Laurel Thomas

God Archive

Thursday

20

July 2017

0

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

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

Saturday

2

January 2016

0

COMMENTS

What’s New in the River

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It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for. Those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him… John 4:24 (The Message)

It wasn’t the word I had in mind for 2016. Still, I heard it repeated over and over throughout the holidays.

Honesty?

Really, Lord. Don’t You remember my epic fails?  Like the times my words tossed gasoline on a smoldering fire? My eyebrows are still singed.

Correction. That was honesty with knee-jerk mad. Kind of like adding a little arsenic to pure water. Not a good way to get or give a dose of truth.

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.   (Mother Teresa)

It’s the transparency part that makes me nervous. Every rejection, every misunderstanding and every offense whisper, settle. Settle for political correctness in the name of all that is sweetness and nice.

When I struggle on the dark side, I ask the Lord to uncover the lie that’s keeping me there. He removes the gilded exterior to expose it for what it is. A malignancy wrapped around my soul.

So, I could call my decision not to choose honesty by another name. Like timidity. Sounds low on the sin scale, right?  Until I notice the opportunities its stolen, the relationships it caused me to bypass and the God-connections I refused because of is deception. Timidity is not nice. And it’s rooted in dishonesty.

My Yes to honesty can’t be a whisper no one can hear or hold me accountable for. I lift my hand to the Heavenly Teacher and speak loud and clear, Count me in.

I choose the truth even when it comes out wrong and makes a mess. After all, a mess needs truth to untangle it. And a mangled statement of truth is always better than a well-crafted lie.

Like a quote I read this morning – Being honest may not get me a lot of friends, but it’ll always get me the right ones.

I’ll put the weight of all my imperfections and fears straight on the back of truth. It’ll hold. It’ll do what only truth can do. After all, truth is rooted in love. The only love that really heals. The only love that really sets us free.

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

 

 

 

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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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