growing: on flourishing in life and faith

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” — Psalm 92:12-14 NIV

Growing

 I want to grow
 slowly, like moss. Spread out
 with lively verdancy, 
 stay bright and fresh,

 remain green-leaved.
 May I carpet
 my mind, my interior
 castle, my spirit 

 with holy wisdom,
 with resiliency
 I can confidently 
 walk upon with ease.

 Let me be rooted
 like a sturdy oak tree
 which freely spreads itself—its bark, 
 branches, trunk and leaves

 across the forest floor 
 because sunlight invites
 it to, and it knows
 how to grow and mature.

 May I stay 
 strong and stable, secure
 during life’s fiercest storms, 
 unshaken, unmoved,

 unbroken, unbowed,
 bravely holding on.
 Because I know
 that I am girdled around

 with supernatural strength
 that is not my own, 
 but generously given 
 to me as a pure gift

 of grace, one which stems 
 from a surrendered 
 dependency, while I stretch 
 and remain rooted in faith.
 © joylenton 

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into light.” ― Helen Keller

Whatever we might face, God will give us help and strength. While we wait, God grows our hope and faith. Whenever we feel weak, He enables us to soar above our challenging circumstances and depend on His grace. We’re covered, my friend, even though it might not feel like it sometimes.

Spiritual growth, whereby we develop wisdom, patience, maturity, resilience, and faith, is a slow process. I’m needing to remember that and give myself grace because we have an opportunity to move house this summer—gulp!—and will need those characteristics in abundance. We have a few short months in which to decide, downsize, declutter, and discard enough to make the move achievable for us.

I’m trusting that the months ahead of being more deeply rooted in faith will be rewarded by being fully equipped for all that lies ahead, because God is faithful to support and lift us up when we feel weak. Consequently, my words here will be sporadic while my limited energy, focus and strength are needed elsewhere. I welcome your prayers and look forward to reconnecting with you whenever I can. Blessings and love. xo 🙂 ❤

lightness: learning to release our burdens to God

“Are you weary of the pace of this world? Does the never-ending deluge of information from the media wear you out? God promises that when we meet him, we find our true rest along these ancient paths—not in a new technology, a new medication, or the passage of new legislation, but through intentionally and habitually coming to Jesus and casting our burdens upon him. Only there do we find true and enduring rest.” — Ed Stetzer

Lightness

 Hot coals burn
 these palms of mine
 as a daily kind

 of frantic juggling 
 act goes on.
 Each burden sears 
 my soul

 as I grasp tightly
 at insubstantial things
 which dissipate

 like smoke,
 like lifeless rings
 blowing here and there.

 But if I pause,
 slow down,
 breathe you in
 with every inhalation

 I take,
 my empty hands
 of faith become

 filled with rich gifts
 of Light, of Life
 Hope, Joy, and Peace.

 Here in the stillness
 I let my burdens
 drop down
 Into your waiting hands,

 falling as dust,
 without form,
 substanceless.

 Each weighty care
 flows freely
 as if it were

 a balloon,
 a mist,
 but vapour rising
 then falling

 over distant hills.
 I watch
 them all floating
 on a breeze

 while lightness
 also fills 
 my mind, my heart,

 my spirit,
 and a smile
 twitches itself
 onto my upturned lips.
 © joylenton

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” — Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

lightness - lightness poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“I am about to go to sleep and so I turn over to him all those people I have been carrying in my heart. He never slumbers, he never sleeps, he never fatigues, he never stumbles. I won’t pick them up again unless he prompts me to do so. His burden is light, his yoke is easy. He carries the heavy end of the load, always. I am just his kid, carrying what I can carry, and he is a good Dad and never gives me a burden that would discourage or harm me by its weight.” — Katherine Walden


May I pray for you?

Lord Jesus,

Turn our hearts more in the direction of your face, your heart, your voice, your love. Reveal just what unnecessary loads and heavy burdens we might be carrying, and encourage us to let them fall at your feet, where we receive your Peace.

May we sense the wisdom of spending quality time in your Presence to offload our cares and concerns and become strengthened. Help reorient our anxious souls back to faith, back to calm, back to rest, and back to hope.
Amen

wholeness: sensing hints of wholeness

“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.” — Wendell Berry

Hints of wholeness 

 Where do we begin and end? 
 Is there a boundary between you and me
 and other living things?

 Don’t we all draw breath, our sustenance 
 given by a generous, almighty hand
 that loves us without restraint?

 Now we look at air and water,
 fire and earth, tree and leaf,
 noticing the connectedness.

 We see and sense our union 
 with all living things, our sentience 
 linked inexplicably with theirs.

 Earth in its rawness, primitive 
 soil teeming with hope,
 with richness, and with life.

 Fire exists in the heavens,
 wrapped in the golden glow of sunset 
 and sad devastation of forests.

 We see repeating patterns
 in the sky, in a flower,
 in each day, the length of hours.

 And our souls can sense
 areas of difference still
 giving hints of wholeness.

 Variety is seeded in the universe,
 in all burgeoning plants,
 in faith, and in infancy.

 What we will become
 is still a mystery
 for now, waiting to be revealed.

 Brokenness is our default state
 throwing us on God's mercy,
 his great forgiveness and grace.

 We learn not to divide 
 our hearts but yield them up
 in surrendering to his love.

 Our brothers and sisters 
 are not too dissimilar to us
 when viewed through grace.

 One day differences will subside 
 because what unites us
 is greater than what divides.
 © joylenton

“[Jesus] matters because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weaknesses he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.” — Dallas Willard in Ruthless Trust – Brennan Manning

trust: choosing to maintain hope in the hard

“Whatever dark tunnel we may be called upon to travel through, God has been there.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Trust

 Let us start
 here—in the present 
 moment that exists,

 where we have 
 a choice—to doubt or trust 
 in God’s great sovereignty,
 his constant care and love.

 Let us continue
 while we cling tightly 
 to Truth, to Hope, to Faith,
 embracing our challenges 

 because of the blessings 
 God has hidden within
 the hardest of days.

 Let us walk
 by leaning on the staff
 of faith, relying 

 on what we already 
 know and experience 
 of God’s mercy,
 his grace and strength.

 Let us lean
 ever harder on our God
 when troubles come,
 even as they 

 multiply like flies
 may we know, deep down,
 we will cope and survive.

 Let us journey
 with open minds
 and hearts, with open

 hands as well,
 expecting to be surprised 
 by the power of holy
 Love in which we dwell.
 © joylenton

“Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love and the future to God’s providence.” — Augustine

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” — Isaiah 26:3

awareness: noticing the marvellous in the mundane

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Awareness

 I might sense
 the slight tightening 
 of a stitch,

 an awareness
 of being hemmed in,
 then easily miss

 the way you weave
 your miracles
 in the mundane.

 Unless my eyes
 are open, noticing,
 ready for

 a surprise, prepared
 to watch and see
 what lies behind

 the ordinary,
 then I could glimpse
 the deftly woven

 warp and weft
 of your holy threads,
 your embroidering. 

 Although it is more
 than a visual
 response, more than

 a second glance
 required to 
 observe a sacred

 hand at work,
 a gentle touch
 igniting the humble
 soil of earth.

 Because you ask
 me to look 
 inwardly as well

 as outwardly,
 to catch the softest
 tread of your

 footsteps inside 
 my expectant heart
 as you walk,

 fill it with your love,
 your presence,
 and your thoughts. 
 © joylenton

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God… As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of A Young Girl

Prayer

Loving Creator God,

We give you thanks and praise for creation’s stunning beauty and the soul soothing, calming effects it has on our minds and hearts. May we sense the safety of being hemmed in by your grace and love as we face tough situations and challenging circumstances. Help us to notice the way you skilfully weave the marvellous into the mundane for us to enjoy each day.. Heighten our awareness of being part of the miracle as we learn to appreciate these gifts to the full.
Amen

silence: stirred to listen harder to our lives

“In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.” — Frederick Buechner

Stirred

 Angels stir the waters
 and we awaken, roused 
 at last from slumber

 deep. We’re getting ready 
 to receive. Our inner spirit 
 had been sleeping,

 blissfully unaware, now 
 it seems that God is calling.
 He is close—he is near. We can

 hear his holy footsteps 
 because an unfolding advent,
 a season of awakening 

 begins with this—this sudden
 impartation, this stirring
 of mind and heart. This call

 to listen, pay attention,
 and respond. Yes, yes, our souls 
 sing silently as the mists part,

 the darkness yields itself 
 to light, the shadowed dullness 
 flees, replaced by illumination,

 bright luminosity is seen. To what 
 end are we stirred like this,
 awakened, we know not yet,

 but still we rise inside, 
 propelled by a holy purpose
 waiting to be revealed to us.

 Great change is in the air
 we breathe, scenting the atmosphere 
 with silvery notes of promise,

 with hope, with an opening, a hint
 of blossoming to come. If only 
 we would notice, and follow

 the path set out before us,
 be it rocky, smooth or hard,
 get ready to walk, leap or jump. 
 © joylenton

“The Lord is coming, always coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord” — Henri Nouwen

Friends, it is a time for awe and wonder to predominate. A season in which we watch and wait. A moment to pause and catch our breath before we become too embroiled in Christmas busyness. And it’s a time to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here, for the shared conversations, thoughtful comments, and prayers.

I look forward to sharing life’s poetic rhythms with you again on January 14th, when I will have some special news to share! 🎄🌟May your Christmas and New Year celebrations be full of joy, and may you life be blessed with abundant hope, healing, and peace in the year ahead. 🌟🎄Blessings and love. Xox 😊💟❤️

seasons: sensing the sacred in our midst

seasons -

“Spring, summer, autumn, and winter each have particular gifts and invitations. Paying attention to the rhythms of the natural world helps us to recognize the place within us that calls for blossoming, fruitfulness, releasing, and resting.” — Christine Valters Paintner, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom

Can you feel the tug, or is it just me? Can you sense the added pressure in this season when we’re unable to stay on top of our tasks? The urgent vies for our attention with the important because there’s just so much to do, and so little time left to do it in. We want to drop everything and go lie down in bed. Perhaps our weary bodies and anxious minds are telling us something valid we need to listen to.

Because we can become so wilted and jaded by all we want to complete before Christmas comes that we fail to fully appreciate the holy extraordinary event of Jesus being born on earth. But what if we paused? What if we stopped for microseconds at a time, or more? Let’s take a few slow, deep breaths and try. Let’s seek to listen to what our burdened souls, our fractured lives are saying to us.

seasons - sunset - trees - but what if we paused quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” — Matthew 11:28-29 NIV

Sacred seasons

 It is autumnal dusk,
 let us give ourselves
 a sacred moment to sit,

 rest, exhale, pray, pause,
 a space to breathe 
 and be. Because there is 
 an opportune moment

 for everything, a kairos 
 time for everything 
 on earth, a season 
 covering soul growth,

 activity, stillness 
 and deep soul rest.
 Even our hearts 
 have an innate knowledge

 of rhythm and purpose,
 where we sow seeds,
 we wait, we grow, we reap.

 So let us learn 
 to accept, relinquish,
 surrender, and appreciate 

 the abundant, the slow,
 the meagre, the painful 
 growing times which we detest,
 when we must stop and wait,

 the fleeting joyful moments 
 we all cherish and adore.
 Because they all count,
 far more than we might know,

 they all matter to God,
 no matter which season
 of the year, of life, of the heart
 we might currently be in,

 for we can all grow 
 and flourish inwardly
 when we pause to listen
 and fully trust in him.
 © joylenton

“God has so much to speak into your life. But if you don’t draw apart from the busyness of your day and spend time alone with Him in quietness and solitude, you will not hear it. Jesus himself spent much time alone with God. If anyone could get away with not doing it, surely it would have been Him. How much more important must it be for us?” — Stormie OMartian, The Power of a Praying Woman

Gracious Jesus,

Rather than allowing ourselves to be stressed and rushed, draw us deeper into the quiet restfulness of Your love. Help us focus less on festivities and presents, and more on spending quality time in Your presence. Revive our weary bodies.

Renew and reorient our anxious hearts. Even though our celebrations this year might be pared back and muted, compared with how they usually are, reignite the sense of wonder, joy, and hope wrapped up in this special season, and beyond.
Amen

waiting: the holy work of Advent and beyond

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Waiting 

 sunlight weakens
 colour fades as mists descend
 December's here
 wrapping us in thick fogginess
 hunker down, it's nearly Christmas

 days slide by
 in a rush toward the night
 our souls moan and sigh
 darkness outside increases
 the onward march is ceaseless

 we become hungry
 for hope, for warmth, for light
 a safe place to abide
 while our souls grow accustomed
 to the season we are in

 clothed with silhouettes
 the trees stand sentinel-bare
 like bereft soldiers
 guarding the fort of their thoughts
 waiting for spring's reward

 maybe you and I
 can keep the vigil with them
 our hearts tuned to spring
 as wintry winds whistle hard
 let's remain patient and calm
 © joylenton

“This is the most precious answer God can give us: wait. It makes us cling to him rather than to an outcome. God knows what I need; I do not. He sees the future; I cannot. His perspective is eternal; mine is not. He will give me what is best for me when it is best for me.” ― Vaneetha Rendall Risner, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering

Friends, you’ve been waiting several weeks to see when I might return to writing in this space. Thank you for your patience! I’m so glad to be back. We seem to spend much of our lives waiting for this and that, don’t we? The season of Advent highlights how to wait with intention, with purpose, with hope and expectation in our hearts.

May we begin it with such anticipation. And may we aim to listen harder for God’s soft footsteps in our hearts. He longs to draw near to us and whisper His wisdom to our receptive souls but so often we become weary in the waiting and slow to respond. Let’s ask God to increase our ability to stay, to be open, to wait, and to receive. Because Jesus, our Light-bringer is well worth waiting for.

waterfall: being drenched by God’s waterfall of grace and love

waterfall - being drenched by God’s waterfall of grace and love @poetryjoy.com

Many years ago, God gave me an unforgettable vision, a foretaste, perhaps, of life in the Kingdom-to-come. I saw myself joyfully frolicking and laughing under a waterfall.

There were others with me who were equally enchanted by the beautiful place we were in, and overjoyed at the absence of darkness and pain. I had zest, energy, and ability in abundance, as I jumped and danced and immersed myself in the gushing water.

I felt alive, fully alive for the first time, as I dipped myself under the powerful, pounding flow again and again. Yes, little ‘ole me, who hates water and can barely swim! 😉

There, I had no fear, no worry or anxiety whatsoever. It felt like I was bathed and saturated in life itself, in love, in grace, in light, and goodness. There was an endless supply of it. It was marvellous.

“Grace is finding a waterfall when you were only looking for a stream.” — Vanessa Hunt

Waterfalls
each day
requires us to receive
linger long
under waterfalls of grace
get saturated, satiated

but it's not
to satisfy our souls alone
we receive enough
so we can pour out to others
from our excess and overflow

every dry spell
requires us to pause, to refuel
we must stop
surrender to the rest of God
keep a regular Sabbath break

we come apart
before we fall apart from fatigue
we might need
a longer season of rest and peace
for our soul's full recovery

let us breathe
let go of excess busyness
let us receive
the very best we have on offer
for our body, mind and soul's sake
© joylenton
waterfalls poem excerpt - waterfall - landscape - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Christianity is about water… It’s about baptism… It’s about full immersion…. Most of what we do in worldly life is geared toward our staying dry, looking good, not going under. But in baptism, in lakes and rain and tanks and fonts, you agree to do something that’s a little sloppy because at the same time it’s also holy, and absurd. It’s about surrender, giving into all those things we can’t control; it’s a willingness to let go of balance and decorum and get drenched.” — Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

My friends, it’s time for me to linger longer under God’s waterfall of grace because I’m experiencing greater health challenges. I’m more depleted than usual and in need of a break.

So I will be resting my words here for a few weeks. I hope to become refreshed and restored enough to return by mid November, God willing. May God bless you and pour out His abundant grace on you until we meet again. xo ❤️💜

waterfall - blessing - May God bless you and keep you blessing (Numbers 6_24-26 TLB) @poetryjoy.com

Mind if I pray for you?

Father God,

We so often allow ourselves to become drained, dry, and depleted by life. It can be hard to stop or even pause long enough to breathe freely sometimes. We ask for the wisdom to know just when to pause and take a break, maybe a little bit each day, or longer, so we can become strengthened and healed.

Would you graciously refresh and restore us as we pull back from busyness and rest ourselves in You? May this time of coming aside, however long it might take, be a precious oasis offering us a saturating waterfall of Your strengthening love and grace.

Amen

beauty: how it draws our hearts toward God

“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” — Martin Luther

Mountainous

In the distance 
there is an indigo,
dark-shadowed, snow-crested

mountainous ridge rising
on the horizon,
tinged with soft sunset-pink.

It glows with invitation
to pause, to admire,
as the sky ripples with joy,

with beauty and celebration,
a daring dusk declaration,
as the dark mountains

dissolve and morph back
into the clouds
from which they are formed.

While we travel forward,
leaving a blaze of sun
golden-streaking the sky 

far behind us, 
like a final farewell,
a golden hurrah, perhaps.

And I crane my neck,
unwilling to lose
the sight or miss

the significance
of creation once again
stirring mountainous

hope in my heart,
because as this day sighs
its dying breath,

I know that dawn 
will come, light will return
to bathe the earth 

in grace, and leave us
always wanting more
of beauty, wonder, awe.

Even as I mourn
my lack of evidence,
with no photographs to show

what I saw, it has burned itself
upon my retina, with a
defined, sharpened focus 

in my mind, to become
fully developed in my soul,
as I reflect and scribe it all.
© joylenton

“Beauty reminds you of an Eden you have never known, but you somehow know your heart was created for it. Beauty says, There is a glory calling to you. And if there is a glory, there is a source of glory. What great goodness could have possibly created this? Beauty draws you to God.” — Restoration Year: A 365 Day Devotional by John Eldredge

beauty - how it draws our hearts toward God - clouds - sunset - glory (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com