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

Kaleidoscope (Poem)

Broken pieces gathered together
Reflecting the love of the Father of Light
Each carries a portion
Of the grace that sustains us-
Brings beauty from ashes,
And songs of deliverance
In the darkest of nights.

We have been rescued
From the things that have shattered
The lives that we thought we had planned.
Brought back from destruction
Redeemed and forgiven
Made vessels of honor
To be held in His hands.

Light of the spirit
Shine in our darkness
Bring forth Your beauty and light
May these broken pieces
Empowered by your mercy
Serve with rejoicing
Listen with humility
Walk in love out into the night

Teresa Norman  June 2017

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 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).

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)

Reality Check–Cyber Psalm 15

Our friend, Dan, had a heart attack this week.  Scary.  So that made it doubly cool to get a perspective challenging email from him this morning with this Cyber Psalm from a blog he likes by David Ker, a Wcliffe Bible Translator in Mozambique.   

Cyber-Psalm 15

 NOVEMBER 23, 2007                                                                   by David Ker

What would heaven be like

if books of theology 
were written by children not men?

And what if sermons were delivered by the poor. 


And devotional books were written by the hungry. 


And hymns were composed by the sick and the old.

The Sermon on the Mount requires no interpretation, 


unless you are fat and happy.

If our hope of heaven were colored 


with children’s crayons and felt tip markers.

And our theology of hell were tempered 


by the dying breath of those who suffer.

The hair-splitting and hand-wringing 


of over-educated men in ivory towers 


goes largely unnoticed by grandmothers in their kitchens 


and office workers in their cubicles.

They go on putting silly magnets on their fridge 


And trading forwarded e-mails about heaven. 


Two thousand years of systematic theology 


Disturbs them not a bit!

God is honored and praised  

Hoped for and prayed to 


By myriads who never learned Greek.

Their revelation is not a scroll  

But a hope vaguely imprinted 


On a soul made by God.

The sick and the blind and the poor  

Receive Jesus with gladness. 


The Gospels require no spiritualized application.

Feed us, friend Jesus. 
  

Our stomachs are empty.


You are the one our hearts hope for.

Heal us who are sick. 
    

We ache and we suffer.

Save us in death. 
    

We are dying in darkness. 


Savior Jesus, our hope at life’s end.

Love Is…

Yesterday had parts that were hard, and parts that were really beautiful.  The beautiful part was making it down to Karen Church in Kent and being able to be there for the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of a couple who have poured their lives into loving God, their family, their community and seems like most other people who cross their path. 

People from Oregon, Vancouver, the Seattle area, and maybe some others gathered to honor their lives and their relationship.  It was pretty neat to see this 70+ year old gentleman talk about how it had always been his hope to get to celebrate this moment with a community of his countrymen, but since he had brought his family here in the 70’s, that had seemed pretty unlikely.  Wish I knew the language and could have gotten the whole story, but I could catch the essence of how much he loves his wife (and vice versa), and the strength of their love and faith which has brought them through many challenges. 

Hearing him read 1st Corinthians 13 makes it very fresh in my mind today, and I read it with new respect for what is possible if you spend your life trying to live out love…..

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8Love never fails…”

Fishers of men…

I’m really glad Jesus hung out with fishermen and chose them on purpose(especially since I’m married to one).  Fishing is not necessarily a real cerebral kind of thing-not  theologically complex, and nowdays not always even politically correct.  However, it’s a very real, tangible, practical and ” in this world while still being part of the other one” kind of thing. 

Fishermen spend a LOT of time and energy (and money) and care getting their nets ready.  Certain kinds of nets fish best in certain waters for certain kinds/sizes of fish….nowdays there’s lots of rules to all this Jesus and the guys probably didn’t have to deal with:)  For the past several months we’ve had a garage full of cork line (corks spaced on a line every so many inches), weed line (I think it helps keep weeds from getting in the net?), lead line (holds the net down so the fish can swim into it and get stuck) and several piles of net.  All of this had to be hung (put together) into the appropriate configuration.   A lot of work and several days later it is now loaded into the holds on the boat. 

Why so much work on the net?  It’s all about how fish look at it.  Is it the right color to go with the water they’re in?  Does it ripple right in the water so it’s not conspicuous-does it seem like it naturally belongs there?  The net is really important ’cause it’s a tool to catch the fish, and fishing is definitely about the fish-not the fisherman. 

But as I was watching the final stages of this operation, I thought about Jesus calling some fishermen to be “fishers of men” and follow Him.  And I thought about how if the net doesn’t look “natural” in the water, fish run away from it.  Nobody likes to think of themselves as a fish someone is trying to catch, but some of the evangelism schemes I grew up hearing sure seemed like nets I would have (did!) run from. Lots of hype, pressure, glitz etc.  Nowdays we’re more politically correct and sensitive, but I guess I’m coming to the thought that God knows what fish are made of.  He knows what we are made of, and it’s OK to reach people in ways that are natural-not contrived. 

There are people in my life that I deeply want to see know God’s love.   I don’t know how God makes that happen.  But I think I see some parallels: the need for boyancy (corks), depth (lead line), keeping the weeds out of my life (weed line),  and hanging in the water in a way that is natural-not contrived.  You can learn a lot from fishermen. 

Standing here beside the ocean

Staring at the sea

Wondering how the God who made all this

Could still choose 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.”

 (From a dream, 8/3/01)