Monday, 14 April 2014

Love Idol ~ a review

Sometimes you grasp a book in your hands and sense it was written just for you ~ heart to heart.

You'll find yourself wanting to add numerous memory jogging highlights and underlining to what feels more like a private journal than anything else.

C.S Lewis said, "Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another:"What! You too? I thought that no one but myself.." Right from the start the author feels like a good friend, so frequent are the 'You too?' moments within it. 

Jennifer Dukes Lee's warm, engaging prose, intimate sharing, open vulnerability and heartfelt message also invite trust and reassuring confidence.

Here is a woman who is still a 'work in progress' and willing to admit it. She eagerly desires for others to join her in seeking to identify and demolish their own love idols.

So what is a 'love idol' Primarily, whatever rules our hearts is at risk of "becoming our lord" when "instead of resting in the love and approval of an unseen God, we chase after the temporary pleasures of human validation" 

People-approval issues are so widespread that it begs the question:How on earth do we overcome them? Insightful, God-inspired suggestions (based on her own tried and tested application) are heavily strewn throughout this book.

We are encouraged to see ourselves as already pre-approved. Together, as co-pilgrims, we can learn how to surrender "our need for human approval in exchange for a godly approval that is already bought and paid for."

Whether you are in the first flush of youth or the hot flush of mid-life, male or female, this book is relevant for all. These issues can plague our lives and cause enormous stress and strain until we have awareness and insight into their devastating consequences and find the means to address them.

We don't have to live lives plagued and tormented, held captive to the fluctuating opinions of others or wearied and discouraged by our low self-esteem.

There is hope at hand.

There is grace to help.

There is freedom to be gained.

We can discover our true identity in Christ.

"Every small death of an idol is another tiny resurrection of our identity in Christ" ~ Jennifer Dukes Lee 'Love Idol'

Are you ready?

*********
I will continue sharing my journey in the overcoming of love idols over at poetryjoy.com. You can check out my progress there.

There is a growing, supportive Facebook community to help you along the way.

Jennifer's site has plenty of information about her own journey and shared stories of how others are walking this pathway.

You can order the book on Amazon by clicking here.

And I am offering a free copy of 'Love Idol' to a person selected at random from those who leave a comment below. Do join in the conversation below to be in with a chance to win a copy for yourself or for a friend. You won't regret it!


Friday, 4 April 2014

Surprised by joy


Can we slip easy into the shoes of another?

See life from their perspective and leave our own preconceptions behind.

Maybe discover, like a child stepping into an adult's shoes, that it looks exciting but feels quite precarious.

Stepping into another person's life ~ using our God-given imaginations and empathy ~ will soon reveal things very similar to our own, in spite of vastly differing circumstances.

Suffering and adversity are universal, though they are not easily measurable.

One person's tragedy is another's light and momentary trouble. We all have our individual sinking points and ways of reacting to them.

It is often those who say little (or nothing), yet offer to sit in the ashes with us, who make us feel less alone. Hugs can speak volumes, as can shared tears.

I used to think greater resilience grew from multiplicity of trials. Maybe it does for some.

Much depends on the severity and duration of challenging circumstances.

My experience is more like the camel's back breaking under the strain. 

And yet, the 'last straw' a human frame can handle is just the starting point for God to enter in.

When I have surrendered situations beyond my control (isn't everything, at heart?) to God, then He supplies all I require to not only keep my head above water but to swim confidently in His river of grace.

"This circumstantial wilderness is a terrible, frightening, and dangerous place; but I also believe it's a place of beauty" ~ Eugene H. Peterson 'Leap Over A Wall'

C.S Lewis wrote about being 'Surprised by Joy' when he recounted his coming to faith experiences.

I'm slowly discovering it is possible to be surprised by joy in the darkest of places.



Beauty comes forth from ashes.

Faith strengthens when we feel the fear and 'do it afraid'.

Hope springs out of helplessness.

"Believe that the deepest afflictions are neighbours to the highest joy" ~ Charles Spurgeon

It sounds like an enormous effort of will to find cheer in the midst of difficulties and problems. I'm gradually seeing that our part is to simply rest and trust in God's promises:

"Those who sow in tears, will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." ~ Psalm 126:5 - 6

Those seeds we sow?  ~ faith, love, kindness, encouragement etc ~  may seem tiny and insubstantial, but God will produce an abundant harvest in our lives at just the right time.

There is joy in knowing this too shall pass; we are helped, comforted and strengthened by the One who holds us fast, just as He also holds all things together and works in them for our good.

We can rest in knowing God has got us covered.

We can give thanks, not for the circumstances, but in them, trusting God to keep us safe and see us through.
" I asked God for strength, that I might achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health, that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for riches, that I might be happy, I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God. 
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all men, most richly blessed." ~ An unknown soldier in the American Civil War
"Awareness of My Face shining upon you can instill Joy into the most difficult day" ~ Sarah Young 'Jesus Today'

Dear Father,

So many of us 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 reach down and 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, sense how near and dear we are to You as Your beloved children. 

Grant us encouragement from Your word, 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 may seem never ending but they will come to their own conclusion in Your perfect timing. And as we co-operate with You in coming through them we will be able to see the lessons learnt along the way.

Enable and equip us to sit alongside our brother and sisters in faith who are suffering and offer them the same comfort, help and strength you have given to us.
Amen.

Joining with encouraging friends Holley, LyliJennifer and Mel

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Catching crumbs


A captured cloud of consciousness awakens me to a world beyond our own.

There is beauty in the everyday and a heart's yearning for more than eyes can see.

Spirit calls to spirit and inner ears long to hear.

These words, "Then King David went in and sat before the Lord" ~ 2 Samuel 7:18 made me stop and think.

How my body can be still but my mind is busy being restless, tethered to earthly concerns.

It takes a conscious effort of the will to cease inner striving, take thoughts captive to Christ. I struggle to release all.

Many thoughts clamour for attention and my habit is to pay them heed.

Learning slow through centering prayer to let go of the clamour and embrace silence.

How would it look to deliberately take a Sabbath rest of body, mind and spirit? To experience an inner peace that would follow us through the rest of the week.

When King David sat before the Lord in the passage above he was recognising God's authority over his life and future plans. 

It was a reverent placing of his life before the Author of life Himself, a sanctuary of surrender, a willing laying down and laying aside his own position and control. 

A trading of his plans for those God had in mind instead.

A trusting attitude for today and tomorrow, come what may.

In this he mirrors Christ ~  a conscious choice to set aside time for prayerful communion and a humble heart of surrender toward all that lay ahead of Him in the Father's plans.


'Resting'



Promises surround on every side
and there are choices to make ~ 
believe, trust, rest and abide
in the truth of Your word
or rake hopeful through worldly trash
glittering fake-bright as gold
where declarations breezy bold
and in-your-face brash are heard
I choose to sit at Your feet
enter a place of deep rest
where grace and mercy meet
embracing all that's best
Knowing the road ahead
may be steep and long
but You will always 
provide help to stay strong
And my mind finds ease
when I draw quietly aside
absorb Your peace
wash clean as tide
©JoyLenton2014
"Once the solitude of time and space has become a solitude of the heart, we will never have to leave that solitude" ~ Henri Nouwen 'Making All Things New'
I stumble through my days as I seek to know God's ways. Discover that listening is both active and still. A silence and a shouting.

There are sounds all around. Words shaping themselves into worship. All earth is filled with His glory.

And He waits. In the silence. In the stillness. Speaking soft and low. Whispering His love.

There are times when tuning in is as natural as breathing ~ times I savour and hunger for.

Mostly, life passes by and I snatch greedy at all which speaks of His grace, catching crumbs from the table. Manna for the moment.

And I leave you today, (hopefully hungering for more of His Presence) with an old Celtic prayer:

Deep peace of the running waves to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you


Joining with friends Mel Laura





and Songs on Sunday




Sunday, 9 March 2014

The road less travelled

Each journey we take in life begins with a single step.

Yet so often the first move is the hardest one to make.

The greater the challenge before us, the greater the measure of courage required. 

Faith requires us to walk blind sometimes, but we have the reassurance of God's continual Presence to lead and to guide. 

And when we're on the King of Kings' highway we are in a good place to proceed with confidence. 


'Highway'



An open road yawns wide before me
and I have a choice to make ~ hesitate,
deliberate, ignore, turn back, or face
the path ahead with anticipation
instead of mounting dread

Decide to take a stand,
move forward ~ trembling, slow,
though with a firm grip on Your hand

For only You know opportunities
arising round the bend
Only You know what happens
if I reject the path you send

So I choose to listen to Your voice
taking one step, then another,
until I can rejoice in overcoming
fears, as I finally make progress
after all these years rooted to the spot
like one petrified, half dead,
when I could have been pursuing
dreams with You instead

Although I cannot see the potholes and 
pitfalls on this path, I trust that You 
will clear the way on my behalf
And now I stand ready to make a start
knowing each step brings me
closer to Your heart
©JoyLenton2014



"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are my God, my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long." ~ Psalm 25:4-5



Linking here with Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays




**NOTE** The winner (chosen at random from those who commented on my last post) of a copy of 'One Thousand Gifts' by Ann Voskamp is ~ Rebekah Gilbert. Congratulations, Rebekah! A copy will be winging its way to you asap. 


Thursday, 27 February 2014

When you need a hero

Don't we all need a hero/heroine to look up to?

Didn't Bonnie Tyler make us all yearn for one?

Someone who has made tracks in snow while we tread careful in their footprints.

Someone who makes us sigh with aspiration...if only... we could look/act/be like them.

If you asked who inspires me, I'd be hard pressed to name but one.



There are so many writers/poets/bloggers who consistently call me to come up higher. 

There are faithful, Christ-loving, family-centred, life-affirming, hope-giving individuals who give me pause for thought.

And yet...

Is choosing maybe a little closer to home?

Inspiration can be found anywhere. Heroes are not all adrenaline-fueled, go-getters.

Sometimes it's the person quietly and faithfully living out their days, battling life's challenges with perseverance, steely-eyed endurance, grit and determination.

Courage wears many faces and can be seen in the unlikeliest of places.

What if this person is not only on my doorstep but in my home?

A man who would rate himself a zero in the hero and courageous stakes.

A man who lives a life circumscribed by fear. Haunted by "What if?", taunted by, "If only".

A man who shies away from crowds. Avoids public places. Has to fight demons of his own on a daily basis.



Here's the thing. On paper he may look the least likely candidate. But, put him in the fire of adversity for nearly 40 years and though he may be a little scorched around the edges, he rises to fight another day, and another, and so on.

Displaying courage and tenacity he never knew he had until tried and tested.

Not many men could find it in their hearts to give and give and give some more to a woman who failed to fully return their love and affection due to her battle with childhood sexual abuse ~ especially when his primary love language is 'physical touch'.

Not many men could see their bride collapse a few short weeks after the wedding as her mind and personality splintered before him ~ and not feel shortchanged by the new woman who emerged.  

Nor could they have all this hanging over them, only to witness her painful deterioration in health ~ resulting in loss of career and any kind of active life ~ then become the main person to take care of both her and the home when his own job prospects were gone.

To my mind this is the stuff of heroes. Any coward can walk away from a marriage or a life they didn't plan for. It takes real love and guts to stick it out. 

To not only stay but keep on loving, keep on giving, keep on sacrificing, keep on believing for better.

No-one else mirrors the servanthood of Christ to me like my husband. His actions stem from a heart set on fire by Love Himself.

If he wasn't around to tend to my needs, take care of the home and take on heavy responsibilities, then this blog (and poetryjoy.com) wouldn't exist at all. 

There would be no spare energy and time for me to write if he didn't make sure the majority of the household tasks were taken care of. 



He bakes bread, cooks, cleans, irons, drives, shops, tidies, keeps me close in his loving arms and dear to his heart.

All this effort given willingly, even though he struggles with his own physical and mental health challenges.

There would be far less opportunity for me to work through my past in the expressing of it here {with the hope of helping others feel less alone in their pain} if he wasn't around to see to life's essentials. 

And far less ability to befriend, communicate with and offer mutual support and encouragement to all my on-line friends, including those with M.E and chronic illness, and fellow writers/poets.

My world would narrow considerably. Life would be more of a struggle and challenge. Finding another loaf of bread to suit my fussy tastes would be just the tip of the iceberg!



So this man, my husband, chief confidant and best friend, is the most inspiring person I know and the one who impacts my life hugely.


Just like the best wine, appreciating my husband's finer qualities took time and maturity. He grew gradually into his role. Now it fits who he is like a well-worn pair of slippers.

I only have to witness his words and deeds to know Jesus lives in him and inspires him to be my 'here on earth' helpmate and hero ~ even if he never considers himself as such.

"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" ~ Proverbs 20:6

He's not perfect. Some days frustration sours him, discouragement sits deep and he treads weary. But he means the world to me and I see far more light in him than darkness. 

Because heroes come in all shapes and sizes yours may look entirely different, but you'll recognise them anyway. 

I'd already found the greatest hero of all in Jesus before I met this one. And He knew who I needed in my life to inspire me to live well too. 


*******

Who inspires you the most?

Feel free to join in the conversation in the comments.

**NOTE** ~ To celebrate how much of a gift and blessing my husband is to me, I am giving away a free copy of 'One Thousand Gifts' by Ann Voskamp to a person chosen at random from those leaving a comment below.




Joining here with Holley for #coffeeforyourheart








And with Lyli for #thoughtprovokingthursday






Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Making space for joy


All is quiet on the home front for a little while. Our sweet twelve week old grandson sleeps sound, his exhausted mother rests, father and grandpa are shopping, the washing machine whirrs soft and I am alone.

I sense room to breathe, exhale tension and tiredness and inhale grace. Make space for Holy Spirit utterance. Lean in and listen for His voice. 

See a gap calling me to pause. Be still. Rest easy.

My mind rolls over the last few busy days of meeting, greeting, welcoming, sharing meals, sharing life, being family.

And gratitude seeps into my spirit. Soothes those long parched places. Brings lightness, joy and peace.

At moments like this I am glad to be alive. Feel blessed beyond measure. 

So I sit and savour the moment ~ all the more delightful for its rarity.

Consider the way we all stoop to see to this beautiful little boy who melts hearts with a smile, causes happy creased up faces and laugh-out-loud moments with his gestures and coos. 


Serving his needs is a pleasure. At this early stage, cries only enhance the desire to comfort and console one too young to speak out his needs. 

And I revel in the fact that being a grandma means all of the joy and none of the sleepless nights and heavy responsibility!

We all delight in him and rejoice over him with singing. Just as God does with us.

Jesus bent low to come to Earth as a tiny dependent infant. Yet He willingly chose to share our humanity. Become frail flesh for our sake. 

Our Servant-King. Still serving us from on high. Still bending low to see to our needs, as Mary and Joseph once did for him. The Christ-child become Messiah, Lord and King. 

Leaning close to befriend, coming alongside to comfort and support, offering Himself continually. 

We are God's children. As weak and dependent as babes in arms. Even when adult and supposedly strong, our neediness of Him doesn't change. It just becomes more obvious. Feels more humiliating. Requires more from us. 

Surrender and servanthood remain defining characteristics of Christ ~ and His followers.

As a person needing a lot of support myself due chronic health problems, if I get an opportunity to serve the needs of others in whatever capacity I can then I do it happily and willingly. 

And this little fellow has so captured my heart that I'll go way beyond my normal capacities to offer him love and embrace his life with grace.

I'm discovering holy ground is anywhere heaven touches earth ~ in the banal, beautiful, breathtaking and bizarre.


Moments of magic midst the mundane. Gifts of glory in the commonplace. Joy springing up in dark spaces as bulbs rise eager to greet sunlight.

Finding calm can replace chaos and peace pervade the everyday pain and problems.

We tread mindful of mercy in all our days and ways. Feel nourished by His presence. 

Our lives becoming mirrors to reflect His glory. 

Joy given is joy multiplied. In the service of our Lord and KIng we bring our live's daily offerings and experience them increase beyond measure. 

More given than we ever expect. Making space for God is no hardship when He enlarges our capacity for sensing joy in His presence. 

So I sit a while. Inhale and exhale. Remembering my grandson's sweet baby smell reminds me of the fragrance of grace seeping into everywhere we offer space. Give room for Holy Spirit to move in. 

I listen to the whirring washing machine and I realise I am also listening to my life. Hearing the holy whispers. Pausing to pray grateful for it all. 

Aware that this moment will never come again.

And being surprised by how good it sounds. 

*******

*Note* This was written in snatches of time over a busy few days with our family visiting. I just felt the joy of the occasion was too good not to share. I hope you are blessed in the reading of it and encouraged to make space for God and for joy in your own life.
Joining with friends:Holley, Nacole and Jennifer





Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Listening to your life


Imagination can take us places that bear no relation to reality.

I began this year with a conviction and desire to listen better to all God wants to speak into my life. It follows on naturally from my #oneword365 being 'listen'.

My mind envisaged restful moments spent relaxing in His presence while He poured out words of wisdom and peace.

It would be wonderful. I would hear messages of encouragement to share with others. I would drift through my days with an increasing awareness of Holy Spirit's whispers on the wind.

Only..it hasn't quite panned out that way. Who knew listening could be so painful, challenging, personally humiliating and hard?

Instead of a lovely lightness and liveliness of heart, I feel drained, weary, worn out, with worms eating at my soul.

Exhaustion makes me cranky. Impatience reigns. Sin crouches at the door waiting to ensnare me. It's my own overly hasty 'wish-I-could-swallow-them-back' words I'm hearing, and the sad resigned response from my husband. 

All God seems to be saying is, "Look out. You've made another blunder". My heart is heavy with sorrow over faults and failings. Peace has flown out the window and listening has become an act of obedience rather than joy.

Yesterday, following a run of wakeful, pain-filled nights, I unleashed another impatient tirade on my beloved. In full flow until an insistent ring stopped me in my tracks.

It was enough to bring me to my senses. And as I paused to listen to a stranger's voice oozing warmth and understanding, I lost it all over again with a healing unravelling cascade of tears.

For here was someone from a ministry we support giving us a courtesy call to say thanks and ask if we needed prayer. Ready to reach out a hand, to stand in the gap and intercede.

Life interrupted as God saw a need and stepped in. A holy moment in the midst of mayhemReminder of His goodness and grace seeping into the cracks and crevices of our days.



Knowing we're all in the process of becoming what He wants us to be ~ beautiful and strong in Him. 

Reassurance to restore faith and confidence that His promises stand firm, unshakable as Rock and ready to be fulfilled. A life can be changed in an instant. Calm can replace chaos.

Living as we do with continual physical and mental health challenges, we cling to His word in desperation. How long, O Lord? When, God when? This the silent mantra we move to.

Nothing external has changed. But we are altered by a few moments of intent listening to another speaking as if from the Lord. 

 I still bear burdens Jesus aches to carry for me. I still mess up and have unwise words escape my mouth. But God is reminding me of His nearness and drawing me to His side in increasing dependence and trust.

******

And God has blessed me further with a 'Prayer Whisper' from His heart to mine this morning:

"I will speak to you this year in small ways because I am training you to trace My hand at work in the minutiae of daily life. As you see and hear Me speaking in the little things, so you will develop a sensitive ear that is more attuned to My presence.

Sometimes there will be a flood of words. At others you will have to strain senses and flex faith muscles to be aware of what I'm saying.

It is vital for you to listen to your life, your body, emotions, actions and reactions as well as heeding My voice. My desire is for you to live mindfully; be aware of your need of grace, the space you create for misery or joy, the weariness signalling time to withdraw, be silent and rest in My loving embrace.

Walk through your days with an attitude of praise before you see any change for the good happening. Praise paves the way for My presence to operate in all its fullness and opens the door to thankfulness within you ~ regardless of circumstances. 

Your inheritance as My child is to experience beauty for ashes and joy in the midst of adversity."





*******

Looking for the sound of laughter in my #1000gifts count yesterday seemed impossible.  So many days feel circumscribed by weakness, weariness and pain, bereft of joy in any measure. Yet it was there.

Here was a gift from God ~ a call to bring me back to awareness and a trickle of smiles to treasure as we watched a mini video of our grandson's alert opening up to life around him.

This precious young life, a bare two months old, already operating as God intends us to ~ embracing life in all its fullness with an open, receptive mind and heart.

Babies and children have much to teach us about relishing the moment. In the deliberate seeking out joy can be found. In surrender to seconds, seasons and seeing anew we can listen to our lives and see that they are a holy offering to the Author of life itself. 


*******

Joining here with Nacole for #concretewords and #listentoyourlife

And with Ruth for #Letterto This week's prompt is 'Letter to the tired'

**NOTE** ~ As you can see, I'm just a beginner in the art of listening but I hope to grow and improve as the year goes on. To help me to do just that I am joining Nacole's community of women who want to listen hard to God, to their lives and to one another. You're very welcome and warmly invited to join us as we live and learn together.