Sunday, September 23, 2012

He is Praying for Me

If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies.  Yet distance makes no difference.  He is praying for me.

~Robert Murray M'Cheyne

One of my favorite quotes.  I wish I could remember this.  He is praying for me.  Thank God He is praying for me.  If only I could remember this simple fact and seal it in my heart.

Friday, September 21, 2012

As Imperceptibly as Grief

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away—
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy—
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon—
The Dusk drew earlier in—
The Morning foreign shone—
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone—
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.

~Emily Dickinson, As Imperceptibly as Grief

Friday, September 14, 2012

Only in One's Soul

The Mother Superior opened the parlor door, but as she was going out she hesitated.  Once more she gave Kitty a long, searching, and sagacious look.  Then she laid her hand gently on her arm.
   "You know, my dear child, that one cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one's soul."

~W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

Have you seen the movie?  It's one of my favorites.  I'm reading the book now and enjoying it as well.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A little music, a little poetry, a fine picture

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Das Glück ist eine leichte Dirne,
Und weilt nicht gern am selben Ort,
Sie Streicht das Haar dir von der Stirne
Und küßt dich rasch und flattert fort.

Frau Unglück hat im Gegenteile
Dich liebefest and Herz gedrückt;
Sie sagt, sie habe keine Eile,
Setzt sich zu dir ans Bett und strickt.

Happiness is a giddy girl
And always disinclined to stay;
She pats your head, gives you a whirl,
Kisses you quick, and flits away.

But Lady Sorrow now! Don't worry,
She's just the very opposite:
She holds you fast-- she's in no hurry--
She sits down by your bed to knit.

~Lamentationen (Lamentations from Romanzero, Book 2, Lamentations), Heinrich Heine

I'm currently reading Ernst Pawel's The Poet Dying about the great German poet Heinrich Heine's last years of life as an exile in Paris.  The poor man suffered from an agonizing illness which left him in a state of almost total paralysis and blindness and kept him confined to his "mattress tomb."  Amazingly, he remained prolific during this time, and produced really beautiful work.

And a note on translation-- after studying German at Middlebury College last summer, I'm mostly able to read the poem in its original form.  I find it interesting to see what words the translator uses, and how different in some ways the original is from the English.  I guess it's something I'd never thought about before and being able to read both versions gives me a new appreciation for the artform of translation.

Lastly, I like Heine's image of Lady Sorrow sitting by the bed to knit.  The poem paints a sad picture, but I think it also offers a glimpse of Heine's wit and humor which helped carry him along through his long illness.

Monday, September 3, 2012

O My Soul

Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

~Psalm 43:5 NIV

These days I feel as if am being doggedly pursued by an old acquaintance of mine.  He's not particularly a welcome friend, but somehow I just don't know how to shake him.  He does leave me alone for a few days, and then, when I'm feeling pretty good about myself, he reappears.

Let me start over.  A month or two ago, a person named Jan wrote a comment on this blog to say that she loves my posts and values my blog.  That comment made my day, nay, my month and I stored it up in the treasury of my heart to revisit time and again.  Yesterday, as I walked home in the rain, an old weather-beaten man tinged with a patina made of the smoke and alcohol which had encircled him for years pulled up beside me in his battered car.  With a kind face lined in wrinkles, and an over-round belly protruding from his unbuttoned shirt, he leaned out his window and asked, "Elise, would you like a ride?"  Then, at work today, on the set of QVC, Mary Beth, a host whose face I remember seeing on the tv screen even as child (my grandmother was a QVC devotee), greeted me by name and asked how I was.    It's a strange thing to think that these small kindnesses-- strangers knowing my name, other strangers telling me that I mean something to them-- touch me very deeply.  These days, they mean almost the world to me.

That old acquaintance that I was telling you about?  His name is depression and he haunts me.  I left QVC today feeling utterly exhausted (I was on the air modeling from 10pm-11pm, 4am-6pm, and again from 1pm-3pm), but came home feeling a different sort of lethargy.  My soul felt downtrodden (does anyone else but me think it's fun that the past participle of tread is trodden?  Tread, trod, trodden.  I do love English so.) and I was at a loss for how to pull myself out of that funk.  I changed into my workout gear, and it seems a small miracle that I managed to lace up my shoes and step out the door.  At first I walked slowly, and then, with a miniature pinscher eagerly dragging me along, I began to run.  The steps were small and I limited my effort, but then with the cool rain-laden air fanning my cheek, I ran faster.  By the end of it, I felt wonderfully blessed.

I would that I could hold on to that feeling of well-being, but ah, he, my old acquaintance (for surely he is no friend), will not be deterred.  It is a never-ending battle, and I must take up again my weapons of self-defense.

I am thankful today for the kindness of strangers.  Let my prayer be like that of St. Francis:

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

One of my Favorite Hymns

1. Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is one of my favorite hymns and I particularly enjoy this version by singer-songwriter, Sufjan Stevens.  My favorite verse has long been the last one.  The words "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,/ Prone to leave the God I love" have always struck so close to home and my prayer echoes the hymn in desiring for His grace to fetter my wandering heart to Him.

The lyrics, by the way, were written in 1757 by a Baptist pastor at the age of 22.  The tune that we Americans sing an old American folk tune called Nettleton.  The story goes that seventeen-year-old Robert Robinson was told by a an old gypsy woman that he would live to see his children and grandchildren grow up.  At hearing this news, the errant young man thought to himself that if this were true, he must change his ways.  That night he went to see the great preacher, George Whitfield, speak, ostensibly to make fun of him, but Whitfield's words settled into Robinson's heart, and two years later he committed his life to following God's will.

If you were wandering what it means to raise your Ebenezer, it's a reference to the 1 Samuel 7:12 in the Bible.  In that passage, to celebrate a great victory that God had given Israel over their enemies, Samuel takes a large stone and sets it up between two cities.  "...He named it Ebenezer-- "the stone of help"-- for he said, 'Up to this point the Lord has helped us.'"  To raise your own Ebenezer would be, in effect, to do the same thing; that is, to recognize the faithfulness of the Lord and to profess how He has helped you and blessed you.