3 Things I Learn From The Death of a Young Coworker  

Recently I received news that a woman I had worked with for several years passed away. Her death was unexpected. It’s always shocking to hear that someone you know has died. In this case it was even more shocking cause she was only 39 years old. In a couple months I’ll be 43. She was younger than me and now she is gone.

As is often the case in times like this I found myself reflecting on a variety of things. I thought about my own life, my career, my family, and my relationships. As I did, there were three things that really stood out. Here are 3 things I learned from the death of a young coworker.

1.) Make sure the people you love know it. One thing that we hear over and over again when anyone under the age of about 70, or maybe even 80 dies is that you never know how much time you have. There are people that you care about, people you love. Take time to make sure that they KNOW you love them. Tell them. That’s important. They need to hear it. But, don’t stop there. Your actions will speak love much louder than your words can. When you are gone, it is too late to let those people know you love them. So, make sure they know NOW.

“…we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.” 1 John 3:18

2.) Make time to spend time with people you enjoy being around. After the passing of this young friend and coworker, many of us were left wanting to express our feelings for her and to mourn with others. The family had decided not to have open memorial service, but to keep whatever services they did  have just within the family. I completely respect this decision. However, this left many others that were effected by her death with no outlet for their feelings. This prompted one of our former coworkers to organize a dinner. Nothing fancy, or formal, just an open invitation to a local restaurant to gather and share memories. As I looked forward to this dinner, and while there, I was reminded of just how much I actually enjoyed being with many of these people. Sure, I had left the organization that we had all worked for together, but not because I didn’t want to be with these people. I actually really like these people.

I think we all have people like that in our lives. People that we got to know through work, school, or maybe even through the activities that our children are involved in. People that we genuinely enjoy being around. Chances are some of those people actually enjoy being around you as well. Social media has made it really easy to stay connected with these people. Reach out to them. Plan a time to meet at a local restaurant. Plan a BBQ at your house. Plan to meet at a local park. Whatever it is, make time to spend time with the people you enjoy being around.

3.) Make up with that loved one you’ve been struggling with. I get it, family is tough. Family has a unique ability to hurt us so much deeper than anyone else. The pain is made even worse by the fact that these people are supposed to love us. These are the people we are supposed to be able to count on more than any others. I get all that. BUT, life is simply too short to hold a grudge against a family member. Forgive them. Seek to reconcile that relationship. Try to move on and rebuild that relationship. Make the most of the time you have, because you never know how much time you have left.

I know that your efforts at forgiveness, reconciliation, and rebuilding of these relationships may not be returned or appreciated by that loved one. There is nothing you can do about that. Do your part to salvage and restore that relationship. If they were gone tomorrow you don’t want to have to deal with the weight of knowing that you didn’t do what you could to fix it. When that loved one is no longer around you want to be able to assure yourself that you did what could. You may still mourn the missed opportunities, but at least you tried.

At the end of the day, make sure the people you love know that you love them. Make time to spend time with the people you enjoying being with. Make up with that loved one you’ve been struggling with. None of us knows how much time we have left, or how much time they have left. You will never regret time spent with the people you love and enjoy being with, but you could end up regretting not having done it.

Matt Norman

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My Call to Ministry

It has been 10 years since God called me to ministry. Man what a decade that has been. It has taken me so many places and allowed me to do so many things. It has brought me blessings far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Here is the story of how it all started.
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It was a dark rainy night…
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No, that’s not right.
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It all started with I was born…
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That’s not right either.
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The year was 2007 and things were going great.
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That’s more like it. Now on to the real story.
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The year was 2007 and things were going great. I had a great house with a 3 car garage and a pool. I was driving around in a shiny new Chevy Silverado and had a 1987 Chevy Camaro Iroc-Z for the weekend. I know these two cars may not seem that great to everyone, but I’m a Chevy guy so this was pretty cool. I had a successful nursing career that was rising rapidly. I had a wonderful wife, far better than I deserve and great little son. Life was good!
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That’s when it happened.
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Here I was minding my own business, doing my church thing. Like any good baptist, sitting in the same exact spot that I sat every Sunday for years. Then all of a sudden God spoke. Now I’m not talking about an audible voice telling me that I needed to go have a chat with Pharaoh about freeing the Israelites, but I was no less certain that God was talking than if I had heard his voice. As I stood there listening to the praise team sing and play I knew that there was no way I could stay in that spot. It was almost like involuntary motion as I found myself leaving my spot and walking towards the pastor. I remember my wife giving me a look, obviously wondering what was going on, where I was going. I walked up to the pastor and told him that God was calling me to ministry. I distinctly remember gripping the back of the chair in front of me, trying to keep from going up front, but I simply couldn’t. God was getting ready to change my life, and it started with the first step I took into the aisle.
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I can’t say that I ever felt a call on my life prior to that, but as I stood there in my spot, it was completely clear what God wanted me to do. Not only had I never felt such a call, I had always felt that I was where God wanted me. God had guided each of the steps that had led me to this successful career and He had blessed that career in a mighty way. Yet now He was calling me in a completely different direction.
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I could never have guessed what the never decade would look like. I could never have guessed the paths this call would take me down. I would never have guessed that what started in this moment would the me 500 miles from the only place I had ever called home… and 13 months later bring me back. I could not have anticipated all the children and families that God would allow me to work with. I could not have guessed the many children’s ministry leaders that God would connect me with, many of whom would become my friends.
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The truth is that we can never really see where the path God takes up down will lead us. In fact, thats not even for us to worry about. It’s kind like when Aladdin holds out his hand and asks Jasmine, “Do you trust me?” She chose to trust him and the result was a magnificent ride on a magic carpet. Because she trusted Aladdin she got to see things and go places she had never before and, likely, never would have. The same is true of us, when we chose to trust God to lead us, and we follow Him.
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This has certainly been true for me over the past 10 years and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years look like.
Matt Norman

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I COULDN’T GET ON THE PLANE

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. For the past several years during this week I travel to Atlanta for an amazing conference. As a children’s pastor it was the Orange Conference. Conveniently, as I changed roles to that of a senior pastor/church planter, the people that put on the Orange Conference started the ReThink Leadership Conference. It happens the same week and they even share some of the sessions. In doing this, they took something that I already loved and made it EVEN BETTER.

It was going to be great… until it wasn’t.

For most of my trips to Atlanta I have driven. It’s only about 7 hours or so from my home in Central Florida to the ATL. Besides if flew I would have to rent a car anyway. By time you add all that up, it’s just cheaper to drive. The plan this year was the same. Then a coworker told me about the great deals a certain airline was offering. That night I booked my flight. I was already excited to be doing to the conference, but now I was even more excited to be flying for the first time in several years.

It was going to be great… until it wasn’t.

As the day approached I became more and more excited. This was the first time I had flown since starting my struggles with anxiety. When that battle started the thought of flying was completely off limits. But, this time I was excited. Even as the days ticked by I was still excited. When I booked, I was good. When I talked with my roommate about it, I was good. Whenever I thought about it, I was good.

It was going to be great… until it wasn’t.

That changed the afternoon before my trip. I was doing good and was still excited. As I followed the many social media posts from people heading to the conference and arriving in Atlanta, I become more and more excited. Then someone posted a picture of the sky through the plane window. Just like that the anxiety that I had avoided all that time came rushing in. It nearly crushed me.

It was going to be great… until it wasn’t.

I can see myself sitting there on the love seat next to my wife. I’m certain she had no idea, but I was suddenly freaking out on the inside… and it didn’t end there. Throughout the rest of that evening, off and on I would feel anxious, then I would be ok. As I went to bed the anxiety built. For an hour or more I lay there thinking of the plane, as my anxiety grew.

It was supposed to be great… but now it wasn’t.

I prayed. I took deep breaths. I told myself that God was sending me to this conference and He would keep me safe. I thought back to how excited I was when I booked the flight. I thought back to previous flights that I had actually enjoyed. An hour passed, and even with all this going on, my anxiety grew.

It was supposed to be great…. but now it wasn’t.

After an hour of this I got out of bed and started to pace. My family was asleep.My wonderful wife, such a great source of strength for me, had no idea I was suffering so. I began to think back to the time I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. In this moment I was beginning to feel that same way. I could feel myself escalating towards that. I simply couldn’t allow myself to go there.

It was supposed to be great… but now it wasn’t.

I kept seeing myself strapped into the seat on the plane, unable to get up, unable to move around, and worse of all… unable to leave.

I felt so STUPID.

This ticket was paid for.

What were people going to think.

What was my wife going to think.

What was my friend and roommate going to think.

It was supposed to be great… but now it wasn’t.

I couldn’t get on the plane.

After all this, that was the bottom line. I COULDN’T GET ON THE PLANE.

Finally, I woke my wife. Times like this she is so much stronger than me. She would probably deny it, but it’s true. She wrapped her arms around me and I nearly lost control. How I wanted to just cry.

I felt so STUPID.

What was my wife thinking about me?

What were other people going to think.

It was supposed to be great… but now it wasn’t.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter what people might think. I COULDN’T GET ON THE PLANE. So I decided to drive. Yup. By this time it’s after 10:00 at night. I’ve been up since 5:00 that morning and I’m going to drive to Atlanta, by myself. My wife cried, afraid for my safety. I needed to go to this conference, but I COULDN’T GET ON THE PLANE.

It was supposed to be great… and I think it’s going to be.

As I type this I sit at a table outside the conference site. I’m enjoying some great and FREE coffee. I made it to Atlanta safely. I arrived around 6:00 this morning. Took a quick nap and a shower and got to the conference site a little after 8:00. Guess what:

It was supposed to be great… so far it has been.

Year after year God has spoken to me at this conference. I can’t wait to see what He has to say to me this year. I never would have thought that I would have started by week of blogging from the conference with a post like this, but here it is.

Stay tuned as I share my thoughts the great things that I’m trusting God to speak to me this week.

 

This post is one part of an ongoing conversation about my battle with anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety, would like to better understand a loved one who does, or just want to travel this journey with me click on the ANXIETY category to see a full list of all those posts.

Matt Norman

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I May Not Be The Pastor For You

In recent posts I’ve shared some pretty personal stuff.  There are links to those posts at the bottom of this page. The truth is that there are things that I struggle with. Anger, pride, trust, among others. These sorts of struggles are things that pastors seldom discuss. If your looking for the kind of pastor that doesn’t struggle with anything, or at least acts as if he doesn’t, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I have struggled with many things. While there are some things that I do struggle with, there are some that God has helped me to conquer. When I was a child I remember having a terrible temper. I would get so angry that I would lash out at my brothers, often times physically. I remember getting so angry that I would clench my fists, grit my teeth and cry. While I was not even yet a teenager I can remember crying out to God to free me from this anger, and He did. Slowly, as an adult, I have allowed anger to creep back into me. However, knowing that God freed me of it before encourages me. I know that He has rescued me before and can again.

I’d love to say that this is the only piece of my past that I am not proud of. But, that simply wouldn’t be true. If having a past that is less than perfect is too much for you, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I believe the Bible is true, and is our source of truth. It’s not really popular to say so these days, but I believe the Bible is true. When I want to know how to handle a situation or how God wants us, as Christians, to face certain things the Bible is where I turn. When discussing different topics my questions is always, “What does the Bible say?” If we discount any part of the Bible, we must discount the entire thing. When we do that it has no value. This certainly does not make me perfect, or even better than others. It simply means that I am seeking continuously to grow in my understanding of the Bible and how it applies to our daily lives, even in today’s culture. If you don’t want a pastor that believes the whole Bible, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I have opinions that are sometimes not popular, even among Christians. There are so many things in this life that divide us. I’ll be 42 at the end of this week and I truly believe that we, as a nation, are more divided now than at any time in my lifetime. There are so many things that we argue about. Church people argue with people outside the church. Church people argue with each other within a given church. Churches argue with other churches. I simply believe that there are some things that are more important than the many different things that we argue over, or allow to divide us. Sometimes this means that my opinions, ideas, and actions are unpopular among other church people.

Because some of these topics are so sensitive, I will not discuss them here. But, if you want to know how I feel about such things, I’d love to get together for coffee and we can have an open discussion about whatever you want. But, If you want a pastor who’s opinions always line up with the typical “Christian stance” or with the typical “church way”, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I talk about things that good church people don’t talk about. For generations now the church  in America has avoided talking about certain topics. I can’t speak to why these pastors and church leaders chose not to talk about such things as sex, porn, addiction, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, gluttony and many more. But, the truth is that I have been in church my entire life and have heard very few messages on these or other similar topics.

We NEED to talk about these things. How can we complain that people an unhealthy view of so many things when we have never talked about the Biblical standard for such things? If you’re uncomfortable with discussions of difficult topics such as these, then I might not be the pastor for you.

I truly love people, even those different from me. I worked for nearly 20 years in an emergency room. This is enough to make most people stop loving people. Sadly, in that environment we see the worst parts of humanity. We are often treated very badly by the very people we are committed to caring for. At the least this can cause many people to become jaded towards people. Somehow through it all I still love people. I truly do. I really love people.

A few weeks ago I went into the ER that I used to work in to visit my former coworkers. The first and most enthusiastic person to greet me with a hug was a nurse that I count as a friend. She also happens to be a lesbian. She knows that I’m a pastor and guess what… She still loves me and I still love her. In fact, as I write this, I miss working with her.

I’m part of an organization in my city that seeks to promote unity among the people. It’s made of of local pastors, community leaders, business leaders, and city government members. Oh, and I’m often times the only white person at the meetings.

I don’t say any of this to toot my own horn. I’m not better than anyone else. I share this simply to show that I truly do love people. If you are uncomfortable with your pastor spending time with people that look, think, or live differently than you do, then I might not be the pastor for you.

But, I MIGHT be the pastor for you. I don’t share any of this to lift myself up, or to tear anyone else down. These things are a reflection of how God has made me and the course that God has put me on in my life. I also don’t want anyone to read this and think that I’m trying to run anyone off. I certainly don’t want that. Still, the truth is that I am probably not like other pastors that you’ve known. Some people might love me for that. At the same time, it can be difficult for some people.

In spite of all this what I can promise you is that I love Jesus and I love people. I can promise you that I am completely committed to helping people move from spiritual searching to salvation to serving others in the church and in the community. If you like the sound of that then I might be the pastor for you. I don’t claim to be perfect. I, too, am on a spiritual journey. If your looking for a pastor that wants to travel with together with you on this spiritual journey, then i might be the pastor for you.

Links:

I’m Not The Man I Want To Be…and I’m Sorry

I’m Not The Man I Want To Be…But, I’m Not Done 

Matt Norman

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I’m Not The Man I Want To Be… But, I’m Not Done.

In my last post I shared some really personal things. If you missed it you can find it HERE. Many people thanked me for my openness, honesty and vulnerability. That was my goal. One of the most powerful lies that the enemy tells us is that we are the only one that struggles with the things we struggle with. He goes on to tell us that there must be something wrong with us because we are the only ones. As I said, this is a lie. Seldom does any of us struggle with anything that many others are not also struggling with. That’s why I share. So that others can know that they are not all alone.

It’s true, I’m not the man that I want to be. But, I’m not done.

God’s still working on me. You see, God’s word promises that He will continue to work on us until we are complete. Philippians 1:6 says, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Certainly, I will not reach completion until I go on to be with Jesus, but this verse promises me that God is not done working on me. So, while I’m not the man I want to be today, I know that tomorrow I will be a little closer.

God’s got a plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you…” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I take a lot of comfort in knowing that God has a plan for me. For me, when I make plans, all sorts of things come up. There are just so many things that I can see until they come up. These things catch me by surprise. BUT, with God’s plan none of these things are a surprise to Him. He knows that they are coming and has a plan for every one of those obstacles. Not only can He see them and has a plan for them, He has a plan to use them to grow me.

He’s got a plan for you, and He’s not done working that plan. This message isn’t just for me. You see these verses that I’ve shared apply as much to you as to me. God has a plan for your life. He has begun a good work in you and will see it through to completion. The difficulties you have encountered along the way were not a surprise to Him. He saw them coming and has a plan for those as well. Please understand me, He would not have chosen those painful things, but our world is broken. Because of this, bad things happen. Still we can trust that God wants to lead us through those dark times and use them to grow us.

There is an old saying in the gym, “no pain no gain”. Sadly the same is often true in life. Many times it is through the pain in our lives that we experience personal growth. I don’t say this to discount the pain that these times bring. Sometimes life just hurts. BUT, if we can stay focused on the growth that is coming, it might make the pain a little easier to bear. If we can remember that God has a plan, even in the midst of our pain, it might help us to persevere.

I’m not the man I want to be. That’s true, I am not the man I want to be. But, that’s ok. I closer than I once was, and I know that with each day I have the potential to move closer to the man I want to be. Not because of my own ability or my own work, but because of the work that God is doing in me.

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.