Laurel Thomas

Monthly Archive: December 2014

Wednesday

17

December 2014

6

COMMENTS

Chanukah in the River

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We’ve had weeks of misty, cloud-covered skies. What I’ve needed is light, and lots of it. And, as I’ve run errands, I feel the tension of female shoppers (being one myself). So much to do, so little time. Both reasons to be grateful for the season of Chanukah.

Chanukah is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness and purity over defilement. It is the god of “stuff” trumped with the presence of the true, living God.

Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people recaptured the Temple from enemy hands. The Temple was God’s dwelling place. An enemy had taken and occupied it. The victory to take it back was huge. Celebration was in order. The House, and therefore His presence, was open for worship again.

One problem. Enemy occupation left a lot of stink behind. Filth littered and the wrong kind of worship defiled the purity of that holy place.

I’ve struggled with this for years. Lord, You won a perfect victory over the enemy. So why is there such a stench left behind?

A precious lady checked me out at Hobby Lobby last week. Glitter gets in her eyes and becomes grit in her teeth during this season. She said, “I watch the news and realize I’m the only one I can fix. I come to the Lord every day and say, ‘Work in me, Lord. Make me light in the darkness.’”

She recognizes she’s a temple. She’s a dwelling place for Him. I’m His temple, too. Still, enemy occupation left a reek in me. One He’s been cleansing for many years. Am I holy? Yes, by His presence. Am I a work in progress? Yes, by the cooperation of His Body who, on purpose, decided I was worth it.

Some believe we’re responsible only for ourselves. We dedicate ourselves to Him and let Him do His work in us, but that’s all we can do. That would be simpler, for sure. But Chanukah teaches a different lesson. We are a part of a Body. Your mess is my mess.

Yikes! This isn’t a co-dependent striving to fix each other. It is a heart knowledge that you and I are connected. Connected by Him with cords we cannot see, but are strong. So strong, they bring Him into a place formerly occupied by the enemy, but now dedicated to Him. They choose to be the part of the clean-up.

This is the team who comes in when the cook is tired after a big meal. They stash leftovers in plastic containers, wipe down sticky counters, and load the dishwasher. All to the happy amazement of a weary cook.

We live in that paradox as believers. Yeshua Messiah won the victory. He worked a perfect work of salvation. The enemy was vanquished, not just crippled. But his occupation left some messes behind.

So we celebrate because we have reason to. But there’s still work to do. According to I John 3:8, for this very purpose the Son of God was manifested, to destroy, to loosen and to undo the work of the evil one.

In this season we’re aware of fall-out, of collateral damage. It wasn’t our fault. But the mess stands before us, refusing to be shoved into the closet or under the rug.

Last night, reading the first book of The Lord of the Rings, I ran into Tom Bombadil, Master of the green. Tom doesn’t control what goes on in the forest, but his songs bring light, deliverance and order wherever he goes. He stays happy and stops evil by the Presence he carries.

So, here’s my takeaway. I can stay happy. I can guard my song. But I’m not blind to the messes around me. I bring Him on the scene. With you.

This whole Temple clean-up is beyond me or my calling. I have a space God’s given me. So do you. We take up that call together, bringing His light to dark places right where we live. With our song. Working together because we know the enemy has been defeated and the Holy Place belongs to Him.

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

 

Monday

8

December 2014

4

COMMENTS

A Gate in the River

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“Get inside your classroom. And lock the door,” shouted my neighboring teacher at Smith Cotton High School.

A lanky teenager with thin, greasy blonde hair tangled over his face shouted a racial slur. With manic gestures, he slurred curses and taunts toward a tall, muscular black senior. Then he laughed, a weird, shrill jeer.

His target rushed him, like Goliath pursuing David. This David didn’t have the Lord on his side. He was toast.

With a scrawny arm, the drug-hazed youth tossed a hard, misaimed punch, then a second, as the hallway erupted into full-scale combat. My teacher friend tried to intervene. He was tossed aside like the books and other bodies careening into walls and each other.

How had gotten myself into this? I wasn’t a teacher. I was just a lost twenty-two year old with a teaching degree. That didn’t make me a teacher. I, too, was toast.

My kids couldn’t read. Julius Caesar and a collection of Francis Bacon essays were not book of the month choices. I was young and my life was a mess. How could I help them?

It was a quiet desperation. No one knew how I longed for a place to hide. It wasn’t that I couldn’t diagram a sentence with the best of them. I could write a fine expository dissertation on the theme of the Scarlet Letter. That didn’t count for much in the eyes of high school sophomores.

My friends of choice were about as mature as my sophomores. Parties, aimless and petty choices were diversionary tactics to hide the pain I thought had no cure.

Things shifted. At the end of every resource, at the end of every pursuit spiraling downward, someone showed up on purpose. Her name wasn’t in lights on the local marquee. But for me, she was a gate to God.

A man named Cornelius in the New Testament was a gate, too. He was an unlikely one. After all, he was a commanding officer in the Roman army and part of a despised Roman occupation. This man was no tyrant, though. He was known for his giving and his praying.

An angelic visit connected him with Peter. God worked on Peter ahead of time through a vision. Peter needed the vision because no one had ever seen the gate God was getting ready to open. All through a Roman centurion.

In the middle of a sermon, in a setting no one was sure he belonged, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius. A gate bigger than any one imagined opened wide.

Here’s my theory. The outpouring of God comes in response to someone on earth. Like a lightning rod, we can live in a way that attracts God’s attention and His response. Of course, we can also attract evil through prejudice and self-sabatoge. Hence the riot on a Tuesday morning in Smith Cotton High School many years ago.

It’s become my new prayer. “Lord, make us a gate for You. Help us live in a way that releases You, right the middle of our impossible.”

I’m expecting Him to show up. Why not now and why not through us? It’s a good time to be a gate. One that opens to more than we know or understand right now. I’m good with that. How about you?

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas