Learn a Lesson

Last night I attended a “celebration” party for Norm Vigue.  He has an incredible story about how his life was changed.  I posted briefly about this a few weeks ago. 

Here is Norm’s story per my pastor’s blog:

A few months ago, Norm came into my office and asked me if we were going to kick him out of the church.  It turns out that before he received Christ, Norm committed some crimes and he was facing at least a few years in jail. 
The hearings would take a few months, and in the meantime his question was:
Is this the kind of church that can forgive a guy like me?

When I told him that not only were we going to forgive him, we were going to have the entire church pray for him, support him, and prepare him for whatever may happen to him during the sentencing, he cried like a baby.
I called him up on stage in January and told his story.
He said that if he hadn’t given his life to Christ at Elevation a year ago, he wouldn’t have been able to survive the pressure of these charges.  He would have killed himself.  But now, with Christ, his small group, and his volunteer team behind him, he was ready to follow Christ no matter what happened next.
Because thousands of people watch and listen to our messages online, people all over the country have been asking me: “Whatever happened to Norm?  Is he going to have to go to jail?”

Here’s the email Norm sent me a week and a half ago.  Sadly, it’s not good news.  But Norm’s response will challenge and bless you.  He said I could share it.

Good Morning Pastor,

Well the case is finished, I will begin serving my sentence in approx. 3 months.  In the meantime, I will continue to serve Elevation Church and with the leadership’s help, prepare to serve God in my new journey. Elevation Church has changed my life immensely and the outpouring of support from all corners has been of great comfort and allowed me to face my punishment with great strength.  I owe God and Elevation my life and will strive to represent both with dignity and spirituality. Your leadership and example along with the awesome staff will make a difference in Charlotte and NC and I hope to remain a part of that growth even while serving my sentence.  I look forward to returning in 4 years with a buff bod that will challenge yours, Chunks’ and Larry’s and a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ in our lives. In the meantime I will continue to be available to you to use my experience as you need. God bless you and your family, Norm.

And here’s the email that Norm’s attorney sent about all the emails that were flooding her inbox the morning of Norm’s sentencing, and how you guys supported him through it all:

Norm,

These are blowing me away…the fax machine has not stopped all morning.  The support and admiration people have for you is such a testament to what a wonderful human being you are. I have never seen anything like this.

Thank you, Elevation, for being that kind of church.  The kind of church where a guy like Norm can find hope, forgiveness, and purpose in Jesus Christ, even in the face of five years in prison for a crime he admits that he committed.

I asked Norm just before his sentencing what he wanted me to pray for him.
He didn’t ask that I pray that he wouldn’t go to jail.
Just that God would place him where he could tell the most people about Christ.
If that was prison, so be it.

Elevation, pray for Norm. 
And keep being that kind of church.

Last night was awesome.  I helped get some of the food ready at someone’s catering business and once there, had a good chance to talk to several people and have a few conversations with Norm.  He has such a good heart and is very much ready for the next step in his journey. 

It was interesting to hear him speak about where he was heading.  God is totally up to something because apparently inmates usually go to a prison within 100 miles or so of where they live.  Norm is going 1100 miles away to Texas.  In his words, “Apparently Texas is in need of something.”  He totally sees it as a mission field.  It’s incredible.  He’s going to a minimum-low security prison that tries to rehab inmates and their goal is to get them out as soon as possible.  His sentence is for 40-48 months right now, but it could drop and I don’t doubt that it will.  He said they won’t have bars on their doors or windows, it’ll be similar to dorm style living.  They have common areas with tvs (usually 10-13 he said!).  They have a game room.  Cafeteria style eating.  There is a fence around the facility, but nothing like you picture a prison in the movies.  He says state and federal prisons are very different.  Federal prisons have a goal of rehab and getting you out.  State can keep you as long as they want and are usually the ones where inmate abuse occurs.  He’ll be up around 6am and start working about 7:30am.  There are Christian ministries he can get involved in.  They can take educational courses and use the intranet to take online courses.  No INTERnet.  He can get mail, of course.  He has to make a set list of 10 visitors and that’s all he can allow in, but he CAN change who is on the list every so often.  I love that he said he wants to see if he can hook up with the chaplain or some of the Christian ministries to see if they can get the podcast or online sermons available for inmates to listen to.  He said, “The first time it might be just me and the chaplain, but that’s ok.”  He really wants to keep up with the sermons and says they might need some “hard preaching” in Texas.  That’s something he’s really been praying can work out because it might be hard due to the necessity of the internet to stream the sermons.  I’m sure it can somehow work out and it’s something I’m praying for for him and those he’ll be with.  He’s so calm and at peace about all of what is going on.  I’m incredibly proud of him and I really think something amazing is going to happen during his time there. 

If anyone wants an address to send Norm well wishes from wherever you are…I’ve got it.

I think everyone could take a lesson from Norm and how he’s dealing with something that others would cower in fear about.  Like PF says, “Feel the fear, DO IT ANYWAY.”  Norm has surely felt the fear.  He felt it when he went to the church office that day.  But he’s dealing with it and is ready to go.  We all have scary things that happen to us and the unknown is sometimes frightening.  I don’t like change, but I learn to deal with it and do what I have to do anyway.   Be open to opportunities.  Don’t look at things as if they are obligations, they are opportunities to breathe life into various places and people.

In other news, I totally forgot the Friday Five because it was such a crazy week.  So here it is as the Sunday Cinco.

Five Random 80s Songs I Can Think of Off the Top of My Head (going with an 80s theme in honor of the sermon series):

1. Tainted Love – Soft Cell

2. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper (which Chris Brown so awesomely covered today at church)

3. Call Me – Blondie

4. Money for Nothing – Dire Straits

5. I Love Rock ‘n Roll – Joan Jett

What a decade.  I love it.

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2 thoughts on “Learn a Lesson

  1. Linda Toney says:

    Hi,
    Norm Vigue is a special fellow. I certainly do not know what he did to put him in prison but I know he is
    a good man. He is kind and thoughtful and he loved your church very much. He would bring tapes and let me listen to the music and the sermon. I enjoyed it
    very much .I would like to have his mailing address so I can write to him.
    Linda Toney

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