Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Middle Earth Meditations

I have, for the last month or so, been engaging in a slightly different pattern of morning devotion. First thing upon waking, I do what I typically do, which is stir my sleep-addled mind to wakefulness with the Lord's Prayer. Well, sometimes it's the second or third thing, but I make a point of getting to it before I get to my coffee, which is saying something. It's a balanced part of my spiritual breakfast...and, honestly, the linchpin of my prayer life. Yeah, sometimes I prattle on like the Gentiles do, pouring my monkey-chatter worries into the glory of the numinous. But mostly, I just pray the one way the Master actually bothered teaching.

The second thing I do is read a poem. I'm following a year-long discipline of reading through George MacDonald's "Diary of an Old Soul," which is 366 connected poems that lead one on a meandering journey through the faith. I've found they resonate in strange ways with my life, with the world around me, and with the particular struggles I'm having personally and spiritually. It's been a fruitful addition. I'll read today, mull over it, and then peek at the next day..you know..just because I'm nosy.

Tomorrow's poem struck me as interesting for a range of reasons. Here it is:
Fair freshness of the God-breathed spirit air,
Pass through my soul, and make it strong to love;
Wither with gracious cold what demons dare
Shoot from my hell into my world above;
Let them drop down, like leaves the sun doth sear,
And flutter far into the inane and bare,
Leaving my middle-earth calm, wise, and clear.
Though this poem works on a range of levels for me in my own spiritual walk, I was struck by that last line. MacDonald is a stated influence over the lives of many writers, most significantly C.S. Lewis. But he was also formative for Lewises close friend and drinkin'/smokin' buddy, J.R.R. Tolkien.

It may just be a random happenstance. It might just be a random turn of phrase. But hearing the words "middle-earth" from a known late 19th century influence over Tolkien just doesn't feel random.

I love those serendipitous connections between things, seeing the places where words and ideas have their root. It's like encountering a forgotten picture of your home 50 years ago, when that tree was just a sapling. Or being filled with a memory of a tiny boy child, who now stands nearly as tall as a man.