Laurel Thomas

Author Archives

Thursday

14

June 2018

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COMMENTS

The Ark On Our Shoulders

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Every writing project is a journey. At the end, we arrive at a destination that depends on every bit of our hard work. There were obstacles we had to leap over and lots of fine-tuning to do. Our laptops flamed with the rush of inspiration one moment and grew stone cold at the next as we wondered what in the heck we were thinking.

Angst. It gets old. So, we press on anyway. We keep writing, keep working until the final product shines. Or at least we know it’s the best we can do. Even then we join a critique group, hire an editor and get other trained eyes on it, just to be sure.

In my head I knew the Lord was in the process. But one morning I saw proof of it in an obscure passage in I Kings 8.

Here’s the back story. Construction of Solomon’s temple was complete – down to the tiniest facet of magnificence and order.

It was time for the Ark of His Presence to arrive. Priests carried it with wooden poles on their shoulders to the inner sanctuary. Everything in that room had been prepared to receive the presence of God. Golden cherubim, crafted especially for the Ark, spread their wings over it. The walls themselves were overlaid with gold and shone with a luminescence.

It was all dazzling. Except for those wooden poles the priests had used. They stayed in the middle of all that splendor, sticking out from under the Ark. (I Kings 8:8)

Wooden poles sticking out? In a place so glorious and intricate in detail that it’d taken thousands of workmen seven years to complete?

Surely, they could’ve gotten rid of them. After all, the poles weren’t needed anymore. The Ark was in the temple to stay. No more mobile-home tabernacle to carry it everywhere God’s people went. Why were the poles still there?

Maybe to remind us that His presence was once carried on the shoulders of people. Those wooden poles weren’t fancy, but they were proof that God chose people to carry Him to a specific destination.

Maybe you just submitted an article, wrapped up the resolution of your novel or finished a memoir. There was a journey to get there. One that you carried on your shoulders throughout the process.
It’s true that the Lord was there every step of the way. But our work mattered. Our efforts carried an idea, a story, a poem to completion.

Carrying that Ark into the temple took work. Teaming up with God takes work. But we can remember those wooden poles. Like them, we might end up in the middle of something beautiful!

Shalom in the River!

Laurel

Thursday

4

January 2018

0

COMMENTS

A Ring In the River, Part 2

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Winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come… (Song of Songs 2:11)

I closed my eyes one Sunday morning while we worshipped. In my mind, I saw a picture of me holding out a ring. It wasn’t a huge ring. Smaller than a hoola-hoop, but larger than a bicycle rim.

I didn’t know what the ring was or why I held it in front of me. As soon as I did, the Lord jumped into the ring. It shattered all around with the enormity of Him.

All my insides leaped. “Lord, come and burst my expectations! Break through my capacity with the largeness of You!”

But really… How does that happen?

A ring can represent a lot of things. It can be a sign of covenant or commitment. It can be a symbol of authority, like a signet ring in the hands of a king. It can even be a circumference of influence, lined out with careful boundaries.

A loving father gave his son, the prodigal, a ring. The son had wasted his inheritance and headed home in disgrace. He wasn’t coming back as a son. In his heart, he came as an indentured servant to pay his debt.

He faced Kezazah, a ceremonial banishment. It’s translated, the cutting off. A clay pot filled with burnt beans was broken at the feet of the one who had strayed. It represented a unified boot out of the community. No business, no friendships, and ostracized in every way.

But someone jumped into the middle of that ring.

His dad had been watching, waiting for his son to return. When the familiar gait of his youngest appeared over a ridge, he ran to him without hesitation. Not the dignified lope of a middle-aged pillar of the community. But a sweaty, robe-lifted over the legs, sleeves-flapping in the wind kind of sprint.

When they met face to face, he kissed his son over and over. Not the Aunt Dorothy peck on the cheek. These were kisses and tears all jumbled up and spilling over in love without words.

Daddy prepared his servants ahead of time. They covered the stinky son with his best robe. They slipped shoes over calloused, road-weary, bleeding feet. Shoes for a son, not a slave. The signet ring slipped on his hand guaranteed he could come home and make a living.

There would be no Kezazah. Daddy made sure of that.

Humility flows out of a generous heart. It flows out of love. The orphan can’t afford to forgive, can’t afford humility. It costs more than he has.

The prodigal’s daddy had a resource bigger than his own. It was okay to hike up his robe and run like an aging track star amid the aghast frowns of neighbors who wondered what happened to their friend.

Love happened, that’s what.

Love so generous, it became an indelible picture on the heart of his son.

That’s how my circle is expanded. The love of my Father runs up and jumps in my arms. He explodes my self-contained limitations. He ruins my careful excuses and justifications. He embraces the filth of my misplaced affections and soaks me in His fragrance.

This love is so engrafted I don’t have to dip into orphan resources again. I run with abandon and discover that limitless love runs faster toward me than I can to it.

So much more than I expected. So much sweeter.

The winter is past. Do I dare believe it?

I’m watching for Him. Expecting Him in unexpected ways, extravagant, unafraid of my doubts and undeterred by my messes.

He’s coming – sooner than I think.

Shalom,
Laurel Thomas

Monday

4

December 2017

0

COMMENTS

A Stage At the River

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One night in 2009 on Britain’s Got Talent, a little woman walked on stage, hairy eyebrows and a saucy attitude. Nervous, she struggled to remember where she lived. In the background were snickers and whispers of ridicule as she shared her dream to become a professional singer.

Everyone laughed. The judges and the audience.

Until she opened her mouth and sang.

Platform. It brings us to the public eye. So different than where our writing begins, sitting with laptop, alone, doing what we do. Creating, putting words on a page that express thought and emotion – all that makes us human. All that connects us. And yet, crafted alone.

Susan Boyle had been singing for years, but never had a platform like Britain’s Got Talent. Her bravery to bring her song before multitudes was rewarded. Her voice was soon heard all over the world.

The very essence of writing is to communicate. To share. Platform positions our voice where it can be seen and experienced.

As an introvert, the fear of platform is like the terror of public speaking. Spinach in my teeth? The carefully prepared speech forgotten? Who wants to hear what I have to say, anyway?

Writers need to be read. Sure, a creation needs preparation to make it as clear and beautiful as it began in the writer’s heart. But it also needs platform.

When shared with others, all that we’ve learned to express our work well causes it to sing. Like when a courageous Scottish lady, mocked and ridiculed, opened her mouth and surprised everyone.

We can’t pretend that the solitary life of a writer is only that – solitary. Our words are meant to connect us to a world that extends across borders, into languages we can’t speak and people we’ve never met.
So, we do what it takes to say it well. To learn the craft, to make our message resonate with others.

Because that’s what writing does. It releases a song in us, through us, in a way that others can join in.
Will we capture the world’s attention? Not unless we’re willing to bring our art to a place where it can be seen.

Platform can be formed in many ways. Perhaps by the power of a blog touching readers from countries far from our own. Or instruction that brings your article to the attention of a magazine editor. Maybe it’s help with a website that needs brushing up or with navigating social media. If your story is finished, access to an acquisition editor can make all the difference.

Keep working on that manuscript, then bring it before others. It’s your song and it needs to be heard – by many.

 

Thursday

20

July 2017

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COMMENTS

A Child’s Voice in the River

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A speech impediment plagued my five-year old self. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pronounce my name. The letter “l” was impossible, the “r” tricky. My name, Laurel, required mastery of one or the other. The sound that tumbled out of my mouth in an untidy heap was not my name.

Awkward, mumbling “Ohwell” confused anyone who asked, “What’s your name, little girl?”

How could six letters arranged to identify me be so hard to get out of my mouth? It was embarrassing, even for a little kid who shouldn’t have cared much. After all, I was loved by the people who mattered. No big deal.

Except it was a big deal. But for reasons I didn’t understand at the time.

Later, when I experienced God, I realized why. Because me with Him was the point. The whole point. Me living this life, with Him, as only I could.

It took me awhile to figure that out. And to understood I needed to be grateful for all the parts of my life. In my worst moments, I’d made flawed decisions, opted for easy instead of difficult, and stayed passive when a mess required a response.

But those parts could be summed up in a sentence or two. Unlike the incredible joy of seeing my babies for the first time. When my husband and I locked eyes and knew we were part of a miracle – together.

Or the journey of recognizing my mom’s courage. Loving and appreciating with adult eyes how she responded to dashed dreams as a good mom – loving her kids and making the hard choice to protect us.

And accepting the wonder of a dad who chose me. Actually, he chose my mom first. But by choosing her, he embraced me. On purpose. He loved that way when I recognized it and when I didn’t.

I’d had great people who helped me along the way. Most of all, my husband. But, also leaders and bosses who taught me to be wise and work hard. Even the ones who blew it showed me that my decisions for integrity, or not, were me writing my own story. The one I’d be able to share with my kids in the years to come. Or not.

Colossians 1:28 has been talking to me all summer. Talking to me? Well, it’s a big subject. Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Confidence in God showing up as God in me? What does that look like?

I struggled a long time with the largeness of that thought. I’d focus on how many ways I’d missed it. And why. Until I decided to go another direction. It started with a simple prayer.

Lord, help me see You in me. Help me identify and treasure Your uniqueness in me.

Then, help me steward Your expression in me well.

A steward doesn’t just keep order and make sure life colors within the lines. A steward administrates what doesn’t belong to her. The assignment and it’s design are unveiled as I keep moving and trusting.

Finally, help me share it in love. Because love rests over my imperfections and somehow makes my offering lovely.

This summer, in time for my birthday, I’m discovering the one thing that evaded me as a child.

I’m learning to pronounce my name.

Wednesday

7

June 2017

0

COMMENTS

Heavy Machinery in the River

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I love order. Like when my house is clean, the laundry is done, and the garden has flowers, not weeds. And I’ve gotten my word count in for the day. You know, design that colors within the lines.

In my life, this happens only on occasion. Except for the writing, which I’ve made as non-optional as possible. Most of the time I’m okay with order that only visits.

Control freak, you say? Well, maybe. It took a long time to learn that it wasn’t order I longed for as much as it was design. I needed to know where things fit and why – especially in the middle of a mess.

Like last week when my husband and I pulled up to our family farm in Missouri. You might remember my story as a newly-wed living on this same property. Cows (as in a herd) chased me when I was on an evening run. Carnivorous Malice

Country girl, I was not. Nor had I morphed into one in the last thirty-eight years.

In case you’re imagining nostalgia when we pulled up as new owners of the property last week, hold that thought. Weeds in the front yard were taller than me. Boxes in the bedroom were filled with sixty-year old treasures wrapped in vintage newsprint and sprinkled with rodent droppings.

We sighed a little, then got to work. Our first job was to mow. That meant we had to get into the barn, which hadn’t been opened for said thirty-eight years. How hard could it be?

Two hours later the door opened, thanks to a trench we’d shoveled around it. I peered inside the barn before entering. A fully-preserved possum skeleton lay near a big groundhog hole. Mud-dabber nests decorated ancient farm equipment like spidery chandeliers that hung from the ceiling.

Once inside, all we had to do was un-attach the very old mower from the very old tractor, then reattach it to the new tractor. Another couple of hours and several cans of spray lubricant later, we were unattached.

Okay, so maybe we’d moved from unattached to broken. This was not progress at its finest. It was more like demolition derby.

It wasn’t that we were unfamiliar with demolition. My husband and I’ve lived in a variety of places along the way. Some needed fix-up. And there were the early years of marriage when we yelled and threw things. We’d carried some baggage into our new life that had to go. That took time and hard work.

But now? In our sixties? Heavy labor wasn’t in my plan. I fired up a quick prayer. Lord, is there any design in this? If so, I need to see it.

The next day the answer came with Jimmy, who’s farmed the family land for many years. Instead of riding in on a white horse, he barreled up the lane in a John Deere front-loader. Within a few hours he’d fixed the tractor issue, pulled up a crumpled chain link fence, along with posts set in concrete, and cleared a colony of dead trees and brush.

Blazing a trail can be hard. Beginning a new career or starting over in whatever way life demands, strains our emotional muscles. We ache and look around, peering at the tangle of weeds and brush that cover up the potential of our new beginning.

The mess can blind us to the goodness that beckons beyond it. But now isn’t the time to get blinded or quit. Because help is on the way. In the form of heavy equipment.

God doesn’t just cheer us on. He comes on the scene with help. The kind that clears debris of past generations and prepares the ground for a new start.

Even though we look around at uncharted territory in our lives with more than a little dismay, we can know something is underneath all that disorder, pregnant with God’s design.

A design bigger than we’ve seen, crafted by a God who can get the job done.

Wednesday

5

April 2017

0

COMMENTS

Unscripted Life

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I talked to a friend on Sunday. The kind of friend who’s such a thinker, I need a notepad when he shares a sentence or two.
“Are you getting those profound thoughts of yours out into cyberspace?” I asked.
“No. I’d have to validate everything I say. It would take forever to document it all.”
Document it all? A man of integrity, for sure. He has opinions, but wants to make sure they’re based on truth.

My caution was – don’t let pressure to perfect keep you from jumping off a cliff with what you believe you hear from God.

Cliff-jumping? How could that be God?

It’s like this. What I believe in my gut about God directs what I do and how I live. That’s a given – almost a cliché.

It’s more than that, though. I’ve lived a careful life. Like a mistake would throw me off course – maybe even propel me out of His plan. So, although I never voiced that opinion, I lived it. And my world suffered because of it.

What about the God of an unscripted life? You know, the God who is appropriate for an ever-changing world.

We all experience change. On a gut-level, I’ve despised it. Because my real issue is, “God, are You up to this?”

We’ve been taught that God is in control. After all, doesn’t He know everything before it happens? If so, where do we fit in?
God isn’t in control when babies are abused, when young girls and boys are sex-trafficked, or when there’s poverty and violence in our culture.

But He made a leap.
He decided to trust us – those who believe – trusting that we’ll partner with Him to let His goodness shape our world.
That takes a certain amount of cliff-jumping.

Me? I’m not God. No one believes I am, for that matter.
But when I act in His behalf, before I know or understand anything other than His nature – I cooperate with Him. I act out the truth of who I am. A child of God.

I’m formed in His image to effect change. The good kind. Because the world won’t change if I don’t act – like who I am.
That means I jump off the cliff of my own understanding. Maybe knowing just enough about “form” – His principles – to keep me from hurtling in the wrong direction.

But still ready to jump.
How about you?
Where will your leap take you? How will it change your world?

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

Monday

23

January 2017

0

COMMENTS

Drought in the River

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Deep cracks penetrated dusty soil and leaves on the olive trees fainted in desert heat. No crops, dwindling livestock, nothing to prove it was indeed, the land of promise.

Two dreams given to an Egyptian pharaoh foretold the drought. A young Hebrew, pulled out of one of his dungeons, interpreted those dreams.

Famine was coming. Unprecedented famine. Not a year without rain, but seven. Seven years that would deplete streams, rivers, lakes – any source of water, except underground springs. How long would they last?

Seasons, eras, epochs – and we’re in the middle of them. Carrying our bread and fish, doing what we do, sometimes wondering if it matters.

Move away from the land of promise? To Egypt?
What could that mean? Jacob, an Old Testament patriarch, had worked so hard, passed so many tests to get back home.

How could God be calling him out?

Here’s what I heard this morning.
When drought encompasses your promise, move forward. The Son is there, in a new place, waiting to embrace you.

The present may look bruised and battered. But the promise still beckons. It doesn’t look like what we expected. It requires wisdom to navigate.

Because the promised land is bigger than we knew. Larger than we imagined. Requiring more than we have right now.

And those loaves and fish that look so small? They need that new place to grow, where there’s room to multiply. A hungry crowd waits there for our arrival.

In an unexpected place, for a bigger purpose. Certain, in the midst of uncertainty.

He’s there. He’s prepared a place. He’ll help us find the way.

Shalom in the River,
Laurel Thomas

Friday

30

December 2016

0

COMMENTS

Hearing in the River

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The Lord likes to talk.

He doesn’t require a professional spokesman, although He might enlist a friend. He doesn’t always need words. I hear Him whisper in gentle murmurs of a sleeping grandchild on my lap. He joins me on a walk with my son as we process our journey with adult eyes.
It’s like He cares. Not the generic, God loves you. But the specific, I know you.

He speaks when I’m tired and haven’t had time to think. He isn’t fragile. He keeps up when life is too fast-paced to be planned with impeccable detail. He doesn’t require my full attention or my perfection. A glimpse. A touch. I feel His presence. I know He’s there.
When I was little and didn’t like what was going on around me, I’d create my own world. Using my imagination, I planned scenarios and determined their outcomes. It was lovely. Always what I wanted and how it wanted it.
As I grew older, I kept that world tucked away, but accessible when life pulled in too many directions. Or when I couldn’t control the reactions of others or pretend that mine were safely in check. I googled that imaginary place and found it had a name.

Making it better through fantasy. Guess I wasn’t the only one. No big deal. A little creative re-engineering of facts and voila! Life grown in the vial of my sweetest dreams. Until that world distracted me from a message smack in the middle of real life.
Like, Don’t disconnect because it doesn’t look like life’s working. Or Don’t give up! Keep pressing in to My heart even though your dreams appear dashed in the mess of it all.

I don’t have to sort it out. I call and He’s there, bringing the sweet fragrance of His presence on the scene. He won’t do all the talking. He’ll listen and respond in countless ways and in a reality I can always trust. I’ll submit that fantasy land to Him.

After all, there might be a something beautiful waiting for my attention, hidden in a tangle. But that’s okay. Untangling is what He does.

Revealing the precious, uncovering the jewel – and opening my eyes to see in the process.

In the River,
Laurel Thomas

Thursday

27

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

WINGS

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The orphan pounds
Let me in!
Define me,
I must ride on your wings.

After all – I have none.

Unseen and undiscovered
Reality obscured.

Tucked close against
Uncertain threat,
Bound tight.

Until backward glance,
Whispered hope stirs
Feathery swirl

Certain flight beckons
As wings answer heart’s cry
For unseen journeys and
Unexplored terrains

The heart and the wings
Unfurled
To fly.

Sunday

21

August 2016

0

COMMENTS

Precious Seed in the River

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Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
Psalm 126 5-6

Well, crum. It was a loss. Not a big one. Just a disappointment.

Okay. More than one owie had gathered like a bunch of bullies on my playground. I still had a happy heart. No big deal.

Except it was. I struggled for days and couldn’t shrug off the pain of seeing what I’d hoped for slip away. I couldn’t convince myself it didn’t matter.

That’d been an unhealthy bio of mine for too long. Stuff and restuff. Hope the hurt disappeared out of sheer will power.

But when the hurt wouldn’t go away, I went to the Lord. Sure enough, He had an answer. It was about precious seed.

Precious seed to a farmer was the seed he planted when planting was costly. He could’ve ground it up and made bread for his hungry children. Instead he planted it. With tears. And with an eye toward the future.

The loss wasn’t theoretical. I couldn’t pretend that what I hoped and dreamed for hadn’t slipped away. I couldn’t confuse denial with faith. Faith acknowledged loss for what it was. A seed that was precious in God’s eyes.

He cared every time I’d been ripped off. He wept at the loss that tore at my gut. Disappointment wasn’t His tool to make me humble. He was my Friend.

I didn’t agree with the doctrine of “Well, it was God’s will.” Or, “You just never know about the will of God.” The will of God was and is good because He’s good. He valued the treasure of my expectations.

My loss, as a seed, carried life. His promise was that if I planted it, He’d tend it well. It would grow into a tree that carried life on every branch. Life so big it kept multiplying in more ways than ever looked possible in one tiny seed.

It was the seed I was tempted to grind up and eat. The one I didn’t realize was more precious to God than to me. If I’d trust Him that it mattered.

I might have felt a little plundered when I dropped that loss into the soil of His heart. But I had an eye to the future. The seed of loss planted in eternity wasn’t only noticed, it was cherished.

Its harvest will feed a lot of people. And turn grief into joy. Because of precious seed, those who hope in Him will never be disappointed or put to shame.
I Peter 2:6