Hope Lives in Forgiveness

Thanks to the insights of some prayer warriors, I was recently confronted with an ugliness in my soul. A spirit of unforgiveness had settled within and kept me from living in joyful peace.

After a time of confession and intense prayer, by God’s grace, I was able to release the pain that led to the unforgiveness. Peace came as a blessed byproduct.forgiveness clouds pic

The experience reminded me once again of the importance of forgiveness, and of how difficult it is to actually step through that door.

In order to forgive, we first have to be willing to feel our pain and grieve it in a healthy way. We also have to realize that the problem isn’t just about our suffering but it’s also how we perceive what has been done to us – and who did it.

Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves. Sometimes we even have to forgive God for allowing such pain into our lives.

But as long as we live in the bitterness of refusing to forgive, hope stalls and with it, the energy to move forward. We become stuck in whatever action caused the pain. We relive it and each time we pick up that grudge, we carry a heavier burden.

We become victims rather than victors and the ugliness inside will eventually seep into our souls and even our bodies. We can, literally, kill ourselves with bitterness and hate.

The news reports lately have reminded us how far we still have to go to find true acceptance of each other. America suffers from the grief of lost lives, damaged reputations and questions about injustice.

It is a blight on our land and an attack against the very soul of a country that was founded on colorful demographics. Although I don’t understand all the nuances of what has happened, I do feel the grief of families who have lost children, store owners who have watched their businesses burn and stereotypes profiled unfairly on both sides.

I know how easy it is to allow our pain to gnaw through the goodness God has granted us and to refuse to show grace to each other. One side of my family tree is decorated with Cherokees who were forced to march from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Thousands of men, women and children died along the Trail of Tears. The tragedy was so intense, even the soldiers who were ordered to carry out this debauchery wept.

Yet the Native Americans still thrive as a people, proud of their heritage, artistic in their pursuits and determined to seek a better livelihood for their children. It has taken several generations of honest confrontation, better laws and yes – even some national apologies to make peace happen.

I personally know some of these beautiful people from the Sooner State who learned how to forgive the past and moved into a place of mutual respect with those who stole their land.

We all make mistakes. We stumble and fail. We disappoint God and ourselves and yes – sometimes we make life-changing errors. But somewhere in the road back to sanity, we have to find a way to learn from the experience and not do it again.

I believe one of the stepping stones in that road is labeled forgiveness. I wish we would give it a try.

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


Paper, Please

As a writer, I know better. But it happened anyway.writing4502.jpg

As we prepared for our recent family vacation, I packed all my paper goods – legal pads, journals, notepads in a special bag. Then helped my sister pack up her Subaru Forrester and carefully secured my “writing” bag in her trunk. Other luggage piled on top, including my brother’s tackle box and fishing pole.

About two hours into the trip, I decided to write some notes about the scenery – something I might blog about later or use in research. But as I searched through my purse, I realized none of my usual notepads were inside the car. They were all packed in the back of the Subaru and there was no way we were going to unpack everything just so I could write down a few notes.

My creative juices seemed to be on overdrive and along with them, the fear that I might forget the words and phrases that peppered my mind. I noticed the Oklahoma red dirt, stained as legend tells it by the blood and tears of the Cherokees who were forced to travel from Mississippi to Indian Territory. Their broken hearts and wounded spirits forever colored the soil of the new land where they were enslaved on reservations.

As we drove into the Oklahoma panhandle, I saw corn growing tall (“as high as an elephant’s eye”), combed straight by the row crop planter that sows the corn seed. Each row was impressive as the corn plants reached their blades up to heaven for nourishing sunshine.

The horizon in the panhandle seemed to blend right into the soil so that I could not discern where it divided until we drove farther down the road. The turquoise sky shook hands with the red soil, accessorized by the green corn and the occasional brown coyote. A colorful land indeed.

All these sights I wanted to record while they were fresh, along with any ideas that surfaced about the novel I am currently writing. But alas – no notebook in my purse. What to do? How to record my thoughts before they disappeared as readily as the flatland when we approached the foothills of New Mexico?

We stopped for a snack at a Love’s store. With words swirling in my subconscious, I quickly ran to the ladies room, finished my business, then grabbed extra toilet paper which I folded into a pallet of paper. Then I grabbed extra napkins by the checkout and hurried to the car. A receipt from a previous gas purchase also fell out of my purse when I searched for a pen. Thank goodness I had packed my pens in my purse.

Armed with TP, napkins and the back of a receipt – I quickly scribbled phrases and sentences onto my makeshift notepads, then sighed with contentment that I had finally captured my thoughts before they disappeared into word netherland.

One week later, when we returned home, I gathered all my little notes together to file where I could best use them. Then I vowed to never be caught without paper again.

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


Oklahoma Dance

Since Mom moved to the assisted living facility, I travel to Oklahoma more often than before. Each time, it’s oklahomaan adventure in praying for the car to make it, treating myself to a hot chai and hoping that gas prices don’t go up again.

But each time, it’s also an opportunity to worship God for the things I experience.

I love living in Kansas and rooting for the Jayhawks, but my blood line includes Oklahoma Cherokees and strong Mennonite pioneers. So when I cross the border, I turn down the radio and treat myself to a loud rendition of the state song, “O….k-la-ho-ma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains.”

It is that same wind that carries the starlings as they dance across the sky. These are the birds I chase off my deck, because they raucously steal feed from my cardinals and bluejays. Starlings are not my favorite of the species, but something happens when they join together and synchronize a wind dance.

From miles away, it looks like a dust storm. But when I drive closer, I watch them dip and whirl through space, making beautiful designs that remind me of the creative God who taught them this whirlwind ballet.

The flat horizon of my Oklahoma drive reminds me how much I love the trees and hills of northeastern Kansas. But it is that same flatland that spreads a glorious sunset as “fer as the eye kin see.”

The brilliant oranges and bright turquoises of an expansive Oklahoma sunset draw me to worship the God who made color in the first place – this divine Artist who paints a different scene every night.

Oklahoma drivers welcome me to their state. As I travel off the interstate and enter the country, I meet farmers in pickups who give the one finger wave (the nice finger) or tip their John Deere hats at me. I know that if my car ever gives out on one of those country roads, some wonderful farmer will stop and help me figure it out.

These are the same people who become instant friends at the Quik Trip. They smile and tell me about their grandkids while we wait in line to pay for our gas. Like verbal hugs, the folks of Oklahoma share their friendlies with me and by the time I leave, I know about their bursitis, their worries about the drought on this year’s crop and where and when they “gradj-e-ated” from high school.

In my book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G,” I included a character from Oklahoma. Bert, the retired farmer, uses the wonderful colloquialisms of Oklahoma. He reminds Reverend G that when times are hard, “that there problem puts a clod in your churn.” These endearing phrases are the ones I grew up with and still hear in my heart when I cross that borderline into the Sooner State.

The Oklahoma dance reminds me of my heritage and grounds me in the knowledge that even when I land in Kansas, there’s no place like home.

©2013 RJ Thesman