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

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 6

Alzheimer’s cannot destroy faith.Praying_Hands

During a Thanksgiving weekend several years ago, I visited Mom at the assisted living facility. It was Sunday and per her usual practice, she wanted to go to church.

So she dressed up, picked up her Bible and we walked down the hall toward the dining room. A visiting pastor had volunteered to preach a brief sermon and lead these elderly saints in worship.

The room was filled with Alzheimer’s and dementia residents in various stages of the disease – beautiful shades of white and gray hair, curly perms and a few shining bald heads of the rare men in the crowd.

The pastor kept his words brief, then we sang some of the favorite hymns: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Amazing Grace,” “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Most of the residents hummed along, some fell asleep, a few still knew some of the words. I sang lustily, my mezzo soprano blending with the bass of the pastor. My mother remembered some of the lyrics and hummed through the rest.

Then the pastor said, “Please join me as we all recite Psalm 23.”

I thought, You must be kidding, buddy. These people can’t recite a passage of Scripture. They can barely remember their names.

But they surprised me.

I watched them and listened as around the room – every single resident recited word for word the precious Shepherd’s Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

The King James version, with none of them missing a beat.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

How many of them prayed that God would restore their lives, do a miracle in their bodies and release them from this disease, this long and tragic goodbye?

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

A righteous life includes reading the word of God and hiding those words in their hearts so that when the end of life comes, when those final years flip over onto the calendar, these residents would hang on to what really matters.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

These saints understood the Psalm better than I because they live within that valley. I could see it in their eyes, in the faces accessorized with wisdom-carrying wrinkles. They knew this valley and only God could help them walk through it unafraid. And they believed he would comfort them along the way and never leave them alone.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Food no longer provided comfort because the appetite was gone, the taste buds had forgotten a favorite flavor or the joy of family meals. Yet smiles surfaced around the group – maybe a dim remembrance of God’s anointing on a life, the cup of joy that once ran over and now waited for its fulfillment.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

My mother, her voice clear, her eyes bright – solid in her faith and waiting for her timeline to end.

Each one of them in the room, recited what they believed. I could not speak. Tears choked me as I realized there’s a place deep within us, a sanctuary of the soul that cannot be stolen by whatever is happening in the brain.

Alzheimer’s cannot and will never destroy faith.

Amen and amen.

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

What Alzheimer’s Cannot Do – Part 4

Alzheimer’s cannot change lifelong habits.lifestyle image

Although some routines will change as the disease progresses, many of the lifelong habits remain ingrained in the behavior of Alzheimer’s patients.

Mom has always loved to read. She goes to the Hospice sales and buys a stack of books. Then she reads the book on the top of the stack. She no longer comprehends what she reads, and she forgets that she read the top book on the stack – so she reads it again. And again. Then she takes the entire stack to another Hospice sale and buys another bunch of books so she can read the top book on the stack.

She is content as she reads because that has always been one of her habits.

She also reads her Bible every day and a page from her “Our Daily Bread” devotional book. This has always been her morning exercise, so even though comprehension is gone, she continues her devotional practice.

On Sundays, Mom dresses up for church and carries her Bible with her. She can no longer find the passages in the Bible as the order of the books is gone. But every Sunday, no matter what, she has her Bible with her and if the weather is good – she goes to church. Because that is what she has always done.

She begins every morning with coffee, a little cream, no sugar. Morning coffee begins her day. Never tea. Never hot chocolate. Always coffee. Alzheimer’s has not yet destroyed her taste buds.


Even though osteoporosis has shorted her 5’8” frame, Mom continues to demonstrate careful posture. She walks tall, her congestive heart failure causing a bit of breathlessness – but still – her shoulders back, her head erect, her poise intact.

A cartoon bubble over her head might say, “Don’t mess with me. I know who I am.”


Like many in her generation, desserts were always part of the meal, so Mom continues to love her sweets. She plays Bingo every week and often wins. With choices of candy, peanuts or trail mix – she always chooses a Snickers bar.

She cannot understand when I turn down cookies or a piece of cake on the menu at the assisted living dining hall. Sometimes, to treat Mom, I drive her to Braums for an ice cream cone.

Maybe because she has been a lifelong reader, Mom hates the television. She calls it, “The Idiot Box” and only watches the news or turns it on for some noise to break the loneliness.

These habits of life define my mother. They make her real and vulnerable and show her personality. They cement our memories of Mom and remind us that Alzheimer’s cannot steal all of who she is.

The reader, the tall woman, the lover of sweets and hater of TV – these traits characterize my mother. Alzheimer’s cannot take that away from her.

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

Hope Finds Holiness in Surprising Places

During a recent trip to Fort Scott, Kansas, my friend and I discovered a wonderful coffee shop. Our chai lattes tasted spicy yet mellow, and the missional atmosphere of this shop impressed us.Rev G quote on Ft Scott wall

Their bookshelves were filled with classics and some Christian fiction. I donated the Reverend G books and promised to bring the third book after its release in August.

But we were most interested in the church service advertised for Sunday morning, so we put it on our calendars and showed up along with about 30 other folks of all ages.

I looked around the room and thought, what a wonderful way to attract those who might be curious about faith. A great way to think outside the box!

I was a bit disappointed when we were handed bulletins – not so outside the box – but even churchy habits are hard to break.

The video sermon was taken from Romans. Seriously? Romans? How can you attract seekers with one of Paul’s most verbose books, a treatise even seasoned believers find difficult to understand.

But it soon became apparent that everyone in attendance was a believer or a seasoned church-goer so we discussed righteousness, legalism and how to determine God’s will.

A lovely young woman sang and accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar. We relaxed and enjoyed her melodies, interspersed with whooshes from the espresso machine. It was fun to meet saints from another town who worship the same God and aren’t afraid to welcome strangers.

Then a wonderful surprise greeted us as we left the building. Across the street was a colorful wall with a unique wooden door – Tuscan colors and the rough textures I love. We each took pictures while my creative mind immediately jumped to the questions: What’s on the other side of that door? What kind of novel can I plot with this door and this wall as the main focus?

Hope finds believers in interesting and surprising places all over the world. We so often root ourselves in our comfortable church pews where it’s easy to snooze through our own spirituality.

But when we move outside our comfortable walls and experience church in different settings, we breathe a fresh invite into the family that makes us Christian.

I’m encouraged to find pockets of believers in various places, worshiping in unique ways and spreading the love of Jesus without the confines of traditional walls. The texture and color of different congregants provide a rich setting for the stories we are all writing within our spiritual selves.

I think God must be glad about these creative venues. He is always able to create a new plan even while His attributes remain the same.

And as one of those creative types who yearns for more spiritual experiences outside the norm, I, too, am glad and filled with hope.

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

When Hope Requires Faith

My crisis may have been a byproduct of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – this blasted gloominess that begins in the sky, then wraps itself around my soul.Hope word

It definitely resulted from an unexpected car repair which set me back almost $700.

And it probably came as a result that today is my mother’s birthday and she won’t remember it until someone reminds her.

Like a pile of jagged circumstances, everything piled up and I suddenly found myself weeping – searching for hope without finding it.

I wailed about the unexpected and uncalled-for circumstances that invaded my life without provocation. Unfair. Not the abundant life I hoped for.

And yes, I knew all the things I needed to do: praise God, read a Psalm, play a hymn on the piano, sing, exercise.

These are the same things I share with women all the time in the ministry where I work. I know what to do when despair comes knocking.

But the usual formulas don’t always work to lift us out of melancholy.

Sometimes we are so accosted by the darkness and the unfairness of life that we struggle to breathe and hope to stay somehow connected to what is right and true – to whatever it is that brings light to our distressed souls.

This time I had to force myself to persevere – to make myself drive to church and answer the same question we all hear every Sunday and so glibly answer – sometimes falsely.

“How are you?”

“Fine. Thanks.”

Then the teacher of our class made a statement that gave me a direction where I could pursue hope. I copied the sentence and spent the rest of the hour doodling around it, grateful for its truth.

“Faith is trusting in the character of God.”

Ah – yes. The character of God is good. He is love. His faithfulness is wrapped in a new batch of mercy every morning. He is the same today as he was a year ago and will be decades from now.

Although I could not, dared not try to find my way out of my hole all by myself, I knew that the character of God would somehow rescue me.

Because that is his job description. The Great Rescuer of Mankind. The one and only one I can solely depend on – even when I can’t feel him.

And that is the crux of it. Hope is not always easy to feel. It is that ethereal cloud beyond the present and tomorrow that helps us believe life will somehow get better.

And the only reason we can hang on to belief is because our faith is built on nothing else than the Savior who came to earth and showed us God Himself in flesh and bone.

It still took several days for me to claw my way back to hope but at least I finally had a rope to cling to. That statement about faith helped me look beyond my mother’s Alzheimer’s, beyond the car problems and beyond the grey skies to find the light encircling my Savior’s heart.

I am grateful.

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

 

 

 

The Blessing of Clarity

We sit together in church, my mother holds her Bible – because that is what we do in church. She no longer is able to find her favorite passages nor can she comprehend the Table of Contents that would help her locate, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Yet she is present, because this is a Sunday and this is what we do every Sunday – no matter what.

The horrid disease of Alzheimer’s cannot take away from us our Sunday traditions – at least…not yet. We will worship, then return home to prepare the family dinner. We will eat together – my siblings and I, the grandchildren and my mother – the matriarch who raised us to appreciate this day. We will talk about the past week and the coming week. Then we will take holy naps and praise the God who gives us work on the other six days.

Yet while we sit in church, I thank God that on this particular day, my mother still comprehends some of what is said and occasionally joins in the songs, especially the old hymns with familiar melodies and safe theology.

I watch her from the corner of my eye. This is the woman who made sure I learned my Sunday school verses. She is the one who drove me to the Good News Club where I fell in love with Jesus. She was the first person I told about my salvation moment, and she rejoiced with me.

I wonder how long she prayed for that moment to become a reality. Did she begin praying on the day she recognized her pregnancy? Or did she wait until I slithered from her womb and screamed my entrance into the world?

How do I reciprocate those prayers now? I pray for God’s mercy and ask for just a bit of clarity, for the dark shadows of Alzheimer;s to leave her alone so that she can worship on this day, one more Sunday.

The pastor asks for introductions of visitors. He knows my mother struggles with memory yet he asks her, forces her to remember. “And who is sitting next to you?” he asks.

Every muscle in my body tenses. What will she say? Will she need to think about it for heart-gripping moments while everyone waits? Will she feel obligated to make up a name for me, the person who looks like a younger version of herself?

Ah, no. She rapidly and clearly answers, “Why, this is my daughter…Rebecca.”

Everyone smiles. My heart leaps with joy, for on this particular Sunday, on this heat-encrusted August day in Oklahoma…my mother still knows who I am.