The Siege of Gondor: A Word to Those For Whom Hope Has Gone

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

“So now at last the City was besieged, enclosed in a ring of foes.” And in the next few pages Tolkien relentlessly builds a picture of hopelessness as the hosts of Mordor begin the assault upon Minas Tirith until he reaches the appalling climax of the winged ride of the Nazgûl.

“Ever they circled above the City, like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men’s flesh. Out of sight and shot they flew, and yet were ever present, and their deadly voices rent the air. More unbearable they became, not less, at each new cry. At length even the stout-hearted would fling themselves to the ground as the hidden menace passed over them, or they would stand, letting their weapons fall from nerveless hands while into their minds a blackness came, and they thought no more of war; but only of hiding and of crawling, and of death.”

And…

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December

Witnesses to Hope

December

All bright and clear, the starry vault
With golden lights and crisp, clean air,
Allures the soul to rise, nor halt
Till she shall float exultant there.

Earth folds her form in ermine cloak,
Whose glist’ning sheen reflects the stars;
Clear rings the skaters’ rhythmic stroke
From stream held fast in icy bars.

Uprears the sun at morning’s birth,
In glory bathes the wood and plain;
Day’s busy hum awakes the earth
To view the scene of Winter’s reign.

We love the smile of youthful Spring,
There’s gladness in the Summer’s glow,
And rich in Autumn’s harvesting,–
Yet, greater gifts can Winter show,–

Rare gifts, surpassing pearls and gold;
God’s Mother-Maid, Immaculate,
And Christ the King–these, Winter old
Brings down to bless man’s poor estate.

J.A.M.

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Tenth Month

Advent

Those heavy days, the Child cramped
within you and girding his limbs,
your lungs squeezed breathless-high,
the ordinary, unnerving simmer
of black waters within, Woman,
what did you think?

Or was thought
all prayer—trust in the buds
of epiphanies, the unquantifiable
blood to be let. But Mother,
those unspeakably swollen days,
olives combed out of ashen leaves,
or wine leeching out its vinegar smell,
did you feel the tug of split hearts,
in city streets, at tabernacles, in bars?
As your belly drew down, drawn
by hormones and truth, did you weigh,
too, the clumsy imploring down all
our bloodlines, for this saving parcel of flesh?

Sally Read

You’re broken, but beloved

From Ann Voskamp’s, The Broken Way:

“He looks like Jesus kneeling down in front of a woman caught in adultery, and it comes like a slow grace, how Jesus handled her critics: He deeply unsettled the comfortable and deeply comforted the unsettled.  The woman grabbed by the Pharisees was given what I myself desperately need.  Before all the pointing fingers, Jesus looked up at the wounded and rewrote her fate: ‘You’re guilty, but not condemned.  You’re busted up, but believed in. You’re broken, but beloved.’

Whatever you’re caught in, I make you free.  Whatever you’re accused of, I hand you pardon.  Whatever you’re judged of, I give you release.  Whatever binds you, I have broken.  All sin and shame and guilt and lack I have made into beauty and abundance.

Who get over a love like this?  In the midst of trials, Jesus guarantees the best trial outcome: you’re guilty, but you get no condemnation.  No condemnation for failing everyone, no condemnation for not doing everything, no condemnation for messing up every day.  Who gets over a release like this?

You are Mine and I am yours, and all I have is yours and all you have is Mine.  I marry you to the mystery of whole perfection, and I carry all your brokenness to divorce you from all despair.”

Waiting for light to overcome darkness

Whatever Darkness You Are in Right Now

by
December 1, 2016

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“A speck of light can reignite the sun
And swallow darkness whole.”

Ryan O’Neal

Our theme this month is an important one. It brings the year to a close with essays about what rescue looks like, how deliverance can transform life, where redemption can be found. It’s especially close to my heart.

I’ve been rescued many times in my life. This sounds dramatic and noble and maybe it was on occasion. But to be honest, my rescues also left me bereft.

My rescue began when I was four, I was given up by my mom after social services removed me from her care due to her alcoholism and neglect. This led to a series of foster homes for the remainder of my childhood.

People think when a child is rescued from a dangerous home or family or country, they are overjoyed at their removal, so excited to go to their new home where they will be cared for by strangers and live a life they never thought possible. That’s what we want to believe, and how we play out in our imaginations. And sometimes it does.

But there is a story happening behind the rescue that most people can’t comprehend. As a child I didn’t know what I was being rescued from. I didn’t know that I needed rescuing, I had nothing to compare my life to at that stage. So what did that feel like at four years old? Abandonment. Rejection. Displacement. Fear.

It looked like my world crashing at my feet while I crumbled down in the middle of destruction. It means being torn from the safety of the “known,” however harmful, and thrust into confusion and despair. Sometimes the gravity and necessity of our rescue isn’t understood for years. Instead, rescue has to be worked out in the pain until you live into its “blessing.”

My story is one where rescue wasn’t immediate or complete. Deliverance has been a journey of unearthing fissures and cracks for light to come through. I can, of course, now look back at my life and comprehend the cost of my rescue and see why I needed to be delivered from my circumstances. But even the understanding of it doesn’t erase the darkness it created. Sometimes it makes it worse.

Deliverance can be bloody. It can result in death of some kind. It’s always messy. What one of us hasn’t lived in shadows of one kind or another, shadows of grief and loss, mental illness and addiction, abuse and agony?

Last November, before my first Deeply Rooted worship event, I struggled with serious spiritual oppression and after, I crashed hard. I spiraled into depression which led to relapse which led to shame which led to despair which led to more depression. I, again, needed rescue. The darkness I was under felt heavy and strong. I was tempted to believe I’d lost my last chance with God.

Light flickered in occasionally, taking different forms. A friend emailed me, not even knowing what I was going through, and shared her similar struggle that was becoming uncontrollable. I confessed to friends and my husband. I lay on the floor, face down, crying, begging for mercy. I knew I had opened a door that would be near impossible to close.

But God. He continued this work of rescue in my life. In April I flew to Guatemala City with Children’s HopeChest as part of a team of four female bloggers. The first day we visited a school and two of the students brought half of us home to meet their mom. We listened as the mom shared their story of hardship and hope.

We ask to pray for her, she says only if she can pray for us too. I raise my head and catch her eye and she doesn’t look away. She tells me the Holy Spirit has given her something to say. She takes my hands looks in my eyes and tears well up. She raises her voice and every statement is spoken with authority.

“Your feet were chosen by God since your mother’s womb, Wherever you go the Lord is in front of you. Wherever your feet touch, the Lord has been there before for you. The earth is yours. Whatever your feet touch, the Lord has given it to you. Walk in holiness.”

My eyes are wide open in surprise as this beautiful woman with a gold cross is clutching me and praying a blessing. It is being prayed twice over me, in emphatic Spanish and then beautifully-accented English. Doubly blessed. She embraces me and holds me tight, crooning over me in Spanish and swaying back and forth like she is sending me off to sleep. I hug her again as we left and she prayed over me again, another flicker of light:“Don’t be afraid, whatever God has called you to do he will train you for.”

Last month I celebrated the first anniversary of Deeply Rooted, doing what God called me to do, providing a space for women to be seen and heard. I was afraid, afraid no one would show up and terrified of bottoming out again. People did show up, truth was spoken and hearts were rekindled with hope. After the last night I was hanging out with Anita Scott, our spoken-word poet, who also performed the previous year.

She knew how hard this year was for me, she had been a constant source of prayer and encouragement. She told me, “When you got up on stage, you glowed. You radiated light. I thought maybe it was because you were dressed really nice and I’ve never seen you like that before, but the next day, in your jeans and flannel, it was still true. The words that came to me were spiritually clean.”

Anita named my redemption. What had started out as one of my darkest years, had ended with someone seeing light in me. Throughout this year, I have seen the promise of Isaiah 58 in my life:

And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.

He is my God, my rescuer, my restorer, the One who gives me a new name, a new life, new hope. God is a redeemer. He has been working to deliver me from something, he also has delivered me to something and that something is Himself.

This season of waiting for the light to overcome the darkness can leave us feeling weary and cynical. We’re crying out for the rescue of children in Aleppo, the deliverance of our country from racism and fear-mongering. We’re longing for the redemption Jesus promises us, over and over again, in his very Word spoken to us. Whatever darkness you are in right now, he holds it in his hands and lets that darkness pierce his own heart so that light will shine through his wounds, and bring you back to life

Tammy Perlmutter

Writer at Raggle-Taggle
Tammy Perlmutter writes about unabridged life, fragmented faith, and investing in the mess at her blog Raggle-Taggle. She founded The Mudroom to make room in the mess and create a space for people to be heard. Tammy guest posts a bit, writes flash memoir, personal essay, and poetry, leads writing groups, and preaches on occasion. She is also an advocate for women and mental health, an alum of the Voices and Faces Project testimonial writing workshop, The Stories We Tell, for survivors of sexual assault, abuse, and trafficking, as well as the Social Media Director for Threads of Compassion, an organization offering comfort to recent victims of sexual trauma. She will have an essay included in the book Soul Bare: Raw Reflections on Human Redemption, being published by InterVarsity Press in 2016.

“We need witnesses to hope . . .”

“In a culture often dominated by technology, sadness and loneliness appear to be on the rise, not least among young people.  The future seems prey to an uncertainty that does not make for stability.  This often gives rise to depression, sadness and boredom, which can gradually lead to despair.  We need witnesses to hope and true joy if we are to dispel the illusions that promise quick and easy happiness through artificial paradises.  The profound sense of emptiness felt by so many people can be overcome by the hope we bear in our hearts and by the joy that it gives.  We need to acknowledge the joy that rises up in a heart touched by mercy.  Let us keep in mind, then, the words of the Apostle: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’.  (Pope Francis)