Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): because

Because of all his benefits.
Because he forgives all your iniquity.
Because he heals all your diseases.
Because he redeems your life from the pit.
Because he crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.
Because he satisfies you with good, renewing your youth like the eagle’s.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

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Because he works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
Because he makes known his ways to us.
Because he is merciful and gracious.
Because he is slow to anger but abounds in steadfast love.
Because he does not deal with us according to our sins.
Because his steadfast love is heavens-high.
Because he’s removed our transgressions.
Because he shows us Father-compassion.
Because he knows our feeble frames.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Because he shows his faithfulness, morning after morning.
Because the sunrise sings his glory.
Because his love bids us welcome when we do not deserve.
Because he lets us love as he loved us.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300I join the Five Minute Friday writers today, using Kate Motaung’s prompt: “because.” The button above will take you to her site, where you can read more posts and join in the fun.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

September

I’m learning which ones are left-handed today, which ones are relaxed enough to smile at me mid-test, which ones bend to put mere inches between their noses and the page as if to somehow build a direct connection between the questions and the information in their minds, bypassing the necessary word-formation and handwriting.

september

As appropriate on the morning after the autumnal equinox, fall lies in a silver mist over the mown hayfields and glows where the sunrise shines in bars of light between the shadows of the trees. I found a witness to fall’s arrival in the snake which crossed the kitchen floor last night — in search, I suppose, of a place warmer than the great outdoors. (We returned him to his natural habitat, in case you’re worried.)

Further proof comes in the chorus of sniffles that accompanies my test-taking students: an addition to the expected noises of pencil-scratching and paper-turning which inspired me to bring my office Kleenex box into the classroom for them.

And this is life, the planned and the unplanned falling together, mounding up on this day and on that. Last Friday I was stung by a yellow jacket that crawled up my pant leg while I sat in a coffee shop, keeping an appointment with a student who never came. The unexpected can be painful, sometimes.

Other times, expectations are proved gloriously wrong,  as on the mornings when I leave the house feeling friendless, and find myself welcomed and loved at my destination. My Savior continues to save: where I have no right to expect anything but enmity and death He gives me a love that has nothing to do with my worthiness, life everlasting.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday: Hold

I’ve made several false starts today, trying to write on the Five Minute Friday prompt. Each ended with a few sentences on the page and me staring off into space. But while I fail to write, I am held, oh, so tenderly.

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And so tonight I’m sharing this, a journal entry from an odd five minutes a week ago, about the One who holds me:

God never grows weary of being God.He never has to try to be enough, never has to work hard to notice each need, answer each question. He overlooks no one, forgets nothing, never fails.

He speaks no careless words, asks no thoughtless questions, makes no false steps.

His shoulders never ache under the weight of our neediness. His arms never strain with carrying us. His feet are never tired from going before us and following behind us and walking beside us.

He never runs out of love, never runs short of patience, never grows deaf or bleary-eyed.

He has no fear concealed behind His confidence. He has no uncertainty concealed behind His assurances. He has no doubt concealed behind His promises, no dislike behind His kindness.

I rest, because He never requires rest, and keep on loving only because He keeps on loving me.

And there’s a hymn I dearly love, which says in part:
He holds me that I shall not fall,
And so to Him I leave it all.

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Linking up with Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday gang again today. The button above will take you to her page.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): Ready

Summer melted away overnight and in Mississippi we’re having a day which more properly belongs in New England. Did it escape from its proper pile in the grand dealing of days, slip south to surprise us?

Did the day escape from here, for instance?

Did the day escape from here, for instance?

If I’m ever ready for anything at all, I am ready for fall, each year eager to see its arrival, senses poised to detect the first coolness in the breeze, the first yellowing of a leaf. Suddenly, it seems right to be reading the old literature which I’ve struggled to read and teach for the past two weeks: misty grey days belong to Shakespeare as bright sweaty days do not.

Ready or not, change comes with each new morning. For most things in life I never feel quite prepared: I want to anticipate each potentiality, pack ever item I could need in even the most improbable circumstance, prepare a scripted answer for every question.

We’re supposed to be always ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us, and I never feel adequate for the task. But I am always able to say that He who has called me is faithful. That He who has called me is adequate. That, after all, it does not depend on my willing or on my running (or on my ability to answer well and rationally) but on God who has mercy.

He promises to supply every need of mine according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. So while I may feel all unready, I trust Him to supply the readiness, as well.

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Joining Kate Motaung and friends a day late, writing on her prompt, ready. Read more using the button above.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

September. Eleventh.

I was fourteen years old, belly-down with an Algebra book on the brown carpet of my little white bedroom with its window that opened onto the back porch, but I didn’t finish the Algebra lesson that day, or do any other school work.

Mississippi College, 2014

Mississippi College, 2014

Living within the barbed-wire-topped fences of a military installation, I felt at once more safe and more vulnerable than I might have felt somewhere else. Guards with guns all around, but in a war, aren’t military installations targets?

On the radio, news of the unthinkable, and later, at our neighbor’s house where there was a TV — we didn’t have one — the images played, over and over. So that now, I have to make a conscious effort to see them, to remember that these are people, that this happened, that it was terrifyingly real.

My freshmen were five years old then, so they probably don’t remember the times before it: how we walked all the way to the arrival gate to pick up my cousins at the airport and no one scanned us or checked our IDs or even really paid attention to us; how our military wasn’t involved in perpetually futile attempts to squelch terrorism all over the world; how there was nothing specific that we were supposed to remember on September eleventh.

Today, our campus is adorned with flags, they had a special bell-ringing at 9:11 this morning, and I read this poem to my class, because it’s a good poem, and because today is today.

That year, the girl we sponsored in Uganda wrote a letter expressing her condolences for our troubles in America, her sorrow over it, the fact that she prayed for us. From Uganda, where children are taken and pressed in armies, trained to kill one another with machetes, where war and disease are not tidily kept in news reports and hospital rooms, she extended sympathy to us.

I think of the hand of a Sudanese man, covering an ugly painting in an art history book, so that I wouldn’t have to look at it. And I marvel at this grace.

We observe today as a day when the world changed, when American life became more dangerous. A marker between how it was and how it is. But how is it? Still comfortable, still safe and prosperous, still free and at ease in our borders. They scan us at the airports, check IDs, keep non-passengers away from the gates: but still we fly, with minimal anxiety, and reach nearly all our destinations in perfect safety.

And so, thirteen years older, sitting up in bed in a pale blue room with its window that opens onto the front porch, with all the day’s school work complete, I wonder, I remember, and I rejoice.

 

©2014 by Stacy Nott

day-making

Jonathan Edwards, Beowulf, excerpts from Washington Irving to illustrate descriptive writing to my freshman writing class. Clumsy attempts at poetry analysis, an enthusiastic rendition of the dragon in a dramatization of battles from Beowulf, group workshopping conversation about potential essay topics. 

Vincent Van Gogh, Cypresses, 1889 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Vincent Van Gogh, Cypresses, 1889
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

My teaching days are full of surprising transitions and juxtapositions: face beside face, voice beside voice, my head a jumble of ideas-to-be-shared, and the preparatory notes I scribble for myself always insufficient to prevent my wandering off the charted course. (I wander away from the podium as often as not, drift away into ad-libbing on this idea and that idea, launched from last-year’s marginalia in the anthology or from a student’s unexpected comment.

They indulge me in my efforts to draw us all back to the plan, and I wonder how much they realize we’ve deviated, how much of the day’s work I left to chance in the first place, trusting to these inspirations to fill in the outlines I’d sketched in mechanical pencil. 

And, truly, no matter how much detail I add to the plan, it is only ever an outline without the students. They come with their various colors and bring my outlines to life: not always so neatly or thoroughly as I’ve imagined, but with a zest that my imagined colors lack.

I relish it, the flavor of life lived with people, in the classroom and out of it. You, reading this, bring a color I cannot provide, and when we meet face to face, we create lights and shadows that each of us unaided could never produce.

Sometimes, I resent the changes, the days colored in vigorous strokes from your brushes thick with paint, where I had imagined pale washes of color through which the texture of the page would show rough and bright. But the truth is, even the days I spend alone never look as I imagine: the paints run into one another, the outlines get blurred and texture mushy; I end frustrated and weary of my never-fulfilled expectations.

These days we create together? These are masterpieces, and I end grateful for a God whose plans cannot be derailed by any stray word of mine, who is never surprised by the colors that appear on His page, whose mercies are new and sufficient for each new day.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Notes from an English Classroom: a HASH post

Bible Image Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of John L. Feldman, in memory of his father Alvin Lindberg Feldman, 1997

Bible
Image Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of John L. Feldman, in memory of his father Alvin Lindberg Feldman, 1997

When, after a month of brainstorming and writing, there still seems to be no way forward with the post I planned for you, I resort to things I’ve already practiced expressing. These are the things I tell my students on the first day of a new semester: some of the reasons why I’m an English teacher rather than something else, and why I think being an English teacher is important. The first day of my new semester happened a week ago, and I had the privilege of sharing these things with three separate groups of students.

First, the word “presupposition.” I start here, because the next things I share with them — including the course syllabus, which I won’t share with you — are presuppositions of mine, and also because I will eventually want to talk about authors’ presuppositions, so it’s helpful to have already defined the term. I ask the students to define it, but they usually don’t, so I break it down for them, into “pre” and “suppose,” and arrive at an idea of a presupposition being something assumed or believed before other things: an idea that is foundational or first. Then I write two presuppositions on the white board:

To read the presuppositions, and my explanation of them, click here to go to the original posting on the HASH blog.

©2014 by Stacy Nott