Hope Nurtures Gratitude

During this turbulent year of so many worldwide problems, I still do my usual thank you’s:

  • Thank you, God, for the food in my belly. So many people are hungry today.
  • Thank you for the roof over my head. Many are homeless or displaced.
  • Thank you for my son and daughter-in-love … always.

Yet now, I long to dig deeper and find gratitude within the sacred corners of my soul. Those places I hide from others. To be more vulnerable and embrace the gratitude that is more than words. The heart condition worthy of reflection.

This week, I am thankful for my new awareness of the fragility of life. Every day, the reports of shootings and killings in the Kansas City metro. School shootings that destroy another generation. The community saying good-bye to a beloved policeman.

One night, a bullet screamed through my bedroom, tore through my headboard and out the opposite wall. One inch closer, and I would be writing from heaven instead of Kansas. A wake-up call and a frantic 9-1-1.

My gratitude extends statewide this week as we exercise our civic duty to vote. The freedom our votes represent. The choices we make as we consider who will serve us best and in what capacity.

I pray for the Ukrainians who have no such freedom. No decision to make as to whether to accept Putin’s despotism or unearth their nation from the ashes. Just trying to survive one day to the next.

Back from a writer’s conference, I am awed, humbled, and cheered by the talents displayed by novelists, poets, bloggers. Any and all who take up the pen. Move their fingers across the keyboard. Create imaginary characters and a variety of world views. Share the message of hope.

I am so grateful for words and for the freedom to make them dance across the page as I wish.

Some days I fail to thank God often enough for grace. All those years ago when my childish heart opened to the Savior of Nazareth and I ran—yes, ran down the aisle toward salvation. May I never forget the wonder of that moment. Expressly thank God for the healing of my soul.

A brief foray into my journals finds entries where I asked God questions. Sometimes railed against the answers. I am grateful God allows and invites honesty. He knows I am mortal and “Why?” is often on my tongue.

When God reveals verses which provide answers and confirm hope, I am forever aware that I am gracefully loved.

May we never take for granted how God continues to save us every day.

Although I rejoice that Mom is finished with her Alzheimer’s journey, that ending means my mother is dead. After nine months, I am still trying to process that fact. The orphan I have become feels alone.

Yet surviving the grief of loss is itself a gift.

Because God has enabled me to survive, my faith has grown. Perseverance has deepened. With these experiences in my mental backpack, I write about realistic topics and coach others in the birthing of their grateful words.

My core value of life-long learning grasps toward more lessons the Spirit and life teach me. Together we work out the kinks in my spiritual armor. Find the sacred place God has purified. Just because he is good.

Then my reasons for gratitude engulf the empty spaces. I listen hard for the sacred whisper and respond with the words the Divine Three long to hear.

“Thank you.”

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about hope, check out Hope Shines. Available on Amazon in print, e-book, and large print.

Hope Streams Through Promises

In our crazy world of broken promises, it is soothing to know we can depend on one source of truth. God has never broken any of his covenant promises.

Some of his hope-filled words are recorded within the general principles of the Bible. “I will never leave you or forsake you. I will be your Comforter. I will show you the path to take. I will be your guide.”

Although the timing for these promises varies, and even the seasons of life sometimes interrupt their forward movement—when God says something and underscores it with a repeat—it will eventually happen.

But the promises that mean the most to me are the certainties that create the a-ha moments of spiritual awakening. They are not recorded in the holy scriptures.

Instead, they are the divine whispers during discouraging nights and dry spiritual deserts. The words that keep me living in hope even when tentacles of fear tighten.

When I walked through the pain of divorce, God spoke his personal promise for my son and me, “There will be hard times ahead, but I will meet every need.”

Even through extended months of unemployment, the scary moves away from comfort zones, the horror of watching my son suffer with cancer—through it all—the reminder of God’s whisper kept me breathing.

“I will meet every need.”

In miraculously beautiful moments recorded in my journals and kept ensconced in my heart, God’s sacred promises proved true.

Every. Single. Need. Was. Met.

Jobs suddenly appeared from unusual sources. Cars were given through the generosity of good people. The healing of my son—thank you, Jesus! My own emotional, spiritual, and physical healings. Money that somehow appeared. God’s math proving different from mine as he made money poof into existence from a negative balance.

Friendships were spawned in the cusp of brokenness. Housing was provided—one of my constant prayers, “Please God, don’t let us be homeless.” A beautiful townhome where we healed for four years. Gardens where God and I created beautiful color and bountiful food—together.

Much, much more. Every. Single. Need. Always and Forever. Met.

But as sweet as the confirmation of God’s words streamed the credibility of the One who made the promise. His whisper foreshadowed holiness because it originated from the source of love. Our covenant made stronger because of the strength of the Speaker.

During a recent spiritual desert as I awaited the resolution of another promise, I listened again for the One who has seared my heart with his grace.

“I will meet every need.” No quantity of time assigned to his statement. Just an eternal assurance that the One who spoke the words would never violate his covenant.

He would meet current needs as he has in the past, because he cannot and will not change. His promise is forever sealed within the identity of Who he is.

And in the identity of this divine three-in-One lies the source of hope. Meeting my needs—and yours— for another stream of hope.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Look for those promises in Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Hope Digs Deeper

While meeting with my spiritual director, she suggested I consider the questions, “What if?” In one of the workshops I teach, the “What if?” question is presented as a fear tactic artists sometimes use to procrastinate.

But in this instance, I was to think about the “What if?” as a possible direction, even a vision-making steppingstone. So I drove home, pulled out my journal and started listing the possibilities of “What if?” questions and answers.

  • What if my current novel makes the New York Times bestseller list? What difference would that award make in my life? Could I handle the extra book tours, publicity requirements and the pressure to write another bestseller? Would I use it for good?

  • What if I could visit Santa Fe at least once each year? What if I could own a vacation home there so I would always have a place to stay for a personal retreat?

  • What if I could learn to live in the present every day so that everyone I meet feels the love and light of the Divine Three in me? What if I could become a better listener?

If I thought long enough on the subject, I could easily entangle myself in all the possibilities the “What if?” question might involve.

When we dig deep, some of our visions and dreams carry their own baggage. Change is not easy, and the transitions of life require us to change along with them.

Another point my spiritual director made was that I should “Listen to my heart.”

I just finished reading Julia Cameron’s latest book, The Listening Path. She describes how we can learn to listen to our hearts, but also to the sounds around us—even to the silence within us.

To dig deep requires that we listen carefully and consider what our souls are saying. One reason why I journal is to process my way through life, to tap into my inner conflicts for clues about how to clearly understand divine guidance.

Digging deep means we listen for that still, small voice that ushers us into the divine space. When we tiptoe into that soul sanctuary, we learn more about ourselves and become more teachable.

What does my heart tell me?

It reminds me of the many ideas I have for more books, so many stories swirling in my soul. The artist in me yearns to bring them to life.

Even for my writing clients, my heart breaks for the unwritten books, the stories waiting to connect with their characters and the voices longing to be heard. That urgency to write while we can, to share the wisdom and experiences God has gifted us with through the many years.

My soul beats with a restless tone, eager to authenticate itself and complete the mission God birthed in me before the foundation of the world.

As I dig deeper, another question surfaces. I stop breathing as I consider the implications of what its answers might entail. Almost afraid to add it to my journal page, I force the pen to scratch the question across the page: What am I avoiding?

We may avoid doing something that requires a major change, because we’re afraid of what that transition might ask of us. A move, a new job, the addressing of a spiritual weakness, the uprooting of our comfort zones.

Yet in the avoidance, we remain in the zone of discomfort. We stress our souls to the point of losing our true core. We avoid what our hearts long for, because we are so blasted practical and cannot imagine any other type of experience.

My journal now contains several pages of personal reflection around these three questions. And I offer them to you as a spiritual writing prompt:

  • What if?
  • What is your heart telling you?
  • What are you avoiding?

I look forward to the time when these questions find their connecting answers in my life. What about you? Are you ready to dig deeper?

Hope shines when we find the courage to ask the hard questions.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Digging deeper is a daily exercise as we find strength Day by Day.

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 in the Dance

One of the books I’ve been reading this summer is The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr. It’s one of those “I borrowed this from the library, but I need to just buy one for myself so I can keep chewing on it.”

With his usual writing style of poetic rhythm merged with contemplative reflection, Rohr captured me early. This book needs to be journaled through, highlighted and set on my bookshelf as a favorite.

For our times, with all the chaos happening around us and to us, one section bears repeating. I’ve copied it in my planner and read through it daily.

And as we face another election soon, the last phrase is especially poignant. So I share it with you.

“Seek the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere. See His hand in every happening. See and adore the presence of Jesus — everywhere and especially in those who are rejected by society. See the divine image even where you’d rather not.”

Last week, I noticed a man walking along the street. He was as dirty as the gutter, disheveled, in need of a haircut and probably in need of hope. Instantly, I thought of the above quote.

To see the face of God in everyone. To imagine this man as the incarnate Christ, come to visit earth again and check on us. To wonder how I might help this fellow and others like him, those I’d rather not.

That week, I also watched the PBS version of Les Miserables with Alfie Boe in the lead role. Such amazing music and the story of redemption. Acceptance and forgiveness where only despair showed its face.

The last line of Jean Val Jean’s life spoke this truth and morphed into the Rohr quote. “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if each of us looked for God in the ordinary. Imagined the divine image and essence in each person we see. To love as we are loved by God. To treat others the way we want to be treated.

In this world of so much death and destruction, can’t we do better? Can we share hope by showing love, even when we don’t want to. Even when it costs us some ego, time or money.

I hope we can move toward that inner space where we see God in everything, everyone, everywhere. Then share the hope of God’s love in ways that can change our world.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Check out my newest book of devotions. Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

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.

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.