Gethsemane: a place of anguished obedience, prayer, and grace

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, ‘Sit here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?’” — Matthew 26:36-40 NLT

Gethsemane

To remain, stay awake, and pray,
these are the tasks
assigned to the disciples

and to us
as well, even now,
as we face our own battles.

Yet we brag, big ourselves up,
and anticipate greatness
from souls of dust,

or we cringe and creep
because we feel
like worms without worth.

But God knows the state of us
all too well,
and he grants us the grace

to have a fresh start
if we're willing
to ask for his help.

Jesus sought support himself
but found his friends
deeply lacking

in their ability to keep alert,
to pray faithfully
and to stay awake.

In the depths of his humanity
he identified
completely with you and me,

and he still gives 
us grace when we mess up
because he knows
just what we are made of.
© joylenton

Reflection

Picture yourself in this scene. Jesus, your close friend, teacher and miracle worker, is approaching his darkest hour. You’re aware that he is special, and talking about being crucified, but your mind hasn’t yet fully grasped the reality of who he is and why he came, though you long to please him.

But it’s been a long day, with a seemingly wasteful anointing at Bethany, an unexpected betrayal by Judas, a denial, a final supper together, and now this period of praying in the garden of Gethsemane. You’re just plain exhausted. Jesus gently scolds you, and you feel dreadful because your tired body has let you down.

Prayer

Suffering Saviour,

As we read these words, we wonder if we would have been any better at watching and praying with you than the disciples were. Sadly, their fatigue caused them to slumber in your hour of greatest need. You faced this ordeal alone because your friends failed you at this final hurdle.

Even so, you understood their weakness and gave them grace. Just as you do for us. From our post-crucifixion perspective, we know how it ends—how these failing, faltering disciples became devoted, faith-filled men with transformed minds and hearts. Oh may we have an ending like this too!
Amen

This post has been excerpted from my ‘Experiencing Lent: Sensing the Sacred in Our Midst’ book. You can discover more about the meaning of and the biblical context for Gethsemane in this article. Blessings and love to you! Xx 🙂 ❤

mirror: seeing ourselves as we really are

It’s no secret that nature and wildlife have things to teach us as they quietly go about their lives. The poem below was written after observing a bluetit’s antics as she circled around our car’s wing mirror for a few minutes.

We were too entranced watching her to think of recording the moment. But oh joy, she returned the next day and I caught it briefly with these blurred, smudgy photos out of the kitchen window! 😉

Birdwatching 

She flits
back and forth
admiring herself in glass,
enraptured 
by the way her image
is captured 
so vividly in the wing
mirror, where she can’t resist 
such a view of loveliness.

It’s as if
she cannot quite 
believe that this tiny bird 
has anything 
whatsoever to do with her,
or is more than a passing 
resemblance, perhaps—
does this sight signify, imply
what she might really look like?

So she shifts
her gaze here 
and there, hopping keenly
once more over
the bonnet of the car,
then back again
to preen, to marvel,
to check she does exist 
in this world, in this space.

And she twists 
her perspective 
as she turns upside 
down, and almost inside
out in her eagerness 
to believe she is
just as sweet, just as
lovely, just as glorious
as the mirror suggests.
© joylenton

“But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” — 2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB

This sweet incident made me wonder how we might respond when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror. Are we enchanted, curious, disinterested or disappointed? Does it matter if we’re less than thrilled with our outer appearance?

Because we are so much more than the sum of our parts. Though having a balanced love for ourselves and a healthy self-acceptance is to be encouraged. We need to transform our wounded minds and hearts by believing we are who the Bible says we are.

I can attest that it’s been damaging for me to have low self-esteem for years due to painful childhood experiences that seared my soul and induced decades of brokenness. God longs for us to see ourselves the way He does: beautiful, beloved, healed and whole, a joy to behold.

Maybe looking in the mirror might cause us to seek the kind of mirror that truly reflects our God-given beauty, grace and loveliness, especially if we’ve failed to fully notice or appreciate it.

Do we return, time and again, to check our reflection in Scripture as it holds up a mirror to our souls and gives us insight into the close, loving relationship we can have with God? Perhaps we should… 🙂 ❤

rootedness: rooted deep in faith just like the trees

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” — Simone Weil

Rootedness

A sweep of trees sway 
above me, with a deep rustling 
reverberating through each leaf, 

murmuring a message 
of presence, of being, 
of hidden strength and timely

wisdom encircling each trunk, 
as ageing rings mark out
the seasons, and bark folds 

itself into gnarled whorls
that speak of mysteries 
only trees can see and know.
Standing still beneath 
a canopy of branches, arching 
protectively above 

my head, I am entranced 
and given over to awe, 
marvelling in their statuesque 

beauty and grace, 
their manner of connectivity 
in this dark and sheltered place, 

where I am but a visitor, 
awed by their centuries’ 
old stability, peace, 
and lofty splendour.
There is a stillness here, 
a sense of timelessness, where
breezes stir the structure
 
of each tree yet cannot affect
their invincibility, their very 
rootedness into the ground,

which spreads much further 
than eyes can see, making
channels through this forest 

that help to keep them all
alive and vigorous, sturdily 
enduring as our lives unfold.
© joylenton

“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted like trees.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

“And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done.” — Colossians 2:6-7 TLB

I close with a few forest sights and sounds to help soothe the stress away and bring you a few moments of relaxation and peace…. Enjoy. 🙂 ❤

liminal: savouring the sacred space in-between the now and the next

Honour the space between no longer and not yet — Nancy Levin

Liminal days

Caught in apricity 
as I savour the unexpected 
warmth of this wintry
sun, arriving soon after
a deluge of rain, witnessing 
the drama which unfolds
in contrasts, where light kisses dark
and light doesn’t pull back
because it carries 
difference in its golden heart.

These are liminal 
days, dancing on the edge
where a new season appears
to break, with sun revealing 
snowdrops, crocuses, incipient
daffodils, tender green fronds 
of beautiful bluebells to come,
eclipsed by what remains—
the spare, bare bones of winter
still grimly holding on.

My soul sits in ice sometimes 
because it’s waiting for a thaw
to relax it into love, plant it
in peace, persuade it to take 
a deeper breath, a longer
look, a calmer exhale, 
and to shift gratitude to 
a whole new level, as I face
the need to open up
to mercy flowering from above.

It isn’t arduous,
it doesn’t take much at all 
for us to reorient ourselves 
back to joy and faith when 
we see evidence of spring,
note vital change occurring 
and sense our souls being
set adrift, freed from winter’s 
harsher grip, as we float calmly
toward signs of hope unzipped. 
© joylenton

prism: seeing life through the lens of poetry

How do you define poetry? It could be summed up simply as a mix of words with metre, rhythm and rhyme, but that’s not always the case. I think of it as layered thoughts, slant storytelling, with a musicality that’s either deliberate or unsought. One of the joys of poetry is the rich variety that exists.

My latest poem describes the way poetry behaves by imagining it acting like a lens, a prism through which we see life and understand thoughts. It might look distorted sometimes, indistinct even, because each poem connects in a different way with every reader.

Yet the shaft of poetry’s luminous rays can offer insight, hope, joy and grace to others. My hope and prayer is that I can connect heart to heart with the words I share, and I hope you’ll get something out of this poem.

Creation of prisms 

Poetry is the creation of prisms
reflecting the light inside,
refracting each single word
that flies arrow-like, rainbow-bright,
to hit its intended target,
splintering apart
as each paper plane dives deep down,
weaving through the path
of an open, receptive heart.

Poetry can miss the mark,
become unintelligible 
to others, those who fail
to discern each line’s 
vitality, the secret messages
it speaks into being,
a dart of thought to the soul,
a tiny glint of light
delivered in morse code.

Poetry is a vital, living thing,
an entity that speaks 
a universe of thoughts
in differing tongues 
to different people tasked
with translating it,
or simply sitting with a piece,
comprehending its worth
in the presence of mystery.
© joylenton

I’ve defined poetry in various ways over the years. It’s an elusive art to pin down easily, speaking as it does to mind and heart. One description can be found on my ‘Why poetry joy?’ page. I’m intrigued by the varying perspectives and would love you to share your definitions/descriptions too. Perhaps, like mine, they alter depending on what season of life you are in and what speaks to you most. 🙂 ❤

change: on yearnings, adaptation, and gratitude for where we are now

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” — Henry David Thoreau

Yearning for change

These naked limbs, 
licked and warmed 
by sun’s soft caress,
have their arms open 

for an early entry 
of spring, longing deep
at the heart 
for sap to rise again 

and the blooming
of buds to start
to burst forth, giving them
a new dress, new chorus.

Each branch,
every stem 
and arthritic twig reaches
up to the heavens,

like a prayer, a plea
to be noticed,
to be spared the worst
of winter’s onslaught,
and to have a fresh
covering of leaves
as chill winds blow,
leaving them drawn taut. 

But even so,
they might forget just how
majestic they are 
in their pared back 

barrenness, their state 
of cold undress,
which has its own perfect 
beauty we observe, its own

form of sculptural loveliness,
as we stop and pause
from our labours
to watch nature at work. 
© joylenton

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson

This poem arose when I paid attention to the apple tree outside our living room window. The more I studied it throughout the day, the more my sympathies were engaged and my gratitude enhanced for simply being here, acting as a silent observer of its wintry state and potential future growth. Because immersing ourselves in nature, in small ways and large, is a great way to stir creativity and bring us a deeper measure of soul peace.

“Change” happens to be my #oneword365 for Poetry Joy this year. Where are you receiving reflective thoughts from the created world as it beds down for winter yet retains a new kind of beauty in its structure, its place of peace and quiet repose? Do share below. 🙂 ❤

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” — Eckhart Tolle

epiphany: discovering the hope of all the years

“Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.” — Peter Chrysologus

Epiphany

Guided by the stars
and their expert analysis
as they pored over maps
of constellations in the heavens,
the Wise Men were awakened.

All their seeking and searching 
for the Messiah's arrival
had come to fulfilment,
so they gathered their entourage
and travelled to distant lands afar.

The manifestation of Jesus Christ
to Gentile hearts and eyes
was a wondrous epiphany,
an opening where light shone bright
to reveal heaven's Son had arrived.

This breaking through of breaking
news was unlike any other,
for God had never before become
as one of us, made weak, helpless,
fully dependent on others. 

He laid aside his majesty
to better reveal the deep union
he has with the hearts of men,
if given half a chance, an opportunity
to finally set us free from sin.

Or sin's penalty, at least, as death
became vanquished by Christ's victory
on the Cross, and eternal life was given
as pure gift of grace to all mankind,
with the opening of eyes once blind.

Ascended now, Christ sits and intercedes
for us with faith and hope in his heart,
waiting for an epiphany to transform
our flawed thinking, so we can reach out
in trust and fully receive his amazing love. 
© joylenton

“For by gold the power of a king is signified, by frankincense the honor of God, by myrrh the burial of the body; and accordingly they offer Him gold as King, frankincense as God, myrrh as Man.” — St John Chrysostom

Advent: the Hope-filled countdown begins

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes…and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Countdown
A countdown is on,
with the daily opening of a door
in the Advent calendar.

Some have their minds fixed
on consuming chocolate
or finding a small gift.

Others watch a scene
unfold, a marvellous story
slowly, slowly gets told.

Perhaps a candle is lit
and left to burn while we
reflect on a word, name or date.

Anticipation builds
in the daily noticing,
receiving, seeing and reading.

December's cold drabness
is lifted by an interest
in things outside ourselves.

Gradually, these small
snapshots of hope, joy, mystery
are unveiled and revealed.

Until we reach the climax,
where the action really begins,
with a birth in Bethlehem.
© joylenton

“You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time.” — John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart

God’s Love Note for your heart

“You count down your days when something good is anticipated or your future hopes are dimming. Every 24 hour time slot is a reminder to live more fully in the present moment.

Developing sacred mindfulness is beneficial to your mind and heart. In the daily pausing, noticing and appreciation you are opening your soul to gratitude and a deeper awareness of My presence with you.

Try not to let your life be ruled by the ticking clock. Seek, instead, to live each day with peace in your heart because of the numerous ways in which you can encounter My Love.

This is the day the Lord has made. This day matters. Yesterday is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. Living well in the here and now prepares you for what will come next.

Blessings galore await you as you anticipate them while maintaining an open perspective on today. Keep casting your care on Me and I will equip you to live without the burden of worry and anxiety.”

Dear Friends, I’ve missed you! It’s been really hard to have to stay away from writing here to aid my recovery. But I’m so thankful to have been given energy enough to post today. Even though my stiff hands hurt to type and I remain weak and weary and uncertain when I might post again, it’s a joy to reconnect with you as Advent begins. 🙂 ❤

restoration: our brokenness is made new by God’s grace

“Christ is building His kingdom with earth’s broken things… Heaven is filling with earth’s broken lives, and there is no bruised reed that Christ cannot take and restore to glorious blessedness and beauty. He can take the life crushed by pain or sorrow and make it into a harp whose music shall be all praise. He can lift earth’s saddest failure up to heaven’s glory.” — J.R. Miller

Restoration goes hand in hand with “renew”, God’s given word to me this year, and I’ve slowly been unpacking and experiencing something of its depths.

Namely the numerous ways in which we can become renewed, restored, and refreshed. Such a prospect offers us all great hope when life is hard.

As I’m in a season of requiring renewal, combined with extra rest and refuelling, I’m having to trust that the healing and restoration process continues silently within me even if I cannot see the results of it yet.

Because faith asks us to accept God is always at work even if it doesn’t look like it. And God specialises in encouraging the defeated, restoring the broken, healing the hurting, and strengthening the worn out and weary who trust in Him.

“The work of restoration cannot begin until a problem is fully faced.” — Dan B. Allender

Restoration

I'm depleted
come fall on me like rain
saturate this place
shower me with your love
water all who thirst on earth

I'm sorrowful
come light my way with joy
I lift my face
expectant of your goodness
hungry for your gift of grace

I'm empty
come fill me to the brim
to overflowing
with an excess to share
with a fullness within

I'm worried
come soothe away the cares
take the burdens
lift them from my weary frame
help me find relief in prayer

I'm praising
come rejoice and celebrate
my heart ached
God gave me his rest and peace
now his child has her soul eased
© joylenton

“May he be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth.” — Psalm 72:6

Friends, I think I tried to come back to blogging too soon after moving house because I’ve not been so well over the last few months, hence the weeks of silence. I hope you will be happy to accept an occasional offering here and over at joylenton.com for a while instead of the more regular posts you were accustomed to.

PS: It’s my birthday today so I’m giving a free gift to you!! It’s a pdf copy of my ‘Soul Shots: 31 Days of Pocket Wisdom for Your Hurting Heart’ e-book, which is a warm hug for your heart, with a mix of soul refreshing poetry and encouraging prose. If you like it, please consider leaving a short review on Amazon so others might be encouraged to read it too. Thank you! Lots of love, Joy Xx 🙂 ❤

fear: from scared to secure

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10 NIV

From scared to secure

Fear comes whispering 
in your ears
but it doesn’t sound
like fear at all. Oh, no,

it’s more like the voice
of reason, of questioning,
of common sense.

It brings all the what ifs,
what abouts, oughts and shoulds 
which are hard to ignore,
harder still to justify 

when faith feels a stretch
too far, while trust 
is asking you to take

a great big leap
into the abyss—into the 
dark. Our human hearts
are so easily 

alarmed, unsettled, made fraught
with worry and concern,
by scary thoughts,

by being asked for more
than we are capable 
of. But that’s only if
we rely on human

reasoning alone,
and forget to factor
in the power 

of our amazing,
death defying,
grace and hope 
supplying God. Because then

we’re not facing
anything all by ourselves 
or trying to make

important decisions 
without his help. But we are
relying, depending for all
we are worth,

on God’s mercy 
and wisdom 
to gently guide

and steer us forward.
It takes the sting 
out of whatever we
might be facing. 

The anxiety will leave,
be released
and slowly dissipate

as we move from being 
scared to securely 
dependent on God’s 
foresight and grace.
© joylenton 

“God hasn’t lost courage. God isn’t wavering on endurance. God doesn’t fear another day or another test, and God is standing behind me. He is making available for me all that he is. By grace through faith, I have nothing to fear, no reason to feel defeated.” — Gary L. Thomas ‘Simply Sacred: Daily Readings

Fear tends to infiltrate us out of nowhere. One minute we’re happily going about our days, and the next (or so it seems) we become scared of this or that, stuck in the muddy quagmire of worry, and consumed by anxiety and fear. A wall goes up and we cannot scale it, despite our best efforts.

I’ve experienced this over the last few months with the added stress of moving house before our previous property is sold. It’s the plethora of changes and extra admin that sink me, alongside the sheer weary overwhelm of being busy beyond my body’s capacity to cope. But there is hope and there is help for all troubled souls.

No scary situation we might face is a match for our matchless, fear-less heavenly Father’s grace.

God sits beside us, gently nudging us back to trust, softly reminding us of His all-encompassing Presence, great faithfulness, and constant love. And more than that, we have the gift of His calming and comforting Peace to keep us from staying afraid. May our faith be above every fear as we hand each one over to God.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” — John 14:27 NIV