joy in having a new identity in Christ

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For way too many years I wore labels. Not the coveted designer kind, more the state-of-mind type people designate to us, or we happily pin on ourselves. Most of mine got attached in childhood and others soon followed suit.

I lost my true identity in a sea of shame, a ditch of guilt and a river of pain. It felt like my head was branded with words like ‘failure’, ‘not enough’, ‘mistake’, ‘unattractive’, ‘rejected’ and ‘unwanted’.  Maybe you’ve worn a few of them, too?

The thing is, unwanted labels can become so intrinsic to who we think we are, so familiar and comfortable we forget we’re wearing them. But they’re speaking lies, sending out false messages, keeping us bound, chained to the past.

Because the truth? We are God’s beloved children first and foremost, given a new identity when we come to faith in Christ. Our old filthy rags don’t fit who we are anymore, yet we cling to them like the latest must-have fashion accessory, and they still stick to us until we realise we can become free of them.

Our minds don’t have to be dressed in ill-fitting garments, because Jesus offers us His own robe of righteousness, a royal cloak and covering, perfectly fit for children of the King of kings.

In order to remember we are covered by Christ’s righteousness, mercy and grace, we have to make a conscious daily choice to put on the identifying clothing of love, joy, compassion and kindness.

We are not the weak saplings we see ourselves as, but strong oaks of righteousness, planted by God for the display of His splendour. Instead of the flawed, misapplied labels from the past, we now answer to words like ‘precious’, ‘honoured’, ‘beloved’ and ‘blessed’.

God sent me to announce the year of his grace — a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies — and to comfort all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory” ~Isaiah 61:1-3 – The Message

You offer me

I hunger for affirmation

and thirst for recognition

You offer me soul completion

 

I hunger for acceptance

and thirst for love, romance

You offer me sacred dance

 

I hunger for gainful employ

and thirst for things that destroy

You offer me deep inner joy

 

I hunger for life perfection

and thirst for new direction

You offer me resurrection

©JoyLenton2016

“You’ll get a brand new name

straight from the mouth of God..

No more will anyone call you Rejected…

You’ll be called Hephzibah (My Delight)…

Because God delights in you” ~ Isaiah 62:2-4 – The Message

Dear Father,

May we learn to live defined by who we are in Christ — your blessed, beautiful, cherished, joy-filled adopted children, sons and daughters of the living God, heirs with Jesus —rather then as unwanted, unloved, rejected, scorned orphans of our circumstances.

Help us to remember and rejoice in knowing we have been set free from the past, given a new name and identity. We are redeemed, restored, renewed, forgiven, accepted and made righteous because of your generous mercy and grace.

Thank you for the joy we have from our new identity in you. May we embrace it to the full and gladly share it with others.

Amen

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Welcome to the final day of #31days of journeying into joy. Where did October go?! Thank you SO much for being here. I’ve really enjoyed sharing this series with you.

And I have a hunch this journey will be an ongoing faith exercise for you and me, a lifelong pilgrimage to the Father’s loving heart.

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enjoying God’s transcendence and immanence

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Twilight whispers, invites us into silence, speaks softly of things beyond our ken. It suggests a thin place in Celtic mythology, where heaven appears to be touching earth, a time when time itself seems to stand still, heralding an opening between this world and the next.

During twilight, day hasn’t quite yielded to warmer shades of sunset. This is a subtler moment to still our souls, pause and ponder as we await night’s stealthy presence. Twilight isn’t signalling a full stop to daylight so much as inviting us to stop for a while. It’s a moment of holy transcendence, an awareness of deeper things.

I always want the light to linger longer. Maybe it’s an inner yearning mirroring a soul’s desire for God. Perhaps it’s a way of seeking to acknowledge His immanence with us, while allowing room for the mysterious otherness which twilight brings.

Thin Veil

Twilight whispers soft secrets

It is the poet’s pondering

hour, where thin veil conceals

Mystery and showers us

with sweet incense from above

A breathed out benediction

reveals God’s unfading love

©JoyLenton2016

Our joy can appear to dissipate like autumnal mists, lost in the ether. How do we hold on to such a precious gift, grace and Holy Spirit-given fruit? Maybe we need to see how joy is always replenished in God’s presence, while we hold onto the Holy in our daily and make space for Mystery.

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Our heartfelt praise and gratitude can bring  a glow of joy to our heavenly Father’s heart as well as helping to oil and enhance our own. We can increase our ability to sense heaven’s presence by paying closer attention to those things which speak out God’s nearness with us, maybe by trying some of the suggestions below…

10 ways to sense the heavenly

  • take a walk and talk with God
  • admire the beauty of creation
  • take a photograph
  • sing songs of praise
  • light a candle and meditate
  • write a poem or gratitude list
  • draw or paint a picture
  • spend quality time with loved ones
  • sit, breathe and rest in His presence
  • contemplate, listen and pray

I close with some insightful thoughts from a dear friend of mine in response to following this series:

“How neglected joy is in comparison with the other fruits of the Spirit! It seems to me that we strive for love, hope, mercy, compassion far more than joy… Could it be that joy is the natural by-product of all fruits developed and given because of an intimate communion with Christ and love for God?” ~ Yolanda Green

Her words confirm to me the importance of journeying into joy, its deep significance to us as Christ followers who seek to emulate and reveal His character in all we say, think and do.

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Welcome to #day30 of #31days of journeying into joy! Our time together is almost at an end.

It’s been a blessing and a joy to share these thoughts with you. Please join me tomorrow for the final post in this series.

 

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how our joy is increased in looking up

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We have a tendency to want to shrink God down to understandable, manageable human size, thinking we can contain Him within our own hopes and dreams. But He remains unconfined, free from any restrictions placed on Him by our finite minds.

If anything speaks to me of God’s infinite glory and majesty, then skies definitely do. Because how can we view an ever-changing panorama of colour, sunsets soaked in shades of vermillion, clouds threaded with indigo-violet and tinged with tangerine, without marvelling at the Hand that made it happen?

It certainly cuts us down to size when we compare ourselves and our human achievements to the fathomless mystery of Holy God and a vast universe. What an invitation to raise our eyes heavenward! What a revelation of God’s goodness and grace seen in our everyday ordinary.

We are designed to fly, to soar and rise above our earthly circumstances, and we only achieve it by looking up to God, seeking His face as often as we need to. He alone can provide all the help and grace we need.

As I think about what a gift it is to have sight, to be able to appreciate all that is poured out before us, I ponder: Maybe the secret kernel at the heart of joy is in the looking up? Maybe having eyes cast down, heart heavy with worry and anxiety, face creased into a frown, makes us too earthbound?

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In the healing of Blind Bartimeus (found in Mark 10: 46-52), Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimeus answers, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”  And ‘anablepo’  — which is the word for “to receive sight”, when literally translated in the Greek — means: “I want to be up-looking.”

It makes us wonder at all he missed in being blind, and how much we, too, can neglect to see properly, even with perfectly functioning eyes. Our physical eyesight might be acute but our inner spiritual vision can remain blurred, distorted by wearing worldly lenses.

In this request to Jesus, Bartimeus is displaying not only a desire to be able to view the world around him with open eyes, but also a spiritual hunger to have a God-given perspective, an upwardly mobile gaze that takes in far more than human eyes can see.

The poem below (originally shared in the Association of Christian Writers (ACW) ‘Christian Writer’ magazine) reveals different ways of seeing.

Watch the Wind

I watch autumnal leaves

scattered in the street

They remind me of the way

I too am curled small inside

dying a death to flesh

And as they bow

to wild wind’s will

lifted higher

in its arms

I too am lifted up

above the daily grind

into the joy

of a sacred dance

©JoyLenton2015

*Note* – a God-given, inspiring germ idea which birthed this post came from my dear friend, Laurie Klein. You can visit her site by clicking here. I think you’ll love it as much as I do. She’s an amazingly gifted writer, poet and photographer.

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Welcome to #day29 of #write31days  journeying into joy. I’m so glad you are here!

How do you view being upward looking in life and faith?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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joy in looking closer to ground

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Sometimes we just have to look closer to ground or make an opening to discover hidden beauty. A swathe of green or concealing dark shadow can temporarily stand in the way of a revealing, as can distraction and lack of attention to detail.

On city streets people’s eyes betray an inner leaning. Some have their sight continually downcast, glued to a device in their hand, whereas others fix their gaze on the horizon, or scan sky’s vast panorama as they move around.

But those who still their souls, whose inner vision is honed and who look beyond the obvious, will be rewarded with a fresh perspective and feast for the eye. They will sense things close at hand offering an eternal perspective.

In seeking to discover joy and beauty in the everyday, my natural tendency is to stop, stoop and see whatever is low to ground, wanting to grasp and hold close those things near at hand.

I have caught many aspects of loveliness in the lowly things as I look for them. Even weeds can be appealing, because they are really only flowers growing in the wrong place, aren’t they?  God hides His treasures, those daily grace gifts we’re apt to ignore and take for granted, in plain sight for us to discover and enjoy.

“I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel” ~ Isaiah 45:3 NKJV

Lily of the valley rises as a delicate offering when days are just beginning to warm and hearts are more than ready for a sign of summer to come. Their white bells ring out a sweetness we respond to with eagerness, sounding a death knell to winter-dark and a welcome invitation of spring.

“To see a World in a grain of sand,

And Heaven in a wild flower;

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,

And Eternity in an hour…”

~ William Blake ‘Auguries of Innocence’

The immortal lines above reveal how much can remain hidden to us when walking along and looking around. We can easily miss the messages God is sending us. There are touches of heaven everywhere, seeking to infuse us with eternal joy in the here and now.

My own imperfect poetry is an attempt to suggest similar things…

Seeing is believing

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My eyes tend to be drawn down to ground

where I focus on a flower or two

as camera lens captures the profound

 

What if I viewed each flower as a vision

not just of loveliness and perfect petals

but of heaven’s breath? Would my seeing

 

look beyond the human eye, encompass

a greater depth and breadth, stretch toward

eternal skies and find God’s presence sits

close by? Maybe each leaf and flower

 

are inviting us to sense much more

than eyes devour, lovely as it is,

and teaching us to train our souls

 

to be on the lookout for heaven’s

kiss. If so, then I don’t ever want to

miss their offering, but pause instead

 

to marvel how eternity is written

deep within our hearts and concealed

soft within every living thing

©JoyLenton2016

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Welcome to #day28 of #write31days of journeying into joy. Bless you for being here! It’s been quite a marathon, hasn’t it?

As this series draws to a close, so our focus slows a bit, leading to small ways of discovering joy hidden in plain sight.

 

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bearing and sharing joy seeds

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Rather like a tiny mustard seed of faith, joy is also a seed we nurture within, water with God’s word and encourage to flourish and grow.

Joy takes root in all of God’s children, swells best in thankful hearts and expands exponentially the more we share it, thus sowing seeds in the lives of others.

Though we need to hold on to joy, especially during tough times, we’re not meant to carefully horde our joy, but spend it freely, give lavishly and liberally just as God gives to us.

We bear the mark of Christ in our hearts, because His footprints are found within every believer. We also bear His seeds of love, hope, joy, mercy and compassion. Each day provides fresh opportunity to release those seeds into society.

What can stop us is our perceived unworthiness, or living with a scarcity mentally where we fear losing the good things God has already given us.

The good news is that there is plenty to go around, an abundance, in fact. God is no man or woman’s debtor. He is a faithful, loving, giving, generous God and our lives are meant to mirror His character.

And here’s the thing – joy given away is joy multiplied. We actually experience an increase each time we give our joy away to others. How good is that?!

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Joy seeds

Let me scatter joy seeds

fling them wide from my fingers

spread arms in a cruciform shape

reach out to the edge of existence

heedless of the direction they take

 

May I be profligate

with them, not counting

the cost of giving, but

losing myself in mercy

because joy is never lost

 

Maybe something will take root

rise up strong in future days

and new life produce shoots

as it pushes through dark

soil, rising with sun’s rays

 

Maybe all it takes is hope

wrapped up in a prayer

as I liberally sprinkle

seeds of joy everywhere

©JoyLenton2016

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Welcome to #day27 of #write31days of journeying into joy – I can barely believe we are nearly through this series! Thank you SO much for joining me.

I hope and pray you are taking something positive and encouraging out of these posts and I’d love to know how they are speaking to you. Thank you .

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how joy coexists with sadness

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It’s often a surprise to discover how joy still sits within a sad heart, because our painful times can make us feel so empty and dry, devoid of hope and distant from God.

Yet joy is always present in those who have God’s holy presence within, sitting curled up with cat-like contentment, waiting to spring to life the moment we seek for it, even if we’ve previously failed to acknowledge its existence.

When we search our hearts they feel drained and depleted, but when we seek God’s face our eyes and soul will eventually be lifted out of the darkness and desolation and into a sacred dance of joy – beginning as a tiny flutter on the inside.

God entreats us to stay a while, to rest in His presence until we begin to sense the faint stirrings of joy within seeping back into our spirit. He encourages us not to let our feelings have the upper-hand, because faith is expectant of receiving what it is believing for, knows God’s promises are trustworthy and true.

As we trust that joy will return, even out of our darkest hours, we find our souls slowly drawn more toward the light, inching closer to hope with each passing day. We begin to believe that ‘this too shall pass’ and life is worth living.

Joy is  a grace gift freely given when we abide in God and Holy Spirit dwells in us. It seems mysterious and otherworldly, because it truly is.

Co-existence

How can there be joy

at the heart of sorrow

 

and sadness co-exist

where there is bliss?

 

Yet somehow

they are mixed

 

and inextricably

linked as one

 

expression of life

and love and faith

 

and deep mystery

Part of all our tomorrows

 

in all the annals

of human history

©JoyLenton2016


Dear Father,

So many are struggling right now. Life is challenging and hearts ache heavy. We need a sense of perspective as much as we need your healing touch. Help us to see how very close you are, always ready to comfort, encourage and bless, full of mercy, grace and forgiveness.

Your hand is not too short to pull us out of any pit we may have fallen into, even those of our own making. We need to be aware of your presence with us, hear the soft whisper of your voice, know how dear we are to you as your beloved children.

Grant us encouragement from your Word and the ability to receive all we need to revive flagging spirits, lift weary heads, ignite hope, restore joy, bring rest and peace.

Help us to realise these seasons will come to their own conclusion in your perfect timing. And as we cooperate with you in coming through them, we will be able to see the lessons we have learnt.

Enable and equip us to sit in the ashes alongside our suffering brothers and sisters and offer them the same comfort, help and strength you have given us.

Amen

*Note* – you can also discover more about how hope and joy can be found in the midst of grief and sadness in another post from this series – just click the link to read it.


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Welcome to #day26 of #write31days of journeying into joy I’m so glad you are here, friend!

The poem above comes from my book, ‘Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life’s hard places’It was birthed out of my own struggle to discover grace and seek joy in the midst of painful circumstances.

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when joy arrives like a surprise guest

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Joy waits for us in every circumstance. It is seen by those with hungry hearts and observant eyes, able to view the crumbs and corners of each day from God’s perspective.

We receive daily grace gifts like manna in the wilderness, soul sustenance and supply. Yet we can so easily miss or overlook their appearing, neglect to take note of God’s goodness toward us.

Like a good friend stealing toward us, unnoticed at first, then greeted with delighted enthusiasm, joy also comes to us with sudden softness, appearing unexpectedly to brighten up our days as we welcome it in.

Joy is like a garden plant appearing to spring up overnight because we had somehow missed seeing it while it was growing, but now it stands out as something bright and beautiful, suddenly become a bold feast for the eye and a flag of hope to revive a flagging faith.

Joy often comes without warning, breaking through the bad with a holy contentment, a comforting warm glow within despite the chill of painful circumstances, the dirge of our daily grind.

We are asked to pause, be still and savour its entry, marvel at how joy has the ability to alter our thinking as we keep a conscious reminder of its presence hidden in our midst, hovering on the edge of everything.

The poem below is an attempt to describe the ephemeral nature of joy sometimes. Though we have constant access to it, our situations, thoughts and feelings can cause us to have blind-spots to its presence.

A surprise guest

She slips soft into

my consciousness

like morning rain

dew-fall from heaven

both manna and leaven

 

Arriving like a surprise guest

expecting a warm welcome

for her sudden appearance

though unglimpsed in the distance

 

My cold heart remains wary

reacts slow, suspicious

opens its door — hesitant

then leaves it ajar because

I can sense a soul awakening

 

a life-giving kiss breathing

within as she stirs memories

where hope’s embers linger, now

enlivened by joy-steeped fingers

©JoyLenton2015

*Note* – this poem first appeared on my writer friend, Barry Pearman’s ‘Turning the Page’ blog where I was guest posting last year.

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Welcome to #day25 of #write31days of journeying into joy

I’m truly thankful you are here as we draw this series to a close! I’d love to hear how are you seeing and sensing joy in your own life. Feel free to chime in with the comments below.

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