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.

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Easter Sunday: I am not over it.

This past Sunday was Easter. We were at Piedmont Park at sunrise because that is the way 1027 rolls. (There is something so wrong about waking both the girls up to go anywhere.) Holy Week was spring break, which seems like I would have more time to reflect but that was not the case. It was pretty insane in the best kind of way (Emily and my nieces came down and there was some serious Franceland. More on that sometime this week.)

Basically I woke up on Sunday, threw some resurrection rolls in the oven (it is officially the Norman family Easter thing), put the girls in their matching easter outfits (thanks Grandma!), and prayed that the Holy Spirit would meet me at the park. I broke my Lenten fast with some glorious Land of a Thousand Hills coffee (Yeah, that: lent fast post coming up Thursday), had some conversations that started with Jesus is Risen! and grabbed the paper bulletins we only use when we are outside (1027 tries to be Green like God). I am glad I grabbed an extra one because the Rooster has entered what my cousin Kim calls “the dog stage” because that thing got chewed up faster than a chocolate bunny.

We opened the service with Christ the Lord is Risen Today, which I occasionally snicker at because my mom had this work out video led by Stormie O’Martian that used to pump that hymn up and then have you do sit-ups to it. If one of my sisters is sitting next to me, I have been known to whisper “and one, and two, and work those abs!” while the rest of the congregation is singing. (This may have been the reason for a dirty look or two from the choir loft. Sorry mom. I still think it is funny.)

I have sung that song probably every Easter Sunday for as long as I could talk. But this Sunday I really read the words. Where oh death is now thy sting? Because of Jesus Christ, not just his death but also his resurrection, I can talk smack in the face of death y’all! You see that satan, you see that death IN. YOUR. FACE. My savior, he defeated death. DEATH! This is a big deal. This is THE DEAL! I know I am overusing the caps lock and the exclamation points. But I can’t help shouting about it. MY SAVIOR LIVES! HE DEFEATED DEATH FOR ME!

I was reminded of the funerals of the people I love: my cousin Rachel and my Grammy, my Great Grandma’s Burgess and Michael . It is still painful that they are no longer here. I don’t want to gloss over the pain, especially of my Aunt and Uncle who had to bury a daughter. But I get to mourn with hope, because Jesus Christ defeated death for them too! Because Jesus lived, so too can they live. This is not over. My Jesus got the last word, the last laugh. I too will one day get to give a nana-nana-boo-boo to death.

Part of me wonders why we save that message for Easter Sunday. It is a big freaking deal people! Jesus Christ is ALIVE! How could there be a more important message than that? Next week and the week after, and the week after that. Let’s come together and simply remind each other of the fact that our savior lives. I am not over it. And I don’t plan to be for quite some time. Jesus is alive. It is a big deal.

The Littlest Disciples

If you come to our church on any given sunday I hope you are not easily distracted. Or if you are, I hope you find our little distractions amusing. Because at my church, it is acceptable for the little ones to run up and down the aisles, dance in circles, crawl around on the floor, and generally giggle, coo and squeal for the sheer joy of it. Because at 1027 kids are allowed to worship as kids do. Messy and simple, but honest and pure. They sometimes bump into each other, the tiny bodies in the front, as they spin circles before the Lord. It causes a ruckus as they find their respective moms and get their little heads kissed. This is what happens when your worship leader once seriously considered being a kindergarten teacher. This behavior is accepted.

Not only is it accepted, but I know that when the Peanut has called out for “EIEIO” too loudly and too many times (I think she thinks that Jonathan takes requests) I know that his prayer will sound something like this. “Dear Lord, thank you for our children, thank you for their example to us, that they show us how to worship.” My worship leader believes Jesus when He says “let the little children come.” So he does. And they do.

As a parent it is sometimes hard. It would be easier for me if my kids would sit quietly hands in their laps. But that is not what my kids do. (Some kids seem content like this and that is okay too.) It is sometimes scary, taking people at their word and letting your kid be so kid-like in an enviroment that historically has been reserved for quiet reflection, reserved reverence. What if they are all talking about my naughty monkeys behind my back? Some one elses kid tossing a fit because they are not allowed to play the piano doesn’t bother me that much. Kids are kids after all. But mine? Terrible. Worst mom ever. Whose kid throws a fit in church. (mine does.)

Yesteday the Peanut was putting her hands in the air and spinning around on her tip-toes. I have seen this move a million times done by Elizabeth’s girl. She was runnning between peopled who loved her and squealing with glee on both ends. She was crawling around with her friend Josiah. She was worshiping with her church family by simply being a part of the body, and it took everything I had to not tell her to stop, because I was paranoid about what people thought.

Lately there have not been any 3 foot tall worship mobs running around up front. I don’t know if the kids grew tired of it, or if the parents were worried about it all being distracting, but I have heard people talking about the kids. My church family, they say “How come the kids don’t dance in front anymore?” and “I miss watching Marin dance before her Lord.” They say “It distracted me at first, but when I opened my heart, the Lord allowed me to see the kingdom there in front of my eyes every Sunday with the under 10 set.”

This week I had the privilege of sitting with some new comers. Two 5 year old boys, and a set of sisters 6 and 8. They behaved beautifully. I could tell that my new friends had been told that they were to conduct themselves in a church-appropriate manner and they did. This is good parenting, preparing your children for what is expected. But I could also see the glint in their eyes when I was bopping around with my babies and the way one little boy was carefully shuffling his feet and swinging his hips. He didn’t want to embarass his parents, but he longed to join our little dance party.

I don’t blame the parents. They have a lot on their plate lately, the effort it took to get themselves to church on Sunday was enormous. I was humbled that they would do all that, what I might not be willing to do, just to worship with us. I have been to churches where childhood exuberence is frowned upon. Jesus loves the little children who sit quietly next to their parents thank you very much. I wish his parents had been told ahead of time that kids being kids was okay with us. I pray that they come back soon and join the little mosh pit up front. It ministers to me. Jonathan taught me that.

Note: This post has been edited from the original version.

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