Laurel Thomas

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Friday

27

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

A Whisper In the River

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Chrysanthemum

Her name meant insolent and fierce. She was named for survival.

Jericho, her home, was the seat of worship to Ashtaroth, where children were offered on its lust-filled altars. The depravity of this fertility cult targeted the innocent and defenseless. No wonder even the land tried to vomit it out. (Leviticus 18:25)

God’s people had been slaves, so they knew a thing or two about being victimized. It’d taken a couple generations in the wilderness, but they were finally moving into the land God had prepared for them. It wasn’t the goodness of the land that delayed them. It was the darkness they had to conquer once they got there.

Jericho was part of that darkness. Joshua sent two spies to check out the city. They went to an inn built into the city walls and to a woman named Rahab. As an innkeeper and prostitute, she had access to information from all over the region.

She’d heard about Israel’s God. This God of the Hebrews defended His people. He’d opened the sea so they could cross to safety, then swallowed the enemy who’d pursued them. Rahab could have chosen to erect walls around her heart, like the towering stone that surrounded her city.

But she didn’t.

Maybe she’d heard the Scripture in Psalm 113:7.

He raises the poor out of the dust and lifts the needy out of the dunghill, so He can place him/her with princes, with the princes of His people.

It was worth the risk. She’d make the leap. And bring her family along, too.

I’m drawn to the story of Rahab, because I know she still exists. She might be in my face with the trappings of her culture. The one that victimized her. But she needs to hear real stories of the living God who shows up when we call His name. She needs hope in the power of His love.

Hope looks puny compared to the darkness that’s taunted her for years. She may not know that even as a seed, hope is stronger than the chains wrapped about her precious worth. Somewhere, she whispers and waits for an answer.

She’s an extraordinary person. Because once she knows Truth, she’ll lead her whole family into a land of promise. Generations will be changed. Champions born.

I’ll meet her as I walk forward with Him. And when I’m not afraid to face the darkness that has kept her captive.

 

Tuesday

10

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

Rescue in the River

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In the days Jesus walked throughout Israel, crowds of people pressed around Him. After all, if someone needed a miracle, there were plenty to go around. Not that it always happened in a way they expected. Like this time.

Jairus was a leader in the local synagogue. Falling to his knees, he’d begged the Master to come and heal his daughter, dying at the age of twelve. He had Jesus’ attention and they headed, together, toward his home.

Until they were interrupted. Hidden in the crowd was a woman who’d been bleeding for twelve years. Jewish law prevented her from contact with other people.

Without warning, Jesus stopped. What? Didn’t He know death moved forward with each delay? But He stopped and asked who touched Him.

Who touched Him? The crowds pressed all around Him. Lord, I told You my daughter is dying.

Jairus didn’t pull a status card. He didn’t remind Jesus he was a synagogue leader and that He’d just stopped to heal a woman who defied Jewish law.

A moment moved into minutes, then longer, as sickness consumed his daughter’s body. At the conclusion of one miracle, the woman’s healing, a messenger appeared to Jairus with these words.

You’re daughter is dead. Don’t bother the Master anymore.

This blog is for those who’ve waited their turn. We’ve been polite, even in crisis. And waited. As we waited, something died. Maybe a dream or desire. In some measure we heard, Don’t bother the Master. It’s too late.

Fear, fueled by the crisis, raged, Now! It has to be now! And when the messenger came whispering, Too late, we cried and agreed. Not enough. Too little, too late.

We tried, we pressed into the Master. We had His attention. But He was interrupted. Maybe His supply ran out? We don’t say that out loud. Still the words taunt, It’s over. Don’t bother the Master. Such devastation in so few words.

So this is for us, who’ve heard that evil phrase whispered as we’ve watched something precious die.

God has a word for us.

Stop. Stop the fear. Stop the freight train of not enough and too late. Stop and believe the Author of life extends sozo over what is precious to us.

Sozo is unreasonable, irrational, unexplainable life. It’s life that can not be conquered, life that consumes death. It trumps every interruption, every detour and every roadblock.

Life, like the tree that grows outside a church we attended for many years. It was dead. We painted it, used it as a baby shower decoration and stuffed it in a closet. Months later, someone found it. With buds on its branches.

Now, nineteen years later, it’s a mature oak tree, planted on the north grounds of the church.

Life came.

Have you been stuffed in a closet, your dreams presumed dead?

Life is coming. Yes, it is. Don’t be afraid. Only believe.

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

 

Wednesday

4

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

Invitation in the River

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Invitations come in lots of ways. They can be online, free, custom-designed, or personalized. There are invitations to birthday parties, to graduations, weddings – all special events to be shared. They may not come engraved on fine linen paper. An impromptu phone call or text works, too, like “Hey, how about lunch?”

Some invitations offer such promise or limited access they require careful honor. I watched a You-tube video of a Maori tribal welcome, complete with warrior’s spears and elaborate chants. Protocol surrounded the whole process. It wasn’t offered or received with a casual, “Sure, whatever,” but with intentional honor.

I’m invited to new territories all the time. I’ve been a wife, mom and now grandmother. They all offered an invitation to open my heart in a new way. Today it’s writing that whispers my name.

I’ve pounded on many doors in my lifetime. After all, maybe trying harder was the only way in. Like the years when I glared at the door of love and yelled, “Let me in!”

But what did I have to offer? Would I honor love when it welcomed me in? Or would I drink it dry, wipe my mouth, then turn away?

Invitation is often about acknowledging gifts right on my doorstep. I don’t need to leave town or place my order on Amazon. It won’t break my bank account, but does require my investment.

This investment is an unlikely one and certainly imperfect. Ready? It’s one that honors the invitation with my past.

Yikes! Aren’t I supposed to forget the past to move forward?

In God’s economy, my past matters. The tests I survived, even the mistakes I made all count. I didn’t learn about Him in only sunshine and roses. There were stinky days when my own heart betrayed me.

I’ve found that like God, the invitation isn’t a legalist. The journey of walking with my Redeemer counted. All of it.

Heaven extends its invitation in my present with future promise. Promise that my world needs. The fact that my smallest obedience didn’t escape His notice not only comforts me. It helps me see what His hand extends today and shout Yes! to the future it holds.

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

Tuesday

29

September 2015

8

COMMENTS

A Big Place In the River

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Blooms

In narrowness You broadened a space for me. (Psalm 4:1)

The phrase, In the beginning, is an invitation. It reminds us that new beginnings show up all through life’s journey. And that the Creator of the universe is willing to take the helm in each of them.

The birth of our first-born marked a new era in our lives 34 years ago. I read every parenting manual I could find and still wondered, “Me, a mom?” Now, our youngest is off to college and I wander around my quiet house, muttering, What the heck?

In Genesis, a new beginning went bad. People’s imaginations and thoughts somehow got twisted. Those thoughts were seeds that grew up and bred violence, maiming and molesting at will. Women and children were ravaged. The spirit behind ISIS, the Nazi regime and every structure that rips and tears with willful abandon was unchecked.

Immeasurable sadness filled God’s heart. He commanded Noah to build a place of refuge for His remnant. Noah obeyed and built a structure according to God’s specifications. It took 75 years. And because he followed every detail, the ark held as flood waters gushed up from the belly of the earth and poured from open heavens.

The flood extended 22 ½ feet above the highest mountain. That was 22 ½ feet above Mount Everest’s height of 29,035 feet. All of earth became a watery abyss with a tiny speck of gopher wood, tossed in enormous swells.

It took over a year for the waters to recede. Noah sent a dove out three times. The second time, it returned carrying an olive branch. It was earth extending an invitation. Come back. Dwell and occupy this new place.

The ark was a confined space, not meant to be a permanent home. But everything familiar was gone and all that stretched before them was uncharted territory. Imagine the wonder of those first footsteps and their eyes wide, taking in a land that stretched far beyond what they could see.

The time comes for us, too, when we’re invited to leave a narrow place and move into one He’s broadened for us. Not that we know what it looks like. There are many uncertainties, but much adventure ahead.

Sometimes life shouts, “You’re small! You’ll never be anything but insignificant!” That may be our biggest clue we aren’t. After all, this is a faith thing. We’re connected to the One who created the universe and just happens to love us.

So, every morning I say Yes to His new beginning. Even though I don’t know what it holds or exactly what it looks like. I want its largeness to push out everything that would keep me small.

I’m not responsible for creating the broad place. I wouldn’t have known it was there if He hadn’t told me. These days are full of mystery. But like the new earth that called Noah and his family, there’s a new place waiting for us to inhabit. Let me know when you catch your first glimpse!

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

 

Thursday

3

September 2015

0

COMMENTS

A Ride in the River

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How does God talk to you?

I have a favorite Scripture that promises His communication with us. It’s in Psalm 85:9.

“I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak Shalom to His people…”

Shalom can’t be translated with a single word. It’s a big word with lots of substance. It comes from the Hebrew, Shalem, which means complete. Shalom is the source behind vibrant health, happy relationships, plenty of what we need, and perfect order. It’s also the absence of conflict, disorder, pain, hunger and lack.

We can keep in mind that when He speaks to us, it’s in the fullness of all that Shalom means. Even when He’s correcting us or adjusting a bad attitude!

Here’s an example. I woke up with a dream Sunday morning. Not a spectacular one that woke me out of a sound sleep. But the kind I could forget as the busyness of the day took over.

In my dream I was graduating. Not only that, I was supposed to bring up the rear of the class with a banner of some sort. My preparations should have been easy, but the most basic things were falling apart. My cap and gown were at home, my car was in another place, and I couldn’t find my keys. At one point, I sat down and cried, “I’ll never make it!”

Just then, someone turned to me. I didn’t get a clear picture of his face. Only that I knew he loved me and I loved him. He said, “I’ll take you.”

I stared for a minute, thinking of the traffic and parking hassles I could skip. It was a no-brainer. I said, “Yes!”

Because of my driver, I made it there on time, with no stress or shame over my inability get where I needed to go.

What did this dream story mean? I knew a few dream symbols. Vehicle usually symbolizes a ministry or gifting. Keys represent authority. That was bad news. My ministry (car) couldn’t go anywhere without my authority (keys).

So, I asked Him to help me understand His message. Here’s my stab at an interpretation.

Our ministry and authority may not be enough to get us where we need to go in the days ahead. But we’ve been invited for a ride. It’s a ride with Him at the helm, in His vehicle and with His authority. When we think we’re too late, we can look for our Friend. He’ll get us there on time.

This seems almost too good to be true, like the Shalom He promises when He speaks. So, every morning I say, “Yes. Yes, to Your ride, Lord.”

I decide not to worry about the limits of what I can do each day. Sometimes life requires more than I have, but that doesn’t mean I’ve failed. I’ll keep my eye out for His presence and climb on board with Him.

He’s speaking Shalom to us. We know it’s Him when the message is far better than we expected. What are you hearing these days?

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

Thursday

6

August 2015

2

COMMENTS

The Love that Counts

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I buried my face in the blooms of snow-white peonies. Soft petals tickled my tender four-year old face. Their fragrance filled my senses. I picked the biggest blossom and separated each petal one by one, plucking, pulling and tossing into the wind.

They scattered like water lilies on the spring grass. I chose one more, then another and another. Sweet breezes warmed my face and blew white ribbons like confetti far into the neighboring yards.

Immersed in my work, it surprised me to look up and see my grandmother. Petals littered the grass around an almost stripped bush. Remaining blossoms looked like survivors of a hail storm.

She was the official family gardener and the reason our backyard looked like the Garden of Eden. My four-year old self hadn’t meant to take Eve’s place, with a stripped peony stalk instead of gnawed apple in hand.

Shreds of isolated blossoms stared up at me with an accusing glare. My grandmother’s eyes darkened and her face flushed a deep purple. At that moment, it was me or the prize peony bush. Which would she choose?

I don’t remember the punishment, although I’d built a good case for at least a pop on the behind. Maybe, after a few minutes to breathe, she remembered I was four. And that I was worth more than her beloved peonies. Or at least I hoped.

My mom was going through the fight of her life. There were three of us children, all under the age of seven. Our grandparents stepped in as a refuge, opening their home and their hearts.  They embraced a hurting daughter without shame and enfolded three little kids from the crushing blows of collateral damage.

I was accident-prone, so that meant a few trips to the emergency room. My grandfather took me to school and taught me to tell time while I sat on his lap and fingered the smooth crystal of his pocket watch. My grandmother issued out hugs with liquid doses of B vitamins. I still remember that taste.

Most of all, they loved. Like the loving-kindness of the Lord that goes far beyond what is required. We shared cookies and milk with cousins around the bay kitchen window. Grandpa cooled watermelon beside the old wringer washing machine in the basement.

Since that time, I’ve learned about two kinds of love. The first is love based on contract. I do something for you, you do something for me and we’re good. Until that equation falls apart.

What I’ve been learning for the past 38 years is covenant love. Covenant love is based on a promise. I’ll love you through thick and thin, when I feel like it and when I don’t. Because I’ve committed my life to you.

The contractual kind of love is based in poverty. I don’t have enough to give when it gets hard. I’ve run out of the love that makes sense. Worst of all, as I measure out my limited portion, I offer it only to the deserving.

It’s taken me awhile to learn the largeness of God’s love. It stretches beyond my abilities, yet propels me into a freedom I didn’t think was possible.

As children, we were loved when we couldn’t give much in return. What we had to offer was lots of messes and noise. And a little shed blood from time to time.

But what an investment our grandparents made in us. It wasn’t a contractual deal. It was covenant love. A love that didn’t measure what it gave with careful precision, making sure nothing extra leaked out.

And it paid off in ways they never saw on earth. They didn’t see the reward in our children, their great-grandchildren. They didn’t know that their sacrificial love opened a door to embrace the love of our Savior.

So here’s to the journey. Love’s harvest is sweet. We look forward to its strength to mold and make us, our generations and the world we inhabit.

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

 

 

Tuesday

21

July 2015

4

COMMENTS

Refreshing in the River

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July 20th heat shifted to rainy refreshment in one day. Yesterday, temperatures soared to the upper nineties. It was hot with a wet blanket of humidity on top.  Not this morning, though. The rain was more than a sprinkle. It was a thorough soaking that broke stifling heat in a matter of hours, not days.

All summer I’ve heard my grandson’s voice repeated in my spirit. He’d just celebrated his fifth birthday. Right before he hurtled from the high dive of a small town public pool, he told his mama,

“I can do this. I’m big now.”

“You can do this. You’re big now,” awakens me at every opportunity to quit or back down. It speaks to me when old fears whisper, “Are you sure? What if it hurts? Is it worth the risk?

It beckons me like cool waters, beyond a cautionary life I’ve settled for. It says,

“Jump, like Tyler, into the deep. Fear is a like a barking dog. I hold it at bay, but you must silence it.

I’m with you in the leap, in the decision of your heart that nothing and no one can steal My delight and desire in you.

Put a demand on the strength of those desires. They are mightier than the lies you’ve let overpower them. I built muscle in them to overpower every obstacle.

Your dreams are designed by Me to swim. They don’t require a life jacket. They plunge and come up refreshed, even though heat surrounds them. Your dreams love My depths. They aren’t intimidated by mystery. They embrace the unknown and take joy in expressions beyond what they’ve imagined.

The impossible situations you see as a prison are only an opportunity to leap. Leap with your dream. Watch it break through impossibilities with a sudden, not gradual liberation.”

For I know the thoughts and plans I have for you. Thoughts and plans for welfare and for peace, not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Shalom in the river,

Laurel Thomas

 

Tuesday

7

July 2015

2

COMMENTS

Plunging in the River

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Tyler’s Plunge

 

Muscles taut in sturdy limbs,

Poised to plunge,

Unafraid.

 

He’s five, after all,

The world must bow

To pint-sized limbs,

Poised to plunge,

Unafraid.

 

A barrier crossed,

A line is drawn,

As sunlight glistens

And water beckons below.

 

His leap won’t wait,

To count the cost

And calculate the gain.

 

So with muscles taut,

He plunges,

Poised and

Unafraid.

 

Expecting his leap

To conquer the world,

He knows must bow

To him.

 

Hope you enjoy my word picture of Tyler hurtling off the edge of the high dive this weekend. He said, “I can do it. I’m five now.”

Thanks for the visual, Tyler. Here’s to all our leaps of faith!

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

 

Thursday

11

June 2015

3

COMMENTS

Craftsman in the River

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A fluttering leaf,

Tossed by fleeting gusts,

Passive in each gale,

I am not.

 

A rock, fixed and unyielding,

Cold, untouchable,

Unbreathing,

Not me.

 

Instead, fluid and free,

Unfrozen,

I shape each obstacle,

And rush into tomorrow.

 

Immersed in endless eternal,

I am unexpected, yet certain.

My boundaries undetermined,

my depths unplumbed.

 

A craftsman unknown, an artisan so skilled,

I bend and move, climb and fall.

A journey etched and known,

Exquisite imprint on yielded heart.

 

 

Thursday

14

May 2015

3

COMMENTS

Rain and the Hidden Seed

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Here’s today’s answer to my What’s next, Abba?

I’ve watered your land and broken an assignment of drought. Even as I pour out My goodness on the earth, know that I am breaking drought over you, beloved.

My rain of life and light comes to refresh and fulfill the next measure of your destiny. There’s a new place in My plan, not just for you, but for My people and those you’ve prayed for.

Rain washes an accumulation of pain and difficulty. It nourishes hidden seed, the seed you planted years ago by receiving My Word. You forgot your obedience because it looked so insignificant. But I didn’t forget.

It is imperishable seed, which though hidden, waits for the rain of My Spirit. It is a promise you thought life left behind, that will sprout before your eyes in the days to come.

Rain seems inconvenient. Muddy feet track into your clean house. You put off morning walks in hope of sunshine tomorrow. But rain is My answer to the cry of your heart. Don’t miss seeing My voice speak in its downpour.

The skies rain hope and expectation, targeting the hidden and releasing it from ground packed hard by dry seasons and hard times.

So look forward to seeing the life of those seeds you’ve forgotten. Their harvest will surprise you. After all, does a stalk of corn look like its seed? Does a ripe, yummy tomato look like what you stuffed in the dirt?

I’m a good Abba and I love to amaze you with My sweetness. The harvest will be rich and satisfying, designed by My hands, just for you.

Enjoy these soggy days. I’m speaking!

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas