photography: a contemplative way of seeing life differently

 

Every picture (or photograph) tells a story. But what if we were to simply make one up in response to what we see? I actually do that all the time to some extent, when writing poetry to go with a photograph I have taken.

When using photographs contemplatively, the image itself acts as a prompt to stir contemplation and creativity. Words follow soon after. It’s a kind of contemplative seeing via a camera lens.

And an art I am slowly learning with every photo I take. It’s very satisfying to see more than the image presents itself as. To use our imagination and be able to trace God’s hand at work in what is before our eyes. It requires me to still my soul and focus on the object before me, while I take several snaps from different angles to gain a fresh perspective.

Today I am venturing back into the Twittering Tales creative exercise which my blogging friend, Kat Myrman shares on her site, among her eclectic and delightful offerings! I have written three responses, telling a consecutive story.

God inhabits our life story and seemingly ordinary days, making them sacred by His Presence. Our intentional holy-ordinary seeing helps pave the way for growing awareness of His grace in our lives.

Obscured

Almost obscured by leaves
this sign breathes renewed
hope into her sad soul
signalling a new beginning
where joy and optimism
overcomes pain
©joylenton

(139 characters)

 

We hop

She squirms higher in her seat because, at age 5, she can barely read. But she sees “hop we” as indicator of her family being happier here.
(139 characters)

Secrets lurk within

Hedged in by dense
undergrowth, accessed
by dusty driveway
a house stands proud
looks inviting but is
far from it, for deep
secrets lurk within
©joylenton

(140 characters)

 

This week’s photo prompt is based on the image at the top of my post, courtesy of Leigh Heasley at Pexels.com  If you would like to participate in Twittering Tales, you can find the rules and link up advice here.

**Are you interested in discovering more about the practice of contemplative photography? Here’s a helpful book by Christine Valters Paintner that’s on my wish list! My friend, Kate Kennington Steer has a great contemplative eye. Her Instagram feed is well worth following** 🙂

shine: how we can shine like water to the thirsty

 

When we read about the way Jesus was crushed for our sin, made weak for our sake, bled freely from myriad wounds, suffered a thorn-pierced brow and died an agonising death nailed to a cross, do you ever wonder just what that has to do with you and me? My answer is: Everything.

Because the incarnation of Christ reveals just how much God identifies with all of us in our broken human condition. Jesus’ sacrificial death holds huge significance for mankind. While taking human flesh and living like one of us, He was, is and ever more shall be the One and only Son of God.

Death could not hold Him captive.  He arose from the grave in resurrection glory. Made heroes out of fearful disciples. Our history shifted to become His Story. During this season of Lent, God’s Holy Light can seem shielded at first, dimmed by the dark stain of our sin, not quite ready to shine in full wattage until we reach the end of the Easter story and Christ’s glorious resurrection to come.

But for those  of us who live in the here and now reality of the resurrection with our faith rooted in Jesus and our lives as living testimony, whether we’re aware of it or not, a constant glow of grace lights up our hearts and floods our thirsty souls like the  ever-flowing Living Water it actually is.

Shine like water

The Rock must be crushed
and spring red life, like rust
beneath an enormous forest
Let it blow cool purple
and light of I AM will
shine like water in us all
© joylenton

 

Jesus shines on in our hearts, radiating out of our broken cracks and crevices, leaking His love to the world at large. The fruit of Christ’s sacrifice is eternal life, hope, joy and peace, as grace gifts given to us when Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts. They are gifts we get to savour here and now and enjoy to the full in the life to come.

Deep-seeded peace

Our intuition has grown
fertile-fresh, sweet and greener
from the fruit of happy peace
breathing sanctuary to nature
through quiet night murmurs
of secret breeze rustle song, as
long and deep as seed would be
© joylenton

privilege: the wonder of surrendering our lives to Jesus

 

My husband often jokes that I have a hot-line to heaven, the privilege of seeing my prayers answered more than he does. Maybe it’s because I see no limitations in what I pray about, including minor things, such as obtaining parking spaces and finding lost objects – yes, really!

I didn’t grow up in a privileged way or with any sense of entitlement. On the contrary, my background prepared me for the school of hard knocks I’ve been in for the majority of my life. Yet threaded through it all, often in intangible ways, God’s goodness and grace have been the backbone of everything I have experienced.

Although it might have taken me years to really appreciate it, I am discovering that time and hindsight are uncovering the enormous privilege it is to be a beloved child of God and a woman of faith who, despite her obvious weaknesses and glaring inadequacies, has been given the privilege of living and witnessing for Him.

I have the privilege

I have the privilege of being a writer and poet
who God works through to minister to others
while I pour out my heart, witness to his work deep
within and seek to encourage them to trust in him

I have the privilege of being a child of God
who is wrapped round tight with his infinite
love, made safe and secure by his mercy and
held closer than I am aware of or can see

I have the privilege of being a woman of faith
with God’s holy grace filling and flooding my
days, and his forgiveness readily available
for every sin I might commit, and those
I don’t even know about yet

I have the privilege of being able to pray
minute by minute throughout the day, as I
yield and surrender my heart and soul to my
burden-bearing Lord, and watch how wonderfully
he lifts my cares and pain, while restoring me
gently back to wholeness again
©joylenton

**I also have the privilege of a 5 minute poem arising in response to this week’s #FMF prompt of ‘privilege’. You are very welcome to come join us here and read the wide variety of posts being shared.** 🙂 

slant: how changing our perspective can alter the way we think

 

When you spend a fair amount of time in bed it does tend to skew your visual perspective. Especially if you are lying in a tilted downward, minus 10 degrees angle for a fortnight, as my husband was while recovering from his last spinal operation.

Granted, his view of things was also affected by the general anaesthetic and the somewhat delusional mental state it engendered in him for a few days post-op. Not to mention having to make do without his glasses, of course. That didn’t help much. 😏

He began to have an altered reality perspective, including a mathematical slant on the room he was in, seeing swirling patterns on the white-tiled ceiling, odd shapes in corners and strange angles everywhere. Only they were invisible to everybody else, which was most frustrating for him. But it certainly helped pass the time!

Sometimes I think it helps to see life differently, though not necessarily in a tilted down state like my husband was, discombobulating as that can be. Rather, it can be an advantage to let our imaginations fly, give them free rein, in life and in faith.

Because when we have our eyes open to wonder, why we tend to see it everywhere. I particularly love clouds and obscure window views for the way they stir me creatively and spiritually on to thoughts of freedom.

Our days may seem pretty mundane on the whole but a capacity to anticipate holy joy and awaken to wonder in the everyday can alter our perspective in the most delightful ways. I’m so thankful for supportive, praying friends and the wisdom in God’s word that lifts my perspective and puts me back on track whenever I get derailed, especially by discouragement.

The poem below was inspired by an angled window view. I hope and pray it will stir a desire in you to try looking at your life from a renewed, slant perspective and readying yourself to be surprised and inspired by what you might see.

Let me see life slant

Let me see life slant, ready to be tilted
into a fresh perspective, as new angles
present themselves to the eyes of my heart

like lessons in geometry, wrought from
passing scenery. May I form irregular
lines, make shapes from clouds and

trees, let my imagination fly, unfettered
while I thrill to mathematics in the sky

filling my soul and mind with unfiltered
possibilities, limitless boundaries
©joylenton

The Breath of Life

I love these thoughts on Holy Spirit breath as expressed by Elizabeth. A prayer, contemplation and meditation in one.

The Contemplative Path

Breathe in

Breathe deeply

Breathe in the Presence

Breathe in the Holy Spirit

Breathe it into your mind

And be stilled

Breathe it into your body

And feel Healing

Breathe it into your heart

And feel Love

Breathe it into your spirit

And be inspired

The Breath of God

Breathes constantly

Bringing Life into our lives

Resuscitating us

Renewing us

Reviving us

For it is very often as if we are starved

Of spiritual oxygen

Gasping for the Breath we need

To give us air

To fill us

And to intoxicate us

With love for the Spirit

And service to its Life

This day and every day

Amen

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remember: practising mindful awareness to enhance gratitude

 

Winter is a season many of us shy away from, as we seek to hunker down and hibernate while we wait for warmer days. But what if we made a conscious effort to remember when things were different? Does the process of remembering actually make a difference in how we deal with today?

I think so. Because when our lives are less than inviting it helps to lift our spirits if we invite our souls to focus more on gratitude than grumbling. Our heart attitude helps to determine how our days shape themselves.

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. I love the sheer exuberance of colour as God splashes vivid hues to decorate each dying leaf. It’s as if our generous Creator is asking us to take it all in, to remember this bounty before it all falls to ground.

God reminds us to practise daily gratitude for this moment, because this moment is all we really have to appreciate, here and now, while it is happening. Although it is possible to stay centred in the present, with an awareness of goodness in the past actually enhancing all we are currently experiencing.

“Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” ~ Genesis 9:16

A new year usually finds us looking forward, but if we remember God’s faithfulness toward us in the past it gives hope for days yet to come. When we do allow ourselves to consciously remember, meditate on the goodness of the Lord and the abundant blessings that He provides, we’re well placed to have a more positive mindset.

We can bask in a golden, autumnal glow, see it as a dying season’s last hurrah before the chill of winter seeps into our body, mind and heart, knowing how God so wonderfully sparks renewed life in what seems dead in us, as well as in trees and plants.

Although winter has its own stark, stripped back to the bones beauty, I enjoy reminding myself of days when leaves are in their final death throes and creation shows off its splendour for us to savour and hold in our hearts.

I remember russet

trees dressed in winter
but I remember russet
a golden arbour

stretching leaf to leaf
as autumnal splendour spread
an ochre blanket

and mantle of mist
delayed a breath of decay
for the last hurrah
©joylenton

A few joy notes…

1) A roast chicken dinner cooked by my man
2) Seeing our grandson togged out in his Rugby Tots kit
3) Being able to rest well today after a pain filled night
4) Supplements arriving to help boost my health
5) Having enough heat, snuggly blankets and warm clothes to wear
6) Creativity flowing although I am low on energy
7) God’s grace enabling me to write this post

how: facing seemingly unanswerable questions

 

Questions abound as we watch the news and read reports that make us keep asking how and why, in a futile attempt to try to make sense of what seems senseless and beyond our ken.

Such  questioning thoughts have crowded into my mind, especially in recent months when world events have left me reeling for answers to questions I barely know how to express. Because not everything in life is cut and dried and man’s inhumanity to man is beyond understanding at times.

So I ponder and pray, particularly where injury, and worse, to children is involved. My heart breaks, tears flow and words follow close behind, as in the lament poem below.

Questions without answers

How do you not let your soul grow old, as
calloused as the soles of your feet, when you’re
forced to walk as one displaced, a person
despised for ethnicity and race, made
homeless, rootless, orphaned and lost
in so many ways?

How do you maintain hope when your throat
is always parched and your heart aches for
news of your beloved ones, feared dead, while
you trudge on seeking shelter, trying hard to
assuage the pain of dread?

How do you carry the weight of the world on
your stooped forward, wing-like shoulders, when you
can barely sustain the weight of unshed tears and
the loss you’ve endured, as well as the meagre
belongings you have procured?

How do you cope when there is not enough food to be
found to help a body survive, drink is a desperate word
and your children, who have learnt not to cry
or ask for it, scratch around with stones and sticks
for lack of anything else to amuse themselves with
while their tummies hurt?

How do you keep on believing sufficient help is at hand
and endure the humility of need and receiving, when
you have nothing to offer in return, apart from grateful
thanks, relief and your constant broken state, as you
become yet another faceless, nameless statistic
on TV and newspaper page?

The human spirit has to endure many things as it exists
in this world, but few are called to become uprooted like this
and turned into homeless, displaced souls, whose hope is worn
so low, stretched wafer-thin, whose mind and heart are heavier
than we could truly know or bear
©joylenton

Let’s pray…

Loving Father,
Although we know that nothing is hidden from your awareness, so much distresses our souls as we witness children, weak and vulnerable ones suffering at the hands of others.
Help us to see these atrocities as evidence of sin being unleashed in hearts that are far from you. Enable us to understand that evil unchecked is full of malice and pain.
Teach us to rest in your perfect peace, dwell close to your heart and seek to release our anxiety and fear, while being your love and compassion in action wherever we can.
May we be voices in the wilderness pointing to Jesus. May we believe that all sin meets its match in Him and all questions meet their answer there too. May we trust your Word and promises to be a safe haven for the lost, hurting and dispossessed.
Amen

**Friends, though we might feel helpless, we can raise awareness, pray, give practical aid or donate to help displaced refugees, like my favourite charity does**