gold: bringing Jesus our best Advent offering

advent-come-to-jesus-pin

 

During Advent we are invited into story, made aware of the reason for the anticipatory watching and waiting. There will be surprises to come, a humble birth to proclaim, gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense to be proffered by kings, now bowing to the King of kings on His bed of straw.

Advent is a golden time, a twilight hour before the main event, a necessary pause in proceedings as we ponder our own part in all of this. Because it cannot leave us cold. We are active participants too.

Not only do we pause, ponder and pray, mull and marvel at the miracle of God become man, we also start to see ourselves as the reason why He came, the purpose for this most Holy of invasions, this gentle leap into earthly territory.

And it may make us wonder what our response should be to the birth of our Lord and Saviour. What can we bring to Him, the One who throws stars into space and rides galaxies?

I believe God came for our hearts, our open devotion and willing surrender to His goodness and grace. I believe He wants us to be captivated by His offering of relationship.

We bring Him our gold, our best. What would that be? I think it’s our brokenness. We bring our messed up lives, our hidden sin, our secret dreams.  We bring Him failure and defeat, loss and longing, need and desire. We bring all the broken pieces of our lives like scattered ashes at His feet, ready for Him to bring beauty forth from them.

He tenderly takes, sifts, sorts and remakes us better than before. God isn’t afraid to get His hands dirty with our dust and detritus. He asks us to come as we are, no frills, no excuses, no pretence, no hesitation. Isn’t that the best invitation of all?


I didn’t intend to post today, but I wrote a tiny haiku with these thoughts on my mind. It was in response to a prompt which my lovely writing friend, Gayl Wright, speaks of on her blog. She also shares her own beautiful offering to the prompt of ‘Gold/Sing’ as found on Ronavan Writes – where this inviting poetic haiku challenge originates from.

This is my response:

Bring your offering

Let your gold pieces sing sweet

Laid at Jesus’ feet

I hope you’ll feel tempted to give it a go yourself!  :)

gold-offering

crave: deciding what our souls are really longing for

crave-what-our-souls-are-longing-for-pj

 

It’s hard to be neutral these days, immune to the constant bombardment and urgent invitation to spend. Consumerism feeds our every desire—including those we didn’t even know we had before—as it makes  most of us, especially weak-willed people, crave far more than we can afford.

As a woman of faith, my desires also reflect the holy work going on within, mirroring the way God is slowly changing my thoughts and altering them to be more in line with following Him.

A craving sounds like such a desperate thing. It makes me wonder if my heart is truly craving what it needs. Am I yearning for God, desiring to know Him better above all things? I hope so. Some days seem to be more about gritting our teeth and getting on with it, more about survival than sweet surrender, don’t they?

But my hope and prayer for you and me is to be able to sift the grace glimmers from the glitter and glitz, the eternal, lasting treasure from the way the world measures things, the Hope we have in Jesus from the urge to buy what pleases.

Because we soon discover that no thing in itself, no person can completely satiate our deepest soul longing, the God-shaped vacuum only He can fill.

Such thoughts helped shape my five-minute-friday poem below…

What do I crave?

What do I crave? The TV ads suggest

myriad things from saucepans to rings

They believe my life is bereft without

the great benefit of their products

 

But is it really? Can Christmas be bought? Can love

be a commodity like everything else on the shelf?

I think not, because here’s what I crave most of all

in a free-flow, no-particular-order kind of way…

 

I crave rest and healing, a greater God-revealing

Hope for the future on bleaker days and a

deeper appreciation of the gift of grace

Hands holding me steady, lifted in prayer

Friends to support, encourage, be here

 

I crave strength for today, solace for sadness

Calm patience to cope with all of life’s madness

A growing faith and trust in God’s ways, as

I yield and surrender my will every day

 

I crave peace and quiet, solitude and silence

as I listen, contemplate all that life means

Inspiration to write, create and give

Energy enough to love well and live

©JoyLenton2016

How do you differentiate between true soul needs and general desires?

What are you craving most in this season of busyness and excess?

Blessed as always to have words coming today in response to the #FMF prompt: ‘crave’ and to join fellow writing friends gathering at our gracious host Kate Motaung’s site to share their thoughts. Do come over and see the great posts on offer here. 

what-do-i-crave-poem-poetry-joy

Advent: seeing through soft smattering of stars

advent-through-soft-smattering

 

Soft light diffuses through glass, making dust particles dance in a torchlight beam, aided by a kitchen’s muggy warmth and steam, sending a glow glittering off walls like tiny ice crystals.

I watch entranced by the way light streams in through a window like a heavenly offering. It’s a marker of grace glinting through our days, a gentle reminder of how God’s love rains continually from above.

Because light will always infiltrate the darkness, penetrate through pane and pierce our own pain like a shard of healing laser-light, cutting at the corners of our circumstances, ready to open us up to a revelation of our belovedness before God.

The air is stilled with slivers, like flecks of salt seasoning a room. It parts for light to get in, makes space for grace arriving as a fragrant offering, a smattering of stars to light the way Home.

Through soft smattering of stars

In this Advent season let me become more

contemplative and reflective rather than

crazed and restless. Let me feel deep within

these bones, this mantle of flesh, this position

of weakness, that I still host the Holy in my soul

 

I ache with longing for the Light within to be

the consuming of me, a burning pyre on which

sits my sinful desires. May the dross, dust

and detritus give way to the Cross, to your

freely spilt blood, your white-hot devouring fire

 

Let your Love pierce through all traces of dark

Let your forgiveness, mercy and grace become

my new mantle and covering as I walk this

way of faith. Let my eyes look forward to seeing

your appearing through soft smattering of stars

©JoyLenton2016

Advent is a time to look for the light appearing here, now, in our midst. To have a watchful remembrance, a heart seeking for a smattering of stars, pointing to the brightest star of all, leading the way to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

A birth is imminent. Christ seeks to be born again in our hearts. He aches to appear for us as the Light we cannot do without, the one that overcomes all our darkness.

advent-through-soft-smattering-of-stars-poem

close encounters of the heavenly kind

bus-close-encounters-pj

 

Armed with walking stick and bus pass clutched in his other hand, my man made it to the city to carry out some needful financial transactions. He’d intended catching a bus back as well but was stopped in his tracks by pain, stilled by increasing stiffness in his gait.

While he sat waiting on a bench for his brother to collect him, a group of young people paused to speak with him. In the normal run of things he runs shy of such an encounter. But something made him smile a warm welcome and maintain a receptive mind to their questions.

They asked what health problems he had, and he shared the basics: namely Parkinson’s and post-op problems after spinal surgery. Then they offered to pray for him. Yes, right there with people passing by, in an open public place.

Once again, he was surprisingly amenable rather than painfully shy. So they spoke in tongues —yes, that too—and they held hands to his head and they gave it their best shot. Did the skies turn crimson or thunder roll? Did a voice call out from heaven?

No, none of those things happened. But a small group of faithful believers answered an internal call to prayer, and a weary man’s spirits were lifted at the way God infiltrates a seemingly ordinary day with touches of His extraordinary grace.

Because God is already here. He acts all the time but we don’t often see it or sense it as acutely as this. He cares about every single aspect of our lives and sends a wave of encouragement our way just when we need it. God infiltrates each day with markers of His glorious presence.

close-encounters-pj

 

As my husband related the story to me later, I was reminded of a heavenly kind of encounter I had a few years ago. It was in similar circumstances, with me full of pain, sitting waiting to be picked up by a relative…

Encounter

A nun smiled at me today

as she walked in her muted grey

I sat stiff upon a wall

weary, trying not to fall

asleep in the sun

and waiting for collection

like a missing parcel

left behind, gone astray

lonely on its own

 

Her face shone radiant

as she paused a while

yet most who hurried past

with purpose and intent

simply missed her smile

but I caught its golden rays

calling to me across the swathes

of people passing by

like a benediction sigh

 

A touch from God above

A pouring out of grace

A glimpsed reminder

of his peace and love

warmed deep to my heart

so I fulfilled my part

with a swift rejoinder

in this face-to-face encounter

as I smiled thankful back at her

©JoyLenton2016

I had another strange encounter on a bus journey several years ago.  A passenger who was alighting looked straight at me as she passed and told me I had the face of an angel— yes really— I was totally thrown!! Not only was I extremely exhausted that day, I was also a mess emotionally and far from smiley, never mind shiny. It seems God just wanted to alert me to His care and reveal I was still beautiful to Him, with Jesus shining through me unawares. Such grace!

Have you had encounters of the heavenly kind breaking into your day?

Is Advent a season where you expect wonder to break through?

seeing life as a holy communion

clouds-seeing-life-as-holy-communion

 

Each day we are being offered sweet communion with God, a life full of good things graced by the ordinary-extraordinary, and days rich with the Holy in our midst. And yet we so often miss the marvel moments and heavenly minutiae which make up a life of faith.

When we’re caught up in busyness, held fast by pressure and pain, restricted by our numerous responsibilities, it’s a wonder we stop for breath sometimes, never mind lift our eyes to the heavens just to look at drifting clouds, or simply pause, ponder and pray as we go through our days.

But when we do, we soon discover it’s the little things that matter most, those seemingly everyday occurrences we are all in danger of taking for granted. Until they become compromised, somehow, and valued far more for their rarity.

I’d become used to my husband being a fit, physically active chap, sporty all his life, still playing competitive football when he was fifty. I took his strength, health and energy for granted, little knowing it would vanish one day, just like my own.

First he was hit hard by pain, then an inexplicable tremor developed and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease came soon after. Before long, his back began to crumble, require urgent medical attention and surgery. It’s now almost six months since he had the operation we assumed would put paid to the pain and increase his mobility.

Sadly, there have been several setbacks along the way and he is still quite unwell. But you know what? We find ourselves celebrating the small, remembering the good, giving thanks instead of grumbling too much at the changes. Because life is precious and each day is opportunity to begin again, to have hope of seeing change for the better.

I am rejoicing with relief at his renewed ability to resume baking bread —the shop-bought stuff not being half so good for her spoilt ladyship!—though he has to pace himself carefully, of course.  It’s a celebration of sorts, a leaning into grace and a way of reminding ourselves of progress being made—albeit slowly, one tiny step and one day at a time…

Communion

bread-kneading-contentment-holy-communion

 

Yeast, salt, oil, flour and water combine

in basin of steel, bend of head

rhythmic kneading—apply pressure

stretch and roll; now a pliable thing

as dough emerges to rise and prove

knock back and shape to suit

the size within these tins

 

She watches mesmerised

by the baker’s craft

moulding staff of life

between firm fingers

awed once more by all

that lingers here, sensing

inside a gift that lasts

 

bread-seeing-life-as-holy-communion-pj

 

Patience, heat, chemistry

and clock will do their work

in perfect alchemy

that doesn’t always happen

perfectly—while air hangs heavy

with promise, rich aroma scents

surroundings and colour changes

 

Once again these golden loaves

are risen, ready, a fragrant feast

offering, living labour of love

Sitting now, they sup the soup

break the bread and sigh their grateful

‘Amen’, as they participate

in this holy communion

©JoyLenton2016

communion-poem-excerpt-seeing-life-as-holy-communion

 

What daily graces are sparking gratitude for you? 

How are you appreciating the holy in your midst?

a deeper journeying toward the light

write31days-journeying-into-joy-when-fragility-paves-the-way-for-joyful-dependency

 

Our journey toward the Light of God’s presence will be fraught with detours along the way. Life’s darkness steals around the edges of our days as it seeks to blot out the light. A sweet-pea flower’s fragility reminds us how our lives often feel like a transient, tender flare of brightness set within dark and gloomy circumstances.

Where do we turn to when things go awry? Who do we seek out when in need of soul solace?I’ve found that failing to turn swiftly to God only brings deeper misery. But if we make Him our first port of call, pray instead of trying to cope alone or pushing Him away, then He is ever faithful to come to our rescue.

I’m discovering the dependence which having chronic illness brings can cause frustration,  resentment and unwillingness to yield, but over time it begins to change our perception of surrendering.

The poem below depicts a dragonfly’s journey and also mirrors our human one as we learn to arise, lean toward the light,  become less dependent on self, and sense a bright, joyful welcome in God’s presence.

As dragonflies

dragonfly

We begin

earth grubbing silt and sludge dwellers

stuck mud-deep, dark glooming

in humanity’s squall,

little realising there is a way to climb

free from such insanity; drenched in

slime, smell of death clings fast,

seeping into all

We are

earthbound, plodding through endless days

of toil, rooted in routine, shielded

from questing thought

by the sheer monotony of the way

life trundles on, one day following

another in repetitious refrain, yielding

far less than it ought

We sense

a glint appearing; light wavering

glows slow with fronds emerging

for us to climb upon

Slim reed of hope, discovery,

shoots into view, enticing us to seek

rescue, release from watery grave

echoing a saving song

We rise

blinking in great wonder and delight

As dragonflies, our wings unfurl,

breaking free in dance

of grace, coloured and caught by Light

Every part on fire, shimmering bold,

aswirl with joy untold, glimmering

soul and spirit entranced

©JoyLenton2016

We wear faith like a fragrant garland around our weary necks while we press hard into each day’s demands, and we learn how to look for the Light, shake off the dust that clings tenaciously and lean on God for everything.

Our very weakness and fragility, far from being limiting things, become a special means of grace, an opening up to seeing God’s gracious hand at work in the commonplace.

It involves listening with spiritual intent to all our lives are saying to us, hearing the ways God reaches out in love to speak His wholeness into our brokenness.

God is always inviting us to join Him in the Light, to marvel as our beauty unfurls in the warmth of His presence, to see and sense what we have come from and where we are going to.

As we draw closer to Advent, I will be sharing more about our dark, earthbound condition and how God invites us into the airborne freedom of His Light. I’d love to hear how this season is speaking to you.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-fragility-beauty-dependence

joy in having a new identity in Christ

write31days-journeying-into-joy-new-identity

 

For way too many years I wore labels. Not the coveted designer kind, more the state-of-mind type people designate to us, or we happily pin on ourselves. Most of mine got attached in childhood and others soon followed suit.

I lost my true identity in a sea of shame, a ditch of guilt and a river of pain. It felt like my head was branded with words like ‘failure’, ‘not enough’, ‘mistake’, ‘unattractive’, ‘rejected’ and ‘unwanted’.  Maybe you’ve worn a few of them, too?

The thing is, unwanted labels can become so intrinsic to who we think we are, so familiar and comfortable we forget we’re wearing them. But they’re speaking lies, sending out false messages, keeping us bound, chained to the past.

Because the truth? We are God’s beloved children first and foremost, given a new identity when we come to faith in Christ. Our old filthy rags don’t fit who we are anymore, yet we cling to them like the latest must-have fashion accessory, and they still stick to us until we realise we can become free of them.

Our minds don’t have to be dressed in ill-fitting garments, because Jesus offers us His own robe of righteousness, a royal cloak and covering, perfectly fit for children of the King of kings.

In order to remember we are covered by Christ’s righteousness, mercy and grace, we have to make a conscious daily choice to put on the identifying clothing of love, joy, compassion and kindness.

We are not the weak saplings we see ourselves as, but strong oaks of righteousness, planted by God for the display of His splendour. Instead of the flawed, misapplied labels from the past, we now answer to words like ‘precious’, ‘honoured’, ‘beloved’ and ‘blessed’.

God sent me to announce the year of his grace — a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies — and to comfort all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory” ~Isaiah 61:1-3 – The Message

You offer me

I hunger for affirmation

and thirst for recognition

You offer me soul completion

 

I hunger for acceptance

and thirst for love, romance

You offer me sacred dance

 

I hunger for gainful employ

and thirst for things that destroy

You offer me deep inner joy

 

I hunger for life perfection

and thirst for new direction

You offer me resurrection

©JoyLenton2016

“You’ll get a brand new name

straight from the mouth of God..

No more will anyone call you Rejected…

You’ll be called Hephzibah (My Delight)…

Because God delights in you” ~ Isaiah 62:2-4 – The Message

Dear Father,

May we learn to live defined by who we are in Christ — your blessed, beautiful, cherished, joy-filled adopted children, sons and daughters of the living God, heirs with Jesus —rather then as unwanted, unloved, rejected, scorned orphans of our circumstances.

Help us to remember and rejoice in knowing we have been set free from the past, given a new name and identity. We are redeemed, restored, renewed, forgiven, accepted and made righteous because of your generous mercy and grace.

Thank you for the joy we have from our new identity in you. May we embrace it to the full and gladly share it with others.

Amen

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badge

Welcome to the final day of #31days of journeying into joy. Where did October go?! Thank you SO much for being here. I’ve really enjoyed sharing this series with you.

And I have a hunch this journey will be an ongoing faith exercise for you and me, a lifelong pilgrimage to the Father’s loving heart.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-identity-in-christ-prayer