Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Service, Madeleine L'Engle and St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)Image via Wikipedia
I am so thankful for you folks who have found me and this blog through looking for my grandmother, Madeleine L'Engle, and for sticking with me, for giving me the chance to both be my own person and yet not deny the profound influence she has had on my view of creativity and the world of the spirit.

One of you is a young college student from Iowa, a devout Mormon who wrote me the other day asking for my views on "service". She will be teaching a class in her LDS church next month and wants to get different perspectives.

I have a multitude of perspectives on service, from my Christian background, my years as as therapist, my profound appreciation and respect for the twelve steps. But for this morning I will try to focus on what Gran has taught me about service.

Question 1
What does the word "service" mean to you? In your opinion, what comes first-- Love or service ? 

Madeleine's writings and her personhood were/are quenchers for my thirsty soul, as I'm sure they were/are for you. She both embodied and wrote about Art as Service in many of her books, especially Walking on Water.

If the work comes to the artist and says, "Here I am, serve me," then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve. The amount of the artist's talent is not what it's about. Jean Rhys said to an interviewer in the PARIS REVIEW, "Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake." p.16

How I cling to the line: the amount of artist's talent is not what it's about. !!!!

So being of service is an act of listening, whether it's to your Higher Power or another person. One of the greatest examples is in the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
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.

Being "of service" means that I am able to get out of my own way and serve a higher purpose by reaching out to and ultimately helping others. It enlarges my world view, and gets me out of my egocentric self. It is the path to being happy, joyous and free.

Both words, love and service, are often a mantra for me whenever I am dealing with a difficult situation. Service is love in action. It takes love from an amorphous feeling into a meaningful shape.

Question 2
What rewards or blessings have you received as a result of service you have done or that has been done for you? 

Where do I start? I have always wanted to help heal the world, however hubristic (not a word, should be) that may seem. My father is a priest, my mother a therapist, my grandmother - well, she has helped millions. I still flounder my way through being of service and through accepting help when I need it myself. I became a therapist in order to find meaning in my life. I had children and devoted myself in service to them, I took care of my grandmother. I started taking writing seriously again because of my Gran's philosophy of art as service.

Whenever I am locked into a narrow view of myself and my life, I know that being of service is the way out - it is the path to joining the human race again. So whenever I am of service, it is healing me. I go back to the prayer of St. Francis and the vocation of listening, to my "work" and the people around me. To really listen, see and understand another person? Those are priceless gifts!

I've gone on long enough and I'd love to hear from you all!

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. What an extraordinary post this morning, esp. since I am such a cynical frame of mind lately, wavering on what I "do" believe. I have been thinking of making the time to reread Miss M's works, some of them anyway. Here is the stop light,giving me the green to do just that and more.
    Have a nice day, Lena.

  2. Thank you for writing about this shared belief of you and your grandmother. There is something transcendent about serving, something that connects us to the One who came to serve. Just as your grandmother described the way we co-create with God. Service takes us out of ourselves and heals us, just as you said.

  3. Lovely post, Léna, and good reminders.
    Blessings, Laurel

  4. So true--I was thinking in response to the first question that love would come first, but you said it better. Service IS love. Beautiful post, Lena. And I love the quote from Walking on Water.

  5. I love the thought of art being service, and also of the lake being fed by so many different sources, large and small. These are good quotes and thoughts on service that I want to keep pondering.

  6. Thank you. Thank you for being accessible and answering questions and sending out thank you notes. Thank you for being real. I love what M said about one you become self-conscious you are not really creating anymore. Creation is an act of ontology yet is not about the self. That is what service is to me, an ontological act that has nothing to do with self. If feel that when I sing the words of St. Francis. Well I actually cry when I sing that song. Love it.

    ps. Hubristic should totally be a word.

  7. I share that faith. :)

    I believe love grows and deepens during service--or our hearts are softened to allow us to be more intune to the love that was already there.

    If we cannot serve two masters, because we will love the one and hate the other, it is important that we make sure all our work is done with an eye single to the glory of the Lord. When we put charity--the pure love of Christ--in motion, we are capable of touching more than just our inner circle of family and friends. And the result has the opprotunity to be dramatic, in a non-diva way.

  8. I love all of this and thank you for sharing it. "Whenever I am locked into a narrow view of myself and my life, I know that being of service is the way out-it is the path to joining the human race again." What a powerful set of words. Wow.

  9. Thank you all for your beautiful comments! Apologies for my slow response . . . I want to hug all of you - so, sending psychic hugs!

  10. Love this post. So often worry that being a writer and artist is not enough about service, but comforted and encouraged by your post. Thank you.

  11. Hi Lena!

    WOW!!!! That's all I can say! I'm blown away by your AMAZING entry on service!!! Thank you SO SO MUCH!!! I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing that you chose to write a public blog! I feel so honored. Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm so excited to share your views and thoughts with my sisters in church. Or wait...that is alright if I share a portion? I want to respect your privacy, my friend.

    I didn't realize you were a therapyst! That's so cool!! You've done so much in your life, Lena. I have no doubt every single person in your family must be bursting with pride. :) You are following in your grandma's foosteps, changing the world one person at a time. I feel deeply humbled and honored to have the privelage of knowing you.

  12. Share away Becky! And thank YOU for asking the questions! ;-)

  13. I hope you will keep updating your content constantly as you have one dedicated reader here.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.