if: when we receive so much more than we deserve or expect

If only. Oh how often those immortal words have entered our thoughts or escaped from our lips, as we murmur against the hand life has dealt us or wonder just when we can fulfil our delayed hopes and dreams.

Maybe ‘if only’ has been spoken as wistful wishes or with sadness and regret. I’ve had my share of both. But I’ve also expressed those words when looking back in gratitude for the way God has intervened to rescue me from this or that. With God, we always receive so much more than we deserve or have any right to expect.

Today, I’m wondering at the wisdom of temporarily breaking my poetic silence and period of enforced rest, having been lured into the writing waters again by the prompt of ‘if’ provided by five-minute-friday this week.

If

If you can see yourself as you really are, your need for alteration and change,
and are willing for your mind to become transformed, your life rearranged.

If you can look beyond the bare bones of your own meagre existence
and recognise how much loving others makes a difference.

If you refuse to slavishly follow the ways of this darkened world, preferring,
instead, to plough your own furrow, while watching seeds of faith unfurl.

If you recognise that undue haste and hurry only lead to stress and driven
lives, and that being spiritually guided, led and inspired is truly wise.

If you can maintain hope when challenges mount up, and drink
willingly from life’s stormy, thankless and bitter cup.

If you gratefully receive grace upon grace to help you live your life
aright, while yielding yourself to God’s supreme will and his laser-light.

If your eyes have been opened to the mystery and marvellous ways of God,
and your broken heart has been broken open by his unconditional love.

If your prayers centre on inner growth, supporting others more than yourself,
and you’ve developed a greater Christ-like, compassionate heart as well.

Then you will be aware of being God’s beloved one, my friend,
created to be in relationship with him and to do good things.
© joylenton

**With apologies to Rudyard Kipling for styling my hastily executed poem similarly to his own epic work. You can read his masterly ‘If’ poem here… **

However, I am delighted to be flexing my poetic muscles again and to have an offering to share with the wonderful writers here. Come join us? 🙂

story: owning the story of our lives #thedailyhaiku 31

 

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have wanted to disown the story I am living, rewrite it differently and choose an alternative narrative arc. Maybe you have too. So what does owning our story look like? 

As a woman of faith, I venture to suggest it looks like seeing our lives as a small but highly significant part of God’s greater narrative. In the story He is telling throughout history, we all have a part to play. You matter. Your life isn’t a mistake or an accident.

I grew up thinking (hoping?) I must have been adopted, such was the disconnect between me and my family of origin. Later on, hearing how my mother had taken measures to try to stop the pregnancy from continuing, my insecure feelings grew stronger.

Then God happened. He’d been there right at conception, of course, planned for me to live at such a time as this, to be born into the generation I belong to and the family where I arose from but failed to see myself as cherished.

I was born prematurely and against the odds. I was meant to be here. And to survive whatever life threw at me. I was also born to bloom and thrive because of belonging to the family of God. 

Once I came to faith in Christ, my  wounded soul brokenness was no surprise to Him, only a recognisable state we all struggle with to varying degrees. I finally woke up to the fact that I was unconditionally loved—by Almighty God Himself.

It has taken me a while to own the story of my life, filled with brokenness and emotional pain as the years have been, plus decades of health challenges. But that’s only viewing it from a purely human perspective.

Now I am able to see how God poured out His mercy and grace, loved me immeasurably, tenderly wiped away the tears and gave me a brand new start through Jesus.

I am incredibly blessed to have a husband who adores me, a loving family and close friends. I no longer want to disown the story of my life. Instead, I am willing to speak out about how much God has changed and glorified it by His grace. And He will do it for you too, my friend.

Owning my story

I claim this story
the life I live, holding it
shyly—out to you

you gather pieces
of my brokenness and give
them back to me—whole

and in your eyes, wide
as the ocean swells, I see
sweet mercy and grace

caught in a net of love
with no thought of escape, here
I will stay—always
©joylenton

We’ve made it! This is the last post in #thedailyhaiku series for October’s #write31days marathon reading/writing challenge. It’s been a joy and sweet encouragement to have your company here. Thank you! If you want to catch up with the rest of the posts, please click here.  And look out for a surprise bonus tomorrow!  🙂 ❤

Sabbath: space to rest, breathe and be still #thedailyhaiku 28

 

Today, I invite you to come aside from busyness for a while, slump easy on the settee, crash out in a chair (or grab a log) and join me in finding a few moments of rest for our restless souls. We don’t have to wait for a special day to have a Sabbath mindset and heart. Because God is always available to us.

Being holy isn’t about trying hard to achieve a state of perfection or keeping to a set of rules. It’s a way of life and a relationship of knowing Holy Love. Recognising we are set apart for God’s glory, while we live in a fallen world. It means having a surrendered soul and a disposition of faith and trust, knowing God abides within by His Spirit and is willing to work in and though us, despite our weakness and brokenness.

We come aside to spend time in God’s presence because we can. It’s a Holy privilege given to us. God longs for us to meet with Him. We don’t have to wait for Sabbath to arrive or a gilt-edged invitation to come in the post, because Jesus is the ever-open Door into the Father’s presence. 

And when we do see ourselves as God’s Beloved ones, realise just how much our Father desires to be with us, then we approach Him with due reverence and awe, coupled with a grateful, childlike heart that eagerly runs to the throne and delights to be in her Abba’s arms again.

keeping Sabbath

time to be holy

set apart for God’s glory

space to breathe and Be

©joylenton

Let’s listen to the hope filled words of the song below, still our souls, breathe freely, simply Be and rest in knowing we are loved Just As We Are and blessed beyond measure by God…

 

 

eyes: looking for the eternal rainbow of hope

 

Our eyes swivel with hope, desiring to discern wonder, keen to see how Mystery pervades the everyday. A rainbow is seen as a sign of hope and blessing. In biblical terms, it reveals God’s eternal covenant with mankind. We also see it as a marker of His glory and splendour.

The eyes of our heart slowly become awakened by God’s glory and grace, made aware of His penetration of everything. For our heavenly Father eagerly desires us to discover and be drawn into relationship with Him.

We begin to chase the rainbow of Holy Light, seeking to unearth deep treasure hidden within the pages of Scripture. Because a shaded life is made bright by grace. 

As we trace Christ’s steps to Calvary, become awed by His risen resurrection victory, we begin to see the cost of so great a salvation—abundant, lavish, rich and free.

Gradually, we are transformed from the inside out, enlivened by God’s grace, given a brand new start, new life, new heart. No longer are we in a driven race for success but in a place of deep, abiding soul rest.

The darkness within is a result of sin, as we wrestle with our flawed desires and the heat of them. But God has paved The Way for us to become reunited with Him. A road of Love, a public pathway of Christ’s freely spilt and poured out blood.

Who will quench the fire?

Behold our desires

like hot eyes of flame inside

Who will quench the fire?

©joylenton

 

God’s eyes roam throughout the whole earth. He sees you and me and we look lovely in His sight, viewed as we are through the lens of unconditional Love, a beautiful mirrored reflection of His Son.

Dart of love

We are beholden

God’s sharp, keen-eyed dart of love

has pierced our armour

©joylenton

 

Once we have tasted God’s glory and grace, it makes us hungry to know more. Our inner and outer eyes become better attuned to His presence with us, even as they yearn for the Day when Jesus returns physically to earth in full power and splendour.

We behold glory

We behold glory

Hearts fill with wonder—eyes see

Jesus is with us

©joylenton

 

The words above were inspired by this week’s haiku challenge prompt of ‘Behold&Eye’, set by our Poet Master, Ronovan. Just click here to read the great posts being shared and join in if you want to have a go!  🙂

searching out the joy bringers

write31days-journeying-into-joy-joy-bringers

 

I don’t have to search much to find the joy bringers in my life. For instance, I love (in no particular order) – curling up with a good book, spending time with family, drinking coffee, eating dark chocolate, reading and writing poetry, scenting sea air, watching day seeping into dusk and sunset, being outside,  laughter, company, connecting, silence and solitude.

Some of these are easily achievable now; others must wait for the right timing, opportunity, sufficient health, strength and energy to coincide. You’ll note some of them seem contradictory. That’s because I’m a reflective, contemplative introvert at heart and also a woman who savours being in touch with others!

While I relish having a writing outlet, and derive great satisfaction and pleasure from many things, it is relationships most of all that provide me with the greatest joy and pleasure.

I delight most in family and friends, knowing and being known, loving and being loved. God’s purpose is primarily for us to be in relationship with Him and with one another, to be life enhancers and joy bringers as we shine His light in our daily lives.

What does being a joy bringer look like? Does it mean having a perfect, joy filled life? Far from it. It’s more about joy in knowing God and sensing His hand at work.

“Joy is not gush. Joy is not mere jolliness. Joy is perfect aquiescence – acceptance, rest – in God’s will, whatever comes. And that is so, only for the soul that delights in God” ~ Amy Carmichael

Because God-shaped joy transcends circumstances – it is mysterious, wondrous and liberating. When our lives are less than joyful, we can discover it afresh in recognising how we are held, strengthened, kept and comforted in our hour of need.

God’s constant presence is what stabilises our see-saw emotions and gives grace to cope for one more day, then the next, and so on, providing the means to endure or overcome.

The joy we have is in being able to cast our cares and burdens on the Lord, release our worry and anxiety. We can rest in knowing God is dealing with our problems, granting us grace to wait, offering His perfect peace while we pause before receiving answers to come.

And you know what brings us magnified joy? it’s the ability to care, to hold one another in prayer, encourage each other on the journey and share the blessings we receive.

“When large numbers of people share their joy in common, the happiness of each is greater because it adds fuel to the other’s flame” ~ St Augustine

Today I invite you to search out your own joy bringers and reflect on ways in which you are able to offer joy to others, because what we focus on most tends to define our days.

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badge

Welcome to #day23 of #write31days of journeying into joy

It’s a joy to have you travelling with me, especially as we begin to wind up this series.

Each day has been an adventure of faith with God providing abundantly! 

write31days-journeying-into-joy-joy-bringers-quote

find joy in being true to yourself

write31days-journeying-into-joy-find-joy-in-being-true-to-yourself

 

Be bold. Shine out God’s glory. You were made for more than ordinary. You are created for such a time as this, a time to be all you’re intended to be.

You may feel fragile, weak and weary, fearful and hesitant, wanting to hang back from the crowd. Others may consider you to be of no significance, but God sees the beauty, potential and promise within.

Let your head be lifted high. His desires for you won’t outrun His capacity to give to you. God doesn’t leave us defenceless. He provides for every contingency.

Maybe you’ve been used to cowering, hiding away while others take the forefront. Maybe you’ve ruled yourself out on some pretext or other, convinced yourself you’re no use to God or others, have nothing of value to offer.

Please don’t buy into that lie! You are of great worth and value – right now, Just As You Are on the way to all you are becoming by God’s grace. You don’t have to take a course, pretty yourself up, make a recognisable mark with your art, perfect your prose or poetry.

Your own unique version of creativity will bring a measure of joy to this world, if you are willing to unleash and unfurl it little by little, one small bit at a time. Trust in God. Trust in the process itself.

Find joy in the journey by being true to who God created you to be. He doesn’t make mistakes. No-one else can create in the exact same way as you can. And that’s a freeing thought. Only you can excel at being you. Failure is a word others may choose to judge us by; it’s not a measure of our ability, but rather a stepping stone to improvement and change.

Your circumstances may have drained and depleted vital energy but they cannot steal the central core of who you are. Stay true to the way you do things, while you learn and grow your expertise and lean on God for everything.

Because guess who is continually cheering you on from the sidelines (apart from me and a whole host of unseen witnesses)? It’s none other than your loving heavenly Father who gets excited every time you decide to trust in His leading and guiding. He’s beaming proudly at His beautiful daughter, saying, “that’s my girl!”

Here are a few life lessons to aid your progress:

  • unleash your art
  • trust your heart
  • make and create
  • it’s never too late
  • listen and learn
  • grow wise and discern
  • enjoy all gainful employ
  • keep journeying into joy

God is right there with you every step of the way, every single day. Take holy courage as your badge of belonging to Christ.

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badge

Welcome to #day11 of #31days of journeying into joy. I want to offer you a fresh infusion of encouragement today as we continue this journey, because parts of it are hard and challenging to traverse.

I also want to remind you of just how much God loves, approves of and celebrates YOU! ❤

write31days-journeying-into-joy-be-true-to-yourself-life-lessons

For God so loved

for God so loved PJ

Although the Advent season is now at a close, the message it brings continues to influence and change lives.

God’s love is eternal, everlasting and ever-available to us.

During Advent we are drawn into the wonder of the Incarnation, Christ made flesh.

It also pulls us into the holy awe of Easter where Jesus was willing to die a painful death for us.

They are inextricably linked, eternally bound by God’s purposes and plans.

We cannot view the babe in the manger without catching sight of the cross in the background.

Love comes at a price, and none have paid so high a price as the Son of God Himself.

Jesus literally died for love of us.

The wonder of it never ceases…

For God so loved…

Dear heavenly Father,

You loved; You keep on loving; You are Love

Love divine, Love Incarnate, Love excelling all other loves

It is Your defining characteristic

the essence of who You are and how You act

How can I begin to fathom the depths of Your love?

How can I experience it in all its simplicity,

its fullness and rich complexity?

Only by revelation

Only by faith

Only by acceptance

Only by grace

I read about Your love in Your word and it amazes me

I desire to experience it more in my heart and life

Would You live out Your love in and through

this weak mind and body of mine?

Would You find a way to touch the lives of others

with its heat, its power and all-consuming fire?

I rest complete in Your love

Because I need nothing else

Everything flows from it

Your love is the starting point of faith

and will be with me beyond the grave

In humble gratitude, I give thanks for all

I have already seen, believed and received

of Your inexhaustible, unconditional love

and all that is yet to be known,

lived out and personally owned

Amen

©JoyLenton2016

for God so loved prayer PJ pin

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” ~ John 3:16

During the last few weeks I’ve been mulling over the new ‘word’ for the year which God whispered to my heart ahead of time.

He has made it clear that the emphasis for me for 2016 is to be ‘LOVE’.

To see how this has already affected me while I absorb its fuller implications, you can read this introductory post on my main blog, Words of Joy. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what insights are given in the months ahead and sharing some of them with you here.

Do you have a ‘word’ for the year? I’d love to hear what it is and how it affects you. Feel free to join in the conversation below.