Five Minute Friday: support

Support.

I’m thinking of Isaac Watts’ paraphrase of Psalm 23:
“When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay.
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.”

A week ago, Nabeel Qureshi, Christian apologist and author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God but One, announced that his doctors have put him on palliative care, that his body, after a year of fighting cancer, is shutting down. So I’m guessing he’s walking through shades of death this week, and I’ve been grieving and praying.

This week we happened to be walking through John 11 in our evening family times: the story of Lazarus, taken in tiny bites. There’s Christ, who stayed away and let Lazarus die because he loved them. And there’s Christ, who knows he’s about to raise the dead man, weeping for the sorrow he’s about to undo. And there’s Christ, bidding that dead man to come out. And the dead man came out.

This week I happened to be reading Revelation in my mornings, and there’s Christ again, promising to wipe away every tear. Promising that death shall be no more. And there’s a hope, better than Lazarus’ earthly resurrection: the One who declared himself to be the Resurrection and the Life will dwell with us as our God, will make all these sorrows pass away, will make all things new.

He walks with us through shades of death. He walked through them before us and for us. We wouldn’t breathe without his breath, and his breath tells us to “Fear not.” Not because there aren’t things to fear, but because he’s already told us the ending of this story, and it’s a happy ending:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  –John 11:25, 26 

(She said to him, “Yes, Lord . . . .”)

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I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday crew today, even though I spent longer than trying to pull these threads of thought together. The button above will take you to the FMF site, where you can find others’ musings on this week’s prompt, support.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

steps

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You walk, son. Confident in shoes now, you know no fear, despite frequent tumbles, and boldly climb our four brick steps adult-fashion, holding the rail and hoisting yourself up steps nearly hip-high for you.

But going down, you pause at the top: not to turn around and scoot down in the approved backwards-fashion, but to reach for my hand, which, without looking, you know will be there. Because I chase when I see you head that way. Because I won’t let you take that too-large step down and tumble head-long on the bricks.

One day, little boy, you’ll reach and I won’t be there — won’t be fast enough, watchful enough. One day, despite my best efforts, you’ll fall — maybe not down these steps, but somewhere painful.

But my Father? His hand will never fail me. Just as sure as you are of my hand — surer than that — I can be sure of my God. He establishes my steps. He upholds my hand. No matter how hard I lean, I can’t overbalance Him. No matter how suddenly I fall, I can’t catch Him by surprise. Nothing can snatch me out of His hand.

Oh son, may you place your tiny hand in His and walk thus confidently all your days!

 

 

upon the hazards of an early bedtime

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Trigger warning: This is a story of things that go BUMP in the night. It is a factual account.

Once upon a wild Friday evening, when the clocks were nearing nine, the mother and the father looked at one another and agreed that they should go to bed soon. The baby had been sleeping for an hour at least, and, as you may gather, they kept dissipated hours in this household.

Out of doors it was a clear night, no clouds nor wind to speak of, nor any physical sign that in a few short days, the moon would be eclipsing the sun in broad daylight with an entire nation watching. No, it was an ordinary night, and they intended to sleep soon.

You know as well as I do, however, how way leads on to way, and how good resolutions for bedtime may be brushed aside in favor of wilder pursuits: games of Catan, cups of chamomile tea, or the novels of Thackeray. The minutes crept along, and the clocks, nearing ten, saw the mother and the father still wide awake in their living room, pouring over videos of their progeny at tenderer ages, reminiscing in light of his recent natal day. Nostalgia wove its golden spell round them and held them in thrall.

The night continued calm and clear out of doors. A lizard silently crossed the attic above their heads. The baby slept.

And then. Something went bump. How that bump made them jump!

“Bump” is a poor word to describe the sound, as it was of longer duration and had a more catastrophic quality than “bump” can express.

Startled from their reverie, the mother and the father were immediately on their feet. Had furniture fallen somewhere? Had someone forced an entrance? Had a tree come down upon the house? The baby emitted only one cry, and the mother was solicitous for his corner of the house — perhaps that magnolia tree?

The father was on his way outside, looking for a light, looking for shoes. The mother was on her way to check on the baby, who was — to her great relief — whimpering. But outside his door she cast a glance to her right, through the doorway of the room in which she was meant to be sleeping.

And she saw it. In the dimness, something large and white and broken, where only the wooden floor should have been, and above, where the white ceiling ought to have been, a gaping blackness. She called to the father: “Our ceiling fell down!”

 

And she gathered the baby out of his crib — though his ceiling was intact — and together the three of them surveyed the carnage.

There had been a crack. They had seen it — stared up at it by lamplight in those moments when it was too much effort to turn off the lamp, and in the rare mornings when they stayed late enough in bed for daylight to penetrate round the curtains. But ceilings often have cracks. Ceilings do not often fall.

The dreamy quality of the night was broken, and they had only shaky laughter, as they picked over the debris to collect the necessities for a night spent out of the bedroom. They slept poorly in the baby’s room and on the couch, and woke to realize that, indeed, the ceiling had fallen down.

The morals of story, which are several, proceed thusly: Firstly, when you see a crack in your ceiling, make haste to repair it! Secondly, if you can avoid an elderly house in which the ceiling boards are second to dubious rafters with insufficient nails, do so. Thirdly, if you are inclined to stay up later than usual, you are wise; you may avoid being interred beneath your bedroom ceiling.

In all seriousness, however, what grace, not to be in bed already. And to have our parents already planning to spend the following day at our house, so that there were willing hands available to begin the clean-up process. And for my husband to have already taken the following week off work, though we didn’t know the ceiling would fall. The house is still more or less enveloped in dust, and the contents of our bedroom have erupted into all the other rooms, but their is a new, better ceiling now in place, and I get to repaint the walls, because the room is empty and it will be easy. And we have this story. 

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): try

Version 2

How do you write when you haven’t been writing, and the words go in circles and your mind is walking with your husband and baby at the park? Try.

How, when the dust is thick on everything, and the laundry wants folding, and there are crumbs under the table? Try.

Write the blue sky outside the window, the squirrel crouched on a mossy branch, the pink crepe myrtle, and the way you can already see the damp heat of Mississippi August hanging between the tree and the power lines over the road.

Write the square of sunshine on the carpet, with its shadow-border of pothos leaves, the spinning fan on the ceiling, the red oval clock ticking on the wall.

Write the baby’s chunky legs, walking and walking and walking this week. Write the way he holds your head in his sticky hands and smiles that smile into your eyes, and you can hardly breathe for love of him.

And when the five minutes is up, realize that you don’t have to try anymore, because there are more words than time, and like so many forms of obedience, the hardest part was simply to begin.

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Linking up today — for the first time in a long time — for Five Minute Friday, to write on this week’s prompt, try. The button above will take you to the FMF site, where you can read all about it.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Word-Centered Church: a book review

Upon my marriage, I ended 22 years spent as a member of an established denomination, in churches steeped in tradition handed down for 400 years, and joined a non-denominational church plant barely three years old at the time. There is rigorous scriptural teaching in both places, but the change has come with extreme culture shock for me, requiring me again and again to consider what things are essentials for a church, and what things are not. Thus, when I saw that Moody offered Jonathan Leeman’s book Word-Centered Church: How Scripture Brings Life and Growth to God’s People for its Blogger Review Program, I was excited to have someone outside my circles help me consider the essential things.

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In case his title didn’t give it away, Leeman’s primary goal for the book is to show “how uniquely essential [God’s Word] is” as “God’s primary instrument for growing God’s church” (18). In contrast to church growth stratagems involving programs, stylistic changes, and things people do, Leeman suggests that church growth comes through hearing God’s Word — in sermons, readings, songs, and prayers. “Christianity,” he says, “begins not with what we do, but with the announcement of what God has done” (19). Thus, Leeman calls churches away from the desperate search for the next new thing, and back “to stuff that is really old, really good, and really powerful” (23).

Leeman begins with an exposition of how God works through his Word, moving to explain how the Word separates church from world, works in individual hearts, and works in the church. The middle chapters of his book deal with the specific role of the Word-centered sermon in church life, while his concluding chapters explain what the church should do with the Word — sing it, pray it, live it with one another, and scatter it abroad!

In every chapter, Leeman calls toward a substantial, scripture-soaked church life, echoing Paul’s call to the Colossian church: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . .” (Col. 3:16). His style is simple and engaging, using personal stories and illustrations to drive home biblically-grounded arguments for a biblically-grounded church.

It’s a testament to the solidity of my churches, past and present, that Leeman’s arguments were not surprising to me, but affirmations of what I already knew to be true. Still, it was helpful to have someone walk carefully through the reasons behind the essentials, and to be reminded that the church’s mission to the world is not ultimately for the good of the world, but for the glory of God. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call the book essential reading for every believer, it’s an excellent push toward what is essential, and, as such, I have no hesitations in recommending it.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: blessing

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He doesn’t want to sleep tonight. Ten months old, exhausted, and hard-headed, all oblivious to the boon of bed time. Daddy took over, and as I listen to my son raging against sleep, I remember it: “This is the blessing.”

That children are a gift from the Lord is easy to remember when he snuggles sweetly against me, when he obeys swiftly, when he does any of the adorable things that make him him. And then we’re all three weary and he won’t sleep, and it’s not that I forget he’s a blessing, but I don’t feel immediate thankful thoughts in these times.

But we’re supposed to give thanks in all things, aren’t we? And I’d rather be kept awake a million times with him, than sleep and not be his mommy.

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Linking up with Five Minute Friday — for the first time in a long time — to write on the prompt, blessing. The button above will take you to the link-up.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday: future

I walked down the aisle to “O God Beyond All Praising,” a magnificent poem by Michael Perry, set to Holtst’s magnificent “Jupiter” theme.

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The second verse says:

Then hear, O gracious Savior, accept the love we bring,
That we, who know your favor, may serve you as our King.
And whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill,
We’ll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still,
To marvel at your beauty, and glory in your ways,
And make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise.

“Our tomorrows.” I worry about those. On our first date, my man told me of his rather audacious dream to move one day to a place that terrifies me. I prayed and questioned and said “yes,” and walked down the aisle to sing that song. But I still worry.

And when I imagine various futures, they don’t look like triumphing through sorrows — the potential sorrows are much much too large for me to envision any triumphs this side of glory. Isn’t that the point, though, in Hebrews 11? “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar . . . they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.”

There is triumph in that better country, surely. But also grace in the here and now. Not yet for any imagined sorrows, but grace enough for every sorrow that becomes a reality.

A friend recently told me how she wants to live “an impossible life.” To be able to look back and say that she could never ever have done it apart from the grace of God.

I like to live comfortably within my own perceived abilities, with that grace as a safety net, but unnecessary. Foolish me! As if apart from grace I could accomplish one heartbeat of my own making.

But His grace is sufficient. He makes His beauty shine through the sorrows, so that we may marvel at ways higher and more glorious than ours, so that He, “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God,” receives “honor and glory forever and ever.” (1 Tim. 1:17)

Amen.

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Today I join the FIRST link up on Five Minute Friday’s new website! Use the button above to read more on this week’s prompt, future.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch