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

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This evening we drank hot chocolate and decorated the Christmas tree which has been fragrancing our living room for a week now all unadorned. I unpacked memories with the ornaments: all the little woodland creatures that used to talk to one another in the hollows between the tree branches, the cat and dog that always hang near one another at the bottom of the tree, the golden globe which hangs on a motor which will keep it turning and turning until January.christmas tree

And I remembered that every year since I started writing at Between Blue Rocks, I’ve shared some Christmas poem or other here in December. Handling those ornaments reminds me the joy of maintaining small traditions, and so I continue this one here.Today’s poem comes from Luci Shaw and is published in her collection Polishing the Petoskey Stone (Harold Shaw Publishers, 1990). It deals with an event included in the Christmas story, though it preceded it, actually, by many months.

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St. Luke 1:39-45

Framed in light,
Mary sings through the doorway.
Elizabeth’s six month joy
jumps, a palpable greeting,
a hidden first encounter
between son and Son.

And my heart turns over
when I meet Jesus
in you.

I like the simplicity of this poem and the way it takes that meeting and lets me own it. For us there is no physical carrying of the newly-incarnate God, but even so the glorious mystery of the gospel “is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He is in us, and as we walk with Him we are transformed into His image. So that sometimes, when I am with other Christians, I get glimpses of Jesus. Those are beautiful.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Christmastid(ings)

If we observed Christmastide — the twelve feast-days from Christmas to Epiphany — today would have been dedicated to the memory of St. Thomas Becket, the tenth-century Archbishop of Canterbury who went head to head with kings of England, and, for his pains, was cut down by four of the king’s knights inside his own cathedral.

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I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of the case to know whether the excommunication spree which incited the monarchy against Beckett was warranted or not, but I do know that shortly after Becket’s untimely demise, the Pope canonized him, and Becket’s tomb at Canterbury  became a shrine and regular destination for pilgrims.

The practice of going on pilgrimage must have been an early form of tourism. There is no doubt a whole industry sprang up around it, food and lodging along popular pilgrimage routes, and souvenirs to be purchased as evidence of having seen the shrine. (Photography would have been an anachronism in the Middle Ages.) While certainly many went for religious reasons, hoping for some benefit from venerating the shrine — there were stories of miracles and blessings associated with Becket’s remains — I suspect that many more went simply because it was something to do.

When Geoffrey Chaucer sent his troupe of tale-telling pilgrims to Canterbury in the twelfth century, he seems to have been of my opinion, suggesting, in his ever-so-famous Prologue, that the coming of spring infected people with wanderlust such that they set out in droves on the roads to these places of piety. But if the tone of the Canterbury Tales are any indication, the pilgrims did not go with pious intentions, unless the intention to have a good time be a mark of piety.

While Chaucer was certainly writing social commentary for his own time, six-hundred years later we can draw this connection: the culture of the Middle Ages, like our own, was adept at turning what were meant to be sacred moments into machines for entertainment and money-making.

I went researching Christmastide because I wondered if having a cycle of specific observances would lend purpose to these doldrums of December, when Christmas is past, and the New Year is yet to come, and things seem to hang in limbo, aimless and overfed. But if we observed those twelve days of Christmas, wouldn’t they just become another part of the machine, adding more anxiety to an already over-full holiday schedule, more meals to prepare, more gifts to purchase?

We live holiday to holiday in this week already, as though Christmas and New Years are somehow inherently better days than these between. And while it is right to keep a feast in observance of this extraordinary birth, remembering this birth should drive back, with new energy, into the ordinary days.

Because Christmas reminds us that the God of the universe, Whose right it was to be always outside of this mundane world of time, stepped into our ordinary and lived our ordinary days with us and died the death which belongs to humankind. In so doing, He in a sense eradicated ordinary days, superimposing His forever-kingdom on our swiftly-passing now, so that each of these days, even in the doldrums of December, has reverberations in the halls of eternity.

Now we are pilgrims, journeying to one day see those halls; each day is progress along the way. The holidays — holy days? — are not just about food, fun, and family, but stand as sign-posts, reminding us of the kingdom and King to whom we belong. And though at Christmas we celebrate the birth of One who died, He did not die as a martyr, a victim of mad monarchs or impetuous knights, He died, and in His death He conquered. As we step into the New Year, we follow this conquering King.

Rejoice.

 
©2013 by Stacy Nott