praise: the secret power of praising God in life’s storms

praise - the secret power of praising God in life's storms @poetryjoy.com

Praise tends to fall easily from our lips when life is good and we see visible signs that we are blessed. We feel happy and content because all seems to be right with our world. But what about when the sky darkens or falls in for us? What then?

Praising God during life’s storms can feel like an impossible thing to do. Yet praise is a powerful weapon to defeat discouragement and lift our mind and heart back to God. If we can open ourselves to God and lay all our cares at His feet, we can also learn how to praise and trust Him to meet all our needs even before we see it happening.

I’ve experienced this myself. On days when light was eclipsed in my soul and I was locked inside myself, drowning in feelings I didn’t want to have. Maybe you’ve been there too? Or are suffering that way now? 

May I encourage you to let Jesus into your pain filled places. Invite God to be Lord of your sadness, sorrow and loss. Ask Him to help, heal and lift you up. It’s a heart cry prayer He will always answer.

Such thoughts shaped my (slightly more than 5 minutes) poem. I hope and pray it will be a blessing to you, my friend.

Praise

her countenance is clouded
darkened by circumstance
head drooping low to ground
soul feels like it’s chained down

she can barely register anything or
think clearly, hear others speaking
because her mind and heart are gripped
hard, caught up in turmoil and pain

then she hears a voice urging her
to look up and lift her sad gaze
to him, to raise her head higher
see her Lord standing here by her

because it is here, in the midst
of hardship and pain that he
whispers his encouragement
urges her to begin again

here? now? she cannot fathom how
nevertheless, she listens, begins
to murmur softly in her heart and
ignite a small thanksgiving spark

praise starts as a tiny seed within
a sacrificial offering, often scraped
from a raw place, then flowering
into tears, words, deeds and grace

now he gently whispers her name
pulls her out of the miry pit she
is in, helps her to stand strong today
on the solid ground of faith and praise
© joylenton

praise - the secret power of praising God in life's storms - praise poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I praise God for having a writing space and thoughts to share as I join fellow wordsmiths over at five-minute-friday today. The prompt is ‘praise’. You are very welcome to join in. Just click here to read the great posts being shared.  🙂

complete: God has the answer to our brokenness and pain

complete: God has the answer to our brokenness and pain - girl sitting with dried autumn leaves

Do you ever get times when you find you dwell far more on your brokenness than on God’s grace? When one more failure seems to suggest you’re unworthy in yourself? And social media, coupled with advertising, constantly reminds you how flawed, inadequate and incomplete you are? I do.

Your triggers might differ from mine, but whatever the cause it’s often hard to move on from our brokenness or fight back against discouragement, isn’t it? We can forget how very broken we all are before God and that He doesn’t demand perfection from us. We can forget that God’s grace covers all our sins, failures and mistakes.

We can forget what powerful discouragement fighting weapons we have in the practice of gratitude, prayer and praise. In seeking solace in Scripture’s rich promises. In simply asking someone for help when we’re out of our depth or find it hard to pray for ourselves.

I don’t like inhabiting the doldrums for long. And I am always relieved when God offers a loving arm to pull me out, especially when it comes unexpectedly through a five-minute-friday word prompt.

I am always lifted as I find a poem taking shape that expresses my feelings and reveals the solution as well, while God whispers Hope to my soul. He will do the same for you, too, my friend, in the way your heart needs to receive it.

Made complete

there’s a hollow ache
rattling around inside
issuing from the place
where I often seek to hide

it’s calling out my name
telling me I’m not enough
fuelling me with shame
I’m unworthy to be loved

then I hear another voice
warm as honey in my soul
filled with hope and grace
promising I can be whole

my deep brokenness
is no deterrent here
it’s a vehicle via which
my Saviour will appear

he knows all about my pain
whispers solace to my heart
makes me complete again
frees me from sin and dark

all I considered lost
broken beyond repair
is redeemed at the Cross
a gift beyond compare
© joylenton

I’m grateful God doesn’t wait for us to clean up our act before coming to Him, and He always has a place in His heart for the prodigals, the broken and lost.

complete - poem excerpt (C) joylenton - sad girl sitting on a bed @poetryjoy.com

I’m thankful for being given the means to share my poem with the wrangling wordsmiths that make up the fabulous #fiveminutefriday community. You are very welcome to join in or click here to read the great posts being shared. This week’s prompt is: ‘Connect’.  🙂

when shame hits, we can learn to embrace peace and joy again

 

Life offers us numerous opportunities for failure, humiliation and embarrassment. It’s so easy to lose our joy over such things, fall prey to burning waves of shame and dark shades of introspection that make us want to hide away.

When we allow the sting of chagrin to steal our peace, we begin to fear for our standing and reputation, worry about what others will think, and sink into discouragement at the thought of losing their good opinion of us.

While we all yield in different ways to sin, if we focus most on failure, we can lose not only our sense of joy, but peace and rest within. Then God’s mercy and forgiveness can also pass us by, as we hide away in guilt and shame instead of rejoicing in the reason why Jesus came.

Our lives and peace of mind can become spoiled when we are upset, depressed and dissatisfied with our behaviour, if we forget that holy conviction comes from God and is designed to lead us into repentance and forgiveness, the touch of His love—whereas condemnation is from the enemy of our souls, leading us to deep inner misery and keeps us stuck in an endless cycle of  guilt and shame.

The haiku below are my response to that kind of situation, (one I find myself in more often than I care to count!) and a means of pointing the way back to experiencing peace and joy again….

Spoiled

Intimacy, joy

will be spoiled if we allow

chagrin entry now

©joylenton2017

 

Free joy

Take life on the chin

Don’t let chagrin rule and reign

Free the joy within

©joylenton2017

 

Embrace inner peace

Joy is within reach

if we leave chagrin behind

embrace inner peace

©joylenton2017

 

Joining with Poet Master, Ronovan and fellow poetic friends as we share our take on this week’s prompt of ‘Chagrin&Joy’. Just click here to join us there.

“You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forevermore” ~ Psalm 16:11 GNT

abandon: on surrendering our lives to God

 

Being abandoned, even temporarily, feels devastating. Nothing else quite strikes at the core of who we think we are and what our perceived worth and value might be in another’s eyes.

Many of us feel the sting of shame at being rejected or abandoned by our birth parents, whether at birth , later on by the way we are treated, or as casualties of our parents’ splitting up.

Such things leave scars which can mar us for life, if we let them. I only began to fathom what unconditional, fully accepting, lavish love looked like when I came to faith in Christ in my late teens.

I still marvel over our Heavenly Father adopting me into His family, viewing me as His oh so precious, beloved child. And I am not alone in this, because that’s how He sees you too, my friend, and longs to be in a close, loving, intimate relationship with you.

There are some barriers in the way at first, most of all our sin. Though unbelief and rejection of His love can also be a hindrance to receiving it. Thankfully, Jesus made a way where there seemed to be no way.

His death on the cross and glorious resurrection are the means whereby we become reunited to God. They reveal how we, too, can learn to die to sin, overcome our shame, guilt and pain and rise again in newness of life with Him.

Once we see and believe just how much God loves us, we start to realise we are never as alone or abandoned as we might feel. And we are given daily grace and strength from Him.

Abandon

I want to become a prisoner of

Hope, abandon myself on the altar

of dependence, and rest in God’s

all-sufficiency—because he has given 

us the greatest abandonment of all

nailed fast to a wooden cross

 

Jesus chose to abandon himself

to death, to suffering, to ultimate sacrifice

for our sin, for our sake, for our lives

He chose the path less travelled, seeking

 

to be a servant of all, relinquishing

his kingly crown and throwing down

the gauntlet to the kingdom of darkness

which had us in its thrall

 

Now we, who were orphans of circumstance,

hostage to habit, taunted by temptation,

have become beloved daughters and sons, children

of God instead of life’s lost, unwanted

ones. We’ve received a fresh heritage

 

made rich by faith, given a brand new

start, new heart, clean slate, on which

our Father God can write his eternal glory

story—as we abandon ourselves willingly

to surrender, and close relationship with him

©joylenton2017

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed. but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (emphasis mine)

Happy to be linking my (rather late), poetic #FMF words in companionship with fellow wordsmiths gathering at Kate Motaung’s site. Just click here to join us there. 

**NOTE** – If you’re seeking solace, you might like to read my poetic memoir journey of discovering grace in life’s hard places. It’s available free today to download here on Amazon Kindle.  🙂

season: finding soul sanctuary in tough times

crocus-season-pj

 

How did we get to March? I seem to have missed the memo. Just like some friends across the pond are still deep in snow, waiting for the melt, for a season of spring to show, I seem to have been hibernating in stillness, a needful slowing down on the inside while taking on extra physical and mental busyness.

I need a soul sanctuary. It’s here—borne on the wings of prayer, coming to me as I wait patiently before God, learn to still my restless heart and find my deepest peace in faith and trust, as I navigate through life’s hard places with His guidance and support,  His energy and strength given whenever it’s needed.

It’s a holy breath, a whispered answer to prayer, a divine call to come aside for a while and rest deeper in Him. Our soul sanctuary is available for any season of the soul or season of life. There is no place where we can fail to meet with God’s grace.

Fresh rain sanctuary

This pure night frost, blanketing winter

tendrils beneath soft moon peace, leaves

deep cloud, cold air we breathe; and a 

thick, moist, fresh rain sanctuary cycles

like wild, sacred water song, murmuring

long summer secrets of our Eden rest

©joylenton2017

magnetic-poetry-fresh-rain-sanctuary-pj

 

While I wait for my husband to be fit enough to leave hospital following his spinal surgery, the clock inches ever closer to a significant birthday for him. I don’t know how, when, where or if we’ll find an opportunity to fully celebrate it, but my hope and prayer is for us to have a season of togetherness, joy and celebration soon, instead of a season of separation, sickness and pain. Hence the poem below…

My wild desire

Coffee is my liquid magic

It’s good to wake and make time

here for remembering my wild desire:

to embrace, be healed, eat cake and 

celebrate this life with champagne kiss

©joylenton2017

magnetic-poetry-my-wild-desire-pj

 

When we take our needs and wild desires to God we can trust Him for the outcome and all He plans to do with them. Things might not look like we expect or hope they will, but it will be the best fit for you and me, because God knows the innermost secrets of our hearts and is able to bless us beyond measure in meeting those needs in a way that also serves His overall plan and purposes.

How is this season speaking to you? I’d love to hear in the comments below. 

*NOTE* ~ My poetic memoir, ‘Seeking Solace’ is free for a few days on Kindle, from March 7th to March 11th inclusive! If you’re seeking solace yourself, or know someone else who is, then my story of discovering God’s grace in life’s hard places may well aid the journey. You can get it here… There’s also a paperback version available if you prefer.  🙂

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.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-fragility-beauty-dependence

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.


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

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

joy in becoming wounded healers

write31days-journeying-into-joy-joy-in-becoming-wounded-healers

 

Our wounds cry out for attention. Pain screams for relief. We ache to be better, long for our brokenness to be fixed, and often try everything else at our disposal before asking God to assist us.

Yet what the world offers so often feels like a sticking plaster approach. The hurt goes on festering within, covered over and concealed as it may be. And more than that, without the right attention wounds worsen, grow septic, cause greater danger to our health.

Soul wounds are no different in this respect. They require the Healer’s touch, often deep excision to cut away all that is not fitting for us as children of God. It hurts. It really hurts, but in a good way. Becoming whole is more than a slow piecing together again, sealed with a hug and kiss; it’s complete renewal, total transformation that is needed.

The world may help us with many things but our greatest soul solace is to go to our Saviour, rest in  the comfort of His presence, learn wisdom from His loving heart. We seek the solution only God can offer – complete cleansing and mending. And when we do we just might hear Him speak,  like He whispered these words to me…

Prayer Whisper: Wounds and Joy

prayer whisper image

 

“I, too, bear wounds. Mine are in My hands, feet, heart and head for eternity. I bear the wounds of sin and pain for all humanity. And I will pour the oil of joy into your wounds, bind up the hurt and soothe your pain with My peace.

You will walk as a wounded healer through this world as your wounds enable you to bring My love, compassion and care into the lives of others. You may not be fully healed of them in this lifetime, but you will be able to live with them

Joy waits on the other side of grief and sits with sadness. It is more than a feeling. It’s a chasing after grace, a deliberate turning in My direction when you feel low and wretched.

Joy is a conscious choice you make as you decide what direction your thoughts will take. A mind redeemed and renewed by My Word is a mind set on peace and joy.

Open the windows of your soul and see its presence. Open the door of your heart and let it in. Joy is yours for the taking.”


Our wounds and problems make us feel less than useful or able, so it seems surprising to think we are well placed to help others while we remain wounded ourselves. I believe we can be wounded healers because we know what it is to be broken, dependent on God for the healing we need.

Most of all, we know the Healer himself, sit under the protective cover of His wings, experience His help in all things, witness Him changing us or our circumstances, and are grateful recipients of His grace, mercy and peace.  We can joyfully point the way to our Saviour and be the means of refreshing others.That has to count for something, yes?

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badgeWelcome to #day19 of #write31days of journeying into joy.

Do you see your broken, wounded state as a potential means of grace? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-becoming-wounded-healers

finding deeper joy in Jesus

write31days-journeying-into-joy-finding-joy-in-jesus

 

Each day leaves markers of mystery, holy echoes of eternity. If we come with open hands, open hearts and receptive minds, we are in a good place to see and sense God’s footprints in the familiar, the way He frames each day with the supernatural.

Days when pain pervades stronger than before, weeks where weeping and weariness are our cloak and covering, we may fail to see God’s presence through the fog of our existence.

Yet it is there, in tiny threads weaving their way through each hour – grace glimmers shining like gold in the midst of life’s detritus.

It takes a willingness to expand our inner vision to heavenly hands holding us close. It takes a determination to want to rise above the dark cloud of our circumstances.

It takes faith and endurance and a deliberate seeking after joy when pain and grief sit heavy as stone. Because we only begin to sense God’s nearness when we take our eyes off the problems and invite Him to reveal Himself to us, then look to Him instead.

It also requires honest confession of our feelings, vulnerability and a deciding not to hide ourselves from Him. And so we let ourselves be held, simply caught in arms of Love. All our deepest needs are met here: at the foot of the cross, by the Father’s side, within the arms of Jesus, where heaven’s unlimited provision is made available to us.

We rest our weariness, surrender our stress, anxiety and fears, allow grace and compassion to enter in, to fill and flood hearts that were previously downcast. Our feelings may take a while to match up with our faith, and that’s okay.

We soon discover joy is wrapped up best in the person of Jesus. He tenderly collects all our tears, bathes our wounds in heavenly Light. God’s radiance sears joy back into sad souls, enlivens tired minds, floods fearful hearts with an anchor of hope.

God awakens us anew to anticipation as He alerts us to His constant outpouring of grace and continual presence. He restores, refreshes and revives our lives. We find praise and gratitude begin to bubble to the surface, flowing from a heart now set on fire by Holy Spirit joy.

And we can rise, go forth into the fray with an extra zest in our steps, with a renewed awareness of God’s constant closeness strengthening us for all that lies ahead, giving a fresh measure of grace for each new day.

May these lyrics (from ‘Just be Held’ by Casting crowns) and listening to the song below help lift and encourage you: “Come to Me, find your rest in the arms of a God who won’t let go.”

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badgeWelcome to #day16 of #write31days of journeying into joy. I so appreciate you being here, friend! 

Together we can support, encourage and pray for one another as we learn how to journey deeper into joy.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-finding-our-deepest-joy-in-jesus

hope and joy in the midst of sadness

write31days-journeying-into-joy-hope-and-joy-in-the-midst-of-sadness

 

I listened, cradling phone to ear, trying to digest the news. A long-lost cousin had managed to track me down to say my uncle (her father) had passed away and the funeral was scheduled for the next day.

She had left it deliberately late to pass on the information, because she knew what a long journey it would be for me, and the strong likelihood of my being too unfit to travel – right on both counts.

When I came off the phone, having stayed calm in my concern for her and the rest of the family, I couldn’t help tears flowing freely when I related the news to my husband. He held me close as I cried.

My cousin had a year to adjust herself to the prospect of losing her father, fearing the worst many times over the last few months. But I had blissfully assumed he and his wife were still enjoying a fairly active retirement, pottering about in their beautiful garden, the joy of their lives.

Memories and sadness sat with me as the day slowly unwound. I went out into the garden for a breath of air and a brief time of prayer. God always meets with and speaks to me most through creation.

With eyes downcast, I was well placed to spot a feather flying with the wind. I snapped a few photos, hoping to capture those moments when ground was its mattress. And this is what emerged…

As a white flag

Spotting a white feather on the ground

is often seen as a sign of God saying

‘I do not forget’ as he gently whispers

his balm to our broken hearts

 

When I stepped outside for a while,

needing air to breathe as I assimilated

news of a relative’s demise, feeling low

and aching inside with sad hollowness,

 

before long I spied this feathery

friend beckoning me as wind tossed her

hither and thither, and I shivered

in an autumnal breeze, hugging myself

 

with folded arms to ward off the cold

It felt like God was speaking soft into

my emptiness, reminding me how much

 

heaven aches in sympathy with us

And how his bright light feathers down

sometimes, as white flag lying on the ground

©JoyLenton2016

“For his anger is but for a moment; his favour is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” ~ Psalm 30:5 NRSV

What is the joy we have in the morning? I believe it’s realising we are accompanied in our sadness and sorrow. There is no experience we go through which is out of the reach of God’s love and compassion.

God holds out a flame of hope in painful circumstances, a balm of peace and calm. He brings unexpected joy and strength back to hurting hearts. He is the lifter of our head, Comforter for wounded souls.

Getting through grief can be painful and lengthy, especially when we lose close loved ones. Scripture reassures us that  joy will return, difficult as it is to believe when we’re grieving. We will have days where we can see light breaking through, sense God’s comforting presence, as we gradually begin to smile and laugh again.

As I mourn my uncle’s passing, I think about how we often take life for granted. May I suggest you hug your loved ones closer today, appreciate their presence in your life?

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Welcome to #day14 of #write31days of journeying into joy. You can access #day13 over at wordsofjoy.me where I am sharing a few posts in this series. To catch my reflection on beauty and butterflies, please click here... How have you experienced hope or joy in the midst of life’s painful circumstances? Please share in the comments below, so we can pray for one another.