Undivided (an Easter poem)

Seer of all things, even the small-

You knew my heart was divided.

My sins were forgiven by your mercy and grace

(But I still tried to hide my disgrace).

I wondered why, (with my heart made of stone)

So often I felt isolated, dead and alone…

But landmines buried in a small child’s soul

Can lay hidden for years and shape how her life goes…

Still, your grace comes in so many ways….

With a step of faith, a journey began,

To examine with Scripture what was really God’s plan.

Instead of a weapon to further my shame,

Your Word brought new life-a new heart, a new name.

I always knew you had carried my sins

But you let me see that my sorrows and shame

Were also banished when you rose from that grave.

They weren’t mine to carry – you paid the price.

Today my heart is undivided. 

By new life in you, this grateful child is so excited!

April 4, 2021

A Refuge in Times of Trouble

Psalms 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”

I’ve been thinking about that this morning, because tomorrow, I may be in trouble. There have been several instances of medical mistakes and total screw ups and some life threatening incompetence on an intubation that almost made me a statistic and could have made my husband a widow. Because of that event, I have done my best to avoid surgery. Tomorrow, I’m not avoiding. I’m going for a repeat of the surgery they failed at the first time.

Fifteen years ago, they tried to remove 1/2 of my thyroid due to a massive goiter. We thought it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal, but our pastor, God bless him!, wanted us to come in to be prayed for before I went in. Ok. That was kind. I believed in prayer, but really, no big deal. BUT, things went radically wrong – obstructed airway, I hemorraghed and ended up with a trach for a five day hospital stay instead of out the next morning. Scary event. Really scary! (The hidden blessing – some of the amazing people from our church took the time to come to the hospital and visit (since in those days you could) and I got to know them better, even though we had to communicate by taking notes, since I couldn’t talk).

Six years ago, when I was diagnosed with Stage III Inflammatory Breast Cancer, I was more scared of surgery than I was the cancer. I know quite a few people who have made it through breast cancer. Surgery, the way my goiter has misshaped, obstructed and narrowed my airway, not so much good news there. The surgeons/anesthesiologist who did the cancer surgery were amazing. When I woke up in my room and saw my family there and could TALK to them (no trach), I was ecstatic. It didn’t matter I was missing a breast and a whole bunch of lymph nodes. (As I told my girls, they had already served their purpose).

But having had a medical situation recently where surgery was recommended sooner rather than later, but the hospital I was taken to was unable to deal with the risks my airway presented, it was time to make some new choices. I need to get the goiter out so the airway is not so lethal, so they can safely do the other surgery I need. Since I’ve been working at home and not taking patient calls all day, my voice wearing out really fast hasn’t been an issue, but it may also be something that gets solved by this surgery (if it goes well). I’d put this off partly because I didn’t know what I would do for work if I lost my voice completely….

I was thinking about God being our refuge this morning. I am afraid. But there are people praying, and so many times in my life, I have felt those prayers like wings holding me up. It’s hard to explain. But He is with us. Grateful for praying friends.

The Man of Excuses

In the dream last night, I saw the disabled man in John 5 sitting by the pool-the place where he had lain for 38 years (an invalid, some translations say). When Jesus saw him there, he asked if he “wanted to be well.” (What a question! Only Jesus can get away with that.) Of course he wanted to be well, didn’t he? Wouldn’t we? But the man explained to Jesus that “other people” had someone to put them in the water so they could be healed. That meant “other people” got help and he didn’t. Other people had opportunities but he was stuck, paralyzed in his circumstances.

I thought, at first, that this dream was about a woman I’d talked to recently who so SO angry….angry because, like this man, other people got all the opportunities, other people kept her from getting the job she wanted, other people took all her opportunities. They made her dreams invalid. All she saw was what she didn’t have and thought she could do, and it was all because of those other people.

God is so loving and kind (and firm). He gently pointed out the beam in my eye while I was focusing on the speck in those of my friend. When I awoke, I immediately knew the dream wasn’t about my angry friend – it was about me.

God had graciously reminded me of the healing and deliverance He had brought to my life in the last year and the many victories His presence (and the time and prayers of patient people) had brought. But even though He broke the chains of my past, I have to make sure not to put them back on. I have to keep making the choice to live the change.

God gave me an opportunity, spiritually, to get up and walk. He said my live is not in valid (I am not a spiritual invalid!). I need to keep choosing to walk, even if sometimes it takes me to places I’m not familiar with and gives me opportunities to do things I’m not comfortable with. I was reminded I am only an invalid if I accept that my life is invalid and let the enemy rob me of the ability to speak of the good things God has done.

Invalid and invalid are spelled alike, but you’re not an invalid until you think your life is invalid.

New Year’s Reflection

New Year’s Reflection…

When we moved to our lovely little town four years ago, we started attending a small but loving church a block from our house. One of the first sermons I heard Pastor Mac preach was one I still have not forgotten…

He has a beautiful view of the mountains from their house…stunning, really. And, as a good photographer, he had taken pictures of the mountains in various weather and times of day and used them as a sermon illustration about the unchanging faithfulness of God (or at least that’s how my heart remembers it).

On the shores of loneliness, in the fog of depression, God’s loving-kindness is unfailingly with us.

When the mountains crumble (and what we thought was stable is shaken), God’s loving-kindness is unfailing with us.
Psalm 121
1 I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.
4 Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep.
5 The LORD protects you;
the LORD is a shelter right by your side.[a]
6 The sun will not strike you by day
or the moon by night.
7 The LORD will protect you from all harm;
he will protect your life.
8 The LORD will protect your coming and going
both now and forever.

(from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

and from Lamentations 3: 22-24 (CSB)

Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
24 I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.”

So this year, once again, I will think about the mountains in Mac’s sermon, in all kinds of circumstances and weather, and hope to remember with the song writer, Great is your faithfulness, oh God, my Father.

From the Ashes

There is brokenness-frail humanness
In relationships entangled
By biting, angry bitter words
Screamed from a heart that’s wounded

But Your presence, Lord, brings clarity,
Dispels the fog of dark delusions
The oil of joy gently given
Poured out onto the hurting
Soothes the soul in mourning

And the heaviness is lifted
You give beauty for ashes,
But first we go through fire
As by Your hand our lives
Are delivered from the Liar.

Spirit of the living God,
So gratefully I praise you.
You do for us what only You can do-
You call us from the ashes
And make us new.

December 27, 2020

The Thing About Angels…

Yesterday, I got a call from an angel…

(it’s almost Christmas, a busy time for angels, I guess.)

She was about God’s business-visiting the sick,

the lonely, and the forgotten.

(I confess her active creativity put my lethargic heart to shame). 

Angels nowadays can use Facetime –

(Who knew!) I got the message too late this time,

But she said she would call again in two weeks –

Then we can visit a very old friend in a nursing home

And she will take the risks and connect us behind a glass wall

With this modern convenience God must have inspired.

But angels are infinitely resourceful! 

While there at the nursing home,

Reading Facebook encouragement to our mutual friend,

She called someone else we both love,

(Knowing this person was struggling in turbulent waters,

sometimes overwhelmed and isolated)

She gave her a Facetime opportunity

to love and encourage our friend and to see her beautiful kiddos. 

As I thanked the angel for all she had done,

She reminded me of a past we had shared…a time she was overwhelmed…

Of lessons learned- sometimes you give grace and sometimes you receive it

And how we comfort others with the same comfort we have received from the God who loves us.

So grateful for the infinite creativity of God and for this angel who absolutely sparkles with His grace.

(II Cor. 1:3-4)

The Absence of Your Presence

If it wasn’t for Your love,

I would have nowhere to go

There’d be no reason to get out of bed

Fight to open my eyes or try

If I didn’t know Your love

Life would be a living hell

The absence of Your presence – unspeakable!

Darkness too deep – incomprehensible!

If I didn’t know Your love

It would prove I’m already dead

Because You said You’d be with me always-

You love me-that’s what you said.

So I wait here in the darkness

Of this long night of the soul

Knowing only with Your Presence

Can my heart again be whole…

My hope may be bruised and broken

At times I feel so alone

But I’ve known Your love

It has carried me

And I know it will carry me home.

Dec 20, 2020

Thanksgiving Lament

(Ya, I know, that’s a contradiction, but…..)

Today, for many people, is hard.

Today, as you can tell, I am sad.

Today I am grateful for still being alive -five years past a nasty cancer diagnosis.  Grateful for a good doctor and a clinic trial that saved my life.

Today I am grateful for a husband who still loves me – even after 42 years.

Today (and every day!) I am grateful for children and grandchildren who like to hang out with us. 

I am grateful that there is a Creator who put the world in place -I don’t know how, but I don’t need to.  It is obviously too complex to have just happened.  

I am grateful I live where I have trails to wander, rivers and mountains to look at and gardens of hope to plant with flowers and beauty in my little part of the world.

I am grateful for a house to live in that is warm and dry and safe.

I am grateful for the possibility that elected officials may choose to act like servant leaders in the near future instead of shape-shifting, blame-throwing, self-obsessed infants.

I am grateful for the diversity of our country, and for the refugees, immigrants and Native Americans that make it so.

I am grateful that gratitude is an attitude that can become a habit that can make you buoyant even when the waves seem high and the storm looks overwhelming.

I am grateful for today.

A Lament for Our Time

We have made an idol out of our rights and forgotten our privileges and responsibilities.

We have made an idol out of our sufficiency and forgotten our need of You

We have assumed we know all knowledge that matters and

forgotten that respect for You is the beginning of wisdom.

We have neglected widows, orphans, strangers, the homeless, refugees, prisoners, those in poverty, the unemployed and disabled and communities of color. 

We have made whiteness “rightness” and congratulated ourselves on what we have done, not acknowledging it took Your help, Your strength and Your mercy to get this far.

(Your mercies are made new every morning – ours too quickly run out!)

We elected a “king” who mocked everyone else but felt he had never done wrong. 

Oh God, now, perhaps, our path has changed. 

We acknowledge that black lives matter.

We acknowledge that we belong to each other.

Some of us acknowledge that pro-life means pro everyone’s life.

We acknowledge that power is corrupted without humility

We acknowledge that America is not the only country with humans You love beyond measure.

God help us.

We are in need of Your mercy.

Help us to do justice, love mercy and learn to walk humbly, remembering we do not deserve Your mercy, but that we desperately need it anyway.

November 2020

(Reading “A Sacred Sorrow” – an experience guide to reaching out to God in the lost language lament, by Michael Card. This book goes through the life of Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus.)

Grab the Rope!

(dreamed of walking through the jungle on a muggy, buggy, humid, damp, oppressive kind of day.  Stumbled into quicksand and quickly dug myself deeper.  Then I heard someone I could vaguely make out on the far shore telling me to “grab the rope”)

The noises of the jungle seem to echo in my ears

As I sink a little deeper in the quicksand of my fears

In the mire of self-destruction, the abyss of black despair

Feeling abandoned – like no one really cares.

I scream out to the silence, to the hot, unmoving air

“Won’t someone come and save me?  Is anybody there!?!?!?”

Thrashing, struggling, gasping I try to make a way

Needing deliverance and strength for today….

Hope almost gone – no will to go on.

A quiet voice whispers–

(It seems like a song):

“Grab the rope, weary pilgrim, strength is gone.

Grab the rope of surrender, it is strong.

It can save you from destruction if you let your struggle cease…

I’ve come to deliver you and give you My peace

But you must surrender – accept what I’ve planned.

Grab the rope, weary pilgrim.  Take My hand!”

1988

The Nowhere Track (Poem)

She’s looking back
to the nowhere track
That self-made hell
where drunks and addicts dwell.

Torment inside —
Emotional downhill slide.
Didn’t think to make a call.
Set herself up to fall.

What a fearful place
Alone again to face
That choosing the easier way
Means with her life she’d pay.

Thank God, she can’t forget–
(The memories haunt her yet)
As to her knees she falls
And for deliverance calls:

God of my sanity,
Quick! Calm the storm in me!
The waves are oh so high.
I cannot see the sky.
The boat is shakin, Lord.
I cannot find the oars.
Help me choose life again,
Let go and let you in.
I surrender, Lord,
‘Cause I can’t afford
To do it any other way.

1988

A Vessel Of Honor

A noise was made in heaven as the way parted and the Accuser entered the throne room. He came with a list…”See that little pot in the corner? It was made from defective materials. It is too small and weak for any good use. It’s broken now. Surely you have no remaining purpose for that one….It will never amount to anything…Can I have it? I’ll dispose of it for you…take care of the problem…It should be discarded. Surely there is no use for it…” (He inches slowly toward the pot and bends over to grasp it when the Lord’s strong voice booms out saying, “Silence! This one was made for My use. I designed it. I am not done with it yet. I have a purpose your eyes will never understand. It was bought and paid for with My blood: I ransomed this one! It has been redeemed! You will speak no more against it! It is mine!”

Satan slithered away and the Lord went and tenderly picked up each broken piece of the fractured vessel, missing nothing. He carried them to a workbench. The Holy Spirit came and together they labored with love over their broken vessel. The blood of the Lamb and the oil of joy covered each ragged edge as God reconstructed what the enemy thought he had destroyed. Slowly, from a pile of broken pieces, God fashioned a beautiful vessel of honor. At the banquet celebration He held, this vessel was on the table of the King of Kings — a beautiful goblet full of new wine. Its delicate, intricately shaped stem and ornamented sides were beautifully decorated with scenes declaring the victory of the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.
*****************************************************************
From Psalms 30:8-12 NLT
I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Teresa Norman April 6, 1991

Landmines

How many times through the course of a day
As I make my way through the country inside
Where the darkness lies
Will I step in a place where I have to face
The landmines buried so long ago?

In tormented fear I cry out in the night–
This can’t be life! God, this can’t be right!
I’ve been “set free,” “walk in victory”
(But all that stuff just isn’t enough)!
Deep scars….so hard….
I curse the day the mine was laid!

Still, cleanup crews come to a land where there was war…
Mines are dug up…disconnected…traps sprung….
Dangerous work is done.

God, let it be done in me.
Send Your spirit to detect
The mines that lay there yet.
Protect those who are so unaware
Of the trip-wires, booby traps, tracers and flares
That lurk in the rubbish I’ve tried so hard to hide.
Come, grace of God. Come and abide
In the places where the darkness lies.
Let Your spirit disarm the alarms that still go off…
The carefully hidden mines that lay in wait
For someone to walk into my life…
Make me a safe companion!
Don’t let me destroy
An unsuspecting one again!
Protect them, God.
Help me, Jesus.
I stand in need….to be freed by Your love.

Teresa Norman 1996

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

Genesis (Poem)

Here in the quiet
as I kneel beside my bed
Waiting for directions,
He calms the noises in my head
And with a heart of gratitude,
I give Him thanks again
Because He gave me a new beginning
when I thought I’d reached the end.

Genesis, a beginning
When I thought I’d lost it all-
Strength for the journey
(Even though sometimes I fall)
Feet on the pathway-
I don’t have to walk alone
Because the God who loves and care for me
Has given my heart a home…

The end was the beginning
Of a brand new way of living-
He gave me back the will to live again.
Now a Higher Power I cannot see
Reminds me that He cares for me
When I spend some time with the people of Genesis.
I see His love in the people of Genesis.

Teresa Norman 1992