Mountain Top

No "Take Back" After Ante

 

One of my favorite songs is “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. I’ve always been a poker fan; specifically, ”Texas Hold’em.” The beauty of the game is that it can belong to anyone at the table. Every person who antes has an opportunity to fatten the pot and stack her or his chips. The unfocused person loses.

I am not a mathematical whiz, nor am I a professional. Actually, I consider myself a novice. Though the rules are simple, it is the game that takes time to learn. Ultimately, the game is won by the person who has the most insight and empowered perspective, yielding the supreme performance. The one who has the grace and wisdom to know what to do no matter what happens is the winner. The basis of their strategy is not only what is held, but what is presented on the table, how opponents bet, and gut feel. It is not about the cards dealt, who is sitting at your side, how well you are acquainted or your understanding of the game. On the contrary, it is my belief the game of “Texas Hold ‘em” is about how accurately a player can obtain and process all sorts of information.

Don’t misunderstand me, one must know the rules of engagement, how to bet and so on, but more often than not in a game between friends or equals, anyone can win. A good hand is a good hand. The rules of the game are laid out to designate a winner by the ranks of hand presented, but a person with a pair of “8s” can beat another with a “full house” if played like one has “four of a kind.” At the table, the multiple rounds of betting are used to create pressure against the opposition, fatten the pot and in the end, only face off with those brave and focused enough to stay in. I love the game. It is invigorating and its composition elegant and artistic.

My faith walk is much like a card table with the river before me. On every side, I have opposition. I have anted-up. I have moved beyond the turn and now I am standing facing the waters. I am all in. All I can do is crossover. It is too late to fold, so I proceed.

Though the waters are deep, I am holding on to my initial confession without wavering. I believe I have all it takes within me to win the pot and my opposition is already defeated. I have decided to hold, not to fold, walk away, or run.

Kwjuana Thomas

Mountain Top

Part 4: Believing

 

When I decided to leave the industry and all I could produce, I did it because I believed somehow there was something better for me. Although I had no knowledge of what that “something” was, I was determined to locate it. I was willing to do anything to have more, but I knew material was not the answer. I needed something sustainable to life. I needed to be healed of the brokenness; patches were not going to work. I needed something I could not lose.

I no longer believed in material or man because as my mother lay dying, neither man nor his materials could do nothing for her. I knew there was more, I began to believe, “If I choose to live a life seeking only what man can provide, I will be short changed and I’m not going out like that.”

When I look back, I never once blamed God for my mother’s death. I knew the death of her body was a direct result of man’s error. I suppose, it is that reason I ran to God. I didn’t believe He was capable of error. Though initially, a 1-2-3 solution to the grief and anger would have been ideal, I had no energy or resources to pursue that brand of counsel. I believed He was free, available always, and capable. I believed He could help. When I went to Him, I went honestly. Sometimes, I said nothing, I just groaned and cried. Nevertheless, He met me.

Over time, I began to see the ability to believe as a gifted vehicle to move from one place to another. I believed I could quit my job and eventually, I would know what to do after. I had no plan. I baked for a while (this is another story) with no long term plan. But overall, I knew if I took the first step and quit my job, the next step would be revealed in time. I was willing to try it because I knew what I was doing profited me nothing and I had absolutely nothing to lose.

As a result of taking the first step, I have received a new identity; my self-worth is no longer derived from what other people think or what I can produce for myself. Rather, my value system comes from the loving acceptance of my Heavenly Father; it is like a spring irrigating my soul. I’m like a tree planted by water. I am bearing the fruits of the love He has given me and I have received for myself. My life has been totally changed. I choose to believe everything He says, even when I do not understand. As I seek Him, the worldly blinders so strategically placed before my eyes, melt in the light of His truth, acceptance and love. My perspective is vaster and I have obtained greater clarity.

I believed there was better for me. I took courage and pursued it. Now, I have purpose, perspective and renewed life.

 

Kwjuana Thomas

Mountain Top

Part 3: Resting

 

 

I have entered a state of peaceful rest. Before I began, I continuously worked for 23 years; I was only 31 years old. Resting did not come naturally for me. I contracted pneumonia or flu every three years or so which put me down for a week; that was rest. I rarely vacationed or spent quiet time alone. My life was busy, bustling, and filled with action. Sleep came typically after being so exhausted I could not keep my eyes open. Sitting quietly was uncomfortable and foreign, at times frightening.

Due to the hardship of the experiences I was enduring, rest was all I could do. I had no more to give. In those times, I worked in the bar and restaurant industry and had just begun to work with artists establishing a new business concept. When I decided really to rest, that was the first thing to go. I had no compromise, no patience, and no interests remaining. My business was on hold. All other endeavors on which I had been working toward all came to a screeching halt. Finally, I released my job and eventually, sat under a tree. Sitting under the tree was the only thing I really enjoyed.

I sat, read, and logged a journal. I had not been quiet enough in years to sit down and write. Attempts were made, but nothing ever flowed, as a result, I had altogether given it up. I figured, “When I have something to write, it will come forth. I won’t force it.”

Through resting, I realized my entire identity and worth came from my work. I didn’t know who I was without it. However, I knew I could not return as I was to the life I walked away from. Striving, as it were, had warred against who I was created to be, “Surely, I was created for more than tending bar and waiting tables, but what?” I began to seek God for answers.

While I sought Him I asked questions like, “How am I going to make money?,” “What am I supposed to be doing?,” “What’s the next step?” His answers were frequently concise, “Rest. Seek Me. Rest. Rest. No more striving. Surrender.”

Learning to rest has been challenging. Surrendering my goals, ambitions, and personal agenda has brought new life. I have learned from a place of rest and humble surrender, the answers to all my questions come, and my needs are met. There isn’t any need to run around, “trying.”

All I have to do is trust and rest.

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Kwjuana L. Thomas

Mountain Top

Mountaintop – Part II: Discovery

I began to seek inner healing in the areas of grief after my mother’s sudden passing. After long consideration, with no money or insurance, I decided to give God a try. As a result, my most violent enemies, like the layering of an onion, are being uncovered and disarmed.

Keeping aggression at bay had become a struggle. Rage was like a landmine ready for an explosion at the pressing of the trigger. The recent events of my life coincidently led to a brutal battle for my inheritance thus unmasking issues of trust, fear, and abandonment. Foes once hidden to me, costumed beneath my protective armor of work, society, and addictions had become torturous. I was broken and had become dangerous. I became a carrier of cancerous cells infecting my environment. I took practical measures. I reduced drinking, laid aside all recreational drugs and began to work less. I was exhausted. I frequently lamented and began to seclude to seek peace, quiet, and refuge.

In the quiet, I would occasionally cry. Alone, I would attempt to weep; tears never streamed, but reluctantly eked out. I had become inhuman and miserable. The rage would well from within so I conceded, and yelled, and shouted in madness. I was in hell, and from my own determination; it was not of my own fault.

I began to pray again. Before this time, my typical prayer was “forgive me Father” when I did something outside of the norm of my regular debauchery. I knew God existed in thought; I respected Him and loved Jesus in word though my life was typically in shambles. Now, my mother had passed away, I had freshly begun a business venture while working fulltime in the bar industry and had just moved home after a peaceable eviction from my apartment. The picture began to come into focus.

During my beer and cigarette breaks I would walk and converse with God, I would read passages in the Bible; I would seek Him for council. Though my life was in upheaval, I knew I needed something more. Through my time with Him in the place of refuge and quiet I began to learn He listened and cared. He spoke in response to what He heard. Moreover, He knew, understood and liked me. The discovery of His awareness of me was healing unto itself. I am not orphaned, nor alone. Through spending time with Him, I learned I was loved by Him, and He wanted me to learn what it was to be His daughter. He was adopting me!

I quit my job after a year of grief, and three months in the discovery of my Father’s love, and began a journey to learn more. Though a significant era of my life had ended, the newest and possibly most significant had begun.

 

Kwjuana Thomas

Mountain Top

Mountaintop Experiences – Part I: Becoming

Mountain Top

I am changing and moving. Leaving everything behind, it is not easy. However, I have decided to follow life and truth along this new way. I have chosen not to be burdened. I am casting my every care, concern and all heaviness. The substance of my life, as I had previously known it, seems to have been thrust into what I can best describe as a continuous upheaval. It has been shaken, broken and devastated. It has become rubbish. The foundation of people, places values and ideas on which my life was built has become incrementally and permanently altered. Before rebuilding could begin, I opted for total demolition.

I have decided to surrender to the process of the moves of the Spirit and no longer attempt to grasp hold of what I can save, but change the positioning of my hands and my arms and rather embrace the immanence of the change brought forth by destruction. No more striving. I will rest and float on the winds. Destruction has become my footstool; thus my head is lifted.

I am becoming a new creature and allowing the truth of my circumstances to wash over me. I understand that because a thing is true does not qualify that thing as truth. I have chosen not to fall apart, but arise anew, carefully and prayerfully, selecting truth in love, in faith, in strength and with a refreshed character. I am being reconstructed and fused together by a great fire. The times of pain yield refreshment, restoration and renewal. For, the new creature is derived from the source of creation: life, light and truth.

In spite of the struggles and through the pains I have decided to rest, to breathe, to hear. As I inhale, I wait and listen. I see and hear what the Spirit speaks to my inner being,” You are not at all who you have believed you were, but far greater. Arise.” The deception is being demolished. The way is being cleared for the genuine article. Thus, I’ve become light. As I wait, I listen and exhale. I am lifted to a place of peace and love. I am being transformed by light and love.

Love has been watching me. Love has heard my cries of agony. And He has come to my rescue. He has not abandoned me but receives me in His healing wings. He has extended an invitation to become like Him. The boundless creator has requested my presence. My eyes, ears and heart have begun to receive pure light resulting in my decision to follow His Spirit where it leads.

I am changing. I am moving. I am leaving everything behind. Though my path is uncertain, I choose to trust the love. I move forward, laying down my agenda and allowing Him to rebuild from ashes and bring forth beauty; to produce Himself from within what was once barren and desolate. I am becoming new.

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Kwjuana Thomas

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