the joy set before Him – you – He died on that Cross to take your crown of thorns upon Himself and to exchange that crown of thorns for a crown of life everlasting!

Much love,

Your Future Self, redeemed and restored by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of your testimony in Christ

Psalm 73: 21 – 26 ESV

21 When my heart was grieved

    and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant;

    I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;

    you hold me by my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel,

    and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?

    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,

    but God is the strength of my heart

    and my portion forever.

Colossians 1:24 (ESV)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotions, L.B. Cowman, p.388

It is not until a beautiful kernel of corn is buried and broken in the earth by DEATH that its inner heart sprouts, producing hundreds of other seeds or kernels. And so it has always been, down through the history of plants, people, and all of spiritual life—God uses BROKEN THINGS.

Featured image of rose by Edward Howell on Unsplash

Perspective in Brush Strokes

Today’s post first appeared on my dear friend, Wendy Simpson’s blog, Widow’s Manna , about five years ago. Wendy is not only a creative writer, but an artist, producing beautiful sketches, paintings, intricately woven blankets and prayer shawls, plush toys, digital art and cards. You can find her artwork on her WordPress Wendy’s Vignettes and her Facebook Wendy’s Vignettes

 

Been thinking about perspective…..

 

Take a little time to look up an impressionist’s painting. I love Monet. With that fresh in your mind, think about perspective.  When you walk up close to this painting, you will observe thousands of small brush strokes in an array of colors. Close up there is some beauty but in many ways it looks like a lot of chaos truly makes no sense.  It is pretty hard to get an idea of what the artist it trying to express.  Now take several steps back from this painting.  Something amazing happens. Thousands of tiny brush strokes make way for shapes and structure. The colors blend together to create new colors and something you could not see before, takes shape.  The chaos become beautiful and the artist intended expression makes more sense. 

 

It is like that in life. When we are face to face with trials of life, there is not much room for perspective. We see the chaos of each brush stroke and a mess of color that seem strangely placed. There is no picture and beautiful is the last way we would describe our life.  But God sends people into our lives, who have been standing back observing this “painting” process in our life.  Their perspective is something we couldn’t see, being in the middle  of it all.  They see colors blending together and pictures that have taken shape.  They see that the artist intentions were beauty not chaos.  They see reasons for color choices, that we would never have chosen. So, all this to say, we are thankful for those who have spoken perspective into our lives. And those who have pointed out the order in our chaos.  

 

Both perspectives are necessary to walk through a process like this.  You can stand back and see the picture being painted before you and have, in turn shared what you observe, color blending and something taking shape.  I can share the details I don’t see colors blended, I see instead, what was used to make that color. I see the tears and agony and joys and victories it took to paint one of the thousand brush strokes.  To me every stroke has a meaning. You see it as part of the big picture’s beauty.  But when I cannot understand why a stroke was placed, I need only to remember there is a big picture and the artist, he knows why.  Every stroke is part of the masterpiece.

 

I am thankful for those of you who share perspective. We are just living it, and in living it, we do not see outside the everyday survival at times.  Thank you for your encouragement and love and grace as we walk this journey one day one “brush stroke” at a time.

 

Five months before Chris passed, on the heels of life altering surgery, I was desperate and looking for hope and perspective.  (Above is an excerpt of that.) I’d put aside passions and parts of me that I felt would hinder complete and utter devotion to caring for Chris.  I stored away and stuffed the ache and the sadness, for as long as I could.  Allowing myself moments, trying (not too successfully) to make them brief.  Aw… control… it served me well, ha, or so I thought.  Amidst the journey’s steps I have (on so many occasions) broke down, and completely lost my resolve, to be strong (on my own strength).  Having very little grace in my grief, I’ve fallen into chaotic and messy emotional places, and always get so upset with myself. After a fairly long battle, and after tears have subsided, then …. I’d finally seek God’s face and the wise counsel that came from those candles God had placed along the dark cave walls of this journey.  All I had to do is reach out… and there it was… His divine provision.

 

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  -Colossians 1:13, 17 (ESV)

 

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 (ESV)

 

 Now, my perspective has been narrowed some and I am looking, specifically, at the dark brushstrokes.  Deconstructing them, if you will, for perspective and to find His goodness.  These brushstrokes, left unattended, could make my whole canvas… go dark.  These brushstrokes I speak of, have screamed out for my attention for awhile now, and up to now… I have ignored them and refused to give them audience. In a sea, of over twenty years of living and life with my husband, I now choose not to continue to suppress the pain of His passing and the disappointments, so that I can just mourn….

….My death …the death of a caregiver

 

….Watching death…. stolen years.

 

….Lost and changing relationships.

 

….Not fitting in.

 

….The missing arms and lost affection.

In the coming days and weeks I resolve to explore these dark strokes on my canvas and begin the process of acknowledging their pain to finding their worth.  I believe that God can take all that is, the fallen part of man… and create in us… something good.  The goodness being… Christ in us the hope of glory.