A simple melody

I have a pretty simple voice. It is strong and I can carry a tune, but I was always a soprano in choirs so I can’t pick the alto line out of the hymnal like my mom. or make up a descant on top of the melody like my sister (the music therapist). But strong and steady I can sing the chorus and verses. As loud as you want it I can sing out. It came in handy from the back of the stage in the musicals I was in.

This summer as I was praying about what to do, what would honor God, what would restore me from the whirlwind of this school year, God moved my heart and settled on my guitar. The one I got for my twenty-first birthday. The one that has spent years in silence interrupted by a couple month stretches of me attempting to re-learn what I forgot.

While most of my friends spent their teenage years dreaming of a boy who could play them the guitar, I always wanted the guitar myself. I wanted to be able to play.

It is the simple melodies I am attracted to. Nothing on the radio or to remind me of high school. I am learning to play old hymns and songs from the toddler music class they have free at the Y, Old Macdonald and Twinkle Twinkle. Tonight I wanted to look up some songs from serenade night at Church camp I now sing as lullabies. I love anything you would sing around a campfire.

It is true that I heard the Lord tell me he would use my voice right there at that camp. I thought for a time He meant singing. I was drawn to my Mom’s old guitar because I thought I might need the skill.

I have since received a different vision for those same words, that the Lord would use my voice. I believe I am supposed to tell the stories I have been entrusted with, starting with my own. It is in a way the exact same thing I pictured when I was twelve. A simple story, a strong melody, the Lord leading, and I sing out. My taste in stories and songs are the same. I find the simple ones the most compelling, the old stories new again the most beautiful.

Advertisements

Sometimes on Saturday

Sometimes all it takes is making coffee with the french press to be reminded;  Out of what looks like muddy water to us, God makes beautiful things.

Sometimes your friend sends you a text message with the word “ass” in it and it makes you think: “She has grown so much since I have known her!”

Sometimes you wake up to your oldest babbling through the baby monitor. She tells Teddy all about J, and M, and S each in turn. You are reminded how blessed you are that God saw it fit to give your daughters a whole bonus family.

Sometimes you are sitting in the bathroom waiting for your child to agree to get out of the tub when she stands up and announces “All done!, Towel.” When you wrap it around her, she insists on crawling into your lap and having you rub the towel close. You learned how to do this from your mom. You tell her that this is the very best part of the bath and she agrees.

Sometimes both kids take a nap at the same time and the dog insists you sit outside with him. You agree so you don’t have to clean the house.

Happy Saturday! Hope yours is going just as swimmingly.

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.

We Still Want a Political King

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. I grew up in church so I’ve heard the Palm Sunday stuff before. That it was traditional in the day for a ruler to come through the town. A stallion meant war, a donkey meant peace. But I heard a new tidbit this year (Thanks Pastor Tim). The palms that were waved as Jesus passed through signified that the people still expected Jesus to lead the political revolution.

A week later the same people who were screaming “Hosana” were screaming “Crucify Him!”  They did not recognize Jesus for who he was. Their savior, someone who came to deal with the depravity of their own hearts. They were looking for someone to come and revolutionize the political system, to finally usher in God’s law and then they would get to be the ones on top.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus came back, would we recognize him? Would we be paying attention to the people and places that Jesus would go to? Would we beg him to get off the cross and go in to congress and do something already? Would we understand it any better the second time around?

I think we are still looking for the Political messiah. We are still waving those palms, begging God for our nation to turn toward Him. We still want a political messiah, not a personal one. Because a political savior deals with them and all of their stuff, and a personal savior deals with me, and my stuff.

And it is a whole lot more comfortable to have others change based on what I think, then to allow the Holy Spirit to rearrange my life, and trust that He will rearrange other people’s lives as well. I do want Americans to come to know the Lord, every single one of them. But I don’t think that is going to happen one law at a time. I think it can only happen one person at a time, one heart at a time turning toward God.

This Holy week, as I think about the beauty of the cross. I cannot get over how very personalized it was. For me. For you. To connect us to God. I think Jesus could have come to reign as king of a nation. It probably would have been a lot easier to rule a people who adored his decisions. Instead, Jesus chose to die on a cross, to sacrifice himself for people who literally curse his name. He was dying for people’s sins even as they became angry with him for saving them.

We are still clamoring for a political king, but Christ wants so much more than that. He doesn’t just want the hearts, and minds of the nation as a whole. He wants my heart, my life. He wants us to follow him regardless of what the laws say. He knows that changed laws do not change hearts. Christ centered hearts create Christ centered lives, and people are drawn to those lives. Then their hearts change too, and pretty soon no one cares what the law says. We just all follow Jesus.

Accidental Communion

Lately life has been coming at my family like the waves in the ocean. Even the coming up for air is exhausting. You can see it on our worn faces, can hear the gasping in our voices. Those waves have been getting the best of us lately, we are drowning under them where we once were riding on the top. We are slowly swimming to spring break but this week has left me wondering if we were in fact going to make it.

Tuesday I got a series of texts in the afternoon: one telling me I was being prayed for, one asking how could they help, and one letting me know that I was no longer in charge of my own dinner tonight, it would be brought to me and does my family eat broccoli? We sure do and we were eating it that night. (My friend from work told me she was tempted to join my church simply for the likelihood of the occasional dinner.)

When she dropped dinner off, we chatted and let our kids run around my backyard. Her son may have peed right there in the backyard and the Peanut may have then tugged on her pants until I helped her pull them down and attempted to do likewise. Standing up and holding herself. We may have stood and watched the whole thing and laughed.

But when my friend headed home and the laughter faded I found myself gasping for air again.

I grew up in a church tradition that centered around the eucharist. I don’t know what else you are going to get at any Disciples of Christ church, but you are bound to get communion. Bread and grape juice passed amongst the people. It is so central to the faith I was given, and the one I claim as my own. I remember once on a church camping trip grape Snapple and wonder bread passed around as Luke 22 was read. The blood of Christ poured out for me on the shores of Lake Michigan as the gulls sounded. I was maybe ten.

When I am drowning in life, as I have been lately, I miss the eucharist every week. I sometimes need a physical reminder to cling to in order to keep the faith.

I finally got the Peanut inside and pulled back the foil on the home-made pot pie that was waiting for me in the kitchen. It was still warm and I could smell the comfort wafting from it. There on top of the pie my friend had taken the extra pie crust and formed a cross. It was as clear a sign of hope as a stained glass window at a sunrise service. I heard something echo inside of my heart. This is my body, poured out for you. My body, the church body. Poured out for me right there in my kitchen.

It is communion I have been desperately seeking. The symbolic act of being one with God, receiving his great sacrifice as I in turn attempt to lay my life down for others. And it was communion I received. A hot meal delivered to me, by the body of Christ, when I had nothing left. Poured out for me, broken for me. Take, eat, in remembrance of Him.

The Cleaning of the Wound

“It is like a festering sore,” she said. “It’s just going to keep bubbling; you’ve got to do something about it before the infection spreads. It isn’t going to get better on its own.”

This is an interesting dynamic for sure. Lately I have been the one speaking in spiritual similes, and I am not sure how I feel about the sudden role reversal. But it is accurate, this description. Sore and stinking pretty much sums up my attitude these last two days. My anger is bubbling, refusing the healing that I know I need.

The grossest part is the way I have been treating this wound. Red and puss filled I present it like some kind of righteous badge. “Look at what has been done to me.” The pain pulses through it and around it to the rhythm of my heart. Theirfault Theirfault Theirfault. When bumped tears roll down my cheeks. Angered flesh mirrors the way I have convinced myself I am entitled to feel. The truth is I have been nursing this infection, unwilling to clean it out. I want to ensure my pain stays with me. A constant reminder of my wound.

The people closest to me begin to smell the rot that is in this wound. My husband, my sisters, they warn me of the infection they sense, it is evident in almost every conversation we have. The poison seems to be spreading to places it does not belong. I had planned on keeping it contained, I thought I was controlling it, but it is damaging things I never intended it to get close to. Spots of red flesh are cropping up in seemingly unrelated places, and the hurt is threatening to invade my veins, join my very blood on a path straight to my heart.

Still I protest. I have a right to this infection. I have a right to feel this wound. I was hurt after all. If I allow this to heal it will be as though I was never wounded in the first place. Isn’t that the point of healing?  I hear the Spirit whisper. I am tempted to tell God to shut up.

I feel like it happens just moments before the infection joins the path of no return. I decide it is time to let go of the pain, and let the Lord clean out my wound. I am well aware it is only His prompting that allows me to ask. It is my nature to cling to this angry wound until it destroys me. It is a little scary, asking the Great Physician to clean me out. I am ashamed at how long it has taken me to ask, how bad I let it get. I know from experience that this is certain to sting. It does sting. This wound is cleansed with an apology that humbles me. In order to release this stench I also must release my pride. My pride it turns out, has been fueling the infection of anger.

As I release my own pride and allow God to pour healing into my wound I can suddenly breathe again. It turns out I had been holding my breath against my own righteous stench, and I didn’t even know it. The Healer leaves my wound raw but clean. The sting was temporary and gave way to relief. I was not aware of how bad I was hurting. How much of that hurt was the infection, and how little the actual wound.

I am left with a pile of clean white cloth, instructions to tend the wound. Keep it bandaged, change them often, watch carefully for signs of infection. The wound is still there, but it is healing. It is not my responsibility to heal the original wound, but it is my responsibility to protect from infection.

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.