Laurel Thomas

Jesus Christ 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

Tuesday

21

June 2016

0

COMMENTS

Storehouse in the River

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I noticed.

Sometimes the Lord answers my questions before I ask them.
He didn’t need an essay, a paragraph, or even a fancy sentence. Two words were enough.

I didn’t know I needed to know He noticed. Then again…

I thought about Joseph in the book of Genesis.
Joseph started out with two prophetic dreams. Little did he know those sweet dreams of divine promise would land him in an Egyptian dungeon, far from home and family.

Not the plan he had in mind.

My agenda hasn’t always lined up with God’s. I’ve made giant skid marks onto a path I hadn’t planned, too.
When I was muttering, What the heck, God was up to something. Actually, He was building something. In me.

His plan was a storehouse. And I was the storehouse.

I saw it in Joseph first. Then made the leap to me. Obeying God when it was hard formed a foundation. Giving when it didn’t look like it mattered laid a framework. Loving, even when it came out all wrong, was part of the process.

Joseph was brought against his will to an unexpected future. That future wasn’t one he’d had in mind. But it was one God needed. It positioned him in a nation that faced a huge crisis. One that needed the wealth he carried inside.

What kind of storehouse will I look like? How about you? Where will He take us to feed the hungry?

I’m not sure yet. I do know our obedience, our giving, and our love matter. And that somehow they’re part of God’s building plan. One that will feed and protect others.

For just the right time and right place. Proving that He’s good, He’s faithful and He’ll never come up short.

Saturday

2

January 2016

0

COMMENTS

What’s New in the River

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Penguins

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

 

 

 

Sunday

22

March 2015

0

COMMENTS

Love’s Leap

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There were black stripes on the walls and on the ceiling. Walking upstairs, I saw dark swaths on both sides of the carpet. Pockets of dusky residue gathered in corners of the ceiling. I mopped the kitchen floor three times. Still black.

It was soot. Not just the kind we could wash off with soap and water. But the kind that left an oily residue, resisting all my cleaning attempts.

I thought about crying. It was a mess far bigger than I could fix. I couldn’t physically clean and repaint the walls and ceilings. Not that I wanted to, but this was beyond want to. It was out of my league.

We’d dedicated our house to the Lord. It was open to happy parties and spilled lemonade. Open, also, to hurting hearts and muddy feet. So what was the deal? I was sad, then angry. Then both.

The Lord had one word for me. Repent.

What did a problem too big for me to fix have to do with repentance? In my younger days, I’d just apply elbow grease and git’er done. This time I wandered around the house muttering, “What the heck?”

I asked and He explained. He’d put me in the middle of an object lesson. One that revealed me. Ouch.

It had to do with forgiveness.

See, I’d learned to say, I forgive. I’d made the choice to set my will in God’s direction even when I didn’t feel like it. But that was like the first layer of soot removal. Good, but not enough.

Not enough continued to scream. Not enough to keep anger and hurt from pouring back in when I faced an offender. Not enough graciousness, not enough generosity to take the final plunge and release that debt – no matter how large or small.

One of my friends told a story about riches buried under temples in India. Starving people walk overhead as their answer rests under the soles of their feet. Were there treasures hidden in me, locked away from the needs of others? Had they been marred by the soot of unforgiveness?

I figured I had to measure out forgiveness with great care because I might run out. I’d yell (inside, of course) “Stop! Too much!”

Too big a mess to fix alone. Hmm. Just like my house. Unforgiveness locked residual pain to the corridors of me. It stifled the beauty of the gift inside. The one with power to restore and reconcile because it came from the Reconciler Himself.

So I’ve decided to make the leap. Sure, I’m trembling a little. But I’m building my faith for it on purpose. Because, like you, I have a future. And that future requires more than I have.

I want it to be an unlocked future. One that offers His riches to other’s needs. The kind that restores messes and brings out the beauty hidden there all along.

Want to join me in the leap?

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

 

Tuesday

3

February 2015

1

COMMENTS

Deliverers and Dreams in the River

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It was so real. I was 61 and pregnant. I’d done the test, it was positive. A tiny baby lived in me. All that was great. But I cried to the Lord, “I’ll be 81 when the baby is 20! I don’t have strength for a new baby. I can’t do this at my age.”

I had to come out of sleep and into consciousness for several minutes before I realized it was a dream. And impossible in the natural. The Lord had my attention, though. What was this new baby?

One thing I’ve learned about dreams. Babies aren’t always the wiggly human bundles of joy who spit up on us, give us joy and, for the most part, take over our lives. A baby may be an idea. Or an ability. It is anything in undeveloped form that carries life and potential to grow.

God is all about babies. In the book of Exodus when people cried out in pain, He proved that He heard them through the birth of a child. One who grew to become the very deliverer they needed.

Moses arrived in the middle of a culture of abuse, out of the womb of a slave. Mama protected him with all she had. She did whatever it took. Even when, for his protection, she gave him to another woman. It was sacrificial love because she understood the value of her child.

So how do we treat our new ideas, our gifts? The ones that live in us? Do we protect and nurture them? Do we make sacrifices, go against popular opinion, and do whatever it takes to see them grow up?

Often we discount their value. Someone shoots down a thought, a plan. What does it matter? It didn’t look like much, didn’t fit anywhere we could see, anyway.

Not so fast. That very idea may be a deliverer in baby form. One God planted, knowing one would be needed. One that needs us to protect, nurture and feed it.

God’s answer to human suffering begins with a baby. Something or someone we discount, unless we receive His eyes to see what can’t be seen. We recognize its value and choose unselfish love to steward what is precious.

There may be a wilderness season as that baby grows. Mistakes that propel it into the desert won’t kill it. The wilderness only defines its mission. It’s where the young promise meets a living God. One where God says, “Let My voice be heard through your voice. Let it speak to evil and capsize structures of tyranny. Let it set My people free.”

Right before being propelled into its greatest calling, the promise comes to a crossroad. It must choose obedience in the face of its biggest fear. “Me? Speak? To who?” It is a last-ditch effort to derail the deliverer. Before it changes the world.

You, me, we’re the deliverers. Our gifts and ideas are the something in us, perhaps in baby form. Protect and nurture the tiny and insignificant. Be comforted that mistakes aren’t strong enough to kill their potential and that a season of desert winds and isolation only clarifies their purpose.

God hears the cries. He answers with what He put in us. The baby we took care of when it didn’t look important, when no one else saw its value. That’s the one.

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

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

 

Saturday

22

March 2014

4

COMMENTS

Visitation in the River

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Visitations from the Lord sometimes slip in without fanfare. Unlike an angelic visit or a rushing wind that blows through my hair and gives me shivers, it wafts in like a gentle spring breeze with a sentence rising from my consciousness.

I like organized thoughts and set-beliefs, cherished and wrapped in pretty bows. But God arrives by His Spirit to mess up my careful enclosures. His message presses on the borders of my understanding of Him, my very large God.

One morning I was brushing my teeth, shrugging off the sleepy stupor of a late night. I heard a simple, direct statement.

“I want you to stop being so hard on yourself.”

It was a command.

There is a wisdom check in James 3:17. It helps me discern what I’m not sure about, detailing eight qualities of God’s perfect wisdom. So my question was this. Is it pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruit, unwavering and without hypocrisy? A long list, but guaranteed to keep me on the right track. The sentence I heard fit on all counts.

I’ve entertained mental gymnastics around an inner accuser for years. Its torment was like a vexing fly buzzing in my ear. It evaded each swat, ending up as a smack on the side of my own head.

This torment flowed like a polluted current under the surface of my thoughts. It came to the top in stillness.

“You didn’t do that right. You didn’t say that right. It wasn’t enough,” translated into “You are not enough.”

These barbs went into the soft spot of my heart and translated into try harder, but don’t expect much. It was shadow-boxing with me as the target.

There was a lady named Rahab in the Bible. Many translations call her harlot. In others she is idolater, in a few, inn-keeper. History has a hard time defining her.

I like that. We all resist definition. That’s because a big God, who created the universe, formed us. There is something of the infinite inside each of us.

Rahab lived in an idolatrous culture. In the Bible that translated into a civilization filled with perversion, violence, and unchecked lawlessness. It violated the weak and helpless. Might made right and lust found its fill in cries of the innocent.

Not that Rahab was helpless. Her name meant insolent and fierce. Sometimes a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. Uncovered and unprotected, she learned how to take care of herself. Was there a future where she wouldn’t have to sell her soul to survive?

God visited her one day in the form of two spies from Israel. It was all about alignment in a shifting time. His people were moving forward after an extended stint in the wilderness. Evil couldn’t be ignored. It had to be confronted. But this evil looked impenetrable. 

It was a God job, huge and impossible. These forerunners needed access to a locked down, walled fortress. They needed refuge in a hostile city. They found both in Rahab.

She hid them under flax on her rooftop and diverted their pursuers. Then she described a plan of God they never told her. Their God was the God of heaven and earth. Revolution had come and she was in.

I’ve wondered about this unlikely treasure, Rahab. History’s definition doesn’t reflect what God saw in her, which even now defies our prejudice. Whoever she was on the outside, her heart and actions opened a gateway for God’s people into a new era.

Like Rahab, we are much more than our history predicts. God still needs gateways when evil locks out His plan. The openness of our hearts to Him just might become a refuge and access for others on the way to their promised land.

Life contests His gift in us. The voice of the inner accuser must be silenced. If no one else recognizes the treasure formed for His purposes, He does. His Spirit compels us to know what He knows.

Gateway people don’t often arrive on the scene clean and sanitized. But their hearts are open. They look in His mirror to see what He sees. He welcomes them not just as visitors, but as intimate friends.

So expect that visit. It may be an angel, or one of His people. It may be a sentence on a sleepy morning at the sink. But if we call, He’ll come.The Gate Himself unlocks a gate in us, a refuge beckoning others to the largeness of Him. 

Thursday

9

January 2014

6

COMMENTS

Currency in the River

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The television show, Mystery Diners, pulls on the inner cop in me. A restaurant is losing money or customers. The owner wants to know why. Mystery Diners comes to the rescue with hidden surveillance cameras and undercover helpers. It is their job to see what the boss can’t see.

This covert watch-dog mission unveils stealing, wild parties after hours, scams, and general sloppy behavior. Discoveries are not hearsay or rumor. They are facts. Hidden cameras record hidden realities.

In the end, the guilty are dragged into central station and see recordings from different angles of the restaurant. In short, they are busted. At this point, it gets interesting. Smoke-screens of every variety appear in the inevitable moment when truth exposes a lie.

Sometimes it is with self-righteous anger. “I was doing this to help you!” Right. Hence the stolen cash in the back pocket. Shouted obscenities hope to intimidate, or at least divert attention. A rare person accepts guilt and makes amends. Why so rare? Maybe because the dishonesty started long ago – when they first deceived themselves.

The camera mimics a mirror. In Mystery Diners, the workers don’t know they’re looking into one until the end of the show. The Bible is a mirror. We see ourselves in it. It isn’t meant to condemn or accuse us. It is meant to show us truth. When we receive truth, it becomes to us what it is, the way of freedom.

No one likes to be exposed. Sin wants to stay hidden. The worst thing about sin is that it diverts. It diverts the value of our lives into something that doesn’t matter, or worse, into something that harms us and others.

The Laodicean church in Revelation sent a message to those who appreciated good first impressions. “We have lots of money, great clothes, and abundant resources. We don’t need anything, thank you,” was their mantra. Something was hidden, though. Something God saw and needed them to see.

Ever crashed your knee into the corner of a bed-frame in the middle of the night? Or run into a door on your way to the bathroom? Pain, as a consequence of not seeing, rouses us like nothing else. God told this church what He saw and it wasn’t wealth and self-sufficiency. It was poverty and shame.

Not one to point out a problem and then withhold the cure, the Lord had some advice. He offered what they needed to solve the issue. It wasn’t out of their reach. They could purchase it from Him. It was true riches, gold refined by fire, clothes designed in heaven, and medicine to heal the blindness of unseeing eyes.

This year, I’m going to make some purchases from the living God. After all, He’s the one who recommended it. I might think I’m doing just fine. Life has a way of either lulling us to sleep or distracting us by its uproar. This is neither of the above.

My life isn’t effective without His perspective. I honor the fact that He knows things I don’t know. I need His righteousness to cover my insufficiencies. I need His anointing in exchange for my powerlessness. I need the God kind of wealth, freeing me from the poverty of greed and selfish ambition.

Our lives are valuable. We carry a kind of purchasing power. It can be offered for the wrong reasons for the wrong purposes, or it can be submitted as currency for heavenly business. This commerce between God and I releases His goodness, His love, and His plan on earth. I want to be a part of that. How about you?

Blessings,

Laurel Thomas