inside: how Ash Wednesday reminds us of God’s grace

inside - Ash Wednesday - smudge on forehead @poetryjoy.com

As I considered how to start this season of Lent, what struck me forcibly was the symbolism of Ash Wednesday, which is where we begin. Even though my home church doesn’t participate in Lenten practices, I see the value in them. A smudge of Palm Sunday’s ash pressed on the forehead is a visible and powerful reminder of why Jesus came to earth.

I’m truly grateful to have my sin largely concealed on the inside. It’s not always evident to those who know me or strangers who might come across me. Although much is revealed in our behaviour. Because our actions and words often speak for themselves. We can become adept at concealing our inner darkness, of course, but it’s a relief that the worst of us is known only to God. ūüėŹ

Safely tucked inside

What if God asked us to dare to wear
our sin, not like a hidden, dark, secret
stain within, but on the outside of us
instead, where it would be made visible
to all‚ÄĒwould it bleed scarlet-red?

Or might we resemble bodily black-rimmed
coal miners, with thick, choking clouds of
dust ingrained deep into their skin, which
won’t wash off under the tap, rather
like an indelible tattoo, perhaps?

Or splattered in splotches, like scars,
as if we were pigs rolling around in mud,
up to our ears and all. Or battered, brawny
rugby players after a match, before we
went for our cleansing hot bath.

Maybe it’s better how it is now,
with a mere smudge gracing our
foreheads, and all the rest safely
tucked inside our souls, where we
keep the dross God only knows.
©joylenton

inside - safely tucked inside poem excerpt - coal miners (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

We can delude ourselves into thinking we are better than we are. Or we can become deceived into believing nothing good resides within at all. The truth is a mixture of them both. Left to our own devices, we are fallen and lost. But God… picks us up, heals, redeems and restores our souls, calls us His precious Beloved and makes His home in our hearts.

That’s what Easter is all about. A Divine exchange takes place. Our filthy rags for His royal robe of righteousness. Our sin for His grace. Our pain for His peace. Our tears for His oil of joy. God excels in bringing beauty out of ashes. He isn’t fazed by our brokenness because He alone can piece us back together. God’s holy glue makes us better than before, with a gradual sanctification process as we surrender our lives to Him.

“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.” – Isaiah 61:3 TLB

Time to be ready

autumnal trees

A new season starts and we wonder if we are ready for all it may entail.

The wind of change blows strong and all that we knew before is carried on its current into the Past.

Like the ever-changing seasons of life,  we too have seasons of the soul.

Maybe you’re in a preparation period, time to till the ground, turn over the soil and ensure it is in a receptive state to welcome and receive.

Maybe you’re readying yourself to sow some faith seeds in anticipation of a harvest to come.

Or could this be the period when God’s promises to you will finally be fulfilled?

Sometimes it feels like we spend forever in a waiting season, getting colder, battening down the hatches and hibernating.

We need reminders that there are cycles of change, life will bloom again and hopes will be met.

Aslan is stirring and Spring is coming to a land long-starved of joy and light.

Faith and hope will be brought to life again, and all that we have hung onto which doesn’t fit who we are in Christ will die a slow death as we co-operate and co-labour with God in the process.

I’m in a new season in many senses of the word and these things hang heavy in my soul.

And as I’ve thought and prayed I sensed God asking us, His church, the Bride of Christ, to make herself ready for His return.

To keep the flame alive, hold on to the hope that is in us.  He is at the door of our hearts.

We are the Light-bearers and Good News sharers to a dark and needy world.

We are the ones who live ever-hopeful of seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

We are destined to be united in heart, mind and purpose  (in all the things that truly matter) as His children and His body on the earth.

Are we ready, friends?

‘Be ready’

Try to remain steady

as I’m making you ready

Preparation is a key part

of a transformed mind, life and heart

My best work cannot be rushed

and your soul must be hushed

to be receptive to My voice

Listen, sow,then you’ll rejoice

All of your life is open, laid bare

I see those things you willingly share

and others you try to hide away

will be brought forth in the light of day

No stone will be left unturned

in a heart that has yearned

to be touched and healed by Me

that longs above all to fly free

Before I can give you wings to fly

you may have unreleased tears to cry

as I seek to uncover and unearth

all that’s tethering you to earth

My will is for you to rise and shine

to reveal grace, to be wholly Mine

Come, My child, take My hand

This is time to be ready, here I stand

©JoyLenton2014

Linking my poem here with ¬†Kate and other bold and brave writers ¬†for #FMF as we go with the flow on the topic of ‘Ready’.

Also  joining with Jennifer as we #tellhisstory , with Mel for #essentialfridays and  with fellow writer friends, grace dwellers and sisters in Christ as we seek to live for Him and make Him known.

Ibis in Flight

Indigenous

In the hands of an expert potter, clay is something altogether marvellous in the way it can be transformed into objects of beauty.

If we dig our boots or hands deep into clay we get soiled with mire clinging fast to clothes and skin. Unlovely. Hard to shake off. Needing a good scrub.

Our natural clay selves cannot be easily washed clean either.

While we live, breathe and have our being in God, we also remain rooted in earth, dwellers in soil and dirt.

Our fallen earthly nature clings tenaciously to frames bent low by burdens we were never built to carry as knees buckle under the weight of them.

Indigenous

We are indigenous

earth dwellers

rooted long

in soil

hard graft

sweat of brow

aching muscle

tillers of ground

planting seeds

of life

and hope

in dark places

with expectation

one day

we will see

some fruit

in harvest

to come

 ©JoyLenton2013

God remembers that we are dust.

And it’s His Holy whispered breath that enlivens, connects sinews to joints and muscles together as a body to receive His glorious presence.

Surrendering to His promise, we are raised anew with strength, and vigour, lifted out of any pit we may have fallen into, out of the mud and mire. Shaken down, dust-free and cleaned again, with feet set firmly on the Rock.

Dried in the refining fire of God’s Love, purified in the furnace of affliction where scorching flames burn off any dross or detritus gathered from soil-dwelling.

Emerging from its fiery heat bleached clean, fragile pure, awaiting the Potter’s hand to reshape and refashion these earthen vessels into containers fit for His Light to filter through.

Our many cracks, flaws and holes are no impediment.  The leaky spaces and places only allow His Light to shine through all the brighter.

And as we dig deep into the fertile soil of His word, its rich nutrients are a holding place for dormant seed to grow, bursting forth with an abundant harvest at just the right time.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Our earthly nature clings to us like resistant soil. We need to come to You for cleansing and purifying. You are the Potter, we are the clay. Help us to be willing to let You have Your way and not resist Your loving hand upon our lives. And even when we may protest at the way it make us feel when You are stretching  and calling us to come up higher, enable us to surrender to Your will and ways.

May we have a growing awareness that full, lasting change and transformation cannot come about, nor fruit be evident in our lives, unless we are renewed, remade, restored and refashioned as You see fit, into the image of Your Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Linking¬†here with Nacole¬†for #concretewords., where we write out spirit from a one word concrete prompt. This week’s prompt was:‘Soil’.¬†You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in.

** Day 2  of the 31 day challenge to write #poetryforthesoul