small: Jesus made himself less than to be like one of us

 

Do you feel small sometimes? It can be hard to fit within society’s constraints and confines. We’ve all felt boxed in by other people’s opinions, their flawed idea of who we are. It hurts to feel small, set aside or marginalised. We feel the sting shredding away at our worth.

Advent invites us to think about the infant Jesus, divinely conceived in Mary’s womb, helpless and tiny as all newborns are. But if we leave our thoughts of God at the manger, we are in danger of making Him too small, too sweet and too slight to be of any significance to us.

Jesus took on human flesh and allowed Himself to be made small in order to reveal the greatness of God to us via His life and painful, surrendered death on a cross. He came to rise again and grant heaven’s grace to unworthy sinners just like us. A gift beyond price. Eternal compassion writ larger than life itself.

Like one of us

He seems too small and insignificant, this suckling infant groping
for sustenance, too tiny to count for much, too little to be able to slay
demons at a word, make miracles occur, heal the sick, feed hungry
and thirsty in mind, body and soul, help the broken become whole

He’s a dependent, drooling, crying child who has no say in anything, yet
is in fact the incarnate Word who breathed creation into being and made
everything that has been made, including the shining stars he scattered
into space, and these people who watch over him with wonder, sore amazed

Their finite minds cannot conceive his immaculate conception
wrought through Spirit touching flesh, no man’s assistance, only that
of Father God, who planned in advance for the way his only begotten
Son would one day become like one of us, though he is perfect, sinless

For now he blinks his eyes, squints at emerging daylight, knowing only a
mother’s arms of love cradling him with such tenderness, mixed with sweet
awareness growing inside her mind, that this babe is Messiah, no longer
kicking inside her but wriggling, sighing, nestling close, real and alive
©joylenton

If it hurts our sensibilities to think we might be less than in any way, we might want to consider  how “our God” became “contracted to a span” and was “incomprehensibly made man” as the lines from Charles Wesley’s hymn ‘Our God Contracted to a Span’ state.

As we ponder the wonder of the child born to us at Bethlehem, let’s try to include the awe of our Majestic God deliberately making Himself small for us, that we might know His might and power, His endless love, His mercy, grace and exceeding goodness in our ordinary, everyday lives. Let’s worship Him for being our risen, ascended Lord and Saviour of the world.

rigidity: when God needs to soften our cold hearts

 

Winter creeps closer and my fingers and toes act like a weather barometer. They blanch to match the snow, with white tips and stiff rigidity, a bit like icicles needing thawing. ⛄❄

They can become frozen by nothing much at all— like the merest drift of cool air, even during summer months—and remain that way until the stinging throb of feeling returns again, with a bluey-red flush of blood.

It’s a bad circulation problem I’ve had since childhood, when chilblains were a literal pain and paved the way for seasons of chilled numbness thereafter. It is known as Reynaud’s disease or syndrome/phenomenon. I’ve got minor, permanent nerve damage in some fingertips due to the changeable blood flow over many years.

Contributory factors include having a mother who smoked throughout the pregnancy and being born prematurely. The good news is my heart stays hot because the core of who we are always gets the best blood supply! 💓😏

Being cold-hearted is not a helpful way to live. 💙 Having coldness or rigidity in our hearts and minds is an unattractive attribute and an indicator that we need supernatural help from God to thaw and warm us up again.

Rigidity

Flake by flake falls, blanketing a world in white, signalling
virginal innocence, and as yet untouched softness blessed
with holy awe, as we watch it fall and marvel at the miracle

Before long, newly cold wintry ground gives up its hold, turning
snow and ice to slush, rendering a hushed wonder into mud
and ridges of rigidity, much like our hearts when left alone

And there’s danger afoot when icy patches remain rock hard
causing many to curse, slip and stumble their way on slippery
soled, treacherous ground where no firm footing can be found

Months can slide by and the ground remains hard, unyielding
and resistant to touch, until a thaw of sorts takes place, sun creeps
higher in the sky of our thoughts and we creep closer to arms of love
©joylenton

 

Heavenly Father,

May you brace us to face each season with equanimity, despite chill winds of adversity blowing. Help us to not stay frozen in our emotions, or chilled within by pain, but have hearts receptive to and softened by your love.

Enable us to avoid cold rigidity in our thinking. May we be grateful for what we already have and open to receiving and welcoming the new and the next you are leading us into.

Most of all, Lord, thaw our attitudes and thoughts where they have become hardened, wearied by waiting. Remind us that during Advent, especially, there is a Holy purpose behind our pain and that new Life and Hope can be birthed in us again.

We give you our grateful thanks and praise as you lead us warmly back into experiencing your love, your wonder, joy and peace anew during the demands of this season.

Thank you. Amen

how an ending always signals a new beginning

A year draws to a close. An ending is in sight. These are days of increasing darkness in every way. No wonder Advent makes us long for the coming of the Light of Life Himself to signal a new beginning for all of us.

Creation itself mirrors our hope. We see death all around us as trees give up their leaves and plants die to make room for the green shoots of spring. Because renewal is built into their very DNA, just like it is in us as we surrender our darkness to God and watch how He brings His light and life to bear on what seems dead.

Although our bodies may wither and lose vigour as we age, and our health fail to the point of decay and eventual death, we always have an eternal, resurrection Hope of newness of Life with God.

We, and our loved ones will live again, my friend. We have a Hope that is steadfast and certain. We are destined for more than dust and ashes. We are destined to receive beauty for ashes.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God’s favor to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies.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 61:1-3 TLB

We are God’s Beloved children. He is with us from start to finish here on earth and eternally in heaven, overseeing our lives with loving care and attention, bringing new life from sorrow and death.

Death and life

I’m a tinder-dry autumn leaf

fallen to the ground

where oblivious feet crush me

dead with a satisfying

crisp-crunch sound

My life was brief but beautiful

in its dying glory flame

and I can still remember how

I would bend and sway

as the wind sang over me

with its sighed lullaby and

stole my breath away

on blustery nights and days

Now, while I lie as dusty ash

victim to every breeze

I yearn to return to my home

branching on the tree

Then an image comes to me

of sap rising high in spring

producing buds fresh and green

filled with new life and hope, new birth

I know I will grow and bloom again

to reveal God’s splendour

here on the earth

©joylenton

moment: discovering wonder in the here and now

 

Life is a series of moments. Things waiting to be discovered and experienced. Heightened hours to enjoy to the full and times of dark trial, trouble and tribulation. We’re on a journey where we find ourselves along the way. And a veritable trail of wonder, hopefully.

Though I usually attempt to freeze-frame wonder moments in a camera lens, God often whispers for me to desist, slow down and simply savour what I see. It’s as if those wondrous clouds, that scenic sky, floral beauty and trellis of trees were made just for me.

And in a way, they are. Because Jesus would have willingly gone to the cross if there had been only one of us in need of a Saviour. God spills out creation’s beauty as though it’s tailor-made for you and me. 

I’m a woman on a mission, without leaving home. A soul on a quest to pursue beauty and seek wonder in the commonplace, as I look to discover God  in the minutiae of my days.

He is here. The Holy One, King of heaven and earth , inhabits the ordinary. He’s longing to be found by questing minds and hearts. Is it easy? Not always. It takes determination and dedication to keep pressing in to sense the sacred in the secular. Is it worth it? Oh, yes!

In this moment

Lord of all life,

you are in this moment and that moment

In the weary, bleary half-awake

pyjama-clad, messy, undressed state

In all the dreary length of days and

heights of excitement along the way

In shrouded, clouded, muddled mind

and clarity bursts of the sudden kind

In biting tongue after harsh words

releasing good thoughts to be heard

In discouragement, hiding of face

then eyes lit up by glimmers of grace

In loneliness, absence of sound, and

having our friends and family round

In all our living, loving and giving

we rely on you for all receiving

Be in this moment and this hour

equip us with your wisdom and power

©joylenton


Sometimes our eyes need things enhanced or altered a little, as in the arty style photo of yellow roses below. They are enchanting in their own right, of course, though we can become jaded by the familiar and satiated with sameness. A little tweak from us (or a wake up call from God) is enough to awaken our hearts anew to the beauty of this moment, being present to His presence.

normal: living beyond our limitations

 

What does it mean to be ‘normal’? Is there such a thing? I guess it depends on your personal definition, doesn’t it? Because the world will always try to compartmentalise, squash us into boxes and confine us in its own straitjackets, if we let it.

The good news is God created each and every one of us unique. And we answer to Him alone, defined only by what His word says about us and who we are in Christ. That thought comforts me as I aim to live well with M.E and chronic illness.

You and I don’t have to fit within the world’s narrow (and frequently judgemental) parameters. We are special to God, understood completely by Him, if no-one else. God wants us to grow into the best version of ourselves we can be by His grace, to know we are His cherished Beloved.

I miss some of the activities I used to do before illness made being housebound a normality for me, especially spending summer days at the beach. Here in Norfolk we are blessed to have a few within driving distance.

However, they are often hard to access by foot (or wheelchair) once you’ve parked, with their steep inclines, long, winding pathways and uneven, pebbly stones to traverse, never mind distance from car to beach.

It’s been an outing I’ve had to forego for years because the car journey alone would exhaust me. Though I still travel there fondly in my memories, as in the poem below…

Normal for Norfolk

The sea tosses back and forth with wild, hyperactive
froth churning up thick rivers of mud, reflecting the sanded
character of a Norfolk beach, whose waters are latte-brown
with a side shot of espresso hiccupped out now and then

There’s a roar that steals away our words, deafening
as it drowns out all sound apart from its own
and we wonder anew at the way waves crash so
violently, yet dissipate into delicate filigrees

A surging wind stings our cheeks with saline drops
which wake us up, catch away our breath, bring tears
to stinging eyes and a gasp of surprise at its velocity
making unsteady, giddy skittles out of you and me
©joylenton

 

How do you view your life in terms of being ‘normal’ or otherwise?

What helps you to retain a positive outlook?

I’d love to hear in the comments below. 😊

PS: I’ve been writing about  the calming effects of the sea over on my Facebook page. You can find it here and read the #dailyhaiku #novembernugget posts being shared. May the soul snippets of poetry bless you, friend. ❤

vanish: letting go of our cares and concerns

November comes in shyly, concealing its icy depths in a cloak of mist. Many days are washed in vapour, made mysterious by the hiddenness of things, the way the familiar can vanish in an instant.

Reducing, darkening daylight hours make us yearn for the light, seek colour and warmth and savour each tiny bit of golden, autumnal glory while we can.

Maybe we could view this concealment as invitation to turn away for a while from the allure of the world around us. To let go of our cares and concerns, and begin to mimic these chillier days by being still and rested in our souls.

Vapour in the mist

Sky shades to silver as a veil of grey
falls like a leaden blanket, allowing
mere slivers of azure blue hues to
filter through

This pale, dove-grey covering conceals sun’s
heat with filmy rays, and invites us to
come aside from busyness and rest
here instead

So we pause a while, breathe a little freer
as we let loose constraints of the day
and watch worries vanish as vapour
in the mist
©joylenton

Father,

When skies shade to grey and our emotions are tempted to follow suit, help us instead to focus on your bright, shining Light that is always with us. May we see mellow, misty moments in these darkening days as an invitation to come aside, breathe, pause and pray, trusting that all our cares and concerns are safe in your hands.

May we reflect on the colour and vibrancy that surrounds us. Give us eyes open to receive and  hearts able to appreciate the onset of winter, sensing awe and wonder in the stark beauty it brings to everything.

Fill our souls with gratitude for the gifts to be found in each season of life and faith.  And remind us how one season will slowly segue into another, eventually vanish from our memories, until it returns in its own form of splendour, with joys we hadn’t anticipated.

Amen

yield to the light while darkness encroaches

 

Darkness seems to encroach and cover everything in its path. The whole world feels pretty bleak , unsafe, unstable and dark these days, with news reports of violent storms, bombs and hurricanes, earthquakes and the political ploys of men. There must be a way of seeing and yielding to the light in the midst of this devastation.

When life itself seems to hang by a thread, we can easily forget that we have an enemy set on wreaking havoc on our cities, shores and souls. There is so much more going on than meets the eye. Supernatural forces are at work everywhere.

God is more than a match for satan’s evil schemes (I won’t dignify him with a capitalisation here). Our Lord’s Light is impenetrable by the darkness around and the shadows found in mankind’s soul. God dwells in light unapproachable and unbearably bright for human eyes.

But He has revealed that light in and through His Son, Jesus Christ, the saving Light of the world. We can come close to Him, seek solace, find Hope, Joy and Peace within when a world’s feeble light gets dimmed.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ~ John 1:1-5 (NIV)

And just like heavy, rain-laden clouds eventually have to give way to sweep of wind and glint of light breaking through, we, too, can sense a lifting of heaviness as we yield to the deep, inner sense of God’s continual presence with us. May we take comfort from that thought as we pray about the crises in the world, whether far away or closer to home.

Yield to the light

Sun breaks through dark clouds, pierces

the gloom with shards of light, playing

games, as it creates these subtle

shadows and shade

 

I watch the way it  enters suddenly

into a room, seeking to penetrate

with a revealing reminder

of its presence

 

Darkness must always yield to the light

and make way for its brightness, shining

now into every crack and crevice, like

a beaming torch

 

There’s such affirmation of life

in the spreading, golden fingers spooling

out like loosened thread, tugging hard

on cheerless hearts

©joylenton

As we close, let’s allow the inimitable Leonard Cohen to share his own words on how the light gets in, with a video taken when he was performing in London in 2008. May you listen to his gentle whisper-singing and reflect on just how much light seeps into our days, more than we ever realise.