Hope Survives with Good People

In the southern plains, including my home state of Oklahoma, some folks are labeled “good people.” Even while speaking in the singular, we say, “He’s good people.” This type of person is always focused on helping others, always available to serve — even in ordinary ways.

My cousin and his wife are good people. During Mom’s funeral, they kept watch over our coats. Kept them ready for the moment we would need them, for our trip to the cemetery.

Good people.

Another couple takes me out for lunch once / month. They keep track of what I’m writing, encourage my work and pray for me. They have followed my son’s journey as well and always check up on him. When he changed jobs, they visited the business to make sure he was okay.

Good people.

My sister is another one. She writes a family missive each week, updating all of us on all of us. Then she ends with an encouraging note we can carry into the next week. She helps a recent widow by taking her out for a meals and/or ice cream at the local Braums. Just to get her out of the house and find some hope. As a cat-whisperer, my sister also pays for the neutering and spaying of numerous cats.

Good people.

Another semi-retired couple opens their home for groups and retreats of various genres. A few healthy boundaries set. A welcome place to learn, to grow, to create. At no charge. They welcome photos of each group and create a growing wall of frames, dedicated to the service they have provided.

Good people.

None of these folks know I label them as good people. In fact, one quality of good people is a high sense of humility. They act anonymously. Simply climb out of bed each day and hope they can help someone.

Good people interact with others in hospitals, schools and nonprofits. At Target and in the parking lots around any town. Good people can be homeless or unbelievably wealthy. They stay up all night to check on the needs in their community and to offer their services willingly. Or slip an extra twenty to the waitress who pours their coffee at the local diner.

Good people regularly pay it forward simply because they want to.

In this world of death and destruction, good people live everywhere. They stand out. We need only to keep our souls open to see them and find them.

Hope multiplies when each of us locks in with the intention to become good people. To see God around us and within the folks we meet. To start each day with a prayer for divine appointments. To be good people wherever we go.

Hope blossoms when we look for good people. But it thrives when we ourselves become good people and share the love.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Be good people and share Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom with someone who needs daily hope.

Hope Finds the Garden

Working in the garden always seems to trigger a sense of spirituality. An idea for a devotion, a poem, a story or as in this case — a blog post.

Perhaps it is my connection with nature as a form of worshipping God. Or maybe it is the opportunity to reflect when doing nothing more than pulling weeds.

The first idea came as I prepped for some gardening time: the mud-packed shoes, the protective gloves, the spade — all packed into my gardening tote.

Then I noticed on the kitchen table how many dried petals had fallen from my garden roses. Dried, wrinkled, seemingly useless petals no longer clinging to their source.

At first, fresh from releasing my newest devotions for senior adults, I thought of how we often describe ourselves in the final act of life. No longer useful. No longer vital. Dried up and wrinkled.

Yet even when the petals have fallen, they still maintain a presence. Retain their color and end up splayed across my table in a natural design.

Never worthless or useless. All of nature, even in the driest periods, displays the creative energy of its Source, the beauty of eternal life infused within cells and texture.

I breathed deeply, grateful God can still use me in this final act, no matter where or how I might land.

So out I plodded to the garden to discover an error in my planting plan. One entire plot needed to be emptied, its contents pulled to create life for its main purpose.

A year ago, I transplanted a vinca vine into my cemetery plot — the area where beloved cats are buried. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. A rim of tulips and hyacinths that signal spring, then a planting of the vinca as a ground cover to provide a protective cap over the graves.

In early spring, the vinca presented a lovely lavender flower. Contrasted with its dark green leafage, it seemed the perfect backdrop for my garden cemetery.

But soon, the rains of spring and the hope-filled sunshine nurtured the vinca toward massive growth. Its invasive nature spread it over the entire plot, choking out the tulips, the hyacinths and the lone Hosta.

It took over an hour of multiple sore muscles for me to pull out that stubborn vine. And I will have to continue watching it or it will invade again.

How like so many tempters we face! The fancy house we would love to own until we open the mortgage summary. The giant dessert that looks so good, yet with too much encouragement, can become an artery-clogging sweet. The porn picture that is really a trafficked child made to look older soon wraps its addictive evil through the brain, choking the soul.

How many pretties can easily turn invasive if we ignore them or remain deceived by their initial beauty? Then it takes a lifetime of jerking them out and away, freeing the more subtle beauties that we were originally made to be. In the places God has planted us.

Ah-h — the lessons of the garden. And the ways those lessons point us toward a more hope-filled existence.

May we all keep our eyes and our desires on the One Source who offers life. And may we know God has gifted us with the power to love, to be disciplined and to nurture a sound mind.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For daily meditations focused on the needs of senior adults, check out Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Hope Says It Forward

Several times in the past months, I have shared with friends and clients one of my key principles for life. I discovered it years ago while reading The Hallelujah Factor by Jack R. Taylor.

To describe it simply, this practice centers around the focus of gratitude. It changed my life by flipping my mindset.

Many followers of Ann Voskamp learned about her practice of gratitude journaling through her book 1000 Gifts. Ann dealt with her depression by listing what she was thankful for each day.

Journals became more popular with an almost cult following. Multiple followers found solace in listing their daily gratitudes. It was a practical way to “give thanks in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Anne Lamott also gave credence to the gratitude practice in her book, Help, Thanks, WOW: Three Essential Prayers. As Anne wrote, ““Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.”

But my discipline is different and sometimes more difficult to pinpoint.

My gratitude practice flips the motivation and becomes what I call, “Say it forward.” Before God answers a prayer, before I see the results, before the end happens — I speak my thank you’s.

In the darkness and gloom of winter, I said, “Thank you, God, that spring and sunshine will come soon.”

While dealing with a hip injury, I prayed, “Thank you, God, that you’ve already healed me and promised that recovery will happen.”

Even now, when the world feels chaotic and so out-of-balance, I repeat, “Thank you, God. You are the One who can change everything. Someday, this earthly mess will be over, and we will live in peace with You.”

By focusing on the “future” gratitude and saying it forward, my mental image changes from negative to positive. Light illumines the darkness. Belief in God’s miraculous self reminds me I do not have to figure it all out.

Do bad things happen? Of course. So I say it forward — far into the future. “Thank you, God, that even though my young cousin died, I will see her again. She is safe and happy with You.”

“Thank you, God, that even though my niece cannot find formula for her baby, You can keep the little one healthy and make a miracle happen.”

“Thank you, God, that You give strength each day to the Ukrainian people. And even if they lose everything, You can restore it.”

The practice of Saying it Forward merges a please and thank you. It gives the problem to the only One who can truly solve it.

And even if the problem continues for a while, I can thank God for the strength to live with it.

So give it a try. Say it forward. Believe and receive the joy of finding hope in the Hope-giver.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For a devotional thought about Saying it Forward, check out Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom, page 83.