Who Do You Play For?

Monday night Christian and I did the nerdiest thing we have ever done. We stayed up to watch the awards ceremony for the National Forensics Association. A coach of a team was live streaming it so we could all play along at home.

Probably the cutest thing there is to know about Christian and me and our relationship is that we met on the Ball State Speech team roughly thirty years after my parents met on the Ball State Speech team. We sat in our living room in our pajamas and held our breath and clapped along as we waited to find out how our alma mater did. We yelled and then shushed trying not to wake up the babies in our excitement. It has been awhile since Ball State had a top ten finish, and they managed to do just that this year.

I was surprised at how invested I was in the outcome of the tournament. I know the coaches of the Ball State speech team but I no longer know the team members. I couldn’t give you the name of anyone who competed for Ball State this year, and yet I teared up a little; I was so stinking proud of their success. I updated my Facebook status to spread the news. I tweeted about it. I was (and still am) pumped that the team I was once a part of was able to accomplish what they did.

In some ways it feels like I am still on the Ball State speech team. I always will be. It does not matter who is competing, in what events, on which campus. I will always, always be rooting for my team.

One of Christian’s closest friends (who he competed with in High school and college) used to refer to Christians (not my husband, rather Christ followers) as “Team Jesus.” “You know Andy,” he would say, “he is Team Jesus too.”

Sometimes I think the Church, Christ followers collectively, forget that we are all on the same team, that we are all Team Jesus. My coaches and teammates can tell you that I was not always the most amazing teammate. I held grudges, I talked about people, I held my best interests above the team sometimes. But in my best moments, in the weeks before State and Nationals we came together.  I rooted for, helped out and cared for people I otherwise did not get along with, because we both wanted the same thing. We both wanted the team we were playing for to do really well.

Lately my blog feed has been covered in leaving the church, not leaving the church, coming back to the church. All of the posts are well thought out and beautiful. They are real and painful sometimes; honest and gentle sometimes. They point the finger at self as much as they do at the church as a whole. I know that my generation is leaving the church in droves.

My pat answer to those I am talking to in real life is “come to mine!” But that glosses over the fact that on many things I am on the exact opposite side of the theological divide as the man standing in the front delivering the message. It ignores the soul-searching nights I have wondered what to teach the girls in my house about what the Bible does and does not say about what they can do, if it is fair to them to go to a church that does not have a woman on staff, that does not believe in female elders.

All of those things and a million others can get in the way of the ultimate truth. Anyone participating in those conversations are on the same team. We are all team Jesus. Even if the men that lead my church have views that I disagree with on women’s roles, I follow them because they love Jesus desperately. Because this is the community I feel led to serve with. We have the same goals. Love God, love our neighbors. We play for the same team. Team Jesus.

I don’t think we all have to agree. I don’t even think every Christian has to like each other, I don’t even think it is possible. But I do think that we can agree that we play for the same team. We have the same goals. However vehemently I disagree with them on some things we are still Team Jesus. I think it may be time to act like it or at the very least talk to each other like we are all Team Jesus.

Advertisements

Thoughts While Zumba-ing

I have been to Zumba twice this week. I seem to think a lot during it. Here they are those thoughts

This is what I like to think I look like doing Zumba.

This is probably more accurate.

– This song keeps saying “I found love in a hopeless place.” That right there is an accidental devotional if I’ve ever heard one. I did find love in a hopeless place. This has to be talking about the cross…right? Even if it wasn’t, it is now.

-I cannot figure out what this instructor wants me to do. Yelling “rhythm” at me certainly isn’t helping anything. I wonder what I yell at my students that is not helping.

– She said she needed to see more booty, but this is the East Lake Family Y. I see plenty of booty in this classroom.

-Oh, that is what she means. White booty don’t shake like that.

-Why do I have a repeating track in my head that says “you can’t dance, you can’t dance.” Who put that there? That is stupid.

-The Peanut definitely thinks she can dance, and the Rooster already spends her time bopping around. I wonder if I can do something to protect them from that sound track. It sure is stupid.

– See, look at her. I am not the most awkward person in the room. I need to get over myself. No one is in here thinking about me.

– Here comes the nursery worker, I hope that is for me. I am dying. Nope, not me…guess I have to finish the workout.

Everyone Wants to Be a Tim Tebow Christian

I talk to parents. It is part of my job. When people find out I teach High school (and like it) they sometimes talk to me about their kids. Tim Tebow has come up a surprising number of times. It seems everyone’s kid has Tebow potential.

Disclaimer: I’ve never spoken a word to Tim Tebow. From what I can gather based on the person that he presents himself to be, he seems legit to me. I hope that God is doing a great work in him for all the world to see. That would be wonderful. I don’t really have anything bad to say about him. I would however like it on record that I would love to see him do a really crazy thing like drive a used car, live on $100,000 a year (which is way over the average family income of $46,000 and change) and give the rest to charity. I know that may be a little much to ask, but a girl can dream.

Everyone wants to be a Tim Tebow christian. To live a big life in front of millions of people all for the glory of the Lord. We want a big car and pool and a compelling story. We want to be a football star for the gospel, a quarterback for Christ. We want to call the shots and save the game with millions of people screaming our name….for Jesus of course. We want a chance to proclaim on ESPN that it really isn’t about me, but my savior. As our name scrolls happily across the bottom of the screen. I know I do.

Everyone wants to parent the next Tim Tebow. To watch their kid succeed on the football field or the stage. To be succesful in front of a huge crowd. Everyone wants to cheer in the stands as their kid proves to the world, the haters, themselves that God made them special. Everyone wants their kid to be the one that is the light to the world in the most obvious of ways, with Jesus written on their state champion tennis shoes. Or perhaps as the child thanks God (then the parents) from behind the podium in their valedictory address on commencement day.

We know that Jesus said we would be persecuted. That our children might be as well. We would like that persecution to come in the form of some eye-rolls and being the butt of Jay Leno’s jokes. That’s the kind of persecution we can get behind. The one that comes with the fame enough to be mentioned on a late night show and everyone in America gets the joke.

Even if we can accept the fact that we are not a Tim Tebow Christian, what parent doesn’t desire the very best for their children

A Tim Tebow kind of life: fame. fortune, friends, all to the glory of God. Yes please, sign me up for that faith and I will take one for the kids. The one where God calls them to do something extraordinary that society values. And for some this is where he calls them, but for most this is not where the narrow path leads.

If Jesus thought that the Roman empire was rough, He should try choosing a seat in the average High School cafeteria. I am grappling with the fact already that there is a distinct possibility that God’s best for my child will not be very popular, will not make them very popular. What if my kid goes and sits next to the weird smelly kid (provided they are not the weird smelly kid) and then no one else wants to be their friend? How will that not be hard for me as well? It seems like in that moment I would wish for them to be the popular kid for Jesus.

There are a few of those in the Bible, but mostly not so much.  The Bible doesn’t give us instructions based on getting people to like us. It gives us instructions to abandon all that popularity and take up our cross. Rarely does this happen on television. Mostly we are called to serve quietly and humbly. (I have heard Tebow does this quite well, but we never hear about it because, you know, he is quiet and humble about it.) Most of us will never make it to the front page for the good works that we do. And that is hard for me, and perhaps you to be reminded that mostly the Christian life isn’t about us, but Christ.

Jesus the Contractor?

I read this blog post last friday. It is about building a castle. How the Lord comes in to our hearts and desires to build beautiful wonderful things out of our hearts and lives. But all we wanted was for him to fix the leaky roof to our humble cottage. I suppose I knew Jesus was a carpenter, but I never thought of him as a contractor before.

On Saturday we had women’s group and I mentioned the post. Jill said something along the lines of “Yeah, remodeling is inconvenient! Sometimes you have to do your dishes in the bathtub.” I can’t get the thought out of my head, that the remodeling of my life, of my heart, of my soul, is likely to be uncomfortable and inconvenient at times.

There are times when Christ brings in the sledge-hammer and proceeds to knock down walls that you had been told were holding the house up. It is scary watching the support walls in your life crumble, only to discover that they were not as necessary as you were told. Or that they were necessary, but He put up some sort of non-permanent solution until the whole thing is remodeled. It sometimes looks like your life will come slamming down right onto your head.

Or sometimes he moves things that have been in place for years. Jesus changes around the light switches in the house of your life, or turns the water off to a particular faucet. It is so hard to unlearn old habits and stop turning on faucets that have worked in the past. That water needs to be cut off so that we will stop using that faucet. But we still go back until we finally have a new normal.

Sometimes Christ comes in and tears down the back deck, and you are annoyed. You liked that back deck; you used it. Where exactly are you supposed to put the grill now? It is really annoying. Why would he just tear down something that was working? But then He puts in the screened in porch of your dreams. Of course the deck had to go.

But mostly, when people talk about the inconvenience of cooking for months on a hot plate and a microwave, or doing their dishes in the tub, or having a family of seven using only one bathroom for a year, they talk about how it will be worth it. They have seen the plans, or designed those plans themselves. And when this inconvenience is all over the house will be bigger, or better, or nicer. The mess will be cleaned up and the dishwasher will be re-installed. The frustration will be over and a beautiful home will be in its place.

I don’t know what the final product will look like. The Lord knows there is a LOT of remodeling to be done in my life. But I know and trust the contractor intimately. And I believe that His design will be worth it.

Jesus Lover

When people talk about me, what do they say? I have come to the conclusion that people are talking about me far less than I think they are. Seems I am the only one who thinks me so important. But when people do talk about me, what do they say? Oh, that is Abby she is…..?

There are so many things I want to be. A good teacher, (the teacher to some, the one that made the difference), a great mom and wife, a published author one day. All of those things plus the more general terms, kind, honest, funny. I hope people say that too. I hope those labels stick to me like the stickers on my food packaging, like the stamp on the milk container.

There are so many labels out there labels within labels even. Not just mom, working-mom, stay-at-home-mom, crunchy-granola-mom, attachment-mom, ferberizer (I know, really, it is a thing. I didn’t make it up.)

And as a christian, Oh Lord, how we love our labels. I am a fan of telling people about Jesus. I pray for people to meet my savior. If that is evangelism, am I an Evangelical? I believe that the bible is fundamentally true, am I a Fundamentalist? I speak in tongues and see visions, I have occasionally dreamed dreams. Does that make me a Charismatic? I was raised a Disciple but now go to a Baptist church, was baptised in a Disciples church but now take my discipline in a Baptist one. What does that make me? How do I identify myself? What does it mean?

What if I didn’t care? What if I peeled off all the other labels that I and others have attached to myself, wiped clean all the sticky residue, and printed off a new label. Black on white in bold, 40 point font. What if I stuck it straight onto my chest: Jesus Lover.

What if I lived my life in such a way that the only way to talk about me was to talk about Him? “That’s my friend Abby. She loves Jesus.” If I stopped spending so much time worried about if I am doing it all right, and simply concentrated on loving Jesus, what would that mean for me?

Oh to be a Jesus Lover. To think all day everyday on loving Jesus well. To do the dishes and the grading, the laundry and the driving hand in hand with my savior. I wouldn’t spend so many minutes worried about what a good mom, wife, teacher, friend, does. If I failed at one of those it would be okay.

Those are the things that I do. They are not who I am. I am a Jesus Lover.  I love Jesus. Put it on my t-shirt tomorrow and my gravestone someday Abby Norman: Jesus Lover.

If this was where my story began and where it ended, if it wrote everything in between. What a beautiful story it would be.

To my daughters, may you never need it.

Dear Juliet and Priscilla,

There are people who will tell you that you are not as valuable as your brothers. They will tell you that the church, the family, your God, were designed to be experienced chiefly through a man’s experience, and only through a woman’s as a sidekick (they will likely use the word helper, or mate, or help-mate.)

When this happens I pray that you will think of me, of your aunts, of your grandmothers. I pray that you will have seen the love that I have for my Lord, the love that he has for me. I hope that the women in your life who love the Lord with abandon will be a protection against the lie that you need anyone elses help to experience God. He loves you desperately.

Think about your dad and your grandfathers too. There are so many in your life who think you are incredible. They think you are wise and have something to say. They feel very very lucky that you are girls, that you are their girls. They want to know what God is teaching you. They believe it might teach them too. It is your dad, the rhetorician I think, that will make you read the words of men like this. You will roll your eyes, but also store those words in your heart.

My loves, when you hear those lies, the ones that are meant to keep you quiet and safe with you hands in your lap, I pray that your heart is protected. I pray that those things sound so strange to you that you will think them silly. I pray that you laugh and go about your day, being the woman God created you to be.

But I know that your reaction will more likely be anger. You come by that righteous anger honestly. Your mother’s temper is famous in the family lore, and your dad has a similar story. When we have something to say, we like to be heard (we met on a speech team after all.) May you not be consumed by your anger, may the desire of your heart be Jesus, and not that the people around you say all the right things about him.

I am learning just now, why Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. May you learn that lesson earlier. It was as much for us as it was for the people who are saying things against us.  My dear sweet girls, I pray that you would not insist on having the last word, but instead go on about your life, proving every moment that God has amazing things for you.

There is a chance that you are the one who is called to vocally confront these beliefs, and if that is the case I will pack your lunch with things that will soothe your throat, and kiss your head as you go to your work every day. If God calls you to be that voice in that wilderness I will be your biggest fan. But make sure that is what God called you to do.

It is more likely that He will call you to simply live the equality in the gospel everyday. It may seem like this is not enough, but it is. Your job is to do every day what the Lord has for you that day. If it is to speak up then do so, if not then keep moving. Trust that God will multiply that offering. You living the truth challenges those lies better than anything you could say.

Remember that the people who are saying these things are your brothers and sisters in Christ, and as I once told your grandmother at girl scout day camp “sister means even if you don’t like them, you are stuck with them and you have to be nice.” The Bible is clear sweet girls, you need to be kind to your brothers and sisters the ones who live in your house and the ones who do not. It is not kind to let lies go unchallenged. Lies about women hurt men too. But make sure it is done with a gentle spirit. You and I don’t have everything right. We wouldn’t want someone identifying us purely by the things we get wrong. We hope that people identify us by the things that point to our savior. We must give others the grace that Christ so freely gave us. Especially when they don’t deserve it. That is what makes it grace.

It is sometimes hard being a woman in this church, but it is always worth it. Sometimes when we hear hurtful words we turn our backs to the church, we reject the whole thing as hopeless. God loves his church, he calls us his bride.  He wants to love you through the church, imperfect things can love you well too. I hope I have shown you that as your imperfect mom. Don’t let your pride cheat you out of the love God wants to show you.

I love you my loves, my lovelies, my girls. I am so very blessed to be your mom. I pray that you will never need this letter. But I put it here, just in case you do.

Love,

Your mom

The Norman Family Creed

A week or two ago at Bible study Christian was talking about something that looked like it was going to be terrible. And suddenly a thought occurred to him:

“Well, God’s never screwed us over before.”

He reflected on that for a second and shrugged. Whatever it was would work out. Our history tells us that.

“Well, God’s never screwed us over before.”

We joked, about writing it on our door frame like the Lord instructed the Israelites. But somehow in the last weeks it has been written on the hearts of our family and friends.

“Well, God’s never screwed us over before.”

I suppose there are more church-y ways of stating it. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” “God’s grace is sufficient.” “God wants good things for us.”

But when the money looks tight, the schedule is getting crazy, we can’t see how this is all going to work out. In those moments, somehow, this is the phrase that has been comforting us.

“Well, God’s never screwed us over before.”  

This is the truth the story of our life spells out. Perhaps I need to write this on my doorways after all.

“Well, God’s never screwed us over before.”

Nope he hasn’t. And I seriously doubt this will be the first time.