11 Insights from Sabbatical

Many of you who follow my blog have expressed that you were praying for me this week. Thank you.

20150320_111209To honor your kindness, I’d like to share with you the 11 insights God gave me during Sabbatical. Some of them are, of course, repeats – those marching-around-Mount-Sinai-truths we all know. But when God repeats something, it’s important to listen.

Some are from my own readings and journalings – truths my soul needed to savor, a salve to cover spiritual wounds.

Here then are the insights from my Sabbatical week:

1.Even when I am feeling discouraged and wonder where I belong, God never abandons me. I belong to Him. Some of you may be thinking, Well, duh! But again – a truth worth repeating and a treasure for soul memory.

2.When I take a break, my clients and the rest of the world will not fall apart. In fact, I am quite certain the world needed a break from me.

3.Sabbath rest is absolutely necessary to restore the soul. Although I rest every Sunday, my soul needs some extended times with God. Having the freedom to spend hours in his presence was – well – heavenly.

4.God is bigger than the ordinary. We really do focus most of life on ourselves, don’t we? The bills, the paycheck, the job, the weather, the car problems. God’s agenda is so much bigger.

5.To honor my passions is one of the most vital things I must do. Passion is at the heart of who we are, and so often we hide from our passions because they remind us of dreams unfulfilled. Even a little time with our passions helps to restore the soul. This is why King David composed music and Jesus held children on his lap.

6.In helping others, I must also find a way to help myself. As a coach, I ask the powerful questions that point my clients toward their passions. I must also learn to ask myself the same challenging questions, then find a way to push me forward.

7.Asking grace for myself requires that I be willing to give it to others – often and liberally. Grace is the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. God requires that we share it.

8.God is eager to spend time with us. The loneliness of the soul is often a clue that the Spirit within seeks time without distractions. We owe the Divine One our undivided attention.

9.It’s a good thing I’m not a bettin’ woman. My brackets are completely destroyed.

10.Quote for the week from Anne Lamott, I trust that when I wake up tomorrow morning, God will still like me.”

11.Tulips are always a happy idea.

So there you have them. Nothing earth-shattering, but insights that filled up half my journal while restoring my soul.

I wish for you a Sabbatical as well – a time to breathe in, to let your body truly rest and to rekindle love for your passions.

Peace be with you.

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

 

Transitions that Lead to Hope

Several people I know, including myself, are muddling through transitions. Some of these uncomfortable places feel like restlessness or that awkward limbo when we try to figure out God’s will for a new season.1 peter 2-23

Some transitions happen automatically because of the seasons of life: the empty nest, a new job or a special calling from the divine. Although natural transitions make us queasy, they’re a bit easier to accept than those places of questioning and identity search.

When restlessness signals a transition yet gives no apparent ending, it adds emotional stress and sometimes a period of spiritual pondering.

Who am I now and what does God require of me? Am I really hearing from God or am I just hormonal?

In these difficult open-ended posturings, it’s important to remember one thing: God can be trusted.

When we can’t see the end of the journey, God has already flipped to the last page. The Alpha and Omega has it covered.

When others try to advise us with their perceptions yet don’t really hear us, God listens fully, knowing the desires of our hearts.

When one step forward leads to a brick wall, God comforts with meanderings that lead us through the maze.

And when we languish in that most difficult of places – the agony of waiting – God provides sustaining power to help us persevere.

1 Peter 2:23 reminds us to “Entrust ourselves to the God who judges justly.”

And that’s where hope wraps us in its warmth.

When we turn over our transitions and our desire for answers to the One who is trust-worthy, he fills in the blanks.

Eventually, transitions move us into new seasons. As Anne Lamott writes, “When God is about to do something exquisite, it starts with something impossible.”

If we learn to entrust each period of change to God, then we can adjust well and in the process – find ourselves smack in the middle of God’s will.

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

 

Learning Treasures of Hope

Because one of my core values is life-long learning, I am always reading and scouting out new resources. As a writer, I yearn to pen unique words or phrases that leave my readers with their own a-ha moments, something to think about all day, some treasure that leaves a taste of hope in their lives.

Recently, I added three new treasures to my learning bank, so I wanted to share them with you.Grace quote

Treasure 1: In her new book, “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace” Anne Lamott writes, “They say we are punished not for the sin but by the sin.”

Even when we know we are forgiven, natural consequences still attach like magnets to iron.

If you hammer a nail into wood and then take the nail out, a hole marks the spot where the nail was hammered. It doesn’t matter how many times you are forgiven for hammering that nail, it will still leave a mark.

I think we need to worry less about how God will punish us and more about how we can cause our own defeat by the wrong choices we make.

Treasure 2: Gerald May wrote, “Grace threatens all our normalities.”

Now isn’t that the grandest truth?

Just when we feel the most soul-grunge because we’ve committed one of the seven deadly sins and actually enjoyed it, God comes along and says, “Oh by the way, you’re forgiven.”

When we sin again because we’re stupid and can’t seem to learn from our mistakes, we go to God in penitence and cry, “I did it again. I’m so sorry.”

And God says, “You did what again?”

His grace breaks down all the normal ways we deal with repentance and retribution. Grace transcends omniscience, so God chooses to forget and says, “It’s okay, kiddo. I love you. My Son already took care of this.”

I don’t think I’ll truly understand grace until I graduate to heaven.

Treasure 3: Recently, the Samaritan Woman taught me an important truth. Even though I’ve read her story hundreds of times in John chapter four and loved how Jesus went out of his way to dialog with her, something really struck me this time.

Jesus treated her with respect in spite of the fact that she lived a rather nontraditional life. Her past included a handful of men that she married or lived with, probably because she had to survive.

But Jesus did not judge her. He appreciated her authenticity and answered her challenging questions. He revealed his true mission as the Messiah to this woman who wasn’t even allowed to draw water with the other “good” people in town.

Then what did she do? She ran back into the village and evangelized the same people who had rejected her. She brought them to the source of grace and showed everyone that she had more character than those who followed the laws of culture and religion.

Through her courageous behavior, the Samaritan Woman showed transparent forgiveness.

You see, when we meet Jesus and talk face to face with the man who saves us from our grungey selves, it doesn’t really matter how others treat us.

We just want them to meet him, too.

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

God’s Faithfulness Plants Hope

For several hours on New Year’s Day, my son and I shredded old receipts and files from 2004.Faith - hope - track record

Tax professionals report that we only need to keep 10 years of receipts, so to make room for the 2014-2015 files – we shredded the past.

As I looked through those files, I remembered the fun and the difficult times of that year. A receipt from Dillons for the cake I ordered for my son’s high school graduation party. Green frosting with silver letters, “Congratulations, Caleb!”

Gas receipts for the trip to Oklahoma to bury my dad. A medical bill for thousands of dollars that was somehow forgiven because someone at the hospital decided to pay it.

We lived on pennies and coupons during those days – a single mom with a son who was starting college and trying to find his path.

Friends often left groceries for us or garage sale treasures. We celebrated the end of every semester dumpster diving for items we could repurpose and sell or refurbish and use.

The miracle townhome where we lived and healed – provided by friends who gave us a generous discount on the rent.

Looking through the old receipts reminded me of how hard life had been yet how many times God came through with an emotional or financial miracle.

As he carried us through those years, he proved his faithfulness over and over. He cared for this particular “widow and orphan,” met every need and became my eternal Husband.

A few hours sifting through old files brought me once again to a place of gratitude as I realized the hope I hung on to 10 years ago is now a reality.

As Anne Lamott writes, “Faith is hope with a track record.”

God’s track record has left behind blessings and their impact on my heart. He gave me hope for the future and because he’s good – he builds more layers of hope for the days ahead, for the next time I open a box of receipts and shred the past.

All because of his grace-filled and generous heart.

©2014 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Offered by Anne Lamott

As an author, I always hope my words will impact readers, but sometimes this goal reverses. Sometimes I find myself changed by another writer’s work.

love God love peopleOne of those writers for me is Anne Lamott.

This week, I was thrilled to attend a presentation by Anne Lamott right here in Kansas City. Anne was, as I expected, witty as well as inspirational. As tired as she was from a busy book tour, she once again reminded me of how she has impacted my faith walk.

Since I became a Christian as a young child, my faith has evolved and grown through several transformations. During those early years of belief, I’m not sure I truly comprehended the power of God’s love nor did I understand exactly what Jesus had saved me from.

How many sins can a four-year old confess? I simply fell in love with Jesus.

But it was legalism that scarred my faith. During my challenging adolescent and teenage years, I was taught how I needed to perform and submit in order to keep God’s love. Legalism 101.

Any mistakes brought an immediate need for confession, hoping the faith teachers and other saints would somehow forget my errors and God would forgive. The shame pit rapidly grew deep as I could never quite dig myself out and be holy enough.

Then Anne Lamott entered my life through her books. Here was a Christian who was authentic, yet not afraid to confront God with her doubts. She showed me how creative God is – how he uses every possible avenue to draw people to his Son.

It was okay for Anne to eat M&M’s for dinner, to occasionally use raw language and to write with a graphic honesty. She showed me that being real meant being true to myself, others and God – how to stop carrying that burden of perfectionism.

Her books underscored the truth that learning faith is a lifelong journey and no one really knows my heart except God. Beyond that, I am not responsible to make everyone else accept me.

As I studied more about faith, searched the interpretation of scriptures as a whole and opened my wounded mind, I saw how so much faith-learning was based in fear. If leaders could determine for themselves what was right and wrong through tradition or prejudice, then they could control others and prevent any radicalism. Legalism 201.

What they forgot to teach was that Jesus was one of the most radical and authentic people who has ever lived. He ate with sinners, associated with people whom society and religion called untouchable. He respected women and had the gall to say, “Hey, everybody. Just two important rules. Love God and love each other.”

What freedom I found in his authentic life and Anne’s words, in her mantra of the three most important prayers, “Help. Thanks. Wow!”

I reveled in her salvation story – how God pursued her when she wasn’t interested. She never worried about being good enough because she didn’t care about pleasing God or comparing herself with others. Yet God cared about her and loved her into belief.

For me – this was a new definition of grace.

I look forward to reading her newest book, “Small Victories – Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace.” I’m reserving special quiet time to ruminate over her words. I know already that I will love the book and probably learn more about being authentic.

So I am grateful for the hope offered by Anne Lamott. I pray that someday my words will so impact my readers that they will grow in faith and learn the joy of freedom in Christ.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo