reliquaries: how our hearts become repositories of God’s grace

reliquaries - x-ray fingers - how our hearts become repositories of God's grace @poetryjoy.com

When I think of reliquaries as defined by shrines or ancient holy relics, then it causes me to marvel even more at the way God entrusted His sacred self to be housed within our souls. The bare bones of holy breath get to take up residence in souls of dust. We cannot ever measure the depth or extent of it in our minds or lives.

But we can become aware of the measures God has taken to connect with us. Because the bible reveals the awe-inspiring holy wonder of Easter, when Jesus came to live on earth, die for us and dwell forever in our hearts. Though we have our part to play in receiving His presence, as we recognise the barriers of our bad behaviour, turn away from those things and embrace His mercy and grace.

God doesn’t force entry into our hearts. We can resist, ignore, tell Him to go away. Or we can open up, confess our sin and failure and invite Him to come in. God gave us life and breath, and He waits patiently for us to recognise our need of His immeasurable, unconditional love so that He can fully inhabit our hearts.

“…I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands…” — Ezekiel 36:26-27 The Message

Reliquaries

containers exist
buried within our hearts
they’re time capsules
holy reliquaries
recessed deep, accessed by faith

bare bones
of old truth eternal
sit beached
inside our dusty souls
hidden but within reach

tablets of stone
were split, separated
at Moses’ hands
cast down in anger, breaking
of God’s holy commands

no relic now
we’ve been given a new law
it’s written on
human hearts as conscience
which we can choose to ignore

love becomes
the measure of his given grace
our sentience
is not a sentence we bear
but a state that spells release
© joylenton

Reliquaries poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com - heart image

I’m grateful to be linking my poem with the fabulous five-minute-friday writing crew gathering at Kate Motaung’s place. You are welcome to join us here as we write on this week’s prompt of “measure”, and read the great posts being shared.

Friends, I’m needing to pause my poetic thoughts for a few weeks in order to visit family, celebrate Easter and rest. Meanwhile, you might like to take a look at my latest book, which is an eclectic collection of poetry, soul exhale reflections and blessings. Perhaps you could treat yourself to it for Easter or Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day? It’s called Embracing Hope: Soul Food to Help Chase Away the Blues and it’s available now on Amazon Kindle. A paperback copy will follow in due course.

Embracing Hope book (C) joylenton

“Are you in need of a fresh infusion of hope? Could you use some help to regain the hope you’ve lost? Because when life gets tough, especially if we’re chronically sick or simply low and discouraged, hope can be hard to muster or hold on to. This gentle soul companion guide will help steer you in the right direction..”

May you have a blessed Easter break. I look forward to catching up with you again on April 26th or soon after, God willing.  🙂 ❤ xox

reliquaries - Happy Easter - cross - bright sky @poetryjoy.com

inside: how Ash Wednesday reminds us of God’s grace

inside - Ash Wednesday - smudge on forehead @poetryjoy.com

As I considered how to start this season of Lent, what struck me forcibly was the symbolism of Ash Wednesday, which is where we begin. Even though my home church doesn’t participate in Lenten practices, I see the value in them. A smudge of Palm Sunday’s ash pressed on the forehead is a visible and powerful reminder of why Jesus came to earth.

I’m truly grateful to have my sin largely concealed on the inside. It’s not always evident to those who know me or strangers who might come across me. Although much is revealed in our behaviour. Because our actions and words often speak for themselves. We can become adept at concealing our inner darkness, of course, but it’s a relief that the worst of us is known only to God. 😏

Safely tucked inside

What if God asked us to dare to wear
our sin, not like a hidden, dark, secret
stain within, but on the outside of us
instead, where it would be made visible
to all—would it bleed scarlet-red?

Or might we resemble bodily black-rimmed
coal miners, with thick, choking clouds of
dust ingrained deep into their skin, which
won’t wash off under the tap, rather
like an indelible tattoo, perhaps?

Or splattered in splotches, like scars,
as if we were pigs rolling around in mud,
up to our ears and all. Or battered, brawny
rugby players after a match, before we
went for our cleansing hot bath.

Maybe it’s better how it is now,
with a mere smudge gracing our
foreheads, and all the rest safely
tucked inside our souls, where we
keep the dross God only knows.
©joylenton

inside - safely tucked inside poem excerpt - coal miners (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

We can delude ourselves into thinking we are better than we are. Or we can become deceived into believing nothing good resides within at all. The truth is a mixture of them both. Left to our own devices, we are fallen and lost. But God… picks us up, heals, redeems and restores our souls, calls us His precious Beloved and makes His home in our hearts.

That’s what Easter is all about. A Divine exchange takes place. Our filthy rags for His royal robe of righteousness. Our sin for His grace. Our pain for His peace. Our tears for His oil of joy. God excels in bringing beauty out of ashes. He isn’t fazed by our brokenness because He alone can piece us back together. God’s holy glue makes us better than before, with a gradual sanctification process as we surrender our lives to Him.

“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.” – Isaiah 61:3 TLB

cross: the counterintuitive way of the cross that sets us free

The way of the cross seems counterintuitive. Who would willingly walk to such a gruesome, painful death? Who could endure the ultimate, agonising sacrifice of a totally self-surrendered life? Not one of us, I would bet.

But it was the route Jesus took to restore us back to the Father’s side. It was a pathway paved with lavish love and grace. It created a shift in the heavens and altered our perspective on earth thereafter.

Jesus willingly yielded His life so that we could personally experience God’s unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness, His poured out grace for the human race. He had the joyous end view in sight of many sons and daughters sharing His eternal Home and glory to come.

His surrendered sacrifice inspires us to persevere in our own walk of faith, keeping the cross before us to remind us of the price Jesus paid to set us free from sin, guilt and shame.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

My haiku sequence vignette was written as a poetic response to these thoughts and a way to try to describe the indescribable, while recognising we are entering into the heart of the mystery of our salvation.

The way of the Cross

the way of the cross
is counterintuitive
we see surrender

and self-sacrifice
from Christ’s freely poured out life
as rivers of blood

mingle to become
oceans of mercy and grace
for the human race

and joy rises up
as he drinks the bitter gall
from death’s lifted cup

to yield his last breath
into Father’s loving hands
as curtain is torn

and darkness descends
making witnesses fearful
feel lost and bereft

their Saviour seems dead
but it is not over yet
for he rises from death

there’s an empty tomb
Resurrection has come
hope for everyone
©joylenton

Let’s rejoice with the Newsboys’ song and say our own “Hallelujah for the cross!”

PS: I’m also honoured to have a Good Friday reflection and poem featured on the Godspace community blog. Just click here to read it. And If you would like to slowly ponder the enormity of it all, you can join in with the Lectio Divina reading below that focuses on Isiaiah 53: 3-6. May God bless you with His amazing love, joy and peace this Easter, my friend! 🙂 ❤

resurrection: an unravelling and loosening to be set free

 

How easily we can fool ourselves into thinking we are free, while we live unaware of those invisible chains which still have a hold on us. We can be captured and captivated by the things of this world, enslaved by our own drives and desires, held captive by guilt, shame and pain. But we try to hide away from the anguish it brings.

Jesus offers us a remedy for a life of slavery to self and to sin, and hope for a need to be set free. His blood, His love, His goodness and grace all pave the way to an eternal destiny where freedom beckons with an invitation, whereby bending, bowing and brokenness are the means of entry.

Will we come? Will we heed the risen Saviour’s voice calling out across the sands of time? Will we seek to be loosed, like Lazarus, from physical and spiritual death?

Once a soul has been given to God, it will never be the same again. He will gradually, gently take and break, mould and make us anew, shaping us oh so tenderly into all we were always intended to be.

Being loosed

Lazarus became loosed from death

precursor to the cross to come

where death would lose

its final sting, and Christ

would rise soon from the tomb

 

A strange unravelling,unwinding of

bandaged limbs held fast in waxy cold

confines of morbidity, where life was lost

A warming, rushing pulse of life-breath

flooding through instead, as colour returns

and rigor mortis turns back to vigorous

 

And death’s steely-grip chains break at last

as our Saviour reveals The Way to be free

Now we have Hope and Life anew, as we

limp through our own resurrection days

blinking in unaccustomed Sun’s rays

 

We teeter on the edge, where death

lies as sinking abyss, yet across

its depths Christ’s firm footsteps tread

His arms spread wide to bring us Home

to eternal Life spent by his side

©joylenton2017

And once we have heeded the call to die to self so that we can rise to newness of life in Christ, we discover how, little by little, with Holy Spirit’s help, those things we were addicted to, or which held us fast, are slowly loosed.

An unravelling begins, as we become more alive on the inside, our hearts softened by God’s love, our souls more receptive and ready to be changed. Day by day, Christ’s resurrection glory and joy begin to overcome the darkness within. We are free… We can breathe… We can begin again…. Easter resurrection hope and  joy is ours for eternity.  Christ is risen indeed, hallelujah!!

Happy Easter, dear friend! May you rejoice in the glorious Hope we have in Christ.  🙂 ❤

wonder: maintaining a child-like sense of wonder

 

We begin, malleable as clay, newly minted, a wonder to behold. Childhood offers us an enviable openness and innocence that can quickly turn sour, depending on how our way of seeing things is perceived and responded to by our parents and carers.

I was a daydreaming child, prone to wondering (and wandering away). My impatient mother was apt to sigh, snap and tut at her head-in-the-clouds girl. I lived with eyes wide open, heart and mind engaged in a life beyond what adult eyes could see, lost in my own world, where anything was possible.

Dolls were real to me, so I cried when my sister carelessly tossed them down the stairs. They were my playmates, always firm friends, unlike my chameleon twin sister who blew hot and cold with the wind. Competitiveness took the edge off our companionship. Parents who constantly compared us—proverbial chalk and cheese in our character and interests—were of little help in fostering good relationship between us, or igniting wonder we could easily share.

Books soon became my escape route, a convenient hide-away when life became painful, a continual source of wonder and consolation to this day. Here’s the thing: God never meant us to lose our sense of wonder. That’s not what putting childish things behind us is supposed to mean. Child-like wonder is a precious gift we do well to maintain.

We are hard-wired for wonder, made to marvel and created to see and sense the holy beauty and joy that surrounds us each day. Sadly, our hearts can become hard, cynical and cold. We can fail to see that faith is the greatest wonder journey of them all.

I hope and pray the haiku below will help bring back a sense of awe to you during this Holy Week. May God soften and enliven our hearts, open our eyes, saturate us with His joy, fill us with fervent faith and an increasing ability to rejoice and to praise. Maybe then we will be better equipped to live a wonder-filled life.

Tuned to wonder

My heart is wired, tuned

to see wonder in each day

fired by what I spy

©joylenton2017

 

Daily marvel

We wonder, marvel

anew at all God can do

spy his handiwork

©joylenton2017

 

Risen—Holy wonder

Eyes are spying now

transfixed—seeing Jesus’ tomb

wondrously empty

©joylenton2017

 

Linking my haiku micropoetry with  our Poet Master, Ronovan, and fellow poets, as we share our take on this week’s prompt of ‘Wonder&Spy’. Just click here to join me there and read the great posts being shared.

How are you awakening to wonder as we walk this Lenten pathway? I’d love to hear in the comments below.  🙂

New life through death

kaleidoscope PJ file image

As Holy week comes toward its grand finale, it’s good to pause and consider the cost of our salvation.

I am pondering all that led to Jesus’ death and what it really means to live in the light of His finished work on the cross.

All that is lifeless within can be enlivened by His Spirit and changed by His grace.

New life through death.

New birth and new beginning.

We ponder and we wonder anew at all Jesus went through to bring us back to God the Father, to restore all that the enemy has stolen.

There is so much more here than one poem can convey.

Far more than I can easily express.

But I hope it will give you a tiny glimpse behind the scenes of Christ’s path to Calvary and its tremendous implications for all mankind.

‘An enlivening spark’

Kaleidoscope colours in your life and mine

collide in varied hues of the human condition

Fractured, splintered at times beyond recognition

So many shade to grey, loom dim and dark

without that vital, enlivening spark

We rest beneath the shadow of the cross

A place which collects all our pain and loss

We crest the hill of Golgotha rising

Eyes straining to see beyond its horizon

We witness a sacred flood of crimson-red

where our Saviour suffered, died and bled

Our own violence and tears join hands

with the punishment our sin demands

Kneeling, weeping, wondering anew

as resurrection Light and power break through

with glory, radiance of Love divine

©JoyLenton2015

cross PJ file image

The road less travelled

We tread a familiar pathway in this season of hope and renewal.

Walk through the Easter story with a weight of wonder.

Marvel anew at all our Lord went through as He trod the sand-blown, palm-strewn, hosanna-resounding, hostility-riven, nail-driven path to Calvary.

Our dark valleys and nights of the soul pale into insignificance beside Christ’s ordeal at Gethsemane.

Begging for the cup of suffering and sorrow to pass Him by.

Heart and soul in dread.

Sweating ruby-red from furrowed forehead.

Agonised at the thought of torment to come.

Never more fully human and fully God than in these heart-wrenching, lonely, decisive moments in history.

Friends slept oblivious as He waged war internally for our souls’ sake.

Faced being pinioned to a cross. Ready to accept all sin and loss.

Held captive so we could walk free in glorious grace-filled liberty.

Beating a path toward freedom as nails bite into torn, flailed flesh.

Thorns pierce deep and pain sears all senses.

crown of thorns file image

 

Here lies Love ~  unconditional and immeasurable ~ greater than anything we will ever know.

He took the road less travelled and takes us with Him too.

Ponder His Passion.

Poured out wine of His royal blood Divine.

Pursue the pathway.

Be taken to the cross.

Meet with glory.

Live to tell this eternal story.

cross image ~ You take me tanka poem pin