The new normal podcast notes

Thanks to Michael Howell for coming on the show today.  To see NBC San Diego 7’s story on Michael and his work in Mexico click here

Life is full of new normals.  What’s the worst?

Junior High

Then you hit junior high and you were hit with all kinds of worries.

Delia Ephron, Teenage Romance

Worry that your breath smells

Worry that you have BO

Worry that there is a right way to dress and you don’t know it

If you’re a boy, worry that you’ll never be able to grow a mustache

If you’re a girl worry that you will grow a mustache

Worry that when  you go to the bathroom people will hear

Worry that when you go to the bathroom the lock won’t work and someone will walk in

You went from no worries to infinite worries.  That’s just junior high.  It’s the new normal.

Having a kid

You used to sleep.  All the way through the night.  On Saturdays you could even sleep in.  As long as you want.  Then your wife brought home a little bundle of joy and that bundle just won’t shut up.  There is no sleeping through the night.  It’s the new normal.

Olivia Wilde.  She posted this selfie with this caption.   “I call this hairstyle, ‘keep the kid alive,” she wrote. “Products you’ll need: sweat, string cheese, diaper rash cream, chewed up crayon, snot, and an enthusiastic spritz of panic.”

The moment you realize you are getting old

The moment you realize you cannot hold on to your hair (Jack takes another shot at Jonathan.  He’s so mean)

You used to be young and in shape.  Now when you tweak something it stays tweaked.  For months.  Now when I hurt myself I think, “oh, my ankle hurts, I guess forever.”  It’s the new normal.

Last week I read a powerful article in which a young woman describes her new normal.

Stephanie Wittels describes it like this.

Her brother Harris Wittels was one the writes and produces for the TV show Parks and Rec.n he struggled with drug addiction then one day Stephannie got this call.

I’m changing the diaper when the phone rings. It is an unknown LA area code. I press ignore and continue to deal with the dirty diaper. The phone rings again. Same unknown LA number.

I have imagined this moment before.

My heart pounds. I answer.

Is this Stephanie?


Is Harris your brother?


When was the last time you spoke to your brother?

I don’t know. Why? What’s going on? I’m changing my baby’s diaper.

Is there another adult with you?


I scream for my husband down the hall. He runs in and grabs the waist-down naked baby who is now shrieking.

And then:

He’s dead.

He died.

Your brother died.

He is dead.

Something like that.

She didn’t say, “Your brother passed away.” Passing away is too natural, too as it should be. Passing away is what my grandmother did in her sleep at 92 after living a complete life. It was sad. And expected.

Months later she is still feeling the pain.  She writes

I want to give this thing an ending, but there is no end to grief. There’s only navigating the way to a new normal. The old normal consisted of us being a family of four, then a family of five, then a family of six. In the old normal, we texted each other constantly about my daughter Iris, about girls, about television shows. We told each other secrets. We shared notes on Mom and Dad. We went on family vacations once a year. In the old normal, we constantly worried about whether you were sober or using, and you constantly reassured us that you had it under control. On February 19, 2015, our worst-case scenario became a reality. You were 30 years old. You were ridiculously successful. You were more talented than anyone else. You were loved by so many people.

A doctors visit.

A phone call

An accident

A broken relationship

It’s easy to have these kinds of conversations with ourselves.

I’ll never be happy again

Nothing good can come from this

I’ll never have purposed

Michael, what conversations did you have with yourself when you got your diagnosis

In the dark moments of our life we get angry and upset and depressed.

At the epicenter of all your struggles is this question.  Does God know?  Does God care.  Because God if you know you could do something about it.  If you really loved me you could step up.  If I was important to you, you could do something.  If you love me like you say you love me then you would speak to me.  You’d make it clear.  You’d give a way out.  God why are you silent right now.

What would you say to the person who said, if God really loved you he would heal you?

In those moments we confuse God’s silence for his absence.  When we can’t hear from God or it’s not obvious what we should do or where good is going to come from it’s easy to think God is not there and God does not love us.

We cannot confuse God’s silence for his absence. God’s not angry with you

God’s not absent or apathetic

He’s not saying, “I’m too busy.  Have you seen the latest stats on global warming.  I don’t have time for you. Just handle it yourself.”

There is a little hypocrisy there.  There has been a day in your life, a night in your life, a spring break in your life, a weekend in your life, a date in your life, a business trip in your life when the presence of God has been the furthest thing from your mind.  That week, that weekend, that date, you’re driving to get in trouble on purpose.  You’re not thinking, God I want to feel your presence in this moment.  You are planning to spend a week of your life in sin.  You’ve made the reservations.

In that moment you weren’t thinking about God.

We’ve all purposely tuned God out.  Shut him out for the weekend.  Turned him off through college.  Stopped listening during that relationship.  When we want to shut God out, we can shut him out.

In spite of that, you’re heavenly father loves you.  Here’s how I know.  He told us in the most famous verse in the bible.  For God so loved the Christians.  For God so loved the good people.  For God so loved the tithers.  No.  For God so loved the world.

Michael- How has God gotten your attention through this diagnosis?

He’s there.  He cares.  He’s not absent.  But there will be times when it will feel like that.  Even if we are good people.

Jesus and John the Baptist

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18,19

So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Luke 7

In other words, here is the message to John.  Go tell John about all the people I’ve healed and blind I made see and lame people I’ve made walk.

Jesus says basically the same thing to John’s friends with one huge exception.  What is it.  To proclaim freedom for prisoners.  John, I love you, you’re the greatest man alive.  You’re my blood. Stay in prison.

It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t like you.

It doesn’t mean that God likes other people more than you.

It doesn’t mean that you messed up and God’s punishing your for it

It doesn’t mean that you are no longer God’s beloved child

If this can happen to John, Jesus relative. The one person that Jesus said was the greatest person on earth, it can happen to you and it can happen to me and it’s a mistake to think that God doesn’t like us anymore.

Let me tell you a dumb little story that happened to me this week.  I was getting together with a guy for lunch from another church.  We’d never met so he checked me out on the Canyon Springs website.  His opener was this.  “I see you meet in a school.  I know what you’re going through.  We met in a school until another church gave us 22 acres with a church building on it.”  I wanted to say, “I hate you.  You’re definitely buying lunch today.” I didn’t say that.  What I did say was, “You have no idea what we’re going through.”

Does God like that pastor more than me?

Does God like that guy who’s marriage is together more than you?

Does God like that woman who got a good education and now has a killer job more than you?

Does God like that healthy person more than you?

Does God like that person who got their adoption finished in 9 months more than you?

If you are dealing with a new normal, here’s what you have to say to yourself today.

I can be happy again

Something good can come from this

There is purpose to the pain