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Luci Shaw

Madeleine L'Engle


Madeleine L'Engle. A powerful woman, large-hearted, fearless, quixotic, profoundly imaginative, unwilling to settle for mediocrity. Tall and queenly, she physically embodied her mental and spiritual attributes. I remember occasions when, in church during Advent, she would rise to full height, spread her arms wide like the Angel of the Annunciation, and declare, "Fear not!" in a tone that allowed no gainsaying. It was a challenge impossible to ignore.

She loved God and his children, but this didn't keep her from questioning and questing in pursuit of truth, which she never equated with fact. Without ever being a scientist herself, she had an uncanny understanding of some of the principles of physics, and the thrust of her life was to integrate her sense of the largeness, diversity, and unity of the universe with the spiritual principles she found in Scripture and her daily practice and rule of life.

We met in the '70s as speakers at a Wheaton College literary conference, exchanged books, affirmed each other as kindred spirits, and started a correspondence. Madeleine was eager for us at Shaw Publishers to republish a book of out-of print poems, as well as some more recent ones. Lines Scribbled on an Envelope thus became The Weather of the Heart, and it became clearer to me that this woman had a lot to say to our particular circles of Christian community.

The following year I asked her to write a book for us about her philosophy of creativity. In a couple of months she handed me an untidy bundle of typescript, saying with some disgust, "Can you do something with this? It has no shape!" After weeks of cutting the whole thing apart and re-organizing it on my dining room floor (this was before personal computers), I presented it to her. She was relieved, pleased that it worked. It became Walking on Water: Reflection on Faith and Art, a book that has been reprinted many times and continues to encourage artists of faith around the globe. And I became editor and publisher of her ...

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