influence: our words and deeds become a living legacy

influence - our words and deeds become a living legacy - butterfly freed @poetryjoy.com

Sometimes it takes a death for us to appreciate the way someone’s life has affected, shaped and  influenced us. While we mourn their passing, we reflect on the bright spark of their soul, their mark on our lives, and all that their cherished, unique set of quirks and characteristics meant to us.

Hearing that Pulitzer prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, had passed away was a sad moment for me. Her magnificent poetic word wrangling awes me and has inspired my own poetic endeavours. I will be reading her words again with fresh enjoyment and deep reverence.

It is with Mary Oliver in mind that I wrote the five-minute-friday poem below. It is written in her memory but also to honour all writers and poets, who dare to pen their thoughts and bravely share them with others.

Do not lose heart, dear creative/artist/poet/writer friend. May you know your work is not in vain. Traces of you linger on as influence and legacy. Your words, marks and thoughts have a shape and life of their own.

Your audience, readers and reach might be small, but your heart offering will make its home in those it is intended for. God knows just who that is, and how the words you write and the art you create are a powerful weapon for spreading His love, goodness and grace, His hope and encouragement to others.

Influence

A poet wields a pen, not a sword
or a hammer, but her blood pours
out in sweat and tears, wrung
from a deep-seated well within,
from the ache of yearning years.

She might be sharing a personal
insight, a pain expressed, a glimmer
from her arsenal of words,
or a view of the created world,
to open our eyes to its need
to be appreciated, preserved.

Her gift lies in a giving from the heart,
whereby the everyday will begin
to look quite extraordinary
when viewed from her perspective
and via her perceptive lens.

She writes because she must,
because she’s been entrusted
with an unfolding of treasure,
a lifting of the curtain
to reveal the sacred uncertain.

And despite her quiet labour being
publicly shared, she remains
an observer, knowing the work
itself is what fires her heart,
fills her soul and saves her.

The thought of having an influence
on others barely crosses her mind,
because her focus is on the shape,
the sound, the sight of words
moving from head to paper.

Yet the very act of vulnerability itself,
the laying bare seems to open up
her soul, her life as offering,
as gift, as influence and legacy,
and it leaves a deep impression
surviving beyond the ink.
(C) joylenton

influence - writer - poem excerpt (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I’m linking my longer than five minutes poem (because sometimes clock-watching doesn’t suit the flow) with the fabulous writing community at our host Kate Motaung’s place. You can join in here with this week’s prompt of ‘influence’ and read the great posts being shared.  🙂

deep: seeking solace, hope and joy during Advent

deep - seeking solace, hope and joy during Advent - FMF @poetryjoy.com

Advent is on the horizon. It invites me to go deep in my devotions. To sit with Mystery. To wait with expectancy. Look for the hidden gems of joy. Be thankful. But my soul isn’t being compliant. I feel restless. Lacking peace. I’m scratching around for hope and encouragement. Maybe you feel like this too? Out of sync with a season supposedly full of joy?

These are days when I struggle with the sluggish, depressive symptoms of SAD. I have to resist the urge to hide in bed, to retreat from life. Diminishing daylight can make us miserable. Days of grey-fugged skies infiltrate their gloom into our hearts. Yet we can also burn with frustration and an increasing desire to get things done as we join the manic, pre-Christmas rush and race against the clock. How can we alter the falling and floundering? Is there a way to slow, rediscover hope and grow? I think so.

I resist yielding to the oppressive clouds of continual discouragement that hover over and sink me emotionally, and tell me I am nothing. My soul stirs its sleepy self and says: This. Is. Enough. No more. I cannot tolerate another winter of discontent. Something has got to change. And that means I have to look for help outside myself. I need to go deeper into God. To reach out to others. To pray. To learn to love myself and my life in a balanced way, instead of feeling worthless and out-of-place.

When we are in a deep, dark place God remind us of this:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2 NIV

Another way I recover my equilibrium is to write poetry, as I have in this five-minute-friday poem, where I let loose and forgot about the clock for once!

Deep 

She was tired of living a surface,
superficial life, her soul ached
for a deeper reality, for authenticity.
Though it’s not free, it comes at a price,
and she needs to be willing to pay.

For all growth in our wayward souls
requires surrender to a higher
power—to God himself.

Going deep might be easy for some
but she has learnt it will take all
she has got, all of her heart.
God calls across the clamour
inside her soul, into the place
she hides when she feels broken.

And he lures her oh so tenderly,
with a look of love, with a whispered
word, with truth and promises.

But trusting is hard because
she’s been dry and closed inside
too long—can she really open up?
He soon reveals hidden, sparkling
gems, glittering bright, previously
unseen, now glowing in his light.

These are yours, he says, my heart gift
to you, just lift up your head and see
what I will do if you will believe.
I abide in a deep and holy place
but I also reach down to my child,
to offer you my gifts of grace.
© joylenton

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

“I will give you treasures hidden in dark and secret places. Then you will know that I, the Lord God of Israel, have called you by name.” – Isaiah 45:3 CEV

Friends, thank you for allowing me to vent in this small, safe place on the internet. Feel free to reply and let me know how you are too. We can pray for and support one another. I’m sharing my words with the fabulous five-minute-friday writing crew today. Just click here to follow me there. Thank you! 🙂

PS: If you’re curious or need help, here are the symptoms of SAD and these are potential self-help measures and treatment plan. I pray they will be a blessing to you.

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

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! 🙂

who: searching for our true soul identity

ballerina on a rock - who_ searching for our true soul identity @poetryjoy.com

Our true soul identity isn’t always clear. Who we are deep inside can become distorted in a complex maze of roles, labels, problems and pain. Especially if we assimilate flawed views and opinions of ourselves over the years.

As children we can be parented and nurtured well or damaged by careless handling and bad experiences. Such things help shape our perspective. They can also create a false persona we try hard to live up to.

Thankfully, there is someone who has a clear-eyed view of who we are. Our true identity is safe with God. He sees our hidden self. The parts we feel ashamed of and hide from others. The truth of who we are deep down.

God sees into the depths of our soul. He knows our heart and what we are capable of. He sees all we are in the process of becoming by His grace. He loves us unconditionally, unreservedly and eternally. I know who I am because I know the awe-inspiring, holy I AM Himself. It’s a great relief and a huge blessing to be so well known and yet so amazingly loved.

Who

her real identity was swallowed up
in a dark, murky sea of hurt and pain
washed with woundedness, false guilt
and shame, because she didn’t know
who she was or how to reclaim herself

her who became her do as she
sought to find herself in tasks
and helping others, but deep
inside she ached and cried with a
hollow void, and she lost her voice

until God revealed the way back
to being herself, to being whole
was through the cross of Jesus Christ
his beloved Son, and her true soul
identity, her “who” was wrapped up
in his mercy, grace and endless love

instead of worrying about her loss
she could open up like a fragrant
flower, spill out her life in writing
words and prayer, let her focus shift
toward Whose she has become by
faith, who she is now in his embrace
© joylenton

who - searching for our true soul identity poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I’m sharing my poem with the fabulous five-minute-friday writing community. This week’s prompt is ‘who’. You are welcome to join us. Just click here to read the great variety of posts being share. 🙂

praise: the secret power of praising God in life’s storms

praise - the secret power of praising God in life's storms @poetryjoy.com

Praise tends to fall easily from our lips when life is good and we see visible signs that we are blessed. We feel happy and content because all seems to be right with our world. But what about when the sky darkens or falls in for us? What then?

Praising God during life’s storms can feel like an impossible thing to do. Yet praise is a powerful weapon to defeat discouragement and lift our mind and heart back to God. If we can open ourselves to God and lay all our cares at His feet, we can also learn how to praise and trust Him to meet all our needs even before we see it happening.

I’ve experienced this myself. On days when light was eclipsed in my soul and I was locked inside myself, drowning in feelings I didn’t want to have. Maybe you’ve been there too? Or are suffering that way now? 

May I encourage you to let Jesus into your pain filled places. Invite God to be Lord of your sadness, sorrow and loss. Ask Him to help, heal and lift you up. It’s a heart cry prayer He will always answer.

Such thoughts shaped my (slightly more than 5 minutes) poem. I hope and pray it will be a blessing to you, my friend.

Praise

her countenance is clouded
darkened by circumstance
head drooping low to ground
soul feels like it’s chained down

she can barely register anything or
think clearly, hear others speaking
because her mind and heart are gripped
hard, caught up in turmoil and pain

then she hears a voice urging her
to look up and lift her sad gaze
to him, to raise her head higher
see her Lord standing here by her

because it is here, in the midst
of hardship and pain that he
whispers his encouragement
urges her to begin again

here? now? she cannot fathom how
nevertheless, she listens, begins
to murmur softly in her heart and
ignite a small thanksgiving spark

praise starts as a tiny seed within
a sacrificial offering, often scraped
from a raw place, then flowering
into tears, words, deeds and grace

now he gently whispers her name
pulls her out of the miry pit she
is in, helps her to stand strong today
on the solid ground of faith and praise
© joylenton

praise - the secret power of praising God in life's storms - praise poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I praise God for having a writing space and thoughts to share as I join fellow wordsmiths over at five-minute-friday today. The prompt is ‘praise’. You are very welcome to join in. Just click here to read the great posts being shared.  🙂