A heart unfurls

as petals fall to ground file image

Grace grows strong in a heart full of gratitude.

As we sow thankfulness seeds we are rewarded with a deeper appreciation of life.

Yet our hearts can be so cold, shrivelled by worry, anxiety, fears.

Casting our cares seems to send them into orbit for nanoseconds before they return multiplied and heavier than before.

How can we learn to live fully and freely? Is there a way to have lasting peace, joy and contentment?

I’m slowly discovering that joy seeps in when my heart turns heavenward.

When I lean heavy on God’s grace and less on my own understanding.

Hope replaces discouragement the more I trust God to take care of things.

Feeding on His word nourishes my inner being.

Daily reflection on and remembering His #1000gifts is an exercise in maintaining a grateful heart.

There are days when He feels far away and I forget to pray. Try to do things in my own limited strength. Neglect to seek His guidance and wisdom.

Yet He stands patient, ready and willing to step in as soon as I allow Him entry.

An open heart is a place He desires to inhabit and fill to overflowing.

Our task is to see our emptiness and be willing to ask God to fill it. And as He fills us with His love, joy and peace they will overflow out to others.

Joining here with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday and with Mel for Essential Fridays. You are very welcome and warmly invited to take part.

‘A heart unfurls’

Circle of thorns

surround a heart curled small

self-protective, bud-tight

against assailing light

Alabaster jar breaks

releasing its sweet perfume

of death, burial, rising free

into the waiting room

Piercing cruel, sharp,

upon the brow so deep

scarlet-red begins to seep

Dripping soft and slow

new life from old

flames bright and grows

The heart unfurls

as gently, one by one,

its folds embrace the Son

Warmed by Love

its fragrance fills

scent of gratitude spills

as petals fall to ground

©JoyLenton2014

gratitude poem heart unfurls file pin image ~ FMF

Mighty to save

When we feel able and capable, it is all too easy to think we can handle whatever comes our way.

We neglect to depend on God. We act like we can manage alone.

Sometimes He literally has to throw us to our knees to reveal our neediness.

Lately, my M.E symptoms have magnified and been accompanied by a persistent viral infection.

All of which has shown me how frail I can be and how much I lean on the Lord for strength each day.

There is great Hope in our helplessness.

There is reason to rejoice when we allow God to be strong and mighty on our behalf.

I sink grateful before Him, knowing all inspiration and ability to write, all energy and strength, all ability to live and love are God-given gifts.

He encourages us to abide in Him, rest in His loving provision, be upheld by His word and comforted by His Presence.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,” says the Lord ~ Zechariah 4:6

‘Mighty’

Mighty oaks spring forth from tiny acorns

and each lake begins with a few drops

A swelling tide seethes from sprinkles

and you so easily forget such humble origins

or how My power is made perfect in weakness

as you despise your humanity, frailty

My hand will lift you out

of any quaking pit of fear

My arm will reach down

and hold you ever near

Standing strong in My strength alone

you are warrior-brave, courageous,

full of valour, confident, bold

Allow Me access to all vulnerable places

give Me the key to your heart

I see its quavering mustard-seed faith

and how it needs My power

to grow resilient,

unwavering ~ in every part

Let go your worries, anxieties, cares

and rest in My mighty cover of Love

shelter of protective prayer

equipping of grace from above

I will be strong in all the weak spaces

invading long-devastated places

to make you mighty ~ and to set you free

©JoyLenton2014

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Mighty FMF poem pin

Five minute friday image

Linking with Lisa-Jo, Mel and Lyli

What’s in a name?

Have you ever chafed against the name you’ve been given? Wondered why or how it was chosen.

Felt you couldn’t live up (or down) to it. I have.

As my years have spanned out, confusion set in about my name.

Yes, I knew it came as a diminutive of my mother’s, was given by my father in a split-second, finger-pointing decision (I’m one of twins) , has had great implications for how I live as a Christian and how others perceive me.

Yet I have worried and wondered in turn as I have sought to live under its shadow, feeling oh so unworthy in a life marked more by pain and problems, sickness and sorrow than joy.

So when I saw the prompt for this week’s #fiveminutefriday link up, these thoughts immediately bubbled to the surface.

And I found myself asking God, “Why was I called Joy?”

He reminded me that it was a wonderful thing indeed to be able to say with great conviction, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” ~ and that remains my testimony. 

I came empty to a life of faith. I remain empty unless God fills me. His love, light, grace, mercy,  joy and strength are my daily necessities. Maybe they are for you too?

My witness is a life circumscribed by God’s continual comforting presence in every possible circumstance.

He brings hope and healing, joy and praise out of the darkest of places and days.

So I paused… prayed, and this is what I wrote  with the free releasing of thought and words characteristic of Five Minute Friday.

START…

‘Joy’

Without sorrow, joy wouldn’t seem such a shining light

Without adversity, joy wouldn’t be so strong and bright

Through pain and problems My purposes are revealed

and in dark times joy lies hidden, concealed

Arising as bulbs to greet the Spring

joy sits silent and calm within

until the moment when it comes forth

to demonstrate its exceeding worth

I made no mistake when I named you Joy

It was no cruel trick or devious ploy

but a knowing that soon your life would show

how the joy of the Lord helped you to grow

Now you no longer rely on fickle feelings

as you scrabble around in life’s dirty dealings

for joy is found in darkness deep and it

seeps to the surface when you need it most

bubbling over like waves on the coast

Though feelings come and feelings go

joy can remain in a heart’s warm glow

from the embers of your burning pain

it brings hope of renewal time and again

©JoyLenton2014

 STOP.

cresting the waves joy poem pin image

Names matter because we matter. Regardless of our given name, we can learn to live free by faith in the saving name of Christ. 

We all have a name of meaning and worth:God calls us His ‘beloved child’; we are ‘honoured and precious in His sight’, the ‘apple of His eye’ and  so much more besides.

It can be hard to live a joyful life in the midst of adversity, but it’s in those very places that God draws extra close to us.

Happiness is fleeting as a butterfly alighting briefly on our shoulder then taking flight.

Joy is a deep-seated well of contentment ~ regardless of circumstances ~ where we rest internally in the saving grace of God.

And we can experience it in the midst of the most demanding of situations. It’s a supernatural gift and blessing. One to seek, treasure and pass on to others by way of sharing our experience of the Source of all Life, Joy and Peace Himself. 

My hope and prayer is that you may be filled with a greater measure of it in the week ahead. For, no matter how long the night may seem, “weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning” ~ Psalm 30:5. Each day can be a fresh start.

Joining with  Lisa-Jo and Mel

You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in.

Making space for not knowing

Spiritual insight can hover light as butterfly in the air, fluttering gentle in the breeze, alighting soft on our senses.

Or nudge like a querulous child, becoming ever insistent.

Maybe it sparks bright, a lightning flash of inspiration.

However it strikes us ~ holy whisper or holy fire ~ we do well to pay attention.

Any reading of Scripture yields wisdom and insight as much as it throws curve balls.

We put on Holy Spirit lenses to help us focus on the meaning, application and practical outworking.

“What do we do with all the hard/weird stuff in the Bible?”  is the question being pondered over at Diana’s place this week. Do we ignore, refuse to ‘go there’, puzzle, pause, pray, or something else?

Some of how we answer it depends on our faith roots. I began my faith journey in a happy-clappy Pentecostal church, drifted into Baptist, kept a foot in Anglican, and spent many years in Independent Evangelical.

Over time, my ‘bible-thumping-in-your-face-are-you-saved?‘ days gave way to deeper reflection and grace. Made space for the ‘not knowing’ aspects of faith.

Now I am leaning toward the Contemplative and finding church is everywhere (TV and internet)  and nowhere in particular for me when housebound by M.E.

And in the letting go of fixed ideas, hungering after authenticity wherever I can find it, I find myself in a position of simply wanting to let go of too much concern about all I don’t understand.

The Bible is God’s great narrative, His story to draw us into relationship with Him ~ the whole purpose of it all.

The essence of Christian faith is faith in a Person ~ Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And people are complicated. So why shouldn’t God be even more so in the way He operates?

We can only move forward in faith, trudge wary of the weird stuff, trusting Him to reveal all He desires us to know in His own timing.

‘Trudge wary’

I tread timid, blind, in need of a Guide

I trudge wary, uncertain ~ with You by my side

And if You should choose to keep things concealed

it makes me appreciate all that’s revealed

There are treasures hidden in darkness deep

to be mined by those with eyes to seek

Challenge and certainty, joy and adversity

all wrapped up in Your word ~ to loose, set free

There are areas that puzzle, confuse and stretch our minds

and others of the straightforward, simple kind

For I still can barely comprehend

Your mercy and grace, love without end

So why should I, with great temerity,

expect You to reveal all things to me?

Should I not make room, give space

for the protective nature of Your grace

Allow for Your Spirit to open my eyes

in a gradual way ~ day after day

Knowing I can only handle so much

surprise, information, knowledge, as such?

©JoyLenton2014

God is always speaking. He is never silent. Sometimes we cannot hear Him above the chaos of the world or the noise of our own thoughts. Time taken to listen attentively is never time wasted. Much can be gained in the Quiet Place.

In essence:Although I’ll continue to wonder, ponder, question and seek answers, I also choose to rest easy in God’s great sovereignty. He alone knows how to encourage open-hearted investigation while making sure we receive all that is necessary for us to trust and believe and live well for Him.

 Joining here with friends:Diana, Mel and Lyli

Putting the pieces together

I see it all around. The very air we breathe is thick with the sound of it.

Sorrow hangs heavy. Need drives us to our knees.

People are crying out for grace ~ but they don’t even know it.

Souls weep silent into pillows when losses outweigh any gains and hopes wither and die.

What or who can save us from ourselves and the pain we have to press past on a daily basis?

When life breaks us apart, where do we go to be put back together again?

In my life, the answer may come quick and easy. But the living out? That’s a lifetime’s work.

Renewal and restoration cannot be rushed. Full and complete healing cannot be hurried.

Jesus saves. We know it. We read it. We believe it. We sing about it. And yet..

This world has a way of swallowing us whole and spitting us out. Broken people living fractured lives.

So what does grace look like?

It wears the face of Christ. It’s the very heart of God. Nothing weak or namby pamby about it.

This is grace:It’s solid, muscular, with bite crisp-clean into a bountiful harvest of real gritty righteousness. It floods and fills all the empty spaces of our existence with strength, power and might. 

Living as we do in the tension between the ‘now but not yet’ of the Kingdom, we are people in transition, works in progress by God’s grace.

Much is changing and moving forward, and much still requires transformation to come.

‘Variant themes’

I’m broken, fractured, full of holes,

splintered, wrecked right into my soul

Pieces from the past pierce and press sharp

tearing fierce into the tenderest of parts

Deep calls to deep in the thundering roar

of Your waterfall’s steady, refreshing pour

Wounds fester and hurts remain sealed

in a life crying out to be rescued and healed

Echoing chasms where Your voice is heard

and we drink thirsty of its life-giving Word

How do the variant themes unite as one

perfect melody, harmony and song?

Strung as pearls, lustre-reflecting beads

shine bright and pure in you and me

Discordant sounds may shatter the air around,

joy remains ~ as seed rooted to the ground

Stop. Slow down. Breathe. Listen closer. Pause a while.

Walk gentler. Carry lighter. Don’t forget to smile.

©JoyLenton2014

As to the question, “How do I make all the pieces fit?”, I think the answer is, we can’t do it ourselves. God never intended us to bear that burden. It’s too weighty for our frame.

And that’s a freeing statement. It opens the door to Holy Spirit intervention.

The shards of our shattered hopes and dreams become a marvellous mosaic in God’s hands.

When we take those broken pieces of our lives, frayed fabric of our days, torn edges of our thoughts, tangled threads of our theology, gaps and holes in our flawed and imperfect understanding ~ all become sacrificial surrender, holy offering, and a handing over to the Master Potter and Architect of our souls.

He alone can fully mend, heal, renew and restore to better than it was before. We seek, ask, do our part, trust, rest, and leave the outcome up to Him. 

It isn’t easy. Everything inside cries out to know and understand beforehand. Relinquishing control is a challenge.

Resting is a conscious choice, and the best way of allowing God’s peace to replace anxiety and stress.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Joining here with friends: Diana, Mel and Lyli. 

Seeking sanctuary

We all need a safe place to vent. Let off steam. Be ourselves, warts and all.

Be real and authentic in sharing life and faith issues.

Consider the question, “Is there room for my tears here?” being asked by Diana Trautwein this week.

We read in the shortest verse in Scripture, “Jesus wept”  ~ John 11:35 Succinct words speaking volumes. He was unafraid to be authentically open and human. Giving us a pattern for being fully human and fully alive unto God.

Our tears are a soul’s lament. Reminder of our weakness, frailty and humanity.

If we try to keep them hidden they still find  a way to rise, unbidden, to the surface.

Revealing deep emotion at the core ~ joy, pain, vulnerability, sadness and grief. The very heart of who we are.

Though we find ways to choke them down and bid them drown in their inner stream.

In the unraveling of life, thought and years, we soon discover our safety and security is found primarily in God alone.

As a body of believers in Christ we are joined by links of love and shared endeavour in the fight of faith.

We’re all invited to enter in, embrace God’s gift of grace seen in Jesus’ suffering, pain and loss for our sakes.

We’re welcomed to a place of love and acceptance. A hospital for the hurting ~ only some churches hide that pretty well.

I’m too weary and worn out to try to pretend I’ve ‘got it all together,’ and too desiring of being a voice for those who are hurting to stay silent in my small-corner obscurity.

Because in the end it comes down to how much we love and are loved.  How much we are willing to give to one another.

Make room in our own woundedness to walk the road with others who are weak and in pain. Be a sanctuary for the seeking, the saved and those sick in body, mind or heart. 

Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with all who rejoice. Lift and uphold each other in prayer. Come alongside and be Christ’s ambassadors in caring for all in need.

The poem below expresses my hopes about being part of the body of Christ, what I am currently experiencing as a member of some lovely supportive writing and friendship groups and the reflective, sharing ‘Living the Questions’ group over at Diana’s place.

Although this is the type of welcome we could (and probably should?) be extending to all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

‘Invitation’

Your tears ~ whether of joy or sorrow ~ will find a welcome here

Your questions and fears for tomorrow we too will share

Your faith journey and experiences in all their rich variety

serve to enrich and inform us of all we still can be

Your need for speaking out in a friendly space

can be met here in this ~ a safe and open place

Your desire to listen, reflect and ponder deeply

is found in this forum and sacred sanctuary

©JoyLenton2014

Sadly, many feel disappointed, discouraged, sidelined, ignored, bruised, hurt and wounded by church. Perhaps we forget we are all imperfect ‘works in progress’. This prayer may help. It was written in support of all wounded warriors.

There should always be room for tears ~ and laughter, joy, hand-holding, lifting up, coming alongside, praying, caring and sharing as we aim to be ‘Jesus with skin on’ for one another.

Joining here with Diana, Mel, Laura and Lyli

Living freely

Aren’t you relieved there are no identi-kit Christians?

We don’t have to look or sound alike.

Having unity together is more about fellowship and being united in love than having full agreement on more than the fundamentals of our faith.

We are allowed to be ourselves. See wood where others see trees. Sense Holy Spirit’s presence in a variety of ways.

God meets us right where we are, at our point of greatest need.

He chased me and wooed me with His unconditional Love.

It was something I’d never encountered before, but my empty, old before its time, desperate-child heart yearned for it.

Here was safety. Here lay security. Here flowed acceptance and peace.

And I came to faith in a ‘happy-clappy’ environment where joy and exuberance were the order of the day.

I wore ‘Jesus Loves Me/You’ stickers, a big grin, innocent optimism in sharing my new-found life in Christ, and a profound gratitude toward God for the glorious gift of salvation.

So I continued for a little while until mental health breakdown, partial recovery, followed by life’s multiple challenges, another breakdown and a haunting legacy of childhood abuse sucked all the joy out of life.

Depression and emotional pain skewed my thinking, clouded my judgement, and left me lost in the wilderness for many years.

Where did God feature? Was His love enough? Was it my fault?

A slow recovery took place and I had a fresh revelation of grace. I drank it deep into my very being as soul manna and sustenance.

But having begun my faith journey majoring on love and forgiveness, I was still largely ignorant of sin and reluctant to speak or think about it. This woman was already stained by her past, full of guilt, shame, self-recrimination and condemnation. And God loved her anyway. 

Because, wasn’t God a God of love? Didn’t grace and forgiveness cover all?

Oh yes.

Though grace is cheapened if we fail to fully appreciate the price Jesus paid to secure it for us.

Now, a little older (and wiser maybe?), though I still struggle with self-esteem issues and will always veer the conversation round to grace and encouragement than otherwise, it is gradually dawning on me how sin cannot be ignored or swept away.

And I am still getting my head around how to achieve the balance between hating sin yet not hating myself. Maybe you get stuck there too?

My soul seeks freedom from all that chained me and those things enslaving me now.

I want to embrace grace and be free to give it to others.

So I am leaning into His love as I think. question, talk about sin’s effects and outworkings, see how fallible and tainted I am and yet (marvellously) so dearly loved and cherished by our heavenly Father ~ just as you are too.

******

Here is a ‘Prayer Whisper’ which God poured into my listening heart last February. It still speaks volumes to me and I hope it will bless you too:

file000402181324“How easily you can fool yourself that you’re not sinning. To justify your actions with excuses and cover-ups.

Allow My Holy Light to shine upon your thoughts, words and deeds. Do not be afraid of its consuming power. It will not harm you.

I seek only to burn off the dross and detritus you carry. Such things weigh you down, sully your relationship with Me and sour your interactions with others.

I want to set you free, even from those burdens you have barely noticed as such ~ so familiar have they become.

It is only in the cleansing which follows letting go and laying down that real change and transformation can happen.

Bad habits pollute your mind and body. Once you are able to set them down before Me, you can begin the process of breaking free from them.

Open yourself. Be real before Me. I already know everything about you. Seek to live freely and lightly in the liberty of My Presence.

My purity and power are available to enable and equip you for the next stage of your journey.”

********

“The fact that God is love, that He is pure, holy and righteous is the reason why He is angry at sin. It violates, distorts, and destroys what His purpose is. Wrath is inevitable to a God of love, otherwise the love would be tenuous and weak” ~ Charles Price ‘My Daily Journey with Christ’ 

Joining here with Diana and other questing souls as we are #LivingtheQuestions and #LivingintotheAnswers

This week’s question:”What’s with all this talk about sin?”  You are very welcome to hop over and join in the discussion.

Also linking with Mel and Laura

Fuel to light a fire

In these dark days of Winter we need all the help we can get to stay hopeful and encouraged.

Some seasons of the soul have their own gloomy aspect.

Fog swims in to cloud our vision.

Hope gets lost. Despair can set in. Depression is at its heels.

How can we encourage ourselves? Here are a few ideas:

Stay focussed on the positive. There is always a glimmer of light somewhere.

Keep a daily gratitude journal.

Nurture yourself inwardly and outwardly.

Feed on God’s word.

Seek the balm of friendship and support from loved ones.

Finding ways to help and encourage others will restore joy to our own souls too.

Some more thoughts on encouragement for #fiveminutefriday where we pour out words as God gives grace:

START…

‘Encouragement’

Encouragement is the fuel which lights a fire

of hope to all our dreams and desires.

Life can seem worth living again

under the sprinkle of its refreshing rain.

A word in due season can impart

a soothing balm to a broken heart,

Holy oil to bathe wounds and hurts

as it pours into everywhere we insert.

Life-giving, enhancing, gift and grace

to anoint and energise us for our race.

Whether by caring word or deed

we sow love and kindness seed.

And it gives and gives and gives some more

returning to us when we’re wretched and poor,

lighting a spark when energy is low

providing far more than we’ll ever know.

So God encourages us all to strive

to pour this gift into another’s life ~ 

A listening ear, understanding, a hand to hold,

words and actions together make it twofold;

let it be given as we also enjoy receiving

the reassurance it offers to keep on believing.

©JoyLenton2014

STOP.

Joining here with Lisa-Jo, Mel and Laura and other brave and bold creatives as we share what God lays on our heart .

And for further encouragement ~ because don’t we just need it? ~ here’s a link to my writer friend James Prescott’s site where he specialises in the subject and has some great free resources to offer you too. Just click on his name to be taken there.