Five Minute Friday: different

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3:03 in the afternoon, and at last the sun has managed to penetrate our gray cloud ceiling and come slanting in the window to cast my shadow against the red couch. I’ve been waiting for it all day.

It’s amazing how much warmer 40 degrees Fahrenheit feels when the sun is shining, and how little motivation I feel to be outside when it isn’t shining.

It’s there either way. I saw it on my morning walk — a bright spot behind the clouds — and I knew that if only it could break through, the morning would have been different.

When the Psalmist prays that God will “cause his face to shine upon us,” this is the image we need, isn’t it? Not that a day passes without his face illumining our world, but sometimes, though we know he’s there, all is gray in our world under the clouds.

We want to see and feel, not just intellectually know, that he is with us. And he came to us, a baby named Emmanuel, to make that point evident.

It’s the light of that truth which lends glory to gray days this Christmas season.

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Linking up with the Five Minute Friday crew on the last Five Minute Friday of 2017 — different. The button above takes you to the FMF page.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday (on Monday): only

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The Christmas tree in the corner, surprise snow on Friday, a schedule quickly filling with festivities of all varieties . . . . somehow, weaving in and out through all the carols of glory this past week, I’ve had a crucifixion hymn singing.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see him dying on the tree.
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected; yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long expected prophet, David’s Son yet David’s Lord.
By His Son God now has spoken, ’tis the 
true and faithful Word.

I sing it, laying my toddler down for his nap, and gathering gifts on the table for wrapping.

This is the thing which makes the Christmas story one of such breathtaking splendor: not only that God clothed Himself in a frail human body and cried with the helpless cries of a human baby, but that He did it for the purpose of hanging on the tree for us.

Ye who think of sin but lightly, nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.

Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load!
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed, Son of man, and Son of God.*

The dark backdrop for the glory of the Christmas night is the darkness of our sin. Only keeping this in view can we rightly grasp the wild joy of our Christmas celebrations:

Behold in the manger the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Gloria in excelsis Deo.

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Today I link with the Five Minute Friday community to write (loosely) on last week’s prompt, only. The button above will take you to the Five Minute Friday site and more posts about only.

*hymn by Thomas Kelly

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday (on Sunday): reflect

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“It’s not the going, it’s the leaving,” I complained to God, 13 years ago, looking at another move, arguing with Deuteronomy 31:8. (The LORD is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.) He answered me with Job 40:2, Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?

It comes back to my mind often. I’m okay with going, but I HATE to leave — to leave comfort and security and the beloved familiar. Leaving is hard and scary.

And it came back to my mind this morning, during communion, as I realized that my Lord is the Lord who left heaven’s glories to enclose the fullness of deity in a tiny human body so that God could bleed anguished human blood for the sins of the world.

He left his Father’s throne above — so free, so infinite his grace!

And it came back again during a sermon on God’s call to Abraham to leave the beloved familiar and go live as a stranger in a strange land of promise . . . that in his offspring — in CHRIST — all the nations of the earth would be blessed!

When we celebrate Christ’s arrival on earth at Christmastime, we celebrate the fact that He left heaven for our benefit. And, while we partake of immeasurable riches of glory in Him, we can be sure that while He may call us to go — and to leave — He will be faithful to His promises to go before, and be with us, and make us, by faith Abraham’s offspring, a blessing.

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Today I took Kate Motaung’s prompt, reflect, as an opportunity to share things on which I’ve been reflecting. And it took me longer than five minutes, but I’m okay with that. The “reflect” button above will take you to Kate’s site where you can read about Five Minute Friday and see what others have written about reflect.

©2015 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: season

 

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What do you do with Christmas, on a chilly Friday morning, when the sun gathers itself into a point on a car windshield and shoots through the coffee shop window into your eyes to dazzle and delight?

What do you do with it, listening to carols and washing cups in your kitchen with windows beaded with the night’s condensation?

What do you do with it, stitching green Christmas trees and gold sequins onto red felt?

What do you do with it, when your grandpa’s heart has him in the hospital far away, and a boy who used to be in your children’s choir started chemo this week?

Where do the garlands and lights downtown meet the people with ports and IVs and monitors? Where do they meet the women enslaved by ISIS? Where do they meet ugliness and grief and pain that tinsel and cookies can’t comfort?

Have we got it wrong, with gaudy celebrations and songs? Or is it that this season is at its heart exactly about meeting those pains — about the only thing that can heal those wounds — an extraordinary event demanding extraordinary celebration.

Meet it with awe and reverence: God walking in human feet, come to bear human woes. And meet it with loud songs of joy: whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

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Writing more than five minutes, but still linking up with Kate Motaung on her prompt, season. The “season” button above takes you to her site.

©2015 by Stacy Crouch

Christmas: the third day

It rains, on this, the third day of Christmas, and my nose drips perpetually, and I can’t seem to focus on piano practice, or on reading, or on much of anything else. And it rains.

There’s so much preparation for Christmas: a long build-up with decorations and music and shopping and cooking and planning. And then it’s over and we trickle toward the new year — an arbitrary marker of a cycle of days — in which we’ll mostly continue all the old things with just one digit’s difference at the end.

But Christ wasn’t born just so He could have gorgeously decorated birthday celebrations every year and then be packed away into a dark closet until the next anniversary. He came to illumine a whole world of darkness, and the darkness has not, cannot, overcome that light.

He is making all things new, not in the manner of the arbitrary “fresh start” each new year brings, but actually changing the shape of reality. He gives sight to sightless eyes and makes deaf ears hear. He makes useless legs leap and dance. He makes stone hearts into flesh. He makes the dead live.

Christ is not packed away with nativity scenes; the tomb could not hold Him. He has promised to be with us always, and with Him each day we step forward, not in a limited set of finite years, but toward eternity.

So that though the old year trickles towards its close, because Christ came — because God put on a human body and was crucified for our sins, buried, and rose again on the third day — the difference is not one measly digit, but uncountable, immeasurable, glorious.

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©2014 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): adore

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Recently, a friend shared a question with which he’d been challenged: “Does cold worship bother you as much as over-emotionalized, theatrical worship?” (Those aren’t the exact words, but that is the gist of it.) In sharing it, he challenged me, too.

Because I fear false worship, fear showing too much emotion, look with suspicion sometimes at things that seem or sound “fake” in the church setting. But so many Sundays I stand calmly and lift my voice to the King of the universe with my heart so far away and disengaged. (And it isn’t just Sundays, is it?)

When we sing, each December, “O come, let us adore Him,” are we adoring Him? Are we thinking about who He is whom we call one another to adore?

God of gods.

Light of lights.

Making Himself the nothing of an out-of-wedlock baby born in a stable, the nothing of a convict hanging on a Roman cross and flanked by thieves.

Exalted to the highest place and given the name that is above every name.

That at the name of Jesus every knees should bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

He deserves our wholehearted adoration.

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300Today — a day late — I join Kate Motaung for the last Five Minute Friday of 2014. The button above will take you to her site.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

upon grace

What do I need to write on a long day of December rain? What do I need to write on a day when I’ve simply felt pale blue? What do I need to write on day when I spend hours trying to say things and feeling discouraged at not finding the connections, the words?

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I need to write truth. I need to breathe truth, inhaling it with every breath, bearing it in my blood to the crown of my head and the chilly extremities of my toes.

What is truth? Truth is that each of these breaths, each of these heartbeats, is grace, happening without any conscious effort on my part. I don’t have to tell myself to keep being alive because these being-alive processes are built into my system and guided by One much wiser than I. I would kill myself trying to keep my heart going at an appropriate rate, unable to think of it consistently enough, unable to keep thinking of it in my sleep. But He guides each beat of each heart on this planet, and He never sleeps.

Truth is that I am every bit as inadequate as I feel. I am never enough of any of the things I should be. No, leave “enough” out of the question completely: truth is that nothing good dwells in me.

Truth is that I do not deserve love, but I am loved. Truth is that I was under a righteous judgement destined for death, but that the righteous Judge made Himself my Savior and gave His life for mine. Truth is that I was dead already in my sins, but God loved me with a great love and made me alive together with Christ. Truth is that I am the recipient of the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward me in Christ Jesus.

Truth is that the God of the universe, the God who created time, made Himself small and submitted to the constraints of time and the pains and indignities of a mortal body that we might enter eternity with Him and be clothed in glorious immortality.

Truth is that long days of December rain after nights of too-little sleep need not cause blue moods, because they cannot alter the fact that Christ is my sufficiency. Truth is that if I am never able to write another coherent word, the important Word has already spoken: He became flesh, dwelt among us, let us see His glory.

Even on difficult days, from His fullness I receive grace upon grace.

©2014 by Stacy Nott