table: a place has been reserved for you

table - a place has been reserved for you - thanksgiving dinner @poetryjoy.com

As families gather for Thanksgiving celebrations across the pond, they come invited to the table, with no standing on ceremony. Because there is always a place at the table for loved ones, family and friends. It goes without saying.

Yet as they meet and greet, eat and feast, sometimes a ghost sits at the table with them, unable to join in the meal. A silent ghost who should be present with them but is no longer with them. It might be someone currently absent from home. It could be someone who was once a part of this loving gathering but is now missing or deceased.

As I thought about lost loved ones and those who might not be as close to their family as they want to be, making it impossible for them to join them at the table for Thanksgiving or any other meal, I remembered a time to come when a banquet feast will be held. And all are invited. You too, my friend.

Because Jesus died to secure a place at the table for us. A place to sit and eat and feast and experience a joy beyond any we have yet known or can experience. A table lovingly set with the finest of things.

A warm welcome awaits. You are expected. You and I can gain access to this banquet, this feast beyond all feasts. All we need to do  to enjoy the best Thanks-giving feast ever is to say yes to the Host’s gracious invitation of sacrificial, unconditional love for us.

“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” — Song of Solomon 2:4

Banquet

I didn’t stand outside like a pauper
or beg for a seat at the table, for I
was given full rights as a daughter
who felt so unworthy but grateful.

I had received a personal, gilt-edged
invitation, written by the host himself,
with a truly irresistible offer,
sealed with his own precious blood.

I hesitated, found it hard to believe
I had any right to be there, but my host
was at pains to remind me of grace and
point out his cross-marred palm scars.

Though I may have hovered, uncertain
and shy, I was drawn by his smile, his
welcoming joy, and the undeniable
warmth and love in his eyes.

His eyes shone like stars as he spoke
my name, framing me within their orbit,
embraced me hard, led me to my seat,
gently ushered me to sit and feast.

As I sat down it seemed as if the table
spread itself infinitely, with no clear
beginning or end and no boundaries,
his previous foes together as friends.

One by one, before very long, large crowds
of people had come, and I was joined by
an exuberant and wonder-filled throng, who
joyfully laughed, held hands, sang praise songs.
© joylenton

Come let us worship and praise God now with gratitude in our hearts for all that He is and all He has done!

table - Jesus died to secure a place at the table for us quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

one: encouraging incidences of the number one

one _ encouraging incidences of the number one - magpie on the edge (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

So many of us mistakenly think that our lives don’t amount to much. We wonder if we make any mark on the world at all, or if we simply exist as lost and invisible souls. No more than a fleeting mist or blip in the universe.

Can I encourage you today, my friend? Can I help you to see past the easily swallowed lies of the enemy? Because the holy truth you need to hold on to is that you are infinitely important and precious. Yes, you really are. Despite what your unhappy upbringing, challenging circumstances or painful past might be saying to you, you are very much loved and wanted by God.

The mathematics of heaven are totally different to the arithmetic of earth. Here, one as a number seems too small, too insignificant to count. But in heaven? One person, one act or thought becomes highly significant in God’s economy.

one - Mother Teresa quote - “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” @poetryjoy.com

Here’s what I have discovered:

  • A word of encouragement can turn a day, if not a life around.
  • A whispered prayer can summon angels, demolish evil strongholds, heal and bless souls.
  • A thoughtful act can alter a person’s perspective for life.
  • A kind deed has the power to sow kindness seeds in others.
  • A single person can become a precursor for change.
  • A solo individual is never as alone as they may feel.

Incidences of the number one

We have one solo magpie,
one solitary bird,
quite happy in his loneliness

as he sits upon the tiles,
gracing our neighbour’s rooftop
edge with his dancing moves.

And we have one small child,
who lives across the street from

us, whose smiles and constant
chatter are like joy personified.

We also have one precious grandson in
our lives, who gives us deep soul delight.

And there’s far more than one chance to live
aright in this one wild and glorious life.

But most of all, I am grateful to know
the One who holds the world within his
hands, who spins planets and stars and

pours his grace out on one and all, with
joyous abundance and exuberance.

For he spreads his arms cruciform-wide
to encompass every nation and tribe.

And he treats each and every one of us
as his precious, esteemed and redeemed
child – one who is unconditionally loved.
© joylenton

We may feel inadequate and small but we can still have an influence and make a difference in the lives of others. Don’t let thoughts of lack deter you from pressing forward in life and faith. You count. 

I’m grateful to be sharing my poetic thoughts with the fabulous five-minute-friday community today. Just click here to join us there. 🙂 

one - Mother Teresa quote _We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop._ @poetryjoy.com

burden: chained by circumstance but freed by grace

burden - chained by circumstance, freed by grace @poetryjoy.com

There are days when our burdens, be they physical or emotional, become impossible to ignore. Days when we feel consumed by the weight of them. Chained to our hard circumstances. Dragged down into a dark place.

I prefer not to talk too much about having chronic illness, although it’s an inescapable fact that faces me each day. It demands enough. It has stolen too much. So much that I tend to want to ignore its presence and pretend I am fine, doing okay, even when I’m not.

It feels better to plaster a smile on my face and seek to maintain a positive outlook on life. It seems less bothersome, less of a burden to fight the good fight of faith and try not to yield to dismay. Or give in to self-pity.

But sometimes? Sometimes I am just too tired to fight against the pain. Sometimes I just want to sit and cry. Sometimes I lose sight of my loving Saviour sitting in the ashes with me, holding out His hands to receive.

Because God doesn’t want us to bear our burdens alone. He longs for us to turn to Him. To offer up our pain and problems like a fragrant thing. Because sometimes it’s truthfully all we are able to give to Him. And that’s okay. It really is.

Burden

fear nibbles at the edges of her soul, like a rat
aboard a sinking ship that leaks, lists and tips
because she has woken to face yet another
pain filled day, unrefreshed in every way

her spirits are plummeting fast and her heart
contracts as she thinks about the future, for
she longs above anything else not to become
a burden to others or to those she loves

during these days of increasing debility
and weariness, she can often forget
just who she should be handing all her
heavy burdens over to—until he speaks

with whispered reassurance in his voice
to her hurting soul—while he pours the balm
of hope into her heart, forcing fear and
discouragement to flee, and she falls

further, on bended knee, when Jesus
tenderly reminds her once again that
every burden handed over to him will
not only lessen the load on her soul

it will also miraculously transmute
into a blessing by faith, shaping her
perception, if not her situation in life

and so she prays, tears welling up in her
eyes, and she gives praise like a willing
sacrifice—in spite of nothing visible yet

taking place, she has already tasted his
goodness and grace, and sensed the difference
inside, where calm and peace now abide
© joylenton

We might not feel like it but we can learn to praise God in the storm, sense His presence with us and gain comfort in knowing we are not alone.

I’m so grateful for God’s grace in my life. His comforting embrace. His enabling when I am weak. For words coming when I feel drained and dry. And for being able to share my 5 minute(ish) poem with the fabulous five-minute-friday crew. This week’s prompt is “burden” and you can join your words here. 

burden - #FMF - burden poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

labyrinth: discovering beauty and grace in the maze of our ordinary days

labyrinth - discovering beauty and grace in the midst of our ordinary days @poetryjoy.com

Life can feel like a maze. A place strewn with pathways that lead us astray. Somewhere with  high walls and hidden depths, where we can easily lose ourselves. People who have once loved us can drift away, out of sight. We wonder if we’ll ever find our way back to the calming centre of things.

Living can overwhelm our senses. Too much noise. Too much light. Too much haste and hurry. Too many people. Too much of everything. We just want to stop. Get off the merry-go-round and find ourselves. Breathe freely again. Relax.

Let me take you back to a Centre of calm and peace that never fails us. Come with me on a gentle, poetic labyrinth prayer walk that leads us straight to the heart of God. And appreciation and gratitude for where we already are.

Labyrinth

gracious God,
unfold your life in me

unfurl it turn by turn
that in each curving spiral

I may pause and see
the labyrinth of your love

the wonder of your grace

a touch of heaven above
the beauty of your face

infuse these ordinary days
dull as they may seem

with deep holy joy
extraordinary peace
rich gratitude and praise
© joylenton

labyrinth poem (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Let us pause. Breathe. Pray. Savour the silence. And experience one of the most holy times of day. Twilight is a thin place where heaven appears to touch earth with greater intensity. In the dimming of the light we can experience restfulness and peace. Allow these words to soothe your soul. Let us greet this moment with gratitude. Then extend that feeling to the richness of love and life God gifts us with each day.

Twilight

every day
invites, offers us a gift
time to wonder
we get ready to receive
a moment to ponder

eyes lift
conscious of a slight change
something shifts
sun tips her hat toward the horizon
while the scenery gets rearranged

ethereal
suspended fine as mist
twilight
hovering between day and night
softly spilling heaven’s secrets

a thin veil
brief lifting of the curtain
gossamer-fine
nothing feels so certain
while heaven touches earth

prayer comes
with tender dying of the day
vespers
gratitude rises to our lips
we savour what’s before us
© joylenton

labyrinth - twilight poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

We close with a song expressing wonder over the freely given, undeserved goodness and grace of God.

I’m honoured to be sharing my words with Chronic Joy’s Poetry Prompt, based on A harvest of Grains, initiated by Tweetspeak Poetry.  The topic is “gratitude” and the theme is to reveal our appreciation of the holy ordinary. Come join us here?  🙂

alive: the potential fullness of life imagined

alive - the potential fullness of life imagined @poetryjoy.com

In a season of increasing darkness within and without, as SAD and diminishing daylight hours adversely affect my feelings and thoughts, I tend to question what being fully alive might really mean. Because it seems to be defined for me spiritually far more than physically.

The answer to what it means to be fully alive will vary enormously from person to person, of course, but for me a wave of wistfulness sets in. I know I only feel half alive at times. Especially if liveliness means having an active body as well as an active mind!

Most of my life is relatively experience poor in terms of travelling, meeting up with people, seeing and trying new things. However, my inner life has become richer over the years, due to the sedentary nature of my existence making me more aware of life’s small mercies and graces.

In the poem below I am looking at life from a more whimsical perspective, instead of dwelling on my living reality of excessive fatigue, limited mobility, persistent pain and chronic illness. I am imagining a life where anything is possible and joy is expressed in a physically exuberant way, quite unlike my usual experience.

It suggests a foretaste of heaven, where tears, sickness, problems and pain will be no more, and we will experience a fullness of life and a deep joy beyond anything we might know now as we live in a fallen world.

“He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.” – Revelation 21:4 GNT

 Being alive

I want to play
dance in the firmament
bend and sway
like a loose-limbed cloud
chased by a breath of wind

I want to rise
glide over rooftops and trees
a lunar ride
shining like quicksilver
growing lighter by degrees

I want to gambol
frisky as lambs in springtime
giddy with joy
inebriated inside
I’m poem, rhythm and rhyme

I want to hold
more than arms can contain
be brave and bold
expansive as wild waves
and never feel ashamed

I want to live
with stars in my eyes all day
drunk on love
happier than I’ve ever been
pulsating eternally
© joylenton

One thing we can count on is having God with us in our daily lives, in the mess and brokenness, in the fire of adversity and pain. God gives us His strength and helps us rise again. We are made alive in Him.

alive - being alive poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Imprints: on Halloween and All Souls’ Day

Imprints - on Halloween and All Souls Day (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Here in our quiet cul-de-sac, where few children live, we don’t tend to go in so much for wearing costumes, face painting, house or garden decoration when Halloween season arrives. Though pumpkins may be bought and carved into lanterns, and some might be ingested too as pies, soup or lattes.

What strikes me most about Halloween, apart from the potentially ghoulish aspects, is the event which All Saints Eve (as it’s also known as) is based on. It’s the night before All Hallows Day (or All Souls’ Day), where we remember and honour dear, departed friends, family,  saints and martyrs.

We all leave traces of our presence here. Imprints that do not fade. Soul markers in the lives of others. And a lasting legacy of how we lived out our days. How we have loved and offered grace. How we reflected the life of Christ within and manifested His presence.

That’s a sobering thought. But it’s also an encouraging one. Because the best of ourselves is largely hidden to us. When we act and react selflessly, out of receiving God’s goodness and grace, then we are less likely to be noticing and applauding those deeds.

Your life counts. You matter. You impact others far more than you might realise. The imprints of your lived out life will endure into eternity itself. As we live in the light of eternity, may we seek to honour those who have gone before us, love others well, make wise choices and live with hearts willingly surrendered to God.

Imprints

Halloween
season of mischief, mayhem
carving pumpkins
making jack-o’-lantern horrors
to help us to see in the dark

apple bobbing
and children playing pranks
they’re dressing up
threats given if they don’t receive
good supply of confectionery

I prefer to think
of it being All Hallows Eve
and celebrating
All Hallows Day, remembering
the deceased, lost and fallen

a time to honour
those who we’ve known and loved
passing of a life
souls laid here now to rest
saints gone to be with Christ

it’s a reminder
making us more mindful
as sand slips through
the swift hourglass of time
we’ll leave an imprint to find
© joylenton

imprints poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

PS: you can get the lowdown on Halloween here and All Souls’ Day here, plus fascinating facts about pumpkins here. 🙂 

moment: changing our lives by small increments

moment_ changing our lives by small increments @poetryjoy.com

Our lives are lived in a series of small moments. Microseconds of breath and being. Although our major focus tends to be on the larger issues that preoccupy us, it’s life’s small moments that matter the most. They’re the ones we need to savour and build good memories from.

Each moment can be life defining because they have the potential to be soul altering. The decisions we make and the ways we act and react are a result of tiny, incremental drip-feeding over years that we are giving to our minds and hearts.

If we feed ourselves with positive, life enhancing thoughts, absorb and put into practice the teaching which the Bible gives us, then we are better placed to live more mindfully. Which will give us a deeper moment by moment awareness.

By living more in the moment, we can develop a better appreciation for all things. A greater gratitude. And closer relationships with God and others, as we practice being in His presence and being more present to them.

It only takes a moment

it only takes a moment to hurt a person’s heart
or crush a soul with a harsh, ill-judged remark

it only takes a moment to think, pause and pray
before we rush blindly, heedlessly into the day

it only takes a moment to cause another
pain, to wound them with our words and deeds
and give them reason to feel ashamed

it only takes a moment, tears, a mere breath
to repent, and seek a different route instead

it only takes a moment to inflict another
with the lashing from our tongues, and watch
as they shrink down low inside themselves

it only takes a moment to stop and weigh up
our words, and give our mouths a holy pause

it only takes a moment to show those whom
we love how very precious and valued they are

it only takes a moment to care, esteem another
higher than ourselves, and want to serve them well

it only takes a moment to live an open, grace filled
life—providing we’re aware and willing to oblige
© joylenton

moment - it only takes a moment poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I’m grateful that a few moments spent praying for the gift of words have given me a poem to share with you today. It’s inspired by this week’s five-minute-friday prompt of ‘moment’. Just click here to join us there. I’m even more thankful it only takes a moment for God to begin to fix what is broken in us. He doesn’t delay in pouring out His grace and love! 🙂