August: learnings

Joining Emily P. Freeman again to share things I’ve learned in August. If you’d like to read what she and others have learned in August, or share your own list, click on this button to go over to the link-up on her blog, Chatting at the Sky:

What-we-learned-in-August1. I learned about a level of strategy I never imagined in baseball — not that I’ve spent much time imagining about baseball — from this segment of NPR’s Fresh Air, interviewing record-winning pitcher Jamie Moyer. Did you know that body language and psychological strategies come into play on the baseball diamond? It made me want to go watch a game — huh? — so I could watch for this stuff.

2. I learned a little bit about how oil wells work, curtesy of my oil-field-working engineer brother. The names of things — derrick, block, gun — didn’t stick too well, but I could sketch some processes for you. And I gained a new appreciation for what people have figured out how to do: I mean, I would never, NEVER have figured out how to dig down multiple thousands of feet, get machines down there, and get the stuff I wanted out of the ground without ever going into the ground myself.

3. I learned that according to some estimates, there are as many as 25,000 converts to Christianity in China per day. Praise the Lord!

4. I learned that, on any ordinary Tuesday afternoon, a mid-sized raccoon may be digging up a yellow-jackets’ nest in the woods, and you may startle it on your afternoon walk, and find out what the interior of a yellow-jackets’ nest looks like when pulled out in the open. I shouldn’t have been surprised that these ground-dwellers are as orderly and amazing as the bees, wasps, and hornets which build above ground, but I was.
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5. I learned from — and was convicted by — this article by black evangelical pastor Brian Loritts, in response to the racial situation in Ferguson, Missouri this month: “We will never experience true Christian unity when one ethnicity demands of another that we keep silent about our pain and travails. The way forward is not an appeal to the facts as a first resort, but the attempt to get inside each others skin as best as we can to feel what they feel, and understand it. Tragedies like Ferguson are like MRIs that reveal the hurt that still lingers. The chasm that exists between ethnicities can only be traversed if we move past facts and get into feelings.”  Start that journey over the chasm by reading his article, and the others in the series.

6. I found — didn’t learn — this, what my daddy used to do when I was a little girl. So cool. (Also fun was watching it with him, feeling him get tense beside me: twenty years later it still makes him excited!)

7. I learned some of this semester’s students’ names and faces, and found some of other semesters’ students in this semester’s classes. I’m learning which ones prefer to be called by middle names, or by last names, or by nicknames.

8. I learned that the books from which I’m teaching this semester — including two hefty anthologies — plus various other teaching supplies make for a ponderous book bag.

9. I learned a good bit about ISIS — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [or the Levant] — this month: the things they’ve been doing — beheadings, and car bombs, and persecution of minorities — the things they want to do — establish a caliphate. They aren’t pleasant things to learn, but they are necessary.

10. I learned that when the power is off on a summer’s Sunday morning, my church meets in the fellowship hall, which has big windows and multiple doors for ventilation.

11. I learned that I like the espresso granitas served by my favorite local coffee shop, just in time, of course, for them to stop running their month-long $2 granita special. But they may make my list of occasional indulgences hereafter . . . .

12. I learned again that a larger-than-usual expenditure of enthusiasm on the first day of classes goes a long way in making students expect to enjoy even English courses. (But it is also a little bit exhausting for this introvert.)

13. And I learned again that wearing high heels all day makes my feet hurt. (So, while I like the extra importance and height they give me when I meet my students, I probably won’t be using them often this semester.)

The list could go on and on, but I’ll stop here, grateful again for grace which allows me to keep on learning things.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): Reach

There’s a story about Abraham Lincoln that says when he was asked how long a man’s legs should be — by people intending insult to his unusual lengthiness in that department — he answered that they ought to be long enough to reach the ground.

 

I’ve always been entertained by the image this conjures, of a short-legged someone suspended frustratedly a few inches above the ground, unable to walk, or stomp, or plant his feet for balance.

Of course the joke is that the ground is the one thing we can be sure of reaching, however short or long of limb we are. We’re stuck on the ground, stretching up to this thing or that, straining on tiptoe sometimes, grazing things with our finger-tips.

In the world of ideas, though, might it be true? Might we call presuppositions the idealogical “legs” on which people support themselves? For ideas to work well, for people to be able to walk, and stomp, and balance themselves, their presuppositions must reach the ground: Jesus Christ the truth, in whom all things consist.

Yet we see a world full of people whose presuppositions reach other “grounds,” which are no grounds at all. Who, for practical purposes are suspended in air; whose ideas ultimately don’t work.

The Bible promises that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Eventually, even in the world of ideas, this ground is the one thing we can be sure that all will reach, with legs or without them.

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Joining Kate Motaung and friends for Five Minute Friday, writing on her prompt: reach. Click the button above to read more about it!

©2014 by Stacy Nott

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