Creativity Spawns Hope

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity. Partly because I’ve started a new group called Creative Connections. Partly because I learned more about creativity through the books and presentation of Julia Cameron. And partly because I like the topic.

After pondering about creativity, I’ve come up with two definitions:

  • To make something out of nothing
  • To repurpose something for another use

Writers understand the whole making-something-out-of-nothing every time they face a blank page. When creativity thrives, that blank page soon fills with words, paragraphs, and chapters. Or it becomes a blog post such as this one.

Repurposing plays a major role in my life. I’m always repurposing something for another use. Why buy something new when you can nurture your creativity and repurpose?

Such as redesigning the décor on my living room mantel. Or creating a gluten free recipe from the usual wheat-filled and processed foods. Finding a treasure at a flea market.

But isn’t our personal creativity something more? Can our souls fill with hope when we realize more of our creative design?

Each of us became real living and breathing human beings because God took a bunch of dirt and created a man. Then he repurposed a rib to create a woman.

But beyond the physical, the Divine Three also placed within us special giftings:

  • Intuition that notices when something is out-of-sync
  • A caring spirit that recognizes when another human is hurting
  • Inner sensors that discern a wrong direction leading to destruction or despair
  • A reproductive spirit that helps plants thrive and grow
  • An ability to understand animals and become a whisperer that causes them to trust

These are just some of the creative giftings that move beyond the usual gifts of the Spirit. The beautiful thing about creativity is that it can be different in every human being. And it can develop over time.

Many of us facing the last act may notice we have a bit more intuition these days. The wisdom we have grown into helps us discern what is important and what can be ignored. These creative giftings help us do life safely and find more security in how we grow and thrive during our last years.

It also gives us the ability to help youngers on their journey. One of the saddest things in our world is when the elders no longer believe in themselves or in their creativity — when they give in to the “You’re just too old” mentality, sit back, take their medicines, and rock away their final years.

But as the youngers listen and observe our creativity, they can also spur us toward hope. As I observe my son and daughter-in-love working and thriving, I see a new generation of hope-filled creatives. They will have to redesign our broken political system.

They must be responsible for how we will use the internet and the AI configurations. They will be forced to figure out better ways to stay healthy as the medical systems face more conflict. And to survive, they must find creative ways to save the planet.

And these amazing young ones will need to move us toward peace.

Why has God given us creative gifts? Because we are made in his image, and he is the first Creator. Because he tasked us with the job of taking care of the earth. Because we are made to love the Trinity and love others.

Creativity can lead us toward more ways to love.

My definitions of creativity lead me to ask myself a question, and also to share it with you. What is your creative role in God’s love story?

And how can you use your role to make a difference this year?

©2023 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

My newest e-book addresses a difficult topic from a different point of view. Check it out: To Be Alive: The Hidden Story of Abortion.

Hope and Our Stuff

She was a lovely woman and an expert in her field — the stager who came at the request of the realtor. At the outset, she warned me, “I’m not here to offend you. I’m just doing my job.”

I was prepared for her to move things around and give me some decorating ideas. But I was emotionally blindsided by the amount of my treasures she declared, “This has to go.” Basically, she dismantled my house and my personal stuff.

She left piles of things in every room to get rid of, and I learned a great deal from her choices. Spacing, color, lighting, even the size and placement of pictures. The home I worked so hard to make personal and cozy soon became neutral and bland. Generalized to appeal to anyone.

I learned how important my stuff is to me. Most of my things are the early attic variety: garage sale finds, flea market deals, the repurposing of items thrown away by someone else. Nothing has great intrinsic value — except in my soul.

While I know we are not defined by our stuff, in a way — yes, we are.

The quilt my grandmother and her sisters made for my wedding still hangs in my bedroom. The cradle, designed and crafted by my dad, held my newborn son as we rocked him to sleep his first Christmas. The Southwestern puzzle I worked on one winter to avoid seasonal affective disorder and think about Santa Fe.

None of these treasures made the cut. “Get rid of them or find a place to store them out of the way,” the stager instructed.

How can I shove my lifetime out of the way?

As she finished her work, we learned a bit more about each other. Both of us write. Both of us journeyed through divorce and experienced judgment by the established church. Both of us love cats.

On one level, I knew she was right, and I was glad to have made a new friend. But I also felt violated and discouraged, wondering how I could decide what to let go.

The piles of my life’s debris reminded me how mortal we are. How fleeting is life — a mere breath. A candle that should be given away to bring another person joy. A sofa table so out of date no one would want it even if it was free.

Although the purging pained my soul, my journal entries spoke the truth. Some things need to be given away to make way for something better.

In the end, I did not sell my home. The market prevented a move. But the experience with the stager reminded me to purge more, buy less, and make way for more space to live in.

In “Jesus Calling,” Sarah Young writes, “Anticipate coming face-to-face with impossibilities: situations totally beyond your ability to handle . . . When you see armies of problems marching toward you, cry out to God. Allow him to fight for you. Watch him working on your behalf.”

Great advice. Purge what can bless someone else. Mourn the loss of personal stuff. Wait for next steps. Cling to God and find Hope.

©2023 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

My newest e-book addresses clinging to the past. Check it out on Kindle: To Be Alive: The Hidden Story of Abortion.

Hope Identifies with the Sparrow

One of the joys of my life arrives every morning when I feed the birds. My place has a large deck where I’ve hung three bird feeders. Every morning, I pour out the seed, call to the birds, and watch these amazing creatures float toward me.

Flashy cardinals, raucous blue jays with their silver details, sweet chickadees who fly up and down, an occasional woodpecker, and lots of sparrows.

Most days, we don’t pay much attention to sparrows. We are attracted to the more colorful species and their domineering personalities. Sparrows are just the extra birds that fly near, their plain brown feathers almost an invisible blend on weathered decks. Perhaps an afterthought in the creator’s mind. The bird with which to compare all the others.

Sparrows don’t seem to matter much. Unless you’re one of them.

I empathize with the sparrow. The flashy authors of the world pass me by while I try to catch up. Try not to compare my sales with theirs, my words with their paragraphs.

“Bless me, too, my Father,” is often the cry of my heart.

Somedays within this last act, I feel even more sparrow-ish than before. My drab browning pales in comparison with those who seem to live a more flashy existence.

I want to see my dreams come to pass even as I know the desires of my heart may not necessarily sync with the whispers of the Divine Three.

Like the hawk who casts its shadow over my sparrows, predators of discouragement and fear stalk me. So quickly they sharpen their talons. Wait for my most vulnerable moments to swoop in and destroy hope.

Yet most days — praise God — I remember how God cares for even the lowly sparrow. How Jesus mentioned this particular bird, recorded in Matthew 10:28-31.

Not one of us falls without God’s knowledge and empathic tears. Each of us, though feeling drab, are still painted with divine art — with physical and emotional details like delicate feathers in his design.

And every time a sparrow comes to feed on my deck, I remember the old hymn, His Eye is on the Sparrow. Then my heart feels more secure in the knowing of how much God cares for me.

Sparrows of the past are mourned. Each one a creation missed, a relationship betrayed, an opportunity denied. Yet the One who created them in the first place still exists. God promises an even better life to come.

Here’s to all of us sparrows. We occupy important spaces in the universe, each of us here for a purpose — for a time.

May we embrace our lives and this new year for what they represent, a glorious praise for each day’s opportunities and a supreme hope for a better tomorrow.

©2023 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my new e-book, To Be Alive: The Hidden Story of Abortion.

What Hope Learns from the Pharisees

We rarely think of the Pharisees as the good guys, in spite of the fact that Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Gamaliel seemed to believe the message of Jesus. And who knows how many other Pharisees were secret believers.

Yet, we can learn from these guys. Take some of their behaviors and flip them into more valuable learnings. How did their beliefs affect their culture? Are some of their attitudes still at work in our current world? What did the Pharisees focus on?

Study. Years of study in special schools with respected teachers. Boys were chosen for these schools in light of their intelligence, diligence, and sometimes — their finances.

They resisted any form of intellectual laziness as they trained to become the next generation of Pharisees. They learned all the rules and regulations of the Torah and expected perfection from themselves and others.

What can we Learn? We learn by studying how Jesus acted and what he shared. We can also learn from other resources, online and printed materials. We learn as we study our own leaders and those who teach us each week. Life-long learning keeps our brains fresh, ready to accept new ideas and reflect on what we truly believe.

Hopefully, we have also learned that study, training, and education of all kinds needs to be offered to girls as well as boys. Any country or religion that ignores half the population ends up being short-sighted and cruel.

Patriarchy keeps women in bondage, uses and abuses their gender and their giftings. When we refuse to let women use their spiritual gifts — including leadership — we delete the beauty of what Jesus taught us about respecting all people, no matter the gender.

After all, he shared his Gospel truth with a Samaritan woman, then commissioned her as the first evangelist. He appeared first as the resurrected Lord to a woman and gave her the task, “Go tell the boys I’m alive.” And he nestled in the womb of a woman to become a human like us.

Exclusivity. The Pharisees stayed with their people, taught only the Jews, married and lived only with people from their same culture. As such, their traditions and rules had no chance of learning about other cultures or appreciating the varieties of society. This was one reason why Jesus angered them, because he refused to exclude anyone.

Father Richard Rohr writes, “Jesus lived among the rejected. He ministered among the rejected. He died and was crucified as rejected, as somebody who was outside the political power structure. But early Sunday morning, from the grave he led a resurrection movement—a revival of love, a revival of justice, a revival of mercy, a revival of grace.”

What can we Learn? When we exclude others, we underscore the religion of isolation. We stay in our own safe groups and become stale in our outreach. Our religion becomes us versus them.

It is only by inviting others into our sphere that we can impact the entire world and fulfill the Great Commission.

The marginalized of society are all around us, yet how many of them feel comfortable entering a church? Through social media, political platforms, and the very ugliness of our attitudes we have often excluded the people God loves. We judge them by their clothing, their jobs, their cars, their homelessness, their gender, their politics, their station in life. Because they are not ‘like’ us, we ignore them or let the social services do the work of the church.

Again, Father Richard offers his advice, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.”

Spiritual Superiority. As learned men, the Pharisees knew their stuff. According to their traditions, their interpretations were always right. But Jesus forced them to consider other ways to interpret Torah. However, thinking of their scripture in a new way took away their control and weakened their system. Their anger and fear led them to murder the One who came to save them.

What can we Learn? I believe spiritual superiority is one of the most dangerous tenets of our church systems. We have been taught certain beliefs through the years, so of course — they must be true. We know the Hebrew and the Greek meaning of various words, so of course — we also know the intent of those words. We ignore the cultural context and pick out phrases that describe what we want to believe is true. We find Bible verses that justify our political and personal bondage.

Yet believers with open minds who truly study with question marks in their hearts may find new truths and new beauty in what Jesus meant, what Paul chose to write about, what the scriptural metaphors really stand for.

When we stop asking questions and blindly accept what we are told, we stop growing.

And with our spiritual superiority, we feast from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then we settle into the biggest problem of the universe: pride.

I am grateful to the Pharisees for what they teach us — how NOT to react to new interpretations, how to study for ourselves and seek out those teachers who have open minds and hearts.

Ultimately, we learn and we grow, we impact our world when we focus on only two topics: Jesus and Grace. Anyone who teaches a different Gospel runs the danger of becoming a Pharisaical rascal and tainting the message Jesus came to share with us.

I hope to keep learning and keep growing. To study who Jesus was and what he taught, how he lived in his culture. And to face my culture with the same unconditional love Jesus has shown me.

©2023 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a study on simplified faith, check out Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe.

Intentional Hope

The days are long but the years are short.”

According to Google — that great know-it-all in cyberspace, Gretchen Rubin is the author of the above quote. It perfectly describes how it feels to jump into a new year. 

I wonder if Rubin is a harried mom who feels as if she is working a 30 hour-day yet somehow, her sweet babies grow faster every year.

From my perspective, as a mom with a grown son, I can attest to the truth of Rubin’s quote. It seems truly impossible that my baby boy is now an incredible grown man.

But reality proves it to be true.

What this quote underscores is the importance of living each day to its fullest, giving to others, and saving some joy for ourselves. Because soon we will be looking back on this particular day, this harried year, hoping we lived it well.

As we begin a new year, how can we determine to make each long day matter most?

Remember People are Important. Being kind to others and helping the needy keeps us focused on the importance of other human beings.

The book of Proverbs reminds us to “Defend those who cannot help themselves. Speak up for the poor and needy and see that they get justice” (Proverbs 31:9 TLB).

Begin each day with the determination to be aware of other people. Smile. Speak kind words. Encourage others on their journey through life.

Search for Joy. What is it that fills your heart with the warmth of joy? Do more of it.

Take photos of nature, pets and family. Paint a sunset. Restore an old bookcase. Write your memoir. Sing your favorite song.

Each of us is equipped with the capacity to receive and share joy. So make joy a priority every day and do something — at least once / week – that nurtures your inner spirit.

Stay in Hope. We are living in a negative world with multiple problems everywhere. Keep a positive outlook that finds something to be grateful for and focuses on something good.

Let your “What if” statements end in positives rather than the gloom of negative thinking. Instead of “What if the stock market keeps bouncing until it no longer has any dribble left?” Try this, “What if everything evens out and Congress learns how to work together?”

A Bible verse I like to repeat is Psalm 43:5, “Stay in hope for I will YET praise God.”

Living in the “yet” helps me think about hope, move toward my dreams and focus on a positive outcome.

So let’s approach 2023 with the reality of knowing we will soon face the end of another year. With the awareness of how we can help others, with a heart filled with joy and a mindset of hope we can make this year the best possible.

Will you join me?

©2023 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Begin the year with a hope-filled outlook. Check out Hope Shines, in regular and large print.  http://amzn.to/2j2fneR

Hope for the New Year

A brand new calendar forces reflection on the passing of time yet also moves us toward new opportunities.

During my “senior” season, I am finished setting resolutions. No more of the usual “less sugar, lose some weight and save more money” focus.

This year, I want to dig deeper. Maybe it is the aging factor that forces me beyond the mere physical and into the extraordinary. Or maybe I have learned how empty some resolutions feel.

I seek something with more impact. So I have decided to focus in two directions:

To Look for the Presence of God Each Day.

I know the Divine Three live inside me, but I also believe God moves mysteriously around me.

During this new year, I want to be more aware of that Divine presence:

  • In the energy of a crackling fire
  • In the dancing eyes of children
  • In the musical tones of nature’s breezes
  • In the faces of strangers at coffee shops, the mall and the lines at Wal-Mart
  • In the perseverance of the disabled who refuse to be victims
  • In the hugs of my son
  • In the colors and textures of my world

When I intentionally seek the presence of God, I hope to discover spiritual truths in new ways. Being more aware of God’s personal steps in my world reminds me he is my constant companion.

To Listen for the Divine Whisper Each Day.

God wants to communicate with us. He is the Word, and he is consistent in his desire for relationship.

But our world is so noisy, we often cannot hear what he longs to share with us.

I am fortunate to work in a job that involves silence. I write with no background music or white noise. Yet I can still miss the soft baritone of my Savior.

This year I want to be more aware of his voice, to hear with an extraordinary sonic volume:

  • When God gives direction or guidance
  • When he reminds me to backtrack or fix something wronged
  • When his creative whisper births an idea for a new book
  • When he asks me to be still and know
  • When he just wants to say, “I love you.”

My goal for this year is to spend time each evening with a few moments of evaluation: How was the presence of God real that day? How did I hear God speak that day?

Maybe by next December, I will have developed a keener sense of the Trinity in every day life.

That goal gives me hope.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

With a new year comes the opportunity to revise our goals. Check out Setting and Reaching Your Writing Goals.

Finding Hope in a Sequel

In one of my newsletters for writers, I created a sequel of my favorite holiday movie: It’s a Wonderful Life. Every year when I watch it several times, I wonder What happened to these characters after the movie?

So I created my own sequel and share my imaginary thoughts with you.

It’s a Wonderful Life – Part 2: After the debacle that almost destroyed the business, George Bailey gently convinces Uncle Billy to resign. It takes three weeks to clean out Uncle Billy’s office. George realizes how his uncle has regressed into a form of dementia.

Uncle Billy resigns, then volunteers at an animal shelter for the next five years. He quietly dies in his sleep, surrounded by his pets.

Mr. Potter is diagnosed with lung cancer and dies a few months later. No one in town mourns him and no one shows up for his expensive funeral. His loyal servant — who has no name in the original movie — tells George what happened to that missing $8000.

Reginald (the servant’s name) relates how Uncle Billy actually handed it to Mr. Potter, who then kept it and charged George with extortion. For his honesty, George gives Reginald a job at the Bailey Building and Loan, filling Uncle Billy’s position.

Harry Bailey becomes a U.S. Senator and visits his hometown often to hear about the concerns of its citizens. He remains a favorite citizen of Bedford Falls. They rename the high school Harry Bailey High.

George and Harry’s mother is hit by a runaway bus and dies instantly. The boys sell her house for a song to Violet Biggs who opens a home for unwed mothers.

George follows in his father’s footsteps and suffers a devastating stroke. He dies within the week and is mourned by the entire town. His funeral is attended by thousands from Bedford Falls and beyond.

George never forgot the lesson he learned from his guardian angel, Clarence, and was always grateful for his wonderful life.

Mary stays in the old house as the children grow up and leave. But Janie (the oldest daughter who is playing piano in the final scenes of the movie) returns after she earns her MBA at the Harvard School of business. She takes over at the Building and Loan and turns it into a major credit union with global investors.

Clarence earns his wings and becomes the chief guardian angel for George and Mary’s grandchildren.

Mary celebrates the births of nine grandchildren before she dies of tuberculosis at 96. As she fades away, she whispers the words, “George Bailey, I’ll love you ‘till the day I die.”

The town of Bedford Falls continues to thrive but always retains its small town charm. Bailey Park grows into a beautiful subdivision of homes that were designed and built by George Bailey who always wanted to do great things.

But George never fully realized he was accomplishing his greatest purpose by helping his fellow citizens keep a decent roof over their heads.

***

How many of us may be doing the great thing we were created for — but we don’t realize it. We think it should look different, feel more honorable or give us the acclaim and money we would like.

Like George Bailey, the greatest work of a lifetime is to make a difference in someone else’s life. To use our talents in creative designs and help others.

To love as God loves us — without judgment. Without assumptions. Without labels.

As we grow older, we begin to live the sequels of life. Let’s make it our goal to end well. Like George Bailey, to be rich with friendships based on respect. To build hope into our lives and into the lives of others.

Have a blessed Christmas.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved