Summoning Joy

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Do you have the strength to summon joy? Gratitude, sure – that is doable. But joy? A smile in the face of all the darkness? To choose laughter in the face of tears? And yet, it is joy that lifts our spirits to the clouds, when the tendrils of despair would drag us down into the mire, and suffocate us there…

He does all things well – by which I mean, he chooses to do the right thing, in the right way, every time. Do we have the strength to follow? To put ourselves in remembrance, again and again, that this all shall pass, and that he that does the will of the father lives forever? To choose joy, when our hearts would faint and despair? To choose to be strong and conquer, where we would normally react, let go, break down and cry?

The difference lies in holding on to the knowledge that this time of difficulty and darkness will pass. It lies in remembering that if we are in it, we can win it. And it lies in keeping close to our hearts the knowledge that our father loves us. And that he will not allow one straw more than we can bear – that every challenge and disappointment, every stone thrown our way, if taken the right way, can be used as another building block, another step upon which to rise higher. The challenges are medicinal – a medicine that is not given where not needed, and that when required, will bring us to health, to strength, to sanity, and in the end, to joy.

So let us fight on, and may God grant us that mystery of the laughter of Christian men, that has “Roared through a thousand tales…” May we also stand with the giants of the ages – those “Kings and clowns in a merry plight,” and learn from them how to take ourselves and the difficult situations around us lightly – that like the angels, we too may learn to fly. And in the face of dark and uncertain days, may we “Follow the star that lives and leaps… Follow the fire unfurled For riseth up against realm and rod, a thing forgotten, a thing downtrod, the last lost giant, even God…”

 

 

And the earth shook and the King stood still
Under the greenwood bough,
And the smoking cake lay at his feet
And the blow was on his brow.

 

Then Alfred laughed out suddenly,
Like thunder in the spring,
Till shook aloud the lintel-beams,
And the squirrels stirred in dusty dreams,
And the startled birds went up in streams,
For the laughter of the King.

 

And the beasts of the earth and the birds looked down,
In a wild solemnity,
On a stranger sight than a sylph or elf,
On one man laughing at himself
Under the greenwood tree—

 

The giant laughter of Christian men
That roars through a thousand tales,
Where greed is an ape and pride is an ass,
And Jack’s away with his master’s lass,
And the miser is banged with all his brass,
The farmer with all his flails;

 

Tales that tumble and tales that trick,
Yet end not all in scorning—
Of kings and clowns in a merry plight,
And the clock gone wrong and the world gone right,
That the mummers sing upon Christmas night
And Christmas Day in the morning.

 

Follow the star that lives and leaps,
Follow the sword that sings,
For we go gathering heathen men,
A terrible harvest, ten by ten,
As the wrath of the last red autumn—then
When Christ reaps down the kings.

 

Follow a light that leaps and spins,
Follow the fire unfurled!
For riseth up against realm and rod,
A thing forgotten, a thing downtrod,
The last lost giant, even God,
Is risen against the world.

 

~ The Ballad of the White Horse

 

 

And Colan’s eyes with mystery
And iron laughter stirred,
And he spoke aloud, but lightly
Not labouring to be heard.

 

“Oh, truly we be broken hearts,
For that cause, it is said,
We light our candles to that Lord
That broke Himself for bread.

 

~ The Ballad of the White Horse

 

But some see God like Guthrum,
Crowned, with a great beard curled,
But I see God like a good giant,
That, labouring, lifts the world.

 

~ The Ballad of the White Horse

 

Atlas by Artus Quellinus (1)

 

~Watergirl 

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Children of the Fall

We are of the fall, my love,
Born beneath a waning moon
A fateful star o’er hung, my love,
And song soon lost its tune

Darkness fell o’er all, my love,
A gloom o’er me and you
Blindly go we all, my love,
In search of sweet perfume

Sadly go we all, my love,
Through cities and through fields
Crying through the streets, my love,
In walking shoes and heels

But though the skies be dark, my love,
Let us still seek out the trail;
Although the light seems far, my love,
Strength, dear hearts – prevail!

Wandering through – not lost, my love,
Though road seem tiresome long;
That leads to Eden’s gate, my love,
Where drifts to hearts a song

That opens up our eyes, my love,
To all that has been wrong;
Says: “Let us join our hands in love,”
— So follow we along

Let us wander patient, love
Seeking pathways through the night;
Let us find that grace, my love,
That shines o’er all a light

Let us find that place, my love,
Where chant the words more fair;
Let us find that garden, love,
That shimmers light through air,

Where broken spells re-cast, my love,
Obtain once more their reign;
Where broken pieces mend, my love,
And hearts their courage gain

A summer midnight’s eve, my love,
Where Ass is king again,
A place where hearts begin, my love,
To melt the snow to rain

And if the door is barred, my love,
To humans such as we,
Then let us find the shade, my love,
That falls from Eden’s Tree

And in that blessed shade, my love,
Let us play, and talk, and read,
And wander not from place, my love,
That genders noble deed

For though we hear not clear, my love,
Yet golden ray may fall,
On hearts that seek a trace, my love,
Of wonders beyond the wall

Our hearts may hear a whisper, love,
That washes and that mends,
A note sublime to trace, my love,
Though with pencils and with pens

But though we draw not right, my love,
The first lines with our pen,
Yet form may come through time, my love,
By tracing over, and again

First slow may be our track, my love,
For tracing music thus,
But if that is all we have, my love,
Then try we both for us

May be a gentle god, my love,
Will spy us sitting there,
With pen in hand, and ear to sky, my love,
For notes floating fair

And if that door be closed, my love,
And open not till dawn,
Perhaps we’ll bother not, my love,
By sitting on the lawn.

May be he’ll send for us, my love,
A dove to sing aright,
The notes thus scratched by us, my love,
Through meager means and night

Perhaps a magic will befall, my love,
And as we sit so near,
That gentle wind will come, my love,
And whisper in our ear

That we may live like them, my love,
Though standing out the wall
Because we look for notes, my love
And follow dove’s pure call

Mayhap a piece of heaven, love,
Might come to those who pray,
Though dark the night – and cold, my love,
And long the wait till day.

 

~ Watergirl

The Silver Cord

 

Lord, let me chain myself to thee, that I might not stray!

Through thoughts of chains, a word, — No chain,/ but a silver/ cord. 

In that simple thought I see, thou higher art than me

Foolish are we men – our thoughts are small, and low, and hard we call,

Twisting, driving, hoping thus our fellow man by force to sway.

 

We see not thy higher ways from these, our earthen dusty jars

Our imagined modes and mediums unenlightened are — are but tediums.

When through our own small eyes we see, we marr and bind that endless “Thee;”

The Truth, The Life, The Way,  — Who Art; Lord, these things we cannot chart,

But glimmering above we see from afar, the glow of the dancing stars.

 

 

But thou who art thyself The Life, and Light, and Heart of all;

Working from within a man thy thread, on secret tracks runs on ahead.

Thou wilt not force free hands, nor tie them up with bands,

Until a man,  free, will come, patient thy cord will hum,

For time and space are thine, my Lord, and thou knowest their secret call.

 

The hearts of man thou wilt not chain — not chained, as men would see,

From thee a cord; and more — a ray, a light, that shines by night and day.

A Love that outwards reaches, inwards flows, fibers humming, it warmly glows ,

That thy child may find it, in darkness lost, through swirling mists and frost.

No need have I, my Lord, for chains — for thou hast bound thyself to me.

 

Father, thou art bound to me — I thank you! — help I pray with this:

I am weak, and small, my cords to bind are fragile, feeble things.

When my ties to thee lose hold, when my memory grows old,

If my heart should lose its zeal, if thy will should seem unreal,

Let thy love around me stronger grow, that my small love hear, and up, and go.

 

~ Watergirl 

Help Me This Day to Be Thy Humble Sheep

I see a door, a multitude near by,

In creed and quarrel, sure disciples all!

Gladly they would, they say, enter the hall,

But cannot, the stone threshold is so high.

From unseen hand, full many a feeding crumb,

Slow dropping o’er the threshold high doth come:

They gather and eat, with much disputing hum.

 

Still and anon, a loud clear voice doth call—

“Make your feet clean, and enter so the hall.”

They hear, they stoop, they gather each a crumb.

Oh the deaf people! would they were also dumb!

Hear how they talk, and lack of Christ deplore,

Stamping with muddy feet about the door,

And will not wipe them clean to walk upon his floor!

 

But see, one comes; he listens to the voice;

Careful he wipes his weary dusty feet!

The voice hath spoken—to him is left no choice;

He hurries to obey—that only is meet.

Low sinks the threshold, levelled with the ground;

The man leaps in—to liberty he’s bound.

The rest go talking, walking, picking round.

 

If I, thus writing, rebuke my neighbour dull,

And talk, and write, and enter not the door,

Than all the rest I wrong Christ tenfold more,

Making his gift of vision void and null.

Help me this day to be thy humble sheep,

Eating thy grass, and following, thou before;

From wolfish lies my life, O Shepherd, keep.

 

~George MacDonald

The Diary of an Old Soul; April 16-19

Source: Help Me This Day to Be Thy Humble Sheep

Thinking With GKC


There is only one really startling thing to be done with the ideal, and that is to do it.

– GK Chesterton

Play it Again, Sam

When it comes to Chesterton, somewhere in the back of my mind that lyric wants to come sneaking in – “Do it to me one more time,” although of course there is something not quite right about it, or something that is just out of place so that I don’t want to use it in this context – not in this place. But I do want Chesterton to fill me with wonder again, set my head spinning again, and re-ignite the passion and mystery of life in my heart. Thankfully he has himself provided the adequate line, where he speaks of one so inexhaustible that he never tires of repetition.

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

But I digress. Here is the thought that captivated me.

I have made a discovery: or I should say seen a vision. I saw it between two cups of black coffee in a Gallic restaurant in Soho: but I could not express it if I tried.

But this was one thing that it said–that all good things are one thing. There is no conflict between the gravestone of Gertrude and a comic—opera tune played by Mildred Wain. But there is everlasting conflict between the gravestone of Gertrude and the obscene pomposity of the hired mute: and there is everlasting conflict between the comic—opera tune and any mean or vulgar words to which it may be set. These, which man hath joined together, God shall most surely sunder. That is what I am feeling . . . now every hour of the day. All good things are one thing. Sunsets, schools of philosophy, babies, constellations, cathedrals, operas, mountains, horses, poems–all these are merely disguises. One thing is always walking among us in fancy—dress, in the grey cloak of a church or the green cloak of a meadow. He is always behind, His form makes the folds fall so superbly. And that is what the savage old Hebrews, alone among the nations, guessed, and why their rude tribal god has been erected on the ruins of all polytheistic civilisations. For the Greeks and Norsemen and Romans saw the superficial wars of nature and made the sun one god, the sea another, the wind a third. They were not thrilled, as some rude Israelite was, one night in the wastes, alone, by the sudden blazing idea of all being the same God: an idea worthy of a detective story.

GK Chesterton, Letter to Frances Chesterton

It is Good for Us to Be Here

It is hard to read Chesterton without wanting to take notes (on practically everything) – without wanting more of whatever it is that makes his soul so pure, his heart so true, and his thoughts so good. His way of always turning things back to goodness, back to reason and back to reality. Thank you, that there is such a man as Chesterton, and that I get to see the world through his eyes! 

I am so glad to hear you say . . . that, in your own words “it is good for us to be here”–where you are at present. The same remark, if I remember right, was made on the mountain of the Transfiguration. It has always been one of my unclerical sermons to myself, that that remark which Peter made on seeing the vision of a single hour, ought to be made by us all, in contemplating every panoramic change in the long Vision we call life–other things superficially, but this always in our depths. “It is good for us to be here–it is good for us to be here,” repeating itself eternally. And if, after many joys and festivals and frivolities, it should be our fate to have to look on while one of us is, in a most awful sense of the words, “transfigured before our eyes”: shining with the whiteness of death–at least, I think, we cannot easily fancy ourselves wishing not to be at our post. Not I, certainly. It was good for me to be there.

~GK Chesterton, From a letter to Frances

Thou Art Still Our Father

“Our Father (for whatever we poor sin-bound creatures may think or do to the contrary, Thou art still our Father), come into our hearts to-day. Give us that deep yearning which finds voice in the cry ‘Our Father!’ . . . We want more of Thy divinity in us, but Thou knowest all we want, and why we want it.”

– George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons

How Much I Need

If I felt my heart as hard as a stone; if I did not love God, or man, or woman, or little child, I would yet say to God in my heart, “O God, see how I trust You, because You are perfect, and not changeable like me. I do not love You. I love nobody. I am not even sorry for it. You see how much I need You to come close to me, to put Your arm round me, to say to me, my child; for the worse my state, the greater my need of my Father who loves me. Come to me, and my day will dawn; my love will come back, and, oh! how I shall love You, my God! and know that my love is Your love, my blessedness Your being.”
~George MacDonald