Five Minute Friday: friend

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you.” –John 15:12-14

So simple. So far from simple.

Love as He loves us. How does He love us? In laying down His life. God-Himself, not grasping for glory, but making himself nothing in obedience to the point of death — even death on a cross.

For us, His friends, whom He calls to do the same.

And we’re always looking for the glory in the giving up: “See me lay down my life! See me loving like Christ!” Holding our “laid-down” lives aloft: “Look at my great love!” Oh the irony.

But these are the lives for which Christ’s was laid down. And if we love at all, it is because we have been loved.

He tells us to love as we already have been loved. Our loving doesn’t earn us His friendship: we have His life laid down, making us His friends. And because we’re His friends, we can do what He commands us.

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Linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday prompt, friend. Visit her site by clicking on the “friend” button.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday: safe

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Albrecht Durer, Two seated lions, 1520. Public domain image from Google Art Project

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”*

I tremble with Lucy, wanting Him to be safe. But He couldn’t be, could He? Not safe and good, if He is The King. To be King and be good means that He must be woefully dangerous. Subjects are safe with a king only insofar as He is able to defeat their enemies. The King who defeated the last enemy of them all, fell Death itself: that King must be fearsome indeed.

‘Course he isn’t safe.

There’s a higher sort of goodness than the harmlessness which “wouldn’t hurt a fly.” This goodness sent the Only Begotten to agonize on the cross, because He who would defeat death would also see to it that justice was served. The best goodness rushes in roaring sometimes, claws and teeth bared, because for goodness to be good, the bad guys must be punished.

So, safe? Of course He isn’t. But, poet Ben Palpant gets it right:

What or whom should I fear?
You have proven that you save
your chosen ones.
Indeed, you answer 
out of holy heaven
with right arm flexed,
fists furious,
feet flying.

Some say, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”
Others say, “I can help myself.”
I say, “God help me or I die.”**

 

*C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, ©1950
**
Ben Palpant, “So Here I Stand,” Sojourner Songs, ©2016

safe

Linking up with Kate Motaung to write on her prompt, safe. Turns out she thought of the same Lewis quote I used, but — disclaimer — I wrote my post before I read hers. Either way, the “Safe” button above will carry you to her site.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: breathe

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I sit cross-legged in the sun on the sidewalk, helping him balance as he sits in front of me and reaches chubby fingers to grasp brown leaves, spears of green grass, clover by the fistful. He brings everything to his toothless mouth, and his lap is littered with drool-coated leaves. This is my boy, and we are adventuring.

Breathe.

Complaining caught me this week: never-finished laundry and a dirty floor and always more to cook and a baby who wants all of my attention all the time.

But night before last the baby slept for Ten Hours Straight and I got a morning half-hour to journal and pray, and the Lord reminded me that these are gifts: a husband whose clothes I get to wash, a house, abundant food, a baby . . . three years ago, I only dreamed of these as “maybe, one day, I hope . . . .” And here they are.

Breathe.

So somehow, where I had hurry and frustration, He gave me a thankful heart. And in the peace of that thanksgiving, there’s room to breathe again.

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Today I link up with Kate Motaung to write on her Five Minute Friday prompt: breathe. Link in the “breathe” button above.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: middle

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I don’t remember the first time Daddy shared it with us, but it counts among my earliest memories: the rough sketch of two cliff-tops and the chasm between. “MAN” on one side, “GOD” on the other; in the middle the sins that have made a separation between us.

Daddy drew a stick figure on the “MAN” side. And he would ask how we could get across.

Depending on the context, people offered suggestions: praying, going to church, being obedient. Daddy drew them as bridges. But they were bridges that could not span the gap — our righteous deeds are as filthy rags, and we can’t get to God by doing good things.

To trust yourself to any of those bridges, Daddy would point out, led to death. “DEATH” — the wages of sin — lay at the bottom of the chasm.

So what are we to do? Ah, in the middle, Daddy drew a cross, spanning the chasm. “JESUS,” who died for our sins, taking the death we earned, to bring us to God.

And how do we cross? “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

The Bible says that there is only one mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ. A synonym for “mediator” is “middle man.” How thankful I am for this Christ who stands in the middle, interceding for me, giving me the free gift of eternal life.

middle

Linking up with Kate Motaung today to write on her prompt, “middle.”

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

i’d be twins

img_0176“You see my finger?
See my thumb?
See my fist?
You’d better run!”

He shook a muscled fist in mocking threat, and we made feint to run, watching the twinkling blue eyes under the salt-and-pepper flat-top for the next joke. Forty-something years of dairy-farming made Grandpa’s hands thick and strong, and the rough-handling of life left him laughing.

“How are you, Grandpa?” we’d ask. And maybe he’d been hugging his heart-shaped pillow after that long-ago bypass surgery, or maybe he’d been fumbling for a pain-pill, or maybe we’d just watched him struggle to transfer from wheelchair to recliner on neuropathic feet. But he wouldn’t let-on that he was hurting: “If I was any better, I’d be twins!” he would grin.

Cue remark from one of the grown-folks in the room that one Grandpa was quite enough to handle!

When my daddy was a boy, Grandpa’s hands beaned a bull between the eyes with a fence post, because said bull dared to chase my dad. In my memories, those hands dig fence posts, grab my toddler toes, hold Grandma’s hand — across the yard, across the parking lot, in the car, in their chairs at home.

He always joked that Grandma let him be the boss once a week — Fridays, usually — if he behaved himself. But behind the raillery was romance. He kept the nickel she gave him when they met — “Call me!” — for long years afterwards, so that he could even show it to me, the eleventh of forty-six grandchildren.

We approached his seat at the head of the long table in the kitchen where his eight sons and five daughters — our parents — had eaten their childhood meals with reverence, “Yes sir” and “No sir” ready on our lips, pleasantly apprehensive of his teasing, but certain of his love.

“Why, it’s the prettiest girl in Mississippi!” he’d exclaim. (I was the only granddaughter from Mississippi.) “It sure is good to see you!” When I was tiny, he called me “Stacy Lucindy.”

In the hospital two weeks ago, he was still glad to see me, but he didn’t reference Mississippi or my name. The IV pole had a faulty line and kept beeping and beeping, the room was hot, my baby hungry. I let other people do the talking — habitual for me — but didn’t follow the conversation very well.

Then he asked it: “What did you marry?” Classic Grandpa. I don’t remember what was said that inspired the question, but there it was. He knew me, and recognized my little family with his usual teasing. We caught the moment on an iPhone screen: an old man in a hospital bed holding my baby’s hand. Root, meet fruit.

It must take time and distance to be able to sum up a life. I’ve had one full day and the distance between Florida and Mississippi. There are too many things to say and too few words.

My baby won’t understand all the ins and outs of the large family tree from which he springs, but I’m pretty sure he’ll know that his mama had a good grandpa.

Because she did.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday: connect

When the red tulips in the blue teapot are fully blown, and outside freezing rain collects white on rooftops and cartops, and the baby sleeps, at last, across your lap.

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January the sixth: Epiphany.

The wise men came out of the East after a star, and here the wisdom of God took the foolishness of man — astrology? divination? — and led them on into what looked like greater folly: God, born of a virgin? Deity, wrapped in helpless humanity?

We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.

Our Western mindset — reason! logic! — leaves no room for such connections. “Correlation does not imply causation;” stars and babies occur without reference to one another; and we cannot, by scientific experimentation, make God incarnate, if we believe in God at all.

Yet God grants faith, even in the midst of such folly: “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one may boast.

Jews demand signs, Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified . . . the power of God and the wisdom of God. And it is God, only and always God, who can open our eyes to see Him.

girls

So maybe I took Kate’s Five Minute Friday prompt as the loosest jumping-off-place for my post, and maybe I wrote for more than five minutes, because my soul needed it, and maybe I’m going to link up anyway, because it’s a way of connecting now. But if you want to connect to other posts on this prompt, that pink “connect” button is the one for you. Happy New Year!

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

 

 

Five Minute Friday: now

Now.

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Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this [S]on . . . .

Thank you, Richard III. (And also Shakespeare.)

I read this morning in John 16:
You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you (vs. 20-22).

I read those verses also on the day my son was born, when I had gone from mind-numbing pain to immense joy at sight of a damp bundle of arms and legs held aloft by the doctor at 1:36 a.m. A human being has been born into the world!

So, too, Mary felt, at sight of her Son? A human being, and also God-with-us? The culmination of a long labor that began in the Garden when a serpent asked a woman, Did God actually say…?

And how many times, in all the centuries of waiting, did one and another ask and wonder: Did God actually say that the woman’s Seed would bruise the serpent’s head? Because our heels are bruised, and that promise in the Garden was a long time ago.

And now we wait again for His return, tempted often and often with the age-0ld question, feeling the ache and anguish of the in-born curse.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

God actually said that.

Take heart now. He has overcome.

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Linking up with Kate Motaung for the last Five Minute Friday of the year. The “Now” button above will take you to her site.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch