Hope Redefines Prayer

“True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Praying_HandsFor many years, I was a student of prayer. With every new book about prayer that was published, I visited the library to check it out or hurried into Borders with my coupons.

Two of those books quickly became favorites: “Intercessory Prayer” by Dutch Sheets and “Prayer” by Richard Foster.

Then I was blessed with two mentors who taught me even more about the beauty and power of connecting with God in prayer. And finally, I became a how-to-pray teacher myself. The privilege of praying for others became one of my highest honors.

Yet – even now – prayer can be a mystery. How is it that this incredible God of the universe delights in hearing from us mere humans?

It is because we are his children and so beloved that he desires to communicate with us – to listen and to speak with us.

But now, because of the stress burden, I have found myself hobbling along in prayer. Sometimes all I can do is whisper, “Help me, Jesus.”

Where once I prayed long petitions for others and pleaded with God to meet their needs, now I simply cannot. Too much exhaling has left me with no divine breath.

Spiritually – yes, I am okay. Actually, I am more aware of God’s presence in the daily doings of life. I just have nothing left to give to anyone else. Nor can I intercede with long pathos for other pilgrims.

This change saddened me until I read an encouragement from my latest favorite book. In “The Listening Life,” Adam McHugh writes, “I have grown more restrained in my speech to God. I have come to see prayer more as a way of being with God and less as an opportunity to talk.”

The mystery continues even as recovery progresses. It is well with my soul because that inner sacred space is not dependent on how I can pray.

Rather, prayer is another example of God’s abundant grace wrapped in hope.

God knows who I am and how I am. My connection with him whether in prayer or inhaling his nearness brings spiritual wholeness.

How I pray is not as important as who I love – the divine One who loved me first.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

 

 

 

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Hope Rests

It takes a while to stop spinning.

Like a tire with loosened lug nuts, the wheel spinning around its axis, the transition from full-time ministry into semi-retirement spins. The slowing down requires intentional rest.sleeping woman

To be intentionally still – listening for God or just sitting in the sunshine causes a need for reboot.

How can the transition be handled in a way that is healthy – for the body, soul and spirit? How does one move from excessive productivity to recovery?

I have been in this position before, but never at this level of intensity. I find myself sinking into the unknown while grasping for the best Source of wisdom I know. My usual methods of resting – a meager force. Giant question marks shadow my new direction.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1).

Restoring sleep helps and then daily naps. Nutrition that builds up the tissues, although my body screams only for chocolate. The temptation to load my freezer with scrumptious blackberry chocolate chip gelato from Target. No, no – I cannot yield.

Restorative care involves clearing the mind as well – to refuse the rewind of what led to the final decision – mistakes admitted, grace given.

To find a way to pour that same grace over and around myself feels almost selfish and I feel alone in the attempt.

I pull out my colors and find comfort in the texture of markings on paper. Turn on the TV to watch basketball and yell at the refs. Read empty-minded fiction books as I pump on the exercise bike. These words require no emotional deposits.

Sit and stare at the blooming redbud tree, dotted with black and white chickadees hopping in the April breeze. Glory in the fractional moment as a red-headed woodpecker perches beside the male cardinal on my deck. Red and black on the background of the greening elm. God’s creation in living color. To spend more time outside is my goal … if Kansas ever warms up this year.

I spend more time on my knees, bringing my fatigue and questions to the Wise One – begging for the balm of divine healing.

The incredible voice of the Shepherd King and his Psalms wash over me with their curative rhythms: fret not, be still and know, God alone is surely my refuge.

Several years ago I dreamed of a heavenly bedroom. I had been carried there by my guardian angel and was surrounded in the brightest whites – a soft coverlet, giant pillows and the clearest air.

Around me, more angels – tucking me in, stroking my brow, murmuring love. Being cared for. Receiving compassion straight from Abba’s heart.

That I so vividly remember the dream underscores how deeply I need my Beloved Divine to show up.

Ultimately, restorative care and the rest required to eliminate stress just takes time – a day, a week, another day. No guidelines here.

A friend told me she slept for months after retirement. A client has pursued rest and direction for three years.

And I – in my self-sufficient planning mode – thought I would be rested after just one week. That would be a “No.”

I listen hard for the gentle voice that assures me I am not alone. I will eventually find soul energy again. The words will pour forth and the direction will be made clear.

Isaiah speaks from his prophetic viewpoint, “God will comfort all my waste places. He will make my wilderness like Eden, my desert like a garden. Joy and gladness will be found in me and thanksgiving – the voice of praise.” (Isaiah 51:3).

So I wait and rest, trusting in the One who reminds me where hope originates. He places his words in my mouth and covers me with his gentle hand.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

Hope Finds a Word

Many of my friends are choosing their words for the year. Although I don’t usually follow suit, one word has surfaced. This word and its meaning once stymied me because I could not find a practical way to utilize it.

But as I have searched for a workable definition, the practice and discipline of using this word has moved front and center.ballet-dancers

I believe this word is important to me – especially in 2017 – because of what happened in 2016. As a Christian, I was appalled at the vitriol I read on social media and how followers of Christ used their freedom of speech as a weapon.

Certainly, we should stand up for what we believe, but to attack other human beings – creations of God – just because they believe differently? Sheesh!

They will know we are Christians by our love.

So my word for the year addresses my traumatized soul and also gives me a higher bar to attain. The word is GRACE.

I know the Sunday School definition for grace: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. But I have searched for the practical version, a way to actually BE a Christian rather than just writing and/or posting my beliefs – hoping to stay away from the ugliness and cruelty witnessed last year.

The definition I have settled on is, “Grace is the disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency.”

To live with a focus on kindness, to show grace to the checker at Target who has been on her feet for eight hours and the guy in front of me is yelling at her because his coupon expired.

To see the tears threatening to spill over and when it is my turn, to briefly touch her hand and say, “I’m sorry about what just happened. I think you’re doing a great job.”

To park in the lot at Wal-Mart and instead of rushing inside to get my stuff, to show grace-filled courtesy to the elderly woman, lift her trunk and help her empty the cart – then offer to take her cart inside so she doesn’t have to walk all that way on a gimpy leg.

To realize none of us act as we should every single day and give grace when someone barks an insult or uses only one finger to wave at me in traffic.

To be grateful for my freedoms yet allow with grace for the differences among us as we exercise those freedoms.

And how does grace look if I turn it inward? What are the practical ways I can give myself grace in this new year?

To realize I am an achiever, yet my projects are not more important than my health. To rest even if I’m not sleepy.

To allow myself breaks to take a long walk, to sit on the deck and marvel at the colors of the blue jay at my feeder.

To realize I gain five pounds every winter as I hibernate from the cold and give myself grace because I always lose those same pounds in the spring.

To admit the truth about the aging process – it DOES happen so I need to give myself grace and not hate the changes morphing me into a visual of my ancestors. After all, each year brings me closer to heaven where age will not matter.

To realize my garden cannot look like the magazine covers, no matter how hard I work. To give myself grace and let some of the plots grow over with natural grasses and even weeds. This graceful strategy will give me more time to write, reflect and pray.

To believe that grace also leads to gracefulness – a beautiful visual of a ballerina floating across the stage. Can I float through 2017 with a new version of gracefulness, slowing down and just being myself?

In her book, “Walking on Water,” Madeleine L’Engle writes exactly what I want to embrace. “…To take time away from busyness, time to BE. To take BEING time – something we all need for our spiritual health. Slow me down, Lord. When I am constantly running, there is no time for being. When there is no time for being, there is no time for listening.”

So as I float through 2017, my goal is to show kindness, to offer courtesy and to fight for clemency – to allow for the differences among us and love in spite of them.

Hope calls me to be more grace-filled and graceful in the next twelve months. Will you join me?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Finds Its Color

cyclamenMy cyclamen is blooming, a lovely pink color – sort of fuchsia. But I bought it with the understanding that it would bloom into the dark purple I love.

What a surprise as the blossoms opened and produced a deep pink instead of the color I expected.

But then, as I waited a few days, the blooms started changing. With time, the cyclamen blooms sported the purple I wanted. I just had to wait for the desired result while the plant morphed through its photosynthetic process.

The correct color was there all along, hidden behind the curtains of time. Only the passage of days would bring out the true richness and verdure I longed to see.

Isn’t that so like life?

We start a project, write a story or journal about a dream. Then the project becomes a tree house. The story evolves into a novel. The dream wraps around a destiny.

We share coffee with a friend which eventually grows a relationship that adds color and joy to our lives.

We say, “Yes” to Jesus and end up living a life abundant with more grace giftings than we ever thought possible.

One circumstance morphs into another, delighting us with the spontaneity of change and surprising us with the richness of the final result.

Living within the surprises of life adds more fun than carefully structured days that grow old and boring in their regularity.

Perhaps we could also give permission for change to others – the opportunity to morph into a richer version of themselves.

Wouldn’t that attitude change how we relate to our children who may seem stuck in the teen years? We want to scream, “Grow up!” But that is exactly what they are doing.

What if we give permission for change to those in authority over us – to the systems of our society that seem stuck in historical and traditional morays.

It takes time for people and systems to change and as we morph into the America we hope to be, we will need to give daily grace.

What if we live in the joy of the surprise and truly learn that expectations do not always bring the best results.

We learn how to apply patience as we gradually grow into our faith, move into the next season of life and accept the things we cannot change.

If we could practice patience and apply grace for ourselves and for others, with our world and our destinies intact – perhaps we could live better lives and embrace the hidden hope of each day.

I am hoping for this type of grace as we approach the November elections. The blatant ugliness recorded on social media proves nothing except that we all need to grow up.

Our freedom to express opinions is a gift. Why use that freedom to destroy another soul?

How can we become our true color and exhibit the creative beauty God gave us if we don’t give each other the necessary time to morph into our best selves?

My hope is that no matter how much unraveling we experience, we will possess the integrity and the wisdom to grow internally and change into who we should really be.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

Growing Hope in the Pain

What is the difference between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering?Pain proves alive

Neither type of pain is comfortable and most of us try to avoid any type of pain. We want life to be struggle-free even if we have to ask the doctor for a prescription to ease our sufferings.

But is there a value to pain? How do we tell the difference between suffering pain and growing pain?

Suffering Pain

Suffering pain is often physical and/or emotional: a sudden illness, the grief of watching a loved one struggle through Alzheimer’s, a broken relationship.

We deal with suffering pain by learning how to persevere, praying for extra grace each day, contacting professionals and trusting God to help us survive one day after the other.

Suffering pain often manifests in our bodies. We see the woman bent over with osteoporosis and we empathize even as we cringe at the deterioration of her spine.

We watch the tears river down a friend’s face and we hear screams of terror when bombs explode. We feel their sufferings and wish we could alleviate them.

Suffering pain is a side effect of living in this world, of aging and being exposed to various strains of germs.

Yet we endure. We persevere. We treat the symptoms and hope for a cure. We try to find hope in the midst of our sufferings.

Growing Pain

Growing pain presses more deeply into our spiritual and emotional selves. We ask the inner questions of faith and rebel when we hear pat answers from those who obviously have not addressed a similar pain or refused to acknowledge it.

Jesus chided the scribes and Pharisees for their simplistic answers based on rules and tradition. He invited questions and never ran away from vulnerability.

Legalism looks at growing pain and condemns it. Jesus invites it because within the questions and the searchings, we discover more about God.

We listen for the divine whisper even as the pain sears our souls and we feel the emptiness of the despairing pit.

Einstein wrote, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”

In my year-long search for a church, I experienced both types of pain. The emotional digs of condemnation and hurts inflicted by people I thought knew better. But also the deep questions of my soul in asking what I really wanted to find in a church and how I could become a better member of my new church family.

Growing. Stretching. Grieving. Within the parameters of pain, we discover how important our faith is and how much we truly care about our soul health.


If we don’t care, then we don’t suffer. Pain proves we are alive and something important has been taken from us.


The grief accompanying pain teaches us about the intensity of love.

Where Hope Dwells

But if we shy away from the pain of growing, then we never come to the place where hope dwells.

In her book, “Rising Strong,” Brene Brown writes, “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. But curiosity can lead to hurt. As a result, we turn to self-protecting – choosing certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability and knowing over learning. But shutting down comes with a price.”

So what is the difference between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering? Not much, really, because they feel the same.

The difference lies in how we react to them and which choices we make for dealing with any type of struggle.

We can run from it, refuse to acknowledge it, try to find something to mask it, drown it with a gallon of raspberry fudge ice cream.

But the pain returns because it is often more persistent than we are. Some pain we can never escape.

Ultimately, all pain can cause growth if we open our hearts to the possibilities. We can choose to learn patience through the Long Goodbye or years of rehabilitation that stretch muscles atrophied by disease.

We become stronger by embracing the pain of growing, by asking those deep questions which lead us to learn more about ourselves and God.

The saints who grow through pain are the ones who reflect wisdom and hope into old age. Even when their bodies betray them, they hang on to the hope that pain will eventually ease and the heavenly result will be a crown of gold.

Am I still in growing pain? Somewhat. Not all my questions have been answered and that’s okay. I will continue to ask, to seek, to find.

But now I refuse to listen to legalistic quotes that once soothed me.

I would rather insert question marks into my life than live under the concrete umbrella of condemnation and easy acceptance.

Pain is inevitable on this earth, but an attitude seasoned with grace will offer us the hope we need to keep going, to continue questioning and to march toward the Light.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

How to Find Hope in a Puzzle

puzzle piecesThe puzzle I’m currently working on reflects the colors and the design of the Southwest – a region of our nation I love. Turquoise moccasins, Native American pottery and a sunset of desert textures.

Yet beyond the stress-relieving act of fitting my puzzle pieces together, God is teaching me precious lessons of faith.

Think About the Big Picture

Once I found the borders of the puzzle, everything should have begun to snugly fit together. But something didn’t look right.

My son found the answer because he’s a forest guy while I look at the trees. “This piece right here doesn’t fit,” he said. “It skews the big picture.”

He was right and once I found the correct piece, suddenly the picture made more sense.

Sometimes we think a certain direction is best for our lives. But something about the final decision doesn’t seem right. Something doesn’t fit. Red flags stop us or circumstances change.

We can’t see the big picture, but God can. He exists beyond the past, present and future. He knows how to work out our lives and fit each day into the next so our destinies become clear.

Don’t Try to Force an Answer

A puzzle piece may look right and seem to fit, but one side seems to snag or won’t quite align. Forcing the piece into that particular hole can bend it or even break it. Then the puzzle is flawed.

If we try to force something to work or move forward on our own, we can damage ourselves or someone else.

If the circumstances aren’t working out and our pathways seem skewed, trying to force a decision, a relationship or a direction messes with our destinies.

How many of us have forged ahead and forced something to happen, then later regretted our actions?

When God manages the puzzles of our lives, all the pieces end up fitting together – perfectly – without adverse circumstances.

Give It Time

A 300-piece puzzle cannot be completed in one hour. My puzzle has been on the table for several weeks. I work on it now and then, usually a few minutes at a time.

As we face decisions or transitions in life, they take time to percolate and work out all the details.


Patience is learned through the long passage of time. Hurry is the antagonist of patience.


The Alzheimer’s journey is a test of endurance – one 36-hour day after another.

Starting a new job involves a learning curve and perseverance.

Writing a book may involve late nights, early mornings or weekend discipline. One word, one sentence, one character sketch at a time until the final period is typed. Sometimes the process takes years.

The best answers are revealed as a result of a waiting period. The strongest faith is birthed through years of experience, long periods of waiting and the courage to ask questions that may even increase our struggle.

We often don’t see a purpose in the details until patience has completed its perfect work.

The Apostle James underscored this truth. “When the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:3-4 TLB).

God rarely answers our “Why” questions but instead, he urges us to trust – even when we’re so weary we can only continue the journey with an extra measure of God’s grace.

My puzzle gives me joy because I love the colors and the promise of what the final product will be.

Surely God also feels joy when he moves the pieces of our lives together so the final result reflects his love.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hanging On To Hope

As the Kansas winter blustered through my yard, I noticed a unique snapshot of the season.leaf - hanging on

Although all the other leaves had already let loose and dropped to the ground, one leaf still hung on.

In spite of the wind, the calendar day and its length of life – a lone leaf clung tightly to the branch that had given it life.

It didn’t take long to wrap my heart around the analogy and honor thousands of saints who continue to cling tightly to their true source of life.

They persevere in spite of the calendar days that scream, “You should have given up already.”

They hang on in spite of the circumstances of life or the opinions of others or even of well-meaning friends who speak cruelty.

These are people who inspire me to persevere as well:

  • The single mom who drives her children to church even though she has been shunned because she’s divorced
  • The writer who revises the same manuscript seven times until every word is as good as it can possibly be – then ignores another rejection to revise it again
  • The cancer patient who refuses to be a victim but spends her time during brutal radiation treatments, praying through her list of friends and family
  • The nonprofit organizations who operate on a financial shoestring and trust God to provide resources each and every day
  • The missionaries who continue to serve even when their prayers don’t merge with the answers they long to see

Persevering folks who keep hanging on to hope even when everything in life attacks them.


Brave and vulnerable caregivers who keep serving even when the days are 36 hours long.

Mothers who keep praying for their prodigals. Fathers who work jobs they hate so their children won’t go hungry. Christians who refuse to deny Christ even though faced with the wrath of a radical Muslim sect.

The power of those who persevere is modeled at the end of Hebrews 11 – saints who refused to be released from torturous prisons, faced rejection and persecution, were destitute and mistreated. They did not receive what they were promised but they hung on anyway. They persevered and “the world was not worthy of them.”

What is required to continue in hope when everyone else has let loose and fallen around us?

Courage and the grace to keep hanging on to the One who empowers us with resurrection life.

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