Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): rise

rise

I played piano for a funeral this morning. Funerals make me think.

One day, if the Lord doesn’t come back first, this body is going to stop, whether by external or internal means. These fingertips won’t be able to feel the raised spot where a scrape is healing on the back of my hand; these eyes will stop seeing the sunlight, the lamplight, or my own blue veins. It will all stop.

But I also know this: after I’ve stopped it won’t be the end; I shall be raised incorruptible.

Resurrection. The apostle Paul knew and insisted that everything hinges on this. If the dead aren’t raised, we are pitiable indeed, for then Christ himself could not have been raised, and our hope is merely to join a dead man in being dead.

But the dead are raised. Christ rose. I shall rise.

It turns reality inside-out to think about it. All the best and most precious things of now are just shadows of the yet-to-be; and, while we live and work and invest here, it’s all for eternity, and that’s where we should set our hearts.

I don’t know quite how to balance it all. How to be here, but for there. How to be now, but for then. How to die daily, for the resurrection.

But I know that this is why we can sing triumphant hymns at funerals. And in that I rejoice.

rise1-600x503

It took me more than five minutes. But I did use Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday prompt: rise. The button above will take you to her site.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

meet

Ever since Friday, when I didn’t write on Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday  prompt, meet. P1050965 Archaically, meet was used as an adjective meaning fitting, suitable, or proper. (Thus, in the King James Version of the Bible, God says He will make Adam “an help meet for him.” Eve was appropriate, fitting, suitable to help Adam.)

This spring, the ground is perforated with little round holes, and ground and  trees are littered with little brown shells as the thirteen-year cicada nymphs emerge from their long sojourn underground, split out of their skins, and look with red eyes upon the outer world.

Each day, their chorus is a little louder as they crowd, invisible, in the trees and combine their voices into this one summer song — a song their children will not sing until I am in my 40s.

To me, there is a sense of meetness about this: it is fitting and appropriate and suitable that cicadas should raise their song in these trees, this year.

They remind me that the God who draws them from thirteen years of blind burrowing in the earth to become winged creatures of song in the sunlit world is the God who makes everything beautiful in its time.

Everything. Beautiful. In its time.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

April: learnings 2015

Three days into May, and I finally find myself at leisure to reflect back over April. I feel like there was a lot of learning in April, but it’s hard to itemize it, somehow, and I didn’t do a good job keeping track.

P1050939

1. I learned about April showers. The showers of April 2015 which kept the pond full and the rivers at flood levels for most of the month.

2. I learned about the earthquake that hit Nepal: its size, its impact, what my Nepali student thinks of it, how his family is safe.

3. I learned more about riots and racism, and found myself with more questions than answers.

4. I learned that Jonathan Crombie, the actor who starred as Gilbert Blythe opposite Megan Follow’s Anne Shirley, passed away. And I realized how glad I am that, though L. M. Montgomery wrote the Anne series until all of Anne’s children were grown up, she did not force us to see Anne or Gilbert or Diana die.

5. I learned more about Indian food, specifically, Samosa Chaat and Papri Chaat.

6. I learned about where toads spend the heat of the day:

See him?

See him?

7. I learned about the Muslim doctrine of Tawhid — the oneness of God, which they set in contrast to the Christian Trinity.

8. I learned a bit more about the theory of relativity by watching Interstellar.

what-we-learned-april-2015

And I learned lots of other things. But right now, these are enough. April was lovely. God is good.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

sorrows. and words.

A social media share led me to this list of “23 Perfect Words for Emotions You Never Realized Anyone Else Felt”. Gathered from John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrowsthe invented words are designed to “fill holes in the language,” naming feelings for which, previously, there has been no name.

P1050862

“Monachopsis” describes “the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place,” while other words name things like “a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head” (jouska), “frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone” (adronitis), or “the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it rapidly fading from your awareness” (rückkehrunruhe).

The concept intrigued me, but as I browsed the words, I also questioned them. In its title, the list suggests connection — as though it could open the way for those “aha!” moments of “You feel that way, too!” But practically, it seems divisive.

If I want to describe what it feels like to look someone in the eye, will more people understand if I say I experienced “opia”? Or are they more likely to understand if I say “There was an ambiguous intensity in the look: I felt all the invasiveness of looking at someone else’s soul, with all the vulnerability of having someone see mine”? (I would NEVER write that, ordinarily, but it is an adaptation of the definition of “opia.”)

Perhaps a stopping-the-holes approach to language is the wrong approach. Perhaps the “holes” in language are where the light gets through. If we put a word to every feeling, don’t we risk ignoring what the feelings actually are? Don’t we risk losing some understanding of ourselves?

The struggle to describe our experiences in the language we already have is a struggle, it is true. We risk misunderstanding and being misunderstood. But I find, as I wrestle with language, that there’s also this tremendous risk of understanding and being understood.

I could coin words for each new experience, giving them private definitions, so that language becomes a code for the initiate. But the best writers make extraordinary things of the ordinary materials of communication. Using common words to share what might be an uncommon observation and which yet makes his audience all sigh and nod: Ah, that is a thing I’ve always known but never known how to say.

Because our sorrows are not obscure. We’ve been feeling all the feelings for as long as there have been people on earth to feel, and the Preacher preached truth when he said there was “nothing new under the sun.”

P1050863

The wistfulness of old bookshops and the frustration of photographing things lots of people have photographed don’t need special names; they don’t even need the name “sorrows.” In some ways, I think, naming such things sorrows is a way to keep from looking at the real sorrows we experience, the obvious things which we can neither properly mourn nor mend.

Do we coin words for the sorrow of an earthquake which kills thousands?

The feeling of being on one side of the globe and knowing your parents’ house on the other side of the globe is a pile of rubble, your parents are missing?

The sorrow of knowing that more than 200 women and girls were rescued from terrorist camps in Nigeria, but these still are not the Chibok girls whose kidnapping swept social media last year?

The grief of hundreds of people drowning, locked in the hold of a capsized boat in the Mediterranean, trying to get to a better life?

The horror that people alive in the world today take delight in beheadings, burnings, rape, in the name of their god?

The terror of disease?

The ache of hunger?

The feeling of being truly homeless and friendless?

These are the marks of a sin-ravaged world. They slice deep, leaving wounds we cannot stitch shut, cannot soothe with neatly-coined words. They go deeper than any word we could create has power to touch.

There is only one Word who can carry all our sorrows, only one Word who can soothe, cover, heal. We can’t trace His etymology through the roots of language: He was in the beginning with God. He was God. Through Him all things were made and without Him nothing was made.

In answer to our sorrows — obvious and obscure alike — this Word became flesh and dwelt among us. His flesh was wounded with the wounds of our sin; His sweat and blood spilled on our guilty soil; His precious breaths spent to ask forgiveness for those who hung Him on a cross.

And if the Word ended there, He would just be another entry in the dictionary of sorrows: the only truly innocent One, slaughtered like all these less-innocent.

But that isn’t the end. The Word died, yes, but the Word rose from the dead. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. Those who trust in Him need not dwell in the darkness of obscure sorrows: this light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Receive this Word. Believe in His name. Accept from Him the right to become children of God, born not of blood nor flesh nor man, but of God.

In place of obscure sorrows: everlasting joy.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday: hide

hide

The sky is patched with clouds today, and my lunchtime walk was fragrant with honeysuckle, clover, roses.

I’ve met with 23 students today, one by one, and I sit and wonder who they’ve seen in their meetings with me, how little of them I know. They’re startled when occasionally I step outside of my teacher-ness, move toward friendship, but it makes sense to me.

These skins which we wear, the recognizable parts of us — they can also be called “hides.” And though peeling off my skin to show the sinews and bones of me would not reveal more me-ness, there’s a lot of me-ness hidden behind this hide.

Often, I want to hide. There are times when I wish even my skin-bound self were invisible. Other times, though, I desperately want to come out of hiding, to be known and recognized as the self with whom I’ve lived almost three decades, instead of the slices of me which various people get to see.

And our God? He answers both longings. Holding out gracious wings, He invites us to shelter with Him, tells us our lives are hidden in Him. But He also tells us that He knows us, through and through, inside out; that nothing of us is hidden from His sight, that nothing can hide us from Him.

hide-600x600

Today I link up with Kate Motaung to write on her Five Minute Friday prompt, “hide.” The button above will take you to her site.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday: tomorrow

tomorrow
I’ve spent my life equal parts dreading tomorrow and living for tomorrow. Both are unhealthy.

The fear which would defer all change, which shrinks from what will come, does not belong to the one whose Savior has assured her of the victory.

So too is it unhealthy to ignore today in the hope that tomorrow will be better. The future is no panacea for all hurts, and I am not assured the things I have at times confidently expected: life events coming in appropriate, timely order to land me where I want to be.

No. Earthly tomorrows may be quite unlike what we expect, whether we expect good or ill. But there are things of which we are sure.

1. There will be an end of earthly tomorrows.

2. There is something beyond earthly tomorrows.

3. If we are in Christ, He who has called us is faithful, and He will keep us through all our todays and all our tomorrows — and beyond them.

tomorrow-600x600

Today Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “tomorrow.” Use the button above to find other writers writing on this topic, and to join your voice to theirs.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday: relief

relief

The door opens and I turn to see who it is: a man who mumbles an apology: “Hey, sorry about the noise.”

Only three students were in attendance when my eight o’clock class was to begin — they increased to ten before the end.

My ten o’clock was full, but the students were rain-drenched, having run through a downpour to reach me in that dry library corner.

Days like today, when my alarm was not quite enough to force me awake in the early darkness, the routine itself is a relief: tasks and the clock in alignment, so that I need only obey, not initiate.

Even teaching is a form of obedience: this is my job and I do it, sandwiched in a hierarchy, so that I feel safely between this and that.

This is the relief of Isaiah 30, the grace of the Teacher who promises we shall weep no more:
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

relief-600x503

Today I join Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday writers to write on her prompt, relief. The button above will take you to her site.

©2015 by Stacy Nott