New Year’s Reflection

New Year’s Reflection…

When we moved to our lovely little town four years ago, we started attending a small but loving church a block from our house. One of the first sermons I heard Pastor Mac preach was one I still have not forgotten…

He has a beautiful view of the mountains from their house…stunning, really. And, as a good photographer, he had taken pictures of the mountains in various weather and times of day and used them as a sermon illustration about the unchanging faithfulness of God (or at least that’s how my heart remembers it).

On the shores of loneliness, in the fog of depression, God’s loving-kindness is unfailingly with us.

When the mountains crumble (and what we thought was stable is shaken), God’s loving-kindness is unfailing with us.
Psalm 121
1 I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.
4 Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep.
5 The LORD protects you;
the LORD is a shelter right by your side.[a]
6 The sun will not strike you by day
or the moon by night.
7 The LORD will protect you from all harm;
he will protect your life.
8 The LORD will protect your coming and going
both now and forever.

(from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

and from Lamentations 3: 22-24 (CSB)

Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
24 I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.”

So this year, once again, I will think about the mountains in Mac’s sermon, in all kinds of circumstances and weather, and hope to remember with the song writer, Great is your faithfulness, oh God, my Father.

From the Ashes

There is brokenness-frail humanness
In relationships entangled
By biting, angry bitter words
Screamed from a heart that’s wounded

But Your presence, Lord, brings clarity,
Dispels the fog of dark delusions
The oil of joy gently given
Poured out onto the hurting
Soothes the soul in mourning

And the heaviness is lifted
You give beauty for ashes,
But first we go through fire
As by Your hand our lives
Are delivered from the Liar.

Spirit of the living God,
So gratefully I praise you.
You do for us what only You can do-
You call us from the ashes
And make us new.

December 27, 2020

The Thing About Angels…

Yesterday, I got a call from an angel…

(it’s almost Christmas, a busy time for angels, I guess.)

She was about God’s business-visiting the sick,

the lonely, and the forgotten.

(I confess her active creativity put my lethargic heart to shame). 

Angels nowadays can use Facetime –

(Who knew!) I got the message too late this time,

But she said she would call again in two weeks –

Then we can visit a very old friend in a nursing home

And she will take the risks and connect us behind a glass wall

With this modern convenience God must have inspired.

But angels are infinitely resourceful! 

While there at the nursing home,

Reading Facebook encouragement to our mutual friend,

She called someone else we both love,

(Knowing this person was struggling in turbulent waters,

sometimes overwhelmed and isolated)

She gave her a Facetime opportunity

to love and encourage our friend and to see her beautiful kiddos. 

As I thanked the angel for all she had done,

She reminded me of a past we had shared…a time she was overwhelmed…

Of lessons learned- sometimes you give grace and sometimes you receive it

And how we comfort others with the same comfort we have received from the God who loves us.

So grateful for the infinite creativity of God and for this angel who absolutely sparkles with His grace.

(II Cor. 1:3-4)

The Absence of Your Presence

If it wasn’t for Your love,

I would have nowhere to go

There’d be no reason to get out of bed

Fight to open my eyes or try

If I didn’t know Your love

Life would be a living hell

The absence of Your presence – unspeakable!

Darkness too deep – incomprehensible!

If I didn’t know Your love

It would prove I’m already dead

Because You said You’d be with me always-

You love me-that’s what you said.

So I wait here in the darkness

Of this long night of the soul

Knowing only with Your Presence

Can my heart again be whole…

My hope may be bruised and broken

At times I feel so alone

But I’ve known Your love

It has carried me

And I know it will carry me home.

Dec 20, 2020

Thanksgiving Lament

(Ya, I know, that’s a contradiction, but…..)

Today, for many people, is hard.

Today, as you can tell, I am sad.

Today I am grateful for still being alive -five years past a nasty cancer diagnosis.  Grateful for a good doctor and a clinic trial that saved my life.

Today I am grateful for a husband who still loves me – even after 42 years.

Today (and every day!) I am grateful for children and grandchildren who like to hang out with us. 

I am grateful that there is a Creator who put the world in place -I don’t know how, but I don’t need to.  It is obviously too complex to have just happened.  

I am grateful I live where I have trails to wander, rivers and mountains to look at and gardens of hope to plant with flowers and beauty in my little part of the world.

I am grateful for a house to live in that is warm and dry and safe.

I am grateful for the possibility that elected officials may choose to act like servant leaders in the near future instead of shape-shifting, blame-throwing, self-obsessed infants.

I am grateful for the diversity of our country, and for the refugees, immigrants and Native Americans that make it so.

I am grateful that gratitude is an attitude that can become a habit that can make you buoyant even when the waves seem high and the storm looks overwhelming.

I am grateful for today.

A Lament for Our Time

We have made an idol out of our rights and forgotten our privileges and responsibilities.

We have made an idol out of our sufficiency and forgotten our need of You

We have assumed we know all knowledge that matters and

forgotten that respect for You is the beginning of wisdom.

We have neglected widows, orphans, strangers, the homeless, refugees, prisoners, those in poverty, the unemployed and disabled and communities of color. 

We have made whiteness “rightness” and congratulated ourselves on what we have done, not acknowledging it took Your help, Your strength and Your mercy to get this far.

(Your mercies are made new every morning – ours too quickly run out!)

We elected a “king” who mocked everyone else but felt he had never done wrong. 

Oh God, now, perhaps, our path has changed. 

We acknowledge that black lives matter.

We acknowledge that we belong to each other.

Some of us acknowledge that pro-life means pro everyone’s life.

We acknowledge that power is corrupted without humility

We acknowledge that America is not the only country with humans You love beyond measure.

God help us.

We are in need of Your mercy.

Help us to do justice, love mercy and learn to walk humbly, remembering we do not deserve Your mercy, but that we desperately need it anyway.

November 2020

(Reading “A Sacred Sorrow” – an experience guide to reaching out to God in the lost language lament, by Michael Card. This book goes through the life of Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus.)

Psalm of the Slug

Sitting around , heart on the ground

Feeling like kind of a slug

Wondering if life would have been better

If I had been born as a bug…

No choices to make-just chances to take

And runnning the risk of being a lunch

For something to munch

And not really having much say.

It’s not that much different-this being a human

It’s all just a matter of size.

So this human slug with the hope of a bug

Sure doesn’t feel very wise…..

The Wall

I stood alone behind
My self-made wall of fear and pride.
It kep the world locked out
(Me with my fears, locked up inside).
There were no doors or windows
In this fortress I had made
(I couldn’t take a chance
Someone would see my guilt and shame).

One day, you knocked upon my wall
And old me of a light–
The light of God’s acceptance
That could put my fears to flight.
You said if I surrendered,
Laying down my will, my pride,
That He would be my fortress–
(There’d be no more need to hide).

Carefully, with trembling hands,
I lifted off one brick.
Then I removed another
(Thought I wasn’t moving quick!).
A ray of light came shining
Through the window I had made–
As time went on, I found
I was a little less afraid.

I took more bricks down one by one
Until I built a door.
Then I ventured out
(A risk I couldn’t take before!).
Not only did I tip-toe out–
I let some people in.
They weren’t a threat–
They were a joy!
I found some special friends.

I built an altar from those bricks,
Offered up my fear and pride,
Then found to my amazement–
There was more room for peace inside!
Tearing down my fortress
Was the beginning of hope for me.
Now life is becoming better
Than I ever dreamed it could be

Psalm 61 for 7-year-olds

A Morning Psalm

Last night I dreamed about Psalm 61 as I prayed for a very special little person I know who is having a struggle with school in a Zoom-filled virtual school day. 

This morning I am reading the first few verses from “the Passion Translation”:

O God, hear my prayer. Listen to my heart’s cry.
For no matter where I am, even when I’m far from home,
I will cry out to you for a father’s help.
When I’m feeble and overwhelmed by life,
guide me into your glory, where I am safe and sheltered.
Lord, you are a paradise of protection to me.
You lift me high above the fray.
None of my foes can touch me
when I’m held firmly in your wrap-around presence!
Keep me in this glory.
Let me live continually under your splendor-shadow,
hiding my life in you forever.

Psalm 61 for a seven-year-old:

God, I am overwhelmed!

I need your help!

This is hard.

Everyone else gets done quicker.

I don’t want them to laugh

I need your help.

This is hard.

I need your help.

Let me know I am loved.

I need your help.

This is hard.

Lead me to the safe place

Let me know I am OK.

Grab the Rope!

(dreamed of walking through the jungle on a muggy, buggy, humid, damp, oppressive kind of day.  Stumbled into quicksand and quickly dug myself deeper.  Then I heard someone I could vaguely make out on the far shore telling me to “grab the rope”)

The noises of the jungle seem to echo in my ears

As I sink a little deeper in the quicksand of my fears

In the mire of self-destruction, the abyss of black despair

Feeling abandoned – like no one really cares.

I scream out to the silence, to the hot, unmoving air

“Won’t someone come and save me?  Is anybody there!?!?!?”

Thrashing, struggling, gasping I try to make a way

Needing deliverance and strength for today….

Hope almost gone – no will to go on.

A quiet voice whispers–

(It seems like a song):

“Grab the rope, weary pilgrim, strength is gone.

Grab the rope of surrender, it is strong.

It can save you from destruction if you let your struggle cease…

I’ve come to deliver you and give you My peace

But you must surrender – accept what I’ve planned.

Grab the rope, weary pilgrim.  Take My hand!”

1988

Letting Go (poem)

Letting go of what’s behind,
Embracing what’s ahead,
Going through the changes
As I feel I have been led.

Accepting possibilities
To learn and trust and grow.
Believing when I ask His will
He’ll give me grace to know.

Grasping for serenity
And fragile peace of mind
Praying for the power
To do what I may find.

I make now this commitment
(which I know won’t be the last
for it is but a stepping stone
along this winding path)
So now that I have given it
My all, my very best,
I have to LET IT GO
And trust in Him to do the rest.

August 28, 1988

Lazarus (poem)

In the Mending the Soul group I was in, the chapter we were on was on deadness – how abuse deadens your soul and how God wants to help you get out of that …. I was like – if I knew how to do this different, I would have done it by now!

Then, one night I dreamed of a coffin laying in the yard with a lid off as we tried to move on. Wondering who died. Had to make a decision what to do with this. Wanted to leave it but knew I couldn’t finish moving until I dealt with the body in the box.

3/14/2020
Lazarus, what was it like for you?
You’d been with the Master, knew what He could do….
Did you feel abandoned when He let you die
Instead of coming to save your life?
(Did you cry?)

Your sisters wept in anguish
They hated to see you go-
You were all friends with Jesus-
(Or at least you thought so….)
(Why was He so slow?

Your friends bound you with grave clothes
And wept at your tomb
Comforted your sisters
While you lay in darkness, alone

He came when you’d been dead four days-
(Martha said that you would smell)
He didn’t hold back –this was nothing new….
(He knows broken people so well).

He came and he wept
Told your friends, “Roll back the stone”
He called you out into His light.
Said, “Unbind him and let him go.”

How did you feel when you saw His face?
Did it matter how long it had been?
Or were you just grateful to out of the tomb
To be able to live again?

Reclaimed

I searched for buried treasure,
Looked for pearls far and wide
But came up empty handed
With longing deep inside

My eyes could see but not understand
My ears heard clamor and noise
My broken heart was distracted
By the world and all its toys

Until one day the Good Shepherd
Reclaimed this wandering lamb.
Now I am redeemed,
Bought back from destruction
Held safe in His loving hands.

An “Imperfect” Child

I was born imperfect
(Not just the obvious imperfections of sin nature, self-will and human depravity)
But in an actual tangible, provable kind of imperfect way—
The kind of imperfection that you had to pay to have fixed.
This was unacceptable…. only a perfect child would prove their place in the world….
They both badly needed something to be proud of.
Instead, they got me.

(Battles over whose genes did it—
Who could take the blame,
Or why this happened were pointless….)
Back to the hospital I went…
Something as simple as being born
Could get complicated in their world—
(One brimming with anxiety and depression
Guilt, shame and fear).

But God’s saw things differently (as always):
He formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate insides and my intricate outside,
and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.
He even formed every bone in my body when he created me in the secret place
carefully, skillfully shaping me] from nothing into something.
This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible!
His understanding of me brings me wonder and strength
I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything you did is marvelously breathtaking…
It simply amazes me to think about!
You saw who you created me to be before I became me!]

“From my mother’s womb, you have chosen me,
Love has called my name. I’ve been born again into your family
Your blood flows through my veins”.

I am perfectly imperfect. I am loved. I am blessed. I am His.

(excerpts paraphrased from Psalms 139-The Passion Translation
and No Longer A Slave by Zach Williams)

Teresa Norman – Summer 2020

The Day the Bullies Won

I cried November 4, 2016.
Some of my friends laughed at me –
They said, “It’s just an election,”
“He’s only the president.”
“God is still really in control.”

But I have seen bullies win before —
Ones not any different than this one –
(Just less powerful)
Bullies who say “I thought you liked it.”
Or maybe, “You asked for it.”
Or, “If you tell, no one will ever believe you.”

Today’s bully wants to “make America great”
But this bully doesn’t understand greatness.
Greatness is not small minded and mean.
Greatness is kind to all (not just to those he deems worthy).
It refuses to be petty and mean when success comes to someone else.
Greatness does not continually lie about its achievements,
Does not over inflate its own importance.
Greatness does not traffic in shame and disrespect,
It does not demand its own honor at all costs,
As a result dishonoring those who serve with honor.
Greatness finds no delight in continually doing wrong.
It is not afraid of truth.

Someone truly great knows how to serve others, not just himself.

62 days til the election…..

God have mercy on us!