Hope in One-Word Prayers

Hope sometimes hides in simple places, often in one-word prayers.

The prayer life can be taught by spiritual advisors and multiple resources, but I think God most appreciates our prayers when they come from the desperate places of our hearts.

One-word prayers exist in that place where self-sufficiency ends. The gut punch past emotion and any reasoning ability.

My one-word prayers come when I have nothing left — when I’ve exhausted all my personal resources and my attempts to fix the problem.

When all I have left is a plea to Abba Father.

Please. After my first two babies died on their birthdates, getting pregnant again seemed daunting and simply frightening. I could not emotionally lose another child.

So when the pregnancy test read positive, I had only one word for God: “Please.”

As I lay in bed for six months, hoping to keep my child, I repeatedly begged God, “Please.” That baby, my Caleb, was born healthy and screaming a voluminous God-type answer.

But in his 21st year, a massive brain tumor almost took him away. Again, all I could manage on my knees in the ICU was another, “Please.”

God does not always answer these prayers in the affirmative, but this time — he said, “Yes.” My son is now cancer free, 14 years later.

Why. This one-word prayer is rarely answered. God does not have to justify his actions or what he allows. His job description as supreme authority is clear.

But we still ask the question. Most of us have asked “Why?” during 2020. Why this pandemic, this horrific loss of life, jobs, businesses, conferences, travel? No answer.

As my mother lives within the shadows of Alzheimer’s, I have asked, “Why?” In 2020, she fell and broke the same hip twice. She tested positive for COVID. Three times, I pulled out my little black dress and emotionally prepared to drive to her funeral.

But Mom survived to continue in the shadows, oblivious of any family or friends. Why? When she wants to be in heaven. What is the purpose?

I do not know, cannot comprehend the Why. But this one-word prayer often returns.

When. God is transcendent. He exists outside time and space. He does not wear a watch or schedule his day on a cell phone. Eternity and its Maker are timeless.

Yet we exist within the boundaries of twenty-four hours and a yearly calendar. We want to know when God’s promises to us will happen. We need to make plans, be prepared and look the part.

We need something to look forward to.

My vision journal is filled with promises God made to me. My Bible has years marked beside verses God underscored. Yet many of these promises have not occurred. When, God? When?

No answer … yet.

Although one-word prayers come from a deep place of need, they do have a positive spin.

We may feel frustrated by incomplete answers, but these desperate prayers prove our faith. They remind us we have somewhere to go with our Please, Why and When.

They prove we believe in God’s existence even when we cannot explain his ways.

A final one-word prayer is the one I cry when I cannot even imagine another word. It is the place I have gone multiple times throughout life.

And I imagine life will throw other scenarios in my direction where this one-word encapsulates the cry of my heart.

It ignores the Why, because at the point when my tears cannot release, my voice is raw and my mind will not wrap itself around the grief — I don’t care why.

It forgets about When, because that moment represents my exact need. There is no thought of another time.

Yet this word holds a Please with every breath.

This one-word prayer includes every plea ever spoken and reverberates through my universe. It is the word that holds my heart and keeps my life somewhat steady — even in the chaos.

Jesus. The name above all names. The answer to every heart’s cry.

The one-word prayer that echoes with hope.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more posts about the faith walk and prayer, check out Uploading Faith. My Caleb and I wrote it together.

Hope When Christmas Changes

Throughout our city, wherever we traveled, we heard it.

In grocery stores, libraries, Target and Wal-Mart – even during church services where it occurred in stereo sound – one person in the aisle echoed by someone across the room.

The Great Cough of 2016.

In spite of vitamins, clean eating and daily spraying through the house with Lysol, my son and I both caught the Great Cough aka the Christmas bug.

With all our plans for the holidays suddenly deleted, we dragged our pitiful selves to our respective recliners. The cat glanced back and forth as we coughed, trying to rid our bodies of what the doctors called “Upper Respiratory Infection.”

Christmas plans immediately changed. None of our usual holiday foods. I wasn’t cooking anything except chicken soup. Unwrapped presents waited in Amazon boxes. Worse, we were not able to spend Christmas with the family in Oklahoma. We didn’t want to infect the entire clan, and truthfully – they didn’t want us within breathing distance. Why take our germs across the state line to risk the health of the entire family?

This was the first year since I served as a missionary in Honduras that I did not see my mother for Christmas.

We found an Urgent Care facility open on a Sunday. Bless the hearts of that medical staff ! We armed ourselves with legal drugs. Thank you to the hard-working people at CVS. Fully medicated, we each returned to bed and slept late — when the coughing didn’t wake us up.

But Christmas happened in spite of illness. A few days later, my son’s girlfriend and her family invited us for a delicious meal and an evening of fun. We played table games, wearing hygienic gloves, trying not to cough on anyone.

The next day, we piled cough drops into my purse and escaped the sick house for a movie. I highly recommend “Collateral Beauty” with Will Smith’s poignant performance of a man dealing with intense grief. The twist at the end gave us plenty of conversation starters as we managed an evening breakfast at IHOP.

Then we collapsed in our recliners again. Still coughing, but finding some joy in Christmas shows. The Grinch tried to steal Christmas from Cindy Lou Who while George Bailey learned how he lived a wonderful life.

Our Christmas may have looked different and not what we planned but we survived it. The promised Messiah still came. The beauty of Luke chapter two remained solid and the twinkle lights on our tree reflected a glowing  angel at the top.

Hope survived our Christmas changes as gradual healing brought us upright to face a new year. The Great Cough of 2016 did not win, because Christmas is not about food, health, presents or travel.

During 2020, we are again faced with changes at Christmas. Instead of the cough, we have the ever-present and more lethal threat of COVID-19. Yet in spite of masks, social distancing and hygienic wipes — we can still celebrate this beautiful season.

Because the truth of Christmas isn’t about plates filled with ham and scalloped potatoes, opened presents with wrappings all over the floor or even the presence of warm bodies in the room.

Christmas incorporates the beauty of music, joy, light and a Love that forever transforms lives. No matter how we celebrate the season, the root of its beginning cannot change.

And in that security, we find hope in the eternal promise – Immanuel – God is still with us.

© 2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved.

For a holiday gift you can give to a hard-working caregiver, consider Holiday Tips for Caregivers. Available on Amazon and Kindle. 

When Hope Meets Up with Q4

We are moving toward the Christmas market and ready to leave the year behind. We have reached our annual goals or transferred them to the next year’s editorial calendar.

Image by Mariana Anatoneag

It’s easy to sit back, take stock of the year and start planning for Auld Lang Syne.

But 2020 has presented a special challenge — the need for daily monitoring and hope searching. We cannot truly relax because this horrid pandemic is still with us, taking lives and disrupting our culture.

It’s time to take a lesson from football.

Although every moment of a football game can be filled with excitement or the dread of rising penalties, it is the fourth quarter — the Q4 — that holds the most promise. Yet those last 15 minutes are when legs start to throb, arms ache and the multiple tackles begin to take their toll.

It takes more grit and strength, more energy and chugs of Gatorade to score in the fourth quarter, to come from behind and win.

This Q4 of 2020 will require even more courage as we begin the winter months. We’ll be cooped up with each other while snow whitens the landscape, washing our masks and wishing 2020 was a distant memory.

COVID-19 was supposed to be under control by now. The perfect vaccine a reality. The economy responding to opened businesses. Yeah, right.

Yet the news is often bleak, the numbers of dead rising and the need for extra strength more important than other quarters of this year.

How can we face this Q4 and make it to December 31?

Stock up on Resources. Not just TP, but also books and movies that enrich thoughts and build warm fuzzies. Find winter-based projects the entire family can enjoy together:

  • Start a puzzle
  • Try a new recipe
  • Write a poem
  • Do something creative
  • Watch the old sitcoms and laugh

Dig Deep. Find that courageous reserve that asks for extra grit to churn out the final seconds of Q4 2020. Fill your fridge magnets with positive quotes and affirmations. Memorize a hope-filled quote or scripture.

One of my favorites is Isaiah 43:2, “You will pass through deep waters, but God will be with you.”

Move Away from Yourself. Find a way to bless someone else: a greeting card, a bouquet of chocolate chip cookies, flowers left on the porch, a phone call, more chocolate.

How about this quote by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”

Even if we feel the opponent has won, Q4 isn’t over yet. We CAN finish well.

We can build up our hope by encouraging each other and cheering for one another until the final buzzer sounds. In the midst of this Q4, we can go for the win.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Many of the women in the Bible were invisible. Check out these 8 stories from The Invisible Women of Genesis.

When Hope Encounters a Rollercoaster

Memories of fun in the past included rollercoaster rides. Those giant metal or wooden edifices roared as the track connected with the train.

Hands held high. An unplanned scream. Stomach muscles clenched in a clash between fear and excitement.

But today’s rollercoaster comes not from a machine or long lines of customers anticipating the ride of their lives.

No, we are all on a rollercoaster together — the emotional ride of 2020.

Just as we begin to feel a bit more secure, another jerk takes us to a scary elevation of fear or a sudden downturn of despair.

Back and forth. Up and down. The spiral cycles and the stomach clenches once again.

What does this rollercoaster look like in the waning months of 2020?

The Ever-Present Track of Covid-19. Our family had escaped Covid. Everyone was healthy. Then the phone call. The one person most susceptible – the elderly matriarch.

Mom is 92 and confused within the shadows of Alzheimer’s. She does not understand why she has been taken out of her room and placed in isolation. She does not recognize the staff people who now wear full PPE garb and speak to her behind shields.

The cruel rollercoaster of 2020.

Unexpected Circumstances. A simple step down into the garden, expecting to water flowers. Then joy at the colorful blooms became pain as my hamstring pulled, leg and hip out of whack. Doctor visits, chiropractic treatments, a cane to maneuver through my uneven yard. Three months out, and it still hurts to sit or stand.

The uncertain rollercoaster of 2020.

Cancelled Plans. A special birthday trip to my beloved Santa Fe and the wonders of the Southwest. Planned with a friend for months. Excitement flushes out as reality slides around the next turn. Travel is impossible with a hip injury. Wait another year. Forget this anticipation and push back the joy.

The disappointing rollercoaster of 2020.

The Search for Truth. One news channel reports their facts, complete with videos, fact-checking and credible sources. Another channel reports their facts, also complete with videos, fact-checking and credible sources. Yet they totally disagree.

The confusing rollercoaster of 2020.

Science versus Reality. Government agencies we should be able to trust release statements about vaccines, treatments, forecasted dates. Then the next day, they reverse their information. What?! Science changes overnight? How much is politics affecting information — on both sides of the aisle?

The puzzling rollercoaster of 2020.

Relationships Suffering. Families and friends who once worked together, worshipped the same God and rejoiced in spending time together. Now they are jerked apart by opposing views — both sides claiming divine inspiration. Both sides able to quote Bible verses and pound pulpits with their opinions.

The polarizing rollercoaster of 2020.

How can we find hope when our emotions are jerked up and down, around and around, spiraling out of control?

A carnival ride expert once said to focus on what is not moving, something that will not change no matter which direction the rollercoaster heads.

So we can focus on one thing — hang on to the thread of faith, that whisper of constancy that assures us, “For I, the Lord, do not change. Therefore, you are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

Eventually, we will step off and away from the rollercoaster of 2020. It will take a while to regain our equilibrium, and we will most certainly face a changed world.

But even as we focus on what steadies us, we can be certain hope will survive. It looks beyond the present tense, reaches toward the future perfect.

To be settled and steady. To feel secure. To know we have survived this year and hope for what promises to be better.

That is the goal of hope, an emotional place that may be shaken but still endures.

In spite of the rollercoaster of 2020, we can end our days with this Kenyan prayer: “From the cowardice that dare not face new truth, from the laziness that is contented with half-truth, from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth — Good Lord, deliver us.”

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my newest book, just released during this crazy year of 2020. The Invisible Women of Genesis uncovers some of the hidden stories from the women who were present, yet invisible, at the beginning.

 

When Dread Attacks Hope

dreadOur world is being attacked by a vicious virus. But we are also facing a mental virus that threatens to destroy hope.

That virus is dread.

Multiple scientists and pundits are predicting the fall and winter of 2020 will be the worst season ever.

We will see an uptick of Covid cases coupled with the usual flu outbreaks. They warn that we may experience a worldwide tragedy — an apocalyptic pandemic.

A prophecy of dread.

The definition of dread is “to anticipate with great apprehension.”

It is a level stronger than fear, because it feeds on the imagination. It fills in the gaps with the worst possible scenario which grows with each new dread-filled prediction.

Dread not only believes the negative outcome, it escalates the emotion of fear and makes it feel more personal.

Every year, I dread winter because I don’t like to be cold, I hate driving on icy streets and the entire landscape is as gray as my mood.

Winter is a personal attack called Seasonal Affective Disorder. So I have to prepare myself with comfort and strategies to avoid excessive gloom:

  • A daily dose of St John’s Wort to lighten my mood
  • New soup recipes to warm up the kitchen
  • An abundance of great reading material
  • Projects that excite me and bring color into my world
  • A focus on the end of winter as I mark off each day
  • The enjoyment of the holiday season which creates a break in the calendar and adds fun time with family

Each year, I try to invent new ways to make it through the November – February imprisonment. This year will require even more intentional methods to escape illness and tragedy.

To fight the dread of the anticipated 2020 winter season, we will need to be even more diligent to look for hope. To constantly remind ourselves to steer clear of that apprehension fed by the reality of Covid-19.

As a lifelong list-maker, I’ve come up with some strategies to help me approach this fall and winter with a more positive attitude:

  • Continue self-care and other-care. Read “wear a mask, social distance and pay attention to hygiene.”
  • Lockdown was working, so I plan to continue my stay-at-home discipline except for essentials. I will try to talk myself out of fudging on what “essential” means.
  • Fill my home and office with fun projects such as decluttering (again), some DIY wall art, maybe finally painting my office.
  • Stay even more connected to family and friends
  • Start a new coaching process for teaching others how to Write a Legacy
  • Stay informed but only watch the news at certain times of the day and only in small intervals
  • Pray my guts out for the end of Covid-19
  • Help my son and his beloved plan their wedding
  • Focus my journaling on more gratitudes and less grumblings
  • Sing more often and with greater volume
  • Surround myself with color — none of those drab wintry grays
  • Plan for how I can buy my next car

Will you join me with your own practical strategies? I’d love to hear how you’re planning to face the dreaded fall and winter of 2020.

Let’s fight against the spirit of dread by letting hope carry us through. Let’s look forward to 2021, to a clean environment, a fresh start and freedom from viruses of any kind.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Start your stack of winter reading by checking out my Amazon Author Page.

Hope Measured by Steps

During a recent journey from Wichita to Kansas City, my check engine light came on.

At the same time, I was nursing a painful hip from a displaced sacroiliac.

Normally, I enjoy driving the open road. I slide in the CD of my favorite soundtrack, munch on a snack and sip some water, sing along with the CD or make notes about another writing project.

But faced with two challenges at the same time, this would not be a joy ride. So I planned several stops where I could check my car and walk around to alleviate the pain.

Towanda: one of my favorite rest stops because of the gift shop. Lots of Southwestern-styled handbags which I dream about every time — turquoise and camel being my favorite — but not the price tags.

Knowing I would be faced with some kind of car cost, I didn’t even consider a purchase other than a small breakfast sandwich and hot tea for plenty of caffeine.

Back in the car, my hip felt better — thank you, Motrin. The check engine light was still yellow and not flashing. On to the next stop, only 33 miles away.

Matfield Green: At one end of the Flint Hills, you can see the Kansas prairie for miles. Grasses, cattle herds, a buckskin horse, places to pull off and snap pictures.

In the women’s restroom, I met another masked woman who, like me, struggled to get soap out of the dispenser.

“Really?” she said.

“In our world today?” I replied. “No soap?”

So we both spent extra time running water. Then I limped back to my car and doused my hands with sanitizer.

The next stop was Emporia. Time to pay my turnpike ticket and usually — a stop at Braums for an ice cream treat. Cappuccino chocolate chunk, thank you.

But not this time.

My hip needed TLC, and I wanted to be as close as possible to home in case the car died. The next stretch of road would be the longest — 90 some miles.

So I whispered several prayers, pulled the CD out and clicked onto a Christian radio station for encouragement.

But 50 miles later, my body screamed for relief. Luckily, I knew about the giant Love station off the ramp near Ottawa. So I pulled in and groaned as I exited my car.

After a stop in the ladies’ room — plenty of soap, thank you — I was delighted to discover a DIY soda fountain.

It is rare in these days of Covid-19 to be able to fill my own cup with plenty of crushed ice and unsweetened iced tea. I have learned to be grateful for the smallest of miracles.

Also at Love’s, I discovered my key chain had worn out. They had a display of amazing Southwestern designs, feathers and leather with a strong clip for keys. In my favorite dark purple with a friendly price.

I figured I deserved it.

So in spite of all the challenges, I felt uplifted as I began the last leg of the trip. Only 38 miles to home.

When I finally pulled into my driveway, I was sore, tired and spouting, “Hallelujah! I made it.” After a refreshing shower, unpacking and a generous lunch, I thought about how my trip home coincided with the challenges of 2020.

How can we make it to the next step — to that place with no daily death counts and a blissfully mask-free world?

It won’t happen immediately, unless God chooses to snap his fingers and create a global miracle.

In the meantime, we’ll do it one day at a time, one painful journey to the next rest stop, one whispered prayer at the next mile marker — until we make it to the final destination.

Hope isn’t always one gulp of optimism. It’s often a tiny morsel of sunshine on a cloudy day or a cautious step toward a goal.

It’s one step at a time in the right direction — with an occasional treat along the way.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out another journey, Sometimes They Forget — the one my siblings and I are on as Mom continues the Alzheimer’s challenge.

Hope Searches for a Symbol of Healing

As Covid-19 marches on, how can we stay in hope?

Somehow the platitude of “We’re all in this together” sounds hollow. I need something more.

pharmacy symbolThis week, I focused on an Old Testament story where the community faced a plague of serpents.

The children of Israel grumbled, because they were impatient and tired of the journey through the wilderness.

God is good, but he’s not fond of hearing whining complaints in spite of all he’s done.

So he sent a bunch of snakes to bite the people. The poisonous venom caused multiple deaths, probably similar to the traumatic Covid numbers ticking higher every day.

Then the people realized their mistake and asked Moses to intervene on their behalf. Good old Moses complied.

So God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and fasten it to a pole. Whenever people were bitten, they had only to look at the symbol of the snake on the pole. Everyone who looked at the symbol lived.

Today we see that same visual as the symbol for pharmaceutical companies – an appropriate logo. Buy the right medicine or combination of drugs, get the right vaccine and live.

Thankfully, we DO have a multitude of meds which help us through our various maladies. And scientists are working hard to find the right combination for a Covid vaccine.

Since this symbol of the serpent on the pole worked so well for the wandering Israelites, is there a symbol we can focus on today? Something that will bring relief from the ravages of Covid-19?

The Sunday School answer, of course, would be the symbol of the cross. Yet even this beloved visual has been misused and misunderstood:

  • The Nazi cross
  • The KKK burning crosses into yards, fence posts or houses
  • The cavalier way we sometimes wear our crosses and decorate our homes, forgetting the cross is really a symbol of torture

Perhaps the time for symbols has expired. Instead, we need to do as the children of Israel and come face to face with our sin:

  • How we grumble against God and ignore the good he has done for us
  • The times when life doesn’t feel 100% balanced so we blame it on God
  • The impatience that fuels our busyness and keeps us from contemplative moments of building relationship with the Divine
  • The myriads of injustices we perpetrate on demographics other than ourselves
  • Our apathy as we fail to seek justice, love mercy or walk humbly with our God

Symbols are temporary, something concrete we can focus on instead of facing our desperate need for inner healing and soul relief.

Instead of a snake on a pole or a crossbar of beams – maybe we are in dire need of a deeper reflection, a change from pride to humility, an admittance we cannot solve this Covid-19 problem no matter how “together” we are.

Maybe this is the time for four simple yet difficult demands:

  • To humble ourselves
  • To spend time in concentrated prayer
  • To turn away from any and all wicked ways
  • To desperately seek God

Then he promises to move beyond symbolism to a direct answer, “I will hear from heaven and will heal your land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Need a reminder of the basics of faith? Check out Uploading FaithWhat It Means to Believe.