Laurel Thomas

Monthly Archive: March 2014

Sunday

30

March 2014

3

COMMENTS

A Daddy in the River

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My heart bursts in its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. I pour it out in a poem to the King, shaping the river into words. (Psalm 45:1)

 

His dark curls and

bemused eyes

appraise

the small frame

who sits

at the end of the couch.

Three-year old tummy

peeks out

between snaps,

sweetness belying her

serious gaze.

Who are you?

her eyes inquire,

as her heart

holds a door.

Perched together

on Naugahyde couch,

he tilts and tips on

unseen

precipice.

How will she know,

who can reveal

this stranger named

daddy?

He’s broken

but can’t tell,

she knows

but can’t reach.

This little girl’s heart

on the edge of a couch

wondering why

wondering who

From this cliff

dangles

the cost of

more than one

life.

(“A Stranger Named Daddy” by Laurel Thomas)

Sunday

30

March 2014

3

COMMENTS

A Mirror in the River

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Anger rose up in me like the creeping flow of volcanic heat. My cheeks flushed and heart thumped in a way that defied where I was and what I was doing. It was a Bible study. The ladies were sweet, the pastor compassionate. I was a first time guest and we were studying Rahab, an Old Testament woman from the city of Jericho.

The author detailed her history before receiving two Jewish spies into her care. Horrible sinner, harlot steeped in debauchery, and vile idolater painted a picture of a woman without God.

With each sentence, passion rose up in me. Like a pugnacious defense attorney, I questioned facts versus assumptions against this unknown woman. Outrage rose out of me like smoke signals that no one understood, least of all me.

After all, I didn’t know Rahab. I only knew what I read in the second chapter of Joshua. That was it. No reason to defend her from profound injustice centuries later.

I searched for a link to this young woman. Most translations called her a harlot. I hadn’t been a prostitute, but had felt the sting of life outside the knowledge of God. For a girl, I could pull off a good junkyard dog when threatened. Judged by my history alone, I’d be in trouble, too.

God visited Rahab one day in the form of two spies from Israel. Their visit offered her an chance to realign in a shifting time. It was now or never. With prophetic insight, she told the men who they were and what they were doing there. She acknowledged their God as God in heaven above and earth beneath. She chose to make the shift and bring her family with her, trusting the mercies of a God she’d never known, but risked her life to embrace.

History’s definition doesn’t reflect what God saw in Rahab. What He saw even now defies our ignorance and prejudice. Rahab was a gate for God’s people into a new era.

Have you ever been locked out of a place you needed to go? I have. My history doesn’t affirm a gift from God. If religion saw my imperfections, I’d be hailed second-class citizen. Insecurity still shouts if I let it. The accuser still taunts, unless I silence him with the reflection I see in a different mirror.

Gateway people can go unnoticed. Their wrapping may be prostitute or drug addict. Or maybe just a simple lady with a wounded past. Like Lazarus with stinky grave-clothes, they carry resurrection life under a mess.

Israel had an enemy called the Amalekites. They were assassins of the weak. They picked off children, nursing mothers, the elderly – those who couldn’t keep up with the virile young warriors. God remembered them. And not in a good way. (Deuteronomy 25:17,18)

God remembers the forces of hell against us. He puts a sword in the hands of the strong, not to slice and dice each other, but to destroy assassins who rise up against the weak and helpless. He wants us to be a refuge. He’s made us His gates.

I love Rahab’s heart. God did, too. I want to be a refuge for God’s people moving forward, offering His gate through iron-like resistance. I want my prayers and my life to protect the vulnerable.

So I’m taking another look in His mirror. What I see in His eyes surprises me. Its better than I imagined and bigger than my history decreed. It gives me hope. It challenges, but makes me happy. I’ll be looking for those Rahabs. After all, it takes one to know one.

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

Saturday

22

March 2014

4

COMMENTS

Visitation in the River

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Visitations from the Lord sometimes slip in without fanfare. Unlike an angelic visit or a rushing wind that blows through my hair and gives me shivers, it wafts in like a gentle spring breeze with a sentence rising from my consciousness.

I like organized thoughts and set-beliefs, cherished and wrapped in pretty bows. But God arrives by His Spirit to mess up my careful enclosures. His message presses on the borders of my understanding of Him, my very large God.

One morning I was brushing my teeth, shrugging off the sleepy stupor of a late night. I heard a simple, direct statement.

“I want you to stop being so hard on yourself.”

It was a command.

There is a wisdom check in James 3:17. It helps me discern what I’m not sure about, detailing eight qualities of God’s perfect wisdom. So my question was this. Is it pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruit, unwavering and without hypocrisy? A long list, but guaranteed to keep me on the right track. The sentence I heard fit on all counts.

I’ve entertained mental gymnastics around an inner accuser for years. Its torment was like a vexing fly buzzing in my ear. It evaded each swat, ending up as a smack on the side of my own head.

This torment flowed like a polluted current under the surface of my thoughts. It came to the top in stillness.

“You didn’t do that right. You didn’t say that right. It wasn’t enough,” translated into “You are not enough.”

These barbs went into the soft spot of my heart and translated into try harder, but don’t expect much. It was shadow-boxing with me as the target.

There was a lady named Rahab in the Bible. Many translations call her harlot. In others she is idolater, in a few, inn-keeper. History has a hard time defining her.

I like that. We all resist definition. That’s because a big God, who created the universe, formed us. There is something of the infinite inside each of us.

Rahab lived in an idolatrous culture. In the Bible that translated into a civilization filled with perversion, violence, and unchecked lawlessness. It violated the weak and helpless. Might made right and lust found its fill in cries of the innocent.

Not that Rahab was helpless. Her name meant insolent and fierce. Sometimes a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. Uncovered and unprotected, she learned how to take care of herself. Was there a future where she wouldn’t have to sell her soul to survive?

God visited her one day in the form of two spies from Israel. It was all about alignment in a shifting time. His people were moving forward after an extended stint in the wilderness. Evil couldn’t be ignored. It had to be confronted. But this evil looked impenetrable. 

It was a God job, huge and impossible. These forerunners needed access to a locked down, walled fortress. They needed refuge in a hostile city. They found both in Rahab.

She hid them under flax on her rooftop and diverted their pursuers. Then she described a plan of God they never told her. Their God was the God of heaven and earth. Revolution had come and she was in.

I’ve wondered about this unlikely treasure, Rahab. History’s definition doesn’t reflect what God saw in her, which even now defies our prejudice. Whoever she was on the outside, her heart and actions opened a gateway for God’s people into a new era.

Like Rahab, we are much more than our history predicts. God still needs gateways when evil locks out His plan. The openness of our hearts to Him just might become a refuge and access for others on the way to their promised land.

Life contests His gift in us. The voice of the inner accuser must be silenced. If no one else recognizes the treasure formed for His purposes, He does. His Spirit compels us to know what He knows.

Gateway people don’t often arrive on the scene clean and sanitized. But their hearts are open. They look in His mirror to see what He sees. He welcomes them not just as visitors, but as intimate friends.

So expect that visit. It may be an angel, or one of His people. It may be a sentence on a sleepy morning at the sink. But if we call, He’ll come.The Gate Himself unlocks a gate in us, a refuge beckoning others to the largeness of Him. 

Monday

10

March 2014

7

COMMENTS

Fortress in the River

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My dear techie brother sent me his camera for my trip to Israel. He packed it with care and sent it on a fast track to Oklahoma. It was such a kind gesture. I didn’t have the heart to explain my history with cameras.

The day before departure, I spread out the contents of my suitcase on the dining room floor. Our daughter looked them over. She reminded me in her sweet way that I could save the space and use my Iphone’s camera. My homecoming pictures proved what we both already knew.

“Wow, that’s a lot of rocks, Mom.”

They were important at the time. I just couldn’t remember why.

There were some things I did remember, though. Things I couldn’t find on my camera. They were the friends my sister and I met. They were the messages I heard the Lord speak as we stood beside those rocks.

Our guide, Malcolm, told us stories of heroism, devotion to God, and sacrifice for what was precious. What I learned in those moments and at those sites became photos etched on my heart.

Masada was one of those places. Herod the Great constructed Masada, which means “fortress” in Hebrew. It was cut out of a mountain on the western end of the Judean desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod was an insane dictator, but genius builder. He constructed it as a personal refuge.

Set upon a mountain in the middle of a barren wilderness, with its own water and food sources, Masada was impenetrable. Almost. Seventy-five years after Herod’s death a small group of Jews overcame the Roman garrison at Masada. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, more of their people joined them. Over 1,000 Jews lived there for three years.

The Roman governor, Flavius Silva, had enough of their defiance. To penetrate the impenetrable he had to find a hidden weakness, a vulnerability to the fine-tuned warfare of Roman forces.

He found it. Thousands of Jewish prisoners of war were forced to build a massive rampart of stones and beaten earth that extended along the western side of the fortress. For over a year they worked unhindered while the Jews inside Masada watched. In the end, the same Hebrew slaves moved a battering ram up the ramp and breached the walls.

What the governor found was not a weakness. It was a virtue. Masada was taken because those who looked from the mountain fortress above refused to fire on their own people. The governor’s perverse scheme used loyalty and devotion against those unwilling to violate it.

Years before in the same land of Israel, Jesus’ disciples were at the end of a three-day ministry session to thousands. They were tired and depleted. They wanted everyone to go home. At the end of their strength, they were fresh out of compassion.

But love thought about a hungry trip home. Love fed a multitude at the end of a long day. Love gave when there were no resources left. 

There is an enemy of love. It is competitive. It is rooted in poverty. It carefully measures everything given. After all, giving depletes my resources when my own supply is so meager. If I give kindness, what if I’m used? If I give forgiveness, what if I’m rejected?  What if my loyalty is betrayed?

But love has a voice. “Start with a seed,” it whispers.

It’s taken me a long time to learn love by sitting in the presence of Love Himself. I tend to look at significance in big accomplishments. He sees the eternal in my every day decisions to choose love.

Six-year old Gracie looks at my hands. My veins bulge, age spots freckle and knuckles protrude.

“Nana, are you old?” she asks.

She’s just checking. She isn’t sure how old is old. She just wants to know if I’ll be sticking around.

I want to stick around. I want to extend love as a seed. Who knows where that harvest will go and who it will feed, if I’m brave enough to plant it and believe in its power.

Rooted in His supply, it travels farther than I can imagine. It extends where I could never go. It prevails over my poverty. It answers death when it comes. If an army uses my brother to breach my defenses, love helps me stand fast. It proves itself strong in every test the enemy launches against it.

Love arises with skin on every time I let His supply determine my giving. The Jews at Masada knew their end. Still, they chose love. In the end, they found the victory only love could win.