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 (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
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

As A Sparrow Falls

The world is full of big problems
I am small, like a sparrow…
I can do only small things
But I can learn to do them with great love.
My actions may not make a difference
To anyone except the person I love and listen to,
Pray with and care for, feed or walk beside.
But to that one, it matters.
Just because I am small and insignificant,
It doesn’t mean the love God has given me to share
Does not matter. It is still His love
And those I love are still important to Him.
God doesn’t abandon or forget even one small sparrow.
He will be with us. We are valuable to Him.

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Luke 12:6-7 “What is the value of your soul to God? Could your worth be defined by an amount of money? God doesn’t abandon or forget even the small sparrow he has made. How then could he forget or abandon you? What about the seemingly minor issues of your life? Do they matter to God? Of course they do! So you never need to worry, for you are more valuable to God than anything else in this world.” From The Passion Translation

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

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)

Jesus Is A Refugee (poem) reposted

See the  mother on the journey, tiny baby in her arms,
Running from the soldiers who’ve come to rape and kill
She’s tired from the running, desperate, hungry, full of fear—
How can she know God loves her, and that He walks beside her there?

He is there beside her in the dark and in the cold.
He knows what she is feeling, in the Bible it is told
That He was once a refugee. His parents ran to save His life
From the soldiers sent to kill him in Herod’s infanticide.

The way that God has chosen to loose the bands of wickedness
To give bread to the hungry and to help free the oppressed
Calls us to walk beside her in our prayers and in our hearts:
As the body of Christ, the servant king, it makes her burden ours.

But words and prayers are not enough, no matter how well spoken
God’s love requires our presence so He can walk beside His children.
Even though we’re broken, we are His feet and hands.
We stand in need of grace to obey His commands.

Though she sits in darkness, He came to be the light.
Though she now is hungry, He is the bread of life.
Though we turn aside sometimes or don’t know what to do,
We are all called in some way to help her make it through.

He chose to entrust us with His reputation
And to make us His body throughout every nation
As a king become baby, He risked everything
Calling us to embody the love that He brings….

I was hungry and you gave me bread
Thirsty and you gave me drink
A stranger and you took me in
In prison and you came to me….”
Lord, when did this happen?
His answer is quite clear
“When you did it for the least of these
It was for me, for I am there….

Teresa Norman March 2001

 

Not for sale (poem)

Money doesn’t make you a better person-it just gives you better choices.  In some cultures, having no money and no rights makes you a target for traffickers. I first heard of the organization “Not For Sale” shortly after I had met some of my young refugee friends. It made their presentation pretty non-theoretical. I could picture some of the young people I care about and the choices they may have faced if their parents had not chosen to become refugees and take the risk of resettlement to America.

Not for sale…..
Humans as commodities, stocks to exchange,
inconveniences, expendables to be thrown away.
Their lives for sale…choices determined by $.
No! Their lives are a gift. Their lives have value!
Children of God, created with purpose-
whether they know it or not!

They have captured us, adopted us, let us love them.
Priceless treasures beyond measure…
These sharers of laughter, of humbling moments…
Yahtzee played, meals shared, loving acceptance offered and received.
We talk of woman things and what it means
Of relationships and guys who are good
And those who are not.

Transitions negotiated like minefields….
New experiences played out each day….
We talk of Christmas trees and manger scenes–
Of Jesus, a refugee whose parents fled to safety to keep him safe.

They watched our daughter with her baby
And reflected on a mother who loves instead of leaves…
They have little “stuff”- but their father loves them.
With courage he brought them here in spite of the challenges.
They live in a “big” house (smaller than most living rooms),
grateful their father cooks for them….
Grateful for food. For friends…. for choices.
If different choices had been made,
They could be some of those who are for sale in another land…..

How do you determine the value of a human?
Of their love?
It is priceless.
It should not be for sale.

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!

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.

If We Are His Body…..

It surprised me to see all the theological chatter when I tried to look up this poem.  In my simple way, I hadn’t seen this famous poem as being all that complicated.  Rather, I saw it as somewhat awe-inspiring and humbling that God would trust us with being “laborers together with Him” in the world….

 Christ Has No Body

“Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world….”

 Some of the theological chatter said it was blasphemy-that it implied that Christ didn’t ascend to heaven in a transformed body…..bla bla bla.  In my humble opinion, I don’t think the author was trying to yank someone’s chain.  I think she/he/they (there’s some debate on authorship) was trying to make a significant, complex, mind-boggling mystery real, tangible and practical to those of us without MDvs. 

A friend’s blog posed the question recently, “What are you praying for?”  I guess I am praying to recognize Christ in the many ways He shows up- not just in the Bible, or in church, but at work, in the grocery store, on the street, on the docks, at friend’s houses, in the people I meet each day.  I am praying to reflect to those He connects me with that their lives have value because He made them with a purpose and has plans for their good!  I am praying to learn to live out my faith in ways that reflect the miracle that God uses broken human beings to help make grace real.  I am praying that I will learn to be part of the solution and not the problem in the lives of those I am called to love….As I seek to be present in the moment with some friends facing difficult transitions, I pray above anything, “God, teach me to love.”