shadow: caught in the shadow between life and death

caught-between-the-shadow-of-life-and-death-pj

 

There’s nothing quite like being in a hospital ward to remind us we are caught in the shadow between life and death, hope and despair, as subject as the seasons to alteration and change, with death, disease and decay sitting in our mortal frames.

If we stop and think about it, then we realise how each day, each breath is but a gift. And even if every moment we live slides us closer to the grave, and a dark shadow of sin already exists as a blight over our lives, we are brought alive to the Light in a whole new way by God’s great mercy and grace.

Our part is to live with a mindful awareness, a grateful acceptance, a heart willing to surrender to whatever each new day will bring, a mind able to make room for Mystery within the mundane and a spirit ready to engage with our Creator-God.

Because if we can sit comfortably within this shadow land and make peace with our circumstances, we can begin to learn what God is teaching us right here, right now. Life lessons form the warp and weft of each happening—every thing is speaking to us, if only we make time to heed it and have receptive ears to listen well.

“Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; your rod [to protect] and your staff [to guide] , they comfort me” ~ Psalm 23:4 (Amplified Bible Classic Edition)

Life’s forest shadow

A cool lake mist spray whispers

blue dress of death, smooth as

loving rain on skin. And when

we trudge through life’s forest shadow

recalling dreams diamond like spring

wind plays sweetest rose symphony

singing like lazy sky sleep, but we

want time to shine our light beneath

©joylenton2017

magnetic-poetry-lifes-forest-shadow-pj

 

Life’s fire embrace

We cannot always live long

in this cool, fool universe

A vast open sky eternity

lies like a sacred time-kiss

warm and moist with God’s velvet

healing peace, and night is

broken by Life’s fire embrace

©joylenton2017

magnetic-poetry-lifes-fire-embrace-pj

 

I am so thankful God gives us opportunity to experience new life, and renewed hope, any time we choose to turn to Him. He knows the dark shadows we live under and makes provision for our every need, both here and in eternity.

“We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but never despair; we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our… mortal flesh” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (New Jerusalem Bible)

How is life’s shadow side speaking to you?

What helps you to see and sense God’s Light shining through?

A simple mantra of “Jesus conquers…. Jesus saves” (gleaned from reading ‘God Calling – A Devotional Diary’) is currently giving me renewed courage when life’s dark shadow of discouragement hangs over my days. You might like to try it too.  🙂

breathe: when it’s time to breathe freely again

breathe-fmf-poetry-joy

 

Is it just me, or do you also find that the more outwardly busy you become, the more your thoughts tend to spiral out of control? It’s as if we try to get a handle on our lives by mentally processing and digesting  stuff, so that we can sort and sift what to retain or ditch.

And in doing this we also hope to wrestle with our worries, and maybe even banish them, forgetting how giving our concerns a lot of head space usually achieves the opposite effect, making them multiply instead.

Finding (and maintaining) a calm core to our days in the midst of life’s busyness, storms and demands, calls for awareness, deliberation and decisiveness.  It requires us to still ourselves body and soul and to pause long enough to listen to what our life, and God, is saying to us.

I find that prayer, especially of the centering kind, is a marvellous and needful pause during life’s busyness. It helps me to remember to breathe… and yield my cares to God, leading to a deeper soul peace. Though it can often get sidelined when I’m  feeling overwhelmed by extra demands being made of me, as the five-minute-friday poem below suggests.

Time to breathe

I wonder, is there time to breathe?

Yes says the flourishing flower stretching

her growing beauty out of tiny seed

The race is not to the swift, nor

battle to the strong, but to those who

learn to wait patiently—enduring long

 

Yet I take such small, sharp, shallow breaths

and I sense a tight constriction

within my chest. For it seems that I

have somehow forgotten how to breathe

in synchrony with life’s rhythms

or go gently into each season

 

Instead, I mentally rush headlong

into each day, barely pausing to breathe

or pray, pushing a body so fatigued

and sore to do Just One Thing More

And it’s no wonder I feel all out of

sorts, stressed and harassed, of course

 

Because I’ve forgotten to stop and sit

with stillness, or simply stay in tune

with Holy Spirit—and calmly rest myself

in Him, rather than in my easily

exhaustible, all too human limits

©joylenton2017

breathe-time-to-breathe-poem-excerpt-fmf-pj

 

I think I should have heeded the words I wrote here last week about feeling out of control and needing to breathe!  :/

But I’m glad I listened to inspiration coming, so I could share my thoughts with the fabulous #FMF writing crew gathering over at Kate Motaung’s site to write about this week’s prompt of ‘breathe’. Come join us?

about calling, priorities and sensitivity to Holy Spirit

about-calling-priorities-holy-spirit-pj

 

Like a flock of noisy seagulls, voices come at us from all directions, urging activity, challenge and change. What (or who) are we listening to? How do we sift the gold from the detritus, make choices we can live with and trust? In a world vying to be heard, how do we make sure we only take in what we need to?

It’s not easy to avoid all that is clamouring for our attention, or discern the times and tides, especially when so many fresh opportunities are coming our way.  A new year is rife with resolution, full of possibility, potential and hope.

As I try to recover from the festive season, my body is signalling a need to rest but my mind is inclined to pursue the enticement of the Now and the New. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real issue for many—me, too, sometimes. We can become stalled by indecision, paralysed by too much choice and derailed by the very real possibility of disappointment.

At the risk of lagging behind, disappointing or letting people down, it’s better for us to be true to how we’re currently situated and what we’re capable of without jeopardising our physical or mental health.

My spirit longs to listen to what God is saying to me first and foremost , knowing His ways—though seemingly counter-intuitive at times—are always the best. It pays to heed holy whispers. If He is whispering caution, waiting and rest, then I hesitate to press ahead with the next big thing, because in the end it will fail or I will falter, crash and collapse if I ignore the warning signs.

I love to write and in order to do so I have to prioritise, make creative space, rest, pace and avoid doing anything else for the day that’s an exhausting activity for me. It’s all about calling, priorities and sensitivity to Holy Spirit’s leading and guiding, and giving ourselves permission to rest and recover when we need to.

It won’t wash with me

Political spin

won’t wash with me; I’m resting

in God’s plans, you see

haiku-it-wont-wash-with-me-pj

 

No spin

Life’s waves wash over

my still frame—caught fast by pain

I refuse to spin

haiku-no-spin-pj

 

Wash me radiant

Wash me radiant

Let your love spin in my heart

Warm from dawn to dark

haiku-wash-me-radiant-pj

 

Today’s haiku have been inspired by the prompt of ‘Spin&Water’ —(which my tired brain somehow interpreted as ‘Spin&Wash’ instead… oops… so that’s what I’ve based these poems on!)—from our poet master, Ronovan, of ronavonwrites.  Just click here to see the rest of the posts and join in if you’d like to.

How are you sifting the wheat from the chaff as you make plans for 2017?

What new thing (or word) has God given you for the days ahead?

A taste of the holy invading our everyday

a-taste-of-the-holy-pj

 

How can we fail to notice the holy? Sadly, all too easily. Yet God leaves little messages in each moment. Markers of His presence. Footsteps of the divine in our midst. Evidence surrounds us everywhere but we often miss it.

A good way to heighten our awareness of the holy is to seek frequent sacred spaces in our days, whereby we look, listen and pray. We can aim to live with an expectation of wonder during Advent and beyond, to put spiritual lenses on, watch and wait with anticipation, have a heart set on holiness, remain alert to its appearance in our everyday ordinary.

We can become deaf to God’s voice due to disobedience, fail to step forward into encounter because of fear, or drown Him out by our busyness and drive toward independence.

Our resistance may stem from many things, but we eventually begin to see how much we can miss by not readily opening our eyes, heart and mind to the holy in our midst.

Sometimes God may choose to conceal Himself for a while. Then we have to exercise our faith muscles, to trust He is still with us in the dark, grope our way back to believing, have praying companions who come alongside and remind us of God’s goodness, His immanence with us.

God offers us numerous opportunities for connection, whispers words into our consciousness and does everything in His power to gently lure us into a deeper relationship with Him. There is no coercion to be close to God, only an open invitation of constant love.

Our eagerness to discover God hiding in plain sight is more than matched by His willingness to be found. And creation itself is the loudest and clearest clarion call signalling His significant presence with us on a daily basis.

Thoughts of the way we often taste the Holy in sweet, tangible ways and sense an essence of God in our midst have shaped the haiku I’ve written today. All three haiku have been prompted by this week’s poetic haiku challenge of ‘Kiss&Taste’ set by Ronovan Hester. Just click here to visit and meet the man behind the challenge.

Taste of Love

Feel the taste of Love

Descend from heaven above

Kiss your cares away

haiku-taste-of-love-pj

 

A Holy kiss

Taste a Holy kiss

Sealing your heart, soul and lips

A divine imprint

haiku-a-holy-kiss-pj

 

Benediction kiss

Holy Spirit sighs

Breathe a benediction kiss

We taste deep inside

haiku-benediction-kiss-pj

 

What is helping you to sense the holy in your midst?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the conversation below.

finding joy in the dark times

write31days-journeying-into-joy-joy-in-the-dark-times

 

I woke feeling out of sorts, restless and agitated. Insomnia and pain often affect my mental state, because the weariness they bring begins to permeate everything like a dense heavy cloud. Maybe you’ve felt that way, too?

On days when light and joy seem to be absent and our souls feel downcast, we have to make a deliberate effort to pursue joy. Because joy hides behind every dark cloud and we see it when we search it out. It’s a matter of the will, of mind over matter, Spirit-led living over flesh-induced feelings.

Rest and joy are closely aligned, dependent on one another, especially resting in God. Our days of extra busyness, weakness and weariness are speaking to us of a pressing need to pause, a soul drive toward silence and stillness instead of a crash-and-burn-style of living leading to illness.

This isn’t just for those of us who have M.E and chronic illness; this is for everyone. Because we all live in a fallen world which can drain every ounce of vitality out of us if we let it. The words below were whispered to me in prayer. My hope and prayer is that they will speak to you, too…

prayer whisper image

 

“Rest isn’t an emotion or a feeling, though at times it will seep into your mind. But the kind of rest I offer you is one that sinks into your spirit and lingers. It’s a turning toward Me, a continual attitude of trust, no matter what your circumstances might be.

It’s a gift of grace which brings inner peace and Holy Spirit ease to accomplish all I call you to do. It’s an understanding which fires you to willingly live close to Me. It’s knowing Me as a loving, caring Father who always has your best interests at heart.

The more you learn to lean on Me, the more you will be held secure in every way, because I created you to live in dependence on Me. Your greatest and deepest joy will be in receiving My rest as it permeates every aspect of your life.

You will grow more aware of My presence watching over you like a protective mother hen. You will have strength and equipping for everything. You will have deep inner peace that remains. Your whole life, memories, past, present and future will be seen as safe in My hands.

Relax. I know everything about you, My child. You can rest in My infinite love, tender compassion, mercy and forgiveness. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to give you. Come and rest with Me. Pour out your fears and tears. Allow Me to soothe them all, to hold you close and whisper words to help and heal. Come now…”

A prayer

Gracious Father,

Forgive us for being so weak and easily led by our feelings. for falling into anxiety and worry, frustration and fear, stress and distress, for neglecting to spend quality time with You.

Thank You for your words of hope and reassurance. We receive them into our spirits. May they take root and begin to fill every hurt, wounded and aching part of us.

Only You know the heaviness of the human heart, and only You can show us how to live fully and freely again.

Help us to sense deep holy joy within, hovering on the margins of our days, always readily available in Your presence.

Amen

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

Welcome to #day7 of #write31days of journeying into joy. Thank you for being here! 

As we examine those things which steal our joy, may we also discover how to regain it again by resting in God.

 

write31days-journeying-into-joy-joy-in-the-dark-times-prayer

what night’s inky blanket says to us

write31days-journeyingintojoy-night-inky-blanket

 

Night whispers its presence as soft kiss of dusk and sunset’s flame fanfare yield to a falling curtain. Each slide toward dark’s velvet covering begins to  conceal day’s warmth and light, suggesting we’re safer staying inside.

Comfort and coziness is found more indoors on these chilly autumnal days as we seek warmth and shelter, try to relax body and mind, unwind from a day’s busyness, crave peace and rest. Though I like to leave curtains open as long as possible as I watch gradual invasion of night swallow up the view, and savour every last chink of light peeking through.

Every shadowy silhouette reflects how even the known, the all too familiar can become draped in mystery. We see so little when we really think about it. Noticing can become dull and senses dim when we are stuck in a rut of finite everyday-ordinary and fail to lift the eyes of our heart toward the infinite.

Inky blanket

Night wraps her inky blanket

softly round a darkening world

 

She steals the light we move within

then proffers silver smattering

 

of stars that glitter jewel-bright

Displayed at their finest now

 

enshrouded as they are by

this murky midnight-blue sky

©JoyLenton2016

Glory moments can be found when we stretch our souls to hear their sound, begin to truly listen to what our lives and the world around  are saying to us. And when we switch off from preoccupation and busyness, we soon discover that silence is full of noise, because a world on constant hum of readiness is continually speaking to us.

I also hear the continual thrum of tinnitus in my ears, a sound I tend to want to drown out with an alternative. Sometimes we hear our own heartbeat or breathing when we still enough to listen, pause for our next breath in the midst of activity or prayer.

God is always offering us an invitation to listen, to hear holy heartbeats, sense sacred echoes in the everyday. Joy is made manifest in His presence, because night is as day to God; there is light and life in abundance, more than enough to refuel and refresh weary souls.

“You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near me. Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful” ~ Psalm 16:11 CEV

It doesn’t matter when or how we come, the important thing is to answer the call. God waits with infinite patience, but it is to our own detriment if we fail to find time to be with Him.

Sometimes these daily slowing down periods which night reveals are all the reminder we need of life’s short span, of all that fights for and consumes our attention in the daily grind. They also speak of just how much we need the stabilising power of joy that only God can provide.

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

Welcome to #day3 of 31 days of journeying into joy. It’s good to have your company!

How are you hearing creation speaking to you, or sensing sacred echoes best? Do share in the comments below. 

 

write31days-journeyingintojoy-night-inky-blanket-poem-pin

What to do when you scramble for words

bleak tree PJ file

Whether speaking or writing, we can soon come across an inability to find the precise words we want to share.

The stream dries up; all seems lifeless. We find ourselves parched, staring at barren ground and bare bones, our thoughts like twisted twigs.

The Muse seems elusive and unkind some days, or so we say – although she is really a mere figment in our minds.

A reason to hang our excuses upon as we scramble around for words vanishing in the ether.

Inspiration deserts us and we hover over paper or PC with fingers itching to release… only to come up empty.

What do we do when words drift away?

I’ve found that resting, relaxing and praying help enormously.

All inspiration is God-given and a gift of grace.

Because some days? Some days we’re too plumb tired to plumb the depths to extract the exact words we want.

So we pretend not to care for a while, switch off, engage ourselves with new pursuits, or give in to the need to pull back, seek some spiritual whitespace.

And in the quiet contemplation, in the resting in God’s presence, in the slowing down and stressing less we find we can tap into the Source of Life Himself and He begins to fill and flood our minds with lively thoughts once more.

Maybe a seeping through, a slow filter, a line or two, but then it begins to flow again.

We can breathe easy. Speak, write and type as God directs, comfortable in His provision and timing.

Because words will rise easy when God decides they need to and they’re ready to share.

Our part is to stay expectant, listen to our lives and all they are saying to us, listen for God’s voice and remain open to inspiration.

Then my friends, we give thanks, we speak, we write, we pour out our offering and we trust God to use it as He wills.

And we remember that God has an inexhaustible supply of words He desires to impart to waiting hearts.

Last night I was considering why I hadn’t written much poetry recently. There are lots of good and obvious reasons why my mind has needed a rest, not least that I’m currently staying with family.

Then a line or two insinuated itself into my mind, and this is how it ended up…

Cajoling Poetry

Poetry can act capriciously

especially if we try

to pack her into a

little rhyme or two,

or wrestle words onto

a page, she’s apt to fly

into a sullen rage

Although she has been known

to demur when called upon

to assist us in a song

And will indeed, sometimes,

be cajoled into a line

which, for better or worse,

becomes joined into a verse

And even though poetry

will not easily or

willingly bend the knee to me

or resists staying around

when I try to pin her down,

I find if I keep an open door

and open mind, she will return

with an offering – or more

©JoyLenton2015

cajoling poetry pin PJ

Intentional awareness

begin PJ FMF file image

There are days that slip by without me being fully aware of their passing or intentional about how I spend my time.

Some get lost in a fog of fatigue. Others are pervaded by pulsating pain.

Many are victims of inner restlessness and inability to settle to anything much.

But those in-between? Times when some energy and mental clarity are present?

They lend themselves to a little more structure and goal setting.

I’ve recently been trying to deliberately add some routine to a life which is far from routine.

And what I’ve noticed is that nothing goes right for long without making space for sacred moments, prayer pauses and soul-sanctuary seeking.

We need intimate moments alone with God.

Without them we become dry, drained and depleted.

We need to spend time in His Presence to rest and receive, be refuelled, refreshed and restored.

Because it is better to live mindfully than mindlessly meandering through our days. Each one is a gift of grace, even the hard ones.

This morning as I flipped through my prayer journal I came across words God imprinted on my heart a while back.

I’m sharing them with you today in the hope that they will bless and encourage you too.

prayer whisper image

‘Intentional resting’ ~ Prayer Whisper

Take time each day to commune with Me. Set apart moments to lift your heart heavenwards. For in stillness, rest and quiet lies your strength. In seeking Me, you set the tone of your day as one of surrender to My will and ways. I do not hide Myself. I can always be found by hungry hearts who deliberately draw close to My side.

Be intentional about guarding your schedule to include soul-sanctuary seeking. Devise your days with My guidance. Together, we will accomplish so much more. Dependency isn’t weakness; it’s a sign of faithfulness and trust. The world will overwhelm you soon enough.

Come to Me for inner cleansing, for deep peace and for wisdom to know how to proceed. Lean on Me and learn from Me. I am humble and gentle of heart.

Let Me whisper words you need to hear. An instructed mind and tongue will become a blessing to others. Try not to rush into My Presence or hurry away without pausing to listen. I know your every need before you ask Me for anything, and My greatest desire is to have an intimate, loving relationship with you.

Come close, My child. There is no fear here. Perfect Love casts out fear. I am Holy and I am also tender, rich in mercy and grace. Bring Me your brokenness, your emptiness, your hopes and fears; I will heal, restore, fill to overflowing and provide for you beyond your wildest dreams. Trust Me to take very good care of you with My infinite goodness, patience and love.” 

As part of my soul-sanctuary seeking I have been revisiting ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence, as well as continuing with ‘Finding Spiritual Whitespace’ by Bonnie Gray, and reading books which reveal how to blend contemplation with creativity. I hope to share more as I delve deeper into these things.

And if you’d like to see more ‘Prayer Whispers’ here, then please let me know in the comments below. Your thoughts matter. Thank you! 🙂

prayer whsiper - intentional resting PJ file pin

Being broken

being broken PJ file image

‘Being broken’

Your voice whispered urgent, imploring

Calling me to come away

Take a break

Stay close to Your side a while

Abide in restful invisibility

close to Your heart

before I break and come

apart on the inside

Little did I know how my soul

longed for less exposure

Less busyness

Less stress

Little did I know how it would

reveal my deepest needs

Become a breaking

and a making of me

Peel back layers of sensitivity

Unloose the woman of God

You desire me to be

Now, broken by Your grace,

I seek solace, and I find

Rest for my spirit and mind

within Your inviting embrace

©JoyLenton2015

Friends, it looks like the poet in me is ready for release with a breaking of a God-inspired, self-imposed silence over the last month.

It feels good to be back sharing my words again with the wonderful community of #fiveminutefriday writers!

Thank you for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers over the last few weeks. They have blessed and sustained me more than you know. 🙂

I’m still taking things easy, resting and pacing and only writing as God gives me inspiration and anointing. But I’m so thankful for this opportunity to join in and share here today.