Sunday, 24 May 2015

In the heat of it all



In the heat of life's battles it's easy to become burnt, hurt,

scorched by circumstances, flayed, distraught.

We all need resources beyond ourselves.

We need the Source of life Himself.

In the darkness and the fray,

we need One to show us The Way.

Bring comfort and calm,

oil of joy and Gilead's balm.

Bring beauty out of ashes

as we sit in the embers.

Equip and enliven.

Breathe life from within.

Change and healing.

Grace all revealing.

Support, encouragement, help and hope.

A rescuer when we're dangling on rope.

And He's here.... Jesus, Saviour, Immanuel.. God with us.

Living within by His Spirit.

Celebrated at Pentecost. 

So let's draw near with a petitionary prayer:

Holy Spirit,
You are fuel, flame and fire
Ignite our weary hearts
Encourage us to come up higher
as You refuel and inspire
our lives in every part

Where higher means a lessening
of ourselves and life's busyness
combined with deeper faith,
hope, confidence and rest

Be the wind beneath our wings
Be the heat of our desire
Be the One who makes us sing
Be the flame of burning love

Be our rest and be our peace
Be our covering from above
Be our soul's deepest ease

Be Lion of Judah in our fight
Be Lamb of God to calm our fears
Be strength, all power and might
Be all we need throughout our years
Amen




I'm joining Barbie and friends at the Weekend Brew today. Come and join us? 

Regular readers may wonder at the poetic offering featured here instead of at 'Poetry Joy' as usual. 

Strangely, I seem to think better in poetry than prose when I'm extra tired, so here we are. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

When less is more



In a world driven by acquisition and success, the idea of less can seem countercultural. 

How can less be more? Isn't outward show a sign of inward achievement too?

Maybe, or maybe not. Our souls may desire signs of 'success' but those outward signs don't necessarily reveal true fulfilment or our state before the Lord. 

Because our inner life tends to thrive on Being More as we rest in God, and stressing less about Doing More in order to be seen, lauded and applauded. 

A pared down life can lead to rich abundance.

When we press pause on busyness (physical and/or mental), we create more space for God to fill with His presence.

When we step away from noise, embrace solitude and stillness for a while, there is more room to listen to God's voice.

In this season I'm in of pulling back from many good things in order to focus on God's best for me, I've seen how easy it is to feel isolated, lost and lonely from less social engagement.

It's sadly apparent how much my soul still craves recognition, validation of my existence and reward for my labours.

Our souls feed on approval and feel starved of attention if left out of life's flow for too long.

Early life conditioned me to seek those things at the expense of my health and sanity.

When mental health breakdown caused me to lose all sense of self, to feel splintered and fractured beyond recognition - if not beyond repair - then those deep, unsatisfied-by-the-world needs became overwhelming.

They remained that way for many years, even though I was unaware of it.

So I'm a slow learner in being still, being less visible to the world in order to be more visible to God.

These last few months have been really challenging health-wise and soul-wise, but they have also been rich with deeper meaning and understanding.

Less social media engagement and interaction has meant:
  • More time in prayer
  • More receptivity to God's voice
  • More freedom to explore other areas of creativity
  • More awareness of who I am In Christ
  • More contemplation and listening
  • More seeing with spiritual lenses than worldly ones
  • More growth in dark places
  • More empathy for all who struggle
  • More time for family and friends
  • More discernment to make wiser choices
  • More peace and inner calm
  • More rest inwardly and outwardly
There has also been:
  • Less susceptibility to stress
  • Less striving
  • Less worrying in general
  • Less concern about being being seen and heard
  • Less agitation in being still and quiet
  • Less attachment to things and possessions
As you can see, there have been huge benefits in stilling my soul for a season. Perhaps God is calling you to do likewise? Although your experience will be unique to you.

It's possible you may want to pursue a more minimalistic lifestyle as Joshua Becker speaks about here. Living with less can have knock-on spiritual benefits too.

Although I've slowed down in many ways, I'm still being inspired, still writing and sharing my words as God indicates, still trying to encourage others on the pathway of writing, life and faith.

Inspiration can be inexplicable, can't it? Words sing into our ears from various sources. 

When I read more of those things which feed my soul rather than what is clamouring to be heard, then I sense God guiding and speaking to me as I receive more deeply. 

Those words dance in my soul, resonate in my spirit, fire my imagination and inspire my thinking. Maybe you can relate?




Because when we sit with silence it speaks volumes, ushers us deeper into God's presence and prepares our hearts to receive from Him.

And that's a place of greater peace, openness and availability from which we can go out more willing and able to serve the needs of others.

Over to you:

Have you seen more fruit coming from doing less for a while?

What does 'Being More' look like for you?

Please feel free to share in the comments below. Your words matter.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Weeds are flowers too



As new life springs up all around, I am a bit ashamed to confess that our garden is a messy, tangled up space where weeds run rampant and grass is deep enough to hide things in.

But even this uncultivated space, which speaks loud of our slowness and incapacity, is a source of gratitude and deepening awareness.

As I move more into contemplative mood more during these soul-warming Spring days, I'm developing a greater need to see the sacred in the secular.

I want to awaken to wonder and deeper awareness of God's goodness and grace all around me.

He is manifest to those with eyes to see and ears to hear and reveals Himself in unexpected ways.

As I stepped out the back door recently I saw a blaze of golden sunny rays from tilting heads as dandelions raised their flag to the world.

Unashamedly brazen in their boldness. No apology for being 'less than' any other plant.



And I know deep down that weeds are as flowers, especially when a garden is bereft of those.

Weeds are a sign of life, vigour and vitality.

Weeds speak of thriving where we are planted, of survival against the odds.

Their tenacity and endurance are like faith markers in the soil of God's word.

Their perseverance shows grit and determination.

Their colour is as vivid as any true flower and the green reveal of them is sap and spark of life itself.

They bend to will of wind yet try to straighten tall against the fray of cooler, cloudburst days.

Seeing them move and sway reminds me how Holy Spirit speaks to my soul ~ sometimes soft and low like a soothing lullaby, or fierce and wild as reminder of God's searing love driving through His child's heart in the desire for me to learn and come up higher.

Seeing beauty in the everyday shapes my thoughts, words and poetry. The one below came from seeing a dancing poppy.



'Hanging on'
A lone dancing poppy
bends its head
to will of wind
Faded and jaded
it hangs limp
from its stem
Bravely hanging on
no matter where
the Spirit sends
©JoyLenton2015

Am I advocating we all let our gardens run wild? Embrace chaos, perhaps?

No, not really, even though there is often treasure to be found in seeing what comes up naturally.

What I want to emphasise is how we can feel like weeds - insignificant, on the margins, border and edge-dwellers in society.

Physical and mental health issues help to intensify those feelings, although they are common to all of us from time to time.

And standing alone, feeling lost, left out and isolated is uncomfortable and disturbing.

Friend, let me reassure you that you are not unseen, uncared for, unwanted or unknown. 

I care deeply about all who enter this space, all who are part of its reading community. I pray for you and about you ~ yes, invisible as you may seem.

More significantly, God sees; He cares; He loves you beyond measure.

He wants to be your constant Companion and the Gardener of your soul all the days of your life.

You are already lovely in His eyes, special and unique, no matter whether you feel like a bedraggled weed or a beautiful bloomer.

Because God gives us all the resources we need to survive, thrive, endure, persevere and bloom where we are planted. He will enable you to grow strong and vital in Him.

Our part is to look to Him and ask for all the help we need each day as we are fed by His word and watered by Holy Spirit anointing and grace.


Friday, 1 May 2015

An open door




May sounds like a portent, a promise, potential and permission given.

There's a beckoning, an urging and an invitation. New life is burgeoning.

The question is:Are we listening, and how will we respond?

As we enter this new month I'm reflecting on some timely words God gave me last night:

"Resist revisiting the past or feeling fearful about the future. All you have is Now. This moment matters.

There is grace for today; you cannot borrow from tomorrow. Rest secure in sensing My Presence at work right where you are"

These shape my response to the word 'door' for today's foray into five-minute-friday writing.

START:

Change alarms me, even as I crave alteration in my circumstances.

Somehow, a deep sense of loss hovers close and a sentimental clinging tight leaves me with closed hands and mind.

Just last week, I finally relinquished a seedy settee to make way for a supportive, comfy chair (with built-in massage facility, no less), and it was a big deal for me.

It was bought on-line, unseen, untested, untried, and still hasn't arrived... gulp!

The new chair will (hopefully!) bring some needful pain relief and yet.. I was so used to the old and I felt sad to lose it. 

Memories were written into every sinking crease and sag.

I'm reluctant to let go, although I have to. Life moves in circles and cycles. 

Without the letting go we are not free to embrace the new, next and better thing God has planned.

A door of opportunity stands open, always ajar, an invitation of grace.

And yet.. sometimes we cower with fear at the challenge it presents.

Maybe God is asking us to make room, make way for Him today ~ in life, in thought and heart.

Because He continually knocks at the door of our heart with wildly unceasing patience.

Waiting to be allowed in. Seeking to invade each space.

He alone knows what lies ahead and how He desires to bless us with His best.

He alone sees the end from the beginning, gives new birth, new life, new hope.

Will you join me, friends?

Will you say yes to Him today?

Open that door a crack and see His love flood in.

Be washed by waves of grace and mercy.

Because living with open mind, hands and heart is the best way for us, no matter how painful it can often be to open the door to the new.

STOP.


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.