Hope Deferred

Petting zoos are not just for children. They can be a peaceful haven for adults like me who grew up on a farm and still nurture a country heart.

So I was excited to find a petting zoo at one of the local fall festivals. I was eager for the sensory experience of touching and smelling animals, conversing with these splendid creatures of God’s design.

Until I stepped inside.

About ten sheep needed shearing. They wore their wool like heavy armor while children dug fingers into the nap. Ducks and geese stood in a small pen, so crowded they could barely move. No water source so they could drink and play.

One pygmy goat, obviously used to feeding from children’s pudgy hands. He nuzzled a few pellets. Refused to eat more. Again, no water source.

Then I saw her. An older goat lying in the shade, far away from the others. I knelt beside her. Petted the blonde and white stripe on her forehead. No response. No movement except a slight flutter of her long lashes. I checked for the movement of her breath and was relieved to see the rhythms of inhalation.

“I’m sorry, old girl. You don’t feel good, do you? And no one is taking care of you today.”

How long had she lain there with no water and no desire to eat? Was she weary of being taken to a common pen each day for the entertainment of humans? Did anyone care about her physical and emotional health? Who was responsible?

We are encouraged to care for God’s creation which includes the animals (Proverbs 27:23). To honor our shared life that originated when God spoke, “Let there be….” To provide for the weak and care about the suffering, no matter the species or the nationality.

I wonder if I should report that petting zoo to the ASPCA. Would my actions save the life of that sweet goat or would the operators merely move it to another location and find other unwanted creatures to exploit? 

The patriarch Job shared a message regarding the importance of God’s creatures, “For ask now the animals, and they will teach you [that God does not deal with His creatures according to their character]; ask the birds of the air, and they will tell you.

“Or speak to the earth [with its other forms of life], and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare [this truth] to you.

“ Who [is so blind as] not to recognize in all these [that good and evil are promiscuously scattered throughout nature and human life] that it is God’s hand which does it [and God’s way]?

“ In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10 AMPC).

Hope should color our actions so that we appreciate and care for all of creation. So that we fight to preserve the precious green spaces that give back oxygen. So that we honor the Creator by protecting his work. So that we touch the sacred places around us with intention to leave them better.

So that we share hope with broken people and even, forgotten goats.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out the beauty and poignant prose in The Church of the Wild by Victoria Loorz. I am halfway through and loving every nugget of truth.

Hope Within the Silence

In different seasons of life, our spirituality fluctuates. No right or wrong involved. Just the normal ebb and flow that reminds us we are mortal. We may feel condemned as those old legalistic tapes scream, “Where is your joy?”

But the truth is that feelings do not determine what or how we believe. Sometimes when God seems most silent, he is actually hard at work on our behalf.

Thus, the truth of Psalm 57:2, “I will cry to God Most High, who performs on my behalf and rewards me [who brings to pass his purposes for me and surely completes them]” (AMPC).

This silent time is not the dark night of the soul — that cavernous and sorrowful pit where we feel alone and lost. Yet even then — for those who have experienced it — the result may be a cleansing, purifying, detox that results in an even greater measure of faith.

No, this is the sound of silence. When prayers go unanswered, no matter how intensely we voice our pleas. When no inner voice whispers solace. When God is still present, yet mysteriously quiet.

We may feel abandoned, yet we must remember that every relationship has its silent sounds.

A couple may travel miles without speaking a word. Simply enjoying the journey of being together. How many times do we eat a meal with a long-time friend, each chewing thoughtfully? No words spoken.

The same comradeship can happen in our faith journeys. That comfortable knowing when neither God nor we speak. Yet our hearts still bind together. When God is silent, and we have no prayer language. When no actions result from the desires of our hearts.

Do we give up? Nay, nay. This is the time for the deepest faith striving, the strongest beliefs. This is the living example that faith means being certain of what we cannot see. Solid on what we cannot hear. (Hebrews 11:1).

We can know that no matter how silent are the Divine Three, they still have our best in mind. They still live inside us and around us. They still gather our tears in bottles. They still believe in us and cheer for us.  

Therefore, we also believe and rest in Hope.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Sometimes we can deal with the silence as we read a brief meditation. Check out these daily devotions in Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom

Hope Discovers Eternity Present

In those foggy moments before the alarm rings and consciousness reminds me of the day ahead, I listen hard for the divine whisper.

It is often in the early mornings when the meditations of my heart remind me that I am not alone. The treasure of Psalm 127:2 becomes reality, “God gives to his beloved even in their sleep.”

A gift. A divine murmur to remind me all is well with my soul.

Such a moment recently occurred as I heard a voice call my name, “Rebecca.”

A female voice. Perhaps the nurturing comfort of the trinity’s feminine side. Or maybe an angel assigned to take care of me. Maybe a sweet relative who passed to glory and was told to visit me.

Although I could not identify its owner, I knew the voice was from no one in the realm of earth’s present. Rather, a voice from eternity.

Then a touch, a stroke of my hair and the assurance of being loved—completely and forever adored by the Divine Three.

The rest of my day filtered through that comforting feeling. Surrounded by God’s love.

How can this happen? When eternity interrupts life on earth and makes itself so very known we cannot ignore or deny its presence. Is it those moments when God knows we need more than just a Bible verse to underscore Immanuel with us?

Or does God long to remind us that eternity’s reality is not so far away?

We think of heaven as an ethereal universe far beyond our own galaxy. But what if it is all around us? What if we are separated only by a thin curtain—a sheer veil between the physical and the spiritual?

What if God is always reaching out to us? To give a hug or stroke a fevered forehead, but we’re too focused on the now to realize divinity is here.

This was not the first time eternity chose to visit. A few years ago, I received word that a good friend was involved in a motorcycle accident. No helmet, though he knew better. Brain damage. Intensive care with beeping machines.

I prayed throughout the night, then somehow knew Mike had crossed over. The confirming phone call was no surprise. Tears, yet joy for the assurance that death’s sting was swallowed in victory.

Two days later, Mike stood in my hallway. A gentle smile on his face. He wore the cowboy lariat necklace so popular in the New Mexico area where he lived. A coral stone set in silver. The black leather strap around his neck.

No words exchanged, but I knew he was thanking me for my prayers. A token from eternity that he was all right. Would always and forever be okay.

Then he was gone. Again.

How thin is that veil between this world and the next! It cannot be measured by our finite minds. But its very transparency brings comfort.

Those we seem to have lost are not lost at all. They are closer than we imagine. A great cloud of witnesses cheering us on.

And standing with them is the Savior of our souls—this One who dares to love us despite who we are or what we have done.

So, I listen hard for those divine whispers and hang on to hope. Maybe I will hear that same voice and feel that comforting touch again.

God is, after all, just a whisper away.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For daily inspiration and hope, check out: Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Hope Craves Balance

Like a delicate scale tipping toward the stress side, balance remains a challenge. Work takes the main role. Responsibilities scream, “Do me first. No time for play.”

But without play, creativity is a leftover.

It fights against the stress and becomes its own version of writer’s block. Not that the words cease, but the sentences are no longer filtered through the divine whisper.

Instead, they sound like clichés as the craft becomes lifeless to the writer.

Without play, stress wins. Because more tasks always appear, more places to go, more projects to complete, more responsibilities to wear us down.

Play pouts in the corner, unable to garner attention yet plaguing us with its silent screams.

In a corner of my office sits my tote bag filled with colorful pens, crayons and the latest Mandala. But work calls through the filter of stress, so I ignore the bag even while wishing for a just a few moments of playful joy.

In her book about recovering balance, Finding the Deep River Within, Abby Seixas writes, “We must break the cultural habit of sacrificing our inner lives for our outer lives, of giving up depth in deference to speed.”

Stress and its deceptive sister, Speed, require that we work hard to complete more tasks. Finish everything before the end of the day. We do our work quickly so we can accomplish more, then check our to-do lists for the satisfaction of completion.

Yet with speed, we sacrifice the beauty of rest that ultimately feeds our souls. We give up our need to go deep and find our most intimate selves.

We lose our place, sitting in God’s lap where he whispers, “Be still and know me.”

The delicate scale balances precariously toward burnout. But the solution is not that difficult. We all have 168 hours each week to figure it out. Yes, work is important. But so is play.

It takes merely a smidgeon of self-discipline to stop multi-tasking, to cut away at the distractions, to invite soul time.

To breath deeply, close the eyes against the computer glare, and embrace solitude. And in that embrace, we learn to love again — our own souls as well as the Divine One who made us in the first place.

To make the decision for more balance brings hope to that inner place where the child still waits for the adult. Where memories of laughter, colors, and sand castles still thrive.

I commit to that decision, embrace hope, and gather my toys. Because hope shines when we commit to play.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Be still and know with a devotional book for seniors. Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Finding Hope in the Nest

On my daily walk, I discovered this nest lying beside the sidewalk. Empty of eggs. Not even an errant feather left behind. Had it blown out of the tree or was Mama bird simply done with it?

I gingerly picked it up and placed it back in a crook of the tree. Hoping it might be used again or at least appreciated as a piece of nature. Then continued my walk, thinking more about nests and the art of nesting.

Back in the 80s, a dear soul approached me at church and said, “I heard you were pregnant, but didn’t know for sure until I saw you wearing a nesting jacket.”

The nesting jacket used to be the maternity symbol as women wrapped their torso in clothing. Like a material womb protecting the life within. In today’s world, women more openly convey the gift of pregnancy. They take pictures wearing tight knits which show the shape and even the protruding belly button. Some images even show the bare skin, stretched to grow the life of the baby.

My dear friend from the 80s would roll over in her grave if she saw a naked pregnant belly.

But nesting involves more than preparing for a new life. It is also a symbol of how we live in our space. How we preserve areas for reading, contemplation, writing, journaling, solitude.

London-based designer Caz Knight puts together design packages, particular for winter nesting. To help people feel more comfortable during the cold months. She writes, “A hub nest is a place where you do not feel anxious, and where everything is fit for purpose.”

Many women particularly love nesting. World-wide travel and the hubbub of business outside the home makes them feel anxious. They would rather stay home, be in their nest where they feel safe. They revel in the memories of how they raised children in their particular nest. Special meals and celebrations. Colors, textures and tastes.

Since I work from home, my office needs to feel like a nest. I often remind clients to nurture the space where they write. Use décor that never distracts. Pay attention to clutter and get rid of it. Surround themselves with the coziness of productivity in a relaxed setting. Hang pictures, cards and mementoes that celebrate wordsmithing.

Other than my office and the clients who meet me there, my nest is rather empty these days. The TV is on because it offers noise. Or the radio with its praise music and the reminder I am not alone. The Divine Three are with me as well as the witnesses from Hebrews 12.

But the rowdier nesting of soccer games, band practice and teenaged boys raiding my pantry no longer exists. Those were the long days and short years of young ones in my nest.

Still, hope circles around my nest because it represents an optimistic look into the future. Visits from friends. My children occasionally around the table. Future groups who want to learn more about writing or study a book.

The value of nesting is to know we belong somewhere. And the place where we continue to nurture the gifts within and the outreach without. By reflective thought, journaling, then sharing with others through books or blog posts.

Nesting offers hope when everything fits for a purpose. To generate the spiritual and creative life. To nurture the spirit. To nest with joy.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out a meditation about nesting in heaven. Page 11 of Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Finding Hope Day by Day

It happens quickly. We’re marching along in life, then one day we wake up as a ‘senior.’ No one has called us a senior since high school. Somehow, the label does not fit.

This senior status is different from the excitement of high school. It feels more like an ending, the foreshadowing of goodbye.

Suddenly, we feel much older and a bit rejected. We did not plan to be so old.

Snail mail and the electronic inbox now contain introductions to AARP and Medicare. We receive brightly colored promos about the latest greatest hearing aid.

Discounts for cataract surgery. Vitamins and supplements to alleviate joint pain.

We are faced with several questions:

  • Will I run out of money before I run out of time?
  • How can I organize all these medical appointments suddenly filling my schedule?
  • Why am I such an at-risk person now? Should I expect to suffer from COVID?
  • How much did my grocery budget just increase? Seriously?
  • What am I going to do? Do I really have to go back to work?

If we have defined our life by a faith walk, then we continue to do what has always worked before. We fasten our hope to the One and only unchangeable force that has kept us going all these decades.

We continue to trust in our loving God, and we learn a new set of skills to persevere during our senior years. We might even memorize Psalm 68:18, “Blessed be the Lord who bears our burdens and carries us day by day” (AMPC).

As I began to face some of the issues labeled “senior,” I decided to focus on how to find additional hope. A continued intention to journal my thoughts and keep writing new words helped me stay on task.

To find a purpose for these years. To continue to pay it forward, say it forward and write it forward.

My daily meditations soon became small stories which fit easily into the devotional format. Other writers and friends encouraged me to post about finding hope in the senior years. “Wisdom” became a major theme.

So I wrote about physical issues, emotional mountains and valleys, spiritual searchings and mental health within the demographic of seniors.

Soon, the words became clearer and formed the usual format for a book. I sent the manuscript to my theological advisor and his wife, the couple who have interceded for me throughout the years and encouraged my writing goals. An email sent to my patrons brought more encouragement and the setting of accountability goals.

Within a few months, the book was ready for publication. So here is the shameless promotion, with the valid hope that these words will help seniors find extra encouragement for their days.

Different titles include:

  • Trusting IN God versus Trusting God
  • The Power of ‘Let’
  • Making Wise Decisions
  • New Mercies Every Morning
  • Taking Root
  • Living in the Yet
  • When Heaven is Home
  • The Why Question

And many more. So check it out. Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom is available on Amazon as a print book or an e-book. Share it with your friends in senior living or your care group at church.

And place your hope in the only One who knows every demographic we journey through yet never leaves us to do it alone.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

God carries us day by day by another day. Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Hope for the Long Way

It would be so much easier to travel the shorter journey. But what if God calls us to the long way?

In Exodus 13, God begins to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Freedom! And God encouraged the people with a cloud each day and a pillar of fire each night. Signals that he was indeed with them.

But in verse 17, God specifically states that he will not lead these people on a shorter route. He will take them to the Promised Land the longer way.

They will be learning more about trust and how to endure day by day.

Many people are facing their own ‘long way.’ One of my friends has a beloved daughter who is suffering through a cancer journey. We wanted it to be a fast surgery, one and done. We hoped and prayed for a quick healing. But she is enduring years of chemo, multiple surgeries, life-changing health issues.

Another friend inspires me with her motherly courage. She fostered and adopted some children. Prayed for them. Did all the right things. The short way would be deliverance from childhood trauma, acceptance into peer groups, wholesome attitudes.

Instead, it is a daily struggle dealing with attachment disorder and behavioral struggles at school. The long journey has affected the health of the entire family. Endurance is a daily need.

Didn’t we all want to see an end to the atrocities in Ukraine — sooner rather than later? Yet the war continues. More people suffer and die. The images continue to urge us to pray for those trapped in bunkers, for the pastors and missionaries trying to help their people day after bomb-shelled day.

Beginning writers want to finish their first book and watch it become a bestseller. More experienced authors know the writing journey is a marathon of work and marketing. It requires a long road to find our voice.

Caregivers face years of learning patience, searching for answers, becoming advocates for the Alzheimer’s patient. What is the purpose? Why does death wait to take those who can no longer function? The road is long.

So how do we find hope and live with a more encouraging attitude when our way is long? What can we learn from this Exodus story?

God took the Israelites the long way so they would not change their minds and want to return to the bondage of Egypt. The short way often seems more comfortable. But the long way tests our trust, our grit, our determination to keep believing. We can learn to accept the long road as a faith-building journey.

Although God chose the long way for his children, he did not leave them to face it alone. He was there every day and throughout each night. We can look for God’s presence even as we face another long day.

Athletes know it takes weeks and months to build muscle and stamina. Although their training may be painful, the dedicated athlete continues and learns to thank the coach and trainer.

The long road offers more hope when we face it with gratitude. God is designing something good within our souls. The end result will be a stronger spirit, more faith muscles for the next road.

The story in Exodus involves an entire nation of people. We find strength in being connected. Finding like souls who will lift us up gives us the stamina needed for another day, another week, possibly — another year of the journey.

God had already proven himself to the Israelites — through multiple miracles and a life-saving Passover tradition. We can look to the past and remember how God brought us through something even worse, a longer road, a deeper suffering. He did it before. He will help us again.

Ultimately, our journey contains signposts that offer strength for each day. The practice of journaling, the recitation of helpful verses and quotes, the songs we may have to force ourselves to sing — all these practices can boost our spirits for another day.

And some days, it just helps to take a nap. Zone out for a few minutes and rest.

Whatever road you’re on today, I pray it will be one that leads to the Promised Land. So I share with you one of my spiritual vitamins. This verse has carried me through many of my longer roads and offered hope:

“Surely God is my help. The Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4 TNIV). 

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Send Just for Today: Hope for Single Moms to a woman who needs hope for her long road.