shadow: caught in the shadow between life and death

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

rest: seeking to enjoy the stillness and savour holy conversation

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Misty fog-haze lends an ethereal air to these wintry days. This is a season where deep calls to deep in the realm of rest and sleep, a hibernation time when words are deliberately stilled and distilled in the stillness, able to ferment and brew in contemplative silence.

During a needful rest and slowing down time we learn to listen better to body, soul and Holy Spirit. And we begin to hear murmurs we may have missed in our busyness, words which lend themselves well to poetic expression. We hear whispers of encouragement, discern glimmers of mercy and grace surrounding us.

Rest invites us into recovery, restoration, a deeper faith-walk journey, a call to intimate prayer, maybe a suggestion of sharing thoughts in a journal, writing out holy conversation to look back on and possibly share—ways of recording God’s work in us and connecting closer to the core of who we are. It’s a period of sitting with patience and letting it have its way with us, learning to wait for the right moment to unleash and release.

I wrote the poems below in a free-flow-as-it-comes way, with a willingness to savour holy conversation, an openness to God’s loving presence within this present moment and a desire to appreciate seasons yet to come.

My hope and prayer is that you will read them with an open mind and open heart, and hear what you need to hear within the lines. May they connect to your soul and find a resonance within.

Come rest

Come rest like moist

forest moss so green

beneath warm summer sun

listen to full river song

bird murmuring spring

follow blue breeze harmony

see between dark mountain path

earth’s soft fertile wandering

©joylenton2017

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Velvet eternity

Come and listen to me

linger long as my words

melt as steam breath and

air makes soft ghost-like

smile blush over my lips

let broken night cloud

be our dark universe

and life’s warm embrace haunt

this velvet eternity

©joylenton2017

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Welcome to #magneticmonday where I share my latest offerings of magnetic poetry writing. ‘Come rest’ was composed using the Nature set and ‘Velvet eternity’ with the Poet set. You can discover more here and have a go yourself if you feel inspired!

What is God suggesting to you this season? 

How are you able to rest best in a world hardwired for busyness?

holy listening to life, love and loss – magnetic monday

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Life’s deep secrets contain echoes of eternity, breath of love, hint of loss and eventual leave-taking. For we cannot love well, fully and freely without seeing and sensing the sharp contrast of light and shade together, which involves a kind of holy listening to life itself, acknowledging those smudgy grey areas we all inhabit.

When we raise our awareness, become accustomed to holy whispers making themselves known to us in the midst of the mundane, we soon realise that we share those deep secrets—both concealed and laid bare—as glorious partakers and curious onlookers observing God’s work in this world.

In turn we become holy listeners, those who wait on the Word, seek out Truth, hoping to hear heaven’s heartbeat, to bear its joy and sorrow, become saturated in its love, mercy and forgiveness, as we learn the wisdom and discernment only God can impart. Then we offer these things as gift to all, especially those in our sphere of influence.

In my first magnetic poetry poem below (made with the Original Set), holy listening can be interpreted as you see fit.

Holy Listening

She said vast dark secrets

of old dazzle like dance

a brilliant word for

this holy listening

I can bring cake

give me warm ocean

breeze lingering in

cloudy night air to

celebrate their wake

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My second poem—made using the Poet Set—examines love and loss, inextricably linked as one heart-rending experience.

Love and Loss

love is our mad sun

or it’s cool as death

whispered lies to the wind

wanting one last symphony

bitter as black mist

her arms were

daylight bare

languid as language

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What is God whispering to you this week?

How is this magnetic poetry speaking to you?

I’d love to hear in the comments below.  🙂

a deeper journeying toward the light

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Our journey toward the Light of God’s presence will be fraught with detours along the way. Life’s darkness steals around the edges of our days as it seeks to blot out the light. A sweet-pea flower’s fragility reminds us how our lives often feel like a transient, tender flare of brightness set within dark and gloomy circumstances.

Where do we turn to when things go awry? Who do we seek out when in need of soul solace?I’ve found that failing to turn swiftly to God only brings deeper misery. But if we make Him our first port of call, pray instead of trying to cope alone or pushing Him away, then He is ever faithful to come to our rescue.

I’m discovering the dependence which having chronic illness brings can cause frustration,  resentment and unwillingness to yield, but over time it begins to change our perception of surrendering.

The poem below depicts a dragonfly’s journey and also mirrors our human one as we learn to arise, lean toward the light,  become less dependent on self, and sense a bright, joyful welcome in God’s presence.

As dragonflies

dragonfly

We begin

earth grubbing silt and sludge dwellers

stuck mud-deep, dark glooming

in humanity’s squall,

little realising there is a way to climb

free from such insanity; drenched in

slime, smell of death clings fast,

seeping into all

We are

earthbound, plodding through endless days

of toil, rooted in routine, shielded

from questing thought

by the sheer monotony of the way

life trundles on, one day following

another in repetitious refrain, yielding

far less than it ought

We sense

a glint appearing; light wavering

glows slow with fronds emerging

for us to climb upon

Slim reed of hope, discovery,

shoots into view, enticing us to seek

rescue, release from watery grave

echoing a saving song

We rise

blinking in great wonder and delight

As dragonflies, our wings unfurl,

breaking free in dance

of grace, coloured and caught by Light

Every part on fire, shimmering bold,

aswirl with joy untold, glimmering

soul and spirit entranced

©JoyLenton2016

We wear faith like a fragrant garland around our weary necks while we press hard into each day’s demands, and we learn how to look for the Light, shake off the dust that clings tenaciously and lean on God for everything.

Our very weakness and fragility, far from being limiting things, become a special means of grace, an opening up to seeing God’s gracious hand at work in the commonplace.

It involves listening with spiritual intent to all our lives are saying to us, hearing the ways God reaches out in love to speak His wholeness into our brokenness.

God is always inviting us to join Him in the Light, to marvel as our beauty unfurls in the warmth of His presence, to see and sense what we have come from and where we are going to.

As we draw closer to Advent, I will be sharing more about our dark, earthbound condition and how God invites us into the airborne freedom of His Light. I’d love to hear how this season is speaking to you.

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how remembering helps make room for joy

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Life passes in a blur and we can become too caught up in busyness to stop and savour the present moment. We forget that Now is all we really have to experience to the full. Except, that is, for those conscious acts of remembrance which stir our hearts with sweet ache of memory, turn thoughts back to gratitude.

I’ve been thinking about my grandson approaching the grand old age of three, reflecting on the enormous privilege of being his grandma, how I get to watch him grow, have a part to play in his future.

This little fellow has truly captured my heart and been teaching me more about joy than any text-book could, because he lives with a confident expectation of life being full of good things. Joy is his default mode most days.

Although I require a lot of support myself due to chronic health problems, I happily, willingly (and probably unwisely?)  go way beyond my normal capacities to offer him love and care, knowing our times together are precious and rare.

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When I think about those special times I have shared with him, it awakens me anew to the realisation of holy ground being anywhere heaven touches earth – in the banal and breathtaking, and in the prosaic and playful as well.

Once we look and listen with intent, we sense moments of marvel midst the mundane, observe joy springing up like bulbs eager to greet sunlight. I’m tending to see more in the autumn of my life, remembering anew all that God can do.

Joy given is joy multiplied. We bring our lives as a daily offering to God and watch with wonder as He blesses them beyond measure, to the full and overflowing out to others.

Making space for God is no hardship when He enlarges our capacity for sensing joy in daily life, as well as in His presence. He delights to bring us joy and delight.

Our prayers rise as breath, each one ascending as incense to God’s throne. I inhale and still remember the sweet infant scent of my sons and grandson. It’s a reminder of the fragrance of grace filling everywhere we offer it space.


Dear Father,

As we reflect, remember and relive joy-filled moments, may we prepare our hearts to receive again, ready them for holy whispers and reassurance in the here and now.

Help us to enlarge our happiness with fond remembrance of your goodness and grace in the past, so we can have renewed hope for the future.

May we be aware of the fleeting nature of our days, how every breath and moment is a gift to us, and each day offers fresh opportunity to enjoy the grace gifts already set before us.

Help us to be appreciative receivers and gracious givers of your bounty as we pour ourselves out in the service of others.

Show us how to listen well to your Word, to Holy Spirit and to our lives, heeding all they have to say to us. And to look with deliberate intent as we seek to develop hearts more in tune with yours by surrendering each day into your hands.

Amen


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Welcome to #day24 of #write31days of journeying into joy

What helps you to actively remember the goodness of the Lord?

I’d love you to share in the comments below.

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how a shifting view yields glimpses of joy

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It was late afternoon as we travelled home. Sky was displaying her sunset colours, so I swivelled round as far as I could in my passenger seat, trying to capture the breathtaking beauty behind us.

As sun dipped low, leaving golden trails, I pointed and clicked my phone’s camera, desperately hoping to get a good enough shot as we whizzed past the scenery.

In seeing a sunset I am undone. Nothing speaks more to me of God’s glory and majesty. It’s like a loud clarion call at close of day, a last hurrah as night is ushered in.

I had to swivel uncomfortably to catch the sky’s dying rays, but oh it was worth it! When at home I try to remember to check the view, see if twilight and dusk are melting into sunset, sneak outside for a few moments if able and just marvel anew. It’s never stale or ordinary to me.

Just like wonder, joy seeps into the edges of our consciousness, nudging us into awareness. Though there may be many days when we fail to heed or receive it. Whenever I do, it usually stirs the poetic. Here’s the poem that came from those fleeting moments in the car…

A shifting view

A shifting view seen through

car windscreen while journeying

yields a glimpse of golden glory

rays as sun melts liquid into

horizon’s darkening depths

 

And my heart is captured

too as I point and click

with great rapidity, knowing

how life’s changing scenes

 

need to be seen, savoured anew,

given over to gratitude

for the gifts we can unwrap

in every waking hour

©JoyLenton2016

Sun’s brilliance captured and captivated me, but how much more does the Son of God Himself, our Lord of creation, produce awe, wonder, gratitude and reverence in us? He alone is worthy of all worship and praise.

Sadness may nibble away at the edges of everything, because we live in a dark and fallen world. It is all too easy to fall into discouragement and despair. But what if we deliberately try to capture beauty, take note of nature’s offerings? Even simple family pleasures take on greater significance when viewed through a lens of gratitude.

Maybe in seeking to pay attention to our days we could bring joy back to our hearts. It doesn’t have to be by camera. If we can be more fully present in the moment, then those experiences will naturally etch themselves on our memory.

Sometimes we just need to step outside of our familiar, view the world around us from God’s perspective, see how marvellous it is. In the looking and listening itself we can become more joyful and content, grateful for God’s myriad blessings in the everyday.

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Welcome to #day9 of the #write31days writing challenge, where our focus is on journeying into joy.

I’d love to know how this series is speaking to you. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you!  🙂

 

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