Five Minute Friday: support

Support.

I’m thinking of Isaac Watts’ paraphrase of Psalm 23:
“When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay.
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.”

A week ago, Nabeel Qureshi, Christian apologist and author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God but One, announced that his doctors have put him on palliative care, that his body, after a year of fighting cancer, is shutting down. So I’m guessing he’s walking through shades of death this week, and I’ve been grieving and praying.

This week we happened to be walking through John 11 in our evening family times: the story of Lazarus, taken in tiny bites. There’s Christ, who stayed away and let Lazarus die because he loved them. And there’s Christ, who knows he’s about to raise the dead man, weeping for the sorrow he’s about to undo. And there’s Christ, bidding that dead man to come out. And the dead man came out.

This week I happened to be reading Revelation in my mornings, and there’s Christ again, promising to wipe away every tear. Promising that death shall be no more. And there’s a hope, better than Lazarus’ earthly resurrection: the One who declared himself to be the Resurrection and the Life will dwell with us as our God, will make all these sorrows pass away, will make all things new.

He walks with us through shades of death. He walked through them before us and for us. We wouldn’t breathe without his breath, and his breath tells us to “Fear not.” Not because there aren’t things to fear, but because he’s already told us the ending of this story, and it’s a happy ending:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  –John 11:25, 26 

(She said to him, “Yes, Lord . . . .”)

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I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday crew today, even though I spent longer than trying to pull these threads of thought together. The button above will take you to the FMF site, where you can find others’ musings on this week’s prompt, support.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

five minute friday (on saturday): mom

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He’s crawling now — all over the floor and under the furniture, examining the minute crumbs, the carpet fibers, and whatever else he can find. I pursue him with voice and hands: don’t touch the power cords, don’t crinkle the book pages: no, and no again.

And he crawls to me, pulls himself up into my lap, lays his head on my chest, my knee. I couldn’t have anticipated this: how now that he’s free to go where wants, he comes to me. How I love him.

In the car last night we played an old mix cd I threw together for a road trip a few years back, when I had no suspicion of husband and baby coming so soon, when my heart grieved and yearned, and I needed those hours alone on the highway to gain perspective and hope.

And now, such joy.

But the hope of then was not in the potential for motherhood, however sweet. Nor could this now be so sweet if it were the center of my hopes. Paul says that “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). The hope Paul means? Resurrection. The dead are raised. Christ is raised. We shall be raised.

All the griefs and yearnings — some of which will never be answered in this life — find their answer in that resurrection. And that resurrection makes sense only in light of the grief of now.

Because even this joy, motherhood, comes tinged with the grief of love, the yearning of it. And as much now as then, I need a surer hope.

Mine, in Christ.

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Linking up with Kate Motaung for her Five Minute Friday free-write on the prompt mom. The “mom” button above leads to her site.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: morning

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And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, on the brown brink eastward, springs —

“Oh, morning.” Gerard Manley Hopkins got it: morning is always on the way, circling our globe, coming back for us when we’ve watched all the light drain away and felt there was none left.

“Weeping may endure for a night,” the Psalmist says, “but joy cometh in the morning.”

Make of it what you will, but I went to watch Risen this week, and one of my favorite moments came when Clavius interviews the drunken tomb guard to get the real story. Through tears and terror the guard explains that “the sun rose in the tomb.” The sun rose in the tomb.

Resurrection. Morning.

The sun rises and rises and rises, so that the fact of its rising is engrained in us before we’re capable of conscious thought, and yet morning has power to surprise us, breaking out with glory in our darkness, brand-new mercies where we forgot to look.

Oh, morning.

Isn’t our God good?

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Linking up with Kate Motaung for her Five Minute Friday free-write, on the prompt, morning. The morning button above takes you to her site.

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): rise

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I played piano for a funeral this morning. Funerals make me think.

One day, if the Lord doesn’t come back first, this body is going to stop, whether by external or internal means. These fingertips won’t be able to feel the raised spot where a scrape is healing on the back of my hand; these eyes will stop seeing the sunlight, the lamplight, or my own blue veins. It will all stop.

But I also know this: after I’ve stopped it won’t be the end; I shall be raised incorruptible.

Resurrection. The apostle Paul knew and insisted that everything hinges on this. If the dead aren’t raised, we are pitiable indeed, for then Christ himself could not have been raised, and our hope is merely to join a dead man in being dead.

But the dead are raised. Christ rose. I shall rise.

It turns reality inside-out to think about it. All the best and most precious things of now are just shadows of the yet-to-be; and, while we live and work and invest here, it’s all for eternity, and that’s where we should set our hearts.

I don’t know quite how to balance it all. How to be here, but for there. How to be now, but for then. How to die daily, for the resurrection.

But I know that this is why we can sing triumphant hymns at funerals. And in that I rejoice.

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It took me more than five minutes. But I did use Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday prompt: rise. The button above will take you to her site.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

poison ivy and eden

Summer approaches. I have incontrovertible evidence in the fact that poison ivy is emerging from its winter sabbatical. All along the sides of the path modestly drooping three-leaved clusters rise on tender red stems.

Was the serpent in the Garden thus demure at first, hiding his shy face behind the thick-leaved fruit boughs, peering out to question, softly, “Did God really say . . . ?”

Jan Brueghel the Elder, "The Garden of Eden," 1612

When my cousin was a tiny girl she rubbed a poison ivy leaf all over her face: “Daddy, it’s so soft!” The rash made her eyes swell shut and was very uncomfortable — as poison ivy rashes are — but had no long-term consequences.

Not all seduction stories are so cleanly concluded.

This ivy grew in the Garden, I suppose, soft-leaved and lovely, perfectly safe for rubbing on faces, perfectly safe for brushing against ankles.

And then there was the question, the perfect hand stretched out to take the fruit that was a delight to the eyes, the perfect teeth piercing through the skin, the flavor of the knowledge of good and evil bursting on the woman’s tongue, on the man’s tongue.

Then the ground was cursed, and to eat of its fruit became pain. Their eyes were not swollen shut, but were wide open to the damage, their skin torn by the thorns of their disobedience, and the way back to innocence blocked with a flaming sword.

Even now these signs of new life, fresh vines growing up through last year’s leaves, come wrapped in the warning of death, and, though the leaves are still tiny, I find myself drawing to the center of the path, shrinking from the touch of a poison plant.

He was crowned with the thorns of our disobedience, drank the dregs of the cup of our iniquity. Though He knew no sin, He was willingly covered with the poison of our sinning, gave Himself up to the flames of that sword. He died.

But He didn’t stay dead. And when He emptied His own tomb, He conquered the curse, crushed the serpent’s head, and opened the way for us — the torn and disobedient — to be crowned with the spoils of His victory, to believe in Him, and enter into life everlasting.

 

©2014 by Stacy Nott, most of the story can be found in Genesis 3

small and glad

“Alice must grow small if she is to be Alice in Wonderland.”
–G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Alice must grow small. My summer muse, Chesterton, looked me severely in the face and spoke this sentence just after I had typed the woefully self-pitying thought that I felt like a newly-hatched butterfly whose wings would not un-crumple. “Oh,” I said. “Oh.”

Perhaps even wings would make me too large to fit into Wonderland. But that is not the real point. The real point is that, the moment I begin to craft metaphors to describe the state of my feelings, in that moment I begin to balloon to inordinate size, filling the whole of my own view, to the exclusion of all things wild and wonderful. I make myself a towering dromedary beside a needle-eye door, and, were my camel-hump really stored with water, it would be an insufficient supply for the tears I could shed at my exclusion from the paradise visible through that slot.

“Grow small,” Chesterton insists, glaring from beneath his beetling brows with eyes that twinkle at the joke of a man of his girth telling anyone to grow smaller.

I’ve spent much of my life trying for a tiny perspective, venturing into mouse-houses with Beatrix Potter, making tiny dwellings for Polly Pocket dolls amongst tree roots and under clover leaves. More recently, I’ve made my camera do the shrinking for me, giving me glimpses of the undersides of mushrooms, looking eye-to-eye with touring snails.

But that is not really the smallness Chesterton means, either. He means a smallness that has nothing to do with size and everything to do with direction of the eyes. He means looking at the snail, and not bothering about whether I look large or small beside it. He means that being newly-hatched into the world is so astonishing that the question of whether you hatched with or without wings becomes immaterial. Stop looking, he seems to say, at the crumpled things on your own back, and start looking at the places your legs can take you.

My life might be, as Anne Shirley says, “a perfect graveyard of buried hopes,” but it is equally a garden wherein lovely things I never dreamed of planting come blooming unexpectedly,  wherein I may be small, like Alice, and find the flowers towering above my head.

Once upon a dark day, the Hope of the world was buried in tomb in a garden, and all those who had hoped grieved and wondered and saw no way to hope again. And then, and then, He rose again, making this garden-graveyard-world of ours a place where it is never safe to assume that the things we grieve for will stay in their graves. We live in Wonderland, where hopes may be resurrected, camels may step through needles’ eyes, butterflies may find their crumpled wings made whole.

Here I am small, and very glad.

 

©2013 by Stacy Nott