The Garden of Hope

Last year, during lockdown I was inspired by a colleague to start an online course. It was free and focussed on poetry.

I still haven’t finished it 😬

Perhaps because it was free I haven’t felt the push to finish it but I have done some of the assignments and the poem below is one of the results of that!

I wrote it in a season of waiting.

Waiting is hard.

Yes, sometimes waiting is hard graft and so I imagined a garden that was at its beginning stages and yet full of potential.

In days of waiting and ‘not yet’ there is perhaps a temptation to despair or become apathetic. When dreams lie unrealised or the news becomes increasingly frantic…

I know it’s a battle that I face- the struggle for hope.

Yet, I believe Hope is showing His face.

Even now.

He is making beautiful things grow in what looks like mud.

The GARDEN of HOPE:

Written 27.4.21


Soil, brown and crumbly
filled with the potential of new beginnings
yet
currently painted bleak with mud like patches
everywhere
but at different times to enjoy the sun
seeds are planted and tended with care
There’s alot of digging. Hard graft. Sweat and toil.
The soil remains brown for what may seem like the longest turn of the clocks hand
yet
presently sprouts appear and dispel the fears that said ‘no hope’
I CAN cope in this.
The sun kissed shoots grow roots too, going deep in order to stand tall
through the wait of rain and snow…
yet
the colours will come and when they do- HOPE shows His face.

© E. Henry, 2021

together

Ten years is a long time. A decade. 3650 days-ish… On the 19th July that’s how long it had been since I first boarded a plane to Tanzania. I lived there for 2 short years and yet I can safely say that they were some of the most formative years of my life.

Friendship is important at the best of times. I am oh so thankful for the many friends God has blessed me with over the years. A few of those have been friends that have been for a season. Many of those friends, just pick up where we left off when we do get to chat. And some have been slowly walking with me – 3650 days and counting!

One of those friends has inspired this poem. Sarah arrived in Tanzania the same day as me. We lived together with other lovely, special, hilarious, godly women who I have been so, so blessed to get to know and share life with over the years. So many memories! Many of which include Sarah and I travelling on 19th of the month to Fairy Delights to celebrate our ‘arrival anniversary’ with ice cream!

In going down ‘memory lane’, I have reflected on the challenges, comforts and God’s goodness in providing friends for us in these times of change and transition and beyond. The GRACE that is extended to us in having friends that love us in the hard times and the happy times.

I have gone through my own journey of understanding God’s grace in the where and with the who of His plan. I have come to the realization that God’s plan is FOR US – for our best and also FOR US TOGETHER. I could look into the theme of unity in the Bible but I want to stick with my word study on GRACE!

Enough to say – that if Jesus prayed that we would be one to show other people how He loves then … it is good to be TOGETHER – living , loving and … eating ice cream together 😉

together (updated)

There was a lot of excitement and anticipation…

Wondering what would be at the other

end of the flight

What would greet me

Who would meet me

And what were they like…?

I had a little idea or two about this

country that lay beside another body of blue

Water

The Indian Ocean

I knew very little about this city of Dar

that was so very far

away from my current reality

But then we came

On the same day

Worlds apart

Together to start b

A new chapter

Shared love of Jesus

Shared love of ice cream

Shared love of teaching

Little ones to dream and reach for the skies

with Him

Together

Now I look back on that chapter

I gather my thoughts and go down

memory lane

10 years on

the plan is the same

You are back under the African sun

With family of your own to add to the fun

While I am at home with cooler climes

Yet still have little ones hearts and minds

to inspire and teach

Each of us doing what the Master has

thought and planned out

I have no doubt

That 10 years on, even from this

will continue to teach us that His

Plan and dream is for us, for together…

(and for ice cream!)

Copyright E. Henry, 2021

Grace and favour – God’s Presence

Exodus 33 has a lot to tell us about God’s grace to us. Last time, I found out that God’s grace involves an invitation to deep and real friendship with Him. To KNOW Him intimately. Face to face.

These past few weeks, I have remained in Exodus 33, ‘chewing the cud’ as I once heard it expressed! Mulling over the truth of God’s word and promises. Letting them ruminate and, with His help, digesting them!

This time, I would like to share what I have found in verse 14 and the surrounding verses. There is still more to share, of course, but this is where I will start.

And he said, 

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14 (ESV)

As we have seen, Moses has been speaking very openly to God and ‘reminding’ Him of His promises of favour and grace. He also has asked God to “Remember that this nation is your people.” Moses was not wrong to be open and honest with God. He was not trying to manipulate God but rather knew the position the Israelites were in. He knew that they had broken trust with God at the very start of their journey and he had even offered to be their substitute in Exodus 32 verse 32. He humbled himself before God and knew that they needed the very Presence of God to go before them- to go with them – for them to be known as His people, to have His favour.

In His kindness, God replied to Moses with the words of verse 14. He makes a promise to Moses and the people of Israel. He promises to go with them personally – not to send an angel as He had talked about doing in verse 2 of the chapter. He had been with them by His constant Presence in cloud and fire to guide so far and He promised to continue to go with them in this way.

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

Exodus 13 verses 21-22 (ESV)

It makes a difference – WHO is present. Several years ago, I was bullied at work. When the person who bullied me came into the room, I was understandably uncomfortable at their presence. I dreaded their presence because I did not trust them and they didn’t care about me. I was worried they would ‘catch me out’ and I would be embarrassed.

Compare that to a situation where you are alone at a social event, sitting by yourself, when all of a sudden your best friend turns up! You immediately feel at ease. You immediately feel like you can be yourself. You laugh and chat, having a wonderful time together. You feel more confident and are even able to make more friends. You are able to enjoy the party because, not only are you no longer lonely, but it is because the person who has arrived to be with you, knows you and loves you- spots and all! They accept you. They choose you.

“God with us” was present in the Old Testament. It has always been God’s desire to be with us. By His Spirit, His Presence (represented often throughout the Bible as cloud and fire) went before the people of God to guide them and protect them on their way. It was when they tried to do things by themselves without Him that things went very wrong. He wants us to take refuge and strength in and from Him (Psalm 46, Psalm 91).

This phrase, “God with us”, is also likely to make you think of Christmas time. You may be thinking of the passages often read from the prophet Isaiah and then quoted in the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew at Carol services:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).

Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 (ESV)

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah had been told by God that someone special was coming! By His grace, God promised to come and be with us. He promised to experience life – like us. He promised to not leave us alone. When Jesus came, He fulfilled that prophecy (along with hundreds more!).

But just as God promised that His Presence would go before His people in Exodus, He promises that His Holy Spirit will Presence Himself with those who have been grafted into that family through accepting the invitation of intimacy with God – through Jesus alone.

He walks with us and, amazingly, not as a fire or cloud that is visible to the naked eye but he takes up residence in our spirits, making us more and more like Jesus, Immanuel. So if God is with me and for me, we say with the apostle Paul, “Who can be against me?” (Romans 8: 31) and with King David, “…With my God I can scale a wall…” (Psalm 18: 29)

So as I ponder this rich and powerful verse (and realise I haven’t even scratched the surface!) I note that:

God’s GRACE includes His constant Presence with His people, through His Holy Spirit!

Look at that! I didn’t even get on to God giving us REST! But I will leave that one for next time- sometimes it is good just to chew one thing at a time!!

Right now, I will leave you with a poem/song all about God’s presence and pretty much sums up the rest that God gives us (you will soon realise that I did not write it!):

Psalm 23 (ESV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

So thankful for King David and the other Psalmists for sharing their writing with us!

I pray that you know the Presence of God with you and in you in a tangible way this week- helping you to face anything!

Emily 🙂

Grace and Favour – Face to Face

We all have an innate desire to share our news with someone we care about. To ‘off load’ and get a new perspective from someone who will speak the truth to us in love.

This week, I have been led to the story of Moses in my word study on Grace / Favour. We do not find Moses in the bulrushes or hemmed in by the vast Red Sea and the Egyptian army or even on the top of Mount Sinai to receive the 10 commandments, although I have no doubt that God’s grace was with Moses in all of those defining moments too. We find him in a tent, talking to God. This God, who had rescued him from the River Nile and a Pharaoh’s fury; the same God who showed up in power in 10 plagues and the same God who had led His people out of slavery and through the Red Sea on dry ground – this God wanted to speak to Moses – face to face.

“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” Exodus 33: 11

But Emily! The word ‘Grace’ doesn’t appear here! You may say and this is true. However, a few verses down Moses is talking to God and stating some facts about grace/favour-

“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” (v12-13)

So God had already made it clear to Moses that he had found favour and grace in His sight. Moses was concerned that due to the people’s idolatry in the previous chapter that God would not come with them and His presence would not lead them. Moses ‘reminds’ God that the people he had rescued from Egypt were His people and no one would know that He was pleased with them if He did not go with them. (v16)

**Additional thought- Moses said to God, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour in you…”

God’s grace was given in order that we would learn his ways and know him. Jesus talks about eternal life in this way: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

God’s grace and favour included an invitation to intimacy and friendship with Moses. Grace is a gift – it must be received. Moses came to the tent when the presence of God came to the tent of meeting. He accepted the invitation to converse with his God, face to face.

To us, this may have lost some of the ‘wow’ factor. In the previous chapters, the awesome picture of God’s holiness is clear on Mount Sinai. There the people were terrified. They had seen the thunder and lightening and pleaded that Moses intercede for them- speaking God’s words to them rather than God speaking directly to them. (20:18-19) Yet, here is this same holy God coming to meet with one of his sinful creations face to face in a tent. (While there is debate over whether this tent was the actual tabernacle or a tent set up before the actual tabernacle was established, it is clear that it was no ordinary tent.)

God made it very clear that He wanted to dwell among His people (25: 8-9).

This is GRACE. God reaching out to dwell with His stubborn and rebellious people. But not only did Holy God come to dwell with his unholy people but He spoke to imperfect Moses as a friend, face to face. **MIND EXPLOSION!** God shared His heart with Moses. Not only did Moses get to be in the presence of Holy God as an imperfect human but he was able to hear the heart of God and be open, saying what was on his heart before Him too. And he was pretty frank, to be honest.

The LORD invited him into real friendship.

On this side of the cross, the invitation still stands. Yet it’s fulfillment is greater.

For those who accept God’s invitation of Grace in Jesus, we not only are able to have access to God and talk to Him at any time, as friends do, but we do not have to enter the tent of meeting or tabernacle.

Rather Jesus, the Word become flesh, came to ‘tabernacle’ Himself amongst us (John 1:14), bearing the consequences of our unholiness and rebellion and covers us with his holiness, bridging the gap.

He comes to live in us by His Spirit – to give new life and purpose, comforting and sustaining until He returns to dwell with us forever in a New Heaven and New Earth.

There is so much more in this chapter about what Grace means that I will continue next week too but for now what I believe I can take from this passage in Exodus 33 is that –

GRACE = friendship with God.

Face to face

I wonder what I’d feel

If I saw You

face to face

You looked me in the eyes and

told me you loved me?

It’s not your perfection

but rather my rebellion

that creates the distance

between us. And

it. breaks. Your. heart.

And so You have had a plan from the start

To fill the gap

By Grace-

You came to me

face to face

And did not only use words of love

But looked me straight in the eye

and died

my death

You came face to face with it

You gave up Your breath

And Yet

You rose above

You have overcome

the gap between me

and You

So that there will be that day when You say-

I love you-

face to face.

Copyright E. Henry, 2021.

Grace and favour

Having been relatively rubbish at consistency with this blog, I have decided to mix it up a bit and change it!

Today is my 35th birthday and ever since I heard Mimi Wilson in Tanzania talk about taking a year, each year, to go deeper into a particular Biblical theme, I have wanted to do this too.

So today’s the day! I want to look at the word GRACE which is often translated as FAVOUR in the Bible and see what I can find out about it! I will share what I find on here and when I feel inspired I’ll write a poem to go with it! I’m all about receiving God’s Grace afresh this year!

Truth is, God’s word is very much living and relevant for us today and it’s been my experience that his timing in giving me truth from his word has always been perfect.

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

I hope this journey of discovery is an encouragement to you, as I trust it will be for me too!

First stop-

GENESIS 6 v 8

“But Noah found GRACE/ FAVOUR in the eyes of the LORD.”

Everyone around Noah was corrupt. They are described as only ever having evil thoughts and intentions all the time. They were violent and lawless. They did not see the image of God in each other.

While Noah wasn’t without sin, he walked with His God- his faith in God was accredited to him as righteousness, like Abraham after him. God considered him “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time .” (v9)

God made a way for Noah and his believing family members to be saved from the flood. He showed them favour- not favouritism! Others had walked away from the grace of God and had hardened their hearts towards Him. They didn’t see their need of the ark. They didn’t believe the warnings. So they were given what they desired – life without God… which doesn’t work when he is the One who gives life.

But to those who heard and believed, God provided a way to overcome the flood. A way to new life. Salvation.

GRACE and FAVOUR can be found in the eyes of the LORD.

GOD’S GRACE and FAVOUR is shown to those who put their faith in God and choose to walk with Him.

GOD’S GRACE and FAVOUR provides for our salvation.

NOAH-

Outwardly things were wasting away

And inwardly the hearts of the people had strayed – they

Walked away completely

From the grace of God.

Disregarding His image in each other

They abused and hurt one another

In every way.

Yet

One man by the name of Noah

Found favour in God’s eyes.

He walked closely to His Maker

And relied fully on Him.

His faith was the access to his Saviour

His family too

Believed God’s word and were the only ones who

Joined Noah on that famous ark.

The waters started to fall-

They did not overwhelm them

They were safe inside

With all God’s provision for new and abundant life.

Copyright E. Henry 2021

Compelling Christ

“What made him do it?”

They ask as they walk by

“Who was he really? A criminal?

Or the Christ?”

Are you persuaded?

Are you convinced?

Can you look at his face or do you just wince?

No, it’s not pretty, not romantic in part

Can you see his blood pouring out of his heart?

His body is battered, his skin is torn

As if a lion had come and shorn

This lamb.

This man

This Jesus

He is an example

Not just a sample, though-

The source

Of compelling love

Not for show- for real

Love does not fail

This man

This Jesus

First asks this

Do you believe it?

Or do you resist?

When we look and see

His face, His heart, His plea

Who could turn from such a need?

A world without this compelling Christ

Is a world which bleeds

and dies

A world with this compelling Christ

Is a world which bleeds

And lives.

E. Henry, 2012

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Better late than never …

Better late than never

That’s what ‘they’ say

But I do feel rather slow today.

In fact, for all of January,

There has been a lethargy

Piggy backing on 2020

But now that February has come into view

I am ready to start the year anew…

To breathe deep and say,

“It’’s ok. I’ll take a day

At a time. I’ll take the pressure

Off me and lean

On Jesus

Who, at the perfect time, came to be

My rescue and hope

To show me the love of the Father

And hold me close.

Copyright E.Henry 2021

Another famous Anna…

We all have our favourite part of the Christmas season and perhaps, like me, you have a favourite character in the actual Christmas story too.

While Christmas Day has been and gone, my favourite character comes into the story eight days after the birth of Christ.

Mary and Joseph bring the new born baby, Jesus to the temple and they meet two extraordinary people: Simeon and Anna.

While I love many things about Simeon’s story, there was something particularly moving about Anna’s story to me this year. Something that has struck me that I had never paid attention to before. I love how God does that!

The thing that struck me anew was that Anna had suffered great pain and heartache – she had been widowed and as far as we know she had not had children in her seven years or marriage either. This would have been a great burden in the time and culture in which she lived. She may have been considered cursed by God. When barren Elizabeth, had given birth to John (earlier in the Christmas accounts), she exclaimed her praise to God for taking away her disgrace among the people.

So Anna had definitely suffered, not only the loss of her husband but the loss of dreams and a future she had wanted.

It occurred to me that there has been a lot of loss in this strange year of 2020 for a lot of people. There has been much pain and trauma. There has been hope deferred. Perhaps, you know something of what Anna felt.

And yet…!

Anna made a choice. A choice to come to the temple and praise God. To worship him and seek his face in her deep pain and she did it without caring what others thought.

She never left the temple.

Powerful words. What must people have thought of her at the time? I know that nowadays she may well be considered an oddball.

She cared more about what God thought of her than what those around her thought about her and she stayed…

She stayed a very long time! She is 84 when we ‘meet’ her. I think of the times I struggle to pray for an hour! And the times when I try to fill the painful places with other things- escapism… comfort eating…

But Anna didn’t. She came to the One who would fully satisfy her and redeem her life and because she did this, she met the very One who fulfils that promise- Jesus- her enough and her redemption.

I certainly could learn from this attitude of pain and praise!

So here is a little poem about Anna, one of my favourite Christmas characters!

Pain and Praise

There is a woman I’d like to acclaim-

A woman perhaps seen as strange

At the time

And now

Of how she was married young

Like many were

And had the complete seven years of ring on finger,

Domesticated wife,

Not a mother as far as we know,

But widowed

Scripture does not show that pain,

Except between the lines we find it

Was a decision she made

To bring it to God in worship.

She came to the temple and night and day she prayed and praised and some may look at her life and say-

A waste!

She could’ve remarried and tried again

But she heard Him call her name in the temple and she concluded it was better for her to be with Him and

In devotion, to bring her pain and praise with raised hands and upward eyes

She gave her all to Him- sacrifice.

So when He came

As a babe to their home

She knew who He was and gave thanks to God-

Redemption had come!

Copyright E.Henry, 2020

The Three P’s

Back in May, I was reflecting on my perceived need for control. Holding on and on… to a fault. Can you relate?

The Three P’s

This sun on my face is delicious

the cool breeze too

Wish it would penetrate right through

To the inner parts

The art

of letting go

Of what? I ask.

Of control.

Heat melting ice

Hot replacing cold

Control of what? I ask.

The outcome.

How things end up

Perfection

And preservation and

Definitely protection of all things sacred.

Is that your job?

The Three P’s Sitting nicely

under each other on the bulletin?

Is that your job?

To perfect?

Or preserve?

Or even protect?

Not one of these is part of your job description!

Not one is asked of you on your God given mission.

Why do what has already been done?

Why try to control the outcome of a battle already won?

Why not leave the winning up to Me?

And you rest beneath the victory banner?

Why not let go … of control?

Copyright. E. Henry, 2020

No doubt

From their perspective

There were easily doubts.

They were stood in front of a tomb. Nothing speaks “The End” better than that, they thought. They had been holding out for Jesus, the healer, to come and make their only brother well. They loved him and they had been troubled at this sickness that had ravaged his body. Their once perhaps strong and dependable brother was seriously ill but they knew someone who could fix him- heal him! They loved him and they knew that Jesus loved them.

In a society, were the male population were expected to provide for their female relatives and family they were also concerned for their futures, if the worst were to happen.

Surely, Jesus would drop everything and come to their aid, they had thought. He had helped so many already! He had given the blind their sight, helped lame people walk confidently on their feet again and restored deformed hands! He was the healer, for sure!

Yes, they had been sure he would come. Besides, he had just left the region recently so he shouldn’t be too far away! They had sent a messenger to track him down and convey the seriousness of the situation.

So they had waited.

The messenger had come back, without Jesus. Without the healer. The only message that he had stayed put.

And now it was more than 4 days later and here they were – standing outside their brother’s grave and Jesus had turned up. If I was Martha I may well have, in grief, uttered the words ‘Better late than never?! Eh, Jesus?!’ When she says how long Lazarus has been buried, I wonder if that was a similar thought?

But Jesus reminded her that if she accepted him as the resurrection and the life like he said he was she would see God show up in His glory. Truth was he was already there!

Yet to show Martha, Mary, me and you that he is not ‘just’ healer but amazingly also the resurrection and the life – the one who gives us our very breath- he said “Roll back the stone” and then “Lazarus, come out”.

Truth is Jesus could’ve have dropped everything straight away and healed Lazarus. Even with a word like he did with the centurion’s son. But then the sisters and, of course, Lazarus himself, would not have realised Jesus’ greater power and authority… over life and death.

I am currently struggling with waiting on Jesus. And many who read this will be too. If not right now you will have in the past or will in the future!

It’s hard because I know and believe certain things about him. He is my guide. He is my provider. He is my healer and he is my friend. But what if he is waiting to show me another element of his character in this? What if he is helping me see him more clearly and evidently then showing me the Glory of God?

“No doubt”

Based on John 11

Two days he waited

They debated

Why?

Bethabara to Bethany was a 20 mile walk

BUT he hardly needed to take stock and consider whether to come or not!

It was his friend, and he loved and respected him

Yet he ‘neglected’ to show up and ‘instead let them down’ when it really mattered

or so they thought…

‘If you had been here my brother would not have died’ was the accusation, the cry

Fact was he didn’t deny it.

Jesus had arrived now but he was ‘late’

And now they couldn’t escape the truth that Lazarus was dead.

Jesus spoke into the grief stricken silence and said…

“Open it up- Take away the rock”

Gasps! Shock!

What? Why?

The smell will be too strong!

Not forget- it’s been 4 days since he’s been gone!

Knowing how long it had been,

His eyes still wet with the sheen of tears, he turned to Martha and calmed her fears –

Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

A silent obedience. They took it away, while Jesus looked up and prayed,

“Father, I thank You for Your listening ear and able hand- Help them all to believe and understand!”

And…

With that he raised his voice and a dead man breathed and the people rejoiced

To see the Glory of God.

Copyright. E.Henry, July 2020