Five Minute Friday: just

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There’s just this: that justice is essential to the goodness of the Lord. That a good King must deal out punishment for wrongdoing or else give up that title “good.” That all of us are condemned under the law of the just Judge, culpable for open rebellion, deserving death.

But Christ. But Christ the sinless One took my sins upon Himself, and took God’s wrath against that sin. All of it. All the sin. All the wrath.

But Christ. But Christ the sinless One wrapped me in His righteousness. So that justice toward me, when I am dressed in Jesus, means I am an heir to the kingdom of the good King.

Jesus died, and was not held by death. In Him I live. And justice is perfectly satisfied.

Before writing the above, I came to a coffee shop for the purpose of reading and writing. I read George Herbert, and, his rhythms in mind, somewhat accidentally wrote a sonnet. I’m feeling generous, so here’s the unpolished poem:

Sun and spring wind behind me, and before
A mocha latte froth and ready page.
My mind was set to write, and yet I brought
No pen, nor could my van the need assuage.
He knows each hair, their number and their place.
He marks uncounted sparrows where they fall.
He numbers stars; gives food in time to all.
His love before creation wrote my days.
I asked and looked, and straightway found supply:
An uncapped Sharpie pen in rain soaked grass,
Then pencil in the shrubbery hardby.
All gifts come down from Him, Father of lights;
His goodness gilds each day from first to last:
With pencil He bestowed my thanks I write.

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Linking up today with the Five Minute Friday community, writing on today’s prompt, just. The button above will take you to the link-up.

©2019 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: build

“Let’s build!”

Sometimes it’s a “machine” or “fort” — read, “pile” — of couch cushions. Other times, he means castles and cranes and cages of the Duplo blocks in his room. But we seem to be building all day long around here.

Me, I don’t always want to build, and when I’m in the mood for it, I can get frustrated with the small hands constantly unbuilding the masterpieces I plan for them. Still, I love to see imaginations take flight, love to see how the small hands get better and better at snapping the bricks together, making sound structures.

These boys descend from generations of men who know how to make things: we have a new back deck and several items of furniture as testament to that, and though my boys have a set of wooden tools, they’d far rather be playing with the real ones in the shed.

But it’s more than that. At creation’s dawning, when the new-made land sprouted with plants and the earth began to teem with swarms of living creatures, the God who’d spoken all of it said, “Let us make man in our image,” and formed humanity from the dust of the ground, makers and builders who would aspire to touch heaven itself with their creations.

We scorned and marred His image in us, yet still He builds, working out His promise to make us — and all things — new. How often am I like my boys, trying to tear off the good work He is doing in me, complaining that my plan is the better plan.

Praise the LORD: He who began the good work here will bring it to completion, even in spite of me.

Linking up with the Five Minute Friday community to write on today’s prompt, build.

©️2019 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: influence

I’m reading a book about how the internet is changing our brains. The author discusses how our brains are designed to change based on how we use them, but also how repetitive actions actually shape the channels in which our minds naturally run. The more we do or think in a certain way, the more that way of doing or thinking becomes what our brains want to do automatically.

This puts some meat on Paul’s instructions to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. When he instructs us to take every thought captive to obedience and to think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy or praise — by practicing, we can actually make these thought patterns the natural flow of our thoughts.

A friend reminded me this week of Psalm 107:43, where, after a litany of God’s faithfulness, the Psalmist says, Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Consider it. Dwell on it. Bring it constantly before your mind until His faithfulness is — as it truly is in life — the first thought, not the footnote.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday to write on today’s prompt, influence.

©️2019 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday (on Monday): better

Found on my stove this morning.

I had to think about what day it actually is for the title, because sickness in the family has kept me out of all my usual weekly landmarks for a week and counting. The weather’s been yucky and the babies irritable, and I’ve not been much better myself.

My thoughts form into conditional statements: When the sun comes out again, when our pinkeye is gone, when the baby sleeps better, when the mud is dry, when I get to see people again, when the house is clean …. then things will be better. Then I’ll be better.

But God’s goodness doesn’t wait for sunny days. Seeking Him, we lack no good thing. If we’re His, we can follow out the logic that the God who withholds no good thing is giving the best things. And sometimes those best things are sick days, sad days, days when the sun doesn’t shine.

His goodness is better than my goodness, and He operates with glory in view, when I’m living often in pursuit of the next five minutes of peace. How much better it is that He, not I, orders the days.

Linking up with the Five Minute Friday community to write on 2019’s first prompt, better.

©️2019 by Stacy Crouch

Virgil Wander: book review

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The dark, damp days between Christmas and the new year always seem designed for reading novels. I’ve devoured volumes of Dickens in that space before. This year, it was my Christmas book, selected from my Amazon wish list by my husband: Leif Enger’s October 2018 release, Virgil Wander*. I read it by rainy-day window light while rocking my baby to sleep for his nap, and by lamplight with steaming cups of Constant Comment tea. And for a few days, I lived in Greenstone, Minnesota.

It’s a testament to Leif Enger’s genius that when his title character, Virgil, recommended a movie — The Ladykillers from 1955: “You could fret all day and not choose a better picture” (173) — I chose to watch it that night, and, while watching it, found myself speculating about how the various book-characters reacted to this scene or that. I believed in them.

Enger’s first novel Peace Like a River captivated me when a friend gave it to our family fourteen or fifteen years ago. It’s one I seem to recommend to everyone. I eagerly read his second novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome, when it emerged in ’08. And I’ve been waiting the past decade for this one.

Unlike the previous two novels, and in spite of “Wander” in its title, this book stays rooted in one small town in northern Minnesota, yet manages to still feel like a quest or chase: fatherless sons, fathers seeking their sons, Wander and so many others seeming to look for a reason to keep on living. Enger’s penchant for the supernatural, which emerged as miracles in his first novel, shows up in less orthodox ways in this one.

But Enger continues his habit of perfect prose. I could see and hear and feel all that he described, and his hyperbolic characters were perfectly real to me. I believed in Virgil, come back from the near edge of death, in Nadine who made neon signs into works of art, in Leer and every odious rumor about him, and in Rune launching kites against all odds.

I’ll admit: without the overarching travel narrative of Enger’s other books, this one felt somewhat  episodic. I didn’t wonder while I was reading it, but looking back it seems the various strands of story make an untidy braid: an immense sturgeon, a car bomb, an unlooked-for windfall all figure in the final chapters.

Yet the book left me satisfied. Enger wove echos of Eden into his closing pages, and I like a novel that gives me a happy ending.

Is it a novel I’ll say you have to read? No. But I’m glad to have read it. I think I’ll be glad to read it again.

 

*Enger, Leif. Virgil Wander. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2018. Print.

©2019 by Stacy Crouch

Book review: Susie

Confession: I’m not generally a biography lover. But I want to be. And when I saw that Moody Press was offering Ray Rhodes’ new biography of Susannah Spurgeon for their blogger review program, I knew I wanted to read it. It bears a photo of a Victorian lady — the eponymous Susannah, of course — on its front jacket, and I’ve a weakness for Victorians. It’s a handsome hardback edition, and I’ve a weakness for hardbacks. I didn’t know anything about Ray Rhodes, Jr., but Al Mohler wrote the forward for this book, and I consider Mohler trustworthy. And I knew enough about Charles Haddon Spurgeon — “Prince of Preachers” — to know that learning about his wife would probably be worthwhile.

I learned more about Charles through this book, and learned that his wife must have been a remarkable woman. Her husband maintained a rigorous preaching, teaching, and writing schedule, while also dealing with depression and physical illness for most of their married life. Rhodes details how Susannah, herself an invalid and in pain much of the time, supported her husband’s work, discipled their two boys — who both grew up to be pastors themselves — and founded and maintained a large book ministry to needy pastors.

I was impressed by Susannah’s dedication to her husband’s ministry and her early resolve to “never, never hinder him by trying to put [herself] first in his heart” (61). In addition to Susie’s devotion to her husband, Rhodes underscores both Susie’s love of the gospel and her perseverance in good works, supporting his claims with liberal references to first-hand accounts from Susie, Charles, and their sons and acquaintances.

I found myself inclined to be more critical of the Spurgeons than Rhodes is in his book: where he quotes a letter from Charles to Susie to show the depth of their marital devotion, I was appalled to find that Charles was away from his wife and writing letters to her at a time when she was so ill as to be in great uncertainty of survival (136). Nonetheless, the sum effect of the book was to leave me inspired follow Susie in serving the Lord, love my husband, and disciple my sons more joyfully and wholeheartedly.

My favorite parts of this book were the beginning chapters about Susie’s conversion and her early romance with Charles. The latter half of the book dragged on a bit for me, but I confess to very distracted reading and a general preference for other sorts of prose. Even so, I found the whole book well worth the time I invested in the reading, and suspect that — especially if you’ve a penchant for biographies in general or for C. H. Spurgeon in particular — you’d find it well worth your time, too. It’s a fascinating glimpse of two godly people serving the Lord — their historical situation was far different from our own, but their struggles and the faithful God who helped them to finish in victory are the same we have today.

©2018 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: balance

I knelt by the tree and was able to see it again: the magical world amongst the branches, illumined by tiny lightbulbs on green wires and inhabited by festive animals and shining orbs. It’s a vantage point which takes no account of the larger picture, of the tree from top to toe, of balance in the placement of baubles, of the condition of bows or the number of needles on the carpet. I have to kneel down to see it now, but my boy sees nothing else.

I forget to kneel down sometimes, and am baffled by the devastation that moving the ornament box out of the living room — no more decorations! — can bring. But my boy notices the minutiae: the tiny piece of candy dropped on the car floor days ago which he lovingly rescued today, the capital letter R in a footnote on my Bible page, the glitter of green in the carpet where a flake of shattered ornament remains. He doesn’t see the bigger schedule of Things to Do; he cares for This Moment, when Duplo duck Bob is looking for Duplo duck Bobra.

Our Lord knelt down, so much further than I have to. He didn’t just get a perspective similar to ours. He completely inhabited our perspective, limiting omniscience to the blurred vision of a newborn baby, content that the God who fills all heaven and earth should inhabit a manger.

Surely He has known our griefs and carried our sorrows.

He sees the larger picture, so much larger than the tree from top to toe, or the list of Things to Do; and He knows, when I am caught in frustration at things not going my small way, that His better way is going forward. Yet He deals gently with me, helping me in all my tiny moments while He can see eternity, adorning my small view with lovely things — hints that one day, when I can see the larger picture, it will be glorious indeed.

Today I rejoin the Five Minute Friday community using today’s prompt, balance.

©️2018 Stacy Crouch