antidote: how God’s perfect love helps cast out fear

antidote - sos - love as the remedy for our beleaguered souls @poetryjoy.com

Hello Dear Friends, we are living in strange times, aren’t we? Nothing feels as safely familiar as before because we’re all having to adjust to a new “normal” as we adapt to living with the threat of the coronavirus and its worldwide impact for ourselves and our nations.

It’s a new, unstructured way of living we’re not accustomed to, and don’t care to experience for long. We’re having to be imaginative and proactive to help conquer our fears because this virus casts a weighty shadow over everything, especially with alarmist news reports.

So how do we cope when the life we knew before alters by the day? To assist with lessening anxiety, it helps to focus on the positive, and on what we can do rather than what we can’t. These things are helping me: praying, breathing deeply and slowly, meditating, exercising gratitude, resting, and keeping a sense of perspective.

I’m also looking to God as my major means of soul help and support. God’s love is the antidote to fear and the answer to all inner restlessness and dis-ease. It’s the healing balm we need to comfort our sad and sorrowing souls. It’s the anchor of our lives, the compass of Hope our hearts long for.

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us….There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” — 1 John 4:18 The Message

antidote - virus - hearts - God's love is the antidote quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God’s love provides the safety valve and soul exhale we need in swirling seas of uncertainty. It’s freely given, available to all, and abundantly nourishing for our souls. God’s love triggers remembrance of His faithfulness to us in the past and His sustaining grace available for us now.

Antidote

As the days segue into sameness
yet feel strangely unfamiliar to us,
can you see, can you believe
that what nourishes and sustains
us, deep in our souls, is holy love?

It is the antidote we seek,
the destroyer of anxiety, fear
and hate, the balm for every
chaotic change, every virus
that eats its way into our hearts.

Love came to earth in the shape
of an infant boy’s messy birth,
crying out for us to see his worth
while we open our arms, our eyes,
our minds and hearts to his love.

It calls us now to pay attention
and to fix our eyes more on its
solution to sin and sickness, to all
dis-ease of the human heart,
rather than allowing fear to build up.

If we can lift our heads and listen
to the sound of love seeping through
the filter of our souls, we might find
a different kind of focus taking place
as we surrender to peace and grace.
© joylenton

Antidote poem (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Do let me know how you are managing. I’m praying for all my readers and friends. You might like to check out my timely book Embracing Hope: Soul Food to Help Chase Away the Blues which is free on Kindle today. May God bless you and meet all your needs as He surrounds you with His all-encompassing care, comfort, protection and love. ❤

oak: for when you want to mimic a tree

“Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is ‘… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the loss’ of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

When we feel burdened, weary and depleted in body, mind or spirit, it can produce a kind of dull lethargy inside. Then, as we listen to what it has to say to us, we gradually start to sense a deeper message within our souls.

The loving voice of Holy Spirit speaks louder than our sadness and softer than our shame. God is calling us to pay attention and seek His help and strength. He longs to rescue us and set us back on a more positive pathway again.

Our desire to feel different, better, stronger assumes a greater urgency than our problems and pain. It cannot easily be ignored. We long for resolution and begin by seeking it in the best place we know: In prayer. From listening to our heart’s deepest needs, we turn our souls Christ-ward and lay these burdens at His feet.

Like an oak

let me be
sturdy, strong, unbending
like an oak tree
rooted deep into the earth
facing storms unperturbed

let me sit
as my heart steadily ticks
and take a deep breath
exhale anxiety and fear
with my burdened soul laid bare

let me stay
this painful course I am on
where life shades to grey
may I still emanate
holy hope, grace and strength

let me lean
and sway so I do not break
nor depend on me
but trust in God’s saving love
when I feel inadequate

let me sink
much deeper into Christ
inhale his strength
spreading faith leaves everywhere
with healing, support and prayer
© joylenton

“To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” – Isaiah 61:3 AMPC – [emphasis added]

You can discover more about the metaphysical meaning of an oak tree here and read about how weakness can coexist with strength here. 🙂 ❤

oak - like an oak tree poem excerpt - let me be sturdy, strong, unbending (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

loved: you can rest in being the beloved of God

loved - you can rest in being the beloved of God - hearts - mailbox @poetryjoy.com

Love is in the air, you hope, as you eagerly check your physical and digital mailboxes for signs suggesting you are loved. Perhaps you’re hoping to hear from that one special person whose devotion means so much to you, if only they would let you know?

Maybe you are nursing a broken heart as you sit grieving for the love you have lost? Or you feel lonely, distant from family and friends, wondering if anyone thinks of you now and then. Perhaps life has wounded you, given you deep inner pain and a growing unease because you think you don’t deserve the kind of love you want to receive?

loved - being the beloved - father and son - two voices compete quote by Henri Nouwen @poetryjoy.com

However this day finds you, my friend, may you be encouraged by knowing you are very much seen, paid attention to, and devotedly loved 24/7, year in year out by God. He longs for you and I to sense His loving presence and love Him back.

God yearns for us to know that even if we’re rejected by the world, unwanted by our families or distant from anyone who truly cares for us, He is here. He waits for us with deep longings in His heart. God has cherished us since before our birth. You are special to Him just because you exist.

loved - baby's hand in father's palm - God has cherished us quote @poetryjoy.com

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed  body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” — Psalms 139: 13-16 NIV

Crafted with love

I read the words,
scanning all too quickly,

and then I pause
as I allow them to sink in.

They tell me I am seen, noticed
by God, deliberately made,

lovingly shaped before my birth,
I’m given love, value and worth.

Knowing my own history,
the way I came into the world

was not the best—born too early
and unwanted by my family.

They brought me up
with great strain and stress,

more than lavish love and grace
or tender care and kindness.

Maybe you, too, sense
a kind of disconnect

and fail to love yourself
because you’ve been rejected?

Maybe you have also known
the painful sting of not fitting in,

how you felt like a lost stranger
and yet you longed to belong,
to be at home in your own home?

May we take comfort from this:
that our existence is not a mistake
for we are unconditionally loved

by God, and enabled to rise above
the shame and pain of our past.
© joylenton

loved - one child comforting another - may we take comfort quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

May you know how very special you are, dear one. Simply because you exist. God calls you His beloved. Have a listen to the Father’s Love Letter that was written for you. Let the words sink deep into your heart. Because you are known. You are cherished. You are unconditionally loved, today and always. ❤ ❤

searching: the eternal quest for meaning and significance

“When God has become our shepherd, our refuge, our fortress, then we can reach out to him in the midst of a broken world and feel at home while still on our way.” — Henri Nouwen, from Reaching Out in You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living

Searching

Your soul yearns
as you search
for an opening of sorts,
a place to belong
a haven on earth
where you can finally soar.

There are moments
when you forget yourself
because you’re too caught up
in the act
of survival alone,
in simply staying the course.

And there are times
when you wish the earth
would swallow you whole,
like Jonah, gulped down
quick in the belly of a whale
before he was vomited out.

Then you could disappear
with no thought
about making a mark,
getting noticed, perhaps,
a tiny dent to suggest
you were here, you exist.

But if you stop and pause
you might reflect
that you are seen, you are heard
and you are known
by others—you are loved
and infinitely precious to God.

And you can remind
yourself on the greyest of days
that the sun won’t forget
to rise and shine again,
and bathe you in its golden rays
even if it’s pouring with rain.

Each small, positive thought
counts because it builds
on the rest,
as it gathers momentum
and swells its support
like a warm hug in your chest.
© joylenton

searching poem excerpt (C) joylenton - landscape - sky @poetryjoy.com

May you remember, my friend, that you are not as alone as you might sometimes feel while journeying through life, because fellow travellers walk beside you and God companions you too.

We also have the joy of belonging to the family of God through adoption by faith in Jesus Christ, who is the beginning and end, the Alpha and Omega of all things, including all our seeking and searching.

“True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler. This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us.” — Henri Nouwen, Daily E-Meditation from Henri Nouwen Society

In his poem ‘Little Gidding’, T.S. Eliot says that we shall not cease our exploring until we “arrive where we started, and… know the place for the first time.” May that thought encourage your heart in all your searching and finding. ❤

thirst: quenching a thirst we might ignore

thirsty - cat drinking from a fountain -quenching our thirst @poetryjoy.com

It doesn’t take much to remind us we are thirsty and to find the means to quench it. Whether we snuggle up with a steaming mug of coffee, hot chocolate or herbal tea on a cold winter’s day, or gulp down cool, refreshing glasses of water, juice or lemonade in reaction to increasing heat, we can easily satiate that need.

But we might be less aware of our inner soul thirst. Not just the drives and desires, the passions that fuel and fire our activities, but a gnawing spiritual awareness of our emptiness and how to fill it.

Even if our eyes are opened, we might choose to satisfy the insatiable thirst inside with physical things or with compulsive behaviour that could end up harming us, if not our purse.

During my recent stint in the soul desert wilderness, it took me a while to register my need to reach out to God and to realise how thirsty I was. At first, I was too lost in my thoughts. Too pulverised by fatigue, weakness and pain, and too discouraged to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Thirsting,

A voice calls across the desert
sitting in our souls,
encouraging us to listen,

to pause and bend down low,
prepare ourselves to drink
as much as we might need

from a Well that never dries out,
from the Fountain of Life himself,
from a place where all must kneel

in order to receive
because we thirst for more
than life’s bare necessities.

And we come as life’s lost
and lonely wounded ones,
the broken people

who are depleted and undone,
barren, empty and incomplete
and dying on our feet,

because our souls have shrunk
to fit the world we’re in
instead of being wholly

comfortable in our own skin,
as it stretches to the heavens
and back again.
© joylenton

thirst - woman drinking from a jug - thirsty poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

In the desert of depression and ditches of discouragement we get into, we can be slow to cotton on to the fact that God is already present with us in our struggles. He tries to attract our attention in numerous ways, yet we can be too self-preoccupied or stressed to notice. We thirst, but we don’t always know what for.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25 NIV

God might lead us into the desert for some necessary soul maintenance work, as He did with me, but He won’t abandon us to our fate. Rather, He stays, encourages, whispers hope and healing to our hearts and gently leads us out again when the time is ripe.

Then when we emerge from the desert, from our painful places, we discover our thirst for God’s presence has grown. We thirst for His Word and His voice. He is the Well we keep searching for, and it never runs dry.

wilderness: a place of refuge, restoration and grace

Have you ever been in a wilderness? A bleak, barren desert place where you felt lost and alone? I have. Many times. But mine, and maybe yours too, is more of a soul state than a physical place.

It’s an arid environment we don’t want to linger in. Many of us face deserts of discouragement, depression or despair. And they feel just as real to us as if we were in a sun-scorched land where very little signs of life exist.

When escape is possible, it’s a huge relief because we’re longing to move on. And, at first, as we begin to enter new territory, it can seem like a huge waste of time to have been there at all.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” – Hosea 2:14 NIV

However, these wilderness places could be areas of soul refuge, restoration and grace, spiritual training grounds that God leads us into, or an oasis of enforced rest because we’ve become too exhausted to carry on with our usual pursuits.

If we can learn to not resist but see the wildernesses we experience as necessary pausing places in which to catch our breath, mature and grow, our fears lessen at being called to endure them for however long it takes. Then we begin to assimilate the lessons we have learnt in this seemingly inhospitable environment.

Wilderness

This is a desert
in all its barren beauty,
where we wilt,
desperately seeking shade,

while sun’s fierce heat
scorches our souls
and we wither within
at losing the life
we used to know.

Here we might feel alone
but a holy shadow
accompanies us as we choke

on dust, stumble and fall
because we see no way out
and do not know
what direction we should go.

All is swirling winds
that sting our faces like flint
and bring us deeper pain,

as we shield our eyes
while we’re walking blind,
full of longing inside
to move forward again.

We think we’ve become
deaf to God’s voice
in this wild wilderness,

but it has somehow
penetrated us soul deep,
as if his wisdom

has been instilled by soft
osmosis in our hearts
and we discover it as we depart.
© joylenton

desert - sand - wilderness poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?” – Song of Songs 8:5 NIV

God keeps us company and waters our souls in the wilderness so we are never as alone or deprived as we might feel. After six long months of absence, He unexpectedly released me back into blogging last week over at Words of Joy – which can now be found at joylenton.com. And He has graced me to resume here too.

I was amazed to still be standing after the Christmas holidays, never mind receiving a fresh supply of cognitive if not physical energy! So to be coming up from the wilderness is a gift I don’t take for granted.

As always, I’m completely dependent on God for the ability, strength and focus to write. But I hope you will stick around, wait for the words to come, maybe peruse the archives if you are new here, and allow me a bit of settling in time as well. Thank you! 😉💜

more: experiencing life’s abundance while living with chronic illness

more - experiencing life's abundance while living with chronic illness - tulips @poetryjoy.com

What might having an abundant life look like to you? Is it possible to have a “more than” existence with less? I believe it is. Although it has taken years of shifted thinking and spiritual digging to discover the truth of a less is more kind of life.

When I was a nurse, running madly around a ward all day, with a home and family to take care of as well, the idea of more meant extra time out and time off. Having a hot, undisturbed bath. A book to read. An ability to rest. A meal cooked by my husband. Those were luxuries to me.

But when I first became sick with M.E, I saw that time itself wasn’t such a gift. It’s how we spend our hours that counts. If you spend your days flat-out with fatigue in a darkened bedroom, unable to participate in life and full of pain, time seems like a cruel punishment, while the hours stretch endlessly. I felt like an 80-year-old in a 30 something’s body.

more - hourglass- #FMF - living with M.E quote (c) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

As my condition became less severe sometimes, quality time with loved ones became my most precious priority and sought after soul resource. Then my insecure soul felt that the essence of more was encapsulated in purchasing and accumulating stuff. It’s not. Because I was trying to plug an unaddressed sense of pain and loss.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.” – Psalms 23 GNT

Consumerism is a vicious hamster wheel kind of circle, whereby enough is never enough to try to assuage or feed our inner hunger. And it’s left me with a huge decluttering problem to tackle too.

Eventually, with additional physical health challenges and concerns, my eyes were opened to the inestimable worth of Simply. Being. Alive. I’ve realised I have more than enough because I already have all I can access of God’s mercy, grace and love.

more - rose - I have more than enough quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” – John 10:10 AMP

Shifts

as I age
hidden benefits emerge
like buried treasure
with inner leanings, a shift
toward the contemplative

I notice
far more than I did before
when preoccupied
with life and busyness
instead of seated stillness

my awareness of
inner and outer landscape
is magnified
their shifting moods noted
as seeing is more acute

their preciousness
gets highlighted by loss
cycles of death
repeat – fallenness of leaves
causes heartache and grief

although I see
intimations of hope
in the release
for we will both rise again
in newness of life and limb
© joylenton

I’m linking my five-minute-friday tanka pentaptych poem in community with fellow writer friends here as we share our thoughts on the prompt of “more.” May we all believe we are more than enough even when we feel like our lives or words are insufficient. And seek God Himself more than anything else.