Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Stillness of Poetry


"Sun of my soul, thou Savior dear,
it is not night if thou be near:
O may no earth-born cloud arise
to hide thee from thy servant's eyes."
--John Keble 


What is it about poetry that causes my mind to stop its whirling spinning and to hear with my heart? In the same way that music goes to a deeper level into my soul, I believe that poetry touches something intimate and bare in the depths of my being. And when music and poetry collide, as in the stanza shared above, taken from the hymn John Keble wrote, Sun of my Soul, Thou Savior Dear, then my heart drops all of its defenses and peers into eternity.

 Or even a re-working of an older hymn as here, 




In this Season of Stillness that has begun my 2017, I heard God whisper to me to slow my reading even as my days have slowed. I did not think that I liked that thought! After all, last year, my spinning mind craved words, and I read more books than at any other time in my life. Nevertheless, I followed my Lord's promptings and finished up several books that had been in my Kindle list, and have been working on the reviews that I had promised to share.  In the meantime, a lovely blogger who fills her posts with beautiful and encouraging book reviews, put out an invitation to join her in an online book study of C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces starting this week, over at her place: Michele Morin's site, Living Our Days.



And that same Whispering Voice stirred in my heart to know that here would be a place I needed to settle in and rest my Stilling heart.



I have loved and read many of C.S. Lewis' books, and in fact had borrowed this very title from a dear friend several years ago. He encouraged me to read it, and hold onto it for as long as I wanted, because he felt it was such an important read for me. I don't know why I kept putting it off, but perhaps God knew that I needed to be in this place of stillness before I would be able to hear the poetry that Lewis' words would ignite in my soul.  This is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, C.S. Lewis' own favorite of all of his books, and one that has already swept me up into his epic storytelling.

The two main princesses in this tale, Orual and Psyche, are revealed within the first chapter. The Greek slave, "The Fox," bought by their father to be their teacher, is however, the one who stole my heart in the beginning pages. One who professed much of the Philosophies and Rational thinking, he had a poetic side that was actually the heart he followed. Early on, he shares a Greek myth with Orual, and is quick to add:

"Not that this ever really happened. . . . It's only lies of poets, lies of poets child."  

Orual saw behind his facade and spoke:

"It was always like that with the Fox; he was ashamed of loving poetry ('All folly, child') and I had to work much at my reading and writing and what he called philosophy in order to get a poem out of him. But thus, little by little, he taught me many. Virtue, sought by man with travail and toil was the one he praised most, but I was never deceived by that.  The real lilt came into his voice and the real brightness into his eyes when we were off into Take me to the apple-land or  

The Moon's gone down, but
Alone I lie."


 And, suddenly, in only the first chapter, my heart of Stillness was beating with a longing for more of the intimate words that poetry stirs. 

Why is it so hard for me to
still my mind
even as my body 
has been stilled?

Why have I "allowed myself"
to savor the sweet fragrance
of poetry
only as I lie awake at night
longing to find peace?

What if this very
stillness
is the place
that God's true
Poetry of Love
can be 
tasted?


"But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good.
    O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe—
    I will tell everyone what You have done."

Psalm 73:28 (The Voice) 



God Moves in a Mysterious Way, by William Cowper 

"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.


Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.


Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.


Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.


His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.


Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain."




Have you tasted a sweet gift of Poetry lately? Or perhaps you have a favorite work by C.S. Lewis?  I would love to hear your comments as you share your thoughts!  And even though I feel that I may be "out of my element" by joining in with an Online Book Discussion Group while being such a Newbie to this world of Blogging, my Stilling Heart is longing to hear the poetic sharing about such a great storyteller as C.S. Lewis.


Here is an index for the series on C.S. Lewis' "TILL WE HAVE FACES"  book study. Within each post, I have included the link for that week's discussion led by Michele Morin at her site.

Post 1: The Stillness of Poetry 
Post 2: The Holiness of Grace 
Post 3:  Breath of God
Post 4: Eternity in our Hearts and in our Eyes 
Post 5: Love or Self? 
Post 6: Surprised by Love
Post 7: Unlocking the Heart 
Post 8: Die Before You Die
Post 9: The Face of Love



I am linking this week over at





18 comments:

  1. Hi Bettie,
    I love that poem of Cowper's -- such beautiful word music those stanzas offer us! I'm so glad you're delving into the study of CS Lewis and how interesting that you felt pulled away from your reading this season to contemplate stillness.

    Biographies are a favorite of mine and I'm anxious to read a new biography I saw coming out on Lewis. I like to read about his thought processes almost as much as I like to read his words!

    Praying for you Bettie - -thought about you last night! xoxo

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    Replies
    1. Hi Valerie,
      Oh I hope you are able to find that new biography on Lewis. Yes, I agree with you that the background of an author can shed so much light on the stories that he has told! I'm eager to focus my thoughts on the words God sets before me here, and thankful for the HOPE that comes as He leads, even in the stillness. Thank you so much for all of your prayers my friend! xoxo

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  2. I love your poem, Bettie. I find it difficult to "still" my mind, too. This line captures my heart, "What if this very stillness is the place that God's true Poetry of Love can be tasted?" So very true.

    Thank you also for reminding me of Cowper's poem. This line has always especially spoken to me:
    "Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head."

    May God give you stillness in your heart and teach you more and more of His poetry of love! Love and hugs!

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    Replies
    1. Dear Trudy,
      Thank your for your encouragement so much! Yes, I love that same passage in Cowper's poem also. I think that for those of us who have experienced clouds of anxiety, those thoughts of mercy drops falling are so filled with hope! I am glad we can share a love of poetry my friend! Love and Hugs to you too!

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  3. Poetry definitely deserves to be read slowly or its beauty and meaning is often missed. I slowed down at the very beginning of the poetry here on this post. What a beautiful way to walk through life, too. Thanks, Bettie!

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    1. Dear Lisa,
      Thank you so much for your encouragement to find the beauty in this place of living more slowly! Your words are causing me to ponder more about the night-time comforts that came for me in poetry--perhaps that was the rare time that I allowed myself to be slow also. I am so grateful that God is stirring within to find HIS stillness in this Season! Blessings to you!

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  4. What if this very stillness is the place
    that God's true Poetry of Love can be tasted?

    Oh how my forced stillness through illness (wow! stillness through illness) brought me closer to God. Mine was a greater love of the scriptures.

    So thankful for the stillness!

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, it's the "stillness through illness" that is such a different kind of stillness for me, too. I know there is much to be learned in the heart of our Lord here. Thank you for your encouragement!

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  5. Wow! I don't have any CS Lewis in my stark! Thanks for recommending his works.
    Blessings to you

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    Replies
    1. Oh I am glad I can recommend such a great author to you, Ifeoma! There are so many great titles of his to choose from; I will pray that God leads you to the one of His choosing for you! Blessings to you also!

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  6. Dear Bettie, this is such a beautiful post. I'm also a great fan of C.S Lewis, though I have yet to read the book you've mentioned. Poetry does invite us to slow down, to breathe in the meaning hidden behind the words, to sense the essence of what is left unsaid, as well as gently mulling over a poem's essential spark and flavour.
    The more we read good poetry (and books), the more open we become to poetic expression. We also grow in our own ability to write, and I see that happening for you. These lines are truly arresting and lovely:

    "What if this very
    stillness
    is the place
    that God's true
    Poetry of Love
    can be
    tasted?"

    Poetry is weaving in your mind and heart and turning you into a delightful poet too! The very stillness you're exposing yourself to is a beautiful breeding ground for deeper contemplation and pondering. The results are already staggering. I can't wait to see what God will do in and through you this year, my friend! xoxo

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    1. Dear Joy, Oh I am so touched that God would let you find beauty in these words. That means so much to me, as your words are so full of His Grace-touches! I am so longing to dwell with Jesus as He helps me "to breathe in the meaning hidden behind the words, to sense the essence of what is left unsaid," in the poetry of His people and in His own Words. What a beautiful way that you've described the gift of a poem! Thank you for your encouragement to keep growing in God's Grace. My prayers are for you also, my friend, to rest close to His heart this week. xoxo

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  7. This is glorious, and once again I am in awe at the way the very same book can impact two readers in very different ways. It is clear to me, Bettie, that you and the Fox are kindred spirits! Thanks so much for sharing your own poetic response to C.S. Lewis's story and characterizations! I hope that chapters 4-6 will be just as much of a blessing to you as 1-3 seemed to be!

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    1. Dear Michele, Thank you for your encouragement, and for your open invitation to join in with your Book Discussion! I am so looking forward to the upcoming chapters, and finding God's parallels as we go forward! :-) --Blessings to you this week!

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  8. Dear Bettie, I really love your poem! I had wanted to join in with the reading of this C.S. Lewis book, but I've not had time yet. And I still have books to finish that I need to write reviews for. But, who knows, maybe I'll find some time to read it. :) Blessings to you with love and hugs! xo

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    1. Dear Gayl, Thank you for your lovely encouragement! I have always loved poetry, but my heart is beginning to find the gift that poetry brings to days that are stilled. I do hope that you have time to join in with the discussion of C.S. Lewis' book, dear friend! Blessings and Hugs to you! xo

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  9. Popping over from Michele's - I'm reading along with you. I enjoy poetry, but don't have much of a mind for it. Probably because I don't slow my mind down enough to really grasp all that is being said. I will try to do better. I've enjoyed what you shared here, Bettie. Your perspective on "The Fox" is enlightening. I think he is a paradox so far! We will see what becomes of him. Have a blessed week, I look forward to reading your thoughts next week!

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    1. Hi June, Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I'm finding that even the poetry I love goes deeper to my heart when I allow myself to be stilled. I'm so glad that we can share this book together over at Michele's place--what a fun journey in the middle of winter! And, I am waiting also to see what becomes of "The Fox." I hope I'm not disappointed! :-) Blessings to you!

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