The Call to Conversion (a poem)

Lord, what does it mean
In a world so full of war
And rage and self-destruction
To serve You?
How can one who has so much
Even start to give enough
To meet the needs I see,
Lord, there’s so many!?

Jesus, please forgive me.
Please show me what it means
To follow Your way.
I bow down, I lay before You.
I cannot rise again in my own strength.

Lord, what does it mean
To take the bread and wine
And worship You on Sunday
As if the rest of the week is mine?
With all of Your creation
I groan for restoration,
Waiting, longing, listening,
Lord for You….

Jesus, please forgive me,
Please show me what it means
To walk in Your way.
I bow down, I lay before You.
I cannot rise again
In my own strength….

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“Because you’re always right….the world will know”

Nope, that’s not what Jesus said.  In John 13:34-35 it says … “I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” …. I just got done watching the news and reading some of the posts about immigrants, lesbians, democrats, communists,muslims, republicans, poor people, rich people etc.  The one thing that stands out in what I was seeing, hearing and reading is that too many of us seem to forget what Jesus said was basic-we are called to commanded to love.  Wouldn’t trying to practice love  make most of the inflamatory,  hurtful, hateful dialogue being self-righteously barfed out on each other be radically altered?  Yuck! 

Today’s goal: treating everyone with love, respect and dignity, regardless of ANYTHING else!

I SO agree with Mark Twain when he said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand. ” 

Galatians 5:22 “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!”

God, please help us judge ourselves by the right standards!  Teach us to love as you love!

Betrayal and Job’s Friends (poem)

One of my favorite relatives sent me a message last night that it was her cousin whose exhusband  killed her at a church in Federal Way this week.  A mom with three little kids….a big loving extended family in SO much pain….what can you say?

 If one of the lessons in the Book of Job means anything, it might best to not say too much.  Not think there is an answer to why, or what it means, or how this could happen.   Job’s friends came to “comfort” him and ended up making him feel worse.  They talked too much.  Said things they had no right to say.  In the end of the story, God toasted them for misrepresenting His heart.  The only time they really did Job any good was when they sat in the ashes with him as he grieved.  There is a lesson there about presumption and talking way too much….there is a time to talk and a time to listen.

Years ago, I was present at court while a young friend told of her step-dad’s crimes against her humanity. Going home from that experience, I was struck silent by the depth of his betrayal of her and of her mother.  As a person of faith, I wanted to encourage, but words seemed so USELESS!  This poem was the result…..

The Betrayal

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 frantic 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 really comprehend
Unless they too have been betrayed
By lover 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 from sin 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!

©Teresa Norman 1988

Daffodils and Uncle David

Daffodils always remind me of Uncle David.  Easter always reminds me of daffodils.  When I was about 4 or 5, Uncle David gave me a beautiful book of poetry (it had daffodils on the front and lots of pictures of beautiful flowers).  I was trying to learn to read at that point, sitting on the couch, when I asked my Mom, “What is d-o-g spelled backwards?”  She told me that was God.  I knew this was significant. 

It’s even more significant that Uncle David is thus directly tied in my little kid brain to finding out about God.  Uncle David was not on everyone’s A list.  He was, in the terms of the day, “slow” or “different” (not dumb, just not quite functioning at the mental complexity his particular decade and community preferred.  He had gotten in some pretty awful spots when someone misunderstood his assessment of different situations (think “padded room”).  Uncle David spent a good part of his later life shuttled off to a halfway house on Capital Hill in Seattle.  Some of the relatives breathed a sigh of relief, and except for coming to the island to pick blackberries and thimbleberries and huckleberries once a year so I could make him a pie, we didn’t see much of him for quite a while.

Uncle David died quietly at home.  A funeral was planned for our little community, with some folks figuring immediate family would be the only ones who showed up.  Boy, were we surprised!  From David’s delightfully diverse community, carloads of people came to our small town and filled the funeral home.  After the formal part of the service was over, someone from the back spoke up and said, “We would like to say something…..”  The minister let her come to the microphone.  One by one, a parade of people came forward to speak about how David’s simple ability to love and encourage those around him, to do practical things, to serve, to help in any way he could had blessed their lives over and over again.  We sat their dumbfounded, humbled and incredibly grateful for the profound lesson unfolding in front of us. God, in typical fashion, chose the humble of the world to teach us that his ways aren’t our ways.  That we had missed the point entirely by talking more than we listened.  That there had been much to learn from a humble man with no guile who sought to love his community.  I am grateful each Easter, especially, as I think of the lessons Uncle David gave me on living in the grace of God.

Global Day of Prayer for Burma – March 14, 2009

The Global Day of Prayer for Burma is an annual event initiated in 1997 by Christians Concerned for Burma at the request of Burma’s democracy leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  Next Sunday, churches around the world are urged to pray for Burma during their services.  See the following link for details:

http://www.prayforburma.org/IDX/Prayer/Day_of_Prayer/2010/GDOP%202010.pdf

For Seattle area runners/walkers, the Run for Relief (a fundraiser for relief efforts in Burma) will take place next Sunday in Gig Harbor….See following link for details:  http://www.chapelhillpc.org/our-calendars-mainmenu-17/special-events-mainmenu-131.html

The unexpected catch

One night, shortly after he returned from his first season as a crew member on a purse seine boat in Southeast Alaska, my 17 year old son came tearing into my bedroom about 2 in the morning with his eyes about as big as dinner plates.  “Mom, didn’t you hear that?  You’ve not gonna believe what just happened….”

Before bed that night, he and I had been talking about personal choices (temptation, in my outdated terminology).  Like any Mom who loves her kid, I had been trying to explain how important it was to make choices that get the kind of results you want (not ones that get you over your head in messes you can’t get out of).  I think my message had been falling on somewhat plugged ears.  After all, he’d just been in Alaska all summer.  He was all grown up now:)  He’d heard all this before….(lots of times).  He was being nice about it, but he still wasn’t listening….but that was around 10 pm.

My husband had built us a beautiful house on 5 secluded acres at the end of a dead end road called “Sanctuary Lane.”  It was a sanctuary….there were deer, blue heron, occasional stray cows and horses, coyotes, owls, eagles, and a lot of other wild or semi-wild critters in the neighborhood.  Also, seven of our kid’s closest friends, and some of our closets friends, ones  we had purposely bought property with and chosen to raise our family next to. Being a commercial fisherman/boat builder, it seemed there was always a bit of spare fishing net around.  Don’t know why he first thought of it, but the extra fishing net made a really good “pick it up and get it out of the way to weed eat around it” fence around the beautiful, big raised bed organic garden.  We had an incredible raspberry and strawberry patch…

Anyway, while I slept peacefully in the room on the back side of the house, our son had gone to bed and been woken up by the horrible screaming and thumping out in the yard outside his window.  He was a really sound sleeper usually, but this woke him up from a dead sleep with his heart pounding.  He looked out his second story window and could see a ruckus in the moonlight – a couple of big critters running through the yard.  Our little dog, “Jumbo”, who was always up for a good chase, was going nuts running back and forth around whatever was in the garden.  Then he yelped in pain.

Sounds pretty eery at that point.  (Of course, neither his sisters nor  I heard a thing).  He went running downstairs and turned on the porch light to see what the big commotion was.  There were two deer running around outside the fishnet fence, and a horrible noise coming from inside, with Jumbo barking frantically.  Someone had forgotten to shut the gate.  A baby deer, who did not listen to his mom and dad when they said to stay away from the human places, had gone into the garden to get some of the nice tender strawberries.  He now had his head caught in the net and couldn’t get out.

Mommy and Daddy deer were trying to keep Jumbo from hurting their baby, but there was nothing they could do to get him out of the net.  He was caught tight.  If he hadn’t screamed, he was either gonna die there, or stay stuck for a good long time.  But their baby hadn’t listened and he was now going to deal with the consequences of his really bad choice.

Our son went and  got a big knife out of the kitchen, got a flashlight, and went and sat on the terrified little deer and cut him out of the net.  The baby deer was unhurt and managed to scamper to safety, hopefully thinking more of listening to his parents and less of the taste of fresh strawberries.  Maybe he learned something that night? Wonder what the conversation was like in his neck of the woods after that close call…..

So, as my wide-eyed son sat on my bed, I was overwhelmed not just at his quick thinking creativity in saving the baby deer, but with the faithfulness of God.  Even if just for the moment, it didn’t need further explanation that sometimes we can’t get ourselves out of the messes we make.  Sometimes we need to humble ourselves and ask for help.  Crying out for someone bigger than us to come and save us from our foolishness and give us another chance is a great start.

God is not limited, like us parents are, at finding ways to make a point.  Still think someday, I’ve got to find a way to turn this into a children’s book, at least  for the children, and grandchildren of Sanctuary Lane.

Sometimes I don’t like God

It was a shock last week, to admit to myself, that there’s times I don’t really like God.  Our C-Group (community group) was reading a bunch of passages out of Jeremiah as part of our One Year Through the Bible thing, and I was starting to get bummed.  As a Christian, I’ve always known I’m supposed to love, honor, fear, reverence, worship, obey and respect God.  But I had to admit, reading some of the verses about the times God said and declared awful catastrophes for all kinds of people-it seemed so random and unfair! Where’s the justice in all that?  Still, I was pondering this with a little a bit of emotional distance left….until Wednesday.

Tuesday morning, our beautiful little new grandson, Austin, made his entrance into the world.  Strawberry blond, crying, wiggling….all those cute little newborn things.  I was privileged to be there to watch the miracle of new life as he made his entrance and to rejoice that even with all the unexplainable ##*#* going on in the world, God still seems to be in favor of life.  Things were good, and the gratitude level was high, even though there was this nagging question about whether or not it was blasphemy to admit I had some issues with Jeremiah.

Wednesday morning at 4:40 a.m., our daughter called to say their  precious little guy had just been airlifted to a city hospital in severe respiratory distress.  My voice and my words told her we’d be there as soon as we could catch a ferry to pick her up and bring her over to the little man (her husband drove ahead to meet the chopper but she had to wait for the doctor’s to come in and release her).  My heart, however, did a quick trip back to Jeremiah and the God who isn’t always very nice and prayed (begged) with all sincerity, that He would be the nice, kind, loving, life-giving God this time to this one little family who has waited and longed to meet this precious little guy we’ve all already loved for nine months and one day.

Pulling my head and my heart out of maternal/infant mortality statistics I’ve read and focusing on what was instinctual, needed and helpful, my inventory of my available faith level at that point was on empty.  So, I texted some people I knew would wake up, see their messages and pray.  Then we got out of here and went to be with the Mommy.

At the hospital, while we waited for doctors to show up, get out of meetings, and get Mommy on her way, I used Facebook to put the word out to pray. People who don’t even know our daughter and her truly wonderful husband responded and there were prayers going up for this little man, and people sending words of encouragement and hope.  Thank you!!!!!

As much as I would like to pretend that I was full of faith and knew God was gonna make things Ok, I wasn’t and I didn’t.  I was AFRAID that maybe, like so many other people in so many other places who live with loss and disaster each day that has no explanation, that this little family might have to experience that because God was doing something else.  Gratefully, my fears did not materialize and Austin’s doing much much much much better….

Lesson learned:

  1. There are times when your tank is empty, and that’s when the prayers of others who aren’t on empty can help carry you, if you just ask.
  2. The community of  faith will respond if asked and their prayers may touch God’s heart, and keep yours from breaking.
  3. Pray.  Ask others to pray.  Pray some more.
  4. You don’t have to go through it alone….ask for help!  Others can believe even when you can’t.
  5. Don’t forget to give thanks, regularly, privately, publicly and every other way as a matter of habit and discipline.
  6. Maybe, for now, I’m gonna focus on gratitude, and quit reading the Jeremiah sections (one of our amazing friends-a spiritually wise lady I really respect, said there was a time in her life where she couldn’t do a bunch of Psalms at once-they were too violent, and the priest just told her to pick a different reading….God bless him!)

To the two or three people who might read this, thank you.  To all those who prayed for Austin and his family, THANK YOU SO SOSOSOSOSOSOSO MUCH!

Maybe there are times when the fear of God takes precedence over the love of God….and maybe whether or not I LIKE Him is irrelevant?

(PS  I printed out the six pages of comments and prayers ya’all put on Facebook for Austin and his family and gave it to his Mommy and Daddy for his baby book)