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.

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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

happy returns

I don’t remember what it felt like to wake up that morning, the one rainy Saturday of the entire fall.

How do people live through such days? Days that you enter knowing they are going to change only everything?

How does an indecisive, usually fearful girl keep on, one step and then the next, toward voluntarily making a forever promise? How does she still have an appetite?

It must be grace, must it not?

Grace that on a morning when I might have felt panicked, rushed, and full of tears, I felt an immense calm.

Under the raining, we were wrapped in a warm glory, and I remember being amazed by how many people were there, and I remember that my face hurt from smiling.

I haven’t the words to write the meaning of a year of marriage, even if I knew the meaning, which I’m not sure I do. But the same grace that gilded that very first day has touched every day since.

I remember that my hand trembled in his, and that I laughed and cried through the vows. And that we were so very glad.

We remain so.

 

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

October

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The last three years, ’13, ’14, and ’15, I participated in 31 Days of blogging challenges during the month of October. I had this idea that I would do it this year, too, but do you know what happened instead? I went the entire month of October without publishing one blog post. Not one.

And I love writing October: the way the light comes more golden and the sky comes more blue. The gradual giving way of green to shades of gold and brown. The way that I seem to find my footing in whatever new rhythms have begun in August and September. The inevitable nostalgia of fall, making me yearn for the things that are past and binding my heart to the things that are passing.

But now it is November, and I’m typing with eleven weeks of wonder asleep across my lap. He’s added five or six inches and seven or eight pounds since his arrival back in August, and I feel them in the ache of my shoulder blades and the small of my back, and in the ache of tiny clothes — was he ever that small? — which were put away under the bed yesterday.

I’m learning the rhythms of wee-hour wakings, of diapers to be changed and laundered, of housework and errands done in the intervals between the every-two-hours meals which he continues to need. I’m learning the joy and the cost of being needed 24/7.

And I’m writing: not with pen or keyboard, but all over a human soul who can’t yet say the simplest word, filling these first pages of his life, and living definitions that will haunt his later years. It terrifies me.

As he comes to fuller understanding, will he see Christ in me? Is it gospel which I’m living, life laid down for him? Will he see that the things I say are true by my doing?

He is too young to make allowances for moods and weariness in me, but old enough to feel if I am grumpy or impatient. And it doesn’t lie with me to summon joy when, lulled to sleep for the fifth time, he wakes again just as I’m settling to sleep myself, urgent in his cry to know he’s not alone. I love him excruciatingly, but I. Can’t. Do. It.

And yet I am mightily helped, daily thrown upon the grace of my gracious Father. There is never enough of me, yet He multiplies my meager loaves and fishes, keeps my oil jar supplied, spreads manna — morning by morning — on the ground around my tent.

My baby opens blue-gray eyes with a smile in them for me. This also is grace.

My Shepherd is the Lord. I shall not want.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: listen

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Beside this window there’s the occasional drip from the rained-on roof to the air conditioning unit. Jays in a tree somewhere close by. A baby breathing. Clicks of the computer keyboard. My husband tapping a rhythm while he studies in the other room.

 

I’m still learning the sounds of this new house — the dogs that bark in the early mornings, the school buses and garbage trucks. Wheels on our gravel drive rather than next door. Car doors in our driveway rather than across the street. Ice falling in the freezer. The hot water heater cycling on and off. Light switches and door latches. The hurricane of our bedroom fan. The noisy quiet of the air conditioner running. Trains passing. Sirens on the highway. Our doorbell. The flame under my teapot on the stove. Canada geese passing overhead.

And the baby’s voice. He doesn’t talk yet, but his voice is behind his contented sighs and behind all his crying: hungry or hurting or angry at being alone in his crib. I love his voice.

Quiet is my natural habitat: I love to listen and to see. And I love that this little person is going to break through all my quiet habits with noises of his own.

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Linking up with Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday to listen today.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday (on Sunday): heal

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He kicks and pushes with his legs, but the soles of his feet are as soft as any other part of him: I touch them and marvel to think he will one day be man-grown with calloused soles.

Before we brought him home they pricked his heel, collecting spots of blood to screen for various diseases. He screamed and screamed: offspring of woman, heel already bruised by the serpent whose lie begins the sad chapter by which disease entered the world.

In pain I brought him forth, and though I want him to grow to be a man with calloused heels one day, I pray that his soul may not also become calloused — neither to the bruises of his enemy nor to the piercing of his Healer.

HE was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, bore the chastisement that brought us peace; He heals us by His stripes. And then: He has bruised the serpent’s head: immortal God, raised from the tomb, inflicting a mortal wound upon His foe and ours.

Tiny son, know this, though you know nothing else besides; callous those beautiful feet proclaiming this good news: healing for souls.

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Linking up with Kate Motaung to write on her prompt, heal.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

 

No God but One: review

I don’t tend to think of Christian apologetics and advanced stomach cancer as particularly related. I enjoy plunging into the big questions, learning the arguments and evidence which show my faith to be a most reasonable thing. I don’t enjoy the hygienic medical terminology in which we drape grim prognoses, shielding ourselves from what we know even without state-of-the-art equipment: it is appointed for man to die once.

But the truth is, cancers and all their ilk — so vividly pointing to the death that is inevitable — are what make Christian apologetics so urgent. Seeking the Truth is no mere intellectual exercise; what we believe to be true has direct implications on how we live and how we die, particularly on how we live in light of the fact that we must die.

The closing section of Nabeel Qureshi’s latest book, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, queries, “Is the Truth Worth Dying For?” and answers the question with a resounding Yes: “God is more beautiful than this life itself, and the one who loves Him is ready to die when death comes, not just to glorify Him but to hasten to His arms. Though we die, we will live.”

The context? A discussion of the rival truth-claims of Islam and Christianity, highlighting the two religions’ differences, delving into their histories, and examining the evidence for each religion’s positions. Qureshi seeks to evaluate the evidence as an objective observer would, drawing on the most reliable sources, on expert scholarship, and on his own journey from passionate defender of Islam to passionate follower of Christ.

Since first hearing him share his testimony at a conference in 2013, I’ve thought of Nabeel Qureshi as a strong person in the world of apologetics — not just intellectually, but also physically. Tall enough to be intimidating, square-shouldered, young and confident — when, returned to the same conference the next year, he told me in passing that I “didn’t want to miss Michael Ramsden,” I got up and went to the session which I had intended to skip.

His first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, presented his testimony in long-form, with many of the arguments and struggles that finally led him to Christianity. No God but One majors on the arguments and evidence, revisiting his story for support, but not majoring on story. With carefully-organized, conveniently-titled chapters, this is a book you can use for targeted research into one specific question — like, how reliable is the Quran? — but it is also excellent for cover-to-cover consumption. Read front-to-back, Qureshi’s argument for the truth lands weightily on that last section and question, Is it worth dying for?

The day the book released — August 30 — Qureshi made an announcement which lends even more weight to the conclusion: he has been diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer and faces a grim prognosis. In his early thirties, husband to a young wife, father to a baby girl, working on an Oxford PhD, writing books, maintaining a rigorous speaking schedule, and having a far-reaching gospel influence: adding cancer to that equation seems silly at best.

But in the economy of a God whose very foolishness is wiser than our wisdom, whose ways are heavens-higher than our ways, this is the path by which He has chosen to be glorified: in physical weakness,  in pain, and in difficult treatments with an uncertain outcome. And already He is receiving glory. Because it is one thing for a strong and successful man to say a thing is true, but when he is facing a potential death sentence, if he has any doubt of that truth, it will show.

Qureshi’s testimony? “. . . never once have I doubted this: that Jesus is Lord, His blood has paid my ransom, and by His wounds I am healed. I have firm faith that my soul is saved by the grace and mercy of the Triune God, and not by any accomplishment or merit of my own. I am so thankful that I am a child of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Spirit. No, in the midst of the storm, I do not have to worry about my salvation, and for that I praise you, God.”

While faith only comes by the work of the Holy Spirit, the evidence presented in No God but One can lend confidence to those inclined to doubt. This book is not simply a tool for reaching Muslims, it may also be a strengthening tonic for Christians, helping us to live –and to die — with certainty in the things we hold True.

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I had the opportunity to be part of the launch team for this book — which means I received an advance copy in order to review and promote it. Since I had a baby in the middle of the pre-release promotion month, I kind of dropped the ball on that, but there is still a special offer of bonus content — including a workbook, and audio and video material — if you order the book before September 16, 2016. Click the above image to read about that. 

©2016 by Stacy Crouch