Hope States Faith

At a recent conference, I heard Rachel Held Evans speak about why she is a Christian. So I thought about her topic and decided to share my thoughts with you.christian-because

I am a Christian because I was born in America. Religious freedom is a gift that wraps our souls in the joy of grace and the privilege of accepting what we believe and who our faith is centered around.

If I had been born in the Middle East, I might have been raised in an Islamic culture with no opportunity to learn about Christianity. Within that culture’s religion, I might have been commanded to strap on a bomb, walk into a café and detonate myself to somehow appease an angry god.

Instead, I was raised with the image of a loving Jesus who did the dying for me – once and for all. Rather than destruction of the soul and body, grace was offered as a free gift. Instead of strapping on dynamite, all I had to do was reach out and accept love.

So I am a Christian because of where I was born and raised. Thank you, God!

I am a Christian because Mabel Gruneau took time out of her busy schedule to organize a Child Evangelism event in my home town. During that event, Mabel used a wordless book – filled with lovely colors – to explain salvation in a way I could understand. I ran – yes – ran to the front of the room and cried, “I believe in you” to Jesus.

I am a Christian because of my home church and the saints who walked their faith in front of my observant eyes. Sunday school teachers such as Lillian Sawatzsky, Lydia Warkentin and Duane Janzen taught me the groundwork of faith.

My youth minister, Dave Gerbrandt showed me how faith works in practical daily life while my pastor, Lynford Becker helped me see how passages in the Bible – written so long ago – still applied to me.

I am a Christian because of the power of music. In the denomination where I grew up music was more than just a slot in the bulletin during each service. It was the fabric of our lives. The choir members and the directors, Lloyd Ediger and Jake Classen, invited me as a teenager to join the choir and learn how to sing true harmony.

My piano teacher, Arlene Flaming, taught me how to play with the proper techniques but more importantly – how to invite the power of music to travel from the keyboard to the soul. She helped me grow as an accompanist and soloist so I could share the gift of music with others. It is because of her that I still sit down to play and worship the God who speaks with rhythm and glory.

I am a Christian because my parents made a commitment that church would be for our entire family. No dropping me off at the door. Dad and Mom both served faithfully in the church and with Dad’s perfectionist personality, we were early for every single service – Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings. Then revival meetings two or three times a year. The church was almost like a second home.

I am a Christian because of who Jesus is. Of all the religious leaders in history, Jesus is the only one who truly respected women, allowed them to use their giftings and invited them to sit at his feet and learn.

Jesus is also the only religious leader whose body cannot be found because he came alive after death. With all our DNA tests and archaeological studies, no one has ever found the body or any portion of the physical body of Jesus. So I am a Christian because the God I serve is alive.

I am a Christian because of Oklahoma Bible Academy – a Christian school in the little town of Meno, Oklahoma. At OBA, my teachers somehow merged academia with theology. Some of my teachers were seminarians, pastors, scientists deeply schooled in how faith integrates with life. The education I received at OBA was priceless and it was there during a chapel service – I believed God was calling me to a lifetime of ministry.

I am a Christian because I have studied other religions. During high school and college, I researched other denominations and the religions of the world. While I served as an international minister at the University of Kansas and learned about the faith of my students – I discovered other gods and their legalistic rules.

None of the world’s religions even begin to offer the grace-wrapped salvation story of a God who loved mankind to the extent that he would send his only son to repair the breach sin caused.

No other religion is so founded on sacrificial love and so grounded in historic faith that it cannot be logically explained but only individually accepted.

I am a Christian because throughout my lifetime, this same loving God has personally met with me, sent his Holy Spirit to guide me and several times – actually touched me with his healing hands.

When I have most needed my eternal Husband and Maker, he has been present. During the darkest of times, he has answered my cries with, “I am here.” He has never betrayed me, abandoned me or allowed me to doubt that he would somehow find a way to help me.

Ultimately, I am a Christian because I fell in love with Jesus and never got over it.

So what about you? What is your faith story and why do you believe as you do?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hope Shares a Vision

For several years, this vision has been floating from my heart to my head and back again. I have tried to ignore it and push it back from whence it came, because acting on it seemed superfluous.

country-manorBut recently, the vision has resurfaced because I have met more women in need.

Here’s the problem: Numerous single women who are active in ministry struggle to find affordable housing. They manage nonprofits, meet the needs of the underprivileged and fill the gaps the churches cannot or will not attempt.

These brave women use their giftings to impact the world yet struggle to make a living. They are at the mercy of landlords who keep upping the rent or they own houses they can no longer maintain or sell without losing more money.

Currently, I know three of these women personally who are living in temporary housing, struggling to find a safe place they can afford and continue doing the ministry God has called them to do.

Here’s the vision: Remodel an old school or an old motel into beautiful apartments for these women. Each woman would have her own space yet she would be sharing in a community of others who could encourage her and become a sort of family.

Like a convent – only nondenominational.

This vision needs an investor who is willing to embrace the need and is interested more in caring for these women than making a bundle of money. Each woman’s rent would be based on her income and a percentage of what the utilities might cost.

Someone would have to manage the property and requirements for acceptance would have to be decided. But the administrative piece is the easy part. Finding the investor and the property is the tough part.

I can imagine several places around the Kansas City Metro that might fulfill the vision. Perhaps a place in the country where women could walk, garden or find solace from ministry demands.

This vision is not insurmountable. A group of women in the UK have seen it happen.

So I’m posting this idea on my blog, hoping someone will see it who can help with the plight of these women. Since I keep thinking and praying about this wondrous idea, I believe it is possible.

Hope continues in this new year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see this vision find its reality in 2017?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Falters

She was a lovely woman and an expert in her field – the stager sent by the realtor to prepare my house for sale. At the outset, she warned me, “I’m not here to offend anyone. I just want you to get the most money for your house.”

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

She left piles of things in every room to get rid of in order to most effectively sell the house. She was very good at her job, and I learned so many things about spacing, color, lighting, even the size of pictures as they become a statement beside a bed or on a wall.

Buyers will be looking for the feeling of space and for a neutral territory where they can set up their home. Anything personal of mine will interrupt that neutral feeling, so it cannot be in sight.

The stager showed me how to hide certain things, such as the litter box, so buyers are unaware the house once was ruled by a cat. Betsey, aka Gabriel, would disagree, but she will find her box and discreetly do her business – a bit perturbed that her abode has been disturbed.

I learned how important my stuff is to me. Most of my things are the early attic variety, garage sale finds or something I have restored that another person threw away. 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.

Quilts, a cradle, an antique telephone – all carry sentimental value for me. The quilt my grandmother and her sisters made for my wedding – a creamy yellow, with butterflies made from the scraps of their lives, babies’ bonnets, a favorite shirt.

The cradle, fashioned by my dad, held my newborn son as we rocked him to sleep that first Christmas. The fire blazed and kept my baby warm. Dad woke up every thirty minutes to check on the heat emanating off the logs. A sweet memory, a grief rekindled.

The old telephone my parents pieced together by visiting scores of flea markets and antique shops, then proudly gave to me one Christmas – long before Alzheimers invaded our lives and stole that precious memory.

Yet 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, the stager and I learned a bit more about each other. Both of us write. Both of us have journeyed through divorce and experienced pre-judgement by the established church. Both of us love cats.

When she left, we hugged and I was glad for a new friend, for her many suggestions which I know on some level are right and will help me sell the house.

But somehow, I also felt violated and discouraged, certain my life was going to change, wondering how I could decide what to let go.

The piles of my life’s debris reminded me how mortal we are and 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.

My son was shocked and upset by the suggestions made for how we needed to purge more and more and more. As we talked through our emotions, he finally said, “Change is hard for me, Mom. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s bad.” 

A wise young man. I admire his honesty.

Although the purging pains my soul, my journal entries speak the truth. This duplex has never been home for me; it was only a place to settle while I worked in this town.

Now that all my pictures have been stripped off the walls, my mantel decoration has been condemned and the detritus of my life lies in piles on the floor – it feels even less like the place where I can freely write, create stories and be my authentic self.

So my son and I are trusting God to provide something wonderful for us again, just as he has done through every step of the post-divorce journey. If we have to stay in this duplex, then we’ll be grateful for a roof over our heads. And it will be cleaner, sans the stuff we no longer need.

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.”

So that’s where I am this day – purging, mourning the loss of stuff, and waiting for next steps – clinging to God and trying to find hope.

©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

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

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/