The Sighing of the Shell


“Listen, darling, and tell to me

What the murmurer says to thee,

Murmuring ‘twixt a song and a moan,

Changing neither tune nor tone.”


“Yes, I hear it, far and faint,

Like thin-drawn prayer of drowsy saint;

Like the falling of sleep on a weary brain,

When the fevered heart is quiet again.”


“By smiling lip and fixed eye,

You are hearing more than song or sigh:

The wrinkled thing has curious ways –

I want to know the words it says.”


“I hear a wind on a boatless main

Sigh like the last of a vanishing pain;

On the dreaming waters dreams the moon,

But I hear no words in their murmured tune.”


“If it does not say that I love thee well,

‘Tis a senseless, ill-curved, worn-out shell;

If it is not of love, why sigh or sing?

‘Tis a common, mechanical, useless thing.”


“It whispers of love – ’tis a prophet-shell –

Of a peace that comes, and all shall be well;

It speaks not a word of your love to me,

But it tells me to love you eternally.”


George MacDonald


The Whole of Christianity

We were considering the Christian idea of ‘putting on Christ’… What I want to make clear is that this is not one among many jobs a Christian has to do… It is the whole of Christianity.

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The Hunger

From deep inside, a hunger,

A longing raging blind,

It gnaws, it flows, it seeks

Its very heart to find

A something not yet seen,

A someone not yet found,

A piece felt missing – core,

Through all the fabric wound.


My eyes, they long to see thee –

But wherefore art thou – love?

They scan the beauty in the oceans,

And glorious skies above

For things that can be traced,

By eye – its outline make,

Yet these soul leaves, scattered,

In its blinded searching wake.


Full of beauty, to be sure,

Perfection? In every line!

And though they fill my heart,

This lovely fruit and wine

Yet looks for more my heart,

The fresh turns into brine

Is it still not enough?

Lassitude creeping, comes in.


Mind seeks out the secrets,

Mysteries wonder-filled,

That soar so high, then plunge,

Encompass all the world

Hungrily I read – consume it,

This knowledge free to take,

I revel in the open space,

These perfect idylls make.


This burning fire and hunger,

An endless search for bliss,

End of all my searching,

Of all consuming – still this

A fire that burns on the inside,

Worries the edges and frets

Dissatisfied – hungry, rumbles,

How hide from close regrets?


My soul so longs to feel thee;

A friend, a soul – a heart

Longs to be seen deeply –

Craves touch to the inward part,

My heart – it longs to love thee,

A you it cannot find,

Find? Not so – how find – 

How “see,” when to thee I am blind?


And yet, perhaps – could be,

This blind heart yet may find

Not by sight, or touch, or sound,

But by a secret sense

A sense called forth by another –

A secret larger still,

Could be – eyes closing to “all” around,

Soul finds a deeper thrill


That looking past the flowers,

A Gardener there I’ll see

And shifting sight beyond

The presents, find The GiverHe

Perhaps the threads were beautifully

Woven, as words within a tome,

Maybe another, softly waiting,

Made all the trails lead Home.


Maybe my eyes thus shifted,

To new sight from inside,

Can learn to hold focus,

On The Man, although he hide

Through all the splendors ’round me,

May I learn to see Thee

A Man, a Giver, fount of Love,

Who gives things thus to me.


Such lovely birds and roses,

Delights that soar and peal

But I, fool – child, forget, I

Leave Man for cart and wheel

And then I wonder why,

My heart and soul are wasted,

Feel tired at end of day –

I played with toys, and pasted.


And The Giver walked away.

Oh, gentle gardener – how alone

Must feel thy heart; when for

Thy roses’ beauty we moan

Yet our heart’s lonely too,

Forgets so that secret part

-That spirit sense that calls

Us in to All Thou Art.


Thou’lt not leave us alone,

Dear maker, thy thread runs deep

Through all our fibers woven

A hunger for life, thine – keep

Thou art within, art without –

Our deepest longing see;

Thou wilt not leave us i’ the dark,

Unless thou cans’t save, and free.


~Beth Frances

Love is Enough


Love is enough for the loving, love without self’s alloy,

Its mighty breast enfolding the flame of a secret joy.

Love is enough for the loving as pure of envy and strife,

It is poured as a fiery torrent from the brimming urns of Life.


Love is no money-changer, to weigh the return as gold,

Love is not weak nor selfish, nor faileth, nor groweth old,

Love is as strong as death, his wings to the stars unfurled,

His feet in the deepest places of the chambered underworld.


Though the frowns and smiles of the loved be as fights that are lost and won,

Though the cry on the lips of thousands be light to the praise of one,

Though the light of our life that kindleth be set in another’s eyes,

Love doth not die in the darkness or wander away in the sighs.


Love is a crown to the loving, a mystical shrine untrod,

A secret lent to the spirit by the breath of the living God.

He stands in the innermost temple, and often in hours unsought

We hear the might of his stirring through the roar of the lovers of thought.


He rings with a lingering glory the dusky shapes we see

That move in a twilight chamber in the haunts of memory.

Love is no jester and courtier, no trifler in folly and guile,

To sing at rosèd casement and watch for a wanton’s smile.


Love is an earnest spirit, so patient and lonely and strong,

And the woe of his lips is silent, and the time of his torture is long.

His hope is high and distant, his path is steep and hard,

He giveth his all and watcheth, till God shall relieve his guard.


Keep we the might of his presence, a flash of the light of the Lord,

A breath of the mighty nature that shaketh its good abroad

That so we may be as the angels and rise to the loftiest lot

Of him who is highest of all things that he giveth and asketh not,


Who giveth a self and a will and a place in the ordered plan

Gives also the love of a God for the half-hearted worship of man,

As the awful eyes that are watching and the silent lips that bless

Are turned on the ways of his thousands in a great unconsciousness.


Love is enough for the loving, and let it suffice unto me,

As the golden eve is sinking on darkening wood and lea,

As the sun streams out in glory and floods the course of the spheres,

As the humblest rose breaks out from the earth in a simple trust


So shall the gifts of the loving be the crown of a living dust,

No spot on the earth of God can take what it never gave,

None, but bounds of Hell, and the rotting space of the Grave.


~ GK Chesterton


The feeling I had after reading this poem was Where has this poem been all my life? And two,  How does he understand love so clearly? As happens so often, I had just been thinking I need to learn more about love – Lord, help me to learn more about love. The following day I discovered a book of Chesterton’s poetry on my husband’s book shelf. That poem was the first, and it leapt off the page into my heart. How I love the mind (and insight) of Chesterton – I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading him. As I read through the stanzas, the things I had been telling myself about love melted under the scorching light.


Love doth not die in the darkness or wander away in the sighs.

In retrospect, I actually can’t remember what I was telling myself about this. But I think it was something along the lines of “If I am not loved, I cannot love; my love will fade away, until all that is left is a small dark ember, which will only come back to life in the warmth of another’s love.” Through the eyes of Love is Enough, I see love as a bigger thing – and a stronger, than I (currently) am.


Love is an earnest spirit, so patient and lonely and strong,

And the woe of his lips is silent, and the time of his torture is long.

His hope is high and distant, his path is steep and hard,

He giveth his all and watcheth, till God shall relieve his guard.

I think I had an impression of love as seen through the image of a mother, feminine, soft, and yet somehow persevering. I guess I had ideas about love as being soft & feminine, and yet on the other side somehow also strong. This picture of love still includes all that I see in the ideal of a mother, yet it is somehow a different picture of that strength, and more rock-solid than I had pictured it before. It now seems more masculine – masculine in the sense that it originates, it puts into motion, it drives, it seeks, it gives, it goes on, and on and on, and never stops. Sigh. – We are indeed the lesser children of greater sires. It is a picture so beautiful, so right, so pure. How can I not love it – want it for my own, see my lack in that space, and want to be more like that? Ah love – come in to me; inhabit me, possess me. But there is no “magic pill” to be had. I cannot get love inside merely by desiring to, or by hoping I will “catch” the bug if I get close enough. (Although that is part of it too.) I must grow my love – grow in love, practice love, and shape my love, that it may look like its original at last. Thankfully we have a wonderful teacher to follow.


Love is as strong as death, his wings to the stars unfurled,

His feet in the deepest places of the chambered underworld.

This – wings in the stars, and feet in the deepest places of the underworld, reminded me of CS Lewis’s picture of the diver.

One has a picture of someone going right down and dredging the sea bottom. One has a picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders.

Or else one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green, and warm, and sunlit water into the pitch-black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but, associated with it, all Nature, the new universe.

Wouldn’t that make a beautiful painting?


I thought I should make a list, to clarify the thoughts put forth about what love is, and isn’t.

Love Is:

⁃    Enough for the loving
⁃    Without self’s alloy
⁃    Flame of a secret joy
⁃    Pure of envy and strife
⁃    A fiery torrent from the brimming urns of life
⁃    Strong as death
⁃    A crown to the loving
⁃    A mystical shrine untrod
⁃    A secret lent to the spirit by the breath of the living God.
⁃    Rings with a lingering glory the dusky shapes we see
⁃    Love is an earnest spirit
⁃    Patient, lonely and strong
⁃    The woe of his lips is silent
⁃    The time of his torture is long
⁃    His hope is high and distant
⁃    His path is steep and hard
⁃    He giveth his all and watcheth, till God shall relieve his guard
⁃    A flash of the light of the Lord
⁃    A breath of the mighty nature that shaketh its good abroad
⁃    He giveth and asketh not
⁃    Giveth a self and a will
⁃    Gives the love of a God for the half-hearted worship of man
⁃    Eyes that are watching
⁃    Silent lips that bless

Love is Not:

⁃    No money changer
⁃    Does not weigh the return as gold
⁃    Does not die in the darkness
⁃    Does not wander away in the sighs
⁃    Love is no jester and courtier
⁃    No trifler in folly and guile




Summoning Joy

File:Winged Victory Side.jpg


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 naturally react, give up, 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 while we are called to task and enrolled in the school of life, he will not allow one straw more than we can bear – that every challenge and disappointment, every stone seemingly 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 meant to be medicinal – a medicine that is not given where not needed, and that when required, will bring us to fuller health, to deeper strength, to greater 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)



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.


~ Beth Frances

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 mar 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.


~ Beth Frances

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