Afterflash (a poem)

No longer helpless, unloved or alone—
A woman with choices.
Redeemed to the bone.
I’ve come through the fire-
Felt the heat of the flame.
But I am God’s daughter,
Called by His holy name.

Empowered by His Spirit
By grace I can stand,
My face towards the future
Fulfilling His plan.
A channel of mercy,
A bearer of light
Redeemed by His goodness-
I will not fear the night.

The God of creation
Walks each day by my side.
I will trust in His mercy-
There is nothing to hide.
Though chaos surround me
And angry winds roar
I am safe, I am strengthened
For He is my Lord.

The Lamb is a Lion,
The servant, a King.
He is my shelter.
Of His grace I will sing.
He will lead me and guide me-
I have nothing to fear.
Jesus is victor.
He loves me…He’s here!

5/21/93

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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

The Many Voices and Choices of Christmas

Christmas brings up a lot of stuff for me this year.  We have three wonderful adult children, a brand new healthy grandson, and some Buddhist friends (a dad and two young daughters) who will be spending their first Christmas here in America.  What should I be trying to communicate to each of them as someone who loves them? How do I explain to our Buddhist friends that the American Christmas craziness doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the baby in the manger, but that the baby and the manger are really really important?

 Memories of Christmas past play in my head….my brother and I under a Christmas tree gleefully getting a bunch of stuff we may or may not need/want or use but that Mom was really excited about.  Christmas shopping leading to outbreaks of violence, name calling, threats and adult temper tantrums, robbing some of the joy from the gifts we received which seemed so grudgingly given. 

As a little kid, one of the best parts was always the Christmas program at our church.  Little old ladies dressing up us kids in weird nativity costumes to stand around a little manger and sing and recite poems about the little baby Jesus….That was always good.  The truth that Jesus came to a poor, seemingly unimportant family (not just important people), in a country where life was hard and that God was there even in less than ideal circumstances.  God noticed the oppression of His people and sent a deliverer ‘cause life was meant to be different and peace on earth was part of the plan, even if it wasn’t yet a daily reality in the lives of His people.

As a grownup and a mother, Christmas didn’t become magic to me until the year my husband’s mother passed on some of her Christmas ornaments to us.  I had no idea what the treasured strings of gold beads, some red velvet bows, and some ornaments that (part of a family’s rich history) could do to bring such joy to a little (really little) wood-warmed cabin in the woods and to three little kids watching the “twinkles”  in their daddy’s eyes when he looked at the tree and told stories.  He told us about his Christmases as a boy at his aunt’s huge house playing with her five sons and all the other extended family; about putting olives on all his fingers and making the grownups laugh.  It was like life on a different planet.  The “twinkles” in his eyes helped the magic spread to my hearts too. 

My friend, Mac, taught me years ago that one way to redeem (buy back)the memories of the holiday season was to do something nice for someone else that you WANTED to do things for–not just the ones you HAD TO do for.  That trick has always helped.  This year it meant giving a gift to Heal Africa and One 4 One  (folks that hang out with their non-housed friends in Nickelsville). 

The cute little grandson and his parents are going to Montana to totally surprise the other grandma and grandpa.  It should be pretty awesome.  I get to rejoice in how blessed I am that they live within a one hour drive from us, and in how excited his Grandma Norma is going to be!  I’ll miss them, but thinking of the joy they are spreading there makes me very happy too.

For our Buddhist friends, I’m letting those who have a better grip on Christmas cheer (and a more positive attitude) do most of the explaining and just taking them a couple of small gifts.  Open to conversation, but not sure how to proceed…. What I most hope to communicate is how thankful I am for the gift of their friendship, while each day I pray that the amazing love of God revealed in Jesus will become part of their life.  That they will come to know, as I have, that life is not a random accident, but that He has a plan for each of us.  May His kingdom come and His will be done.  Peace on earth.

Reasons to Swear

I stopped swearing once, for a really long time.  I thought it was the thing to do.  You know, Christians are supposed to talk nice, and not use bad words with a lot of gusto and expression?  But there are no nice ways to say the guy threatened to kill his girlfriend and then spent some time pounding her in the stomach and dragging her around the house with their toddler screaming while Mommy got beat again.  There’s no nice words!  There are also no nice words to describe the actions of a stepfather who took a heavy object to his 15 year old stepdaughter’s head and left her needing 20 staples and stitches.  Some of what people do to each other is indescribable!

I suppose there are people who have never known a victim of domestic violence.  To them, that’s just a news story, a statistic, or something that happens to some unknown little understood “other” out there somewhere.  This week, I see the faces, the arms, the stomach bruises of the friends mentioned above.  I give thanks that they are alive with minimal permanent physical damages.  I give thanks for the community that is surrounding one of them and loving her and walking with her through this stage of her life, and look for opportunities to encourage the other one to look towards faith-that she is a child of God, imperfect but of infinite value,one who deserves way different than she has accepted from this #($&^! who broke his promises yet again.

The Unite To End Violence Against Women Campaign of the UN (click on the link) states that the most common form of violence against women is the one inflicted by an intimate partner–that women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria, and that half of all women who die from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.  It is so widespread, we ALL probably know victims, even if we don’t know it.

I loved hearing Pastor Eugene say in last week’s sermon that a woman who is being beat doesn’t have to stand there and take it.  That SHOULD be a no brainer, but too often churches have blamed the victim (and guys can be victims too-my Dad was).

I know swearing doesn’t really help.  But, I’m not sure what other kind of words to use expressing absolute frustration, outrage, and powerlessness to God on this one.  Would rather stick to the important words–like “You don’t deserve this!” and “WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP!!!!!?”

(Too little, but better than nothing?: Childcare while Mom goes to counseling or court, help with paperwork, drop off a meal, help find a new apartment….listen, love, listen some more, speak truth, include her and the kids in your family, pray, provide bus passes)  Ideas??

How to help?

National Domestic Violence Hotline (resources and contacts in all 50 states)

Because It Matters (resource site for those in the church experiencing domestic violence or other forms of abuse)

A tribute to my Mom (poem)

You taught me the power of words-
You made me a poet.
You taught me compassion-
To see and to love those who are in pain.
You taught me to value diversity-
Helped me understand how it felt to be different.
You taught me the value of community-
Helped me learn to notice the lonely and left out.
You taught me to love mercy-
To treat people how I wanted to be treated.
You taught me to love my children-
To value who God made them as individuals.
You taught me to listen with my heart-
To hear the wounds of others that were hard to express.
You taught me that you don’t always
Get to choose how the lessons come
But to keep my heart open to God
And try not to miss them.
You taught me to value humility-
And to seek to do justice.
You helped me learn to look for the “jewels in the ashes”
and light in the darkest of places.

Today, I am grateful you’re still with us.
Out of CCU, still on the journey.
I love you, Mom.

Domestic Violence Escape Plan

Domestic violence kills people. The following link to a  Domestic Violence Escape Plan  is frighteningly real.  The rules of logic or civilized behavior do not  apply when someone is battering and abusing the people they should be caring for.  It’s hard to decide the “rules of engagement” for this kind of domestic terrorisim.  Someonetimes retreat is the most reasonable option, but retreat to a safe place. 

Yesterday I watched friends deal with an ongoing domestic violence situation.  They had helped a woman and her  kids get to a safe place, and for that service, her husband was threatening to kill them.  I was struck by the similarities between a pastor (shepherd) and a soldier….both on watch, facing risk while protecting their people from those who come to destroy.  As a kid who grew up where violence and abuse of different kinds were commonplace, I was/am moved beyond words to see church leaders like my friends who will stand up, stand in the gap, and say, “No.  Not on my watch, ” instead of taking the easy way out, blaming the victim, or pretending it will all “work out.”    

While abuse degrades, humiliates and makes people unaware of the power and choices they have to affect the outcomes of their lives, care like this, empowers, instructs, encourages and shepherds people.  Some of the most powerful words in English are “I have a choice.”  Those being abused have a choice to get help (hard choice, but God given), abusers have a choice to stop (in that moment before they choose to hurt people they are supposed to love and care for, there is time to stop….it is always a choice)…..the only ones with no choice are the kids, if no one will stand against in the gap for them.

Pastor Deanza did a really good post on some of the statistics on domestic violence….and Dani Moss has a good site with an extensive amount of resources for those trying to find their way  through these issues from a faith perspective.

Who am I?

I don’t remember  the purpose of the meeting, but several hundred of us were gathered in the meeting hall at  Langley United Methodist Church, during the days when Tom & Claudia Walker were pastoring there.  Different now forgotten things went on during the meeting, but then Tom and Claudia got up to sing one of their songs, “Child of God.”  This was probably 15 years ago, but my life has never been the same. 

“I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.

My name is Marie, now I can see

What this relationship’s doing to me

Last night he hit me, I fell on the floor–

Just like he’s hit me so often before.

He says he’s sorry.  He brings me flowers…

Things will go fine for a couple of hours…

He says I’m nothing.  He says I’m scum.

Then he hits me because that’s what he does.

I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.

My name is Manuel.  My hands can tell

The story of how you’re living so well.

I work every day but my family is poor

So you can have coffee bananas and more.

The landowners say if I don’t mind my ways

They can find substitute workers to pay.

They say my soul will only be free

In heaven some day, that’s what they say.

 I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.”

There were at least three of us who wept and wept, even after the song  and the beautiful, worshipful, expressive  dance Carol did during it were over.  Something had happened….in this song, by the grace of God, we saw a new reality for how God sees us, even in our brokenness.  He loves us all, even in our failures, poverty, isolation, differentness, or in other groups excluded in their society.  He sees us not as life’s incidences and conflicts had taught us to view ourselves, but with through the lens of the dignity He created us for. 

(Sorry I have lost the third verse (the story of a man being disowned by his family for admitting he was gay-very powerful! ), or the music to share with you (it was beautiful).

Thank you Tom & Claudia for sharing your gifts.  Wherever you are, hope you are well and blessed with the kind of grace you have shared with others.