Five. Hundred.

This is my five-hundredth posting on Between Blue Rocks. Because it is that, I’ve stalled and stalled about what to write, feeling like this one, half-way to a thousand, should be especially significant.

But that’s silly. Each word is weighty, always, however little we perceive it, but if we stall and stall until we find the perfect words, we miss the chance of saying anything at all.

And the chance of saying things: this is a gift.

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Yesterday I copied syllabi, and unit schedules, and homework assignments for three different courses, the pages piling and piling. The copier stopped because its hole-punch holder was full, and the office administrator printed a picture of a burning tree to hang beside the copier and remind us of the trees we destroyed.

I’ve been checking and rechecking my online class lists, watching as students added and dropped my courses, reading over the names, looking at the faces — a new feature this year — and eager to meet the people they represent. Tomorrow, I’ll get to do that, and I am glad.

Meanwhile, I wait, making final notes, thinking and rethinking my first words, wondering about classroom dynamics and the willingness of classes full of pre-nursing and business majors to actually read literature.

But there’s this: at eight tomorrow morning, the planning and rethinking will come face-to-face with forty students, and, while it is important to consider what I’m going to say to them, at that moment, it will be most important that I say something.

Because in order to finish a thing, we must first begin it. In order to teach a whole semester’s course, I must speak in that very first class. In order to have written one-thousand blog posts, it will be necessary to have first written five-hundred.

And, in order to share the gospel — a thing we are called to do — it will be necessary to say something, to make a beginning: even if that beginning is blundering, even if the only thing we can think to say is “Hello.”

Here’s to beginning, and to continuing.

 

 

©2014 by Stacy Nott

beloved

“The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD over many waters.

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The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD makes the deer to give birth
and strips the forest bare,
and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!'”
–Psalm 29:3-9

Behold your God, seated on his throne over the flood, king forever.

Tremble at this voice, for how could you not? But hear that voice again, differently:

“The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
–Zephaniah 3:17

Can you imagine it? This mighty and majestic God, singing for joy over his people? This God, who can overturn the world at word is the same God who feeds us like a shepherd, gathering us as lambs in his arms, carrying us, gently leading. This God, who sits enthroned above the flood awesome in splendor, is the same God who, spying the prodigal a long way off, leaps up and runs in welcome.

It’s a love story, of a love beyond telling: the Majestic Glory humbled himself to human form, to servanthood. For love He laid aside the dignity of deity, put on our vulnerable humanity, and sought us out.

You long to be known fully, and loved in spite of all. He knows you, and oh! he loves you.

Rejoice; infinitely beloved ones; the LORD sings his delight in you with a mighty voice.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

promised

“God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

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And he has promised so many things in which we can rest, but today, for me, it’s just this one:

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

He doesn’t say that we have to be fishing for men in order to follow him. He says this is something he will make us when we follow him.

HE will do it. So it doesn’t matter, so much, that I feel unqualified, terrified. That I’ve only ever fished for a few puny pond bass and an unfortunate snapping turtle.

I follow the One who makes me able to follow, who has all authority and power, and he will make of me what he has promised.

He has said, and he will do it.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday: Tell

How should I tell it? The early morning walk over dew-wet grass to the pond where I faced a multitude of small fish and broke two slices bread for them while a heron gave one startled squawk from the tree above my head.

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It was like someone had scrambled the pieces of a different story. I went soul-hungry to the water, and while I broke stale bread into fish-sized portions and the sun stirred wisps of mist off the water, He fed me.

He reminded me, as the fish looked up at me, that the eyes of all look to Him, and He gives them their food in due time. He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing.

He reminded me, while bullfrogs began a low chorus, that even as He feeds the birds and clothes the flowers, He knows all the things that I need.

Along the path where I wielded a stick against  the entanglements of spiders’ webs, I walked in His command: “Do not be anxious.”

I am small, and I am weak, but He is neither. And He tells me I am His.

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Joining Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday crew to write on today’s prompt: tell. Use the button above to join in or read more.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

 

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): Fill

Beheading children. Sawing them in two. Raping women. Killing men. Displaying heads on sticks in a park. Reports say that some parents, rather than see their children starve or fall into the wrong hands, have thrown their own children off cliffs.

Chew on that. Can you swallow it? Does it fill you?

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In our world, today, they’re marking doors for destruction.

A well-armed force of 30,000 ran from 800 men because they didn’t want to fight them, and in the wake of that flight: horror.

Do you want to run away, too, to close the window in which this post is open, to go think of things that are happy, bask in the fact that your children are in no such danger, that no one is marking your door?

Because we are full and safe and well, and such things seem like rumors of long-ago and they’re ugly, and we’re the ones who go to Pinterest to help us banish ugliness, and our children get to keep their heads.

We cannot fight, but we can call out to the One who has laid claim to vengeance, and we don’t know, exactly, what He’s doing, but we know that He hears.

Pray, please, for Iraq.

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Today I’m joining Kate Motaung, Five Minute Friday’s new host, and the same grand group of writers to write on her prompt: fill. The button above will take you to her site and the link-up. My apologies for the heavy fare today; but, sometimes, we need to be heavy-hearted, even at a blog party.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Is Your Sunday School Cool?: a HASH post

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In a supply closet at my church, I found bulletin board borders declaring “Sunday School is cool!” in crooked Gothic print. I shuddered. Because even children know that what is truly “cool” doesn’t need to announce it; nothing becomes cool by being designated “cool.” The truth is—slice it however you choose—Sunday School is not cool.

It may be profitable—though not always. It may be fun—though only sometimes. But there is no way that dressing up and going to church to learn Bible stories on Sunday mornings is cool. The cool kids get to stay home or go exciting places and do what they want. When we declare the coolness of Sunday School, our children will not believe that Sunday school is “cool,” but they will believe that “cool” is something they should want.

And they’ll also believe that church is about people trying to please them, and that church should give them age appropriate activities. Because, whatever we say about church, in the vast majority of churches, this is what we model. We shepherd children from one age-bubble into another, and then wonder why, as young adults, they don’t know how to integrate into the world of grown-up church.

Since we’ve taught our children that they should want “cool” and look for fun, peer-related activities, they’re eventually going to figure out that there are much cooler activities elsewhere. They live in a culture that screams messages contrary to the church-isms they’ve heard all their lives, and the screaming is usually louder than the beat of the drums in even the most up-to-date church service.

It’s a familiar scenario: young people raised in the church leave home and leave their faith behind with their childhood playthings.

A 2012 Canadian study called “Hemorrhaging Faith” examines this issue—young people are leaving at a rate of two-thirds overall in Canadian churches— and pinpoints four factors which influence whether young people leave the faith.

Posting on the HASH blog today. Click here to head over to HASH to read about those four factors, and my thoughts on them.

execute justice

“In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness'” (Jeremiah 33:15, 16).

They thought it meant a king on a throne, this promised Branch for David, handing out judgments, punishing evildoers in the execution of justice and modeling and encouraging a righteousness of which prosperity would be the reward. They imagined pomp and glory: their oppressors turned out of the palaces, the invaders fleeing pell-mell, chariot wheels flying, tents discarded. Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands, and how many more will this promised one slay?

They thought, perhaps, that righteousness would be easier then, when their fortunes were restored, when their captivity was ended, when Jerusalem was made “a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth” (Jer. 33:9).

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But the justice was executed against the righteous Branch, and it did not look like glory and joy. He healed our diseases, wore our dirt, ate of our food and breathed our air, yet so far were we from righteous that we helped him to his death: he sat on no earthly throne, but hung, gasping, on a cross: justice and righteousness.

“The LORD is our righteousness” is no figurative name, as we might have thought, signifying that we behave righteously because we belong to the LORD, but proclaims a literal fact. Our righteousness, the only righteousness we have, is not our righteousness at all; we did not, could not produce it. It is his, and he gives it to us. Our salvation rests on this rather than anything we can do.

And, lest this offends us, lest we want to be free of it, lest we think we can, by our own efforts, cease to require his righteousness, or by our own failings lose his promised salvation, he seals it with his long-demonstrated faithfulness:

“Thus says that LORD, ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne . . . ‘” (Jeremiah 33:20, 21).

Go ahead, he seems to say, just try to stop the inevitable turning of day and night, just try to break their cycle. You may break yourself, but you shall not change these which in the beginning I named “Day” and “Night.” Even so, nothing you can do can stop my keeping the promise of salvation which I made. 

With as much certainty as morning changes to noon, noon to evening, evening to midnight — with such certainty God will send his salvation to his people, and we will be saved.

The day that justice was executed upon the righteous Branch, God darkened the sun, making night of day for a brief space. But though he died, he lives again.

Against God’s “Let there be light,” there is no argument. He is throned now, forever, at God’s right hand, in all the authority of salvation completed. And when he returns, when all things are made new, night itself shall be no more.

 

©2014 by Stacy Nott