awakening: experiencing a fresh awakening to joy during Lent

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I don’t know about you but I could use a fresh infusion of joy right now. Life has a way of grinding us down low to ground and leaching joy right out of our hearts. So how do we go about receiving a fresh awakening to joy in a season where we feel weak, weary or discouraged?

My faith points the Way to discovering all Hope and Joy in Jesus, because the best way to climb out of a pit of pain and despair is to recognise Christ’s constant presence with us, (yes, even, and especially, as we sit in dust and ashes, feeling low or lost) and His hand always reaching down to save us.

God never leaves us to our own devices. In fact, through Christ, He has paved the way to draw us joyfully back to His Father-heart, a way which this season of Lent makes clear and evident.

And we soon discover how the path to the cross is strewn with challenge and pain before the great release from the tomb and celebration of the resurrection Hope Christ gives us. In recognition of this, I’m praying for God to give you and me a fresh awakening to joy during our own times of sorrow and sadness, shame and pain.

My friend, I can’t pretend to know what you are going through, what keeps you awake at night or makes your heart quail, but I can offer a virtual hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, a friend to confide in if you need one, and my prayers for you during this season of Lent.

May we learn to come alive again on the inside as we place our faith and trust in God. May we have a fresh awakening to His loving presence and begin to find joy creeping back into our hearts again. Each week during Lent I intend to offer a poetic response and a few words of hope and encouragement. I hope you will join me. Here’s the first offering about Ash Wednesday.

A fresh awakening

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We kneel with last Palm Sunday’s

burnt palms arising as ashes, smudged

on foreheads; and we receive a fresh

awakening to Life Himself in our own

dying to self

These days of denying and fasting and focusing

on death will become precursor to rising

in newness of life—like grains of fallen wheat

our souls become broken, crushed, before

being made whole

And hearts honed in humility will soon

see an uplifting as we draw closer 

to accepting our own mini-Calvary

We’ll witness our dross nailed firm

to Christ’s cross

This season unveils the very reason

for his Incarnation—makes manifest

the Man of Sorrows made flesh and

tears at our own hearts of stone, now

weeping like his

©joylenton2017

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shadow: caught in the shadow between life and death

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There’s nothing quite like being in a hospital ward to remind us we are caught in the shadow between life and death, hope and despair, as subject as the seasons to alteration and change, with death, disease and decay sitting in our mortal frames.

If we stop and think about it, then we realise how each day, each breath is but a gift. And even if every moment we live slides us closer to the grave, and a dark shadow of sin already exists as a blight over our lives, we are brought alive to the Light in a whole new way by God’s great mercy and grace.

Our part is to live with a mindful awareness, a grateful acceptance, a heart willing to surrender to whatever each new day will bring, a mind able to make room for Mystery within the mundane and a spirit ready to engage with our Creator-God.

Because if we can sit comfortably within this shadow land and make peace with our circumstances, we can begin to learn what God is teaching us right here, right now. Life lessons form the warp and weft of each happening—every thing is speaking to us, if only we make time to heed it and have receptive ears to listen well.

“Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; your rod [to protect] and your staff [to guide] , they comfort me” ~ Psalm 23:4 (Amplified Bible Classic Edition)

Life’s forest shadow

A cool lake mist spray whispers

blue dress of death, smooth as

loving rain on skin. And when

we trudge through life’s forest shadow

recalling dreams diamond like spring

wind plays sweetest rose symphony

singing like lazy sky sleep, but we

want time to shine our light beneath

©joylenton2017

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Life’s fire embrace

We cannot always live long

in this cool, fool universe

A vast open sky eternity

lies like a sacred time-kiss

warm and moist with God’s velvet

healing peace, and night is

broken by Life’s fire embrace

©joylenton2017

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I am so thankful God gives us opportunity to experience new life, and renewed hope, any time we choose to turn to Him. He knows the dark shadows we live under and makes provision for our every need, both here and in eternity.

“We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but never despair; we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our… mortal flesh” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (New Jerusalem Bible)

How is life’s shadow side speaking to you?

What helps you to see and sense God’s Light shining through?

A simple mantra of “Jesus conquers…. Jesus saves” (gleaned from reading ‘God Calling – A Devotional Diary’) is currently giving me renewed courage when life’s dark shadow of discouragement hangs over my days. You might like to try it too.  🙂

worship: why silence might be one of the best ways to pray

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Do words fail you sometimes? Maybe get stuck on the tongue, swallowed back like tears? We think language should be simple, just one person conversing with another, as easy as breathing, fluid as air.

But there are moments when we don’t know quite what to say to one another, never mind speak to God. Prayer can stall into silence. This may seem like we’re not praying at all, but I think silence is actually one of the deepest mediums for prayer and a great way to align ourselves with the divine.

During times when our words are stilled, we find other ways to communicate with God. Tears and inaudible, deep-seated groans of the soul still rise as incense before Him. Silence makes space for restful, worshipful contemplation.

There is no language, no tongue, no hindrance to communication with God. Our very posture speaks volumes to Him, as does our inner ache, sadness and pain.

What about worship? Doesn’t that require words?  Ideally, we want to express our heartfelt feelings before our Lord in a vocal way, though worship is myriad things and more of a lifestyle decision than a song.

God sees our hearts and hears their silent cries—our intentions and desires are laid bare before Him before we breathe a word or sing a note.

If, like me, the season you are going through has made voiced prayer hard to do, words failing to form due to the lump in your throat or heaviness of heart, please know that God understands it all, sees into the depths of your soul and is busily answering before you feel able to utter a single word.

Worship

Let our language spring as sweetly

languid as summer sky, lazy on

the tongue, and soaring like sea spray

We’re wanting an upbeat life and 

to swim together, like sunlight still

aches to shine with worship, whispering

music like a smooth honey symphony

©joylenton2017

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You and I can rest in Love’s soft shade, rest our weary souls before God and know we are being loved, seen and heard. In the shelter of His safe, protective love we grow strong again.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in him I will trust’…. He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you shall take refuge” ~ Psalm 91: 1-2,4

Love’s soft shade

Our lonely spirits can thrive

and shine by Love’s soft shade

For every life has dark garden

vines from earth’s root fall, but

warm, gentle Eden rain cycles

like sacred river song beneath

light, wandering wind harmony

of deep fresh air we breathe

©joylenton2017

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We can communicate with God through silent tears and a broken heart. Maybe, like Ann Lamott, the only prayers you feel capable of right now are of the “Help, Thanks, Wow” kind, and that’s okay. He understands. Start where you are and a flow of words will eventually come.

love as grace gift, fever, eden and wild harmony

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On this Valentine’s Day it seems apt to consider how love is a many splendid thing, lifting us to dizzy heights and dropping us down again. It’s full of feeling, driven by emotion, laced with passion, fuelled by lust and desire, sought after and highly prized. Though it is far more than hearts and flowers, lyrics and poetry, chocolates and cards, nice as they are.

Human love is often fickle, variable, blowing hot and cold, prone to alteration and change, seared with sadness and pain. But divine Love is something else entirely—always glorious, unconditional, freeing, totally giving, honouring the other, everlasting, eternal.

In my first magnetic poetry offering today I examine a relationship which isn’t all it could be. I’ve imagined a scenario between two lovers where things once burnt firework-bright then fizzled into little sparks.

Broken fever

This hard-voiced growl from his cool

lips comes out of a broken fever

But she needs more morning peace, and

lingering longer over picturing poetry

like porcelain and remembering when joy

brilliant as fire dazzled like desire;

and warm breath-throb words could melt

her sad, icy heart with a ferocious

laugh—and a ‘let’s celebrate’ kisses embrace

©joylenton2017

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Then I imagined a time when love was new, Eden-fresh, bright and brilliant. A morning of mists and mellow mood. A season where the sun shone softly and hearts were united as one. A time of perfect union and wild harmony.

Wild harmony

Above dawn-moist world, behold

beautiful birdsong sanctuary

of soft spring blossom colours

blooming full, warm as Eden

Here we would have strolled,

always following a quiet lake

moss-dark lichen path, as rain

breathes wild harmony like

nature’s deep, watery shade

©joylenton2017

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God’s kind of love—pure, unselfish love—is what we are to aim for in our dealings with one another. Yet we fail spectacularly, fall flat on our faces—unless we let God live in us by His Spirit and love others in and through us. Then we have access to God’s rich, full, unlimited ability assisting our weak, limited ability to love as well as we can. And on our best, dependently-leaning-on-God-completely days, love can begin to flourish and look something like this…

“Love never gives up. Love cares for others more than self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first”, doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end” ~ 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 ‘The Message’

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The lovely bible verse heart image above comes courtesy of little birdie blessings, which you can find here. 

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safe: learning to trust when life feels unsafe

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My childhood didn’t fully prepare me to trust or feel safe and secure in the ways I might have hoped it would. But it did lead me to seek for ways to lighten the darkness in my child-heart by enjoying the simple pleasures of life, like blowing bubbles or chasing butterflies.

Not all of the methods I chose were actually safe or helpful, until God shone the light of His presence into my life and I was undone in the best possible way. Because up to then, love had been far from easy, unconditional, lavish or free.

Life can feel less than safe in this dark world,  as I still wrestle with demons from my past and deal with myriad challenges in the present. Yet my hope and faith are safe, secure, resting on God’s redemption, goodness and grace, His wild, wild Love and forgiveness that covers all my sin, and His broken heart for a suffering world.

In thinking about the word ‘safe’ for this week’s five-minute-friday prompt, several things suggested themselves. There was even a first attempt poem that didn’t quite feel right, though it may well get shared another day.

I am so grateful God is a God of second chances—as well as second thoughts—and how He has provided this alternative poetic offering unexpectedly today, albeit a bit later than planned.

Safe

The watery womb was my home

I nestled close, listening to thrum

of human heartbeat, soothed again

by its sweet refrain rhythm

 

And as I stretched my limbs

I sensed the confines of this space

gradually closing in

 

It was time—time to be born

before my time to die—time

to breathe, live outside this home

 

I sensed movement, tightening

and squeezing. It didn’t seem safe

but I trusted to my fate

 

Then a soft night light shone warmly

on my screwed up face. My eyes had grown

unaccustomed to the Light

 

Hands groped for my body, held me

tight, as lovingly as can be, cradled

me safe, welcomed me to life

 

And I knew, instinctively, despite

how different this would be, how hard

my Father was still holding me

©joylenton2017

Please click here to join us for the #FMF link up. You’ll be blessed by the beautiful writing and warm, supportive community there.  🙂

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how love and light are just within our reach

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Does this world’s darkness make you want to weep? Do you feel overwhelmed at times by the brokenness and pain in your life? Me too. But we don’t have to despair, my friend.

Because light and love are all around, seeping into our consciousness. And they are most apparent for those with eyes to see them. If we get locked into cynicism, grief and despair we may fail to see just how much God permeates this world with His light and love.

Our vision can get warped and skewed by circumstances and situations not of our choosing. But if we look with eyes of faith, then we begin to see that life is more than 50 shades of grey, far more than 100 ways of being beige. There is light and life and love and colour just waiting to be discovered by hungry hearts.

Because, filtering softly from dawn to dusk is an invitation to look beyond the immediate, to grasp hold of the eternal right here, right now, in our midst—an invitation to taste holy Mystery.

And even when the darkness descends in such a way that it seems to temporarily blot out the sun, even then the Son of Righteousness Himself will rise in our minds and hearts when we turn in faith to Him.

This is our plea and prayer…

Darkness chokes

This world’s darkness chokes

life and strangles hope. Oh Lord

let your Love-Light shine

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And God helps us to view things from His perspective…

Only in the light

Only in the light

of God’s love do we begin

to see our true worth

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Then He reminds us how all heaviness of heart is able to be lifted from us as we surrender our burdens to Him and rest in His loving provision for us…

My burden is light

My burden is light

My heart is heavy, full,

holding love for you

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Hold on through the dark seasons. Keep the faith when you are faltering and struggling to believe. Because whether you can sense it or not, God is holding on to you and He won’t ever let you go. His greatest joy is to bring His love and light into your life, to turn mourning into joy, heal your brokenness and give you beauty for the ashes of your life.

These words and haiku poems have been inspired by Poet Master Ronovan’s latest weekly haiku challenge of Love&Light. Just click on the link to see how it works and to read the great variety of posts being shared.

change: when life is far from the cat’s whiskers

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How do you view the prospect of change? It can seem exciting for many as they look forward with eager anticipation to the next new experience and all it will bring to them. And for others? It can fill them with dismay and become something to be feared, because change has potential to be such an unwelcome intrusion into our lives.

The longer we stay in one place, maintain a fixed mindset or refuse to move with the times, the harder accepting and adapting to change can become. And it’s often those whose circumstances keep them glued to a place,  stuck fast in their ways, who need (or are forced to endure) a regular routine, who can become wary and weary of doing things differently.

Though unlike cats, who are thought to be gifted with nine lives, we only have one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver so famously said, and need wisdom in how to live it well. Being overly cautious doesn’t seem the best approach to take if it means we’re living in a limited, less than trusting way.

In my poetic responses to my inventive, creative friend, Kat Myrman’s  ‘Twittering Tales’ photo prompt this week, I couldn’t help but focus on the potential challenges facing this imaginary woman with a cat on her lap. I’ve lived long enough to lose quite a few friends and family members, sat with death and disease frequently as a nurse, and come face to face with my own limitations on a daily basis.

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Tired, sweetly supine in her

arms, this dear feline friend

remains more faithful than

the rest, whom time and age

gradually removed, dispersed

(140 characters)

 

She didn’t want to go, leave

this house and home, for who

else would know how to take

care of her darling cat or give

her such loving attention?

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Then I found myself going in a more playful direction here…

 

She stroked him under the chin

and chuckled deep within, for

none could know this cat now

in sweet repose was none

other than a witch’s familiar

(140 characters)

I’m grateful above all things in this fast paced, ever-changing world for the fact that God changes not. He remains reliably faithful, trustworthy, unchangeable, loving, kind and gracious toward us. We may not always be able to see the way ahead but we can always trust the One who is holding us.

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