For the days and times when we so experience our woundedness and faults and wonder how God can still love us:
God likes me covered with my creaturehood
and with my limits spread across His face.
He likes to see me lifting to His eyes
even the wretchedness that dropped His grace.
~Jessica Powers (from “Creature of God”)
Advent and the little girl, Hope
Tod Worner | Dec 10, 2017
Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.”
– G.K. Chesterton
It looked unquestionably bleak.
In a matter of two weeks, the Nazis had roared through Luxembourg, crushed the Netherlands, marauded through Belgium and blitzed deeply into France. The French Army and British Expeditionary Force found themselves pressed onto the beaches of Dunkirk with their backs to the unforgiving waters of the English Channel. The Americans across the Atlantic made it very clear that they wouldn’t send their boys to any foreign wars. And Great Britain looked increasingly alone.
But as the grim events inexorably unfolded, the bulldogish Prime Minister Winston Churchill made it clear to his Cabinet: There would be no surrender. In the darkness of those days – days which anticipated the Blitz of screaming bomber attacks on the cities of England – Churchill growled to his band of brothers.
The House [of Commons] should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and through grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemies.
And within days, Churchill further pronounced,
I am convinced that every one of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.
That was the first and greatest weapon raised against the Nazi menace. Hope was the light that illuminated blood-stained rocks on embattled Pacific islands and cold corners of the blackest concentration camps. It fired the chilled soldiers in the wintry foxholes of Bastogne and it refreshed the dirt-coated liberators in North Africa. Hope wasn’t a component of victory; it was the key to it.
That is the essence of Advent.
In dark days of disease and loneliness, fear and guilt, sin and death, a dusty prophet declared to an enslaved nation,
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. (Isaiah 9:1)
In a cultural backwater occupied by fearsome soldiers and short, unforgiving lives, a peasant girl was visited by a heavenly creature,
Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High – and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:28, 30-33)
An expectant mother and adoptive father, wise men traveling from afar, shepherds sensing a change in the chill wind on the edge of town – all were drawn by faith, but pushed by hope.
What is this strange thing, hope?
Perhaps the French poet, Charles Peguy, described it best in The Portal of the Mystery of Hope.
The faith that I love best, says God, is hope.
Faith doesn’t surprise me.
Its not surprising
I am so resplendent in my creation…
Charity says God, that doesn’t surprise me.
It’s not surprising.
These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone, how could they not have love for one another.
How could they not love their brothers.
How could they not take the bread from their own mouth, their daily bread, in order to give it to the unhappy children who pass by…
What surprises me, says God, is hope.
And I can’t get over it.
This little hope who seems like nothing.
This little girl hope.
It’s she, the little one, who carries them all.
Because Faith sees only what is.
But she, she sees what will be.
Charity loves only what is.
But she, she loves what will be.
Yes, that’s it. Hope is a precious, vibrant, beaming little girl who loves not only what is, but what will be.
Oh, it is true. At times in our lives, things can look a little bleak.
But take courage.
The essence of Advent is a little girl, Hope.
December 22, 2000
“You will seem to yourself at times to have almost lost your faith and yet it remains whole and entire in the fine point of your soul, all gathered up into so sharp and imperceptible a point that it seems no longer to exist. Close your eyes and remain with Jesus, saying a loving Amen to all He is gazing at in His Father.” (Bl. Columba Marmion)
Originally posted on Mudroom.
I can feel the tears
And this time I’m trying really hard to stay near You
But I can feel the water behind my eyes
Sometimes making it hard for me to see You.
I can feel the waves of doubt
Hitting me like bullets in a windstorm
And I’m squinting my eyes
Trying to see You although my vision often times feels weary and worn.
But I did say that I would seek You
In hope as well as in despair.
I did say that this time I would keep You near
And not push You off like You don’t care.
I did say that I would not close off my heart
Like I’ve done so many times before.
I did say that I would try out this new journey of trust
Even if it meant walking while I’m sore.
And yes, sometimes I feel like I have a limp,
And yet, I have to walk through my daily routine like nothing’s wrong
But this time, I’m trying to stay near Your heart
So I can hear You as You delight over me with a song.
There’s a decision to make.
I can hear an old soundtrack playing a familiar tune.
It invites me to cast off this fight to be strong
And instead recline to a familiar position that doesn’t trust You with this wound.
The familiar tune encourages me to shove off assurance
And keep distrust as the forerunner of thought
While passing the baton to victimization and dismay
Oftentimes keeping any opportunity for peace at fault.
And I know that tune
I can sing and belt out every word.
It’s the song that I know all too well
Because in some broken places in my heart, it’s the only song I’ve ever heard.
But I said I would listen to new lyrics
Ones that emphasized your faithfulness—even in tears
Lyrics that take away my woe and sorrow
Even if that’s all I’ve known for years.
I made a vow to my heart
That I would lean back and let You lead.
So this time I’m not letting my own opinions go first.
I really want You to succeed.
I know all too well—the feeling of doubt and distrust.
I’ve practiced that life for far too long
And it took me in painful circles
Even though I was the one who let it go on and on.
I’d like to try something new,
And I understand new doesn’t mean shiny and pain free.
New does mean Companionship with You, the Comforter,
Who has promised to remain ever so close to me.
You will be here
Even though I might cry, and weep, and fall limp with pain,
But this time I’m not by myself.
I can lean my heart up against You who too has endured the same.
I’ve found a friend
Someone who is beckoning to journey this path with me
And even though I at times might feel shame and condemnation
You have come to rescue me from that false identity.
I can take a deep breath
And not try to be a superhero without a power or a cape
Instead I can actually stand in His shelter
And let Him save my heart, my emotions, and the day.
Goodbye eternal misery
Goodbye to the endless trail of no hope and emptiness
Hello Comfort and Life
Hello to the One who has come to give me rest.
Sing Your Song over me Jesus!
Push out everything that would prevent me from hearing.
Sing Your Song over me Jesus!
Help me lean back, I let You lead, You are the only one I want steering.
Straining for the Light
by Tammy Perlmutter • January 4, 2016
For a long time the threat of a new year brought with it an onslaught of more darkness, more enervating melancholy, more long, gray days ahead to suffer through. It was nothing to celebrate.
At the end of one of those especially difficult years I met Alece Ronzino online. She too had experienced a year (or more!) like that, punctuated by loss and betrayal and hopelessness. In 2009 she decided to find one word to focus on in the new year, instead of a list of resolutions that were quickly and quietly abandoned. One Word 365was born.
One word can change everything. Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap the long list of goals that you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2016. One word. 365 days. A changed life. ~Alece Ronzino
The last four years I’ve participated brought some incredible changes to my life. I became more focused, more hopeful, more inspired to hold fast, keep going, and expect good things. I’ve been challenged to be fearless. I have committed to believing. I have thrown myself into creativity. Most recently, I have spent a year contemplating possibility and what that looks like fleshed out in real life, and right now it looks like The Mudroom. I doubted it was possible a year ago, yet giving space for possibility to bloom made it a reality.
I’ve been brought low and robbed of energy by chronic pain. I’ve spiraled into dark depression. Anxiety has left me dizzy and breathless. I’ve been facing childhood sexual abuse head on and I have the bruises and scars to show for it. I’ve been humbled by my own darkness, my secret sins that cast a shadow over my heart and steal the light from my eyes. I’ve staggered under the weight of loneliness and grief and fear and despaired of ever feeling strong again.
My One Word for 2016 is restore.
The locusts have ravaged me, leaving me bereft. I hardly know what plenty, abundance, fullness feels like. I find myself returning to that field of devastation, the locusts leaving nothing of worth behind. But there is a promise and I am claiming it.
Joel 2:25-32 (ESV)
25 I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
In these verses God is not telling his people to buck up, man up, cowgirl up, grow up, deal with it, get over it, or pull yourself together. He is acknowledging that this is a straight-up disaster, a full-on calamity. He sees and validates the wreckage and the ruin that has devastated his people, who have been left desolate. He tells them that it was his great army, obeying his command, meting out justice, which caused this cataclysm.
God is a God of restoration, redemption, healing, and deliverance. He is a God of double portions and spacious places. He removes shame and exchanges it for radiance.
For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”
He will not leave us as orphans. He will not treat us as our sins deserve. He will not ignore our cries for mercy. There is no shadow of turning in him.
In Life Together, Dietrich Bohoeffer penned a paragraph that all of us should write on our mirrors. He was referring to the morning, but I have replaced day with year.
For Christians the beginning of the [year] should not be burdened and oppressed by besetting concerns for the [year’s] work. At the threshold of the new [year] stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the [year] let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him whom our whole life belongs.
My proclamation for 2016 is to not be oppressed by the besetting concerns for this year’s work, but to face it with excitement and expectation. I will remember that God stands at the threshold of this year, like a sentry, offering protection but also reminding me that every day is a battle, but one I don’t fight in vain or alone. Darkness and distraction are no match for the light of Jesus and his wakening Word. Restlessness, impurity, worry, and fear have no place in this year. My first thought and first word of this year, and every morning in it, belong to God who has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
The onset of a new year isn’t a threat to me anymore. It doesn’t hold the same bleakness and grim prospects as it did previously. I’m determined to wrestle until I’m limping. I’m done with ashes and mourning and shadows and death. I’ve had enough of despondency and gloom. I’m aching for the light.
Who’s aching with me?