sometimes: making space for grace and compassion in action

 

Sometimes we forget to be grateful, fail to recognise how very blessed we are to sleep in a bed with a roof over our head, a table laden with food, cupboards bulging at the seams and a freezer stuffed full of extra provisions as well.

Sometimes we forget to thank God for daily graces, to see how wonderfully He provides for all our needs and how blessed we truly are in every conceivable way, even to simply wake up and breathe each day.

Sometimes news headlines and the constant media bombardment on our screens wash over us with lethargic indifference, fail to capture our attention or engender a compassionate response within—so inured can we become to a world’s distress, poverty and duress.

Then sometimes we STOP. Stop and put ourselves within another’s shoes, think about the people behind the news events, pause to ponder their predicament, examine their lives via our imagination and wonder what we can do to help them.

If we do, we might just see how much our Saviour loves and aches for them, become caught up with His heart in prayer, in care and compassion, in being living examples of His love and grace in action, and maybe in writing a poem about their plight…

What do we know?

Lord,

What do we know of empty, distended bellies

bereft of sustenance, where choice is an unheard

of word and survival is the name of the game; where life

itself hangs by a slender thread and starvation

haunts each waking moment like a skeletal spectre

rattling its chains and calling your name?

 

What do we know of owning just one set of clothes to drape

across our diminishing frame; one pot in which to cook

a few dry grains, if we’re one of the lucky ones with

something at hand to eat today, instead of foraging,

walking miles with weary tread to gather a handful

of flowers—mere weeds to water our thirsty bodies?

 

What do we know of watching our children shrinking

before our very eyes, becoming wasted, emaciated, aged

way before their time, lying still with barely enough energy

to play or cry, their voices weak and eyes now clouded,

sad, pleading, bleak—breaking our own aching hearts

while we cradle them close, watching them suffer and die?

©joylenton2017

“Then these ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you taking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you? Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me'” ~ Matthew 25: 37-40 The Message

worship: why silence might be one of the best ways to pray

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Do words fail you sometimes? Maybe get stuck on the tongue, swallowed back like tears? We think language should be simple, just one person conversing with another, as easy as breathing, fluid as air.

But there are moments when we don’t know quite what to say to one another, never mind speak to God. Prayer can stall into silence. This may seem like we’re not praying at all, but I think silence is actually one of the deepest mediums for prayer and a great way to align ourselves with the divine.

During times when our words are stilled, we find other ways to communicate with God. Tears and inaudible, deep-seated groans of the soul still rise as incense before Him. Silence makes space for restful, worshipful contemplation.

There is no language, no tongue, no hindrance to communication with God. Our very posture speaks volumes to Him, as does our inner ache, sadness and pain.

What about worship? Doesn’t that require words?  Ideally, we want to express our heartfelt feelings before our Lord in a vocal way, though worship is myriad things and more of a lifestyle decision than a song.

God sees our hearts and hears their silent cries—our intentions and desires are laid bare before Him before we breathe a word or sing a note.

If, like me, the season you are going through has made voiced prayer hard to do, words failing to form due to the lump in your throat or heaviness of heart, please know that God understands it all, sees into the depths of your soul and is busily answering before you feel able to utter a single word.

Worship

Let our language spring as sweetly

languid as summer sky, lazy on

the tongue, and soaring like sea spray

We’re wanting an upbeat life and 

to swim together, like sunlight still

aches to shine with worship, whispering

music like a smooth honey symphony

©joylenton2017

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You and I can rest in Love’s soft shade, rest our weary souls before God and know we are being loved, seen and heard. In the shelter of His safe, protective love we grow strong again.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in him I will trust’…. He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you shall take refuge” ~ Psalm 91: 1-2,4

Love’s soft shade

Our lonely spirits can thrive

and shine by Love’s soft shade

For every life has dark garden

vines from earth’s root fall, but

warm, gentle Eden rain cycles

like sacred river song beneath

light, wandering wind harmony

of deep fresh air we breathe

©joylenton2017

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We can communicate with God through silent tears and a broken heart. Maybe, like Ann Lamott, the only prayers you feel capable of right now are of the “Help, Thanks, Wow” kind, and that’s okay. He understands. Start where you are and a flow of words will eventually come.

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

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?

how joy coexists with sadness

write31days-journeying-into-joy-joy-and-sadness-coexist

 

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.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-joy-and-sadness

how remembering helps make room for joy

write31days-journeying-into-joy-remembering-making-space-for-joy

 

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.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-remembering-joy

 

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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thoughts on being a joyful giver

write31days-journeying-into-joy-on-being-a-joyful-giver

It is said that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. I always derive more pleasure from picking out gifts for others rather than opening my own, though they are greatly appreciated, of course. I guess I dislike being the centre of attention, or getting another year older!

When it comes to gift giving it truly is the thought that counts. We regularly receive a card through the post – proper snail mail no less – from a dear friend of ours who not only supports us in prayer but also remembers that we once used to be church members. Our faces remain largely forgotten, even our names cause puzzled faces, so long has our absence been. But to this kind lady we are still friends she treasures and fondly remembers.

I think the gift is more the encouragement of being prayed for and thought about than the card itself and small token she sometimes sends. To be held in prayer and thought of in love is no small thing. It has seen us through some very painful times.

Sometimes it is humbling to receive, especially when we’re in straightened circumstances. But we negate the potential blessing if we fail to give or receive out of embarrassment or indifference. A tender heart and listening ear will help us to be sensitive to the best timing as well as the most appropriate gift we can offer someone.

Maybe God is calling you to consider different ways of being a giver? It’s less about splashing the cash and more about expending time, thought and prayer. Our attitude matters most. God loves a cheerful giver who reveals the way He loves to give to us – freely, liberally, lavishly, generously – and radiates His loving-kindness.

God wants us to give out of a heart of love and compassion, shaped by Holy Spirit inspiration and direction. He will show us the best way to offer help and support to others as we learn to be joyful givers and grateful recipients.

Dear Father,

May we always remember to be kind, act lovingly, show mercy

As we give to others let us do so from a heart of gratitude,

not out of guilt. Show us just how much has been given to us,

so we do not become mean gleaners but gracious givers

 

Remind us how everyone we meet has deep secret needs

There is pain and strife, wounds are present in every life

There is an ache inside, a void only you can fill

Sadness invades us, as does grief. Every life sits in shade

sometimes. Every person is in pursuit of peace and ease

 

May we be given eyes to see, hearts full of compassion,

a willingness to be your hands and feet in a needy

world. Teach us how to be transformed as we feel

our way around this place. Reveal how grace shapes

our days and how best to offer it to others.

Amen

“Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:7 CEB

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badgeWelcome to #day20 of #write31days of journeying into joy, where we are examining various ways in which we can lead a more joy filled life.  

Your presence here is gift and grace to me. Thank you for allowing me access to your inbox.  🙂

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seeking to enjoy the journey we are on

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While we journey into joy, we soon discover how much better it is to have support, friendship and companionship to encourage us along the way. Especially when it becomes tough at times, there are mountains to negotiate or skirt round, several hills to climb, much travelling to do and lessons to get through.

The travelling can feel endless to reach our goals. Yet the road yawns wide before us, stretching its fingers toward the future, inviting us to do the same.

As we place our faith and hope in God, He will slowly unfurl the rich potential of days still to come, and grant us grace to enjoy the current view of the journey we are on.

The prayer below reflects on part of my creative journey, which is continually being shaped by faith and made achievable by God’s goodness and grace. May you see your own dreams reflected in it too.

Dear Father,

It seems strange to think that our afflictions can become joy bringers. Yet I know that without mine I would probably lead a disconnected selfish life, all the poorer for losing such deep need-driven daily dependence on your grace and mercy.

For in love, you have given us joy in knowing you, in living with your constant presence, in the persevering, enduring and overcoming, and joy in the journey itself.

We are created to dream big dreams, to believe for the impossible, to see your hand at work bringing life from what seems dead. A dream was laid on my heart. I dared to hope for something beyond the everyday.

I desired to write a book of poetry.  A seed of hope was sown, liberally watered by the encouragement of those you chose to accompany me. Their interest and support helped the fragile seed to grow, flower and flourish.

You knew I lacked courage to walk this path alone, that I would be tempted to give up without prayer and words to cheer me on, how my fears and failings would make me falter, weakness make me wilt and pain bring a halt to proceeding.

And you gave blessings in abundance, as you always do to each one of us – liberally, freely, graciously, lavishly, unexpectedly, joyfully.

You provided friends to walk beside me, peace in pursuing purpose, strength in sharing, courage in creativity.

All helping me to be here now – still walking in faith, still writing, still living and believing for greater things to come.

For you reward all who diligently seek after you. May it be our goal, always. The Giver of all good gifts does not disappoint us.

For these things and for your manifold mercies, we give you our grateful thanks and praise.

Amen

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”

~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

PS: *Take heart, friend – though we may have to wait a while, God-sized dreams do eventually come true. After over 2 years of waiting, I’m so thankful to have the fruit of this particular dream available now as a real live book to read! You can click on the link to access Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life’s hard places’, or UK readers will find it in the sidebar here. Every copy sold helps to raise funds for Action for M.E*

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31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badgeWelcome to #day10 of 31 days of journeying into joy.

How is the journey going for you? Can you testify to God bringing a dream to pass?

Do let me know in the comments below.  🙂

When we need a reminder

when we need a reminder PJ

Days can bleed softly into one another and we so often miss being able to see and sense the sacred in the secular.

Holy and hallowed moments meeting with us in the mundane. Whispers of God’s grace in the commonplace.

My heart’s longs to live with greater awareness. To have my eyes open to wonder. To be present to Presence.

To know that whether I feel anything or not, God is always present.

And His active, living presence is what my soul needs most.

I desire to recognise holy in the everyday. God at home in my heart and mind, rooted in life’s reality.

I want to live in the light of His presence as I walk through this world, sense His peace and love, know I am His beloved.

And I want to make space for the entrance of grace to change and transform my mess.

Remind me

Living Lord,

Remind me as I go through my days

to know that the Lord is in this place

Awaken me to wonder

Alert me to Your Love

Bring a deep, abiding sense

of Your peaceful Presence

Calm this restless heart

Still my anxious mind

And as I sit and absorb

may I rise and go forth

share the beauty and grace I see

witness to Your Life in me

©JoyLenton2016

I definitely need to be reminded of these things. Maybe you do too?

Centering prayer is helping me to have that focus on a daily basis. Here’s a link to a helpful app I am currently using for that.

I also read quite a few devotional resources, use this bible app and dip into this prayerful app too from time to time.

What helps you to focus on God’s presence?

How are you best reminded of His daily grace?

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For God so loved

for God so loved PJ

Although the Advent season is now at a close, the message it brings continues to influence and change lives.

God’s love is eternal, everlasting and ever-available to us.

During Advent we are drawn into the wonder of the Incarnation, Christ made flesh.

It also pulls us into the holy awe of Easter where Jesus was willing to die a painful death for us.

They are inextricably linked, eternally bound by God’s purposes and plans.

We cannot view the babe in the manger without catching sight of the cross in the background.

Love comes at a price, and none have paid so high a price as the Son of God Himself.

Jesus literally died for love of us.

The wonder of it never ceases…

For God so loved…

Dear heavenly Father,

You loved; You keep on loving; You are Love

Love divine, Love Incarnate, Love excelling all other loves

It is Your defining characteristic

the essence of who You are and how You act

How can I begin to fathom the depths of Your love?

How can I experience it in all its simplicity,

its fullness and rich complexity?

Only by revelation

Only by faith

Only by acceptance

Only by grace

I read about Your love in Your word and it amazes me

I desire to experience it more in my heart and life

Would You live out Your love in and through

this weak mind and body of mine?

Would You find a way to touch the lives of others

with its heat, its power and all-consuming fire?

I rest complete in Your love

Because I need nothing else

Everything flows from it

Your love is the starting point of faith

and will be with me beyond the grave

In humble gratitude, I give thanks for all

I have already seen, believed and received

of Your inexhaustible, unconditional love

and all that is yet to be known,

lived out and personally owned

Amen

©JoyLenton2016

for God so loved prayer PJ pin

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” ~ John 3:16

During the last few weeks I’ve been mulling over the new ‘word’ for the year which God whispered to my heart ahead of time.

He has made it clear that the emphasis for me for 2016 is to be ‘LOVE’.

To see how this has already affected me while I absorb its fuller implications, you can read this introductory post on my main blog, Words of Joy. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what insights are given in the months ahead and sharing some of them with you here.

Do you have a ‘word’ for the year? I’d love to hear what it is and how it affects you. Feel free to join in the conversation below.

Having an autumnal heart

autumnal bench

Leaves are singing their swansong, a drifting dance of death as they fall to ground.

Some float freely, still retaining some buoyancy and remnants of yellowing life.

Others scatter on the wind as crisped golden-russet confetti flakes.

Fit only to be trodden on, while we wait for bridal snow to appear as winter hovers on the threshold.

And my soul sits heavy some days, a slow dying on the inside whenever M.E fatigue droops me to bed, reddens these eyes and forces a body to lean into rest.

Oh how I need enlivening on days when the spark seems missing! Maybe you do too, my friend? Let’s pray…

Dear Lord,

I feel autumnal dry, parched on the inside.

Begin with my heart. Set it on fire with your enlivening spark.

Let it take root there, at the centre of all things, deep in my soul where you make me whole.

Fan into flame my feeble frame. Stir this dust into something more than ashes.

Give a kiss of life to my lethargic mind.

Sweep out the cobwebs. Make room for a shift in perspective.

Teach my soul to sing a new song. Ready me to receive renewed joy of my salvation.

And whisper close. Hold me as I muse on these muddy, maladroit days.

Remind me that Love is always with me; I only need to see and open my heart to receive it.

Then let me be seated, at rest in Love’s embrace.

Wait to be filled to overflowing until I am ready to be poured out again.

Thank you.

Amen.

A vessel to be filled

Lord Jesus come,

to my autumnal heart

I need your Love

Without it I wither,

curl up small and die

on the inside

crumble, fall apart

My light and life weaken

without the infilling and

spilling – I desperately need

restoration by radiance

Flood my being with

searing heat of grace

the fierce warm fire

of your Love’s embrace

Here I stand with

aching, empty hands

ready and willing

to accept and receive

A vessel to be filled

then give out freely and

help others to believe

©JoyLenton2015

Linking here with Holley at Coffee for Your Heart and Jennifer at Tell His Story

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