What Does Your Heart Long For?
As I sat on the beach, I was reading the book of 1 Samuel and came across the story of Hannah. She longed for a child to the point of deep anguish and prayed to the Lord as she wept bitterly. She couldn’t let go of the desire. The longing. The want.
I could resonate with her as I too was praying to God about a deep longing I had. Only what I wanted was regarding my writing and the hunger I lived with to write more books. Impact more people for Him. Inspire others through the written word and art. Amid life, work, family, and ministry, I wanted this deep yearning to become reality.
I felt like Hannah pouring my heart out to God and letting Him know my anguish and need.
As creatives/dreamers—whether we are writing books, articles, blogs, screenplays or songs, we have this yearning inside to take what we sense God is giving us and produce all these creative babies to offer to the world. We long to share our stories to inspire and make a difference in someone’s life.
We can’t help it. We dream of it. We pray for it.
And sometimes we are in anguish because of it and can feel downcast at having to wait and wonder if publishing books, producing songs, or writing plays that people read, hear, or see will ever happen for us.
The other thing I noticed in the story was Hannah’s husband, Elkanah. I saw the way he wanted to love his wife in her pain and wanted to be enough for her. He even asked her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
There was no doubt Elkanah loved his wife and was concerned for her, and that he wanted to cheer her up. But he couldn’t alleviate the burden she carried. He couldn’t. It was not a bad thing, God simply had something different for Hannah that was birthed from her relationship with God and His purpose for her life.
I was reminded of the people we may come across in our lives that mean well but may not know the calling and longing we carry around to write. To create. They mean well when they say we shouldn’t worry or try so hard, or maybe they try to persuade us to stop writing because nothing has happened with it yet.
Reading about Hannah encouraged me to keep praying, seeking God, and writing my heart out. Own my longing and what I desire. Don’t expect others to get me, get my passion, or understand my need to create and put something out there in the world. It’s not a bad thing. Let it be enough between me and God, that this is for me to do. This is my creative baby to pray for and what He has put in my heart to accomplish.
Fellow dreamers, I want to encourage you today that wherever you are in the process of your dream, keep writing. Keep believing. Keep asking. Keep moving forward and continue praying for what you long for. (And when you hear your loving, concerned, Elkanah in your life—maybe a spouse, child, or friend—be gracious, and KEEP WRITING! Good news, Hannah got her miracle and had a son, Samuel, whom she dedicated to the Lord. She also went on to have more children as God blessed her and Elkanah.)
Your passion and desire to write and create is your gift from God. It is your Samuel to dedicate to the Lord when it is birthed. It is your joy to offer up.
Happy creating and dreaming in 2021!
Blessings and hugs,
Don’t Miss Your Miracle This Christmas
Rikah Thomas 12/21/20
What do the Samaritan woman, Jesus’ disciples, and the Jews at the pool of Bethesda have in common?
While reading John 4 and 5, something stood out to me through the interactions each person had with Jesus. I was aware, once again, of the earthly and the divine colliding, and the possibility of missing His love and presence in everyday life.
First story: The Samaritan woman met Jesus at the well:
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) “You are a Jew,” said the woman. “How can You ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman replied, “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where then will You get this living water? ……. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:7-14
Observation: The Samaritan woman was being invited by Jesus to Himself. It didn’t matter that she was a woman, divorced, not a Jew, or that it wasn’t culturally acceptable to be talking to a Samaritan. Yet, in that moment, she missed Him because she was focused on the fact that he didn’t have anything to draw water with.
He kept bringing her to Himself. She saw the well. It was deep. He didn’t have anything to draw with. Where would He get this living water?
Make it personal: What am I focused on this Christmas as Jesus sits with me at the well of my life? Amidst stress and uncertainty? COVID-19? Fear? Financial struggles? Loss? As He rests with me amidst worldly chaos, do I see Jesus, or do I see lack and how things appear to be? Do I hear the hope He is offering to me?
The second story: Enter the disciples:
“Just then His disciples returned and were surprised that He was speaking with a woman. But no one asked Him, “What do You want from her?” or “Why are You talking with her?” (Great twist when you keep reading) Meanwhile the disciples urged Him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But He told them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” So, the disciples asked one another, “Could someone have brought Him food?” Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months until the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ripe for harvest. John 4:27-34
Observation: The disciples walked close with Jesus. Unlike the Samaritan woman, they were living in His presence and heard His heart about heavenly truths. They were in His inner circle. They knew Him (or at least were trying to know Him). And they believed, even when often confused.
Nonetheless, what they saw was His need to eat. They saw Him talking to the woman and questioned it. Jesus responded to their earthly inquiry with spiritual treasures, while they wondered if someone already fed Him. They missed it. God was there, inviting them to greater things.
Make it personal: What about us? If we have been with Jesus and believe we know Him, read the Bible, pray, and go to church, do we still have certain beliefs and cultural standards that don’t fit with what Jesus is inviting us to? Do we know Jesus as He is, or are we missing Him—lost in culture, challenges, and our own confused opinions? Are we concerned with the cares of this life and missing the invitation to look up and see God, and rest in His perfect will for us?
The third story: Jews in Jerusalem and a healed man:
“Sometime later there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool with five covered colonnades, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda. On these walkways lay a great number of the sick, the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. One man there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and realized that he had spent a long time in this condition, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am on my way, someone else goes in before me.” Then Jesus told him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man was made well, and he picked up his mat and began to walk. Now this happened on the Sabbath day, so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! It is unlawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” “Who is this man who told you to pick it up and walk?” they asked. But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while the crowd was there. John 5:1-15
Observation: A man is healed after thirty-eight years of being an invalid. The Jews, God’s chosen people who prided themselves in knowing God and the law were the very ones who missed Jesus in their midst. They were the religious ones determined to uphold the law. Determined to judge those appearing to oppose it. Religious. Zealous. Yet they missed the miracle of an invalid walking after thirty-eight years. Touched by Jesus. Healed. They missed love and grace.
Make it personal: What about us? Maybe God is moving toward those we love—moving in their lives, but we are missing it because we are stuck on the law. We think we know God’s plan for others, and we forget to reflect His heart of love and grace. We forget to bless others with compassion and mercy. We forget to introduce other’s to God.
God, who is Love.
Love beyond culture. Beyond sin. Beyond limited understanding. Beyond what our eyes see. Beyond gender. Beyond perceptions and judgments. Beyond religion. Beyond brokenness and confusion. Beyond best intentions and failures. Beyond religion. Beyond tragedy and what cannot be controlled. Beyond differences. Beyond.
Offering hope. Healing. Salvation. Living water. Eternal life. Relationship with God.
Three stories, each interaction with Jesus an invitation to Himself. His love. His ways. His truth.
This Christmas I am reminded to not miss Jesus in the midst. I don’t want to presume that I know how God will reveal Himself, then miss His presence moving. I don’t want to miss the miracles He is accomplishing in another’s life because I think it should be done a different way. I don’t want to believe that He cannot show up to all people everywhere in His tender mercies. I don’t want to suppose that He wouldn’t lovingly invite them into relationship with Himself as they receive His living water by faith. A tiny step of faith. I don’t want to miss Jesus moving this Christmas amid struggles, challenges, personal loss, pain, preconceived ideas, or false beliefs, or even the good circumstances we find ourselves in as the world navigates change. I don’t want to miss the miracles that are possible this Christmas and New Year. Because He is here, speaking, loving, caring, and inviting us to Himself.
I pray for us ears to hear and eyes to see for God is with us, and He is Love, Mercy, Grace, and Peace.
Merry Christmas Friends! Love and Hugs, Rikah Thomas
Books by Rikah Thomas available at Amazon.com
Be at War: Battle for Love
Loving & Hating This Thing Called Church
In times like these, it is difficult to not feel anxious or uncertain of the future. Not only are we facing daily challenges with Covid-19, we are tackling the trickle-down effects of various losses, fear of the unknown, and constant political and social issues competing for our attention and participation. As if this isn’t enough, we also are required to make daily decisions to navigate the realities we face with work, school, marriage, relationships, family, health, and dozens of other complex situations that affect us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Considering these real and present storms of life, we can feel disheartened, anxious, and overwhelmed. This is when God’s Word can encourage us. When I read Acts 27 in the Bible, I am reminded through the story that though we may see the shipwreck clearly—and can do nothing to stop it—we can be confident that God is with us in the surrender and will bring us safely through. When it’s all said and done, we will land where we belong.
Let’s look at the quick facts (Acts 27).
Paul is setting out on a voyage for Rome, as one among other prisoners. His crime—believing and sharing the gospel of Jesus. The story is filled with danger, doubt, fear, loss, opinions, decisions, and multiple attempts to stop the storm, even though the shipwreck is inevitable.
Paul knows the situation will end in turmoil and tries to warn them of the danger, however, the majority would rather listen to the ship owner and pilot (which seems logical). They know all about the boat and how to sail, but in this situation, Paul knows God and has a spiritual perspective and directive.
True to the nature of a storm, the waters rage and the winds grow stronger, turning the storm into hurricane proportions with great force. And as is true to our nature, the men begin to react. Days go by as they fight the external elements and feel the internal fears and uncertainty.
In response, they frantically do all they know to do. They make great efforts to fix the ongoing crisis themselves. They try to stop the violent battering of the ship by bringing the lifeboat aboard, putting ropes under the ship to keep it together, and throwing over the much-needed cargo, tackle, and food. They think, make the load lighter, then maybe we can control where we are going. We can stop the wreckage.
Sometimes life can feel this way, particularly in these uncertain times. We hear the warnings on all sides, we think we know what to do, we trust the leaders and experts to guide us, and we do our best to contain the storm. But like Paul, God is whispering something completely different to our hearts than what we see. What we are being told. What the specialists declare. What we think is best. Our way versus His way.
We continue fighting the storms while each challenge appears to demand more of us. Give up this. Relinquish that. Throw that overboard. It’s still too heavy.
Impulsively, we try harder.
We struggle to believe everything will be okay.
We fret, all while longing to survive.
And despite our best efforts, we remain discouraged, fearful, exhausted, and reactive amid the inevitable shipwreck.
While God whispers to remain calm.
I can relate to those on board the ship. At times, I can feel like I am being called to give up more and more, after already feeling I’ve lost so much.
And God reassures me I’ve gained abundantly what’s important, His heavenly treasures. The opportunity to show love, grace, and mercy.
Nevertheless, like these men, tiredness, exhaustion and uncertainty of where we are going remains. Our Rome. Our Caesar. The place where we may be called to testify of God and our faith, simply by weathering the storm and believing what God says, instead of what the world screams.
Like Paul, in a last-ditch effort, we try to share with others. To warn of impending danger out of concern and care or out of our own opinions. We encourage them to be courageous, that God is with us, that our lives will be safe. And we hope that no one will be lost as we attempt to manage the situation, and others, while God says, believe, trust, and surrender your illusive control.
I am here with you.
You will make it safely to where I’m taking you.
Be still. Have peace.
In closing, Paul and the men appeared to lose everything.
The ship was going to break.
Their courage was going to be challenged.
And they would either trust and follow or disbelieve and bring further loss to themselves and others.
Today, we can listen for the voice of God amid the storms we are fighting through.
His direction, wisdom, and strength are available to us no matter what the situation is or appears to be.
All is not lost.
There is always hope.
We can make it to shore and continue the journey, and until our breakthrough, we can trust the One who calms the storms and knows how to rescue us from the shipwrecks of life.
So, everyone escaped safely to shore. Acts 27:44 (All 276 of those aboard)
Here are a few Scripture references from Acts 27 that we can live out daily:
Love and Hugs! Rikah Thomas
Stay close to God through His Word, prayer, and daily connection with Him.
Taken from page 5 of Be at War: Battle for Love. I hope you enjoy the next glimpse into Emma's life. (See previous post for Emma's Beginnings). :)
Years pass quickly.
At the local fair the little white, freckled-faced girl stands with a gentle soul and a tender heart. She waits patiently in line for her turn on the old-fashioned horse and carriage ride, wondering what excitement waits for her. She is glad that no one from home ever inquires about where she is going. The sign above the tent communicates words that make her heart joyful. All are welcome, and something magical lies ahead. She stands on tiptoes, her excitement on display for all to see, anticipating the unknown. Something magical!
Finally, the gravel crunches underneath the weight of wooden rims. The ride stops and she jumps inside the four-wheel wooden carriage. It's covered with her favorite colors as if it was designed and painted just for her. Unbeknownst to her young mind, there is an inscription engraved into the teal and orange bench. It declares, This one is Mine. She is special. I will favor her and she will know My Spirit well. She will possess My heart of love for others.
The tan colored conductor (who take the tickets and drives the ride) with thick, black, curly hair smiles and winks, telling her to buckle up. With gentleness, he snaps the reins to get the white and chestnut horses moving. Expectation fills her. Somehow, she is aware that this moment will reveal an important nugget of knowledge for her future.
He prepares her for the journey, impressing upon her how essential it is for her to view this time of reflection through his eyes. He promises to be gentle, but warns her of the impending truth that this will hurt her heart. A jolt of fear rises up, and her heart beats faster.
"Let go. Trust. Believe." He breathes out the simple, yet seemingly impossible words.
As the clear blue sky begins to darken, clouds swirl in their grayness like an angry eel twisting and turning. The reels of an imaginary movie clip begin to roll against the backdrop of the moody stratosphere. The redheaded beauty is fascinated.
His ability to show the past, present, and future transcends her childish human experience, but she hangs on anyway. Something compels her to keep watching the sky as her fearful heart craves to see more.......
This is a glimpse into my new book, Be at War: Battle for Love. The opening chapters introduce us to Emma and Jacob,
Chapter 1 - Baby Girl
A cold day in early December, Minnesota breezes are blowing with the assurance of snow. The promise of a white Christmas looming.
The labor pains start, and the womb that carried this little life these past months moans in discomfort. Clenching her teeth, face askew with the deep agony of a contraction, the young mother fights against her body. It wants desperately to force this little human out of the cocoon, forever exposing it to the elements of life-the good, bad, and in-betweens.
Push. Breathe. Groan. Push some more.
Effectively, the final strain sends the bundle of flesh through the canal and into the light.
Taking the first breath, her newborn lungs eject a curdling scream. Blood pulsates through the cord, clothing her lily-white flesh with bright red liquid. The twine of existence, so wonderfully knit together by a loving God, declares life wins this day.
The day of her birth. Divine. Appointed. Celebrated.
Emma is her name.
From the corner of the room, hidden behind the spiritual veil, evil makes a note to keep an eye on this small, unassuming, and unimportant infant.
Chapter 2-Baby Boy
Another day in the Caribbean welcomes tropical rain, drenching the small island. It pours down on galvanized roofing, sounding like horses thundering down the road in the bright early morning. The birds cry out from within the coconut trees as the animals awaken to the screaming of his small newborn voice.
His chocolate brown skin flaunts a beautiful glow under the humid sunshine, radiantly sneaking through the flower curtains and slatted glass panels that create the window. He, too, is wonderfully knit together by a loving God, who declares this day that his life wins.
His mother frowns. Her concern consumes her, wondering whether he will be strong enough to make it through the day. The roosters and piglets bask in the joy of the fresh air, and her worry grows. She sends out his sibling to get the goat's milk she hopes will soothe his hunger. He cries for fullness and comfort.
The day of his birth. Divine. Appointed. Celebrated.
Jacob is his name.
From the corner of the humid and sunny room, hidden behind the spiritual veil, evil commands his watchmen to keep an eye on this small, struggling infant.
Back Cover: Be at War- Battle for Love
Emma, a young woman who dreams of her future, ponders her life and the choices she makes. Each decision declares, I will do anything for love. Jacob, her soul mate, declares defensively, I will not let anyone in, especially for love.
Brought together by destiny, Jacob and Emma discover the true value of marriage. Willing to stand strong in their lifelong pursuit of love, they learn of God, themselves, and the divine purpose of an earthly union.
As they build a life together, their unwavering faith and steadfast love cultivate into an unstoppable force. They wrestle through the hardships and challenges. A house divided. A marriage in danger. A man drifting. A woman in distress.
Who will have the final say?
Available at amazon.com
In the past, I normally would have had my tree up and my house looking like Christmas threw up in it. From the moment you enter, you would have been inundated with reindeer, multiple Christmas Snoopys, music boxes, Santas, baby Jesus scenes and a colorful mish-mash of Christmas fun in every nook and cranny - and before Thanksgiving!
This year, I'm behind my own game. But the internal celebration is deep, joyful, and gearing up for the external manifestation of what my heart knows it's all about. That Jesus is Lord. I'm incredibly thankful for the reason for the season. I love telling people Merry Christmas as I'm focused on the Christ part of Christmas. And I pray daily to shine bright in the midst of life's very real challenges and opportunities as I smile and choose joy, because of who He is in my life.
I am also aware that I am faced with choices - like every year - on whether I focus on the pain of past Decembers or on the joy that Christmas is meant to be.
Do I focus on spreading cheer, giving a hug, and sharing an encouraging word?
Or do I think of my mom's journey with cancer and her death?
Do I celebrate my birthday because I LOVE LOVE LOVE birthdays?
Or do I focus on my nephew's too soon passing and memorial?
Do I celebrate my daughter's birthday and decorate her personal party table as I've always done?
Or, do I get lost in the sadness over the Christmas of 2012 that went horribly wrong from a family conflict, leaving me celebrating Christmas, again, without my family being together?
How do I choose the joy that the Christmas story brings- to us a Savior is born - and share the space with grief at remembering loved ones that are gone? Can I truly feel happy, while hurting over moments that changed a season from togetherness to ones of separation?
That is my choice.
One I'm blessed and at peace to make, once again.
So I celebrate my birthday with gratitude, thanking God for another year I get to be here and enjoy my one life. And love my husband, children, and friends well. Or write books. Or paint pictures. Or mentor those who desire to grow personally and spiritually.
I surprise my grown daughter with another table full of her favorite things, celebrating another year of her life.
And I excitedly choose the joy of Christmas.
C H R I S T mas... praising God, reflecting on Jesus, putting up my tree, decorating the house, cooking, baking, exchanging gifts, and looking forward to opening all the colorful presents on Christmas day!
I also remember my mom. I remember fondly my nephew. I pray for those I know that are hurting and going through their own loss and struggle, and I find joy running parallel with grief as I embrace both.
I pray for you and yours a beautiful Christmas as you too may have to dance with joy and pain, and choose for yourself what this holiday season will be. Sending you hugs!! Merry Christmas!
Love and Blessings,