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

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/

 

Someone Listens

A Poem by Lisa Enqvist
 
Moving
Parting
Something new
Waits beyond the mountains
I refuse to hear
I refuse to see
Another world
Cannot replace
all that I am
losing
Someone listens, nods and smiles
Understands my pain
Torn up roots and broken branches
heal
and grow again
 
 
 
This poem was written by Lisa Enqvist in 1962, describing the power of Christ’s listening ear, in her aunt Göta Wallenius (born 13.3.1913 and died 12.2.2003). Lisa said her aunt helped her survive, just by listening.
 
Göta Wallenius
 
Father, thank You that You always hear our hearts. Thank You for sending Göta Wallenius to sit next to Lisa and listen to her aching heart. Thank You for binding up and healing Lisa’s broken branches and for replanting her torn up roots into Your heart and affections for her. Thank You for letting her poem fall on my own freshly pruned branches and dangling roots. Thank You for reminding me of how you once sent a Finnish woman my way also to clasp my hands, invite me to share my story and weep with me.
 
Father, let this Word fall on other freshly pruned hearts and dangling roots also. Replant our dangling roots into the good soil of Your heart and loving affections for us. Show us how each uprooting and pruning is growing our delight in You and uncovering Your true heart and affections in us. Grow bountiful leaves of healing and abiding fruit from the branches you have cut back. In Jesus’ mighty Name, Amen.
 
 
 
 
Join us tomorrow for a beautiful short story by Lisa about tree roots.
 
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/

Defender True

God is asking me to publish this early. So, a week earlier than planned, here is Defender True: may God’s will be done through these words He has asked me to share.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:5

Do you hear those voices too?

The ones that tell you

You’re not enough

You’ll never change

All you do is make things worse?

Do you hear the voice that follows then

The one that tells you

Defend yourself

Hold on tight

To who you

Wish you were

Lest he rips it from your weary

Tight-clenched hands?

Or the one that pushes you

To lie there in that bed

A bed that covers you in blankets

Grief, despair and loathing cruel

Chaining you to who

You believe you truly are

Lost

Forevermore?

Now, stop

And still

Feel an angel’s hand

Upon your shoulder

Warm bread

And cool water

Set lovingly before you

Hear his call

To rise, to eat, to drink.

Follow him out that cave

Feel the ground shake fierce

See the fire blaze hot

Let glorious truth

Shake off the dust

Burn all the dross

To reveal

The gold in you.

Now be still

And listen for

The whisper

For glorious Truth

Kissing

The kind, sweet

Gentle Voice of

Grace.

Feel those

Rushing waters pure

Waterfalls of grace

Pouring from your Savior’s mouth

Washing away

All that’s died

Upon the Cross

To now reveal

The lavish gift

Of Christ

In you.

Hear His gentle

Tender Voice

Unveiling

The many gifts

Hidden in

His heart

In you.

Beloved

Chosen

Holy

Pure

Purposed

True

You are His

Masterpiece.

Created anew

In Christ Jesus

You shall perform

The good works

HE

Has long

Prepared for

You.

No accusing tongue

Has power here

For God Himself

Has cast these columns

This Temple

Not of human hands

But with His own

Establishing

And strengthening.

For, it’s no longer you

Who lives

But the great

I AM:

Our One and Only

Slayer of all sin

Stiller of all accusations

Defender True.

NO sin is too bad, too shameful, too ugly for Christ to forgive. Never let the enemy convince you otherwise. Christ isn’t ashamed of you in your sin. No! His heart breaks for you. His heart longs for you to know the depths of His compassion and mercy. 

Sin wages war against every human: yes, even Christians. But that’s why Christ came. Not for the (pretending to be) healthy, but the sick. To heal us from our affliction, piece by piece on earth, until in heaven we are fully healed and whole.

The beauty is that because we have given our lives to Jesus, we are already, even now, dead to sin and alive to Christ. Romans 6: 18 tells us: “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”  So, though the flesh wages war against us here on earth, it cannot overcome us. For Jesus continually gives life to our mortal bodies through His Holy Spirit, turning us to repentance and freeing us from our accuser.

Romans 8: 10-11, 16 – 17

10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

When I came home to Jesus, my dear friend Emily sent me this song:

God connected us on the internet, five years earlier, when I was a Prodigal. My friend Emily has constantly reminded me through her own boasting in her weakness that WITH Christ, our advocate and our atoning sacrifice, who has promised never to leave or forsake us, we are always more than enough.

Not only do we stand justified by the blood He shed on the Cross, we are also being transformed from glory to glory, moment by moment, to look more and more like Jesus. Through Christ, we in fact only make things more and more beautiful, through the blood of the Lamb and His testimony at work in us.

Our loving Heavenly Father is not ashamed of us or angry at us. He is furious when our enemy convinces us that we are captives to sin, shame and fear. Christ knows exactly what we have been through and are still going through, He knows our every weakness (Hebrews 2: 18, Isaiah 53:4). He also knows just how much our hearts yearn to do His will. He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Instead, He will move to defend us through the power of His Word and Holy Spirit.

He will shake off the old, burn away the dross and cover us in the waterfalls of His love, truth and grace (Psalm 42). He will lead us onward into greater and greater freedom from sin and shame. Let us be encouraged in the truth that “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their face shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34: 5 ESV).

For, Christ has already paid the price for the wages of our sin, cleansing us by His blood from our sin. Washing us in the refreshing truth of His Word, He reminds us that we are not defined by any of the impurity He shakes off us and burns away. For, we are already clean by the Word He has spoken to us (John 15:3). When the Father looks at us, He sees Jesus. No, nothing can separate us from His love for us (Romans 8:35-39).

Every single day, every single moment, we can walk afresh into the new awaiting us because of His blood shed at the Cross for us.

Will you join me in prayer?

Thank You, LORD, that in our imperfection, You offer us Your own perfection. Thank You for Your never-ending loving kindness to us in our weakness and need. LORD, when we get discouraged by the sins we commit and our frailty, help us to remember the truth of the Cross. Help us to cast our burdens at Your feet. Help us to pour out our hearts, allowing You to uncover any wickedness in us, to purify and cleanse us of our sin and to restore us unto Yourself.

When we are afraid and sinking in shame, send out Your kindness and perfect love to cast out all fear of punishment in us. Help us to draw near to You with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our heart sprinkled to cleanse us of a guilty conscience and having our body washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).

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

Forgive us for those moments we have turned away from You to hide our sins or have tried to defend ourselves, allowing the enemy to make us believe it is our perfection that will save us, rather than Yours. LORD, we turn to You now, confessing our sins to receive your waterfall of grace, believing and trusting that Your grace is sufficient for us, that Your power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Thank You, LORD, that You are our Defender True and will always shepherd us in love, kindness, truth and grace. Father, I ask You to surround each reader of this post with brothers and sisters in Christ who openly boast in their weakness, confess their sins freely and give glory to Your saving power. And I ask You to pour back into Emily’s lap a pressed together and overflowing abundance of love and kindness – the same love and kindness You poured out upon me through her. Amen.

Be blessed in the knowledge today that His mercy is more. More than all our sins: past, present and future. More than enough to cover us in our nakedness of want and need. More than enough to hold us tight through any suffering that comes our way.