A Little Dog Named Courage

If I were an artist, I would draw a large dog crate with no bars on it, no door.
There would be a blanket provided, and food and water, but never kind words or a comfort or pet.
Courage would be led there at night and told to stay until morning.
The “stupid little bitch” would be alone with her fears, guilt and shame.
(At least the darkness hid her).

Morning’s light would not provide relief. The Accuser could still visit whenever he pleased.
He’d come to confirm her lack of value, uselessness, failures and guilt.
She’d never had sex with a boyfriend. (No, she was waiting for marriage.)
Instead, she had slept with a married man.
(She was going to hell).

Only now does she see there are no bars or door on her crate.
Only now does she see there is an escape.
Only now does she see the hand of kindness extended-
A Savior who sees the child He died for – one that He loves still.
(Does it still “count” as “having sex” if:
You are watching from the ceiling?
Your body is numb?
You say you don’t want it?
You don’t know you can say “NO!”)

Learning to give back the shame is courageous. (It is not hers to carry).
Learning to say “I didn’t deserve this” is courageous. (Abusers manipulate).
Learning to walk out of the cage and embrace freedom is courageous.
Learning to live is courageous. (Her life is in God’s hands).
(This simple, twisted man doesn’t get to take it away.)

Romans 8:38 (from the Passion Translation): So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!

The Father Who Made You

Grieving for a friend today…

Little child, crying in the dark
Wondering when the bitter words
And tears will end…
Wondering when it will be safe
To trust again–
There is a Hope! There is a Friend!

The Father who made you
Will not betray you
But longs to enfold you in His love!
His love will heal you,
Restore you and free you.
His love will do you no wrong.

Why won’t he stop?
What have I done?
Is there anywhere I can run?
Is there any place I can hide?
There is One who calls you to His side….

The Father who made you
Will not betray you
But longs to enfold you in His love!
His love will heal you,
Restore you and free you.
His love will do you no wrong.

Conquering Humiliation

With all the witnesses surrounding us-
(Those who provided wisdom, comfort and courage)
Who show overcoming is possible,
(because they have done it!),
We let go of the wounds that pierced us.
Then we don’t fall back into the familiar sins,
(trusting ourselves instead of God,
isolation, deadness and locking everyone out).

Then we can run the marathon He set out for us
With passion and determination,
Journeying to the high places with the Shepherd of love-
The One who loved us even before we knew what love was.
He delights in us, He wanted us, He came for us
And calls us out of our darkness into His light.
He endured the agony of the cross
for the joy of knowing we would be his
And conquered its humiliation.
Because of Him, we can conquer ours.

If we focus on Him,
We will not be overcome
By the evil of those who oppose their own souls
Or be worn down or cave in under life’s pressures.

Thoughts on Hebrew 12:1-3
Paraphrased from the Passion Translation

My Origin Story

Recently, I was given an opportunity to tell how I came to faith in Christ. That’s kind of a tricky story…when you come from a family where there is mental illness and domestic violence, nothing is ever simple.

As a nine year old girl, I had the privilege of going to a church camp for a week. This was probably my first time away from home that long, and I was pretty quiet (some girls tried to block the cabin door and not let me back in saying “You know, people would like you better if you talked more…”). But the Bible study part and the singing part and the part where you got asked if you wanted to “give your life to Jesus” drew me right in. I thought maybe if I put Him in control of my life, I could go home and not fight with my brother and not yell back when I was yelled at and be “really really good” and then maybe my family would not be so angry all the time. Here’s a glimpse into a little girl’s world:

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Jesus loves the little children?
Oh really? Yes, I see…
He must love the other children
(This don’t look like love to me!)

In the car, while Mom hits Dad
And we sit in the back
Afraid and sad
As we drive to the church
And park in a row
Where all those nice people
That Jesus loves go…

I think of the words
Those nice ladies say,
“You can get what you want
From God if you pray.”
So I pray, and I pray,
And I pray and I pray….
(But it never makes
The pain go away).

So sometimes I wonder
Why I am so bad
That Jesus can’t love me
And neither can Dad.

After camp, I went home filled with hope that things would be different. That lasted about two days, so I kind of decided God didn’t answer my prayers, that I wasn’t good enough, and gave up on faith. It’s normal for little kids to think everything is their fault, but that’s a lot for a little kid to try to sort out!

Our family still went to church every week, but my heart wasn’t really in it. Our new Sunday School teacher when I was 14 was a young mom with a big heart and a lot of enthusiasm. She kept telling us God loved us and that He had a plan for our lives and that faith was the only reasonable response. She seemed sincere, but it still all seemed like just words.

Then, three weeks after a friend of mine hung himself, her beautiful 18 month old daughter was killed in a tragic accident. I thought surely she would give up her hope and faith. I mean, how can anyone make it through that kind of loss and still believe God is good and kind and loving or even watching!?!?! But she did.

Seeing her still cling to God and not just give up was pretty powerful. One night we prayed together and I gave faith another chance. God answered this time. Hope began to sprout from all those seeds Sunday School teachers had planted in my heart, even when the ground was still pretty hard and dry.

I am very grateful.

Stay With the Story

Too easy to leave the scene on Good Friday
Convinced Hope has died and the story is over …
Even the disciples,
These ones who were chosen
Who had seen water turned to wine,
Loaves and fishes multiplied
Dead people raised
Blind people seeing and lepers cleansed
Still left confused and afraid…thinking they were abandoned.

I am so like them….
When dreams die or hope is buried
When I am dead
In my woundedness
Or pride
Or failures
Or unforgiveness
I so easily lose my way-sink back to the pit I came from…

But the finder of lost sheep (and lost disciples)
Does not abandon us on the shores of our desolation
Because He knows our hearts better than we ever will
He will meet us on the shore with fresh fish on the fire
To feed our hungry souls. He knows we are human.

Hope will rise again.

Teresa Norman April 2020

Legacy

Legacy

There’s a little girl in a country church watching Daddy today
Wondering why he lifts his hands and tears fall as he prays.
She’s still too young to understand why Daddy’s heart does break
As he’s praying for the wisdom he knows raising her will take…

“Father God, I’m asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the heart of these ones I love.
Please use my life, my words, my prayers
To show them how much their Savior cares…
Let them know they are precious in your sight.
And that trusting you can bring them through the night.”

The little girl is a woman now with children of her own
Life hasn’t always been easy but there’s something she’s always known:
She knows there’s a God in heaven who watches her each day
And that He sees her tears fall when she prays…

“Father God, she’s asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the heart of these ones she loves.
Use her life, her words her prayers
To show them how much their Savior cares.
And let them know they are precious in your sight,
That trusting you can bring them through each night.”

When we stand before you on that great and final day
And look upon your splendor, all tears will be wiped away,
The heartaches will be over, the loneliness be gone
As together with the angels, we worship at your throne…

Father God we’re asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the hearts of those you love
Use our lives, our words, our prayers
To show this world how much you care…
To let them know they are precious in your sight
And that trusting you can bring them through the night.

Teresa Norman May 1999

A Vessel Of Honor

A noise was made in heaven as the way parted and the Accuser entered the throne room. He came with a list…”See that little pot in the corner? It was made from defective materials. It is too small and weak for any good use. It’s broken now. Surely you have no remaining purpose for that one….It will never amount to anything…Can I have it? I’ll dispose of it for you…take care of the problem…It should be discarded. Surely there is no use for it…” (He inches slowly toward the pot and bends over to grasp it when the Lord’s strong voice booms out saying, “Silence! This one was made for My use. I designed it. I am not done with it yet. I have a purpose your eyes will never understand. It was bought and paid for with My blood: I ransomed this one! It has been redeemed! You will speak no more against it! It is mine!”

Satan slithered away and the Lord went and tenderly picked up each broken piece of the fractured vessel, missing nothing. He carried them to a workbench. The Holy Spirit came and together they labored with love over their broken vessel. The blood of the Lamb and the oil of joy covered each ragged edge as God reconstructed what the enemy thought he had destroyed. Slowly, from a pile of broken pieces, God fashioned a beautiful vessel of honor. At the banquet celebration He held, this vessel was on the table of the King of Kings — a beautiful goblet full of new wine. Its delicate, intricately shaped stem and ornamented sides were beautifully decorated with scenes declaring the victory of the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.
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From Psalms 30:8-12 NLT
I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Teresa Norman April 6, 1991

At Water’s Edge (Poem)

Standing here beside the ocean
Staring at the sea
Wondering how the God who made all this
Could still use me….
And yet, I hear your voice, Lord,
Even as in days of old
Promising a harvest—
More than my net can hold!

“Cast your net into the water.
Put your trust in Me.
Diverse fish in diverse places—
Trust Me and you’ll see!
It ain’t over yet, My child—
The best is still to come.
As I always have,
I still hang out with fishermen!”

©Teresa Norman
8/3/01

Like Water for the Thirsty (Poem)

Lord, you know there’s times I’ve tried to run
But now I come to give You thanks for all You’ve done.
I don’t know why it is I couldn’t see before
That the hands that were reaching out to me were Yours.

I guess that sometimes pride gets in the way—
We turn aside to try to hide the pain.
So much is lost I know You gave Your life to gain,
So now I come to give thanks in Your name.

Now when my little girls ask how to see You,
How can they really know that You’re around.
You’ve given me an answer I can share with them—
They can see You in Your people—
That’s where You’re found.

Thank You, Lord, for all You’ve done.
You gave me friends that brought me hope again.
Their kindness and their mercy
Were like water to the thirsty.
I’ve seen You in my friends
And I thank You, Lord.

Teresa Norman 1988

Where Are Your Poor? (Poem)

“Where are your poor?” our Honduran guest said.
I was humbled by his words.
His eyes had observed that our country is rich,
Richer even than what he had heard.

In his country many are poor,
Much more than we’ll ever see.
His church gives away what little it has
Trying to meet their needs.

We give a little while they give a lot
(Seems like the reverse should be true).
Forgive us, Lord, for failing to see
How many times we ignore You.

Give us hearts to see You, Lord,
In the hungry, poor and cold.
Give us hearts to gladly share
Our lives and the things we hold…
To value our brother more than our comfort.
To know when we give, we receive,
And that we can never out-give Your provision—
Help us live what we say we believe!

Teresa Norman , July 2000

The Pearl of Great Price (Poem)

There are times I set my eyes
Upon the things I see
And it’s then that I lose sight
Of how You died for me.

Circumstances pierce me through
When I take my eyes off You
And the victory You won
Does me no good.

But when I lift my eyes to see You
I am changed within.
And Your radiance and Your peace
Replace my despair.

I’m reminded that it’s true–
It’s worth it all
Just knowing You.
Jesus, You are everything I need.

Jesus, You’re the pearl of great price,
The author and the giver of life,
The faithful and the true—
There’s nothing worth more
Than knowing You.
The greatest joy of all
Is knowing You.

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God
You are the Prince of Peace—
You give such peace.
You’re the Bread of Heaven,
Living Water
Lord and so much more!
Thank you, Jesus
For all You are!

Teresa Norman 1984

Staying with the Story (Poem)

Too easy to leave the scene on Good Friday
Convinced Hope has died and the story is over …
Even the disciples,
These ones who were chosen
Who had seen water turned to wine,
Loaves and fishes multiplied
Dead people raised
Blind people seeing and lepers cleansed
Even they still left confused and afraid…
Thinking they were abandoned.

I am so like them….
When dreams die or hope is buried
When I am dead
In my woundedness
Or pride
Or failures
Or unforgiveness
I so easily lose my way-sink back to the pit I came from…

But the finder of lost sheep (and lost disciples)
Does not abandon us on the shores of our desolation
Because He knows our hearts better than we ever will
He will meet us on the shore with fresh fish on the fire
To feed our hungry souls. He knows we are human.

Hope rose again.

Teresa Norman 2020

A Practical Savior (poem)

A Practical Savior
As Jesus hung on the cross
Son of God and son of a woman
Bearing the weight of our sins
He looked at his mom. He saw her.
She, who knew before anyone
That he was not an ordinary child;
Knew he would not be an ordinary man.
She who nurtured him, taught him,
Sang over him, prayed for him
And followed him, could not be left alone.
He told her John would be a son to her
He told John she would be a mother to him…
John took her into his home.
It mattered enough that even as He died for the world,
He took care of the practical needs of a Jewish mamma
Not to be left alone.

Teresa Norman 2020
(thoughts on John 19:25-27 from The Passion Translation)

The Empath’s Choice (Poem)

Raging river, gentle stream

Wild tsunami or hurricane

Volcanic eruption spewing ash about

Or flowers blooming when the sun comes out

Gentle breezes, gale force winds

Breaking branches, chaos again

Holy fire, life giving flame

Gift of passion bringing life and change

 

In the confusion, the noise and the change

The only constant is to cling to His name

The loving creator of earth wind and flame

Calls us to follow through all the of the change

He is the harbor, the anchor, the rest….

The one who can harness the power of His gifts

And keep them from crushing the vessel He made

To give honor and glory and praise to His name.

 

(I dreamed of a woman standing in the center of the dark wooded night with fire in her hands…having to make a choice.  Would she place the fire in the fire pit to bring warmth and light to the darkness and those gathered there, or would she loose the fire in uncontrolled ways that would “burn down paradise?  May God help us choose the wise use of our gifts!)

 

Feb 20, 2019

The Betrayal (Poem)

The night is dark and stormy, there’s a cold wind in my soul

Seems like I’ve been torn apart and never will be whole.

The suffocating weight that rests upon my broken heart

Holds me in my silence–Lord, when will the healing start?

 

I cast about in desperate for hope that there might somehow be

Someone who can reach out to break these chains and set me free.

But who can know the torment? Who can truly comprehend?

(Unless they too have been betrayed by loved one or by friend?)

 

As I cower in desperation and in fear of what shall be,

A picture comes to mind I know that you have given me…

 

I see you hanging on a cross

In agony betrayed,

Naked, torn and bleeding

So that we can be saved.

The one who lived and walked with you,

With whom you shared your soul

Was the person who betrayed you—

All my agony you know!

 

Watching friends present a mime of the Passion of Christ years ago, I was struck HARD by the thought that Judas, the betrayer, was one of the 12 disciples Jesus had spent the last three years pouring his life into.  He was one of the guys, probably was treated like the other guys.  He wasn’t some random stranger.  In the words of “Why?” by Michael Card, “Only a friend can betray a friend….a stranger has nothing to gain and only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.”  Jesus knows what DV survivors, abuse victims, and all those who have been betrayed by someone they love feel.  (I am a slow learner…..I never realized in my guts until this week, that He hung there naked in front of his abusers.  He knows.