The Crystal Vase

Like a crystal vase smashed against the cement wall
The little girl was fractured by life’s blows.
Now hidden deep inside lie the pieces she can’t find-
The broken parts no one but Jesus knows….

Like catacombs in ancient Rome there are tunnels here…
She’s been lost in them and hiding out for years.
But she’s tired of trying to run 
She knows a change has got to come.
Believing He has seen it all and loves her still
And the emptiness is one that He can fill.

She was blinded by her tears,
Held captive to her fears,
Not sure if she should let His light shine in...
But when His love breaks through
Mended broken things become new
Reflecting once again His marvelous light….

'Cause He’s picking up the pieces of her shattered life
Cradling them gently in His nail scarred hands.
With tender love He comes to heal
Wounds she tries hard not to feel
And let her know she’s still precious in His sight –
That she will be alright.

(Written for a friend December 19, 1991. But like so many of my poems, still being worked out in my own life.  Grateful for a church community where broken people are welcome and redemption, grace, compassion, and humilty are seen as essential parts of faith…..)

Yo, what’s up? (ramblings)

Not always an easy question to answer, even when it comes from a very respected, caring friend…sometimes it’s complicated. While I’ve kind of expected the question, I still don’t have an answer I’m satisfied with.

When we first moved to Seattle six years ago, I was surprised how homeless I felt until we found a church. For all of my life, a lot of my relationships and the roadmap for my life had been calibrated in relationship to whatever church community I was connected with. In the case of a small town, the dividing lines between church and community are a little blurrier than they seem to be in the city. You would see people from the church in your community all the time (they didn’t come from a 75 mile radius from a variety of different cities to get there and then disappear for the rest of the week).

I love my church. Not ’cause it’s cool, or popular or emergent or politically correct/incorrect or newsworthy or whatever. I love it ’cause I have found people there who welcomed an outsider, dreamed with me and taught me to dream bigger and walked through the past six years of trying to figure out what it means to serve God in practical ways. They didn’t ask WHY I thought doing practical things to help people in need was important-they asked how they could help! I love it because there are people there who also dream bigger dreams of what it means to live out their faith, sometimes crazy dreams and then some of them don’t just dream dreams, they actually do them! Magnificent!

But, things change. I am no longer dreaming big dreams or any other dreams. It feels really strange to not be DOING anything except working, loving the people in my life, and trying to walk with God in integrity through the encounters my very well-peopled job provides. Now I get to try to figure out how that fits with the bigger picture, and how a small person fits into a big church. I am not a big church kind of person. I have nothing to contribute in this context. I suck at small talk.

Sunday morning church (important for preaching, teaching, worshipping together, having communion, meeting people, welcoming strangers and sharing information) is only part of being the church. There is this whole other life of community that goes on in small groups, Global Presence meetings, men’s and women’s meetings, intergenerational potlucks, kids ministry…..all the things that break a big church down into more bite size pieces so you can actually get to know some people and develop relationships. If I am not going to participate in any of the other things that go on is it really viable/faithful/spiritual to just “go to church” there on Sundays? Is that enough for them or for me?

Last Sunday, I indulged my craving for encountering God in the midst of His people by going to church at a friend’s house and meeting the small community she is shepherding. It was wonderful because it was interactive, non-overwhelming and personal. I learned from the discussion of Luke as I listened to what each person brought and drew out of their own life of walking with God. It reminded me of a line from a worship song that was popular a few years ago: “Come, just as you are…hear the Spirit call. Come and see….” I left revived, grateful that the presence of God is not confined to buildings, but that He shows up wherever He’s invited. I love my church, but I need to find room in my life to be part of a community of believers at this stage of my “work in process” kind of life. Not sure how the pieces fit right now.

So, yo, not really sure what’s up, but prayerfully trying to figure it out:)

“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!

Good Life in the Midst of Bad Circumstances

At first glance it might seem a little incongruous to have a “Good Life Club” in the middle of a war zone, but the name comes from John 10:10 where Jesus promises abundant life. This project, started by our friend, Karen, gives those of us living in safety and prosperity something practical we can do to contribute to the lives of internally displaced mothers and children on the run from the Burma Army. For details of how you can help, click here

For more pictures of the Good Life Club in action….click here.  (This is  a project of Partners Relief & Development and their friends at Free Burma Rangers).  The Good Life Club packs are carried in by the relief teams going into Burma and delivered to the moms and kids who need them.

Betrayal and Job’s Friends (poem)

One of my favorite relatives sent me a message last night that it was her cousin whose ex-husband  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

Easter always reminds me of daffodils.  Daffodils always remind me of Uncle David. 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.

Baby dedications

A couple of weeks ago, there were two baby dedications/baptisms at church, and I was surprised how spun out I got watching this.  I always love those moments, watching people make public the commitment that they will seek to raise this precious child to know God.  SO important!  But watching this from the perspective of  being brand new grandma, it impacted me at a whole new level.

The first thing I noticed this morning, was that the mom and dad and cute little bundle didn’t have any family present for this event.  There could be many reasons for that (work schedules, living in a different city or continent, family issues, not Christian….and many others), but my mind and heart contrasted that to some of the other times where we have seen the podium filling up with grandmas and grandmas who have come long distances to witness this moment.  It made me sad for the parents (whether appropriately or not), and made me take it very seriously as a member of the church who would be saying, “Yes, we stand beside you and pray for you and are so glad you are choosing to walk the path of faith as a family.”

It also took me back to when we dedicated our children, and I never realized til then, our families were not with us.  Mine wouldn’t have come (our church at the time was too “expressive” for them), and my husband’s family was not familiar with why we would be doing this in the first place.  It was our church we were counting on at that point to help us learn to do this amazing privilege of raising our kids, surviving new parenthood, and teaching them to know God.  There were some amazing “adopted” grandparents in our church who were there for me in ways I want to be there for our grandson.

This service made me rejoice, but also made me incredibly sad for those who do not choose to be part of a faith community,  and therefore, do not have this incredible resource of potentially mentoring, praying, supportive people to draw from. (Ya, I know sometimes a church is a little like granola-you get fruit in with it, but also some nuts).  If they are not in a church, it made me very conscious of how much young parents need their family to walk in faith around them, to spend time loving, giving, listening and praying….

As a grateful new mom, a long time ago, I wrote this poem for our first daughter…

“Like Hannah in the Bible promised long ago
If she could only have a child, she’d given him to the Lord.
I prayed that God would give to us a baby girl to love
And I promised we would care for her and teach her that He is good.

Lord, I give to you this child that you have given me.
Please help me mold and shape her into what she’s supposed to be.
Keep her safe throughout each day-keep her in your tender care.
No matter what may happen, let her know You’re always there.

So God, in love looked down on us and brought you to our lives.
I’ve thanked Him everyday since then.  I’ll thank Him all my life.
I pray that you will know Him too as your shepherd and your friend,
Because, little one, Jesus loves you, with a love that will not end.”

*******************************************************************

PS  It also made me very grateful that even though the church I grew up in had some very toxic people running rampant over the lives of children, God’s Word can still take root in a young life willing to trust Him.  A child hearing that God loves them, has a plan for their life, and has a purpose bigger than the valley full of shadows they may live in, can still believe and find hope even when life is hard.  (Yes, circumstances for that child need to change, but God is unchanging).