Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): pass

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I looked it up on the computer dictionary: pass. Not because I don’t know what it means, but because it means so many things. All the definitions share this in common: they involve some sort of motion, from point A to point B or beyond.

I could take it a million different ways, but today overcast, and we’re caught up in a million different here-and-now concerns — baby registries and house-hunting and final exams, to name a few — and here’s where I am:
“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

The world is passing away along with its desires. All these things that seem so urgent, the wants of right now . . . passing away. These are for now, but they aren’t for always. In light of today, we have to do and decide for now, but in light of eternity, the color of baby’s bedding, or the numbers of windows on our house, or a graduate GPA will matter not at all.

Last night we joined in David Platt’s Secret Church via simulcast. As he discussed world religions, I remembered an honor’s seminar on world religions from my college days. Particularly, I remembered an essay in which I meditated on Buddhist ideas of impermanence and suffering. Buddhist ideology identifies desire as the root of suffering, and further suggests that desire hurts us because nothing is permanent: we can’t keep the things we want to keep.

So far as it goes, it’s true. The world is passing away along with its desires.

But the Buddha said that cessation of desire was the path to end suffering, while, as Platt pointed out last night, Christianity promises satisfaction of desires — not in this world, but out-of-this-world satisfaction. This world is passing away, along with its desires, but fix your heart and your longings elsewhere.

He makes known to us the path of life. In His presence is fullness of joy. At His right hand are pleasures forever. Pleasures that do not pass away. They abide forever.

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Linking up with Kate Motaung to write on her prompt, pass. The “pass” button above will take you to her site.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday: unite

My husband and I pray to have united hearts on God’s leading for us. I’m committed to follow where my man goes, but he wants me to want to go, as well.

Talking about it with him last night, I finally put words to it: I’m afraid to ask for that wanting-to, because I know that God can give it to me. And some part of me doesn’t want to want to. It’s scary.

“Unite my heart to fear thy name,” the Psalmist prays (Psalm 86:11).

All outside ourselves are divisions: within families, churches, communities, nations. We pray for unity on so many levels, pursue it in so many ways.

But fissures aren’t simply an external problem. Sin runs as a fault line through our very hearts: flesh warring against Spirit, the old man against the new creation.

The new creation wins.

Which is why we can pray “I believe; help thou my unbelief,” and we know that He will help. Which is why I can ask Him to unite my heart, and I know that He will do it. Even to ask so much as that is only possible because Christ already has the victory.

He who can heal the fault in my heart can heal all the external fissures, as well. I look forward to the day when He will have done it, finally and forever.

unite

Linking up with Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday writers to write on her prompt, unite. The button above will take you her site.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday: easy

All night long it was the sound of the rain from the eaves, and still this morning it falls, steady and deliberate, on the million leaves that have supplanted the pollen of two weeks ago, on the birds feeding out back, onto puddles where it bubbles and disappears.

And this is easy, to sit and watch the rain, and it falls soothingly on my soul that had felt grimed and heavy with hurts and worries not mine, that I can’t help carry, but that I wear in spite of that.

On the bank beside the driveway, the roots of trees which had been clinging there past all probability gave way under rain earlier this week, and I think of that: how tree roots need to go deep, to be well-buried, how their roots penetrate concrete and disrupt plumbing, and how the rooting process must not be easy. But the deep-rooted trees don’t fall down.

Their roots go deepest when the season is dry and the surface-roots grow parched and things are not easy. And I watch hurting ones around me digging down deep through their dry seasons, and I rejoice to see them bearing fruit.

And I rejoice that the Father who sends this rain can also heal all these wounds. For Him, that is easy.

easyToday I link up with Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday writers to write on her prompt, easy. The “easy” button above will take you to her site to learn more about it and read others’ posts.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

learnings: March 2016

Today I link up with Emily P. Freeman to share things I learned in March. I halfway wanted to make it an April Fools posting, but I actually wanted to tell you these real things. So, these are real things.
WhatWeLearnedinMarch2016

  1. The Most Exciting Thing I learned in March is that the little one we’ve affectionately called BC — Baby Crouch — is a little boy. It’s been thrilling to call him by his name and be able to imagine a bit more concretely what he’ll be like: I already know, thanks to the ultrasound, that he has his daddy’s profile.
    profile
  2. The quirkiest thing I learned is that in Stockholm, Sweden, you can board your sourdough starter at a baker’s shop to be fed while you’re on vacation.
  3. I learned that North Korea — in addition to testing missiles, boasting of hydrogen bombs, and sentencing dumb American college students to hard labor, has advised it’s people to be prepared for another “arduous march.” The last “arduous march” was a devastating four years of famine in the nineties, when millions of North Koreans starved to death. And apparently it’s bad there again: “scientists have found that migrating vultures are feasting before attempting to cross the country because they know it has slim pickings.”
  4. I learned why you (and I) aren’t seeing Donald Trumps many, many supporters in our Facebook feeds: “The media we consume is so good at regurgitating the story we want hear, that an entire nation has been caught off guard by the presence of a class of people so desperate for change that they would support anyone – literally anyone – who will listen.” Ouch.
  5. I learned that when there’s a 15% chance of rain and it looks potentially rainy outside, it is not the best time to walk to the post office without an umbrella. Fortunately for me, my husband was at home and came to rescue me from under a shop awning where I took shelter when the sky fell.
  6. I learned that Bifrost Arts’ Lamentations album is worth hearing. Go listen.
  7. I learned that it’s not a good idea to wash the white fleece blanket with the bathroom towels, unless you like smearing white fleece all over yourself post-shower.
  8. I learned that colorful infographics can actually make weird blood cancers look kind of fun. (Weird. I know.)

9. I learned that hotel conference centers can be very creepy at eight o’clock on a rainy Easter morning. Elements to include in your imagining: dark hallways, a glass-eyed man with a crutch going tap-tap, leprous wall-paper held up with red and green thumb tacks, missing ceiling tiles revealing five-gallon buckets in the space above our heads, and, last and most choice, a bird lying dead on the doormat. And yet, in spite of all, we celebrated the Resurrection, and saw again that death has lost its victory.
10. I overheard someone saying that “There will be no pollen in heaven,” and I realized that, though I bemoan the yellow state of my car and the green state of my front windowsill, I yet love the way the pollen yellows and greens the trees so gradually, and find a glory in the way pollen blows sometimes in golden clouds across a yard. No pollen in heaven? Or perhaps simply no allergies? I prefer the latter.

I liked March.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday: surprise

dazzl3Tell all the truth, but tell it slant– 
Emily Dickinson advises:
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind–

I thought of this poem as I read of Paul’s account of his Damascus-road conversion last week: “As I was on my way and drew new near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’. . . . And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me” (Acts 22:6-11).

The superb surprise of the Truth caught Paul at high noon, dazzling him with a light greater than the full power of the sun, leaving him — the powerful man who had dragged Christians from their homes and struck terror in the hearts of many — groping for help on a dusty road.

“Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.”

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. . . . I am the way, the truth, and the life . . . .” (John 8:12; 14:6).

Look slantwise at this splendid Truth, and dazzle your infirm delight with its bright surprise. Fear no blindness — He at whom you look is He who makes blind eyes to see.

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there” (Rev. 21:22-25).

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Linking up for Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, writing on her prompt, surprise. The green surprise button will take you to her site.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday (on Monday): news

bells

Suddenly the news is everywhere.

A perfect wrens’ nest in an open mailbox.

Redbuds having their week of notoriety against the naked woods.

Quince flaming out in barren yards.

Glossy-sided cows against a fresh green pasture.

Our uncut lawn starred over with blossoming weeds.

Beside the front porch the surprise bulbs opening in tiny white bells.

Restless birds singing late into the night.

And my rounding tummy, more prominent, it seems, each day.

In Narnia they would say that Aslan is on the move; in Mississippi we simply call it spring.

He didn’t have to make this magic of new life each year on our improbable planet. But He does it. And this is glad news, indeed.

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Linking up belatedly with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday on her prompt, news. Use the “news” button above to visit her site.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

 

 

 

Answering Jihad: a book review

answering jihad

During the summer of 2013, I sat with an audience at the end of a week-long apologetics conference to hear RZIM’s newest apologist share his testimony. In 2013, America had been involved in various forms of war on terror for over a decade, but the threat of terrorism of American soil didn’t feel so real — Osama bin Laden was dead; ISIS was only beginning to form and had not emerged as the global force it has now become. Even so, it was clear to those of us who were looking that most of the fighting in which we’d been involved, most of the impetus that dragged the Arab Spring into summers and falls and winters of civil wars, was linked to Islamic ideology. Meanwhile, the numbers of peaceful Muslims in the United States were increasing, and there was this question of what to do with them? How to answer and engage them?

The young man who shared his testimony was an American born to Pakistani immigrant parents, raised a devout Muslim, and led to devout Christianity through one faithful friend and the intervention of Almighty God. The story he shared was published the following spring as Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity — a book which quickly climbed to the New York Times bestseller list — and that morning it moved me to tears to hear Nabeel Qureshi describe struggle between family loyalty and a desire for the truth. It inspired me, too, to engage the Muslims in my community with friendship and with truth.

But now it is spring of 2016, ISIS has perhaps between 80,000-200,000 fighters worldwide and recent attacks in Europe and in the United States have been perpetrated in the name of jihad, while international leadership and western Muslims continue to insist that Islam is a religion of peace. How do we reconcile the two? Caught between militants firing weapons at peaceful holiday parties and the sweet-faced, hijab-wrapped women who share the grocery aisles with us, it’s natural to ask which represent the real Islam. Is Islam essentially violent? Or are jihadists wrong about their religion? Is it safe to welcome Muslim immigrants to our country? Or are all of them really out to get us?

This is where Nabeel Qureshi’s newest book, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, comes in. Written in response to the widespread panic inspired by last year’s Paris and San Bernadino attacks, Answering Jihad sets out to answer the 18 questions which Qureshi is most commonly asked about jihad.

Dealing first with jihad’s origins, Qureshi begins by defining Islam, making a careful distinction Muslims and Islam: “Though Muslims are adherents of Islam, and Islam is the worldview of Muslims, the two are not the same. . . . Islam is not Muslims, and one can criticize Islam while affirming and loving Muslims” (27). Qureshi then traces the violent roots of Islam, countering claims that jihad is primarily a spiritual struggle with evidence from the Quran and the life of Muhammad.

From the historical discussion, Qureshi moves into questions about jihad today, defining radical Islam, explaining the origins of various terrorist organizations (namely, Al-Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram), and describing how Muslims are being radicalized. Salient points from this section include the fact that to “reform” Islam is to radicalize, as Islam’s origins are violent rather than peaceful, and the fact that the internet is the most powerful tool for radicalization as it allows ordinary Muslims, who used to get all their religious instruction filtered through imams and religious elders, to access translations of original texts and see Islam’s violent roots for themselves. Studying those texts leads Muslims to what Qureshi describes as “a three-pronged fork in the road” where they must “choose apostasy, apathy, or radicalization” (144).

The last section of the book deals with Jihad in a Judeo-Christian context, and treats such questions as “Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?”, “How does Jihad Compare with Old Testament Warfare?”, and “What Does Jesus Have to Do with Jihad?” To me, this section felt weaker than the others, probably because Qureshi’s goal for the book is not to write a Christian apologetic, but to explain jihad. While I felt that Qureshi could have offered more evidence, for instance, on how Old Testament warfare differs from jihad — to a Muslim, the beliefs of non-Muslims might well seem as evil as the idolatry for which God destroyed the Canaanites — he makes it clear that the origins of Christianity, in the teachings of Christ, are in peace and not violence: “The very crux of Christian theology is that Jesus, the example for all mankind, was willing to die for others, including his enemies. . . . Jesus commanded total love and grace” (131).

While Qureshi offers no policy plan for dealing with Muslim immigrants or countering jihadists, he does offer practical guidance for Christians wondering how to respond: understand the truth about Islam, recognize the reasons for radicalization, and reach out with compassion and friendship for Muslims before they arrive arrive, as Qureshi did, at the crossroads of apostasy, apathy, or radicalization:

Fear and fighting, both fuel radical fires. We need something that breaks the cycle, and I think that can only be love. . . . as envisioned by Jesus, a decision to engage others as image bearers of God, to put their needs and concerns above our own, even at the cost of our own. . . . The gospel does not succumb to the pitfalls of fear or fighting, which only fuel radicalization, and it gives Muslims an appealing direction at the three-pronged fork in the road. (146-47)

Answering Jihad equipped me with information in place of the questions I had held previously, and gave me tools with which to navigate the conflicting messages of western leaders and radical Islamists. The book not only helped explain why so many Muslims are radicalizing, but also shed light on why so many Muslims are not jihadists. Qureshi’s organized approach to the issue in itself relieves some of the panicky feelings which recent atrocities in the Middle East have heaped around the idea of jihad, and he fills his organized framework with evidence-based assertions rather than speculation — assertions and evidence which gain more weight from Qureshi’s having himself been a devout Muslim. Qureshi’s deep love for his still-Muslim family helps him preserve a respectful, compassionate tone even while exposing ugliness in the roots of Islam. This is no panic-born invective on the evils of Islam, but a rational, compassion-fueled investigation which presents friendship, not phobia, as the appropriate response.

For anyone facing questions about jihad, Islam, and our Muslim neighbors — and aren’t we all facing such questions today? — Answering Jihad provides clear, accessible information, equipping readers to pursue “a better way forward, a way that upholds both truth and compassion” (11). I highly recommend it.
*Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward is published by Zondervan and will release on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Visit AnsweringJihad.com to learn more about the book and about the bonus materials you’ll receive if you pre-order your copy in the next few days.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch