Hope Nudges Forward

When we wait on God for answers, it sometimes feels as if he is testing our patience. How long will she wait until she breaks – until she steps out and tries to make something happen on her own?Southwest Puzzle

Throughout my life, I have learned the hard way to wait on God. When I step forward too soon and try to force something to happen – it ends either in tragedy, lost revenue or additional stress.

Then later, I am filled with regret and play the “I should have” game.

So during this limbo period, I have tried to wait patiently and seek God’s direction every step of the way. When I feel anxious, I deal with it by posting on my blog.

You’ve probably noticed.

After approximately two years of limbo land where I sensed major changes on the horizon, I have learned more about patience – about waiting on God – about living in joy even during the uncertainty.

My journals are full of the lessons God has taught me, and this blog has been populated with posts I shared with you.

Beginning to Move Forward

Within the last two weeks, God has nudged me forward. He is asking me to make some major decisions and to step out in faith, then watch him fill in the gaps.

Simultaneously, I finished my Southwest puzzle, framed it and hung it on the wall. It has been a reminder that something in the eternal puzzle is completed and now comes the next step.

When faced with major decisions, I often ask five questions:

  • What do I sense God is telling me about this decision?
  • What does scripture remind me or instruct me about this decision?
  • What do other godly people say and how do they advise me?
  • What do the circumstances tell me?
  • Do I have peace?

When the majority of these questions point in the same direction, then I know I am probably on the right track. I say “probably” because life is still an adventure and we can be deceived or influenced by our own desires rather than by eternal destinies.

But lately, I feel more at peace – knowing God is on my side, He has a good plan for me and ultimately whatever happens – he will bring it about for good.

Embracing the Promise

On a quiet Friday morning as warm August rain pittered down, I rejoiced that God once again watered my gardens. Then he called me to spend some intimate time with him. He had something important to share with me.

Throughout the next moments, he reminded me of several promises:

  • He will guide me and lead me in the best possible direction (Isaiah 49:10)
  • He will enlarge the place and the way I minister while strengthening me for the journey (Isaiah 54:2)
  • He has anointed and qualified me for this work (Isaiah 61:1)
  • He will plant me where I need to be (Isaiah 61:3)
  • He knows the acceptable and opportune time (Psalm 69:13)

Then he capped it off when an incredible promise, “Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your rightness, your justice and your right relationship with God shall go before you conducting you to peace and prosperity and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8 Amplified).


I sat on my bed, journal and Bible spread open before me, and wept at the beauty of this promise. God will heal and restore my weary soul. He will provide power for whatever new life I am walking into, but I won’t travel the journey alone. He will go before me and behind me. The result will be peace as he takes care of me.


So the first step of my obedience with him is that I am listing my duplex. I believe God wants me to sell it and get out of debt. Then he will show me where to go. I also believe he has indicated in which area I need to look for a rental house. He will provide that place for me.

God has always kept a roof over my head. He has provided beautiful and safe places for my son and me, homes where we could rest from work and just be ourselves.

God will not fail us now.

Are there still some unknowns? Of course. The faith journey always occurs in steps – never in one giant leap.

But for now, the puzzle is finished and hanging on the wall. God, too, has completed this section of puzzle pieces for me. Where he places me and what my role will be is his design. He will tell me what each step entails.Southwest Puzzle

I’m excited to be nudging forward.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

Hope Reveals Timing

Since God is timeless, it is always a sweet surprise when I discover him working – right on time.

A year ago, I bought a lovely journal to add to my stash. Never enough journals for a writer, you know

This particular journal caught my eye because the cover was a quiet country scene with wildflowers and the verse from Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

In one version, the imperative is to “Cease striving.” Still another version underscores the words, “Let be and be still.”

But my favorite is the Amplified version of a parallel verse in Psalm 37:7, “Be still and quietly rest in the Lord, wait for him and patiently lean yourself upon him.

Just before my vacation in the mountains of New Mexico, God pointed me toward this verse. So I started meditating on its meaning.

Be still.

As I sat beside the clear mountain stream and listened to its melodious splashing over smooth rocks, I practiced being still.Red River stream

I allowed the sounds and textures of New Mexico to speak to me and bring solace to my over-stressed soul. I didn’t even pray. I just sat there and enjoyed God’s presence highlighted by his creation.

Rest quietly.

We have lost the ability to rest quietly in our electronically-designed world. During my time in the mountains, I forced myself to rest quietly. This year, I did not take my tablet and since my phone does not carry a data roaming plan – no Facebook posts, tweets or emails reached me.

Not only did I survive, but I also thrived within the solitude and absence of our usual bustling world.

The monastics called it “The Grand Silence.” Every evening they disciplined themselves to cease speaking and curtail activity so they might clearly discern the Divine Whisper.

Saint Benedict, the father of the monastic way wrote, “Therefore, because of the importance of silence, let permission to speak be seldom given to perfect disciples even for good and holy and edifying discourse.”

Wait for him.

As I rested quietly and waited for God to share whatever secrets he wanted, the discipline of patience asserted itself.

God’s timing is, of course, perfect and when we step out of his boundaries – we often find ourselves stressed, burdened and puzzled as our peace is disturbed.

But as we wait, our souls anticipate the time when God WILL speak, WILL instruct us and WILL show us the way that is best for us.

As the Alpha and the Omega, he determines the end from the beginning, then fills in everything in between.

After a week of being still, resting quietly and waiting patiently, God DID show up.

On the last evening of my vacation, I walked past the river and around the man-made lake where other vacationers fished and fed the ducks.

In the movement of walking, I thanked God for the week of quiet time and opened my soul’s heart to hear his response.

The result was several paragraphs of his instructions for me, things I needed to plan for when I returned to civilization, the job and the bills.

I received his words, then hurried back to the cabin to record them. I knew I would need to obey the final phrase of Psalm 37:37 – to patiently lean on God for future plans and next steps.

As I pulled out my journal to write and process God’s promises to me, I glanced once again at the cover.

The country scene with wildflowers in the foreground. A quiet setting, serenely focused on the surrounding land, far from the noise of the city and its fast-paced intensity.

And the verse, engraved boldly on a grey background, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Yes indeed – God showed up – right on time.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope in the Queue

printersWhile typing and printing off documents, my printer suddenly decided to morph into la-la land. Electronic devices are so wonderful – until they don’t work. Then we’re stuck.

Frustrated, I tried and tried to print the last document, not realizing what was happening on the other end of electronic cyberspace. After rebooting, unplugging and still not printing, I turned everything off and quit for the day.

The next morning, when I turned on the computer, the printer decided to resuscitate itself. It spewed out page after page of documents that had been hiding in the queue.

Eventually, it stopped – but not before I added several inches to my pile of recyclable scrap paper.

The electronic world sometimes imitates life.

How often do we pray and pray for something, wait and wait longer while heaven seems to exist in an introverted silence?

Nothing happens for weeks, months, even years. Our prayers seem stuck in the queue of God’s waiting room. Then suddenly – an avalanche of answered prayers, all bunched up at the same time.

We gasp at the range of unexpected blessings and rejoice again in the assurance that God loves us.

As a writer, sometimes my words get stuck in a creative queue. I’ve never experienced a complete writer’s block, but I do know how to procrastinate and avoid sitting in the chair, hoping by osmosis to produce something memorable.

What I’ve discovered, though, is that the discipline produces its own fruit. Even though I may slug through a paragraph or two, if I keep going, keep making the words happen – then suddenly – the creative muse kicks in and I’m in another world for hours. That’s when writing is most fun.

So what can we learn from our moments stuck in the queue?

Persistence is still a worthwhile virtue.

The best writing, the purest answers to prayer, the most productive days evolve as a result of self-discipline. When we give it our best and keep at it – over and over – day after day – that’s when we eventually produce good fruit.

We may not see it for a while, but it WILL happen. Persistence which produces results is one of the key principles of life.

Nothing worthwhile happens easily. When we have to work for it, we appreciate the results and feel energized to persist with even more fervor.

Effective Results Require Patience

Patience and persistence are twin brothers. They sometimes look alike and often require some of the same disciplines to feed them.

But the persistence twin is a process while the patience twin reveals a quality of life.

Patience reminds us to wait, then wait some more. And when we can no longer stand the wait, we dig deep and learn how much strength authentic waiting requires.

Patience is the months-or-years-long battle, waiting for poisonous chemo to take effect and save a life.

Patience allows the preschooler to tie his own shoes even while the school bus honks.

Patience sits beside the Alzheimer’s resident and hears the same questions again and again, then responds with gentleness because it is what it is – a plaque-infestation of the brain and we know Mom cannot help herself.

Patience understands and gives grace when the addiction festers but the victim still tries to recover.

Patience learns through the passage of time because it cannot be hurried and if we want the best results – we must not deny the waiting.

Patience turns off the printer, instead of continuing the process of trying to print – adding more documents to the queue which then wastes paper. Lesson learned.

Sometimes the Best Action is No Action.

For planners and doers like me, it feels better to do something – to hit that print button over and over – to unplug and try again and again.

But sometimes, the cyberspace universe has to get its pixels in order and find its missing megabites. I don’t even understand its language. How then, can I make it do something?

When we’ve prayed and prayed, waited and persisted – yet nothing happens – we can use the prayer of relinquishment.

“Oh God, I can’t stand this, but I absolutely have no clue what to do. Please take over and do whatever you need to do to mend this problem. Please help me to rest in you and trust that you know exactly what’s wrong and what to do about it. I give up.”

That prayer seems so counterintuitive to what we’ve been taught about productivity, but even the Psalmist portrays the same advice, “Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon him; fret not…” (Psalm 37:7 AMP).

Be still. Unplug. Stop trying to figure it out. Don’t worry. Let go and let God salve your weary soul.

If we don’t learn how to be still, then we end up with a heap of nothing – wasted words, frustrated prayers and sometimes – piles of worthless paper.

But if we just let go and let God figure it out, then we return to the task rebooted and refreshed, ready for whatever he has to give us and grateful for the lessons we have learned.

As we wait in the queue for God to redeem this wicked world, we can be certain he does indeed know what he’s doing.

Maybe he’s just waiting for us to trust him so he can finish the task.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Sings

Woman-celebratingMy deck umbrella waves in the slight August wind as I sit in its shade. God has granted a beautiful summer morning and time for reflection.

So beautiful outside yet not so lovely within.

Still struggling with an illness and wondering why healing waits. Disgusted with myself that I cannot find joy when I face uncomfortable circumstances.

Count it all joy,” James demands.

I am not in a joyful place. My faith is too weak.

Let endurance, steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work.” Waiting is so hard for me.

Come to me,” Jesus said, “all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.

Rest. Not the rest that revives during a vacation to the mountains of New Mexico, but the emotional and lovely rest of a contented soul.

I think of the brave women I know who live with chronic pain. Somehow, they find their joy even in the midst of the struggle. They live with gratitude and accomplish what they can while setting healthy boundaries. My she-roes, every one of them.

But I cannot reproduce what they own.


My joy button needs to be re-set, and I cannot find the mechanism.


Although I DO know joy resides within me, somehow I cannot feel it on this beauteous August morning. I attempt joyful activities, because I know I should and must. I journal through the struggle, work on my Southwest puzzle, bang on the piano.

But the feeling of joy – that inner light sparkling in the eyes of my friend who has multiple sclerosis, laughter bubblings from infants, the glow shining from weathered saints’ faces – somehow that brand of joy eludes me.

Can I only be joyful when every circumstance feels perfect and in sync? How shallow is my faith!

Yet hope peeks from behind the curtain of Psalm 68 as the divine calls me to find the page. “God is beginning to rise….”

Somehow just knowing there will indeed be a beginning brings hope and the knowing that God is present. A sudden blip of peace.

The Psalm urges me onward to nuggets of hope:

  • Let the uncompromisingly righteous be glad. Have I somehow compromised my joy?
  • Let them be in high spirits. I cannot remember the last time I was in high spirits.
  • Let them glory before God, to rejoice in him.

How can this “letting” happen? How can I manufacture this feeling of joy once again?

The solution whispers in Psalm 68:4:

  • Sing to God.
  • Sing praises to his name.
  • His name is the Lord. Jehovah, my eternal Husband and Maker, Friend, Lover of my soul.
  • Be in high spirits and glory before him.

So I obey, moving to my back yard to dance near the strawberry patch. I lift my hands upward. The song comes timidly at first, a familiar melody yet different words.

No soul response yet, so I dig deeper and sing louder – uncaring if the neighbors look out and see me cavorting with God in my back yard.

The hallelujahs of melody begin to ring true. I sing the words of Psalm 68:4 and forget the rules of musical theory. The important focus is on the spirit of the words.

I ignore the enemy’s taunts, the memories of the past week, the frailties of my humanity. Instead, I lift my praises to the only one who truly knows the condition of my soul.

And glory – there it comes – a bubble of joy resurfacing and lighting my inner self with its purity.

God sends a dragonfly to cheer me, to flap his lacey wings in response to the beat of creative worship. He flicks his beady eyes in my direction and dares me to imagine a creator who fashioned his spindly body one day and a sturdy oak the next.

God is beginning to rise. I praise him for the beginnings and glorify him for the rising of his presence once again.

Hope sings and joy responds.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Conquers the Chaos

As a writer, observation is one of my most important tools. Awareness of this tool causes me to listen for dialects when people talk and later incorporate those rhythms into the characters who people my novels.

Observation notes interesting quirks such as the depth of a dimple, a spontaneous laugh or fingers drumming on a barn wood plank. The benefits of observation add color and texture to my words without plagiarizing on the lives before me.change - chaos

Sometimes a graphic or a word suddenly surprises me with its potential. I see it, reflect on it and journal through it. Soon it becomes a theme, a sentence that stretches into a paragraph or as in this case – a graphic morphs into a blog post.

“All great changes are preceded by chaos” read the graphic, and I have no idea who deserves the attribution. But it pummeled into my soul like a snare drum in the early morning fog.

Chaos in the Journey

How appropriate for this journey I have traveled the last two years! The chaos of searching for a church forced me to consider the depths of my spiritual hunger and what my faith has taught me – either wrongly or with stunning accuracy.

The journey and the change – the processing of who I am at the core flattened me so that I often landed on my knees – an appropriate stance for any soul-seeker living in chaos.

Then gradually, as my choice settled into a murky concrete, the chaos eased.

Replaced by the peace that passes all understanding, my decision radiated with joy – maybe not so much because of where I chose to fellowship but more because the search had finally ended.

Even now, I find myself restless, seeking change yet dreading the chaos. I feel the rumbles of change in our nation and no – I am not going to talk politics. Whoever wins will face a changing nation because we are not what we were even two years ago.

Chaos again threatens.

Perhaps the power of observation has settled more deeply in my soul for a reason. Aging seems to magnify change.

With my mom, who lives within the shadowy world of Alzheimers, any change in routine creates anxiety. So we carefully monitor her visits to the farm, even her attendance at the church she loves.

I do not believe Alzheimers now whispers within my brain, but there is a definite disturbance in the force. The chaos of change creeps ever closer.

Even the divine warns, “Everything will change. The foundations are shaken.”


Perhaps the chaos that threatens will result in a national revival that will change how we perceive each other’s worlds. Would it not be wonderful if skin color no longer divided us into urban and rural, poor and rich, dead and alive.


I so wish change would eliminate broken children, abused women and toxic relationships. Please, God – let it be.

Yet experience teaches that these changes cannot and never will occur without some sort of chaos.

Sometimes I curse the tool of observation because it hurts so much. Yet change implies growth and as we stretch – albeit with pain – we eventually grow stronger.

God bless America and God help us all as we face whatever chaos is ahead. May each of us find our own destiny within this changing world and make it a better place to call home.

And may we all stay in hope that after the chaos fades, peace will dawn.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Offers Support

A fist of fear pummeled my soul. I was startled by its intensity and for several moments – forgot to breathe. It was only when I started to feel dizzy that I reminded myself to gulp in draughts of oxygen.Yes - we trust God

Why the fear? I needed to go to the doctor – one of those visits that might be serious or only slightly serious – depending on the results.

And I knew I could not do this alone. So I called my son. “I need a favor, honey.”

“Sure.”

Even the sound of his bass voice reassured me, and I breathed deeply. “Would you go with me to the doctor? I don’t know why. I just need someone with  me today.”

Again, “Sure. Glad to.”

My heart stopped its thumping romp as fear eased.

He stood with me as I checked in, followed me into the sterile room and provided another pair of ears to listen carefully to the doctor’s orders. Then he helped me gather my purse, all the paperwork, even my water bottle.

The prognosis, “Nothing serious yet. We’ll try the pills first and then go from there.”

Did he hear the same words I heard, the ones I was hoping for? Yes, but it was good to have another voice to confirm the answer.

At the pharmacy, he helped me pick up the meds, then we shared supper and watched the Royals together back in my living room.

Somehow, just having another human being beside me in the journey, to share in the fearful possibilities, to lighten the load – felt like healing itself.

“It will be okay, Mom.” The same words he spoke when I held his hand before brain surgery, when they cut open his precious head and removed that nasty tumor.

When life hands us its unraveling, we tend to suck it up and march forward – finding power in our own strength and the fortitude it takes to just keep living.


But sometimes – when the possibilities of a painful test loom big, when the trial unravels into fragments of unknowns and sucker punches us into silence – we need someone beside us.


Yes, we trust God, but we also need living, breathing human beings to encourage us, to hold our hands, to tell us it will be okay.

I was so grateful that day for my boy – this now grown man whose presence exuded strength and calm – this tower of humanity who has himself survived cancer and experienced his own miracle.

He did not laugh at my need or seem distressed when I swallowed tears and hung on to his arm. He simply let me ride through the storm with his presence beside me.

Every day since then, he checks on me, wondering if I feel better. Are the meds working? Am I being careful to monitor reactions?

This reversal of roles seems too soon in my journey. I do not yet feel old. I only feel older.

Every day I give thanks, treasure the gift that is my son and remind myself again – I am not really alone.

Hope breathes again because of connection.

For those who live in concrete relationship, be grateful. For those like me who soldier on in solitude, find a connecting place.

And if you know a single mom or another soul who marches with an individual beat, offer to be there if needed – to provide the reassurance that someone cares.

We need each other, even when we feel strong and healthy. Vulnerability will inevitably intrude. That is when we find out who really cares.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

The House of Sickness Waiting

Something about houses attracts me. I notice Tudors with their brick facings, happy bungalows – especially the ones with porch swings – cottages framed by specialty gardens.ranch house

And I am writing my memoir focused around the theme of various houses in which I have lived. Maybe I should have become a realtor.

The house Mom bought, then had to leave behind, is a typical Oklahoma ranch style. When dementia first began to squeeze its nasty tentacles around Dad, Mom felt as if she needed to get Dad off the farm and into the safety of town. Neither of them could fully operate the farm anymore and when dementia stole Dad’s vocation from him, Mom made the final decision.

They settled into the brick ranch and lived there as Mom nursed him and my sister Kris helped her for 10 shadowy years. Then on a gentle spring day in May, the angel of death took Dad away.

Mom stayed, unwilling to move anywhere else. In fact, she announced one day, “My next move will be to the cemetery.”

Ah – if only it had been that simple.

The ranch home evolved into a pain-enshrouded house as my sister’s beloved cat, Champ, sickened and Kris had to put him down. What an oxymoron of love and pain when we have to call the vet and schedule a death – yet in the doing of it – we exhibit the release of love for our furry babes.

The ranch then became the forecaster of Mom’s next move as she began forgetting the location of pots and pans, the important bills she threw away, the pills she counted numerous times before swallowing.

It was in the ranch house where Mom passed out, her brave heart needing the extra pulsing of a pacemaker, her head bleeding from where she banged it when she fell.

When she had to leave – a series of ambulance rides transported her from the hospital to the nursing home rehab and later to her studio apartment in assisted living.


Meanwhile, the house of sickness waiting remained. Mom never had a chance to tell it good-bye.


The yard is its best feature, a surrounding halo of plantings – zinnias, pansies and the four o’clocks that actually open at four o’clock each day.

I like the house, usually finding a slice of serenity inside when I visit family. Although it is a bit weird to sleep in the bed in which I was conceived, I gaze at pictures on the walls and remember when we gave them to Mom and Dad. I hang my clothes in the closet and touch hangers that hold Mom’s winter coat, a suit she no longer wears, a knit shirt with embroidered daisies – some of the threads barely hanging on to their frayed outlines.

Mom’s brush and comb still wait for her on the dresser, flanked by doilies her mother crocheted, their white loops now fading into the yellows of the past. Mom’s massive mahogany furniture which none of us will want –  a sturdy pronunciation of her style.

But Mom never seems to miss the ranch house. She only remembers the farm as her home where she raised three children, cooked harvest meals and hung clothes to flap on the line like fabric silhouettes of each family member.

This place – this emotional shelter, safe within its strength yet even now scented with illness and Mom’s shadowed existence foreboding.

My sister is now the keeper of the ranch house. It serves its purpose of shelter for her, of last memories where our parents aged out in its rooms. Yet it also continues to play out its description as the house of sickness waiting.

Kris struggles with arthritic pain and several types of joint diseases which emit a pain I cannot imagine. She limps through the house, taking care of her cats and the neighbor’s pets, then ambles outside to feed the birds and pull  weeds from the gardens her green thumb has created.

The flag she painted on barn tin bears the symbol and colors of the University of Oklahoma. Inside the house, the walls record screams of pleasure whenever the Sooners do their thing and score multiple touchdowns per game.

The personality of this house follows me whenever I drive away. I am left with a sense of gratitude that my sister is safe within its walls – at least for now – until as she says, “The body gives out.”

Then we will know that somehow – in that house – our family made an imprint on the earth.

Houses become the measurements of years as each place serves a purpose. And within each place, we wait for that final call home that contains no walls, needs no paint and provides the freedom where our spirits roam.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Digs Deeper

shovel and stonesWhile meeting with my spiritual director, she suggested I consider the question, “What if?”

In January, I taught a writers workshop and included the question “What if?” as a fear tactic artists sometimes use to procrastinate.

But in this instance, I was to think about the “What If?” question as a possible direction – even a vision-making steppingstone. So I drove home, pulled out my journal and starting listing the possibilities of some What If answers.

What if my newest novel makes the New York Times bestseller list? What difference will that make in my life and will I be able to handle the extra book tours, publicity requirements and the pressure to write another bestseller and then another?

What if I could sell my house for a profit? What kind of home do I want to replace it? Where?

What if I could become a full-time writer and writing coach? How would that change my life?

If I think long enough on the subject, I can entangle myself in all the possibilities and questions my “What Ifs” might involve.


When we dig deep, some of our visions and dreams may carry their own baggage. Change is not easy, and the transitions of life require us to change along with them.


Another point my spiritual director made was that I should “listen to my heart.”

We are often so busy and so overwhelmed by the stresses of life, we don’t stop to listen within – to dig deep and consider what our souls are saying to us.

This is one reason why I journal almost every day. I need to process what I am thinking about and tap into my inner conflict for clues about how to address life.

I also need to listen for that still, small voice that ushers me into the divine space. When I tiptoe into that soul sanctuary, I learn more about myself but also become more teachable for eternal guidance. God wants me to make wise choices and since he is my husband and maker, then I need to listen to what he is telling me.

What does my heart tell me?

My heart longs to return to the Southwest – to find a writers retreat in the Santa Fe or Taos area where I can spend long hours inventing sentences and paragraphs. So many ideas for new books swirl in my soul. The artist in me yearns to bring them to life.

My heart breaks for the unwritten books, the stories waiting to connect with their characters and the voices longing to be heard. I feel an urgency to write while I can, to share the wisdom and experience God has gifted me with through the years.

What if that could happen? What if I could find that place to write until the well is dry and everything has been completed? Is that possible?

My heart also whispers warnings of the aging process and urges me to do what I can while I can – that life is fragile and someone is waiting in the great meandering cyberspace to read the words God wants me to scribe.

My heart beats with a restless tone, eager to authenticate itself and complete the mission God birthed in me before the foundation of the world.

As I dig deeper, another question surfaces. I stop breathing as I consider the implications of what its answers might entail.

Almost afraid to add it to my journal page, I force the pen to scratch the question across the page.

What am I avoiding?

We often avoid doing something that might require change, because we’re afraid of what that transition might ask of us. We may avoid a major decision, because it includes a move, a new job, the uprooting of our comfort zones.

Yet in the avoidance, we are living in the “discomfort” zone. We are stressing our souls to the point of losing ourselves.

We are avoiding what our hearts may truly long for, because we are so blasted practical and cannot imagine any other type of experience.

My journal now has several pages of personal reflection around these three questions:

  • What if?
  • What is my heart telling me?
  • What am I avoiding?

And I do not believe I am finished yet.

As I continue to dig deeper, to search for the root of my hope, I look forward to the time when these questions will find their connecting answers.

I hang on to the promise in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord and He answered me. He delivered me from all my fears.”

Still searching. Still waiting. Still digging.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Builds on the Truth

toe ringTen minutes into my home Bible study, Judith gasped.

I stopped reading Romans 12 and asked, “Any questions or concerns?”

To her credit, Judith must have decided not to confront me in front of the entire group. “No,” she said. “Nothing right now.”

After I finished teaching, Judith hung back so I said goodnight to the rest of the group and sat down with Judith.

“What’s the problem?” I asked. “You seemed concerned about something.”

“I’m just wondering,” she said, “I don’t understand…but…you’re teaching this Bible study and you’re wearing a toe ring.”

I peeked down at my right foot where the second toe did indeed sport a silver toe ring. “Yep,” I said. “I really like my toe ring. I bought it at that eclectic boutique downtown.”

“But a toe ring…isn’t that…sinful? My church says women should only wear wedding rings and nothing else. Our beauty is supposed to come from a pure heart – not from a bunch of jewelry – an outward show…especially something as liberal as a toe ring. It’s almost like something hippies wear.”

I knew Judith attended a church where Legalism 101 was the consistent textbook, but I didn’t realize how deeply spiritual abuse had affected her life.

She shared with me how afraid she was that someone would discover she colored her hair. Her entire spiritual focus was based on how “good” she had to be and how many rules she had to obey.


I reminded her of Jeremiah 31:3. “God says he loves us with an everlasting love. He doesn’t mention any rules we have to obey to earn his love. It’s just there, available for us because of who he is.


“God loves you, Judith, no matter what you do and no matter what you wear. He wants you to love him back – not live in fear that you might make a terrible mistake someday and ruin everything. His love for you is eternal – forever and ever.”

Over the next few weeks, I helped Judith find Bible verses about the love of God. The Bible became more of a romance anthology rather than a judgmental tome. We looked at the life of Mary Magdalene, a leading disciple of Jesus. Nowhere did scripture condemn her or even mention anything she wore.

Even though she had been a prostitute, Mary was the one who first saw the living Christ after his resurrection. She was given the task of telling the rest of the disciples that Jesus was alive. And she didn’t have to dress a certain way to spread the good news.

Throughout the next months, Judith and I met often to talk about God’s love. She began to smile more freely and even giggled a few times. The burden of carrying all that legalism in her heart lifted, and she shared her freedom with the other ladies in the group.

Then one night, she came to Bible study with a radiant grin. “Guess what I did,” she said.

She held out her right foot, and I started laughing. Shining on the middle digit was a gold toe ring. We danced together in a happy hug.

Two years later, I received the news that Judith’s son had committed suicide. When I called her, she was, of course, heartbroken. But in between sobs she said, “I still believe God loves me and somehow – he’ll help me make it through this grief.”

I was so grateful Judith had made it past the obstacles of spiritual abuse via legalism. Without her new freedom, she would have blamed herself for her son’s death and lived with the lie that God had punished her for something she had done wrong.

Judith and her husband moved away, but we occasionally called or wrote letters. When I saw her again – years later – she wore the prominent wrinkles of a woman who has been through the worst grief yet the glow of freedom was still obvious. She had survived to find acceptance and joy on the other side of the pain.

“I’m okay,” she said, as I stroked her cheek. “It’s been hard, but I’m okay.”

Then she lifted her leg so I could see her foot. The gold toe ring still shone from the middle digit, a visual reminder that hope conquers even the most stubborn of lies.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Growing Hope in the Pain

What is the difference between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering?Pain proves alive

Neither type of pain is comfortable and most of us try to avoid any type of pain. We want life to be struggle-free even if we have to ask the doctor for a prescription to ease our sufferings.

But is there a value to pain? How do we tell the difference between suffering pain and growing pain?

Suffering Pain

Suffering pain is often physical and/or emotional: a sudden illness, the grief of watching a loved one struggle through Alzheimer’s, a broken relationship.

We deal with suffering pain by learning how to persevere, praying for extra grace each day, contacting professionals and trusting God to help us survive one day after the other.

Suffering pain often manifests in our bodies. We see the woman bent over with osteoporosis and we empathize even as we cringe at the deterioration of her spine.

We watch the tears river down a friend’s face and we hear screams of terror when bombs explode. We feel their sufferings and wish we could alleviate them.

Suffering pain is a side effect of living in this world, of aging and being exposed to various strains of germs.

Yet we endure. We persevere. We treat the symptoms and hope for a cure. We try to find hope in the midst of our sufferings.

Growing Pain

Growing pain presses more deeply into our spiritual and emotional selves. We ask the inner questions of faith and rebel when we hear pat answers from those who obviously have not addressed a similar pain or refused to acknowledge it.

Jesus chided the scribes and Pharisees for their simplistic answers based on rules and tradition. He invited questions and never ran away from vulnerability.

Legalism looks at growing pain and condemns it. Jesus invites it because within the questions and the searchings, we discover more about God.

We listen for the divine whisper even as the pain sears our souls and we feel the emptiness of the despairing pit.

Einstein wrote, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”

In my year-long search for a church, I experienced both types of pain. The emotional digs of condemnation and hurts inflicted by people I thought knew better. But also the deep questions of my soul in asking what I really wanted to find in a church and how I could become a better member of my new church family.

Growing. Stretching. Grieving. Within the parameters of pain, we discover how important our faith is and how much we truly care about our soul health.


If we don’t care, then we don’t suffer. Pain proves we are alive and something important has been taken from us.


The grief accompanying pain teaches us about the intensity of love.

Where Hope Dwells

But if we shy away from the pain of growing, then we never come to the place where hope dwells.

In her book, “Rising Strong,” Brene Brown writes, “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. But curiosity can lead to hurt. As a result, we turn to self-protecting – choosing certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability and knowing over learning. But shutting down comes with a price.”

So what is the difference between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering? Not much, really, because they feel the same.

The difference lies in how we react to them and which choices we make for dealing with any type of struggle.

We can run from it, refuse to acknowledge it, try to find something to mask it, drown it with a gallon of raspberry fudge ice cream.

But the pain returns because it is often more persistent than we are. Some pain we can never escape.

Ultimately, all pain can cause growth if we open our hearts to the possibilities. We can choose to learn patience through the Long Goodbye or years of rehabilitation that stretch muscles atrophied by disease.

We become stronger by embracing the pain of growing, by asking those deep questions which lead us to learn more about ourselves and God.

The saints who grow through pain are the ones who reflect wisdom and hope into old age. Even when their bodies betray them, they hang on to the hope that pain will eventually ease and the heavenly result will be a crown of gold.

Am I still in growing pain? Somewhat. Not all my questions have been answered and that’s okay. I will continue to ask, to seek, to find.

But now I refuse to listen to legalistic quotes that once soothed me.

I would rather insert question marks into my life than live under the concrete umbrella of condemnation and easy acceptance.

Pain is inevitable on this earth, but an attitude seasoned with grace will offer us the hope we need to keep going, to continue questioning and to march toward the Light.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

How to Hope for God’s Will

Where shall I go, God? Where do you want me to live, work, be? How can I find your plan for me?

These types of questions often plague us, because we focus so strongly on what we should do – how productive we should be – rather than what God truly desires for us.Discover the vulnerable

During my college years, the quest to find God’s will for my life was right up there with “Which guy should I marry?” and “What should I choose for my major?”

Legalism 101 taught me that finding God’s will for my life was the number one focus for believers. It also taught me how to fear God because if I messed up and made the wrong choice, God would make sure I turned out like the bad guy in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” who chose poorly.

Tiny Steps

But what I have discovered throughout my life is that God’s will is more of a series of tiny steps rather than a giant quest.

And when we look back on the years, we can indeed see the direction we were to take as the steps moved forward, stopped, backtracked, changed direction, then moved forward again.

Now as I ponder and journal my way through daily decisions, I begin to catch a different idea coming from the heart of God.

It’s not so much finding the answer to the question, “What is God’s will for me?” but more of a whispered “What does God long for me?”

Longings of the Heart

What are the desires of his heart and how can I see him at work in me, loving me, guiding me, scootching me a bit closer to my ultimate destination?

When I ask what God longs for me, it seems a bit softer – more filled with love rather than divine directive that I’d better figure it out or else.

Becoming a mother and raising my son has taught me so much about the heart of God and how he parents us.

When I consider what I long for in Caleb’s life, it helps me understand a different focus God might have for me.

Certainly I want my son to be healthy in body, soul and spirit. I want him to have a wife who adores him, children who respect him and love to spend time with him, a job that pays the bills, saves for retirement and occasionally takes his mother to the Cheesecake Factory.

But what do I long for him? The question digs deeper.

I so desperately long for him to find that place of wholeness where he becomes the man God created him to be.

I long for him to use his gifts and talents in ways that bring joy to him forever and ever, Amen.

I beseechingly long that he will never make choices leading to life-long addictions.

My mother heart longs that he will forgive me for parenting mistakes I made and understand I did the best I could at the time with the information I had been given.

I long for him to someday look back on his life and say, “Well, that was a good ride. I have more joys than regrets.”

I long for him to attain his dreams, reach his goals and grow strong in the journey. Nothing hurts a soul so much as shattered dreams. Please, God, do not let that happen to my son.

Soul Travels

So when I soul-travel to this deeper place of finding God’s longing for me, I find he is just as eager as I am to reach the beauty of a life given to the process.

It is not so much the goal or the answer to the question that satisfies us. It is rather to discover the vulnerable places of honesty within us so we can identify the desires of the heart.

I believe God wants us to pray, “Please. I want this. May I have it, Father God?”

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause” (Psalm 43 NIV). He IS the vindicator of the broken heart and pleads our cause as a just and compassionate God.

He understands our longings because he planted them in us and he sees the celebration at the finish line.

The next time I am tempted to pray, “What is your will in this situation?” – I will instead plead, “What is your longing for me at this moment, God?”

And in seeking the depths of his giant heart for us, we then find hope to continue the journey with joy.

So….what do you think God is longing for you?

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

How to Find Hope in a Puzzle

puzzle piecesThe puzzle I’m currently working on reflects the colors and the design of the Southwest – a region of our nation I love. Turquoise moccasins, Native American pottery and a sunset of desert textures.

Yet beyond the stress-relieving act of fitting my puzzle pieces together, God is teaching me precious lessons of faith.

Think About the Big Picture

Once I found the borders of the puzzle, everything should have begun to snugly fit together. But something didn’t look right.

My son found the answer because he’s a forest guy while I look at the trees. “This piece right here doesn’t fit,” he said. “It skews the big picture.”

He was right and once I found the correct piece, suddenly the picture made more sense.

Sometimes we think a certain direction is best for our lives. But something about the final decision doesn’t seem right. Something doesn’t fit. Red flags stop us or circumstances change.

We can’t see the big picture, but God can. He exists beyond the past, present and future. He knows how to work out our lives and fit each day into the next so our destinies become clear.

Don’t Try to Force an Answer

A puzzle piece may look right and seem to fit, but one side seems to snag or won’t quite align. Forcing the piece into that particular hole can bend it or even break it. Then the puzzle is flawed.

If we try to force something to work or move forward on our own, we can damage ourselves or someone else.

If the circumstances aren’t working out and our pathways seem skewed, trying to force a decision, a relationship or a direction messes with our destinies.

How many of us have forged ahead and forced something to happen, then later regretted our actions?

When God manages the puzzles of our lives, all the pieces end up fitting together – perfectly – without adverse circumstances.

Give It Time

A 300-piece puzzle cannot be completed in one hour. My puzzle has been on the table for several weeks. I work on it now and then, usually a few minutes at a time.

As we face decisions or transitions in life, they take time to percolate and work out all the details.


Patience is learned through the long passage of time. Hurry is the antagonist of patience.


The Alzheimer’s journey is a test of endurance – one 36-hour day after another.

Starting a new job involves a learning curve and perseverance.

Writing a book may involve late nights, early mornings or weekend discipline. One word, one sentence, one character sketch at a time until the final period is typed. Sometimes the process takes years.

The best answers are revealed as a result of a waiting period. The strongest faith is birthed through years of experience, long periods of waiting and the courage to ask questions that may even increase our struggle.

We often don’t see a purpose in the details until patience has completed its perfect work.

The Apostle James underscored this truth. “When the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:3-4 TLB).

God rarely answers our “Why” questions but instead, he urges us to trust – even when we’re so weary we can only continue the journey with an extra measure of God’s grace.

My puzzle gives me joy because I love the colors and the promise of what the final product will be.

Surely God also feels joy when he moves the pieces of our lives together so the final result reflects his love.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Time Passes With Hope

Have you noticed we’re almost halfway through 2016?clock

Molly Totoro, a writer who loves the sights, smells and joy of the holidays, recently posted, “Only seven months until Christmas.”

Time indeed passes quickly, especially as we age, but really – don’t the months seem to flip through the calendar faster than ever before?

I’ve pondered the passage of time recently and the possibility of something unique happening.

A verse in Matthew 24:22 reminds us how difficult the last days will be. “Unless those days are shortened, all mankind will perish. But they will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen people” (TLB).

Bible scholars usually preach these verses as God’s way of protecting his people during the tribulation, his way of shortening the time of suffering.

But I wonder if this unique method of protection is already occurring. Maybe we’re seeing the increased crescendo of time on earth that eventually shortens our days.

Sally Jadlow, author of the Late Sooner series, calls it, “God tweaking time.”

Is Time-Tweaking a Possibility?

Certainly the Creator God can determine how time will flip through our online calendars. This incredible God carefully plans each day of our lives. Can he not also decide how long each day will be?

This beyond-the-scope-of-science God hung Jupiter in its particular orbit and designed rings around Saturn. If he can work in the vastness of space, he can also tweak the hours of our work days.

This loving God touches a baby’s cheek in the womb and imprints a dimple. This artistic God paints the tail of a blue jay with onyx black, azure blue and pale gray contrasts, then changes his divine palette to include the crimson and taupe of cardinals.

Surely this amazing God can tweak the revolutions of the earth so that time speeds up.

But why would God project a new way to manage time?

For the sake of his children. To protect those he loves. To help us endure when we don’t think we can stand one more day in this evil world.


To offer us hope.


Admittedly, I am homesick for heaven. I miss my dad and other saints who have finished their timelines and flown home.

Often I am discouraged by the sadness of so many lives and the suffering of countless people. The nightly news can pierce my heart. I keep a Kleenex box beside the television.

But I try to be patient because I know God has a plan and he waits for those who currently ignore him. He wants them to share in heaven, too.

Occasionally I hear the whisper of angels’ wings or the hum of a worship song unique to the heavenlies and I wonder – how close are we?

Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe in the blink of an eye – now!

And maybe God really is tweaking time because he’s anxious to hold us in his arms and cry, “Oh my sweet child – welcome home!”

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Wins

Oh, God – I’m so afraid.monarch butterfly

During the sixth month of pregnancy, I finally ventured out of the bed where I spent the first five months – hoping, begging God to let me keep my baby. With years of infertility and two miscarriages in my medical chart – the chances for a normal birth were slim.

In June of that year, I waddled out to the back yard’s sunshine and stretched out in the chaise lounge. With my hand over my extended belly, I prayed again for the child within.

Protect him, please. Keep him healthy. I want to hold him. I need you to encourage me, God. Help me. I’m afraid.

When I opened my eyes, a large monarch butterfly floated out of the clouds and landed on my belly. Hardly daring to breathe, I watched as his wings opened and closed in a foreshadow of blessing.

As the baby moved, I wondered if the monarch might be disturbed and fly away. But he rode the wave, stayed in position and kept his gaze on my face.

For over an hour, we baked in the sun, ingested the natural vitamin D and shared in worship moments.

Then the monarch carefully lifted off, floated around me a couple of times, drank deeply from my colorful zinnia garden and disappeared into the clouds.

When I returned to the house and journaled about my experience, I felt encouraged, renewed and ready to face whatever happened in the next few months.

God often uses his creation to encourage, uplift and remind me that he is indeed greater than my problem. Since he is the one who manipulates cellular metabolism, hangs the stars in his front yard and whispers, “Peace be still” in the middle of storms – then he can certainly deal with my everyday stresses.

I wonder how many scenarios he manages and shows up to help us when we aren’t alert enough to look for him. Perhaps in heaven, we’ll watch a giant video screen and see his image beside our sick child, walking down the aisle with us as we graduate or smiling as we choose our first car.

Like the monarch’s appearance, he is with us – longing to soothe our fears and direct us toward the best path for our lives.

Because of my experience with the monarch, I nurture my butterfly bush and let the red clover grow around the perimeter of my yard. These plants attract monarchs every year and continue to remind me God is near.

And what of the precious child I carried that summer day? He is now 30 years old, a healthy and sensitive man who makes me proud every day to be called his mom.Caleb and Mom at reception

Hope wins. We just have to keep watching for the finish line.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Wears a Tattoo

hands - palms outstretchedHe was a large, muscular man and when he sat down in the bus, the leather seat expelled air. I peeked at him around the pages of the book I was reading as my writer brain started inventing a character sketch.

He’s a construction worker by day, a bartender by night and his feet hurt. It feels really good to sit down for a change. Or … he’s a pastor on his way to the inner city church he serves. The dirty T-shirt is a cover up and helps him relate to the young people in his congregation. Or … he’s an undercover spy and just wants me to think he’s a normal guy.

But then he crossed one leg and I discovered he was far from a normal guy. Tattooed on one leg was the image of a little girl with her name inked above her sweet face, “Kelsey Jane, beloved daughter.”

What kind of guy loves his daughter so much he tattoos her picture on his massive leg? Was she one of those tragic little ones that cancer took away? Her image on his leg was a memorial to her short life?

He saw me staring and before I could disappear behind the pages of my book, he answered my question with vulnerability, “I’m divorced and I don’t get to see her very often. This way, I’m always carrying her with me.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat and said, “That’s the greatest tattoo I’ve ever seen.”

He tipped his Royals baseball cap to me, then turned away. I returned to my book – both of us in our own worlds as people do on mass transit.

I almost wanted to find the nearest tattoo parlor and ask for a picture of my son emblazoned near my heart. Almost.

But I couldn’t forget the image and the question it posed, What kind of guy loves his daughter so much he tattoos her picture on his leg?

Then I remembered another guy who does the same thing – not on his leg, but on his hand – on the tender palm area where he can see it every time he reaches out to help someone.

Almighty God is the one who says, “See, I have tattooed your name upon my palm…” (Isaiah 49:16).

God Himself cares so much about each of us he has tattooed us on the palms of his powerful hands.

In the original Talmud, the meaning of this tattoo or engraving was of an unbreakable bond, of a love so intense it was comparable to a mother’s love that could never ever forget her child. The Hebrew word also included the provision of God’s care, reaching out to protect his children from harm.

As God’s children, we can depend on that mother love, that unbreakable bond, that caring and loving provision. Always.

I often think about the guy on the bus and hope he’s having some quality time with his daughter. Usually, I remember him when I’m going through a rough patch and need some encouragement.

The tattoo of Kelsey Jane makes me smile, while the visual of my image tattooed on the palm of God’s hand fills me with hope.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Calls The Young

young peopleOne after another they crossed the stage to receive their Bibles and certificates, their anointing and/or baptism.

Twenty-four of them – young people grafted into the church through the sacraments and boldly proclaiming, “I want everyone to know I’m a Christian.”


Although I knew none of them personally, I watched with a lump in my throat and remembered the day when I, too, publicly declared I would follow this Jesus person and dedicate my life to him.


Did these young people feel that warm glow of gracious love? Their faces certainly shone with the joy of the moment and the end result of being courageous enough to give their souls back to their Creator.

After the service, I felt hope renewed as another generation of young people prepared to step into life with a purpose. These are the messengers of the coming Messiah, the generation that will usher in the King of kings.

They humbled me with their sweet testimonies, projected on the video screen as they talked about moms, dads and friends who persuaded them to consider Jesus.

They excited me as I thought about the opportunities they would have in such a technological world. How many friends might they bring to the Truth just by posting on Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat?

I envy these young ones with their lives ahead of them. While I could share some tips with them, they will learn well from their own experiences. They must walk this road in relationship with the best Mentor possible and listen to the divine whisper for their instructions.

Hope called me young, and what I saw last Sunday in my church spread into ripples of anticipation for what God will do through these young people.

I can hardly wait to see what happens.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

How to Find Hope in Dandelions

dandelions on handThey raise their little heads above the sprigs of grass. At first, I am cheered by the bright yellow dots in my yard. “It will soon be time for the garden,” I tell the cat. Yes, I talk to my cat.

But by the time they lose their sunshiny tops and begin to climb higher, then sprout white seeds that blow all over creation, I am no longer thrilled to see them.

However, I am always amazed how dandelions persevere through every winter and reappear in my yard. Even though I dig them out each spring, they ride the wings of the wind and once again mess up my plans for a weedless garden.

Weeds are plants out of place. Dandelions are out of place among my peas, green beans and clematis.


But these same weeds have caused me to reflect on the spiritual lessons God sends through creation.


Perseverance: No matter how many times I dig them out and throw away their roots, dandelions reappear. They have conquered my garden space in spite of toxic chemicals, sharp mower blades and a shovel full of dirt. No amount of mulch deters their upward journey as they poke through the cypress sticks or pop up next to the hyacinth.

“Howdy!” they scream. “Here we are again!”

I would like to have that same character trait so that no matter who hurts me or what weapon is used against me, I continue my journey toward the Light.

Location:  Dandelions sprout anywhere and everywhere – between sidewalk cracks, in the middle of rocky landscapes and cuddled next to strawberry blossoms.

My hope is to be an encouragement no matter where I am – seated on the church pew, waiting in the long line for meds in Wal-Mart or sweating out stress in the workplace.

Dandelions teach that location is not as important as vocation. A consistent life of character is my goal – no matter where I sprout.

Effectiveness: Although we kill dandelions, some cultures nurture them for the greens and the tea. When these weeds live in the right place, they prove to be useful plants.

I begin every day with the desire to serve God and others. While it IS important to rest and observe the Sabbath, I pray God will use my work days to help someone else. Within the words I write, the gifts God has given me and my very existence, I want to make a difference.

In Colossians 3:23-24, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, remembering that it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you, giving you your full portion of all he owns. He is the one you are really working for” (TLB).

In spite of the spiritual lessons, dandelions are still not welcome in my garden. But as I dig them out and rid the landscape of their threat, they continue to remind me of a higher goal.

Even a weed praises the Creator who does all things well.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Claims Royalty

tiaraThis week, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 90th birthday. As I watched her presenting the royal wave to her subjects, I imagined my mother sitting in her magenta chair at assisted living, adjusting her imaginary tiara and smiling for Elizabeth II.

But in the solitude of her apartment, I doubt Mom was even aware that the British monarch walked among adoring crowds and cut dainty pieces from luxurious cakes.

Mom has always loved British history. She read all the novels and biographies about famous Brits and gathered an amazing volume of information about our “homeland’ across the channel.

Ask her about the numerous wives of Henry VIII, and she could recite them all – in order – as well as the circumstances of their unfortunate demise when they failed to produce a male heir. Poor Henry never knew it was the deficit of his own sperm.


Mom felt such a kinship to Elizabeth, she often declared, “It should have been me, you know. We were switched at birth.”


The year we toured Europe, Mom experienced a special euphoria when our Eurail pass transported us to England. We stood for hours outside Buckingham Palace, hoping for a glimpse of the queen. Her flag waved in the drippy London sky, but she did not appear. Disappointed but grateful, Mom said, “Well at least we saw where she lives.”

When we strolled through the lovely town of Westminster, Mom stood quietly for a moment as a trolley passed. Then she shook her head and smiled broadly. “I can’t believe I’m actually here. I’m seeing this in person.” Years of reading and dreaming had finally merged into reality.

The Tower of London made her sad. English crumpets and tea provided a culinary thrill and when we boarded the train for France, Mom sighed and said, “Trip of a lifetime.”

Mom would have enjoyed the Queen’s birthday this week and all the celebrations depicted on television. But in her quiet Alzheimer’s world, our trip to England is probably hidden in the fog of demented plaque.

I want to believe that somehow, Mom’s soul felt a blip of joy for her majesty the queen and maybe their ethereal connection seemed more real than ever before.

I’ll never know for sure how Mom celebrated the queen’s birthday, but I am certain of one thing – my mother is also royalty, a daughter of King Jesus.

©2016 RJ Thesman  ̶  Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Hope Finds Resolution

church doorsThroughout my search for a church, I have gleaned important lessons. Because life-long learning is one of my core values, it gives me joy to learn something new or to confirm principles I’ve known for decades.

So what have I learned?

The Community of Believers Thrives

Throughout this year, I have met so many wonderful believers. Pastors have rearranged their schedules to talk with me. Gracious and vulnerable, they let me pray for them and asked how they could serve me. I have been humbled, awed and thankful for these men and women who love the same Lord I love.

Within these communities, I have snacked on a variety of goodies, experienced a women’s Christmas tea and tried numerous versions of the same coffee brand. Eleos seems to be the favorite. However, I believe my choice of a church is solid even if they have no snacks and no coffee bar.

The variety of music has provided a soothing balm for my pilgrim soul. Although I love the old hymns and enjoy a rousing classical version of the “Hallelujah Chorus” – I have found so many wonderful worship teams, praising God with joy. Do they know how important they are, lifting the spirits of saints who need the comfort of lyrics and chord progressions?

We Share Common Struggles

Churches are living organisms, peopled by fallible human beings. The world we live in makes it easy to ignore God and focus on ourselves. Yet so many believers are trying mightily to be the persons God created them to be.

And in every church where I have talked with the leaders, they’re not quite sure what to do with me. My particular demographic is a puzzle. Most churches aren’t set up to serve single moms or know how to deal with the growing numbers of divorced people and their children. This is one reason why 67 percent of single moms leave the church and never return.

But I am encouraged that leaders are willing to at least open the conversation. They’re hoping to try new programs, discuss new resources and consider how to be vulnerable even within traditional guidelines.

Sunday is the loneliest day of the week, and in my visits I have seen many women who worship alone – sitting by themselves, their heads bowed even as I peek at their solitude. I imagine they pray the same words I pray, “Will someone, anyone, Lord, talk to me or come and sit with me or invite me to lunch or even acknowledge I am here?” Can we do better? I believe so.

Church is Important to Me

Although I took a sabbatical from church to soothe some of the hurts, I always knew I would return. I just didn’t know where. It is important to belong within a body of believers, to find how my little digit somehow fits into the kingdom work of a particular group where my gifts are respected and utilized.

In searching for church, I have been encouraged by my own faith and by the principles my soul believes so strongly that I will hunt for them week by week. I stepped forward, fell back and began again.

Because belonging to a church body is part of who I am. Because church sanctifies my core beliefs and helps me grow. Because the people in my church become family. Because I am a believer, and church is what we do.

God Cares About Where I Go

Throughout this journey, I have prayed every Saturday night, “Show me, please, Abba Father. Make it clear. I want to be where you lead me.”

And God came through. When I visited the church where Jesus was absent, the Spirit in me cried out in melancholy loss. When I attended a church with my son and his girlfriend, God told me it would be only “for a while.” The following would result in leaving.

And when I came to a crossroads which almost exhausted my list of possibilities, it was within that scary moment the divine whisper directed me to the final answer.

As God so often does with me, he confirmed it in a unique way – this time in a dream. I was at an amusement park, already buckled into the metal car of the roller coaster. Just as it was about to begin its cranking ascent, the divine voice urged, “Get off the roller coaster.” So I unbuckled and left the amusement park.

When I woke up and journaled through the dream, I saw the confirmation. My search had led me to highs and lows, to spiritual discovery through the valley of grief, to stops and starts. The roller coaster search needed to come to an end, and I had to make the decision to unbuckle and walk confidently in a new direction.

So I learned a great deal, and I am grateful for the learning which involved more than a year of prayer, visits, leavings and yearnings.

I am finally off the roller coaster, stepping carefully because belonging precipitates the possibility of another hurt and my heart does not want to risk it. But for now, I have found a home and I believe God is smiling as together, we walk through the door.

©2016 RJ Thesman  ̶  Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

Hope Follows

followDuring my visit to another church, the pastor gave a sermon titled, “Following Implies Leaving.”

When Peter followed Jesus, he left his nets and the fish flopping around in them. When American missionaries follow the call to serve in a foreign land, they leave the U.S. and their families. When we follow God’s leading for new jobs, we leave our current positions.

Although following God often involves leaving our comfort zones and the safe ruts we have created, in the leaving and the following we find direction, guidance and sometimes – a new life.

I wrote nonfiction articles and books for years. It was easy for me to complete research, create an outline and fill in the blanks with sentences and paragraphs.

Then one day, God planted Reverend G in my mind, and I started writing her story. To follow the Spirit’s direction, I had to leave my place of contented writing, recording facts and personal experiences.

Was it easy to leave? Definitely not.

I had to study fiction techniques, step out in risk to sell the book and re-invent myself as a novelist. It was not easy, but in the process, I discovered something fascinating.

Although I had to leave my comfort zone, the result of following the divine whisper was a trilogy about this gutsy minister, Reverend G. And I found a new passion, the heartbeat of story.


Fiction surprised me. As I dug into it and learned more, I listened to my characters speak and direct the process. I started having fun.


Now, I am nurturing several ideas for other novels even while I continue to work on another nonfiction book. My foray into fiction merges into nonfiction so that even facts, research and personal experience become a fascinating study of the craft.

When we follow God’s leading, don’t we often end up in a better place? Although it may in some respects be harder, it is still better.

Peter followed Christ. It was hard. He failed often and struggled to learn how to accept this radical Jesus.

But Peter ended up as the leader of the Jerusalem church, thrust into the role of speaker, shoving aside his fear and his guilt of denying Christ. Eventually, Peter marched into martyrdom and eternity with his beloved Lord.

I believe as I leave one church and follow the Spirit toward another, God has something better in mind.

Will it be hard?

It already is hard – and lonely. Yet I am determined to follow.

I believe that wherever I land, it will be a better place for me to serve, to use my giftings and to glorify God as I worship with other followers.

Following implies leaving, but even in the leaving, we discover hope.

©2016 RJ Thesman  ̶  Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Thrives With a List

Because I process best while writing, I decided to make a list of what I’m looking for in a church.checklist

A perfect church does not exist – anywhere – because it is an organism teeming with fallible human beings. The minute I walk in, the dynamics of that church will change because I am not perfect.

So I know my list is only a series of guidelines, parameters I am looking for in a church body. But it helps me set my limits, to know exactly what I’m looking for and to eliminate any groups that don’t have at least 50 percent of what I need.

My list includes:

  • Jesus. He must be front and center. I want Jesus to be the focus, always. The church is, after all, the bride of Christ – the body that started with his disciples, men and women devoted to following the Son of God. This is one parameter where I will not waver. If you doubt my sincerity, re-read my post “Hope Reaffirms” about how I left the church that had no Jesus.
  • I need a church that looks at Scripture as an entire document and God-breathed inspiration. I will not attend a church that takes just one verse and makes a doctrine out of it. Legalism is dangerous. Been there. Done that. Finished with that forever and ever, Amen.
  • Humble leaders are paramount in the church of my dreams. To minister means to serve. I don’t want my pastors to preach from their strongholds or to demand special treatment just because they happen to be ordained. The pulpit should be a place from which to share truth, not to pontificate.
  • I do not want to hear politics from the pulpit. If I want to consider a political opinion, I will stay home and watch CNN.
  • One reason I am having a difficult time finding a church is because I believe in egalitarian theology. Jesus was the only religious leader in history who truly respected women and gifted them to serve in his kingdom. Scripture says, “In the last days sons AND daughters will prophesy.” Many churches say they respect women and their gifts, but will only let women practice certain gifts. They don’t practice what they preach (pun intended).
  • I want a church that is willing to learn and grow – not remain stagnant with what they’ve always done. Jesus broke the mold on traditionalism. Life-long learning is one of my core values, and I believe we can always learn more about God, about his love and about how to grow in relationship with him. My soul tires of the same old messages. I want to grow in my faith and in how to effectively be a disciple in my world.
  • God blesses churches that care about missions, but many churches are caught in the romanticism of travel. I believe mission also exists right on our doorsteps. I want my church to be active in the community; not just across the globe. I want us to help the people in the pews and in the apartment complexes and those who are sleeping on park benches.
  • Because I am a single mom, it is important to me that my church cares about the orphan and the widow, in every definition of the word. Fifty per cent of us have experienced the shattering of our marriages, and if the church doesn’t want that number to escalate – then they need to “be” the church and reach out to those children and their lonely mamas. I have attended churches where the leadership regularly quoted negative statistics about single moms and other churches that had vital programs to help single-parent families. I believe Jesus cares about every demographic.
  • I am looking for a church with diversity, a body that welcomes every age group and every race. Since heaven will be a mixture of every tribe, language and nation, we might as well start getting used to it.
  • One of the churches I visited filled almost all of my parameters, but they had no need for any of my giftings. I believe it is important to serve within the church. However, I need to be using my authentic gifts and not placed in a traditional gift box. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I should be relegated to holding babies in the nursery or organizing a pot luck. I can’t help it God made me a leader, a writer and a teacher. I’m a first born, for Pete’s sake. I want my church to accept who I am and believe God sent me their way so that I could fulfill a definite function.

In my visits to various churches, I have been encouraged by the numbers of lovely Christians, the various programs and the ways churches function effectively.


When we attend one church for many years, we may believe ours is the only place, the only way.


But many believers are striving to learn more about God, serving in their communities and the world, giving of themselves week after week as they worship together. It has been encouraging to me to find these bodies everywhere and to know we are all part of the family of God, brothers and sisters with one focus – to share God’s love to a lonely world.

One of the pastors I met said, “Don’t shop around for a church. Let the Holy Spirit draw you into community.”

I like that thought, and I am praying in hope for that direction. I believe someday, somewhere, I will find the place where I belong.

©2016 RJ Thesman  ̶  Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

Hope Finds 3 Stories

My mother wanted to be a writer, but the circumstances of life did not allow that dream to come true. She would have been a great wordsmith.

foggy road - treesNow that she lives in the confusing fog of Alzheimer’s, her creative juices no longer peek behind the boundaries of reality. She creates amazing stories that alternately amuse and frighten us.

During this past Easter weekend, I walked with Mom down the hallways of assisted living. Each door we passed led to the final home of a resident. It would have been a morbid trip except for the decorations outside each door – colorful symbols of something special to that resident.

One door displayed a basket full of wooden apples, painted so realistically I could almost taste the juice. However, Mom’s appetite focused more on the story she imagined.

“Those apples remind me of one day when I knocked on that guy’s door.”

Did she really do that? Probably not, but her story depended on the plausibility that she did indeed knock on that door.

“So this guy opened the door and offered me an apple, but I didn’t take one because I knew he was probably pedaling liquor in his room and maybe put some in one of the apples. I didn’t want to take that chance. It’s against the law to have liquor in your room.”

A pretty good story, filled with conflict and imagination. I tried not to laugh as we walked back to her room where Mom had another story waiting.

She told me someone had stolen her scarf. I knew this wasn’t true, because her scarf was hanging out of her coat pocket. I had helped her find it that morning before we left for church.

I could have pointed to the scarf and reminded her it was hanging in full view, but she was already half a sentence into her story.

“So this guy stole my scarf, and I ran after him and chased him outside. Then I took ice picks out of my pockets and started toward him. I stabbed him all over with my picks until he hollered. I almost stabbed his eye out but then he gave me the scarf.”

Some of the macabre stories Mom tells probably evolve from years of reading mysteries and watching “The Twilight Zone.”

The final story of the weekend was one Mom knows well and even within the shadows of confusion, she was able to share in it last Sunday.

It’s the true story of a man who was willing to give his life so that we could live abundantly – the God-man who came to earth, loved us unconditionally, then died on a wooden cross.

That man – that Jesus – did not stay dead. He came back to life where over 500 people saw him alive and became credible witnesses of the greatest miracle ever performed.

Mom knows that story well and shared in the joy of Easter Sunday. Holding her Bible, even though she can no longer find passages, she nodded her head as the pastor spoke and helped us sing, “Low in the Grave He Lay…Up from the Grave He Arose.”

Her faith and her eternal future are based on the veracity of the Easter story. Someday she will experience new life in heaven, forever free of Alzheimer’s and its horrific side effects.

We’re hanging on to that story of hope and look forward to its final resolution – the eternal resurrection for all of us.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Reaffirms

When I drove by the church building, I was certain this was the place for me. With a Southwestern façade and landscaping of wildflowers and hummingbird feeders in a setting of quiet woods – this was surely the place I could worship and feel a sense of belonging.

Picture of a wooden Christian cross on Saint Cuthbert’s Isle, Holy Island, Northumberland. St Cuthbert’s Isle was a small island used as a retreat by both Aidan and Cuthbert.

I wanted to rush home, grab my journal and find a cozy place near the church’s spring robins – to record my thoughts next to this lovely building.

Instead, I clicked onto their website for meeting times and drove back to the beautiful location the next Sunday.

It was the friendliest church I have ever attended in my entire life. Everyone welcomed me, asked my name and grasped my outstretched hand.

One elderly saint took me on a tour where a I fell in love with the inner décor – the sanctuary painted in a coral background, chairs placed in a welcoming semi-circle, three separate libraries – count ‘em – three! I imagined holding reign over a diverse book club and talking about the Reverend G trilogy.

Hallways with archways reminiscent of Santa Fe’s culture, stenciling at the top of the arches, an eclectic blend of flute, bongos and guitar for the worship segment.

Surely I belonged in this aesthetic setting where no one condemned my single mom status or wondered why I worshiped alone. I noticed several mothers without spouses, hugging their children close as they swayed to the sound of mellow chord progressions.

I wanted to sign up immediately and become a member in this love-infested organism.


Except for one major flaw: Jesus was missing.


No mention of Jesus in their bulletin, no singing about his love in any of the worship songs. Not once was his sweet name spoken during the sermon or the prayers. The homily seemed more like a delicate social treatise on the topic of acceptance.

I liked the idea of acceptance but missed underscoring the Lord who accepted me.

Social justice seemed to be their Savior rather than the man on the cross. And while I applauded their openness and willingness to love everyone, I wondered how that could be accomplished without the Son of Love.

As I left that day and walked sadly down the moss-covered stone steps, I grieved for my journey and another disappointment.

I would not – could not return nor could I accept the open arms of this sweet congregation when the foundation of my faith was so obviously missing.

Hope reaffirms my core value that without Jesus I am lost. And where he is not welcome, I cannot go.

So I drove home, processed the experience in my journal, then played some hymns on the piano that reaffirmed the meaning of the cross.

Although I fought the sadness for several days, I felt grateful that God would surely direct me to the place I need to be.

Even a “no” answer is an arrow that points away from error and toward the truth.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Realigns

arrows - alignmentA pastor began his introduction into the Communion Service with a call for confession. “This is the time to realign our hearts,” he said, “to make sure we are ready to receive the bread and cup together.”

Realigning our hearts to God – I had never considered that viewpoint but I liked it. As I bowed my head and confessed sins and errors of judgment, prideful thoughts of the week and the taking of offenses that did not belong to me – I was grateful for moments of contemplative confession.

Sometimes phrases and words stay with me for a long time. I ponder them, journal about them, pray fervently for clarity.

As I thought about the topic of realignment and pondered this blog post, I saw the need for realignment in many areas of life.

My last post centered on the topic of release as I linger in God’s waiting room.

How can I realign my soul as I wait and release?

As I work on necessary patience, I realign my heart to accept whatever God’s answers might be. Bringing my heart back to the correct focus is a constant soul work and a spiritual discipline I want to conquer.

When we have struggles in relationships, we might consider the idea of realignment. How can we be mutually submissive so that compromise works and love scores a win?

How can we set healthy boundaries in our lives and realign our hearts with what is truly important? We might try less productivity for the sake of dollars; more reaching out to the needy.

As a writer, my creative mind constantly sparks with new ideas – another book I yearn to write, articles and blog posts to reach the masses through cyberspace, another website focused on my coaching outreach.

But in this season of active ministry, my time to construct paragraphs and plots, characters and resolutions is limited. The achievement of polished manuscripts lies dormant.


I must realign my goals with reality and wait for the time when ideas bring a harvest. God is glorified even in the waiting.


Especially during this Lenten season, I seek to realign my soul with the important rather than the urgent, to find my joy in the simple pleasure of God’s presence and the divine whisper that sings lullabies at night.

Then when resurrection comes – whether it is Easter Sunday, resolutions within relationships or the birth of a new book – I will know hope has preceded me.

Realignment will have succeeded and once again – I will journey on the right path.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Releases

Woman-celebratingWe learn to release in tiny increments, although those steps represent monumental heart blips in life.

When we help our five year-olds zip up their new backpacks, then watch them walk away from us toward the kindergarten room. They feel excitement as they begin the educational journey. With tears, we pray for strength to let them go. We release them to the system, to the process of learning, to embracing social skills and finding their direction in life.

Release continues: the first time they drive alone, first dates, first college visit. Then 18 short years after we push them through the birth canal, we release them as they launch toward college or the workplace.


Release carries with it the stretching grief of necessary growth.

During this season, I work on releasing Mom into the final stages of Alzheimers, knowing what the end result will be – what it must be.

Release for her will result in a glorious heavenly welcome while it spontaneously leaves us missing her and longing for our own release. The hope of a future release and the relief of eternity with God.

Last week, I posted about the prayers I have whispered and my place in God’s waiting room.

For a life-long planner like me, it is difficult to make the plan a reality when I cannot hear the answer and do not know the direction. Waiting requires a type of release – letting God work his miracle timing and trust that he knows – always – the best ending for my questionings.

The prophet Isaiah foreshadowed our need for release. “These things you carry about are loaded as burdens on the weary beasts” (Isaiah 46:1).

We can choose to carry the burdens – to sacrifice peace by loading our hearts with worry and fear.

Or we can release our prayers, visions and dreams into the capable hands of a wise God who knows the end from the beginning.

My task is to speak God’s truth, write his words, then release everything to his care.

His role is to work it all out so that others will be drawn to his love and ultimately find their final release in his home.

Still waiting and staying in hope, but trusting that release will usher in the answers.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Waits

Hope WaitsWaiting is not easy for me, but I seem to often reside in God’s waiting room. Throughout the years, my spiritual muscles have been stretched and strengthened by the exercise of waiting. So I try to be grateful for the experience.

Still, it’s no fun.

In this season, I am trying to be patient as I wait for several prayers to be answered. I am waiting to hear about a book decision. When writers spend months and sometimes years emptying their souls onto  computer screens, then revising and deleting, adding and groaning about more words – they want their work to be acknowledged.

I know the drill. It takes a while to hear back from editors and publishers because they are busy people just like me. Still – this section of the waiting room is surrounded by uncertainty. Fear screams, “What if they don’t want my book? What do I do then?”


Although I have a Plan B, I’m impatient enough to want Plan A to happen right now, thank you very much.


 

For several months, I have been searching for Sunday. I borrowed that phrase from the book title by Rachel Held Evans. Hers was the book I opened, read the Introduction and immediately burst into tears. When you cry at the beginning pages, you know the book was meant for you.

During this season of life and in my particular demographic of older single woman, I find it hard to find a place to belong. With my ministry background and years of serving with wonderful saints, I struggle to find a fellowship that will honor my giftings and accept me for who I am yet continue to nurture and teach me. It would be easier to stay in my jammies on Sunday mornings, click on the remote and forget my aloneness within the plots of various Hallmark movies.

But I believe in the corporate body, the fellowship of the saints and the role we each play. I like to sing with other people, sway to the music, pass the offering plate and share the communion dish, hug others and rehearse my prayer requests. Plus, some of those Hallmark movies are so easy to figure out, they bore me.

I visit churches, discover other saints also searching for Sunday and ask God to remove me from this waiting room and plop me into the pew where I belong.

Another area of waiting involves Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey. I wait for the phone call, “You’d better get down here in a hurry.” I wonder how many more years she has to endure this infernal Long Goodbye. When will she get to graduate to heaven? What is God waiting on for her release?

I don’t want her to die, sort of, but I also don’t want her to live in la-la land, unaware of those who love her and of the way she now responds like a child. Where is the abundant life we are promised that accompanies our faith? When is the release?

As I struggle in prayer for Mom, I also pray for the rest of us. I am so tired of bad news, of hearing about people who chose to use their freedom to bear arms by taking the lives of others. I am sick of the condemnation and stereotyping of people of color, single moms and all the inequities we carry around and somehow call justice. Politicians who can’t work together. Rape and the molestation of little girls. Celebrities who get away with sin just because of who they are and the amount of money represented in their checking accounts.

I am homesick for heaven, and I am tired of waiting. I want Jesus to come back right now so that we can live in the purity of his home and never have to watch another stupid Viagra commercial.

So what can we do when hope waits and frustration mounts day after day?

We can stay busy helping others. I’ll keep writing and working and praying and hoping. When I’m busy, I focus on the task at hand. It’s only when I sit quietly that I grind my teeth and wonder how much longer, Lord? Hurry up and get us out of here before everything really falls apart.

We can keep our focus on God. I know he is being patient with us, and he understands how frustrating it is to wait. He also grieves at the state of our world, at fresh coffins planted in the soil, hungry and homeless people lying on sidewalks just outside affluent businesses, bombs that blow children to bits.

Somehow in the waiting, we have to recognize his sovereignty – his eternal knowledge of the whole picture. Sure, he wants us to do our best to remedy some of these problems, but he also knows what is coming and why he waits. Someday, perhaps he will share that answer with us.

We can learn patience within each season. The stretching of spiritual muscles is never enjoyable, but afterwards – isn’t it always afterwards – the effort yields a better result. We gain strength, we learn endurance and we find extra measures of grace.

This morning, I watched this video and found new strength to wait a bit longer. http://www.maryloucaskey.com/when-your-answer-seems-so-far-away.html

So in my current waiting rooms, I am determined to sooth my restlessness with the truth of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Be still. Know who he is. Know he is sovereign God. Know his timing is always important and know that someday, the waiting will end.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Bleeds at Sundown

sunsetWe first noticed this phenomenon with Dad. During the final stages of his dementia, dusk triggered an inward call. He rose from his chair and began pacing up and down the living room, going nowhere yet constantly moving.

His eyes shone with an almost maniacal light, as if he obeyed a substance or a creature we could not see. By that time, he no longer spoke, so we couldn’t ask him what he was looking for or where he wanted to go. It became his nightly ritual until he could no longer walk.

I fully expected him to pass away during the dusky hours, when the Oklahoma sun begins its descent into the horizon. But no, he graduated to heaven in the middle of a spring day – simply by ceasing to breathe and walking away with Jesus.

Years ago, when my mother worked as a nurse in the hospital, she told me how important it was to work the night shift and watch out for her patients. “If they’re going to die,” she said, “they’ll die at night.”

Something about the night conjures up the dark fear of death – all those spooky movies with a full moon shadowing gargantuan monsters. I find that strange, because I love sunsets and when I finally lay me down to sleep, I say, “Ah! Yes!”


But then, the scenario is different when Alzheimer’s and/or dementia capture the brain.


 

We have noticed the sundown change in Mom as well. She eats supper early, around 4:30 at the assisted living facility. Perhaps they schedule it early for a purpose, because they know what is coming for many of their residents. Shortly after supper, Mom moves into her most confused state of the day.

We know better than to visit her in the evening, because she will be concerned about the farm and what is happening there, even though she hasn’t lived in the country for many years. In the evenings, she will forget Dad has passed. She will talk about him as if he is coming into the room and she must prepare his clothes for the next day.

At dusk, Mom will argue about nonsensical things – what day it is, what year it is, whether we have already celebrated Christmas and whose name she drew and what present she bought. It doesn’t matter what we say or how we try to explain, the shutters of understanding have closed for the day. She is lost within the sunset hours.

An old hymn reminds me of the timelessness of heaven and how we will someday no longer fear any type of sundowner symptoms.

“Beyond the sunset, oh blissful morning

When with our savior, heaven is begun.

Earth’s toiling ended, oh glorious dawning

Beyond the sunset, when day is done.”

 

You can listen to the entire hymn here: Beyond the Sunset

I guess there’s a good reason hope bleeds at sundown. Maybe that’s the time believers are most restless for heaven, searching for the Savior and for their loved ones who graduated before them.

Next time I see Mom at dusk, I’ll take her hand to calm her down and say, “It’s okay, Mom. Only a few more sunsets until your journey is over. Be still. The best is yet to be.”

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Finds Its Sanctuary

Praying_HandsDuring the winter months, I often journal and pray in the bathroom. My bathroom is tiny, so it’s the warmest room in the house. I sit on the heater vent, put a pillow behind my back and proceed to write my thoughts and communicate with God.

I figure God knows all about our physical bodies anyway and he doesn’t care where we meet – as long as we continue the relationship.

In the movie, “Oh God,” John Denver was embarrassed when God showed up while he was taking a shower.

“What?” God said, a la George Burns. “You think I don’t know what your body looks like? I made you.”

So I figure God doesn’t care that his daughter needs to stay warm and chooses the bathroom to keep from freezing even while her heart forms words of praise.

It seems a strange place to set up sanctuary, but then again – I’m close to the Kleenex if I cry and the cat also likes spending time with me in private places.

One of my friends, however, chooses a different way to worship – on the broad plains of Kansas or tucked into a booth at a unique coffee shop. Jane Tucker writes on her blog about wonderful Midwest locations as she revels in the expanse her camera sees, the grasses of the Flint Hills and the sun-colored flatlands of her homeland Iowa. Her blog’s tag line “Postcards from the Heartland” aptly describes the homey feel of her verbiage and the joy of finding the divine within natural wonders.

Her worship is just as genuine as mine, although hers is a wide and colorful expanse while mine is in a tiny room.


I have a feeling God loves spending time with his children and he doesn’t really care how we worship. Whether we dance with colorful scarves, sing off-key in the shower or sway to the harmonies of an old hymn – the important point is that we take time to meet with our maker.


The poet King David described places of worship, “From the ends of the earth” or “Within the sanctuary” or “With all that is within me.”

Places and people vary yet the creativity of methods to thank God for his many blessings helps us treasure relationship with him.

So wherever we are and however we choose, let’s find our sanctuary and plant hope by spending time with God.

Among my followers, I’m wondering where and how you worship? Do any of you find joy in a tiny room? Or is your worship best expressed within the confines of the traditional church building? Does a particular location stir you to praise the God who created you?

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Struggles with a Birthday

Exfoliates quoteAll day I thought about her, my mother who lives within the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. Celebrating her 88th birthday without me and without any knowledge that she had survived another year.

By mid-afternoon, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I called assisted living and asked if they could bring Mom to the desk for a phone call.

“It will be just a minute,” the nurse said. “She had such a good day.”

“Really? You helped her celebrate?”

“We partied for all the February birthdays, and your mother had such a good time with our Hawaiian theme. She wore a grass skirt.”

“What?” My mother, the dignified woman with perfect posture, who always carried herself with self-respect. Dressed in a grass skirt?

The nurse continued, “Our activities director decided on the theme. Everyone wore a lei and we had a pretend luau with island music. It was such a great idea.”

I know about activities directors and the impact of their work. Roxie, in the Reverend G books, helps each resident find some type of interest that will increase their sense of significance.

These directors walk a fine line. How do you approach these seasoned seniors who deserve honor even while they have mentally become children? How do you celebrate birthdays for the generation that survived World War 2 and the depression, then rebuilt America and sent their kids to college for the education they always wanted but couldn’t afford?

Now they fidget away their days, shuffling with a variety of walkers, forgetting their names and the children they birthed, aware only of the dinner bell when they file obediently into the dining room and eat silently, then retire to their rooms to turn up the volume on the TV and hope sleep will come soon.

“We had pineapple upside down cake,” the nurse said.

“My mother likes pecan pie. I’ve never seen her eating pineapple anything.” I could not erase the vision of my mother in a grass skirt – this woman who raised me with a no-nonsense approach and a duty-bound responsibility to always do my best and use my gifts to the utmost for God’s glory.

“Oh, here she is!” cried the nurse.

“Hello?” answered a shaky voice.

Too fragile. Not the strong tone I remembered from my visit at Christmas. “Hi, Mom. It’s me, and Caleb is here, too.” I was certain the name of her grandson would trigger a memory.

“Hello?”

“Happy birthday, Mom.”

“Thank you. Hello?”

I ground my teeth and prayed for wisdom. “Did you have a party today?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

She was probably refusing to remember being dressed up like a perky five year-old and forced to wear a stupid grass skirt. I could do nothing to help her. I wanted to scream, but tried a different thought. “Did you have a piece of cake?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

My mother, who used to call me with hour-long conversations, asking about my writing and my work, interested in everything her grandson accomplished – now responding only in mono-syllabic words, phrases she somehow chose from the fog of a plaque-infested brain.

Surely, she would talk to her grandson. “Here’s Caleb.” I handed him the phone.

“Hi, Grandma. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you. Hello?”

“Grandma, it’s me, Caleb. How are you?”

“Hello? What?”

He looked at me, helpless. “Talk louder,” I whispered. “Maybe she can’t hear you.”

“Grandma, we love you.”

“Hello?”

Finally, I took the phone again. “Mom, we’ll see you soon. We just wanted to tell you happy birthday and we love you.”

“Thank you. Hello.” I wondered if all the hello’s really meant good-bye.

Then she was gone, and I imagined her shuffling back to her room, not caring that she is now 88, unaware of 2016, a presidential election coming soon and spring flowers eager to burst through the crust of winter soil.

For a minute, I felt the guilt of being the long-distance caregiver assuaged. We tried to help her celebrate the day, tried to let her know we love her and miss her, wished we could be there.

But it wasn’t enough. The echoes of her voice followed me up the stairs as I hurried to my bedroom to cry.

I hate Alzheimer’s.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyhwedding - rj, ct, mom

Hope Confesses

1 peter 2-23It felt ugly and sent me into several days of discouragement. A verbal attack – probably not intentional – but to be my authentic self, I must admit it hurt.

The words questioned my blogging skills, criticized word count and focus, suggested that another direction would be more effective, violated several of the blogging rules I espouse.

Constructive criticism? Possibly. But spoken without any encouragement or positive phrases. The confrontive words “you need to” at the beginning of each sentence.

Worse – the attack was not written where I could ponder each word and form my response. But verbal and quick so I had no time to recover and respond, not even a chance to defend myself.

I wanted to run away, to find some solace in people who love me and believe in my words. But that seemed the coward’s path, and I had responsibilities to fulfill.

Instead, I texted my son, “Pray for me. I need a hug.”

His reply almost immediate, “Certainly.”

We ate at Cracker Barrel that evening because I needed some fried apples and a hashbrown casserole for comfort. I reviewed what had happened that day. Sometimes just verbalizing an experience helps us work through it – to find some point of learning in the criticism, some intent in the phrasing.

And some sense of what to do about the situation.

Then I spent an hour with my journal, writing it out, because that is how I process the experiences of my life – in the written word – the same format that brought about the attack.

Two more days passed as I processed what had been said, thought more about it, prayed for wisdom in how to respond, how to learn from it. Nothing I could do would change the fact that it happened.

But how should I react, as a Christian writer who hopes my words and phrases inspire and encourage? What direction should I take?

With more journaling and more inward scrutiny, I discovered an ugly seed hiding within the heart of my passionate words. Pride whispered, “You’ve been blogging for years. You’ve taught other writers how to blog, and you know all the tools and techniques. You teach at writers conferences and you have over 1300 followers on your blog, for cryin’ out loud! How dare this person attack you when you have such credibility?”

Owie!

In the posture of the repentant, I knelt by my bed and honestly confronted the source. “I don’t like this hurt, God, but I admit the pride that has been wounded. I confess that sour germ to you and ask that you help me not to let is fester or cause bitterness. I do not want to be ugly back to this person. I want to learn to be a better writer, to continue to inspire and encourage as well as inform. I admit the pain, but I want to learn from it.”


Confession does not automatically heal the wound, but it sets us in the right direction for purity of heart and growth of the soul.


“The pure in heart shall see God.” My ultimate bucket list contains this goal.

So as I write and obey this new directive, I will focus on the hope that pours from my passion. I vow to not run from the truth but from the pride that deceives and confuses.

Hopefully, the words that erupt will then be more acceptable – in the marketplace and in my soul.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Hides in the Pages of a New Book

Something special happens when I begin to birth a book. I’m not sure if I am unique in this. Perhaps other writers will comment and let me know if I’m weird or somewhat normal.writing pencil

Because one of my core values is life-long learning, I love to initiate research. So with the new idea, I start to look for credits that may prove my point if it’s a nonfiction book.

For novels, I start to pay attention to settings, cultures, recipes, clothing – anything that will make my characters believable.

Then I go nuts with ideas and start free writing. For nonfiction, I play with an outline.

For novels, I write letters to the characters and let them write me back (I know – weird!).

This is the most exciting part for me – similar to when the doctor said, “Guess what? You’re pregnant!”

I begin to imagine all kinds of scenarios. What will the cover of this book look like? What if this book becomes a best-seller? What if the words I write impact somebody’s life?


The beginning germ of my idea mushrooms and ripples into a story line. Even in nonfiction, it’s important to tell the story.


 

So I feel excited, fulfilled, working away at this idea and waiting to see how it will manifest itself in chapter headings, quotes, character quirks and the resolution of conflict.

As I work on the idea, I imagine my readers – feet propped up in front of a cozy fire, turning the pages inscribed with my words, wiping a tear or tilting back their heads in laughter.

Then I take the idea and play with it from the marketing standpoint. After I find my focus, how many articles can I write from this one idea? Will it be only a novel or can I also write a nonfiction book, using my research as a starting point?

That’s what I’m doing now with all my research about Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Reverend G trilogy is finished, so now I’m putting together a nonfiction book of essays and meditations to help caregivers.

For me, the best part of writing is letting my creativity loose without any roadblocks or fears stopping me. I envision the massive impact this idea will have and the huge numbers of people who will either learn from my topic or change their lives because of it.

Ultimately, I thank God for the idea because he is the one who creates life – in the womb and in my writing soul.

Then I ask him to bless the project and hope again – that it will be very good.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Thrives with the Little Ones

smiley-kids-stand-up_23-2147490130She reached out to touch my hand, her pudgy little toddler fingers soft and warm. Dark brown Hispanic eyes twinkled with joy as we played peek-a-boo around her mother’s shoulder.

I would have given her mother $20 to let me hold her precious daughter, but then maybe the spell would have broken.

We waited in line at Arby’s, still teasing each other for at least ten minutes. The baby grinned at me, two tiny bottom teeth standing like white sentinels in her perky mouth.

Then customer service took over. The child and her mother moved away from me, and I ordered my own meal.

Unlike most of my friends, I do not have grandchildren – yet – and I rarely get to see my great-nieces. So when I’m in contact with a little one, it is a special moment for me.

A time of revived hope as I see the future in a tiny life, untouched by the cares of the world. That little girl has no idea yet of the stresses she will someday encounter nor of the need to pay a gas bill and keep a roof over her head.

She is years away from deciding on a career and thankfully, her choices will be much more varied than mine ever were.

Her grin is free from any emotional baggage – yet even as I played peek-a-boo with her, I begged God to protect her. Statistics prove that one out of three little girls will be sexually assaulted.

Oh God, oh God – may that statistic burn in hell.

As I reflected later that day and remembered the beautiful child, I marveled at how she had increased my hope:

  • Her youth – so much potential ahead of her
  • Her innocence – may life allow her to remain pure
  • Her freedom – in a country that offers so much promise
  • Her gender – with more opportunities for women than ever before
  • Her beauty – who could resist those brown eyes and black hair surrounding clear baby skin?

No wonder God tells us to become like a little child.

No wonder Jesus said, “Let the little ones come unto me.” Perhaps the little ones of his culture also gave him hope.

No wonder our hearts burst with joy when we are accepted and loved by a little child.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Image attribution: www.Freepik.com

Hope in the Preservation

canned-tomatoes-1172877After watching the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, I decided to spend some time with my journal. It’s always been a good practice for me to evaluate the past year and think about what I want to do with my life in the next 12 months.

Along with my journal, I grabbed my Bible and flipped to a Psalm I’ve been studying. Within that sacred text, I found a verse to meditate on – which also gave me some ideas for 2016.

Psalm 31:23 “Oh love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves the faithful….”

When I focused on the word “preserves” I thought about sand plum jelly we made on the farm and the hours we spent canning tomatoes and green beans. Those wonderful Mason jars provided us with fresh food throughout the winter months and also preserved memories of cooking with Mom in the farm kitchen.

But some of the ideas for my new year came directly from the word “preserve.” How might God preserve me in 2016? What does it mean to be “preserved?”

  • Fresh. Being fresh and refreshed so that I can feel energized for the writing and ministries I do. As preserved foods always taste fresh, I need to make sure I rest well, take care of myself holistically and exercise to preserve my strength.
  • Useable. One reason we canned vegetables was so we could eat them during the months when the garden was frozen. I want to be useable during this new year, available to serve God and help others, writing my best words ever, speaking and coaching and being.
  • Available at any time. All it took was a trip to the cellar to bring up the Mason jars. When God speaks to me or when people need me to help them, when words well up within my spirit and need to be written down – right then – I want to be available. No questions. No doubts. No hesitation.
  • Safe. Our foods were preserved so well, we never suffered from botulism, e coli or any type of toxins. I want the people I serve to feel safe around me. I want my readers to know that when they pick up my books, they won’t have to wonder what type of topics I’ll write about. Even if I have to stretch some comfort zones, I want readers to know that I strive for truth – which creates a type of safety.
  • No Expiration Date. Our sand plum jellies lasted for years and were always edible. All we had to do was skim off the wax on top, then spread that golden orange lusciousness on top of warm bread, fresh from the oven. Although I reached one of those “special” age limits this year, I haven’t reached my expiration yet. I’m still working, serving and praying. I’m still writing and hope to continue – with no retirement in sight and no expiration date warning me to slow down.

So I’m grateful God promises to preserve me, because I want to remain faithful to his calling for me. And I want 2016 to be my best year ever, writing the words he speaks to me – then sharing them with you.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Image Attribution: SXC – Freepik.com

Seeking Hope After Christmas

Because I love Christmas, it is always a bittersweet challenge to pack up everything, tape the boxes closed and carry Christmas to the basement.mantel after Xmas

I simply cannot endure the thought of an entire year before I pull out the twinkle lights, caress my angel collection and replay memories associated with the ornaments.

This Christmas was especially difficult as my son had to work through the holidays. I missed being with him as I remembered Christmases past and the excitement of a little boy discovering his first drum set, a giant box of Legos and a package of plastic army men.

This Christmas also brought more confusion for my mother. Her Alzheimer’s side effects seem to peak during the holidays, when I long for her to remember the daughter she sewed for, the special box of books she placed under the tree with my name on the tag, my excitement when I opened that box and knew I would soon be transported into the mysterious world of Nancy Drew.

This year, Mom didn’t even remember that Dad now lives in heaven. Our quality time was nonexistent, and when I drove her back to assisted living – she argued about living there. She couldn’t even remember why someone had given her presents.

So to preserve some joy of the season, I rearranged my pearl lights on the mantel and merged winter accessories with pine cone candles. Just a touch of Christmas to lessen the loss.

But I needed more. I have learned the best way to preserve the joy of Christmas is to proactively use my Christmas cards. I keep them in a pile beside my Bible, then each morning throughout January and February, I choose one card and pray for that person or the family that sent the card.

I remember special friends and family members, clients and colleagues by reminding God of their importance in my life, lifting up their needs to the only one who can fulfill them.


It helps me tolerate the cold fingers of winter as I focus on the warm love of the God who transcends every season and time.


So as we move into 2016, let’s all try to find more tangible ways to seek hope.

Then next year during Christmas, we can celebrate with extra joy.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Hanging On To Hope

As the Kansas winter blustered through my yard, I noticed a unique snapshot of the season.leaf - hanging on

Although all the other leaves had already let loose and dropped to the ground, one leaf still hung on.

In spite of the wind, the calendar day and its length of life – a lone leaf clung tightly to the branch that had given it life.

It didn’t take long to wrap my heart around the analogy and honor thousands of saints who continue to cling tightly to their true source of life.

They persevere in spite of the calendar days that scream, “You should have given up already.”

They hang on in spite of the circumstances of life or the opinions of others or even of well-meaning friends who speak cruelty.

These are people who inspire me to persevere as well:

  • The single mom who drives her children to church even though she has been shunned because she’s divorced
  • The writer who revises the same manuscript seven times until every word is as good as it can possibly be – then ignores another rejection to revise it again
  • The cancer patient who refuses to be a victim but spends her time during brutal radiation treatments, praying through her list of friends and family
  • The nonprofit organizations who operate on a financial shoestring and trust God to provide resources each and every day
  • The missionaries who continue to serve even when their prayers don’t merge with the answers they long to see

Persevering folks who keep hanging on to hope even when everything in life attacks them.


Brave and vulnerable caregivers who keep serving even when the days are 36 hours long.

Mothers who keep praying for their prodigals. Fathers who work jobs they hate so their children won’t go hungry. Christians who refuse to deny Christ even though faced with the wrath of a radical Muslim sect.

The power of those who persevere is modeled at the end of Hebrews 11 – saints who refused to be released from torturous prisons, faced rejection and persecution, were destitute and mistreated. They did not receive what they were promised but they hung on anyway. They persevered and “the world was not worthy of them.”

What is required to continue in hope when everyone else has let loose and fallen around us?

Courage and the grace to keep hanging on to the One who empowers us with resurrection life.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Finding Hope at Christmas

Especially at Christmas, caregivers and families feel the sting of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We hang ornaments and remember past Decembers when our loved ones decorated the tree, sang Christmas carols and laughed while opening presents.christmas_baubles_and_candles

Smells from the kitchen spike memories of Christmas cookies, cinnamon and nutmeg, that special family recipe for peppernuts.

Yet now – everything has changed. Our loved one sits quietly in a chair, unaware of smells and colorful lights, breathing in and out, communicating with no one.

It is the passage of time and the ache of what this disease can do.

Somehow, we must look for joy by searching for its source.

Think back on Christmases past and be grateful for the memories and the legacy preserved within family.

Treasure the presence of your loved one, even though he or she seems mentally far away.

Remember that Christmas is about a baby in a manger who became the Savior on the cross. Someday, in eternity, all Alzheimer’s genes will be nonexistent. No disease there. No memory loss. No sadness.

Be grateful for these moments together, because you, too, are creating a legacy for the generations to come.

Sing a Christmas carol together. Music connections are the last part of the brain to die. You can still communicate with your loved one through music.

With all the excitement and chaos of opening presents, be alert for anxiety in your loved one. He or she may need to return to assisted living long before all the Christmas activities are finished.

Find your own joy in being with family. Each day is a gift. Each time we get together, we make memories. Even if the day is difficult for you, treasure it.

Several years ago, my sister Kris – who is a talented poet – wrote these words:


            “While striding on life’s pathway, fill up your days with cheer

Just laugh at rainbows, small or great, to banish every fear.

Hold tight to what life offers, content with all you do

For all adventures help create the treasure that is you.”


Remember that seasons end, and the season of Alzheimer’s will also end with the death of your loved one. So try to enjoy your time together and know that somewhere deep inside, Mom or Dad, Sister or Brother dearly loves you and wishes you a Merry Christmas.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

 

Finding Hope in the Dark

It was a subtle change, yet I felt its impact as if a door slammed shut in my heart.Christmas-Cross

During the Thanksgiving weekend, I visited Mom. Each of the three days when I knocked and entered her room, Mom sat in her chair – in the dark.

Alone – with a book on her lap, pretending to read.

Just a few months ago, I often found her at a table with other residents, playing cards – laughing together, competing and exercising their brain cells.

Not this time.

Others still played in the dining hall. I saw them shuffling cards and tossing them at each other, then laughing together, enjoying the camaraderie of the game.

But they played without my mother, and I wondered why.

Then I realized the reason she sat alone, without friends, sans an activity she once enjoyed.

She doesn’t play cards anymore because she can’t. The comprehension required for something as simple as Rook or Uno no longer exists.

So my mother sits in the dark, lost within herself.

After our visit, I began to drive away, then pulled over, beating the steering wheel and crying out to the God who allowed this dark aloneness in my mother’s life.

But then I remembered the book Mom held on her lap, the words she read over and over, even without comprehending.

Her Bible.

Even though Alzheimer’s deletes entertaining card games and clouds the comprehension needed for winning – Mom still knows where to find hope.

She is never truly alone because Emanuel lives within her, loving her through this journey and offering his light to illumine her darkness.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 6

Alzheimer’s cannot destroy faith.Praying_Hands

During a Thanksgiving weekend several years ago, I visited Mom at the assisted living facility. It was Sunday and per her usual practice, she wanted to go to church.

So she dressed up, picked up her Bible and we walked down the hall toward the dining room. A visiting pastor had volunteered to preach a brief sermon and lead these elderly saints in worship.

The room was filled with Alzheimer’s and dementia residents in various stages of the disease – beautiful shades of white and gray hair, curly perms and a few shining bald heads of the rare men in the crowd.

The pastor kept his words brief, then we sang some of the favorite hymns: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Amazing Grace,” “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Most of the residents hummed along, some fell asleep, a few still knew some of the words. I sang lustily, my mezzo soprano blending with the bass of the pastor. My mother remembered some of the lyrics and hummed through the rest.

Then the pastor said, “Please join me as we all recite Psalm 23.”

I thought, You must be kidding, buddy. These people can’t recite a passage of Scripture. They can barely remember their names.

But they surprised me.

I watched them and listened as around the room – every single resident recited word for word the precious Shepherd’s Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

The King James version, with none of them missing a beat.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

How many of them prayed that God would restore their lives, do a miracle in their bodies and release them from this disease, this long and tragic goodbye?

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

A righteous life includes reading the word of God and hiding those words in their hearts so that when the end of life comes, when those final years flip over onto the calendar, these residents would hang on to what really matters.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

These saints understood the Psalm better than I because they live within that valley. I could see it in their eyes, in the faces accessorized with wisdom-carrying wrinkles. They knew this valley and only God could help them walk through it unafraid. And they believed he would comfort them along the way and never leave them alone.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Food no longer provided comfort because the appetite was gone, the taste buds had forgotten a favorite flavor or the joy of family meals. Yet smiles surfaced around the group – maybe a dim remembrance of God’s anointing on a life, the cup of joy that once ran over and now waited for its fulfillment.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

My mother, her voice clear, her eyes bright – solid in her faith and waiting for her timeline to end.

Each one of them in the room, recited what they believed. I could not speak. Tears choked me as I realized there’s a place deep within us, a sanctuary of the soul that cannot be stolen by whatever is happening in the brain.

Alzheimer’s cannot and will never destroy faith.

Amen and amen.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 5

Alzheimer’s cannot guarantee that I will be diagnosed with the disease.Alz awareness

Although the gene often travels through the mother’s line, Alzheimer’s cannot guarantee that I or either of my siblings will suffer from it. Researchers are working all the time to find a cure and to find out the source of the disease.

I intend to work hard to make sure that Alzheimer’s does not happen to me.

What are some of the ways I try to protect myself from the disease? What clues have I discovered from my research and interviews with scientists and experts?

  • Watch out for Stress

The busyness of life, the worries of our society’s dangers, the struggles of our culture – these can all lead to undo stress.

I can feel when stress begins to overwhelm me. That’s when I take a walk, say “No” to any extra activities and find a quiet place to meditate, journal or color.

  • Eat Organic

As much as possible and as my budget allows, I try to eat organic foods. Fast food, junk food, preservatives, additives – I try to stay away from these. I shop at Sprout’s and Trader Joe’s, at the Health Department in Hy-Vee and sometimes at Aldi’s. As much as possible, I try to eat foods that are as close to God’s creation as possible.

My mantra is: If God made it, okay. Eat it with joy. If man made it, don’t waste your money on it.

  • Take Supplements

Turmeric and Rosemary are two of the supplements I use every day. These are both good for the brain. A nutritional doctor once said, “What is good for the heart is good for the brain.”

Another healthy food source is folic acid, so quinoa is my grain of choice. It is high in folic acid and healthy proteins and it is NOT modified or coated with chemicals. I throw quinoa in my oatmeal, my soups and my stir fries. Sometimes, I also scramble it in my eggs.

  • Delete Sugar

Some researchers are now calling Alzheimer’s, “Type 3 Diabetes.” The American diet is filled with sugar, and we are so addicted, we don’t even realize how damaging it can be. From high fructose corn syrup to the additives in our favorite lattes to those easy drive-through treats – sugar is our staple.

But even a two-week fast from sugar can clear the brain, create a glow to the skin and increase energy.

Still not convinced? Consider how our flu and cold season corresponds with sugar season. From Halloween through Easter, we are encouraged to buy candy, all the sweets that go along with the holidays, chocolate for our sweethearts and bags of candy Easter eggs.

We are encouraged to get flu shots and buy cough syrup that is often laced with corn syrup, yet from October – March, our immune systems take a major hit. Then we spread the germs to each other, coat them with more sugar and somebody makes a fortune off our illnesses.

That brings me to the next point.

  • Beware of Massive, General Suggestions for Health

As research for the Reverend G books, I started noticing how often the 50+ generation is urged to get flu shots, Shingles shots and pneumonia vaccines. Yet the numbers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s continues to rise – at last count, 5.4 million Americans.

Mercury and Aluminum are two of the metals that can contribute to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Many of our vaccinations are made with a base of mercury. Some of us wear metal fillings in our teeth, laced with mercury. And some of the so-called protein drinks given to the elderly are made with a base of aluminum. So are most of our deodorants.

So rather than bare my arm for all these vaccinations and use some of the products mass-produced as healthy – I increase my intake of garlic, onion and the rest of the root vegetables.

During the “sugar” season, I make my own chicken stock and my own vegetable soups, avoid extra sugars and add more garlic to my diet. I even take a garlic and parsley supplement. Ashwagandha is another supplement that improves the immune system so I throw it into my smoothies and soups.

As much as I love dark chocolate, I limit myself to one piece / week. Chocolate can block the amino acids we need. Without amino acids, we are more susceptible to cold sores and the virus that leads to Shingles. So I also take the supplement Lysine, which builds amino acids and prevents cold sores.

These are some of my health practices which I hope will prevent Alzheimer’s from invading my genes. And since I started these practices, I rarely have a cold and the flu hasn’t plagued me for at least five years.

Alzheimer’s cannot guarantee that I will be its victim, and I’ll do everything possible to fight against it.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 4

Alzheimer’s cannot change lifelong habits.lifestyle image

Although some routines will change as the disease progresses, many of the lifelong habits remain ingrained in the behavior of Alzheimer’s patients.

Mom has always loved to read. She goes to the Hospice sales and buys a stack of books. Then she reads the book on the top of the stack. She no longer comprehends what she reads, and she forgets that she read the top book on the stack – so she reads it again. And again. Then she takes the entire stack to another Hospice sale and buys another bunch of books so she can read the top book on the stack.

She is content as she reads because that has always been one of her habits.

She also reads her Bible every day and a page from her “Our Daily Bread” devotional book. This has always been her morning exercise, so even though comprehension is gone, she continues her devotional practice.

On Sundays, Mom dresses up for church and carries her Bible with her. She can no longer find the passages in the Bible as the order of the books is gone. But every Sunday, no matter what, she has her Bible with her and if the weather is good – she goes to church. Because that is what she has always done.

She begins every morning with coffee, a little cream, no sugar. Morning coffee begins her day. Never tea. Never hot chocolate. Always coffee. Alzheimer’s has not yet destroyed her taste buds.


Even though osteoporosis has shorted her 5’8” frame, Mom continues to demonstrate careful posture. She walks tall, her congestive heart failure causing a bit of breathlessness – but still – her shoulders back, her head erect, her poise intact.

A cartoon bubble over her head might say, “Don’t mess with me. I know who I am.”


Like many in her generation, desserts were always part of the meal, so Mom continues to love her sweets. She plays Bingo every week and often wins. With choices of candy, peanuts or trail mix – she always chooses a Snickers bar.

She cannot understand when I turn down cookies or a piece of cake on the menu at the assisted living dining hall. Sometimes, to treat Mom, I drive her to Braums for an ice cream cone.

Maybe because she has been a lifelong reader, Mom hates the television. She calls it, “The Idiot Box” and only watches the news or turns it on for some noise to break the loneliness.

These habits of life define my mother. They make her real and vulnerable and show her personality. They cement our memories of Mom and remind us that Alzheimer’s cannot steal all of who she is.

The reader, the tall woman, the lover of sweets and hater of TV – these traits characterize my mother. Alzheimer’s cannot take that away from her.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 3

Alzheimer’s cannot destroy our family ties.family quote

Dad was an introvert while Mom was the talker. They made a great team and even though Mom’s personality stays intact, she seems a bit more closed off since her beloved Hank graduated to heaven.

Yet … our family remains strong and devoted to one another. Mom is still and always will be the matriarch.

She comes from a long line of matriarchal women who raised their children with leather belts and switches from the trees. Women who knew how to kill a chicken, then strip its feathers and fry it to a golden brown.

Women who worked a job outside of home, shopped for the harvest crew and put a huge meal on the table so that hungry men found sustenance. Then woke early the next morning and did it all over again.

Women who fiercely protected their children, used every resource available and saved enough money so their kids could attend college without going into debt.

During this holiday season, we will drive Mom to the same farm where she raised us. I will buy a pecan pie and Cool Whip so she can have her favorite Thanksgiving treat.

She will sit at the table and occasionally speak. When she does, we will listen – even if it doesn’t quite make sense. Because she is the Mom, the grandmother and now – the great-grandmother.

And sometimes, as she sits in the recliner beside the fire, I will catch her with a look on her face and wonder, What is she thinking?

Is she homesick for heaven? Probably. Is she missing her husband, her mother, her grandmothers who taught her so much? Certainly.

Is she remembering those days when she fixed the entire Thanksgiving meal, then organized the clean-up crew, saved all the leftovers and planned how she would make the budget stretch so that every child had a special gift on Christmas? I would bet so.

And sometimes – in the glow from the fire – I see in her the features of all the matriarchs before her and I know Alzheimer’s can never destroy those family ties.

That same strength has been shared with my siblings and I. We have attempted to pass it on to our children so that faith, determination and perseverance never diminishes throughout our generations.

In the Mennonite church, we used to sing, “Blessed be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love.” As I observe my mother throughout these waning years of her life, those family ties keep us bound together.

This brutal disease of Alzheimer’s can never destroy those ties.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 2

Alzheimer’s cannot destroy my mother’s legacy.

She was a registered nurse – not because she loved nursing or even because she had always wanted a career in medicine. She was a nurse because that was her only choice.cross necklace

During World War 2, the war effort needed more nurses. So they put out a plea for women who might be interested (male nurses did not exist at the time). If a woman signed up to be an Army nurse, the government would pay for her training and her license.

My mother wanted to be a writer, but she had no possibility of pursuing a degree at a liberal arts college. The only way she could somehow earn a degree beyond high school was to accept the Army’s offer and become a nurse.

So that’s what she did. It was her only choice, and she made it a good choice because she worked hard all her life to care for others.

Mom finished the training, but just before she was to be sent overseas, the war ended. So she never really served as an Army nurse, but her degree served her well.

I used to watch her dress for work. White uniform (always a dress, slacks were not allowed), white hose, white shoes polished every day, the starched white hat and no jewelry except a simple wedding band.

But one day, I watched as Mom slipped a tiny cross necklace underneath her uniform.

“I thought you weren’t supposed to wear any jewelry,” I queried.

“That’s right, but I wear this next to my heart,” Mom said. “It’s a reminder of who I am.”

“What do you mean?”

“This cross reminds me I’m a Christian. It helps me remember how I should behave when a doctor yells at me, when I have to tell a family that their baby is dead or when I have to clean up someone’s poop. I am serving others because I love Jesus, and he came to earth as a servant. I am serving in his name.”

I have never forgotten that moment. It is part of Mom’s legacy, a piece of who she is.

Alzheimer’s cannot take that away.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 1

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. So I want to focus my posts this month on the subject of what Alzheimer’s cannot do. We know the havoc this disease can play on families and their loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s. We know what it CAN do….but what can it NOT do?

cat with glassesAlzheimer’s cannot delete my memories of Mom. So many memories, but one that seems to surface is my experience with new glasses frames.

As a freshman in high school, I was strongly affected by my peer group. At 14, I wanted to fit in and noticed the appearance of other girls in my high school – especially the popular ones. So I decided it was time for some new glasses frames.


But our family believed in conservative values and saving as much money as possible. We didn’t buy anything until we really needed it – and even then – we thought long and hard about it. If we needed something, we made it from the tools or ingredients we already owned. I knew Mom was going to be a hard sell.


When I begged her for new glasses, she said, “You don’t need different frames, just because the other kids are getting them. We don’t buy frames until you need new lenses, and your eyes are just fine.”

But after awhile, she must have grown tired of my complaints, because she decided to “make” me some new frames. The creative side of her personality suddenly exploded.

To give my new “look” some texture, Mom used a handful of rice kernels and glued them to my glasses frames. Then, to make them even more “beautiful” and noticeable, she painted them with red polish.

You can imagine how excited I was, an insecure little freshman, wearing my red rice glasses. After a couple of days listening to the snickers of kids at school, I stopped wearing them. Then I suffered with horrendous headaches.

Mom decided to take me to the optometrist – just in case – where he pronounced me ready for new lenses as well as new frames. I was overjoyed!

At my twenty-five year high school reunion, one of my classmates actually remembered the red rice glasses.

And so did I.

Alzheimer’s cannot steal that memory away.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope in Finding the Story

saleAs I drove up to the multi-storied house, the “Estate Sale” sign reminded me of my mission. Look for something I could use at work – some objects that would bring encouragement to the women I coach: maybe a pot of flowers, some beautiful cards, a trinket I could give away.

What I didn’t expect to find was a story.

I joined the crowd of people poking through bedrooms, closets and kitchen – each of us searching for treasures at a reduced price.

Empathy set in as I realized this was a family who had just buried their matriarch. Now they had sold her house and were sorting through what she left behind, offering pieces of her life to strangers.

What sort of life did she live? The question hounded me even as I began to discover clues to her story.

In the garage, colorful pots for planting the cuttings of a new flower or plant. The texture of the pots described a women who was attracted to pottery rather than spray-painted plastic. A woman who appreciated the genuine.

A stack of books pulled me like a magnet into the intrigue of a life past. Most of us can tell our stories by the choices of books we keep on our shelves.

This woman read financial summaries and economic treatises. A mathematical mind, detailed, and carefully constructed to pay attention to pi, cosign and greater than.

A pile of books about alternative health. Was she sickened by a disease no one could treat, so she tried to find help beyond the traditional medical community? Did any of the vitamins, acupuncture or colloidal treatments give her a few more years of quality life?

Sadly – no books on religion. No Bibles. No creative poetry or coffee table books – unless her family already sequestered those to keep alive the memories of mom and grandmother.

The basement, filled with Christmas decorations. Obviously a woman who loved the holidays and filled her lavish home with pine wreaths, Scandinavian villages that lit up and over-sized ornaments, sparkling in the dim basement light.

The story of her life became even more clear as I combed through bedding, crept into closets and fingered vintage textures. This woman knew her own style and didn’t care for polyester cutouts that looked like everyone else.

In the kitchen, more health-conscious books about nutrition, cooking without cholesterol-building substances, how to incorporate chicken instead of beef into favorite recipes.

Suddenly a wave of grief as I chose a casserole pan I needed, wondering how many chicken meals she fixed in that particular pan before she finally succumbed to the frailty of her last days.

Before payment at the front parlor check-out, I walked through the house once more, prayed for the grieving family, found a few more treasures and considered how story follows us throughout life.

What kind of story did my life tell and how was it accented by my stuff? If someone looked through my bookshelves, could they determine I am a student of theology, a creative writer and and a woman who loves color and texture?

If a stranger looked under my deck, would they determine how I garden with old yet favorite tools, that the farmer gene in me has never exited, even after years in the city?

Would my costume jewelry, my terracotta pottery and my wooden rocking chair whisper that I am a simple country girl who finds solace in the beauty of handmade afghans, multiple stacks of books and the comforting jangle of a flowery mobile from New Mexico?

I came away from that estate sale hugging a garden birdhouse with its trailing ivy, a package of Christmas bulbs in my favorite dark purple, the casserole pan I needed to replace its long-ago-broken twin and a sense of story that emanated from the treasures I held.

We are each living the story of our lives. How much of our stuff reflects our authenticity and moves others to consider hope?

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Creates Lifetime Goals

Because I recently achieved one of those milestone birthdays, I meditated and prayed about God’s will for me in this new season of life.Hope word

The answer came as a whisper to “Check out Psalm 92.” Within the Psalmist’s words, I found a description of what I want to be and do in the years to come.

Of course, only God knows the extent of my timeline and the eventual plan he has for me.

But the Psalmist recorded some practical and wise advice that I plan to journal through and cache within my goal-setting process.

  • Flourish in the courts of our God

Whatever I do and wherever I am, I hope to flourish – to do my work with simple trust and hearty obedience, to finish well and make a difference in the Kingdom.

  • Grow in grace and bear fruit in old age

Jesus didn’t face old age, so we don’t have a divine model. But we can look at examples from Scripture to find out how to grow old with grace.

Noah accepted new assignments even when they seemed improbable and a bit crazy; i.e. building a boat while rain was just a weird unknown.

Elizabeth trusted God for the impossible and discerned how he was working in the world she inhabited; i.e. she mentored the mother of Jesus and trusted that her own womb bore God’s messenger.

John wrote the words that would encourage and inspire believers for centuries. Did he realize that one of the greatest hooks of all time would come from his pen? “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was from God and the Word was God.”

  • Be full of spiritual vitality

I want to be so filled with the Spirit and emptied of myself that the love and compassion of Christ precedes me into each room. I want my eyes to portray love and my voice to echo with the truth in a way that draws people to its life-giving source.

  • Rich in trust, love and contentment

I don’t want to be a saint who spends time griping about my aches and pains or the state of the country or the problems of younger generations. I want to be an example of what life-long trust in the God of the universe means – sharing his love while grateful for the breath of each day.

  • A living memorial to show that he is upright and faithful

The memorials of Lincoln and Jefferson focus on the words and grand living of these statesmen. How much greater and a broader goal to be a living memorial of who God is and how he is faithful to every promise.

Psalm 92:13-15 contains the rich truth and goal-setting ideas I can hang my hat on. As I march into this next season of life, even as the birthday ice cream slowly crystallizes in the freezer, I want this to be a fulfilling time of joy – while processing through whatever God desires for me.

He knew me before he made the world, what he planned for me, the good works he prepared for me to do. May that plan be exactly what happens and may it result in hope.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Recovers from Pain

No pain – No gain.

heart - sunsetWe repeat this cliché and although we may believe in the truth of its principle, we would rather not experience it.

The reality is – we hate pain. We pray for healing as soon as we discover a lump, an asymmetrical mole or a rash that looks like shingles.

We scream, “It’s unfair, unjust,” when our identities are stolen or when our hearts are broken.

We hate pain. Yet it is also reality that the sharp bite of a vaccination may protect us from disease. The consequences of a broken commandment may drive us to repentance.


We often gain the most through pain.


As we have searched for answers about my son’s mysterious illness, we have considered the role of pain. Certainly, we asked for healing prayer. Many of you responded. Thank you!

Yet even within the uncertainty, I wondered – oh God – are you trying to teach us more about trust? Is there a higher purpose for these questions about my son’s health? How connected are his physical issues with the spiritual?

Last week, Caleb lay on a table while the doctor used acupuncture to relieve the pressure in my son’s brain.

One of the needles hit a painful place and what had been a comfortable treatment suddenly changed into a definite, “Ouch!”

Caleb bravely endured, then later that night, began to experience relief. The next day, he was 75% better and the following day – 100%.

The pain of that one needle insertion evidently made a different. The pain brought gain.

Treatments continue because we want total and lasting relief. We still don’t know the cause and maybe with further treatment, the answer will come.

But we’re moving beyond the uncertainty and into relief.

What have we learned? Again – the value and treasure of prayer. The prayers of you righteous ones who responded have made a difference.

The expertise of a doctor who specializes in natural treatments and listens to how the body works. If you want the name of a doctor who knows his stuff, email me: Rebecca@RJThesman.net.

We have also learned – again – to trust when we see no way out, when we beat our heads against blank walls and puzzled looks from medical professionals who have no answers. We trust in Yahweh Rophe – the divine Healer.

We have been reminded – again – to keep searching but simultaneously keep trusting that God may heal or he may direct us to those who can help. He may let us walk awhile in the pain and the uncertainty so that we will be grateful, trust wholeheartedly and learn patience.

Pain has become gain. Thank you, God.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

How to Find a Legacy Within Alzheimer’s

Because October is my birthday month, my thoughts often center around the woman who birthed and raised me. Although Dad was a prominent faith figure in my growing up years, it was Mom who pushed me out of the birth canal and then pushed me to become who I am.Arlene Renken - nurse

She was a fighter and an extrovert, unlike the rest of us who liked to disappear within our private worlds to write, listen to music or find our energy in the beautiful solitude of the Oklahoma landscape.

Odd that I speak of Mom in the past tense, even though her brave heart still beats as she stares at the wall opposite her chair. That’s what Alzheimer’s does to a family. We say goodbye, one stage at a time, one regression after another so that when death finally releases our loved one – much of the grieving has already been done. “The Long Goodbye” is aptly titled.

Mom grew up poor, walked to high school (yes, miles away, even in the snow and rain) and wore the same two dresses until her Sunday dress became too worn for church. It was then relegated for school wear as her mother sewed a better one for the Sabbath or one of the cousins passed down a Sunday outfit that wasn’t yet worn out.

As part of her legacy, Mom was determined none of her children would ever be ashamed of their clothes or feel embarrassed because they didn’t fit in. So she learned how to sew, spread out the material on the farmhouse floor, cut, pinned and put together whatever clothes we needed to look like we had some cash in the bank.

Then she made certain that each of us understood the importance of a quality education so that we would never feel the sting of poverty. We grew up with a solid work ethic, attended college, saved our pennies and never bought anything we didn’t really need.


It was a simpler time – a beautiful segment of history, without traffic snarls, school shootings or adultery in every family tree. I miss it every day.


Mom was willing to live in an old farmhouse and fix it up gradually, learning how to wallpaper and restore old pieces of furniture. Much of our house looked like the early-attic variety, but none of us minded. It was a safe place to grow up although cold in the winter and hot in the summer. But who minded when the kitchen smelled like fresh-baked bread, the fields sprouted a golden harvest that supported us all year and the animals taught us about life and death.

As a registered nurse, Mom followed the habits of “old school” nursing. Always dressed in white, her uniform and hat starched and gleaming, her white shoes and hose the perfect accessory. In those days, no jewelry was allowed except a simple wedding band.

But Mom, always a bit of a radical, wore a cross necklace under her slip. “To remind me I’m working as a Christian,” she said. “To keep me focused on what matters when I have to clean someone’s bottom or tell a family their child just died.”

Strength of character. Rock solid faith. Those qualities are hard to imagine in the woman who now rocks back and forth and accuses strangers of stealing her digital clock.

Yet it was those very qualities that taught me how to work well even when no one is watching, how to pray my guts out, how to deal with life when it hurts by working hard and moving forward, how to fight against traditions that are based only on men’s interpretations rather than the powerful voice of God.

Even now, as I have journeyed through a faith crisis and wondered how to find a church that will accept my calling – I know Mom would understand. If I could just communicate with her, she would get that steely gleam in her eye and tell me to “Stop whining. Just get busy and do it.”

She was probably one of the first parents who envisioned the concept of giving your children roots and wings. She taught us well, then let us go and cheered us whether we succeeded or learned hard life lessons through failure.

Never demonstrative with her love, if anyone attacked her kids – they would face the wrath of a woman who knew how to struggle through the worst of life’s catastrophes and conquer them through sheer determination and grit.

No one dare beat up her kids, either emotionally or physically. She would stand tall in her 5’8” frame and declare, “One more word, and I’ll jerk a knot in you.”

So I am proud of the legacy Mom has shared with me, a strength of character that dares to question the establishment yet humbly accepts God’s will.

Even in the shadows of Alzheimer’s, I see Mom’s resolve to finish her course well, to find contentment in the every dayness of Bingo, planned meals and assigned seats during movie night.

The strong woman who raised me still exists somewhere deep within, even though the outer shell gains fragility, age spots and graying hairs.

The legacy continues. Thanks, Mom.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Respects the Alzheimer’s Patient

The blog post for this week was already written, edited and almost scheduled.Alz lady - nurse

Then I had second thoughts.

It was a post about my mother and shared one of the family secrets she told me years ago. I felt it was a great post, and I hoped it would interest my followers as well as give them insights into the life of my mother.

But somehow – I couldn’t post it.

Mom is an extrovert but she has also been a rather private person, hiding her secrets in a sacred soul place. That’s what women in her demographic learned to do.

Never would she have shared her life via social media nor would she want me to do that by proxy for her. I understand. Further, I respect that piece of her personality and choose to keep aspects of her life – and ultimately my family’s life – private.

I know some of the secrets because I snooped in her hope chest years ago and read the beautiful love letters my parents wrote to each other.

Other secrets were told to me by caring and not-so-caring relatives while my instincts picked up on some of the more private stories. When I asked Mom to explain these missing pieces of history, she pursed her lips and changed the subject.

Off limits – even though I am family.


So just because I am a writer, that does not give me license to share with the world all about my mother’s life.


I will say simply that she lived life well. She raised three children and loved her husband with all her heart. She served as a nurse, made sure each of us checked out books from the library each week and inspected our ears after bath time.

And because I respect her and the life she lived, I will keep her secrets in that sacred place of my own soul – a pact between us that no one else needs to know.

I love you, Mom.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Finding Hope When Healing Delays

When healing doesn’t happen, we tend to ask, “Why?”caleb on the beach

Does God have a greater purpose in the process? Have we prayed correctly, cried out to God fervently enough? Have we sinned, somehow preventing God’s awesome power at work?

Everything within me screams, “No! God is so much bigger than my attempts to justify his silence.”

Yet as the days and nights pass and we struggle through the question of “What is wrong with Caleb?” we have to wonder at the delay of answers.

Since God is omniscient and omnipotent and all the other omni’s – he knows exactly what has happened to cause this distress.

He knows every hair on my son’s head as well as every nuclei in his millions of cells. God’s heart beats in sync with my son’s as they are united by blood – the redemptive blood of Christ. I know God loves my son.

Since God knows what’s wrong, then why won’t he tell us? We are searching everywhere for answers – reading internet articles by experts who list the symptoms of a myriad of causes:

Allergies, gluten, mold, diabetes, stroke, brain tumors, carbon monoxide poisoning, Alzheimer’s – really? Alzheimer’s at age 29?

Some of these illnesses we are pursuing; some have been rabbit-trailed. The most dangerous ones met with a resounding, “No, that’s not it.”

Thank you, God.

Yet the giant question mark haunts and no one knows the answer.

Except One.

So why the delay?


I wonder if we are caught in a heavenly conflict – another God versus Satan moment where both sides hold their breath while the Jobs of the earth are tested.


Will we trust God? Will we be still and know that he is God?

Satan smirks but God smiles and sings over us. He knew the ending before the beginning ever germinated.

And when this Job falters, when I cannot sleep for the fear that beats against my mommy heart – the prayers of others sustain me.

Some of you – reading this post – are praying for us. Thank you.

Satan falls because prayers always push him down.

Will we trust God and persevere through to the other side?

We sing out that God Himself, who allows the test is also the One who keeps us from falling.

Yes, bless God. We will stand strong.

Because when healing waits, God has a purpose. And no matter what happens or how it plays out – in the end – God always wins.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

 

Hope Recovers from Fear

My son is sick, and I am afraid.Caleb and Mom at Rachel's wedding

Because he is a cancer survivor (eight years, bless God!), when something happens that interrupts that heart relief of his healing – my soul fears.

Last week, he was disoriented. He couldn’t drive, couldn’t write his name, had trouble putting words together to make a sentence.

The honest prayer of Reverend G poured from me, “Oh God oh God oh God. I can’t stand it.”

We scheduled an appointment with the neurologist who ordered the usual lab work and then an MRI.

The night before the imaging test, I woke up every two and a half hours to check on Caleb – to tiptoe into his bedroom, touch his forehead, check his breathing.


Every two and a half hours – the same amount of time that he woke me up for feedings when he was a baby. Now, 29 years later, my mommy heart somehow answered an internal alarm to check on my grown child.


Every time I returned to bed, I fell to my knees to beg God, “Please! Will you take my last living child? You already have my first two babies. Please, please, save my son!”

My prayers became whimpers of pleading along with the recitations of verses to remind God of his promises:

“No weapon used against us will prosper. No weapon, God. Please.”

“God delivers us from all our fears. Deliver us, oh God.”

“Peace I leave with you. Peace I give unto you. Your beloved peace, I beg of you.”

Then the morning sky, the day of the MRI, that metal machine surrounding my son’s body, imprinting its pictures on the radiologic screen – answers that will bring relief or sorrow.

Oh God oh God oh God. I can’t stand it.

Then the waiting. They read the results. Fax them to the doctor. Contact my son. He texts me.

No tumor. No reoccurrence.

Oh God oh God oh God. I thank you.

But then a reminder of other mothers who will receive bad news this day. Some will not thank God but fall to their knees in grief, stand before a coffin and place flowers on a grave.

Oh God – deliver us from the ravages of death. Come, Lord Jesus.

We still have no answers for this attack on Caleb’s body. More doctors. More tests.

But in the process, hope revives. We will deal with whatever it is and thrust our fear-filled hearts toward the only One who knows the answers.

Hope still survives.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/