reward: setting our course with courage and faith

reward - ships in calm waters - setting our course with courage and faith @poetryjoy.com

From infancy, we have a tendency to spend our lives looking for reward in one way or another even when we’re not aware of it. Because reward of some description is usually freely given to us by those we love. And it is fed to us daily in the form of social media affirmation, whereby we seek approval from others, as we want to be accepted and belong.

If we add faith into the equation, we see how even there we can be tempted to chase down reward, rather than making a secure relationship with God our top priority. His word is lavish with promises but it also has guidance for the way God wants us to live.

“…and when the Head Shepherd comes, your reward will be a never-ending share in his glory and honor.” — 1 Peter 5:4 TLB

Faith is often referred to as a walk, a way of life, a journey, and a wilderness kind of experience at times. Faith is also as an anchor for our souls and a guiding compass, as we steer a course through this world’s landscape. We need faith, trust, courage, wisdom, discernment and deliberation to avoid the many distractions and obstacles in our path and press on regardless.

reward -compass - ship - anchor - Faith is an anchor for our souls and a guiding compass quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” — Hebrews 11:6 NIV

We require strong hearts, courageous spirits and stout shoes to stay on the rocky road-less-travelled, and maintain our hope and trust in God. Maybe we make it harder than it is. Maybe it’s more about yielding our souls to the Captain of our ship, than trying to keep going in our own strength.

Set my course

I seek simplicity because I’ve dwelt
in complicated for far too long.
I have allowed difficult

to define my days
and ways of perceiving
my life, my faith, my song.

Let me set my course in fair winds or foul,
by steering faithfully, aided by grace, by
Holy Spirit breath and compass within.

And if I get blown off the right course
and scent of my true home,
may I return again,

battered and bruised, perhaps,
by a secret bent
known only to the soul.

I want to stay the course, discover
new lands, have my courage
rewarded by what I may find,
as stars shine bright

and a full moon beams,
lighting the way
for me when it’s too dark
to steer or see.
© joylenton

reward - set my course poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

What if we could see ourselves as being enough and believe that God is more than enough for us? How might it look to view God as our great, unmerited reward as we walk through life by His grace? It’s a challenge to our preoccupied, insecure or self-absorbed souls but it’s also a wild adventure to seek to trust as we journey with God.

“After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” — Genesis 15:1 NIV

It’s reward enough today to be able to write and share my belated five-minute-friday poem with the fabulous writing crew over at Kate Motaung’s site. Come join us here and read the great variety of posts being shared, as we pour out our words for this week’s prompt of “reward.”

place: when you’re seeking a soul sanctuary

place - #FMF - when you're seeking a soul sanctuary @poetryjoy.com

Do you have a place where you feel completely at home, relaxed, loved and secure? It’s a gift to have such a soul sanctuary, isn’t it? Though many of us struggle to find it and some miss out altogether, maybe due to the unkindness of others or their own limited ability to seek out a safe place for themselves.

Our homes are meant to be soul sanctuary havens. They’re supposed to represent the loving parental way God cares for us. But often they don’t. If you, like me, grew up feeling confined, insecure, unloved and unwanted because your family of origin didn’t provide the stability you needed to grow strong on the inside, then all is not lost.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” — Psalm 18:19 NIV

I found my safe place in God. He alone can provide the complete soul solace we need in life. Other people and things might try to plug the gap, and succeed to some extent, but God gives us the means to rest all that we are: our fear, pain and shame, our identity and name, our past, present and future, our weariness, brokenness, wounds and mess in Him.

place - tree - girl - birds - sunset #FMF - resting ourselves in God quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“You’ve always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all, a lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest. You’ve always taken me seriously, God, made me welcome among those who know and love you.” — Psalm 61:4 The Message

I am seeking

I am seeking
a quiet stream underneath
life’s detritus
beyond the fluctuating
a place that welcomes waiting

I am seeking
a still point in my life
to anchor me
when tides rise higher still
and I lose my heart, my will

I am seeking
somewhere secure and safe
a refuge
so I can reach out again
with courage, hope, confidence

I am seeking
signs of life when all looks dead
to survive
days of darkness and drear
times I want to disappear

I am seeking
more than this world contains
holy rain
deep connectivity
a place to sit, grow and breathe
© joylenton

place #FMF EH #9 I am seeking poem (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Adversity hits us universally but our ways of coping are as individual as we are. I’m learning to rest myself more in God instead of wearying myself out worrying about everything. Faith and trust, coupled with experience, have shown me it’s the wisest course of action, especially when I cannot help myself.

One place I always feel comfortable sharing my words is with the fabulous five-minute-friday crew as we write on this week’s prompt of “place.” You are welcome to join us here and read the great variety of posts being shared. 🙂

By the way, dear reader, you might like to know that the poem above has been taken from my forthcoming new book, Embracing Hope: Soul Food to Help Chase Away the Blues, which is an eclectic mix of poetry, reflections and blessings and is due to be published soon! I chose it because I’m way too fatigued to think straight, and it’s about a place where my soul feels secure, loved and safe.

more: experiencing life’s abundance while living with chronic illness

more - experiencing life's abundance while living with chronic illness - tulips @poetryjoy.com

What might having an abundant life look like to you? Is it possible to have a “more than” existence with less? I believe it is. Although it has taken years of shifted thinking and spiritual digging to discover the truth of a less is more kind of life.

When I was a nurse, running madly around a ward all day, with a home and family to take care of as well, the idea of more meant extra time out and time off. Having a hot, undisturbed bath. A book to read. An ability to rest. A meal cooked by my husband. Those were luxuries to me.

But when I first became sick with M.E, I saw that time itself wasn’t such a gift. It’s how we spend our hours that counts. If you spend your days flat-out with fatigue in a darkened bedroom, unable to participate in life and full of pain, time seems like a cruel punishment, while the hours stretch endlessly. I felt like an 80-year-old in a 30 something’s body.

more - hourglass- #FMF - living with M.E quote (c) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

As my condition became less severe sometimes, quality time with loved ones became my most precious priority and sought after soul resource. Then my insecure soul felt that the essence of more was encapsulated in purchasing and accumulating stuff. It’s not. Because I was trying to plug an unaddressed sense of pain and loss.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.” – Psalms 23 GNT

Consumerism is a vicious hamster wheel kind of circle, whereby enough is never enough to try to assuage or feed our inner hunger. And it’s left me with a huge decluttering problem to tackle too.

Eventually, with additional physical health challenges and concerns, my eyes were opened to the inestimable worth of Simply. Being. Alive. I’ve realised I have more than enough because I already have all I can access of God’s mercy, grace and love.

more - rose - I have more than enough quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” – John 10:10 AMP

Shifts

as I age
hidden benefits emerge
like buried treasure
with inner leanings, a shift
toward the contemplative

I notice
far more than I did before
when preoccupied
with life and busyness
instead of seated stillness

my awareness of
inner and outer landscape
is magnified
their shifting moods noted
as seeing is more acute

their preciousness
gets highlighted by loss
cycles of death
repeat – fallenness of leaves
causes heartache and grief

although I see
intimations of hope
in the release
for we will both rise again
in newness of life and limb
© joylenton

I’m linking my five-minute-friday tanka pentaptych poem in community with fellow writer friends here as we share our thoughts on the prompt of “more.” May we all believe we are more than enough even when we feel like our lives or words are insufficient. And seek God Himself more than anything else.

inside: how Ash Wednesday reminds us of God’s grace

inside - Ash Wednesday - smudge on forehead @poetryjoy.com

As I considered how to start this season of Lent, what struck me forcibly was the symbolism of Ash Wednesday, which is where we begin. Even though my home church doesn’t participate in Lenten practices, I see the value in them. A smudge of Palm Sunday’s ash pressed on the forehead is a visible and powerful reminder of why Jesus came to earth.

I’m truly grateful to have my sin largely concealed on the inside. It’s not always evident to those who know me or strangers who might come across me. Although much is revealed in our behaviour. Because our actions and words often speak for themselves. We can become adept at concealing our inner darkness, of course, but it’s a relief that the worst of us is known only to God. 😏

Safely tucked inside

What if God asked us to dare to wear
our sin, not like a hidden, dark, secret
stain within, but on the outside of us
instead, where it would be made visible
to all—would it bleed scarlet-red?

Or might we resemble bodily black-rimmed
coal miners, with thick, choking clouds of
dust ingrained deep into their skin, which
won’t wash off under the tap, rather
like an indelible tattoo, perhaps?

Or splattered in splotches, like scars,
as if we were pigs rolling around in mud,
up to our ears and all. Or battered, brawny
rugby players after a match, before we
went for our cleansing hot bath.

Maybe it’s better how it is now,
with a mere smudge gracing our
foreheads, and all the rest safely
tucked inside our souls, where we
keep the dross God only knows.
©joylenton

inside - safely tucked inside poem excerpt - coal miners (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

We can delude ourselves into thinking we are better than we are. Or we can become deceived into believing nothing good resides within at all. The truth is a mixture of them both. Left to our own devices, we are fallen and lost. But God… picks us up, heals, redeems and restores our souls, calls us His precious Beloved and makes His home in our hearts.

That’s what Easter is all about. A Divine exchange takes place. Our filthy rags for His royal robe of righteousness. Our sin for His grace. Our pain for His peace. Our tears for His oil of joy. God excels in bringing beauty out of ashes. He isn’t fazed by our brokenness because He alone can piece us back together. God’s holy glue makes us better than before, with a gradual sanctification process as we surrender our lives to Him.

“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.” – Isaiah 61:3 TLB

search: seeking sacred traces in our lives

search - seeking sacred traces in our lives - clouds - sky - (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I’ve been on a search. All my life. But I didn’t always know it. It began in childhood, as I reclined on grass, looking upwards, with drifting angels in my eyes. Even floaters took on a spiritual significance in my child heart that ached to be somewhere else.

We have been hardwired to seek after truth, to yearn for beauty beyond ourselves and to want more than this earth can provide. It’s a holy space, a vacuum nothing else can fill. Although we might ignore it, or try to stuff it to the gills with earthly pleasures and desires, it remains. An eternal longing that never quite goes away.

My eyes were finally opened to the heart of God beating within when I was in my late teens. My search for unconditional love, affirmation and acceptance was found in Christ. His love still overwhelms my soul. The miracle is that He seeks us out first.

God’s love also opened my eyes to search more diligently for the living reality of His presence with us, His sacred footsteps in our midst. Because those who seek will find. Those who are thirsty will be satisfied. Our deepest soul ache and emptiness is assuaged and filled by being in relationship with God. 

“Ask, and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you will knock, the door will open.” – Matthew 7:7-8 (TLB)

Talking glory

Can it really be that we can see the glory of God?
Is it truly revealed to fallen, sinful us?

What is the glory we can encounter if we believe?
Is it nothing less than the faith in Christ we receive?

Or is there so much more to explore, to experience,
while we live and move and have our ordinary being?

Scripture speaks about God’s glory as his goodness and love,
as seen in his character and revealed in Jesus on earth.

It’s the essence of his all-encompassing presence.
It’s the heartbeat of heaven and a gift that is given.

It’s light immortal, unapproachable, hid from our eyes.
It’s a revelation of holy wonder, unalloyed delight.

It’s waiting to be discovered by human hearts, opening
up to us like the sudden blossoming of desert flowers.

It’s an enigma, indecipherable by our finite minds, making
us search hopefully for answers for the rest of our lives.

It’s a holy response to a human being, a spiritual quest
that leaves us breathless with awe and has no ending.

It’s who God is and how he shines, sparkling in rivers
and through bright sunset rays, full of heat and energy.

It’s a call to action, stirring our souls into liveliness.
It’s a deep revelation of God’s great power and grace.

It’s beyond us to describe, try as we might, because
God keeps most of his glory hidden and out of sight.
© joylenton

share - sunset - talking glory poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe [in Me], you will see the glory of God [the expression of His excellence]?'” – John 11:40 (AMP)

Thankfully, you don’t have to search far to find a fantastic writing community. Come join me as I add my poem to the five-minute-friday writers gathering here to offer their thoughts on the prompt “search”. Where are you seeing the heartbeat of heaven? Do share in the comments below.  🙂

just: when the wound of inadequacy is no match for grace

just - when the wound of inadequacy is no match for grace - heart - hedge @poetryjoy.com

There are times when my illness hurts my heart just as sharply as it affects my body. I experience an emotional pang on the inside. It rises when I am brought face to face with my limitations. And it feels as if I’m looking out on the world from behind a thick hedge. It doesn’t happen often but it stings, nevertheless.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of our young grandson visiting us for a few hours. I had worried in advance because I thought he might get bored in our rather sedentary company, and we might struggle to entertain him.

The rest of the week had been very physically active for him as he went out and about with his granny, aunt and cousins. But I needn’t have feared. God ensured that time with us would be a welcome quiet breather in his otherwise hectic schedule. It flew by and we loved it all.

And yet, when I heard about his earlier exploits, the heart wound of inadequacy became freshly opened. I mourned my lack of physical health and strength, and in doing so I nearly failed to savour the strong bond we have with him. It’s no less real or important for being different.

Fatigue and pain are high today and I didn’t think I could write anything. Until I flicked through my files and found this here’s-one-I-made-earlier poem, which seemed perfect to share.

Just this

It doesn’t feel like much, this tiny
offering she brings, a small seed sown
for the one who is known as King of kings.

And her heart contracts, flutters a bit,
because it just can’t be enough, can it?

All she has to give to him is broken sleep
and broken dreams, a weakened body,
weary and sick, where deformity sits.

She has no riches, no wealth, no treasure
to share, nothing tangible, just herself
and the pain and stiffness she bears.

Yet she hears a voice calling her forward,
gently encouraging her to walk toward
him with ungainly feet and aching limbs.

And he lifts her chin, smiles into her downcast
face and draws her into a loving embrace.

Rest here, my child, rest your heart and mind
and rest assured I receive your tears like they
are ocean-drawn gifts and precious pearls.

I know how much your heart aches to bring
me a suitable offering, and longs to have
a different kind of existence to be living.

All I ask from you is that you believe who I
AM and open your heart to receive all the gifts
I delight to pour into your soul’s reservoirs.

Your brokenness is a great gift to me, because
I work best within an open, contrite heart
and a surrendered soul, just as you are.
© joylenton

“God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress.” – Psalms 48:3 (NIV)

just - ocean - grace - just this poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Friends, let’s try to remember that our inadequacy is no match for God’s grace. He fills our insufficient souls with His equipping presence and love.  He gives us strength when we feel weak. He holds us close when we are hurting.

We don’t need to drown in discouragement, only rest in the One who knits us back together again. God alone can heal what is broken and wounded in us, including our thoughts.

Today’s offering is linking hands with friends at five-minute-friday. This week’s prompt is “just”. You can join us here and read the great variety of posts being shared. 🙂

confident: gaining the courage to write by faith

confident - gaining the courage to write by faith @poetryjoy.comCan I tell you a secret, friend? Listen close and I’ll whisper it to you: I’m not a confident person. Not. At. All. Just ask my family. Although I wrote reams of poetry in my late teens and 20s, shared them in church magazines and had a few published, any belief in myself vanished soon after.

Because I splintered inside after a major mental health breakdown. It took years of cooperating with God and counsellors to slowly piece myself back together again. But some things went missing. Including my ability to write like I used to.

My creativity became diverted into mothering and making a home. The writer inside lost her voice. She died for years. And it wasn’t until one of my sons began to write poetry himself and started a blog that my poetic fire was reawakened, if not the courage to begin again.

Thankfully, God (and family) gave me the impetus, courage and confidence to make a start. Now I can write about personal stuff in a public sphere and don’t get too anxious before I press publish. Because I’ve learnt to trust. To believe words will come as and when they need to. To rest my shaky confidence in God alone, while seeking to exercise the gift He has given me to share.

And I want to encourage you too. Especially if you’re at the hesitant stage of wondering if you dare release your words. If timid old me can do that quite happily, manage two blogs, write a book and be working on my next, then so can you. Or something similar, of course.

As we ask for God’s help, and trust it to come, we’re enabled to take the first step forward and so on. Your calling might look very different from mine, and that’s okay. Our part is to stay faithful to the unique-to-us gifting we have been given.

Courage to write

Thank you for the gift and grace
of newly formed words
taking shape in my head,
for the wisdom you give to decide
which to retain or reject,
what to discard or include
in a future work.

Thank you for these fledgling things,
these tiny chicks
with tender covering and barely
formed wings, these baby steps
towards a mature offering
and the joy they already bring.

Thank you for providing insight
and inspiration to my mind
and the courage to write,
the confidence that comes
from knowing you are on my side,
giving grace and giving light.

Thank you for the community
of fellow wordsmiths, who dip
their toes into the water with mine,
and for the love and concern we share,
the hopes, dreams and prayers.

Thank you for reminding me
of my place
in this vast ocean of creativity,
the smallness of it,
but how each tiny offering is
magnified and reaches all
who need to see and receive.

Thank you, too, for the dry seasons
when I lack energy, strength
or inspiration to create,
because then I sense you holding
me closer than before, while I rest,
become refreshed and restored.
© joylenton

confident - courage to write poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

PS: Another little secret: I wrote this poem a while back. It took more than five minutes but I’m sharing it in response to this week’s five-minute-friday prompt of “confident”. You’re welcome to join in here and read the great variety of posts being shared.  🙂