Friday, 24 April 2015

Don't hide your light



Sometimes a word appears in due season. A word meant to be shared.

Flowing freely as it invades the mind with inspiration. 

A touch and gift of grace.

Such is the word I'm sharing today as I join in with the liberating, free-form creative writing exercise which is five minute friday.

START:

"Friends,

I want you to know these things:

God hasn't hidden Himself from you.

Creation breathes His Presence.

The Word made flesh made His mark on the cross.

Nailed Himself indelibly to mankind.

Paved a pathway of freedom for you and me.

Abides closer than our next breath

And is only a prayer away.

God intends us to live within the riches of His forgiveness and grace.

To break out of our stony heart's carapace.

To live and love and give.

Your life matters.

Your words matter.

Your voice needs to be heard.

Don't hide your light. Allow it to shine glory-bright.

Write out your story to His praise and glory.

Pour out your pain and shame.

Because in the opening you will begin to be 

set free as you share your frail humanity.

Let the breathings of your heart and the bleeding of your pen

become the unravelling of Hope to lift and encourage, reveal

and help other wounded souls to heal

on their journey to becoming whole"

STOP.



On a day when pain is all pervasive and my mind fogged with M.E fatigue, I am thankful for the surprising gift of words to weave.

And if God can inspire this dim and faltering wick, then He will do the same for you too. 

You can write. You can shine for Jesus. Just where you are.


The prayer below is free for you to pin and share.



Sunday, 19 April 2015

Butterflies, books and blessings


I seem to be turning into butterfly-woman, or at least have developed more of a butterfly mind recently which is easily attracted and distracted by turns.

My new tendency is to flit from book to book, pausing to savour a hint of its flavour before I move on to another.

Books beckon to us. They may call insistently like a whiny child or lure siren-seductively with an irresistible boldness. 

Others whisper soft and insinuate themselves around our hearts. We feel crushed to come to the end of their words.

Those we need to work through cause stopping pauses for reflection as well as working on the suggested activities or questions.

I've been dipping in and out of the 'read, pause, ponder, pray and respond' type over the last few weeks, hence my somewhat distracted manner.

But fruit is appearing as I am being inspired to delve deep into soul territory and to unleash new areas of creativity.

And you, dear reader, can taste a tidbit here as I share a story from my childhood memories.




"Huge yellow teeth grinning inanely within a mouth cavernous and dangerously close to my shaking hands, I proffer the fruit as homage, offering. It is snaffled noisily. 

Breath puffs out in snorts and starts from flared nostrils, making smoky circles in the air. 

I'm entranced by a fine conker-shiny coat, by swish of thick whiplash tail, by nodding of head and stamping of hooves.

Horses were a rarity for me. City living doesn't suit them.

No place we lived in had room for more than a couple of cats, a cage of pet mice, small bowl of goldfish and some budgerigars. And most of them vanished when we moved into a flat with no garden of our own.

Even a field looks far too small to contain this boisterous frame, this much compressed energy. 

Smell of shoe leather assails my nose as saddle is hoisted into place, bit and bridle attached, reins close to catch hold of. We're ready to ride. At least this magnificent beast is. I'm scared and exhilarated by turns.

Heart thumping like a terrified caged bird, I obey instruction, swing shaky legs over saddle and find myself seated on hardness, close to glistening flank and fearsome head. Breathe... breathe... it will be OK.

We begin to move. Tentative at first. A gentle trot, nice and easy. I watch, listen and learn as my experienced companion urges me on. And wonder takes over. Look at me ~ I'm riding a horse! 

We emerge from the field and hit gravel. Tarmac tilts me differently and clip-clop sounds become more pronounced. I cling on as we move forward with increasing momentum. Try to stay calm as we begin to canter a little. 

I sense the weight of horse muscle and power between my legs. And I feel out of control, at the mercy of this great beast, even as I take the reins in a closer grip, sweat trickling down my spine.

Life seems more intense somehow, scenery seen from a higher perspective, senses alert with adrenaline. A child's eye view now skewed by an equine ride.

All too soon the prancing, dancing giddiness of it comes to an end and I slide away from my carrier. 

I bask in admiration for the way he lives, moves and has his being, and how, for a short moment in time, I could be a small part of it all."




It's been a while since I've written about my past, or done so in a positive way. All it took was a creative exercise prompt and the memory here flooded back.

It was prompted by reading 'Spin - Taking Your Creativity to the Nth Degree' by Claire Burge.

Our minds are rich storehouses, replete with randomness which can become ripe and renewed to our senses as God brings things to remembrance.

God was working in my life when I was a child. I have no doubt that even then He began to get me to see experiences through the lens of grace, and to mark my memory with good events that will eventually outweigh the bad as I allow them to surface.

And He's continuing to do just that as He teaches you and I to live mindfully and be aware of His hand in everything.

You may not remember much that was good about your childhood. Neither did I for many years.

However, a snatch of a song, a few poetic words, a smell, a sight, sound or word prompt may be all it takes to release those beautiful butterfly moments when summer seemed endless and experiences were ripe for plucking and savouring.

And as we seek to follow after God's heart, He encourages us to live in the moment with awareness and gratitude for His continual goodness and grace.

In due time, God will bring events to mind as a way of informing the present and aid His work in shaping us for the future.

*NOTE* ~  Friends, please let me know in the comments below if you would like to read more childhood remembrances. I am very  slowly tackling some memoir writing. And because this is a departure from the norm for me here, I really value your opinion. Thank you! :)

Over to you:

How is God helping you to re-frame your childhood through the lens of His grace?

Have you had any positive memories surfacing at unlikely moments?

And are you learning to live more mindfully than you may have done before?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Let it burn



Sounds of scraping reached my ears, alerting me to the toast being close to becoming cinders.

Thankfully, it was not meant for me but for my beloved who likes his toast near to charcoal before he considers it ready.

He pours scorn on mine resembling 'singed bread' instead. We don't all like the same degree of heat, do we?

Life itself offers many opportunities for us to feel scorched by our circumstances, burnt by being rejected, or to feel on fire with passion and drive to succeed in our dreams and plans.

There is danger of being consumed with a whole host of emotions as we go through our days. Being on fire is more likely to make us fume, see red and give off angry smoke than feel energised.

Because the more important something is to us, the less we can cope with challenge or changes to it. 

I see small signs of it in my little toddler grandson as his thwarted goals often make him whimper or rage. He wants what he wants and he wants it Now. 

Determination is what keeps him pressing on beyond his limitations and on to the next milestone.

It begs the question:How hard do we fight for our faith? 

How much does it mean to us? 

Would we go through fire for Jesus? Maybe...

Perhaps knowing how much Jesus has gone through for us can provide all the motivation we need to aim to live our lives fully surrendered to Him?

If you're experiencing the fires of adversity right now, then you know it's a given for being human. 

Besides, all who desire to live a godly, yielded life will experience the heat of struggle and opposition.

But are you (and I) aware how Jesus is in the fiery furnace with us?

Yes, He is present, right smack in the middle of whatever we are going through.

And the heat of it all won't harm us when we realise His nearness.


Quite often we will need to stop, pause... take a deep breath ...and pray. Life scorches us and we feel its blaze, choke on the smoke and feel flames licking higher.

God already knows what we are going through and He stands ready to come alongside, comfort, strengthen or deliver us.

And once we turn our thoughts to God's ability to help rather than our inability to cope, we can be confident He will hear and answer us. 

He rallies to our cries, hears the unspoken fears in our heart and sees the incipient tears in our eyes.

Because just like my grandson is to me, we are deeply precious, special and beloved to God. 

He yearns, even burns to set us free to live above those fiery circumstances and to be at peace in the midst of problems. 

God's loving presence is also a consuming fire which scorches off the dross and detritus we needlessly carry.

In His current of grace we can breathe pure, clean air again, become rested and restored once more.

We become readied to live alive and alert to His presence, our hearts warmed with love and gratitude for all He has done.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Making room for rest




March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.

On the cusp of the month I heard gentle, persuasive roarings from the Lion of Judah as He made it clear to me that I should take a blogging break.

Only here's the rub ~ it was to be for an unspecified time but definitely a month at least.

Because I was burnt out physically and mentally, in need of rest, restoration and lots and lots of sleep. 

Ideas and inspiration were still flowing freely but the energy to execute them wasn't.

So I stepped back, withdrew reasonably willingly and cheerfully.. at first. After all, God was calling me to enter His rest more deeply and fully than before. What's not to like about that?

Plenty, actually, as I soon discovered. It was hard to lay down my pen, remain silent, still my soul and surrender.

Resting turned out to be something I found very challenging - yes, even as an M.E sufferer where resting and pacing are a necessary part of life.

But this was different. This was taking resting to a whole new level.

Before I could properly rest and relax I had to discover what was blocking the process.

Letting go felt like drowning, even with my Lifeguard at hand. I'd taken off my writing shoes, padded gingerly out to sea and lost myself in waves of invisibility. 



Or at least that's how it seemed for a while. I felt isolated, lonely, bereft of the writing community's friendship and support.

However, God was drawing me into closer communion with Him. 

It sounds lovely and it was at times, but it was also painful. 

Holy ground tends to show up our dustiness, selfishness and soul depravity. All that God longs to put right in us.

Resting was far from restful for a while.

When thoughts presented themselves to me I ran with them in my eagerness to be Doing Something.

Why not journal my experience? Great idea.

Why not consider turning it into an e-book? Excellent suggestion.

Why not read several books at once? Oh yes.

Why not try my hand at other creative activities instead? Hmm.. why not?

Hence the challenge. 

I didn't become an expert on the subject but, thankfully, I did eventually learn what to listen to and what to ignore and how to evaluate what I was going through.

Here's the low down:

a) The hard facts:



  • Resting is really hard work
  • I totally suck at it
  • My mind resists switching off
  • Inner restlessness is my default position
  • Calm is hard to come by
  • Worry worms its way in
  • Pulling away from busyness can make us doubt our purpose
  • Discouragement drowns out God's voice
  • Impatience makes it take longer
  • I really need to learn how to do it
  • I guess practise makes perfect
  • I doubt I'll ever fully learn it in this lifetime
b) The golden truths:



  • God wants us to enter His rest
  • He calls us with gentle persuasion
  • Letting go of control can be liberating
  • Time in God's presence is never wasted
  • Sitting at Jesus' feet aids surrender
  • Listening for His voice gets easier over time
  • Prompt obedience brings better results
  • Inner rest promotes outer rest
  • We get to exercise our faith
  • It enables us to be more receptive
  • It paves the way for creativity to flourish
  • Realisation of our identity in Christ is heightened
I'm sure more nuggets of truth will emerge as I read through and reflect on my notes.

As it is, my slow M.E brain has taken several days to piece these words together here. Resting for a month seems to have made me rather rusty! Thank you for your grace..

But I have wondered, would it would help you to read about my experience? Maybe I will write more here or in an e-book in the future. 

It could be that my tentative searching and struggles will help others who want to 'let go and let God' but find it really difficult in some way or other. 

For now, I see how resting in God is the natural outcome and outworking of His grace. Its benefits become clearer as we begin to rest in Christ's finished work on the cross and our new identity in Him. 

My friend, maybe God has been signalling to you a need for rest. Could it be time to draw back a bit from busyness as we draw closer to Easter?

Pause a while to ponder as we walk the path of the cross with Jesus. Wonder anew at His mercy and grace as we trace His way to Calvary.

Hope springs eternal in human hearts. The cross is a rallying cry for all mankind. It is calling to you too.

The Lamb of God has come to pave the way for us to return Home to the Father's heart and find our soul's deepest rest in relationship with Him. 

Over to you

What does resting in God look like for you?

What helps or hinders the process?

Please feel free to join in with the comments below. Your words matter. Thank you. :)

Saturday, 28 February 2015

When creativity lies dormant


Words sing in my spirit, seeking their exit. Ready to explode upon the page. 

I hug some close, for now is not their time. They must lie dormant and wait a while.

A poetry anthology (or 2) sit on the back-burner, simmering slow.

A set of prayer whispers and devotional prayers lie stagnant.  

A memoir meanders round my head, only partly started. Will I be here to complete it?

I sit impatient, twiddling my thumbs at my ineptitude and inability to complete those things I long to bring forth. 

God whispers:Everything has its moment to arise and be seen. Not yet.. soon...be patient a while longer.

All that is within me cries out "Really?", until I remember how seeds lie dormant before they burst into glorious life, how ground seems dead and fallow until it is ploughed.

Watching while others gain their harvest can be painful. 

Waiting for God to say "Yes" to us can seem endless, can't it?

I feel my years slipping as sand and wonder why it takes so long to see fruit appearing.

Once again, I sense a holy reminder of how much fruit is invisible to us, but He knows.

He knows how to shape the things we create until they are ready to be a blessing.

He knows who needs to read our words, receive our art, and when they should be shared.

He knows how things that seem ready to us still require His refining touch.

And He's more interested in growing Holy Spirit fruit in our lives than making sure we see tangible evidence of the works of our hands.

They will have their day. Even if all looks barren and bleak, cold as ice and deep as snow.

New life, new birth returns to earth after winter's chill, after long periods of seeming inactivity.

So will our work, our words, our creativity rise anew when God breathes His life into them and whispers, "Now".



'Arising'
A tiny germ of life beats slow
beneath frozen depths of snow
Unseen by mere mortal eyes
it sits patient, waiting to rise

Heeding the call, clear and deep,
shaking off sonorous sleep
it pushes its way through icy ground
blanketed by silence all around

Drawn out of shadows dark
into earth hostile and stark
Arising in white fragile purity
A reminder of new birth breaking free
©JoyLenton2015

The same is true of our hopes and dreams, goals and schemes.

If they are God-given ones, then they will rise strong at Just The Right Time ~ His timing.

I know I've felt stagnant and stalled, stuck in the mud lately, mainly due to the daily health challenges I face and the weariness they bring.

Your reasons may differ. What we will have in common is a great desire to unleash our creativity and have it positively impact the lives of others.

And as I ponder these things, I actually sense God asking me to pull back from sharing my words here (and on 'Poetry Joy'), just for a while.

To let them deliberately lay dormant. To desist for a bit from sharing them on a blog. 

Because He knows things, you see.. He knows how much I need to lean into Him this Lenten season, to rest and recover energy and strength, to become restored, refreshed, revitalised by His Spirit. 

Am I giving in gracefully? Surrendering with serenity?

Hmm.. a little, although those insidious people-approval issues and "What ifs?" make this a hard choice for me, albeit a necessary one.

My priorities are to draw closer to God, regain some needful health and strength and be more available to my family.



While I am away (having some extra catnaps Zzz...), please feel free to dig into the archives, especially if you are new around here. I hope and pray you will come away blessed and encouraged by what you read.

I will continue scribbling out my words, and some may even find their way onto my Facebook page in the interim should God inspire and equip me to share them.

Maybe you're in a season of hibernation, sitting out a time when sap will rise again?

Take heart, friend. God isn't finished with you yet. While we have life and breath we are on active service in His kingdom. Age and circumstance are no barrier in His eyes.

One day, it will be your time and your turn and your work will have the audience it deserves. Hang on in hope. Our God is faithful.

God bless you all until we meet again. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Feel free to leave a comment or prayer request here. Love, Joy :) <3

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A friend in need


Sometimes God answers a prayer you didn't pray.

In becoming the answer to another person's prayer, we can find our own needs addressed in ways we least expected.

It happened to me a few months ago.

The Philosopher (husband/carer/general dogsbody) and I found our health problems escalating over the last year and his ability to care for me/the household exponentially diminishing.

We felt overwhelmed and drowning, so we sought help and support from our church.

Before very long, it became clear that there was no-one both able and willing to come to our aid.

Finally, a casual conversation the Philosopher had with a friend brought a possible solution.

His wife was lonely and in need of close Christian fellowship and friendship with someone near at hand. She was also pretty nifty with an iron, vacuum cleaner and duster ~ hooray!

The couple called round unexpectedly one day to state their intent.

It was after lunch. I'd made it downstairs but I was feeling exhausted, wearing my oldest PJ's, hair awry, in need of a shower, and decidedly discomfited to be seen in such a mess.

I knew the husband pretty well but his 'late-in-life-God's-gift-of-a-wife' was almost a stranger to me. 

However, she was charming, kind and concerned. We decided to make arrangements and see how things went.

I thought if she'd already seen me (and the house) at our worst, then there wasn't much left to be concerned about, was there?

A few months down the line, and I am awed and amazed at how well it has all turned out.

Despite our different nationalities, culture, language, experiences and expectations we clicked straight away. Deep at heart, where it all counts, we are soul sisters in Christ.



Both of us know what it's like to be wounded (yes, even by fellow believers), to feel marginalised, ostracised, rejected and lonely.

Both of us needed a close, spiritual, giving and receiving, prayerful faith-sharing relationship, only she had been fervently asking for it and I was unaware of my need until I had it.

We came together cautiously and soon became good friends. Our common ground far outweighs our differences, fascinating as they are.

She knows I am an unreliable friend in terms of making definite arrangements to get together. But it's always worth it when we do, even if no housework gets done.

Although all forms of communication in general drain me considerably and have to be a paced event, our sharing time can vanish in a flash because it feeds my spirit and energises me briefly to be in her company.

She is a calming influence, a prayer support, an encourager and a great reminder of God's love and grace.

The main topic of conversation is our life with God, His goodness, mercy and amazing love, especially in the midst of life's challenges.

If you'd asked me a few months ago if I needed another female friend I would probably have said No. 

My life seemed full, rich maybe with such friends... even if the great majority are on social media due to the limitations of living with M.E and being largely housebound.

But in answering my need for help in the home, God allowed me to answer her need for friendship.

Nothing beats having a Jesus-with-skin-on real life friend and soul companion. They are precious indeed.



There may be more new friends to come who I have yet to meet, because who ever has enough genuine friends or grows out of the need to be a true friend for others?

That's the wonder of God. He knows our inmost needs before we're capable of giving them shape or thought. He is a friend in need and our best Friend indeed. 

And those inner heart cries for help? The ones we fail to voice? We can be reassured He hears, records and answers every word.

Not all answers are as unexpected as mine was, nor swift either. But we can trust God's heart even when His hand seems slow to save.

Don't give up hope, my friend. God is well aware of your needs...yes, even the most practical and prosaic ones..and will meet them in His own way and timing as you wait upon Him. 

Over to you:**How has God answered a prayer in an unexpected way for you? 

                  Have you had a new friend come into your life when you least expected it?**

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.Your words matter. I love to hear from you, even if I may be slow to reply sometimes.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Awakening to potential



A quivering occurs deep in our souls. An inviting ripple on the waters, an opportunity to stretch our wings and fly free.

This one won't go away. It resurfaces when we least expect it.

Our lives are about to change and we run scared instead of running toward it with open arms.

Not all of us can greet change with cheer, or equanimity at least.

It feels unsettling, ground shifting, mould-breaking, day-defining and life-liberating all at once.

It calls for a new challenge, a new level we feel unprepared for.

So we quake. Even if we know those soft spoken sounds are Holy Spirit sighs.

I'm in a time of transition, waiting to walk into a more spacious place emotionally and spiritually. It requires recognition of what's being said, and response to all God is currently asking of me.

And, truth be told, I. Don't. Feel. Ready. I want to rewind time to one of blissful ignorance.

Those urgings are calling me out of a place of seeming safety, a place where I was bound but couldn't see it, and leading me into the Light, into Truth, into freedom, into God's presence and rest.

The slumbering season is over. Our souls need to wake up to the potential all around. When God is speaking, we do well to listen.




He gentles us forward saying this isn't all or nothing, impetuous crash and burn; this is a slow growth in the right direction as I lead and guide you. This is a warming to My words, an inner alertness to My voice, a gradual unfolding of My plans for you. Trust Me to keep you, to hold you safe throughout.

Maybe you're in this unsettling place too? 

Hearing and trying not to heed it?

We can be deep-bone weary from all types of pain, yet strangely wary and reluctant to move away from its suffocating embrace if it means treading into new territory.

Because what we know, what we are familiar with feels like home to us, however dark it may be in reality. Our pain is our pain. We live and move and have our being in it, don't we?

Actually no. We live and move and have our being in God. He is our Strength, our Hope, our Deliverer and Healer

Healing frequently comes in stages, by degrees, by unloosening, yielding and surrender rather than by sudden illumination and ability to receive it.

I've had God close some powerful doors in my life recently, doors which I'd inadvertently opened to the enemy when I was younger in years and understanding.

Once he has been denied access to areas he has tormented us in for years, the enemy will do everything in his power to try and regain that territory.

Doubt, fear and unbelief insinuate a way in, wrapping their tentacles around our souls. We need to guard our hearts, wear the full armour of God and be vigilant.

We have a spiritual battle on our hands and a continual need to reaffirm our new position, make declarations of faith from God's Word and sow seeds of positivity into areas that were always negative before.

Yes, we rest secure on the promises of God, but we also have our part to play in holding on to our healing and deliverance.

It's hard work but it will be so worthwhile to see results, to be prepared for The Next Big Thing God wants to do in your life and mine.

Some days I feel scared of transition and transformation. When we've believed lies for years, then our minds have to slowly become renewed by the Word and our hearts grow strong in faith.

Here's a prayer for all who are where I am now, or sense they soon will be. Let's begin to embrace hope, embrace the light, and embrace joy in knowing we are already victorious in Christ.