Five Minute Friday: middle

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I don’t remember the first time Daddy shared it with us, but it counts among my earliest memories: the rough sketch of two cliff-tops and the chasm between. “MAN” on one side, “GOD” on the other; in the middle the sins that have made a separation between us.

Daddy drew a stick figure on the “MAN” side. And he would ask how we could get across.

Depending on the context, people offered suggestions: praying, going to church, being obedient. Daddy drew them as bridges. But they were bridges that could not span the gap — our righteous deeds are as filthy rags, and we can’t get to God by doing good things.

To trust yourself to any of those bridges, Daddy would point out, led to death. “DEATH” — the wages of sin — lay at the bottom of the chasm.

So what are we to do? Ah, in the middle, Daddy drew a cross, spanning the chasm. “JESUS,” who died for our sins, taking the death we earned, to bring us to God.

And how do we cross? “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

The Bible says that there is only one mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ. A synonym for “mediator” is “middle man.” How thankful I am for this Christ who stands in the middle, interceding for me, giving me the free gift of eternal life.

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Linking up with Kate Motaung today to write on her prompt, “middle.”

©2017 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.

heal

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

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

 

a strange and perfect time

It’s a strange time to be engaged, I’m thinking.

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photo thanks to Janet Crouch Photography

The highest court in the land just declared same-sex marriage constitutional, attempting to redefine an institution older than original sin.

Set our meager few hundreds of years of national existence against the dawn of time and ask if our interpretations of our founding fathers really have any weight beside decrees established by the Creator of the universe. We might determine that Thomas Jefferson did not believe gravity existed, but that would not cause us to immediately float from the surface of our earth.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that same-sex couples do and will marry — and also that they do and will love one another. But I am convinced that, in spite of five Supreme Court justices’ lofty opinions, those marriages are fundamentally different things than the one on which I will embark with my fiancé this fall.

I’m not actually here to argue about the ins and outs of that, however, just to think about its implications for one man and one woman who plan to marry soon.

There’s a part of me that, seeing marriage redefined and turned inside upon itself like this, simply wants to throw it off completely. They’ve ruined it, I’m tempted to say, and I’ll have nothing to do with it. 

I suppose similar thoughts may have motivated the early church’s flight to celibacy long ago: seeing the constant abuses of good things can make us lose sight of their goodness and abandon them completely. Follow that line of reasoning too far, however, and it becomes logical to drink poison-laced cool-aid in a jungle commune somewhere — life itself, after all, is mightily abused.

But no. Though Christ calls us to die daily, He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. He didn’t lead His disciples out to hide from the corruption of their world, but led them headlong into the midst of the mess, laying His sinless hands on the rotting flesh of lepers, weeping outside of a stinking tomb, submitting to the revolting brutality of scourging and a cross. (And the stone was rolled away; the grave clothes left empty; Thomas put his hands into the wounds on the risen Lord.)

And so He calls us to live in the midst of kingdoms to which we do not belong, elect exiles, strangers, aliens, ambassadors of the Kingdom which is not of this world. We marry because God made marriage, and we love because He loved us first, and by His grace we make visible a glimpse of that great mystery, Christ and His church.

We don’t show the mystery by ceasing to marry, but by marrying. So that, even in this strange time, I wear my ring with joy, and plan a wedding celebration, and thank the Lord that He created them male and female and declared that the two should become one flesh.

It’s a perfect time to be engaged, I’m thinking.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday: share

share

One of my favorite childhood books — The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear — comes to an impasse at the end: the big hungry bear is coming for the red ripe strawberry, and none of the little mouse’s strategies to hide, guard, or disguise the strawberry will do any good. No, the author says, “There’s only one way to save a red ripe strawberry from the big hungry bear.” The solution? “Cut it in two, share half with me, and we’ll both eat it all up! Yum!”

Share. There are gifts that are meant to be spent, things which we must give away in order to keep. Cling too tightly to gifts and they may be snatched away. The best gifts are never just for the one recipient.

In a much-quoted passage from his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis insists that “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” That the only way to secure against heartbreak is to love nothing. But a heart that does not love becomes no heart at all. Our hearts — like the mouse’s strawberry — are meant to be shared, and if shared, broken.

Do you doubt me? Look at Christ. This best gift of all, given because God so loved the world. It involved a breaking: the Godhead divided from Himself, forsaking and punishing His beloved Son on the cross. His body was broken for us, that we might share in His death, and, through that, share in His resurrection, life everlasting, as well.

God Himself suffered the pain of sharing, and He calls us, for love of Him to love the world as He loves it, to share the hope He offers, even at great cost. Christ did it for the joy set before Him, and He sets that same joy before us: “Enter into the joy of your master.”

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Today I join Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday crew to write on her prompt, “share.” To see more posts on this prompt, click the button above.

©2015 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

promised

“God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

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And he has promised so many things in which we can rest, but today, for me, it’s just this one:

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

He doesn’t say that we have to be fishing for men in order to follow him. He says this is something he will make us when we follow him.

HE will do it. So it doesn’t matter, so much, that I feel unqualified, terrified. That I’ve only ever fished for a few puny pond bass and an unfortunate snapping turtle.

I follow the One who makes me able to follow, who has all authority and power, and he will make of me what he has promised.

He has said, and he will do it.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday (that took twenty minutes): Truth

“We live in an age of surfaces,” quoth Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I taught that on Monday. “We live, as we dream, alone,” quoth Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I taught that on Wednesday. Marlow’s loneliness stems, I think, from Lady Bracknell’s surfaces, from that fact that we only see the exteriors of people, only what they do; we don’t get to see, often,  who they actually are.

Both stories, in very different ways, deal with the issue of truth. How do we know it? Can we know it? What is it, when it is known? I hadn’t expected them to fit together as well as they do, but they do.

Buzzwords in our culture are “authentic” and “real.” They are so much used that I shy away from them, feeling that their popularity has rendered them inauthentic and unreal. They’ve become a part of our culture’s surface, things everyone wants to be, but things defined externally: “authentic” people have to fit a certain mold, look a certain way. We get so fixated on letting people see the messy authenticity of our lives, that showing them a clean room can seem artificial somehow. Even though our versions of “messy” can often be just as artificial.

Truth comes,  I think, not from trying to be real or authentic, but from being about something bigger than what you are, something bigger than you are. The most real people I’ve met aren’t too worried about being real; they’re worried about what is real. They love the Truth.

Truth is neither the ridiculous farce of Oscar Wilde’s play, nor the grim horror of Conrad’s story. It combines both. Wilde’s characters get better than they deserve. Conrad’s come against the truth of their own depravity. The truth — Truth — presents us with our depravity, and offers us wildly more than we deserve: life for our death, hope for our desperation, glory in place of our shame. Christ wears the horror of our iniquity and clothes us with the earnest that is His blood, a promise for a future in which we are His and like Him.

Those who dwell in this Truth, delight in this Truth, live in this world of dim reflections, of surfaces, but they have a foot in the Kingdom of face-to-face. They are known fully, and they shall fully know.

Thanks, Lisa-Jo!

The truth is, I broke all the rules in composing this, but I did start with Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Friday prompt: “truth.” If you’d like to join in, or read more posts on her prompt, use the button above.

©2013 by Stacy Nott