Laurel Thomas

Monthly Archive: November 2013

Saturday

30

November 2013

9

COMMENTS

A Visit in the River

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We’ve seen them on internet news pics. An image of Jesus imprinted into a sweet potato, a sighting of enormous open arms reflected in the clouds. Don’t we long for God sightings in unexpected, but ordinary events?

There were lots of God sightings in the Bible, right where we expect them. God showing up in the Bible seems reasonable. It’s easy to forget the Bible is full of real people whose ordinary lives became extraordinary with His presence.

Moses hadn’t planned his sudden career change. Raised in an Egyptian king’s court, his Hebrew mother told him about God’s promise to deliver His people. His life was spared to become a deliverer. But anger issues and righteous indignation blew up at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Moses ran as far as he could into a new job title, from prince to shepherd. So much for the plan of God – in the middle of a botched mission with only himself to blame.

He led the sheep to the far side of the wilderness, traveling far from every reminder of his failure. But God came looking for him. He came to visit the barren, unreachable wilderness of his pain. He came to find His deliverer.

The Lord watched Moses turn aside to look at a burning bush. An ordinary desert bush became a divine appointment dressed in flaming foliage. God appeared personally to his broken deliverer in the midst of a fire that burned but didn’t consume.

We hide, too. We go into the far side of the wilderness with walls of despair and isolation. Maybe if we’re silent in the darkness our enemies can’t find us. Maybe God can’t either. We hide from His judgment in a place we don’t understand.

But God isn’t that kind of Judge. He comes looking for us. He takes ordinary events and waits for us to draw aside, to hear Him, to know He never left us. He comes looking when we feel alone and disqualified.

We thought our calling should be a neat package, tied up in a lovely bow, then presented to God as a well-tended prize. “See what I did, Lord? It’s for You!”

Instead, we discover He comes to anoint the broken places, the very places we try to hide.  Out of brokenness and isolation, He calls us His deliverers.

God watches us, but not to judge and condemn. He watches to see if we will turn aside and see His presence in the ordinary. He wants us to listen for His voice every day in the mundane affairs of life. He watches to see the course of our eyes, hoping we will find Him and His desire.

He doesn’t come just to say hello. He comes to remind us there are other hurting hearts. He’s heard their cries, too. He needs someone to extend His hand over brokenness, one who has known His healing and received His forgiveness.

Compassion comes out of knowing a God who never stops waiting for us to find Him. Come aside. He has something to say. You are in the right place at the right time to hear and respond to His voice. Look for Him. He is looking for you.

Saturday

16

November 2013

2

COMMENTS

Dinner in the River

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Who is your worst enemy? Think before you choose. Someone harasses you at work. That harassment threatens a job you need. Or your child is bullied at school, though she is handicapped and defenseless.

Responding to an enemy is crucial. We have choices. We can react to harassment by charging into that office and telling our accuser anything that comes to mind – and a few things that shouldn’t. We can hunt down the abusive bully on the playground and knock a little sense into him.

Knee-jerk reactions are a low-level response. They are spontaneous. But that’s the problem. We blast out a thunderous response without taking time to gather facts or know the enemy’s point of view. Impulsive reactions are like gasoline on smoldering coals. Everyone gets charred in the explosion.

In the Old Testament a young queen named Esther faced a powerful foe. His name was Haman. With the king’s consent, he devised a scheme to annihilate every Jew in the Persian kingdom. He had the permission. He had the resources. He and the king signed the deal, then sat down for lunch while the city reeled in disbelief. Neighbors, business associates, and best friends were assigned in a moment of time to senseless slaughter.

Esther hadn’t planned to be queen. Circumstances brought her to a place of influence. What was she to do? How could she stop this fully funded mass destruction? Esther knew she didn’t have the ability to stop it. So she prayed and fasted. All the Jews in the city prayed and fasted. She needed wisdom only God could give to shift authority from an evil, hate-fueled man into the hands of a righteous person.

Wisdom is God’s answer to an impossible situation. We don’t have the smarts, the strength to avert what we know is wrong. We ask God. He promises to answer our request with more than enough wisdom to see any enemy defeated.

So here was the wisdom Esther received. She invited her enemy to dinner. It was a strategic guest list, including a venomous fiend, Esther and her husband, the king. Esther wasn’t sure her husband was an ally, but he was the king. He had the earthly power to shift authority.

We have an adversary. We have no human authority against him. He not only wants to torment us, he has a plot of schematic destruction. We need a transfer of authority.

What do we do? We invite our enemy to dinner.

This is no ordinary meal. This is one in the throne room with our King. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He prepares a feast, a table, for us in the presence of our enemies. He anoints our heads with oil. Here is the transfer. It is at the table, with our enemy and with our God.

The King is my best and dearest ally. He keeps accurate accounts. He offers justice for the oppressed. So I invite my enemy for a meal prepared by my Father, the King. I don’t ignore the enemy, pretending he doesn’t exist or that his intentions are less than total destruction.

I present my case at the right time and in the right way. I make my appeal according to justice. The table is a place of communion, but it is also a courtroom. The enemy comes with accusations, with reasons for my defeat. I submit myself to the King and make my case.

“Father, it is written, ‘Your mercies are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.’” That place at the table, in the courtroom, is not just a place of defense against a foul prosecutor. It is a place of transfer.

Only our God can slam the gavel and make a judgment. “This court rules in favor of the defendant, washed in the blood of her Savior, trusting in the faithfulness of My Word. Not only do I rule in her favor, I transfer the authority that belonged to her accuser to her. Retribution and plunder are now in her hands.” Our enemy is hanged on the same gallows he built for us.

We don’t like to think about enemies like this. But we have to. Sex trafficking of young children is only one demonic scheme that carries on when we say, “There’s nothing I can do.” There is something. We come to the table He’s prepared for us. We say, “Abba, look and judge.”

God did His part. If Esther hadn’t done hers, what would have happened to the Jews? I want to do my part. So my meals with the King will include another guest – my enemy. He won’t be there for a friendly gathering. He’ll be there to face me AND the King.

I demand justice for the oppressed. I require that transfer of authority. The Lord looks for those willing to receive His signet rings in prayer. Will you be one?

Monday

11

November 2013

2

COMMENTS

Friends in the River

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I dangled upside down, watching a back tire of the flatbed trailer revolve. What a way to end a hay-ride. We were a small mob of thirteen year old girls, too young to worry about looking cool. Our chaperone drove the tractor as we commenced a brawling, giggling hay fight. A big plop of straw hit me in the back. Losing my balance, I tumbled over the side.

My friend, Carolyn, jumped into action. She grabbed my ankles just as my head moved toward the underside of the trailer. With a giant heave, she swung me away from the edge. I bounced a couple of times on the dusty field, and rolled down a hill. “She’s dead,” I heard as I lay on the ground.

Embarrassed,yes. Dead, no. I was bruised and sore for a few days, but alive, thanks to my friend’s quick actions. I hadn’t planned to exit life in the middle of an autumn hay ride. I would have without Carolyn.

She rescued me a second time eleven years later. I was upside down again, this time emotionally. I watched helpless as life gyrated outside of my control. Tired of my own stupidity, I couldn’t find the cure.

I was a waitress that summer at the Country Kitchen restaurant in Kingdom City, Missouri. Lake travelers arrived early in the morning. They needed coffee, required immediate biscuits and gravy, and were impatient to begin the fun. That night they showed up again, sunburned, exhausted and grumpy. As their server I was either an angel bringing rest and refreshment, or a derelict scullery maid. I never knew which.

One afternoon I looked up from a state trooper’s cup of coffee. There was Carolyn. She hugged me and we made plans for dinner. That night I listened while she talked.

“Laurel, Wisdom waits for you to call. He is a Person. His name is Jesus. He is God and He loves you. He’ll give you a new beginning, but you have to ask,” she said.

Ask a holy God? What would He want with me? Peace filled my car and saturated my soul as I drove home that night. Buzzards of regret and torment retreated as I thought about God, a Person, waiting for me.

My knowledge of Him had been limited to emergency appeals. God, if You’ll get me out of this mess, I’ll…. Well, that was hardly a relationship. I hadn’t kept my end of those plea bargains. Why would He care now?

So I prayed. “Jesus, if You are real and if You are waiting for me, I say,‘Yes’. ‘Yes’ to You – to all You are. I’m tired of my own way. Please help me not be stupid anymore.” It was a simple prayer. But He heard. I knew He did because I had a friend who promised He would.

Long ago a young woman named Mary needed a friend, too. Her life turned upside down when an angel came to visit. The angel spoke only a few words, only a glimpse into the plan from heaven. It was big, too big to understand. What should she do? She ran to her friend, Elizabeth.

I didn’t know anything about a walk with God. But Carolyn, like Elizabeth, gave me a safe place. She helped me learn about God and His purposes. She knew I carried a divine treasure, too. It was in baby form and needed care and protection. But it would grow with lots of love and wisdom. It would become a blessing to others.

What a simple message. We are either a Mary or an Elizabeth. We allow someone to unveil His goodness, or we point the way to Him, the Friend Himself. Carolyn stuck around long enough to make sure the treasure in me came to full-term. The power of a God-kind of friend doesn’t end with one person. Generations are shaped and nations transformed by the love of one outstretched hand.

Monday

4

November 2013

4

COMMENTS

Your Name in the River

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I couldn’t say my name when I was five. The letter “L” was impossible, the “R,” tricky. My name, Laurel, required mastery of one or the other. The sound tumbling out of my mouth in an untidy heap was not my name. Awkward, mumbling, “Ohwell” confused unsuspecting adults who asked, “What is your name?”

I stumbled over six letters arranged to identify me. Was it my tongue or a vengeful fiend dogging me through those childhood years? It pursued me to kindergarten. It tripped me when I met a new friend. Like a specter of shame, it moved with me to a new home with a new dad. Kol korei bamidbar is the Hebrew phrase for “a voice crying in the wilderness”. It is a simile for someone speaking, but no one listening. Like me with a speech impediment, I had a voice, but wasn’t heard.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

The voice in Isaiah 40 speaks in the middle of imperfect circumstances. I like to wait until life is a sunny garden, pruned and weeded, before I acknowledge anything of value in me. But God likes us right now, in the middle of our imperfections. Like the mother of a two-year old, He understands our voice when no one else does.

How could a voice formed in a barren desert prepare a way for others? When kings planned an expedition in Old Testament days, they sent “forerunners” ahead to find supplies, build bridges and cut paths through dense forests. The only evidence of their success was how well others followed. These ordinary people were in new, unexplored territory. They made mistakes. Those mistakes didn’t matter as long as they just kept moving forward. Mistakes didn’t nullify their work, they were part of finding a way for others.

For a long time I let my own mistakes haunt me. They paralyzed me because I let them. I didn’t realize those mistakes were just me in uncharted territory, forging a path that would help others in time. Along the way He formed a voice through my journey. It was His wisdom. It came when I faced the torrential rivers, cavernous valleys and towering mountains of life. It came because I asked. He spoke and I listened.

So when the ghosts of childish impediments screech, let the sweet fragrance of His wisdom speak. Someone will listen. Someone needs the trail you’re blazing. However flawed, your voice will make a way in someone’s wilderness.