If You Hate My Wife, We Can’t Be Friends

There is a statement that I have told my kids many times over the years. In fact, I have told them so much that they can both quote it. Here it is:

“This is my wife. I love you, but I love her more. She was my wife before you came around, and she will be my wife after you have grown up and moved on.”

I’m certainly not trying to tell my kids that I don’t love them. I always make sure, when I say this, that they know I love them. But, what I want them to know is that I love my wife. On this earth there is no person more important that my wife, for me. In fact, there is only one relationship more important that the relationship with my wife. That relationship is with Jesus.

I say all this to say, I LOVE MY WIFE. I’m not always good at showing it, and I probably don’t say it often enough. But, I love her. I love each of you reading this, but I love my wife more. If fact, I love my wife so much that if you don’t like her we simply can’t be friends. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that my relationship with her is that much more important than my friendship with you.

Frankly, my wife is such a part of me, of who I am, that if you don’t like her, you probably won’t like me either.

You can TRULY say you love me, if you don’t also love my wife.

The funny thing is that people do this exact same thing to Jesus. It’s common to hear people say, “I love Jesus. I just don’t like the church.” The Bible calls the church the Bride of Christ. So, this statement is telling me that you love me, but hate my wife. If you hate my wife, we simply can’t be friends. So, I struggle to believe that Jesus is ok with you saying that you hate HIS bride.

What kind of relationship would that be? Imagine for a minute that you and I tried to build a friendship. We hung out some, and had some come together. Then, you met my wife. Shortly after meeting her you start talking about everything that is wrong with her. You start posting to your social media about every bad habit that my wife might have. You talk about how ugly she is. Let me be completely clear.

Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. If you did this to my wife, not only could you not be my friend, but you are going to find yourself dealing with me. I’m a nice guy. I can put up with a lot. BUT, that’s my wife and I WILL fight for her. I WILL protect her. I WILL come after you if you attack her.

Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am generally a pretty kind person. In fact I try very hard to be. Sadly, some people have mistaken that kindness for weakness. Many have learned that my kindness does have a limit. When that limit is reached, I can become a worthy adversary. Before you condemn me for this, or warn me against such threats, consider this. The gentle shepherd who played soothing music for a troubled king is the same person who attacked a giant with nothing but a sling and a few stones. Then, he cut the giant’s head off. You may know this shepherd as David and the giant as Goliath.

The point is, I LOVE MY WIFE. Was imperfect I as I am, I love my wife. I am willing and eager to protect her, to stand up for her, even to fight for her. If I, with all my imperfections, would love my wife in this way, how much more would Jesus, in his perfection, love HIS Bride? The Bible says that Jesus’ Bride is the church.

If you hate the church… If you’re among those people that would say they love Jesus, but hate the church I would encourage you to consider what I have written here. The church is the Bride of Christ. As such, I struggle to see how you can honestly say that you love Jesus, but hate his bride. I know that the church is flawed. The unfortunate truth is that the church is filled with people. Anytime you have all those people, there are going to be problems. I don’t say this to excuse how many of them behave. I’ll get to them in a minute. But, I would encourage you to give the church a chance. If you try one local church and it’s not a good fit for you, try another, then another, then another.

There are many different churches. While I wouldn’t encourage you to search for a church based solely on your personal preferences, I would say that if one church is not a good fit for you, there are many others. Don’t give up on the bride of Jesus so easily. I have seen how ugly church can be. I’ve experienced it. One of my goals as I started a church was to work to make it a place where there was less of the ugly stuff that I have seen. Still, some of it will probably happen.

If you are a church member or leader… If you are part of a local church you MUST remember that you are the bride of Christ. You represent Jesus. Does the way you behave reflect how Jesus would have us behave? Does how you treat people, especially people who act, look, or think different than you reflect how Jesus treated people? Do the things you say on social media reflect Jesus? Does the way you behave in public reflect Jesus? Does how you act at work reflect Jesus? I think you get the idea. You are the bride of Christ. Maybe if we remember this and behaved as if we believed it, then fewer people would think it was ok to say they love Jesus, but hate the church.

Matt Norman

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New Look, New Direction

It’s funny how life happens sometimes. You really never know where you are going to end up, or what God is going to call you to do. If you have been reading this blog for very long, then you know that is has been mostly children’s ministry focused with a smattering of miscellaneous other stuff along the way.

Well, now it’s taking a new direction.

You see, somewhere along the way, God decided that it would be a good idea for me to start a church. I know, crazy. Right. Hey, it wasn’t my idea. I’m just trying to be obedient to what God is telling me to do. Trust me I was quite content to do children’s ministry the rest of my life. But, God had other plans.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the new direction my life and ministry are taking. At the same time, it’s scary. I had attained a certain level of comfort in children’s ministry, but when it comes to church planting I know almost nothing… Ok, I know nothing.

Still, this is what God has called me to do.

So, with a change of direction for my life and ministry, I felt that my blog needed a new look and a new direction. Moving forward my blog will feature a wide range of posts. Most of them will be on leadership or church planting, but it may also include some children’s ministry stuff, youth ministry stuff, parenting and so much more.

I hope that you enjoy this new direction.

Matt Norman

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The Throne Room

Sometimes when I pray I like to close my eyes
and imagine that I’m seeing the throne room of God.
I close my eyes and, without speaking a word a picture begins to appear.
Soon it’s like I’m there and I’m no longer here.
There before me are two giant doors,
not to keep me out, but to welcome me in.
I want them to open, I want to go through,
But I cannot forget, my past sin.
Without a word and without a sound,
these doors begin to move.
I feel like I should speak, I feel like I should prove
that this Holy place is were I belong,
that all the things I had to do,
I know I have done.
As if I could earn my way into heaven,
But man was I wrong.
That’s when I’m reminded, deep within my soul
that I can never be that good.
But, only through the blood of Christ,
when in my place He stood.
Looking up again I see the doors are open wide.
from what is waiting on the other side,
I know I can not hide.
Beyond the doors is a light
at the same blinding,
and somehow comforting.
I blink my eyes so they can adjust,
to see what lies ahead a I simply must.
The light permeates everything,
It’s source I don’t know.
But as I look around I realize, with awe,
that there is no shadow.
You see in this place the light comes from the Son,
not S. U. N. as here on earth,
but in this place the light comes from the  S. O. N.
That’s right, the Son of God,
J. E. S. U. S.
Not just some burning fire in the sky,
not that kinda sun.
I’m talking about the Holy One.
The one the Jews called Messiah,
The one born of a virgin,
The one who lived without sin,
The one who died on the cross my freedom to win.
Not just a boy born of man,
The only one, the Holy one,
God’s ONLY begotten Son.
Hesitantly I want to move,
but I’m not sure that I can.
But still I take a few cautious steps.
Somehow I know I am not in danger.
Still I can sense,
no way I could miss,
the power that comes from that throne.
Soon I am overwhelmed
by the love that awaits me within,
I want to move, but I can not go in.
Deep within I can feel the Holy Spirit,
encouraging and urging that I should continue.
“The things that Jesus did, He did for you.”
So, I take another step.
Daring to take a glance,
I see the throne and I want to dance.
I see a thrown that’s impossibly large,
rising beyond my vision.
Slowly I approach, with my head hung low.
I don’t want to move,
but simply must go.
With a respect that borders on fear I begin to raise my head.
My eyes move up the thrown trying to see the face of the one that sits upon it.
But, still I can not see that wonderful face.
Then I’m reminded that I’m not ready,
that it’s not my time.
Still my heart longs,
in His lap to climb.
In due time, in due time.
I feel the enormity of the one that is seated in front of me.
Overwhelmed I want to turn and flee.
So bad I want to turn and run,
But a voice says,
“Your place here was purchased by My Son.”
Coming as close as I dare,
I can do little more than stare.
and so I kneel
I bow my head, his love I feel
How can this place even be real
I cry to think that His great son,
my sins did kill.
I cry to think that my eternal life
man can not steal.
and so I kneel.
I bow my head and start to pray,
but how can I know the words to say.
To the one who created the universe,
but still took time to plan my birth.
What do you say to one so great,
who knows your future and holds your fate.
How do you talk to a holy God,
when the only words I have are badly flawed.
And so I kneel.
As down my face tears flow,
I loose my ability or will to go,
I open my heart and open my mouth,
but words don’t seem to be enough.
On earth I thought I was tough,
But in His presence,
I am like a child.
A child of the one true God,
that’s who I am.
A member of a heavenly clan.
Reminded of His love for me,
still I can not see,
why He would sacrifice his Son
just to see me set free.
Free from sin,
a battle I could not win.
But on the cross
that battle did end.
And so I kneel.
Matt Norman

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I’m a Nurse

I’m a nurse.
I have seen many people die.
I have watched husbands lose wives and wives lose husbands.
I have watched children lose parents and, even worse, I have watched parents lose children.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
I have stood by while doctors gave a first time diagnosis of cancer, and I’ve seen the fear in the eyes of the patient and family.
I have watched while a patient suffering a stroke cried with frustration at their inability to speak or move.
I’ve held the hand of a woman with a badly broken arm as she cried, concerned that it would look deformed after it healed and she might no longer be attractive to her husband.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
I once had 3 patients die in 4 hours.
I’ve watched a patient WALK into MY room in the ER, talking to me, and leave in a BODYBAG.
I have worked on the parents, aunts and uncles of MY team members and was there as our efforts failed and their loved one died.
I have even worked on and watched a team member die.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
At the same time I have been there at the birth of a baby.
I have watched people walk out of the hospital just days after I was certain they would die.
I have talked to a young mom and wife who I had cared for just a few years before after she had taken an overdose trying to kill herself. I listened and cried while she spoke of the difference I made in her life and how her little family would not even be possible if I hadn’t taken the time to not only care for her physical and medical needs but for her emotional  and spiritual ones as well.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
In the midst of all of this:
We are asked to remain calm, caring and to offer superior customer service to people that used to be called patients, not customers.
We are expected to calmly endure emotional, verbal and sometimes even physical abuse while the institutions we work for seem to care little about these attacks and many times even apologize to the very people that are attacking us.
We are repeatedly pushed to say the right things, to do things that may not agree with our ethics and to ensure the safety of our patients. All this by the same institutions that say the wrong things to us, ignore our personal ethics, and ignore our safety.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
In the midst of all this:
We are told that we can not talk about personal matters while in patient care areas.
We can not talk about the great vacation we just took.
I can not talk about the great date that I just went on with my 7 year old daughter.
I can not talk about my amazing son who is about to start high school and got accepted into the International Baccalaureate program. Or how proud I am of him.
I can not talk about my amazing wife who took a day off work just so that she and I could spend the day together while the kids were in school.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like, now. In the midst of  all this, what keep us human?
If we can not talk about the very things that MAKE US HUMAN, how can we be expected to remain human?
Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like if we actually did this.
Imagine, for a moment, if my interactions with my team members were always only about work.
Imagine, for a moment, if after enduring all the things that I’ve mentioned, I could not turn my mind to positive things by discussing the things that are good in my life.
Imagine, for a moment, what that environment would be like.
Imagine for a moment what my team members and I would be like.
Imagine the terrible things that I have seen and how much of that I would be forced to take home with me if I couldn’t turn my mind to more positive things while still at work.
Imagine how hard it would be for me to come back after having 3 patients die in 4 hours if I knew that there would be nothing pleasant about coming to work.
Imagine how hard it would be to work with a team member whose father or aunt you were unable to save if you could not talk about good times that you have had together or about other good things in your life or theirs.
In the midst of all of this nurses give passionate care, even to the people that treat us poorly.
In the midst of all this nurses manage to love and care for their families, somehow leaving behind the stressors of the day.
In the midst of all this nurses manage to return to work, day after day, knowing the potential for horrible things to happen, and never forgetting the horrible things that have happened before.
So, in the midst of all of this, what DOES keep us human?
It is not our professional interactions with team members.
It is not another message from administration telling us the proper way to talk to and care for patients.
It is  not another email from our “leadership” TALKING about how important our safety is to them, while little action is taken.
and, it is CERTAINLY not the color of my scrubs.
So, in the midst of all of this, what keeps us human?
It is our PERSONAL interactions with team members.
It is the stories we share about our days off.
It is the memories we share about fun times we’ve had together.
It is even the practice jokes that may, on occasion, get out of hand.
If these are the things that keep us human, why do the institutions we work for constantly try to kill these things?
Do they not want us to be human?
Do they not think that our patients deserve to have humans care for them?
Do they not want humans to care for them when THEY need to be cared for?
Do they not want us to be good wives, good husbands, good mothers and good fathers, when we leave work?
If these are the things that keep us human, why do the institutions we work for constantly try to kill these things?
Do they not realize that there is no way I could have spent nearly two decades working in the ER, or even as a nurse without these things?
Do they not realize that if I am unable to unload the weight that comes with being a nurse while I am at work, then I will carry it home and be less of a husband and father?
Do they not realize that nursing is hard and often thankless and some days this is the only thing that keeps us going?
Do they not realize? Do they not care?
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a nurse, this is what it’s like.
Matt Norman

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Rethink Leadership Conference Day 1 Wrap Up

As many of you know, I am working to plant a church. For this reason, I have struggled with whether I should be at this conference or at the Exponential Conference in Orlando. I mean Exponential is a CHURCH PLANTING CONFERENCE. Plus, it’s in my back yard. I could attend that one and sleep in my own bed with my wife each night. But, I had made a decision and a commitment to come to Atlanta. So, here I am. Before lunch time yesterday it was clear that I was exactly where God wanted me.
Strategy
 
That was the topic go discussion for the first part of the Rethink Leadership Conference. You see many pastors and leaders have a vision. However, as they pointed out yesterday, many lack a solid strategy for how to accomplish the vision. Here are a few soundbites from these first sessions.
Reggie Joiner
  • It’s not your vision that determines your success. It’s your strategy.
  • It’s alignment the will make a different in achieving our goals or not.
  • You can’t get everyone on the same page if you can’t get them in the same room.
Carey Nieuwhof
  • Not having a strategy is like driving a 12 year old Ford Focus on the German Autobahn.
  • Mission and vision determine intention, but strategy determines direction.
  • The reason you can sleep at night is not because of clear vision, but because of a clear strategy.
Leone Crump
  • Strategy is good. It needs to happen. But, sometimes you get to a point where strategy meets reality and some things have to change.
  • What is our unique contribution during this era of God’s work and will?
  • The church is a centrifugal institution. If you poor into those at the core it will spin out to those on the outside.
  • It’s your job, not to keep every person, but to consistently communicate that your vision has not changed as you change the strategy that is moving you towards your greater goal.
  • Culture is an environment you build around people, not information you give to people.
  • Balance is a myth. Rather it is a matter of understanding the different seasons in your life and ministry. When are your seasons of rest and when are you sprinting?
  • Ignore the wrong people in your life and invite the right ones.
Jon Acuff
  • The hardest part of strategy is that it forces you to admit your limits.
  • If you don’t have strategy the things that re most important get the rest of your time, not the best of your time.
THIS was all just during the first main session of the Rethink Leadership Conference. At this point I was already blown away. But, there was more. Here are a few thoughts from the first “Affinity Conversation”. This is what most conferences would call a breakout session. However, these really were designed to be more of a conversation. The room I was in had about 30 people or so in it. The speaker spoke for about 15 minutes, then the remainder of the hour was open to Q&A. Different from any other conference I’ve been too and it worked great. Here are some of the highlights from this session with Leonce Crump:
  • What is our unique contribution in this era of God’s work and will? (Ok, I know I repeated this one from earlier, but it’s so good I had to. Plus, there was more to it this time.)
    • Demographics don’t come into play until you first answer this question.
  • Are all churches to engage culture? Yes, on some level or another. But, what does that look like for your church in your context?
  • I want to you be you, how you be you, while we do this to the glory of God.
  • If you can’t be committed to this local church, let me help you find a local church you can be committed to.
As you can see the content was rich in all of these sessions and this doesn’t even cover the entire day. I look forward to the content from day 2. Not sure I have capacity for any more, but I’ll take great notes and share with you all.
Matt Norman

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