Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: George MacDonald

The human shadow revisited

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                            Mature Dawn Redwood at Longwood Gardens

Five years ago I posted comments on George MacDonald’s sonnet for June 9. Today I rediscovered it, right on time. It helps me think about my actions during this tumultuous uprising through which we must go together, or die. My lightly edited comments from five years ago follow.

June 9

Faith is the human shadow of thy might.
Thou art the one self-perfect life, and we
Who trust thy life, therein join on to thee,
Taking our part in self-creating light.
To trust is to step forward out of the night—
To be—to share in the outgoing Will
That lives and is, because outgoing still.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul,
© 1994 Augsburg Fortress Press

What does MacDonald’s opening line mean? “Faith is the human shadow of thy might.”

I can’t help thinking about the grand trees I saw yesterday. It was a hot, humid day begging for shade and breezes. We found it beneath huge trees reaching toward the sky. Could their welcome shade be like faith? An earthly shadow of God’s creative reach?

I imagine myself stepping out of burning sun (MacDonald’s ‘night’), into the shade. Into faith that exists only because of ‘thee’ and ‘thy might.’ I didn’t create the shade. I can’t touch it. I feel it in every part of me. It calms the boiling molecules in my body. It gives me energy to move forward and outward.

Imagine this. Perhaps the Creator’s towering tree-like presence reaches out large limbs that support a leafy umbrella offering respite and relief. I’m not the tree. Yet by standing within the tree’s shadow, I join myself to its life. To my true home. Unlike the tree, I can’t see this with my eyes, yet I know it by faith. Faith that dwells within the shadows of the Creator’s presence.

This means stepping forward “out of the night” is like stepping into the shade of a majestic tree. It’s a way of sharing in the life of the tree, of gaining strength and energy found only within its life, its ‘will,’ its outgoing nature.

The Creator’s will, like the tree, is outgoing. Reaching away from itself to create and recreate all nature including human nature. To become part of the Creator’s life is to ‘join on’ by stepping forward ‘out of the night’ (or out of the burning heat).

Only then do I exist truly and share fully as a human participant in the life of this world with all its upheavals and joys. Not because of my own great ideas, but as a participant in this strangely beautiful and demanding partnership with our Creator.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 June 2015, lightly edited and reposted on 9 June 2020
Photo credit: DAFraser, 9 June 2015, Longwood Gardens

Unsorted

The feeling I get
Standing before an audience
Knowing all I must do is
Read the words on the page
With grace and clarity

The feeling I got
Sitting in church yesterday
Listening to a young woman
Fill the air with a Brahms Intermezzo
Evoking unexpected grief

Friday’s open mic night was great. I read 5 short poems, saving my favorite two (of the five) for the end. So why did I feel unsorted, out of control and uncertain I was on solid ground? Because of the last two poems. Though different in tone, each was about aging.

One was Life flew south last winter; the second was Feeling pretty. I admire the way George MacDonald writes poems about being an ‘old soul.’ Sometimes I think I’ve been just that all my life.

I’m used to hearing people my age and older describe unexpected aches, pain and grief. Usually health issues, but also loss of friends and family members.

I’m not, however, accustomed to hearing older women and men describing in poetic form their feelings of living with loss and unexpected health issues. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places.

At any rate, I find writing about this time in my life is comforting and rewarding. Especially when it’s in poetic form. Reading a few of my poems Friday evening was icing on the cake. A vulnerable, somewhat scripted way of sharing pieces of my life with a mixed audience of children, young people and adults.

Then, on Sunday morning the offertory was Brahms Intermezzo in A Major Opus 118. A young woman performed it on the piano, from her heart and memory. She’s a member of our church and studies at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

I know this piece. I’ve played it many times, though not in the last few years. Her performance was magnificent, and I burst into sobs as others around me applauded. It wasn’t just the beauty of her playing. It was knowing that I’ll likely never again play the piano with that kind of freedom and confidence.

I’ve gained much in the last few years. Still, the losses sometimes undo me. Especially when they arrive unexpectedly in beautiful packages such as poems and music that evoke tears of grief and gratitude.

Happy Monday! I pray you’ll be surprised this week by gifts that undo you in a good way.
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 July 2018
Photo found at dancearchives.net

riding the north wind

riding the north wind
a train whistle blows my way
chasing after clouds

I heard the train whistle Friday evening when D and I were out for a late evening walk. A welcome sound, since it meant we were in for priceless cool Canadian air (no tariffs involved) over the weekend. We’re just on the tail-end now, headed back toward hot and humid.

This morning I’m sorting things on my desk, littered with yesterday’s brilliant ideas and lists of things I mustn’t forget to do. I’m also anticipating this coming Friday’s open mic night at our church. I signed on to read several more of my poems. A happy prospect.

Most of all though, I’m watching myself and our world with an eye toward heaven and an eye on the ground. This morning I read Psalm 10, a cry from the heart for justice to prevail, with the wicked caught in the very traps they made and set.

I couldn’t help thinking about George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind. God sends the North Wind here and there to stir things up. Not with calm, cool or pleasant outcomes for everyone, yet always for the good of this world God still loves more than we’ll ever understand.

Below are the last two verses of Psalm 10, from Today’s English Version

You will listen, O Lord, to the
prayers of the lowly;

You will give them courage.
You will hear the cries of the
oppressed and the orphans;
You will judge in their favor,
so that mortal human beings
may cause terror
no more.

This isn’t about a magic wand. It’s about us doing with our heart, hands, ears, eyes and feet the kinds of things for which we were created. And in whatever ways we’re able. A faithful, refreshing north wind of interest and engagement is just as feasible as a self-centered north wind of greed and hatred.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 July 2018
Image of the North Wind carrying Diamond found at tor.com

The White Stone

To each who overcomes,
I will …give a white stone with a new name written on it,
known only to the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17, NIV)

Imagine you’ve come to the end of your life. What are you expecting? I was brought up to expect judgment. The kind that points out how much I’ve failed, and assigns demerits for failures.

Will my failures outweigh the good? According to my childhood theology, that would be entirely in God’s hands. Woe to me if I fail to live up to expectations.

This made for a peculiarly nervous mode of life. Like nervous tics my failures sometimes seemed to have gained eternal life. Poking at me, cropping up at the most vulnerable moments, shadowing me like bad dreams. Casting a pall of loneliness around me and my closely guarded secrets.

I’ve been reading short excerpts from George MacDonald in the last few weeks. His comments about the white stone are nothing like my childhood theology.

The white stone and the new name are indeed God’s judgment. But with a difference. This is a judgment of grace. One white stone with a new name for each son and each daughter.

The stone with the new name makes visible what has already come into being. Not a hideous monster, but a breathtakingly beautiful daughter or son of the Creator. In fact, to receive the white stone with one’s own new name is the equivalent of ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’

It is only when the person becomes his or her name that God gives the stone with the name upon it. (George MacDonald: An Anthology: 365 Readings; C. S. Lewis, ed. (Harper One)

The secret name given only to me will capture perfectly what God saw in me from the moment I was created. Especially when I or others don’t or can’t see this. The name sums up the woman I will have become—through many dangers, toils and snares.

I can relax, take each day as it comes without a clear roadmap. When I get there, my Creator who kept faith with me will give me my white stone with my new secret name. One of a kind. I don’t need to keep asking “Am I there yet?” I’m already in good hands.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2017
Image found at ahnsahnghong.blogspot.com

Quotation  from the NIV
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Nervous

Prayer

Lion-And-Lamb-Picture-HD-Wallpaper-1024x574

Dear Friends,

This week was a roller coaster. Highs and lows one after the other. Still, I wrote in my journal and will post some pieces later. The picture is messy. Not because it’s ugly, but because it isn’t logical or sensible.

In the midst of the ups and downs I’ve followed George MacDonald’s sonnets for May. Some keep drawing me back for another read. Not because they’re profound, but because they’re simple and speak to my heart and situation right now.

Here’s one I’ve read over and over the last few days. It comforts me during this extended, unexpected Sabbath rest.

May 26

My prayers, my God, flow from what I am not;
I think thy answers make me what I am.
Like weary waves thought follows upon thought.
But the still depth beneath is all thine own,
And there thou mov’st in paths to us unknown.
Out of strange strife thy peace is strangely wrought;
If the lion in us pray—thou answerest the lamb.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994

I identify with every line, every word, every nuance. Especially the contrast between what I am not and what I am. Not because of myself, but because of the way God answers me. Not in kind, but in ways only a little lost lamb understands.

  • I roar with indignation; God whispers with comfort.
  • I get my back up; God rubs it gently.
  • I complain about the puny food that’s set before me; God smiles and pours a glass of wine.
  • I rage; God sings a lullaby.
  • I blame God; God holds me closer.

Stubbornly (!), God keeps responding to the little lost lamb. Taming my anger, showing me who I am in God’s eyes. Reassuring me, like waves that keep washing up on the shore, that God is found in the depths of the ocean. Not in the wearying repetition of my human effort to make a mark on life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 May 2016
Image found at cityviewchurch.com.au

Teach me to pray

children-praying-church

This sonnet by George MacDonald took me back to childhood struggles with public prayer. Especially public prayer in front of my father when we had daily Bible reading and prayer after breakfast. My child’s prayer follows MacDonald’s adult prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

Thou carest more

Child Praying with Mother, Basco Light House Philippines, Ivatan Art Batanes Yaru Gallery-17
Do you want nothing but the best? If so, George MacDonald tells us exactly how to get it. My comments follow his sonnet. Read the rest of this entry »

Dignity

Top-Ten-List-of-Why-I-Dont-Want-to-Surrender-to-God-1024x785

Nothing is as amazing as God’s grace. MacDonald’s sonnet captures it with an image that invites me to hand over something I hold dear. My comments follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Thou art my life

Lilith-book-cover-2-george-macdonald-35977449-297-475

Have you read George MacDonald’s adult fantasy, Lilith? I couldn’t help making a connection between this sonnet, the plot of Lilith, and Easter. My comments follow the sonnet.

August 12

Thou art my knowledge and my memory,
No less than my real, deeper life, my love.
I will not fool, degrade myself to trust
In less than that which maketh me say Me,
In less than that causing itself to be.
Thou art within me, behind, beneath, above—
I will be thine because I may and must.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994

Read the rest of this entry »

our inmost garments

God welcoming a prodigal
MacDonald has death on his mind. Not death as a process, but death as the proper goal of life. His images are positive, though the realities he names aren’t usually welcome. My comments follow. Read the rest of this entry »

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