tripping: how God meets with us when life gets tough – snapshot #3

tripping - how God uses everything we go through - snapshot #3

We’re caught by surprise sometimes on attempting things we used to do before with relative ease but now find challenging. I’m largely housebound and incapacitated by chronic illness, but I can still totter around my small home and navigate a few steps (albeit painfully and slowly) most of the time.

But set my feet on concrete, ask me to pound pavement, and I’m all over the place, unsteady as can be. I have bad balance, limb stiffness, weakness and pain to contend with, which makes walking very slow, arduous at best and impossible at worst, when the territory is uneven.

Years ago I realised that a wheelchair was the best mode of transport for me. Sadly, there wasn’t anyone reliably able, available and fit enough to take me out in one, so I only borrowed a set of wheels when it was absolutely necessary.

I made a trip to the city recently and thought I would try to get there by bus, knowing how hard it can be to park the car.  I wanted to try stretching my limbs and limits (maybe you can relate?) in the vain hope of being able to accompany my grandson home from his first day at school next week.

Dear reader, I struggled. Pain was severe and I nearly cried out loud. I halted several times and barely covered one third of the necessary distance to reach my school collection goal. We caught a taxi home.

Later on, as I sat with frustration, I looked at my photos and wrote a poem about the experience. It was a surprise grace gift, arising from a hard thing, such as God delights to provide for you and me. Things don’t seem so bad when viewed from God’s perspective. I can’t manage the walk but I can be the one welcoming our grandson home at the door.

God is constantly rewriting our stories, blending them into His greater narrative. What seems to be causing us to fall just might lift our souls more than we can know. I’m grateful for God’s keeping power and my dependence on Him, even if my story has taken several unwanted twists and turns.

tripping - God is constantly rewriting our stories quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Here’s the tanka pentaptych poem that arose from my tough time above…

Tripping

visit to the city
idle bus window browsing
I need new specs
I like my life blurry
not in such sharp focus

people mill
cluster around attractions
bright eared hares
decorating the pavement
we see them everywhere

I’m unsteady
my gait uneasy outside
like a drunk
I stumble and cling hard
holding on to stick and arm

these sea legs
wobble over cobbles
trip on the cracks
cannot go far without sinking
I feel like turning back

air is crisp
scent of leaves, fuel, flowers
August at an end
much is dead or dying
pain reminds me I’m alive
© joylenton

How has God met you at your point of need? Have you been able to trace His hand in the hard experiences of life? Let’s encourage one another in the comments below.

tripping tanka poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

photography: a contemplative way of seeing life differently

 

Every picture (or photograph) tells a story. But what if we were to simply make one up in response to what we see? I actually do that all the time to some extent, when writing poetry to go with a photograph I have taken.

When using photographs contemplatively, the image itself acts as a prompt to stir contemplation and creativity. Words follow soon after. It’s a kind of contemplative seeing via a camera lens.

And an art I am slowly learning with every photo I take. It’s very satisfying to see more than the image presents itself as. To use our imagination and be able to trace God’s hand at work in what is before our eyes. It requires me to still my soul and focus on the object before me, while I take several snaps from different angles to gain a fresh perspective.

Today I am venturing back into the Twittering Tales creative exercise which my blogging friend, Kat Myrman shares on her site, among her eclectic and delightful offerings! I have written three responses, telling a consecutive story.

God inhabits our life story and seemingly ordinary days, making them sacred by His Presence. Our intentional holy-ordinary seeing helps pave the way for growing awareness of His grace in our lives.

Obscured

Almost obscured by leaves
this sign breathes renewed
hope into her sad soul
signalling a new beginning
where joy and optimism
overcomes pain
©joylenton

(139 characters)

 

We hop

She squirms higher in her seat because, at age 5, she can barely read. But she sees “hop we” as indicator of her family being happier here.
(139 characters)

Secrets lurk within

Hedged in by dense
undergrowth, accessed
by dusty driveway
a house stands proud
looks inviting but is
far from it, for deep
secrets lurk within
©joylenton

(140 characters)

 

This week’s photo prompt is based on the image at the top of my post, courtesy of Leigh Heasley at Pexels.com  If you would like to participate in Twittering Tales, you can find the rules and link up advice here.

**Are you interested in discovering more about the practice of contemplative photography? Here’s a helpful book by Christine Valters Paintner that’s on my wish list! My friend, Kate Kennington Steer has a great contemplative eye. Her Instagram feed is well worth following** 🙂

slant: how changing our perspective can alter the way we think

 

When you spend a fair amount of time in bed it does tend to skew your visual perspective. Especially if you are lying in a tilted downward, minus 10 degrees angle for a fortnight, as my husband was while recovering from his last spinal operation.

Granted, his view of things was also affected by the general anaesthetic and the somewhat delusional mental state it engendered in him for a few days post-op. Not to mention having to make do without his glasses, of course. That didn’t help much. 😏

He began to have an altered reality perspective, including a mathematical slant on the room he was in, seeing swirling patterns on the white-tiled ceiling, odd shapes in corners and strange angles everywhere. Only they were invisible to everybody else, which was most frustrating for him. But it certainly helped pass the time!

Sometimes I think it helps to see life differently, though not necessarily in a tilted down state like my husband was, discombobulating as that can be. Rather, it can be an advantage to let our imaginations fly, give them free rein, in life and in faith.

Because when we have our eyes open to wonder, why we tend to see it everywhere. I particularly love clouds and obscure window views for the way they stir me creatively and spiritually on to thoughts of freedom.

Our days may seem pretty mundane on the whole but a capacity to anticipate holy joy and awaken to wonder in the everyday can alter our perspective in the most delightful ways. I’m so thankful for supportive, praying friends and the wisdom in God’s word that lifts my perspective and puts me back on track whenever I get derailed, especially by discouragement.

The poem below was inspired by an angled window view. I hope and pray it will stir a desire in you to try looking at your life from a renewed, slant perspective and readying yourself to be surprised and inspired by what you might see.

Let me see life slant

Let me see life slant, ready to be tilted
into a fresh perspective, as new angles
present themselves to the eyes of my heart

like lessons in geometry, wrought from
passing scenery. May I form irregular
lines, make shapes from clouds and

trees, let my imagination fly, unfettered
while I thrill to mathematics in the sky

filling my soul and mind with unfiltered
possibilities, limitless boundaries
©joylenton

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 ❤

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.

moon: developing daily gratitude toward created things #thedailyhaiku 23

 

As I watch silvery traces of moonlight (or golden splashes sometimes), I marvel over God’s provision of sun by day and moon by night to light the way for sojourning earthly pilgrims.

It’s a great reminder of the Pillar of Cloud, as Holy presence hovering close to guide during daylight hours, and the Pillar of Fire to light the way for the children of Israel when darkness of night closed in on them.

God led and guided them in this way for 40 long years in the wilderness. Years, decades even, when their clothes and footwear didn’t wear out. Now that’s a miracle all by itself!

So why do we become fretful when we fail to see or sense God’s hand at work? Are we forgetful of His faithfulness and trustworthiness toward us in the past, perhaps? Can we not believe in miracles when God whispers to the sun each morning to do it again, to shine for His glory?

We are apt to go through life with blinkers on, failing to truly see the glory markers God strews in our pathway, or appreciate the daily marvel of life continuing on day after day.

But each time I do remember to stop and look, become rapt with wonder over the sheer loveliness and beauty of a flower or plant, maybe, delighting in cloud patterns travelling across the sky or the flame of sunset setting my heart alight, it feeds my soul with gratitude and a deeper awareness of God’s immanence with us.

Shall we try to be those who notice? Not dwelling heavily on the badness that exists but focusing most on developing holy wonder in connection with those everyday things we can easily take for granted.

moon

a golden-faced orb

hangs low in inky-dark sky

waiting for sun’s sigh

©joylenton

alive: awakening to signs of resurrection hope

 

Spring issues us with an invitation to come alive. Winter’s hibernation slumber is over. it’s time to embrace the new and the next. But are we ready? It’s all too easy to become lethargic.

Though our mind and body may protest, feeling like we’re being tugged into a season we’re ill-prepared for, we all need a holy prod sometimes to remind us how to come alive to God, especially while we walk this Lenten pathway.

Resurrection life awaits us with the dawn of each new day. Every moment is an opportunity to engage with the holy. Every hour can speak out wonder for souls alive enough on the inside to be alert to God’s continual presence with us.

I have been thinking along these lines for my magnetic poetry offerings today, because I long for sufficient sensitivity to sense earth stirring, sap rising and God’s new life being reborn in me as I look to Him to provide for all my needs, and as I seek the eternal sunshine wonder of His glorious face each day.

Alive like wild rain

Follow ancient path’s water cycle

Stroll soft and long; climb quietly

and breathe pure, soul-sweet spring

air above daffodil-deep sanctuary

Rest and feel alive like wild rain

blanketing grass with its wet shade

©joylenton

 

Slow cloud joy

Here they devour slow cloud joy in

eternity’s liquid night-drink sky, and

wake—laughing soft—with the morning

like velvet prisoner’s in poetry’s home

as God gives His sacred time picture

of life’s warm and wild secret colours

©joylenton

 

Maybe we can learn to love our everyday, ordinary lives, and come alive to possibility and potential in the midst of pain and problems. Just as we marvel over spring flowers emerging from dusty, barren ground, we can watch those things we felt were dying or dead suddenly regain new shoots of life before our very eyes.

Eyes of faith see beyond the temporary and ache to experience the eternal in the temporal, the profound in the prosaic. Those with resurrection Hope etched into their souls learn to be aware and willing to receive the next thing God has planned for them.

We can have hope because God’s resurrection life pulses through our veins, rendering the ordinary mundane a work of extraordinary art and grace. Will you join me in deliberately looking for signs of resurrection life within and without and focusing on what is most alive in us in this season?

clear: seeking to trust God’s revelation of Himself to us

 

Life and faith are not always clear to us or easily understood. Often, there are more questions than answers, more wondering about the meaning of life and less living in wonder.

Try as we might, we soon realise our finite minds cannot fully comprehend the divine. We feel like blindfolded walkers stumbling through a long, shadowed tunnel, anxiously trying to make out the way ahead. Where is the light and won’t someone remove our blindfold, please? 

What if we put uncertainty aside, allowed God’s word to speak to us in a clear way, to read us as we’re reading it? And if we tried to absorb its truth by soaking in the promises and believing them.

What would it look like to immerse ourselves fully in His story more than in speculation over how it all possibly came to be—to get to the heart of the matter by way of God’s beating heart for us?

Maybe we still wouldn’t have clear, concrete answers to the myriad questions in our minds, but it is possible we would be more easily satisfied to live into the answers to come, to let faith draw us deeper into wonder, rather than leave us wondering what to do with all the unsettled issues.

Because what matters most is relationship, getting to spend quality time in God’s presence, learning His will and ways in a natural, gradual way, relaxing our worries into His hands and learning to trust Him more than we focus on our cares and concerns.

My first poem below suggests God’s overseeing of things, even if they may look dark, blurry or seem invisible to us.

“even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” ~ Psalm 138: 12 NIV

Clear as day

Night is clear as day

to our Creator-King, Lord

of all living things

©joylenton2017

 

And when we do begin to grasp how God is always revealing Himself to us in the everyday, can we actually turn aside from daily preoccupations and deliberately catch sight of His presence?

“Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing flame of fire from the midst of a bush… yet it was not consumed. So Moses said, ‘I must turn away [from the flock] and see this great sight—why the bush is not burned up'” ~ Exodus 3:1-3 AMP

Can I turn aside?

Can I turn aside

like Moses—witness my King

burning daylight bright?

©joylenton2017

 

Finally, there will come a Day unlike any other. We will see God as He is, know and be known fully, comprehend what has been deep Mystery beforehand.

“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”~ Acts 2:20-21

On that Day

On that Day the King

will be revealed in glory

everyone will kneel

©joylenton2017

 

These haiku have been written in response to the prompt of ‘King&Day’, this week’s haiku challenge from our Haiku Master, Ronovon.  If you’d like to read the rich variety of posts being shared and maybe join in, too,  just click here.  🙂

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.

seeing life as a holy communion

clouds-seeing-life-as-holy-communion

 

Each day we are being offered sweet communion with God, a life full of good things graced by the ordinary-extraordinary, and days rich with the Holy in our midst. And yet we so often miss the marvel moments and heavenly minutiae which make up a life of faith.

When we’re caught up in busyness, held fast by pressure and pain, restricted by our numerous responsibilities, it’s a wonder we stop for breath sometimes, never mind lift our eyes to the heavens just to look at drifting clouds, or simply pause, ponder and pray as we go through our days.

But when we do, we soon discover it’s the little things that matter most, those seemingly everyday occurrences we are all in danger of taking for granted. Until they become compromised, somehow, and valued far more for their rarity.

I’d become used to my husband being a fit, physically active chap, sporty all his life, still playing competitive football when he was fifty. I took his strength, health and energy for granted, little knowing it would vanish one day, just like my own.

First he was hit hard by pain, then an inexplicable tremor developed and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease came soon after. Before long, his back began to crumble, require urgent medical attention and surgery. It’s now almost six months since he had the operation we assumed would put paid to the pain and increase his mobility.

Sadly, there have been several setbacks along the way and he is still quite unwell. But you know what? We find ourselves celebrating the small, remembering the good, giving thanks instead of grumbling too much at the changes. Because life is precious and each day is opportunity to begin again, to have hope of seeing change for the better.

I am rejoicing with relief at his renewed ability to resume baking bread —the shop-bought stuff not being half so good for her spoilt ladyship!—though he has to pace himself carefully, of course.  It’s a celebration of sorts, a leaning into grace and a way of reminding ourselves of progress being made—albeit slowly, one tiny step and one day at a time…

Communion

bread-kneading-contentment-holy-communion

 

Yeast, salt, oil, flour and water combine

in basin of steel, bend of head

rhythmic kneading—apply pressure

stretch and roll; now a pliable thing

as dough emerges to rise and prove

knock back and shape to suit

the size within these tins

 

She watches mesmerised

by the baker’s craft

moulding staff of life

between firm fingers

awed once more by all

that lingers here, sensing

inside a gift that lasts

 

bread-seeing-life-as-holy-communion-pj

 

Patience, heat, chemistry

and clock will do their work

in perfect alchemy

that doesn’t always happen

perfectly—while air hangs heavy

with promise, rich aroma scents

surroundings and colour changes

 

Once again these golden loaves

are risen, ready, a fragrant feast

offering, living labour of love

Sitting now, they sup the soup

break the bread and sigh their grateful

‘Amen’, as they participate

in this holy communion

©JoyLenton2016

communion-poem-excerpt-seeing-life-as-holy-communion

 

What daily graces are sparking gratitude for you? 

How are you appreciating the holy in your midst?