world: a voyage of holy discovery

“If you have been in the vicinity of the sacred – ever brushed against the holy – you retain it more in your bones than in your head; and if you haven’t, no description of the experience will ever be satisfactory.” ― Daniel Taylor, In Search of Sacred Places

A world within a world

Some can see a world 
in the labyrinthine 
whorls of a rose,

while others sense it
contained within
the smallness of a hazelnut.

Although it is too vast
and complex to be confined
inside one thing or one mind,

there remains a simplicity
bequeathed and revealed 
to the soul of you and me.

A sacred space opens up
to the fathomless,
the infinite, the large,

as our tiny hearts 
become receptacles 
enlarged by holy love.

A whole universe exists 
within each one of us,
ready to be explored.

All we need to offer 
is our openness,
our receptivity is the path

whereby universal truth
can inhabit our hearts,
to be accepted—or ignored.
(C) joylenton

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’”

“I marvelled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.” — Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

My friend, you might be feeling alone and far from God right now or fear that He has forgotten you somehow, but that just isn’t true, because we can rely on the promises in His Word that keep us safe and secure.

God never leaves our side for a second, and He finds a million little ways in which to demonstrate His constant presence, tenderness and love to our fragile, hurting hearts.

May you rest in His unconditional love today as you ask Him to open your eyes to the voyage of holy discovery and joy He wants to take you on. With blessings, love, hugs and prayer from this fellow voyager. Xx 🙂 ❤

flowering: your turn in the sun will come

Some of us are wilting for want of a Covid-free and hassle-free holiday, a proper time away from our oh so familiar homes, our troubled shores. A place in the sun, no less, reliable sunshine, that is.

Although there is beauty, refreshment and restfulness to be had closer to home than you might think. We English (or any other nationality, of course) roses can shine right here, right now, as we glow with the light of Christ, and have our beautiful flowering.

You might consider yourself to be more of a weed or wildflower, invisible to most, a person on the margins, not especially prized, perhaps. But wherever you are, and whoever you are, you are far from invisible to God. He watches carefully over all your seasons of flowering and growth.

Because wherever you and I might live, we can bloom right where we are planted. We can have a spiritual flowering any moment, any day, any season of the year we might be in. We only need to be willing to follow God’s timing.

“A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions — so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.” — Terri Guillemets

Flowering

I observe how
each rosy-pink
of these growing buds
slowly begins to open
up, and fill with moisture,

like rain-saturated
tea cups, which turns them
into spreading, pale, creamy,
dark pink dotted petals, as if 
they are covered in measles.

While the lush green
leaves expand, stretch 
themselves to accommodate
each spilling, fragrant
froth of flower

in its opening up,
as they try to gather
more chlorophyll greening
into themselves
from light in their veins.

This lovely rose
bush has her face
uptilted, as if she
is smiling at the sun,
welcoming its warming

touch, giving life
and heat and energy
in which to bloom 
where she is planted,
here in this space.

And I wonder
if I am similarly 
receptive to the light
shining within and without,
as ready to stay 

rooted for months,
patiently waiting for
my turn in the sun,
my flowering to come.
© joylenton

“Earth laughs in flowers.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

anticipating: the holy art of noticing

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My mostly sedentary, housebound life has, rather surprisingly, greatly enhanced whatever ability I might have for noticing. Observation pays dividends of hope and contentment whenever I look closely at living creatures, trees, flowers, and plants.

Nature lures me like a siren call, and I respond with joy, knowing how it lifts my spirit to engage with it all.

Anticipation builds as the seasons change because they all have different aspects that charm us. Life goes on without our full attentiveness, of course, but when we do pause to pay attention we are rewarded with wonderful scenic views, deeper appreciation, participation with the created world, spiritual insights, and maybe a poem to share..

Anticipating

Holiness seeps 
from each breath of wind,
whispering your majesty
because the still, 
small voice speaks 
louder than anything.

The land anticipates
your glorious presence 
as it waits to receive
each day’s instruction 
to shine your glory
and signal your peace.

Yes, even now,
with dripping trees bowed
low against each movement
of blustery wind and rain,
while a watery sun
licks the flowers again.

Even here, as the pigeon 
pokes her beak
into saturated soil,
expectant of finding 
seed, and the blackbirds
stoop to gather worms
as their daily spoil.

Nature might appear 
casually indifferent 
to holy breath 
but it shouts out the loudest
words of praise
to its Maker, always.

Earth has learnt
how to keep you
as its primary focus,
remaining sensitive 
to all the shifts
in its rhythmic pulse,
its seasonal chorus.

Oh may we be stirred 
to listen to its vibrant 
words, and give our own 
response, as our hearts rejoice 
in also being seen and heard.

May your peace rule
and reign 
in the midst of chaos 
because answers 
will flow, even if we think
no one can hear us.
© joylenton

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” ~ George Washington Carver

For those of you who might have been anticipating just when I would return and write here again, I’m glad to be back! But I have to say that I’m not sure as yet how regular my posts will be for a while, as this post explains. Keep noticing my friends. It will reward you more than you know to develop and heighten your awareness of God at work in the world. Xx 🙂 ❤

growing: on flourishing in life and faith

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” — Psalm 92:12-14 NIV

Growing

 I want to grow
 slowly, like moss. Spread out
 with lively verdancy, 
 stay bright and fresh,

 remain green-leaved.
 May I carpet
 my mind, my interior
 castle, my spirit 

 with holy wisdom,
 with resiliency
 I can confidently 
 walk upon with ease.

 Let me be rooted
 like a sturdy oak tree
 which freely spreads itself—its bark, 
 branches, trunk and leaves

 across the forest floor 
 because sunlight invites
 it to, and it knows
 how to grow and mature.

 May I stay 
 strong and stable, secure
 during life’s fiercest storms, 
 unshaken, unmoved,

 unbroken, unbowed,
 bravely holding on.
 Because I know
 that I am girdled around

 with supernatural strength
 that is not my own, 
 but generously given 
 to me as a pure gift

 of grace, one which stems 
 from a surrendered 
 dependency, while I stretch 
 and remain rooted in faith.
 © joylenton 

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into light.” ― Helen Keller

Whatever we might face, God will give us help and strength. While we wait, God grows our hope and faith. Whenever we feel weak, He enables us to soar above our challenging circumstances and depend on His grace. We’re covered, my friend, even though it might not feel like it sometimes.

Spiritual growth, whereby we develop wisdom, patience, maturity, resilience, and faith, is a slow process. I’m needing to remember that and give myself grace because we have an opportunity to move house this summer—gulp!—and will need those characteristics in abundance. We have a few short months in which to decide, downsize, declutter, and discard enough to make the move achievable for us.

I’m trusting that the months ahead of being more deeply rooted in faith will be rewarded by being fully equipped for all that lies ahead, because God is faithful to support and lift us up when we feel weak. Consequently, my words here will be sporadic while my limited energy, focus and strength are needed elsewhere. I welcome your prayers and look forward to reconnecting with you whenever I can. Blessings and love. xo 🙂 ❤

rain: blessing falling from the heavens

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.” — Isaiah 44:3-4 NIV

Rain has sprayed these shores since the white brilliance of snow left us. We’ve had day after day of unrelenting rain and skies veiled in monochrome shades of grey.

Enough to sink a ship or sink our flagging spirits. But what if there was a different way to view rain? Could we find a fresh perspective on the downpours we receive and are not always thankful for?

Because biblical rain can be seen as a blessing, a gift of grace, a pointer to renewal, refreshment, and a vital, life-giving presence.

If we could look at rain through the lens of holy love, then we might welcome more of it in our lives—even if it brings dark clouds with glimpses of sunshine breaking out behind them.

Holy rain

 Your grace-fullness 
 tips me off balance
 because it inhabits 
 everything that exists,

 all that is seen 
 and unseen by us,
 revealed or deeply
 shrouded in mist. 

 It's a soul saturation, 
 a world drenching
 and a universe 

 bending under the sheer 
 glorious weight found 
 in your holy rain.

 It resembles hidden 
 treasure, buried deep
 within the thisness 
 of all things, 

 concealed as
 a vat of vintage coinage, 
 perhaps, rare and valuable 
 beyond words.

 My mind fails to fully 
 fathom its depths
 and the way it inhabits 
 my dailiness,

 weaving like silken
 threads between
 the darkened eaves 
 of each ordinary day. 
 © joylenton

The frequent showers and deluges that disrupt our days could be seen as openings for God’s presence, His refreshment for dry ground and our own parched souls, and a holy outpouring of His goodness and grace upon this thirsty world.

Have you been able to trace God’s blessings coming to you recently, either in tiny drops or abundant showers? How has it altered your perspective on what you are experiencing? I’d love you to share below. 🙂 ❤

“So keep on trying to know the Lord. His coming to us is as sure as the rising of the sun. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain giving water to the earth.” — Hosea 6:3 NLV

lightness: learning to release our burdens to God

“Are you weary of the pace of this world? Does the never-ending deluge of information from the media wear you out? God promises that when we meet him, we find our true rest along these ancient paths—not in a new technology, a new medication, or the passage of new legislation, but through intentionally and habitually coming to Jesus and casting our burdens upon him. Only there do we find true and enduring rest.” — Ed Stetzer

Lightness

 Hot coals burn
 these palms of mine
 as a daily kind

 of frantic juggling 
 act goes on.
 Each burden sears 
 my soul

 as I grasp tightly
 at insubstantial things
 which dissipate

 like smoke,
 like lifeless rings
 blowing here and there.

 But if I pause,
 slow down,
 breathe you in
 with every inhalation

 I take,
 my empty hands
 of faith become

 filled with rich gifts
 of Light, of Life
 Hope, Joy, and Peace.

 Here in the stillness
 I let my burdens
 drop down
 Into your waiting hands,

 falling as dust,
 without form,
 substanceless.

 Each weighty care
 flows freely
 as if it were

 a balloon,
 a mist,
 but vapour rising
 then falling

 over distant hills.
 I watch
 them all floating
 on a breeze

 while lightness
 also fills 
 my mind, my heart,

 my spirit,
 and a smile
 twitches itself
 onto my upturned lips.
 © joylenton

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” — Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

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

“I am about to go to sleep and so I turn over to him all those people I have been carrying in my heart. He never slumbers, he never sleeps, he never fatigues, he never stumbles. I won’t pick them up again unless he prompts me to do so. His burden is light, his yoke is easy. He carries the heavy end of the load, always. I am just his kid, carrying what I can carry, and he is a good Dad and never gives me a burden that would discourage or harm me by its weight.” — Katherine Walden


May I pray for you?

Lord Jesus,

Turn our hearts more in the direction of your face, your heart, your voice, your love. Reveal just what unnecessary loads and heavy burdens we might be carrying, and encourage us to let them fall at your feet, where we receive your Peace.

May we sense the wisdom of spending quality time in your Presence to offload our cares and concerns and become strengthened. Help reorient our anxious souls back to faith, back to calm, back to rest, and back to hope.
Amen

wholeness: sensing hints of wholeness

“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.” — Wendell Berry

Hints of wholeness 

 Where do we begin and end? 
 Is there a boundary between you and me
 and other living things?

 Don’t we all draw breath, our sustenance 
 given by a generous, almighty hand
 that loves us without restraint?

 Now we look at air and water,
 fire and earth, tree and leaf,
 noticing the connectedness.

 We see and sense our union 
 with all living things, our sentience 
 linked inexplicably with theirs.

 Earth in its rawness, primitive 
 soil teeming with hope,
 with richness, and with life.

 Fire exists in the heavens,
 wrapped in the golden glow of sunset 
 and sad devastation of forests.

 We see repeating patterns
 in the sky, in a flower,
 in each day, the length of hours.

 And our souls can sense
 areas of difference still
 giving hints of wholeness.

 Variety is seeded in the universe,
 in all burgeoning plants,
 in faith, and in infancy.

 What we will become
 is still a mystery
 for now, waiting to be revealed.

 Brokenness is our default state
 throwing us on God's mercy,
 his great forgiveness and grace.

 We learn not to divide 
 our hearts but yield them up
 in surrendering to his love.

 Our brothers and sisters 
 are not too dissimilar to us
 when viewed through grace.

 One day differences will subside 
 because what unites us
 is greater than what divides.
 © joylenton

“[Jesus] matters because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weaknesses he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.” — Dallas Willard in Ruthless Trust – Brennan Manning

trust: choosing to maintain hope in the hard

“Whatever dark tunnel we may be called upon to travel through, God has been there.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Trust

 Let us start
 here—in the present 
 moment that exists,

 where we have 
 a choice—to doubt or trust 
 in God’s great sovereignty,
 his constant care and love.

 Let us continue
 while we cling tightly 
 to Truth, to Hope, to Faith,
 embracing our challenges 

 because of the blessings 
 God has hidden within
 the hardest of days.

 Let us walk
 by leaning on the staff
 of faith, relying 

 on what we already 
 know and experience 
 of God’s mercy,
 his grace and strength.

 Let us lean
 ever harder on our God
 when troubles come,
 even as they 

 multiply like flies
 may we know, deep down,
 we will cope and survive.

 Let us journey
 with open minds
 and hearts, with open

 hands as well,
 expecting to be surprised 
 by the power of holy
 Love in which we dwell.
 © joylenton

“Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love and the future to God’s providence.” — Augustine

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” — Isaiah 26:3

awareness: noticing the marvellous in the mundane

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Awareness

 I might sense
 the slight tightening 
 of a stitch,

 an awareness
 of being hemmed in,
 then easily miss

 the way you weave
 your miracles
 in the mundane.

 Unless my eyes
 are open, noticing,
 ready for

 a surprise, prepared
 to watch and see
 what lies behind

 the ordinary,
 then I could glimpse
 the deftly woven

 warp and weft
 of your holy threads,
 your embroidering. 

 Although it is more
 than a visual
 response, more than

 a second glance
 required to 
 observe a sacred

 hand at work,
 a gentle touch
 igniting the humble
 soil of earth.

 Because you ask
 me to look 
 inwardly as well

 as outwardly,
 to catch the softest
 tread of your

 footsteps inside 
 my expectant heart
 as you walk,

 fill it with your love,
 your presence,
 and your thoughts. 
 © joylenton

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God… As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of A Young Girl

Prayer

Loving Creator God,

We give you thanks and praise for creation’s stunning beauty and the soul soothing, calming effects it has on our minds and hearts. May we sense the safety of being hemmed in by your grace and love as we face tough situations and challenging circumstances. Help us to notice the way you skilfully weave the marvellous into the mundane for us to enjoy each day.. Heighten our awareness of being part of the miracle as we learn to appreciate these gifts to the full.
Amen

winter: being receptive to its beauty and story

“That’s what winter is: an exercise in remembering how to still yourself then how to come pliantly back to life again.” ― Ali Smith, Winter

Winter’s story

 Winter is not something
 to be feared 
 but admired for its still, 

 still beauty. Because it’s
 where a world appears 
 to hold its breath

 and sigh, carpeted as it is
 with deeply frozen 
 potential teeming beneath

 darkened soil. Wet grasslands
 are rimed with frost, liquid drips 
 from hedges and trees

 as if to say, “Look, look,
 don't you see?”
 Yet so often we turn
 our cold, cold faces 

 to the wind, huddle 
 into woolly scarves,
 stamp our fretful, impatient 

 feet, like we can’t wait
 for spring or to get away.
 But then we might miss

 the invisible invitation
 hidden in mist, concealed
 in muffled greyness, skies

 laden with snow, perhaps,
 or in petrified puddles
 now become miniature 

 skating rinks we risk our 
 limbs on as we walk.
 We’re so dismissive
 of pared back trees losing 

 their verdancy
 that we fail to grasp
 just how majestic, how starkly

 splendid they really are.
 A life isn’t only glorious
 in springtime or abundantly

 beautiful in summer,
 because our autumnal days
 and whitening wintry glaze all have
 their own story to tell,

 etched into each season,
 their own magic to whisper
 into our receptive souls
 if we decide to notice it.
 © joylenton

“It seems like everything sleeps in winter, but it’s really a time of renewal and reflection.” ― Elizabeth Camden, Until the Dawn

NOTE: If you need a bit of help to see the beauty of winter or fail to appreciate the invitation to soul stillness it provides, maybe the free pdf excerpt from my book ‘Embracing Hope’ will help to gently steer your thoughts in that direction. *Just click on the cover below to download it.* And if you would like to read more, then you’ll be pleased to know that the ‘Embracing Hope’ e-book is on special offer up to January 18th! xo 🙂 ❤