mantle: Mary’s covering and our own God-given calling

mantle - the virgin mary @poetryjoy.com

Mantle is a quaint, rarely used word that still has relevance for us today. As well as being a literal coat or cloak, mantle also means the passing on of an important role or responsibility from person to person.

In a biblical sense, mantle can imply a covering of grace, a specific calling on our lives, as in Elijah’s prophetic mantle falling onto Elisha in a literal and metaphorical handing over of his cloak and anointing.

“So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him.” – 1 Kings 19:19 (NKJV)

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was cloaked and enveloped by God’s grace. She was overshadowed by Holy Spirit for the pivotal role she would play in bringing about God’s purposes on earth.

mantle - Mary's covering and our own God-given calling @poetryjoy.com

Mary’s mantle

Her charisma,
a divinely conferred
gift, was pure, bright,
a vibrant inner light
to bathe heaven’s child.

Her character brooked
choice of none other
for she was resilient,
demure and mild.

A willing and yielded
obedient servant,
a fledgling woman,
youthful, innocent,
betrothed while still a teen.

Whose womb was home,
whose heart was rent,
who hosted holiness
quietly and unseen.

A young woman
full of divine favour,
subject to rejection
and society’s reproach
for her great faithfulness
to Father God.

Became chosen
earthly mother
for our Saviour,
to give him birth
and spread his love abroad.
© joylenton

mantle - mary's mantle poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

How does Mary’s mantle relate to us? I think it shows that God always prepares people for the specific tasks He has appointed them to do. God fully anoints, equips and qualifies us for everything He calls us to.

Years ago, my major responsibilities were as nurse, wife and mother. Then I developed M.E and chronic illness which made it impossible to work and fully take care of myself, never mind the home and family. My perceptions of role, calling and identity shifted to meet my limitations and reduced expectations.

I am still sick and struggle with tasks, but my calling has morphed into being a writer, poet and encourager to others. Those gifts lay dormant for years but God resurrected them at just the right time.

God never forgets the mantle He has chosen to place over us. Mine might look very different to yours, because we all have a unique offering to bring to the world. One thing I have learnt: Our inner landscape can be vast, unlimited and rich even if our physical capabilities shrink.

mantle - Our inner landscape quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

This Advent, as you sit with hope and wait with increasing longing in your heart, try asking God what His desires are for you in the year ahead. What assignment has your name on it? What is He birthing in your soul? Is there a specific word that will define 2019 for you?

I’m currently hearing a call to rest myself more and lay aside my pen for a while. So I am taking a writing break until early January. May God bless you and keep you in His loving care until we meet again. Meanwhile, you can catch up with the poetic Art of Advent series profiling on my Words of Joy blog. 🙂

mantle - advent - trees - wreath - Christmas greetings (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

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.

warmed: cold hearts are warmed by God’s amazing love

 

We’re on the threshold of an arrival. Are we waiting with eager expectation or indifference? Although external temperatures might be low, are we being warmed on the inside by the thought of Christ’s immanence with us?

Will we greet Jesus with joy? Or might we ignore Him, like a sideshow we don’t have  time for as we busy ourselves with preparations? It’s possible to press our noses close to the manger, be captivated by the Nativity, yet miss the wonder of the infant Incarnate Christ within.

Will we allow our cold, wintry hearts to become warmed by the love of God? I hope so. Because He desires our heart’s devotion above all things and longs for us to open the door to Him.

I am like most of you: knee-deep in extra busyness, weary while waiting and exhausted by the preparation. But as I pause to ponder just what we are about to celebrate and Who this feast is really about, I see how easy it can be to slide into secularism and neglect the most important thing.

Maybe, as we wrap presents, ready ourselves to exchange gifts and attend to last-minute activities, we can try to focus our attention on recognising the presence of God in our midst.

Because He breathes out His beauty every day. He is ready to rule and reign, starting with one surrendered heart at a time. Jesus is the Gift. Jesus is all we ever truly need. 

I have taken an imaginary winter walk in the sonnet below. Come join me? Together we can discover grace being showered on us liberally like snow from heaven above, thawing out our chilled, distracted hearts.

Hearts are warmed

We walk, crunching grass crystal shards beneath our feet,
Seeing hoar frost sparkle like diamonds twinkling in the dark,
While air swirls breath into a misted fog and fingertips freeze.
Icy ground is too frozen hard for footsteps to leave a mark
But these wintry sights enliven a chilled environment.
And hearts are warmed by creation’s breathed out beauty
Where heaven’s wings touch earth out of love, not duty,
And sprinkle shining stardust by angelic intent.
Maybe the human mind should wonder on seeing snow,
Become captivated and charmed by how a landscape
Can alter in a moment, setting cold hearts aglow,
Initiating a thaw within, making way for God’s grace.
A melting of minds begins a bonfire of the vanities,
Whereby space is created to believe and receive.
©joylenton

Dear friends, I hope and pray you will have a happy and blessed Christmas celebration, with your hearts warmed by God’s amazing love. I’ll be sharing my 4th Sunday in Advent poem on Poetry Joy’s Facebook page this weekend, then I am taking a break until the new year. You can read the offering to come and catch up with the rest of the Advent poems here. Lots of love, Joy xo ❤

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

ring out the bells of welcome and praise

snowy-scene-winter-welcome

 

We search for signs, look for signals of change, indicators of promise. Because winter can lie heavy on our world-weary souls. Will the bells ring out for us this season? Will we find reason to rejoice?

Christmas is a clarion call to celebration, largely of the material kind. It is also an oasis of hope, peace and joy for those who put their faith and trust in Jesus, a welcome pit stop to remember His first coming to earth and His future return.

We’re invited to take a holy pause, to savour the sacred in our midst, honour God above all things. And we cannot fail to see how creation itself speaks of a deep yearning for the difference which each new season of the year will bring.

My first haiku today was sparked by remembering that many are now knee-deep in trenches of snow.  Yet, despite how prolonged it can seem, winter will be over before we know it and spring is already stirring beneath the frozen soil.

‘Ring out a welcome’

Bells silenced by frost

Snowdrops ring out a welcome

Sign of early spring

haiku-ring-out-a-welcome

 

If creation is a clear sign of God’s presence, it also holds whispers of His joy. Every flower is full of His glory, each green stem a vivid reminder of God’s vitality, His thisness  infiltrating our everyday with the living sustenance, strength and support which only He can provide.

I believe living things ring clear and true of God’s goodness and grace, and that includes us too. We are receptacles and shining lights, offering a glimpse of His manifest glory working in and through us.

‘These inner bells’

You can’t silence these

inner bells—they peal freely

ring out joy within

haiku-these-inner-bells

 

Time inches closer and we are almost ready to celebrate Christmas, to proclaim the joyous news of Emmanuel, God-with-us as a babe in Bethlehem and as Saviour and Lord in the here and now.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders..” ~ Isaiah 9:6

‘Ring out praises’

Sound the living bells

Let earth rejoice and ring out

Praises to her King

haiku-ring-out-praises

 

“And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace: ~ Isaiah 9:6

I’m linking here to Ronovan Writes where this week’s haiku challenge prompt is: ‘Bells/Ring’. You are warmly invited to join in. There’s no need to write more than one haiku but I tend to get carried away!  🙂 

A taste of the holy invading our everyday

a-taste-of-the-holy-pj

 

How can we fail to notice the holy? Sadly, all too easily. Yet God leaves little messages in each moment. Markers of His presence. Footsteps of the divine in our midst. Evidence surrounds us everywhere but we often miss it.

A good way to heighten our awareness of the holy is to seek frequent sacred spaces in our days, whereby we look, listen and pray. We can aim to live with an expectation of wonder during Advent and beyond, to put spiritual lenses on, watch and wait with anticipation, have a heart set on holiness, remain alert to its appearance in our everyday ordinary.

We can become deaf to God’s voice due to disobedience, fail to step forward into encounter because of fear, or drown Him out by our busyness and drive toward independence.

Our resistance may stem from many things, but we eventually begin to see how much we can miss by not readily opening our eyes, heart and mind to the holy in our midst.

Sometimes God may choose to conceal Himself for a while. Then we have to exercise our faith muscles, to trust He is still with us in the dark, grope our way back to believing, have praying companions who come alongside and remind us of God’s goodness, His immanence with us.

God offers us numerous opportunities for connection, whispers words into our consciousness and does everything in His power to gently lure us into a deeper relationship with Him. There is no coercion to be close to God, only an open invitation of constant love.

Our eagerness to discover God hiding in plain sight is more than matched by His willingness to be found. And creation itself is the loudest and clearest clarion call signalling His significant presence with us on a daily basis.

Thoughts of the way we often taste the Holy in sweet, tangible ways and sense an essence of God in our midst have shaped the haiku I’ve written today. All three haiku have been prompted by this week’s poetic haiku challenge of ‘Kiss&Taste’ set by Ronovan Hester. Just click here to visit and meet the man behind the challenge.

Taste of Love

Feel the taste of Love

Descend from heaven above

Kiss your cares away

haiku-taste-of-love-pj

 

A Holy kiss

Taste a Holy kiss

Sealing your heart, soul and lips

A divine imprint

haiku-a-holy-kiss-pj

 

Benediction kiss

Holy Spirit sighs

Breathe a benediction kiss

We taste deep inside

haiku-benediction-kiss-pj

 

What is helping you to sense the holy in your midst?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the conversation below.