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

world: a voyage of holy discovery

“If you have been in the vicinity of the sacred – ever brushed against the holy – you retain it more in your bones than in your head; and if you haven’t, no description of the experience will ever be satisfactory.” ― Daniel Taylor, In Search of Sacred Places

A world within a world

Some can see a world 
in the labyrinthine 
whorls of a rose,

while others sense it
contained within
the smallness of a hazelnut.

Although it is too vast
and complex to be confined
inside one thing or one mind,

there remains a simplicity
bequeathed and revealed 
to the soul of you and me.

A sacred space opens up
to the fathomless,
the infinite, the large,

as our tiny hearts 
become receptacles 
enlarged by holy love.

A whole universe exists 
within each one of us,
ready to be explored.

All we need to offer 
is our openness,
our receptivity is the path

whereby universal truth
can inhabit our hearts,
to be accepted—or ignored.
(C) joylenton

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’”

“I marvelled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.” — Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

My friend, you might be feeling alone and far from God right now or fear that He has forgotten you somehow, but that just isn’t true, because we can rely on the promises in His Word that keep us safe and secure.

God never leaves our side for a second, and He finds a million little ways in which to demonstrate His constant presence, tenderness and love to our fragile, hurting hearts.

May you rest in His unconditional love today as you ask Him to open your eyes to the voyage of holy discovery and joy He wants to take you on. With blessings, love, hugs and prayer from this fellow voyager. Xx 🙂 ❤

flowering: your turn in the sun will come

Some of us are wilting for want of a Covid-free and hassle-free holiday, a proper time away from our oh so familiar homes, our troubled shores. A place in the sun, no less, reliable sunshine, that is.

Although there is beauty, refreshment and restfulness to be had closer to home than you might think. We English (or any other nationality, of course) roses can shine right here, right now, as we glow with the light of Christ, and have our beautiful flowering.

You might consider yourself to be more of a weed or wildflower, invisible to most, a person on the margins, not especially prized, perhaps. But wherever you are, and whoever you are, you are far from invisible to God. He watches carefully over all your seasons of flowering and growth.

Because wherever you and I might live, we can bloom right where we are planted. We can have a spiritual flowering any moment, any day, any season of the year we might be in. We only need to be willing to follow God’s timing.

“A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions — so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.” — Terri Guillemets

Flowering

I observe how
each rosy-pink
of these growing buds
slowly begins to open
up, and fill with moisture,

like rain-saturated
tea cups, which turns them
into spreading, pale, creamy,
dark pink dotted petals, as if 
they are covered in measles.

While the lush green
leaves expand, stretch 
themselves to accommodate
each spilling, fragrant
froth of flower

in its opening up,
as they try to gather
more chlorophyll greening
into themselves
from light in their veins.

This lovely rose
bush has her face
uptilted, as if she
is smiling at the sun,
welcoming its warming

touch, giving life
and heat and energy
in which to bloom 
where she is planted,
here in this space.

And I wonder
if I am similarly 
receptive to the light
shining within and without,
as ready to stay 

rooted for months,
patiently waiting for
my turn in the sun,
my flowering to come.
© joylenton

“Earth laughs in flowers.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

anticipating: the holy art of noticing

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My mostly sedentary, housebound life has, rather surprisingly, greatly enhanced whatever ability I might have for noticing. Observation pays dividends of hope and contentment whenever I look closely at living creatures, trees, flowers, and plants.

Nature lures me like a siren call, and I respond with joy, knowing how it lifts my spirit to engage with it all.

Anticipation builds as the seasons change because they all have different aspects that charm us. Life goes on without our full attentiveness, of course, but when we do pause to pay attention we are rewarded with wonderful scenic views, deeper appreciation, participation with the created world, spiritual insights, and maybe a poem to share..

Anticipating

Holiness seeps 
from each breath of wind,
whispering your majesty
because the still, 
small voice speaks 
louder than anything.

The land anticipates
your glorious presence 
as it waits to receive
each day’s instruction 
to shine your glory
and signal your peace.

Yes, even now,
with dripping trees bowed
low against each movement
of blustery wind and rain,
while a watery sun
licks the flowers again.

Even here, as the pigeon 
pokes her beak
into saturated soil,
expectant of finding 
seed, and the blackbirds
stoop to gather worms
as their daily spoil.

Nature might appear 
casually indifferent 
to holy breath 
but it shouts out the loudest
words of praise
to its Maker, always.

Earth has learnt
how to keep you
as its primary focus,
remaining sensitive 
to all the shifts
in its rhythmic pulse,
its seasonal chorus.

Oh may we be stirred 
to listen to its vibrant 
words, and give our own 
response, as our hearts rejoice 
in also being seen and heard.

May your peace rule
and reign 
in the midst of chaos 
because answers 
will flow, even if we think
no one can hear us.
© joylenton

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” ~ George Washington Carver

For those of you who might have been anticipating just when I would return and write here again, I’m glad to be back! But I have to say that I’m not sure as yet how regular my posts will be for a while, as this post explains. Keep noticing my friends. It will reward you more than you know to develop and heighten your awareness of God at work in the world. Xx 🙂 ❤

growing: on flourishing in life and faith

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” — Psalm 92:12-14 NIV

Growing

 I want to grow
 slowly, like moss. Spread out
 with lively verdancy, 
 stay bright and fresh,

 remain green-leaved.
 May I carpet
 my mind, my interior
 castle, my spirit 

 with holy wisdom,
 with resiliency
 I can confidently 
 walk upon with ease.

 Let me be rooted
 like a sturdy oak tree
 which freely spreads itself—its bark, 
 branches, trunk and leaves

 across the forest floor 
 because sunlight invites
 it to, and it knows
 how to grow and mature.

 May I stay 
 strong and stable, secure
 during life’s fiercest storms, 
 unshaken, unmoved,

 unbroken, unbowed,
 bravely holding on.
 Because I know
 that I am girdled around

 with supernatural strength
 that is not my own, 
 but generously given 
 to me as a pure gift

 of grace, one which stems 
 from a surrendered 
 dependency, while I stretch 
 and remain rooted in faith.
 © joylenton 

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into light.” ― Helen Keller

Whatever we might face, God will give us help and strength. While we wait, God grows our hope and faith. Whenever we feel weak, He enables us to soar above our challenging circumstances and depend on His grace. We’re covered, my friend, even though it might not feel like it sometimes.

Spiritual growth, whereby we develop wisdom, patience, maturity, resilience, and faith, is a slow process. I’m needing to remember that and give myself grace because we have an opportunity to move house this summer—gulp!—and will need those characteristics in abundance. We have a few short months in which to decide, downsize, declutter, and discard enough to make the move achievable for us.

I’m trusting that the months ahead of being more deeply rooted in faith will be rewarded by being fully equipped for all that lies ahead, because God is faithful to support and lift us up when we feel weak. Consequently, my words here will be sporadic while my limited energy, focus and strength are needed elsewhere. I welcome your prayers and look forward to reconnecting with you whenever I can. Blessings and love. xo 🙂 ❤

rain: blessing falling from the heavens

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.” — Isaiah 44:3-4 NIV

Rain has sprayed these shores since the white brilliance of snow left us. We’ve had day after day of unrelenting rain and skies veiled in monochrome shades of grey.

Enough to sink a ship or sink our flagging spirits. But what if there was a different way to view rain? Could we find a fresh perspective on the downpours we receive and are not always thankful for?

Because biblical rain can be seen as a blessing, a gift of grace, a pointer to renewal, refreshment, and a vital, life-giving presence.

If we could look at rain through the lens of holy love, then we might welcome more of it in our lives—even if it brings dark clouds with glimpses of sunshine breaking out behind them.

Holy rain

 Your grace-fullness 
 tips me off balance
 because it inhabits 
 everything that exists,

 all that is seen 
 and unseen by us,
 revealed or deeply
 shrouded in mist. 

 It's a soul saturation, 
 a world drenching
 and a universe 

 bending under the sheer 
 glorious weight found 
 in your holy rain.

 It resembles hidden 
 treasure, buried deep
 within the thisness 
 of all things, 

 concealed as
 a vat of vintage coinage, 
 perhaps, rare and valuable 
 beyond words.

 My mind fails to fully 
 fathom its depths
 and the way it inhabits 
 my dailiness,

 weaving like silken
 threads between
 the darkened eaves 
 of each ordinary day. 
 © joylenton

The frequent showers and deluges that disrupt our days could be seen as openings for God’s presence, His refreshment for dry ground and our own parched souls, and a holy outpouring of His goodness and grace upon this thirsty world.

Have you been able to trace God’s blessings coming to you recently, either in tiny drops or abundant showers? How has it altered your perspective on what you are experiencing? I’d love you to share below. 🙂 ❤

“So keep on trying to know the Lord. His coming to us is as sure as the rising of the sun. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain giving water to the earth.” — Hosea 6:3 NLV

lightness: learning to release our burdens to God

“Are you weary of the pace of this world? Does the never-ending deluge of information from the media wear you out? God promises that when we meet him, we find our true rest along these ancient paths—not in a new technology, a new medication, or the passage of new legislation, but through intentionally and habitually coming to Jesus and casting our burdens upon him. Only there do we find true and enduring rest.” — Ed Stetzer

Lightness

 Hot coals burn
 these palms of mine
 as a daily kind

 of frantic juggling 
 act goes on.
 Each burden sears 
 my soul

 as I grasp tightly
 at insubstantial things
 which dissipate

 like smoke,
 like lifeless rings
 blowing here and there.

 But if I pause,
 slow down,
 breathe you in
 with every inhalation

 I take,
 my empty hands
 of faith become

 filled with rich gifts
 of Light, of Life
 Hope, Joy, and Peace.

 Here in the stillness
 I let my burdens
 drop down
 Into your waiting hands,

 falling as dust,
 without form,
 substanceless.

 Each weighty care
 flows freely
 as if it were

 a balloon,
 a mist,
 but vapour rising
 then falling

 over distant hills.
 I watch
 them all floating
 on a breeze

 while lightness
 also fills 
 my mind, my heart,

 my spirit,
 and a smile
 twitches itself
 onto my upturned lips.
 © joylenton

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” — Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

lightness - lightness poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“I am about to go to sleep and so I turn over to him all those people I have been carrying in my heart. He never slumbers, he never sleeps, he never fatigues, he never stumbles. I won’t pick them up again unless he prompts me to do so. His burden is light, his yoke is easy. He carries the heavy end of the load, always. I am just his kid, carrying what I can carry, and he is a good Dad and never gives me a burden that would discourage or harm me by its weight.” — Katherine Walden


May I pray for you?

Lord Jesus,

Turn our hearts more in the direction of your face, your heart, your voice, your love. Reveal just what unnecessary loads and heavy burdens we might be carrying, and encourage us to let them fall at your feet, where we receive your Peace.

May we sense the wisdom of spending quality time in your Presence to offload our cares and concerns and become strengthened. Help reorient our anxious souls back to faith, back to calm, back to rest, and back to hope.
Amen

wholeness: sensing hints of wholeness

“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.” — Wendell Berry

Hints of wholeness 

 Where do we begin and end? 
 Is there a boundary between you and me
 and other living things?

 Don’t we all draw breath, our sustenance 
 given by a generous, almighty hand
 that loves us without restraint?

 Now we look at air and water,
 fire and earth, tree and leaf,
 noticing the connectedness.

 We see and sense our union 
 with all living things, our sentience 
 linked inexplicably with theirs.

 Earth in its rawness, primitive 
 soil teeming with hope,
 with richness, and with life.

 Fire exists in the heavens,
 wrapped in the golden glow of sunset 
 and sad devastation of forests.

 We see repeating patterns
 in the sky, in a flower,
 in each day, the length of hours.

 And our souls can sense
 areas of difference still
 giving hints of wholeness.

 Variety is seeded in the universe,
 in all burgeoning plants,
 in faith, and in infancy.

 What we will become
 is still a mystery
 for now, waiting to be revealed.

 Brokenness is our default state
 throwing us on God's mercy,
 his great forgiveness and grace.

 We learn not to divide 
 our hearts but yield them up
 in surrendering to his love.

 Our brothers and sisters 
 are not too dissimilar to us
 when viewed through grace.

 One day differences will subside 
 because what unites us
 is greater than what divides.
 © joylenton

“[Jesus] matters because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weaknesses he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.” — Dallas Willard in Ruthless Trust – Brennan Manning