Laurel Thomas

Monthly Archive: December 2013

Saturday

21

December 2013

0

COMMENTS

A Staff in the River, Part 2

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I loved that navy blue Crown Victoria. Its plush velvet upholstery cradled my often weary body as I ran errands, picked up kids and volunteered at our local church. It replaced the small Ford Fairlane after 90,000 miles and fabric from its roof drifted down over the heads of me and our three small children.

Temperatures hovered just above freezing. It was a Saturday two weeks before Christmas and my head filled with plans for the day. My husband was home after his seismic job unexpectedly cancelled. Ice formed on the car with a light freezing drizzle. But plans were plans, so I jumped in the car to pick up our daughter from a friend’s house.

My turn off the highway was just across an overpass. As I drove over the slight rise, I gently touched the brake. My new blue ride and I floated into oncoming traffic.

A semi-truck approached, but moved to the other lane, just in time to avoid me. A small Toyota plowed into my car. The impact hit the passenger side of my car, crushing the vehicle into a horse-shoe crumble of metal. The other driver died in the emergency room hours later, separated from me by a curtain.

The accident plundered me. Comfort alluded my every gaze upward, around, anywhere I knew to look. Black despair swallowed me for days.

Moses had obeyed God through all the plagues. The people were out of Egypt and moving forward. Then the dust of hundreds of Egyptian chariots billowed on the horizon behind them. Wild desperation gripped thousands of people.

God’s direction to Moses was clear and simple. Lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the insurmountable barrier. Make a path through the impossible for My people to cross over.

Sometimes accounts in the Bible are so fantastic, we discount their value for us. But they are visuals for today. We may not have an army pursuing us. At times, though, circumstances arise on our horizon, threatening like swarms of chariot dust. Far outside our control, they are not only contrary to our plans, they contend for our very lives.

The loss of that man’s life was more than I could bear. A family looked at their Christmas meal with an empty seat at the table. They planned a funeral when they should have been baking and shopping. Their lives would never be the same.

The greatest humility I learned was at that time. It was when I chose to receive the Lord’s comfort. I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I was consumed with “What if’s…” My bruised and aching body didn’t compare to the pain in my heart.

In Exodus 14:26 I read that Moses stretched out his hand, not the staff, over the sea. What happened to the staff? Then I understood a truth that changed me. I saw that Moses had become the staff.

The good, the bad and the ugly prepared the staff, Moses. This flesh and blood man became a vehicle for God’s plan. Even when a nation rose up and said, “Are you crazy? You’re leading us all to our graves,” Moses trusted God’s calling. His submitted heart obeyed God in the worst of times. In turn, God poured out His power. Moses became a staff of deliverance in the hands of the living God.

It takes humility to let the Lord form us into His vessel when we know personally how bereft we are. He said, “Purchase from Me gold refined by fire, fine linen garments to cover your shame, and oil to anoint your eyes so you can see.” (Revelation 3:18)

Our lives carry purchasing power. I couldn’t purchase comfort from the world at that time. It wasn’t there to offer. But I could learn to receive the gold He brought out of that fiery furnace. I could be forgiven and clothed with His clean white garments. My eyes could be anointed to see Him in ways that healed me and others in the years to come.

My body healed. My heart healed. I learned to use the currency of my life to purchase from Him what the world couldn’t give me. I was not my own. I was bought with a price. I submitted my agendas, my love and my devotion to Him. In the process He formed a staff. It wasn’t something outside of my grasp. It was me.

May you be safe and warm this holiday season as He forms you as a staff in His hands.

Blessings!

Laurel

Sunday

15

December 2013

1

COMMENTS

A Staff in the River

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Imagine a hairy, putrid green imp, fangs dripping with slime, smelling like gangrene, sitting on your shoulder day and night. It sneers at your best attempts, accuses your finest motives, and tears down your confidence with constant slams. This imp is not born out of an active imagination. There is an evil accuser.

Heaven speaks, in fact, it shouts about this very issue. Revelation records it.

Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens. It has come at last – salvation, power, God’s kingdom and Christ’s authority, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, the one who accuses them before God day and night. (Revelation 12:10)

We’ve heard that accuser before. “You can’t do that. You failed the last time you tried.” Or, even worse, “You are a failure. Just stop trying.”

What if we heard God’s voice day and night, instead? His wisdom speaks every time we open the Bible. His perfect love topples fear, so we don’t have to hide in shame. Jesus made sure of that. Our yes to Him opens a road of adventure we never imagined.

God didn’t meet Moses in the wilderness to fix him tea and pat his back. He didn’t even offer a sermon. His message of freedom from the accuser came with an assignment. It was one that challenged him, one that he couldn’t do without God. It was one even failure prepared him for. Steeped in perfect love, it ignored the whines of a deliverer in hiding. No counseling, just a question, “What is in your hand?”

This shepherd’s staff didn’t look like much, but Moses knew how to use it. He didn’t go to work without it. It not only kept the sheep from wandering into dangerous terrain, it protected them from predators. The wilderness trained Moses to defend and protect a flock of sheep. God promoted him to shepherd of a nation. The staff was key to both.

The staff looked far too ordinary to become a vehicle for God’s power. What do we have in our hands we dismiss as too ordinary to be important? It may be an unexpected vehicle. I journaled for years every morning, writing down fresh understanding of what the Lord showed me. I taught, took lots of classes and shared what He showed me to anyone who would listen. But I never believed my writing would mean much to anyone but me. I undervalued the staff.

So what is your staff? It may look insignificant. It is not. It has the power to answer your accuser. Let it shout back in his slimy face. Let it say something loud, like, “I am treasured by God. I’m called to do the impossible. This ordinary life lived faithfully will set the captives free.” That shout agrees with God. We’ll get free in the process, free to become what we have always been – an adventure waiting to happen.

Friday

6

December 2013

0

COMMENTS

No Hiding in the River

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In my dream, I peeked around a front door to the street outside. With the door in my hand, I could look outside, then duck back into hiding if someone looked in my direction. A man walked toward a convenience store across the street. I thought, “He looks like Jesus.” He stopped before he walked into the store. We made eye contact and I knew. It was Him.

Some dreams come from a heavy carb-load the night before. Or an over-active mind causes dreams to run zigzag throughout our slumber. Some dreams come from the Lord. A dream in vivid clarity with details we don’t forget may be a message from God. Most are in code, like a puzzle whose finished image awaits the correct placement of each piece.

This dream wasn’t hard to figure out. I saw a picture of myself. I was hiding. A door, directed by my hands, shielded me until I was sure it was the Lord approaching. Even then, I wasn’t quick to come out.

I’ve hidden for many reasons over my lifetime. I’ve hidden when I’ve felt ashamed about something and didn’t want to be exposed. I’ve scurried to shelter when danger threatened. Sometimes that danger was real. Sometimes it wasn’t.

This door of fear has many faces. I may fear rejection, so sabotage relationships before they  reject me. Or fear failure, so won’t try something new. Even this morning, I head to the refrigerator for my stash of homemade toffee. A delicious smokescreen masking uncertainty and fear of sharing my heart.

An insightful man, Lance Wallnau, says God doesn’t call us to success. He calls us to preeminence. God wants us noticed. He’s created us in such artistry, He wants us to shine. Why do we sabotage ourselves? Usually it’s because we believe lies about God and  about ourselves.

Moses had extraordinary circumstances. He killed a man, ran away, and ended up in the desert where he met God who called him back to face his greatest failure. Okay, I don’t have a story like that. I was born in Fargo, North Dakota. My mom figured out she had married an alcoholic by the time she was pregnant with me. A doctor who didn’t want to miss vacation induced her labor before I was ready. Thirty-six hours later, she delivered me as her army husband served in Korea.

We all have stuff. Life can be hard. Just when we think we are stuck in failure’s grip, God comes to visit. He comes with an assignment.

Moses heard his assignment and argued with God. He said, “Look, Your people won’t even listen to me. How do you expect Pharaoh to? And besides, I stutter.” God didn’t respond, except to repeat the mission. “Listen, obey, and get My people out of slavery.” End of story.

The assignment wasn’t one Moses concocted. It was from God. We have a God call, too. It exists to conquer impossible odds of defeat and captivity. It has the strength and tenacity to accomplish God’s plan, despite our fears.

We can toss the “Aw, shucks, it’s just little ole’ me.” God is calling us out. Not to show off our abilities, but to showcase His. When we ignore our own accusations and embrace His calling, we’ll find a people waiting for us.

It is always a mission impossible. We choose between faith and fear. But we belong to a big God with a bigger plan than we’ve dreamed. It’s worth coming out of hiding for.