heatwave: on being scorched and getting soaked

An unprecedented heatwave (probably due to climate change and attributed to winds blowing hot air up from north Africa and the Sahara) has been making its scorching, record breaking 40+ degrees centigrade 🔥🥵 way across the UK.

It’s been hard without the benefit of air conditioning. The high temperatures have had devastating effects countrywide, exacerbated health problems, taken lives, and initiated fires on our tinder-dry, rain-deprived land and properties.

We’re so unused to temperatures like this, and ill prepared. So as I wilt and melt faster than an iced lollipop, while we sit closer to our two rather feeble fans, I remember another sultry summer and how it led to a spectacular thunderstorm.

It was just before I became badly afflicted by M.E and chronic illness, and when our boys were small and could amuse themselves for hours making sandcastles. I hope the poem below provides some light relief for you, too… ⛱🐚🩱🌊☀️

Exodus

Darkened clouds rolled in 
from the coast, hanging heavy 
as a canopy over the beach, 

encroaching on the sun's rays, 
obliterating heat.
Thick drops began to fall, 

as we scrambled to gather
our belongings, while people 
shrieked playfully,

and others emerged 
swiftly from the sea.

Towels became raincoats 
and hats. Exiting became
our best option, though 

we were way too far 
from the safe cocoon 
of our parked car.

Clutching children and buckets 
and spades and all,
the paraphernalia of a day 

at the beach, we giggled
and ran, like drowned rats,
drenched beyond belief.

Shivering and sheltering 
under trees, saturated
but strangely happy, 

we watched rainfall morph 
into a barrage of hail, 
while lightning prevailed.

We were struck. Not by 
lightning, thankfully, but
by the way forces of nature 

were pitted against
one another in a battle 
of the elements.

Sheets of rain cascaded, 
followed by sharp stones
of hail, while thunder raged 

and electrical forks
zig-zagged and streaked 
across it all.

The heat of the day 
dissipated under this 
onslaught. And then there was 

a lull. We ran for our car, 
like prisoners released on bail.
And as we sat inside, 

trying to get dry, we knew
we would never forget 
the spectacular sight

of a summer storm 
turning day to night.
© joylenton

This summer is proving to be far too hot for serious thought which is why I’m sharing these memoir style posts about my childhood or later on. Normal service will be resumed in due course! Meanwhile, do let me know if you are enjoying this kind of post. x 😎❤️

rising: learning how to exercise our faith wings

“True faith is not a leap into the dark; it’s a leap into the light.” — Eric Metaxas

Rising 

There’s a clapping flap 
of wings beating the air
in tune with the universe 

as crows become airborne
dark blots against azure blue,
crest the currents 

with ease and grace,
reveal their natural
ownership of this space.

Sky’s acreage invites us
to investigate, seek to soar 
above and beyond 

our human state,
renders us minuscule,
reduced to earthly dust,

earthbound creatures
trying to advance themselves 
to earth’s outer reaches. 

Perhaps we would find 
ourselves less distinct, 
sharing an affinity, interlinked 

with avian life, 
note how we are connected,
joined together 

with threads of soul flight
while rooted here below—
inhabitants of day and night.
© joylenton

“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.” — Victor Hugo

childhood: when summers were magical for us

“Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of heaven into the midst of our rough earthliness.” — Henri Frederic Amiel

Noticing

Scrambling on my stone-scratched 
and soil-stained knees,
falling further beneath this canopy,
all feels covert, mysterious,
hidden, concealed

from indifferent adult eyes, 
which tend to skim and skirt
the surface of things
and miss the obvious,
because they fail to look
hard enough.

But now, as my breath breaks free
in tiny gasps, I notice
how the earthworm burrows,
where the snail trail slithers,

how the ants scurry fast,
bees warningly buzz
and soft butterflies flit around,
seeking a fresh place to land.
I note where sharp thorns sit
waiting to pierce us 
unawares, elicit shrieks,
for they know how vulnerable
human skin can be,

how easily a barrier 
can be broken,
and a raw wound gape 
and bleed, like slitting 
open an envelope sleeve.

And I'm learning how a girl like me 
can hide away, close to a veiled, 
unseeing parental gaze.

This bushy undergrowth is like 
a world within a world,
one I long to lose myself in, 
to press into darkness

while my heart seeks out the tiny, 
flickering pinpricks of light
found glittering in the gaps as stars,
gently pointing the way 
forward—like a litany of psalms.
© joylenton

“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” — Graham Greene

The poem above has been extracted from my latest book ‘Sacred Noticing: Seasonal Glimpses of the Infinite’ which is available on Amazon. UK readers can access it by clicking on the link above and readers who live elsewhere can find the book by clicking on the image below. Xx 🙂 ❤

ordinary: the gift of the sacred ordinary

“The great lesson from the true mystics is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family.” — Abraham Maslow

Poetry is the latch

stretch out open palms
feel for things beyond your ken
that lie close at hand

search for hidden key
poetry becomes the latch
we're invited in

it's an open door
it's a large, hallowed hallway
we find ourselves here

we're always welcome
removing secular shoes
helps us to listen

wait for mystery
to reveal its heart within
rhythm, metre, words

while our souls expand
to take in the universe
and savour beauty

as we exhale dust
and leave our worries behind
now, on the doorstep

we breathe in soul peace
mixed with mercy, love and grace
the air of this place

knowing we can stay
as night segues into daylight
cares are cast away

and we are laid bare
readied to receive again
drops of holy rain
© joylenton

“Yet mostly we remain unconscious of the fact that even in this simplest fulfilling of our daily needs we are partaking of the holiest mysteries of the sacred within the commonplace of our own kitchen. Great is to be found in little.” — Alice O. Howell, The Dove in the Stone

Gracious Father,

Thank you for the glory that surrounds us, revealed here and there in the smallest of moments, the tiniest glimpses and awe-struck seconds when we pause to notice it.

You inhabit the everyday with your extraordinary power and grace. It is saturated with your joy, exuberance, and peace. Open our eyes to see the humdrum, the ordinary, the mundane as nothing less than sacred ground.

The whole earth has been fertilised with the seeds of your sacred Presence, your divine favour, mercy, generosity, abundance, and love. But we so often overlook it because we’re too focused on below life rather than above.

Help us to sense you in the daily and pay attention to what you are saying through creation’s beauty, in our activities and tasks, and our attempts at seeing and listening hard.
Amen

united: joined together by our faith in Christ

“On the essentials, unity. On the nonessentials, liberty. In everything, charity.” — Jack Hyles

United 

A closeness exists
between complete strangers,
no matter where 
or when they might gather
across oceans, lands or over
seas, or close to home as can be.

It’s a bond created 
long before they were born,
a friendship and fellowship 
which loves and serves and gives 
one to another 
like sister and brother.

Independent of age
or race, gender, station in life
or place or financial position,
you fit in, with no barrier
whatsoever, save that
of your own creation.

Children, teens, middle-aged
and elderly join hands 
figuratively or physically,
join hearts as one
(ideally, maybe) and share
bread and wine and meals
and pray for hope and peace.

Call it a gathering, a meeting,
a Body, a Church, a Union
or a Congregation, perhaps,
it doesn’t really matter 
because all are united in Christ 
and that’s stronger 
than what might divide. 
© joylenton

“Believers are never told to become one; we already are one and are expected to act like it.” — Joni Eareckson Tada

Gethsemane: a place of anguished obedience, prayer, and grace

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, ‘Sit here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?’” — Matthew 26:36-40 NLT

Gethsemane

To remain, stay awake, and pray,
these are the tasks
assigned to the disciples

and to us
as well, even now,
as we face our own battles.

Yet we brag, big ourselves up,
and anticipate greatness
from souls of dust,

or we cringe and creep
because we feel
like worms without worth.

But God knows the state of us
all too well,
and he grants us the grace

to have a fresh start
if we're willing
to ask for his help.

Jesus sought support himself
but found his friends
deeply lacking

in their ability to keep alert,
to pray faithfully
and to stay awake.

In the depths of his humanity
he identified
completely with you and me,

and he still gives 
us grace when we mess up
because he knows
just what we are made of.
© joylenton

Reflection

Picture yourself in this scene. Jesus, your close friend, teacher and miracle worker, is approaching his darkest hour. You’re aware that he is special, and talking about being crucified, but your mind hasn’t yet fully grasped the reality of who he is and why he came, though you long to please him.

But it’s been a long day, with a seemingly wasteful anointing at Bethany, an unexpected betrayal by Judas, a denial, a final supper together, and now this period of praying in the garden of Gethsemane. You’re just plain exhausted. Jesus gently scolds you, and you feel dreadful because your tired body has let you down.

Prayer

Suffering Saviour,

As we read these words, we wonder if we would have been any better at watching and praying with you than the disciples were. Sadly, their fatigue caused them to slumber in your hour of greatest need. You faced this ordeal alone because your friends failed you at this final hurdle.

Even so, you understood their weakness and gave them grace. Just as you do for us. From our post-crucifixion perspective, we know how it ends—how these failing, faltering disciples became devoted, faith-filled men with transformed minds and hearts. Oh may we have an ending like this too!
Amen

This post has been excerpted from my ‘Experiencing Lent: Sensing the Sacred in Our Midst’ book. You can discover more about the meaning of and the biblical context for Gethsemane in this article. Blessings and love to you! Xx 🙂 ❤

mirror: seeing ourselves as we really are

It’s no secret that nature and wildlife have things to teach us as they quietly go about their lives. The poem below was written after observing a bluetit’s antics as she circled around our car’s wing mirror for a few minutes.

We were too entranced watching her to think of recording the moment. But oh joy, she returned the next day and I caught it briefly with these blurred, smudgy photos out of the kitchen window! 😉

Birdwatching 

She flits
back and forth
admiring herself in glass,
enraptured 
by the way her image
is captured 
so vividly in the wing
mirror, where she can’t resist 
such a view of loveliness.

It’s as if
she cannot quite 
believe that this tiny bird 
has anything 
whatsoever to do with her,
or is more than a passing 
resemblance, perhaps—
does this sight signify, imply
what she might really look like?

So she shifts
her gaze here 
and there, hopping keenly
once more over
the bonnet of the car,
then back again
to preen, to marvel,
to check she does exist 
in this world, in this space.

And she twists 
her perspective 
as she turns upside 
down, and almost inside
out in her eagerness 
to believe she is
just as sweet, just as
lovely, just as glorious
as the mirror suggests.
© joylenton

“But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” — 2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB

This sweet incident made me wonder how we might respond when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror. Are we enchanted, curious, disinterested or disappointed? Does it matter if we’re less than thrilled with our outer appearance?

Because we are so much more than the sum of our parts. Though having a balanced love for ourselves and a healthy self-acceptance is to be encouraged. We need to transform our wounded minds and hearts by believing we are who the Bible says we are.

I can attest that it’s been damaging for me to have low self-esteem for years due to painful childhood experiences that seared my soul and induced decades of brokenness. God longs for us to see ourselves the way He does: beautiful, beloved, healed and whole, a joy to behold.

Maybe looking in the mirror might cause us to seek the kind of mirror that truly reflects our God-given beauty, grace and loveliness, especially if we’ve failed to fully notice or appreciate it.

Do we return, time and again, to check our reflection in Scripture as it holds up a mirror to our souls and gives us insight into the close, loving relationship we can have with God? Perhaps we should… 🙂 ❤

rootedness: rooted deep in faith just like the trees

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” — Simone Weil

Rootedness

A sweep of trees sway 
above me, with a deep rustling 
reverberating through each leaf, 

murmuring a message 
of presence, of being, 
of hidden strength and timely

wisdom encircling each trunk, 
as ageing rings mark out
the seasons, and bark folds 

itself into gnarled whorls
that speak of mysteries 
only trees can see and know.
Standing still beneath 
a canopy of branches, arching 
protectively above 

my head, I am entranced 
and given over to awe, 
marvelling in their statuesque 

beauty and grace, 
their manner of connectivity 
in this dark and sheltered place, 

where I am but a visitor, 
awed by their centuries’ 
old stability, peace, 
and lofty splendour.
There is a stillness here, 
a sense of timelessness, where
breezes stir the structure
 
of each tree yet cannot affect
their invincibility, their very 
rootedness into the ground,

which spreads much further 
than eyes can see, making
channels through this forest 

that help to keep them all
alive and vigorous, sturdily 
enduring as our lives unfold.
© joylenton

“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted like trees.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

“And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done.” — Colossians 2:6-7 TLB

I close with a few forest sights and sounds to help soothe the stress away and bring you a few moments of relaxation and peace…. Enjoy. 🙂 ❤

liminal: savouring the sacred space in-between the now and the next

Honour the space between no longer and not yet — Nancy Levin

Liminal days

Caught in apricity 
as I savour the unexpected 
warmth of this wintry
sun, arriving soon after
a deluge of rain, witnessing 
the drama which unfolds
in contrasts, where light kisses dark
and light doesn’t pull back
because it carries 
difference in its golden heart.

These are liminal 
days, dancing on the edge
where a new season appears
to break, with sun revealing 
snowdrops, crocuses, incipient
daffodils, tender green fronds 
of beautiful bluebells to come,
eclipsed by what remains—
the spare, bare bones of winter
still grimly holding on.

My soul sits in ice sometimes 
because it’s waiting for a thaw
to relax it into love, plant it
in peace, persuade it to take 
a deeper breath, a longer
look, a calmer exhale, 
and to shift gratitude to 
a whole new level, as I face
the need to open up
to mercy flowering from above.

It isn’t arduous,
it doesn’t take much at all 
for us to reorient ourselves 
back to joy and faith when 
we see evidence of spring,
note vital change occurring 
and sense our souls being
set adrift, freed from winter’s 
harsher grip, as we float calmly
toward signs of hope unzipped. 
© joylenton

prism: seeing life through the lens of poetry

How do you define poetry? It could be summed up simply as a mix of words with metre, rhythm and rhyme, but that’s not always the case. I think of it as layered thoughts, slant storytelling, with a musicality that’s either deliberate or unsought. One of the joys of poetry is the rich variety that exists.

My latest poem describes the way poetry behaves by imagining it acting like a lens, a prism through which we see life and understand thoughts. It might look distorted sometimes, indistinct even, because each poem connects in a different way with every reader.

Yet the shaft of poetry’s luminous rays can offer insight, hope, joy and grace to others. My hope and prayer is that I can connect heart to heart with the words I share, and I hope you’ll get something out of this poem.

Creation of prisms 

Poetry is the creation of prisms
reflecting the light inside,
refracting each single word
that flies arrow-like, rainbow-bright,
to hit its intended target,
splintering apart
as each paper plane dives deep down,
weaving through the path
of an open, receptive heart.

Poetry can miss the mark,
become unintelligible 
to others, those who fail
to discern each line’s 
vitality, the secret messages
it speaks into being,
a dart of thought to the soul,
a tiny glint of light
delivered in morse code.

Poetry is a vital, living thing,
an entity that speaks 
a universe of thoughts
in differing tongues 
to different people tasked
with translating it,
or simply sitting with a piece,
comprehending its worth
in the presence of mystery.
© joylenton

I’ve defined poetry in various ways over the years. It’s an elusive art to pin down easily, speaking as it does to mind and heart. One description can be found on my ‘Why poetry joy?’ page. I’m intrigued by the varying perspectives and would love you to share your definitions/descriptions too. Perhaps, like mine, they alter depending on what season of life you are in and what speaks to you most. 🙂 ❤