Laurel Thomas

Monthly Archive: April 2014

Monday

28

April 2014

2

COMMENTS

Codependent Crush

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No one to fix

Only to choose

What will

I do?

 

Oh, the burden

Of pride

That holds me

Amuck

In another one’s

Mire

 

Why so

Responsible

Why so divine

 

This ego

That sings

The problems

They are mine

 

Tiny plates

Whirl

On each

Digit

Extended

 

Offers no one

Their personal

twirl

 

My solution

For another’s

Sting

Enough to crown

Me

King

 

If this seems a little sharp, I wrote it for me. Ready for the cure!

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

 

Friday

25

April 2014

0

COMMENTS

A Door of Hope

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No more manna, God’s people ate lunch in the land of plenty after generations of lack. It was the end of walking in circles and calling it progress. The day after Passover and this meal was proof the wilderness season had ended.

They weren’t going to mess it up this time. Unlike a New Year’s resolution forgotten a week later, their hearts were determined as they kept their eyes on the presence of God.

A divine encounter sealed the deal. The Commander of God’s army met their new general, Joshua, one day outside Jericho. No negotiation, His presence silenced every voice except His own.

     Yield your right to lead, Joshua. Submit it to Me.

Jericho was their first battle. Instead of a committee, Joshua chose two men for a secret mission to check out the city’s defenses. Things were good to go. Only one caveat before the people’s shout brought down the impenetrable walls.

     Don’t take anything from the city.

A man named Achan ignored the command.

His thievery was no ordinary trespass. No “Whoops, I didn’t know any better.” It was an invitation to a vile, lust-soaked malice by the name of Baal.

Achan stole a jewel-studded Babylonian mantle, often used in Baal worship. This sin was fueled by more than self-will. His rebellion highlighted an illicit love hidden in his heart. Why not keep his options open? Who needed Jehovah alone when Baal was a friend with benefits?

God gets a bad rap for calloused slaughter in the Old Testament. Google Canaanite worship for an overview. We don’t understand because we haven’t had to feed our babies into the flames of Molech. Our sons and daughters aren’t required as temple prostitutes. Our culture doesn’t demand the sacrificed body of our youngest son under the foundation of a new home.

Achan’s adultery brought the leaven of Baal worship into the new era of promise. It was a cancer no one recognized until the next battle.

The Israelites could defeat Ai with one arm tied behind their backs. But a demonic force  entered by the invitation of one. Its presence mocked and defied Love Himself.

Have we suffered because someone invited the wrong god into our camp? Has lust betrayed us? Maybe it started with a small invitation. A mantle for Baal worship hidden in the closet. It didn’t seem like much.

But it summoned a liar, a thief and murderer. It slinked in sticky sweetness, leering under a thin veil, waiting for its moment to destroy.

The valley of trouble was at the end of this summons. A miserable hovel, it became home before we knew what hit us. Not a ripple of discontent, this was extreme, serious trouble. The kind that stole children and stripped all that was precious.

Like a starved rodent in a researcher’s maze, I lived in that valley, smashing into one wall and falling headlong into another. Baal sneered as I wandered without hope of escape.

I needed a door, but couldn’t find it until one early September afternoon. I cried out to my Commander. I threw off my sandals and put Him in charge.

Love like liquid sunshine on the snowy sand of a Gulf coast beach traveled down my head. It came in mint green waves lapping the shore, deepened into emerald hues, and then plunged me into its depths.

Its tide washed and overtook fortified walls as it immersed the core of me, shattering chains from the inside out. Love I couldn’t contain and couldn’t explain was the door I hadn’t seen.

     I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor (Troubling) to be for her a door of hope and expectation. And she will sing there…(Hosea 2:15)

Not content to be only a door out of trouble, He transformed that valley into a gate of hope. Not just a wish for something better. But a real gate into the bigness of Him and His plan. Only He could make the place of my pain a vineyard, offering life to others.

Is blogging your vineyard? It is mine. It is my confident hope extended to you, knowing He will turn a desolate valley into a place of life.

So toss those sandals, accept that holy ground. A gate is open to the ocean. Come on in, the water is fine!

 

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

Wednesday

16

April 2014

4

COMMENTS

The Eye and the Spring

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For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12

My mind opens before my eyes most mornings. Sometimes a dream fades in my shift from sleep to daytime clarity. A downy quilt snuggles me as I review a mental checklist for the day. That review motivates a reluctant retreat as my feet shift to cold bathroom tile.

Space heater on, check. Warm layers and socks, check. Sunscreen and just enough foundation to appear at the YMCA without scaring anyone, check. Then off to my coffee pot and time with the Lord.

Fresh might not be the word, but my mind and heart are least uncluttered at this time. No one else is around. I can focus on Him. Settling in for a conversation with the Lord, I remember a Scripture in Habakkuk.

I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart. I will keep watch to se what He will speak to me. (NAS)

The One I can’t see asks me to see. So, on purpose, I start my climb.

It takes some effort as I scramble from surface distractions to a higher place. There I’m positioned to see all around me. Not just any high place, I’m perched on a fortified wall. It’s His protective barrier around my city, my life.

I have lots of loved ones in that city. Some are family, some are friends, some are people I met in random places and made a heart note to pray for them. Some are fellow bloggers!

How am I doing on my perch? Am I seeing yet? What’s the fresh vision today and how do I write it?  I send out feelers. I start flapping my wings until I get that soar going. I know a wind current is there. I just have to press a little to find it.

This morning I found an obscure study about a family within the tribe of Levi. They were Gershonites. Their job was to take care of the coverings and curtains of the Tabernacle.

When the tabernacle was first built, it was portable. It could be taken down or put up depending on when the cloud of His glory directed His people forward. It was the original mobile home. This one housed the presence of God.

It didn’t seem very exciting to move curtains and coverings, other than knowing part of Him lingered in that fabric as they took it up, then unfurled it at the next destination. It was hard work, even for a place that housed God Himself.

I’ve felt like a Gershonite. My husband and I love people. We especially like seeing God touch their lives on a regular basis. More than a visit, we love being a part of lives God is invited to inhabit.

People need time together, they need to eat. That means a certain amount putting together and taking down. We’re talking labor. Most of the time I remember how that work relates to His service. Sometimes the connection is blurred. Like when I’m tired, or extra busy, or perish the thought, crabby.

Before King David brought the tabernacle to a permanent home, it traveled. Why? Because His people traveled. They moved out of Egypt, slavery, and through the wilderness. There was lots of putting up and taking down. Here was God’s promise:

The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your soul in drought and make your bones fat. You will be like a watered garden, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

God’s promise was for those who lived in a desert land. Drought, blowing sand, and heat were all around them. Despite their environment, the presence of God living, not visiting, made all the difference. His people looked like an oasis fed by a bottomless spring.

We used to fish in spring-fed rivers in Missouri. They were a small paradise, despite determined anglers, elbow to elbow on hot summer days. After all, where else could we find trout in Missouri on hot, muggy, summer days? But there they were, fresh, fun to catch, and thriving in the ice-cold water that flowed from a spring a mile up the road.

Lots of life gathered around a spring in the desert. There were shade trees, water for livestock, birds singing, and people enjoying meals together. The spring represented God’s refuge, His provision, and His refreshing even when all was barrenness around it. Those waters flowed despite drought because their source extended deep into hidden aquifers.

Back to the Gershonites. When the wilderness season was over, the Gershonites inherited a city named Anem. Anem may have been a plural form of the word, springs. But Anem was also the Hebrew word for “eye.” In Hebrew, the eye was more than the physical organ. It represented the whole process of seeing, of understanding and of obedience.

God speaks all around me. Do I see the spring of life hidden nearby? If all was desert around me, I’d want more than a mirage. I’d want the real thing. The untapped springs exist, just like those wind currents. But if I don’t see them, I can’t receive the life and cleansing they offer.

For years I had a film over my eyes. It was the filter of a victim spirit. Rooted in poverty and lack, it was a mindset that invited passivity. Perhaps if I didn’t move forward, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Not so much.

Disappointment lurked in perpetual slime just under the surface of my expectations. I shoved it down, but it kept popping up. Its slime didn’t mix with water of the springs of life inside me. No wonder the spring kept trying to spit it out. It didn’t belong there.

The Bible talks about a heart/eye connection. We pass up freedom when we don’t see God’s hidden work via spring of life inside us. I had to learn to cooperate. Instead of whining the victim’s “Argghh! Poor me! ” I was happy the filth didn’t belong to me. It made its appearance so I could toss it out of the tabernacle. Just a little morning housekeeping.

That spring on the inside of me is big and deep. It reaches into the limitless provision of God. It is His kingdom come, His will being done, on earth as it is in heaven right in my city – the one surrounded by those castle walls. I am a mobile home tabernacle.

His life inside me isn’t limited by my circumstances. It washes away debris. Even rocks float to its surface in its anointing. I pick them up and hurl them over the rampart. They are well-aimed throws, for they nail my enemy on the way down.

That’s my morning visual. I’m writing what I see. It points me forward and never lies. If it seems slow in coming, I’ll wait. It’s on its way. It comes right on time. It cleanses me and protects my city. Not bad for a city girl learning to flap her wings.

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

Monday

14

April 2014

2

COMMENTS

Crawdads and Capacity, Part 2

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My bare foot crunched on a once soggy, now crusted Cheerio on the kitchen floor. Sun glared through the nearby sliding glass door. Masses of small fingerprints melded into a sticky filter around its door handle. How could three sets of miniature hands make so many fingerprints? I bent down to pull the Cheerio off my heel, then took a few sips of stale coffee and wiped the counter with disinfectant.

The phone rang. From somewhere. Digging through piles of paper, I heard a faint ring, then silence. Another ring again and again. There it was, under the third cushion on the couch, with a half-eaten granola bar. Brief silence, then another ring.

It was my husband. Loving, kind and unaware.

“Hey, honey. Don’t forget. Jorge, Carlos, and Alex are coming over for dinner. Tonight. Remember? Honey?”

Breakfast dishes scattered the kitchen counter, milk splashed and sugar stuck to the light pine table. A casserole dish from the night before soaked in the sink. Faint circular indentations marked the linoleum where our oldest son tried out a new hammer.

My eyes moved to the dining room. Papers and books stacked around a half-composed jigsaw puzzle of dolphins frolicking in a pristine sea. No room for dinner.

A speedy check list buzzed through my brain, panic clearing its early morning fog. Clean house, run by grocery store and cook dinner. Shouldn’t take more than eight hours.

Crash!

My heart skipped as I ran to check out the disaster. Four year old Davy sat on a collapsed, once upper shelf of our built-in bookcase. Brown curls stuck in determined sweat and tears around angelic face. A pile of broken Hummel figurines of chubby Nordic children scattered around him.

“I’m borken (translation, broken),” he cried.

He bellowed, drawing long breaths to bellow more. He might be four but he knew when in doubt, cry loud and hard. A useful diversionary tactic. I sighed and checked him for cuts. My chubby Nordic child was not broken. The Hummels, however, were in shards. I picked him up, brushed him off and hugged him as my heart pounded against his tummy.

First the trash can, then vacuum cleaner, as I set the broken shelf against a wall. Davy went out to play. One more treasure bit the dust. Check.

“Moommm!”

“What,” I shrieked.

Was it still the first week of summer vacation? What happened to idyllic plans with happy children, crafts, swimming pool and neighborhood ball games? My picture of children as perfect begonias grown in careful, controlled environment morphed into dragon lily. Or Venus fly trap, with me as the fly.

Five year old Tim limped in. Bloody footprints followed him from tile to carpet. “Stoopp!” I ran over to pick him up and tripped on a Hot Wheel race car. Hidden under tiny toe gaped a crimson hole. A quick call to our neighbors and our favorite babysitter arrived to watch Davy and Shannon.  I drove Tim to the doctor, his foot wrapped in a faded pink wash cloth.

Two hours later we were home, stitches in place and ready for a nap. Or not. Time to speed dial my clean up efforts. My husband called.

“We might be a little early.”

How hard could this be? Back to the plan. What happened to the plan? Clean house and clean children only as active as my energy managed. Imparting life principles to young hearts in sweetness and light. Principles to form good citizens and worthy opponents.

Did I say worthy opponents? That pooped out. I mean popped out. Back to good citizens. I loved my kids. I loved God. At some point His order would override our mess. Right?

“Momma, play with me,” said Shannon as she cradled her worn baby doll. “I can’t, sweetie. Too much to do. Let’s take Molly for a quick nap.” The door bell rang. “Mom! It’s Chris and Robbie. Can we play?” Sure. Naps were good, but playing outside a close second. Tim wanted to show off his stitches.

I took a short breath and steeled myself for a super-woman push. Disinfectant in my back pocket, vacuum cleaner extended and glass cleaner at my feet. I had weapons for this war.

Summer heat crept through narrow slits around our front door. The cracked tile on one end of the foyer drew my eyes up to a hole in the drywall. A roller blade mishap. Mental note. Find a bigger rug. I picked up a rumpled braid rug to shake it outside. A crawdad fell out. Alive. A mother crawdad. A mother giving birth to tiny crawdads, spilling like Rice Krispies on the floor.

I screamed. The phone rang. It was my husband.

“We’re on our way over.”

I slid down the blue paisley wallpaper and cried. I sobbed and wailed as the boys walked in with their two best friends. Tim looked at the crawdad, then at me.

“Look, you made her cry.”

Tim looked sad. I felt terrible.

“It’s okay. I’m okay. Tim, gather up that momma and her babies. Put them back in the creek. She doesn’t like it here,” I said.

Then I picked up the phone.

“Hey, dinner’s not going to work tonight. I’ll explain later.”

“No problem, I’ll take them out and bring them home for dessert.”

“No, not tonight. A mother crawdad just gave birth on my tile. Tim’s toe is held together with six stitches and all my Hummels are broken.”

“Oohhh…”

Peace settled over me. I thought about the mother crawdad turned upside down in a place outside her home. Out of control, with her babies at stake. I felt like that momma, alone and responsible for my babies in circumstances beyond my control. Where had I believed a lie, that I could make life perfect?

Life, at times, was messy and out of control. I could choose to play the victim. Or I could pull my chin up, draw boundaries, and take charge. I might be upside down throwing out babies like pinballs, but it was my life and my privilege to take care of.

My resources would always fall short. But my resources weren’t what mattered. What mattered were our three children. They were treasures with untapped riches tucked inside those sweaty little bodies. They needed to move. They needed time and space to breathe and grow. Not perfection. Just an imperfect mom with a perfect God.

No wonder Jesus took time to gather children into His arms and bless them. I bet their momma’s were right beside Him, hoping some of that blessing spilled over. After all, we were looking after His treasures, too.

And needing a little encouragement that pint-sized imperfections were never strong enough to mar a diamond in the making.  

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

(Maybe you noticed this is an expanded version of my last blog. I”m learning to “show, not tell” with my writing. Thanks for letting me practice!)      

Monday

7

April 2014

0

COMMENTS

Capacity in the River

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Summer heat crept through narrow slits around our front door. The cracked tile on one end of the foyer drew my eyes up to a hole in the drywall. A roller blade mishap. Mental note. Find a bigger rug.

I picked up a crumpled braid rug to shake it outside. A crawdad fell out. Alive. A mother crawdad. A mother giving birth to tiny crawdads, spilling like Rice Krispies on the floor.

I shrieked. Just a little. Not like when I saw a tarantula exiting the mop with slow, deliberate steps on my kitchen floor.

Not like when I watched bloody footprints travel behind our five-year old’s limp home from a nearby drainage ditch. Or saw his brother’s broken bone stick out of tender skin after a misguided save on a backyard touch-down sent him elbow first into the privacy fence.

According to the Bible we had a good excuse for constant messes and mishaps. We had a lot of oxen in our stall. Lots of messy life going on all around us.

I was a big cleaner-upper. I loved order. Life didn’t cooperate, despite my best efforts to control it. The Lord watched and waited for me to call for help. I couldn’t ask for help. I had to do it alone, to prove to no one in particular that I could get it together.

My husband said it was because I never thought I was “enough”. Not enough smarts, not enough strength, not enough whatever I needed to keep me from melting into a hot mess as I bellowed like a fish wife, “Everyone in the car!” Then fumbled for missing car keys.

I increased my efforts. After all, I was young and had plenty of energy. But if “try harder” had worked, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

I got tired. Did I mention all this trying came under the banner of loving Jesus? Not only was I squashed under the stamp of “not enough”, my performance required the attention of a holy God. No pressure, though.

After much frustration, I learned a helpful word. One that moved me, sometimes at imperceptible speed, out of self-imposed craziness. It was the word, “repent”. Not the fire and brimstone kind. The simple truth of adjusting my thinking in line with grace and truth. That adjustment on my part beamed His light of truth on hidden lies.

Out of that spirit I heard the Lord whisper one morning. “Don’t look for sufficiency. Ask for capacity.”

Sufficiency, the state of being enough, drove me like a relentless task-master. Capacity, the ability to hold or contain, invited me to receive.

For years I strived alone when help was all around me. I struggled because I believed a lie. It cost me peace. It cost me pleasure in my imperfect, but life-filled journey.

When truth came, the light turned on. It made sense. Why would the Lord who wiped away my sin, be unwilling to help me now? Why would He refuse goodness He’d stored up for me at that time and for that need?

In short, would He not be my daily bread? Not provision I had to earn, but goodness He placed all around me when I asked and received.

Now my prayer is, “Lord, come. Enlarge my capacity for You.” I ask Him to pour His strength, wisdom and love into me. I’ve found that like Jesus asleep on the boat with fearful disciples and storm raging all round, capacity comes by invitation. It grows by restful trust.

Frenetic energy to bail out my own sinking ship with a tin can doesn’t save me. Knowing Him and receiving His help bring me to the other side.

Remember Rahab? That unlikely gate for God’s people into a new era? Like Rahab, the very essence of Him in us collides with our messes and turns us into a gate. A gate for me. A gate for others, leading to love Himself.

As my world gets bigger, it stretches beyond my ability to manage. That’s a good thing. Enlargement is messy. Status quo is challenged. Old mind-sets are shaken by a fresh breeze of revealed truth. Life propels me forward into the unknown, but delightful. This is a ride I don’t want to miss – crawdads and all!

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas