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A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 14 Aug 2017, 10:06 pm

A Norvell Note
You can now subscribe to A Norvell Note directly from the website by visiting www.anorvellnote.net.

I had finished writing this article and sent it to my editor when images like these from Charlottesville, Virginia began to fill newscasts and social media. So as a prequel this week’s article let me simply say, We must be better than this!

Vol. 19 No. 32 | August 13, 2017

We are Missing the Point

The story of Jesus healing the blind man in John 9 has been the focus of these notes for the last two weeks. Thus far, we have observed that we have a tendency to want to blame others for our problems as well as demand an explanation for everything that happens to and around us. Somehow, being able assign blame or identify an explanation provides us with a sense of comfort. Or, maybe it gives us a sense of satisfaction to think that people get what they deserve.

We are a peculiar people.

As this story reaches the climax and concludes, I see a third interesting characteristic of humanity.

We often miss the point.

Jesus corrects His disciples’ view on why some things are not the consequence of sin, but are instead designed to bring a new vision of God. He proceeds to demonstrate why the wonders of God do not need to be explained or defended when the man whose sight had been restored offered no explanation other than the simple facts of what Jesus did to his eyes. Now as the mans shares his miraculous healing with the religious leaders, He reveals our tendency to focus on the wrong thing when the man attempts to share his miracle with the religious leaders.

At first, they reject the miracle all together.

Some of the Pharisees say, “Obviously, this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”
Others counter, “How can a bad man do miraculous, God-revealing things like this?” There was a split in their ranks.
They come back at the blind man, “You’re the expert. He opened your eyes. What do you say about him?”
He explains, “He is a prophet.”
The Jews didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with, so they called on his parents to inquire.“Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?” (16-19, The Message)

Next they question his parents, who because they fear being rejected from the community, offer no explanation and direct the conversation back to their son. (20-23)

When they continue to demand an explanation from the man, his response is brilliant:
“I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind … I now see.” (25)

Yet they are still not satisfied and proceed to interrogate him, demanding details of how it happened. The once blind man chides them a bit and sarcastically ask if they want become one of his followers. I love the way Peters expresses their response: With that, they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.” (28-29)

The healed man continues to tease them, alluding to their lack of understanding. This incites the men to the point of throwing him out of the synagogue, yelling “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” (30-34)

Jesus finds him in the streets and reassures him, engaging in one of many encounters with the Pharisees that will follow. (35-41)

Let me share a few observations and admonitions.

When our interpretation of the Word focuses more on adhering to rules and laws more than people, we have missed the point.

The religious leaders show no interest in this man who had been blind and is now healed. They are concerned only about the rules that have been broken. They show no concern for his parents, except for what information they might provide for finding fault with the healer. How many times do we miss this same point? Something really good happens to someone we know and our concern is more for how it happened and who is responsible than for the person who has received the blessing.

When our interpretation of the message from God focuses on power and reputation, we have missed the point.

The religious leaders know they have the power to expel this man and his family from the religious community. They use threatening and condemning language to intimidate them and to protect their authority and reputation and miss the intent of God’s message. Churches and religious leaders, who are more concerned with their reputations as the voice of authority than with the souls of people, have missed the point.

When our understanding of God excludes celebration over God’s workings, we have missed the point.

Why didn’t they rejoice with this man? This provides one of the most revealing and disappointing images of God’s people in all of Scripture. How often do we miss this? Whether from jealousy, fear, and/or stubbornness, we miss the opportunity to rejoice, celebrate, and acknowledge the wonders of God displayed through His people. What a shame! What a waste! What a disgrace!

How can we miss these opportunities to rejoice with people? How can we miss these opportunities to celebrate the power of God displayed all around us? How can we disregard God’s workings for the sake of our reputation or position of authority?

We have missed the point too often, too many times, and for too long. We have too often allowed people to be ignored and disregarded. People, all people, matter to God and must matter to us. People matter more than being the fastest growing, most innovative and influential church in our community. People matter more than being the most powerful person or leader or President or nation.

We can do better than this. We must be better than this!

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 07 Aug 2017, 11:57 pm

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Vol. 19 No. 31 | August 6, 2017

I Can’t Explain It

One of the first questions we learn to ask is Why. 

Daddy, why is the sky blue? Mommy, why do I have to take a nap? Why can’t I have more candy? Why do I have to go to the dentist?

Questioning everything does not stop when we get older. The desire to understand why, to be able to explain why, and to find a reason for life’s situations seems to continue though every season of life. 

As adolescents, we want an explanation for ever request made by our parents. Then, we reach the stage when we are convinced we know the answer to everything. And eventually, we arrive at the season of life when we realize we don’t have a definitive explanation for much of anything. So we continue to ask questions.

In last week’s article, based on John 9, I pointed out how the closest followers of Jesus demonstrated the struggle many of us have with wanting to blame others for why things don’t go the way we want them to. Perhaps part of this need to blame is an extension of our inherent need for an explanation.  

The members of the blind man’s community could not understand why he could suddenly see and wanted an explanation. 

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 

“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?”  Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” 

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

“Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. (John 9:6-12, NIV)

In this scene, and in others later in the chapter, you see and hear people hoping for an explanation and never receiving one. 

A couple of thoughts come to mind to explain this. 

First of all, we may never know the reason why some things happen as they do. Sometimes, God does things to and for us for reasons we cannot explain and will never understand. But we know that He loves us and is constantly working in and around us to bless us, teach us, and shape us into the people He created us to be. 

Secondly, it is okay to not know the explanation. We do not need to have an answer for everything God does. God can answer for Himself. We do not need to explain why or how He works. We know He works. We see the result of His work. We are the recipients of His work. 

The man who was cured of his blindness did not need to know why Jesus’s simple acts involving mud and spit made him finally able to see. The end result was good enough for him. 

Maybe acknowledging and appreciating that God has worked and is working in your life is all you need. I don’t know how or why, all I know is that God works. He shows up at just the right time and in just the right way. And I am blessed by that. And that is good enough for me. 
Tom
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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 31 Jul 2017, 1:11 pm

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Vol. 19 No. 30 | July 30, 2017

Seeing Beyond Who Is at Fault


These five verses serve as the introduction to one of the great stories from the life of Jesus. 

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” (John 9:1-5, The Message)

The disciples are trying to understand Jesus. They are watching his every move. The religious leaders are trying to catch Him in sin, but His disciples ultimately, are just trying to understand Him. They have committed to follow Him, and they want to be like Him. But they are blinded by their humanity. They make human assumptions. They ask questions based on human understanding, and they give human explanations. Their eyes have not yet been opened to see Jesus for who He really is.

When they see the blind man, they revert to a common assumption of human reasoning: Good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. If someone is suffering, it is because he or she has sinned. That is what His disciples believed. This belief may go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were punished for their sin. And you certainly see this logic conveyed in the story of Job when his friends and advisors tell him:

Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
As I have observed, those who plow evil
    and those who sow trouble reap it.” (Job 4:7-8, NIV)

This understanding of life was common then, and is still common today. There is some truth to the fact that we reap what we sow and that sin has consequences. However, suffering is not necessarily the result of sin. In this scene, Jesus is not only trying to enlighten His disciples to this truth, He is also attempting to teach them that something much bigger is going on. 

Read His words again: 

You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.

Now, consider what Jesus is saying. 
First, as followers of Jesus, we need to stop trying to blame people. Blaming others — someone, anyone — is a favorite pastime of our culture. Consider what is going on in Washington D. C. with the election tampering issue; the healthcare debate; and the arguments between the White House and the media. Read the comments on social media. (On second thought, you may not want to do that.) Listen to the discussions in corporate offices, church business meetings, and between husbands and wives. For some reason, we feel that we must blame someone when things do not go the way we want them to. 

Jesus offers an alternative that leads us to move toward seeing beyond who’s at fault. He seems to be saying that sometimes people get sick, sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes people suffer for no apparent reason. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good things come to those we consider bad. It seems unfair and it seems wrong, but it happens.

Second, when circumstances seem dark, God may actually be doing great work. 

Look instead for what God can do. 

In this story, Jesus is about to do something amazing. Jesus is about to do something radical and  scandalous. If we keep our focus on blaming this man or his parents, we miss the miracle, we miss the thrill, and we miss the amazing. This is the message of the entire story in John 9, and this is the tragedy of much of what we call religion. While searching for someone to blame, we miss what God is doing. 

I suspect you will see things, hear stories, and have experiences this week that by all accounts are unfair, cruel, and tragic. In some instances, who is at fault will be obvious. In some instances, justice will be carried out, and in some it will not. In some instances, you may be called upon to pass judgment, determine who is at fault, and place blame. Please be careful with this, and do your absolute best to move through this process thoughtfully, prayerfully, and with as much kindness as possible. 

As you move through those difficult situations, remember to look for what  God is doing or is about to do. Do not spend your time seeking to place blame and miss the miraculous work of God. 

Move toward seeing beyond who is at fault to seeing what God is actually doing. 

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Wed 26 Jul 2017, 8:43 pm

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Vol. 19 No. 29 | July 23, 20

Life Can Be Disheartening

Life can be disheartening. You may have experienced it. In fact, you may respond to that opening statement with something like: Disheartening? Are you kidding? My life is frustrating. My life is tough. My life stinks! My life is a constant struggle. My life is miserable. My life is a disaster. 

I chose the wording of that statement for a reason. Disheartening presents a gentler and less severe description of life that seems a better fit for most of us. Of course, there are times when life is full of frustration, disappointment, and downright misery. But when most of us consider our life in total, we would agree that life can be disheartening, but it is not always disheartening. 

There are times when life is full joy and celebration, when you are healthy, when your work is going well, and your family is happy. There are times when life is good. 

Balance these times with times of sadness and defeat. You, or someone in your family, is not healthy. Your work is not going well, or perhaps you cannot find a job. Your family is in the midst of a crisis. Life, in its entirety, is not good, and you feel disheartened. 

You do the best you can, but some days your best just does not seem to be enough. You feel like you have made the right decisions, you have received and followed good advice — the best you could ask for — but the results you had hoped for did not come. You are not down and out, but you are disheartened. 

There is good news. You are not alone. If you follow the story of Jesus and His disciples through the gospels, you will notice times when His followers did not understand what He was saying, or where He was headed. They became confused, frustrated, and disheartened by the lack of what they considered progress. On one of those occasions Jesus addressed their low spirits. 

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14:1-4, NIV)

There is more good news. Not only does Jesus understand being disheartened, He gives a reason for hope. You know the way. You know Jesus. Even though He is not physically with you, His spirit will always be with you. Comfort will come. You will not be alone. 

Please do not think me naive. I understand that reading the words of Jesus, acknowledging that other people at times also feel disheartened, and remembering that Jesus is always with you is no magical formula for making you immune to occasionally being frustrated, discouraged, and disheartened. But I do suggest to you that knowing Jesus and relying on His constant presence is the best place to start. 

When the negatives of the coming week begin to knock you around, remember Jesus’ words. By knowing Him, you know where things are headed, and He will be with you. 

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

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Vol. 19 No. 28 | July 16, 20

A Time to Come Together, a Reason to Celebrate

Reunion: a gathering of two or more people coming back together after a period of separation.

To reunite with the ones we love, we will travel great distances, take time off from our jobs, and spend as much time and money as it takes to get to spend time together.

And on the day we all come back together, we celebrate.

We talk. We catch up on all the details of what we have missed since our last reunion. We talk about our careers, our health, and our kids. We talk about about how so much has changed, and how some things haven’t changed at all.

We listen. We listen to the details of recent weddings, of those who couldn’t attend and why. We hear stories about our distant relatives and marvel at the fact we've never heard them before. We listen to explanations of photographs, old and new, and search for familiar faces. We listen closely, a bit more than we used to, mainly because we can’t hear as well as we used to.

We remember. We reminisce about what it was like when we were kids, the trips we took, and the holidays we spent together. We remember our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and brothers and sisters. And we remember the ones who are no longer with us.

We laugh. We laugh about stories from our childhood, the same ones we laughed about last year and the year before. We laugh about the things our parents said and the countless other things no one else would find humor in.

And we cry. We cry because we laughed until we cried. We cry because we are together again, and because we miss those who are no longer with us. We cry because every time we get together, we are fewer in number, older, and maybe a littler bit slower. We cry when we think of who might not be with us next time and because we know our time together will end much sooner that we want it to. We cry because we know we have to say good-bye.

And so, another family reunion has come and gone. We talked, we listened, and we remembered. We laughed, we cried, and we said good-bye, knowing we were blessed with another chance to do so.

One day, we will reunite with our families and friends here on earth for the final time. But this is not a time mourn. It is a time to celebrate. For we will then be reunited with our family, and the Lord, God, in heaven.

Tom 

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 10 Jul 2017, 11:45 pm

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Vol. 19 No. 27 | July 9, 2017

Relationships Matter


Life is full of demands, and these demands create stress that tend to cause confusion, making it difficult to see the things that are truly important in life. When we lose our focus, possessions, position, power, and being productive crowd out what is really important: relationships. 

Relationships are what matter.

When a baby is born, we realize the importance of relationships. Parents shed tears of joy when they realize they have been blessed together. Grandparents rejoice over the opportunity to share the joy with their children. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, close friends, and neighbors share the joy of being a part of the baby’s life.

Graduations remind us of the importance of relationships. Classmates celebrate the shared struggle of the education process. Students acknowledge the support they have received from parents, grandparents, teachers, and spouses.

Illness highlights the value of prayerful partners, neighbors who provide food, friends who help with medical costs, and the quiet servants who show up at just the right moment. When we are sick, we are thankful for doctors, nurses, and lab technicians who use their skills to provide healing for the body.

Memorial services create an atmosphere where we pay honor to someone with whom we have had a special relationship. Through stories, songs, poems, tears and embraces, we express our love and appreciation for the deceased and the survivors.

Relationships matter.

Jesus demonstrated His desire to have a relationship when He came to earth to dwell with us. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14, The Message)

Jesus modeled His desire for His disciples to build strong relationships with one another when He washed the their feet and said to them:

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:15-17, NIV)

Jesus expressed the importance of good healthy and loving relationships when He told them:

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. (John 13:34-35, NIV)

Jesus assured His disciples that even though He was physically leaving them, He would continue to be with them.

If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you! (John 14:15-17, NIV)

During His time on earth with the disciples, Jesus demonstrated the importance of relationships by loving them, teaching them, and modeling what it means to love God and love people.

Spend some time this week reflecting on the relationships that you consider most important. Are relationships more important to you and to your church than buildings, budgets, inward-focused programs? Are you expressing the value to these relationship? Are you doing everything you can to strengthen and nurture these relationships? 

Don’t allow the demands and pressures of life rob you of the joy of your relationships. Take the time to enjoy them, for they are what truly matter.  

 Tom 

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Fri 07 Jul 2017, 8:20 pm

Had a pretty confusing statement in the version of A Norvell Note that went out on Sunday night. It has been corrected. Thanks for the attentive reader who caught it. Sorry about the mistake. 

Tom Norvell
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Vol. 19 No. 26 | July 2, 2017

As described in Luke 24, Jesus’s disciples had been following Him for some time, experiencing many miraculous things in His presence.

When Jesus receives news that John the Baptist has been beheaded, He retreats to a solitary place to reflect upon and mourn his death. Once His followers discovered where he was, they crowded around him with the hope of receiving more of his teachings.

His compassion would not allow Him to turn them away, and he healed many of them. As the day came to an end, He asked His disciples to provide food for all. At least 5000 people were fed that evening with a miraculous display of food.

He dismissed the crowd and sent His disciples out onto the lake, while He again retreated to a place of solitude. What happened next reminds me of the quandary in which I often find myself.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:27-29, NIV)

This is how I can relate to this story:

I am trying to go to Jesus, to follow Him, and do what He wants me to. I am trying to sort through my options to discover His will. Like Peter, I am frozen in time wondering if I should step out into the unknown, or if I should I stay where it is safe and familiar.

It is decision time. I have heard the Lord say, come and I want to go. But fear paralyzes me, filling my head with all the reasons why I should stay where it’s safe. You’ll look foolish, people will laugh at you, they will think you have lost your mind. You will think you have lost your mind. What if you fail? What if this is the wrong decision?

These voices get louder, as my heart pounds faster. I want to step out and join Him. But I also want to be where is it comfortable.

So here I stand, one foot placed firmly in the boat, and the other perched on the edge, ready to step out into the unknown.

I can remember times when I choose to play it safe and risk nothing. God has never scolded me, ridiculed me, or deserted me when I chose this path. I have experienced good times in those safe places and been blessed in many ways. I have also known times of regret for choosing to stay where it was safe, looking out where Jesus is, wondering what it would be like to be standing in front of him.

I can also remember times when I did step out, overcoming my fear of the unknown and accepting His invitation. The experience was exhilarating! The reality of knowing and accepting that it is not me, but him who is in control is overwhelming. Yes there were those who wondered what I was thinking, and times when I wondered the same. There were others who said I was a fool, and times when I felt like one.

The difference between these two paths is that I cannot recall a time when I walked toward Jesus, and then looked back and wished I had stayed in the boat. This is not to say that I haven’t had moments of doubt and long periods of waiting to see where He was leading me. But I never regretted taking the risk. My only regret has been that I didn’t do it sooner.

Maybe you are in the boat and hear Jesus asking you to come to him. Perhaps He is asking you to choose do what it takes to have a better marriage. Maybe he is asking you to take the necessary steps to improve your relationship with your children, or maybe to pursue a new career and a better way of living.

I cannot read this passage from Luke without being reminded of these words from Patrick Overton that I have shared so many times: “When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”

Is it time for you to step out into the unknown? Or are you content where you are, playing it safe.

Listen closely, He might be asking you to come to Him.

Tom

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Vol. 19 No. 26 | July 2, 2017

Come to Him

 
As described in Luke 24, Jesus’s disciples had been following Him for some time, experiencing many miraculous things in His presence.

When Jesus receives news that John the Baptist has been beheaded, He retreats to a solitary place to reflect upon and mourn his death. Once His followers discovered where he was, they crowded around him with the hope of receiving more of his teachings.

His compassion would not allow Him to turn them away, and he healed many of them. As the day came to an end, He asked His disciples to provide food for all. At least 5000 people were fed that evening with a miraculous display of food.

He dismissed the crowd and sent His disciples out onto the lake, while He again retreated to a place of solitude. What happened next reminds me of the quandary in which I often find myself.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:27-29, NIV)

This is how I can relate to this story:

I am trying to go to Jesus, to follow Him, and do what He wants me to. I am trying to sort through my options to discover His will. Like Peter, I am frozen in time wondering if I should step out into the unknown, or if I should I stay where it is safe and familiar.

It is decision time. I have heard the Lord say, come and I want to go. But fear paralyzes me, filling my head with all the reasons why I should stay where it’s safe. You’ll look foolish, people will laugh at you, they will think you have lost your mind. You will think you have lost your mind. What if you fail? What if this is the wrong decision?

These voices get louder, as my heart pounds faster. I want to step out and join Him. But I also want to be where is it comfortable.

So here I stand, one foot placed firmly in the boat, and the other perched on the edge, ready to step out into the unknown.

I can remember times when I choose to play it safe and risk nothing. God has never scolded me, ridiculed me, or deserted me when I chose this path. I have experienced good times in those safe places and been blessed in many ways. I have also known times of regret for choosing to stay where it was safe, looking out where Jesus is, wondering what it would be like to be standing in front of him.

I can also remember times when I did step out, overcoming my fear of the unknown and accepting His invitation. The experience was exhilarating! The reality of knowing and accepting that it is not me, but him who is in control is overwhelming. Yes there were those who wondered what I was thinking, and times when I wondered the same. There were others who said I was a fool, and times when I felt like one.

The difference between these two paths is that I cannot recall a time when I walked toward Jesus, and then looked back and wished I had stayed in the boat. This is not to say that I haven’t had moments of doubt and long periods of waiting to see where He was leading me. But I never regretted taking the risk. My only regret has been that I didn’t do it sooner.

Maybe you are in the boat and hear Jesus asking you to come to him. Perhaps He is asking you to choose do what it takes to have a better marriage , or to end one that is not longer serving you. Maybe he is asking you to take the necessary steps to improve your relationship with your children, or maybe to pursue a new career and a better way of living..

I cannot read this passage from Luke without being reminded of these words from Patrick Overton that I have shared so many times: “When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”

Is it time for you to step out into the unknown? Or are you content where you are, playing it safe.

Listen closely, He might be asking you to come to Him.

Tom 

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 26 Jun 2017, 10:18 pm

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Vol. 19 No. 25 | June 25, 2017

Rough Road Ahead

As we traveled recently we saw an electronic sign on the interstate with flashing lights warning “Rough Road Ahead.” The warning proved to be true and appreciated by some, while others chose to ignore the warning and kept right on moving at the same rate of speed. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if life came with warnings like that? Wait, maybe it does.

You have your annual physical. Your doctor says, “You have gained some weight, your blood pressure is a bit elevated. I think we should put you on some medication. And you should lose some weight and get some exercise.” You respond with, “Thanks, Doc. I appreciate the suggestion.” You ignore his warnings, continue to eat the same foods, fail to exercise or lose weight, and the next thing you know you are in the emergency room with what appears to be a stroke. 

You have been married for seven years and have two children. You live in a lovely neighborhood and both of you have demanding and high pressure jobs. The sky is the limit for both of you as you continue to work longer hours and miss more of your children’s activities. You see articles, hear sermons, and even have friends who tell you, “You better be careful!” You respond with, “Thanks, friend. I appreciate the suggestion, but we know what we are doing.” A free months later you call that same friend and say, “You were right. We’re in trouble.” 

You notice a change in mood and attitude from your teenage daughter, but assume she is just being a teenager and let those warnings pass. A couple of weeks later you get a note from one of her teachers asking you to come in for a meeting. The teach tells you her grades have dropped and her whole disposition seems to have taken a negative turn. You thank her for her interest in your daughter but assure her that you know your daughter better that she does. A few more months pass and you get another call. This time from your daughter. She is at the police department. “Mom, I’ve been arrested.” 

Your son is a great athlete. If he continues to grow and get stronger he will be a starter. He works hard and has a good change of a college scholarship. You push him hard. When he slacks off you push harder. Your wife tells you, “You push him too hard.” You ignore her and insist: “He’s just getting lazy! He’ll never make in college if he does not work harder!” In the middle of his senior season he disappears. After a desperate search you find him at a friends house. His explanation? “I just can’t do this any more!”

Were there warning signs? Sure there were, but you were too busy and moving too fast and making great time too slow down, so you ignore them. As a result people got hurt. Damage was done. Loved ones are now suffering. 

The book of Proverbs (the entire Bible for that matter) is filled with warnings that help us avoid the rough roads ahead of us. Here are a few examples.

Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;
    a spanking won’t kill them.
A good spanking, in fact, might save them
    from something worse than death. (Proverbs 22:22-23, The Message)

Don’t hang out with angry people;
    don’t keep company with hotheads.
Bad temper is contagious—
    don’t get infected. (Proverbs 22:24-25, The Message)

Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
    do not trust your own cleverness.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
    for they will surely sprout wings
    and fly off to the sky like an eagle. (Proverbs 23: 4-5, NIV)

Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;
    a spanking won’t kill them.
A good spanking, in fact, might save them
    from something worse than death. (Proverbs 23:13-14, The Message)

Do not testify against your neighbor without cause—
    would you use your lips to mislead?
Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me;
    I’ll pay them back for what they did.” (Proverbs 24:28-29, NIV)

One of my high school teachers often said, “A word to the wise is sufficient.” She was right. Call them warnings, good advice, or wise suggestions they are there to help us avoid the rough roads ahead of us. Pay attention. Heed the warnings.  

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 19 Jun 2017, 10:14 pm

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Vol. 19 No. 25 | June 18, 2017

The Best Thing May Be Silence
“The one who knows much says little;
an understanding person remains calm. 

Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; 
as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart.” (Proverbs 17:27, 28, The Message)


Imagine a vey long, uncomfortable silence here. 

Every time I read those words, I pause and reflect on the many times I have spoken out when I should have remained silent. I am also remind myself of the multiple times I have been engaged in conversations when all would have been better served by my silence. 

One of the freedoms we value most is our freedom of speech. Yet it is one of the freedoms we abuse the most. 

This verse from the New Testament addresses this: 

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” (Ephesians 4:29, The Message)
 
So this is what I try to do before I open my mouth (or type). 

Is what I am about to say going to fuel the fire or calm the chaos? (Proverbs 17:27)

If the conversation is already tense and uncomfortable, my role should be to calm things, not to further agitate them. Making other people angry serves no purpose. There are times when I may need to speak up to confront injustice or correct an unchristian attitude, but if I end up offending or angering another person, is it really worth it? I want to be a voice that calms, a voice of peace, a voice that builds bridges with my words. 

What are my words and tone going to reveal about me? (Proverbs 17:2)

There may be times when making a fool of myself is a good thing… if it is a worthy cause. Generally speaking, however, proving that I am a “dunce” only confirms other peoples’ suspicions. If that happens, then my credibility is gone and my chances of making a positive impact are severely diminished. I want to be a voice that encourages, instructs, and uplifts. 

Are my words beneficial and helpful? (Ephesians 4:29)

Many of my words are kept to myself because I first ask, “Will these words benefit those who hear them?” If not, I should remain silent. If I consider my words as a gift, then I need to use them wisely, but also with restraint. I want my words to be helpful. I want my words to lift others up and encourage them. I want my words to be a gift. 

Before I say something that may violate one or all three of these principles, let me be quiet and allow you to consider them. If you find any value in them, please apply them and share. If not, the best option might be silence. 

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Wed 14 Jun 2017, 5:38 pm

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June 13, 2017

Too Much Stuff
By Answers2Prayer 
  "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Matt. 6:19-21 NLTI) 

I was driving to the grocery store on a warm morning in May. The trees which had looked like skeletons only two months before were covered in lush, robust, green leaves. Birds were flying to and from their nests to gather food to feed their newborn babies. Butterflies were floating along the roadsides looking for freshly blooming wild flowers. The fields were full of buttercups and dandelions. The sweet scent of clover was filling the air as well. I smiled as I watched the golden sunshine reflecting off the leaves. It was such a peaceful and heavenly time. I felt happy to be alive. 

My calm was broken, though, as I rounded a curve. A huge moving truck was coming my way several feet over the center line. I swerved as far onto the berm of the road as I could to miss it. It was followed by not one but two other moving trucks just as large. I wondered if all the stuff inside of them belonged to the same person. I slowed down my car and waited for my heart rate to follow. It was then that I noticed a self-storage business along the side of the highway, building new units for all the people who couldn't fit their possessions into their houses. I saw a young couple carrying boxes into one of the units. It seemed strange that a couple just out of their teens could already have too much stuff.

I lost my own taste for owning stuff when a house fire in the middle of the night destroyed everything my family owned when I was only eleven years old. The only thing I had left was the underwear I was wearing. Yet, our whole family had awakened in time to escape and we thanked God for our lives. In the weeks that followed friends and family gave us a lot of stuff to get us back on our feet, but none of it seemed as important any more. What was important was seeing my Mom's smile, giving my Nana a hug and a kiss, and watching my Dad snooze in his chair after a hard day's work. What was important was the stuff of the soul, not the stuff of this world. 

Since then I have tried to limit the things I purchase. I didn't want too much stuff crowding up my life. I wanted to only buy what I needed and to spend my days in learning, growing, and loving others.

In this life we are given a limited amount of time. We can spend it loving each other, enjoying this beautiful world God made for us, and making it a better place or we can spend it acquiring stuff. One gives us joy. The other gives us work. One builds us treasures in Heaven. The other takes our treasures here on Earth. One fills our lives with peace, kindness, and happiness. The other fills our days with worry, fear, and regret. Make your choice wisely then. Fill your life with love not with stuff.

Joseph J. Mazzella
 
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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 12 Jun 2017, 7:32 pm

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Vol. 19 No. 24 | June 12, 2017

Waiting for the Light to Change

Sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change, I reflect on the amount of time we spend waiting for ‘life’s traffic light’ to change.

Some typical things we might do while waiting:

We might change the radio station, maybe check our emails and text messages. We might search our GPS for the fastest route, clear the dust off the dash, maybe wipe the smudges from our wideshield. We might think it a good time to touch up our makuep (note: I am speaking of the collective we here, this is one I usually choose not to elect), maybe trim up our fingernails… check our teeth for food particles. (Remember, collective!)

These are just a few examples of the endless number of ways we find to distract ourselves while waiting for the light to change. But what about those times when we are waiting for life’s traffic light to change?

You are ready to go. In your mind you know the plan and are just waiting for God to give you the green light.

In your heart you are convinced that He wants you to quit your job, sell most of your early possessions, and move to a remote part of the world to spread His message. That is your vision, but the light is still red.

You are ready to be married. You have dated and dated, but so far the man or woman of your dreams has yet to show up. It seems like everytime you meet someone, you are sizing them up, hoping they will be the one. You think the light is finally going to turn green, but it stays red.

You know the career you want to pursue. You have the training and skills. You have written and rewritten your resume countless times. You have applied to every job that is even close to relevant. Nothing. So you wait.

You know your education is important, but you are tired of studying and ready to go to work. You feel like you can endure it, as long as the courses apply directly to your field. But if you have to take one more General Education course, you are going to lose it. You wonder if the light will ever change.

There is a story that comes from the life of Joshua. After the death of Moses, Joshua became the leader of the Israelites. There was a period of mouning (Deuteronomy 34) as God continued to prepare Joshua to lead the people. Can you imagine that waiting period for Joshua, knowing that once the light turned green he would step into the shoes of one who is described as follows:

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12, NIV)
But when the light turned green, Joshua did not hesitate; he proceeded forward.

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses, my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. (Joshua 1:1-3, NIV)
Pay close attention to this one line of Joshua’s instructions: … get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.

As you sit in your car, waiting for the light to change, you can piddle around with rearranging things in the glove compartment if you want. But maybe a better thing to do would be to get ready. You would not want to hesitate and delay your arrival because you are distracting yourself from the waiting period.

So get ready. Even if this waiting period takes longer and is more painful than you want. If you are paying attention and allowing God to do His work, the light will change precisely at the moment you are ready.

So please, be ready…the light is just about to turn green.

Tom 

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 05 Jun 2017, 7:35 pm

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Vol. 19 No. 23 | June 4, 2017

We Shall Be Like Him, and We Shall Not Do It Alone

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

(1 John 3:2)

We are centuries removed from when John first penned these words. Yet, like many in his day, we continue to struggle with the idea of what we will be has not been made known. We cannot seem to fully trust that we shall be like him because we struggle with this idea of being transformed into His likeness (Romans 8:29). So we are constantly trying to invent new ways of transforming ourselves, by ourselves. 

I want to first remind you of some of the self-transformation techniques we often attempt. I then want to offer a suggestion (or two or three) that might help us rest in the fact that the real work of transformation belongs to the very One whom we are trying to emulate.

When we try to manufacture our own transformation by reading and memorizing Scripture, we soon realize how futile it is. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong, and a lot good, with reading and memorizing Scripture. But we seem to always take it to the extreme. We work hard to keep up with are Read-the-Bible-Through-In-A-Year plan, but when we get behind a day or a two… or a month, we beat ourselves up because we ‘failed’ at it again; Leviticus and Numbers always seem to do us in. 

So please, try to ease up on yourself a little.

In John 5:39-40 Jesus says:, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

When we plunge into the Spiritual disciplines (prayer, mediation, silence, etc.) to prove our spirituality, we wear ourselves out and risk creating more stress and unrest than we had in the beginning. We seem to get hung-up on the word discipline. We reason, if it is a discipline, then it should be difficult. But remember, one of the disciplines is rest.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

The disciplines are designed to contribute to our peace and harmony with the Lord, not drain us of our energy and joy.

So let me offer a few alternatives…

Remember, Jesus came so that we might have a transformed life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Remember, Jesus has shown us the way to live a transformed life.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

“You know the way to the place where I am going. Jesus, the Way to the Father.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-6)

Remember, Jesus is the one who gives us peace.

“All this I have spoken while still with you.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:25-27)

The good news is that we shall be like Him. The even better news is that He is the one who will be doing most of the hard work involved in making us like Him.

Tom  

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Vol. 19 No. 22 | May 28, 2017

Just Use What You Have

Imagine you are one of the disciples of Jesus. You have been following Him for a while and watched Him heal countless people. You have gone on many missions with Him, seen Him show compassion to those who needed it, and watched throngs of people gather just to hear Him speak. 

Another gathering is taking place and you realize that it is getting late, so you suggest to Him that it is time to quit for the day. You have learned from His example to be show empathy and compassion for people. You know you are hungry and tired, so you suggest to Jesus to let His followers return home to have a meal and rest. . 

To your surprise Jesus has another idea. ‘Then let’s feed them,’ Jesus says. 

“What, feed them all? But how? There are thousands of people here, and all we have is a couple of fish and a little bread”.

“Give me have what you have,” he replies.

Suddenly, there are enough baskets of fish and bread to feed everyone in the crowd as much and they want. You and the other disciples begin collecting what is left and are amazed to discover that there are twelve baskets left- exactly enough for you and the other eleven disciples to eat your fill. You all look at each other in complete awe and ask, “What just happened?”

Jesus smiles.

You may not have experienced anything as dramatic as feeding thousands of people with one man’s lunch, but you have experienced a time when you were baffled by something miraculous that happened, only to sense God saying, “Just use what you have.” You look around at your options and finally come up with what seems to be a ridiculous idea, only to watch in awe as God turns it into something beautiful and miraculous. 

You and your spouse are at the end of your rope. You are both unhappy and beyond miserable. Your communication has diminished to endless arguments, followed by long periods of uncomfortable silence and distance. One day, after yet another fight, you look at each other and admit that it is time to ask for help, or to give up. And then you hear His words, “Just use what you have.” So, you agree to make one more attempt to salvage your relationship and contact a counselor your friend recommended. Six months later, after a lot of hard work, you are seeing positive results. A year later, after even more work and a lot of prayer, you cannot believe how much better your relationship is. All you had to work with was a desire to make things work and faith in your ability to use what you have. 

You have a major project due. Every time you sit down at your desk to start working, you are overwhelmed by the enormity of it. You finally slam down your fist and push away your chair in frustration. You are ready to give up when you hear a voice, “Just use what you have.” You sit back down, put your fingers back on your keyboard, and start with just one sentence. And then you write another. The ideas begin to flow effortlessly, and in matter of hours, your project is finished. 

You have friend who you know is struggling. You do not know all the details, but you know something is wrong. You want to help, but you are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. So you pray and hear the words, “Just use what you have.” What you know you have is a compassionate heart and the ability to listen. That is all your friend needed, he just needed someone to listen. And he begins to share his story.

The paraphrase of Luke 9:10-17 and the three stories above are just a few examples of what can happen when you decide to use what the Lord has given you to approach a problem. It may seem impossible in the face of what confronts you, but in the hands of Jesus, it will always be transformed.

If you are facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle that stands in your way of helping someone, improving your own situation, or seeing a dream come true, try this. Take what you have, hand it over to the Lord, and say, “I only have this, but here it is.” 

God loves it when you do this. In fact, He is probably waiting right now, ready to take whatever you have to hand over to Him and transform it into something beautiful and miraculous.  

Tom

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Vol. 19 No. 21 | May 21, 2017

The Burning Bush

As I left home late one afternoon, I noticed smoke billowing from around the corner. I pulled up far enough to see that the source appeared to be one of the condos just around the corner. Quickly parking the car so as not to be in the way of any emergency vehicles, I jumped out, and started running toward the house while trying to dial 911.

As I approached the driveway, I could see the smoke was coming from a bush. (try not to get ahead of me here) I dashed through the smoke and ash and pounded on the door. A lady came to the door, along with her very irritated dog. Startled and alarmed, she rushed to the garage and grabbed a water hose.

As she doused the smoking bush, another lady from the neighborhood approached us wondering what was going on. I turned to her and politely said, “It looks like we have a burning bush.” There was an awkward pause, then laughter.

Needless to say, as I walked back to my car, I was relieved and humored by the situation. And I continued to think, “A burning bush. A burning bush? What in the world? That was a burning bush!”

The original burning bush is described in the Book of Exodus (3:1–4:17). According to the narrative, the bush was on fire, and yet not consumed by the flames, hence the name. The burning bush is the location where Moses was appointed by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan.

No, I am not suggesting that my neighbor’s burning bush was any sort of miraculous sign from God to instruct the people of our neighborhood to lead Nashville to the Promised Land. Moses had a ‘burning bush’, we now have a ‘burned’ bush. Although no one has any idea how a seemingly healthy green shrub would suddenly catch fire, maybe there is a takeaway from this neighborhood burning bush.

For a brief few minutes, three people stood watching a smoldering bush reflecting on something that a few minutes earlier appeared to be a tragedy in the making. And then we all quietly thanked God that everyone was safe.

I left the neighborhood and traveled on to my planned activity thinking and pondering God’s goodness. Maybe He had nothing at all to do with the burning bush in the neighbor’s front yard, but He is good. He is kind. He is merciful. He delights in being praised.

As you go about your week, I hope you don’t see any literal burning bushes, but maybe you will see something or someone who will remind you that we have a great God who loves us. Or, maybe you will be the reminder to someone else who needs one, that God is worthy of our praise.

The Doxology

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

(Thomas Ken, 1674)

Tom
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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 15 May 2017, 6:10 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 19 No. 20 | May 14, 2017

An Answer to Why

One of the most common questions ever asked is ‘Why’? 

We ask and are asked this question possibly more often than any other. 

Why did this young boy have to die? Why did she get cancer? Why is there so much death? Why does God allow evil? Why did a marriage fail? Why did become an addict?
Why can’t she get over her addiction? Why did my parents have to get divorced? Why did he kill himself? Why is life so difficult? Why are some people so mean? Why does he get the breaks and I’m always struggling just to survive? Why did the church split?
Why didn’t I get that job I wanted? 

When life is not going the way we think it should, and sometimes when it is, we wonder why it is happening. I believe Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament letters, gives the best answer that I have heard as to why bad things happen. 

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 CORINTHIANS 1:8-9)

Paul’s answer to the question of why: So that we might not rely on ourselves but on God. 

God knew, and mankind has proven Him right over and over, that from the time we are born, we crave control over our lives. When life seems out of control, we panic. When our plans seem to be straying from what we had intended or hoped for, we grasp to try to gain control and often demand an explanation. 

Well-meaning and misinformed advisors will tell us that bad things happen to us because we have sinned or violated one or more of God’s laws. That is a valid explanation if we have sinned or violated one or more of God’s laws. But what about the person who has done neither of these? 

Of course, we all are sinners and we all violate God’s laws, but Jesus made it clear that suffering is not necessarily the result of sin.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. (1-5)

Jesus and Paul offer the same answer as to why bad things happen. There is a bigger reason than punishment. There is something going on more than teaching us a lesson. The purpose is about something and someone greater than us. 

God wants us to rely on Him. 

He wants us to rely on Him not because He wants to dominate or control us, but because He has the answers we are looking for. He wants us to rely on Him because He is the One who can and will fulfill all of our needs. He is the power we need. 

God is not a tyrant who wants to overpower or dominate us. He is a loving God who wants to empower us to live the life He has created for us. He knows what we need.

He wants us to rely on Him and He wants us to use our experiences to help others. If you read the paragraph that precedes the one we are referring to, you will see that there is another purpose to our struggle in addition to relying on God. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

We are to learn from our experiences and share what we learn. When we struggle, there are valuable lessons for why it happened that God wants us to share. We were comforted and thus should give comfort. We received compassion and thus should be compassionate. 

There is always an answer to why. It may not be what we expect or hope for. But we need to accept it is what is best to meet our needs. There is always a gift if we can have the patience and courage to look for it. 

So, if you are in the midst of a battle or struggle, or you feel defeated, rely on Him. He can help. Then share it with someone else who you know is struggling. That, if nothing else, will always be the gift. 

Tom    

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 08 May 2017, 10:08 pm

A NORVELL NOTE by Tom Norvell
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Vol. 19 No. 19 | May 7, 2017

Listen and Hear!


After telling the parable of the sower and the seeds Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9, NIV).

In different contexts, He makes similar statements emphasizing the same message:

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22).

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 2:19).

There are other topics mentioned more in the Scriptures, but I don’t believe any are as important as this one.

Listen and hear.

When parents are communicating important information to their children, it is sometimes necessary to say, “Listen to me”!

Instructors may say to their students, “Listen to this. You may see it on the exam”.

Preachers may say to their congregation, “Are you listening to me? This is important”.

Husbands and wives may say to one another, “I need you to listen to me”.

The fact is, we hear countless things going on at any given moment. Try it. Try to just listen. Close your eyes, sit still, and just listen. What do you hear?

What I hear is music playing. I hear water churning in the washer and clothes tumbling in the dryer downstairs. I hear a truck rumbling as it makes its way slowly down the street. I hear so many things that I most likely would not have had I not taken the time to listen.

It is understandable. There are so many sounds infiltrating our immediate environment at any given moment that we simply become numb to them. No wonder Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” And more specifically “Hear what the Spirit says.” His desire is not simply to hear the words and the sounds, but to absorb what is being said.

James’ admonition is not to just listen to the words, but to really hear the person who is speaking. Be quick to listen, instead of preparing what you will say when given the first opportunity.

In order to really get His message, we need to both listen and hear, focus our attention on what is being said, let it sink in, and absorb the message into our daily lives.

In order to do a good job in our profession, we much not only listen to what is being said by our boss and co-workers, we must hear what is being said and apply it.

To have a deeper level of communication with the important people in our lives, we not only need to listen to them talking, but hear what they are saying. Hear their words, their tone, their emotion, and their heart.

To truly understand what is going on in the lives of our children, we must listen- sometimes more to what is not being said than to what is. We must listen intently, even if they have not learned how to fully express what they want to say. And we must hear them.

During one of the seasons of the television series Parenthood, Camille and Zeek Braverman were having problems connecting with each other. Their counselor encouraged them to practice acknowledging when they were really hearing each other. The phrase: “I hear you and I see you” became an underlying theme for several episodes of the show, and I suspect a common phrase in the conversations of many fans of the show.

“I hear you and I see you.” I am focused on you. I am connected with you. I am in tune with what you are saying and how you are feeling.

It is important that we learn to listen and hear one another in all of our relationships. If the sounds around you are distracting you, find a way to focus in on what you really need to...which is the person who really needs you to.

Jesus was not just talking for the sake of hearing Himself speak. His words have meaning and the power to transform your relationships, with Him and with the people you love.

So listen and hear!

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Sun 30 Apr 2017, 11:59 am

A Norvell Note

Vol. 19 No. 18 | April 30, 2017

Accept One Another

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7, NIV)


Accept one another. This is what Jesus said. This is what Jesus did. He accepted us and bid that we follow His example by accepting one another.


What He did not say was this:


Jesus did not say to judge one another.

He did not say to criticize one another.

He did not say to disapprove of or censure or condemn one another.


Jesus did not say to discourage one another.

He did not say to frustrate one another.

He did not say to oppose or irritate or combat one another.


Jesus did not say to question one another.

He did not say to disagree with one another.

He did not say to debate or protest or rebuff one another.


Jesus did not say to condescend one another.

He did not say to belittle one another.

He did not say to discredit or ridicule or humiliate one another.


Jesus did not say to dismiss one another.

He did not say to ignore one another.

He did not say to exclude or reject or abandon one another.


Jesus did not say to antagonize one another.

He did not say to curse one another.

He did not say slander or berate or scorn one another.


Jesus did not say to argue with one another.

He did not say to defy one another.

He did not say to conquer or betray or harm one another.


Jesus did not say to fear one another.

He did not say to dislike one another.

He did not say to defy or condemn or hate one another.


What Jesus said was to love one another, to accept one another.

So, let us hear what He said. Let us do what He said. Let us love one another, and let us accept one another.

Tom
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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Tue 25 Apr 2017, 10:11 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 19 No. 17 | April 23, 2017

The Voices

Some of us are more aware of them than others. The voices, they are always there. I am not talking about strange psychotic or disturbing ‘people would be worried’ voices. I am talking about the voices inside of our heads and heart that overpower us and create confusion and anxiety, but at other times calm our spirits and bring us peace and harmony.

Jesus heard the voices.

“You cannot be the Son of God. You are a carpenter’s son.”

“Jesus, You should demonstrate Your power in such a dramatic way to show people who You really are.”

“Jesus, put my sons in positions of leadership in Your kingdom!”

“Jesus change these stones to bread. Jesus worship me and I will give You all these kingdoms. Jesus throw yourself off this high place and prove to me Your loyalty and dedication.”

“Jesus, who do You think you are?”

Jesus heard the voices, yet He stayed true to His nature and to His calling.

Thinking about the voices led me to pray this prayer and similar ones many times.

Father, I hear the voices. They come from all directions. They come from friends who want me to succeed. They come from those who may want to see me fail. Father, help me discern between the voices so that I know when to listen to my head and when to listen to my heart.

Father, silence the voices that tell me that what I do is insignificant. Silence the voices that tell me I am too good to do this, or that I am not good enough. Silence the voices who speak negativity to my heart.

Father, increase the volume of the voices that say this is a good thing, you are a good person, you are doing great things, you are touching lives, you are helping people find peace and hope. Increase the volume of the voices that say this is where God wants you and you are doing what He wants you to do.

Father, silence the voices that invoke fear. Increase the volume of the voices that instill confidence and trust in You.

Father, silence the voices that try to tear me down by drawing me away from You. Increase the voices that lift me up and draw me closer to You.

Father, silence the voices that tell me to be suspicious, skeptical, cynical and judge those who are different from me. Increase the voices that tell me to be open, to be trusting, and to love all people.

Father, silence the voices that remind me of my sins and failures. Increase the volume of those voices that remind me of Your forgiveness and the victories that You and I have enjoyed through Your strength.

The voices are real, Father. Some are good and some are bad. Father, help me discern between the voices and know which ones need to be silenced and which ones need to be heard.

Father, help me hear Your voice above all others.

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Sun 16 Apr 2017, 11:18 pm

A Norvell Note

What I Want You To Know About Jesus, #5


Vol. 19 No. 16 | April 15, 2017

He Is Risen!

My most vivid childhood memory of Easter involves polishing my shoes. Yes, you read that correctly. Polishing shoes was our Easter ritual that I now realize was a clever way to implement tradition. To me, there was no rhyme or reason to it, but it did serve as an effective way for our parents to get us to shine our shoes on Easter morning.

The understanding in our house was that if you wanted Easter candy on Easter morning, your shoes had to be cleaned, polished, shined and placed outside your bedroom door. With shoes cleaned and shined, we would go to bed, then on Easter morning we would find our shined shoes miraculously filled with Easter candy, along with a basket full of eggs and more candy. I eventually discovered that the Easter Bunny was just as much of a night owl as Santa was. But none of this mattered, as long as I had an adequate supply of those white, cream-covered eggs with pink, yellow, blue, and green sugar. Such a healthy snack to start off our Sunday morning!

The second most vivid memory of my childhood Easters was dying the Easter eggs. Usually on the Saturday before, the eggs would be boiled and tablets of dye would be dropped into heated vinegar. Next, the boiled eggs would be placed on a copper wire with a circle designed specifically to hold one egg at a time. The egg would be dipped into the dye and an amazing transformation would take place. Those plain white eggs became various shades of red, blue, green, yellow, and pink. Some of them came out of the dye with unique designs that we would create with a wax crayon. After the color transformation, the eggs, still wet with warm vinegar, would be placed on newspaper spread out on the kitchen table to dry. I can still here my mom’s warnings: “Don’t touch them! You’ll mess them up! You have to let them dry!”

And so, adequately jacked up on sugar, off we would go to church- dressed in our best (and only) pair of black pants, white shirts, black ties, and beautifully polished shoes- soon to join all the ladies and little girls dressed in their Sunday best, wearing their pretty hats and new fancy dresses.

I suppose the preacher spoke about the Resurrection, but I most likely missed it, falling asleep right about the time he started. But I assure you I woke up in time for the Easter Egg hunt that followed. That I would not miss.

Eventually I outgrew those traditions. Well, most of them. I still try to make sure my shoes are in pretty good shape, and I now prefer the Reece’s Peanut Butter bunnies instead of the colorful sugar-coated eggs. I also eventually came to understand that the miracle of Easter was not about candy mysteriously showing up in my shoes, or eggs changing color right before my eyes. Easter was about a Savior who had died and been buried, and then rose again from His grave.

The miracle is about the followers of Jesus who watched him suffer pain and humiliation, who witnessed the afflictions of his wounds and declaration of his death, who saw him conquer death and rise again. Hope restored.

I now understand that an Easter Sunrise means more than hunting eggs and wearing my best clothes. It means that the time of darkness has passed and the Light has returned. It means that the hope that had been lost has now returned. It means that although we go through times of waiting and confusion, even despair, because of that empty tomb, hope is restored.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!


Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 10 Apr 2017, 10:09 pm

A Norvell Note
What I Want You To Know About Jesus, #4

Vol. 19 No. 15 | April 10, 2017

Reasons Why Jesus Is Not Safe

Jesus is not safe because following Him means carrying a cross.

Your cross may involve suffering for your faith. Your cross may involve leaving the creature comforts of your local community or staying there longer than you desire. Your cross may involve losing friends and family or being stretched to the limits of your faith. Your cross may involve physical limitations or being forced to face your fears.

Jesus is not safe because following Him leads to death.

Following Jesus means abandoning yourself and embracing Him as your truth. Following Jesus may mean letting your dreams die so that He can create new ones within you. Following Jesus may mean abandoning your career goals so you can pursue the vocation He has designed for you. Following Jesus may mean surrendering your pride and even experiencing physical death that will unite you with and bring glory to Him.

Jesus is not safe because loving people is not easy.

Following Jesus means loving people. Loving people is not easy and it is not optional. Loving people is the identifying factor of a follower of Jesus. Some people are easier to love than others. You have to love the difficult ones too. Following Jesus means loving people like He loves you, and this also entails forgiving them as He has forgiven you.

Following Jesus will present known challenges and some that will not be revealed until you are in the thick of it. If you choose to follow Jesus, there may be times when you wonder if you made the right decision and times when you are convinced you made the wrong one.

Following Jesus is not safe because you must carry your cross, you must let the person you were before die so that He may now live through you. And, you must love people. If you just start with those two things, your journey will be much easier than it would have been otherwise.

If you choose to follow Jesus, stay focused on the fact that He carried His cross and died for your sins. He chose to die so that you could be victorious over death. He chose to love people because He knew we needed to be loved.

Following Jesus is both challenging and rewarding. But the reward, in the end, will be worth the challenges.

As you consider following Jesus think about this story

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side. After he had dismissed them, he went up to a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone. The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the wind and the waves.

Shortly before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on water to reach them. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and cried out in fear, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:22-29, NIV)

As scary as it was, Peter came forth and walked on water. None of the other disciples could make that claim. He loved and trusted Jesus enough to follow Him when he said, “Come”.

The question of whether or not you will follow Jesus can only be answered by you. He does not demand it. He will not force you. He invites you to follow Him. If you choose to follow Him, your life will be filled with adventure that is beyond anything you can imagine. Maybe He is saying, “Come” to you. Will you?

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 03 Apr 2017, 10:31 pm

What I Want You To Know About Jesus, #3

Vol. 19 No. 14 | April 3, 2017

Jesus Is Not Safe

Three weeks ago, I wrote that I was beginning a series of articles, based on John’s gospel, where I would share things that I want you to know about Jesus. I started with the fact that, ‘He is’. Jesus is who he says He is. Last week I wrote about the fact that He is the ‘True Light’, and we need the light of Jesus to see our way through the world.

My plan this week was to focus on this thought John 1:15, The Message:

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

I’ve imagine this scene as follows: You come home from work and see a van parked in the driveway of the house next to yours. You walk over to meet the new neighbor and discover it is Jesus. Jesus has moved into the house next to yours. Not to keep an eye on you. Not to spoil your fun. He moved in next to you because He wants to be close to you. Wow, what a thought! Jesus wants to be close to me.

My plan was to go through the gospel of John pointing out other characteristics of Jesus, other facts about Jesus, and other interesting ideas about Jesus that I wanted everyone else to know. This would be a long series of articles that would provide a vast repertoire of topics to pull from for the months to come.

Then I got bored.

That’s right, I got bored with my own stuff. I realized that you probably already know most of my thoughts about Jesus and most of the traits of Jesus that I wanted to share. Yes, I think it is important for you to know that, “Jesus Is” that He offers us “True Light” and that He wants to be near you. I think we all need to know those things as well as all the others I would eventually share.

But, through a series of God moments, conversations, and opportunities to listen and reflect on life - the gospel, our culture, and where I am in my own life - I realized most of the thoughts I wanted to share with you would fill you with thoughts, ideas, and concepts that might not be what you really need. They might help you live a nice, comfortable life in your church and in your community. But my concern is that this might prompt you to live through my thoughts without ever really experiencing the real Jesus and how an honest relationship with Him might transform your world.

So, the third thing (technically the fourth) I want you to know about Jesus is that He Is Not Safe. By that I do not mean that He will not care for us, that He will not give us peace, or that He will not provide us with rest when we are weary. He always does and He always will.

But when we make a commitment to follow Jesus, we need to know that we are choosing a life that is not all fun and games. A life with Jesus is not always easy, or smooth, or comfortable. In fact, this understanding of a life following Jesus may be one of the most destructive views of God that pervades our culture. ‘Just trust in Jesus and the blessings will start falling from the heavens.’

This is what Jesus said:

Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. (John 16:32-33, The Message)

Did you catch that? “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.” But, are the frustrations, disappointments, trials, hurts, and sorrows that you are experiencing because you are following Jesus? No. They are part of life and will continue. You simply must be ready, be patient, and be strong.

This is the best decision you will ever make. Yes, He has overcome all that. Yes, eventually you will too. But for right now, in this world, do not be shocked, surprised, or caught off guard when things do not go how you want them to. “Following Me” Jesus says, “will be difficult at times.”

But, the good news is that He will be with us through every frustration, every disappointment, every trial, every hurt, and every sorrow. At times when we think we cannot bear any more, He will lift our burden or help us carry it.

No, Jesus is not safe. But, He is. He provides the light for our way. He is with us at all times.

Now, you have a crucial decision to make. Will you follow Jesus?

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 27 Mar 2017, 9:13 pm

A Norvell Note

What I Want You To Know About Jesus, #2


Vol. 19 No. 13 | March 26, 2017

He Is the Light!

Let’s talk about light.

I make no claim to be an expert on the history of light, but I know we are indebted to Thomas Edison for inventing the electric light bulb. Although there is evidence that before Edison, British inventors were demonstrating that electric light was possible with the arc lamp. Everything becomes much clearer when we have access to more light.

But when it’s dark, when there are no overhead lights, what do we do for illumination?

Before smart phones, if you wanted to see where you were going in the dark, you needed a flashlight. Before the flashlight, lanterns were the best way to overcome the darkness. Before the lantern, one may have used a candle. Before the candle, a torch might have been the light of choice. Before the torch…well, I am not sure what was used. There were probably a lot of stubbed toes and bruised heads. The point should be clear; if it is dark, you need light.

You need light when you are trying to navigate the darkness. But sometimes, just having a light is not enough.

For example, in a dimly lit restaurant, you can see, but maybe not well. You may need to move the menu closer to the candle to read it. Or, it is not uncommon to see people pull out their smart phones to help them see the menu better.

You may be in a room with a television on and a lamp on the table next to you. There is light, but if you decide to read the newspaper or a book, you may need more.

When I am in my bedroom looking for socks to wear, I may need additional light to tell which one is black and which one is blue. If the overhead light is not enough, I hold them under the lamp. If this still is not sufficient, I open the window shade to let the sunlight come through. Then, I can easily distinguish between to two colors. The sun is the true light. The Son of God is the true light.

John uses this kind of imagery when he describes Jesus.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:6-13, NIV)

The people had been waiting for and looking for the Light of God to come into the world. There were others who had come claiming they were the light or that they had the light. So it was only natural that those seeking it would go to John the Baptist to find out if he was the true light. John clarifies it when he tells them, “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”

Then he says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him”. Jesus is the true light. John could only point to the true light. He could provide some light, but he could not give the light that everyone was seeking, nor did he claim he could.

As it was in Jesus’ time, people are looking for more light today. A light that can reveal what is true, what is real and right.

People themselves can at times be the darkness that surrounds us and can be oppressive and depressing. In His sermon Jesus tells us that we are the “light of the world.” But we can only be the light when we have seen the light.

Jesus is the light. Jesus is the true light. Jesus is the One who can illuminate our path in the darkness. Jesus can bring light into our dark world. That is what He came to do. That is what He wants to do.

That is why I want you to know Jesus. He is the light! Move toward the light.

Tom

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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 20 Mar 2017, 11:59 pm

A Norvell Note

Vol. 19 No. 12 | March 19, 2017

The First Thing I Want You to Know About Jesus:

He Is!

A few weeks ago, I shared that one of my greatest passions is my desire to help people know Jesus (My Role in the Kingdom). The first and most important step to knowing Him is to just know that He is!

These words come from John, Chapter One:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John1:1-5, NIV)

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.
Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out. (John 1:1-5, The Message)

Obviously I cannot make you believe this if you do not already or if you do not want to. But I believe it. In one way or another, the fact that Jesus is influences everything I do.

Because He is, I have a purpose.

Because He is, I have confidence that life is more than a series of unrelated events and coincidences.

Because He is, as the old song says, “I can face tomorrow.”

Because He is, I know I am never alone, regardless of how alone I may feel.

Because He is, I know that life is not about me. It is all about Him.

Because He is, there is light even in the darkest of days.

Because He is, the world and all of creation was made for us to experience and enjoy.

Because He is, we have someone who listens to our hearts, understands our discontent, and forgives our sins.

Just knowing that He is, just accepting that reality, is a good place to start on a journey with Him. It is not necessary to know everything about Him.

For now, just take a deep breath and say, “He is! HE is! He IS!” Meditate on and take comfort in the beautiful reality that He is!

As you go through your day, keep thinking about the fact that He is. Whisper it when anxieties increase. Say it out loud when you sense doubt creeping in. When you open the shade in the morning to check the weather, remind yourself that He is. When you lay your head on your pillow at night reflecting on your successes and failures, breathe deeply and remember that He is.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.


A NORVELL NOTE by Tom Norvell
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Re: A Norvell Note Because We Are Human

Post  Admin on Mon 06 Mar 2017, 10:53 am

Vol. 19 No. 10 | March 6, 2017

My Role in the Kingdom


Over the past several months, I have been doing a lot of thinking, praying, and reflecting on what my new role is, what my ultimate purpose is, here in the Kingdom.

For most of my adult life, my purpose and role have been very clear: to work with and lead local churches. This involved teaching, preaching, counseling, comforting, leading, and mentoring. Five months ago, much of that- how I do it, when I do it, where and with whom- changed significantly.

Since then I have been on a journey of discovery that has focused on answering these questions:

・ What is it that I do best?

・ What is my true passion?

・ How do I now do what I do in this new life setting?

・ Is it time to do something completely new and different?

I have received sound advice and guidance from wise friends and family members (some older and some younger). I have listened. I have prayed. I have journaled. I have read books and articles. I have listened to podcasts, sermons, preachers, teachers, counselors, those who are retired and those still in the workforce.

But one question has emerged that has helped me, more than anything else, get closer to the answers I seek.

What breaks my heart?

This question came to me recently while I was praying. I then came across it again in an article by Brandon Cox, Great Leadership Often Starts with a Broken Heart.

Cox makes a poignant case to support this notion:

“Great leadership often starts with a broken heart.”

After much reflection, I have realized that there are two scenarios that truly break my heart.

First, it breaks my heart when I encounter people who do not know Jesus.

Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

It breaks my heart to see people who know the facts about Jesus, but do not know Him. It breaks my heart to see church leaders who know rules, regulations, and how to keep people in line, but who do not know, really know, Jesus.

Second, it breaks my heart to see children who are sad and alone.

I often see news stories about abandoned animals. These stories are heartbreaking, and I always hope they find their way home. But stories about sad, lonely, abandoned, and abused children, this is something that absolutely breaks my heart.

As I ponder my role in the Kingdom, I realize now what I have known in my heart for decades. My role is to help people really know Jesus and to bring comfort to sad and lonely children in whatever capacity that I can.

I am still working out the details- the how and the where- of how I can best serve in these areas that I now know are my true calling. These details will sort themselves out. But the essential piece, identifying what truly breaks my heart, is the solid foundation I needed on which to build.

Maybe you are at a similar crossroads in your life? Perhaps asking yourself this question will help bring you clarity as well.

What breaks your heart?

When you discover the answer, think of one thing you could do to help change it. And then do it. Even if it seems like the smallest step. Even if it seems like it won’t make a difference. Do it anyway. The details will work themselves out.

I truly believe that when you take the time ask, to listen, and to follow your heart, you will uncover your role, your ultimate purpose here in the Kingdom.

Tom

A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.

Until Hope Returns

A NORVELL NOTE by Tom Norvell
- http://www.anorvellnote.com
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