Five Minute Friday: Finish

Sometimes the Five Minute Friday prompt bears a serendipitous relationship to my own particular Friday. (Other times, it is so incongruous as to be utterly unwritable–though I suppose, if I wanted, I could make a writing on the incongruity, too.)

air plant

But today: finish. And at 10:30 a.m. I am finished with a month of course work–12 credit hours–which should earn me a TESOL certification for I’m-not-sure-what-yet. It has filled my July, which month in the past has stretched languorously out, taunting me with long, hot, purposeless days. This month, I was not purposeless.

I can’t see what it’s changed for me, yet; don’t know how the ability to define morphemes and talk about listening strategies applies to my life, in which, after all, I’ll still be teaching the same subjects I’ve been teaching.

But this I know: I serve a God in whose providence nothing is wasted; nothing is lost. And though I cannot see the shape He has designed for me, I am certain that He sees it, and that it grows clearer with each passing day.

Our goal is forward, onward; we cannot cling to the things we leave behind. Yet we can look back, and see the things that baffled us emerging into clarity.

Be encouraged: these mysteries, this now, shall also be one day clear.

Thanks, Lisa-Jo!

Joining Lisa-Jo and friends to write on the Five Minute Friday prompt: finish. Use the button above to read more and join in the fun.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

 

only everything

I often see people quoting Abraham Kuyper: “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’”

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And I know it is true. He claims only everything. Everything.

But sometimes it comes home to me in concrete ways, rather than in the abstractions which we generally surrender to God.

Yesterday, in an Applied Linguistics course, we discussed the parts of the brain where language is located — front and back of the left hemisphere, if you want to know — and talked about different kinds of aphasia, which is language impairment due to brain damage.

Strokes are the most common causes of aphasia, and it just so happens that my blood disorder puts me into a higher-risk bracket for strokes. (I don’t live, in case you wonder, in perpetual fear of strokes — it isn’t a very high risk right now, anyway — but I recognize the increased possibility.)

I already knew that strokes could impair language, but I hadn’t absorbed it until yesterday. Yesterday, it gave me pause.

Because, in all my assessment of what I have and what I lack, of what I may gain and what I may lose, I’ve always allotted language to myself as a perpetual possession. I’m a words-person, and, if I don’t talk a lot, I do like to be able to speak clearly and be understood.

In my imagination I’ve seen myself husbandless and childless for life, and I have said “Christ will be sufficient, if He requires that of me.”

I’ve tried on the what-ifs of losing my sight or my independent mobility, and I have asserted “Christ will give me strength for even that.”

He has required of me my right to healthy blood, and required of me numerous plans and dreams held more or less dear, and I have struggled and surrendered to His sovereignty: “This too, this also, must be good, Lord.”

But my language?

He has not taken it. He may never take it. But He has asked me to be content, to rejoice even, if one day He is the only Word I possess.

Can I, having Christ, relinquish all the world and all the words besides? Shall I joyfully accept the plundering of my linguistic property, since I know that I have a better possession and an abiding one?

We’re called to die before we die; to die, with Christ, to flesh, to the world, to sin; to live with eyes fixed on heaven. “You have died,” He says, “and your life [your language, your everything] is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

This is not the land of glory. Our language is broken and too small. We use it poorly, only express half the things we wish, fumble for words, fall silent when we ought to speak. In Emmanuel’s land, where glory dwelleth, all will be restored in the image of that Word whom we shall see face to face.

Until that day, He’s teaching me to hold only everything, even my language, on open palms, looking to that better possession, rejoicing in Christ, the Word who is my enough.

 

©2014 by Stacy Nott

 

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): Belong

The sidewalks with the mockingbirds chortling on power wires over head, the deep magenta crepe myrtles drooping on rain-heavy stems, sunshine drying up the rain puddles except in the deepest sidewalk cracks, and me walking like I know where I’m going — because I do — so that people recognize it and ask directions of me. I like having people ask directions.

I used to have a seat on a short flight of brick steps beside a planter where there were sometimes pansies, sometimes petunias, sometimes banana trees. Passing people recognized it, said they’d have to put a plaque there when I was gone. Other people sit there now, I’m sure, though I’m not there to see them.

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The path around the pond, with the trees leaning in overhead, the dirt riddled with armadillo excavations, and me waving a stick up and down ahead of me to catch the spiders’ webs before they catch me, deep shade and then deeper sunshine across the field, where insects hang in the air and the only things in motion are buzzards riding updrafts high overhead.

The left-side cushion of the “little couch,” dead center on the piano bench, that corner table in the coffee-shop, the bar-stool beside the wall in our kitchen, the front of a classroom, back to the board, facing the students.

And in the center, sometimes, of this group or that, people with whom I laugh, people whom I love: times when I can forget who I am, whom I’m supposed to be, and just exist for the joy of it, belonging.

Father, thank You.

 

Thanks, Lisa-Jo!

Joining Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday today, expect today it is being hosted by Crystal Stine. Click on the image above to go there.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Defining Freedom: A HASH post

Freedom

July in America. A month for fireworks and tri-colored banners, parades and speeches and historical celebrations. Why? July Fourth: Independence Day. This quintessentially American holiday in which we celebrate our Revolution, when we cast off British Rule and declared “that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.” Free and Independent. The meaning of this declaration has been hotly debated in the 238 years since it was signed. America exists, but what does it mean when we call it, as Francis Scott Key did, “the land of the free”? What, quite apart from the United States, is freedom?

Last month, at Wheaton College, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries held a Summer Institute (hereafter RZIMSI), a week-long apologetics conference revolving around the theme “Freedom: Dream or Delusion?” They sought to describe what true freedom—in Christian terms—is and how it is achieved, in contrast to definitions from other world-views. I had the privilege of attending that conference, and now it is my privilege to share some of what I learned with you.

I start where no one of the conference speakers started—or ended, for that matter—with Disney’s The Little Mermaid. This classic tale of how teenage rebellion is a sure way to reach happily-ever-after features a main character yearning for freedom. Not only does Ariel, the title mermaid, want to be free of her controlling father’s unreasonable—to her—rules, but she also, more desperately, wants to be free of all the constraints of life under the sea.

The problem for a mermaid who wants to be a land dweller is that, even if she manages to get out of the ocean, she has fins, not legs. She will be a literal fish out of water, not free to enjoy land life because unsuited for it.

Freedom is not simply a matter of shaking off fetters. Useful freedom not only unchains; it must also enable. The mermaid who wants to be free from water needs legs to make her free to walk.

I share this as an illustration of the fact that there are two kinds of freedom: negative freedom and positive freedom. “Negative freedom . . . is freedom FROM. . . . . Positive freedom is freedom FOR.” The American Revolution was fought to obtain freedom from British rule, and freedom for the purpose of having self-rule and pursuing the unalienable rights of created-equal men without interference from across the pond.

Popular conceptions of freedom tend to assume that lack of restraint and ability to choose, usually among many options, are the sum total of what it means to be free. However, the conference team asserted and reasserted that true freedom lies not simply in the ability to choose, but in the ability to choose well. A glance around our culture shows that the ability to choose often leads to the opposite of freedom; addictions proliferate, vices thrive, and the prisons and rehab centers are in no danger of closing. People are free to choose, and we watch our freedoms—and theirs—constricting with each poor choice.

How, then, can we enable good choices? We have a proliferation of laws to this end, but fear of punishment seemingly does little to control behavior. Something more, something other, is necessary. Given the chance at a good life, we seem intent on wasting it. What is our problem?

To read more about our problem — and a solution — click here to go over to The HASH Blog, where this article is posted in full.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): Exhale

July, and the long days lie in variegated sun and shade. The frenzy to grow has given way to an easy abundance: more leaf than blossom, fruits coming to a slow ripeness, crickets and frogs at a steady pulse in the evenings. Inhale.

photo by J.C.

photo by iamjake06

We ate fried chicken, threw water balloons and frisbees, watched a child delight in bubbles, celebrated the Christ Who makes us free.

We ended the day with weary bones and sweaty skins and souls made glad.

He gives to His beloved sleep.

Exhale.

He is good.

Thanks, Lisa-Jo!

 

Join in with Lisa-Jo, or read more posts on her prompt “exhale,” using the button above.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

know to death

“You can know a thing to death, ” John Ames remarks, in Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead, “and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it.”

And I wonder how many things I’ve been knowing to death, without approaching understanding. All the mysteries which I accept and believe and even live, without their being any less mysterious.

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Because don’t we do most of our living without understanding? One step, and another step, and maybe a scientific explanation of how the signals to step travel along our nerves from our brain, how the muscles contract, how we push against gravity and progress along a line — but do we understand any more than when we were babies balancing on rounded feet and careening headlong to waiting hands?

I know that I am a person, and you are a person, that we live the lives of people, enter into relationship with one another. I know that communication happens when eye meets eye and when voice meets ear. But I do not understand what it is to be people, what it is to communicate. I do not understand how souls can be seen and heard, how minds are not confined to the physicality of gray matter within a skull, how something of me, a soul-and-body-creature, can be shared with you in typed words on a screen far away from me.

I’m back with the mysteries again.

“And [mysteries] frighten us, we who carry encyclopedias in our pockets, who substitute for the mystery of friendship the collection of facts gleaned from a facebook profile. Come and sit across the table from me: I am more than the sum of my facts, more than the ratios of my face, the uneven coloring on my lashes, more than my profession and my hobbies and the eight states I’ve called home. I live a mystery, and you live a mystery, and this is grace.

“Ignore it at your peril. You may hide in your encyclopedias, your profiles and ratios and study guides, but the world is larger than that, and truth comes with the sudden surprise of miracle, breaking the rules of the world, slicing your careful answers as with a sharp sword: the crucified man-God disappeared from the tomb but left His graveclothes behind Him, the man born blind had the blindness scrubbed from his eyes with warm mud, Legion left the demoniac and drove a whole herd of pigs to drown in a lake, stone hearts find the fossilization falling from them and send warm life surging through cold limbs.”

Know it to death, yes, but know it to life as well. Know “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

I do not understand that glory, but I know it is real, through the Christ who guarantees it and makes me complete. In that assurance I step, and I step, out of balance on baby feet, but careening toward Hands which will not let me go.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

June: learnings

Today I intended to join Emily P. Freeman and friends to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned in June, except I neglected to read the post she wrote, saying she was taking a break from blogging, and would skip the “What I Learned in June” post. So there’s no link-up, but I’d already made my list, and thought I’d go ahead and share.

1. I learned I should check to make sure things are happening before showing up for them. (Even in the cyber world.)

2. During morning worship at RZIM’s Summer Institute, I learned this song, which I’ve been singing ever since. “Our Deliverer, You are Savior. / In your presence we find our strength!”

3. I learned that to a young man from a country with a shortage of women and a one-child policy, the Saudi Arabian permission to have up to four wives and dozens of children may sound very appealing indeed.

4. I learned that I thoroughly enjoy the movie Belle, both for its satisfying romance and social commentary. (And also for its general gorgeousness.)

5. I learned that the world of IT and programming, the question of design is no longer a question. Those involved in computer programming — writing code and such — recognize the necessity of a mind behind our intelligible universe. So the question for them is not “Is there a Designer?” but “Who might that designer be?”

6. I learned that C. S. Lewis and I probably share a Myers-Briggs personality type. (He never took the test, so it’s speculation there, and, as best I can remember, I’ve had two different results on two different testings.)

7. I learned that the Pitanga, Surinam Cherry, Brazilian Cherry, or Cayenne Cherry (Eugenia uniflora), which has been growing, unnoticed by me, beside the barn at my grandparents’ house for, oh, only longer than I’ve been alive, is a thing of beauty:Eugenia uniflora

8. I learned — relearned, learned more about — the beauty of the body of Christ, in which fellowship born out of this one unity can trump all the variables of race and region and socioeconomics, in which this fellowship can transform a table of strangers into family feast.

9. I learned that list-making can be refreshing in the midst of summer-school homework.

 

©2014 by Stacy Nott