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 Finds a Word

Many of my friends are choosing their words for the year. Although I don’t usually follow suit, one word has surfaced. This word and its meaning once stymied me because I could not find a practical way to utilize it.

But as I have searched for a workable definition, the practice and discipline of using this word has moved front and center.ballet-dancers

I believe this word is important to me – especially in 2017 – because of what happened in 2016. As a Christian, I was appalled at the vitriol I read on social media and how followers of Christ used their freedom of speech as a weapon.

Certainly, we should stand up for what we believe, but to attack other human beings – creations of God – just because they believe differently? Sheesh!

They will know we are Christians by our love.

So my word for the year addresses my traumatized soul and also gives me a higher bar to attain. The word is GRACE.

I know the Sunday School definition for grace: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. But I have searched for the practical version, a way to actually BE a Christian rather than just writing and/or posting my beliefs – hoping to stay away from the ugliness and cruelty witnessed last year.

The definition I have settled on is, “Grace is the disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency.”

To live with a focus on kindness, to show grace to the checker at Target who has been on her feet for eight hours and the guy in front of me is yelling at her because his coupon expired.

To see the tears threatening to spill over and when it is my turn, to briefly touch her hand and say, “I’m sorry about what just happened. I think you’re doing a great job.”

To park in the lot at Wal-Mart and instead of rushing inside to get my stuff, to show grace-filled courtesy to the elderly woman, lift her trunk and help her empty the cart – then offer to take her cart inside so she doesn’t have to walk all that way on a gimpy leg.

To realize none of us act as we should every single day and give grace when someone barks an insult or uses only one finger to wave at me in traffic.

To be grateful for my freedoms yet allow with grace for the differences among us as we exercise those freedoms.

And how does grace look if I turn it inward? What are the practical ways I can give myself grace in this new year?

To realize I am an achiever, yet my projects are not more important than my health. To rest even if I’m not sleepy.

To allow myself breaks to take a long walk, to sit on the deck and marvel at the colors of the blue jay at my feeder.

To realize I gain five pounds every winter as I hibernate from the cold and give myself grace because I always lose those same pounds in the spring.

To admit the truth about the aging process – it DOES happen so I need to give myself grace and not hate the changes morphing me into a visual of my ancestors. After all, each year brings me closer to heaven where age will not matter.

To realize my garden cannot look like the magazine covers, no matter how hard I work. To give myself grace and let some of the plots grow over with natural grasses and even weeds. This graceful strategy will give me more time to write, reflect and pray.

To believe that grace also leads to gracefulness – a beautiful visual of a ballerina floating across the stage. Can I float through 2017 with a new version of gracefulness, slowing down and just being myself?

In her book, “Walking on Water,” Madeleine L’Engle writes exactly what I want to embrace. “…To take time away from busyness, time to BE. To take BEING time – something we all need for our spiritual health. Slow me down, Lord. When I am constantly running, there is no time for being. When there is no time for being, there is no time for listening.”

So as I float through 2017, my goal is to show kindness, to offer courtesy and to fight for clemency – to allow for the differences among us and love in spite of them.

Hope calls me to be more grace-filled and graceful in the next twelve months. Will you join me?

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

Hope Ages

In a few weeks, the calendar will flip over and I will celebrate another birthday. How quickly those calendar pages become obsolete.birthday-cake

In the proverbial quote, if I had known I would reach this age, I would have taken better care of myself. But then – maybe I wouldn’t.

We make choices day by day without thinking of the long-term consequences. We grow busy with life, do the best we can with the passing of time and hope everything will work out.

Occasionally we get lucky. Our arteries don’t grow plaque. Our blood runs clear. Our brains continue to remember.

Or not.

Even with the most preventive measures and the best intentions, life sometimes knocks us down. Alzheimer’s, cancer, the tragedies we never expected.

How do we stay in hope even while our bodies unravel? How can we stay focused on today when each twenty-four hour period passes so quickly?

For Christians, our focus is on living with joy and following the example of Jesus.

But Jesus did not age. We do not have a role model for the Medicare years.

We are left to figure out how much gray we will allow to color our roots. We play the game of connect the dots with the brown spots on our arms. We wonder how to remain in joy when joints ache and we can no longer run the bases like our younger selves.

We have to plan for days of fun, because they don’t spontaneously happen anymore. This is why we stare at little children and listen to them giggle. We’re trying to figure out how we once did that and why it disappeared.

Too much analysis leaves us cynical and afraid.

My bucket list is longer now than it was in my twenties, because the time clock is ticking. I want to do more of the things on my list – immediately – or sooner.

So I have decided to stick with the principles that have governed my life thus far:

  • Love others as much as possible
  • Practice the presence of God and breathe in his vitality
  • Love myself as well
  • Do at least one productive thing every day
  • Stay away from negative people
  • Don’t worry about the next twenty-four hours
  • Look forward to eternity

And I plead with the Psalmist, “Oh, God, now that I am old and gray, don’t forsake me. Give me time to tell this new generation and their children about all your mighty miracles” (Psalm 71:18 TLB).

Ultimately, even as age chases me, I know the end of each day brings me closer to the beginning of my eternity.

So I live with the lyrics of Les Miserables, one more day, one day more – one birthday passing and another on the way. One more opportunity to love and live well.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

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