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

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

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/

 

Love Bears All Things

 

When my wounds ache and I tell God I can’t bear it, Christ’s love bears all things for me.

1 John 3:1 (ESV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Have you ever stood looking up at a tall tree and seen a circle etched into the trunk or a kind of circular bump, where a branch was once cut off. That is a tree wound.

A photo I took in our local forest

Yes, even trees carry wounds. Next time you are near one, place your hands on the callus: the wound that has healed, but can still be seen and felt.

WHAT DOES A WOUND LOOK LIKE?

As children and as adults, we go through much wounding, just like these trees do. When we have already walked through traumatic (shocking or abusive) experiences in the past, this new wounding can be extra painful.

Have you ever been told you can’t do something because someone only sees your weakness and your struggles and not your abilities or calling in Christ? Have you ever been rejected, called names, treated meanly?

Have you ever not been chosen for a sports team or for a part you wanted to play or a task you wanted to do? Have you ever had the one you love and trust most, not show up for you, or not be fully there for you, when you have needed them the most?
That is a kind of pruning – a deep wounding – too.

GROWING IN GOD’S LOVE WHEN WE ARE HURTING

But how can we grow in God’s strength and love when we are hurting? That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus carried our sin and the wounding of our hearts (our invisible disease) to the Cross, so that we would never have to carry that heavy weight ourselves.

So, every time something hurts us, Jesus is right there beside us. He wants us to come right to Him instead of holding in our pain and anger. He wants us to stop trying so hard not to think, do or say mean things. He wants us to be honest and tell Him everything, even things we feel bad about.

He is not ashamed of us. He hurts with us and invites us to call on Him. Jesus knows we can’t be good by trying harder ourselves, but only by coming to Him. When we do, He comforts us and helps us to love and forgive those who hurt us. And He helps us to confess our sins. Then His pure goodness pours out of us, without us even trying.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLE

But can I tell you a secret? I sometimes forget that God wants to help me too. I start trying to be good all by myself. Then, I wonder why I am feeling so grumpy.

But do you know what God has started doing when I forget? He reminds me of a song I used to sing in Sunday school:
https://youtu.be/Hx3n53d3aH8

When I start singing that song, I remember that God is right there with me. I tell Him all about my pain, the things I am worried about. I begin to confess my sins one by one, asking Him to lift their weight from me. I stop trying so hard and let Him wash me clean and be good and strong for me.

Have a listen to that song today too and let Jesus remind you that He wants to be good and strong for you too.

JESUS IS OUR GOOD GARDENER

Strangely, wounding a tree, by cutting its branches, helps to keep it healthy and strong. A good Gardener will cut away weaker and dying branches, so they don’t snap in a storm and fall on our heads. But He also prunes (cuts away) healthy branches, so the tree becomes stronger, not having to carry so much weight.

Did you know that Jesus also talks of pruning in the Bible? He tells us that He is our good Gardener. So, like the good Gardener, He also cuts away weak, dying, and even healthy branches to make our hearts stronger in Him.

Sometimes this cutting away can feel like a punishment, but actually it is a sign that Jesus cares deeply for us. It may look like He is only cutting good things out of our life. But can you now see how He is actually making room for even more good things to grow in our hearts and our lives.

He is making room for Jesus to grow and flourish in us: the God who is love. A love that is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not arrogant or rude; does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. A love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

JESUS IS ALWAYS SPEAKING, EVEN IN THE SILENCE

But what if we have called out to God, but He seems real silent? When my wounds hurt real bad as a little girl, I remember thinking: “God mustn’t love me, like He does others. He hasn’t answered my deepest cries, nor seen my many tears.” Maybe you know that feeling of abandonment – of feeling all alone in your pain- also.
As a little girl, I thought God was ignoring me, in my crying out. I thought God stayed silent to my many pleas. But now I know, He never ever stopped loving me or speaking to or singing over me: even the twenty plus years I turned my back on Him, as I hardened my heart in sin.

You see, He was speaking to me through the songs I sung, through the stories my Mum read me aloud at night, through the stars in the sky, the sunshine on my face, the butterfly that planted itself on my head, the leaves changing color in the fall, even through the meaning of my name and the meaning of my friends’ names each place we moved to.

And when all I could see was nothing changing in my circumstances in response to my many tear-filled prayers, He was working still. In my heart and in my loved ones’ hearts, until He then began to unveil His beautiful and much bigger answer to us all, twenty years later. An answer filled with a full measure of love, compassion and mercy that only God could give us.

JESUS INVITES US TO COME, JUST AS WE ARE

Will you join me this week in taking time to cry out to God, to tell Him all about your pain, your sins and all that scares or worries you? And will you join me in also taking the time to listen for His answer?

Get out your paintbrush, or pencils. Grab your soccer ball or your journal. Or put on your favorite song. Go for a walk. Or sit in your garden or look out the window at the sky. Or sit with a friend to chat about life. And listen. What could Jesus be wanting you to see, to know, to feel, to share, to do?

Record His answer to you. You can do that in any way you want. Journal it. Paint it. Draw it. Tell your favorite person about it. Dance it. Sing it. Oh how He loves to see you praise Him!

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

Can I pray for us all today?

Father, when we are hurting from all the cutting away, will You please remind us that You are for us and not against us? Will You remind us that You – love Himself – are here to hold us and heal us. Help us to come to You with our pain. Thank You that when we call on You, You always answer us. For, You are the God who is with us and never forsakes us.

Thank You that You are the Lord who comforts Zion and all who belong to her, through Christ Jesus. Thank You that You are He, who comforts all our waste places and our wilderness like Eden, our desert like the garden of the Lord; thank You that joy and gladness will yet be found in each one of us, thanksgiving and the sound of singing (Isaiah 51:3, Galatians 3:29).

Oh Father, thank You that You are not ashamed of us in our weakness or in our sin. We are so tired of all the ways we have tried so hard to be good for You. Will You help us to come to You just as we are?

We invite You to uncover the wounds we have hidden from You and to comfort us in our pain. We invite You to convict us of our sins and wash them away. We invite You to help us love and forgive others freely and without expecting anything in return. Show us the goodness You are growing in us through every wound.

When we forget You are with us and for us, will You bring songs to our mind and heart that remind us of the truth?

Thank You precious Jesus for who You are: always true, always good and always faithful to us. In Your Name we pray this now, Amen.

POSTSCRIPT: apologies for the delay in posting the final recording of this post. I was convicted to edit a portion of the text to rightly divide the Word of God. I have now rightly placed the focus back on honoring Jesus and His work of salvation in us, and not on honoring us for our crying out. Please forgive me for this error in my first version.